A blog about hip-hop, rap music, its trends, and an overall thought about the music an culture, without indulging in gossip. A real set of opinions and discussions, not based on the popular sentiment, but examining and challenging it.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Throwback Thursday Review- Junior Mafia - Conspiracy

Merely a year after Biggie released his debut album, Bad Boy was on top of the world and it's feature artist, Christopher Wallace was making moves to extend his reach. Lil kim was bubbling and along with partner Lance "Un" Rivera, a deal was secured at Atlantic for Undeas Entertainment which then signed the rest of the Brooklyn star MC's crew Junior Mafia and released their only crew album, "Conspiracy". Made up of the Snakes (Larceny and Trife), The 6's (Lil Cease, Bugsy, Capone, Chico, and Nino Brown) and MC Klepto and Kim. The album was to begin an era for Biggie but it wouldn't be the success it could have been.

The first song "White Chalk" is designed to be a grimy track that just appeals to the most hardcore with a dark and heavy beat and typical NY crack era rhymes about drugs and violence. The hook which samples both Method Man and Biggie vocals is cool although the verses are a little awkward with how they begin. They aren't bad but really generic. "Realm of Junior Mafia" samples "UFO" which is well known and been done many times but it sounds way too slow and Biggie comes on to spit and give a short verse but it isn't wowing.

The Singles from the album were of course "Player's Anthem", "I need You Tonight" and "Get Money". "Player's Anthem" mixes several samples together with Biggie on the hook and the first appearance on the album from Kim. Big's verse was the best on the song. "I Need You tonight" starts with boring verses from 'The Snakes' and a hook from Aaliyah and  a standout verse from Lil Kim where she got everyone's attention with the Vanessa Del Rio line - who also appeared in the video. But the biggest single was "Get Money" which was only Biggie and Kim, kind of showing who had the charisma out of the group.

"Crazaaay" feels like a Mobb Deep track actually and isn't bad. "Back Stabbers" is a Lil Kim vehicle where she talks about the people you can't trust over a simple use of the O'jays classic. "Lyrical Wizadry" is alright as is "Oh My Lord". the final song is "Murder Onz" and it's just more "stuff" i guess.

Listening to this album kind of shows the issue a lot of rap albums in the 90's that never really bubbled had. They are one note, with lackluster production and no real direction. the album doesn't go anywhere, it's just some songs about the hood that don't have any feeling within them. The verses are just lazy and everyone blends in together and it just isn't good. Amazingly, the album managed to go Gold showing anything could sell back in those days.

Rating: 1.5/5

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Album Review- Method Man- The Meth Lab

So Method Man has been laying pretty low for a while and there were rumors of a new project soon to come and this past week, he dropped a new album, "The Meth Lab" independently to the streets and then came with a video.

The album opens with the title track "The Meth Lab" which features long time collaborator Street Life and a new artist named Hanz On. Meth brings in the song strongly but Street life and Hanz don't do anything but spit some what I would consider average NY underground rhymes.Hanz and Street join Meth and Redman on "Straight Gutta" which has a terrible straight up 90's hook that I'm certain Redman came up with only this time they spit first leaving the energy and flow from Red and Meth to save the song...that's not fair because Hanz does bring something to the song with his flow on the track. On "50 Shots" Mack Wilds sings the hook while Streetlife and Cory Gunz join Meth for verses on a laid back song but I can't decide if the production is too laid back or not. On a positive note- Cory Gunz is on a release.

"2 Minutes of Your Time" is the rare Meth only track and gives you what you're really looking for and he also satisfies that Meth rap craving on his verse on "Worldwide" which also features Hanz On, Chedda Bang, and Uncle Murda who tries way too hard to show some lyricism. "The Purple Tape" features strong support from raekwon and Inspectah Deck even though the song isn't about anything really. "Intelligent Meth" features Masta Killa, Streetlife and Intell and is alright.

At this point let me stop and say, it's a hella features on this album and meth should have just decided he, Streetlife, and Hanz On are a group because they are all over the album but the problem is they don't bring anything to the table. They are average rappers with no one identifying trait that helps them, like how meth has his voice and flow. For instance, "Symphony" is alright, the production isn't bad but there is no reason for Meth and three other rappers especially since none of them have their own name or celebrity to add to the track. I understand wanting to put your people on but you have to really have something. The production is all dumpy and dated sounding and the hooks are lifeless. The more I listened the more agitated I became just because nothing stood out and begged to be heard. While it may be good to be independent, this album shows what some of the pitfalls can be when you don't get the outside word or help in creating the record.

