Friday June 22, 2018

The (W)rap Up - Week of July 15, 2014
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 at 12:30PM :: Email this article :: Print this article

[Southern Meridian]Gene the Southern Child :: Southern Meridian
Parallel Thought

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

“Gene the Southern Child is one of the best Dirty South rappers to cruise around with the top down to. His syrupy Alabama drawl is as soothing as the promethazine melodies supplied by his partner in crime Parallel Thought. P.T. has shown himself to be one of the most chameleonic musicians in the rap game today, adapting his superb production technique to fit whoever he's working with to a glove. You might ask why he didn't forge this Southern swang partnership with an already established legend of the Dirty like Devin the Dude or Eightball, but the answer is in the question - "already established." Thought picked a diamond in the rough and offered his polish, and the soulful brassy yet dark and moody sound of "Loyalty & Luxury" shows how they shine. This suave team of bling and swing could have put this one out through regular retail, but in a networking move (pun intended) to get them greater exposure, this album has been featured in commercials and bumps during the [adult swim] block of nightly programming. It's not unprecedented to see [as] pledge allegiance to hip-hop - they've heavily pushed everybody from El-P and Killer Mike to Aesop Rock over the years. Their musical choices reflect their programming choices - unusual, independent, and more than occasionally offensive - all in a good way. They pride themselves on going against the grain, while Gene the Southern Child prides himself on gripping grain.”

Ab-Soul :: These Days... :: Top Dawg Entertainment
as reviewed by Zach 'Goose' Gase

[These Days...]“For most fans, Kendrick Lamar's "Section.80" album was the introduction to K. Dot's Top Dawg cohorts. Ab-Soul's performance on "Ab-Soul's Outro" was an immediate standout on the record, and in the following months each member carved out their own niche. Jay Rock was the oldest and the most street-oriented, Schoolboy Q proved with songs like "Hands on the Wheel" and "There He Go" that he had the most mainstream potential outside of Kendrick, and Ab-Soul seemed to be the quiet, thoughtful underdog of TDE. Fast-forward three years later, in what is poised to be a year in which TDE releases six projects, once again Ab-Soul feels like the forgotten member. In addition to a high profile release from Schoolboy Q, TDE's newer members SZA and Isaiah Rashad also both released new music without much news about a new Ab-Soul record. After threatening to leak his album, Soul finally got a release date, and only a few weeks later, we finally received "These Days..." "These Days..." feels like a record crafted by a rapper who feels left out and is begging for acceptance. Ab-Soul's third TDE release is a drastic change from "Long-Term Mentality" and "Control System," and is a lot more pop-rap oriented. While a majority of the album's production is still handled by TDE's in-house team, their production is noisy and heavily trap-influenced. "World Runners" and "Nevermind That" both feature spastic, rolling hi hat sound that has become more and more popular in mainstream hip hop over the past few years.”

Cakes Da Killa :: Hunger Pangs :: Cunt Mafia/Mishka
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Hunger Pangs]It's been exactly a year since Jay-Z was "voguin' on these niggas" in his rap song-turned-art happening "Picasso Baby," which would be the clearest nod to the gay community in all of mainstream rap music history if it wasn't for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' surprising success and the subsequent attention to "Same Love" the same year, but that doesn't mean that the doors are now wide open for MC's who truly are represented by the rainbow flag. To be clear, 'gay pride' to Cakes Da Killa means to unapologetically flaunt his sexual orientation, nothing more, nothing less. Far from politically correct, his favorite words on his latest are 'nigga,' 'bitch,' 'shit' and 'eat.' As he adopts rap's aggressive rhetoric, his translation efforts are minimal, as evidenced by statements that are to be interpreted within a LGBT context but actually make sense in both worlds. Although regularly finding a wider public, rap often addresses a very specific recipient, and it's no different with Cakes Da Killa. He stages a virtual 10-round catfight where he keeps the upper hand, admonishing "infant-ass niggas in my hand-me-downs." Correct gender identification may pose a problem to listeners not used to this particular subculture's slang and nomenclature, but the real burning issue here is the appropriation of homophobic slurs. Insiders may argue that what Cakes himself dubs "Gully Cunt slang" is common practice in certain circles, still it's hard to accept the existence of a line like "I will slay a fuckin' fag with no issue" on a gay rappper's track. By the same token we've willingly accepted hateful language from African-American rappers that came bizarrely close to Ku Klux Klan verbiage, so we'll likely let homosexual rappers tear each other apart as well.”

