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The (W)rap Up - Week of September 27, 2011
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, October 4th, 2011 at 12:00AM :: Email this article :: Print this article

[PremRock & Willie Green] PremRock & Willie Green :: PremRock & Willie Green
Planet PremRock/Isolated Wax Records

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"Having first met at an NYC open mic cypher back in 2009, rapper PremRock and producer Willie Green realized they had a common vibe, then decided to explore that vibe by collaborating together on music. It's an old story for hip-hop, but sometimes the old stories are the best ones you've ever heard. It's not hard to imagine any of these famous hip-hop duos met the same way: Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Show & A.G., Guru & Premier, et cetera. It's expected that dope producers and emcees meet up through common friends or hip-hop events, but what's rare is when those chance meetings lead to long-term partnerships that produce memorable results destined to reach the masses globally. At the outset I admit ignorance of both artists before a few of the singles from their self-titled "PremRock & Willie Green" started to leak out - songs like "Had to Be Me" featuring C-Rayz Walz and Soul Khan. Those tracks were type nice to be sure, but with so many voices on the track it was hard to get a real grip on whether PremRock was type nice on his own. Thankfully "Diary of a Dreamer" paints a much clearer picture as Prem gets the time to shine on his own. (The cover art shown above is for the single, which you can also download by clicking on it.) Willie Green's backdrop is light and whimsical, but Prem's seriously lyrical"

The Aztext :: Who Cares If We're Dope? Vol.4 :: Elevated Press Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
[Who Cares If We're Dope? Vol.4] 
"A few weeks ago, I had dinner with an old college friend, and we started talking about music. I was talking about all the hip-hop I was listening to, and he told me that he had basically given up on the genre in the 90s when gangsta rap and then mainstream rap hijacked hip-hop from the more positive, afrocentric trajectory it was on circa 1991. He's a family man now, and can't really picture himself listening to dudes rapping about getting wasted, having sex, dealing drugs and shooting people. I gave him a handful of artists to check out who might convince him that there is hip-hop being made in 2011 that stays true to what hip-hop meant in its golden age, and among those artists were the Aztext. This Vermont duo have been making true-school hip-hop for the better part of a decade, and have just released their fourth and final installment of their "Who Cares If We're Dope?" EP series. They embody the ethos of respecting the roots of rap, and keeping hip-hop about rocking the mic and not pushing an image. This time Pro and Learic hook up with producer Dub Sonata, whose mix of old school boom-bap and contemporary production techniques is a nice fit with the Aztext's style. The EP opens up with the "Moments In Rhyme," in which they share the mic with Craig G. The boys are obviously honored and excited to share the mic with the legend, and hold their own alongside him, reminiscing about hip-hop back in the day. "

Chester P :: From the Ashes :: RawDog Productions
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Aaron Boyce

[From the Ashes]

"Joey Coombes, better known as Chester P. Hackenbush, has been an important figure in the UK hip-hop scene since he and his brother, Farma G, made their arrival as Taskforce in 1999. Blending abstract imagery with clever wordplay over hard beats, the 'Brothers McBain' built a solid reputation for themselves and are one of the first names to get a mention when UK hip-hop is brought up. Both MCs have featured heavily on other UK artist's albums over the years but it was always Chester P that stole the show whenever he shared a booth. After a lengthy delay, which wasn't helped by producer/DJ Louis Slipperz' studio burning down, 2007 finally saw the release of Chester P's long awaited solo debut, 'From the Ashes'. The title shouldn't need explaining as Louis Slipperz dusted the ash from his equipment to produce all twelve tracks. "Chessmonster" opens the album with a simple yet creepy guitar loop which is soon followed by rattling drums and heavy bass to provide the perfect backdrop for Chester P to grace his inaugural release."

The Doppelgangaz :: Lone Sharks :: Groggy Pack Entertainment
as reviewed by Pete T.

