If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Cormega's "Mega Philosophy" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Cormega :: Mega Philosophy
Author: Grant Jones
"Hip hop is often referred to as music of youth, which is great for keeping the genre fresh and forward-thinking, but leaves many artists with overlooked careers. So many projects get rejected by life-long fans for being too far from the original direction said artist took on their debut. Atmosphere's "Southsiders" is far from the likes of "God Loves Ugly", just as Pharoahe Monch has grown artistically from "Internal Affairs" through to "P.T.S.D." Cormega is an artist that I feel has blossomed from age, minimising the cursing and braggodocio of earlier releases to the point that his latest effort is bordering on family hip hop. Cormega is an emcee that is respected by many yet remembered by few. Establishing himself on the outer circle of popular New York rappers at the turn of the millennium, albums such as "The Realness" and "The True Meaning" mixed lyricism with street stories that exceeded the likes of what Nature, Mobb Deep and even AZ were doing at the time. Cormega was brash, yet intelligent enough to know that the criminal lifestyle he grew up in was only going to get him so far. Some regard "The Realness" as a classic, but I'd argue that 2009's "Born & Raised" was Cormega's best release. He's an emcee that has grown and matured in how he tackles themes that are more "real" to us folk that aren't street hustlers. "Live & Learn", "Love Your Family" and "Journey" leant his previous album a reflective, level-headed perspective that is often hidden amongst imposing authenticity claims on other albums such as "Raw Forever." It didn't hurt that DJ Premier, Pete Rock and Large Professor were supplying timeless instrumentals either. "Mega Philosophy" then, should be superb given that it is fully produced by Large Professor who has recently combined with Mega on songs such as "M.A.R.S.". I'm hard pressed to argue otherwise, but Extra P comes through with production that evokes timelessness. "Valuable Lessons" is the perfect combination of poignance and composure, utilising a delicate harp-like sound to great effect."
7evenThirty :: The Problem :: Mello Music Group
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Gensu Dean produced this album. That one fact alone made 7evenThirty's "The Problem" worth the price of admission for me. The reasons to invest only increase knowing the release comes from the Mello Music Group camp. As a rule MMG doesn't tend to release whack shit - they may have a rare dud here or there but they set a reliably high standard for independent hip-hop. I imagine a lot of today's audience sees "MMG" and thinks "Maybach Music Group" and/or Rick Ross - not me. 7evenThirty is certainly not the "Mello" in MMG though. Before you've even finished the second track "Roach Spray" he's bragged that he's "A one-man zombie apocalypse/T-virus positive/I'm positive I'm never coming to your open mic night" and "something like Bruce Banner pulling up on that motorbike." 7even is Dallas, Texas by way of Jackson, Mississippi and the accent would tell you that even without a bio or this review - he says "hell" like you're in a "hail" storm. That's fine by me - let it rain - he's the authentic concoction and not an Australian imitation. 7even is what Snoop Dogg would sound like if his parents never moved to Long Beach. Speaking of bios the MMG one accompanying "The Problem" states that Gensu Dean and 7evenThirty were "fated" to work together due to "shared soil written in indelible ink." I'm hard pressed to argue after 42 minutes of this album - Dean is definitely 7even's Dr. Dre. You can speculate for a fortnight on whether 7even wrote the raps and Dean crafted the beats to match or vice versa - and ultimately it doesn't matter. The two are ideally met on each track. 7even gets personal on "Better Give 'Em Sumthin'" and the looped bass and light piano breathes the pain with him. "Making of a Vigilante" is appropriately menacing, finding 7even channeling the spirit of Kurupt. And then there's the brooding and aptly named "Hook Heavy" featuring Sean Price - a collaboration so natural that all parties involved may want to consider an EP together."
Big Bennett Bionic :: Art of Peace :: BBB
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
If that opening lyrical salvo seems incredibly crude I apologize. I didn't want to waste your time though and beat around the not-so-metaphorical bush that Big Bennett Bionic is on "Hiftbsycwmbs" - and since it's the first track after the intro there's no reason not to. You may be saying to yourself "So he's a little raunchy - so what? So was Akinyele." That's true. A lot of hip-hop's most successful rappers have been sexually crass - Too $hort among them - but what both Mr. Shaw and Mr. Adams have that BBB lacks is PERSONALITY. Too $hort convinced me that he could really turn a bitch out on the street, and Akinyele could certainly turn one out with his mouth, but Bionic sounds like he's trying to convince himself. A generous interpretation would be that BBB is intentionally rapping in a monotonal unenthusiastic way as an avant garde rap style - a style choice meant to turn rap music convention on its head the way that Death Grips has become famous for. I wish. BBB is incapable of rapping any other way and you don't need to sit through much of "Art of Peace" to figure that out. This is two-thirds of an hour I can't get back, and "Lilah" is 13% of an hour all by itself. "Yeah... we were there, on some honeymoon shit/I was sprung as fuck-in in love with this chick..." and the hyphen in "fuck-in" is not a typo. He raps so slowly it actually sounds like two words. Neither Evidence nor Parrish Smith were ever this Mr. Slow. The most perplexing thing here is that Mr. Bionic is obviously sincere. This is not a randomly distributed free to download digital album - it's a professionally packaged CD that pulls up a Gracenote song tracklist when you pop it in your laptop or computer. It's available for sale on Amazon.com in digital or physical formats. Despite the extremely minimalistic packaging and lack of accompanying press kit, I have no question that BBB is serious as cancer about rapping. The problem is that he raps like he's been treated FOR cancer. His tongue is slow, his words are plodding, and his lack of adrenaline make even potentially interesting beats like "Clack Clack" lack staying power. He describes the scenery around him, but there seems to be no point - it's like he's reading us his grocery list."
