If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Goodie Mob's "Age Against The Machine" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Goodie Mob :: Age Against the Machine
The Right/Primary Wave/Atlantic Records
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
"In 2004 one of the most important rap groups of the 1990's seemed to be irrevocably fractured. The title and cover art of Goodie Mob's "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show" suggested a not well hidden resentment at the solo success of Cee Lo Green in blatantly disparaging terms. The irony is that this bitterness overshadowed what was otherwise a decent to above average album, and pointing out Cee Lo's absence made it feel like a tainted product. It's as true in rock music as in hip-hop - in an acrimonious break-up there are a lot of losers and few winners. Apparently it didn't take long for Khujo, T-Mo and Big Gipp long to figure out which side of that equation they were on - by October 2006 they squashed the beef at one of Cee Lo's concerts as Gnarls Barkley. Now it's clear Cee Lo accepted the apology and that his promises that Goodie Mob would reunite for an album were genuine, but once Pandora's Box had been opened, things weren't going back to status quo any time soon. Cee Lo's fame and popularity have only continued to increase in the interim, leading to a trophy case full of music accolades and a recurring presence in pop culture, not the least of which was a stint hosting The Voice on NBC. As weeks turned to months and months turned to years, occasional quotes from the inner circle would suggest "we've been in the studio" or "we've got X number of tracks recorded." There's no ignoring the simple facts though - it took nine years to get from "One Monkey" to "Age Against the Machine." Even if you start the clock from the day they all squashed the beef, that's seven years. There are fine liquors that spend less time maturing in the barrel than this album. "Maturing" is a suitable word for this fine "Aged" album though. Every member of the group is either in their late 30's or early 40's. The youthful exuberance of "Soul Food" in the mid-1990's led to an instant hip-hop classic. They were the spiritual extension of a movement led by OutKast, shaped by Organized Noise, and collectively referred to as the Dungeon Family. "Who's that peeking in my window?" Before that gun can go "pow," these elder hip-hop statesmen have a message brought to you by the 11th letter."
Archie Bang :: Never Say Die Vol. 1 (80's Babies Edition) :: Flagship Entertainment
as reviewed Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Flatbush rapper Archie Bang is proud to declare himself an "80's Baby" and the artwork of "Never Say Die Vol. 1" reflects it. Archie places himself squarely in the center of a cinematic gang known as The Goonies, with the most visually distinctive (and disfigured) member Sloth flanking him. The album's "Intro" freely samples from the film's dialogue. For those who grew up seeing it in childhood (as I did) these are welcome callbacks, but if it's all unfamiliar don't sweat it too much. The movie airs frequently on cable, is a cheap digital rental if you can't wait until then, and the album functions equally well regardless of your familiarity with 1980's pop culture. Familiarity is if anything a bit of an impediment for Archie Bang. From the outset let's make it clear there's nothing whack about this emcee. The diction is clean, the breath control not lacking, the rhymes not poorly written, the delivery not overly monotone or flat. The biggest problem is that Archie Bang sounds like the typical above average New York rapper, which is still above average, but that still means you've heard him before. Archie Bang will at some point remind you of at least a half dozen NYC rappers over 52 minutes, and I'd include Saigon among others. He's not as charismatic nor as lyrically vivid as Sai, but rap anthems like "Summer Time" show his potential. There are plenty of enjoyable songs on "Never Say Die" that show the promise and potential that Archie Bang holds - the 12 Keyz produced "Blasphemy" and the harrowing Sargon the Great produced "Rewind" among them."
Brotha Lynch Hung :: Mannibalector :: Strange Music
as reviewed Matt Jost
"The premise is nothing if not promising. Veteran horrorcore rapper Brotha Lynch Hung relaunches his career by signing with distinctive indie label Strange Music, home of a motley crew of rap acts who if nothing else share the willingness to deal with the mental and physical aspects of human existence. He records a trilogy of albums that thoroughly document his fascination with the entire range between bodily harm and homicide - and those nasty human actions that surpass the imagination of the average person. Everybody's happy, especially Hung, who continues to make a living setting his actual factual perversion to music. That's right, on "Dinner and a Movie" (2010), "Coathanga Strangla" (2011) and "Mannibalector" (2013) Lynch is rapper by day, strangler, stabber, slasher, slayer, serial killer by night. It's so wonderfully obvious that it just might be true. Everything was in place for a masterpiece, a career-crowning achievement developing over three releases. Lynch and Strange were off to a good start with "Dinner and a Movie," which not only offered some truly horrific moments and professional musical support but also provided a rare reality check for listeners conditioned towards an uncritical consumption of rap music, a genre that traditionally walks a fine line between truth and fiction but is usually in complete denial about that balancing act. While "Dinner and a Movie" was an exciting rap album period, "Coathanga Strangla" made no attempt to tie the concept's loose threads together, plus individual chapters failed to live up to the expectations their titles raised, last but not least due to a bloated supporting cast. Only a spectacular turn of events during "Mannibalector" could have elevated the project from a succession of shocking scenes to a thoroughly scripted, casted, acted, directed and edited piece of work. There are several reasons that call for the cinematographic analogy in this case. One is that the artist himself heavily relies on the narrative element. There are dramatic intermissions, recurring personas, graphic descriptions, chains of events, etc. Another reason is the justification of it all. This is a genre who is often met with diametrically opposed opinions."
