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Monday, May 30, 2011

Album Review- Stic.Man- The Workout

Not sure if you know it or not, but Stic.Man and M1 of Dead Prez are two of my favorite underground artists. These two artists are probably the best at making good music out of a political message, while I don't have to agree, they can at least get me to listen to it and like it. Not overly constrained by the idea of looping old soul samples, nor any other style of production, they manage to get all areas encompassed in their music. This album, a second solo by Stic, is simply titled the workout and it addresses a serious need in our community, health.

Now, they have done songs about working out, but Stic starts off an entire album on the topic with "MVP" where is sort of takes the role of one of those infomercial pumping guys to get you motivated in his manner. The first actual song is "Blood Pumpin'" where he talks about how you need to work hard and get yourself physically correct to be the best person you can be. "Champion" is another song about using your inner strength as motivation and to have a belief in oneself.

"Back on My Regimen (Swole like Tookie Williams" featuring Divine RBG has Stic going over the same topics, the beat is mean with a low thumping bass line and hook while the emcees talk about getting back on their workouts and getting more swole. "Sober Soldier" is about getting rid of the drugs and alcohol in order to preserve his health so that he can be the best soldier he can be, and these external stimulants (and depressants) just stand in the way of that. In a slightly less serious vein, there is "Bruce Lee" where Stic.Man talks about being inspired by the martial arts master, falling away from it and then getting back to martial arts. "Yoga Mat" is more about the mental aspect of health and clearing ones mind through stretching and meditation to get rid of stress.

Zayd Malik and Baba Jim feature on "Joe Louis" which is about using boxing as a workout technique to get healthy and stronger and to gain new focus. "Baby Fat" is for the women to feel the love and features Maimouna Youssef, Afya Ibomu, and Ife Jie speaking about health from the perspective of during and after pregnancy. "Let it Burn" with Coach NYM is another general song about continuing to work through the hard parts of a workout. General Steele co-stars on "Warrior Codes" where Stic emphasizes the street reasons for working out and getting better with the hands and fists. Afya Ubomu is also on "Healthy Livin'" which is about the food that we eat and how that relates to health. "Runner's High" with Martin Luther is about the peace and focus that accompanies running as well as the literal health benefits.

While several of the songs can seem repetitive in terms of what is literally said in this album, the different sounds and feels of each song help to keep the album seeming more fresh than what it is. A couple songs could have been culled in favor of more songs like Bruce Lee and Healthy Living but with such a narrow topic it can be forgiven that some songs pretty much overlap. It's a great idea and shows the breadth of topics that most rappers could be taking on instead of the same rhetoric about popping bottles and filling yourself with things that are harmful, but I doubt the mainstream will pick up. After Noreaga tried to promote his diet and attempts to lose weight over 2 years ago, there hasn't been much in hip-hop about health at all so it's good to see someone stepping up. However, the use of the words regimen and discipline get to be a bit much at times and were my main annoyance at this innovative album.

Rating: 2.5/5

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Album Review- Maybach Music Group- Self Made Vol. 1

So Rick Ross seems to be on his way to creating the next movement in the normal rotating wave of popularity in hip-hop. What this should mean is that Young Money- if you're not Nicki, Wayne, and maybe Drake, it's over before it begins. For the artists who have been signed up and will be distributed by Warner brothers, Pill, Meek Mills, and Wale, this could be their chance to shine or fade into obscurity (just ask Jae Millz and Cadillac Tah about that).

The first song, "Self Made" might just be the best on the album, with Wale, Meek Mills and Pill all capturing what makes them similar and a force to be reckon with, the idea that they have been underestimated until Ross took notice. The hook is covered by Teedra Moses- I know where did they find her at? The first single is a song that is terrible to me, "Tupac Back" where Meek Mill fails to compare himself to Pac favorably, relying on superficial reasons to make a 'connection' with a standard Ross hook on a standard ross beat. "600 Benz" is a Wale song that was out a while ago, the track-same as everything ross has put out the past 2 years and Wale doens't particularly fit on the track, his flow isn't smooth enough, while featured artist Jadakiss fares better on that end, his content has been lacking for quite a while now.

