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The (W)rap Up - Week of May 31, 2011
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, June 7th, 2011 at 12:00AM :: Email this article :: Print this article

"Illmind, usually (but not always) stylized as !llmind, has been one of the fastest rising hip-hop producers of the last two years. His resume goes all the way back to 2003, providing tracks for everyone from Akrobatik to Little Brother to KRS-One, but his collaboration with Skyzoo on "Live From the Tape Deck" was one of the best albums of 2010. The album put both men on the map to a far greater degree than either had been previously, a carefully conceived shot of adrenaline in the arm of hip-hop to remind us all what could truly be achieved by a great rapper and producer both on their A game. Now more than ever hip-hop artists are calling him up like De La Soul, but if you're not a top notch emcee, he's got an answering machine that can talk to you. Hip-Hop's instrumental only albums have always been in this niche where for better or worse major labels are not going to consider them marketable, minor labels are not going to consider them profitable, and 9 times out of 10 they come out as white label promos or bootleg DJ service MP3 packs. Official joints like Dan the Automator's "Instrumentalyst" or Evidence's "Yellow Tape Instrumentals" do occasionally break through, but even then they can in part or whole simply be the beats they made for other people's hits. Then you have the reverse effect with something like J Dilla's "Donuts," where what could and probably should have existed as short snippets of his genius ended up being looped by everyone (with or without permission) for their own rap songs. "

IAME :: Lame :: Heaven Noise
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"IAME chose an unfortunate rap name. On the surface, it's a great idea: It looks like a tag, it's short, and it makes the statement "I am me." The way it is spelled, however, means that most people mispronounce it "lame" since an uppercase "i" and lowercase "l" look the same. After having to explain to the millionth person that his name was IAME not Lame, he decided to have some fun with the mispronunciation and title his latest album "Lame." He plays with the concept throughout the album, making fun of himself. The Portland, Oregon rapper is part of the Sandpeople and Oldominion crews. "Lame" was funded by a Kickstarter campaign, the website that lets you raise money for a project. IAME was able to raise almost $3,000 to record the album through his fanbase, which shows how supportive they are. I was struck by that $3,000 price tag, both because it is not an insignificant amount of money for an independent artist to raise, and because "Lame" sounds like it cost a hell of a lot more to record and produce. It is an ambitious album. Producer Smoke M2D6 layers live instruments and singing over dusty loops to create a vibrant sound. "

Miles Jones :: Runaway Jones :: MB3 Records
as reviewed by Mike Baber

[Runaway Jones] 
"I've reviewed enough underground hip-hop to know that most everything written in album press releases needs to be taken with a grain of salt. After reading countless erroneous claims of artists who are supposedly scholars of hip-hop bringing a unique perspective and sound to the genre, it's hard for me to really get excited about an album from an up-and-coming rapper until I've actually heard the music. Thus, when I first heard of Miles Jones, a "rising star in the Toronto hip-hop scene" and the recipient of several Independent Music Awards over the past five years, I was slightly skeptical of his actual lyrical ability. It took only a few songs, though, to put to rest my initial doubts. I'll admit I'm a sucker for anything that brings back the golden age vibe of the 90s, but at the same time, I recognize that the hip-hop game is evolving and that artists need to branch out in order to create a new and distinct sound. Miles Jones does exactly this, blending the old school with the new school and creating an album that has elements of electronic, pop, and R&B music while still respecting the boom bap feel of hip-hop's roots. "

[Riches, Royalty & Respect] 
"Few rappers reach an iconic status without having tasted concrete stardom. Kool G Rap is one of them, an undeniable influence on rap music since the late 1980s. A new Kool G Rap album is therefore a significant event, especially since the last official full-length project didn't make it past the preview EP "Half a Klip." In terms of anticipation and case history "Riches, Royalty & Respect" may not be "Detox," but it is a welcome vital sign from a living legend. On the face of it, "Riches, Royalty & Respect" delivers the goods. "In Too Deep" conjures up the familiar portrait of the artist as a cold-blooded, cocaine-slinging hustler entrapped by the trap. Producer DJ Supa Dave (not to be confused with Supa Dave West) sets the scenery to music by digging deep into symphonic soul. "Sad" does justice to the concept of incorporating vocal samples into verses, G Rap's street sermon carried forward by a Supa Dave track that burns with the passion of vintage blues and soul. The two also team up for one of Nathaniel Wilson's most autobiographical songs to date, "Pages of My Life" (like the majority of the tracks regrettably only two verses long). "

Passalacqua :: Passalacqua ::
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace

"What happens when two Michigan-based emcees come together, eat Little Caesar's Hot-N-Ready pizzas, drink Miller High Life. wear masks of Tom Waits and Bootsy Collins and then decide to make some music? Well, you'd have Passalacqua, a duo comprised of Mister and Blaksmith (1/4 of the hip-hop/spoken word collective, Cold Men Young). As a result of this pairing, we, the listener, are on the receiving end of a six-song EP with production from Dr. B and some additional vocals from Alicia Martin and James Linck of House Phone. Even though I mentioned the above brands under my own volition, I'm secretly hoping that I get a case of the "Champagne of Beers" shipped directly to my door. It's highly unlikely, but I suppose a fella can dream, right? However the EP does start with a track named after the pineapple flavor of a notable brand of pop. "Passalacqua" opens with "Pineapple Faygo" and "Bad Grammar." The former starts with some slow brass before being backed up by a drum break and finally the impressive lyrics. We find the guys being resistant to any pressure to be that suave, ladies man-type of dude."