Pawz One :: Face the Facts :: Below System
as reviewed Grant Jones
"Mimicry is a form of flattery, yet I'm not really sure Pawz One's "Face the Facts" ever flatters the numerous albums on the market that sound the same. One Dae, Sivion, Wyld Bunch and even Epidemic have all released records in the last year that despite being well produced slices of tradtional rap music, all of them failed to leave any lasting marks in the underground. With so many records being released each month, it's hard to keep up on 'throwback albums', let alone every other style. By throwback album, I mean the records that use sample based beats, scratched hooks and generally proclaim their work as 'the real hip hop'. Pawz One is undoubtedly one of those rappers, with his solo debut "Face the Facts" chockful of played out songs. Pawz One does try to deviate from the standard "I'm representing real hip hop" message that could have bogged this record down, with "Blood Brothers" and "Trust No One" showing his ability to tell a story, but the overall package is let down by boring themes such as "Bringing It Back" and "Those Were The Days". Despite living in the past, a lot like the guys Pawz One talks about on "People You Know", there are a couple of collaborations that may interest you regardless of your feelings towards Pawz One. "Avalanche Warning" sees Rakaa Iriscience bless a busy DJ Default beat, but only makes you yearn for Evidence to drop some bombs alongside him. Termanology and Ras Kass appear on the forgettable "Mind Power", but the remix to "The Luv" is most certainly a keeper: a typically nostalgic collaboration with an emcee that always delivers - Masta Ace. It's Pawz One's rhymes that never really connect, thanks largely to his unconvcining presence and lines such as "I'm legendary on various drums" when he has genuine legends such as Masta Ace on his album, and every other beat is a Premo knock-off, it's insulting. There's also some odd decisions on "Face The Facts" - "Trust No One" suffers from a messy hook, and given that every other track features cuts it's odd that Pawz didn't trust DJ Breeze to hook him up."
various artists :: House Party Soundtrack :: Motown Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace
"When reflecting upon the good ole days of early 1990s urban/hip-hop cinema, a handful of titles are almost always mentioned. There's "Boyz N The Hood," "Menace II Society," "New Jack City" and then "House Party." All are revered as classics in the eyes of many, but what about their accompanying soundtracks. All four of the above listed films share a commonality amongst them by featuring soundtrack contributions from some of the major players in the movies. You have Ice Cube and Yo-Yo on "Boyz N The Hood," MC Eiht on "Menace II Society," Ice-T on "New Jack City" and Kid-n-Play and Full Force from "House Party." For those old enough to remember, there are certain scenes in "House Party" that are permanently ingrained into our cerebral cortex. There's the dance battle, the slow dancing, the jailhouse rap and of course the battle between Kid and Play. So after nearly 25 years, how does the soundtrack fare today? To be fair, the official soundtrack is missing some vital cuts, including the opening tune from the film - Luther Vandross' "Bad Boy/Having A Party," Heatwave's "Always and Forever" and Full Force's "Ain't My Type of Hype." The omissions are unfortunate, but it is what it is. Besides, in this day and age, all three songs are a hop, skip and click away. What we're left with is an 11-track compilation of songs coming from the likes of Zan, Artz & Kraftz, LL Cool J, Flavor Flav, Today, Force MD's, Kenny Vaughan & The Art of Love, Full Force Family and of course, Kid-n-Play. The party opens up with Today's "Why you Get Funky On Me," a new-jack infused ditty about love gone awry. Artz & Kraftz follow with "What A Feeling," one of the two appearances they make on the soundtrack. The song is formidable for what it is, but doesn't do anything to become a highlight of the party. Staten Island legends, the Force MD's leave a bigger impression before giving way to the Full Force Family who performs the title track."
