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The (W)rap Up - Week of June 28, 2011
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, July 5th, 2011 at 12:00AM :: Email this article :: Print this article

[In Gods We Trust]Canibus & Keith Murray are The Undergods :: In Gods We Trust
RBC Records

Author: Pete T.

"Canibus and Keith Murray are the latest '90s New York rap tyrants to join forces for a full-length, and while the novelty of such high-profile collaborations may be wearing off, rappers should be commended for shedding egos to record dream projects for diminished fanbases. "In Gods We Trust: Crush Microphones to Dust" delivers on the promise of their 2009 EP, expanding its tracklist into an eighteen-track LP replete with guests from Planet Asia, Crooked I, Erick Sermon, and Tech N9ne. 'Bis and Keith are in full-out demolition mode, and as Keith is the more versatile of the two, it sounds more like a Canibus project, outfitted with hardcore beats to match the lethal rhymes and lacking Keith's normally wry humor and funky instrumentals—only "Stop Frontin'" and "Guilty Will Pay" boast Def Squad flavor. Epic horn fanfares, expansive percussion arrangements, and apocalyptic vocal bites herald their ruthless verses on openers "Rock Wit Us" and "No Brainer," and Jake One accordingly laces "Undergods Roll." In addition to trading sixteens, Keith and 'Bis sometimes do double-duty on individual verses, rapping a few bars at a time and creating an eerie effect as if they're finishing each other's sentences. Overall Canibus' performance tends to be the most impressive: his punchlines are consistently fresh and his rapid, guttural delivery is more at home over the production. Still, Keith hands in a worthy performance and sports good chemistry with his fellow Undergod, as on the Erick Sermon-produced "129" which draws heavily from Biggie and DJ Premier's "Ten Crack Commandments""

Big Sean :: Finally Famous :: G.O.O.D Music/Def Jam
as reviewed by Jesal 'Jay Soul' Padania
[Finally Famous] 
"There was a tweet going around a short while ago to this effect: "Nowadays, hip hop LP's are anticipated, leaked, reviewed, trashed & forgotten about… 3 weeks before the release date." Of course, that's paraphrasing, and apologies to the original (now unknown) source, but it struck a real chord. It does seem to happen with alarming regularity, at least in reference to the albums that play hard and fast with the hype/quality ratio. It's such a tricky balancing act nowadays for labels, artists and PR to simply get to the release date relatively unscathed, so that "the public will make up their own mind." This argument, of course, is nonsensical: while critics do hold some sway with readers, the audience are clever enough to make up their own minds, and will almost always vote with their feet. The artists that have a mission, stick to it faithfully and carry it out with style/panache tend to deserve recognition, and a slow burn of sales. Long to the short? Wack albums might sell or not, but great ones will always reach the right ears. Eventually. Time plays a leading role when talking about Big Sean's "Finally Famous" - an album title that reveals all too much of this confusing debut album. Before, rap was an art form, and hip hop was a way of life. Now, rap is a way to get famous, and hip hop a subcategory genre in iTunes. "

Casual :: The Hierophant :: F.B.M.G./Hiero Imperium
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[The Hierophant] 
"There are at least two definitions of "hierophant" depending on which sources you check. The common dictionary definition describes a person of religious importance who leads his congregants to what is holy. The rap dictionary definition by Jon Owens b/k/a Casual is "a person who deciphers arcane knowledge." That's arguably related since a high priest with the title of hierophant would certainly translate arcane knowledge so the religion's followers could heed its doctrines. I'll propose yet another definition though, one which many readers probably came to on their own: "founding member and spiritual leader of the Hieroglyphics." When the history of this important and influential rap crew from California is written, his name along with Del the Funky Homosapien's will be in the first paragraph of the first chapter. Despite his importance to their history, "The Hierophant" has been far from prolific as a recording artist. Casual goes anywhere from three to six years between albums, and several of his releases have only been available through the Hieroglyphics website. The last time we reviewed a Casual album on this website was 2005 when "Smash Rockwell" dropped. He had been quiet as a soloist since, but as has been true throughout his career he'd always pop up for a cameo appearance or a single remix here or there both in and out of the Hiero camp. "

