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The (W)rap Up - Week of January 11, 2011
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, January 18th, 2011 at 12:00AM :: Email this article :: Print this article

[courtesy] Zion I Interview
Author: Adam Bernard

"The Bay Area has been home to one of the best hip-hop scenes in the country for quite a while now and one group that's played a large part in that scene's growth is Oakland's Zion I. The duo of DJ AmpLive and Zumbi have been building things in the Bay since 1997, and last year released the critically acclaimed album Atomic Clock. Atomic Clock made my RapReviews year end top ten list, and this week I caught up with both AmpLive and Zumbi to get the story behind the album, as well as how going the indie route has changed over the years, and what they like about both the underground and mainstream hip-hop scenes."

various artists ::
Crazy & Psychotic Volume I :: Rap-A-Lot Records
as reviewed by Matt Jost
[Crazy & Psychotic Volume I]

"Quick, who is currently recording for Rap-A-Lot Records? Devin? Z-Ro? Trae? Scarface? Not to my knowledge. With the exception of Bun B, the label's stars, all major southern rap artists, all jumped ship. The drought of signees coincides with the label's 25th anniversary. Or maybe vice versa, as it may very well be lack of active personel that inspires the efforts to generate revenue with variously themed retrospectives. "Crazy & Psychotic Volume I" hopes to highlight the label's merits in exploring the dark hallways in rap's psyche. Rap had perhaps always been a cathartic medium, but in Rap-A-Lot madness found an asylum that encouraged its inmates to confront their inner demons. The poster boy for Rap-A-Lot as rap music's psycho ward is Ganksta NIP, who, (pretty much wrongly) credited as Gangsta NIP, makes two appearances here. Both "Slaughter House" ("Slaughterhouse") and "Murder After Midnight" ("Murda After Midnite") are off his third album, being favored over early works like "Psycho" or "Psychic Thoughts.""

Baron Von Alias & Arhat :: Out-Of-Body Experience :: {self-released}
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace


"The "Experience" kicks off with "Someday Son" which focuses on the things we all do to pass and in most cases, waste time in life while we could be pursing dreams and all that good stuff. You know, the usual stuff...working, drinking, Facebook and the like. "Back To Front" features a head-nod inducing beat with drums, pipes, a few bells for flavor, among other instruments and some nimble linguistics from BVA. Another notable point on this track is that here we have the first of a few mentions of possibly retiring the top hat and mustache that he proudly rocks because no one seems to take him seriously when he's "looking like a twat," as he puts it. The title track certainly has a psychedelic feel to it, and I'm not sure if it's the hypnotic guitar or the frantic drums that is the main culprit here. In any case, Baron Von Alias matches the beat with some rapid-fire lyrics of his own, making the cut one of the definite standouts. "Magic In The Air" is certainly on the more mellow side of things as we find BVA posing the question "Can you feel it now?" The "it" being something "more than love." By comparison, "Fortress" is much darker both in its lyrical content and its production. Baron compares the home to a fortress and likens the ills of society to that of a modern day Holocaust. "

Convicts :: Convicts :: Rap-A-Lot Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Matt Jost


"The average rap fan knows what it's like to have to defend rap music. Whether your tastes are questioned directly or you happen to walk in on a discussion, you're liable to deal with everything from serious concerns to outright slander. Personally I have stopped defending rap and everything that goes with it. Occasionally rap needs to be explained, and if properly asked, I try my best to explain it. But defend it or even defend myself for listening to it? I flat out refuse to enter any such argument, simply because I find the ignorance that demands me to defend it more annoying than any ignorance I might encounter within rap. That being said, I'm fully aware that rap often winds up needing justification, and that sometimes acquittal and absolution are hard to come by. Some rap is hard to excuse, even when it can be explained. The Convicts album is a case of rap crossing a certain line to the effect that any defense strategy becomes pointless. Nevertheless it has its share of supporters, some of who choose to put it on a particular pedestal. "

