If you missed any of the new reviews this past week, including 8Ball's "Life's Quest" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
8Ball :: Life's Quest
Entertainment One Music
Author: Pete T."8Ball's a regional hero and an underground legend, a veteran of two decades and a Southern innovator responsible for putting Memphis on the hip hop map. After three albums on Suave House Records in the mid-1990s, Ball and his partner-in-rhyme MJG elected to try their hand on the solo tip, and 8Ball's 1998 solo debut "Lost," a double-disc blockbuster on Suave House, became something of a cult classic. As a solo artist, though, he's never quite been in the right place at the right time. Amid the southern rap explosion at the turn of the century, the follow-up was the too-ironically titled "Almost Famous" in 2001, a major label effort that poised the Fat Mac for his solo breakthrough, with guests from Diddy, Ludacris, and Carl Thomas. Sales were slow, and before long distributor JCOR closed up shop, dooming the album to premature out-of-print scarcity. Although he and MJG continued to record successfully as a duo, including two albums with Bad Boy and one on T.I.'s Grand Hustle imprint as well as a crossover smash with their contribution to fellow M-Town vets Three 6 Mafia's hit "Stay Fly" in 2005, his solo catalog has been hampered by a few unauthorized releases and others that straddled the line between mixtape and album a little too closely. Make no mistake, though, that "Life's Quest" is a full-blown affair, a true return to the solo realm for the River City don. Countless seasoned emcees have gone the independent route in the aftermath of their commercial heydays, and in addition to being plagued by suspect production and low budgets, it's easy for many to go on autopilot, especially as the need for a check eclipses the incentive to preserve one's legacy. Fortunately, this is far from the case on "Life's Quest," a well-conceived outing from start to finish. Production is consistently slick, including tracks from the appropriately in-demand Big K.R.I.T. and hometown hero Drumma Boy, and while there's a deal more autotune than this reviewer would prefer, it's stylish and contemporary without sounding forced. Frequent hooks from an array of R&B crooners and songstresses enhance the epic, dramatic feel of many tracks, such as opener "Indestructible," a piano-laced "Dead Presidents" soundalike with Keelyn Ellis. Ball's gruff, syrupy vocals simmer over the twinkling music, pledging resilience in the face of temptation."
various artists :: Out of Many: 50 Years of Jamaican Music :: VP Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"Reggae has been synonymous with Jamaica almost since the island nation gained its independence in 1962. This box set shows the evolution of Jamaica's music over the past five decades, from ska to reggae to roots to dancehall. The set is arranged into three discs, all arranged chronologically. The first disc begins with the bouncy "Independent Jamaica" by Lord Creator. It shows a nation full of youthful enthusiasm and optimism for the future. The optimism continues into the ska-infused sixties, represented here by the Skatalites effusive "Malcom X." Hopeton Lewis' "Take It Easy" shows the transition from hyper ska to smoother rocksteady. Some of the most soulful singers of the rocksteady and early reggae era are represented here, including Nicky Thomas, Alton Ellis, and Dennis Brown. As the sixties grew to a close, Jamaicans came to realize that the new government brought almost as many problems as the old. There was still widespread poverty and corruption, and more and more Jamaicans turned to Rastafarianism to guide them. The music turned more spiritual as well, culminating in skanking roots reggae.Junior Byles' "Not Fade Away" and Culture's fiery "Two Sevens Clash" are both prime example of roots reggae at its dreadest. Disc two sees reggae's transition to dancehall. Wayne Smith's "Under Me Sleng Teng" is the song that changed everything. The riddim was recorded not by a group of skilled musicians, but by using a pre-set of Eddie Cochran's "Something Else" on a crappy Casio keyboard. Producer King Jammy tinkered with that beat a little to give it the reggae one-drop lilt, added some sung/spoken lyrics about, and voila, smash hit! Cue hundreds of session musicians lining up for unemployment, and a million kids with keyboards trying their hand at being the next reggae superstar. It's not unlike what happened a few years earlier in New York when Roland 808's replaced Motown's house band as the sound of Black America. There is something a little sad about hearing the masterful musicianship of the 70s be thrown aside for the tinny amateurness of the dancehall era. No more heavy bass, no more gorgeous singing. Instead there are digital beats and young men chatting about getting high, getting laid, and taking out rivals."http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2012_08_outofmany50.html
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