"By Any Means" once again has the three main signees of MMG sharing the song to themselves where they attempt to show how they relate to leaders like Malcolm X in dope terms. 'Fitted Cap" features J. Cole who has the best verse on what amounts to the hood version of Nelly and Jermaine Dupris "J's". Pill shows his true worth on "Please Don't Let me Go" which also features...fucking Gunplay who is terrible, just plain terrible, at least he goes last so you can switch the track. "I'm a boss" is a Meek Mill song and I can't figure out why he is trying to do his best impression of Ace Hood, yelling, going off beat and generally not saying anything, though Ross actually drops a verse on this one.

Meek Mill, Ross, and Wale hand "Pandemonium" which is more floss rap from Ross and Meek Mills doing the same while Wale flashes his potential yet still regresses in an effort to sort of fit in which he has the tendency to do. "Play your Part" is just telling the women to stay in their lane and Pill follows with a stripper song "Ridin' On da Pole" which shows the desperation of coming up with topics for the album. French Montana is on "Big Bank" and he does nothing to quell the curiosity I have as to why people actually like him. Meanwhile on "Rise" Prince Cyhi and Currensy get the featured slots and Prince provides a new sound with his vocals and the song does tone down the album for a moment. the final song on the album "Runnin' Rebels" is the equivalent to the first joint, wrapping the album up neatly, even featuring Teedra Moses again.

If you're a Ross fan, and most people are these days, there isn't anything outward to make you dislike this album. If you're slightly more discerning as I am, the repetitive beats and hooks make this album a pain to slog through. The irony is that Wale speaks about wack music yet he seems to be on one of the worst examples of that in terms of projects. Pill probably shows the most depth even over Wale who seems to just be trying to prove he has street credibility throughout the entire collection of songs. If there was anyone who would be trying to stretch the boundaries of street fueled crack rap from the South this album could have been better, but as it is, that is too much to ask for and so its more of the same.

Rating: 2.5/5

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

XXL Top 250 songs of the 90's

So XXL magazine released a special edition where they ranked the top 250 songs of the generation that has defined my view of hip-hop and rap music. The first thing about these lists is that they always seem to be politically motivated to some extent. It's way too much information to digest and re-rank every pick and ranking but there are some glaring issues that I have with this list.

The number one song is "Nothing But a G Thang" and I don't have too much of an issue with that I guess. I mean it has to be in the discussion, it had both a commercial appeal, introduced the world to the West Coast feel, and was still hard as shit. But number 2 being the "Benjamins Remix". nope, sorry, I understand it was the first hot shit from Bad Boy after the death of Biggie but someone tell me what you remember before the beat switch and Big's verse? Not much because all of those verses were forgettable and while Kim stood out making sounds, you're not gonna say she was spitting are you?

Now is it a top 25 song? Very very likely but number two is way too high. Now the biggest issue I have is with the Tupac songs and the order in which they are presented. In the top 10 you have "California Love" which rocked, and number 11 was "How Do You Want it", 21 is "Dear Momma" and "Keep Ya Head up" is number 43. How does that shit even happen? You're telling me that so called hip-hop editors and reporters thought that "How do you Want it" was better than "Brenda's Got a Baby", "Keep Ya Head Up", "Dear Momma" and "I get around". if only you could see my face when I looked at this.

I still want to cry when I hear this song and watch the video. They played this on the radio, let me know when the last time you heard some actual content on the radio was.

Then I have a big problem with the Luniz and "I Got 5 on It" being number 19 ahead of Will Smith's "Summertime" as well as Black Sheep's "the Choice is Yours" being ranked number 5. Summertime is the ultimate song. The amount of royalties that the former Fresh Prince gets every year just based upon his May spins could pay off my kid's college educations. There are some things that are just iconic, on my old street it wasn't summer until Mr. June lit up his grill and summertime was on the radio. It doesn't matter where you live at, it is not official until you hear this song and it was only considered number 20? fact...Drums Please...

My final gripe with the list is the fact that MC Hammer didn't make the list until number 115 with "U Can't Touch This". Face it, Hammer was one of the icons of both success and failure that lasts from that era. He was also the first hip-hop artist to get that big, have that many endorsements, and just seem commercial. This song was the one that jumped him off and everyone knew it. Who wasn't trying to do the Chinese typewriter at several points in their life? "Two Legit Too Quit" couldn't crack the top 100? that is a travesty of justice to be placed behind "Doggy Dogg World" and like half of the 36 Chambers album.

