Blanco & The Jacka :: Obey
Author: Matt Jost
"Having a talent for rap music doesn't necessarily mean spitting the sickest shit since swine flu. As a rapper, Berkeley's Blanco wouldn't make my top 10'000, but he managed to sell me two of his projects within six months. After "Cookies 'n Cream" with Yukmouth, "Obey" co-starring The Jacka is another 7-tracker that piqued my interest. The artwork incorporates Shepard Fairey's 'Andre the Giant' street art campaign, which in turn was inspired by the John Carpenter film 'They Live.' "Obey" combines both these points of reference by naming all songs after the hidden messages Roddy Piper's character in 'They Live' discovers on billboards, posters, screens, store signs, etc., revealing an alien regime that rules the planet subliminally via mass media. "Obey"'s opening and closing tracks are called "Submit" and "Do Not Question Authority," for instance. The point is that the titles have no seeming connection to the songs. Like the guy in 'They Live' I had to do a double-take when I read what these songs were called and who they featured. It got me thinking. Imagine pop and rap music as part of a worldwide operation to control the masses with subtext that subconsciously seeps into our psyche. Actually a mild form of such manipulation has been in effect since rappers first started namedropping brands in their songs. And people of a more radical mindset have speculated that the rap industry has been enigneered to service the prison-industrial complex by promoting criminal lifestyles. When looking at the whole rap rigmarole one may be indeed compelled to ask like that old Souls of Mischief song - "Tell Me Who Profits."
7vnseal :: Daggers of Truth Mixtape :: 7vnseal.com
as reviewed by Grant Jones
"When tackling Christian hip hop, I can automatically tell whether I will enjoy listening to it by how much the rapper talks about Christianity. Don't get me wrong, I love spirituality in hip hop. Killah Priest and Cyrus Malachi are two of my favourite MCs, but there is a key difference between religious rappers and rappers who happen to be religious; religious rappers rap about their religion, rappers who happen to be religious (such as Braille or Brother Ali) rap about a variety of topics and may mention their beliefs now and then. 7vnseal being a minister, falls firmly into the first camp. A former affiliate of Killarmy; themselves affiliates of Wu-Tang Clan (presumably this makes 7vnseal an affiliate affiliate?) 7vnseal grew up in gangs, associating himself with the street hustler lifestyle. He had a passion for rapping, and working with Beretta 9, Dom Pachino and Shyheim the Manchild enabled him to portray his streets raps to an audience that appreciated grimey tales from the hood. Thankfully "Daggers of Truth" has that trademark Wu-Tang sound and being a mixtape, utilises numerous Wu instrumentals that even the most stubborn atheist can nod their head to. "Servant to Christ" starts things off nicely with a passionate delivery not too dissimilar to Killah Priest's early work. The unorthodox rhyme patterns remind me of Cappadonna and even Hell Razah, and that's the major problem with 7vnseal's work here. There's little that distinguishes him from other rappers doing a similar style. "False Gods" has 7vnseal dropping a vicious verse over Wu-Tang Clan's "Older Godz" with frustrating results. I like the authoritative delivery and lyrical content but the scattered flow and annoying "notes to false gods" chant ruins a decent, if short interpretation of the Wu classic. "
Example :: The Evolution of Man :: Ministry of Sound
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"The artwork for "The Evolution of Man" reminds me of early Oasis albums like "Definitely Maybe" and "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?" Like Britain's most popular band of the '90s, Example uses a simple name logo consisting of white letters in a black rectangle. The comparison is not entirely flattering. Oasis not only struck a chord with the masses, they also had a reputation as pretentious pricks who plunder the legacy of previous decades, specifically the work of The Beatles. Any allusion to Oasis may be purely coincidental, still "The Evolution of Man" is the album where Example orders to plug in the electric guitars. As it happens, at least one track features the guitar work of Graham Coxon of Blur, during an epic battle of the bands staged by British music magazines often portrayed as the white knights to Oasis' robber baronry. Of course Example has discovered the 'rockstar' role prior to the recording of this album, when he reinvented himself as a somewhat unique combination of rapper, rockstar and electronic artist. "The Evolution of Man" merely enforces the 'rock' segment with guitar riffs while the overall formula remains the same. Example sings a few couplets, preferrably twice, sings some more, then eventually pauses for a change in instrumentation, typically an electronic burst of energy, and somewhere in the second half of the song he kicks a rap verse. The order may vary, but that's pretty much what Example does. E.G. - "Perfect Replacement""
Barrington Levy :: Reggae Anthology: Sweet Reggae Music, 1979-1984 :: VP Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
""Sweet Reggae Music" is the latest multi-disc compilation of classic reggae artists to come out on VP Records 17 North Parade imprint. Previous entries in the Reggae Anthology series have focused on Gregory Isaacs, Sugar Minott, Junjo Lawes, Winston Riley, and Yellowman. The latest release is dedicated to the early years of dancehall artist Barrington Levy. Levy was discovered as a fourteen-year-old by producers Junjo Lawes and Hyman Wright. He was prolific in the eighties, releasing 14 albums in the five year span that this album covers, on top of numerous singles. This two-disc set collects forty songs that he released between 1979 and 1984. Levy's voice is similar to Horace Andy, but a little deeper. It is soulful, jubilant, and equally adept at singing love songs and roots songs. Disc One contains his work from 1979-1980, during which he released four albums. Almost all of the songs were produced by Lawes with the Roots Radics, which lends a sameness to the sound. Several of the songs sound like versions of the same backing track. Highlights on the first disc include the opening ode to weed "Collie Weed," Levy's take on the Horace Andy hit "Skylarking," and the soulful "Sister Carol" from his "English Man" album. The songs are richly produced, with the Radics at the top of their game. Disc One ends with "Black Head Chicken," in which Levy sings over a dub riddim that gives him plenty of space to sing."