[Lone Sharks] 
"Matter ov Fact and EP, the New York duo known as the Doppelgangaz, are a throwback to mid-90s New York rap in practically every way. In a digital era where press releases, MySpace profiles, and Twitter feeds attempt to bombard us with every detail about rappers' essences, the Doppelgangaz take pains to maintain their anonymity, hearkening back to a time when underground reputations were cultivated through hand-to-hand passing of recordings, performances, and word-of-mouth. They wear black Tims and hoodies. 'Nuff said. Their 2011 LP "Lone Sharks" is much like their prior releases. The two are dead-ringers for a young Mobb Deep and Cella Dwellas. EP is the producer, and the fleeting soul samples, murky basslines, stark, sparse percussion, tenuous piano lines, and instrumental outros sound as if they were taken directly from Havoc's soundboard. "Suppository," "NY Bushmen," "Rap $ Unemployment," "Dead Already," and "The Gods," sound like genuine outtakes from "The Infamous" sessions, and vocally the duo sounds eerily similar to Hav and P. My first impression, though, was that this might be the best album the Dwellas never made—the dark, somewhat transcendent vibe evokes an otherworldly realm much like 1995's "Realms 'N Reality," and the way their humor contrasts the undeniable gloom of the LP also reminded me of Ug and Phantasm. Heck, they even refer to themselves as "Short Man" and "Height Man," just as Phantasm used to go by "Tallman." "

Example :: Won't Go Quietly :: Data Records/Ministry of Sound
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Won't Go Quietly] 
"Something astonishing happened one week in July 2011 in Germany. People bought more copies of rapper Casper's new album "XOXO" than they did of any other longplayer, propelling it straight to the top of the charts. Until that day, Casper had a reputation as a multifaceted, slightly left-of-center MC yet never received any attention from the pop establishment. "XOXO" had been a long time coming as a project that aimed for a synthesis of indie rock and pop and hip-hop. Just as vital as the musical foundation, however, was the matching content of the songs, who deal with those uncertain times between adolescence and adulthood. What makes "XOXO" such a success is its evident Lebenshunger, its zest for life. It's a passionate, youthful record from the serious side of life. It is also a credible one, Casper's abrasive voice cutting across melodic tracks, effectively bringing together indie and rap. If it's not totally innovative, it's at least very well done. In reaction to the sudden success, the German rap press was keen to claim Casper as a hip-hop artist, shielding him against efforts on the part of the rock press and mainstream media to mark him as an trailblazer who single-handedly created a new style. "XOXO" only spent one week at the top of the charts. "

Flesh-N-Bone :: Blaze of Glory :: RBC Records
as reviewed by Pete T.

[Blaze of Glory] 
"Under most circumstances, when a former platinum-selling artist releases his first album in over a decade it's a landmark event. Then again, Flesh-N-Bone isn't exactly your everyday former platinum-selling artist. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's "5th Dawg," Stanley Howse finished an eight-year sentence in a federal facility in 2008, and upon his release immediately reunited with the Wasteland Warriors for the heavily anticipated but ultimately underwhelming group effort "Uni5: The World's Enemy," released early last year, and "Blaze of Glory" is his first solo outing since 2000's "5th Dawg Let Loose." While Bone solos are a dime a dozen, Flesh's long incarceration and time away from the game lends his third LP a compelling quality that hasn't been seen since the first round of Bone solos in the late ‘90s, and for the most part "Blaze of Glory" rises to the occasion. Listening to "Blaze of Glory," Flesh hardly seems to have aged a day since going behind bars, and if anything his triple-time delivery is refined. Vocally his ghostly cadence sounds as good as ever, and "Blaze of Glory" in fact sports a similar sound to the underrated "5th Dawg Let Loose." If that's to say it sounds dated, it's hardly a disparagement—in fact, it's highly refreshing to hear this voice from the past sounding so hardly changed from his glory days. With 19 tracks spanning a long 75 minutes, most can be categorized as either fast, heavy street bangers, slow R&B-tinged numbers, or posse cuts—each staples of the Bone catalog and sure to please their loyal fans. "

