Sunday May 27, 2018

The (W)rap Up - Week of February 4, 2014
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 at 10:00AM :: Email this article :: Print this article

If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including E-40's "The Block Brochure: Welcome To The Soil" parts 4 through 6 then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!

[The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 4-6] E-40 :: The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 4-6
Heavy On the Grind Entertainment/EMI

Author: Matt Jost

"So far this publication has dutifully covered recent E-40 releases one by one, including different volumes of larger series, some of which were unleashed on the same day, like the first three tomes of "The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil." We can keep it more brief this time. 4-5-6 may be a winning combination in cee-lo and E-40 may have long played his way into "Tha Hall of Game," but in this case the numbers simply mean that we're dealing with another round of E-40 albums that aren't even differentiated by subtitles anymore. While someone like Snoop is at a point where he's open to experiment with his persona, Earl Stevens has, if anything, and despite the increased output, narrowed his artistic scope. The E-40 throwback tracks recorded since 2010 by far outnumber his original early '90s songs who served as models. Once again he employs a number of relative newcomers and nobodies behind the boards, but they virtually are all instructed to come up with some variation of the kind of murky, menacingly prowling basslines that make up the bulk of almost any beat. Exceptions seem to be made for his son Droop-E and trusted beatsmiths like Rick Rock, Sam Bostic, Bosko, Scorp Dezel and DecadeZ. Those strict musical guidelines don't help broaden the scope of the second half of "The Block Brochure." The three albums feature exactly three categories of song material. In order of frequency: the dark cautionary street tales, the dimly lit mid-tempo to slow-mo club tunes and the wistful and soulful visions of better times. The guests might steer songs in a certain direction, but the regimen makes sure they are always trademarked E-40. You wouldn't expect anything else from such an attentive host who is able to hold a meaningful conversation with just about any guest. And you can't really fault him for displaying more expertise than them, whether he's jumping up and down at a frat party with the local NhT Boyz ("Ball Out"), or sitting in the VIP section with super stars Chris Brown and T.I. ("Episode"). Danny Brown and Rick Ross both (seperately) honoring their host by acknowledging his influence is certainly a compliment, but it's also a sign of how all elements are drawn to the magnetic E-40 personality.

GDot & Born :: Confidence Presents GDot & Born :: Audible Con Records 
as reviewed Grant Jones

[Confidence Presents GDot & Born]"It's not often an album gets released without a name. The last example I can think of goes back to 2004's release of "Outerspace" which was confusingly billed as "Jedi Mind Tricks presents... Outerspace". Jedi Mind Tricks weren't on the album, but they used the JMT name to clarify to fans of underground hip hop that Outerspace were on that gritty, scientific flex on what was essentially a compilation album released to prepare fans for their label debut. What we have here with "GDot & Born" is actually "Confidence Presents... GDot & Born" - except Confidence isn't actually that well known and IS involved in this project (producing each instrumental). To add to the confusion, legendary Boston emcee Edo. G assumes control halfway through the album. So with Edo. G's revered status, it's baffling that this record wasn't titled "Edo. G presents... GDot & Born" with Confidence taking a backseat. This is an incredibly pedantic start to an album review, but it strikes me as odd. I'm a huge fan of Confidence, having enjoyed his previous albums alongside Tragic Allies' emcee Purpose ("Purpose of Confidence") and the outstanding collaboration with Rashad ("The Element of Surprise"). Maybe Confidence just lived up to his namesake and had the balls to put his name on the album cover after being billed as one half of his last two projects. Fair play to him, and when he continues to lace infectious, instantly accessible pieces of throwback hip hop, he could have named this shit "Confidence Presents... Confidence" for all I care. So what exactly is a "GDot & Born"? Well, they are two up and coming emcees that have had Edo G's blessing. GDot has a faster, rather scruffy style that relies on multis (Rakim style multiple rhymes in his bars), while Born has a more natural, easy on the ear flow. They are good emcees but alas, nothing special. Nevertheless, they bless songs like "Class Is In Session" (a song not unlike much of KRS-One's late 90s work) and the irresistible "Makin' Tracks".

