If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including MC Eiht's "Which Way Iz West" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
MC Eiht :: Which Way Iz West
Blue Stamp/Year Round Records
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
"There was a time when MC Eiht was one of the leading voices of California hip-hop, back when he and his Compton's Most Wanted crew were dropping one banging album after another, releasing anthemic singles like "Growin' Up in the Hood" and "Streiht Up Menace" in the process. Eiht (real name Aaron Tyler) always walked that fine line between portraying the lifestyle of a G as glamorous and dangerous. He always seemed to sound a cautionary note about the risks involved -- one time (the cops) could harass you on trumped up charges, rival crews could shoot you down in the street, your girl could stab you in the back, and you never knew who you could really trust. Paranoid? Maybe. Realistic? Definitely. Given his CMW homeboy and co-founder Tha Chill wound up behind bars for three years, he had every right to be that wary of "the life." Fans respected that authenticity from Eiht along with his smooth mellow West coast drawl and signature "geah" that punctuated his bars. Eiht repped Compton before Jayceon Taylor was even a teenager, setting the table for many peers to come along. It wasn't just Dr. Dre and friends putting Compton on the map. A few years ago Eiht dropped a new album called "Keep It Hood" in an attempt to revive that legacy. That's not to say that Eiht ever retired or went anywhere, it's just that he became the O.G. on the block while the younger turks like The Game came up on the scene. Even now the wheel turns and Game is himself the O.G. while Kendrick Lamar and his friends are new generation giving a voice to Compton and turning an eye to what many would rather not see. The one thing I can say about our review from 2013 is that Emmanuel Wallace deserves an award for "understatement of the year" when he wrote "Eiht's voice sounds a bit more grizzly than in years past." Gone is that smooth and silky voice of the early 1990's, replaced now by an elder vet with a couple dozen years of drinkin' and smokin' completely changing his vocal tone. If it weren't for that signature "geah" you might actually have trouble recognizing Tyler as the same man."
Digital Underground :: Sex Packets :: Tommy Boy Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"As a young teenage punk in the pre-internet (and even pre-web browser) era my friends and I could get into some pretty weird arguments. I had a subscription to The Source, one which perplexed me both then and now by coming with a mailing label that said ALL FOR IOWA, making me think I was the only one in the state reading the thing. Nevertheless I felt as though it made me "more informed" than my peers when it came to rap music and hip-hop culture. I'd try to elevate the discussion to a higher level about who had the better style, whether or not gangster rap was taking over, how the Bay Area was being overlooked because of the L.A. versus New York rivalry, and so on. That wasn't what my peers wanted to discuss though.
Friend #1: "So I heard a rumor that Shock G and Humpty Hump are the same person. What'cha know about that?"
Friend #2: "Of course they're the same person dumbass. He's wearing a plastic nose."
Friend #1: "They don't sound the same though. I heard he wears that over his real nose because his face was disfigured in a grease fire."
Both at once: "So are Sex Packets real or did they make that s--t up?"
That's the level of discourse I was dealing with. I'm not mad about it though. In fact it's probably one of the few things I look back on from my time in high school and remember fondly -- the fact people used to get into arguments about the "Sex Packets" album. One friend even seemed convinced that Digital Underground were some kind of "underground" street pharmacists who could hook you up with real sex packets if you saw them in concert. (I saw them in concert at the Ranch Bowl a decade later, and I have firsthand knowledge you can't, although Shock G did pass a joint to the crowd.) If you're confused as to what I'm talking about though, the glowing condom shaped object on the album cover was their designer drug of choice. It promised to give users the ultimate thrill ride -- a mind-altering and pleasant trip where you believed you were actually engaging in intercourse with a partner of the opposite sex."
El Michels Affair :: Return to the 37th Chamber :: Big Crown Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
""Return to the 37th Chamber" is the follow up to El Michels Affair's "Enter the 37th Chamber," and is another (mostly) instrumental take on Wu-Tang songs done with a live band. It's a little darker and more daring than "Enter," which has its pros and cons.Where "Enter the 37th Chamber" was mostly mellow, funky music you could put on as background music, "Return" is a little less smooth. There are definitely several tracks that are straight forward instrumentals ("Iron Man," "Shadow Boxing," bonus track "Iron Maiden,"). Most of the album, however, is darker and weirder. The album starts with the dark, dirty guitars of "4th Chamber," and continues on that vein. "Shaolin Brew" tempers its 70s blackspoitation soundtrack vibe with crazy guitar squall. "Wu Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta F'Wit" adds dissonant keys to the familiar organ refrain. It all feels a little creepy, like the songs of the Wu-Tang as experienced on a bad drug trip. The "Michels" of the El Michels Affair is Leon Michels, a musican/songwriter/producer/label head whose resume made me feel lazy. In between being in several different bands and running a label, he's produced albums by Aloe Blacc and Lana Del Rey and got a songwriting credit on Adele's "19." More recently, he's stepped away from the Truth & Soul Label to start Big Crown, which moves away from Truth & Soul's retro-soul sound. Several Big Crown artists and former Michels collaborators show up here, including The Shacks, Lady Wray, and Lee Fields. The Shack's haunting voice on "Tearz" is one of the highlights of the album, as is Lady Wray's vocal on "You're All I Need.""
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