"Meyhem Lauren currently occupies that curious crossroads of hip-hop where you are a little too well known to be the "underground undiscovered" but not quite notable enough for a Wikipedia entry. You don't have to take my word for it -- try searching for him on their website and you only get references to his cameos on other people's records or producers who have laced his tracks. That's almost vexing to me given he's been a factor in rugged, hardcore East coast hip-hop since at least "Respect the Fly S--t" in 2012 if not longer. I certainly thought that 2014's Buckwild co-signed "Silk Pyramids" was the moment he arrived in a major way. When a legendary member of the Diggin' in the Crates crew thinks enough of you to producer your whole album you are THAT DUDE (or let's not be sexist - you are THAT CHICK too). There's no reason he's not "notable" at this point other than some half-assed editor who decides which musicians have earned it based on their own arbitrary and opaque standards. Make no mistake about it that I'm firing a shot across the bow by making "Piatto D'Oro" a featured review this week. The literal translation is "Pot of Gold" and if there's a cultural subtext that's missing from a literal reading someone who speaks Italian can send me some feedback on it. Frankly I think it works read exactly as is. Lauren has paid dues long enough to have earned a golden reputation and to brand an album as being a full serving of musical wealth. He harkens back to the bygone era of emcees like Kool G. Rap who had a little bit of a lisp to their delivery that drew in your attention as a listener, turning what might be considered a deficit to a benefit by making you pay attention to every last word. Meyhem isn't resting on those laurels though -- he's developed into a cinematic verbal storyteller as tracks like Large Professor's "Not Guilty" bear witness to."
The irony of the album's title is not lost on anybody familiar with EPMD's history, but for those of you new to Erick and Parrish Making Dollars, things could not have gotten MORE personal. Even though past efforts like "Strictly Business" and "Business as Usual" were highly regarded hip-hop classics, that critical acclaim couldn't keep the group's private business from going public in a very negative way. Parrish Smith's home was robbed, Erick Sermon was named as a suspect, and when the tensions came to a head Sermon implied (without outright saying) Smith had it coming anyway because he had been pocketing all of their album proceeds and shortchanging Sermon's share. The group split up in a very public and acrimonious way after "Business Never Personal" dropped, which made it all the more surprising when they reunited for a new album five years later. EPMD could never quite recapture the magic found on this CD after their reconciliation. There are some highlights and many lowlights to their post-1992 catalogue, but on "Business Never Personal" they were at the peak of their musical and lyrical prowess. The group's chemistry in the studio completely obscures whatever personal tensions existed behind the scenes, so in that respect at least they kept their business PROFESSIONAL when it came to recording this album. The results of their efforts was the most successful single of EPMD's career and a personal favorite song of mine. You can't help but chuckle just a little at the fact that a song bemoaning rappers who "Crossover" became their all-time biggest Billboard charting hit. The group's musical clout was also at its peak in terms of the Hit Squad before their messy divorce, with proteges including Das EFX ("Cummin' at Cha") and Redman ("Head Banger") among artists who would continue to make an impact even after the group's dissolution. On a short list titled Best Posse Songs of All Time I have to personally rank "Head Banger" top ten minimum, but top five more realistically.
"I've always found live hip-hop to be an iffy proposition. I've been to some amazing shows, but too often it is a guy shouting into a microphone over a backing track. There's not much room for improvisation or spontaneity, which are two key components of a good live show. A recent Travis Scott performance on the Jimmy Kimmel show illustrates the worst-case scenario. He is shouting along to a recording of the song, not even bothering to pretend he's rapping. Maybe I need to see Shabazz Palaces live to change my mind. Their "Live At Third Man Records" is definitely a strong argument in favor of live hip-hop. One thing that sets Shabazz off from many hip-hop acts (the Roots excluded) is that it isn't just a rapper and a guy on his laptop. Tendai Maraire plays congos and drums and provides Êbacking vocal while Ishmael Butler raps between twiddling knobs and playing a drum pad. This allows them more room to improvise and go off script than a DJ only armed with the backing track. Also, their music isn't built around samples or hooks, which means Butler isn't having to rap along to a recording of someone else singing. It also doesn't hurt that their music is nebulous, spacey, and more focused on sustaining a vibe than on pumping up a crowd or playing hits."