All I can say is that people don't seem to be pragmatic when it comes to making these lists. Songs like "Hard Knock Life" make the top 10 and joints that had massive hype behind them but which really aren't that great, like anything from Pac's Death Row days got the nod just off of marketing alone it seems.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Album Review- Killer Mike- Pledge

This is the album I have been looking forward to the most this year. Killer Mike, that Mike Bigga shit was short lived, has been one of those slept-on yet anticipated artists since he appeared on Outkast's "Whole Wide World" years ago and impressed most people with his street sensibility and ability to outside of the box at the same time. Throughout several independent releases and label strife he has maintained a loyal following and it culminates with his first official Grand Hustle Release, Pledge (with the backwards E).

Mike starts off his album string with production that on "So Glourious" that reflects his personality, with strength yet the soulful backdrop. He also expresses the things that make up his personality on this intro. "That's Life 2" is a political rap addressing the common ghetto concerns of politicians, shady preachers, and the public school system. While I won't pretend to agree with everything he says politically on this song, or the album for that matter, his assertions come across as more genuine than a Lupe Fiasco. The track also sounds like some of the classic Dungeon Family stuff and not necessarily like the current trends dominating southern hip-hop. "Ric Flair" is a change of pace in feel for Mike, as the song samples the infamous wrestler's speeches and uses it as a synonym for Mike's status in the street game.

"Burn" has a gospel rock feel as Killer Mike goes back in on his political rap as he threatens to "burn this motherfucker down", that of which he speaks I believe is the entire 'system' as it is. "God in the Building 2" builds on one of KM's mix tape tracks as he talks about how he is inspired and that the road to salvation isn't just through the church. The song talks a lot about hypocrisy in selling dope to survive. "American Dream" is more of a street politics song where he compares some famous drug dealers and the kennedies, Bush's, and Rothschilds.

"Everything" (Holding You Down) is the song for the good women out there and is rather run of the mill. "Follow Your Dreams" is a good idea but the flow doesn't really work, while "Swimming" channels the spirit of Sleepy Brown with a slightly awkward track that falls into the forgetful category. "Player's Lullaby" with Roc D the Legend, and Twista is set up just to showcase the Chi-town legend it seems because the other two artists fail to leave a positive mark.

Gucci Mane is the featured guest on "Animal" which I take it is an attempt to coin a new term akin to going 'H.A.M', while Killer Mike does good with the beat, which was obviously meant to showcase Gucci, it fails because the so icey man doesn't give anything worth remembering or laughing at. "Go Out on The town" featuring young Jeezy is a serious head nodder that is about nothing but bangs nonetheless. The only other song is the lead single "Ready,Set,Go" and the remix to that song which features T.I. on hook,ad-libs, and overdubs and Big Boi on the remix and Mike delivers several decent punchlines which are punctuated by those ad-libs.

Overall, I got exactly what I expected from Mike. The songs are all pretty solid for the most part with joints like Burn and Ready Set Go providing a solid foundation for the album. It is a definate listen to and wouldn't be a bad addition to the collection.

Rating : 3.5/5

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Making a Mockery of rap

Now I've touched on the Lil B subject as well as Mysonne and his reaction which I share, but here we have someone whose videos have been on worldstar for a while now as "MTV Riff Raff". If you don't know, Jamie Foxx produced a show for MTV a couple of years back called from G's to Gents. In it, Fonzworth Bentley and a cast of hip-hop heroes attempted to rehabilitate a group of "G's" with the winner getting prize money. The show was like "Bad Girl's Club" with a purpose. Riff Raff was one of the guys on the show and afterward, he has become some sort of "rapper" and I use the term very loosely because this is more of the crap that is ruining the image of rap.

