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The (W)rap Up - Week of October 18, 2011
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, October 25th, 2011 at 12:00AM :: Email this article :: Print this article

If you missed any of the new reviews this past week, including Styles P's "Master of Ceremonies" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!

"Long-time Yonkers, New York artist David Styles, better known as Styles P, knows more than what it means to be an emcee. After all it would be hard to have a 15+ year rap career without at least knowing one or two things about what it takes to be a "Master of Ceremonies." For the man of many monikers (Holiday Styles, S.P. and The Ghost among them) those things can be boiled down to two essential qualities: keep putting out product constantly, and always keep your core fanbase happy. The latter means a Styles P album/mixtape has a few consistent themes each time: I ride a lot, I smoke a lot, and I don't mess with people who aren't as G as me. The former means despite only having four official studio albums, the last of which was "Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman)," you can hear a new S.P. LP every year. 2011 means it's time for The Ghost to materialize in a studio and lay down something his label E1 Music can press, shrinkwrap and ship to stores worldwide. "Master of Ceremonies" is the results of those efforts, a 12 song album coming in just about 90 seconds short of 45 minutes total. That might lead some wary consumers to complain that he and his D-Block affiliates have dropped longer mixtapes, but there's a quality difference here which can be bottom lined as "you get what you pay for." You can have a free download any time you want, but can you have a free track produced by Pete Rock with guest vocals by Pharoahe Monch? Not likely. Songs like "Children" prove a studio album was worth the wait."

Abstrakt Soundz :: When Hip Hop Was Fresh :: Bandcamp
as reviewed by Matthew 'Matt G' Gutwillig
[When Hip Hop Was Fresh] 
"Though 1990's rap music did not necessarily share the same critical acclaim in comparison to the golden era of the previous decade, it nonetheless contributed highly to the popularity of hip-hop culture today. A few artists like The Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, Nas and groups like Outkast are in many hip-hop aficionados list of top 10 greatest of all time. Prominent rappers from this age were able to carefully balance complex lyrics along with commercial sensibilities in a manner that catapulted the art form to new heights. With the release of his new mixtape "When Hip Hop Was Fresh," producer Abstrakt Soundz of Custom Made celebrates 1990's hip-hop culture by remixing 11 popular tracks (with the exception of De La Soul's "Oooh.") from that decade. Boldly the California-based producer chose to remix songs that for the most part define the various artists and groups. Listening to the tracks in a new light is a very tough task while trying to understand how the interpretation of the song may work (or not) for a particular song. Tunes like the Abstrakt remake of The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy," O.C.'s "Time's Up" and Skee-Lo's "I Wish" are very effective since the producer approaches these songs in original ways, while staying true to 1990's hip-hop style. For example, "Juicy" incorporates a classic boom-bap sound along with a cleverly flipped soul vocal sample that may not have the same commercial appeal of the funky original, but illustrates Biggie's rags-to-riches story just as well."

Backburner :: Heatwave :: Hand'Solo Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

"The liner notes to Backburner's new album are probably the funniest hip-hop liner notes ever: "Dozens of albums have been released by groups and individuals flying the Backburner flag, and the dream has always been to squeeze our enormous personalities back into one tight package, and blast that package into space like Zod and that chick and the big dude in Superman II.

Heatwave: Fourteen tracks, sixteen rappers, seven producers, and one DJ. Even these liner notes are the most amazing liner notes of all time, and the CD itself is made of a radioactive compound that reverses aging and improves sexual confidence by up to a factor of nine. So basically I hope you like getting your face melted off." "Heatwave" may not be the most amazing album of all time, but it is definitely comes close to living up to its tongue-in-cheek hype. With sixteen rappers and seven producers, there are some 1,792 combinations Backburner could take at any given time. So it's not a total surprise that they don't always hit sonic paydirt, but they strike gold more often than not. On "Lifers," Chokeules, More Or Les, Timbuktu and Wordburgler trade rhymes over a funky break curated by Timbuktu. "

Cool Nutz :: The Cook Up :: Jus Family Records
as reviewed by Daniel Oh

[The Cook Up] 
"I don't want to describe the Northwest Hip-hop scene as "burgeoning" or "growing". It's true that the Northwest hasn't contributed a superstar name to the rap game since Sir Mix-a-Lot, but it's a scene that has been grinding and putting in work for the past few decades. Enter Cool Nutz, who has been putting pestle to the mortar for Northwest Hip-hop for close to two decades. If there's anything I learned about the Northwest, many of its people have a fierce pride in independent development. Things are to be done their way and grow with their people. It's pretty similar to Cool Nutz's game plan in Hip-hop, to put the Northwest on his back and showcase it to the rest of the world. The title of Cool Nutz's album could refer to a couple things. "The Cook Up" could refer to the traditional street terminology of making crack rock from coke and baking soda. "The Cook Up" could be a metaphor for the well-simmered mixture of mostly Portland-origin producers and guest rappers. The culinary symbolism could be furthered as a sign of Cool Nutz's 20 years of marinating in the game. "The Cook Up" is a culmination of all these things. It's a street record that places as much emphasis on gangsta shit as it does with putting Portland on the map, and Cool Nutz's flow and delivery definitely show a seasoned approach in creating a rap record in today's Hip-hop market. "

