Wednesday June 20, 2018

The (W)rap Up - Week of March 1, 2011
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 at 12:00AM :: Email this article :: Print this article

"Zion I. Collectively the union of Zumbi (formerly Zion) on the mic and AmpLive on the boards and decks. Highly critically acclaimed. The Grouch. Three decade representer of West coast hip-hop. Living Legends member. Prolific artist with over a dozen solo albums and at least half as many more in collaboration. One of those collaborations occurred back in 2006, when all of the artists named in this paragraph declared themselves "Heroes" of Oakland, California and in the process brought a renewed spiritual and physical energy to the scene as well as the larger hip-hop diaspora. Any time you do a critically acclaimed collaboration you run the risk of disappointing your loyal fans if you don't do it again, and you run the risk of disappointing them even more if you DO and it doesn't live up to expectations. Happily both The Grouch and Zumbi have mas cajones than the average rapper, and if you're familiar with AmpLive's production style you know he doesn't rely on the same old humdrum samples and styles as every other beat maestro. Often when listening to the music that these artists produce, you feel like it's actually PRODUCE, as in food from the supermarket meant to feed your soul. Their songs aren't so much created as they are grown, and "Heroes in the Healing of the Nation" is another outstanding collaboration highlighting their organic approach"

Awol One & Factor :: The Landmark :: Fake Four Inc.
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
[The Landmark] 
"Awol One may be one of the most divisive rappers out today - not just amongst underground hip-hop fans but amongst the RapReviews staff. A wide array of writers for this website have tackled his music, and each came to a different conclusion about his skills. Pedro Hernandez said "Anyone with an affinity for good music and original concepts should be happy with what Awol One cooks up." Andrew Matson wrote "Awol One could have been an intriguing example of the many ways to interpret life, hip-hop, and the combination of both (but is) maddeningly frustrating." Arthur Gailes may have had the most scathing critique: "If you don't enjoy AWOL One, and few people will, stay FAR away." Bringing it full circle my own assessment back in 2001 is much closer to Pedro's: "Awol may not be everyone's cup of tea, but (he's) for people who like left of center topic matter that's not about drinking Cristal or driving a Bentley." The one fair conclusion one can draw from Awol One reviews over the last ten years is that there's very little middle ground - critics and listeners alike seem to think he's either brilliant or boring. The curious thing about his latest collaboration with Canadian producer Factor is that it's neither. "

Curren$y :: Pilot Talk II :: DD172
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Pilot Talk II] 
"Like Cypress Hill or Devin the Dude before him, Curren$y is often unfairly pigeonholed as a weed rapper. Although he has yet to disclose the sharp articulation skills of B-Real and Devin, there's already more to Spitta than meets the dilated pupil of your bloodshot eye. While his music smolders with the same slow intensity as a burning blunt, giving off that peculiar sweet aroma, and while he has the inspired imagery to go along with the image ("Early mornin' exercise doin' kush-ups"), Curren$y represents the free spirit of the artist archetype. He does whatever the fuck he wants, yet not in a careless but rather a carefree manner. At the same time he tends to his craft, presenting himself as a "parental guardian to this art, for it's my baby." He manages to present his work as something precious, something worth your while if you can spare some time. The alleged significance is bolstered by the symbolism he uses, most notably the ubiquitous flying metaphor. Curren$y wants to come across as a classy dude, keen on providing his music with an exclusive touch. "

The Green Brothers :: I Get Lifted :: Dove Ink Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[I Get Lifted] 
"The photo attached to this review is the back of the mailing envelope that The Green Brothers sent me their CD and press kit in. It's not every day that you see someone something like this - they've hand drawn their name out in graff style ink and colored in the highlights with yellow. This is NOT their official logo, as it's found nowhere in the press kit materials inside or anywhere on their official "I Get Lifted" CD. As much as it gave me a nostalgic smile for the early 90's when my French tape trading buddy used to ink the cassettes he sent me the same way, it actually made me raise an eyebrow and wonder if they had spent more time catching my attention than crafting a quality album. Happily I can report that's not the case. Now let's be perfectly clear about The Green Brothers - the only thing that artwork was missing was a classic five or seven leaf marijuana logo. "

Loki da Trixta :: Thievery :: Bandcamp
as reviewed by Matthew Gutwillig

"The internet continues to be a double-edged sword for the music industry. Some hip-hop artists like Soulja Boy Tell 'Em have thrived with the use of social media websites like Myspace and YouTube to become overnight pop sensations, while many other artists have seen their album sales steadily slip throughout the years because of illegal file sharing. In a high-tech world that seeks instant gratification with a click of the mouse, some artists may sell millions upon millions of digital singles, while their physical album tanks. Clearly times have changed, as many artists have chosen to go independent to control their own destiny and think outside of conventional model to achieve success. Released in January, Loki da Trixta's "Thievery" is one independent album that doesn't seem too concerned about the bottom line. As the first solo project for the Brooklyn-based rapper in almost two years, Loki has chosen to give his music away and promote it through Bandcamp, which is an online music website normally used by indie artists. Without the pressure of having to sell an album or please his record company with a hit single, Loki da Trixta has the freedom to express his art the way he wants. "