ScriliCON :: 2 Steps Left of Center ::
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[2 Steps Left of Center] 
"God bless Bandcamp. It's sort of like this generation's Macola Records, an easy-to-use device that lets unsigned artists get their music out to the public. Sure, there's a lack of quality control on Bandcamp. but it allows anyone with a decent computer to become a recording artist, and it allows artists an easy way to get their music out there. Scrilicon is rappers Scrilla V and John?Doe, two rappers that hail from the Scrilicon (ie Silicon) Valley. John?Doe has recently put out some projects with Indiana rapper Sankofa as the Silversmiths. Scrilla V is a longtime hip-hop fan who has been writing raps since the 90s and decided to return to the mic and focus on his music. They've teamed up with several indie beatmakers for this album. They try out a variety of styles, from the trippy backpack of "Crescendo and Cascade" to the club rap of "Shoulder Sway." They spend a good portion of the album doing sub-Waka street rap, a look that doesn't fit their rap styles. Neither Doe nor Scrilla V have the necessary menace or mouth-breathing swagger to make tracks like "Wile Out" or "Where My Dollaz At?" work."

Angle :: Lil' Different :: One Leg Up Productions
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Lil' Different]

"His first album "Not Quite 90 in the Head" came out in 2001 and he's been making cameo appearances on albums by Midwestern artists like AreCee, Coolzey and Tack-Fu in the time span from then 'til now. On the other hand "bringing nothing but the raw" implies something memorable, something so dope that listeners would immediately know him without any explanation required, something undeniable and unforgettable. Perhaps his press kit makes the point better than I will with this statement though: "Angle has opened for many hip hop artists including Atmosphere, Eyedea, Blueprint, Brother Ali, Murs, Vast Aire, Pigeon John, Prince Po, Qwel, Mr. Lif, and more." I've seen at least a half dozen of those names do live shows within 10 miles of where I live and can't remember anything about Angle from a single one of them. That makes Angle the textbook definition of "opening act" - the guy that's not a star that's there to kill time 'til the guys who are show up. Now the vibe one gets from Angle's artwork and the title of his album is that he's a "Lil' Different" in the same way that Tyler, the Creator is a little different. "

Cleen & Elephant Gerald :: View From the Balcony :: Broken Complex LLC
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[View From the Balcony] 

"The baldheaded rapper who badly declares that he's "not famous enough to have my music found on LimeWire" is nowhere near as obscure as he thinks. The RR radar first picked up his blip in 2006 with the release of "Old Man Winter," which for this site and a lot of his listeners put Lancaster, California on the map. Going back to his childhood Cleen has considered himself an outsider in his own community, a rapper where people would rather be rockers, and to some extent this attitude has carried over to his hip-hop career as well. There's a wry sort of joke in Cleen's folksy lyricism when he notes he's not a superstar, yet won't do any of the corny things that would propel him to a higher level of fame in the genre generally or mainstream music scene over all. If that's what he wanted he'd be working with DJ Drama and Waka Flocka instead of rapping over Elephant Gerald. The name may sound like a circus act, but the beats on "Ain't No Jive" aren't clowning around. Cleen might not be the obvious choice as the vanguard of hip-hop, but the sentiments he expresses would undoubtedly be echoed by any better known industry veteran like Chuck D, KRS-One or Rakim. "

Logik Dat Lad :: New School Cool ::
as reviewed by Matthew 'Matt G' Gutwillig

[New School Cool] 
"The buzz generated from a carefully crafted independent release has catapulted many hip-hop artists into the limelight. Artists like 50 Cent and Drake have inked million dollar deals with major labels based on the critical acclaim and popularity their independent mixtapes achieved on the streets and the internet. The reputation earned on the grassroots level provided the perfect barometer for mainstream appeal even before their debut albums sold millions of copies. Though these rappers appeared to be overnight success stories, the reality is that this level of recognition only occurred after years of tireless work in their respective cities. Since 2003, Canadian emcee Logik Dat Lad has been grinding it out with his group Cut Throats, and his debut EP "New School Cool" is a product of his own dedication to the craft. Released in April off the Toronto-based rapper's website, Logik is giving away his EP as a free download and has incorporated social networking to receive feedback from his fans. Even with technology in place, independent success is usually achieved when the artist has enough originality to distinguish himself from the competition and strike a chord with the listeners."

Sneakas :: Hebonics 101 :: Serchlite Multimedia
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Hebonics 101] 
"'All good white rappers except for Eminem are jewish,' suggests one caption the computer screen displays when consulting online search engines. Fact is that Jewish heritage is not something that is instantly apparent and that few Jewish American MC's care to raise the subject. There is therefore a speculative element to any list of 'Jewish rappers.' Qualified candidates include the Beastie Boys, 3rd Bass' MC Serch, Ruthless Records signees Blood of Abraham, brothers Ill Bill and Necro, original white nerd rapper MC Paul Barman, Wu-Tang Killa Bee Remedy, accomplished underground personel like Mr. Eon, Edan or Eligh, and relative newcomers like Kosha Dillz, Invincible, Bekay, Soul Khan, Iron Solomon, Mac Miller or Rabbi Darkside. Who gives a damn about origin, heritage, ethnicity, and all those vague typifications of human beings anyway? I do, occasionally, because I think finding out about a person's background plays a part in understanding him or her. Cultural upbringing defines us only to some extent, and the preconceived notions others have about it often prevent them from seeing our true self, but knowing what we are can help us and others understand who we are."

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