Sunday October 21, 2018

The (W)rap Up - Week of November 14, 2017
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, November 21st, 2017 at 2:00PM :: Email this article :: Print this article

If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Jidenna's "Boomerang" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!

[Boomerang]Jidenna ::†Boomerang
Wondaland/Epic Records

Author:†Steve 'Flash' Juon

"Just a couple of months ago I wrote my first review of rising musical star†Jidenna, an artist who fluidly transitions from rapping to singing and back again. He seems to be this decade's version of†Wyclef Jean†in terms of his musical vision and worldbeat crossover appeal, and the unexpected surprise "Boomerang" album continues that trend with a couple of remixes and some hot new songs including the booming J-Kits produced opener "Decibels." "The Chief" changes it up to a more Carribean feel and flow with a little help from Diplo for the "Boomerang" title track and a music video that will inspire copycat dance moves. It's likely to replace current favorites like "Little Bit More" and "The Let Out" in rotation on the airwaves and at whatever dancehall or club you frequent. Even though "Bambi" was not an official single from "Long Live the Chief" and was technically a promotional vehicle for the album, Jidenna's pseudo AutoTune croon and playful metaphors about lions and jungles definitely caught my ear. Nothing about the Nate "Rocket" Wonder, Nana Kwabena, Horowitz and Jidenna produced original has changed on the sequel "Bambi Too" other than the guest stars -- Sarkodie, Maleek Berry and Quavo. Speaking of "Little Bit More" though, the album updates the stomping Afro-pop original from Roman GianArthur, Nana Kwabena and Mark Williams with a remix that brings in Burna Boy. As with the new take on "Bambi" nothing is different about the song musically, but the line-up for the other song gives it more of a new feel. This one comes across like taking an established hit, adding one cameo and sticking it on "Boomerang" to pad out the album."

Loyle Carner ::†Yesterday's Gone†::†AMF Records
as reviewed by†Matt Jost

[Yesterday's Gone]"There is, if you care about these things, always a somewhat stimulating unpredictability to how an emerging UK rap artist is going to sound. Is it the jagged sounds of grime or do we get some traditional variant of hip-hop as imported from America? Something in between? Something entirely different? And I already have to backtrack on my initial compliment because in my opinion British rappers (of all walks) haven't been as eager to change the record as their colleagues in, let's say, mainland Europe. At large they haven't been able to mentally free themselves from the attitude and topics dictated by the big brothers in America. Which is kind of sad, but certainly not the fault of the youngest generation. Loyle Carner, a 23-year-old artist from Croydon, searches for his own way across tradition and innovation. On "Yesterday's Gone," his debut album, he tells his and his family's story to hip-hop that draws from jazz, folk and rock. Although opener "The Isle of Arran," produced by The Purist, makes for an epic entrance with a gospel choir chanting, "The Lord will make a way," the album radiates a homemade charm. If you imagine Carner rappping with a chronically sniffly delivery, you may see the danger of a record that is simply too self-absorbed and ultimately too small-scale. It would miss the mark, however, to simply label "Yesterday's Gone" bedroom rap, rather it's also living room rap, school yard rap, next-door neighbor rap, best buddy rap - and mama's boy rap."

Creatures of Habit ::†Test Subjects†::†Real Life Drama Records
as reviewed by†Matt Jost

[Test Subjects]"Even the most unworldly weed smokers know that in this day and age their rebellion is in danger of wearing thin and their coolness is liable to wear off. On one hand today's youth leans towards more optimized lifestyles that either include no intoxicants at all or a wide array of chemically designed drugs, on the other hand the consumption of cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes has become widely accepted. The legalization lobbying is finally paying off, and even though rap music was not necessarily at the forefront of the political battle, it was nonetheless a persistent voice that sung the praise of the plant in countless songs. Sticking strictly to that script, British rappers Eric The Red and Sean Peng and producer Illinformed are Creatures of Habit, whose 2016 album "Test Subjects" follows the old storyline that goes a little something like this: We're really crazy for Mary Jane, but don't confuse it with the kind of crazy that comes with the consumption of all those other drugs. Don't expect absolutely clear lines to be drawn, though, because the asserted level of addiction requires that the trio goes to extremes to feed its habit. So "Test Subjects" cannot do without borderline boasts like "A real fiend, ain't seen nothing like me / Always looking for the dope like an old junkie.""

DJ Format & Abdominal ::†Still Hungry†:: AAF Records†
as reviewed by†Matt Jost

[Still Hungry]""Ill Culinary Behaviour" brought me here. Back when playful, conceptual hip-hop was still an option, DJ Format and Abdominal dropped this tasty tidbit about cooking up and serving musical and lyrical "explosions of flavour". After the 2001 single, the British producer and the Canadian rapper collaborated sporadically on Format's full-length projects. Abdominal himself, headlining a handful of albums since 2001, hasn't quite been able to lay out the same career path as up-north peers like D-Sisive, Classified or Moka Only. Still the duo seems to share a special kind of chemistry and is out to prove that they're "Still Hungry." Although both the "Appetizer" intro and the following title track might suggest that Abs and Format could be serving leftovers, the latter subverts such expectations by dealing with the hunger for life sans extended gastronomic metaphors. In the album's first song, Abdominal opts for a bottled up delivery that only finds release in a brief bark during the hook. Stone-faced rappers may be in high demand these days, but this particular song literally begs to conclude in a musical climax, especially as the songwriting steers in that direction, the rapper searching for and finding strength over the course of the cut. Not to mention the pumping production's steady offer to the MC to finally stand straight. Across the entire album, however, Abs' performance on the title track turns out to offer a break from the typically companionable tone of his conversation. Abdominal always raps with the best of intentions. That doesn't exclude snubbing competition, but at his heart he is a jovial MC with the desire to entertain and educate. The delivery, meant to be natural and plausible, can sometimes topple towards the opposite, but nobody would dispute that Abdominal is a capable rapper in almost all sectors. And so "Still Hungry," for better and for worse, largely lives up to expectations."

