Sunday June 24, 2018

The (W)rap Up - Week of October 4, 2011
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, October 11th, 2011 at 12:00AM :: Email this article :: Print this article

If you missed any of the twelve new reviews last week, including J-Live's "S.P.T.A." then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!

"Say the words "For underground metaphors" to any head from the 90's and they'll undoubtedly respond "You can scrape an inch below the turf, for what it's worth, my style's been developed in the core of the Earth." Doesn't matter where you came from - New York, L.A., Chicago, the Lou', Houston, Seattle or anywhere in between. J-Live's "Braggin' Writes" is one of the most influential hip-hop songs of ALL TIME. There are hundreds of tracks that are better known or received more radio play, but J's track showcased an effortless and ebullient next level lyricism over a banging boom bap beat. The result was an earthquake in the underground, leaving emcees who thought they were on his level in awe, and setting the bar that much higher for up and coming artists to be dope. What followed was the definitive textbook example of Industry Rule #4,080 - a series of bad record label deals and broken promises that led many observers to believe J-Live bootlegged his OWN album just to ensure it finally got heard. Fortunately for both him and for the hip-hop world at large, these setbacks didn't stop his success, and in fact led to J becoming an early pioneer in self-distribution through his imprint Triple Threat Productions. The name is apt because the rapper born Jean-Jacques Cadet leaves nothing to chance on his albums: he raps, he produces AND he deejays. That might be too much for most artists to do at one time, but a decade of albums like "Then What Happened" proved he is NOT most artists. 2011's "S.P.T.A. (Said Person of That Ability)" can be pronounced as "spitta," which at the end of the day is still what people know J best for."

360 :: Falling and Flying :: Soulmate/EMI Music
as reviewed by Adam M. Levin
[Falling and Flying] 
"Disclaimer: I'm a huge fan of 360 as a battle rapper. It took all I could to review this album objectively, and while it still ended up scoring quite highly (I know you've cheated and read the final scores already), the product definitely merited its results. With that out of the way, I'd like to introduce you to the artist himself: Melbourne, Australia's 360 gained notoriety at home with his 2008 debut "What You See is What You Get" after seeing international recognition through battling both at home and in New York City during 2007's 2-on-2 World Rap Championships. His fanbase has seen a steady increase, and this album, "Falling and Flying," hit #1 on the Australian iTunes chart when it was released on September 30th. The messages here are positive and upbeat, and hearing inspirational music in the midst of a global downward swing is completely refreshing. The music itself carries all of the luxury of a Diddy or Rick Ross production lineup while 360 himself maintains his believable common-man persona. This is perfect for 20-somethings at the crossroads of doing what you love vs. doing what you have to, and it speaks very eloquently for itself. Now, as for the music: the rigidity of rap purists is always frustrating. This small contingent of heads is the musical equivalent of a religious fundamentalist sect: they maintain that tradition is tradition, unmovable and staid as a gargoyle's chin. Thus, this record isn't for the orthodoxy—although if they gave it a shot, they might find something to pray to. Normally, one of the problems with rappers making a foray into genre-bending is that the ambition of the project outweighs the quality of the outcome—the rappers end up sounding forced or foreign (or both) while attempting to mesh sounds that end up clashing instead of blending. "

various artists :: The Biggest Ragga Dancehall Anthems 2011 :: Greensleeves Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[The Biggest Ragga Dancehall Anthems 2011] 
"Ragga is reggae's rougher, electronic cousin, much like hip-hop's relationship with R&B. It's typified by synthesized beats and lyrics that often stress sex and violence, although it has its conscious side as well. This compilation collects some of the bigger hits of the year in one burst of snapping snares, Auto-Tuned vocals, and lyrics delivered in a heavy Jamaican patois. The album opens up with two tracks by Mavado. He has a police record that would make an American gangsta rapper proud, and has collaborated with Drake. He opens with the whistling syths of "Star Bwoy," and follows up with the lighter "Lost Them." He is also represented with a slow jam, "When You Feel Lonely, and a ballad "Don't Wanna Be A Memory" with Mavado calling out to Jah to protect him from his enemies. Giving the violence that plagues Jamaica, it's a heartfelt request. Vybz Kartel is represented with two tracks. He calls out his haters on "Real Badman," and the mellower ladies song "Turn Up Di Scheme." Assassin's "Run Di Place" is a jolt of gruff braggadocio over a stripped down beat, and is followed by Bounty Killer's similar take on the same riddim. Assassin gets more melodic on "Nothing At All," one of the stronger tracks on the album. "

