Thursday April 19, 2018

The (W)rap Up - Week of January 25, 2011
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, February 1st, 2011 at 12:00AM :: Email this article :: Print this article

[She Said] Ursula Rucker :: She Said
Noizeyboy Records

Author: Patrick Taylor

"RapReviews readers will probably recognize Ursula Rucker from her spoken word pieces on the Roots first three albums. Her commanding voice and unique delivery were a nice compliment to the Roots jazzy hip-hop. She has also released four solo albums. "She Said" is her fifth album. "She Said" is a combination of spoken word and singing. Rucker takes the idea of rap as street poetry to another level, by being an actual street poet. Here spoken word pieces are similar to rapping, but lack the flow and focus on delivery that is the hallmark of rap. Her lyrics aren't as standardized and regimented as rap lyrics, because she's not beholden to a set rhyme scheme or meter. The idiom of poetry allows her more freedom than she would have if she were rapping. Here verses are looser, and she uses words for their power rather for how they rhyme or fit into her flow. Power is the right word. Rucker's lyrics often seethe with anger, the kind of pissed-off, afrocentric anti-establishment ranting that seemed to go out of style when Dre's G funk eclipsed Public Enemy's rebel without a pause. Rucker is especially concerned with female empowerment and social justice. On "Fuck You," she offers up a harsh female take on Cee Lo's song of the same name. Rucker is both angry at her lover and at herself for staying in the relationship"

"Dan Charnas knows hip-hop. He worked at both Profile Records and Rick Rubin's American Recordings, handling artists like Run DMC, Rob Base, and Sir Mix-A-Lot. He was one of the original writers on the Source, and has continued to write for about about hip-hop and politics. His insider knowledge and journalism chops show throughout "The Big Payback," a 650-page look at the history of the business of hip-hop, from DJ Hollywood getting paid in cocaine in the 70s to 50 Cent signing to Vitaminwater for millions in the 2000s.   Charnas starts with hip-hop's awkward transition from disco-related fad to legitimate art form. He describes how disco labels Profile and Sugar Hill latched on to rap music as a way to get away from the sinking ship that was disco. Charnas then explores Def Jam's founding, how the combination of eternal hustler Russel Simmons and entitled genius/asshole Rick Rubin (Charnas' former boss) created musical history. He describes Rubin's appreciation and approach to hip-hop as an eternal search for what Rubin called "the worst shit," music that was so low-brow it was high-brow. "

Fiend :: Tennis Shoes & Tuxedos :: FE Entertainment
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace

[Tennis Shoes & Tuxedos] 
"Back in the day during the reign of Master P's No Limit Records, there were a handful of distinctive voices. You had the country-to-the-core drawl of Master P, the almost never on beat erratic flow of Silkk the Shocker, the over the top and high-octane delivery of Mystikal and the grizzly-but-deliberate baritone of Fiend. Capital F.I. was always one of the standout artists on that label and to my knowledge, he's the only one who has been still steadily working since the imprint faded into obscurity (and bankruptcy) in the early 2000's, unless you count Snoop Dogg (or Curren$y to a lesser point). After No Limit, Sleepy Eyed Jones linked up with the Ruff Ryders camp. He never released an album with them, but appeared on and produced a handful of songs. Fiend did manage to release numerous albums on his own, most recently 2010's "Audio Dope" and 2009's "The Bailout." This time out, Fiend is back as International Jones and it's all about "Tennis Shoes & Tuxedos." He has help from the likes of Big K.R.I.T., Smoke DZA, Trademark Da Skydiver, Corner Boy P and Curren$y. After a short intro, things kick off with the title track. Backed by a sample of Marvin Gaye's "I Want You," Fiend welcomes us all to the affair that is "Tennis Shoes & Tuxedos." "

Hood Theory :: Strength In Numbers :: Evil Twin
as reviewed by Jesal 'Jay Soul' Padania

[Strength In Numbers] 
"Hailing from Bedford, in the UK, comes a new hip hop collective with an old school throwback feel. This album officially dropped just over a year ago, but it's fresh enough to not be considered as a Back to the Lab feature. That freshness consists of a producer (The Passion HiFi), and two mic men (a Jamaican named Jon Pecos, and a British Indian called Switch). A lean, thirteen track 43min offering  always advisable in today's crowded and overstretched marketplace. "Strength In Numbers" is a raw offering, containing some notable triumphs and, unfortunately a couple of let-downs. First things first, the absolute best thing about this LP is the production, handled exclusively by The Passion HiFi, it is good, very good. It contains all the prerequisite DNA of hip hop production that you'd expect in an underground group, but Passion HiFi just seems to understand it, and have the necessary nous to combine it with his innate musicality. He has that 9th Wonder feel, alongside a Black Milk sensibility and that Dilla-like attention to detail. It's one thing to spend a week on a beat, but if it's still a weak beat, you ain't got that special spark luckily, Passion HiFi proves himself as one to watch over the coming years. "

