If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Talib Kweli & Styles P's "The Seven" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Talib Kweli & Styles P :: The Seven
Author: Grant Jones
"Three may be the magic number but today's number is seven. You see, kids, seven years ago, Talib Kweli and Styles P combined on one of 2010's best singles - the Statik Selektah produced "The Thrill Is Gone". OK, it was first heard in 2009 but it featured on 2010's "100 Proof", so let's stick with the seven theme. Since then, both Talib and Styles have each had seven projects drop. This is probably coincidental and this EP is called "The Seven" purely because they knocked out seven tracks together, but writing reviews in new, interesting ways is hard work and I'm tired. Deal with it. "The Thrill Is Gone" was and still is a dope track, utilizing a killer piano loop and some classic Biggie Smalls lines. Even then, Styles was calling for the next generation of Public Enemy to rise up which hasn't really materialized. Under a Donald Trump administration with racial tension higher than ever, this is a growing concern. Thankfully "The Seven" continues that potent message forward, a decade later with a sound that's less throwback and more modern NYC. There are plenty of mentions of how hip hop isn't what it used to be but there's a nice contrast between the two veterans which gives the rhymes some balance, as demonstrated on "Poets & Gangstas".While the former major label emcees are no longer charting with club bangers, it's nice to hear their message over modern, distinctly New York production. Marco Polo has proven he has chemistry with Talib Kweli in recent collaborations (check the superb Guru tribute they did) and "Nine Point Five" is arguably their best work yet. Styles knows this is the gem of the EP and so enlists Jadakiss and Sheek Louch who deliver strong verses, particularly 'Kiss, but Kweli delivers potential jabs at KRS-One."
Aesop Rock :: Bushwick Soundtrack :: Lakeshore Records
as reviewed by Sy Shackleford
"The movie sub-genre of urban survival is a ripe and fertile ground for both cinematic visuals and storytelling. Usually, these films are set in a decrepit, post-apocalyptic version of a well-known large metropolis and sometimes include some level of satire at its core, be it political, social, etc. Appropriately enough, these films also serve as action-thrillers. The audience is expected to keep up with the protagonists and marvel at how those characters overcome intense violence, physical and emotional exhaustion, fights, chases, and explosions. The Warriors (1979), Escape From New York (1981), The Purge: Anarchy (2014), and even the future war scenes in the Terminator franchise have all taken that concept and showed viewers the possibilities that can be born out of it. These films also have music accompanying them. If done right, the music will have its intended effect on the viewers: When properly juxtaposed with a scene, the music (whether it's a song or a musical score) will heighten the anticipated emotions embedded in the scene. If drama and action comprise a substantial number of those scenes, then they serve to give the narrative a supplemental boost. The upcoming film Bushwick is about New York City becoming a war zone and the trials and tribulations of two characters trying to traverse just five blocks. The best part? A New York hip-hop artist has painted this film's sound canvas in his own sonic image of urban paranoia and chaos. That's right, Long Island's own Aesop Rock did the score for Bushwick. After he handled the entirety of production on his last two solo albums, I'm now convinced that Aesop Rock has come into his own in regards to being behind the boards. Though there is a flow to his beats, sometimes their off-kilter designs are just as stream-of-consciousness and seemingly indecipherable as his lyrics. "
CunninLynguists :: The Azura EP :: APOS/QN5 Music
as reviewed by Sy Shackleford
"Four months ago, the southern hip-hop trio CunninLynguists released a three-track EP titled "The Rose". Described as "a dense listen with critical rhymes aboutĘracism, police brutality, and religion", the most prominent aspect of the EP was its color theme. The color red and its associative feelings were placed under a microscope on the EP. Given the short set's regular use of that color, it was assumed that future EPs released by the group in 2017 would similarly follow a color theme. The assumption turned out to be correct since the group's second EP, "The Azura", is French for "sky-blue". The feelings typically associated with the color of blue are those of being calm, pensive, and reflective. Since the beginning, the CunninLynguists have had a knack for such contemplative lyrics with their own linguistic twist, and "The Azura" is no different. The EP is entirely produced by Kno, with cuts from DJ FlipFlop. As a testament to the group's sense of craftiness, this blue album starts off with a track that has a title that's on the exact opposite end of the color spectrum from their last EP. The track, "Violet (The Upper Room)", is a lyrical rumination on grief and afterlife. Though similar in concept to Kno's 2010 solo album "Death Is Silent", the track is less dark and sprinkled with mournful piano keys that remind me of the organic production found on the group's 2007 album "Dirty Acres". L.A. Rapper Trizz provides the EPs sole assist with a hook on the second track, "Gone". Musically it's the one track that embodies one of Kno's production trademarks: Melancholic soundscapes with haunting vocals all sampled from vinyl records of highly obscure 1970s progressive rock."
