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

If you missed any of the new reviews from this past week, including Co$$' "Before I Awoke," Then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!

"For many casual hip-hop fans, the term "West Coast hip-hop" is synonymous with "gangsta rap." The often controversial and explicit lyrics of artists such as N.W.A., Ice T, and Snoop Dogg propelled gangsta rap into the spotlight in the late 80s and early-to-mid 90s, and the sound came to embody all that the West Coast had to offer. Those who have delved deeper into hip-hop, though, recognize that, while gangsta rap is an important part of West Coast hip-hop, there exist a number of other subgenres that cannot be overlooked. For starters, California boasts a rich alternative hip-hop community, with groups such as Jurassic 5 and Souls of Mischief paving the way; while Dre and Snoop were busy spitting misogynistic verses detailing their sexual exploits, Pharcyde switched things up on "Passing Me By" by rapping about the women who evaded their love. And of course, it's important not to discount the movement that took hold in the Bay Area in the 90s, with E-40 and Keak Da Sneak showing listeners how to get hyphy. The bottom line is that West Coast hip-hop can take on a variety of meanings, so when I heard that Co$$ was considered by LA Times to be "Los Angeles's most underrated rapper," I was unsure of what to expect from his debut album. "

CunninLynguists :: Oneirology :: A Piece of Strange/QN5 Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"To clear up any confusion before we go further, the definition of "oneirology" is the study of dreams. This word was so obscure I actually had to teach it to my spellchecker while writing this review so it wouldn't keep suggesting a correction over and over again. I don't know if Deacon, Kno and Natti hold any Ph.D degrees in this field, but they certainly hold doctorates in dope hip-hop. Since they first burst on the scene in 2001 with "Will Rap For Food" (sans Natti, who would join the group several years later) this Lexington, Kentucky group has earned a reputation among underground heads, progressive hip-hop fans, and discerning rap snobs as being musically and lyrically next level. Their career has in many ways paralleled that of Little Brother - a beloved and creative artistic hip-hop group with Southern roots looking to get album sales on par with the healthy amount of respect they have. Thankfully for those ProgHipHop heads and rap snobs, CunninLynguists didn't go the "we're retiring as a group so catch us on solo albums or cameo appearances" route that Little Brother did. Kno is as able musically as he is lyrically, and the production for "Oneirology" reflects both the intent to nod your head and the theme to keep you in a lucid state of REM. "

Daretta :: Heavy Mental :: {self-released}
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Heavy Mental] 
"It was inevitable that Odd Future clones were going follow in the wake of the hype around Tyler and his crew of not-so-merry pranksters. The combination of teen angst, Jackass stunts, torture porn lyrics and unique beats was sure to inspire hip-hop fans who had a hard time relating to hood-oriented rap and were looking for a new sound to grab onto. I'd say by first quarter 2012 we should see a slew of young rappers spitting about mutilation and misogyny over ominous techno beats. Daretta's "Heavy Mental" is the first of the OFWGKTA imitators I've heard, and he has at least one thing that sets him apart from other rappers: he's from Florence, Italy, and he spits in Italian. It starts off with a film clip of a mother leaving her kids alone to go to the supermarket to buy tampons, warning them to not let anyone but her enter. As soon as the mother has left, a news bulletin interrupts radio and informs the kids that a killer is on the loose with, if my Italian is right, a butcher knife in one hand and his genitals in the other. From go he's telling you to go fuck yourself in Italian, talking about drooling on the two golden ladies (whatever that means), and accusing your parents of being androids. Daretta may be from Florence by way of Chile, but the influence of a certain group of Southern California rappers is undeniable. "

Jeremaya :: The Principle :: Freedom Music Group
as reviewed by Matthew 'Matt G' Gutwillig

[The Principle] 
"Since the 1970s, urban-contemporary gospel music has been very influential throughout the United States, primarily within the African-American community. Artists like Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary and Yolanda Adams regularly release feel-good Christian records to commercial and critical acclaim. If you paid attention to the beats on many of these albums, you would swear you just heard an R&B, dance or hip-hop record. Truth be told, rap music has influenced many of these gospel artists. However, there has not been a critically and commercially successful Christian rap album to my knowledge. Other than Kanye West's hit single "Jesus Walks," which won a Grammy Award in 2005, the genre has not received much publicity. Nevertheless, Atlanta-based emcee Jeremaya has been releasing gospel rap mixtapes since 2005, while proudly repping his independent Freedom Music Group. Released in December 2010, "The Principle" is his debut gospel album as he looks to spread the messages of faith and change through Christian teachings. Now it is easy to understand why many hip-hop fans and writers may be quick to dismiss the genre. Many might not be overly religious, could feel the music is coming off too preachy, and/or think Jesus and hip-hop should never be brought up in the same sentence. "