Ghostpoet :: Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam :: Brownswood Recordings
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam] 
"Every interview with Obaro Ejimiwe, aka Ghostpoet, mentions how dreary his former hometown of Coventry is. The depressing, sleepy town is a huge influence on Ghostpoet's debut, which in turn is a depressing, sleepy album. Not that that's a bad thing. Ghostpoet is nominally a hip-hop artist, but his music is really a mix of electronica, soul, grime, indie, and hip-hop. Like a lot of British artists, Ghostpoet has no compunction about mixing genres that would never interact in the U.S. It's hard to imagine a U.S. MC spitting over a trance beat like Ghostpoet does on "Cash and Carry Me Home." Ghostpoet commits these acts of sacrilege without a second thought, and proves over and over how successful these unlikely pairings can be. Both the music and lyrics reflect a hazy, dream-like state. Ghostpoet's rhymes are rolled off in a heavily accented, half-sung moan, sounding like they were recorded at 3:00 am during a fit of insomnia. The music, all created by Ghostpoet, sounds spontaneous, drugged, and off-kilter, like a sleepwaker or someone who has woken up early and hasn't had coffee. The whole effect is similar to Gonjasufi, who likewise turns sleepiness and sloppiness into sonic gold. There are similarities to Roots Manuva and Tricky, but Ghostpoet isn't blunted so much as exhausted and resigned."

Has-Lo :: Illegally Yours :: Mello Music Group
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Illegally Yours] 
"Earlier this year Patrick Taylor gave a positive review to Has-Lo's "In Case I Don't Make It" CD. Quoth Patrick: "There are pockets of absolute heart-breaking brilliance on this album, and although Has-Lo isn't the most dynamic rapper, he's great at painting a vivid picture with a minimum of words." With that kind of praise sticking in the back of my mind, it intrigued me both as a critic and a hip-hop head that Has-Lo would give away his new "Illegally Yours" EP for free. Even at only five tracks long, one could hardly argue with a free download if it contains "heart-breakingly brilliant" hip-hop music. "How Do You Feel" certainly fits Patrick's description. The metaphor of Has-Lo's first verse could go either way and that's what makes it so sharp. A newborn could be a stand-in for how much he loves giving birth to a great song, or a great lyric could be a stand-in for the joy of raising a child to be more than what it was at conception. It probably goes without saying that there aren't many hip-hop artists out there today who can make a song this resonant and profound to the listener, but then again in an era of rappers who dedicate their life to "trapping" it's worth saying anyway. The vibes wouldn't work so well though if Has-Lo didn't have a good flow, and his Illadelph stylings are a pleasantly dusty journey over the beats."

J. Bizness :: Flips :: Irregular Instrumentals
as reviewed by Mike Baber

"Any rap aficionado knows that sampling is one of hip-hop's oldest traditions. Despite legal attempts to stifle sampling after its explosion in the late 80s, with groups such as Public Enemy and De La Soul leading the way, it continues to be an important part of hip-hop culture. Artists today sample everything from electronic to classical music, but the heart of sampling in hip-hop lies in soul and jazz music, which producers sampled, chopped, and flipped to lay the foundation for hip-hop's golden age in the early 90s. Unfortunately, mainstream hip-hop today tends to favor a more generic sound, while the authenticity of sampling persists within the underground community. It's always refreshing to hear a producer who attempts to recreate the old-school sound of hip-hop through sampling, and thus I was intrigued to see what J. Bizness's instrumental album "Flips" had in store. The album's concept is simple; as the name suggests, J. Bizness takes a sample and then flips it, chopping it up to create new sounds and splicing the pieces together. What's interesting is that each track includes about 15 seconds of the sample itself before transitioning to the actual song, allowing the listener to better understand how J. Bizness works to build the finished product."

J. Cole :: Cole World: The Sideline Story :: Roc Nation
as reviewed by Jesal 'Jay Soul' Padania

[Cole World: The Sideline Story] 
"There's a moment in J. Cole's excellent video for "Who Dat" which sums it all up nicely. The song is straight fire, with a superb beat, solid lyrics, incredible visuals and as a fire-starter, it worked pretty much perfectly for Cole. Apart from at precisely 3m13s in. You see, there is a rule when actors are performing around pyrotechnics. Unofficially, it is known as the "Cool Guys Don't Look At Explosions" law. You know what I'm talking about, dear Reader – the big moment in an action film when the hero walks calmly towards the camera, and the most gigantic mama fucking explosion goes off behind them, and the hero doesn't even flinch. In the "Who Dat" video, there is something similar. An explosion goes off, Cole is icy. Another gigantic flame roars into action… Our hero remains as calm as Rakim spitting "As the Rhyme Goes On" and you start to believe! The third and final charge is perilously close and… Well, let's return to that later on. For J. Cole has finally released his album. A virtual unknown two years ago, he was signed by Roc Nation, nabbed an attention-grabbing feature on the "Blueprint 3" and hey ho, a star is born. He's certainly succeeded in building up a buzz, although the inevitable album delays were starting to become tiresome, despite the free mixtapes he released in the interim. But "Cole World: The Sideline Story" is here. Was it worth the wait? Cole is certainly a divisive artist – not in the overt Drake way, but just purely based on skills, he gets the heads arguing for and against. "