DJ Concept :: M99: Dexter Beat Tape :: Bandcamp/The Bash Brothers
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[M99: Dexter Beat Tape] 
"His name might be Concept but the meaning behind this album is not too complex. In fact there's no disguising or hiding it - we're celebrating fictional serial killer Dexter Morgan on this one. Now if you haven't followed the show and/or don't have a subscription to Showtime, don't worry, there's only one key thing you need to know for this review. Our producer slash DJ may not have made the concept complex, but that doesn't mean our protagonist Dexter is a simple man. In fact as TV characters go he may be the epitome of complicated, ranking right up there with Dr. House, and not entirely dissimilar in their sociopathic and self-centered tendencies. Dexter believes he kills for a cause, and justifies his bloodlust by the wickedness of those who he knocks off. Now you're screaming "House doesn't take lives, he saves them!" You'd be wrong. House saves those he deems WORTHY of being saved, but his moral compass allows him to turn a blind eye as his subordinates kill an African dictator "for the greater good," then participate in a cover-up after the fact. In each case, the character portrayed has what can ultimately (but perhaps somewhat too easily) be called a "God complex," that they are endowed with the inalienable right to decide who should live and who must die. "

Ced Hughes :: Ced Colossus!? EP :: Coalmine Records
as reviewed by Aaron Boyce

[Ced Colossus!? EP] 
"While not the most original of concepts, using the instrumentals of a well known producer to showcase your own skills in the vocal booth is a method that has and will continue to get rappers over. It happens on mixtapes all the time but for this outing, Austin via Virginia Beach MC Ced Hughes has cherry picked a handful of the beats from RJD2's most recent offering, "The Colossus", to pay tribute to the former Def Jux man while hopefully making a little noise for himself. This EP serves as both an introduction and a reintroduction for myself. I, like most, am more than familiar with the work of RJD2; former member of MHz and now with four solo albums to his name, he is one of hip-hop's most recognised beatsmiths. I fell in love with his debut, "Deadringer" and it still gets plenty of play although I've not really given his following albums the listening time that they deserve. In fact "The Colossus" only lasted two or three spins before it found itself gathering dust next to several other forgotten albums. I have to hold my hands up and say that I know very little about the rapper on display here. I tried to do a little research on Ced Hughes but Google was giving very little away except his twitter account, his area of residence and his website where you can help yourself to free downloads for all of his releases. Since I can't give you too much information on the man, I guess I'd better get down to the music. "

Lowkey :: Soundtrack to the Struggle :: Mesopotamia Music/Believe Digital
as reviewed by Jesal 'Jay Soul' Padania

[Soundtrack to the Struggle] 
"For those not in the know, Lowkey (real name: Kareem Dennis) is the infamous 25-year-old rapper from London, of English and Iraqi descent. He's packed a lot into that quarter of a century, and has built up an impressive head of steam going into the release of his sophomore album, "Soundtrack to the Struggle" - the buzz in the UK is simply deafening, and he's not even signed to an established label. It would also appear that the timing is dead-on, for Low's rhymes are heavily slanted towards political activism, shining a light on the dark factual underbelly of the superpowers and governments who are, from his point of view, effectively riding roughshod over the majority of the world. Think the London riots, think Occupy Wall Street, think the backlash against bankers with the backdrop of recession. His words couldn't have been more better timed, as he speaks fearlessly upon any subject matter he wishes to address. STTS is twenty-six tracks long and clocks in at over ninety-five minutes long - let's just rewrite that numerically, in case the impact was dulled… That's 26 tracks and over 95 minutes long. So it would be fair to assume that he's got a lot to say, and even the six skits included are carefully chosen - in fact, he may even have written certain songs based on some of the skits themselves (perhaps "The Butterfly Effect" was sparked off by "Skit 6"). Throughout the album, Lowkey's aim is to make you think, spark you into action and reframe your seemingly cast-iron definition of who the "bad guy" is. "

mc chris :: Part Six Part Three :: mc chris LLC
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Part Six Part Three]

