Saturday May 26, 2018

The (W)rap Up - Week of August 9, 2011
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, August 16th, 2011 at 12:00AM :: Email this article :: Print this article

"It's here. "Watch the Throne" has caught your attention: the anticipation, fuelled by no advance copies or leaks… It's a welcome throwback to the "old school" days of album releases. It's also a rare coming together of two of the biggest rappers (and artists) on the planet on the same team. We are told that this is an "historic" occasion for our beloved genre, but be warned, dear Reader: history is written by the victors, and just because Jay-Z and Kanye West have finally made "Watch the Throne," it is still only the quality level that will dictate whether it makes it into the books as a truly memorable moment in hip hop. So, once you press play, how does it fare? Your first impressions won't be all too favourable – BUT persist, as the album improves at a swift pace on each subsequent listen. It clocks in at a relatively lean 46 minutes, with only 12 tracks, but it is a densely packed work that takes time to reveal itself. Perhaps not so much musically (although WTT does contain many a twist) but more so lyrically, as there are "frequent blink and you'll miss it" lines and clever interplays between Jay and 'Ye. There are no guest verses from other rappers, just choruses from singers, and relative newcomer Frank Ocean manages to bag two spots on the album. He blesses the superbly understated opener "No Church in the Wild" with an almost Mos Def-like treatment (matching the moody beat effectively), and both rappers come in hard with visually-depictive verses that put the listener right firmly with them (plus at times, it's almost like a clever piece of wordplay by Ocean, as he seemingly sings "No church in a while" which feeds into the agnostic decadence). "

The Almighty RSO :: Revenge of Da Badd Boyz EP :: RCA/BMG
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Matt Jost
[Revenge of Da Badd Boyz EP]

"Bad boys in rap may be forever associated with the 1990s, when a music industry upstart created a veritable brand out of the colloquialism for non-conforming male minors. But not only were there at least two (albeit small) Bad Boy Records releasing hip-hop in the '80s, rap music's rebel image originated some crucial years before Biggie yelled "I'M A BAD BOY!" on "Party and Bullshit." Schoolly D, Ice-T and Eazy-E were at the forefront of bringing bad boy behavior to the young genre. On a local, independent level so-called gangsta rap spread slightly faster than in the mainstream, sometimes affecting acts who already had been on the scene some time. In Boston, The Almighty RSO Crew adapted a harder stance on their 1988 single "We're Notorious." The cover showed six young men standing on the Cambridge side of the Charles River, the Boston skyline behind them, all clad in Adidas track suits and shoes, two of them defiantly gripping guns barely tucked into their waistbands. The 12" likely served to distinguish the crew within the Boston scene, after less intimidating songs like "The Greatest Show on Earth" ('86) or "Call Us the All" ('87). But it was still a long way to national notoriety. "

Andre Nickatina (Dre Dog) :: The New Jim Jones :: In A Minute/I-Kahn/IODA
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[The New Jim Jones] 
"First off, there are two versions of this album. One was released in 1993 under the name Dre Dog on In A Minute Records, a Bay Area label which was also home to R.B.L. Posse, I.M.P., and some of Too $hort's early work. The In A Minute version, which both Amazon and Amoeba Records in San Francisco have for sale, has a picture of a Dre Dog crucified on the cover. The album was re-released in 2006 on Mo Beatz Records with a different cover. I found it on Emusic on what I believe is Andre Nickatina's own label I-Kahn. Dre Dog is still named on the cover, but it was filed under Andre Nickatina, which is what Dre Dog changed his name to after two albums. I'm going to refer to him as Dre Dog for this review, but you'll find most of his records under the Nickatina moniker. The Jim Jones referenced in Dre Dog's 1993 debut is NOT the Harlem rapper. Andre "Dre Dog" Adams chose to proclaim himself the second coming of the late Reverend Jim Jones, founder of the Peoples Temple in San Francisco, and ultimately responsible for the death of 900 people. The church started out as an idyllic multicultural community,but turned into a cult that moved to Uganda to set up a new paradise on earth, called Jonestown. "