Krept and Konan ::†7 Days†::†Def Jam
as reviewed by†Grant Jones

[7 Days]"Marketed as a double-LP, Krept and Konan's second major release is actually two mixtapes: "7 Days" & "7 Nights". This isn't exactly groundbreaking in its concept but it certainly benefits from the structural shift from their previous record "A Long Way Home". For the uninitiated, Krept and Konan are two lyrical cats from London who blend clever wordplay, British slang and thumping "American-ized" production to popular effect. Their breakthrough mixtape "Young Kingz" was particularly noteworthy for cracking the Top 20 Albums Chart in the UK, while their debut major label release "A Long Way Home" (2015) is the highest-charting British rap album ever (#2) - until Stormzy's "Gang Signs and Prayers" this year which became the first #1 British grime album. It's worth noting that these facts are distinguished by the terms rap and grime, despite "7 Days" featuring both Skepta and Stormzy. "7 Days" is the record for the streets and the clubs, whereas "7 Nights" is aimed at "the ladies". As archaic as that generalisation is, it mirrors the prerequisites of many a chart-topping rap album: songs for the streets, songs for the clubs and songs with accessible hooks or an R&B flavour. The decision to double their streaming revenue by splitting the 21 tracks in to two albums/mixtapes is a wise one, but it's nothing new. E-40 released three mixtapes in one day, Nelly did something similar with "Sweat/Suit" in 2004 and even in the UK we've had unique releases such as Brotherman's "The Dark and the Light" utilising the Ying/Yang theme. You could even look at Outkast's "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" for an album that included two different genres."

Lady Leshurr ::†Mode†::†RCA Records
as reviewed by†Grant Jones

[Mode]"Social media platforms have created so many avenues for rap artists that it's hard to keep count of them all. Lady Leshurr's a key figure within British rap music thanks to her wildly popular one-take videos released on YouTube; known as the "Queen's Speech" series, each episode sees Lady Leshurr (pronounced Lee-Shur) poking fun at a range of targets while walking in odd locations. Episode 4 is the most popular and conveniently, the best one. Anybody who turns a song instructing you to brush your teeth in to a catchy, viral hit, clearly has something special about them. And it didn't just remind some youths to break out the Colgate, but landed Leshurr's mother a mortgage in the process. Dental hygeine is a common theme amongst Leshurr's rhymes, as is putting down other females and particularly thirsty males. Songs like "Y R U Lyin'?" and "Trust Nobody" highlight a level of professionalism you'd not normally expect from a YouTube sensation, but the levels of confidence and vocal authority on display are executed convincingly. "Glucose" ends the 6-track EP on a high, showcasing Lady Leshurr's versatility over a punchy party-rocking production with more than an element of early Dizzee about it. Inevitable comparisons with Nicki Minaj and Missy Elliott can't be seen as detrimental, particularly when Nicki recently followed Lady Leshurr on Twitter. Amongst all the tomfoolery and topical references, there's a vicious emcee showing remarkable growth over a short period of time. 2017's "Mode" is an EP possessing all the traits from the Queen's Speech tracks but because the videos are so entertaining, part of Leshurr's charm is lost in audio-only format. More personal moments ("F My Ex") demonstrate some purpose to the juvenile insults, but the addictive hooks are what make "Mode" worthy of your attention."

Tricky ::†ununiform†::†!K7/False Idols†
as reviewed by†Patrick Taylor

[ununiform]†"It says something about the trajectory of Bristol producer/rapper's Tricky's career that while 1996's "Pre-Millennium Tension" is one of my favorite albums, "ununiform" is the first new album of his that I've listened to in almost 20 years. After producing two brilliant albums he stumbled with 1998's "Angel's With Dirty Faces," and kept on stumbling. His restless genre hopping led him down some dark roads, including glossy Hollywood rap/rock, mediocre alternative rock, indie pop, etc. It's hard to blame him. His early work was claustrophobic and dark, not exactly the most expansive sonic palette to work with. You can understand the guy wanting dabble in less depressive sounds. The last decade has seen him put out a series of rushed, half-hearted efforts that were more geared towards paying his debts off than making great art. Now debt-free, "ununiform" is the first Tricky album in a while that he made for the love of making music. Part of the challenge with Tricky albums  is that the collaborative nature of his music means that there are often jarring variations in genre and style. "Ununiform" is more focused than some of this previous releases, but it is still multiple singers and rappers performing on tracks that range from stripped down soul to trap music to indie pop to people rapping in Russian and Kazakh. Tricky's croaking voice and a dank, claustrophobic atmosphere are running threads throughout the album, but even then not on every track.To his credit, he knows how to pick collaborators. Besides the aforementioned Russian and and Kazakh rappers, he works with singers Francesca Belmonte, Mina Rose, Asia Argento, Avalon Lurks, and Terra Lopez. Martina Topley-Bird, who was featured on Tricky's early albums, gets the honor of singing on the best track on the album, "When We Die." It is a gorgeous, gloomy meditation on death that stands up with anything in Tricky's back catalogue."

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