If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Kid Cudi's "Indicud" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Kid Cudi :: Indicud
Wicked Awesome/G.O.O.D./Republic Records
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Scott Mescudi's not your average every day emcee. Some might even argue he's not a rapper per se - Jay Soul did reviewing his last album saying "his 'rap' lyrics only deserve a mere passing interest." That might seem a damning remark outside of context, but in context the album received an 8 out of 10 overall. So what is it exactly about this Kid named Cudi that works? Why is his unorthodox, often psychedelic brand of hip-hop music so successful? The eccentric, self-produced music of "Indicud" could be a soundtrack for "Edward Scissorhands." For those who have never seen Tim Burton's masterpiece, it tells the story of a young and gifted artist who can create exquisitely beautiful sculptures and topiary artwork, yet Edward is both used and abused by the townspeople around him and winds up feared and reviled by the populace after a series of unfortunate accidents. The story is told as a reminiscence of the young girl who loved him in days gone by, and while her whole story can be seen as an elaborately constructed fantasy to entertain a granddaughter, the denouement of the film suggests that Ed is in fact real. From day one Cudi's oddball albums have suggested to me that duality - Scott Mescudi could either be telling us fiction or the elaborate fantasy worlds he sing-raps his way through could in fact be his own bizarre truth. Cudi's choice of guest stars on "Indicud" is as unusual and unpredictable as the singing rapper himself. From long time Oakland veteran Too $hort on "Girls," to the lispy lingual sting of RZA on "Beez," to the pop rock sister trio Haim on "Red Eye" and pimped out and screwed up flows of King Chip and A$AP Rocky on "Brothers," each song is a completely different and unpredictable mood and scenario, yet Cudi's tripped out production and singing are a constant weaving throughout the 70+ minutes."
Blu :: York :: Greenstreets/Nature Sounds
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"This Blu album was originally called "No York" back when he gave it away for free, but the one word change has only affected the import of the CD to my iTunes library. The tracklist is the same, as is the reputation of the artist himself, once described by RR contributor Mike Baber as "(one of) the most underappreciated emcees in hip-hop over the past five years." He even got a 9 out of 10 for lyrics on his collaboration wih producer Exile for "Below the Heavens," arguably the most famous album of his career to date. He's also ridiculously prolific, having dropped 8 albums in the last 7 years, and that's not counting EP's, mixtapes or albums that he produced. That's right - he's also a producer in his spare time, although considering he's talked about wanting to film three movies one wonders when Blu will EVER have time to spare. Add or subtract the "No" as you choose, but either way "York" is an interesting and often times bizarre album. Besides being incredibly prolific, Blu is incredibly eclectic, willing to embrace sounds and ideas that other hip-hop artists wouldn't. Perhaps the outro of his song "Hours" explains it best - a debate between him and an unnamed woman who suddenly complains "That doesn't even fit the song!" Blu replies "What is the song?" She responds "I'm still trying to figure it out after fifteen times!" Multiple listens will be required to figure out the material. Take the Flying Lotus produced "Everything's OK" featuring Jack Davey for example. For me it's the hip-hop equivalent of "Space Invaders Infinity Gene," complee with similar video game sound effects."
DL Incognito :: Someday Is Less Than a Second Away :: URBNET Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Two things come to mind immediately when I think of Ottawa - my Glove Up or Shut Up co-host Peter H, and Canadian rapper/producer DL Incognito. For me he's the frozen North's vocal equivalent of Big L (rest in peace), and arguably approaches (or perhaps exceeds) Lamont's lyrical abilities - although he is more of a storyteller and less of a punchline snapper. Still if you're a fan of both rappers, it's hard to deny there's an eerie similarity to the two, separated only by a slight Canadian accent to one and a somewhat more prominent New York one to the other. The short distance between L and DL, or between New York and the Canadian border, is not the short distance Incognito refers to as "Less Than a Second Away." Incognito may have a name that implies he'd rather be unknown or unseen, but there's not much that he hides in his lyrics. His raps tend to be personal and at times probably painful for him to write, such as his frank admission that he and brother Nick lost their mom to cancer. For someone who wears his heart on his sleeve, you would WANT "Someday" to be "Less Than a Second Away." But what's coming someday? A better tomorrow, a brighter future, less painful and less recent memories of the past, the figurative and literal emotional distance to move forward, more success and recognition around the corner. "Mysterious Ways" featuring Geneva is not +officially+ the title track of DL's new album, but she croons it like it is while DL's raps address all of the above themes and then some."