Bad Brains :: Bad Brains :: ROIR
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Bad Brains] 
"I went to go see the Canadian punk band Fucked Up a few weeks ago, and the influence of the seminal DC hardcore band Bad Brains was everywhere. Their self-titled 1982 debut was playing in between sets. Several kids were wearing Bad Brains t-shirts, including a kid in a tie-dyed shirt emblazoned with the band’s logo who nearly landed on my head from stage-diving. I was struck by how much Bad Brains resonates with the current crop of hardcore kids, none of whom were born when the band released their debut. Which is only right, given that they helped to invent hardcore. Not bad for a group of African-Americans who started out as a jazz-fusion band. The Brains got their start in the late seventies in DC playing a mix of rock and jazz. After hearing what was coming out of the burgeoning punk scene, the group quickly got on board. Their first single, 1980s "Pay to Cum," was seminal in many ways. "Pay to Cum," along with the early EPs by Black Flag and the Germs, set the template for hardcore, and there are literally thousands of bands who essentially play different versions of that song. It was much faster than the majority of punk that preceded it. Guitarist Dr. Know belts out the riff at a lightening pace, and bassist Daryl Jenifer and drummer Earl Hudson jump right in, laying down a song that is simple, melodic, and powerful."

Coolio :: Gangsta's Paradise :: Tommy Boy/Warner Bros.
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Pete T.

[Gangsta's Paradise] 
"Coolio managed to straddle the line between pop success and rap legitimacy as well as anyone who preceded or succeeded him. The pop culture lexicon is likely to recall him as somewhat of a West Coast Fresh Prince—a squeaky-clean rapper with mega-hits and a massive television presence. Coolio recorded the theme song for Nickelodeon's "Kenan and Kel," rapped with Kermit on "Muppets Tonight," and guested on "All That," "The Nanny," and "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" during his superstardom, cementing his status as a family-friendly MC with gravity-defying braids and a rather loud wardrobe. As fans will be quick to point out, though, he was far from a corporate creation, first gaining fame as a member of WC and the Maad Circle, an acclaimed Los Angeles outfit prior to WC's success as a member of Westside Connection. With his contribution to Ras Kass' 1995 debut "Soul on Ice," he became his coast's Method Man—the sole guest rapper on his coast's most lyrically conceptual masterpiece. The dichotomy between street credibility and commercial success is tenuous, well-explored, and hard to formulate. Coolio's balance could probably best be labeled a product of his reaching a hip hop audience before a pop one, unlike, say, Skee-Lo and Paperboy."

The Cool Kids :: When Fish Ride Bicycles :: Green Label Sound
as reviewed by Mike Baber

[When Fish Ride Bicycles] 
"It's easy to forget that, despite their 2008 EP "The Bake Sale" and several subsequent mixtapes, The Cool Kids did not release an official album until just a month ago. This is due mainly to the fact that "The Bake Sale" had the depth of a real album, catapulting the duo into the spotlight and introducing the hip-hop game to their unique production style featuring sparse, percussion-heavy instrumentals. I myself was worried, though, that a label switch to Green Label Sound meant that the group was selling out for its debut LP and sacrificing the authentic feel of "The Bake Sale" for a more mainstream sound. And at a quick glance, it might seem as if this the case, with a slew of guest emcees and production credits from Pharrell and Travis Barker. Fear not, though, as "When Fish Ride Bicycles" strikes a balance and manages to stay true to The Cool Kids' roots while delivering a slightly evolved, more polished sound that makes for an entertaining listen throughout. The album starts off with more of what fans of The Cool Kids have come to love, and the opening track, "Rush Hour Traffic," features a simple kick and snare pattern along with a short, pronounced synth and a slow electric guitar chord."

