"Last year in celebration of 4/20, Souls of Mischief and Hieroglyphics member Opio teamed up with Unjust to release "Mark It Zero: The Big Lebowski Tribute Album" digitally. 365 days later he's back with fellow Bay Area veteran Equipto for "Red X Tapes," a short record available online for the sleek price of $4.20. Don't be fooled by the bargain-bin price tag or the connotations the release date's festivities might imply—Ope and 'Quipto are hardly fooling around. "Red X Tapes" has all the polish and quality of a full-fledged album, especially in comparison to "Mark It Zero" which while endlessly entertaining may have been more of a passion project. The excellent opener "Buildin'" has a slick, smooth late night vibe, and both MCs do it justice dropping science between the well-construed hook. Any who might doubt Hiero mainstay Opio's ability to mesh with the more distinct Bay styles of Equipto will be impressed by their natural chemistry, and both rappers bring heady and fully-imagined verses, seeming to be exactly on the same wavelength. But it's not just Ope and 'Quipto who've showed up for the party—Living Legend favorite The Grouch shines on the socially conscious "Sumday," Sunspot Jonz and L'Roneous lend a hand on the laidback yet lyrically potent "Starts with Love," Mint Rocky rocks the upbeat cypher "On the Mic," and even Del shows up to take it back to the "Golden Era." "
The Aztext :: Who Cares If We're Dope Volume 3 :: Elevated Press Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"The Aztext titled their series of EPs "Who Cares If We're Dope" as a statement about their attitude towards making music. Whatever the Aztext are doing, they are not trying to fit in or fill a mold. They live in Vermont, for one thing, hardly a known hotbed of hip-hop. Their drug of choice is hardcore classic 90s NYC battle rap, the kind of stuff that gets heads excited but isn't the easiest way to move product. It wasn't mainstream in its heydey, and its not going to revive the flagging record industry today. MCs Pro and Learic focus their energy on lyricism, crafting dense and clever strings of word together, something so out of favor that now it is an exception when an MC is lyrical. If the Aztext were savvy businessmen, they'd just string some random words together with a catchphrase, record 17 versions of it and release it as a mixtape. Presto! Two more based gods are born! Instead they are going the slower, more thankless route, experimenting with different styles, working with different producers, and trying out different types of songs. Maybe this approach is their way of reaching outside their comfort zone, and maybe its a way to see what sticks best with their audience. Either way, no one can accuse them of standing still or resting on their laurels. "http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2011_05_whocaresvol3.htmlDevo Spice :: Gnome Sane? :: FIDIM Interactive, LLC
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Dr. Demento's reigning king of hip-hop humor is Devo Spice, also known as the front man of the rap parody band Sudden Death. Over time it became obvious that Devo Spice is to Sudden Death as KRS-One is to Boogie Down Productions - the latter simply doesn't exist without the former. This led to a low-key rebranding where Spice put himself at the forefront, which honestly makes perfect sense when looking at the liner notes to his latest CD "Gnome Sane?" Spice, also known as Tom Rockwell, is large and in charge on the majority of this 19 song CD handling lyrics, music and vocals all in one fell swoop. That's not to say there aren't cameo appearances and a few guest producers (we'll get to that) but it's pretty clear here that Spice isn't taking over the name as an ego thing. In fact if any rappers have puffed up egos about their important in hip-hop, Spice's parodies are bound to take them down a peg or two. Take for example "I Hate Mondays," Spice's response to Asher Roth. "I Hate Mondays" is the perfect antithesis to the college frat boy party life that Roth espouses, showing the consequences of being hungover, graduating with a low GPA, and winding up in an unsatisfying dead-end job. "
E-40 :: Revenue Retrievin' - Graveyard Shift :: Heavy on the Grind/EMI Music
