If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Andy Mineo's "Never Land" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Andy Mineo :: Never Land
Author: Grant Jones
"You'd never know Andy Mineo was a Christian rapper in the traditional sense. The bible isn't quoted in all of his songs, nor is his love for God overbearing or preachy. Andy Mineo is most certainly a rapper that happens to be Christian, rather than a Christian that happens to rap. It's a fine line, but an important one when aiming your record at a wider demographic despite the western world still being largely Christian. Do you want to hear how you SHOULD be living your life whilst a tipsy young lady twerks your package at 3am in a loud, hot nightclub? Or the story of Jesus as you're stuck in rush hour traffic on the way to work? Didn't think so, and Andy Mineo clearly doesn't either. Pushing 26,000 units in one week is phenomenal for an EP, let alone one that is unfairly labelled as a "Christian record", and when you consider those numbers are five times what long-established artists Alchemist and Evidence achieved with "Lord Steppington", this must be fire right? If you find Rick Ross too obnoxious or can't bring yourself to play Lil Wayne in the car with children present (quite rightly!) then this is indeed that fire you crave. "Never Land" is devoid of profanity and ignorance, which admittedly doesn't ensure that Andy Mineo is a good rapper just because he means well (otherwise Eminem would be awful) - it doesn't hurt his appeal . Andy Mineo is certainly no Marshall Mathers, both technically and thematically, yet "Never Land" is a record that could reach an audience as wide as Em's. Every song on this 7-track EP is accessible without feeling diluted, minus the scratch-heavy, rapidly rapped "Paganini" (an Italian violinist as opposed to a variety of pasta, presumably it is him on the violin sample here)."
Dub MD x Drama Class :: Conflicted EP :: Dub MD Promotions
as reviewed Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Most times when I see the name "Dub MD" it's for something I'm being asked to promote - a single, an album, a music video or a mixtape - whatever the case may be. Dub's not obnoxious about it like some publicists (who shall remain nameless) so I don't mind the blasts in my inbox, even if it's impossible for me to address every single one I get. The "Conflicted EP" marks the first time I've seen his name ON an album, although I'm not surprised to find he's not rapping on it. "Dub MD Presents" would have been more fitting, but since he chose to co-credit, I'm gonna keep it the way he wrote it. Even "Drama Class" needs more expansion though as it's two names you may already know - production by Earl Blaize of Anti-Pop Consortium and rhymes by Mr. Live, who among other singles dropped the humorous "Splashin Over Monica" with Tony Bones. As the "EP" implies in the title, "Conflicted" is a short release clocking in at only 18 minutes long, which doesn't mean there's any time to waste. Each song has a woman's voice expressing an emotion or mindstate before the track begins, such as the word "confusion" before the title song, and the word "contentment" before "I Still Love Her." Here's the twist to all of this - even though Earl Blaize is one half of the group, he doesn't produce one half of the tracks. The aforementioned song, which also features guest vocals from a woman named Ghagged, was actually laced by Oddisee. And if you're looking for a reason why, that's because this actually functions as a mixtape of sorts, which is probably related to the reason this is being offered as a free download. You'll immediately recognize the Jahlil Beats loop from the title track as hailing from Weezy's "I Don't Like the Look of It" featuring Gudda Gudda. Neither Earl nor Live is trying to perpetrate like they did anything they didn't - everything is properly credited and attributed. So let's break down the order of people involved: Dub MD presents Drama Class to you, DC is Earl Blaize x Mr. Live, but on "Conflicted" Blaize foregoes his own work the majority of the time to play Doo Wop or DJ Clue while Live plays Fabolous. It works. "
Friday a/k/a Ricky Dred :: Born 2 Win :: AWOL/URBNET Records
as reviewed Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Initially I thought I was looking at a new Jay-Z record. The suit, the shades, the close cropped shave - everything about the artwork screamed Shawn Carter. Friday a/k/a Ricky Dred may admire Hova's dapper swag but he's his own man. He's a Montreal born and bred emcee, real name Kofi Carmichael, which immediately brought Stokely Carmichael to mind. Instead of expecting an album about trips to Paris and tributes to baby Blue, my mindset shifted to trips to Guinea and tributes to Ahmed Sekou Toure. Neither one suit Friday that well, so instead I offer you a little of his real bio. Carmichael aspired to be a rapper since his youth in the 1980's, was once part of a rap crew called Southside, went to the Harris Institute of the Arts to study music marketing, wound up working for Warner Music Canada and even forming his own AWOL Records imprint. Unfortunately things unraveled for Carmichael in 2009 when he was arrested in late 2009 on drug related charges, ultimately being sentenced to 3 years and 9 months in prison. He got out on parole in 2011 and returned to his music career. Friday's honest about this chapter of his life on "Work," which also functions as the first single off the album - or at the very least the only one to get its own music video. 5 Star Beatz provides the backdrop, which starts off with a DJ air horn, and follows it with a hypnotizing repetitive melody. The lyrics deserve praise for their uncompromising look at Friday's life, but after listening to the same four notes repeat ad nauseum for 3:26, I'm ready for a change. There are some bangers to be found on "Born 2 Win." Chenzo Kell rocks a guitar break on "Doin' Numberz" featuring Bunz, and instead of sticking to the same lick throughout, changes up the loop and adds elements to keep things interesting. "Amir" appears to be named after the producer Amir the Terrorist and he's earned it - he's got a very DJ Premier/Alchemist boom bap to his beat. Joey Cutlass also does a good job on "Hennessy Coloured Glasses," and Grampz turns in a soulful finale for the album on "Make It to Heaven" featuring Chris Webb."