One Be Lo :: L.A.B.O.R. :: Bandcamp
as reviewed by Pete T.

"It's truly hard to believe that it's been nearly seven years since Michigan's One Be Lo became a critical darling with "S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.," his stellar solo debut that only seems to be getting better with age. If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times, but it's a crying shame that Lo and his Binary Star buddies Senim Silla and Decompoze aren't household names, because a more talented, dedicated, and simply amazing crew of hip hop artists is hard to imagine. In the aftermath of "S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M." Lo seemingly returned to his underground domain, dropping the less-heralded "The R.E.B.I.R.T.H." in 2008. Although he went over three years between "The R.E.B.I.R.T.H." and his latest, "L.A.B.O.R.," he's hardly been slacking, as evidenced by the countless guest appearances compiled on his recent "Laborhood" mixtapes. Still, it seems hardly right that "L.A.B.O.R." is such a low-profile release, especially given the quality that lies within. Something that listeners probably find equally endearing as frustrating about Lo is that he rarely ever stays with one sound even if it earns him overwhelming praise. With each project, he's moved progressively further from Binary Star's spaced-out jazz toward a more industrial sound, and the trend continues with "L.A.B.O.R." "The ANT (i matter)" is laced with punchy, thundering horns, while "Monkey Biz" sports a murky bassline and "Illmatic" vocal sample."

Professor Fresh :: From MN, w/ Love :: Dead Bird Factory
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[From MN, w/ Love]

"From the get-go Professor Fresh presents himself as both irreverent and intelligent. It's clear he wants to be take as a serious emcee, even if he doesn't take promoting himself that seriously. This has been a successful promotional tactic for artists with a similar formula and format to Fresh. Naturally you as the reader are then asking "What kind of artists are similar to Fresh?" A short list would include (but not be limited to) mc chris, Devo Spice and MC Paul Barman. While Fresh never outright declares himself as a nerdcore rap artist, he certainly has many of the hallmarks of the genre: he's self-published and distributed, his microphone personality is not "hard," and without being intended as a pejorative connotation one way or the other, he's white. Now Fresh does differentiate himself from the cliches of a genre he sounds very similar to in one key way - he doesn't really rap about nerdy topics. There aren't any songs on "From MN, w/ Love" about how much he enjoys role-playing games, why his l33t hacking skills are better than yours, or how much he enjoyed playing Super Mario Bros. when he was a little kid. On the flipside it's not necessarily clear what Professor Fresh really IS talking about. "

Quest Rah :: Ancient Tapes Vol. 2 - The Lost Art :: Bandcamp
as reviewed by Pedro 'DJ Complejo' Hernandez

[Ancient Tapes Vol. 2] 
"There are times when you can accurately discern the music you are about to listen to by the cover art. In most cases, it's not a good thing as played out and generic music usually comes with equally played out art work. In rare cases, accurately judging a CD by its cover is due to well designed art from an artist who pays attention to detail. Quest-Rah is such an artist. From the cool middle-eastern flair of his own logo to the detailed brick veneer that screams "old and aged," this album's artwork does a great job of preparing the listener for the music contained within. As other critics on this site have noted before, this is the type of music you would expect from a Wu-affiliate. Conscious lyrics with a purpose are interspersed with abstract punch lines and references. Quest Rah's music evokes that older, boom bap style of the 1990s with religious overtones and moody exotic sounds throughout. While Quest-Rah will likely score little vibes for creativity, he takes his art seriously and ensures his music doesn't come off as mere imitation. The first track, "Heat" kicks things off with a dark, pounding beat and deadly serious lyrics. Quest-Rah's lyrics at times come off deceptively simple, but a closer listen reveals an emcee that puts much thought into each rhyme. "Femme Fatale" gives us a look at his story telling skills as he weaves a tale about the fairer sex."

