Thursday April 26, 2018

The (W)rap Up - Week of June 21, 2011
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, June 28th, 2011 at 12:00AM :: Email this article :: Print this article

If you missed any of the new reviews last week, including Tech N9ne's "All 6's and 7's" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's installment of the (W)rap Up!

"Tech N9ne believes in making high quality hip-hop, but he also believes in shrouding it in an air of mystery and confusion. Sometime even the obvious explanations from the auteur himself are subterfuge to disguise the hidden layers of meaning to his music. Even the album titles that N9ne uses can be interpreted multiple ways, such as his latest missive "All 6's and 7's." At its most basic level the title seems to poke fun at his numerological nom de plume. On a more subtle level it suggests a reframing of the world through rose colored tints - there are certainly more 6's and 7's in the world than 9's and 10's. And still there's yet another layer to the story, as Tech N9ne himself suggests the meaning to be "a state of confusion or disarray." Now you can take it as any of the above, or you can take it as ALL of the above, but no matter how you take it he'll take you on a strange journey to a "Strangeland." The mellow J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League instrumental allows the always versatile N9ne to get personal, bringing us into quite literally into his world where doubt and fear were overcome by his artistic success. That has long been part and parcel of N9ne's appeal - there's very little of himself hidden from his audience. In joy you share his endorphins, and in pain you share his tears, but you always connect with N9ne on an emotional level - that is if you're not too busy moshing to the music. Even the high energy head bop is a response though, which is reflected in the official lead single produced by Seven titled "He's a Mental Giant." Tech shows off a tongue that at times is quicker than Twista while letting the pounding backdrop bop your head so hard that it might snap off your neck."

Blue Scholars :: Cinemetropolis :: Blue Scholars
as reviewed by Pete T.
"Since their last full-length, 2007's "Bayani," Seattle's Blue Scholars have been anything but idle—they've released multiple short releases, lending some to even suggest that the EP is the most natural format for the duo, and producer Sabzi has continued to build his brand with his other two-man band Common Market. Even still, "Cinemetropolis" feels a long time coming, especially given the continued recognition and acclaim they've garnered since "Bayani." Appropriately, their third LP is their most ambitious yet, billed "a visual soundtrack" and attempting to create the sort of sensually evocative experience that Americans consume through their obsession with multimedia. After short and disappointing tenures with Rawkus and Duck Down, Sabzi and Geologic arrived at the risky move to release it themselves through a fan-funded Kickstarter campaign, but "Cinemetropolis" proves the perfect project for the Blue Scholars to go for dolo. "Cinemetropolis" is such a ridiculously massive yet overwhelmingly successful outing that it feels like the culmination of years of evolution for the duo. From their inception, the potential for Sabzi and Geo was sky-high, yet rewardingly for their listeners they've grown and improved with each effort. "

Dice Raw :: Greatest Rapper Never: Preservation :: Raw Life
as reviewed by Mike Baber
[Greatest Rapper Never: Preservation] 
"Dice Raw has come a long way since making his debut nearly two decades ago on The Roots's 1995 album "Do You Want More?!!!??!," which saw the young Philadelphia emcee spit a vicious freestyle on "The Lesson, Pt. 1." After proclaiming himself "the most corrupt motherfucker in the tenth grade," Dice became a protégé of The Roots and has since appeared on many of the group's subsequent albums, each time displaying more maturity and polish as a rapper. Despite his success as a longtime Roots contributor, though, he has failed to make an impact as a solo artist, and until a year ago his most recent single dated back to 2000. Thus, it is no surprise that "Greatest Rapper Never: Preservation," the first album in a trilogy that he plans on releasing, received very little fanfare or media coverage. Heck, I wouldn't even have known to keep an eye out for the album if it hadn't been for a Roots concert I attended back in December where Dice performed. While he may be largely unknown to the mainstream audience, those steeped in hip-hop culture and history know of Dice's skills on the mic, and it should come as no surprise that "Preservation," although it clocks in at just over 25 minutes, is a well-versed and old-school-inspired effort. "

