"Many fans of this wonderful genre of ours feel that hip hop has become extremely polarised over the last two years. Not so much in terms of how it is represented - for in 2011, you can really do as you please, no matter what the subject matter or back story - but in terms of quality level. Generally, the perception of major label releases seems to be that they are either wonderful or woeful. For the record companies, it is a no-win situation. Take Atlantic Records: they were "behind" both "LASERS" by Lupe Fiasco, and "Sir Lucious Left Foot" by Big Boi. The former was recently derided as being far below Lupe's usual level of excellence, and the blame was squarely laid at the label's door. Big Boi's album is universally anointed as one of the best rap albums in recent memory - yet Atlantic got no credit, and a whole heap of shit for not facilitating any Andre 3000 appearances. Whether the quality level really has become so extreme is clearly up for debate, but the influence of labels - particularly in economic times such as these - is almost undeniable, especially as far as "newer" artists are concerned. Throwing their weight around, they will point to their countless previous successes, and the heavy artillery they are able to employ (getting the hottest producers, guests and promotion for the artist). What they have almost given up doing, however, is letting an artist develop, improve and dominate through music. Bizarrely enough, artists such as Lil Wayne have become absolute rarities. He was derided, but consistently improved year on year, and through albums and, in particular, mixtapes, improved beyond measure."
A.Dd+ :: When Pigs Fly :: Bandcamp.com
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Hyperbole is not in short supply for the Dallas duo A.Dd+, pronounced A-D-D with the plus silent, something their press release is not shy about pointing out. It's also not shy about calling "When Pigs Fly" a "highly acclaimed debut album" even though it's mighty difficult to be highly acclaimed BEFORE you've even debuted. A.Dd+ would no doubt counter that sentiment with the fact that they've been releasing free singles and videos leading up to this album, but it's a matter of conjecture as to how "highly acclaimed" any rap duo can be off free internet music - there's no shortage of that available and I don't hear A.Dd+ being "acclaimed" as much as Big K.R.I.T. or Odd Future. Let me just be blunt about it - other than the press releases for them we publish I haven't heard anybody saying anything about A.Dd+ at all. Not positive, not negative, not anything; just the whistling wind of internet apathy singing a solemn song of silence. Alright we've picked on A.Dd+ enough. The truth is that if you throw all of hyperbole out of the window, they actually DO deserve some praise when one listens to "When Pigs Fly" objectively. There's no question that 99 out of 100 people have no idea who Slim Gravy and Paris Pershun are, but that's certainly not for lack of talent or creativity. "http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2011_03_addwhenpigsfly.htmlApollo Brown :: Clouds :: Mello Music Group
as reviewed by Mike Baber
"I first heard of Apollo Brown four months ago while reviewing "Helpless Dreamer," a compilation album featuring different emcees and producers from Brown's Mello Music Group label. Although he produced only three tracks on the CD, I was immediately struck by his old-school production style, featuring hard-hitting drums over chopped R&B/soul samples and sweeping strings and horns. In a day and age when it is difficult to find a producer who creates a new and unique sound while still incorporating the gritty roots that birthed hip-hop, it became apparent that Apollo Brown embodied this vision. Thus, when I heard that his latest project would be a 27-track instrumental album, I was anxious to see what else the Detroit-based producer had in store. Hip-hop beats need lyrics like peanut butter needs jelly; a track feels almost naked without an emcee to bless the mic, and as a result there is a tendency for instrumental albums to leave the listener somewhat unsatisfied and wanting more. Despite my appreciation for Apollo Brown's style of production, I was initially slightly skeptical of "Clouds" and had my doubts as to whether I would be able to fully immerse myself in the music. "http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2011_03_brownclouds.htmlBlood Type :: 2 Weeks Notice :: LionsFace Records/Blood Type Music
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace
"The above passage of words is not comprised of words from Stepson or Chief, but they are the words of Dungeon Family alumnus Big Rube...yes THAT Big Rube, setting the tone for "2 Weeks Notice," the latest offering from Blood Type. On their last effort, the duo paid respect to Outkast with the aptly-titled "MIAliens." This time around BT is back with production from XV, Best Kept Secret, Drew Belly, The Synthesis, Allrounda Productions and Scarecrow Beatz. The album features guest appearances from the likes of Big K.R.I.T., Smoke DZA, Kendrick Lamar, Emilio Rojas and GhostWridah. Freedom seems to be a recurring theme throughout the album here. In some cases it's freedom from living up to the expectations of those around you and in other cases it's freedom from relationships that have seemingly gone sour and need to be reworked into something more useful. Speaking of which, after the Big Rube intro, things get going with "Lemons," which encourages the listener to take those lemons that life sometimes hands out and transform them into a tasty beverage best served when chilled on a hot summer day."http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2011_03_2weeksnotice.htmlGDP :: Useless Eaters :: Run For Cover Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"I still consider the early albums from Gucci Mane's career to be an unlistenable mess. I stand by anything I ever said about his lack of clear diction, his excessively materialistic values, and his complete lack of substance beyond the "trap star" lifestyle he praises. Gucci Mane is not beyond redemption as an emcee though. On "The State vs. Radric Davis" he made some of his weaknesses into strengths and managed to pass them off as an unusual form of charisma, and he used enough hot producers and guest stars to make his music more palatable. It might have been sleight-of-hand, but it worked. Gucci had finally made an album I didn't regret buying and could honestly enjoy listening to. Although I felt Gucci lost his way a bit on 2010's "The Appeal" I was fully prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt on "The Return of Mr. Zone 6." I opened this album with an open mind, determined to see if Gucci could recapture that magic from 2009 a couple of years later. The early results are somewhat promising. Drumma Boy's production on "24 Hours" and "Mouth Full of Golds" featuring Birdman definitely sets a standard for the rest of his new album to live up to. "http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2011_03_mrzone6.htmlJNA :: Double Helix EP :: Bandcamp