"They waste more time debating what the nature OF Hell is in one skit than most philosophy students would in an entire semester, but I digress. The Devil/Mr. Chandler/Killian gives our hero Chris Ward one chance to escape his fate, and that's to be a contestant on an overbooked game show called G.T.F.O. that makes "The Running Man" feel small by comparison. There's just over hour's worth of material on all three EP's combined, and the skits take up an excruciating half hour total. At the end of "Part Three," when announcer George Lowe promises an "exciting new episode" next time, I really can't think of anything I would rather tune in for less (except Tim & Eric's Awesome Show). The saving grace of any of these short releases is the actual songs by Mr. Ward, and thankfully this third installment has four. Like the other volumes, the songs here are produced by Andrew Futral, who understands the need to give this squeaky voiced rapper his own distinct sound rather than try to fit him a traditional boom bap mold. Songs like "Hipster Hunter" work as a result as they reference hip-hop traditions and styles, while simultaneously poking fun at himself, yet still maintaining a strong flow. "

Mikey Mo the MC :: Rule By Decree :: 3sixty5 Records
as reviewed by Mike Baber

[Rule By Decree] 
"In a day and age where hip-hop is overpopulated with a slew of online mixtape releases and digital albums, it is becoming harder and harder for aspiring emcees without a big label backing them to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack. One can argue that this is due to the lack of promotion that underground rap receives, but the truth remains that, save for a handful of artists who are able to bring something fresh to the table, there are simply too many emcees claiming to be original that are in fact recycling the same lyrical subject matter. Thus, I was skeptical when I learned that "Rule By Decree" featured Mikey Mo the MC rapping about "the present conditions of society and the struggling economy," as detailed in the promotional release for the album. With so many other rappers also choosing to tackle the same issues, I wondered whether Mikey Mo would be able to add anything to the mix. After a quick intro track, the album starts off with Mikey Mo establishing himself as the "Hood Politician," representing the people and serving up tales of the street life. Unfortunately, a foreboding set of piano keys and creeping violin strings are plagued by a stale drum loop and unoriginal lyrics from Mikey Mo, and I feared that my initial suspicions were correct. "

Rekstizzy :: Fake It Till You Naked :: Bandcamp
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Fake It Till You Naked] 
"Newcomer Rekstizzy is counting on making a statement with the artwork of his album before you even hear the statements on his album. While in the old days that would work to his detriment on "Fake It Till You Naked," given the modern era of digital distribution he might do just fine. Many people will only look at that hairy photo only once for about five seconds when they get the download then completely do away with it. I'll go one further - you know that Biz Markie service they keep advertising on TV to tune up your iTunes playlist and fill in missing song names and cover art? Nobody's going to use it for this one. In fact if you like use the alternate cover I created for this review if you download his album - it comes from his official press kit. Nonetheless I applaud the artistic statement he chose to make even if I don't find it aesthetically pleasing. The music of "Fake It Till You Naked" is much easier to appreciate. The album is an East to West collaboration, pairing Queens native Stizzy (whom we'll refer to that way to avoid confusion with Boston rapper Reks) with California producer YoungHoon Beats. I confess complete ignorance of either one before being sent this project, but quickly found myself drawn into Stizzy's absurd world. Try to picture the self-confident pimp swagger of J-Zone meeting the laid back stoner humor of Harold & Kumar and then taking an Alkaholik left turn, and you're pretty close to getting the steezo of Stizzy."

Sean Toure' :: Soundchanneler, The Invisible Man :: Sean Toure' Music Group/Static Multimedia
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Soundchanneler, The Invisible Man] 
"Not shy about styling himself as a hip-hop renaissance man, Sean Toure' is described as "emcee/producer/musician" in his official bio. If you were to swap "musician" for "deejay" he could even bill himself as a "triple threat" a la J-Live. His bio further goes on to state that from his earliest days breakdancing on the streets of Baltimore, "Sean has quickly developed a reputation as one of Baltimore's and underground hip-hop's best [artists]." As a wise man once said though, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. If the man who states he's shared the stage with everyone from Little Brother to A Tribe Called Quest is that ill, his album "Soundchanneler, The Invisible Man" will be that proof. One thing is certain - "Soundchanneler" is not an insubstantial album. The pre-release copy I received comes in just under the standard limit for a CD at normal compression rates, meaning it's almost 74 minutes long. Since there are only 17 songs, that means some of them are quite long as well, with 8 clocking in at over 4 minutes and half again of those being over 5. There's also no shortage of guest stars to be found on "Soundchanneler." In fact songs WITHOUT a guest are the exception rather than the rule, making Toure's album more of a compilation and less of a solo project. The only songs that don't bill a guest of any kind are "For the..." at #2, "Hustle and Grind" at #8 and "Keep It Simple" at #15. There are some pretty notable names among the homies that check in: J. Sands is on "That's Not Me," yU cools down "In the Heat of the Night" and both Ab-Rock and Kev Brown are on "A Day in the Life." "

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