If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Blockhead's "Interludes After Midnight" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Blockhead :: Interludes After Midnight
Author: Patrick Taylor
"New York producer Blockhead has been making beats since the pre-MP3 days. He's probably best known for his work with Aesop Rock, but he's also produced beats for Murs, Cage, and Open Mike Eagle. "Interludes After Midnight" is his fifth album of instrumental hip-hop since 2004, following 2009's "The Music Scene." Out of all of the artists whose music gets labeled "instrumental hip-hop," Blockhead comes closest to fitting the definition. It's a stretch to see the relationship that music made by Flying Lotus, Shlohmo, and Nosaj Thing have with hip-hop. Not so with Blockhead, who grounds all of his experimentation in a steady hip-hop beat. As a result he is less adventurous and boundary-pushing than some of his peers, but his music is often more satisfying to listen to. The title of the album refers to the late-night public access television shows that Blockhead used to watch growing up. It also clues the listener in on the sleepy vibe of the album. The music feels like the soundtrack to the early morning hours, when the world seems surreal and lonely. As with his earlier work, "Interludes After Midnight" falls between instrumental hip-hop and downtempo electronica. It manages to meld hip-hop beats with the languid energy of downtempo. Fifteen years ago this might have been called trip-hop, but that label seems too anachronistic and limiting for Blockhead. Blockhead's music is made by layering on samples and sounds. It's hard to unravel what the sounds are or how they were constructed. The opening track, "Never Forget Your Token," has a sample from a psychedelic rock song urging you to "buy yourself an underground ticket/Take the subway to the end of your mind," and then mixes in a vocal sample from a rap song later in the track."
Buckshot & 9th Wonder :: The Solution :: Duck Down Records
as reviewed by Grant Jones
"Back in 2005, the combination of Black Moon's Buckshot and Little Brother's 9th Wonder seemed like a strange coming together of two different sounds. My ears were used to hearing the 5 footer spitting hard rhymes over dusty boom bap beats, but the soulful sampling and clean drums reinvigorated Buckshot. "Chemistry" was a strong record, but mostly included great beats and average lyrics, with the occasional banger thrown in (ie. "No Comparison"). "The Formula" came in 2008, and although marginally better overall, it wasn't without its share of forgettable tracks. In 2005, there was 14 tracks, 2008 it was 13 tracks, so it's no surprise to see the latest collaboration "The Solution" slimmed down to 12 tracks. Having been a fan of pretty much anything Buckshot is associated with; there is little point over analysing his rhymes, as the charisma and likability that Buck exudes on a mic is unmatched. There is no advanced lyricism on "The Solution" or even one song that concentrates on a specific topic, it's one guy rapping as only he knows how. I remember listening to "Survival Skills", a collaboration album between KRS-One and Buckshot from 2009, and although a colleague here at Rap Reviews gave the album a perfect 10/10, I felt Buckshot outshone both the production and KRS-One throughout. "The Solution" is effectively more of the same, real solid hip hop that's guaranteed to please fans of either artist. There is a slightly more mature edge to Buckshot even though he spends most tracks talking about how great he is."
Def Dee & Zar :: Zulu Delta :: Mello Music Group
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, the Maritimes, Emerald City or whatever descriptive you like is the tag team of Def Dee & Zar. Dee's the producer, Zar is the rapper, and according to the latter "This EP was intended to show that there still exists classic lyricists." At least he's not lacking in confidence, which is probably helpful given they are giving this album away, a move that often unintentionally makes people suspicious about the quality. Fortunately credibility is provided courtesy of Mello Music Group, home to some of the best releases of 2012. You know - albums like "Dice Game and "Trophies" just to name two. MMG tends not to fuck with whack shit that much - unless you're confusing them with Maybach Music. I kid, I kid. I'm glad Rozay survived that driveby - that shit was pretty fucked up. ANYWAY as indicated by Zar earlier in this review, "Zulu Delta" is a EP release, which means we're only talking about 7 tracks total. Out of those 7 one is an intro by "Craig aka Tiny" so in terms of actual songs we're down to 6 - and that clocks in at a combined total of 16 minutes. There aren't just short songs - they're miniature. The longest is "Same Old" featuring Sydney Ranee, and that clocks in at 3:14. "Hadouken" proves it's not the size though, it's how you use it. Set off with samples of Keith Murray and Ghostface Killah, the bass and breezy pianos get things going nicely by the time Zar starts to spit. Zar is an on-beat, off-beat freeform spitter with a stream-of-consciousness style delivery. Dee has a sense of humor in his production, complete with complimenting Zar's line "lights up, pipe down" with a Super Mario sample. The style borders on experimental and cutting edge at times, such as on the track "I Ain't Playin'," which takes a half minute to get to the rap and is punctuated by layered instruments and sounds more like a horror movie or TV drama - but it's actually quite head-nodding."