as reviewed by Matthew Gutwillig
"Rap music has come a long way since its inception in the South Bronx during the late 1970s. Through television, radio and the internet it has resonated with marginalized and rebellious youth and managed to cross cultural and racial barriers to become the worldwide phenomenon it is today. Artists like French rapper MC Solaar and Japan's Teriyaki Boyz have experienced success nationally and internationally despite not originating from the United States. Released in September 2010, JNA's "Double Helix EP" is a perfect example of hip-hop's ability to cross territory. Interestingly enough, the group is comprised of Californian rapper Javs and Tasmanian producer Akouo who both started to work together on the record after they moved in 2009 to Melbourne, Australia. As a hip-hop duo, the chemistry between Javs and Akouo is evident from tracks one to ten. The intro track "No Chewbacca" features the standout production and lyricism that can be heard on the majority of the record. Akouo's production is especially on point with the hard-hitting drums and captivating horns on this triumphant tune. "http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2011_03_doublehelixEP.htmlLayzie Bone :: The Meaning :: RBC Records
as reviewed by Pete T.
"Bone Thugs-N-Harmony might be hip hop's most prolific crew to date, continuing to record music at a dizzying rate seventeen years after they first broke the charts and demanding incessant loyalty from their international legion of fans. Most any of their countless releases, even the most minor ones, offer something for fans to get excited about, be it the rapid, melodic sing-song flows, reliable thuggish-ruggish-ness, or pure charisma. Still, there's so darn much of it that the output is hardly consistent, and they've released their share of duds like Layzie's wholly underwhelming "The Definition," one of two sixteen-track efforts released on February 22, 2011. Although to date L-Burna has been eluded by the success of Bone brothers Krayzie and Bizzy in the solo realm, at his best he's a vocal innovator and superbly talented rapper with undeniable appeal, making "The Definition" all the more disappointing. Like its counterpart, "The Meaning" is mostly produced by Lay's protégé Thin C and is heavy on guest appearances. "The Meaning" is also very similar to "The Definition" in its top-heaviness, beginning with its strongest material and quickly tailing off. Opener "The Game Ain't Ready" features the entire BTNH lineup and strong production rivaling the best tracks from "Uni5: The World's Enemy." "http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2011_03_layziemeaning.htmlRashid Hadee :: Dedication :: Neblina Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Pete T.
"Just about the time Kanye West was crossing the threshold from flavor-of-the-month chart-topping Roc-A-Fella MC to voice of a generation, his hometown also seemed on the brink of a renaissance. Common was enjoying his greatest stardom to date, aided by the aforementioned Mr. West; Rhymefest looked like the next big thing; and a group of young, seemingly up-and-coming MCs such as Thaoine Davis were impressing fans across the underground for their inspired, soul-driven hip hop. Six years later, though, the Chi seems a land of unfulfilled promises. While Yeezy's star is shining brighter than Polaris, one can't help but ask what happened to the Windy City's other young risers. Common seems to have focused his efforts into supporting roles on the silver screen; Rhymefest appears to have returned to whatever relative obscurity he came from; deals and subsequent records have eluded many of the young virtuosos of 2005…and fuck it, has anybody seen Do or Die lately? Rashid Hadee is most renowned for his production work, inking extensive credits with usual Chi-Town suspects such as Thaione Davis, Silent Knight, and Pugs Atomz as well as Little Brother and Finale, and he's also one half of the duo Chapter 13."http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/BTTL_hadeededication.htmlTyler the Creator :: Bastard :: Odd Future
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"Tyler the Creator's song "Bastard" from his self-titled 2009 debut was my first introduction to L.A.'s Odd Future crew. For the uninitiated, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All is a SoCal hip-hop collective comprised of rappers Earl Sweatshirt, Hodgy Beats, Mike G., Domo Genesis, and Tyler, along with singer Frank Ocean and producers Left Brain, Syd, and the Super 3.They've been around since 2008, and have released a slew of mixtapes, most of which are available for free at their website (with the exception of "Bastard," but if you do some digging on the internet you can come across a live download link). They've also been getting a lot of hype lately, especially after a crazed performance on Jimmy Fallon's show and the imminent release of Tyler's follow-up, "Goblin". Here's what you need to know about Odd Future. They are young: the oldest member is 23, and the youngest is of driving but not voting age.They are twisted, rapping about killing people, sodomizing the Virgin Mary, and all other forms of depravity (although Tyler repeatedly claims he doesn't do drugs, so maybe that's a road to far for O.F.). They are inventive rappers, taking a cue from both the Lil Wayne school of alien flow and MF DOOM's complicated and insane wordplay. They also have good beats, grounded in the hip-hop/electronica that is flourishing in L.A. "http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2011_03_tylerbastard.html
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