Big Meridox :: DeLorean Fuel EP ::
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[DeLorean Fuel EP] 
"The DeLorean DMC-12 was a car that captured the imagination of car enthusiasts in the early 1980's, which subsequently became infamous as the company and its founder John DeLorean experienced an epic financial collapse. The car quickly went out of production and the limited numbers that were ever sold quickly rose in value as collectibles, with the short lived car becoming even more high profile thanks to its appearance as a time machine in the Back to the Future movie series. In many ways it has become more important as symbol of the 1980's than it ever was as a sports cars, representing the cocaine fueled yuppie lifestyle that the nouveau rich enjoyed. It's not entirely clear to me why the Tucson, Arizona based rapper Big Meridox (a/k/a Big Ox) chose to name his EP "DeLorean Fuel," though the introduction for his song "Beef (Ballad of the Tough Tongue)" includes a conversation where Ox gets a phone call and his ring tone just happens to be Rocky's theme music. It's true that the first movie in the series came out in 1976, but the most culturally enduring of the films is Rocky III. That film was released in 1982, right as DeLorean Motor Company was falling apart, and had starring roles for both Mr. T and Hulk Hogan. Each of them would subsequently go on to be icons of the 1980's in the worlds of action TV and professional wrestling, and like Stallone himself they are still recognized around the world today. Perhaps Ox is just a child of the 80's who wanted to represent those icons, for good or for bad, as part of who he is. He himself makes no apology for who he is - a gruff sounding, tough talking rap artist. "

Cormega :: Raw Forever :: Traffic Entertainment
as reviewed by Pedro 'DJ Complejo' Hernandez

[Raw Forever] 
"Greatest hits and rap music don't mix well. Rap fans tend to fall in extremes between hardcore fans and casual fans. One group already owns every single song and album, the other group probably spent all they will spend 99 cents at a time at the iTunes store. Therefore, the appeal of a greatest hits album is usually quite limited. Seemingly aware of this issue, Cormega has done his best to make his greatest hits album worthy of a purchase. First, he actually put some effort into the title and artwork for "Raw Forever." Absent here are the generic titles and leftover photos from previous album shoots found on most greatest hits. Second, he actually put some effort into the album itself. The tracklist for the first disc is comprised of Cormega's favorite songs, so the collection has a personal touch to it. The second disc is comprised of Cormega songs re-made with live band, The Revelations, providing a new musical backdrop. The result is a fresh take on an old concept that holds much more appeal than your usual greatest hits collection. The first disc consists of 11 tracks, any of which is arguably Cormega's best. My personal favorite Cormega song is also the first Cormega song I heard close to 15 years ago on a Def Jam promo sampler, and you'll find "Testament" here as track number 2. Another often lauded Cormega song, "Killaz Theme," is number four in the sequencing. Nothing is wrong with the tracks included, but at only 11 tracks and with so much space on a modern audio disc, it's really a shame tracks like "Beautiful Mind" and "American Beauty" were left off. It would have also been a good idea to include some of the lesser heard Cormega features on a track or two. "

Cymarshall Law and Mr. JoeKer :: Hip Hop In the Soul II :: Freedom Entertainment
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Hip Hop In the Soul II] 
"Cymarshall Law is from New Jersey by way of the U.K. The rapper has been attacking microphones for the last decade. He's been honing his craft perfroming on the Van's Warp Tour and the Scribble Jam, and released several albums. This is a follow up to 2008's "Hip Hop in the Soul."

This album is accurately titled. "Hip Hop in the Soul II" contains 18 songs of soulful hip-hop. Producer Joe Kerr supplies well-orchestrated and crisp beats. Cymarshall has a gravelly voice not unlike Busta Rhymes or John Robinson. He delivers his rhymes alternating between singing and rapping, in a style that recalls the dancehall artists of his parents' native home of Jamaica. His lyrics are honest and deep, analyzing the struggles of life with an insight you don't see often enough in hip-hop. He delivers lines like "Right and wrong are only opinions/Everyone has their own truths, remember." He also delivers some clever one liners, complaining about being "a first class MC but they had me in economy." "I'm Gonna Win" is about Cymarshall staying strong in the face of adversity. "I have three kids/I love all of them the same/That's why when I get hurt I be swallowing the pain," he raps over a triumphant beat. The strongest track here is "911," which talks about the Haitian earthquake and other recent disasters. Cymarshall is a strong lyricist, and he's paired with a strong beatmaker Mr. JoeKer's beats are grounded in boom-bap, but pull in eclectic elements and samples."

