If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including LMNO's "Preparanoia" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
LMNO :: Preparanoia
Cursed Out Productions
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
"The phrase "long time emcee" starts to feel trite when you've written it a hundred times, but that doesn't make it any less true for California rapper LMNO, who can date his career back to the mid-1990's thanks to his membership in The Visionaries. Even if you don't know the group as a whole (their last release together was a 2007 mixtape) they've been prolific when working on their own projects - 2Mex has half a dozen albums, DJ Rhettmatic has almost as many, and LMNO has more than both plus the other group's members put together. Even if we did one LMNO album per week that hasn't already been covered on the site every week for the rest of the year, I don't think we could get to them all before 2014 ends - and he'd likely drop a new album in the interim. The title "Preparanoia" seems fitting as a portmanteau given LMNO's extensive discography. It would be easy to surmise LMNO is both "paranoid" about his rap future and "prepared" for his demise untimely or otherwise. The reason that 2Pac recorded enough albums for years of posthumous releases was a clear case of "Preparanoia." For a moment I thought I was paranoid myself until I realized the first single "The Most" was actually the last track on LMNO's new album - I thought he had deleted it before this week's release. It comes across as a political protest: "People with the most power/tend to not know how to use it." Et tu Ferguson police force? "There's more of us than their ammunition/it'll run out, eventually, blood will spill." Out of context those lines are even more potent but they certainly work well enough over Samplecentric's subtle backdrop. It gives the precise and measured flow of LMNO all the room it needs to breathe.Actually if LMNO was going to be paranoid about anything it would be the divisive opinion over his vocals. I imagine the same people who are against it are also not fans of Evidence, though his California flow is slower and deeper. Nevertheless there are times when LMNO borders on being anti-emcee. There's no consensus amongst our staff - Jay Soul has called him a "terrible/deluded" emcee while Grant Jones says a good LMNO album "relies on his monotone" to succeed."
Apathy :: Connecticut Casual :: Demigodz Records
as reviewed by Grant Jones
"As an elite emcee, Apathy has spent much of his career bodying beats through his regular appearances alongside partner-in-rhyme Celph Titled, or as a reliably destructive member of Army of the Pharaohs. Given that AOTP is Vinnie Paz's group that grew from the Jedi Mind Tricks brand of uber-violence and intense macho-ness, Apathy's style of wrapping his so-called alien tongue around words has always suited more minimal production. His own group The Demigodz delivered a refreshing take on throwback hip hop in 2013 with "Killmatic", a polished collection of posse cuts which never felt like a bunch of verses tacked together - something AOTP records have now become. While Apathy's tendency to use "battle rhymes" is apparent, his solo albums are actually his best work. "Eastern Philosophy" was a self-indulgent ode to the New York artists he clearly admired as a teenager, but also sounded like a modern advancement on the traditional sound guys like Black Moon and Cella Dwellas perfected. It was the best of both worlds, old and new. Fast-forward to 2011's "Honkey Kong" (arguably his best work) and the self-confessed mother molester is working alongside the same guys who crafted classics twenty years earlier. DJ Premier, Da Beatminerz and DJ Muggs ensured fiery hot rhymes were met with equally scorching instrumentals, so to see a self-produced album from Apathy is a brave move. I'll give Apathy his props for trying something different, something that tries to be more grown-up but "Connecticut Casual" ends up being rather convoluted. There's certainly a focus on his hometown and some political themes, but it also feels like a bad homecoming. He's as intricate as ever with the rhymes, but there's a noticeable tendency to focus on themes I thought he had outgrown - "Underground Chick" is as tightly flown as anything Ap has done, but suffers from tedious misogyny harking back to the immaturity of early Apathy songs like "DSLs" and "Earth Girls Are Easy". He's just as vulgar on "Locals Only" showing further proof of an obsession with fellatio, although the impeccable and precise technique with which Apathy writes and delivers his rhymes is admittedly as impressive as ever."
