If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including ScHoolboy Q's "Oxymoron" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
ScHoolboy Q :: Oxymoron
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Quincy Matthew Hanley's major label album "Oxymoron" has been cooking for a couple of years now, leaving little intoxicating scents like "Collard Greens" in air, just enough to taste but not enough to eat. In various interviews Q has hinted that Kendrick Lamar's "good kid, m.A.A.d city" inspired him to equal or exceed the success of his fellow Black Hippy artist. If you haven't been savoring the flavors all this time while waiting, go ahead and get your taste of the Nez & Rio produced "Man of the Year" - it's heady and hypnotic. It's not hard to draw a comparison between ScHoolboy Q and Tyler, the Creator if you try, and I'm more than willing to make the effort. First on the list is their absolutely unapologetic use of profanity and blunt use of sexual references, albeit with far less homophobic slurs than his Odd Future counterpart. Second is the deeper raspier voice of Q when compared to the rest of his crew, a distinction that only stands out more when he pairs with Lamar on the aforementioned "Collard Greens." Finally and perhaps most importantly there's Q's absolute unwillingness to sugarcoat the rough and rugged nature of his Los Angeles upbringing, as evidenced by the Sounwave produced song "Hoover Street," where he freely admits "Since a young nigga, I admired the crack sellers." It's a coming of age narrative, with the kind of childhood nobody would want to come of age in, yet it molded the artistic urges that drive Q today. If those were the GOOD days you don't have to think hard to figure out what the BAD days were like. Q's honesty informs the entire album, and his gruff charisma and truthful insights about his less than perfect life keep him firmly in the spotlight. Even when big names from rap show up, ScHoolboy Q firmly holds down that #1 spot. Raekwon can't shove him aside on "Blind Threats." Kurupt and the aforementioned Tyler still have to play second fiddle on "The Purge.""
Bun B :: Trill O.G. "The Epilogue" :: Rap-A-Lot Records
as reviewed Steve 'Flash' Juon
"I honestly thought "Trill O.G." was the end of the trilogy, but it seems that Bun B had some leftover tracks he didn't want to leave on the shelf. This "Epilogue" snuck out quietly in November of 2013 with little fanfare, with a quiet single to promote it produced by The BlackOut Movement called "Fire." There's nothing soft about the song itself though - the bass pounds, the air horn screams, and dancehall artist Serani could rival any chattah in the business with his chorus. If that wasn't hot enough, consider that Bun brought in 2 Chainz and Rick Ross too, although his patois is the best of the three. Between you me and the satellite that can only see at one angle the 2 Chainz verse nearly broke the song for me, especially when he dropped the cornball like "shoot a nigga and I'll +Dash+ like Damon." Ewwwww. Thankfully there's no single guest anywhere else on "The Epilogue" that's anywhere near that whack - in fact they're all the opposite of that. Redman and Royce Da 5'9" float over the pulsing swagger of "Stop Playin'." Big K.R.I.T. provides a classic laid back Texas beat for his own cameo on "Cake," also featuring Lil Boosie and the late great Pimp C. I'm not even that big a proponent of Kirko Bangz, but using him on the hook doesn't harm Bun none on the Big E produced "Triller."