Edo.G :: Intelligence & Ignorance :: Envision Entertainment
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"By fellow rapper Murs' definition, Edo.G's career has been a successful balancing act between intelligence and ignorance. Ostensibly the author of "Be a Father to Your Child" has largely operated on the side of intelligence, but if 'ignorance' in rap terminology can be translated to having a little fun, then there's been some of that too. But as we all know, things are a little bit more complicated than that. Artists and audiences have at times taken sides for either 'extreme' in a bizarre but perhaps ultimately healthy debate that showed that no clear line can be drawn between these seeming opposites. Inspired by his full-length collaboration with Masta Ace, "Arts & Entertainment" from four years ago, Edo promises to tackle another typical dichotomy that is essential to rap music with "Intelligence & Ignorance." Now I might have some opinions of my own on the subject of 'intelligence and ignorance,' but I'd rather hear it from Edward Anderson, given that's the name of his latest. The veteran rapper doesn't oblige, at least not in the clear, straightforward manner I would like him to. Which doesn't come as that much of a surprise, since the Boston MC has a history of pregnant album titles that are not immediately related to the content - "The Truth Hurts," "Wishful Thinking," "My Own Worst Enemy," and "A Face in the Crowd" come to mind. The problem in this particular case is that Edo's style of writing is not fit for such a major discourse. At the beginning of his career he was able to argue a variety of issues in songs such as "Life of a Kid in the Ghetto," "Dedicated to the Right Wingers" and the aforementioned "Be a Father to Your Child." Over the years however his raps became gradually more succint and abstract, any train of thought often abandoned in favor of a witty line or rhyme. In fact modern day Edo.G can be a master of the short form beyond any #hashtag punchlines."
Mega Ran :: TRAP :: MegaRan Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"There's nothing wrong with #2 or #3, but since #1 is what I've been doing for the last 20 years it's a little hard to let go of the "judging" part. In general though Ran a/k/a Random is one of the most consistent hip-hop artists in terms of both quality AND quantity of music released. His independent hustle is as hard to knock as is his love of video games, things that do make it harder for me to "judge" Mega Ran than most emcees. It's hard to keep an emotional distance from someone you have so much in common with, who you've interviewed multiple times, whose music pushes your controller's buttons in a way that guarantees more replays than the Contra Code. So in actuality, the reverse problem I have with Mega Ran is that I DON'T want to "judge" because I personally like Random. "Black Bags" is produced by Mr.ThrowedonTheTrack, although from the introductory warning to be open minded I honestly expected something that would sound like Gucci Mane or Waka Flocka Flame. In fact it's not even that far out of the realm of a normal Mega Ran track - with just enough of a synthesizer sound weaved into the instrumental for a typical Ran video game feel. Without spoiling the concept, Ran builds on what the "Black Bags" are in each verse, taking his increasing hustle to a level that has a dramatic turn for his friend by the end. Checkin' Trapps produces the next song "Trouble," and this one is a little more outside of Ran's usual (warp) zone. If anything it reminds me of an old school T.I. album produced by DJ Toomp, which is a classic sound as far as I'm concerned. Ran changes up his flow to a style he doesn't usually use to match it - in fact he's flowing a bit like T.I. although with his own vocal tone."