Chilly Gonzales :: The Unspeakable Chilly Gonzales :: Arts & Crafts Productions
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[The Unspeakable Chilly Gonzales] 
"There may be fewer more unlikely rappers than Chilly Gonzales, the man who admits he's "self-absorbed (and) a musical maxi-pad" who finds himself more "at home in a taxi cab" than on the mic. This unusual Canadian emcee isn't even close to being as hispanic as his nom de plume, as he was born with the name Jason Charles Beck. When he's not rapping he goes by just Gonzales, but then again when he's not rapping he's playing piano, for which he was classically trained at McGill University. The deeper you go into Chilly's bio, the weirder things get. He spent years as the frontman for an alternative pop rock band named Son, he moved to Berlin even though he didn't speak a word of German, and he once challenged the unkempt rocker Andrew W.K. to a duel of pianos at Joe's Pub in New York City. Observers claim he won when he distracted Andrew by throwing a gold chain. Usually when artists have a bio this wild or outrageous, I either assume that they're completely full of shit or that their life's story has been exaggerated to an absurd degree to make someone ordinary come off as extraordinary. The rap from Chilly suggests otherwise, as he's quite charmingly disarming, sounding more like a spoken word poet who finds himself gravitationally pulled toward hip-hop. The fact he's a piano virtuoso can be considered an accident, a happy coincidence, or just a curiosity. "

Coughee Brothaz :: Fresh Brew :: Coughee Brothaz Music
as reviewed by Pete T.

[Fresh Brew] 
"Devin the Dude's Coughee Brothaz assembly traces its roots back to the Odd Squad, a comedic trio which met great acclaim with "Fadanuf Fa Erybody," a 1994 cult classic that Scarface once dubbed Rap-A-Lot's greatest album. Nowadays Coughee Brothaz features a rotating roster of Devin's Odd Squad brethren, Houston neighbors, and former Rap-A-Lot labelmates, and on "Fresh Brew" the lineup includes Devin, Jugg Mugg, Rob Quest, 14K, 3BN, KB, Tony Mac, DJ Domo, onetime 5th Ward Boy E-Rock, and Facemob's Smit-D among others. Devin and his buddies operate at a speed worlds slower than we earthbound mortals, and "Fresh Brew" is an hour's worth of relaxed, sticky, hilarious funk just in time for summer. Coughee Brothaz bring a stoner mentality to humorous everyday situations, and when caught together in the studio they have the effect of a crew of middle aged men yelling advice from the corner over forty ounces. Many of the situations they tackle here are reminiscent of those visited on "Fadanuf Fa Erybody," such as the infectiously laidback "A Pair of Lips" which cautions against backstabbing gossips and the raucous "Garden Tool" and "You Should Be By Yo'Self," which recall "Hoes Wit Babies." They're a raunchy bunch but every verse is delivered with a smiling knowingness, and more than anything else they're out to have fun in spite of any trouble facing them. "

DJ Absurd :: Flying Colors :: Diamond Music Group
as reviewed by Susan 'susiQ' Kim

[Flying Colors] 
"It's common to see DJ's turning into producers in the hip hop industry, yet only a few succeed. However, those who know the music and stay true to the sound are the most successful. New Jersey's DJ Absurd has managed to transition smoothly from DJ to producer with influences from artists such as The RZA, Havoc, Premier, and Dr.Dre and now debuts his producer compilation EP, "Flying Colors."

In this seven track EP featuring DJ Absurd's beats and a wide array of guest emcees, "Flying Colors" is a compilation that brings light this DJ turned producer. Initially released as a single, the album's title track was enjoyed by many followers and sets the tone for the rest of the EP. Heavy orchestral strings and almost theatrical music seem unlikely for a hip hop track, but in the title track, it works well. "East Coast Assault" features Ransom, Snype Lyfe & Cyssero and shows how thye represent in the East Coast while "Ain't Hard to Find" features Dead Poets & Pacewon and calls out to haters in the music industry. Also, "Life is Hard" features Armageddon, Trife Da God & Blaq Poet while "In My World" features Termanology & Big Lou and shows the various struggles in their lives. The beat remains unique and features an nostalgic eighties sound with horns and ethereal vocals. "

Dj Jad :: Instrumental :: La Sartoria/Edel Italia Srl
as reviewed by Matt Jost

"I freely admit to having a dubious taste in Italian rap. Any expert would readily testify that my favorite '90s records tend to fall into the pop rap category. Still I am unwavering in my support of one of the most commercially successful acts in Italian hip-hop history, Articolo 31 (pronounced "articolo trent-uno"). The duo of J-Ax and Dj Jad enticed me with their 'Spaghetti Funk', and although I didn't follow them all the way, I still hold on dearly to their first three albums "Strade di città" ("City Streets"), "Messa di vespiri" (a play on words defining hip-hop as a trinity of message, fun and spirituality) and "Così com'è" ("That's How it Is"). With an impressive catalog of songs that were both catchy and well-crafted, the two J's helped popularize rap music in Italy. Cheeky as well as tongue-in-cheek, Articolo 31 knew hip-hop but were not afraid to do it their way, dropping true school joints one minute and singalong stadium rap the next without caring for any other opinion than their own. Sometime in the mid-'90s I noted that 'J-Ax is exactly what I once expected a rapper to be, and Dj Jad is exactly what I once expected a DJ to be.' Today I'm not so sure what that means, but as regards the focus of this review, I take it as meaning that an aura of seniority surrounds Jad, who alongside people like DJ WAR, Ice One, Next One, Dj Gruff, Dj Skizo, Dj Stile, Dj Lugi, Dj Flash and Dj Zeta counts among Italy's first hip-hop DJ's to gain the spotlight. "

