If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Freddie Gibbs & Madlib's "Pinata" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up.
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib :: Pinata
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
"If one rapper can singlehandedly put Gary, Indiana on the map as something other than the ancestral home of the Jacksons, Freddie Gibbs is the man to do it. If any rap artist can claim to be from an unapologetically gangster city, he or she would be FROM Gary. ChiRaq may have more fame from a greater level of rap exposure, but Gary is just 25 miles away and arguably as hazardous to the health of a young urban dweller if not moreso. It's a city named after a steel mill that helped the population explode in good times, that subsequently left the same population bereft in bad times. Much like Flint, Michigan when General Motors bailed, Gary attained its bad reputation due to high unemployment and lack of opportunities, forcing residents left behind to either relocate or survive hard times by any means necessary. Gibbs does not claim to glamorize the gangsterism of Gary. Far from it. He's apologetic to a fault about it in interviews, stating that nobody should have to live the way Gary residents do, but that it's a slice of American life that should be shown truthfully warts and all. The only way things will change in economically depressed environments is if the elite are forced to deal with the 99%, but neither the Warren Buffetts or the Donald Trumps of this world will ever hear Freddie's message on "Shitsville." They're content to live in their ivory towers and pretend that level of poverty and violence doesn't exist, while occasionally emerging from behind gated fences to make charitable donations at gala balls to people they'll never meet. It's too much to hope the 1% are tuned in, and since they're not we might as well enjoy Madlib's production and Gibbs' rapid-fire rhymes. Much like America's drug problem, this isn't an album that just sprung up overnight. Gibbs and Madlib have been collaborating as far back as 2011, and material found here will be familiar to those who have been down for the ride dating back to the first "Thuggin'" EP. Madlib has never been one to settle for working with average emcees, so you had to suspect Freddie Gibbs was something special for them to collaborate on a level only seen by the likes of MF Doom and the late J Dilla."
7vnseal :: Sanctified Artillery :: Tate Music Group
as reviewed Patrick Taylor
"For the uninitiated, 7vnseal is a rapper and minister who pairs a Christian message with Wu-worthy beats. "Sanctified Artillery" is his latest release, and follows in the footsteps of his previous mixtapes. Expect hard beats mixed with militantly Christian rhymes. The cover of this EP features a man with a sniper rifle and AK-47 strapped to his back watching a nuclear bomb go off in the distance. 7vnseal takes being a soldier of Christ literally. In his rhymes he fights the devil like a general fighting against hostiles. "Nigeria" puts 7vnseal's militaristic flow to good use as he talks about attacks on Christians in that country by Islamic groups. 7vnseal is full of fire and brimstone as he raps over a heavy Sampai Beats production. However, even at his most focused his message is often unclear. As on previous releases, 7vnseal seems to be mashing a whole bunch of Biblical imagery into his lyrics, often without much rhyme or reason.The concept of making hardcore street rap with a Christian message is intriguing, and 7vnseal almost delivers. He's got good production from Sampai Beats and Black Symphany. He's got a gravelly, aggressive flow similar to Vinnie Paz. He's got Biblical imagery. What he doesn't have is a coherent message."
Marsha Ambrosius :: FVCK & LOVE :: Marsha Ambrosius
as reviewed Steve 'Flash' Juon
"After a whole day of reviewing hip-hop albums for the site, I decided Marsha Ambrosius would be a nice change of pace, and thankfully for me she debuted a brand new (and FREE) EP on March 6th. If the name seems familiar it's because you've already heard her before. You might remember her as The Songstress in the rap group Floetry, but it's more likely you remember her from songs like Styles P's "I'm Black" and "It's Alright" by Saigon among dozens and dozens of others. As a soloist she's been known for cutting (and I mean blood deep) R&B ballads like "Hope She Cheats On You (With a Basketball Player)." She's hardcore. Marsha's "FVCK & LOVE" has one small problem, at least on my copy - the tracks are numbered 1-6 but there's no #5. I don't know if that's because she didn't clear a sample before giving away the free download and had to remove it, or somebody wasn't doing their due diligence to make sure everything she intended to give away was in it. If you open it in iTunes there's another problem - a different "album" is listed for every single song, and I used the word "album" in quotations because it looks like somebody though they were the comments field instead. One actually reads "GOOOOOOOO!!!" It doesn't affect the music either way, it just looks silly and entirely unnecessary. Okay - this is disappointing - according to Rap-Up the missing song was titled "69." Why you wouldn't include what was likely the most freaktastic song of the whole bunch IDK, but this was a slow ass download to begin with - I'm not starting over. Out of the 5 remaining tracks the best is undoubtedly the epic five minute long ballad "Come" - and it IS freaktastic. It's basically Marsha Ambrosius' version of The Lonely Island's "Jizz In My Pants," only she's not joking. It seems that every single thing her lover does to her makes her wet. I've thought for a while now that R&B is raunchier than it used to be when I was growing up, but this song confirms it."
