If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Marco Polo's "Port Authority 2: The Director's Cut", then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Marco Polo :: Port Authority 2: The Director's Cut
Author: Grant Jones
"Perhaps I've heard too much hip hop over the last few years, but the ratio of producer albums seems to be higher than usual. I'm not talking your showcase records from Oh No, Oddisee and the like that demonstrate instrumental hip hop is still alive and well, but the glorified compilations from beat makers whoring their phone's contact list. Of course, hip hop has had compilations from some of the finest producers – Da Beatminerz, Pete Rock and DJ Premier all dropped respectable, and sometimes exceptional records, yet never with the regularity that their younger counterparts seem to be doing these days. Statik Selektah dropped ANOTHER album, Tony Touch made a comeback with "The Piece Maker 3" and DJ Khaled released his sixteenth record with the same frickin' line up. Thankfully, Marco Polo is on his second compilation in six years having crafted two strong albums in "Double Barrel" and "The Exxxecution" in between with Torae and Ruste Juxx, respectively. Reflecting back on 2007's "Port Authority" proves that Marco possesses the timeless sound that many of his peers of the 90s had, and with stellar songs like Masta Ace's "Nostalgia" and O.C.'s "Marquee" ensuring that record isn't forgotten, it's finally time for Marco to try and one-up his durable debut. For the most part, Marco delivers exactly what his fans crave; hard yet crisp, old yet modern, underground yet remarkably accessible; traditional hip hop. "Port Authority 2" (let's call it "PA2") kicks off with a real statement, a reunion song for Organized Konfusion (Prince Po & Pharaohe Fucking Monch). Compared to their work in the early 90s, "3 O'Clock" is surprisingly perky, but remains a great introduction to an album with east coast boom bap coming out of its ears. What I love about Marco's tracks is that he rarely delivers half-baked product, no better example being in the DJs he enlists (usually DJ Revolution). "PA2"is blessed with turntable trickery that breathes life in to the stale sub-genre that DJ Premier (whether intended or not) has spawned – the generic street rap with obligatory scratched hook."
Andrew JD :: Laptop Rap 3 :: DatPiff
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Receiving an album on a flash drive caught me by surprise, but given that Andrew JD's album is called "Laptop Rap 3" it fits his theme perfectly. If we're realistic about the music industry it makes more sense to release albums this way anyway. I listen to how my peers talk about music these days and I hear comments like "I still buy the CD because I like having something physical I can hold and look at." We've reached the point where compact discs are now what vinyl records became 20 years ago - COLLECTIBLE. Arguments about analog vs. digital and the "warmth" of sound or lack thereof are now out the window. These are antiquated notions in the iPod Age. They won't ever go away entirely - after all you can still buy vinyl - but they will seem increasingly "retro" like playing old Nintendo games on an actual Nintendo instead of via an (authorized or otherwise) emulator. If you poke around Andrew JD's blog it's clear he's an intelligent and thoughtful young man with a lot of thoughts to share. He writes about why he raps, he writes about the brilliance of selling overpriced plain white tees (with a hint of sarcastic wit) and he takes photos of nature. It's kind of a shame he can go months at a time without updating, but it's also refreshing to know even a self-confessed "Laptop Rapper" can go long periods of time unplugged from social media. While the bonus media on his flash drive helped me find him online, you can start @MetaJD and find most of what he does from there without a hard copy. In fact you don't even need physical media to listen to "Laptop Rap 3" since you can download it from DatPiff. Even flash drives may become dinosaurs if computers go beyond eliminating CD-ROM drives and eliminate USB ports too."