Rating: 2/5

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Throwback Thursday review- Trick Daddy - Thug Holiday

I can admit that one of my favorite artists in the early 200's from the south was none other than Trick Daddy. See Trick was so real but he could rap a little bit and he always had that thing where he was the big homie trying to keep the kids from falling into the trap of the hood. So today's throwback Thursday Album Review is Trick Daddy'd album, Thug holiday.

The album starts up with a "All I need" featuring Infa-red with a Red Spyda produced track. Topically it's some typical street tough talk. The album's lead single was "In Da Wind" which featured southern hip-hop artists Cee-Lo on the hook and Big Boi delivering the third verse of a radio friendly joint about growing up. Now Trick is somewhat forgotten, but he was the flagship artist in Slip-n-Slide which spawned Trina and where a 'younger' Rick Ross got his first start on tracks like "Let Me Ride" and he has some seeds of the current flow and style he now employs.

I like the use of horns during the verses on "Rags to Riches" which features Tre+6 but it isn't a great song. "Bout Mine" is a crew cut that features Ross, Deuce Poppi, mystic, and Money Mark Diggla. Money Mark is also on "Rock 'n Roll nigga" which is an eye rolling album filler. Now another single off of the album was "Play No Games" which also spawned a remix for the x-rated song as Trick lets it be known he's about his business int he bedroom.

"Gangsta" features Scarface and Baby (before he was Birdman) as they rap over Cool and Dre production about how real they are. Latocha Scott, the former Xscape member surfaced to sing the hook on "Thug holiday" where Trick gets more introspective about his life and life in general and just cries out and asks for a break from the difficulties of living life as a thug. He also touches on the struggles on "Ain't No Santa" as he keeps it real for the kids who need to know.

"SNS" is a play on the popularity of marching bands and high school and college athletics in the Miami Dade area. It's a fun song that also reminds me of being a precursor to the style Flo Rida would eventually popularize. Trick continues with the other side of his personality with "God's Been Good to Me" where he just goes on to show his appreciation for having his life turn out the way it has up to this point. "Rains it Pours" is just a strong to the street dudes who have issues and letting them know to hold their heads.

There are a couple of other songs but they aren't particularly memorable. For me Trick was underrated for having the success he had, which opened the door for the new rap era to include Miami rappers and to make the city a real place that has become important in the echelon of rap. The album has a recurring theme of the trumpet and Tuba sounds that populate marching bands and it bounces back and forth a bit from being introspective to straight up raw and street oriented. Thats the main endearing thing about Trick is that he could be so grimy one moment then soften up for the kids and those younger than him to become a leader and it's messed up that he was bypassed as Miami became more popular.

Rating: 2.5/5

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Throwback Thursday Review- Jadakiss - Kiss The Game Goodbye

So Kiss is polarizing for me because he's decent to me but not great and a lot of people have him in a top 5 or really close. Me I haven't ever been as impressed with his body of work, I don't think his voice and flow overcome his same subject matter all of the time and his lyricism is over rated I feel. So in honor of that I decided to make this week's throwback album review his debut solo album, "Kiss The Game Goodbye"

The album starts off with "Jada's Got a Gun" which has a simple chorus and verses that have Kiss describing the many guns he has and what they will do to your body parts. It's actually pretty catchy though with decent production by Swizz. Now I never liked "Show Discipline" when it dropped and I know I wasn't the biggest fan of the production but it has aged better with nice guitar riffs and a nice feature from Nas. One of the singles was "Knock Yourself Out" which had Jada spitting some very simplistic rhymes in order to make a single for radio. it is alright but it didn't feel organic.

"We Gon Make It" which features LOX mate Styles P was definitely a hood hit and the beat holds up and lyrically there aren't a lot of time sensitive similes or metaphors but what there is is a lot of gun bars. "None of Y'all Better" with Sheek Louch has some classic Premier production and has a different energy than the songs that precede it so it works pretty decently. Now "Nasty Girl" produced by Timbaland was another shot at getting singles airplay and it wasn't bad but you can tell this isn't kiss' strong suit as the majority of the verses are just him name dropping exclusive designers.

