"You know what the problem with hip hop is? There are just so many WORDS and CONCEPTS. It's annoying sometimes how much attention you have to pay just to keep up with what's going on. It hurts my brain. So thank goodness for artists such a Nicki Minaj that come along with the express intention of condensing everything into easy-to-remember formulas. Such as: a + b + c = 25% (for males where a talks about autobiographical travails; b secures high profile guest; c quirky Bangladesh number) Obviously, such a formula has been derived from "Tha Carter III" with the 25% being an approximation of the opening quarter of "Pink Friday." Unfortunately, the law of diminishing returns also applies, with: "I'm the Best" + "Roman's Revenge" + "Did It On Em" < "3 Peat" + "Mr Carter" + "A Milli." That is to be expected, however, since Lil Wayne was pretty much at the peak of his powers, whilst Minaj is but a brash Young Money debutante. "I'm the Best" is exactly what you think it will be (blah positive opener); Eminem's first verse on RR is excellent, and he is slowly feeling his way back to his best, but the poor beat undermines the potential; Bangladesh's beat is okay, but surprisingly timid by his normally raucous standards. So the first excessively masculine quarter having been addressed, presumably to provide intrigue, inspiration, credibility and muscle, it's time to move on to the next portion. Ladies, you can wake up now."
Cassidy :: C.A.S.H. :: eOne Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Despite being a prominent delegate of the 2K indie scene, Celph Titled has one of the least prolific individual discographies of his peers. He rather gets it all out at once, releasing a quadruple-disc collection of his work, but prefers working in a team even more - membership in the Demigodz and Army of the Pharaohs, collaboration albums with Apathy and J-Zone. "Nineteen Ninety Now" fits the mold as yet another project where Celph shares the bill, but it is also his most high profile release, not to mention the closest thing to a real Celph Titled album to date. Who's to blame? Esteemed beatmaker Buckwild has granted Celph Titled access to his vaults of unpublished '90s beats. Which, if you know anything about the Rubix Cuban, is like handing a kid the keys to a candy store. What was good enough for Big L, Kool G Rap, O.C., Brand Nubian, Organized Konfusion and Artifacts must be nothing short of a blessing for a hip-hop artist who sees himself as an upholder of '90s values. Buck's beats from that era possess integrity in spades, and, while they call for a certain brand of rap, are of a timeless quality. "
http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2010_11_nineteenninetynow.htmlChristopher Michael Jensen :: There's Meaning Underground :: Her Linchpin Creates Me, Josh
as reviewed by Susan 'susiQ' Kim
"Helpless Dreamer" is an album full of potential. Featuring over a dozen artists from the Mello Music Group label, "Helpless Dreamer" is a chance for both established and up-and-coming rappers to showcase their skills on the mic. Producers such as Oddisee and Apollo Brown give the compilation an old-school feel -- using lots of strings, horns, and chopped up R&B/soul samples – and a handful of emcees, including yU and X.O. of the D.C. based group Diamond District, come through with intelligent, well-delivered lyrics. While the album for the most part lives up to its potential, it is unfortunately blemished by several songs where the vocals are simply not loud enough and seemingly hide behind the track. The album starts with a bang with "From the Top," produced by Oddisee and featuring Stik Figa. Every sound seems to come alive on the track, whether it's the simple piano loop, the deep rolling bass, the exultant trumpets, or the flowing orchestral synths that lace the chorus. The sparse nature of the beat really allows Stik Figa's commanding delivery to shine through, as he raps: "From the projects to the trailer park, I did it for ya'll." "
http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2010_11_helplessdreamer.htmlMr. Brady :: Labor of Love :: Clear Label Records
as reviewed by Mike Baber
""You don't need a big studio to do it, know what I'm saying? We do it for the love." This quote from the intro track of "Labor of Love" truly embodies Mr. Brady's vision on his latest album, which sees him take a break from the microphone and focus almost exclusively on producing. Featuring lots of chopped up soul samples, hard hitting drums, and electronic synths, "Labor of Love" is essentially a compilation album, produced entirely by Mr. Brady, that features a number of underground rappers, most of whom are from San Diego and Los Angeles area. Mr. Brady readily admits that he doesn't necessarily have the best equipment to work with, and while this seems to hamper several tracks, it also gives the album a raw underground feel. The album's lead single, "Real Heavy," features Detroit rapper Guilty Simpson and California emcee Johaz (of Mr. Brady's group Deep Rooted) spitting over an aggressive track driven by a hard-hitting kick. Aside from a constant synthy piano and a few background electronic noises, the beat is fairly thin, which allows Simpson and Johaz's powerful deliveries and gritty lyrics ("I come from a Detroit basement/ Guns are blazin' and dent your face in") to reinforce the hardcore vibes of the beat."
