Tuesday April 24, 2018

The (W)rap Up - Week of July 1, 2014
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 at 12:30PM :: Email this article :: Print this article

If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Black Knights' "Medieval Chamber" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!

Black Knights :: Medieval Chamber :: Record Collection 
as reviewed by Jaroslav 'Czechone' Lavick

[Medieval Chamber]If you're a group called Black Knights, with song titles like "Drawbridge", "Sword in Stone", "Camelot", "Roundtable" etc. on an album called "The Medieval Chamber", you're setting up your listeners with a pretty clear expectation of what the album should be like. When that theme doesn't actually eventuate, it makes one wonder what the point of it all was? What also may make one wonder is why have an offshoot Wu-Tang crew decided to enlist an ex-Red Hot Chilli Peppers member to produce their album ? I guess in this day and age you could argue "why not?", given that someone like Blink's Travis Barker has also decided that he's justified to give hip hop beat creation a shot. Fair enough too I suppose as nothing in hip hop is sacred ground anymore. So does this rather strange collaboration work? Not really. The positive is that Trickfinger (AKA ex-Chill Pepper guitarist John Frusciante) knows how to put a decent hip hop beat together. He brings an overall sombre, almost depressed feel to the album, which is going to appeal to you if you are in that sort of mood. At a stretch you could say that the gloomy darkness of the music does lend itself to providing a medieval vibe of sorts, there are a few classical loops used to try and reinforce that, and "Knighthood" (for example) has a sample from a very British sounding old folk song, but at best they are subtle attempts to fulfil the idea. There is very much a formula to his production; haunting loops, mellow and tripped out keyboards and synths, bits and pieces of singing (Frusciante's own singing and also samples), over slow to mid tempo bass-filled beats that may or may not have funky elements to them. Admittedly, it is a sound which becomes weary after only a few tracks, but if you want a consistent sound on an album then you're getting it on "Medieval Chamber"; thus our producer has established a trademark style one album deep into a hip hop production career. It may also be refreshing to some people to know that he's not really aiming for a typical "Wu sound", although "The Joust" does throw in some off-kilter piano keys that sound like they're taken from RZA's own virtual piano.”


El Gant :: Beast Academy :: Diamond Media 360 
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Beast Academy]“The one sheet accompanying El Gant's "Beast Academy" has the usual amount of hyperbole - prolific, "paired with several of the industry's most revered lyricists" and even describes him as "aggressive and fast paced." At this point my eyes roll back in my head like Undertaker and the album gets sent to a grave six feet beneath the Earth, but El Gant caught a couple of good breaks on this review. The first is that his album is 30 minutes long, which contradicts the "full length" the description on his sheet, but is just the right amount for the level of interest I have in this release. The second is that after feeling burnt out for a couple of weeks, El Gant's timing is just right for me to make a reviewing comeback. The last is that I've heard and featured El Gant singles or cameos on previous editions of The Hip-Hop Shop so in some respects I feel like I'm already familiar with his work. Introductions out of the way it's time to get down to brass tacks about "Beast Academy." Gant is a classic New York punchline rapper, trying to make you laugh or at least smile with lines like "I paid dues/you've been suckin' dick since Kool G. Rap spit _Ill Street Blues_." He's also got a good producer in JOAT (Jack Of All Trades) who runs the gamut of typical hip-hop styles. In particular "Truth Hurts" featuring Torae is Alchemist meets Primo complete with DJ Devastate scratches from Dilated Peoples, Method Man and Mobb Deep to make the song complete. It's the kind of boom bap track that would make you headnod even if you had no regard for either of these emcees - it's the perfect compliment to a summer rap mixtape.”


GDP :: #$ (Hash Money) :: Smokers Cough 
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[#$]“If you know GDP from our previous reviews you know that he's a lyrical cross between Tame One and Young Zee - and if you don't you just found out. G's got his own label now - Smokers Cough - probably because the mainstream wasn't catching on to his dope (figurative and literal) New Jersey rap style. There's also a chance they never would have. On GDP's new album "#$ (Hash Money)" he's unapologetically making skits with his producer Space Jesus about making something he calls "Royal Oil" - which ends with a comically large explosion. Reviewing GDP albums usually leaves me feeling I should be in a chemically induced fugue to better appreciate his perspective, but the best I could do here was to throw a few cans of Tecate in the deep freeze for an hour. To be honest I wouldn't have cared if I had left them in too long and they turned into beercicles - Tecate is pretty nasty and only drinkable either when it's nearly frozen cold or when you're already lit up on something to begin with. GDP spends the majority of "#$" bragging about his altered mindstate and how it's either a clever pun on social media "hash" tags or how being blazed somehow actually generates money - when usually it just burns it up. (That's the reason I had foul ass Tecate in my garage - it's dirt cheap.) Space Jesus is described as a "bass guru" in the press material, but I'd describe him as one of those techno-electronic producers that everybody is trying to go Nicki or Rick Ross with. This is not necessarily a bad thing for GDP, who could use any entry into the commercial world he can get while simultaneously advocating (or using) so much dope. "Good Rumors" featuring Shape is that kind of electro-pop I never thought I'd hear from the Jerseyite, but it works on this song.”


