Saturday June 23, 2018

The (W)rap Up - Week of March 22, 2011
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, March 29th, 2011 at 12:00AM :: Email this article :: Print this article

"The cynicism Pharoahe Monch displays on the title track of "W.A.R." is not unwarranted. Dating all the way back to the early 1990's, the man born Troy Donald Jamerson has been amazing hip-hop audiences and drawing rave reviews from even the snottiest of discerning critics. Very few people in this lifetime have been worthy of the praise "talent on loan from God," but Monch might be the rare case where that phrase doesn't nearly go far enough. Calling what he and Prince Poetry did on the self-titled Organized Konfusion debut either "rap" or "poetry" is a disservice to both words - it was BEYOND anything hip-hop had previously achieved. Twenty years later it still sounds like it came out yesterday. Unfortunately a precedent was set then that has followed Monch well into his solo career: no matter how lauded his work was, modest album sales led to mega frustration. Pharoahe Monch has spent many years channeling those frustrations into anthemic singles like the bouncy "Oh No" (featuring the late great Nate Dogg) and the club shaking "Simon Says," but even successful singles were just that - successful singles. Monch raps are often tagged as being too complex, too conceptual, too over the heads of his audience. Rather than toning it down to reach greater levels of commercial success, "W.A.R." is nothing less than the declaration of hostility which its acronym describes. "

Travis Barker :: Give the Drummer Some :: Interscope Records
as reviewed by Jesal 'Jay Soul' Padania
[Give the Drummer Some] 
"Oh dear, another crossover vanity project from a hip hop wannabe. Let's cut the pretence: long to the short, that's what you're probably thinking. But, happily, you'd be wrong. Travis Barker, the drummer from various bands such as Blink 182, has produced an album that is remarkably consistent throughout, with some excellent beats and a great overall vibe. In Hip Hop 2011, the rules are "there are no rules." Seriously, if you want to chuck Justin Bieber on a track with Raekwon, it's all good. But there is one thing above all that Barker has managed to pull off on "Give the Drummer Some." There is a shared hallmark of all great executive producers overseeing projects such as these – or, indeed, albums in general: they know how to get the rappers amped up, in the zone and hungry to impress. After recent albums (such as Lupe Fiasco's) where the artist, for whatever reason, seems to coast through, only doing the absolute bare minimum, it is so refreshing to see virtually EVERY rapper (and the Deluxe version crams over a mammoth 35 rappers into the mix) turning in work at close to their full capacity. Lupe himself absolutely tears up the urgent "If U Want To" with a tour de force performance (his random quotation of Method Man, by the by, is insanely funny), and it's certainly one of the hottest tracks on the LP. "

Cheeks :: The Potential ::
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[The Potential] 
"Doing the solo thing must be located up in the single-digits of the periodic table of hip-hop elements. To the point where it becomes really hard to think of rappers with the slightest bit of notoriety who never branched out on the solo tip. Consider any of the prolific collectives, crews, and clicks - sooner or later there were individual albums. Even rappers who in their group never really had to share the mic to begin with suddenly go solo. And yes, even trusty sidekicks are known to take a shot at a solo career. But flying solo is not without risks. Especially if you leave the comfort of a group, there may be turbulence ahead, despite the impression of finally being in charge of your career. Enters Cheeks, a rapper with the Michigan collective Tree City. His free offering, "The Potential," lives up to its title, to both its detriment and advantage. Equipped with a fresh and pleasing vocal tone (not unlike Aceyalone's), Cheeks delivers associative scripts that deal with his situation as a local heavyweight and an observant citizen. He goes from the tongue-in-cheek intro where he is denied entrance to his own show to "To Be a Star," where he declares himself prepared for stardom"

Collective Efforts :: Freezing World :: Collective Efforts Music
as reviewed by Pete T.