"Put Ya Hands Up" is a cool song and seems like something Puff and Bad Boy could have come up with although the beat just screams out that it is the ruff ryders sound. The West Coast feature (cause back then you had to represent for every area) "Crusin" featuring Snoop has a really weak track and average raps. The Nate Dogg feature "Kiss is Spitting" uses the same Michael Mcdonald sample as Warren G used on "Regulators". it's a cool track I can see many people want to spit to but it feels lazy and Kiss doesn't bring any energy or something opposite to it to make it stand out.

"Fuckin or What" is a lame song overall to me and Kiss could have just put this into a song with a more creative hook but I don't understand who this song is geared to. A couple of nice ignorant lines in here but it was filler. Same thing goes with "I'm a Gangsta" which featured Ruff Ryder artist Parle who never blew up. The Southern track wa s"What You Ride For" which featured No Limit artist Fiend, Yung Won from double R and Memphis rapper 8Ball who has the best verse. "It's Time I see you" has Cross and Infa-Red who were artists trying to get exposure, Sheek and Styles and Drag-On and Eve, Drag has the best verse on the posse cut which is just bragging and tough guy rapping even from Eve.

There are some other songs but none that are exceptional. the thing I ended up taking from this is Jadakiss isn't as lyrical as we give him credit for. He is fairly straight forward with his delivery being the biggest thing that he has going for him. He isn't exceptionally descriptive most of the time and even what the Lox are good at, saying extra hard and grimey statements that describe how tough they are come mostly from Styles and Sheek. There really isn't a lot of variety and the album is way too long with the same things on every song that are redundant and show how much Puff and Bad Boy was needed to push the album into different areas for variety.

Rating: 2.5/5

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Album Review- Dr. Dre - Compton

Hip-hop seems to be having a good year, we have had a lot of music for every conceivable area and sub genre. We even have had beef from some of rap's young talents and everyone seems pushed all over. We have new news in the streaming wars with Tidal, Apple and Beats Music for which they paid Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine handsomely for their business. That leads to the newest release from Dr. Dre, and it's not Detox. This album is called "Compton" and is timed to continue to prime the public for the upcoming NWA biopic, Straight Outta Compton which comes out next week. Synergy. While everyone is excited, let's take a minute to review the new album from Dr. Dre, "Compton"

The album starts off with "Talk About it" with newcomer King Mez and Justus joining Dre on a trap/west coast infused track with a serious bass line that reminds you of down south but the sample still brings home the good feel that's familiar from Dre. The hook from Justus does remind me of something Drake would have done. "It's All on Me" has Dre handling the rapping duties solo but joined by BJ the Chicago Kid and Justus for the chorus. The song sounds like some West Coast rider music as Dre reminisces on his time in the industry. The funny thing is Dre manages to have incorporated new modern styles in the delivery he gives from his writers. It's interesting since we all know he has writers but he hasn't dropped anything in well over a decade so for him to be able to make the adjustment is...well interesting.

"All in a Day's Work" is interesting as it features an artist named Anderson.Paak who has a really distinctive vocal sound as he sing/raps at times going back and forth with Dre whose verses had to be written by Kendrick Lamar on this song. The chorus is handled by Marsha Ambrosius. "Loose Cannons" features a return from Xzibit to a Dre project and also Cold 187um over a really serious and heavy track with bass that bangs and a switch mid track that adds in rapid fire drums that mimic gun shots just slightly. The album ends in a skit about the murder and disposal of a body. I could deal without it honestly.

"Issues" features Ice Cube with one of his best verses in years and Anderson.Paak once again. Snoop teams up with Jon Conner on "One Shot One Kill" which is one of the harder songs on the album. Now the Game's presence is announced early at the beginning of "Just Another Day" which features Asia Bryant on the chorus. The beat is some classic Dre with hard hitting drums and bass and horn sounds that amplify the beat and Asia's vocals on the 'chorus' which is just an example of another day in Compton. One of the most talked about songs is "For The Love of Money" which features Jill Scott on the hook and verses from Dre and Jon Connor. The drums on this reinterpretation of the Bone Thugs In Harmony classic are crazy and it's a great example of how to refresh something. It also ties the album in with Easy E and his legacy by using a well known song from the group he found and made successful.