Smoov-E :: Jessica Gets Jealous :: Rap Entering Another Level 
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Jessica Gets Jealous]“ "Jessica Gets Jealous" looked intriguing, not necessarily because I find the sight of a shiny blade hiding behind a well-shaped feminine lower back intriguing (I do, for some strange reason), but because it carried the promise of an actual story. At least the teaser sounded promising. Turns out, it's exactly like one of those trailers that lure you into the theater to watch a movie that falls completely short. You'll be able to identify the two main characters in some of the scenes, but Smoov-E's narration is way too disjointed and his acting too one-dimensional to create the kind of illusion Hollywood and hip-hop are able to capture our imagination with. Vocal effects would potentially be a helpful ingredient, but they are used so excessively that all the chopping and filtering only makes the performance more monotonous. Like previous effort "Breakdance," "Jessica Gets Jealous" musically takes place in the 1980s, except that the dance momentum largely comes to a halt. Instead producers Eli Meltzer (Smoov-E's real name) and Tony Manfre engineer slow- to mid-tempo electro tracks that are appropriate insofar as electro funk traditionally works with a contrast between intimacy and alienation. So while there is no one-to-one transfer of actual movie soundtrack samples, the sound does have widescreen qualities, although - as almost always in rap - obviously bound by the dominant rhythmic structure. But where your average beatmaker with 'cinematic' ambitions simply shoves some kicks and snares under epic samples, the musician in Smoov-E understands the importance of pace in a plot. There's a dramatic edge to most of his tracks, mainly through those late '70s/early '80s bass and synth lines. The instruments are always a precise fit yet the arrangements are frequently stirred up by track shifts and even unexpected extras such as a hard rock guitar solo or organs and strings. Occasionally the funk gets the best of them, but across 13 tracks Meltzer and Manfre display a remarkable dedication to their mandate to come up with a visual, steadily reeling soundtrack.”


V-Ice :: Bi-Polar :: Liquid 8 Records 
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Jaroslav 'Czechone' Lavick

[Bi-Polar]“It's safe to assume that most people over the age of 30 with even just a minimal awareness of pop music would know of Vanilla Ice: "Oh yeah, he had that song 'Ice Ice Baby' or whatever it was". They probably see him as a one hit wonder, and lump him and his mega-hit together with something like "Pump Up The Jam" by Technotronic. Hip hop heads of similar vintage possibly still cringe somewhat when reading or hearing the name, remembering what an abomination he was to what "real" hip hop stood for during those days. A few of you might know that he had an album or two, delved into rap/rock, and he even appeared on a couple of reality TV shows Ð but who out there knows that the apparent one-hit wonder has actually released more than half a dozen albums since the days when he was telling us "Alright stop, collaborate and listen"? Like many of my underground hip hop purist compadres I hated the Vanilla one when he first came out; I scoffed at mention of him and had zero interest to hear anything he released and did my best to avoid his (unavoidable) songs that were on heavy radio rotation. Deep down though, there was an intrigue as to what his albums were like, but I couldn't bring myself to buy a Vanilla Ice album so I let my curiosity slide (I had the same veiled interest in Brian Austin Green's album, which eventually ended up in my CD archives - but that's another story). Some years after its release, I spotted Ice's "To the Extreme" CD in a bargain bin for $5, and I thought "well ok, lets see what this shit is actually like, I can live with $5 out the window" - so I took the plunge. You know what? It wasn't too bad. Without launching into a review within a review, I thought it was a reasonably funky sounding album. Sure, the emceeing was about as simplistic as you'd ever hear, the annoying voice didn't help, but the production was catchy and it was a decent enough listen if you were in the mood for a lightweight bunch of lively, party oriented rap songs. At the very least you could get your "dance on" to it if you were that way inclined.”


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