various artists :: Mello Music Group: Mandala Volume 1 - Polysonic Flows :: Mello Music Group
as reviewed Grant Jones
"Do you remember Rawkus Records? That proudly underground record label that kick-started the careers of Mos Def and Talib Kweli, yet embraced hardcore icons such as RA The Rugged Man and Pharoahe Monch? If you don't then you missed out on some fantastic albums during an era where flossing and sporting grills weren't just terms known by dentists. Looking back at the albums Rawkus released, it's hard to argue with the ratio of quality to quantity. Even in their dying days (2006-2007) they were still dropping polished gems such as Panacea's "The Scenic Route" and Mr J. Medeiros' "Of Gods And Girls". Mello Music Group not only have that same level of consistently excellent releases under their belt, they now have a roster of producers that can provide enough dope beats to throw out some compilations that showcase the depth of the label's output. The Soundbombing trilogy were all great in their own way, but were defined by their flow. "Soundbombing 1" was filthy, with bass-y beats and some ruthless rhymes from RA The Rugged Man, but was frequently spoilt by Evil Dee yelling "Evil Dee is on the mix come on kick it!". The third iteration fared better, even boasting some hit singles (by Rawkus' standards at least) in Kool G Rap's "My Life" and Pharoahe Monch's "The Light" - but it is "Soundbombing 2" that rightfully stands the test of time. It perhaps benefitted from being released in 1999, a time where Eminem, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Dilated Peoples were all blowing up, and the lineup was boosted by a resurgent Pharoahe Monch and Common Sense. The Beat Junkies were able to mix the tracks together in a manner that meant you weren't likely to hit the skip button (I'm looking at you DJ Premier with your 'let's bring that 2-bar segment back for the fiftieth time'). It just worked so well, and there's no doubting that Mello Music Group can produce something just as good, but without a DJ hosting proceedings, does "Polysonic Flows" fare as well? Well, this isn't the first time Mello Music Group have released a compilation ("Self Sacrifice" was the last one, a very good collection of tracks that capitalised on Apollo Brown's momentum). For the most part, "Polysonic Flows" delivers on its promise."
various artists :: Mello Music Group: Mandala Volume 2 - Today's Mathematics :: Mello Music Group
as reviewed Grant Jones
"Following Mello Music Group's first volume in their "Mandala" series, "Today's Mathematics" is most certainly the other side of the coin - the yang to the first volume's yin. They complement each other well, with "Today's Mathematics" possessing energy, attitude and in turn, accessibility that "Polysonic Flows" struggled to offer. This is of course done on purpose, as the label has a diversity that is arguably unequalled. For a smoother, laid-back collection to throw on during a late-night drive, "Polysonic Flows" is most certainly a sensible choice. The Oddisees, Has-Los and yUs offer up that matured, intricate approach to hip hop, whereas "Today's Mathematics" is more in-your-face and boasts emcees that attack mics with added ferocity. This isn't to say that the album is merely a bunch of hard beats and hard rhymes, far from it. The thumping production that comes courtesy of the likes of Audible Doctor, Apollo Brown and Gensu Dean does steal the shine from other offerings, particularly the first few tracks. Duke Westlake provides a bouncy beat for Rapper Big Pooh and Stik Figa on "Juk" that instantly usurps the already impressive introduction from Audible Doctor and Fredro Starr ("No Design To This"). Considering Murs has utilised 9th Wonder's brand of crashing hip hop for many years now, it's no surprise that "The Pain Is Gone" sees Murs sound at home atop Apollo Brown production. He provides a typically telling tale of joy and pain that comes with unprotected sex, accompanied by his trademark humour. Audible Doctor shows symptoms of 'being sick' on "Space Age Doctor", a crisp, fanciless instrumental, but "The Last Real One" is the pick of the bunch. Has-Lo sounds reinvigorated despite still dropping a "talky" verse, and that's down to the bombastic approach to sample chopping the Doctor has ordered. Verbal Kent continues to be in "Beast Mode" with a Kaz-1 beat not unlike his recent collaborator Khrysis supplied for "Sound Of The Weapon", and appears alongside his Ugly Heroes partner Red Pill on "Pay Attention" that sounds as you would expect. It's not one of Apollo Brown's greatest productions, but the Papoose sample proclaiming "folks pay dues, not me I pay attention" works perfectly. "
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