If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Toth From Hoth's "Conspiracy Theory", then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
J-Toth From Hoth :: Conspiracy Theory
The Frozen Foods Section
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
"St. Louis based rapper J-Toth From Hoth lives by the mantra "Creativity first, cash second... the means justifies the ends." As you might expect this makes him a ruggedly independent artist to the degree his albums are not easily available in brick and mortar outlets. You can buy them directly from The Frozen Food Section label though, or get his latest project "Conspiracy Theory" for $8 (or more) via Bandcamp. He's been around since 2002, but my exposure to him increased when he dropped the single "Ghostwhirl" in 2005 with a cameo verse from MF DOOM - the remix in particular looping an ear-catching sample from "House of the Rising Sun." Toth resides in self-imposed obscurity due to his uncompromising artistic integrity and lyrical style, but his profile got a small boost this year thanks to Grip Grand. While Toth's verse wasn't part of Grand's "Jive Turkeys" pastiche, it wasn't too hard to connect the dots and realize the DOOM lyric GG remixed came from Toth's song. Between this and other references to him on RapReviews we wound up with a copy of "Conspiracy Theory" on both vinyl and CD. It seems Toth is to some degree coming out of his mainstream exile. If the title "Conspiracy Theory" didn't already give you the idea, the lyrical and audible snippets above should. Toth is unrepentantly unapologetically anti-government, and views the big players like Rove with a highly suspicious eye. "Rove" is written as though he were the former Dubya confidant himself, bragging "I've got a wetsuit made of diplomatic immunity/don't hate - congratulate American ingenuity! Winning at any and all costs." The Splitface produced track is as harrowing as Toth's vocal tone - he spits like a chimney stack at a coal factory. Put another way he sounds like he had throat cancer at some point in his life. He's like Vinnie Paz meets R.A. the Rugged Man. I can't overstate this - Toth is a GRITTY rapper. A lot of it is wrapped in humor though, such as "Boris the Emcee" on the "KGB Outro," which I suspect is just a Toth alter ego."
Ariano :: The Collection Volume One :: Technicali Sound
as reviewed Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Owing to a glut of both physical and digital album submissions, Ariano's "The Collection Volume One" has been sitting in my inbox since August. It's certainly not because he lacks the credentials to be reviewed - he's worked with Evidence, Chali 2na, KRS-One, DJ Khalil, Dudley Perkins and M.E.D. just to name a few. The reason the Ariano's in such high demand is that he doubles as both rapperAND singer, which means the L.A. based artist is always in demand. As an example of his versatility, check out the video for "Not Going Back" below. "The Collection" features a remix of it starring Crooked I.Ariano's favorite producer is LDontheCut, who is pretty prolific in his own right these days. He produces five of the tracks on "The Collection," exactly one third of the total songs available. Coincidentally these songs also include some of the biggest guest stars of Ariano's album. "Back to the Wall" features Pigeon John and "Lost Angeles" features Akil of Jurassic 5 fame. LD himself appears on the Kev Brown produced "Infect the Nation." You might as well call them the Technicali Tag Team since the two of them founded the fledgling label together back in 2005. If LD is truly "on the cut" turntable wise, he deserves props for the scratching here too. "The Collection" lives up to its name by culling some of the best tracks Ariano has been on over the years. There's the boom baptastic "Something in the Air," with Ariano crooning and rapping over a DJ Babu beat. "Gotta Get Mine" is an all-star collab' featuring everyone from Jac Spade to U-God."
Drojo :: Last American Migo EP :: Narco Wave/Rock Bottom Gang
as reviewed Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Drojo is well connected for somebody on the come-up. The Rio Grande Valley rapper has Happy Perez in his corner as a producer - musical maestro for Baby Bash, Flo Rida, and SPM among others. He's even put in work for Mariah Carey and Miguel. Since Perez' services are clearly in demand, it stands to reason that he would not be working with Drojo without either (A.) a fat check in his hand or (B.) investing in his career to get a return when he goes national. He's slowly creeping up that radar thanks to his willingness to rap about sensitive topics like the Mexican drug wars, something he's intimately familiar with given his proximity to the border. In an interview with Borderland Beat, Drojo cleared up concerns he's glorifying the violence: "My concept is more like a movie. [It's] something that is happening, but I'm trying to see it as a movie." It's clear on the song "100 Mill" he's trying to draw a larger picture with that movie, as he opens the bouncy/catchy track with a recurring refrain: "Drojo tryin to get another hundred mill/Bush tryin to get another hundred mill/Obama tryin to get another hundred mill/it's some niggaz in the hood that need a hundred mill." There's a hint of that throughout the rest of the "Last American Migo" EP, but I say "a hint" like a cook would say you'd add "a dash" of paprika to a recipe. It may add to the flavor, but it's not a major ingredient. Happy Perez is the dominant flavor here, and his work seasons songs like "Model Bitches" on topics that are already well known to rap fans."
Imperial & K.I.N.E.T.I.K. :: Pencils Not Pistols :: Illect Recordings
as reviewed Zach 'Goose' Gase
"We here at RapReviews.com like to support UK hip hop; we even have an entire month where we highlight releases from rappers who reside across the Atlantic. This has helped me discover a lot of British emcees that I would have probably missed out on if we didn't have a UK month. One of my favorite UK emcees over the past year or so has been the London-based, K.I.N.E.T.I.K. Back in June, K.I.N.E.T.I.K. released a project with LA producer, Kuroisoul titled "Hip Hop is Forever" and five months later, he has returned with another producer and another top notch record. This time around, K.I.N.E.T.I.K. has linked up with Cambridge-based beatsmith Imperial for a 7-track EP titled, "Pencils Not Pistols." "Pencils Not Pistols" is a brief, but satisfying listen backed by Imperial's heavily jazz influenced production. Whereas a lot of contemporary jazzy hip hop sounds derivative of 1990s staples like Pete Rock and A Tribe Called Quest, Imperial manages to find a style that has that jazz influence without sounding outdated. "Go Hard" is high energy cut that features horn heavy samples and "Just The Way I Feel" features trickling pianos, which is a nice backdrop for K.I.N.E.T.I.K. to write about his romantic affairs. "Pencils Not Pistols" is filled with positive and uplifting tracks like "Zone Out" and the EP's best cut "Count Your Blessings." On the "Zone Out" K.I.N.E.T.I.K. raps about how technology and social media has affected modern life."