FlamesYall :: RaglandTape :: Bandcamp
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Lou Ragland isn't well enough known or regarded to have his own Wikipedia page, which may be the very reason that UK producer FlamesYall decided to create a "RaglandTape" celebrating his catalogue. There's certainly no shortage of material for him to flip - the singer and guitarist has been releasing music since the late 1950's. He's made it all the way up to the mainstream on more than one occasion, including Warner Brothers releasing his single "Since You Said You'd be Mine" in 1973. It's a charming bit of Motown-esque R&B that fits in comfortably between the Jackson 5 and the Temptations. For reasons that are unclear to me, Ragland's discography is all over the map, working with a over a half dozen different labels on his own - and undoubtedly far more as a session musician or backing vocalist. It may be that Ragland's lack of notoriety these days is entirely his own doing, never staying anywhere long enough to build a legacy, condemned by his own wanderlust to be well sampled as opposed to well known. That being said you can't help but bop your head to what FlamesYall has put together on "RaglandTape" - not just the loops he chose but the rappers he chose to work with like TopDollaRaz. Even though Flames is UK based, he's reached out across the pond to work with foreign emcees, although I'm very partial to the local accent of SusBully on "GotToChanggge." He's unapologetic about his circumstances, "Forced to shit that was embarrassing - working for that chump change for my kid's sake ... supermarkets, no money for the big steaks." Between the beats and the rhymes it's easy to relate and feel where the 'Backyard Bully' is coming from, but it's just as easy to feel Jeff Spec on "Aiiin'ThatA (Bitch)" as he drops bar after bar of aggressive punchline over soulfully crooned "ooooooooohs" worthy of Otis Redding. "
Le1f :: Hey :: Terrible/XL Recordings
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"Of all the people throwing shade and firing shots at Macklemore, New York rapper Le1f had perhaps the most legitimate beef. As he put it in a tweet that has since been deleted, "that time that straight white dude ripped off my song then made a video about gay interracial love and made a million dollars." The song he is referring to is Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's "Thrift Shop," which came out in August 2012, and features horn stabs that sound awfully similar to those in Le1f's single "Wut," which came out in April 2012. Really similar. As in "call your lawyer" similar. I'm not accusing anyone of anything, but Le1f definitely has a case. Le1f was equally upset about all the media attention (and money) Macklemore and Lewis got for their pro-gay track "Same Love," when gay rappers weren't getting any attention from the media. I haven't listened to Le1f's EP or his three mixtapes, so I figured his new EP "Hey" was an opportunity to catch up with the rapper, see what he has to offer, and see if he deserves a share of Macklemore's market. Lyrically and sonically Le1f has a lot in common with the latest generation of club rappers who rap about getting high and getting laid over electronic beats. The whistling synths and handclap beats on opener "Hey" are straight out of the post-hyphy Bay Area. The lyrics could almost from Sage the Gemini, except for all the references to bubble butts."
Trey Songz :: Trigga :: Songbook/Atlantic Records
as reviewed by Grant Jones
"Contemporary R&B is a genre I've always enjoyed yet never explored as religiously as hip hop, probably because it centres around intimacy and love, two things you'll be lucky to witness from me, being the heartless bastard I am. Growing up on hip hop music probably hasn't helped this lack of emotion, but as I get older I find myself drawn more and more towards R&B and Soul artists. There's less cursing and I'd argue that it's easier to listen to, particularly with children around - except Trey Songz bucks that trend with his brand of carnal crooning and horny harmonies. I've always struggled to enjoy Trey Songz' albums, largely because his music is so one-dimensional and clearly catered to women, that I feel inadequate as a listener. He's the Dan Bilzerian of R&B, sharing endless tales of sex and male fantasy that he ends up evoking feelings of jealousy and hatred, rather than admiration. Sometimes you can get past an artist's background if the music is that good (Chris Brown for instance, although I still find it remarkable he hasn't been dropped after the Rihanna thing) - Trey gets away with much of his music thanks to some irresistible production that is as seductive as the ladies find the man himself. I wouldn't be surprised if nightclub DJs just throw this record on for an hour as it is literally one song after another about shaking ass and getting frisky. "Foreign" is about sleeping with women that aren't from the U.S.A., "Late Night" is about coming to terms with a lifestyle that focuses on sleeping with women, "Change Your Mind" sees Trey try to convince women that don't do one night stands to sleep with him, etc. It all comes off a bit "Duracell Bunny on Viagra". There are some more tender moments on "Trigga", probably recorded when Trey suffered a urine infection or something. "Na Na" is a highlight, not because it shows love for the older woman (it doesn't) but it shows Trey at his least intimidating. Simple, yet catchy, "Na Na" stands out amongst the other songs that end up blending in to one another. Nicki Minaj has the opportunity to provide vocals as sexual as her image suggests on "Touchin', Lovin'", but decides to go all robot on us. A robot that left the oven on, as not only does she quickly fire off her verse, it's blink-and-you'll-miss-it in length. It's a shame, as Nicki can do Lil Kim better than Kim can - even more annoying given Trey nails his hooks and bridges."
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