"As much as I appreciate the service level of URBNET Records not to mention their relentless hustle -- making them seem more like a major label than some actual "majors" that I know -- I have to declare a moratorium for a few weeks after this review. Unless somebody else on staff picks up where I left off we can't just have one writer covering one label every time they drop a new project. Besides the tendency for bias to creep in that should be avoided at all costs, it's just monotonous for both the writer and reader, and for all of those reasons I think a break from covering URBNET for a bit is best. To go out with a bang though I'm taking a look at their "Summer 2016 Sampler," which given what I've already said about over-covering their label has a lot of very familiar material. Some of it actually dates back to last year like the Statik Selektah produced "Pop Off" by Bless but if you were going to make a variety platter and pile your best flavors on it, you'd include this cut given that it aged well. I'd have said the same in 2017 for "Friendly Vibrations" by BudaMunk & ill Sugi if they held it for a latter comp, but it's definitely the definition of dope to showcase what these producers can do. Some cuts aren't quite as choice though. I may like Elaquent's "Grimey & New" more than when I first reviewed the "Less Is More" album but I still think it's a lesser track compared to better instrumentals from that album. I haven't warmed up at all toFortunato's vocal stylings since I last heard his "Blue Collar" EP, but Sean One is a very capable producer and the guest stars on "Closer Look" (Murkules and Tachichi) balance out the track and make it a worthwhile selection. It may be addition by subtraction to say these "misses" are now "hits" but they actually benefit from being showcased outside their albums."
It was said to be a virtual impossibility. The leading polls of the voting electorate in the United Kingdom seemed to indicate that "Remain" held a majority albeit a slim one over the "Leave" campaign in last week's Brexit. Wait - what's a "Brexit" you say? It sounds more like something you'd eat for breakfast than a political issue, let alone an issue that would pertain to our hip-hop readers. Why even discuss it?
What - you mean you haven't been reading our annual UK Hip-Hop Month feature? You didn't know that several of our writers were from the United Kingdom? This is an issue that matters to us a great deal, and as the "yank" in this discussion, I also have a uniquely American perspective on the implications of UK voters choosing to Brexit the European Union by a 52% to 48% margin. Before I tell you more about that let me give you a little background on the whole Brexit situation.
The modern EU as we know it came into effect in November of 1993, but the idea behind it took root in the aftermath of World War II, when European nations and their citizens began to recognize the need for greater cooperation and partnership to prevent the outbreak of another such war with its accompanying loss of life and liberty, combined with what they viewed as the rising threat of the Soviet Union as a military and economic superpower. This wasn't really that altruistic - it was just a recognition that historical differences could be put aside in favor of the more lucrative benefits of cooperation and partnership. The military industrial complex may profit in wartime, but the economy as a whole thrives in peacetime. The Treaty of Rome got the ball rolling in 1957, and the collapse of the Soviet Union led to a reunified Germany joining and a rapid expansion to new member nations following the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. A unified monetary device (the euro) soon followed which in many (but not all) cases replaced their own individual currencies, making the euro legal tender across a wide swath of Europe. All to the good - right??
The UK and let's be specific here ENGLAND have always eyed this partnership warily. They never signed the Treaty of Rome, and when they tried to join the precursor to the modern EU in the 1960's, France twice rejected their application. The seeds of mistrust were already sewn, to the point that there were calls for a referendum in the 1970's as soon as the UK formally joined. The benefits have generally outweighed the disadvantages - free trade, free travel between member states, cooperation on economic and humanitarian issues, and so on. That hasn't stopped the UK from flexing its economic muscle multiple times to carve out a "special status" and terms favorite to them and substantially less favorable to the EU as a whole -- and even that wasn't enough the "BRITAIN FIRST" critics back home who felt that home rule was being usurped by a foreign power with a foreign currency.