[Freezing World] 
"If you were among the millions who read my now-infamous "The Year 2010 in Review" editorial, you may have been left with a few questions. Questions like "Pete! How did you get to be so smart AND good looking AND cultivate such impeccable taste in music?" Or perhaps "Pete! How do you find time to listen to all these wildly obscure albums when the ladies are constantly beating down your door like Elliott Stabler?" Maybe once you got past the initial shock and awe you were filled with more subjective questions, along the lines of "Pete! What's up with that Collective Efforts album coming in at #7 on the year in front of albums by Nappy Roots, The Left, and 1982 that you spun the FUCK out of in 2010?" This question, I assure you, would be equally meritorious as the two aforementioned, given all the great and well-loved LPs that clocked in behind said Collective Efforts record, but you can rest assured it was no fluke. Collective Efforts is an Atlanta trio specializing in crunchy-organic hip hop, evidenced by the titles of their previous albums "Trail Mix" and "Medicine." For their latest effort, "Freezing World," they've added a five-piece band to the mix."

Del the Funky Homosapien :: Golden Era :: The Council
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Golden Era] 
"The Council sounds like a wicked circle of illuminati conspirators planning to bring about the New World Order. That's nothing against the word "council" whatsoever. The normally mild and inoffensive word "the" becomes a powerful modifier here, implying that there is no council but The Council, an organization that supersedes all others in existence. What man, woman, or child would dare to stand against the fearsome power and political clout of The Council? In an even more curious twist, this new Council which sprang forth full grown like Athena has announced their plans to release Del the Funky Homosapien's triple CD "Golden Era" on April 19th. The Hieroglyphics founder and urban poet extraordinaire is on record as opposing the New World Order where the rights of the citizen are subsumed by the corporate world government. Obviously then this Council can't be as wicked as their name implies, to release not just one but THREE Del discs at one time as one complete set. Two out of three discs are digital-only albums being put in print for the first time: "Funk Man" and "Automatik Statik." The third is entirely original new material. The songs on "Golden Era" may not hail from rap's golden era, but the flow he throws on "Raw" as seen above is certainly classic Del. "

Layzie Bone :: The Definition :: RBC Records
as reviewed by Pete T.

[The Definition] 
"Although it's been employed by such luminaries as Nelly, E-40, and Bruce Springsteen, one record industry tactic I've never understood is when artists release two albums on the same day. As of February 22, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony founder Layzie Bone is a member of the distinguished group with "The Definition" and "The Meaning." The most common knock on double albums is that they're filler-heavy and that few artists have the charisma and material to carry two full discs, and these separate simultaneous releases share this challenge. If an artist really believes he has enough quality material to warrant two discs at once that's one thing, but more often than not they're better served to leave some on the cutting room floor or fine-tune them for a later project. But from a sheer marketing standpoint, releasing two records on a single release date makes virtually no sense. Few listeners are willing to spend $30 on music that's likely to be bloated anyway, and if I only have $15 in my pocket or a gun to my head, how am I supposed to choose between them, especially when they have such synonymous titles as "The Definition" and "The Meaning"? Bone Thugs continue to be plagued by licensing issues - "The Definition" and "The Meaning" also shared a release date with the umpteenth unauthorized Bizzy Bone album pieced together with old material"

Muneshine & Vinyl Frontiers :: Larger Than Life ::
as reviewed by Pete T.

[Larger Than Life] 
"Sporting consummate talents as a producer, rapper, and engineer, Toronto's Muneshine maintains status as one of the most purely versatile artists on the scene, to the point that lately he's been divvying up his duties between various projects so as to focus on each aspect separately. He's released his share of instrumental projects, but his last solo album, 2009's "Status Symbol," featured very little of his own music, instead recruiting high-profile collaborators such as Illmind and M-Phazes to back his rhymes. On pal D-Sisive's most recent album, last month's "Jonestown 2: Jimmy Go Bye Bye," he provided all of the production, and on his latest EP "Larger Than Life," released as a free download via Bandcamp like "Jonestown 2" before it, beats are supplied entirely by the Dutch duo Vinyl Frontiers. The lush soul of "Out of Towners" is tightly constructed with nostalgic strings, a sharp piano arrangement, and heavy vocal cuts that sound more befitting of a DJ from Queens or Brooklyn than the Netherlands. The Get By join Mune to spread good-natured hometown love, discussing the highs and lows of their respective cities. In contrast, "Easy Does It" flashes a brilliant West Coast sound with smooth female vocals, sweet violins, rigid kicks, and a talkbox that would make DJ Quik and Roger Troutman nod in approval. "