Apollo Sun & The Boomjacks :: The Ownlife Sessions, Vol. 1 :: Apollo's Sun
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"For the ultimate in biodegradable packaging, Apollo Sun sent us "The Ownlife Sessions, Vol. 1" in a brown paper bag wrapped in a piece of twine (which my cat promptly destroyed). There's a small bit of irony to that given that the opening track samples extensively from the late George Carlin, who was known to say things like "Environmentalists don't give a shit about the planet" and "The planet is fine - the people are FUCKED." In truth I doubt there was any intent on being environmentally friendly - I'm sure this was just meant to look friendly and handmade. It's even hand numbered - 22 of 50. There may be 28 other people whose pets are playing with twine right now. Humorous George Carlin introduction about the 1% out of the way, we get down to the remainder of "The Ownlife Sessions, Vol. 1" which is relatively short 20 minutes and 5 tracks. The Boomjacks from Finland provided both the cover art on the outside and the production on the inside, and seem equally skilled in both areas. "April's Musings" is an ideal balance of catchy jam music and easy to follow flows from Sun, a man with serious intent but a relaxed and skillful flow. Sun's greatest attribute is that he naturally segues between comedic and serious thoughts without making either seem out of place in his flow. That suits lines like "Yo I'm smarter than the teacher so I'm leaving the class" perfectly, as you can read it either way and nod your head in appreciation. He's not afraid to dig deeper though, as the melancholy backdrop of "No Room to Breathe" confirms. "
Checkmate & Concise :: Love & War :: Defenders Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
""Rascalz, Checkmate, Kardinal and Thrust/Choclair coming down with that Northern Touch." If that sentence rings a bell then you remember a Canadian crossover hip-hop song from 1998 that is credited with sparking a commercial resurgence in the Northern hip-hop scene. The odd thing is that not everybody on the song benefitted from that bounce to the mainstream equally. The Rascalz certainly cashed in by adding the song to the re-release of "Cash Crop," and both Choclair and Kardinal Offishall have made some big albums, but Checkmate and Thrust both seemed to disappear quickly - each dropping an album in the early 2000's little covered outside Canada. For all intents and purposes it seems Thrust retired from the game to be a teacher at the Harris Institute in Toronto, but Checkmate is still making records almost a decade and a half after "Northern Touch." I had to double check at first to make sure I wasn't confusing him with the similarly named Australian artist, who has been much more commercially active than his namesake. This is the same Checkmate from Vancouver though, resurfacing (at least to my knowledge) out of nowhere with fellow artist Concise, going by the name Defenders of the Faith when rocking as a duo. "Love & War" is the product of one such collaboration, though they are billed individually and not by group on the CD. "Space Odyssey" opens more like a Defender of the arcade, for those old enough to remember the Williams video game. The beat and vocal manipulation are a throwback in another respect - it's a dead ring for "2000 Fold" by Styles of Beyond. The song is a prelude to the album's biggest cameo appearance by Royce Da 5'9" on the track "Big Time." I'd be happy to provide you a Soundcloud, Bandcamp or YouTube sample if there was one."
Sweatshop Union :: Infinite :: URBNET Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"They've been called the Wu-Tang Clan of Canada, both here and on their Wikipedia page, but don't get Sweatshop Union twisted. The comparison implies their ability to come together like Voltron for one common cause, then go back to their solo identities and projects until needed. They're not trying to recreate the vibe of the early 1990's with dirty production, martial arts samples and slurry New York slang. Like much progressive hip-hop of the last 20 years though, S.U. owes a debt to the Wu-Tang for opening the floodgates to creativity, leaving the landscape of North America awash with talent inspired to be originals. The "Leisure Gang" sound and video definitely pays homage - this is some gritty and raw hip-hop music. "Leisure" may seem like an odd word, given there's nothing relaxed or mellow other than the sentiment "I suggest y'all giving it a try/sitting getting high just listening to I." It's also filled with hilarious sentiments like "Come back as a skinny white Rick Ross, jumpin like Kris Kross." The video has the feel of being filmed in an Egyptian desert, so if they found a location in Vancouver that looked that barren and sparse, my hat's off to them. The video came out over a year ago, so "Infinite" has been in the works for a while now. It's definitely worth the wait, especially when you get to enjoy tracks like the Budo produced "Family Reunion." Yes Sweatshop Union is a little bit on that hippie shit, but only if that "hip" still includes "hip-hop." They don't go all the way to tofu and granola, but it's an undercurrent. It's not one that should cause you to be wary if you're a meat eater, because their eclectic nature is best reflect by songs like "Space Bears": "Space age Tupac, hair like Chewbacca/time travel in the house, coat and tube socks/tie dye t-shirt, astronaut head dress/superhuman, superpowered y'all yes yes." It's tongue in cheek, tongue pointing firmly toward their group aesthetic, and they only commune to communicate collectively in producing and releasing dope albums like this."
