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The (W)rap Up - Week of May 14, 2013 (@MannyWallace)
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 at 10:30AM :: Email this article :: Print this article



If you missed any of the new reviews this past week, including LL Cool J's "Authentic" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!

Courtesy @MannyWallace

[Authentic]LL Cool J :: Authentic
S-Bro/429 Records

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"The swagger James Todd Smith has on "Authentic" is the same he's had since the 1980's, when neither LL Cool J nor hip-hop could live without his "Radio." If the original Yankee Stadium was "The House That Ruth Built," then Def Jam Recordings is and always will be "The House That LL Built" given he made the first full length album the label released. In the years and albums that followed his combination of pugilistic swagger and female friendly ballads made him accessible to a large demographic, one that only grew larger through movie and TV appearances. His transition from hip-hop to household superstar was mirrored and emulated in the decades that followed. Thanks to Fresh Prince and LL, you can now see Nicki Minaj hosting American Idol. The road to rap stars becoming TV stars all starts with them. It would be hard to overstate LL's importance to the generations that followed him, nor how many people emulated (or being less kind directly ripped off) his style over the years. It would be much easier to simply say the dues LL paid opened a whole lot of doors that it would have taken much longer to kick down. As such we could have all bid his rap career a fond and respectful farewell on "Exit 13," and let James do what peers like Dana Owens (Queen Latifah) and Dante Terrell Smith (Mos Def) did - become as well if not better known for their acting. By all accounts LL's role as Sam Hanna on the popular CBS drama "NCIS: Los Angeles" and the show itself are a big success. There's every chance future generations will know him not as the rap star who crossed over to acting, but as the actor who got his start in the entertainment world as an emcee."

 

Azariah & Kidd Called Quest :: Young, Black and Gifted: Long Time Coming :: Bandcamp 
as reviewed by Jaroslav 'Czechone' Lavick

[Young, Black and Gifted]"An album title which includes the phrase "Young, Black and Gifted" evokes memories for me of hip hop days gone by, specifically the Afro-centric era of the late 80's/early 90's. It could easily have been the name of an Intelligent Hoodlum or Schoolly D album, and a switch of word order gives us an '89 Big Daddy Kane track i.e. "Young, Gifted and Black" (which fittingly gets sampled on the album). However, hearing the phrase applied to a 2013 release, I'm not quite sure what to expect? Are we going hear Chuck D type lyrics and Malcolm X sound bites, or is it simply a "cool" sounding name with the content having little to no relevance to the title? Well, these guys aren't quite the next Public Enemy, but black consciousness is on display for a decent portion of the album. Excerpts between tracks from hip hop inspired movies of the 90's, such as "CB4", "Juice", "Do the Right Thing" and others, add to the notion of the album's sentiments being from an older era. Don't be misled though, despite the nostalgia, this album sits just as well alongside any 2013 hip hop release you may have heard recently. The creators of said album are mic controller Azariah (who tells the listener to call him "Az") and producer Kidd Called Quest (also known as Jay Quest), who both hail from the Rochester area of NY. Although I'm not too familiar with either artist, both seem to have been around for a few years, each having a handful of prior releases listed on their respective Bandcamp pages (Az has mixtapes dating from 2005). The hype on their website labels them as "585 greats" (585 being Rochester) which, if to be believed, suggests they've been putting in hard work in getting known locally, and this album is their chance to shine beyond the boundaries of their area code. The promo for the album states Az as having a "quirky flow", and I'm not going to argue with that. For those in the know, think of a young sounding Frukwan (from Stetsasonic/Gravediggaz), however, on a couple occasions Az also reminds me slightly of Journalist 103 (part of the group The Left). If those references mean nothing to you, I'd describe him as having a teenage sounding voice (that sounds younger than he is) which, whilst lacking power, has something nicely unique and catchy to it."

http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2013_05_ybglongtime.html

Blanco & The Jacka :: Game Over :: Guerrilla Entertainment 
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Game Over]"Game Over" concludes Blanco and The Jacka's three-piece that visually pays homage to a trio of (unrelated) street artists - Shepard Fairey, Banksy and Invader. Invader does not have the same reputation as they other two, but his consideration in the EP trilogy creates a personal connection because the French artist actually 'invaded' my hometown some years ago, placing a number of his small Space Invaders mosaics in our historic district, a subtle form of urban art that is not as in-your-face and damaging to facades as graffiti. The pixelated Space Invaders space ships that inspired Invader's art also happened to be one of my earliest encounters with the gaming world many years ago, so I'd certainly be receptive to what could be assumed to be an arcade games theme behind "Game Over," especially with all songs named after video games from that era. As with its predecessors, however, the music on "Game Over" is, at least at first sight, independent from the artwork. The riddling references are mainly decoration to render the content more interesting. While the first installment, "Obey," invited some interesting speculations about subliminal mind manipulation, and the second, "Misfits," featured rap tracks with unusually honest titles like "Narcissist" or "Sociopath," the only applicable message here is that "Game Over" signals indeed the end of the mission. Does "Donkey Kong" have a gorilla in the trunk? Does "Mega Man" have the storyline of a Mega Ran track? Does "Punch Out" pit Blanco against Jacka in a verbal sparring match? No, no, and no. That doesn't take away from the music itself. Blanco and Jacka once again have open house. Repeat guests like Husalah, DB Tha General, Messy Marv, Lil Rue or Lee Majors are all present, and Philly's Freeway even makes his third appearance on as many EPs. Also arriving from afar but invited for the first time are Trae Tha Truth on "Punch Out" and Styles P and Freddie Gibbs on the definitely not misnomed "Cruising USA," set in a part bluesy, part breezy scenery that fits the traveling theme."