Jadakiss :: I Love You (A Dedication to My Fans) The Mixtape :: Ruff Ryders/Def Jam
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[I Love You (A Dedication to My Fans) The Mixtape] 
"It's good to know Jadakiss appreciates his fans. Making a dollar is hard in the music business, now more so than ever, so it's truly generous for Jada to give back to his fans with a free mixta... what? HE LOVES THE FANS SO MUCH HE'LL MAKE THEM PAY TO HEAR HIM SAY THANK YOU? If you think about it though, the intro to "I Love You (A Dedication to My Fans)" does make sense given he's already got your $8-$10 for the purchase. Now one could argue that a true "thank you" would have been to put it out for free on the internet to the masses, but at least the dedicated 'Kiss fan can know their loyalty is appreciated right from the jump. It takes both dedication and loyalty to plunk down real money for any rapper's mixtape with even the most popular rap artists giving away free digital albums almost every week of the year. Beyond your willingness to shell out $8-$10 for Jadakiss as a fan though, you've also got to be willing to accept that you only get 10 songs for your purchase (the aforementioned "Intro" track really doesn't count) and that none of these songs feature original beats. One obvious reason so many mixtapes are free, besides the fact rap artists bend over backward to give out freebies, is that the songs mix vocals with completely unlicensed instrumentals. To go legit you'd have to get clearance for every commercially popular song you blessed with your own rap, and the mixtapes that feature original or obscure beats are the exception to the rule. "

Oyoshe :: Bring Da Noise 2 :: Soulspazm International
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Bring Da Noise 2] 
"Oyoshe is a producer/rapper out of Naples, Italy who has teamed up with a who's who of East Coast true school hip-hop for his second album. "Brind Da Noise 2" features collaborations with Tame One, Donald D, C. Raine, Blaq Poet, C-Rayz Walz, Vast Aire, Subtext, Verbal Kent, Access Immortal, Maylay Sparks, Craig G, Mark Deez, Powder, and others. While it might seem unusual for an Italian producer to be hooking up with a bunch of rappers from Queensbridge and beyond, Oyoshe's sound fits in with the East Coast vibe. He makes sample based boom-bap in the school of DJ Premier, Duck Down Records, and DITC. He might be a white kid from Italy, but he brings some dirty breaks for the rappers to spit over. Things start off with the sinister bass line of "Different Shit," with Tame One spitting blunted raps. Maylay and Donald D mix in some Italiano in their rhymes on "Move the Streets." Oyoshe lays down a gritty guitar line for Blaq Poets rugged and raw bars. "I was always hardcore," he raps. "Standing in the cut ready for war." "

Pitbull :: Planet Pit :: Polo*Grounds/J Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Planet Pit] 
"Beware of this dog on the dancefloor. In a rap career that dates back to "M.I.A.M.I." in 2004, the son of Cuban immigrants has been living the American dream and scoring hit after hit on the dancefloor. He's bilingual and more than happy to switch back and forth in his lyrics; he's also musically bilingual and more than happy to switch back and forth between hip-hop and reggaeton. The man has a knack for picking the right guest stars, the right beats to rhyme to, and the right style to top the charts with at any moment. He's a fixture from the radio to TV channels like mun2, and can often be seen at live fights not just sitting cageside but performing before the combatants enter. Pit is a carefully considered balance of machismo and swagger wrapped in a layer of cool that makes people want to associate with him and businesses get his product endorsement. Like most Pitbull albums, "Planet Pit" had singles well before the retail release date and the Sandy Vee produced "Hey Baby" was another smash hit. Now how that sound - not profound? Too bad. Pitbull may be "Mr. Worldwide," but that doesn't mean he's trying to change the world. There's no shame in his game and no apology for it. In fact in the open to his latest chart-topper, the Afrojack produced "Give Me Everything" featuring Ne-Yo and Nayer, he takes just pride in having gotten to this point in life given what he had to overcome to be a star."

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