On "Medicine Man" Em has one of his best verses in a minute as well as he starts off about the beginning of his career and the reaction to it before getting really into it and threatening to destroy any challengers and gives examples of how ill and serious his bars are. Now there is a bit of a controversial line but he prefaces it a couple of bars earlier saying he's going to go back across the line, even though the more offensive word is edited out. "Genocide" might be the most 'west coast' underground song on the album production wise. The Kendrick Lamar and Marsha Ambrosius assisted song reminds me of one of the album cuts from an early Xzibit or Ras Kass album. "Darkside Gone" has King Mez and Kendrick along with another hook from Marsha Ambrosius on a song that features the beat switch that is extremely prevalent today but this song is tough overall. I mean the start of the song has this one feel and after a 'bridge' featuring Easy E vocals, the change in tone makes a lot of sense and works well. The song also features what some are seeing as subliminal shots at Drake.

The other song that has people buzzing because of 'disses' is "Deep Water" where after Dre spits about being guarded and having been successful on a dangerous environment where most can't make it, Kendrick throws more barbs in the Direction of the Toronto rapper. Snoop and King Mez join Marsha Ambrosius (who is all over this album) on "Satisfaction" which is another true West Coast feeling song.  Anderson.Paak has a bit more of a showcase on "Animals" . The album finishes with a Dre solo on "Talking to My Doary" where he just spits our his 'thoughts' .

Overall this album is a great reflection of the West Coast because these guys really make cohesive projects that focus on production and the tone they want to set. I don't see this as having many singles type songs but truthfully it doesn't need it. After multiple listens, I'm fine with saying this is a more accessible version of To Pimp a Butterfly because the songs are all built in an unconventional manner but the production is easier to get into. The bass and drums kick throughout the album and it never really ventures into that 'over produced' territory where someone should have left an idea or two on the table. Now rhymes wise some folks are going crazy over King Mez but I'm not so ecstatic, he doesn't ruin anything but at the same time I'm not clamoring for more. Same with Jon Connor things are alright, sometimes a bit above average. Kendrick is Kendrick and while he may not be at his most obtuse and dense here he does well and considering pretty much everyone was pulling double duty writing rhymes for Dre that made sense for him it's not bad at all. A lot of singers and just newness which Dre enjoys doing so it can be a little odd for instance Anderson.Paak doesn't do much for me but some folks will love him for just existing. This is a worthy listen in my mind and perfect to get folks in the mood for next week's NWA release and the appropriate surge in their music the movie should encourage.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Throwback Thursday Review- Jermaine Dupri - Life in 1472

So last week's throwback was the first album by Puffy, let's look at this time in history a year later in 1998 when Jermaine Dupri, never to be left out decided to go ahead and put together his own full compilation. Known but always under appreciated, Jermaine was encouraged by both his artists and his own ambition to create "Life in 1472" this week's Throwback Thursday review.

The album has plenty of features and notable but somewhat understated are those of Nas on the opening track "Turn It Out" which I forgot was on the album and D-Dot the infamous producer and voice behind Bad Boy's infamous Madd Rapper on "Get Your Shit Right". Now Jermaine isn't a bad rapper most of the time but the Madd Rapper really goes in and does his thing with this character who was in the midst of taking on a life of his own.

The Big singles from the album were the Jay-Z assisted "Money Ain't a Thing" which was in heavy rotation and the super smash "Sweetheart" which was a collaboration with Mariah Carey. Another song that was released but never really took off was "Going Home With Me" which featured Keith Sweat on the hook and long time So So Def writer and artist Roc who never got the opportunity to do anything of his own while on the label. Yet this is one of my favorite songs with the catchy beat and hook and flows.

Now all isn't good, Mase and Lil Kim aren't terrible on "You Get Dealt With" but the fast raps on the uptempo bounce beat were different than the norm for the two but there was a pretty good reason, it just doesn't work well. "All That's Got to Go" isn't good at all. "Protector's of 1472" with Snoop and Warren G is better than I remember mostly because of Snoop but the production really feels out of place on the album. Yet "Three the Hard Way" with Roc and Mr. Black features the production you would expect to hear Snoop rapping on with a funk inspired track that also just feels like it's stuffed on to hit all of the regions. Roc raps pretty decent and shows his commercial viability.