eMC :: The Turning Point :: Penalty Entertainment
as reviewed by Grant Jones

[The Turning Point]“The four-headed monster is an oft-recited piece of imagery used by hip hop quartets, but one that is a curse rather than a blessing. Slaughterhouse, HRSMN and even Jurassic 5 have discovered that one head will eventually dominate and the anarchic nature of four men grasping for the listener's attention inevitably means that whole projects offer a few great songs combined with a slew of hot and cold verses. eMC are rare, in that they operate more as a four-headed man (I've still not seen one), where each head isn't obsessed with one-upping each other. They aren't breathing hot lava through structured 16-bar verses that seem overly technical, as if judges are holding scorecards up once the sixteenth bar hits home. Masta Ace, Stricklin, Wordsworth and Punchline are a unit, one that possesses chemistry, togetherness and a welcome light-heartedness that makes them easier to digest than whatever it is that four-headed monsters eat. Back in 2008, eMC provided their only album; "The Show", a superb concept album that was heavily influenced by previous Masta Ace efforts like "A Long Hot Summer" through its use of cohesive story-telling and an over-lapping narrative that tied all the songs together. "The Turning Point" can't be compared to "The Show" in one sense because it's barely been promoted, but it's also meant as a quick reminder not to forget about eMC - or how I like to consider them, the modern progression of Masta Ace Incorporated. They confirm that "The Show" wasn't a one-off collaboration, but this twelve-track effort is potentially more story-driven than their previous work, thanks in part to 50% of the project being skits. Before you consider this to be the "turning point" at which you do a 180 degree U-turn and sprint to the next review, it's deliberate.”

Giano :: Not Until They Say :: PNG Productionz
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Not Until They Say]It's not that hard to repeat doctrine. All you need to do is put the time into reading and memorizing. It is much harder to apply that doctrine to real life. It is also much more useful. While Giano's earlier releases put him in the Christian rap camp, on "Not Until They Say So" he comes off more as a Christian who raps rather than a Christian rapper. He doesn't hide his faith, but he's more concerned with examining how we can try to live according to our ideals rather than preaching scripture or trying to convert listeners. That makes the album more approachable: you don't have to be on board with his specific religious beliefs to get something out of what he is saying. The beats rework popular songs by Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Rhianna, Ashanti, the Clipse, Dre, the Wu-Tang, and others. Giano basically takes the best part of some of the best hip-hop songs of the past twenty years and molds them together, even going so far as leaving entire verses in. It works, but it also puts him at a bit of a disadvantage. Giano is an able rapper, but it's tough work to go toe-to-toe with Eminem or Kendrick or the Wu. Giano has skills, but he's not quite on that level. His earnestness and desire to get his point across lead him to stretch syllables, mispronounce words to get a rhyme, and do other tricks to force words to fit into spaces that aren't quite the right size. On the other hand, he actually has something to say, which makes the occasional dubious rhyme or overworked metaphor forgivable.”

Iamsu! :: Sincerely Yours :: HBK Gang Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Sincerely Yours]“There has been a quiet revolution going on within hip-hop over the past few years: good kid rap. Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, Sage the Gemini and Iamsu! are part of a new breed of rappers who may have grown up surrounded by gang bangers and drug dealers but didn't participate in the lifestyle. They don't celebrate self-destruction in their raps, but they also aren't as explicitly conscious as Talib Kweli or Common were back in the proverbial day. They aren't as nihilistic as the rappers coming out of Chicago's drill scene or the Odd Future gang (although Earl Sweatshirt could be called a good kid rapper), and they don't celebrate ridiculous excess like the Migos or Rick Ross or Jay Z or most mainstream rappers. These are kids rapping about what kids care about: friends, girls, and trying to make sense of the world. Sudan Ameer Williams, better known as Iamsu! embodies this new breed of rapper that's not gangsta, backpack, macho, or overly materialistic. He was born and raised in Richmond, California, a city of 100,000 wedged between the aging hippies and university students in Berkeley and a Chevron oil refinery. Richmond has a reputation in the San Francisco Bay Area as a dangerous place, a reputation which isn't totally unearned, since it was once the 12th most dangerous city in America. (When I moved to nearby El Cerrito, two different burglar alarm salesman showed up on my door, and El Cerrito's proximity to Richmond was the basis of both their sales pitches.) Despite coming from a city best known by outsiders for its murder rate, Iamsu!'s music is dreamy and mellow. If you only knew about Richmond from "Sincerely Yours," you'd get the feeling it was some idyllic town where the only problem young men faced was having too many girls to choose from and too much money.”

