If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Skyzoo's "A Dream Deferred" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up.
Skyzoo :: A Dream Deferred
Duck Down Records
Author: Grant Jones
"Over three years since "The Salvation" dropped, Skyzoo returns with "A Dream Deferred". Illmind features heavily, having built a strong relationship with Sky over the past few years, most prominently on "Live From The Tape Deck" so it's no surprise that he laces Skyzoo with a beautifully haunting production on "Dreams In A Basement". Crashing snares and the presence of Jill Scott create an impressive aura that lends the track a classic feel, which Skyzoo uses to dreamily introduce the album. Oddly, it sounds like the last track of an LP rather than the first, but "Jansport Strings" wakes up any sleepers with a 9th Wonder horn extravaganza. Part ode to Chi-Ali and partly a childhood autobiographical piece, Skyzoo utilizes his easy-on-the-ear delivery to reflect on what inspired him to start rapping. Illmind shows just how ill his mind is with a ridiculously sick boom bap display that hasn't been heard in years. "Pockets Full" is guaranteed to have your head nodding like a pigeon on crack, with a simple hook you'll be humming for days. Freeway puts in a rapid-fire appearance so aggressive his voice starts creaking, but that's the Freeway we know and love - rugged and raw. Illmind goes from musically ill to mentally ill on "Give It Up", a mess of a track that tries to combine a dubstep sample with a traditional hip hop rhythm. Thankfully, "Glass Ceilings" is a better reflection of the chemistry that Skyzoo and Illmind possess, with Skyzoo sharing a thought provoking verse. The latter half of the album is just as good, with laid back vibes on "The Knowing" and "Drew & Derwin" lending the record a pop quality. Dreamy beats come courtesy of Focus ("Drew & Derwin") and DJ Khalil, who shows just why we need another Self Scientific album. "The Rage of Roemello" sees Skyzoo break away from standard 16-bar verses with a hook and is probably the best performance. Lyrically Skyzoo has a knack for rhyming that appears to be unfocused and vague, yet when studied becomes clearer."
Boogie Down Productions :: By All Means Necessary :: Jive/RCA Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace
"In about four seconds, a writer will begin to write. I grew up as an only child for most of my life but when I was around 12 or so, my older brother moved in for a short while. He had an interesting assortment of things in his room. There were a few Betamax tapes, a few magazines (one of them ended up being confiscated by my junior high school principal) and a lot of records and cassettes. There was an unlabeled Maxell tape that was black and gold, the label was peeling off on one side. I went ahead and popped it into my tape deck to listen. From what I remember, it was an old mix and the side was nearing its end. There was a bit of Audio Two and then some Eric B. & Rakim, then the tape stopped. I flipped the tape over, hit play and the first thing I hear is "So, you're a philosopher?" followed by "Yes," a bit of scratching and "I think very deeply." At that moment, I was hooked and just had to keep listening. Of course, the song that I'm talking about is "My Philosophy" and the album is Boogie Down Productions' sophomore release, "By All Means Necessary." For those unaware of the BDP saga around this time, the Cliff Notes version goes like this: Scott La Rock and KRS-One came together as an unlikely duo when Scott was working at one of the shelters where KRS was living. They released "Criminal Minded" in 1987, which went on to achieve critical acclaim. In the summer of that year, Scott was killed after trying to diffuse a situation involving D-Nice. KRS would soldier on, continuing to shout out Scott on many songs, but there was a shift from violent to more socially conscious music. The first effort was "By All Means Necessary," which draws influence from Malcolm X for both its title and memorable album cover."
Gene the Southern Child & Parallel Thought :: Higher Caliber :: PThought.com
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"A couple of months ago RR tackled the Gene the Southern Child & Parallel Thought debut album. Coincidentally that album "Artillery Splurgin'" comes out today. What we have here is a selection of bonus tracks that didn't make it into the cartridge with the rest of the ammo - a "Higher Caliber" of rounds to spray at listeners. I would say that they're also being fired from a higher caliber weapon, but when you've got Parallel Thought producing the beats, it's HARD to go any higher. He may not be as well recognized as Alchemist and Primo, but trust me, he's right up there in their stratosphere. Yes that's "thank" and "blaink," not "blink" and "think." If you don't already know Alabama's smooth-ass Southern Child, the country drawl of his flow is a natural part of his charm. In fact that charisma at the time covers for the fact that his platitudes could be typical of the regional artistry - well that and the fact P Thought's spooky atmospheric music on "Snatchin'" is straight up hypnotizing. There's a benefit to giving away the tracks of "Higher Caliber" for free download instead of selling them as a bonus disc or deluxe edition download of his new album - the 17 minutes of songs are a perfect sampler of what these two can do. If an instrumental of "Step To" isn't a bumper for [adult swim] in the near to immediate future, I'll be shocked as hail - oh my bad I meant shocked as hell. Gene's accent is just infectious - even though it's just the normal Southern twang. In fact it's not all that different from a Big Boi or a Young Buck, but Gene has that kind of "pimp" in his inflection and delivery that makes him a star of their caliber."