Edo.G :: A Face in the Crowd :: Envision Entertainment
as reviewed by Pete T.
[A Face in the Crowd] 
"Years before Benzino proclaimed his clique Made Men, Reks was getting "Grey Hairs," and Sam Adams dubbed himself "Boston's Boy," Edo.G's name was synonymous with Boston hip hop. Despite its location a quick shot up I-95 from the birthplace of hip hop, Beantown has yielded few rap stars in comparison to the Rotten Apple, but Edo.G became one of its first and most recognizable faces at the dawn of the '90s. Debuting in 1991 as Ed O.G. & Da Bulldogs with the acclaimed "Life of a Kid in the Ghetto," he became revered for a pure East Coast sound and social consciousness displayed on classic tracks such as the plea for parental responsibility "Be a Father to Your Child." Leaving Da Bulldogs behind after 1993's "Roxbury 02119," he went on to cut tracks with everyone from Diamond D and Common to Ill Bill and Devin the Dude, recording a series of strong solo LPs as well as full-length efforts with Pete Rock, Masta Ace, and Special Teamz. Despite his prolificacy and constant presence for a full two decades, Edo remains relatively unknown outside his native East Coast, largely eluded by mainstream hits and certainly rendering him "A Face in the Crowd" for many casual rap listeners. "

Elzhi :: Elmatic :: {self-released}
as reviewed by Jesal 'Jay Soul' Padania
"You have to either be naïve, insane or arrogant as hell to even consider covering "Illmatic." Many have tried recently, most notably Fashawn (who dropped his own excellent debut "Boy Meets World") – yet his "Ode to Illmatic" was, it must be said, half-baked. If you disagree with that verdict, then listen to "Elmatic" and think again. THIS is how you do it. Elzhi has gifted us a superb reimagining of one of the greatest albums in history (any genre). Whilst Fashawn was naïve, Elzhi isn't, nor is he insane/arrogant. He's just an absolute master of wordplay, and whilst he's been criticised on this site for lacking emotional connection, it's barely relevant here, and he makes a series of clever decisions meaning that, after a few spins of his shit, you'll be addicted. You'll notice that I dispensed with the foreplay, dear Reader. That's because there's no need for it in this instance: it's too important for you to realise precisely WHY "Elmatic" is so good, and HOW Elzhi managed it. Firstly, it's not just a mere karaoke version – Elzhi determinedly makes it his own, primarily focussing on Detroit and his own past. He subtly alters many of the countless details, incorporating an occasional original couplet whilst spitting his own intensely complex wordplay, all in keeping with the tone of "Illmatic." "

J. Rawls :: The Hip-Hop Affect :: Greenstreets/Nature Sounds
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[The Hip-Hop Affect] 
"Backpackers, b-boys and girls, and lovers of "Brown Skin Ladies" worldwide already know the name J. Rawls. His list of production credits reads like a who's who in hip-hop, and his Lone Catalysts albums with rap partner J. Sands stand so far out in musical and lyrical quality that they make our highest echelon RR list of Nines and up. Even a vaunted producer like Rawls can trip or slip here and there, with Matt Jost feeling that he had "a great idea that failed to materialize properly" on "Histories Greatest Battles" but for Rawls that's almost always the exception and certainly never the rule. A far easier rule to follow is that when you see J's name on it, you will find hip-hop satisfaction. For me at least this rule is golden. "The Hip-Hop Affect" is a celebration of the Ohio native's long tenure behind the boards, working with all of the artists he wants to have flow all over his beats. He's not being shy though - the album's first full song is aptly titled "Best Producer on the Mic" and lives up to that billing by having Diamond D, Oh No and Kev Brown over J's triumphant horns. Unfortunately due to the largely collaborative nature of "The Hip-Hop Affect" when Rawls does bless the vocal instrument he's often getting lost in the shuffle, which is why it's a true treat to hear him flowing solo and freely on "Why You Do." "

Madlib :: Madlib Medicine Show #11: Low Budget High Fi Music :: Stones Throw Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Madlib Medicine Show #11: Low Budget High Fi Music] 
"Madlib's Medicine Show was producer/rapper/musician/crate-digger/pot aficionado Otis Jackson, Jr.'s attempt to release an album a month in 2010. Odd numbered editions were collections of original work, while even numbered editions were mixtapes from Madlib's four-ton vinyl collection, exploring jazz, Brazilian music, reggae, soul, and psychedelia. (I don't know what is more impressive: the fact that Madlib has four tons of vinyl, or the fact that all of that music could fit on about five pounds off hard drive space.) Volume 11 speaks to all three points. It is creative, it feels tossed off, and it is not unlike the comps that Ivan puts together over at Hip Hop Is Read. The difference is that Ivan's collections of odds, ends, and rarities are available for free. Madlib is charging you $13.99 for the honors (or $9.99 for MP3s, and a whopping $19.99 for the vinyl). I'm not begrudging an artist for wanting to get paid for his art, but it has to be said that the only reason why Stones Throw is getting away charging premium prices for this stuff is because Madlib is Madlib, and has a ample list of dedicated fans/suckers (myself included) who are willing to shell out their hard earned cheddar for his musical musings. "