Termanology :: G.O.Y.A. (Gunz Or Yay Available) :: ST Records/Showoff Records/Brick Records
as reviewed by Grant Jones
"Cocaine is a hell of a drug. Despite Dave Chappelle's legendary skit making light of hard drug abuse, cocaine and hip hop generally end up being Mafioso-styled materialism or tales of slinging ki's on street corners. While basing an album around drugs will likely alienate some listeners unless the drug theme is a metaphor, much of what made cocaine glamourous comes from films such as Scarface and Blow. With "G.O.Y.A." lacking the cinematic direction of a Raekwon opus, Termanology is delivering ‘product' that's directly from the streets. The fact that this album comes with a free mirror and straw, offers an element of authenticity, but is also rather disheartening. Despite this, "G.O.Y.A." revels in its dirtiness, with basic beats and a South American flavour running throughout - Big Pun's son Chris Rivers, NORE and Tony Touch all appear and add to the record. Having followed Termanology since his "Hood Politics" mixtapes, through "Politics As Usual" and his collaborative efforts with Statik Selektah and Lil Fame, I can't help but feel disappointed with "GOYA". The decision to use local producer Shortfyuz on the whole record shows how fortunate Term' has been with his previous offerings - "Politics As Usual" in particular was reminiscent of "Illmatic" in how he had so many legends on one record. I know that this album is meant to be low-budget and for the streets, but it is a step down when you are used to hearing the Latin fire-spitter tearing apart a DJ Premier or Large Pro track. "Scandalous" boasts a worthwhile beat and standard Prodigy sample on the hook but the overly intense verses from Term' and Baby Pun (billed as simply Chris Rivers) overshadow the song's potential. Despite the appearance of Big Pun's son, songs like "100 More Jewelz" and "Pulp Fiction" come off as humourless versions of the late great emcee's style. "
The World's Freshest & Mac Mall :: Return of the Mac :: Empire Distribution
as reviewed by Jaroslav 'Czechone' Lavick
"In my review of "Feet Match the Paint" by Mitchy Slick and The World's Freshest (AKA DJ Fresh) I mentioned that I would dig deeper into DJ Fresh's extended catalog of work, and true to my word I did exactly that. Hence, I am now the very satisfied owner of his collaboration CD's with Yukmouth, The Jacka, Keak da Sneak and a few other joints with lesser known MC's also - many of those releases falling under DJ Fresh's "The Tonite Show" banner. Another one of those collabs was a very nice surprise, as I saw that Fresh had just released an album with a rapper whose first couple albums have been favourites in my collection for a long time, i.e. the one and only Mac Mall, from the Crestside neighbourhood in Vallejo, California. "Add to Cart" was clicked without hesitation. The album's title "Return of the Mac" is rather curious, as Mac Mall hasn't been gone for long (last album was in 2012) and has always been a promoter of the macking game - so I'm not sure what he's returning from? He has a healthy sized back catalog in relation to how long he's been around (hard to confirm, but roughly a dozen albums), and has been pretty consistent in releasing albums every couple of years or so since he appeared in the early 90's. Therefore, I won't be calling this a comeback, as he's been here for years. His debut ("Illegal Business" from '93) is quite special and has always been a favourite of mine, and the 1996 follow-up "Untouchable" is also most impressive, although his subsequent work after those great albums has only registered an occasional blip on my radar. I actually dropped off the majority of the Bay Area artists as the Millennium approached as I wasn't too fond of their generally less edgy production, and thus the albums often made for inconsistent and unremarkable listens. If there's any kind of return I want from "the Mac", it's a return to form, and the promise of such exists by teaming up with DJ Fresh. "
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