Eightball :: Lost :: Suave House/Universal
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"Before Jay-Z featured UGK on "Big Pimpin'," Eightball & MJG were on Mase's "The Player Way" in 1997. Building their career from the ground up, the Memphis duo steadily moved on to bigger things throughout the '90s. One of these 'bigger things' for rappers is the solo album. In 1998 Eightball did it big quite literally with a double disc entitled "Lost." Excessiveness was the order of the day, so it wasn't completely inconceivable for an MC to make the - arguably immense - leap from a team player to the star of a double CD. Eightball took the lead, and Tha Dogg Pound's Kurupt and the Luniz' Yukmouth would soon follow. Premro Smith was up to the challenge, maybe not in Pac or B.I.G. fashion, but in his own unique way. With "Lost" he established himself as a rap dramatist who highlights moral dilemmas, perilous situations and karmic experiences with acute storytelling. In "My Homeboy's Girlfriend" the narrator's affair with his partner's companion is overshadowed by genuine feelings of guilt. "Drama in My Life" demonstrates the inevitability to run into trouble if you live your life a certain way. The title track portrays a repentant soul at such a dead-end he can only turn to God to show him the way. "Time" follows three childhood friends, two destined for a life of crime, and the third, the rapper, being their potential victim just the same once he makes good. Eightball is keen to give his stories a dramatic, even epic touch, elevating the events in an almost Hollywood manner, making it feel like you walked into a Scorsese or De Palma movie. Not every rapper with a story to tell can develop it over three verses, but Ball does it with a sense for timing and detail that betrays the experienced rhyme writer. On "All 4 Nuthin'" we check in on the protagonist at three stages in his short life, his death, with which the song ends, rendering all his endeavors futile."
K-Murdock :: Champloo'd (Remixes and ReWorks) :: Word Is Bond
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Conceived as an exclusive for the Word Is Bond website, a collection of hip-hop bloggers and writers spanning the U.S. and United Kingdom, K-Murdock's "Champloo'd" is a year's worth of remixes from a top producer and remixer in the hip-hop community. Regular RR readers are already well aware of what he's capable of on the boards, but WIB feels there's no such thing as too much of a good thing and we can't help but agree with them. There's a lot of good news about this album, not the least of which is the fact it's a free download, and if we're being perfectly fair there's just a tiny bit of bad news. I hate to nitpick or be critical, but a lot of people who ARE new to K-Murdock might be perplexed by a lack of information about the songs themselves. Neither on WIB's site, nor on the Bandcamp site, nor in the download itself are there liner notes explaining the original source material of the remixes nor any of the emcees on them. Now in some cases that's not a problem as the source of thinks like "Breakadawn (Quiet Storm Remix)" is fairly self-evident - De La Soul's "Buhloone Mindstate" - but then again that album's creeping up on 20 years old now and many of today's digital downloaders aren't even that old, so let's not assume anything. It would have been better to have a full text talking about each remix - or even just a line or two on the web. That leads to the other thing I have to say with all due fairness. K promoted this album to his e-mail blast list, and he may be assuming every one of us who visits knows all of the emcees that he works with, but for me it starts and ends with Raw Poetic and Mega Ran. A lot of the time his other projects I'm peeping are his instrumental and anime inspired joints, and in fact those are the ones he usually sends to the site for review, so I'm at a loss to identify the artists on "The Light Feet" or "Harmony," though at least on the accent of the rapper in the latter I can suspect it's a friend of one of the UK members of Word Is Bond."