http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2013_05_gameover.html

Chance the Rapper :: Acid Rap :: {self-released} 
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Acid Rap]"Don't be fooled by the title of Chance the Rapper's latest self-released album. While it references drugs, it isn't a drug album. Like Danny Brown, Chance's drug use is the least interesting thing about the rapper. Drugs act like a screen for the deeper issues that Chance examines over the course of this album. Also like Danny Brown, Chance has released an amazing album for free. If you wanted to come up with a pedigree for Chance, it might be something like this: one part fellow Chicagoan Kanye West, to whom he owes his confessional tone; one part Lil Wayne, to whom Chance owes part of his delivery and his adept use of one-liners; one part Frank Ocean, since Chance mixes singing and rapping; one part early Eminem, for the bratty, clever wordplay; and one part Kendrick Lamar, since Chance is from the school of Rappers With Funny Voices. That's not to say Chance is derivative. It's more like he takes some of the best aspects of some of the best rappers and integrates it into his own style. The lyrics on "Acid Rap" are anything but dumb stonerisms. He examines love, mental illness, drug abuse, loneliness, and similar to Kendrick, tries to reconcile being raised in a good home with the pull of the streets. There's a pervading feeling of nostalgic sadness as Chance looks back at where he came from the viewpoint of a twenty-something who is feeling directionless and lost. This is best expressed in "Cocoa Butter Kisses." "Everybody's Something" is a touching song about love with a chorus of "Everybody's somebody's everything/I know you're right/nobody is nothing/That's right." It also shows Chance's cleverness and complexity as a rapper. He's got tongue-twisters like "Swallow them synonyms like cinnamon Cinnabuns/Keep all those symp-to-mens down to a minimum." There's a seriousness to his playfulness, though, as he raps about Chicago in all its dysfunction."

http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2013_05_chanceacidrap.html

The Uncluded (Aesop Rock & Kimya Dawson) :: Hokey Fright :: Rhymesayers Entertainment 
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[The Uncluded]"If being strange is something two artists can have in common, and if that's all you need for an excuse to collaborate, then The Uncluded makes perfect sense and should have happened sooner. Aesop Rock has been making unconventional rap music since the second half of the 1990's, who occasionally garners critical acclaim and spins on [adult swim] for work like "None Shall Pass." Kimya Dawson is a folk singer who considers herself to be anti-folk, and while you're wrapping your head around that one, consider that the lone band she was a part of before this one was called The Moldy Peaches. Appetizing? If your tastebuds are in your ears and not your mouth, sure. The one convention they both have in common is being unconventional. "Hokey Fright" is definitely folk music to my tastebuds, not that I savor that flavor very often, but there's nothing I find to be "anti" about it unless fans of folk music would get up in arms about collaborating with a rapper. Would they really? I suppose the stereotype I've had of folk music since childhood is people who wear flowers in their hair, who strum guitars and sing songs, who talk about their emotions and protest political injustice at a soft volume in front of large gatherings. They might get up in arms at nuclear arms, but would generally not hurt a fly except by accident. It's an acoustic form in my experience, and "Hokey Fright" has that sound - a recording more "captured" than "produced," although Aesop and Kimya are listed as the producers. Kimya does most of the singing, although at times Aesop sings along on tracks like "Scissorhands," before switching back to his more traditional rapping role."

http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2013_05_hokeyfright.html

will.i.am :: #willpower :: will.i.am/Interscope 
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[#willpower]"The RR staff recently created a spreadsheet to keep track of all available and upcoming new hip-hop albums, to make it easier for all of us to keep track of what was new that hadn't been done and to avoid accidentally writing duplicate reviews of the same album. After watching "#willpower" sit on the sheet for a month without anybody volunteering to cover it, I realized that once again I had become a victim of my own circumstance. Nobody wants to write about Gucci Mane albums after I spent so much time badmouthing how awful his lyrics are, and nobody wants to review anything to do with the Black Eyed Peas after I buried "The Beginning" more than six feet beneath the earth. It deserved that treatment then, it still does now, but nobody should be shocked the RR staff wouldn't willingly sign up for a will.i.am solo album after that - least of all me. The irony of course is that will's solo projects aren't that bad historically speaking. Up until now will has been able to divest himself from the bubblegum electro hip-pop dubstep juggernaut that BEP has become on his own albums. Had he come along in a different era, he'd probably be regarded as being a Native Tongues artist, an eclectic hip-hop poet along the lines of Q-Tip or Mike Gee. I'd even go one step further and say that I respect will as a producer. I may not agree with the artistic choices he makes as part of BEP, but I can't deny that in or outside that group, he seems to have his pulse on what's popping in terms of style and sound. You certainly can't argue with his success - except of course on his solo albums. BEP fans either don't seem to be aware of them or don't CARE about them. Despite being some of his most artistic endeavors, they've been at best been called "flops" in terms of the amount of units they've sold."

http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2013_05_willpower.html

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