If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Grieves' "Running Wild" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Grieves :: Running Wild
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
"I managed to miss "Irreversible" when it came out (hey what can I say, s--t happens) so my first introduction to Grieves was when he and Budo took "Felt 3" and put their own spin on it. For a while those two names seeemd cojoined in hip-hop. People said "Budo and Grieves" in underground rap conversations the way hungry kids say "peanut butter and jelly." They just seemed to go together and you didn't even think of one without hearing and saying the other in your head and out loud. I was always a weird kid though - I liked peanut butter and banana sandwiches better. Still do. Either way it became clear to me that like peanut butter Grieves tasted good on his own and his flavor was well preserved. Even if you put him on the shelf for a while and took him out a few years later the freshness still managed to last. In fact if we're going to take the oral analogy the whole way many would argue Grieves is like a fine wine that just gets better over time. I'm always skeptical when somebody is dubbed "the next thing" on the independent rap scene, but Grieves won me over with an unpretentious self-deprecating style that injects an occasional sung musicality without relying on AutoTune. Even an average Grieves album is an inoffensive listen, and a good one is something special indeed. Since there's a video for it "Gutz" is as good of a place to start on "Running Wild" as any other. Grieves flew to Stockholm to record this album with Swedish producer Chords, and by his own account being sleep-deprived and jet lagged gave him what might be similar to the lack of restraint a drunk dialer has -- an uncomfortable amount of emotional honesty to the person on the other end. "Gutz" is in fact all of those things rolled into one -- emotional honesty, drunk dialing, unapologetic sexuality, and all over a quiet combination of synths and horns.
Big Lo :: Wunderland Apokalypse :: Big Lo
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Having been first exposed to Big Lo on the incredibly long titled "The Amazing Luxurious Adventures of Baron Von Lowenstein Esquire III" I was both looking forward to his next adventure and hoping the album's name would be a little easier to type! Thankfully "Wunderland Apokalypse" delivers on that unstated request although the intentional misspellings still present their own challenge (turn your autocorrect the f--k off). The biggest surprise here was just how short "Apokalypse" is. By comparison the theatrical release of "Apocalypse Now" is 8.5 times long. Don't start playing this album and take a bathroom break, fix a sandwich and make some popcorn. Before the final kernel is salted and buttered the entire album will be over. I've waited in lines to get into a club for a rap concert longer than this release. The good news is that Big Lo makes up for quantity with quality. Cuts are provided by DJ A to the L throughout, and the production on the songs evokes the pleasant feeling of an Action Bronson mixtape before he went quasi-mainstream. One thing they don't have in common though is the vocal tone. Bronson got both fairly and unfairly compared to Ghostface, while the deep and rich vocals of Lo are mixture of Evidence and Oh No. On "Green Balloon" he shows off his sense of humor and his "whiskey tongue" over a beat produced by V. Kush. "Ay, spit live for the dimwitted/my wife hates my raps but I love her big titties yo/I'm one of them rappers who really rap/smoke break during you Milli Vanilli acts." There are so many different producers on "Wunderland" that calling it "consistent" would be a mistake unless you meant "consistently pleasant." The songs don't have a unified theme other than indie rap, but the quality of those beats and Big Lo's delivery carry it through. One thing Lo might actually have in common with Bronson is an obsession with food, reflected in song titles like "Carpaccio" and "Breakfast In Dubai," but as good as those are I can equally recommend "The Lux (Double Down)." The "most morbidest tale" that Lo tells seems to be a stream of consciousness flow with a loose tie to gambling, but in the end he still ties it back to food with the words "fire up the grill cause we all gon' eat.""
Def3 :: Small World :: Fontana North
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Def3 became def to me in 2014 with "Wildlif3." He'd been around for a minute before that but linking up with Factor for production made the difference and made me decide to check him out and share the results with the RR audience. That first impression was a good one so I'm back for a second go-around with "Small World," even though this time he's working with a producer named Late Night Radio. All good things must come to an end though and no matter how big you are you can't get DJ Premier or Pete Rock to produce every album you do (let alone every track on it in most cases). This time the formula has flipped - instead of a good producer introducing me to a good rapper I'm looking to see if a good rapper can introduce me to a good producer. I'm happy to say that for three quarters of an hour LNR doesn't disappoint, and he gets to flex with some big guns on the title track very early on. Def3 brought in Del the Funky Homosapien and Moka Only to spit on the song, which leaves every chance for him to be upstaged and I'd be lying if I said Mr. 3030 doesn't make good on that scenario. "When you're full of bull it results in more s--t" quips Del, but the song is most certainly not. Def3 might be surplanted by the heavyweight guests but he's not knocked completely out of the frame to the point you won't remember he was on the track. The good news is that Def3 immediately makes up for it on "Serenity," a very personal track which lays bare his thoughts about family and loved ones over a track that's perhaps surprisingly upbeat. "Headnod" fits it well. He's spitting some serious bars and thoughts but the track still comes across bumpable and uplifting. It makes me harken back to my own amateur mixtape days in college as the kind of joint I'd think "I gotta share this with someone - it's too dope to keep to myself."
Skyzoo :: Peddler Themes :: First Generation Rich/Empire
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"There's little doubt I'm paying attention when Brooklyn's own Skyzoo drops a new project, but he went the extra length to win me over with his new "Peddlers Theme" release by going so far wayback (back into time) I would have thought he borrowed a TARDIS from Jodie Whittaker. Now sadly for me movie theaters where I grew up never showed "Wild Style," but that didn't stop numerous rappers from looping Grand Wizard Theodore's "Subway Theme," including the intro to Nas' "Illmatic" debut, to the point as a teenage head in the 90's I went out of my way to track down a copy of the soundtrack. Therefore the beat Skyzoo is using on "For Real'er" is anywhere from 20-30+ years old depending on what your first exposure to it is, but either way if you're an older head it's going to itch a nostalgia bone you'll want to scratch a little more. Given the previous associations with New York hip-hop culture it just "feels right" for a Brooklynite like 'Zoo to bust on it. He even makes sure to reference Nas and AZ in the first verse to pay homage. 'Zoo sounds hungry on the track and describes himself as "back to my 'brick and a booth' s--t" accurately. This album is also unapologetically not trying to fool anybody listening to hip-hop for more than a minute. "Long Money" jacks the exact same Cortext "Huit Octobre 1971" loop that MF DOOM did on "One Beer." In fact I ain't even mad at it that Skyzoo is using such obvious jacks. Some might question the creativity, but for Skyzoo it's about the bars not the beats (as the opening quote indicates) and if there's one thing that had made him a fan favorite over the years it's his flow style and lyrical charisma."
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