Daddy-O :: You Can Be a Daddy, But Never Daddy-O :: Island Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Through no fault of his own Glenn 'Daddy-O' Bolton has become an overlooked and damn near forgotten footnote in hip-hop. That's not to say his group Stetsasonic is forgotten though. They are frequently cited as "hip-hop's first live band" in major publications and rap blogs, and for a stretch from the mid-1980's to early 1990's, they were in the upper echelons of all rap groups in the game. You know the old saying - all good things come to an end - and the group disbanded after their third album "Blood, Sweat & No Tears" in 1991. In the wake of Stet's demise Prince Paul had already made his name as a producer, so not much changed for him. Both Paul and Frukwan went on to success as Gravediggaz, but other than Daddy-O the rest wound up out of the music spotlight. The Odad wasn't going away without a fight, but his solo album for Island Records tanked commercially, and he refocused his efforts on producing and discovering talent for MCA and Motown respectively. Today he's rarely mentioned outside of "Whatever happened to..." conversations on social media outlets. Thankfully albums like "You Can Be a Daddy, But Never Daddy-O" live on in my heart thanks my college years in the early 1990's. My CD still has a $3 price tag from the bargain bin I bought it out of, with a hole punched in the back cover that was SUPPOSED to dissuade record stores from reselling promo copies of albums (but never did). It doesn't sell for much more than that 20 years later, but it still feels like gold in my hands. You almost wouldn't know it exists if you trusted the mainstream sources - there's no Wikipedia entry for this seminal album and only one music video still exists - "Flowin In File."
Mega Ran x Phill Harmonix :: The Returners :: MegaRan Music
as reviewed Steve 'Flash' Juon
"All proceeds of "The Returners" album go directly toward paying the expenses for Random a/k/a Mega Ran touring Japan, an admittedly clever way of crowdfunding if I've ever see one. It makes me wonder if there's some way to crowdfund my own trip to the holy Mecca of video games, strong style wrestling, and late night yakaniku washed down with sake. Unfortunately I'm not much of an emcee, haven't rocked turntables since my 20's, and I doubt that a live concert of somebody writing reviews on a laptop will draw much of a crowd. The only thing I can do is watch Ran do it big from afar like the rapping and gaming superstar he is and try to live vicariously through the experience. You can too if you chip in - just name your own price. My own failed ideas for how to crowdfund a Japan trip point out the fatal (fatality) flaw in any such endeavor - the product you're selling has to be artistic enough that people want it. That hasn't been a problem for Ran in many years though - he was already a good emcee back when he was just known as Random and has only continued to build up a devoted cult following over the last decade. Part of that following comes from the video game community, who have embraced his fusion of retro console classics and chiptune sounds with hip-hop beats and rhymes, but "The Returners" is by and large NOT that. This is a far more traditional rap album for Ran than many of his fans are used to, and only the fact long-time collaborator K-Murdock does a "Wanna Be" remix is a reminder of other projects - though I can't even say for sure he looped a game for it. Actually I can't even say for sure it's on every copy of the album since it's not listed on Bandcamp - the original version is though."
Sleep :: Oregon Failure :: Strange Famous Records
as reviewed Steve 'Flash' Juon
"A friend and former RapReviews contributor caught my eye with a tweet the other day: "A lot of times I'll read a writer's work and I think 'Are you reviewing the music or just part of the hype the label/publicist delivered?'" When you're inundated with a few dozen albums at a time (more digital than physical these days), it's hard to NOT look at a press release and think "Can YOU sell me on this album before I listen to it?" It's not that any of us in this business want to swallow hype and then regurgitate it all over the reader, but a good publicist knows how to walk the line between hyperbole and outright falsehoods. In your mind you start comparing what you're listening to to said hype, seeing if it lives up to the expectations you've been given, or if the hype was unfathomably egregious BS. Sleep's "Oregon Failure" falls in the happy medium between. That's what I expected going in given the Oldominion rapper hails from the Strange Famous record label, best known as the label created by and featuring the music of Sage Francis. So far as I can tell the last time we reviewed Sleep he was on a different label and in a different crew - one-half of The Chicharones. Of course digging into our own archives makes me wonder who was regurgitating what. So far as I know Sleep's crew in Oldominion hail from Oregon (hence this album's title) but writer Rowald Pruyn keeps referring to them as Canadian. What? I recognize that Oregon is in the Pacific Northwest, but last time I looked at a map, it hadn't been annexed by British Columbia. Perhaps the publicist who sent him THATpress release was unbelievably full of BS."
Supastition :: Honest Living :: Reform School Music
as reviewed Grant Jones
"The return of Supastition last year wasn't exactly greeted with fanfare and adulation from the hip hop community, except for those that regularly check the underground scene. He returned in 2013 with the impressive "The Blackboard EP" that only ended up being reviewed by RapReviews. It's a shame, because Supastition didn't take a break like a Jay-Z or Eminem can, he went back to working full-time to help pay bills and feed his family. It is easy to forget sometimes that many emcees are still pouring milk on to their cornflakes in the morning, changing nappies at two in the morning and completing any other mundane, yet necessary task we need to do to get by each day. Supastition is the voice of the real world lost in a genre that champions caricatures such as Rick Ross. You'd think that an emcee that raps about how hard it can be to find employment would be as boring as watching daytime TV, yet it's somehow satisfying and something we can all associate with (unless you're Rick Ross). There's an ironic obsession with money that is from the perspective of those that don't have it, yet want to earn it morally. Supastition has this EP up on his Bandcamp site, and is actually allowing fans to download it for free if they so wish - inevitably making them feel guilty if they do. It's supposedly dedicated to the working class, and as somebody that's recently taken on a second job (on top of my 9-5) I can feel Supastition's message more than ever. While I don't live in "an area they don't even deliver pizza to" as Supastition proclaims on "Honest Living", much of what is said throughout this emotional, borderline angry track is so on point it's hard not to nod in agreement. And that's discounting the smooth instrumental from Croup that is minimal yet catchy as hell. "
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