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"When last we heard from East Coast Avengers in 2008, the Massachusetts trio was fed up with eight years of the Bush administration and responded with their fairly controversial debut "Prison Planet," which featured the widely censored single "Kill Bill O'Reilly." Now that George W.'s out of office and we've elected the candidate for change, they oughta be sitting happy, right? Well, give a listen to "Another Hundred Days In" So much for change we can believe in. "Avengers Airwaves" is overseen by producer DC the Midi Alien and his groupmates Trademarc, who first came to prominence as John Cena's cousin, and Esoteric, an underground vet who's held it down for years with A.O.T.P., his frequent collaborator 7L, and solo. The album is built around skits in which the group bounds a Rush Limbaugh-like character and hijacks his broadcast, and features a massive roster of angry underground favorites including Slaine, Vinnie Paz, Sabac Red, Outerspace, Main Flow, King Magnetic, Reks, Blaq Poet, Termanology, Akir, Big Shug, Blacastan, Doap Nixon, and Reef the Lost Cauze among others. The posse cuts kick off with "Man Made Ways," featuring a Caucasian dream team of Slaine, Sabac, Vinnie Paz, and Trademarc, who paint an apocalyptic, Huxley-esque picture."http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2011_05_avengersairwaves.htmlMalkovich :: The Ayatollah Presley Mixtape :: Malkovich Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"I had about a dozen different John Malkovich jokes I thought of to open this review with, but none of them are any good, so fuck it. The truth is I probably know this Malkovich better than the actor anyway. He's been in the rap scene a long time, dating all the way back to the seminal "Sunch Punch" album from his Gershwin B.L.X. crew. Since then he's been growing as an artist while simultaneously growing weirder as a person. That makes for solo albums that are sometimes described as "an hour and two minutes of unfiltered depression" and other times come out as "a blending of killer old school beats and modern day rap politics." With Malkovich you never quite know what to expect. What I didn't expect was for "The Ayatollah Presley Mixtape" to open with the victory theme from Mega Man X - the music you hear any time you beat any of the 8 bosses or clear one of the Sigma stages. A group of friends are apparently sitting around gaming and one says "yo yo hit reset son" as though this is the kind of thing you'd want to quit out of. Then again their Super Nintendo is fried like an acid high because the music bunches up like a reel to reel tape deck tape tied into knots, so hitting reset's probably the right idea. "http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2011_05_ayatollahpresley.htmlMr. Miranda & Mute :: La Bamba: The Ritchie Valens EP :: Bandcamp.com
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"The name Ritchie Valens still carries weight in 2011, despite the fact he only had an eight month long recording career, and died in a plane crash back in 1959. How is that possible? It's all about making the most of the time you have while you're here, and with his hit song "La Bamba" he created an earthquake in rock and roll that's still throwing out aftershocks. You might know the Los Lobos cover version better, but it wouldn't be a hit if the man born Ricardo Esteban Valenzuela Reyes hadn't done it first. Valens himself credits the original version to a Mexican folk song from Veracruz, but he transformed the original ballad into an up-tempo dance song that rocketed him to fame and stardom the teen idol might have found overwhelming if he had lived long enough to enjoy it. Still he managed to hit the Billboard Charts three times before "The Day the Music Died," and is widely credited as the progenitor of Mexican and Spanish sound in rock music, opening the doors for thousands of artists who followed. Now I wouldn't have been surprised by any rock artist from pop to heavy metal paying tribute to Ritchie Valens, but for Mr. Miranda & Mute to do it caught me by surprise. "http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2011_05_labambaEP.htmlShowbiz f/ KRS-One :: Godsville :: D.I.T.C. Records
as reviewed by Pete T.