Identical :: Made in Tha 80's :: Neighborhood Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Made in Tha 80's] 
"Identical has been working hard to achieve greater exposure since Tom Doggett first reviewed them for RR back in 2005. In that six year time span they've been seen on Real World XXV: Las Vegas and Video City, been profiled in half a dozen magazines and publications, and collected awards from Michigan hip-hop websites like for the quality of their work. Props on that. Doggett noted in his '05 review that the duo had talent beyond "the novelty of a rap group consisting of identical twins" but felt they needed to put in a much stronger effort musically and lyrically to succeed. In other words Identical had a lot of untapped potential and only needed to dig down deep and find it. As you might expect given they're identical twins, AJ and SJ sound very similar vocally, although SJ's voice may be just a little bit gruffer than his brother. Even though they're Eastern Michigan representers, I hear a little bit of Cleveland to their flow - like Bone Thugs meets D12 sans the singing and harmonized rhymes. As for their topic matter, Identical are playing all the cards you would expect from an underground group looking to get to the next level. "Lose Control" is a bass and electronic melody combo straight out of the G-Unit playbook"

J-Dawg :: Still Behind Tint :: E1 Music
as reviewed by Daniel Oh

[Still Behind Tint] 
"Okay before I get started with the review, I feel like I have to apologize to Mr. J-Dawg. J-Dawg, I've never met you, probably never will, and please do not take what I'm going to say personally. It is not my intention to talk mess without any reason. Whatever I say is simply my opinion, and you are more than welcome to brush it off if you don't like it. After all, as the confident person that I'm sure that you are, you can interpret this review as just another hater to your game. Hustle on if that's what you feel. But that being said, homie, you need to step up yo' rap game because it comes out piss fucking poor on this album. Your voice strikes me as a grown-up Riley from the Boondocks mixed with Houston oil. This wouldn't be a bad thing, but it has a whiny pitch that does not translate well if it doesn't hit the beat, which you don't. Your flow is just as off-rhythm as Keak da Sneak's. The thing that Keak has going for him is that his voice and drawl can carry a song if the beat is sick enough. However, even with all the serviceable production you got from Cy Fyre, Sound Mobb, and G Luck, your raps just sound out of place, like they were tacked onto the track with duct tape and chewing gum. "

Moon Blazers :: The Milky Williams Quintet :: Domination Recordings
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[The Milky Williams Quintet] 
"I'm on my third go-round now with the Moon Blazers in the last twelve months and decidedly undecided in my feelings about them. The first EP I reviewed showed plenty of promise and potential, while an album that promised to take me "Above the Clouds" actually left me feeling quite terrestrial. At first glance I suspected their new album "The Milky Williams Quintet" was actually an attempt to make up for that. It's not hard to imagine you're on a journey to the outer reaches of the Milky Way galaxy with that title; the Moon Blazers providing some musical accompaniment on the long years across interstellar space. As it happens the Moon Blazers do have a science fiction explanation for this album, but the journey never leaves the confines of planet Earth. The concept of this release is that the entire train car taking the group from New Jersey to Manhattan was time shifted to 1975, a concept straight out of Torchwood. There's no Captain Jack to help them out though. Forced to fend for themselves, our ragtag group of heroes decide to become hip-hop jazz artists touring Europe to make a living, until another time accident returned to the present day unharmed with their memories and master recordings of those jams in tact. "

M-Phazes :: Good Gracious :: Obese Records
as reviewed by Matthew Gutwillig

[Good Gracious] 
"Undoubtedly the name M-Phazes would sound foreign to the ears of the average hip-hop listener. Quietly though, Australian-bred Mark Landon has made a name for himself in America producing for the likes of Redman, Pharoahe Monch and M.O.P. His skills behind the boards have also garnered him first place in 2008 during Sha Money XL's renowned One Stop Shop Producers Conference Beat Battle. Released in February 2010, "Good Gracious" is a compilation album that features some of the finest Aussie rappers rhyming over Landon's signature boom-bap production. The record explores and celebrates many of the elements that make hip-hop beloved around the world. The inspirational "For What It's Worth" featuring Solo begins slowly with the rhythm and bass guitars providing the perfect backdrop for the rapper to reminisce over the good times he has shared with hip-hop. The track gets even better when the horns and orchestration set in while Solo spits introspective raps about his genuine passion for the genre and how he has achieved self-actualization"

