Sunday June 24, 2018

The (W)rap Up - Week of November 26, 2013
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 at 9:30AM :: Email this article :: Print this article

If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Louis Logic's "Look On The Blight Side" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!

[Look on the Blight Side] Louis Logic :: Look on the Blight Side
Fake Four Inc.

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"Louis Logic once seemed on the cusp of conquering rap's cult market for immature and offensive rhymes. Social commentary gives us a warm fuzzy for the future of humanity, but Logic's intentionally over the top songs like "Freak Show" and "The Ugly Truth" showed us a darker and more acerbic human condition. Logic mined pain and loneliness for laughs, letting his friends humiliate him on wax, and humiliating himself if they weren't there to help. Along the way he shamelessly riffed on everything from alcoholism to racism in his own unique fashion. After the aptly named "Misery Loves Comedy" though he seemed to go even further underground than he already was, surfacing for a 2009 EP and in 2010 with a compilation collaboration. Filling an album with other artists only seemed to confirm his desire to avoid the limelight. In 2013 though Louis Logic has finally shaken the grip of the demons that have plagued him. "Look on the Blight Side" finds our traveling gypsy of labels settling on the grassy knoll of Fake Four, ready to aim his lyrical ammunition at the world. For those who feel he's been hidden away for too long, the biggest complaint may be that it's not enough - he's only dropping 10 songs in just under the span of 40 minutes. It's enough though because Logic sheds all pretense of ego and strips himself naked - an artistic and personal honesty that may make his listeners uncomfortable in a wholly new way. Logic used to use his cleverness to shock and awe, but the title track of "Look on the Blight Side" shows a deep pain bubbling up to the surface in what one only hopes is a therapeutic way. Logic is on a personal journey this time, and takes chances that by his own admission make "Blight Side" a non-traditional rap record. "Big Fish Eat the Little Fish" places as much emphasis on his singing as his rapping, and there's a folk music feel with dark overtones of a world where life isn't fair. It's as though Louis Logic is trying to be rap's version of Shannon Hoon (R.I.P.) meets Bob Dylan - who dabbled in rap a little bit himself."

Death Grips :: Government Plates :: 
as reviewed Patrick Taylor

[Government Plates]"Since 2010, MC Ride, Zach Hill and Andy Morin have been terrorizing listeners as Death Grips with their mix of hip-hop, hardcore, EDM, and avant-garde noise. They released two albums last year, "The Money Store" and "No Love Deep Web." The latter album got them fired from their label after the band released it for free with a picture of an erect penis as the cover. Getting dropped did nothing to slow them down: the band started a label and Zach Hill is working on his first film. Their work has gotten spottier in 2013. In August, they failed to show up to a post-Lollapalooza gig. Instead, fans who paid to seem them were treated to their album playing over the PA and a projection of a suicide note by a fan.  It's one thing to screw over your label, but to screw over fans who paid to see you, and instead offering a half-assed art instillation, is not cool. The band ended up canceling their fall tour and were mostly quiet until dropping this album, 13 months, 13 days, and 13 hours after their last one. It's not clear if this is intended to be a new album or the soundtrack to Zach Hill's film. My guess is that it is a soundtrack, because it isn't much of an album. For one thing, the songs are not centered around MC Ride's vocals. He's rapping on most of the tracks, but often his verses feel more like samples on an instrumental track instead of actual vocals.  Part of this is that it doesn't sound like he is even trying to rap on beat. It's mostly him yelling random, incomprehensible shit. He's always rapped like he was on the verge of losing it, but here his is basically yelling like a crazy person, his vocals often distorted and/or buried by the production. It doesn't help that the beats are mostly gone. Death Grips has always walked the line between noise and hip-hop, but their earlier records maintained hip-hop's bounce. There is not much on "Government Plates" that sounds at all connected to hip-hop sonically. "Feels Like a Wheel" has a little bit of B-more club music in it, but "Big House's" second half is the only track that really feels like a rap song. The rest of the album is a whole lot of noise. It's almost like producers Zach Hill and Andy Morin were asked to open for Skrillex and decided to try and bum the crowd out as much as possible. "