"I'm a big fan of KRS-One, the rapper. He's unarguably one of rap's most influential, visionary, essential, and downright entertaining figures to date—give me any of his BDP or '90s records and I'll be bumping that shit front to back for weeks on end. But KRS-One, the activist/proselytizer/theologian? Not so much. Kris is a pioneer and a master MC, but thing is, the guy's a bit loony. Let's keep in mind this is the same fellow who tried to petition the United Nations to recognize "hip hop" as an autonomous nation (chief exports: beats, rhymes, lyrical beatdowns and big booty hoes…okay, I made that last part up) and proclaimed "hip hop" a new world religion, not to mention his statement that his culture "cheered" on 9/11. Problem is, since the dawn of the new millennium, we've gotten a lot more of the latter than the former. Just about every KRS-One album since "The Sneak Attack" can be summarized as follows: "Today's hip hop is wack. Hip hop was way better back in the day. By the way, I was one of the pioneers of this whole 'hip hop' thing." Throw in some nonsense about "hip hop culture," "hip hop is an art," the "temple of hip hop," and you've got yourself a latter-day KRS-One record. "http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2011_05_showbizgodsville.htmlTeekay :: Sunrise Soiree EP :: Bandcamp.com
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Teekay is the rap force behind Calgary, Alberta, CA's seminal rap group Dragon Fli Empire. If you're not familiar with DFE I recommend checking out either of their previous reviews on the site. Seriously. It will save me the trouble of repeating what other writers have already had to say, and will also give you the diversity of opinion on the crew ranging from "pretty damn fresh" to "run of the mill and nothing special." As for me I lean more toward the former than the latter, though it's not a fully codified position - it could swing the other way at any time. For that reason I decided to check out Teekay's free "Sunrise Soiree EP" and see what he could do as a soloist outside of the group construct. Part of the reason it's hard to form a consensus about DFE is Teekay's style, which is already mellow to begin with, and finds itself even more laid back on this release. Press for the album describes the tracks found within as being culled from an unreleased Japanese album, noting that they are bound to create "deep and introspective moods (as) tracks that would be ideal to play during the solitary hours of night... music to dream to." That's as close to perfect as you could get in describing a song like "Spin the Record," where a jazzy musical backdrop sets Teekay up for a flow that sounds so effortless that it's undoubtedly the opposite."http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2011_05_sunrisesoiree.htmlVast Aire :: OX 2010: A Street Odyssey :: Man Bites Dog Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"Ten years ago, Vast Aire and then-partner Vordul Mega released the classic underground hip-hop album "The Cold Vein" as Cannibal Ox. Backed by the android beats of El-P, Aire and Mega dropped rhymes that mixed Philip K. Dick sci-fi paranoia with gritty street tales. The result was like the Wu-Tang Clan only with science fiction as a backdrop instead of kung-fu: gritty, chilling, and imaginative as hell. While the duo has never officially split, the follow-up they promised five years ago has yet to materialize, and both MCs have tried to come out from behind the CanOx shadow as solo artist. Vast Aire dropped the well-received "Dueces Wild" and less satisfying "Look Mom...No Hands." He also teamed up with Karnegie as Mighty Joseph for 2008's "Empire State." Vordul Mega's "The Revolution of Yung Havoks" and "Megagraphitti" got mixed reviews. "OX 2010" was announced two years ago, but is just now getting released. "The Cold Vein" looms large over this disc. For one thing, Vast Aire is explicitly referencing it, both in the title, the beats and subject matter, and his reunion with Vordul Mega on "Thor's Hammer," which I'll get to in a minute."http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2011_05_ox2010street.htmlDas EFX :: Straight Up Sewaside :: EastWest Records America
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Mike Baber
"In 1992, Das EFX released their debut album "Dead Serious," a soon-to-be hip-hop classic thanks in part to their carefree approach and unique rapping style that saw the suffix "-iggedy" spread throughout the lyrics. With tongue-twisting rhymes and sample-heavy beats, Das EFX, in their own words, "riggedy rocked" the mic, creating a sound unlike any other at the time. "Dead Serious" would ultimately prove to be the most successful and most popular album of the duo's career, but this does not mean that the rest of Das EFX's catalogue should be ignored. I myself am guilty of falling prey to this trap, and while "Dead Serious" ranks among my favorite hip-hop albums of all time, until recently I had barely explored any of the group's later work. Thus, when I noticed that RapReviews had also largely overlooked Das EFX, covering only "Dead Serious," I figured this was my opportunity to explore subsequent albums and see what else Drayz and Skoob had in store, and what a better place to start than their second release, "Straight Up Sewaside." With only a year and a half in between Das EFX's debut album and "Straight Up Sewaside," upon first glance it seems as if not much has changed. "
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