M.E.R.C. & DJ A to the L :: Daylight Marauders :: Iron Lion Entertainment
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Daylight Marauders] 
"There are various ways to pay tribute to the music we love. For a period, cover versions were quite popular in hip-hop, but even coming from professionals too many of them sounded like rap karaoke. In a genre where originality is key, there are definitely classier ways to pay tribute. Hence M.E.R.C. and DJ A to the L give us - free of charge - 'a tribute to a classic.' The classic being A Tribe Called Quest's "Midnight Marauders," the classy tribute going by "Daylight Marauders." Here's how they did it. Whenever possible the duo used the original beats. The rest, four tracks out of fourteen, were reinterpreted with the samples Tribe used (one stemming from producer The ARE's 2007 project "Manipulated Marauders"). These 'reproduced' tracks end up adding a special note to the project, not only lending musical credibility to the team, but also acting as a promise for future, original ventures. On the vocal side, they have a capable leading man, who, although soft spoken and relaxed, doesn't automatically recall Q-Tip. A Phife there is not, but a variety of guest rappers (among them an opinionated DJ A to the L) make sure that the 'tribe' idea is sustained. Penning their own lyrics, the vocalists on "Daylight Marauders" still manage to reference the Abstract, Phife Dawg and their guests with short puns and brief quotes. I don't want to spoil the experience, so I'll just say that if you know "Midnight Marauders," you will definitely notice the subtle tributes. The fact alone that they even tracked down the computer lady from the interludes and got her to adapt her announcements shows the level of dedication at work here. "

Present Rhymes :: Livin' the Mission :: Mertz & Sun Productions
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Livin' the Mission] 
"Usually white guys throwing up hand signs is my first cue to move on and listen to something else. I know that contradicts the "don't judge a book by the cover" motto, but it's also contradictory to see guys who have clearly never spent a minute in any hood acting like gang members. I took a closer look at the picture on the inside jacket of "Livin' the Mission" though and can on further reflection presume (without proof either way) that they're actually trying to spell out their group's name. One hand could be a P (even though the top of it isn't closed) and the other hand could be a R (even though they had to break the P to shape it) thus they are Present Rhymes. And after listening to the album they don't come off as wannabe gangsters, they come off as underground rappers from the Northeast desperate to be noticed by someone. And that's exactly what P.R. are - a Burlington, VT group consisting of MC/producer Mertz, rapper B. Rouille, and DJ Rico. "The Start" definitely starts things off on the right note for this aspiring trio. Mertz has a good ear for choppy layered samples that's comparable to Evidence or Statik Selektah. The song has R&B stabs, piano riffs, hard-hitting drum beats, and echoing vocals all in the precise and proper measure to make a headnodding hip-hop track. "

Scavie Scoobs :: Trap Star Volume One :: Custom Made Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Trap Star Volume One] 
"The Los Angeles collective Custom Made has been putting out albums and mixtapes since 2002, and we've been covering their efforts since 2004's "L.A. State of Mind." They've had more than their fair share of trials and tribulations in that time. Some members of the crew got sent up the river, while others move outside of L.A. and fell out. When they finally got mainstream distribution via Babygrande's release of "Original Dynasty" the deal fell apart due to the all too typical #4,080 syndrome and they wound up independent again. Through it all three members stuck together and stayed on their grind - Bluff, Element and Scavie Scoobs. Now in 2011 Custom Made's remaining trio are on their grind through both mainstream distribution of "Hi-Def" and solo albums like Scavie Scoob's "Trap Star Volume One" for their loyal fans. "Gangsta Shit" does a good job of summing up Custom Made generally, Scavie Scoobs specifically and "Trap Star Volume One" exactly. Even though "trapping" is something that's more generally associated with Southern locales like Houston and Atlanta, guest star Supa Sonic describes himself and his rhyme partner Scoobs as "trappin on Crenshaw, trappin off Peachtree/and just like them white +Boys+ I'm feelin kinda +Beastie+." "

Tizone :: The Interpretation :: Radar Recording
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[The Interpretation] 
"15 years ago the comedic Wayans' family released a movie spoofing other popular hood dramas of the 1990's titled "
Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood." The accompanying soundtrack may be best known for the Lost Boyz song "Renee," a chart-topping single which also placed first in a hip-hop poll conducted by Charles Isbell for whackest rhymes - and it's hard to argue "She wants to be a lawyer - in other words, shorty studies law" is bad (and redundant) even by Mr. Cheeks standards. The soundtrack was unapologetically eclectic, pairing UGK with Keith Murray and Lord Jamar, and Doug E. Fresh with Luther Campbell, but was well-received by hip-hop heads for being almost entirely rap from start to finish and featuring the likes of Mobb Deep, Ghostface Killah and Shock G. Quietly tucked away in the middle of all this 1990's rap star power was the debut of a pair of rap brothers named Lil' Bud and Tizone, who starred on the third track "Funky Sounds." Actually to be honest Tizone was barely on it, but he got a co-credit because like the Wayans family themselves blood runs thicker than water. "

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