Earl Sweatshirt :: Doris :: Columbia Records 
as reviewed Patrick Taylor

[Doris]"Odd Future came out in 2010 with a series of releases designed to offend. Their raps were full of rape and murder, and everyone was either a bitch, faggot, or nigger. I'm ashamed to say that I fell for their bait, panning Tyler the Creator's "Bastard" for it's rape talk. What I didn't realize at the time is that Tyler is basically an internet troll who gets off on baiting people into a reaction, sort of a hip-hop version of conservative pundit/ professional asshole Ann Coulter. I've since learned to ignore both Tyler and Ann Coulter; neither have anything interesting or useful to say, and they both seem like terrible people who have a sick need for negative attention. I wrote off the entire Odd Future crew as a bunch of nihilistic immature assholes, which was a mistake. There's more to the crew than their jackass antics and button-pushing lyrics. Underneath all the slurs and adolescent aggression are a bunch of misfits trying to deal with being outsiders. Frank Ocean's "Channel Orange" proved that there was a depth to the crew that "Yonkers" barely hinted at. Earl Sweatshirt's "Doris" drops all the rape and murder from his debut and replaces it with thoughtful and intimate raps. For those not familiar with Earl, he was born 19 years ago as Thebe Neruda Kgositsile. His mom teaches law at UCLA and his dad is a South African poet and activist who left the family when Earl was six. The pain of his father leaving is all over "Doris." Earl disappeared after dropping 2010's "Earl," and it eventually came out that he had been sent to a school for at-risk boys in Samoa. He eventually came back to the states and uses "Doris" as a way to work through some of his demons. Earl raps like a young, articulate DOOM. His rhymes are full of complicated wordplay and obscure references (like to "The Misfits," Clark Gable's last movie). He can sound simple and childish at first until you realize that there are layers of meaning underneath his lyrics. He gives a shout out "to the fathers that didn't raise us," and calls himself "young, black and jaded." His rhymes are often nakedly emotional, addressing his insecurities and hangups with rare honesty."

Kool Keith & Big Sche Eastwood :: Magnetic Pimp Force Field :: Junkadelic Music 
as reviewed Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Magnetic Pimp Force Field]"I was ready to be done with Kool Keith after "Total Orgasm 3," but as Michael Corleone once famously quipped on film "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." Junkadelic Music addressed the three biggest criticisms I had of Kool Keith's last free download: his self-production (often unlistenable), his lack of direction (scatology and shock without substance), and his desperate need for collaborators to bring out his best. "Magnetic Pimp Force Field" takes on each of these challenges with a Tito Ortiz sized swing - it's either going to be a strikeout or a home run. That effort alone garners some much needed respect. Mr. Sche a/k/a Big Sche Eastwood comes in as Keith's partner in rhyme AND on production, and at times you could actually mistake this album for his. Given the only better collaborators Keith has had vocally are Marc Live and Ced Gee this split in the vocal duties drastically raises the quality of the lyrics. DJ Junkaz Lou provides additional production and raises the bar further. There are still some musical duds though - "Skreet Smart," "Hard Drugs" and "Plottin'" are songs this 74 minute album didn't need - except that Keith's verse on the latter is somewhat amusing. Personally I'd recommend songs like "Dark Vador Light Sabor" or "Ewokie Galaxy Swag," which feature some blatant sample jacks (Deadmau5 in the case of the latter) that are effective in their new hip-hop context. Even the cheesy singing on the chorus seems to suit the song well, and Sche's rap shows he was just the pimp that Keith needed. As you've no doubt gleaned by now there's a definite Star Wars/spacefaring theme to the album. That was the other thing for Keith to resolve to remain relevant in 2013 - a theme to wrap his madcap schemes around and give them enough context to keep my interest. As such the occasional song that varies from the script like "I'm Insane" is that much more interesting, coming off like the kind of hard rocking hip-hop you often hear from Tech N9ne. The title of "Watch the Throne" might seem like a challenge to Jay Z and Kanye West, but if it's a diss it's a subtle one. "

Mac Dre :: The Musical Life of Mac Dre Vol. 2 - True to the Game Years 1992-1995 :: Young Black Brotha 
as reviewed Matt Jost