Ghostface Killah & Apollo Brown :: Twelve Reasons to Die - The Brown Tape :: Soul Temple Entertainment
as reviewed by Zach 'Goose' Gase
"Last week I covered Ghostface Killah's tenth solo LP, "Twelve Reasons to Die." The project featured production from Adrian Younge, and I said it was Ghost's best album since "Fishscale." This week I will be covering the alternate version of that album, "Twelve Reasons to Die: The Brown Tape." I decided that this album deserved its own review because while it features the same performance from Ghostface Killah, the end product is something very different. Apollo Brown was asked by Soul Temple Records to record an alternate version of the Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge album. Originally this was supposed to only be available on cassette tape (still waiting on mine to come in the mail), hence "The Brown Tape." Apollo Brown did not create a remix album; he was given Ghostface Killah's acapellas and constructed beats around his verses. Brown said the album was one of the most challenging projects he's ever done, but it's also one of his best releases to date. In 2012 Brown released projects with OC and Guilty Simpson. He has really started to become one of hip hop's best producers, but if there was any knock against the Detroit beatsmith, it was that his productions all have a similar sound and formula (one could give the same argument about DJ Premier). On "The Brown Tape," Brown shows off his versatility that he hasn't in previous projects he's worked on. He also creates a completely different vibe than Younge's version of the album, which is very necessary. Even though Younge's version has received great acclaim, there are many who may not enjoy that style of production. And for those people you have "The Brown Tape." "The Brown Tape" is a much more traditional approach to a hip hop album than Younge's operatic version. Brown's production features his staples: slow driving and haunting vocal samples on "Beware of the Stare" and an excellent horn chop on "I Declare War." But that's not the only sound he uses on the record. On "An Unexpected Call," "The Sure Shot (part 1)" and "Rise of the Black Suits" he uses stripped down blues guitar samples."
J.Kendall :: Moving Forward :: CFO Recordings
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"RR recently interviewed Spends Quality, the CEO of CFO Recordings, also a recording artist in his own right. Adam's chat with SQ encouraged me to delve deeper into the CFO catalogue, and what I came back to the surface with was J.Kendall's debut album "Moving Forward." Kendall's bio describes him as "an enduring force in the Bay Area hip-hop/R&B scene" which immediately had me wondering "Which is he - R&B or hip-hop?" The fact his album was produced by N8 the Gr8 of The CUF was all the reassurance I needed to know this project would be up my alley, so I put it in my player for a spin. It turns out the "R&B" part of the scene was the correct place to put the focus. J.Kendall is a crooner, unapologetically so, though if you were to put him in a rap context you could compare him to Frank Ocean - with a few necessary qualifications. I don't find him to have Ocean's vocal range, Ocean's tendency toward odd (pun intended) narrative freestyle, nor Ocean's ambiguously sexual lyrics. I DO find Kendall to have Ocean's laid back, California lifestyle vocal tone and delivery; I DO find Kendall to have the same leaning toward modern hip-hop influenced constructions in the beats that he croons over. He even tends a little toward T-Pain on "All Night Long," working AutoTune into the hook. Let me take you back to J.Kendall's bio for a moment - it brags that he's shared the stage with everyone from Souls of Mischief to Lyrics Born and GZA. Sadly none of those artists make cameos on "Moving Forward," although the bio neglects to mention he does have some quality guests (pun intended again) in form of Spends Quality and Equipto on "The Bay." Most people will be sold on cruising to the song the moment he utters "smokin on the finest grass." Other cameos include N8 the Gr8 on the rugged and bouncy "Oh!" and Maryann on "Rollin'" - a track that reminds me of Georgia Anne Muldrow and Dudley Perkins for all the right reasons."