Nieve :: Playback :: {self-released}
as reviewed by Pete T.

"California rhymer Nieve (pronounced "naïve") tends to dwell in the deeply reflective and dramatic, making his notably laidback latest "Playback" a treat. After gaining an overseas following in 2007 with "Away with Words," a full-length collaboration with producer Cook, he joined a collective of Japanese-distributed rappers collaborating with soul-minded producers including Cradle and Incise. "Playback" finds him evoking the relaxed vibes of his home state while also providing the introspective and motivational material of earlier efforts over a range of strong production by Incise, SoulChef, and Cook Classics among others. The title track opens the LP with a highlight, a charming production reminiscent of a twinkling music box with lush female vocals. "California" featuring Tunji is also a standout, an expertly-engineered arrangement of smooth synths and vocals celebrating the West Coast lifestyle, and he discusses relationships over fresh beats on "Just Go," "There for Me," and "Ride for Me." "Doin' That Today" is clean, catchy, and funky, pushing positive vibes both lyrically and musically. Nieve returns to the heavy philosophizing of past works on "Still You Gotta Rise," an appropriately dramatic yet largely effective number built around a serious piano part and sweeping violins. "

Potluck :: Rhymes and Resin :: Suburban Noize Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Rhymes and Resin] 
"Potluck are a decade of decadence deep in sticky icky icky raps. Initially they had to roll (their blunts) independent as fuck on albums like "
Humboldt County High," but over time their consistently growing fanbase and reputation from touring with other like-minded rap acts led to them inking a deal with Suburban Noize Records. 1 Ton and Underrated have happily rolled (their blunts) with the Kottonmouth Kings and friends ever since 2006, warmly embraced by an eclectic crew of rip-rockers, stoners and old school hip-hop artists who were reborn as part of the labels' growing roster. Though they've changed labels and affiliations throughout the years, they've never changed one thing - their abiding and unbridled passion for cannabis. "Rhymes and Resin" stays true to those sentiments with songs like the smoker anthem "Light That Shit Up". Despite their stoner tendencies, the duo do show an occasional penchant for booze as well with songs like "Last Call 4 Alcohol" featuring Bosko. Speaking of "featuring," the Potluck bros can roll their joints without much outside help, so the majority of "Rhymes and Resin" is free of any impurities that would cut the high. On rare occasions though when they do add some extra herbs to the blunt, the medically enhanced mood changes completely."

Wiley :: 100% Publishing :: Big Dada Recordings/Ninja Tune
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[100% Publishing]

"Professing to be the Lord Byron of rap, Richard Cowie a/k/a Wiley is the latest hip-hop artist in a continually evolving and growing UK scene with aspirations to hit it big outside of the big island. Linking up with Big Dada Recordings is a good start, as they're a subsidiary of the Ninja Tune label, which has had a strong internationally going all the way back to 1990. Wiley is also very D.I.Y., reflected in both the title of "100% Publishing" and in his attitude about producing almost the entire album himself. That's an ideal way to control the quality of the end product coming out and to also reap the most profit and royalties from it. Of course taking on "100%" means that you're just as responsible for when things go well as when things don't. Let's start with the positive - although Wiley has a strong English accent, it's not so strong that U.S. or other international listeners shouldn't be able to follow it. If he sounds slightly Carribean in the process, that's not a coincidence, and he talks about his multi-cultural background on the song "Your Intuition". Wiley has a confident, cocksure and a bit Cockney flow - all of which are in his favor. Like many of today's nouvelle hip-hop artists and European imports, he also favors a higher BPM and a little bit more electronic sound in his production. In that regard Wiley is more than several steps above the average unsigned artist releasing GarageBand dub tracks, and has clearly made music he's comfortable performing in front of crowds on tour."

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