If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Da Mafia 6ix' "Da Six Commandments" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Da Mafia 6ix :: 6ix Commandments
Author: Matt Jost
"I'm not going to pretend to have the entire Three 6 Mafia catalog stashed under my mattress. In fact I must admit that for as long as I've been witness to it, I've watched their career with a critical eye. But at one point their influence on rap music became so obvious that it was impossible not to acknowledge their historical relevance. You simply couldn't take in the rise of southern rap without sending off a knowing nod in the direction of DJ Paul and crew. That crew's exact lineup has been subject to continuous changes over the years, and recently it seemed as if even the remaining core of the group - DJ Paul and Juicy J - would finally break apart. News of a reunion under the name of Da Mafia 6ix without Juicy J fueled the notion that the Three 6 Mafia brand was discontinued for good. As so often, the future of the group is currently in the air, but last year Paul made it clear that he still considers J to be an integral part of the clan when he managed to pull him away from his mainstream obligations to rap on the epic homecoming "Body Parts." Featuring some of the most prominent members and affiliates (along with some more random additions), "Body Parts" was actually only the latest in a series of songs named "Body Parts," and that method of referring to previously established standards is the key to understanding "6ix Commandments." Continuing on the way he pursued with 2009's solo effort "Scale-A-Ton," DJ Paul, the driving force behind the project, gives us more than a taste of that '90s underground Memphis rap."
A-Plus :: Think Tank :: Hiero Imperium
as reviewed Steve 'Flash' Juon
"In a previous A-Plus review the Hiero hip-hopper was referred to as "one of those underrated, pseudo-unknown producers that's been a big part of the West Coast scene for a long time." Well said - in fact so well said that I consider it the perfect explanation for reviewing this all-instrumental A-Plus album. In a deed of total generosity A-Plus gave away this download for free, letting listeners delve into his beat tape and judge the results for themselves. The interludes between songs are narrated by a voice that's eerily reminiscent of Madlib's alter ego Quasimoto. "Happy New Year" is an appropriate place to start, as it's hard drumming, guitar rocking slab of funk, punctuated by funky keyboards and a rollicking bass. It's not difficult to imagine any of the Hieroglyphics rapping over it, but it works perfectly well as a solo instrumental. The same can be said of virtually any song on "Think Tank." It's easy to lose yourself in the echoing and airy sound of "I Don't Forget," or for Pam Grier to strut across your mind as "You Owe It to Yourself" plays out like a modern day revenge anthem. "Overcoming Jealousy Theme" takes that one step further - this song is jazzy, gritty, dirty throwback nostalgia. Even though A-Plus isn't rapping on "Think Tank" and we won't score it for lyrics as such, it would be incorrect to say this album is completely sans vocals."
Crows: :: Remixes, Reboots and Alternative Versions :: Ol' Roy Records
as reviewed Steve 'Flash' Juon
"If you've heard "prairie rap group Abstract Artform" then you're one step ahead of me. It is the work of this Winnipeg based rapper that forms the core of an interesting new album by Crows:, and don't forget to include that colon at the end. "Remixes, Reboots and Alternative Versions" started with Canadian producer Mumbles fiddling around with some of Artform frontman Kid A's work, but it didn't stay that small for long though. Producer Co-Pilot joined the effort, and eventually all three decided on a collaborative effort that would include new tracks and alternate versions of songs first heard on the album "As the Crow Flies." Both Artform and Kid A have described their sound in various places as "back porch rap," and though I've searched for a better descriptive for what Crows: is, there really isn't a suitable one. This album sounds like what would happen if a bunch of Canadian rappers and beat maestros emigrated to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, sitting out on the porch with their equipment, jars of moonshine tucked neatly between rocking chairs. They'd sit, they'd rock, they'd sip, and they'd record rap songs as the sun slowly set over the mountain peaks. "Grind" sums this up well: "Yeah I'm on the grind, like them rappers says/a country boy, hard work since back in the day/got love like rap with no pay." This album is ambitious and FOLKSY in the best sense of the word, meaning that it's informed by a casual and common sound that one would expect of the best unpretentious country rap, even though D-Sisive is about as far from the rural South as you can get on "The Hitchhiker.""
De La Soul :: Remixes, Rarities & Classics :: Rhino Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"You may recall that in February, De La Soul celebrated the 25th anniversary of "3 Feet High and Rising" by giving away almost all of their music catalogue for 25 hours. That period has long since expired, but one gem remains tucked away in their vault - "Remixes, Rarities & Classics." Within the confines of their free give away were portions of a slept on De La compilation from 2004. Now let's discuss the "Rarity" of the items in question here, particularly since De La Soul day greatly expanded the ranks of rare DLS material getting broadstream exposure. The remix of "Stakes Is High" featuring Mos Def and Enola Gay is a good starting point given only consumers who had the "Itzsoweezee" single got this new take. The following track takes a complete 180 as "Oodles of O's" is from their classic "De La Soul Is Dead" album, which belongs on the short list of hip-hop albums you can't live without. If stranded on a desert island with a lifetime supply of water, a boombox and a solar panel, that album better be in your emergency kit. This is followed by two true rarities which De La didn't distribute on download day: the DJ Honda track "Trouble in the Water" and the flute solo over "Ring, Ring, Ring (Ha Ha Hey) called "Piles and Piles of Demo Tapes Bi-Da Miles (Conley's Decision)." The rest of the album is just as hard to assemble, although "The Magic Number" is the easiest track to find since "Oodles." You won't have the live version of "Potholes in My Lawn," but going with the original is preferable - or you can even choose the 12" mix. At this point if you wanted to just give up and buy the album from Rhino, I wouldn't blame you."