Kreayshawn :: Somethin 'Bout Kreay :: Columbia Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"For the record companies, LPs meant that they could charge consumers three to five times what a 45 cost. Even the length of the album has been dictated by technology. At first they were limited to a maximum of 52 minutes (26 on each side). When CDs became the dominant format in the late 1980s, they had a longer running time and the length of albums grew as well. Many albums released in the 1990s and 2000s have running times approaching the CD limit of 75 minutes, which would have been considered a double album in the 1960s and 1970s. Now that the MP3 is the format of choice, album lengths have shrunk back. Given the diminishing market for albums, it rarely makes sense to put out a release that is longer than 45 minutes. I'm giving a history lesson of musical formats by way of explaining why Oakland rapper Natasha "Kreayshawn" Zolot's album "Something 'Bout Kreay" set a record for lowest first-week sales by an artist on a major label. The album sold 3,900 copies its first week. Given that it cost a reported $750,000 to produce, the only way Columbia is making back their money is if each copy is selling for $200. However, her single, "Gucci, Gucci," sold over 500,000 copies and has gotten over 42 MILLION spins on Youtube since it was released in May 2011. Clearly, the success of that song didn't lead to a successful album. "Gucci Gucci" is a nice bit of Bay Area hip-hop, street rap made by art school dropouts on MDMA. It has the added bonus of being performed by Kreayshawn, a skinny tattooed white girl with a voice that is equal parts valley and street. Her image is hipster-meets-gangsta, and doesn't fit into many people's idea of what a rapper should look like. Some critics derided her as a culture tourist, ignoring the fact that she has been making hip-hop videos and involved in the scene for years. Kids played her song on repeat, and the labels descended, sure that they could cash in a woman who seemed to be equal parts Eminem, Ke$a, Nicki Minaj, and Lil B."
p-teK :: DPS|LP2 :: p-teK Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"p-teK. p-teK? p-teK! I won't lie, I had no good start to this review. Every now and then the well of digital ink just runs dry. It certainly hasn't for this rapper though, who appears to have designed his own Bandpage to reflect his personal tastes, including some R. Crumb-esque background cartoons I can't make heads or tails of. He probably wouldn't mind being put in that category of weird though - the Austin by way of Iowa City rapper is definitely trying to stand out from the herd. He's even something of an activist in his local hip-hop community, having founded a group called the Austin Mic Exchange last year. Laudable. Possibly even profitable. The best way to understand his strange though is "Bird Pie." I can safely say by the third track "Rubber" (produced by EGON, as are all the songs) that he sounds like the kind of artist that would be featured on The Adam B Experience meaning that he's hip-hop but a little bit left of center. This works to his advantage, because he's got a gruff delivery more than occasionally reminiscent of Minnesnowta rappers like Brother Ali and Slug, which may reflect the "Midwest ethos" his bio proudly proclaims. There's definitely a tendency toward being avant garde and experimental. He goes straight up Prince on "Twistin' That Knife," strips down to barebones and beeps on "King of Cartoons," invites Doc Brown to rap along on the non-Turtle inspired "Ninja Rap" and then pokes fun at TMNT on the next track "Turtles Don't Do Drugs" - apparently an actual PSA they did back in the day. Above all p-teK loves collaborating though - check out his friends Dat Boy Supa and Marvelous Mike D on "Tin Men."
Trek Life :: Hometown Foreigner :: Mello Music Group
as reviewed by Grant Jones
"It's a well-known fact that the rap game misses Little Brother. Not only were they the perfect blend of soulful producer and charismatic emcees, they knew how to craft an album. Thankfully there are artists out there that continue to put together smooth rap music that whilst unoriginal, is always a pleasure to listen to. Trek Life is an artist I've yet to enjoy, but after listening to "Hometown Foreigner" will certainly be looking for more from him in the future. Being linked with labelmate Oddisee doesn't hurt, but production is handled throughout "Hometown Foreigner" by the mostly unheard of Duke Westlake. You only have to see the score below for "Music vibes" to understand how good Duke performs on this record, but judge for yourself. Tracks like "Just the Music" possess the beats that operate on 9th Wonder's level, and Trek Life performs admirably with a style not too dissimilar to Common on "Like Water For Chocolate". Speaking of which, "Eat More Chocolate" has Trek Life at his smoothest, sharing a tale of a strained relationship that bluntly tells anyone that wants to cheat to just break up and do the deed as a single person. "What's Real" is a solid track with Trek and yU doing their best with the worst of topics – being real. I love "real" hip hop, but have heard hundreds of records claiming what is real. If you listen to rap I'm pretty sure we all know what "real" is by now. "Rap Time" fares better, an explosive collaboration with Bishop Lamont involving rapid-fire kicks, snares and scratches. "We Good" has a delicious, swinging production from Duke that feels like an ode to De La Soul. Oddisee, Belvi and Funklogik join Trek to round out a true gem. Much of "Hometown Foreigner" is stuck in thumping soul mode, but there are injections of energy on "Street Casualty". Duke essentially samples a Pac-Man ghost dying, which although different, is just as addictive as the classic arcade game."
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