Random a/k/a Mega Ran :: Language Arts Volume 3 :: Mega Ran Music
as reviewed by Grant Jones
"There has been a comic book sub-genre of hip hop since the 90's with MF Doom and the Wu-Tang Clan sampling all sorts of obscure animation and martial arts films. But video games? They get the odd nod in a line (Biggie) or dedicated song (Fresh Prince) but generally seem under-represented as far as sub-genres go. Like many guys, I was raised on a diet of hip hop and video games throughout my childhood and still maintain a keen interest in both, so when I heard about "Forever Famicom" in 2010, the collaboration between K-Murdock (of Panacea) and Random (aka Mega Ran) that sampled old Nintendo games, I was intrigued. I'd heard nerd rap before, and although it was solid lyrically, the problem was that it sounded like nerds rapping. "Forever Famicom" was a superb piece of hip hop with songs that any gamer could relate to. The "Language Arts" releases however, I have had little experience of and was glad to see Random is still producing creative music in a professional manner some of his earlier work lacked. The 2012 Random has a tighter delivery and a more listenable flow. Where some of his production was "too gamey" in it's overabundance of MIDI samples, he now raps over beats with subtle game samples. Random bridges the gap between the masculine "cool" of hip hop and geekiness of video games by just being himself. I've always felt there was an honest, unspectacular aspect to Random's raps that just absorb the listener, especially when talking about video games as a habit akin to how rappers usually describe their weed addiction."
Supreme General :: The Best of the Champions :: Hustle Game in My Veins
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"Buffalo rapper Supreme General is hip-hop's self-proclaimed savior. That begs the question: does hip-hop need saving, and if so, from what? 2012 saw a lot of great hip-hop releases across the genre, so it's not like the art from is in decline. Is the threat to hip-hop the proliferation of internet rappers who make raps in their computer and are untested outside their bedrooms? Do we need saving from the breed of rappers who describe themselves as "not lyrical"? Trap rappers who rap about the streets over janky beats? Pop rappers making watered-down hip-hop for the club? Or do we need saving from hip-hop's conservative ranks, the people who think that the art form should remained ossified in its 1994 incarnation? As much as I dislike YG, Chief Keef, the Black Eyed Peas, Flo Rida, and many of the other artists who could be accused of "killing hip-hop," I'm more afraid of the folks who think that anything not made on an MPC isn't hip-hop. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of boom-bap and flipped samples, but art forms need to evolve. If rap tries to stay stuck in the 90s, it will become boring and irrelevant. In other words, "Illmatic" was a great album, but a 20-year-old album probably shouldn't be your main reference when making music. Which brings us back to Supreme General. His backstory reads like Jay-Z or the Notorious B.I.G. He was a hustler until he decided that rapping about the streets was a better plan than living the street life. Good on him; the would be a much better place if there were 2 million young men rapping about the streets rather than rotting in prison or getting shot. Supreme General's inspiration comes from classic New York hip-hop from the 90s: Nas, DMX, Mobb Deep, Biggie,the Wu and Jay-Z."
Trinidad James :: Don't Be S.A.F.E. :: Think It's a Game Entertainment
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace
"For all intents and purposes, I'm sure that Nicholas Williams is a nice guy. However, his on-stage persona, Trinidad James, makes some people feel a certain way about him and the current state of hip-hop music. The jokes have been plentiful and have spared no mercy on the Trinidad & Tobago-born and Atlanta-raised rapper who has been said to look like everything from a cross between Jimi Hendrix and Master P to the Jerome character from the 90s sitcom, Martin. James is getting the last laugh though, all the way to the bank, as he has reportedly inked a deal with Def Jam to the tune of two million dollars off the strength of the buzz created by his single "All Gold Everything" and subsequent mixtape, "Don't Be S.A.F.E." Not bad for someone who will readily admit that he just started rapping barely a year ago. So what's the fuss about? "Don't Be S.A.F.E." (the acronym stands for Sensitive As Fuck Everyday) can't possibly be any worse than other projects that are polluting the airwaves and taking up precious hard drive space as part of the genre I like to refer to as "Recycle Bin Rap." Stop reading right now if you're interested in thought-provoking witty wordplay and the like, you're not going to find that here. What you will find is exceptional production and a personality that seems to be compelling enough to hold your attention...at least for a moment."
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