Papoose :: The Nacirema Dream :: Fontana Records
as reviewed by Grant Jones
"As far as mixtape rappers go, there are few bigger, or better than Papoose. Having signed a deal for $1.5 million to release an album on Jive Records back in 2006, "The Nacirema Dream" (American spelt backwards) has only just seen its release in 2013. We've been here with Saigon's "The Greatest Story Never Told", with Cormega's "The Testament" and Bumpy Knuckles' "Crazy Like a Foxxx". Artists with a big buzz that just never capitalise on it, thanks to A&R bullshit, shifting musical landscapes or any number of factors. Many rappers release a different solo effort first, but Papoose went the mixtape route that had served him well in establishing a buzz in the first place. Hooking up with DJ Kay Slay helped Papoose get on a whole bunch of remixes to popular tracks, most significantly Busta Rhymes' "Touch It". My own experience with Papoose records is predominantly through lyrical experiments such as "Alphabetical Slaughter", and although he is clearly adept at lyricism and understands the power of simile, he still remains a battle rapper that isn't actually known for battling. There's no doubting Papoose's ability to outshine other rappers lyrically, but mixtapes and collaborations can often allow for rappers to flex their muscles over their pick of dope beats. "The Nacirema Dream" then, is a big deal because an album meant to be released in 2007 could already sound dated in 2013. Regardless of the fact it has been chopped and changed over the years, many mixtape/battle rappers find it hard to adapt to concepts and the cohesion an album requires. After a bold "Intro", Pap' narrates a "Motion Picture" crime tale over a Dame Grease production that sounds more 1998 than 2013. Admittedly, Papoose is a supreme storyteller with a delivery akin to Big L. The problem with "Motion Picture" and a proportion of "The Nacirema Dream" is that the stories just aren't interesting enough for a hip hop fan raised on the lifestyles of the poor and dangerous. There are plenty of noteworthy lines ("The Apple is nothing without me like Steve Jobs") but the production isn't as strong as it should be. "
Slaine :: The Boston Project :: CommonWealth/Suburban Noize
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"Insiders might have a different view, but from the outside the Boston scene has always seemed a little bit more unique and united than rap scenes in comparable cities. It has maintained its reputation for honest hardcore hip-hop, lyrically forceful and distinctly East Coast in sound and largely indiscriminating when it comes to skin color. At times it has brought forth breakout stars such as Edo.G, Benzino, Mr. Lif or REKS, but nobody reached the standing of the great late Guru, who had to leave his hometown to become a rap legend. Still seasoned followers of rap know that the Bean has been a steady source of highly dedicated and skilled artists. One of them is Slaine, a rugged rhyme slinger who's busy building his own legacy with solo releases as well as his membership in militant supergroup La Coka Nostra. "The Boston Project" is Slaine's way to honor Boston and the brand of rap music it has inspired. Each track pairs him with one or several partners. The themes and moods vary, but the undertone is exepectedly dark and confrontational. Still this isn't rap that tries to capture your attention with a simple wave of the middle finger. With the autobiographical, one-verse "Evolution of the Kid," the host sets the tone by talking about how music came to him as a means to deal with a reality he describes as "pretty ugly." Throughout the album rappers draw inspiration from that reality. "Rats Maze" tells the unfortunate stories of three women while an Edo sample states that "Boston's a good place to meet bad people." "Zombie Land" combines Slaine with a interesting character named Rite Hook, but whether it's the guest, the theme, or the beat, it inspires one of his well-written, vivid verses"
Yellowman :: Young, Gifted and Yellow :: VP Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"Let's start this with a history lesson: Jamaican deejays are the grandfathers of rappers. Jamaicans were chatting over instrumentals at sound systems before anyone in the U.S. thought of doing it. It was a Jamaican immigrant, DJ Kool Herc, who introduced the concept to kids in the South Bronx, only Herc would use breaks from popular funk and disco tracks rather than dubs. Those kids ran with the idea and took it much farther than early deejays Dennis Alcapone, King Stitt or U Roy had gone. The earliest deejays were mostly concentrated on getting the crowd hyped by rhyming over instrumental versions of hits. As the art form developed, the deejays added more content, but much of the emphasis was on delivery than on lyrical content. Even a roots deejay like Big Youth filled much of his songs with vocal tics, and sounded like he was ad-libbing rather than rapping verses. Winston Foster, better known as Yellowman, was one of the second generation of Jamaican deejays who, no doubt influenced by hip-hop, started including more content in his rhymes. It wasn't just about making sounds or keeping a sound system jumping. It was about saying something. True, most of what Yellowman was saying in his early recordings was either crude or funny, but it was a definite evolution from the yelps, catch phrases, and stream-of-conciousness of the earlier deejays. He took General Echo's style of funny, slack chants and ran with it, becoming one of the biggest dancehall artists of the 80s and releasing over fifty albums, even more if you count all the greatest hits and live albums. VP Records latest two disc and DVD box set gives a forty track overview of Yellowman's work from the 1980s, including some of his biggest hits. If you are like me, you know Yellowman through Eazy-E. The chorus of his 1984 song "Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt" was sampled in Eazy's "Nobody Move." It's no coincidence that Eazy sampled Yellowman. Both artists were unlikely sex symbols: Eazy was a short dude with a high voice, while Yellowman was an albino, who ranked very low in Jamaican society. In fact, a large part of Yellowman's success was the fact that an albino had the gall to claim that girls were crazy for him, like on his first single "Mad Over Me." Both Eazy and Yellowman combined raunchy lyrics with a healthy dose of humor. Eazy's "Nobody Move" is about a bank robbery gone wrong, while Yellowman's song is about Yellowman mouthing off to a police officer."
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