If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Vinnie Paz' "The Cornerstone of the Corner Store" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
†Vinnie Paz ::†The Cornerstone of the Corner Store
Enemy Soil Records
"Given how miserable 2016 has been, there's a noticeable lack of angry rap music. Thankfully, we can always rely on Vinnie Paz to provide that brutal, ruthless aggression and "Cornerstone of the Corner Store" is a return to form, as good as, if not better than his debut solo work "Season of the Assassin". One of the primary reasons for this is the more calculated selection of instrumentals, favoring gritty minimalist melodies over heavier, cinematic sounds, as well as being the most experimental I've heard Vinnie in years. The passion remains in Vinnie's voice but some of the energy has drained, which isn't surprising given the length of time that he's been rapping so viciously. What I like about this LP, particularly the first half, is the grimy, barebones production on songs like "Philo: Metatron: Wisdom" and the Buckwild-laced "The Void". "There's a preciseness to Vinnie's flow too, showcased on the thumping collaboration "Limb From Limb" alongside the underrated Ransom. If anyone ever questions whether Vinnie Paz is all bark and no bite (you'd be mad to do so quite frankly) – play this track. I wouldn't mind hearing Vinnie Paz do a collaborative album with Ransom as they have a good chemistry– akin to how Esoteric added an extra dimension to his 7L collaborations by bringing in Inspectah Deck. Speaking of Wu-Tang members, Ghostface Killah joins Vinnie on "Herringbone", a stellar reminder why Ghostface's unique choice of words and that trademark tone sound so damn good over energetic production (which his latest albums have lacked)."
D.I.T.C. ::†Studios†:: D.I.T.C. Studios/Slice of Spice†
as reviewed by†Matt Jost
"As a youngster I was irritated when I would thumb through certain teen magazines that featured music nobody my age was listening to. I would pay attention to my parents' generation when they tried to teach me about clearly important classical music or jazz, but twenty- or thirty-somethings trying to sell me their '70s and '80s prog and soft rock darlings? No thanks. These days I'm on the other side of the unforgiving age barrier that separates young from old, unreasonably assuming that people half my age - or younger! - are curious to read my musings on a branch of music so thoroughly associated with youth.†To restrict myself to my own age bracket is no solution either because that would bring me in the same predicament I just blamed my writing seniors with. Still every critic is imprinted with a particular variant of his chosen artform while performers with a certain amount of years in the game should be entitled to a peer review. That's why I at least semi-regularly wind up covering musicians who are active since the '90s or even the '80s. Even though I'm quick to admit that in the scientific sense of the term 'peer review' I'm not a peer of the creative minds that make the music that I review. But as far as it pertains to the artists of my generation, I can form an opinion relatively easily and will readily make it known.†If you would have asked me what to expect from a new Diggin' In The Crates album, it's certainly not a non-existent artwork and a non-descript album title. But that's exactly what we get with "Studios." And it's not a second release that is apparently related to the first one but named differently. But that's exactly what we get with "Sessions." (The digital release is called "Sessions," the physical one "Studios." They're similar but not identical. Something tells me the original intent was to title the album "Sessions" and bill it to D.I.T.C. Studios.)†Should you ever bother to hit up the Wikipedia page for this rap collective, you'll be amazed by the wealth of albums by acts associated with D.I.T.C. They include Lord Finesse's "Funky Technician," Showbiz & A.G.'s "Runaway Slave," Diamond D's "Stunts, Blunts and Hip Hop," O.C.'s "Word...Life," Fat Joe's "Don Cartagena," Big L's "The Big Picture" and O.C. & Apollo Brown's "Trophies." That's a handful of classics and even a couple of bestsellers. Meaning there's a legacy to live up to."
