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The (W)rap Up - Week of December 21, 2010
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, December 28th, 2010 at 12:00AM :: Email this article :: Print this article

[Apollo Kids]Ghostface Killah :: Apollo Kids
Def Jam

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"If the title of Ghostface Killah's ninth studio album seems familiar and you find yourself catching deja vu, you're not crazy - you've heard "Apollo Kids" before. The difference is that originally "Apollo Kids" was a slammin' single off the seminal classic "Supreme Clientele." The duet between Ghost and Raekwon also featured a visually memorable video where the ostensible CEO of Starks Enterprises further distanced himself from his comic book namesake, owning and operating a factory which indulged a fetish for sneakers rather than weapons of warfare. Over a decade later Ghost has resurrected the "Apollo Kids" name, which would lead one to expect he's trying to recapture that sound and vibe of an all-time hip-hop classic. Some would argue that's a needed move after the somewhat disappointing vibes of "Ghostdini." On the other hand when it comes to delivering year in and year out Ghostface is one of the few Wu-Tang members you can count on, and he's delivered more hits than misses since dropping his first solo album back in 1996. The artwork may speak more strongly than the choice of album name in this case, particularly since Ghost can't be seen anywhere on the cover. The impression one gets is that the popular Wu rapper went "back to school," complete with his wide ruled looseleaf and a #2 pencil. Whatever other images he may have, ranging from internationally dapper don to hardcore Staten Island thug, the one he wants you to identify with is top storyteller. The Scram Jones produced "Starkology" makes that mission perfectly clear"

Aztext :: Who Cares If We're Dope? Volume One :: Elevated Press Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
[Who Cares If We're Dope? Volume One] 
"The Aztext are a Burlington, Vermont crew who have been making independent hip hop for the better part of a decade. It's been three years since their last release, 2007's "The Sacred Document," which was a solid album of old school, underground hip hop. Their latest album, "Who Cares If We're Dope?" is being released in four EPs, each featuring a different producer. Volume on features previous Aztext collaborator E Train. They make the kind of hip hop they grew up listening to, and use the mic to speak truth. There's no phony gangsta posturing, just honest rhymes. MCs Learic and Pro trade rhymes like Run DMC or the Beastie Boys. With their back-to-basics rhymes and E Train's crate-digging beats, its as if Puffy, Southern Rap, emo rap, or Kanye never happened. The Aztext live in an alternative universe where mic skills are more important than image, and where hip hop stayed firmly rooted in its original sound and aesthetic. Given that context, it's interesting that "Time Is Just a Glare" uses the metaphor of hip hop as a prison, stifling creativity with its rules. "

Dave Dub & The Sutter Cain Gang :: Mind Police :: M9 Entertainment
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Mind Police] 
"Sometimes one is tempted to start and end a review in one sentence and be done with it. It would be far more satisfying to the writer, but much less helpful to the reader hoping to glean insight into an album and artist. This is one of those cases, but this reviewer shall steadfastly soldier on and deliver the verbiage. "Mind Police" is an album that can be experienced in under a half hour, and that's by design. Dave Dub & The Sutter Cain Gang did not record a single song here longer than three minutes and nine seconds, and half of them are actually 2:15 or less. The reason for these brief adrenaline bursts of music is simple - rapper Dub and his production team of JtheSarge and Piet Damolen envisioned this album as "a punk rock hip-hop project." One can't fault them for truth in advertising - that's exactly what "Mind Police" is. If you ever listened to a seminal punk album (that doesn't mean punk pop crossover like Green Day or No Doubt) it's exactly like this release - and not too far from what the early/obscure Beastie Boys songs sound like either. "

DJ Lord Ron :: Environmental Shape Sounds of DJ Lord Ron :: String Note Recordings
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace

[DJ Lord Ron] 
"Oh Lord! DJ Lord Ron has been doing his thing for quite awhile. He has an extended resume of work that includes remixes and production for the likes of Guru, Mobb Deep, Nas, Inspecktah Deck, Masta Ace and Rakim. In 2008, Lord Ron released "My Mental State of Beatz" which featured the aforementioned late, great Guru, Willmatic, Triple Ace, Wildelux, Derek Strong, C-Rayz and Jadox, among others. This time around, DJ Lord Ron is back at it with his latest release, "Environmental Shape Sounds of DJ Lord Ron." The album features appearances from C-Rayz Walz, Lil Dap & Young Luchiano, Wildelux, HumanBeings, NC Abram, John Robinson, Triple Ace, Akil The MC, Killa Kal, Mad Man Da God, Klu Shiesty, Kassius Kakes, Destruct and Yeski. In OTHER words, a lot of people are on this joint. Following the intro, things get started with C-Rayz' "Concrete Bars" which comes off as underwhelming after the first listen, but with repeated spins, it's easier to catch and appreciate all of the subtle metaphors on the song. "

Dub Sonata :: Nights In Cuba :: Dub Sonata Music/Illest-Rated Entertainment
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Nights In Cuba] 
"RR first checked in on Dub Sonata's work back in 2007, where his production was positively compared to "other prolific up-and-comers like Chops, Jon Doe, and Snowgoons." As such there was little doubt that someone on RR's writing team would check out his next album, looking forward to whatever rap artists he chose to collaborate with. What ill emcees would Dub Sonata bring to the forefront on his up-and-coming beats? As it turns out NONE. "Nights In Cuba" is not just the title of this album, it's quite literally what this CD is all about. Somehow the New York based producer took a trip to Cuba on vacation, which despite its highly close proximity to the United States is not the easiest thing to do. Officially (and ridiculously) relations between the two are still strained, and there's a travel embargo which prevents United States citizens from flying there directly. Fidel Castro long since stopped being a threat to the States, going all the way back to when the Soviet Union dissolved and the communist state lost its chief financial supporter, but decades of acrimonious relations and a strongly vocal ex-patriate Cuban community in Florida make normalizing relations nearly impossible. "