Make no mistake about it that the recent campaign on a referendum to either "Remain" or "Leave" the European Union has been marked by dire warnings and scare tactics on both sides of the issue, though for me the "Leave" group were always the scarier bunch and the stabbing AND shooting death of Jo Cox punctuated this point (and NEITHER generally happens to politicians in the UK - this is a very rare and horrifying occurrence) as did the advocacy of Nigel Farage, who often strikes me as the UK's version of Donald Trump. He's certainly not a chap who is gung ho about immigration in general or Muslims in particular, and strikes me as a guy who would try to build a wall in the ocean around the whole of England if he could. The entire leave campaign seems about as scarily xenophobic and nationalistic as you can get -- all too willing to blame any perceived problems in England on the apparently porous borders of the EU letting people flood their shores thanks to that "free travel between member states." Just listen to the claim that Leave fought for "real people" against "multi-nationals."
The problem for Farage is that "real people" have been hurt by the Brexit. The UK and the world economy both tanked on the ramifications of the EU's third most powerful member deciding it was better off going it alone on its own. Furthermore the vote to leave was hardly unanimous among the constituent countries in the UK. Scotland's voters chose "Remain" and are now threatening to hold a second referendum on leaving the UK so they can REJOIN the European Union on their own. The decision not only severed the EU but severed the UK, and those "real people" the voters hurt are millions of working class citizens who struggle to make an honest living for themselves and their families in the face of racism and the economic disenfranchisement that comes with it. A weakened and divided United Kingdom helps no one, and sewing the seeds of hatred and racism toward the immigrants that have made the UK a multicultural mecca don't either. It's having a domino effect throughout Europe as every country wants to blame "the other" in their midst for whatever problems they have.
I'm hopeful that U.S. voters will keep in mind the ugly and disastrous example set by the Brexit vote when they go to the polls in November to choose between Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, or whoever else might make the ballot. I can tell you which one of them sounds the most like Brexit without hesitation though - the man who (like the Leave campaign) blames immigrants for all of our problems, who wants to put up a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, who thinks Muslims should be eyed with suspicion solely on the basis of their religious beliefs. I'm not saying that if you vote for this man you want to see the U.S. unravel like the U.K., but you should sit and think long and hard about the social and economic consequences of electing an anti-immigrant hate monger to be the next President of the United States. Brexit has already shown us that the triumph of xenophobic racist nationalism over common sense has dire consequences.
It's time for another edition of The Hip-Hop Shop. Episode #381 is called Love the Rhapsody! Today you'll hear new material from Gensu Dean & Denmark Vessey, Funky DL, Illien Rosewell and CJ Pure among others. Follow us @RapReviews so you never miss a new podsafe free show - like The Drunk Train from Adam Bernard!
* Gensu Dean & Denmark Vessey f/ 7evenThirty, Iman Omari - Black Love
* T'Swan - These Days
* Funky DL - The Rhapsody
* Illien Rosewell - Floating Brass
* Solo For Dolo - Don't Rap
* Streetz & Young Deuces - Underdogs
* Shaz Illyork - HeatStroke
* CJ Pure f/k/a Yung Rep - Pure
Erin: We've heard about the West End of Toronto through the likes of PartyNextDoor, but in his latest EP, Mekhi takes listeners on a trip to the East End - specifically, the Galloway community that's had its fair share of hardships and struggles, but remains resilient in the most bitter storms. In the 11-track project, which includes singles "Oh My" and Mekhi tells a self-produced story about a two decade journey to the man, and artist, he's become.
DMV: Alwayz100 just dropped a dope new music video on us, "Self Explanatory". The video has been receiving a great response since its premiere on DMVLIFE.com. The video is Alwayz100's first single of 2016 and they came correct!
Biz 3: Aesop Rock just dropped a video for The Impossible Kid standout (and cat owner anthem) "Kirby" to coincide with the start of the third and final leg of his US tour. The clip, which pairs a puppet version of Aesop with a live cat was directed by Toben Seymour, who directed the Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic (Hail Mary Mallon)'s hilarious "Whales" video.
RRP: C4MULA, Nu3Tron, and Mic Moses united to form the cleverly named, creative crew, Four Finger Ring. These southern Cali gentleman abruptly released their first single and music video titled "BassHeads."
Chris: Cayoz (of emcee collective Animal Pak) drops off this New Heater "It Don't Stop" and calls on the EMS mic smashers Mayhem & Revalation, along with DJ JabbaThaKut to all lend their talents to this break-neck backdrop produced by O*Zee!