Mega Ran & Richie Branson :: The Ghouls 'n Ghosts EP :: MegaRan Music
as reviewed Steve 'Flash' Juon
"The Ghosts 'n Goblins franchise is one of the most infamous in arcade video game and home console history, the latter being where the series gained its greatest fame. Anybody who suffered through this title while slugging down can after an all day binge of sodas and snacks, only to be told the ending battle was "a trap by Satan" and ordered to PLAY THE ENTIRE GAME AGAIN FROM THE BEGINNING will understand my use of all caps and bold letters. This was a ridiculous middle finger from Capcom for a game that was already difficult as hell, where your protagonist is two hits from death at all times, and never ending swarms of enemies seek your demise. As much as I appreciate Random a/k/a Mega Ran's unlimited ability to mine the depths of my video game nostalgia, I still mutter unpolite things under my breath about the designers of the Sir Arthur titles. Whether "Ghost 'n Goblins," "Ghouls 'n Ghosts" or "Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts" or any of its other iterations, the game was always unpleasantly hard on any home platform. The real "trap by Satan" though was how the difficulty level would spite me to play again, each time thinking if my timing was just a little better, I could overcome the obstacles. You'd know more or less when to expect certain enemies, and which spots to stand and wait for a second to achieve your goals, so by playing over and over you could do a LITTLE better each time. The games both taunted and tantalized you with the prospect of success - one which emulators and save states made MUCH easier."
Snow Tha Product :: Good Nights and Bad Mornings 2 :: DatPiff.com
as reviewed Patrick Taylor
"Claudia Feliciano, aka Snow Tha Product, isn't your typical rapper. For one thing she is Mexican-American, which is not an ethnicity that is well-represented in hip-hop. For another thing, she's one of the few female rappers signed to a major label. More notably, she manages to mix street rap, club rap and real talk in a way that works. She can rap, she's got good production behind her, and she's got something to say. No wonder Atlantic signed her. "Good Nights and Bad Mornings 2" is a sequel to her 2012 mixtape. If you missed that one, don't worry, because "GNBM2" contains all the songs from the first mixtape, including the singles "Cookie Cutter Bitches," "Damn It," and "Lord Be With You." She's added 12 more songs. Snow is at her best when she has loud beat behind her that allows her to let loose. She's got an aggressive, rapid-fire flow, often rapping so fast that it's hard to follow what she's saying. "Good Nights and Bad Mornings" is all about going big Saturday night and regretting it Sunday morning, and Snow alternates between rapping about partying and wondering what the hell she is doing with her life. Snow is similar to Danny Brown, another rapper who spends equal time rapping about partying and rapping about regretting partying. Snow also has a street element like Brown (she was Snow White the Product until Disney got mad), and her songs have the same sense of danger and recklessness. Just listening to "GNBM2" will give you a wicked hangover. You can just feel your stomach jumping and your teeth gnashing. Snow is less weird and hipster than Brown, however. In fact, on her clubbier tracks ("Hola," "Damn It") she sounds a little like Pitbull by way of Eminem."
Verbal Kent :: Sound of the Weapon :: Mello Music Group
as reviewed Grant Jones
"Some rappers are fortunate enough to be blessed with a voice that was made for hip hop. The likes of Method Man and Nas come to mind as natural rappers that could read the phonebook and still sound fantastic. Others aren't blessed with that privilege, and despite being a fan of Mello Music Group's output, I've never really found Verbal Kent an emcee that was easy on the ears. Ugly Heroes' self-titled debut from last year was one of the best rap albums of 2013 and should have come as no surprise but was thanks largely to the phenomenal production from Apollo Brown and the refreshing approach from Red Pill and Verbal Kent when it came to representing your regular Joes. Verbal Kent has returned in 2014 with Khrysis in tow, and "Sound of the Weapon" is arguably an even better example of Kent's brand of ordinary man rap. That's rap music from the perspective of a regular guy, rather than a man making rap music that sounds ordinary because frankly, this album is strong throughout and converted this fussy reviewer. Khrysis was in danger of stagnating after establishing himself as a soul producer in the vein of 9th Wonder (even appearing on Little Brother's projects), but he has provided Verbal Kent with a fine collection of instrumentals. Tracks like "Hunched over Chess Boards" sound fresh, with crisp drums and rampant pianos aiding Verbal on a track that's difficult to listen to without defenestrating those in the proximity. Kent delivers an aggressive performance on "Underrated?", questioning those that say he is underrated with an intensity you can't help but take seriously - imagining how many songs he hasn't killed yet is a genuine prospect to ponder, not just the primary line of the hook. Aggression is evident throughout "Sound of the Weapon", yet always remains passionate rather than intimidating. The style of rapping from Verbal Kent isn't particularly technical, but his unconventional voice lends itself well to the constant "uh" noises and clear emphasis on each word. "
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