Rome Fortune :: Beautiful Pimp :: 
as reviewed Patrick Taylor

[Beautiful Pimp]"In the wake of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's rise to success this year, there has been a lot of debate about whether they are 'real' hip-hop, or whether they are merely hipsters pretending to rap. There was even a movement by some members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to disqualify the duo from the best hip-hop album award because their music was too pop. While Macklemore and Ryan Lewis could definitely be called white hipsters, dismissing their music because they wear skinny jeans and suck at tanning ignores how much so-called white hipster music has been incorporated into hip-hop recently. There are artists like Clams Casino and Lee Bannon who use ambient electronic music in their beats, a trend that has been picked up by distinctly non-hipster artists like Migos. Jay Soul sampled indie duo Beach House on Kendrick Lamar's 'Money Trees.' Pitchfork darlings Grizzly Bear, possibly the whitest, most hipster band on earth, have been sampled by Oddisee, Brandun DeShay, Childish Gambino, and the Aztext. We are no longer in the 1980s, when white kids listened to mostly white music, leaving R&B and hip-hop to the so-called 'urban' crowd. Everyone listens to everything, and the boundaries around music are getting blurry. Atlanta rapper Rome Fortune's "Beautiful Pimp" mixtape is a good example of just how blurry the lines between hip-hop, electronic music, and indie music have gotten. Dun Deal, Childish Major, and C4 produce most of the tracks on the mixtape. They mix the staples of Southern trap rap (rolling hi-hats, snapping snares) with samples often taken from indie sources like Les Sins and Beck. The beats tend towards atmospheric, with washes of sound that create space for Rome's rapping. It makes for music that is both beautiful and banging, combining the best elements of electronic music and hip-hop. It's like peanut butter and chocolate together - two things that are great on their own that are even better when combined. This is some of the most impressive production of 2013, and rivals Zomby's 'With Love' in taking Southern trap production to exciting new directions."

Snowgoons :: Black Snow 2 :: Goon MuSick 
as reviewed Grant Jones

[Black Snow 2]"The weather has been acting up a lot lately, whether it be the baking temperatures in Australia, the constant floods in the UK or the Antarctic climate that the USA has been experiencing - the man upstairs clearly isn't happy. If he was truly pissed, you can imagine something along the lines of yellow snow would be on the list of Interesting New Weather Phenomena that seemingly gets dished out on an annual basis. 2008 saw Planet Hip Hop on the end of a dose of "Black Snow", courtesy of German storm-bringers The Snowgoons who were following their raucous debut "German Lugers" with a now trademarked blend of bastardised orchestras and intimidating violence-rap. "Black Snow" was The Snowgoons at their best, before their formula was copied by other ultra-hardcore producers throwing violins and trombones in to their beats willy-nilly. There was of course hardcore hip hop in Germany (and throughout Europe) in the mid-2000s, but The Snowgoons started a trend that still continues today - American emcees and European producers. Of course, the Internet has helped this type of partnership blossom, but it was an agreement that works well for both parties. German hip hop is limited by its language, while American emcees are limited by their production choices since the money is no longer in that gritty boom bap scene. Many of those 90s boom bap rappers make much of their money from touring in Europe and it's no surprise to see The Snowgoons' albums are all largely made up of forgotten rhyme-slingers from twenty years ago. Snowgoons' albums are also predictably populated by underground heavyweights such as Ill Bill, Apathy and Slaine and judging by festivals like Kemp in Czech Republic (and to a lesser extent Splash in Germany) - the listeners are just as likely to be young, heavily tattooed white men from across Europe."