So I guess I'm the only person who sees Jamie Kennedy when I watch this huh? Even more reason why we need a hip-hop council to make sure shit like this never sees the light of day.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pusha T

I was never a big Clipse fan when they first came out. Mostly I just saw the crack rap personas and thought "Why do i need them, the Lox is already out". Over time my feelings have changed on the issue. One reason is because Malice and Pusha are better rappers and song writers than Jada, Sheik, and Styles put together, bullshit titles that are self-given aside. The second is that they have moved away from so much Pharrell production and found a comfort zone with different producers providing a sound that is more like a movie score than a bunch of noises played from a keyboard that Skateboard P seems to always have. Just check out Pusha's single from his new mixtape.

The beat is serious and the lyrics fit well. I am amazed at how Pusha and Malice manage to spit coke rap yet add a little more to it than a Rick Ross or Fat Joe does in the way of slight phrasing and delivery that change the mere words into something more. For Pusha, his alliance with Good music and Kanye West can only serve to further that, a la Common and his resurgence. Hell, just the access to the producers and people that Kanye's name provides is a win for this guy. Hopefully, one of the most slept-on emcees of the last decade can start to get some real props.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Unsigned Hype - Tayyib Ali Take 2

Now as I said before I am going to make an effort to spotlight up and coming artists as well as have real discussions about hip-hop issues. Now a few days ago I blogged about a new Philadelphia artist named Tayyib Ali. He has a single that's poppy and a second song that I felt was decent but I only really saw his polish as a potential mainstream artist though I wasn't quite sold on his skills overall. However, this new song, "Do It" is more of a step in the direction of legitimacy for myself.

Now you can check out his new mixtape Keystone State of Mind at if the past few songs have made you want to hear more from him. (Dude looks like Pharrell a lil bit doesn't he?)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Album Review-Wiz Khalifa- Rolling Papers

Yep, I'm late. What can I say, I lost where I put the cd and I was not about to burn another one for Wiz. While amongst the new generation, he may be the re-incarnation of Snoop/Method Man, for me he is another guy with a lot of hype that I'm waiting to see prove himself. Secoondly, he's from Shittsburg Pittsburg and I'm a Baltimore Raven fan for life.

From the outset, you can get the feeling that this is 'Feel Good No Matter What Music' which seems to be the current trend in hip-hop. "When I'm Gone" is the first song where Wiz justifies spending out of control and balling because he can't take it with him. There is also the hit single and Squealers playoff anthem "Black and Yellow" which by now everyone has heard hundreds of times. Then there is the new single the double entendre "Roll-up" which isn't a bad radio song. "Wake Up"sounds like the song itself has a buzz as Wiz talks about how his life seems like a dream that he doesn't want to wake up from.

Much of the album sounds like one long song with joints like "The Race", "Hopes and Dreams", and "Star of the Show" featuring Chevy Woods all have the same feel and subject matter or lack thereof at their heart. "No Sleep" is another song about partying, drinking, and smoking all night long. "Top Floor" is about smoking, chilling and partying with someone else's girl which are the major themes that Wiz covers.

"Fly Solo" is about a bad relationship where Wiz threatens to leave his girl. "On My Level" feels different and also features Too Short, though it still is pretty much about partying. Currency is on "Rooftops" where he once again talks about going from nothing to something. "Cameras" is also about gaining popularity.

Look the album has a decent start for about 3 songs but it falls the hell off of a cliff and becomes more and more boring as it goes along. While it's fine to comment on making it to get riches and to speak on the spoils of war, but when you never tell how you got there or what you're coming from it becomes annoying. There is nothing wrong with feel good rap but every single song has the same structure and Wiz singing like a more talented Kid Cudi or that guy who sang the hook on Jay-z's last single. While I actually don't think Wiz ever whines like Drake does, at the end of the album I felt like he needs some testosterone and to put the "J" down and clear up for a minute.

Rating: 2/5

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Unsigned Hype - Tayyib Ali

So i actually do get around to checking my e-mail so you can keep those independent submissions coming in. Today I'm checking out an artist from Philly named Tayyib Ali with his new single- "Supermodel". Honestly, I don't get the title when I listen to the hook but the song is catchy albeit unoriginal yet I could listen to it more than something like Racks on Racks. It also isn't overly vulgar so the kids can jam along to.

I also liked this joint called "Keystone State of Mind". The beat is hot and the first verse is average but the second one is better. Overall the kid has some talent, especially in today's happy hip-hop market.


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