Matt Maddox :: Righteous Fury :: Redphone Records
as reviewed Grant Jones
"Hip hop's underground has certain categories of artists that stick to that area of the genre, and milk a formula. Whether it be the emcees reliving the nineties with their throwback production (Doppelgangaz, Wyld Bunch, Dirt Platoon) or those adding a new twist on that gritty sound (Action Bronson, Roc Marciano), there is one part of hip hop that seems to have hit a dead end. I was a teenager during the time Jedi Mind Tricks starting carving out a cult following alongside artists such as Canibus and Ill Bill. This was at least ten years ago now, but what initially started as lyrical rappers tearing it up over boom bap productions, became more cinematic and epic in execution. Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind has a lot to answer for, because now the underground is flooded with producers led by the orchestral sounds of the Snowgoons, churning out hollow, industrial and ultimately forgettable production. Matt Maddox is quintessentially a light-skinned Jus Allah, minus the memorable one-liners, and "Righteous Fury" is full of the cookie-cutter production you can expect to hear on any number of albums released recently with names like Vanderslice, C Lance and Sicknature involved. It's best to approach Matt Maddox with no previous experience (or overexposure) of that traditionally grim area of hip hop where everybody sports tattoos and beards. Songs like "Street Art" and "BARbarians" benefit from lighter production (they still bang hard, mind), but also see Matt delivering his rhymes without the ‘frog in the throat' technique he tends to lean towards through much of this album. It makes "King Killer" difficult to listen to unless your ears are well aligned with fellow lozenge-suckers Sean Strange or Vinnie Paz. It's also devoid of anything lyrical to help make the vicious posturing digestible or at least interesting. And that is where "Righteous Fury" lets itself down, when it forces its underground position down your throat. "No Country For Old Men" is a disappointing track that does just that, choosing to put down popular artists such as Drake, Nicki Minaj and Wiz Khalifa, yet Engineer's usually reliable production (see Diabolic and Rhyme Asylum's work) drags this generic song in to unlistenable territory."
Angel Haze :: Dirty Gold :: Island/Republic Records
as reviewed Patrick Taylor
"Diversity has become such a politically correct buzz word in recent years that it is easy to overlook why it is such an important issue. Done right, diversity allows for the inclusion of voices and ideas that would otherwise be overlooked. Diversity means including women and people of color in medical studies, so that issues that are specific to women and different ethnicities are addressed. It means designing buildings so people in wheelchairs can use them. It means designing products and programs that address the wants and needs of a range of customers and constituents, and not just the ones that are the most dominant. Diversity means getting a more accurate picture of what is really going on. Over the course of six mixtapes, Angel Haze has shown why there needs to be more diversity in rap, and what we are missing by having so few prominent female rappers. Haze is a fierce, skilled rapper who can shit-talk with the best of them but also drops rhymes about the struggles that women face. Her 2012 covers EP "Classicks" ended with a version of Eminem's "Cleaning Out My Closet" where she rapped about being sexually abused by multiple men for years. It is a perspective that you rarely get in pop music, let alone hip-hop. "White Lilies/White Lies" is another example of the perspectives we miss because men dominate hip-hop. There are a thousand rap songs about strippers, but "White Lilies/White Lines" is one of the few that is from the point of view of strippers themselves. "Whose daughter is on the stage?" Haze asks over a brooding beat. "I know her by name." The song is a punch to the gut that will ensure that you never look at a stripper the same way again. Ironically, it is Angel Haze's very diversity that ends up hurting her major label debut "Dirty Gold." Haze tries to walk the line between battle rapper, pop star, emo rapper, and motivational speaker. That's a lot to tackle in one album, and it is not surprising that it ends up a mess. Too many of Haze's raps are yelled, and they don't jibe with the pop production and softer elements in the music. It's like her label wanted her to be all things to all people all the time, and as a result she's not entirely successful at any of them."