Swamp Thing :: Firedogs :: URBNET Records 
as reviewed Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Firedogs]""Creature Feature" introduced the world to Swamp Thing, a hip-hop supergroup from Canada featuring Savilion, Timbuktu and Chokeules. The press release for their latest offering "Firedogs" states that the debut LP was "a glimpse into their warped world" but to a long-time follower of hip-hop or monster movies (let alone both) there was nothing excessively shocking. If anything the album was a tribute to Mystery Science Theater 3000 - a loving laugh at allegedly scary horror or science-fiction films which are only taken seriously by the actors in them. The leading men and women can't be blamed for the bad dialogue though (blame the script), nor can they be blamed for bad special effects or poor editing choices which linger too long on trivial sequences then emphasize plot developments that apparently occurred off screen! It's at that point you can only throw up your hands and enjoy the film as a farce instead of taking it as serious cinema. "Firedogs" finds the focus shifting away from B-movies to A+ rap skills, which makes D-Sisive a natural choice to guest star on opening track "The Altar." Sayeth D: "Bloodshot syringe, burning where my sperm swim/devil in a blue dress, Lucifer in a turban/heroin and spoiled milk, strummin on guitar strings/tugging on my heart strings, on a park bench." The Savilion produced "Damages" that follows it is a pleasant throwback to early-to-mid-1990's hip-hop, combining a smooth melody in the chorus with plucky imitations of it under the verses, stitched together with a simply effective kick drum, snare and hi-hat. It's deceptive given that it comes off effortless but undoubtedly took long hours to perfect. The M.O. for Swamp Thing is short but highly effective tracks, with nothing on the 40 minute album clocking in longer than 3:28. There's very little filler or time wasted on skits, which leaves you on a non-stop roller coaster of hip-hop highs and headlong plunges into a boom bap cavern. The monster movie motif doesn't completely disappear from the Swamp Thing repertoire though."

Tornts :: Street Visions :: Broken Tooth/Obese Records 
as reviewed Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Street Visions]"We've had a variety of opinions from a variety of writers over the years regarding Tornts. Some of our staff felt he was "an emcee in his own category that isn't afraid to tell it like it is" and others saw him as "Australian horrorcore, love it or leave it" (with an emphasis on the last two words). Any time our staff is that evenly divided or polarized about an emcee I take extra interest in what they're going to do next. Thanks to the good timing of arriving during the holiday season, Tornts' "Street Visions" came to our offices at precisely the wrong time for me to distribute it to any other staffer, affording me both the time and opportunity to be the third writer in our crew to take a look at his skills. Tornts predilection toward dark macabre rapping is obvious on the opening track "Dirty Town," which coincidentally is the only video I can find on YouTube for the album. This is the wrong song to start with if you've never been exposed to Tornts before, largely because Kharnivor's beat does nothing for him. It's a sound exercise in sound, with Tornts vocals coming out clearly over big booming bass, but it's also built around an incredibly uninteresting melody made up of just a few alternating notes. In a darkened room full of flickering candles, it might make for a good scare, but in the broad light of day the instrumental is boring and repetitive. Tornts offers quips like "So repugnant/in the jungle where the vines are power lines/we Herman Munster'ed, get amongst it" in an attempt to brighten up the track - he can't save it though."

Triple Playaz :: Missile Ride :: Trace Lachey Records 
as reviewed Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Missile Ride]"The Triple Playaz tout the fact they received "rave reviews including an 8 out of 10 from RapReviews" in the media blurbs accompanying the "Missile Ride" LP. Although that's a technically accurate statement it omits the context that writer Alex scored his 8 (for lyrics only) with, which I'm going to include here: "It's also a lukewarm 8. The Triple Playaz need to trim this by 5-6 tracks and subtract the inane, space-sucking 'wasteland' idea." This is not an attempt to debunk their press kit or accuse them of dissembling in any way so don't take it as such, but I'd rather be clear up front that we've not offered any ringing endorsement of T.P. as the next great thing. Now that we've clarified the situation regarding our views on the Triple Playaz, we can delve into their latest release "Missile Ride" unencumbered. I actually went out of the way to track down the crew when an unfortunate encoding problem made their album unplayable in my system, and they quickly provided a digital copy I could unzip and play on my laptop, so high marks right away for the prompt response. "Missile Ride" is clearly a double entendre for the group, though they do offer a futuristic sounding title track complete with astronaut mission samples to take the theme as far as it can be carried - and it works. The Triple Playaz have a whimsical sense of humor throughout the majority of their CD, which serves them better than the beats do in many cases. "Makin' It Big" is an example of a middling track which is raised above its station by the the absurd situation the rap protagonist is placed in - trying to get a internet action from a woman named "Martha Dumptruck.""

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