[Musical Life Vol. 2]"Last month we endorsed "Volume 1" of Mac Dre's "Musical Life" as compiled by his former producer Khayree. "Volume 2" follows shortly after and immediately invites scepticism. While it was relatively clear that the first disc subtitled 'The Strictly Business Years 1989-1992' commemorated the early years of Mac Dre's career under the wings of Khayree before he had to serve a prison term, the billing 'True to the Game Years 1992-1995' is somewhat dubious. For starters, if Strictly Business was a label, what was True to the Game? Mac Dre's last official project with Khayree came out in 1993 and when he returned in 1996 with "The Rompalation," the producer was out of the picture. Incarceration can be a trying time for relationships. What went down between the two is not for me to speculate, but the subtitle suggests they were in contact at least until 1995. What's more, "Volume 2" opens with a phone conversation between Mac Dre on the prison phone and his Young Black Brothas back home, and a number of tracks here were recorded when he was behind bars. They were released on two seperate records, the EP "Back N Da Hood" (1992) and the full-length debut "Young Black Brotha - The Album" (1993). If you are a Mac Dre fan and expected to find unreleased material from 1994 or 1995, possibly recorded on work release, you will be disappointed. Fans will neither be content with short exerpts from phone calls ("The Following Conversation," "Think 4 Yaself") being sold to them as 'unreleased' Mac Dre tracks. The follow-up essentially gathers recordings from the later years of the period the first compilation already covered, with greater emphasis on the joints from jail. Considering Mac Dre was by most accounts wrongfully convicted, to hear him reflect on his personal situation and life on the streets on cuts like "Back N Da Hood," "93" and "I'm in Motion" is an emotional experience uncommon for the often angry early '90s. The objection remains that well-written raps had to be transferred over a phone line to beats that deserve better vocal performances. Clearly Mac Dre's imprisonment deprived Young Black Brotha of the chance to put out another gem like Mac Mall's "Illegal Business?" and Ray Luv's "Forever Hustlin'" (the excellent "Young Black Brotha - The Album" being closer to a compilation)."

Mathematics :: The Prelude to The Answer :: Money Maker Entertainment 
as reviewed Grant Jones

[The Prelude to the Answer]"As much as RZA helped craft the Wu-Tang sound during the 90s, his recent work tends to be less memorable and certainly more irregular. Thankfully, the Wu were so influential on young emcees and producers that there are STILL new artists emerging with that Wu-Tang sound in 2013, but with twenty years having passed since the world first had to start protecting their necks, Ghostface remains the primary torchbearer for the Wu. With Adrian Younge offering a live instrumentation take on the usual Wu sound, it proved that the brutal, uncompromisingly raw style we know and love is well and truly alive. While RZA has focussed on his movie ventures, the traditional Wu-Tang production duties fall back on Bobby Digital's friends Mathematics, 4th Disciple and True Master. There are numerous others of course (Bronze Nazareth being a personal favourite), but these three spring to mind when I think Wu-Tang beats. Seeing as this review is on a Mathematics record, let's remind ourselves why he is ever present in the Shaolin spectrum. Having helped establish the Clan from the start in 1993, Mathematics worked on numerous tracks in the 90s, including (allegedly) the huge single "Gravel Pit", but didn't get his own record until 2003's "Love, Hell or Right". Despite a third of the record being dreaded skits, he returned two years later with the superb "The Problem" – a few songs featuring in the popular video game series "Saints Row". Mathematics' third album, cunningly named "The Answer" has been delayed throughout 2012 and 2013, but was recently unleashed on Itunes to little hype, if any at all. To try and wake up the many rap fans sleeping on Mathematics' talents, "Prelude To The Answer" was released with the majority of the Clan appearing alongside Termanology, Redman and Ali Vegas. They all drop fairly forgettable contributions, with the emcee Eyes Low dominating the record. He appeared on the Mathematics albums before this, but having to listen to him on 10 of the 12 songs, (making this more of an outlet for him than Mathematics himself) stops this from being a true collection of Wu-Tang Clan members and affiliates. "

Mathematics :: The Answer :: All Maf Productions 
as reviewed Grant Jones

[The Answer]"With RZA working on films (not just soundtracks but DIRECTING) it's always nice to hear some Wu-Tang Clan artists with that staple sound. Mathematics has never really embraced the whole martial arts theme as much as Bronze Nazareth did on "The Great Migration", but his authentically east coast style of production is always welcome. It's a shame then that this album is one of the most disappointing releases of 2013, an album that starts off well yet veers off in to a time warp, bringing back with it a combination of beats and rhymes over ten years out of date. Right from the off, "Cousin Jackson" lets you know this is the intended material Wu fiends were supposed to be consuming. Mathematics laces Yay High and frequent collaborator Eyes Low with his trademarks; strings and pianos. Meth rolls back the years on "Four Horsemen" (with no sign of Killah Priest!), a track which sees Ghostface, Deck and Raekwon also proving the doubters that they can still sound hungry. Mathematics provides a beat that will divide you purely on the choice of snare, but it isn't the only example of mixed results. "Cocaine" sees Method Man dust off the rust to show just how natural his voice is for hooks, along with a decent verse too – but from there it all goes a bit tits up. Redman throws together as many examples of his age as possible on "Notorious", making references to Nikolai Volkoff, the film Face/Off and the Bee Gees. Considering these are some of the better uses of simile (the worst being "I'm Notorious like B.I.G."), and that Mathematics goes for a played out production, help raise my initial worries for this album. This record sounds dated – it actually sounds older than 2005's "The Problem". There's constant references to Biggie and Pac, a bunch of dumb skits and worse of all, substandard production. Mathematics has clearly tried to expand his palate with more soulful efforts "Ratha Smoke Wit U" and "Shorty", but come off as corny when delivered by emcees in their mid-forties."