The Jacka x Dubble-OO :: Futuristic Mob :: Space Age Entertainment
as reviewed Matt Jost
"Visions of the future always contain a glimmer of hope because no matter how bad the scenario, there's always the possibility for a savior to change the course of future history. NorCal rapper The Jacka is a very active hero of our time, going from one adventure to the next, releasing albums in short succession if not simultaneously. In view of this busy schedule Dubble-OO automatically gets cast as the apprentice here, perhaps not making his first ever appearance on "Futuristic Mob," but clearly in the role of the sidekick. The meaning behind their joint venture, according to Jacka, is to fuse Jacka's more traditional Bay Area mob music style with the apparently futuristic outlook of Dubble-OO. As it turns out, this day is saved by the sidekick. The Jacka still possesses some of that seasoned-but-saddened charisma that made him a hood favorite, but he's seldomly running at a 100% these days. Dubble-OO not only adds youthful abandon to the veteran's world-weary reflections, he also emerges as a versatile vocalist, combining well-timed flows with exuberant outburts, even keeping ready a nice little surprise in the form of a Hot Boys homage on one of the later tracks. "Futuristic Mob" is off to a great start with the duo of Pakslap and Bandit scoring the first four songs. "100 100's" is, if that's possible, simultaneously spheric and abrasive, a grand entrance that despite its sonically futuristic ambitions finds both rappers keeping it hood. Still the theme is already present lyrically, Jack often looking at things from a third-eye view ("People say we blind - but I still see / I'm just out my mind, I guess that's what they mean"), Dubble taking things in with the enthusiasm of an explorer ("See me, HD, 3D, computer screens / Witness a nigga from nothin' doin' his thing"). "
N.B.S. :: The Smokefest :: Big Bang Records
as reviewed Steve 'Flash' Juon
"N.B.S. are dropping "The Smokefest" at a time in the U.S. where there is increasing tolerance of marijuana. "The Smokefest" can't rely on a cloud of controversy to sell this album - the inclusion of a marijuana recipe card will barely raise an eyebrow. The green artwork and pro-marijuana stance will certainly appeal to an audience already receptive to smoking - fans of groups like Cypress Hilland the Kottonmouth Kings among others. N.B.S. includes a recipe card inside "The Smokefest" which describes how to make "cannabutter" on one side, and a recipe for "cannabis cookies" made with said same ingredient on the other side. Of course neither side tells you how to acquire the cannabis to make your cannabutter, let alone whether you live in a state where that would be practical. Anybody who has a true medical need is probably not going to share their stash with you just to bake cookies. Even without organized advocacy though there's always been a tolerance of weed in rap, long before the rest of the U.S. caught up to hip-hop culture. Rolling up a joint may have once had a more rebellious cachet, but mainstream rap albums without ganja references tends to be the exception. To really stir up conversation you need to have great beats, great topics, a great flow and often a great guest star. "Til the World Ends" featuring Reks has all of the above. It's hardly the exception. "Last Lyricist Alive" has a beat by 75Crates & Rockwheezey, scratches by DJ Grazzhoppa and a cameo by Ali Vegas. "Vices" has an edgy electronic sound courtesy Quarantine, and a cameo from underground favorite Bishop Lamont. My personal favorite though is Torae guesting on the piano medley of Mac & Y-Not for "With the Pen." Other notable guest shots on "The Smokefest" include Slaine on the autotune influenced "Green Flag Gang," Smiley and Sicknature on "Smiley" and Tum Tum on "So High." And yes if you were expecting some stereotypes of cannabis inspired hip-hop, there's the obligatory Jamaican/reggae sound of "Marley Tribute" which encourages listeners to "roll it up and we'll get high." It's no more or less than I expect."
Reginald :: Man Behind the Mask :: Bandcamp
as reviewed Emanuel Wallace
"So what's in a name? A few years ago, The Canon was "Waiting For Your Attention." This time around, Reginald is revealing the "Man Behind the Mask." Just like with "Waiting," we're presented with a young man finding his way through the world and rapping all about it - he's a little bit older and seasoned this time around and it shows in his rhymes. Production on "Man Behind the Mask" is handled by the likes of Cam Osteen, This Is Sky, Kyle Clayton, Rollo Vasquez and Raymon Bueno. From the onset, Reginald finds himself never wanting to write another sad song but readily admits that it's tough not to do so when the odds are stacked so greatly against him. Problems like those are exactly why Reginald feels the lingering need to hop a "Red Eye" and just get away from it all. Not a care in the world. After snapping back to reality, "May Sound Crazy" shows Reginald's dedication to always staying true to himself in both his life and his music, even at the cost of possibly coming across as being a bit off-kilter. As long as you feel him in the end, that's all that matters. Our hero files his grievances with the treatment of the working class on "Brain Dead Slave," likening it to modern day slavery. After reaching such a low point, things can only improve from there and that's where songs like "Luxury," "Hope In The Sky" and "Be Free" come into the picture. The latter of the three is a rallying cry for the listener to liberate themselves from the hurt, fear, pain and shame that all come with the trials and tribulations of life."
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