http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2010_11_laboroflove.htmlNelly :: 5.0 (Deluxe Version) :: Universal Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"What is Cornell Haynes rocking that's "5.0" this go around? Is it a new turbo-powered engine in a super-expensive foreign luxury car? Is it a custom line of Air Force Ones that you can't buy at retail? Is it a bottle of champagne that's so exclusive they numbered it and shipped it to Nelly directly? Well as it turns out Mr. Haynes has multiple meanings for it - and one of them is automotive after all - a shoutout to his beloved Ford Mustang. He also says it's the fifth "drop date" for an album, but that's a little bit of a stretch. If you don't count "Da Derrty Versions - The Reinvention" you could reduce his number of albums since 2000 from 7 to 6. You then have to combine all the different versions of "Sweatsuit" (which all had their own drop date) to reduce his total number of albums from 6 to 4. At that point you could claim "5.0" is the fifth album in his catalogue, but it's easier to assume the number implied something fly for marketing purposes. A Porsche sounds cool, but a Porsche 911 sounds cooler. "Among many fans of rap music there is the notion that 'hip-hop culture' is something made up by old farts to push their own interests, overstate their importance and assert their position of authority. Those fans might even go as far as calling hip-hop and the alleged culture that is tied to it a myth or pure ideology used to elevate some and exclude others. But twenty years ago a 16 year-old Boston rapper and beatmaker by the name of MC/DJ Force had a very clear vision of this 'hip-hop culture' and he was ready to stand up for it, against those who claimed hip-hop was unmusical, one-dimensional, stereotypical, etc. He insisted that he wasn't "a thug blastin' up an addict for some coke and some drugs" and that what he delivered wasn't "gangsterism," that he prefered "to be smart," didn't "follow crowds" and acted "straight from the heart." None of this would have been remarkable years later, but for 1989, when gangster rap was still a new phenomenon, such statements are exceptional, particularly in combination with the early use of the term 'hip-hop culture' in a rap song. But it proves how quick rap has always been to react to what's happening. "
http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/BTTL_topchoicereelchemistry.htmlAlexipharmic :: Good Side of Bad Vol. 3 :: Elephant Memories
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"One thing you have to say about Alexipharmic: you can't knock his hustle. He recorded this album after volunteering for a month at orphanages in Kenya. He notes "I tried my best to make a product worthy of the tears, smiles, hugs, lessons, and lifelong memories I received from every kid I was blessed to encounter on my adventure." His label, Elephant Memories, donates 50% of musical net profits to Mercy Corps relief efforts in the Congo. Keep in mind that most corporations donate 1% of their profits, and most private individuals donate between 2% and 3%. That's impressive dedication to a cause, and money much better spent that on sex, drugs, and luxury goods, the typical trappings of hip hop success. You also can't knock some of Alexipharmic's subject matter. He calls out men who beat women, gives shout outs to rappers he respects, reminisces about the 80s, and raps about having a liver tumor. While other rappers sell themselves as lady killers, Alexipharmic positions himself as the nice guy who is the better alternative to the asshole his love interest is with."