Princess Superstar :: I'm a Firecracker EP :: Instant Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[I'm a Firecracker EP]Princess Superstar is one of those artists that can legitimately claim to have been ahead of the curve. Long before we saw Iggy Azalea and Kreayshawn blew up the "white girls who can rap" section of the charts, she was breaking records in the 1990's trying to get noticed by the Beastie Boys. There were a few attempts before her to be sure - we'd all like to forget Icy Blu and Tairrie B - and most of us are okay with Blondie (Debbie Harry) spitting lyrics about Fab 5 Freddy. Princess Superstar didn't do it one time as an experiment or a novelty act though - she's been doing it for 20+ years. The self-styled Jewish Princess of hip-hop has been around long enough to not owe explanations to anybody, nor to imitate anybody else's sound to get ahead in a crowded rap field, which is why "I'm a Firecracker" comes as a surprise to the listener. The title track is uncannily undeniably similar to Missy 'Misdemeanor' Elliott, to the point I expected Concetta Kirschner to put her thang down, flip it and reverse it. The two couldn't be further apart in upbringing or socioeconomic background, but their vocals and lyrics are entirely interchangeable. Read the lyrics below and listen to the track with the monitor turned off and you will see Missy rapping in your head. Superstar's raunchiness has always been part and parcel of her gimmick, but she used to impress me as being cut from her own cloth. I still think she is to a large degree since she is not a Janey-Come-Lately but "I'm a Superstar" perplexes me by trading her unique sound for a bunch of material that while well delivered sounds like covers of other people's styles. "Chick Habit" will get the Feminem label from the speedy sarcastic delivery to the sing-song chorus.”

Roc-C & Rapper Big Pooh :: Trouble in the Neighborhood :: Wandering Worx
as reviewed by Grant Jones

[Trouble in the Neighborhood]“Little Brother will one day reunite, they have to. 9th Wonder has worked well with artists like Jean Grae, Buckshot and Murs, but none of their projects have quite touched classics such as "The Listening" or "The Minstrel Show". They went their separate ways at precisely the right time, with their final record "Left Back" showing cracks following numerous solo projects and 9th Wonder's endless stream of work. Roc-C is known to provide gritty, wall-punching hip hop - anybody who has played EA's Fight Night Round 3 will recognize "Don't Stop". Musically, "Trouble in the Neighborhood" is an unflinching collection of haymakers. "The Crew" feels like a sequel to "Don't Stop" with its basic, infectious loop and aggressive rapping. Even Big Pooh sounds fresh as he ever has, as if the shirt and tie of old has been loosened from his traditionally level-headed approach of rhyming. This may well be a Roc-C album that just sees him share mic time with Big Pooh, but with Pooh's passionate delivery, it manages to come off without sounding like a forced combination. Dae One, Praise and S1 combine to create a sense of danger throughout "Trouble in the Neighborhood" that is thankfully kept to a succinct eleven songs. It feels like an album that's becoming less prevalent in hip hop, one that feels like WC & Daz's "West Coast Gangsta Shit" from 2013. It's music you'd often find ten years ago on the shelves of any music store, yet in 2014 there's a disappointing gap in West Coast gangsta rap that has been there ever since Dr Dre starting fucking with headphones, and guys like Warren G and Mack 10 realized they had to keep their criminal activity on the down low.”

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