Girl Talk :: All Day :: Illegal Art
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[All Day] 
"Girl Talk is the alter ego of Gregg Gillis, a former biomedical engineer turned DJ. Over five albums, he has become the king of the mash-up, a master at combining disparate, unrelated songs into an ass-shaking party. His trademark is mixing hip hop with pop and indie rock samples, melding them into a seamless, genre-bending monster. His latest album, "All Day," was released as a free download in November. It contains twelve tracks that use over 373 samples, a complete list of which is available on Illegal Art's website. "All Day" is a brilliantly constructed record. Perhaps it is his engineering background, but Gillis has a knack for finding snippets of sound that fit together perfectly. Who would have thought that Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" and Ludacris's "Move, Bitch" could be combined into a single track? Or that Jay-Z's "Can I Get A What?" would mesh so well with General Public's 80s hit "Tenderness?" Gillis, that's who. He does it over and over again, creating an hour-long nonstop genre-defying party. Gillis avoids the number one problem with mash ups, which is shitty mixing and mixing songs that don't go together. The problem is, once you've heard one song, you've basically heard them all. "

various artists :: - La Force Du Nombre :: Disques HHQC
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
[ - La Force Du Nombre] 
"RapReviews readers may be scratching their heads right now. "Flash, why would you take on reviewing a compilation rapped entirely in French? You don't even speak the language." French rap is not new to me though. I was first introduced to IAM's "Planete Mars" almost 20 years ago by trading mixtapes through the mail with a hip-hop fan I met online, and not long after that GangStarr's Guru started to collaborate with MC Solaar. My French speaking friend informed me that Solaar was considered "bubblegum rap" and sent me more tapes so that U.S. rap heads could get the "authentique" flavor of French hip-hop - I still remember names like Assassin and Supreme NTM to this day. For me the language barrier was secondary to the skills. You can listen to rap in any language and discern if the emcee is charismatic, has good breath control, can weave multiple lines of rhymes together and has a pleasant vocal tone to listen to - and the beats underneath are something of a global constant. Back to "La Force Du Nombre" though, which as I understand it translates to "Strength in Numbers." That would certainly be an apt description of this compilation as no less than 16 different artists are represented. "

LinoBoyLive :: IMLINOBOYLIVE :: LI Records
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace

"Back in September, I attended the Ohio Hip Hop Awards in Cleveland, Ohio. The ceremony was okay... the small amount of the show I got to see anyway. For the majority of the time, I was in the back of the venue in the media room where the winners were to come after winning an award. The few glimpses of the show came when I stepped out to hit up the bar or to go to the restroom. It would've been nice if there was some kind of feed being sent to the room, but alas there wasn't. I met a lot of cool artists and industry folk back in the room though, so don't think that I'm downing the experience or bitching for the sake of just bitching. As expected, the tables and bar were both flooded with promo material, with packaging that ranged from quite professional down to D-I-Y in the most literal of ways (think CD-Rs and Sharpies). After I left the show, I sat in my car getting ready to pull off and a car pulls up next to me. My first thought was that I was about to go out like Biggie or Pac. Foolish, I know. My second thought was that they were about to ask for directions. After both of our windows were down, a hand reached out and they proceeded to hand me a CD and then they drove away. "

Lyrics Born :: As U Were :: Mobile Home Recordings/Decon Records
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[As U Were] 
"You can't put a peacock in a cage / it get mad when it can't spread its wings." That's about as apt a self-description as any hip-hop vocalist has ever given. Equipped with an artistic wingspread that is impressive in both size and design, Lyrics Born needs creative freedom to find complete expression. Refusing to be limited by genre restrictions and industry expectations, he continues on his journey across the musical landscape as a solo artist supported by dedicated followers and a loyal musical family. While "As U Were" may only be his third official studio album, LB stays on his grind with tours, a well maintained website and smaller-scale releases. In short, Lyrics Born has been around and his records reflect the experience. He is also faithful to the funk, a common denominator of most of his music. Featuring the lyric above, "Kontrol Phreak" opens the album with a hard-hitting interpretation of slick '80s robot funk. It's not a rap recording and it doesn't have to be - because rap owes funk an awful lot in the first place and because funk possesses just the right attitude to tell off someone who continuously tries to pull strings."

Skyzoo & !llmind :: Live From the Tape Deck :: Duck Down Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Live From the Tape Deck] 
"Skyzoo describes himself in the opener to "Live From the Tape Deck" as "critically acclaimed and underrated at the same time." He's right. The Brooklyn emcee built his reputation off highly regarded mixtapes and a collaborative "Cloud 9" album with 9th Wonder, after which he inked with the legendary Duck Down label to release his solo debut "The Salvation." Regrettably Skyzoo soon fell into that well-tred hip-hop category of "your favorite rapper's favorite rapper," which for the unfamiliar translates to "everybody respects his skills but he's not pushing units like Lil Wayne does." Sky is that name everybody looks for on a free MP3 or a downloadable .zip file, but when it comes to ponying up the ducats more people get torrents. Sometimes skills DON'T pay the bills. Hoping to turn that trend around, I didn't wait for the label to comp me a copy of his latest CD (shoutout to Matt though) and dropped $13.99 for it at the store. I had the notion in mind ever since we first posted the press release announcing it back in August, but a massive amount of promo material to review delayed the inevitable purchase a couple of months. It certainly didn't hurt that !llmind's name keeps popping up in the production credits of other rap albums I enjoyed this year, so the idea of him working with Skyzoo for an entire album was highly appealing."

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