Guerrilla Alliance :: Empire of Fear :: Planet X Records
as reviewed Steve 'Flash' Juon
"This is likely to be my last Guerrilla Alliance or Planet X Records review for some time. I've been diligently trying to space them out to not overwhelm the reader, but to be honest I've also done it to not overwhelm ME. There are some intriguing things about the Planet X crew, including their overarching conspiracy theory narrative (reminiscent of Wu-Tang affiliates like Sunz of Man and Black Market Militia) and apocalyptic musical sound (reminiscent of Jedi Mind Tricks). This is tempered by my feelings about Vega X, whose flow I must unapologetically describe as odious, if indeed "flow" is even the right word. He inhales a lungful of oxygen and screams his lyrics at the microphone in gulps, completely oblivious of the instrumental or its tempo. He's a charismatic figure given his unorthodox style and gravel delivery, but if screaming polemics at a microphone alone could make you a rapper, then we'd have to consider Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh rap stars too. "Empire of Fear" benefits from doing its best to keep Vega X mixed into the presentation instead of totally dominating it, thanks to an abundance of guest stars who come along for the ride. These are names underground rap fans will be well familiar with. El*A*Kwents drops in for "Ghost in the Machine" and Ronin, Block McCloud on "Eye 4 An Eye," Lone Ninja on "Alliance of Peril" and Chief Kamachi on "Predatory Spiritualism" just to name a few. You'll also find some less familiar names like High Dro & Tehutimos on songs like "Scimitar," but I do not exaggerate when I say any time spent with someone other than X rapping is time well spent. R.I.P. Vee Eye, who can be heard on "El Divino Rito de Reyes."Thanks to Vega's partner Macabean the Rebel and a slew of quality guests "Empire of Fear" is the strongest Planet X Records album I've reviewed to date, which makes it a fitting note to sign off on.
(Random) Mega Ran :: Mega Ran Japan Tour EP :: MegaRan Music
as reviewed Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Random a/k/a Mega Ran is nothing if not a professional. He's a pro- in other ways as well: productive, a prodigy, proficient and prolific when it comes to his rapping. There's every chance that if I bought or downloaded an album a month for the next year straight I would still be way behind on my Ran releases, as he would have dropped a half-dozen or more new ones, but the most professional thing about Ran is that the quality doesn't suffer no matter how much material he drops. The "Mega Ran Japan Tour EP" affords both Random and his fandom a little bit of a respite. This July 2013 release was not new material per se, but it was presented in a new way, designed to celebrate his tour of the Land of the Rising Sun. Various producers give their own take on classic Ran tracks that saw him rise to popularity as a gaming inspired emcee. The Master Kohta remix of "Shadowman" is a trip, tripping the light fantastic and chopping the chiptune into a chippy new tune heavy on the bass bottom."
Ty Dolla Sign :: Beach House EP :: Taylor Gang/Atlantic Records
as reviewed Grant Jones
"A comparison with T-Pain is inevitable when an artist boasts dreadlocks, Autotune and a nasty habit of referring to all women as bitches. Except T-Pain could craft half-decent songs, and even catchy hits (regardless of your opinion on Autotune); Ty Dolla Sign however has released a real turd of an EP in order to nullify any hype he may have for his debut album, to be released later this year. It's a real shame because the song "Work" is a decent effort, bolstered by an uplifting vibe that justifies the "Beach House" name that Ty often goes with on his work. Even "Wood & Leather" knocks hard, but Ty's presence just doesn't aid proceedings - the Autotune is overdone and lends the song a 'Robocop doing karaoke' feel that is disappointing. Unfortunately, Ty Dolla Sign steers the rest of this beach house in to quick sand. Infantile remarks such as "your bitch looks like a booger" help ruin any genuine rhymes from guests. Trey Songz upstages Ty on "Paranoid (Remix)" and even French Montana's lame homage to Kurupt is vaguely entertaining but there's some really weak moments here. Awkward pauses on most songs where words should be. Every song being about getting bitches, regardless of whether Ty means it or not, and the fact Ty is never alone is an age-old example of limited ability. Jay Rock stomps over "Never Be The Same" with his deep tones, a song that's let down by Ty's incoherent drivel ("you more sketchier than drawings"?). It's not just the poor lyrics but the sloppy manner it's delivered, and it's a shame, given that D'Mile has cooked up a satisfying chip-tune instrumental. "
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