Buckshot & P-Money :: Backpack Travels :: Duck Down Records
as reviewed by Grant Jones
"Whether you preferred Buckshot's Black Moon material where he was tearing it up over grubby Beatminerz productions, or the more recent, squeaky-clean 9th Wonder instrumentals; "Backpack Travels" feels very much like the happy medium. As enticing as Buck's vocals are, over 9th Wonder his rhymes became dangerously minimal to the point that unless the beat was an absolute peach ("You" on "The Solution", "No Comparison" on "Chemistry") - it became style over substance. It's undeniable that Buckshot has an exquisite voice, one that captivates without ever really saying anything memorable - an art in itself. Thankfully in P-Money Buck has found the perfect complement to his style that he hasn't had since the KRS-One project "Survival Skills" over five years ago. "Backpack Travels" surprised me, having heard all of the 9th Wonder records and ultimately being underwhelmed by hit-and-miss combinations of crashing soul samples and beats so polished they often lacked the necessary impact that Buck's smooth tones require. Don't get me wrong, pick up any of "The Solution", "Chemistry" and "The Formula" and you'll be entertained - it just felt a bit wishy-washy. That's not to slate 9th Wonder; I'm a fan and maintain that his work alongside Murs, Jean Grae and Little Brother is exemplary, but P-Money's style allows us to do as the hobbit of hip hop often says - "take a sec to think back". None of the songs drag thanks to a steady BPM that also seems to breathe a little more life in to Buck than usual. Even played out song names like "Killuminati" and "Just Begun" end up being the more addictive songs on the album, with P-Money laying claim to some instrumentals that deserves a wider audience than the secretive, underground hip hop crowd they will inevitably find favour with. For such a short record, there's so much replay value in the snappy, sing-a-long approach to tracks such as "We In Here"."
Crafty & Dkay :: Else :: Cipher9 Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"It took me a minute to figure it out. They slowed the beat down. They changed the pitch. Neither man involved in the track is named "Nice" or "B." I thought about it for a minute though - literally 60 seconds - and it came to me in an instant. "I got a funky funky rhyme with a funky funky style." Crafty & Dkay either did it by accident or on purpose but either way the opening track of their album "Else" is like a chopped 'n screwed version of "Hip-Hop Junkies." I was first introduced to the Boston-based Crafty back in 2011, and though I gave him some shit about putting his answering machine on his album, I'm glad to be hearing from him again. Crafty showed some undeveloped potential that I rated as "solid (but) not spectacular" which could over time grow to being a better emcee. For the aspiring rap star the solution turned out to be forming a partnership with Dkay, which allowed him to split up the lyrical duties, and also gave him the flexibility to assume a greater role in overseeing the mastering and production of "Else." Dkay isn't the only one to make a contribution here. AlexKidOne and Peptalk produce a track apiece, and three guest stars work their way into the mix over an hour of beats and rhymes. "Blam" implies violence in its name and sample but is a relaxed cipher of bars with Exact Dose measuring out a precise contribution. "Same Old, Same Old" featuring Prophet opens with a diatribe that seems as much a message to Crafty as the listener - "do whatever you can for yo' life to be the shit." Finally the Mobb Deeply named "Hell On Earth" features Organismmic, which reads like it's a clever mixture of "organism" and "orgasmic" but is just incredibly awkward to say out loud. Change your name homey - but don't change your style."
False Ego :: Nostradamus Beat Tape Vol. 1 :: Bandcamp
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Ordinarily False Ego's "Nostradamus Beat Tape Vol. 1" is the kind of thing I'd save for our annual "UK month" here at RapReviews.com, since that's where the producer of this beat tape hails from. However I feel an obligation to the readership to provide a minimum amount of content per week, so False Ego makes the cut by virtue of me having stumbled across his work on a random Google search for rap instrumentals. Ego appears to be fairly new to the rap scene, having only amassed 7 tweets and 9 followers since he joined the world of social media. I'm sure he'll have a few more after this review. He also seems to be a little unsure of the stance he wants to take about his work - on Bandcamp he describes his beats as free "for non profit as long as credit is given" but his most recent tweet says "(I) wish I could find people who jack my beats, that shit annoys me so much." It's hard to make a name for yourself when people do use your work without crediting you, but at the same time if anybody famous was rapping over my beats and I was False Ego, I'd be bragging about how my beat tape made somebody's mix tape. Ego has a style that reminds me of Jet Age - it's trippy, synthetic, spaced out hip-hop music for the explorers of the mind. That seems to be working for Mr. Ego - four of the songs on "Nostradamus" have been marked *SOLD* and replaced with a 0:16 track of static followed by silence. If you download the entire thing as a zip file you'll want to delete those once you unzip it - and I wonder why Ego doesn't simply repost is beat tape with a new tracklisting and the ones he doesn't want floating around for free removed. It's honestly a bit of a cocktease to say it was good enough for someone to buy and then not even let us hear any of what they bought."
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