http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2010_11_goodsidebad3.htmlDiabolic :: A Liar and a Thief :: Viper Records
as reviewed by Joe Howard
"Now, I've never cared at all about what anyone else has had to say about my taste in music. During my tenure on various message boards I was labeled as having "the worst musical opinions", and to make matters worse, a good amount of my friends are violently apprehensive about letting me anywhere near any device capable of playing music. (None of the individuals that have branded me as having poor taste in music have gone on to write for highly reputed and well-established music reviewing platforms, but that's beside the point.) I don't really know what it is about my ear that renders it incapable of enjoying much of the same music my friends do, but one thing I do know is that I will never be apologetic for enjoying the songs and albums I do. It's not that I don't think Tool are extremely good musicians, I just think their songs are boring as shit. It's not that I don't think Pink Floyd were virtuosic and way ahead of their time, I just don't derive any pleasure or excitement to listen to a song that's nine minutes long just because someone else tells me it'll "blow my mind" if I listen to it after blazing some reef. "
http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2010_11_liarandthief.htmlLloyd Banks :: The Hunger For More 2 :: G-Unit/EMI Records
as reviewed by Jesal 'Jay Soul' Padania
"Hip hop is a big thing now. Might sound obvious, but in a week such as this, you really begin to realise just how massive and all-encompassing a monster it has become. You could pick up Kanye West's fifth album - rated a classic by pretty much everyone; there's the Young Money upstart, Nicki Minaj - already, in some regards, the most successful female rapper for almost a decade; for the more casual fan, a Greatest Hits package from Jay-Z, undoubtedly one of the greatest rappers of all time; or a sequence to an underground gem from Curren$y; finally, a long lost collection from one of the best, killed in his prime, Big L… Out of all those choices, however, you could successfully argue that not a single one of them is a straight-forward, mainstream, "traditional" hip hop LP. Kanye's is great but nine minute songs aren't everybody's bag; Nicki's is bordering on pop music and R&B for half of the album (at least); you'd be almost certain to already own Jigga's hits; the other two could hardly be called "mainstream." Which leaves a big old Lloyd Banks-sized hole in the market. "
http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2010_11_hungerformore2.htmlMasta Killa :: Masta Killa Presents: The Next Chamber :: Nature Sounds
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace
"First off, let me start by saying that reading is fundamental. See, I was all set to go on this high horse tirade about how tactless Nature Sounds and Royal Lion Entertainment were for sending over a plain CD-R of this Masta Killa project...and then I read the press release. As it turns out, "Masta Killa Presents: The Next Chamber" is a digital-only release and as such, they were actually doing me a favor. Furthermore, to increase the amount of egg on my face, all the tracks were properly tagged and sequenced. So, moving along, for the benefit of anyone who has lived under a rock for nearly two decades, Masta Killa is a member of the Wu-Tang Clan. Back when the Wu's debut album "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)" dropped, I was a husky, greasy-faced preteen. As just about everyone else did, I had my favorites out of the group. My first was the late Ol' Dirty Bastard, and I still have his "Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version" cassette somewhere around here somewhere. Shortly after that, it became GZA, whose "Liquid Swords" was the first CD I ever bought. A year or so later, "Ironman" switched my focus onto the artist that remains my favorite amongst the Clan today, Ghostface Killah. While I was aware of Masta Killa and his talent, he never stood out to the point where I felt I always needed to check for him. "
http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2010_11_killanextchamber.htmlJohn Regan :: Sorry I'm Late :: Culture VI Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Sorry I'm late. No, f'real, sorry Wil. I told Culture VI Records that I would hold off my review of the advance copy they sent me on "Sorry I'm Late," but I actually overshot my target and wound up being a week past the drop. The good news about that is I had another whole week to appreciate what John 'Poizun' Regan and his producer YZ were doing on this album. That's not the YZ you're thinking of - the seminal early 1990's rapper who did songs like "(So Far) The Ghetto's Been Good to Me." No, according to the press release Wil included with this album, this YZ is a producer who learned his craft from Chucky Thompson and worked alongside Young Guru before graduating to the pros and crafting tracks for the likes of Lil Wayne and Wyclef Jean. Despite being the second YZ on the block he's definitely #1 in the beats department, as evidenced by the subtle and beautiful strains of "Yesterday" featuring Joell Ortiz. Regan could have easily been overshadowed by the presence of Ortiz on the track, one of hip-hop's fastest rising stars, but his bars hold their own"
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