If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Sean Price's "Imperius Rex" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Sean Price :: Imperius Rex
Duck Down Music
Author: Sy Shackleford
"In 2005, Ruck from the Brooklyn rap duo Heltah Skeltah fully emerged in a brand-new form. Though Ruck and his partner-in-rhyme, Rock, had achieved success as the architects of Duck Down Music's biggest hit "Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka" from their 1996 debut album "Nocturnal", they split apart two years later due to the critical and commercial failure of their 1998 sophomore follow-up album "Magnum Force". The break-up of Heltah Skeltah bears parallels to the that of the pro-wrestling tag-team championship duo of the Hart Foundation (Bret "The Hitman" Hart and Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart). For anyone without historical knowledge of professional wrestling, this fan-favorite duo won the tag-team championship belts twice before their second loss split them apart. Bret Hart went solo where he had his greatest accomplishments (multiple reigns as both the heavyweight and intercontinental champion, as well as being the first ever winner of the "King of the Ring" pay-per-view event), gained an enormous rise in popularity, and even an occasional reunion with his former partner. Slowly, but surely, Ruck was building a new reputation as a solo artist. Discarding his nom-de-rap (except for when he and Rock reunited as Heltah Skeltah), he went from simply a hardcore rhymer to a hardcore rhymer armed to-the-teeth with well-crafted belligerent lyrical threats laced with a sense of humor born from a superfluity of pop culture knowledge and a newfound tongue-in-cheek self-deprecating attitude. This was 2005, when the rapper formerly known as Ruck fully emerged as Sean Price, his birth name and rap moniker throughout his career until his untimely and unexpected death ten years later. From his 2005 solo debut album "Monkey Barz", he became known for his hard-hitting rhymes and was a staple in the underground hip-hop community. He remains one of Duck Down's most popular artists and was featured on songs from the Jedi Mind Tricks, the Wu-Tang Clan, CunninLynguists, Diabolic, Onyx, and Copywrite. Mind you, Sean Price was not a rapper with a message. In his own words, his rhymes were "ignorance at its finest." The late Brownsville emcee would bully rappers on the mic with a mix of hilarious menace and effortlessly-delivered technical rhyme skill."
Aesop Rock & Homeboy Sandman :: Triple Fat Lice :: Stones Throw/Rhymesayers Ent.
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"The oddity of Aesop Rock and Homeboy Sandman team up comes not from their background as both are New Yorkers (even though Rock moved to Portland, Oregon) or their background as indie rappers (a slew of highly acclaimed albums between the two of them) but from their desire to give each project away free. It's certainly not beyond the realm of expectations to think that two beloved indie rap favorites in their own version of a supergroup based on a parasitic insect could sell more than enough copies to recoup their cost. There may be some some intentional self-deprecation in naming their team and album series "Lice" though, as though they feel they're simply living off the debris of hip-hop's collective skin without deserving it. I don't find that to be true but if their humility about it makes them feel obligated to give away "Triple Fat Lice" for free then I'm not going to question them too much over it. (It's worth pointing out they DID list some worthy charities that you could donate to in exchange for getting the album free. Please feel free to give them a look before, during or after this review. You're under no obligation though and the album is still free either way.) Although Aesop Rock could have easily handled the production for this or any of their team-ups, part of the fun for him has to be outsourcing it to dope producers and giving him the chance to rap with Sandman and not worry about it. It's the lack of pressure that gives them the chance to be unusually honest on songs like the Ben Boogz produced "Pizza and Burgers.""
Chris Rivers :: Delorean :: That's Hip Hop Music
as reviewed by Sy Shackleford
"Diggy Simmons, Corey Gunz, Lil' Romeo, and Doughboy. They're all what can be considered "legacy rappers", second-generation hip-hop artists. Each of them have had varying degrees of success which is largely due to the support they've received from their parental rap templates. But because none of them have ever attained the hip-hop plateau of influence and respect as their fathers, they continue to remain in their parents' shadows despite attempts to form independent identities of their own. Chris Rivers is one legacy rapper who doesn't have that problem. His father, the legendary Bronx Latino rapper Big Pun, died in 2000 when his son was five. Unlike the other rappers, Chris didn't have his father's backing. He got into the same line of work, but practiced and honed his inherited rapping skill until it was something different than that of his father. His skill is something he can call his own. To further the distance, his stage name is an anglicized version of his birth name. Also, it should be clear to listeners by now that when you hear Chris Rivers, there's no way that you can hear Big Pun in his style. It's all Chris Rivers when his words escape my speakers. On his debut studio album, "Delorean", Rivers takes listeners on an audio odyssey of tongue-twisting rhymes and wordplay over mostly trap-sounding beats. "Delorean" does appear to have a loose concept to it. The album cover pays homage to the "Back to the Future" franchise and has a visual nod to Christopher Nolan's 2014 sci-fi epic "Interstellar". Some of the skits are critiques on hip-hop's current state and its current generation, all under the pretext of an alien abduction. Though Rivers' age marks him as a millennial, he's got more awareness than the typical member of his demographic. He's part of the future, but he's a part who actually took the time to learn about past history that has shaped his present. The album starts off with the title track produced by Unleash Musik. It's actually a pretty strong introductory song with the frantic 808 drum programming and space-age synths. "
Tyga :: Bitch I'm the S--t 2 :: Last Kings/Empire
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Usually the goal of a creative individual is to progress artistically, making something more interesting than you did on your last project, and even if the public doesn't perceive your end goal your personal satisfaction from the artistic effort makes it worthwhile. I say "usually" because I've had a hard time perceiving that artistic progress from Michael Ray Stevenson b/k/a Tyga. At first it felt like he got a break in the music business because of his family relations, but there was still a spark of talent in his music to suggest he could become something greater. The closest we got to him achieving that potential was on "Careless World," and since then he's actually been regressing BACKWARD artistically. He's now less interesting than when he first started. He raps constantly about how much money he has and how much sex he gets in a seemingly uninspired monotone flow. You could call it "progress" in a sense though, because each album has become progressively harder to listen to from start to finish. We're not off to a good start on "Bitch I'm the S--t 2" when the first thing I select immediately makes me think of Ma$e and leaves me concluding that Mason Betha had more personality and flow, when I used to think HE was monotone and boring. You can't help it though when "Move to L.A." jacks the exact same sample as Betha's "What You Want" single featuring Total - Curtis Mayfield's "Right on for the Darkness." I'm seriously dumbfounded that I'm one song into this album and Tyga has been shown up by Ma$e of all f--king people. I'm not sure how to take that other than to think he and I would have both been better off if this song hadn't been included."
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