Das Racist :: Relax :: Greedhead
as reviewed by Jesal 'Jay Soul' Padania

"Das Racist are hard to pigeonhole. That doesn't stop people trying, though. Like any group of second-generation immigrants, especially ones that aren't black or white, Asian and Latin people seem to confuse society. As a Brit, I have limited knowledge of American social politics but when I travelled to New York, one thing struck me: whenever I ate in expensive Manhattan restaurants, every single customer was white, and every single person serving me wasn't. That was probably just sheer luck, but over the course of two weeks, the pattern was repeated again and again. It made me feel like I was in a time capsule, until I realised the crucial word: "expensive." You see, I like food, nice food. When I travel, most of my budget is blown on expensive restaurants. And the link I prematurely made wasn't necessarily about race or class: it was simply down to money. In America, as the "Occupy Wall Street" movement is currently highlighting, it all boils down to money. That's one of the things that marks Das Racist out for particular attention: they rap about money, a lot. Most of the time, it's in an Austin Powers "One meeeeellion dollars!!" kind of piss-take way. Other times, it's undermining the endless (and mindless) stupidity of our beloved hip hop genre that has been brainwashed by corporate thinking and business plans. If you weren't in on the joke, you'd just assume Das Racist are a slightly weird wannabe gangster/hipster rap hybrid."

Gescha :: Crayon Politics :: Soul Datta
as reviewed by Mike Baber

[Crayon Politics] 
"Gescha certainly doesn't fit the profile of an average emcee. I'm no expert when it comes to Canadian hip-hop, but the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native's fair skin complexion and shoulder-length hair struck me at first as, well, rather odd for a rap artist. Knowing nothing else about Gescha, I dove into "Crayon Politics" with little idea of what to expect, and while I'm not usually one to judge a book by its cover, my expectations weren't exactly through the roof. And after hearing the album's lead single, "Love Pirates," I wasn't even sure if Gescha could be classified as hip-hop. With shimmering organ chords, a catchy bassline, a fast-paced drum-loop, and upbeat lyrics that combine to give the track more of a pop or dance feel than a hip-hop vibe, I couldn't help but think that the track was built for the radio. While it is admittedly catchy, "Love Pirates" left me wondering whether "Crayon Politics" would be a little too mainstream-oriented for my liking. As I cycled through a few other tracks on the album, though, I found that "Love Pirates" was somewhat of an anomaly, and "Crayon Politics" proved to have more depth than I initially expected. Right off the bat, it's clear that Gescha understands his niche as an emcee and sticks to the formula that works best for him. As promised on the Bandcamp website, the album mixes traditional hip-hop with "experimental instrumentation and unique vocals," creating an original and refreshing sound that doesn't hesitate to push the boundaries of the genre."

Mister Jason :: Mister Jason Presents: Frankensteez :: Fort Point Recordings
as reviewed by Aaron Boyce

[Mister Jason Presents: Frankensteez]

"Mary Shelley's story of Dr. Frankenstein and his ogreish creation is one of the most famous novels of all time and the monster itself remains an enigma. Created in a laboratory out of whatever Victor Frankenstein could get his hands on, the creature roamed the wilderness looking for somebody who could accept and understand him. This was always going to be tricky as he was yellow skinned, eight feet tall and hideously ugly which is not a good look for anybody, particularly when you are trying to make friends. "Frankensteez" doesn't seem to have the same problem though as it can call on friends from all over the hip-hop landscape due to the connections of its creator.

Boston resident Mister Jason has been a mainstay of the underground hip-hop scene for many years having made beats for MF DOOM, Styles Infinite and Louis Logic amongst others. First making noise as one half of the Porn Theatre Ushers with Nabo Rawk, Jason crafted slamming, head-nodding backdrops for Nabo to spit obnoxious punchlines over. With their undoubted chemistry, Porn Theatre Ushers built a strong reputation for themselves, working with Esoteric and Cage along the way before deciding to pursue solo ventures. While Nabo has released several solo projects, this is Mister Jason's first full length offering. Mister Jason is by no means on his own though and the creation of "Frankensteez" is not unlike the creation of the similarly named, towering monster as an assortment of samples, instruments and guest MCs all make up this beast of an album."