Mistery :: Way of the Warrior :: Krosswerdz Recordings
as reviewed Jaroslav 'Czechone' Lavick
"Veteran Aussie rappers are a dying breed. Whether they have lost interest in making music, given in to the reality and demands of middle-aged every day life or aren't sure where they fit into the modern day Australian hip hop puzzle, releases from the older heads are very few and too far between. That's not to say we've ever had a prolific scene to begin with; unless my memory is failing with age I can't think of one artist from these shores who has anything like a dozen albums to their name, in fact half of that total pretty much places one at the top of the list (Koolism, Reason and Bias B are thereabouts). Even those that have been around for 20 years or more have hardly given us a solid stream of output e.g. Def Wish Cast, who are seen by most here as THE legends of our scene, have only given us three full lengths since they appeared in the early 90's, and Sleeping Monk is another old-timer who (deservedly) has somewhat of a rep despite having less than a handful of releases. I could launch into a lengthy tirade about the factors behind this, but in a nutshell I think it comes down to a lack of support from the local record industry, little demand and interest from Aussie heads for home grown product (vs. US hip hop) and the undeniable factor is that being an MC who "stays true" has never been enough to pay the bills in this part of the world (and elsewhere for that matter). Therefore, I was VERY pleasantly surprised to discover that an all-time Sydney favourite of mine had released a solo album; an album which I had written off as never happening after first hearing mention of its impending release something like 4 or 5 years ago. Once again, this prompts me to have a bit of a go at the local scene; there was no hype for his album at all and I only discovered it via my sporadic lurking on a local hip hop forum, one that is supposed to be focused on the Australian hip hop scene. The topic promoting the album has the grand total of TWO replies, as opposed to Eminem's MMLP2 which has multiple topics with endless pages of discussion - see what I mean about lack of local support/interest? Sure, comparing the amount of discussion about one of the most well known rappers in the world to that of a local underground MC who isn't on many people's radars is hardly fair, and it's not as if an internet forum represents our whole scene, but I think it's still a reasonably valid indicator of where things stand. "
Sick For Brains :: Lifestyles of the Sick and Heinous :: Sick For Brains
as reviewed Grant Jones
"If you're not a fan of Necro or any of the over-the-top violence and sex that early Eminem dabbled with then you can discount this review from here on in. Sick for Brains look, sound and feel like Necro - minus the solid production. You're probably wondering why I'd bother reviewing this record given that I don't particularly enjoy that style of hip hop, and having seen Necro live (oddly, his set was just before Talib Kweli's), genuinely find some of his material unsettling. That's obviously part of his appeal, yet Sick for Brains rarely shock you; "Lifestyles of the Sick and Heinous" is a mile away from the vicious, black humour of Big L's near-classic "Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous". What Sick for Brains do borrow from Big L is the clownish, excessive behaviour of Mr Flamboyant's earlier (and scruffier) work which can be found on the "Return of the Devil's Son" CD. Despite the Necro similarities, there are songs that regular (sane) listeners can feel apathetic towards. There's some verses on "Writin' Raw Shit" that operate at a different tier to the rest of the album, presumably because they enlisted Copywrite to drop a guest verse and didn't want to be upstaged. If there ever was a hit single from this album, it would be the uncomfortable "I'm Screwin' Your Daughter", which treads dangerously close to being the first (and hopefully only) hip hop anthem for paedophiles. It's not supposed to be, but the constant references to childhood help ensure this song is genuinely just sick. Lines like "your baby's a crazy ho" and "she doesn't play with dolls no more, it's dick she loves" may not be intentionally disturbing, but do prevent this from being a song you'd listen to repeatedly - the hook, production and idea is all there but it's not quite the sum of its parts."
Trae Tha Truth & The World's Freshest :: The Tonite Show :: Empire Distribution
as reviewed Grant Jones
"This review is for the uninitiated, the hip hop heads that aren't regular listeners of the southern, bass-heavy style. Many of you will know of UGK, and for those that don't, it's time to educate yourself. The reason I mention UGK is because Trae Tha Truth reminds me of a smoother Bun B - distinctive, throaty and possesses a tone that's deeper than 99% of the male population. If you kicked him in the nether regions, he'd sound normal (and you'd sound dead). "The Tonite Show" is an EP that's arrived shortly after a mixtape ("I Am King") and before the 2014 release of "Banned", but shows glimpses of a nice little partnership brewing. DJ Fresh (billed as The World's Freshest) provides a dreamlike soundtrack throughout "The Tonite Show", coughing up an 80s vibe on "You Neva Know" and making the single "Wid It" sound like a Disney-fied take on the theme to The Exorcist. Fresh is at his best on "Pain", a mesmeric head-nodder that suits Trae perfectly. It's the one moment where more of Trae would have worked, as the sleepy atmosphere is the perfect foil for Trae's husky rhymes. Trae demonstrates his rapping ability most explicitly on "Like a Diamond", opting for a faster flow which suits him more than the laconic and dry stance he takes on much of this EP. There's no denying the charismatic presence that Trae has, but even he knows that it can grate as he shares mic time on five of the six songs."
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