If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Sankofa's "Ink From Rust" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's version of the (W)rap Up!
Sankofa :: Ink From Rust
Shadow Creek Entertainment
Author: Patrick Taylor
Few things are more worthless than a rapper's word that they are retiring from the game. Every year another rapper retires, and every year another retired rapper releases a new album. I can understand the urge to get out while the getting's good, but really, how do you quit art? Sankofa, aka Stephen Bryden, is the latest retired rapper to go back to the recording booth after promising he was done with 2013's "Just Might Be." The Fort Wayne rapper figured that fatherhood, a full-time job, and other grown-man responsibilities left little room in his life for his side career as a rapper. Then a series of fortunate and unfortunate events (playing a music festival in Fort Wayne, the election of Donald Trump and appointment of Sankofa's arch-nemesis Mike Pence to Vice President among them) convinced Sankofa to pick up the mic once more. The result is "Ink From Rust," 10 slabs of lyrical goodness from a man who thought he'd run out of stuff to say. I've been a fan of Sankofa's since giving a very enthusiastic review to his 2007 release "The Tortoise Hustle." His combination of rapping skills and Midwestern good-naturedness are something you don't come across that often. He is a fierce rapper, filling his bars with intricate rhymes, but he almost totally lacks the machismo and posturing you generally associate with hip-hop. Age may have slowed his output, but it hasn't put a dent in his motormouth flow and dense rhymes: think Aesop Rock if he was more caffeinated.
Ciphurphace :: In Phaced God We Trust :: SouthFresh Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"I caught the old deja vu before writing this review thinking we had already covered Ciphurphace, but a quick search of our extensive review database disproved my belief. Undaunted I keyed on a message left on his Bandcamp page reading "I checked it 'cause Palumbo said to." Well there's only one Palumbo I know in hip-hop and that's Jake Palumbo, and based on that it didn't take me long to find e-mails from Jake promoting their Moonshine Burrito collaboration. That led me further down the rabbit hole to a series of singles that Ciphur's hard working publicist had sent to us for publication on the newsfeed, which ultimately leads me to suspect either her or Jake sent me this release, but nothing on it says for sure. One of those singles his publicist sent me was "I'll Always Love H.E.R." produced by Scorpioflo, which is included on this "In Phaced God We Trust" release. It's a pretty fly track with a catchy guitar lick backdrop and lyrics which make it a spiritual successor to Common's "I Used to Love H.E.R." or The Roots "Act Too" featuring Common two decades ago. He's not trying to hide that thanks to the song title and obvious punchlines like "She's played in mad jeeps - in the streets - she's SOUNDBOMBIN'/a RESURRECTION would be nice - we would have things in COMMON" but my favorite hip-hop references come in verse three."
Funky DL :: Autonomy - The Bonus Remixes :: Washington Classics
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Last year's review of "The Jazz Lounge" was a necessity given that Funky DL has a career spanning 17 years, much like the website you are reading right now, but aside from his appearances on compilations we had yet to tackle his catalog. That's a shame given that DL has a uniquely interesting vocal tone that is instantly reminiscent of New York legends like AZ and Tragedy Khadafi, yet if you pay careful attention to how his vowels come out he's also got a bit of Slick Rick to his flow. Still if you weren't explicitly told that DL hails from London, it's something you could miss easily. What you can't miss on "The Bonus Remixes" is how this release very purposefully and directly loops familiar beats to flip songs from his "Autonomy: The 4th Quarter 2" album. The street remix of "Judas" will have you rapping "I stay hard like an..." within five seconds if you grew up a fan of Edo.G. That's a VERY familiar loop of Hamilton Bohannon's "Singing a Song for My Mother," which was also lifted by the late Heavy D for "Love Sexy" and more recently by Roc Marciano on the aptly titled "Momma's Song." If you don't get chills down your spin hearing it the good news is that Funky DL's usage of it is fly in its own right. Obvious samples are a theme here, which is fine when you're offering something up as "bonus remixes" and not as a fully developed album in and of itself. In fact the remix of "Autonomic" makes the James Brown "Funky Drummer" sample even more obvious than the original version. Nothing bad about that, nor the opening bars which seem to pay homage to Nas in both style and tone"
Sho Baraka :: The Narrative :: Fair Trade/Humble Beast/Columbia Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"A previous review of Sho Baraka started with a bit of a dissertation about the "sub-genre of Christian rap." That's certainly a fair way to start a Sho Baraka review, since he's unapologetically open about his faith and relationship with God. Just like Brother Ali and his albinism though, he's probably a bit tired of every critic opening their reviews with a statement of the obvious. Okay just so we're all clear and can get it out of the way right now, Baraka is Christian, and has been since before he dropped his first album "Turn My Life Up" in 2007. Do we have it out of the way now? Okay, good. Sorry Sho - it's just one of those things people obsess about. Now let's talk about "Here" instead - a song that references his faith but is about so much more. Swoope & theBeatbreaker drop a jazzy, funky, piano backed track that would sound good with anybody (or nobody) rapping on it, but there's a natural swagger to Sho's delivery that really dominates the beat in an ear-pleasing way. He's like KB in that regard, in that he comes across positive without being corny. Here's something reviews don't always tell you about Sho Baraka - he was born in Canada but raised in California, and saw a lot of the gang life even as he dreamed of being a rapper. There's a hard reality to his raps given that he could have gone that route, but chose to defy peer pressure and lack of opportunity to make something of himself through military service and right living. After an already lengthy career by today's flash in the pan hip-hop standards, the swinging uptempo vibes of "30 & Up" are funky, FUNNY and relatable to me as somebody who tends to be twice the age or more of the fans at concerts these days."
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