Quanstar :: Momentum :: First Team Music
as reviewed by Pedro 'DJ Complejo' Hernandez

"Quanstar is the true definition of a hustler. By that I don't mean that his music brags about how much he hustles, how he always hustles, or even mentions the word "hustle." Instead, Quanstar's work ethic says everything that needs to be said about his work ethic. His name may be unfamiliar to the masses, but that has not kept the man from releasing multiple albums and EPs, music videos, and touring consistently to promote his music. His music doesn't reflect the desperate delusions of a man trying to rap for a big hit or ringtone sales, but instead conveys his love for hip-hop and his determination to make quality music. "Momentum" is the latest EP from Quanstar and delivers another small, but potent, dose of dope hip-hop. The EP's name doesn't convey much about the music contained, but reflects the fact that Quanstar wanted to release this music ASAP rather than wait to compile an album's worth of material. While the EP lacks a cohesive purpose, the individual songs overcome any thematic shortcomings. "I'm Through" is a short barrage of punch lines and positive advice that serves as an appropriate intro. "Higher Standards" is a clever proclamation of Quanstar's abilities as an emcee as he declares "higher standards, giving these niggas nosebleeds" on the hook. "On My Brain" is a reflective track where Quanstar details some of the struggles he has faced as an artist. "She Did Me Wrong" features one of the EP's dopest beats with a warm, soulful sample looped over soft piano keys."

Random :: Mega Ran 10 :: RandomBeats Music/Neosonic Productions
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Mega Ran 10] 
"The following disclaimer needs to be given before continuing - this is NOT the full length "Mega Ran 10" that will be coming out on November 11th, 2011 (yes that's 11/11/11 for all of you numerologists out there). What we have here is an eight track pre-order pack given to those who put down for either the limited edition blue vinyl, the autographed poster album package, or the straight up digital-only release. Obviously those are scaled from increased to decreased cost, with the digital being only $8 (minimum), so if you're planning to buy after this review the one you choose either reflects the funds you have in your wallet or how much of a Mega Ran fan you already are - possibly both. If you've heard the previously released Mega Ran albums there's probably not much question of you being a fan. Even those who have never played Capcom's series of Mega Man games, of which there are numerous volumes spread over multiple consoles, could still appreciate the straight up storytelling and rap rhyming ability of Random. For the already talented Raheem Jarbo, who was first introduced to RR readers on "The Call," combining his love of hip-hop and video games opened him up to a whole new audience who may not initially have been rap fans. One can only imagine if they stuck with him after that for releases like "Heroes, Volume One they soon learned he's more than just a video game rhymer - he's a versatile artist with a tremendous range of material he can write and rip raps about. "

Too $hort :: Respect the Pimpin' :: Dangerous Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Respect the Pimpin'] 
"As both a rap critic and a long-time Todd Shaw advocate, "Still Blowin'" was difficult to listen to. Even though it would not be the first time in his long and illustrious career that Too $hort would be accused of recycling themes and concepts of his prior pimpology, it would arguably be the first time in his career where hip-hop's #1 mack no longer believed his own pimp game. The beats were depressing and the lyrics even moreso. Everything about the album screamed that a past-his-prime rap legend was simply going through the motions to put out another album for the fans who would still buy it. Nobody wants to see an all-time hip-hop great go out like that. Thankfully "Respect the Pimpin'" can rub off a little of the tarnish from Too $hort's last release and give the East Oakland alum some more shine. Like his previous effort, this one is only available digitally, although it's a smaller release at just six tracks and priced affordably to go along with that. One gets the sense from the shorter length (running time 23:37) that Sir Too $hort decided to win his fans back with a shorter, more focused effort that revealed the strengths of his pimpin' and not the weaknesses. As such he comes out a winner right from the opening track "Bitch I'm a Pimp." The music is pure "Shaft" and the drawl on the chorus could either be East Oakland or South Texas, but either way the "peee-yimp" pronunciation emphasizes just how raw and unadulterated the song is. "

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