Paranoid Castle :: Champagne Nightmares :: Fake Four Inc.
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Champagne Nightmares] 
"Building a fort or a castle is inherently paranoid. It suggests a level of fear from the occupants within - they expect to be attacked by some opposing (possibly savage) group who will take anything of value within. It doesn't matter what's inside really - it could be gold, it could be food, it could be royalty, it could be women and children. All that matters is that it's worth protecting at all costs. Build the lookout towers higher to survey the landscape for invading forces. Build the fortress walls higher so they can't easily be scaled. Dig a moat around it so that attackers have to ford the water to reach you. Wood is good, stone is better, and steel is the shit. The more you have, the more paranoid you can afford to be. That's why rich people live in secluded enclaves like The Hamptons and Greenwich and keep their money hidden in Swiss bank accounts. That's paranoia personified. Hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your assets because they takin' every dollar out there. "

Thundamentals :: Foreverlution :: Obese Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

"Diving once again into the deep ocean that makes up Australian hip-hop, I surfaced in the Tasman Sea and hailed a passing vessel for a lift to Sydney, and from there made my way to the suburb of Newtown. In need of a pint of beer to get the salty taste of seawater out of my mouth, I hailed a cab and made my way to South King Street. By this point it was fairly late on a Friday evening, and the nightlife crowd were making their way into pubs and clubs to get the weekend started. Pleased to hear the strains of what sounded like a local rapper spitting over live music to an enthusiastic crowd, I wandered in to a local establishment. Thankfully the patrons were too busy bobbing their heads to notice I looked and smelled like a wet muskrat. Breaking a soggy tenner for a Guinness, I got a handful of $2 coins back and an earful of local hip-hop artist par excellence going by the name Thundamentals. It seemed my journey was turning out quite well. Ahem - back to life, and back to reality. My true introduction to this hip-hop crew came through Patrick Taylor's fine review of their debut LP "Sleeping On Your Style." Technically this was not their first release though, as they had dropped a critically acclaimed EP earlier than this CD, but this was the next and larger evolutionary step in their ascendance to Aussie hip-hop prominence. "

Timbo King :: From Babylon to Timbuk2 :: Nature Sounds
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[From Babylon to Timbuk2] 
"Here's a little disclaimer for this CD: if you see a TV ad or hear a radio spot claiming this is "the long awaited, first ever solo album from Timbo King" that's only about half true - maybe even 25%. While it wasn't actually a solo album per se, Spark 950 & Timbo King did an album called "United We Slam" in 1994. I point this out because despite being labelled as a tandem, all 950 did besides take top billing was provide the hooks and the beats. Timbo King did the yeoman's work as a rapper. I'm not saying this isn't an obscure album that even die hard Wu-Tang fans wouldn't remember 17 years later, but I did, so promoting "From Babylon to Timbuk2" as "the long awaited, first ever solo album" is stretching the truth a bit. If there's one thing you can glean from that opening paragraph besides my stubborn refusal to ignore the facts, it's that Timbo King has been around the hip-hop scene for a fuckin' LONG time. By virtue of his association with the Wu-Tang Clan, he's wound up a member of several different spin-off groups including Black Market Militia and Royal Fam, and he's made too many cameo appearances on first or second generation Wu Familia albums to list here. "

Unity Lewis :: Audio Veve Pt. 1 :: SoundVise/Fontana/Universal
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Audio Veve Pt. 1]

"Right away the picture is clear for Unity Lewis. He's not just a self-made hip-hopper making his name in the Bay, he's the sum total of two generations of activists and teachers who came before him. He's not just a promising up-and-coming rap artist, he's a MOVEMENT. Behold - Unity Lewis is going to be a fount of wisdom and philosophy not seen since the days of Boogie Down Productions and Arrested Development. This is going to be a game changer. Unity Lewis is going to spark some knowledge and light a fire in the collective mindset of the whole hip-hop nation. Love, peace and wisdom will emanate forth and the world will never ever be the same again. This shit is real. Word up, the fuckin' shit is real. That's the wisdom that emanates forth from Unity Lewis. That's the problem with press releases and one sheets sometimes - they set up unreasonably unrealistic expectations. What I'm hearing on "Audio Veve Pt. 1" in general, and on the above quoted song "Vodou" in particular, doesn't strike me as a higher form of consciousness. I expected to hear that the body was a temple, the mind was all powerful, and the flow of energy from it was the source of all creation. I wanted to hear about knowledge, wisdom and overstanding. "

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