Scarface :: Scarface Presents Dopeman Music :: Facemob Music
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Scarface Presents Dopeman Music] 
"2010 may just mark a definite change in the storied relationship between Brad 'Scarface' Jordan and Rap-A-Lot Records. His perhaps most widely acclaimed album, "The Fix," had been released on Def Jam South during his presidency there, but he eventually returned to his longtime label, before communicating the end of his rap career with "Emeritus." It wasn't long, however, before Mr. Scarface announced plans to retire from retirement. His first days back in office (or the recording booth) must have been business as usual. The initially only digitally available "Dopeman Music" adds a mixtape chapter to the Scarface saga, but nothing new in regards to content or style. The project also reaffirms his inclination to share the spotlight with other rappers, specifically virtual unknowns. Two he helped introduce in 2006, The Product's Malice and Willie Hen, make each an appearance, but his current sparring partners are Monk Kaza (from Scarface's stomping grounds South Park) and B. James (representing Detroit), who both turn in solid performances. Perhaps more important than the guest list is the name mentioned in the credits as 'production coordinator' - Bido 1, one of the architects of the Rap-A-Lot sound, remains loyal to Face, which furthermore ensures continuity, last but not least quality-wise. "

Soul Khan :: Soul Like Khan :: Brown Bag AllStars
as reviewed by Mike Baber

[Soul Like Khan] 
"Soul Khan is a battle artist. A member of the New York hip-hop group Brown Bag All Stars since 2008, Soul Khan has become a household name in the underground rap scene and has traveled across the country to battle emcees. And these aren't the type of rap battles from "8 Mile," where Eminem defeats three opponents in a row over tracks such as "Shook Ones, Pt 2." These battles are done acapella, with no instrumental to help carry the emcee's flow, and thus battle rappers like Soul Khan need to be lyrically sharp and quick on their feet in order to succeed. Often times, though, battle rappers simply do not carry over well when it comes to an actual album, where the focus is less on witty punch lines and put downs and more on overall lyrical depth. Soul Khan, though, makes a nearly seamless transition on his debut solo album "Soul Like Khan," which he first began working on two years ago after moving from Los Angeles to Brooklyn. Produced largely by J57, the album not surprisingly has a very soulful and jazzy feel to, creating an old-school sound that Soul Khan blends with new-school elements of hip-hop in his rhymes. "

Ultramagnetic MC's :: Critical Beatdown :: Next Plateau Entertainment
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Critical Beatdown]

"To clear up any confusion right at the start there are currently TWO versions of "Critical Beatdown" on the market - there's a reissue of the original Next Plateau release along with a 2004 update from Roadrunner Records with bonus tracks. Why would two versions of any album more than twenty years old be necessary though? Good question. Let's take a moment to delve into the answer before we continue our journey Back to the Lab. When the fab four of Kool Keith, Ced Gee, Moe Love and TR Love first came together in the Bronx back in 1984 their plan for hip-hop dominance included no small share of arrogance - in fact their very name implied it. "Ultra" literally means "beyond," so in short these artists saw themselves as ahead of the very rappers then dominating the airwaves. Naturally being "ultra" would also lead to being "magnetic," as an advanced musical and lyrical style would attract fans and listeners to their sound. Their choice of name was as bold as it was correct, as it wasn't long before twelve inch singles like "Ego Trippin'" attracted a following in New York City that quickly spread past those boundaries. The difference between Ultra and other artists of the era is that they weren't afraid to take risks. Kool Keith in particular gained a reputation for not being willing to obey the conventions of rap structure. "

V Sinizter :: Pale Horse: Requiem for the Darkness :: Stormrook Entertainment/Long Range Distribution
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Pale Horse: Requiem for the Darkness] 
"Given his decade of experience in the music business one would think V Sinizter would be a much more familiar name to rap world let alone the general public. As an underground rapper from Saginaw, MI he made all of the right connections to work his way up the ladder, he won a competition at the 2002 Gathering of the Juggalos festival and earned a coveted one year contract with ICP's imprint Psychopathic Records. For the know-nots this doesn't sound impressive, but having followed the marketing muscle of Michigan's facepainted hatchet warriors, V was poised to reach millions of eager supporters worldwide who put their money where Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope tell them to. This was the big break V needed; a lifelong malcontent whose bio claims a disturbed history of spousal abuse, drug abuse and (if taken literally) Satan worship. Sadly this relationship didn't pan out and Psychopathic debut "Hunting Season" didn't meet sales expectations. We can only speculate what happened but undoubtedly both sides pointed fingers: V blamed ICP for not doing more to market him, ICP blamed V for not doing more to craft music that would appeal to their juggalo fan base. The relationship ended and V Sinizter sank back into the Michigan underground seldom to be seen."

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