If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Joey Bada$$' "All-Amerikkkan Bada$$' then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Joey Bada$$ :: All-Amerikkkan Bada$$
Cinematic Music/Pro Era
Author: Patrick Taylor
"The response to the Trump Administration has been a level of activism and civic engagement that the U.S. hasn't seen in years. Millions of Americans are marching, calling their representatives, showing up at town halls, and in general letting the government and world know that they don't agree with the administration's platform or proposed policies. It was with this backdrop Joey Bada$$ released "All-Amerikkkan Bada$$," whose title seems to directly reference both the Trump Administration and white supremacists who both helped elect Trump and have been emboldened by his campaign and presidency. Bada$$ isn't known as a political rapper, but he is one of the more promising young rappers around. Would he turn out to be this generation's Ice Cube? In a word, no. While Bada$$ remains a solid rapper with a lyrical style influenced by 90s New York hip-hop, he doesn't quite manage the transition to political rapper. Part of the issue is that this album also sees Bada$$ trying to transition to a more mainstream rapper, and the tension between rapping for the club and dropping science is tough.Kendrick gets away with it mostly by being a once in a generation talent, so he isn't a good model to follow. Where Kendrick manages to come up with rhymes that are both raw and deep, Bada$$'s political rhymes here feel shallow and half-baked. It's not that they are bad so much as not that good. On the album opener "Good Morning Amerikkka," he raps: "Won't you come smell the hot coffee/Stick your nose in the wrong place you might OD." His explicit reference to politics on "Land of the Free" is full of empty platitudes. The fact that Bada$$ isn't the deepest political thinker the only thing that makes "All-Amerikkkan" so disappointing on a lyrical level. After all, YG's "FDT" isn't a complicated song, but it is an effective one. What bothered me about Bada$$'s lyrics on this album is how dumbed down they feel, especially in comparison with the complicated rhymes of his earlier efforts. It's like he had a character limit when he was writing his rhymes. While there are moments where the old Joey Bada$$ shines through (like on album highlight "Ring the Alarm"), a lot of the raps on this album are kind of clunky."
Career Crooks :: Good Luck With That :: Fontana North/URBNET
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Even though the name Career Crooks sounds like something brand new, it's actually the union of two Philly rap veterans to get ahead collectively. Producer Small Professor and rapper slash writer Zilla Rocca saw the potential in linking up to produce something together, and the added benefit of being geographically close had to be a plus as opposed to a lot of today's long-distance internet collabs. I can picture Pro and Zilla passing the bottle back and forth in the studio, taking sips and nodding their heads to the beats banging out of his speakers, then the smile growing wide across Zilla's face as he says "I got the perfect rap for that. Let's get wetter than Tame One with a blunt in his hand." What? That's right. "Your girl might hate it but it make your rhyme great." I think this might be the time to tell you that "Angel Dust" the song and "Good Luck With That" the album have something in common - they're not for kids. Defcee guest stars on the above ode to expanding your mind with the help of "Sherman Helmsley." The Career Crooks are not strictly about out of body experiences. "Lipstick Itch" is about Zilla trying to figure out what he wants from the opposite sex, but he quickly realizes that getting what you want isn't necessarily as satisfying as the chase to get it."
Jakk Wonders :: Forgotten Wonders :: AudioMack
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"This is an odd way to start out a Jakk Wonders review, but listening to Reef the Lost Cauze rep "from Philly to Johannesburg" on the opening track reminded me of something. It's a all because of the repeated line "New York started it, but recognize from the start, my city was a part of it." When I think of "New York starting it" I flash back to some of the earliest records and tapes I copped once hip-hop came into my life - artists like Run-D.M.C., Whodini and UTFO. Some of you may have already guessed where this is going. Mad love and respect to Educated Rapper (a/k/a EMD, real name Jeffery Campbell), who passed away on Saturday at the ageof 54 after losing his fight with cancer. I'll have more to say about EMD at a later time but I can't hear Reef say "New York started it" without pouring one out for him. Now getting back to Jakk, that "from Philly to Johannesburg" reference is meant to let you know where both the master of ceremonies AND the producer hail from. These days the world seems to be getting even more insular, with everybody afraid of both immigrants and terrorism (and sadly seeming to think there's a causal link between them), but hip-hop spread far beyond both New York and Philadelphia's borders a long time ago. You can close borders and institute all the travel bans you want, but hip-hop's in the air all around the globe and the spread can't be stopped. The arts are alive in Tokyo, in London, in Paris, in New Delhi, in Sao Paulo, and in Johannesburg just to name a few of the many international cities I've never had the pleasure or good fortune to visit. They say travel expands the mind, but I'm going to have to let my ears do the walking to South Africa through the "Forgotten Wonders" that Jakk can bring me here."
Thirstin Howl the 3rd :: Skillmatic :: Skillionaire Enterprises
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"I initially toyed with the idea of not bothering to explain that the cover of Thirstin Howl the 3rd's "Skillmatic" is a parody of the all-time hip-hop classic "Illmatic" by Nas, but it quickly dawned on me that this album is now 23 years old. There's a whole generation of heads born since then who are younger than Nas' official major label debut, and unless they had somebody (parent, older brother, a rap magazine or website) pointing them toward it, that's now "old school" to them. It's a weird concept to me that anything from the 1990's is "old school" but even five years ago I heard Wu-Tang Clan's debut album described the same way. In the end I chose to address it in this opening paragraph, so if you're that young head half my age who never heard it, you might want to check out Nas first. There's not much to tie "Illmatic" to "Skillmatic" besides the covers and a sample of "It Ain't Hard to Tell" featured throughout the "Criminal Slang" track featuring Shabaam Sahdeeq. Speaking of things that have a large timespan between them, our last Thirstin Howl review was 10 years ago. He's had at least a couple of studio albums in the interim, and probably a dozen mixtapes that aren't part of an official discography, but either way this was the first album in all that time to get specifically pushed our way with an entreaty to check it out. Had anything else in that between time come I would have happily jumped on it because Thirstin Howl has a unique style and sound I've always enjoyed. I've had a hard time calling what he does on the mic a "flow" because it often consists of punchlines delivered one after another in a very deliberate manner. He doesn't ignore the beats with his bars, but he doesn't cater to them either. Howl is all about his charisma and sense of humor as a lyricist, and even though I can't and wouldn't advise other rappers to imitate him as a road to success, Howl works precisely because he's completely untraditional in his approach. A whole rap game full of Thirstin Howl the 3rds wouldn't be any good, but hip-hop definitely needs one and nobody ever has or will fill that niche the way he does."
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