Solange Knowles ::†A Seat at the Table†:: Saint/Columbia Records†
as reviewed by†Patrick Taylor
"Solange Knowles may not be as famous as her big sister, but she has been involved in music for almost as long. She's been making music since the early 2000s, but it was her "True" EP in 2012 that put her on the map musically. While her older sister was busy dominating the pop and R&B charts, Solange's music was a hit with college and indie radio. Her music feels more a part of indie/alternative R&B artists like The Internet and Frank Ocean.†Her latest effort, "A Seat at the Table," manages to carve out space for itself even in the shadow of "Lemonade," an album that happens to deal with Solange's well-publicized altercation with Mr. Beyonce in 2014. Like "Lemonade," "A Seat at the Table' is a confessional and personal album. While both albums are excellent, "A Seat at the Table" is my personal favorite because it doesn't need to be bombastic or mainstream. There's freedom in not having to shift millions of units or appeal to billions of fans, and Solange uses that freedom to take chances musically and conceptually (although "Lemonade" takes a lot of chances as well). The titles of the songs alone encapsulate a lot of the struggles and conversations and arguments that the African-American community has been having in post-Ferguson (and now post-Trump) America. "Weary," "Mad," "Where Do We Go," "F.U.B.U.," "Don't Touch My Hair." It's the soundtrack to a woman coming into herself, taking pride in herself, and trying to find a way to exist in a world that fears and resents her for being who she is. There is anger and frustration on "A Seat at the Table," but mostly there is a lot of love and beauty. This is a gorgeous album, full of subtle arrangements that highlight Solange's voice. Even at her saddest, there's a sense of joy and hope in her voice. "I'm going to look for my glory/I'll be back real soon," she sings on "Weary," a song about being weary with the state of the world.†She manages to capture the mood of so many people in the wake of the November elections on "Cranes in the Sky," about trying to deal with depression and despair. Musically, "A Seat at the Table" is a mix of downtempo with some 70s and 90s R&B.†"
Rasul ::†Writing Colours†:: Starting Lineup Records†
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"When I first started contributing to RapReviews.com fifteen years ago, my motives weren't entirely selfless. Nonetheless I believed I was doing a service to both rap musicians and fans of rap music. Looking back on these fifteen years I can't deny that a lot of what I wrote was first of all self-serving - continued attempts to push my point of view, often so extensively that I surely left many a reader exhausted. Still I am proud of certain contributions I was able to make under the benevolent reign of our editor-in-chief, who allowed me to freelance the kind of reviews you simply won't find on other major anglophone hip-hop websites. (Believe me.)†My first foreign submission to RapReviews was a write-up of Square One's "Walk of Life." Although released in Germany and recorded by residents of Germany, the album unquestionably addressed anybody raised on American hip-hop. Additionally, two of the members of Square One had a Muslim background, which in my eyes made a review a crucial statement on our part mere weeks after 9/11. Lead rapper Ali Rasul, right-hand man Gianni Dolo, producer Iman and DJ Edward Sizzerhand proved that old hip-hop adage that it's not where you're from but rather where you're at. A decade later "Walk of Life" was widely regarded as a high point in German rap history. And Ali Rasul was dead.†"Writing Colours" is a posthumous album released by Starting Lineup Records, first on CD in conjunction with hip-hop magazine JUICE, who included it in their July/August 2011 issue, then later digitally at various internet retailers. It is a testament left behind by a man who lived and breathed hip-hop ever since he first came in contact with it. Representing Munich (easily detectable by his accent when he spoke German) but having already put his feet on a few continents, Ali Rakhshandeh learned his first industry lessons around 1993 in the entourage of short-lived new jack swing group Justaboo, assisting in production on a handful of album tracks and also rapping on the single "The Rest Is up to You." In the mid-'90s he lived in Brooklyn, where he attended Long Island University. Upon returning to Germany he founded Square One with longtime accomplice and fellow Iranian Iman Shahidi. The singles "Mind. Body. Soul." (1999) und "State of the Art" (2000) were followed by the aforementioned "Walk of Life," after which the crew disbanded in early 2002."
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