Roc Marciano :: Marcberg :: Fat Beats Records 
as reviewed Grant Jones

[Marcberg]"It's not often an emcee gets better with age. Roc Marciano is like a fine wine, an expensive one at that. As Jay-Z once said, you can pay for school but you can't buy class. Roc Marciano may not have had to pay for school, but the guy is as smart as emcees come, establishing himself as an elite rhymer with his project back in 2004 as part of The U.N. (not that one). "U N Or U Out" was a criminally underappreciated record that was blessed by some corking Pete Rock production. Nowadays it could be considered a cult classic, particularly as it's unlikely we'll see another U.N. project any time soon. However before this, Roc Marciano was a member of Busta Rhymes' Flipmode Squad who were ultimately underused as a group. It's hard to picture the guy as part of a group nowadays, having dominated near enough every record he has graced over the past five years. Marciano's tongue has effectively developed in to a paintbrush, where each stroke is intricate yet effortless. I stressed this in my review of 2012's "Reloaded" - rap can be a powerful tool. Whether it is provocative, emotional or plain ol' ignorant, rarely does it feel like art. We've had Rakim, Nas and a few other emcees that can legitimately claim to be poetic when they rap in to that microphone. Personally, I found "Reloaded" to be the superior listening experience, but with "Marcberg" we saw that New York rap was far from dead - it saw a new name (to many) establish himself as an elite rhymer. Considering Marciano started his career in the 90s, it's not often an emcee improves considerably as they age. Technically, you could argue the likes of R.A. The Rugged Man and Ghostface Killah are as refined as they'll ever be, even Eminem is somebody I would consider has mastered his art. If you enjoy any of those artists, I'm pretty sure you'll appreciate "Marcberg", particularly if you found early Mobb Deep's grim dourness beautiful on "The Infamous" and "Hell On Earth". As street as "Marcberg" is though, you will find it more rewarding if you get a kick out of complex rhyme schemes and diverse vocabulary."

Roc Marciano :: The Pimpire Strikes Back :: Man Bites Dog Records 
as reviewed Grant Jones

[The Pimpire Strikes Back]"Any regular readers will know by now - I fucks with Roc Marciano. His two solo efforts: "Marcberg" and "Reloaded" were critically adored yet criminally ignored. Of course, the music Marciano makes wouldn't get radio play anyway, and nor should it. I doubt I'd want to hear his intense, assonant-heavy rhymes in between Katy Perry and Macklemore. The masses would need him to do an Eminem and ensure a catchy hook is in there somewhere for me to hum at my desk when I get to work. Marciano is most certainly a rapper's rapper; an emcee who makes hip hop for those who appreciate the intricacies of a verse. He knows that the best emcees grab the listeners' ears and do not let go. Looking at the content of a Roc Marciano album (or song) would have you believe that he just spits aimless, gangsta shit. In a sense, you'd be right - but he is a surprisingly likable character for somebody that claims to be so ignorant. You never feel intimidated, and always welcome to join the New York native on his journey through wildly vivid scenarios that have an effortless professionalism to them. Openly admitting that he is "too New York to not smooth-talk", this FREE mixtape is served up with another hefty helping of street slang and dirty riffs to help prepare the world for "Marci Beaucoup", to be released in December. Much like the gritty soundscapes that were created on 2010's "Marcberg" and last year's "Reloaded", this mixtape is strictly for the gangsters. Inviting guests in to contribute rhymes has been something Roc has refrained from on previous efforts, but as this is a mixtape he has allowed for more experimentation. While the likes of Knowledge the Pirate and Meyhem Lauren don't stand out, there are two emcees that'll already be on the radar of a Roc Marciano fan: Cormega and Action Bronson. Rhyme aficionados probably had wet dreams seeing that Action Bronson was on "Sincerely Antique". Having recently converted to Bronsonism, I'm still finding his shock value lines can sometimes ruin some of his hard work. Just yelling ‘foreskin' at the start of his verse means I've got the mental image of his pale dick in my head before the songs even gets going. It's annoying, particularly as Roc doesn't disappoint."

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