Figg Panamera :: Cali Boy Down South :: Fillmoelanta
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"Even as the East and West Coast still had the rap market divided between themselves, a couple of well established artists relocated to Atlanta in the mid-nineties, most notably Oakland, CA's Too $hort and Flint, MI's MC Breed, which was quite some time before the ATL itself began to produce a steady string of national stars outside of So So Def Recordings and the Dungeon Family. At that time JT the Bigga Figga was busy building his own music empire in San Francisco, establishing himself as one of the premier businessmen in the booming region that was the Bay Area. Perhaps 'hustler' would be a more apt job title, but even thinking back to when JT cunningly cashed in on the blossoming career of The Game a little more than ten years ago, their initial contact was still evidence that before he publicly prayed at the altar of Dr. Dre and was admitted to 50 Cent's circle, Game sought out the Bigga Figga's expertise in the music biz. And artists representing eras as far apart as Master P and Zaytoven walked away from the man with one or two valuable lessons. Setting up shop under the name Figg Panamera in Atlanta sometime in the earlier 2010's, JT has since collaborated with a number of current Georgia artists, including Gucci Mane, Rich Homie Quan, Future, Migos, Rich The Kid and Young Thug. He wasn't able to establish himself as an official trap star, but has pursued his second career with a certain constistency and consequence. Back in '95 and '96, $hort and Breed praised Olympics-era Atlanta as a contemporary Chocolate City that allowed them to work stress-free in a professional, urban, comparatively upscale environment (likely referring to North Atlanta). Whatever brought JT down to the A years later, business opportunities were probably not last on the list, but the tables can turn quickly on a hustler. When he was shot and critically injured this March, he was drastically reminded of the dangerous side of the urban sprawl that brought forth so many rap stars in the last 15+ years."
MCRE & Think 2wice :: When No One's Listening :: MCRE/TheReturnOfHipHop
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Pacific Northwest rappers are known for being iconoclastic, fiercely devoted to "keeping it real" and eschewing what's trendy, and going their own direction even if it winds up being anti-commercial and contrary to their own success. There are of course exceptions to the rule like Sir Mix-A-Lot, but in a music scene that often winds up more closely indentified with flannel wearing grunge rockers, rap artists are not afraid to break with that artificially imposed limitation and define themselves in the strongest possible terms. This is the scene that gave us everyone from the Blue Scholars to Macklemore. It's deep, it's diverse, and it's uncompromising as f--k. Enter into that mix the new tandem of Portland, Oregon rapper Think 2wice and his surprisingly like-minded Connecticut MCRE. It probably seems trendy these days to form unusual partnerships - a British rapper with a New York producer, a conscious rapper with a trap beatsmith, et cetera. As noted this is no mere exploitation of formula though. "When No One's Listening" isn't just the title of this collaboration, it's a lifestyle. It's a passion project recorded on late nights in a minivan with an iPhone and a digital microphone, but you wouldn't know it by the sound. It's professionally mastered and cleaner than a bottle of Mountain Mist. It also thumps loud enough to vibrate even my Bluetooth speakers on songs like "All I Need," which makes me anxious to find a clear sunny day (harder to do in the Northwest at times) and put this one to the test with the top down. Per C. Wells gets the credit for the heavy pound, chopped up crooner and jazzy piano licks on this one."
Mr. Brady :: Speechless :: Fontana North
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"It has been seven years since we last checked in with Mr. Brady, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been very busy in the interim. He's always staying busy behind the boards, whether it's producing his own rap songs or producing tracks for the likes of Aloe Blacc and Deep Rooted. This time though Mr. Brady is doing neither. This is more of a "Donuts" style release where Brady sets out to his musical chops without any bars from himself or anybody else. Therefore the title of this album is apt. It's "Speechless." Brady will literally let the beats, melodies, percussion and layering speak for themselves. That's not to say you won't hear from emcees on "Speechless" though - you'll just hear them broken up into individually chopped up portions of their bars used in any manner that Brady deems fit. Nearly two decades after his passing it still haunts me to hear Big L drops on tracks like "Hands Clap." Despite a killer voice, phenomenal punchlines and more skills than a whole Olympics squad, he was cut down in his prime at only 24 years old. The eerie feeling haunted me when I visited New York City just months later, walking around like the "backpacker" stereotype I was with a Discman and packs of batteries steady blasting his words into my ears. Some impressions never leave you."
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