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.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Album Review- Sap - Self-Employed

Sometimes a risk can pay off. I was looking for some new releases from mainstream artists and something directed me to check out this release from Sap. Now, I had never ever heard of this guy before but when looking into him I learned he is from Delaware, Mid-Atlantic area and that's different. He also has done some production work for other artists and a few features but doesn't seem to be well-known. I took a listen and decided it was worth doing a review of his new album, "Self-Employed".

The album jumps off with "O Eight" and the first thing I noticed is that he has the voice of the 90's East Coast. It's like an Ali Vegas almost. i mean Troy Ave sounds somewhat similar but Sap has a much better flow. The track sounds like some Golden Era production and he just goes in as Sap talks about his journey and it's funny that 2008 is the pivotal year for this young man and reinforces my own age. "I'm Made" feels like a late 90's East Coast meets West Coast production and is serious head nod potential.

Speaking of head nod, the first song I checked out was the video for "Boom Bap" which has that kind of sound and feel to it as Sap spits alongside Hit-Boy, Mike Zombie, and Hodgy Beats. This is a throwback to the crew cuts that would come on Rap City. My dude Stat Quo co-features on "Trading Places" and the track is superb with movie samples over the place of the chorus. "On Mute" has Sap talking about established rappers who have failed by not paying attention to business while he waited for his time and still ignores the haters.

I'm not fond of "And I Mean That" with Shizz Nitty, but it's an uptempo song some dudes will roll with. "Nobody Out There" has a dance hall clap  but I really liked how Sap freaked the sample and the flow within his verses. it was cool yet fit into what else he has been doing on the record. "In the stars" with Devin Cruise gave me a nostalgia for the 90's with this track that is directed at the ladies but it isn't syrupy. Just smoothed out a bit and the way it is produced I can allow the auto tune a pass.

Mac Miller features on "C4" which reminds me of something from his last album. His verse is average and Sap out does him. "Don't Call Me" with Tdot Illdude is just a cool song where Sap talks about struggle a little bit but not in some way where he is talking about himself being in the streets but a more arrogant way that reminds me of the attitude Fab or a Young Jay Z brings to the track.

He also has "B4 The Documentary dropped" with the Game and "Backpack,Backpack" with Chris Webby and Jitta on the track before ending the album with "I'm Tired", which wasn't the strongest way to end this album.

For someone I had never heard I was glad I ended up with the chance to listen to this album. There were some real solid songs that gave me some faith in this new generation and hip-hop in general. it's hard to find someone who balances a sound I am familiar with and like with some new energy and freshness. The crispness of his beats and the quality stand out far and above that of a guy like Troy Ave who wants to represent that sound and era so bad.

Rating: 3.5/5

Album Review - Macklemore and Ryan Lewis - This Unruly Mess I've Made

Now I know I go MIA for long stretches but forget all of that because I'm back after taking a listen to the latest project from Macklemore and Ryan lewis, "This Unruly Mess I've Made" which has gotten considerably less press and radio play than his first album which spawned several major hits. I do remember the first single being dropped but it did little to create the same buzz as "Thrift Shop". Now I don't recall ever fully listening to the last album, but this new record is more than solid and deserves more press and attention from mainstream and underground hip-hop publications because it represents what we like to claim we ask for from our artists.

The album opens with "Light Tunnels" which has Macklemore ruminating over the fame and results from his previous acclaim. He talks about the struggles of keeping up appearances and the expectations thrust upon him when he just wants to chill and be a more regular guy. He also talks about the "media" desires for moments that they can market at the expense of artists. So the lead single was "Downtown" which features Grandmaster Caz, Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee and Eric Nalley. The song is alright I guess, the flavor of the track might be too old school for modern radio in reality and I didn't care for the hook, but what he did do, was show his bonafides by including some pioneers which most artists these days don't do. He follows that up with "Buckshot" which features KRS One and Premier and he talks about growing up listening to hip-hop, specifically grimey Boot Camp Clik style hip-hop.

"Growing Up" featuring Ed Sheeran is about just that. Macklemore as a father and trying to be a man, especially one that has to go on the road and earn a living to provide for his daughter. "Kevin" with Leon Bridges is about the loss of a loved one due to addiction and drug use. "Need to Know" is another song where Macklemore gets caught up in the trappings of fame and it features Chance The Rapper.

Now one of the strongest songs I think would be great for top 40 features Anderson.Paak and Idris Elba, called "Dance Off". The track has crazy rhythm and bounce to it. Idris brings a Euro dance club vibe to it when he talks over the track. "St. Ides" is a throwback track again where Macklemore ruminates on the past and where he would kind of like to go back to. "Brad Pitt's Cousin" which features XP on hook duties is a fun little song that kind of tries to trap and update that Thrift shop vibe where he also makes some fun of himself. This is another one I could have seen being a single.

"Let's Eat" also features XP and it's about enjoying his life before he has to go and get fit and the whole lifestyle change. It's a fun little song that isn't too serious. "Bolo Tie" and "The Train" are decent little songs, but the album is truly caped off by the Jamilah Woods assisted "White Privilege II" where Macklemore gets in depth about his place and that of other white artists in what is a black musical genre of rap music. In the face of the Black Live Matter Movement, it is a great song that delves into his own personal issues and what his place is or should be. It was one of the most important songs of the past year.

Look, Macklemore I think is slept on because a lot of people felt he was gimmicky when it comes to black rap listeners. Many had a problem or issue with "Same Love" which really took him to the next level and some homophobia showed as a lot of people took the promotion of this song as the thing that made him an establishment favorite, and indeed it played apart along with race but what it showed was that maybe some other subject matters should be explored within hip-hop in some form or fashion and only this white artist has really explored in some manner. He covers the well traveled ground of trying to deal with fame and he unlike most took time off for himself after a crazy touring schedule. He came back with a solid album, and while it doesn't have the big epic singles built in, there are several solid songs that deserve both radio play and attention from real hip-hop fans.

Rating: 3.5/5