Ruthless Rap Assassins :: Killer Album :: Murdertone/EMI
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Killer Album] 
"When we're looking at the demographic that simply does not get rap and fails to see what other people hear in rap, probably a substantial percentage has a hard time understanding how music (or perhaps even art in general) can be both serious and funny, flippant or frivolous at the same time. These people may be familiar with the specific dichotomy itself (through any type of comedy that isn't completely lowbrow, for instance), but they don't want to hear it in music, because they're not used to hearing it there, or just naturally lean towards straightforward messages. Or, reversely, they're more comfortable with songs shrouded in irony, abstraction, vagueness, etc. And then there are always those that simply lack the mental capacity to process mixed messages. Obviously rap has accomplished performers on either side - those who followed Rakim's lead taken with "I Ain't No Joke" and those who put an extra emphasis on the latter part of Afrika Bambaataa's 'Peace, Unity, Love and Having Fun' credo. A more significant number, however, combines the dead serious and the tongue-in-cheek - often in one and the same song. That balancing act, to get listeners to laugh and to think simultaneously, is not easy to maintain. When they decided to call themselves Ruthless Rap Assassins in the wake of rap going hardcore in the '80s, these three Mancunians could have ended up either an unintentional parody or a comedy troupe. "

Savzilla :: The Beast Within :: Rare Breed Laboratories/408 Inc.
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[The Beast Within] 
"Straight from the 408 (San Jose, CA) comes "The Beast" known as Savzilla. His resume boasts a fairly decent list of people he's opened for or toured with in his career: Potluck, Esham, Twiztid and ABK among others. Sav dropped this solo album on July 26th through his own Rare Breed imprint, with distribution through 408 Inc., who also get local artists like Playa Rae more national exposure. To be honest I was hoping Rae or his homies Trey C and Tha Critic would have cameos on this album, but Sav rolls with his own crew on "The Beast Within." There aren't an abundance of cameos on his CD, but you'll see Bubba Thug, Massive and Lainey Leone among others drop in for a spell. Intentionally or not Sav is almost immediately reminiscent of Tech N9ne on the title track of "The Beast Within," which is the album's second cut. This isn't such a bad thing, since Tech has a unique and entertaining flow, and one can only imagine Tech was an inspiration for Sav growing up. The thing that is unexpected about it is that you wouldn't expect a San Jose rapper to flow like someone from Kansas City. He certainly has all the trademarks - the bars that end with unseen exclamation points, the sudden bursts of rapidly fired words at unexpected moments, singing a few bars at a time when the mood suits him, and a gothic sound which suggests intimate knowledge of humanity's dark side. "

Wiz Khalifa :: Show and Prove :: Rostrum Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Mike Baber

[Show and Prove] 
"It's amazing how much an artist's style can change over the course of five years in the hip-hop game. In September of 2006, Wiz Khalifa was an up-and-coming 19 year-old rapper who had just released "Show and Prove," his first independent album. Fast forward to the present, where Wiz is signed to Atlantic Records and is coming off his debut studio album that reached number two on the US Billboard 200 chart. Longtime followers of the Pittsburgh native can see just how much his lyricism and overall style have changed over this five-year period, and perhaps this transformation is best summed up by the opening line from the opening track on "Rolling Papers:" "And they say all I rap about is bitches and champagne/ You would too if every night you seen the same thing." While this may seem like fairly typical Wiz nowadays, it's a far cry from "Show and Prove," which sees a younger Wiz repping the streets of "Pistolvania" and trying to make it in the rap game. I'm personally a big fan of checking out an artist's early work to learn more about his roots, and having never fully explored "Show and Prove," I felt the need to give it a full listen. I'll admit, after briefly skimming through a couple of tracks at first, I had to double check the artist to make sure it was actually Wiz. Fans who have become accustomed to the laid-back, often party-friendly vibe of his recent releases will find that "Show and Prove" is nearly the complete opposite, with gangsta-rap influences and hardcore beats and lyrics. "

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