N.B.S. :: The Prelude :: Big Bang Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[The Prelude] 
"Although this is the first album by Boston MCs the Natural Born Spitters, they aren't rookies to hip-hop. The duo of Imam "E'Flash" Bilal-Firmin and Rahim "V Knuckles" Muhammad have been on the mixtape scene for a while now, and if their songs can be believed, they've toured the world. "The Prelude" was originally released as a DJ Peter Parker hosted mixtape last fall, and is getting an official release now. Right of the bat, two things are apparent about N.B.S.: they have been doing this a while, but they are still hungry. They attack the mic with skill that comes from putting in long hours working on their craft, and a passion that shows that they mean what they are spitting. They switch between rapping about life on the streets and more club-friendly topics like touring, partying, and getting women. Productions is provided by Lord Relic, J. Cardim, Iroq, O.M.B., J. Hunt, Major Music, Stu Bangas, Matt Trump, Zack Johnsen, Cyrus the Great, and Odiie Wolf. They try out several different sounds, from the dancehall-tinged "Jump Up" to the blaring synths of "You Can't Knock the Hustle" to the chopped-up soul of "B.O.S.T.O.N." and "Middlesex County." "

Joell Ortiz :: Free Agent :: E1 Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Free Agent]

"There's something EXTRA about Joell Ortiz rapping over a Large Professor beat - it's the musically hard hitting equivalent of a a brick to the face. "Oh!" from "Free Agent" is a game changer. Ortiz sounds like a fat man who hasn't had anything to eat in days - hungry and pissed off about it. The lines are snarled with a vicious aggressiveness: "Say my name and I'ma put you in your place/no not a song - I'ma come see you and punch you in your face!" This is Joell Ortiz 2.0. "Free Agent" is a one-two combo that leaves your head woozy, blood leaking out your nostrils, asking your friends if they got the license plate number of that truck. It's been true since day one for the Brooklynite Ortiz that he's critically acclaimed, and he's well regarded as a member of the Slaughterhouse clique, but he didn't necessarily get that rep as the rapper who would body you. Well if anybody was doubting Ortiz, this album is one hell of a late pass. "Free Agent" is the sound of a hard hitting hispanic causing panic with his non-stop lyrical onslaught. This isn't a man who has time to rest on his laurels and enjoy being the best rapper nobody remembers by name, this is a man who is gonna DAMN SURE make you remember who he is the next time he drops 16 on someone's shit."

SciFi Stu :: From the Heaviest Heart to the Coldest Soul :: Domination Recordings
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[From the Heaviest Heart to the Coldest Soul] 
"One of the peculiarities of modern rap music is that trends persist. The most lasting and dominating trend may be what was once called gangsta rap, but there have been plenty others that have propagated across the music universe. Sometimes attached to iconic acts (Wu-Tang Clan, 2Pac), sometimes to movements less identifiable with individuals (jazz hop, horrorcore), these hip-hop trends continue to survive on their own, without the approval of the masses or the attention of tastemakers. "From the Heaviest Heart to the Coldest Soul" is Scottish producer SciFi Stu's second release within a year, and while I haven't heard "Around My Way," it looks like his chosen niche is mellow leftfield hip-hop. As the guest list shows, there are plenty of US MC's who feel at home on such beats, including veterans such as Count Bass D, Vast Aire, John Robinson and Moka Only. SciFi Stu's problem is not so much his field but rather how he occupies it. Because I've heard this record before. Well, truthfully I haven't, but everything about it is awfully familiar. The thick, dubby groove of "It Works," the glassy funk of "Break Loose," the chopped anthemics of "Where Ya At," the absent-minded piano loops of "The Recipe," the shy soul of "Deep Thinkers," the sloppy dissection of pianos and vocals of "Study on Us," the blunted lounge lizard grooves of "The Reason," the homely tapestry of "The Touch," the melodic fairy lights of "Never the Same" and "Tuesday," the subdued, joyously rocking sounds of "In the Air," "The Will" and "No Swag Needed." It's all been done before, in the almost exact same manner. "

Slaughterhouse :: Slaughterhouse EP :: E1 Music
as reviewed by Pete T.

[Slaughterhouse EP] 
"There had been rap supergroups before, but more often than not crews like the Four Horsemen served as clashes of titans rather than unions of them. In the ego-fueled monster that is hip hop music, rare is the crew of established MCs that can share time in the booth and not drive each other up the wall, let alone pull it off for a full-length collaboration. So when Joell Ortiz, Joe Budden, Royce da 5'9", and Crooked I, four superlyrical cult heroes from across the map that collectively had been sodomized by the record industry for the better part of a decade, announced their teaming up as Slaughterhouse in 2008, doubts were almost as high as their stratospheric expectations. You know the rest—against all odds, the quartet churned out a universally acclaimed album so quickly that DJ Premier didn't even have time to return a voice mail asking for beats. Since then they've yielded a few quality solo outings and been the victims of further label drama in their quest to sign with Eminem's Shady Records (not to mention a particularly embarrassing tattoo episode), but it's clear that their mission to remain a regime rather than a side project is still a top priority. 2011's "Slaughterhouse EP" is in all likelihood their final release on E1, a 29-minute six-track EP featuring three new tracks and three remixes to slightly older songs. "

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