R.I.P. Cadence :: The Next Shade of Grey :: {self-released}
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[The Next Shade of Grey] 
"I'm on the wrong side of thirty, and as boring as it is to complain about feeling old when you are only three and a half decades in, I'm very aware that I'm not a kid anymore. I hold down a full-time job, I'm in bed by eleven most nights, and most of my life decisions revolve around "how will this affect my family?" rather than "will this be fun/will there be cute girls there?" There are two sure signs you are getting old: when you'd rather have a dinner party with friends than go to a house party with strangers, and when you stop understanding the music that the younger generation is into. I haven't been to a house party in years, and it's been over a decade since I first asked myself, "how can the hell can they listen to that garbage?" Back then it was the whiney abomination known as emo, and today I feel the same way about the new wave of emo rappers. Which brings me to Nashville group R.I.P. Cadence. The duo, made up of Zach Crowell and Matthew Elam (any relation to Keith Elam, AKA Guru?) make a hybrid of hip-hop, R&B, and pop, not unlike what B.O.B. and Kanye West have been doing recently. The basis of the ten tracks is melodic hip-hop beats with half-sung, half-rapped vocals. That may sound like R. Kelly on paper, but in practice it is something much artier. "

Shao Sosa :: The Gateway Drug :: Razor Tongue Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[The Gateway Drug]

"On the cover of "The Gateway Drug" our hero-to-be has a Matrix choice waiting for us - his drug is the "red pill" that will reveal the truth of the world we know... or perhaps it's just clever marketing. I'm not finding any revelations of great importance in the 17 tracks comprising "The Gateway Drug," just a strong Asian and Pacific Northwest pride on songs like "Enjoy the Show." I count that pride as two positives for Shao Sosa right away when tallying up my feelings about "The Gateway Drug." Another positive is the production throughout the CD - not blow away outstanding, but far from horrible and unlistenable. The cool On One produced swing of "Everything" gives Shao a latino sound not unlike Baby Bash. The heavy symphonics he provides on "1,2 (Yes Y'all)" also connect to the eardrum nicely. Charlie Ray gives a more Asian sound to the appropriately titled "Kiss of the Dragon" but avoids turning Shao into an Asian stereotype. Nuno TMP licks the guitar and keeps the drums simple but hard on the anthemic "Rally." Tyrant may have found Shao's crossover hit on "Real Good Time" and On One comes correct once again for the uplifting feel of "And You Know This." He's definitely the diamond in the rough out of Shao's many contributors. "

WC :: Revenge of the Barracuda :: Big Swang/Lench Mob/E1 Music
as reviewed by Pete T.

[Revenge of the Barracuda] 
"Things just ain't the same for gangstas. Dre said it in '99 when gangsta rap was king, so it's hard to imagine what he and his comrades would think of a scene dominated by skinny jeans, striped sweaters, and autotune, especially now that the immortal Nate Dogg has passed on to the great beyond. Then again, for vets like WC, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Sure, his stint at Def Jam is a distant memory, and while he's not moving the units he did during his heyday he's stayed busy on his independent grind, now pushing a career that began as one-half of Low Profile in the '80s into a fourth decade. When last we heard from The Shadiest One he was "Guilty By Affiliation" with a 2007 sleeper that ranked among the year's best, and "Revenge of the Barracuda" picks up right where the predecessor left off with a predictably heavy West Coast sound engineered by Hallway Productions and Jah Zilla. One of the many things I liked so much about "Guilty By Affiliation" that also rings true for "Revenge of the Barracuda" is that Dub pulls few punches. In a time when authentic West Coast gangsta rap is a commodity in increasingly short supply, it's reassuring if not refreshing that WC's gang-related rhymes deal almost exclusively with hustling, crime, gunplay, threats, scheming bitches and shiny cars, staying true and perhaps above all, representing. "

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