Tony Cook :: Back to Reality :: Stones Throw Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Back to Reality] 
"The Human Drum Machine. The Grand Daddy of House. The Greatest Funkateer They Never Did Hear. Tony Cook has a lot of titles for a man who I only got to know before writing this review, and you the reader haven't even had the luxury of hearing "Back to Reality" first. Perhaps before we all get back to "Back" we should back our way up into some biographical info. Cook got his start as a drummer for James Brown in the late 1970's, which was not as lucrative a gig as one might first believe given J.B.'s popularity was suffering at the time due to the rise of disco. As a result the Atlanta native Cook took on multiple gigs supporting everyone from Etta James to Taj Mahal, traveling back and forth between Britain and the United States, all while trying to launch an independent musical career in his own right. In the middle of the 80's Cook put out his biggest single as an artist, "On the Floor (Rock-It)" featuring The Party People. To listen to it today is a throwback to old school hip-hop. I don't mean "old school" the way kids today call Wu-Tang Clan "old school" because they were born in 1992. I mean TRUE old school - Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, The Treacherous Three, Funky Four +1 More, Sugarhill Gang, et cetera. "

DJ I-Dee :: DJ's Have Feelings Too... But Can't Rap :: Isito Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[DJ's Have Feelings Too... But Can't Rap] 
"Those who know the name DJ I-Dee are familiar with his turntablist skills and/or his gamer tendencies. Occasionally he gets to combine the two together in tracks like "The Right." The bad news is that the companies who make video games got hip to the fact their sounds were getting jacked, and it's now as hard to clear a sample from Sony Music as it is to clear one from a Sony PlayStation classic. As a result some of DJ I-Dee's most fun songs end up being YouTube clips and bootleg MP3 offerings, but since he's still getting work as a disc jockey it's not hurting his career. In fact he was able to drop a debut album named "Solitude" in 2008 showing off both his production skills and wizardry on the wheels of steel. In the two years since his debut album two well known deejays passed away within a month of each other in 2009 - the immortal Roc Raida and crossover turntablist DJ AM. One of the songs on DJ I-Dee's new album pays tribute to both - "Off the Decks" - and the entire album itself is dedicated to Raida. Despite this somber note these are not the "Feelings" that I-Dee was referring to in the title of his new album. "

Essman :: Esspionage Vol. 1 :: Long Range Distribution
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Esspionage Vol. 1] 
"Essman's "Esspionage Vol. 1" is an album full of pleasant surprises. If that seems more like the conclusion of the review than the opening to you, feel free to skip ahead and check the scores. The major downside of that is that you'll be missing out on what exactly those pleasant surprises are, not to mention a little background info on why you should care about Essman.  Essman's resume dates at least as far back as the 2002 Slum Village album "Trinity (Past, Present and Future)" when he produced tracks under the name Shelton 'Ess' Rivers - a hook up that came in part on talent and in part on his friendship with SV member Baatin. He made the most of that exposure and got work with D12, including scoring some classics for the grossly underexposed Proof solo album "Searching for Jerry Garcia," a year before the talented emcee met his untimely demise. Essman has continued to work with top talents in and outside of the Detroit area over the years, including landing a major gig to score the soundtrack for the Sticky Fingaz' movie "A Day in the Life." To put it succinctly, saying Essman is putting in work in hip-hop is an understatement. He's consistently grinding to get that paper. "

Remedy :: It All Comes Down to This :: Code Red Entertainment
as reviewed by Mike Baber

[It All Comes Down to This] 