"The Party Continues" with Da Brat and Usher was already a remixed single and it was cool. "Fresh" with Slick rick also isn't a bad listen. The main issue is that it is just a compilation of songs and favors called in for features. It worked pretty good back then but there was nothing that was really there to make it jell together so it becomes harder to judge because singles or those type of songs typically lose their lives more quickly than album cuts.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Independent Wednesday

Now I hve to start this week with a disclaimer, in general (and I say this often) I dislike rappers from across the ocean because of the accents. I know I'm biased and for the second time in a month I have heard an MC based in another country who can make a seamless transition to the states with minimal issues. I am incredibly impressed with Ireland's Allee who sent over his latest "Project X".

I have to say I did a triple take because I didn't detect a trace of an accent when the album starts and the production and song construction is on point from the beats to the levels and mixing. Lyrically he has some decent stuff but the only issue is the first 4 tracks all seem to be kind of the same or similar but they are all high quality. I can say I really enjoyed this a lot more than I was expecting and than a lot of the music I receive. I defnitely recommend that you go check out his release today.

So next up is an artist who goes by the name of Stiff Lauren. Now what I can say I like about this artist is his intention of trying to direct hip-hop in a new direction. He isn't for all of the current hot topics like spending money and conspicuous consumption. However, he also has to really find his lane because  being an artist who is basically just critical of current mainstream culture isn't likely to get you far. He has a decent flow and the songs I have heard are produced decently but he also just needs some work on actual lyrics and standing out in unique ways other than a more positive mindset about where the genre needs to be going.

I'm going to finish up this week with an MC from North Carolina who doesn't sound like a southern rapper at all, instead he more properly channels the NY sound more than most artists from the Big Apple. Terry Ozi spits that fire honestly and pretty much everything I listened to from him was on point. The single I was sent is called "Black Power" but on his soundcloud has also a joint called "Henny" that's tough as well.

There you have it, three new flavors for you this week that stand out from the rest. Let them know what you think in the comments below.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Album Review- Joell Ortiz and Illmind - Human.

I am not a fan of a lot of producer centric albums with artists. There are often too many self-indulgent pieces based around the production, which I understand that it can be as much of an art as just crafting raps and bars but it can often be too over done in my opinion. Especially these more underground guys who end up making everything sound alike so though I am a fan of Joell Ortiz, I have some trepidation of the new album he has with producer Illmind "Human".

The album starts with a production intro with Joell talking about how he feels a need to explain more of his story, yet all of the projects he has put out are about this era before he was able to make it in rap so this is a bit redundant. The first song is "New Era" and the beat is a brooding looping piano riff as the basis with a heavy drum and bass line. The bars are solid as Joell talks about how real it is in the environment in which he grew up. "I Just Might" has Joell rapping about what he might just do that you can't because he's better or realer than you. It's another heavy track that almost seemed like it is born of the end of New Era.

"Light an L" is definitely a throwback NY style of track from the slow beat and as uncommercial as can be hook to the description of living in the roughest projects in New York. "Lil Piggies" has Joell switching up his delivery and at this point in the album it's a good idea cause the overall sounds are so much alike that it needs something to make it different. As far as the song itself Joell is sending warning shots to dudes who might talk slick. The best song to me is "Latino, Pt. 2" which has Emilio Rojas, Bodega Bamz, and the star, the raw and talented Chris Rivers, son of Pun.

"Who Woulda Knew" is the hard love life song on the album and "Bad  Santa" is an interesting concept about fatherhood and the relationship with kids when there is is strife with the baby mother and touring and schedules can get in the way.  Now "My Niggas" and "Six fo'" seem like wastes especially when there are only 10 tracks, 9 songs. They weren't really good enough and interesting to capture my attention.

The album is decent, it isn't as bad as it could be but the one thing I do fear is so much production being by one person trying to keep a unified sound or theme is everything kind of sounds alike. The drums on most of the songs are the same and the entire album is heavy mood wise when you listen to the production. There needs to be something else to freshen or liven up some parts of the record. The subject matter has been well trod as well like I said before with Joell handling most of these subject multiple times, maybe he is trying to get that era of his life perfect on wax and this isn't bad especially if you haven't kept the older albums in rotation.

Rating: 3/5