Kurupt :: Kuruption! :: ANTRA/A&M/PolyGram
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Matt Jost
Part of what made Dr. Dre's "The Chronic" so untouchable was the fact that it was such a concise group effort. Like never before on a rap album a carefully picked supporting cast made essential contributions, from RBX to Nate Dogg. And it wasn't just "Long Beach and Compton together," there was Virginia transplant Lady of Rage, and there was Kurupt, a 20-year-old with a fiery, nimble flow who hadn't forgotten his eastern roots, having grown up in the Philadelphia metro area. From "The Chronic" and Snoop's solo "Doggystyle" Kurupt and Daz emerged as Tha Dogg Pound, who in 1995 would complete the triumvirate of classic albums with "Dogg Food." Then came the turbulent years of 2Pac's glorious return and tragic death and Dre's and Snoop's departure from Death Row while label boss Suge Knight was incarcerated between 1996 and 2001. Even for the loyal Kurupt came eventually the time to break out on his own. He did so in late 1998 with an ambitious double-disc set on his own imprint. Each CD had a geographical denomination, CD 1 representing the West Coast, CD 2 the East Coast. In combination with producer Studio Ton's simple but gripping Earth, Wind & Fire interpolation, "This One's For U" is an early emotional moment on "Kuruption!" The musical side of Kurupt's adopted home is further represented by Warren G, who produces the pensive "That's Gangsta," and veteran West Coast sound architect Battlecat, who modulates the gangsta boogie of "We Can Freak It," where the rapper has a Rodney King moment when he asks, "Why can't we just chill and get along, motherfucker?""
M.O.P. :: To the Death :: Select Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Grant Jones
"M.O.P. is my favourite rap group. There I said it. I know most, if not all music critics would cite an Outkast, Wu-Tang Clan or Public Enemy as their favourite rap group due to their influence on the culture and the ability to craft classic albums, but not me. The moment Lil' Fame and Billy Danze start shouting obscenities and impersonating weaponry I can't help but smile and nod approvingly. It all started for me (and many other rap fans in their 20s) in 2000 when M.O.P. dropped their most successful album "Warriorz", and I've purchased every album before that and since. I had to dig this album out when I saw it hadn't been covered here on Rap Reviews, prepare the neck brace and mash the fuck out. As far as rap debuts go, "To The Death" didn't exactly set the world alight back in 1994, it was the single "How About Some Hardcore" that sold M.O.P. more than anything as the masters of catchy hardcore anthems. Nearly twenty years later, it still stands up as a classic slice of grimey boom bap, engulfed in confrontational male testosterone. Unlike Onyx who lost their way over the years, M.O.P. has consistently given their fans this aggressive style of rap and "To The Death" doesn't stray far from this premise. "Rugged Neva Smoove" kicks off proceedings with hard drums and a bassline that sounds like it was left on the Beatminerz cutting room floor. The track is produced by one of the most underrated in the game, long time M.O.P. collaborator DR Period, as is the rest of the album. Although it is an energetic introduction to the record, the DJ Premier remix is the superior version. "Heistmeisters" offers a story-led track with a chorus that clearly inspired "Ante Up" later in their career, and although it's nice to hear the two MCs telling a story, it's just another robbery song at the end of the day."
Twenty One Pilots :: Vessel :: twentyonepilots.com
as reviewed by Zach 'Goose' Gase
"Columbus, Ohio duo, Twenty One Pilots (sometimes stylized twenty | one | pilots) is gearing up to have a huge 2013. Already dubbed as "One of MTV's Artists To Watch in 2013," the genre-defying band is looking to take their debut album "Vessels" on the road, with shows from Bowling Green, Ohio all the way to Japan. Twenty One Pilots consists of rapper/singer Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun, and they dabble in genres spanning from hardcore rock, to hip hop, to EDM to full fledged pop music. Generally Twenty One Pilots is probably not the type of music that we would cover here on RapReviews.com, but it's January so we don't get a lot of exciting new releases, and this album is one of the most intriguing records I've heard in a while. They sound like if Passion Pit, Fall Out Boy and K'Naan had a three way, and somehow conceived a musical child. There are countless bands out there who do this whole post-modern, "our genre is all genre" type of music, but very few pull it off as effortlessly and seamlessly as Twenty One Pilots. The star of "Vessels" is front-man Tyler Joseph who juggles singing and rapping throughout the course of the record, and manages to do both pretty well. He's a better singer than rapper, mainly because his rapping voice is a bit grating (he sounds a lot like K'Naan), but he has a strong flow and impressive rhyme schemes."
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