"Quick, who is both the first white rapper and the first Jewish rapper to be affiliated with the Wu-Tang Clan? The answer is none other than Remedy, who first joined the squad of "killa beez" on a 1998 compilation CD. Since then, Remedy, who grew up in Staten Island, has started his own label and released several of his own albums, as well as albums from other Wu-Tang affiliates. Now Remedy is back with his latest mixtape, "It All Comes Down to This," which features an interesting collection of freestyles, new songs, and previously unreleased tracks, only one of which is over three minutes long. One can pick out the Wu-Tang influences right from the beginning, as Remedy spits about hustling, life in the ghetto, and the state of the hip-hop game over beats full of soul samples, orchestral strings and brass instruments, and kung-fu movie dialogue. Unfortunately, the mixtape stumbles when it comes to lyrical content -- Remedy's verses are at times repetitive and clichéd – and delivers a handful of solid tracks surrounded by a number of songs that could use a little more polish. "

Silversmiths :: The Algol Paradox :: Obese America
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[The Algol Paradox] 
"Silversmiths is a collaboration between Fort Wayne, Indiana rapper Sankofa and San Luis Obispo, California rapper JOHN?DOE. I've been a fan of Sankofa for a few years, and I've heard of but not heard the un-Google-able JOHN?DOE. "The Algol Paradox" is the first of three albums recorded by the duo. The album name references an astronomical phenomenon involving the paradoxical growth of binary stars in the Algol system. and they describe the work as "Like the Beastie Boys and 2 Live Crew watching Monty Python at a hookah bar." I'm not sure I see the Beasties or 2 Live Crew comparison, but "Algol Paradox" is definitely the sound of two friends having fun with the music they are making. The two rappers make a conscious decision to approach hip-hop with a humor. "Mr. Zogg's Curios and Pawn Shop" starts with an intro of Mr. Zogg describing a box of angry raps, and Sankofa and Doe proceed to spit said angry raps, making fun of the whole concept. "We the three far from wise men checking your anger," raps Doe. "We so wrong, and yet you listen to the whole fucking song." "

Sozay :: Who Is Sozay :: Emmet Flores
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Who Is Sozay] 
"Some movies become influential far beyond their initial release. Over 25 years after the release of Brian De Palma's "Scarface," nearly every part of the movie has found its way into pop culture in general and hip-hop music specifically. Rappers sample from the dialogue, imitate Al Pacino's signature way of speaking as the lead character, loop background and transitional music from the film for beats, and even the film's sound effects have become DJ scratches. In another 10 years "The Usual Suspects" may have reached similarly legendary status, as Kevin Spacey's portrayal of Roger 'Verbal' Kint continues to influence the worlds of pop and hip-hop. Much like Houston rapper Brad Jordan chose the name Scarface to give an appropriate air of menace to his rap tales, Emmet Flores chose Sozay to reference the seminal performance of Spacey, who in the film's denouement was revealed to be the near mythical gangster Keyser Soze everyone in law enforcement had been looking for. "

WITCH :: Lazy Bones!! :: Normal Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Lazy Bones!!] 
"One of my favorite records this year was Gonjasufi's trippy "A Sufi and a Killer," which combined hip-hop and acid rock. It got me interested in exploring more psychedelic music, and the second reissue by Zambian acid rock band WITCH seemed like a good place to start. WITCH were a Zam Rock band active in the mid-Seventies, when the troubled Republic of Zambia saw a thriving rock scene that included Musi-O-Tunya, Amanaz, and Peace. Their records were originally released on a small label, and had been out of print and incredibly rare for decades. In 2007, Stones Throw general manager and Now Again Records owner Egon came across a Myspace page by Zam Rock pioneer Rikki Ililonga. Egon and Ililonga began corresponding, which led to Ililonga getting Egon in touch with WITCH vocalist Emmanuel Jaguri Chanda. Chanda was more than happy to see his records in print again, and the result was a reissue of WITCH's "Introduction" and "Lazy Bones!!" "Lazy Bones!!" doesn't get off to a promising start. The sound quality isn't great. The record seems to be mastered from a scratchy vinyl copy, and the sound is muddy and full of imperfections. Lead track "Black Tears" is a clumsy, lumbering song. "

The Year 2010 in Review

** Year 2010: Erik Holman
** Year 2010: Daniel Oh

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