If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Fabolous & Jadakiss' "Friday on Elm Street" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Fabolous & Jadakiss :: Friday on Elm Street
D-Block/Street Family/Def Jam
Author: Sy Shackleford
"Over 16 years ago during my college days, I remember how almost every Sunday I would travel to a local Connecticut flea market. Yes, most of the items for sale were painfully bootleg (sneakers with an upside-down Phat Farm logo, anyone?) and the food was a few steps below what they serve to inmates at Riker's Island, but that wasn't why I patronized their services. No, my sole purpose in traveling there was for the hip-hop mixtapes. A jewel casing with a Photoshopped cover and a CD with the DJ's name and mixtape title printed on it is the simplest description of it. But the best part about mixtapes was the freedom they embodied. Being outside the restrictions of their record label, a hip-hop artist could collaborate with anyone, not pay any sample clearance, release new material, and generally work without constraints. The mixtapes which I frequently purchased at the time were courtesy of Queens' prolific DJ Clue. Two prominent mainstays on his compilations were Yonkers' Jadakiss of The L.O.X. and Brooklyn's own Fabolous. Though Fabolous is the more commercially successful rapper, both are known as street-level emcees with rhyme schemes, wordplay, and punchlines that hit hard from cyphers to wax. In fact, the first time both rappers were on a song together was "Fantastic Four, Pt. 2" on Clue's 2001 major-label sophomore album, "The Professional, Pt. 2". Both men released their solo debuts in that same year and, since then, they've collaborated on several tracks together to the point where a joint album was inevitable. As such, the two lyricist began the process with a motif centering around comparing themselves to two horror movie icons: Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. Originally entitled "Freddy vs. Jason" in 2016, the final product's title was changed into "Friday on Elm Steet", a portmanteau of the two horror movie franchises. However, there's very little about the music and lyrics that's in-line with the the album's loose concept."
Baby Bash & Frankie J :: Sangria - The Album :: BashTown Music
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"In the realm of pop/dance singles that find literal lyrical inspiration in hip-hop hits, none so far was as successful as Robin Schulz feat. Francesco Yates' "Sugar." In 2015 and '16 it went platinum in 7 countries (including the United Kingdom), and reached the official top ten in 16 (including 4 top spots). In the company of Icona Pop's "Girlfriend" (2Pac), Austin Mahone's "Say You're Just A Friend" (Biz Markie), Ariana Grande's "The Way" (Big Pun), Little Mix' "How Ya Doin'" (De La Soul) and Cheat Codes x Kris Kross Amsterdam's "Sex" (Salt-N-Pepa), "Sugar" also featured the most recent influence with "Suga Suga," Baby Bash's 2003 smash with singer Frankie J. Of course "Sugar" is just more proof that warbling a melody is about as challenging as whistling it, while an existing rap cannot be easily recreated to the same effect and in many settings (such as "Sugar" and the market it was supposed to be successful in) a rap verse still stands in the way of mass acceptance if you're just another random global DJ making music for random global dancefloors. In short, "Sugar" only used "Suga Suga"'s hook, deliberately ignoring the sly serenade to Mary Jane that the original song was. Speaking of formulas, "Suga Suga" certainly seemed to establish Baby Bash and Frankie J as a winning combo. They collaborated for at least five more songs between 2003-05, and with "Suga Suga" producer Happy Perez scoring them all, he has to be considered a part of the equation. The trio combines decades of industry experience. Perez came up out of Baton Rouge alongside Young Bleed and has produced for a wealth of A-list artists, including Chamillionaire and Machine Gun Kelly, Frankie was part of a celebrated crossover group called Kumbia Kings, while Bash has held it down for the Bay Area and the Latino constituency for more than 20 years. "
Andy Cooper :: The Layered Effect :: Rocafort Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"In the 1990's and 2000's there was a Southern California rap group called Ugly Duckling made up of Dizzy Dustin, Young Einstein and Andy Cooper. They got a little buzz, achieved a little fame, and received favorable comparisons to Jurassic 5. The latter may have unintentionally been their undoing. Even though J5 had a flavor strong enough to be shared without watering it down, it may just be that hip-hop heads felt they didn't need "Jurassic 5 Number Two" when the original would do. While the group never formally broke up, we've heard no new group albums from them in over half a decade, while both Dustin and Cooper have soldiered on with their own solo careers and albums. 2017's "The Layered Effect" is a largely self-produced effort with Cooper handling both the beats and the rhymes throughout. There are a few assists throughout though. Abdominal drops bars on "Anything Goes," a track with a dope "Jack of Spades" sample, and Dutch emcee BlabberMouf does a dead-on impression of Fu-Schnickens' emcee Chip-Fu on "Here Comes Another One. It's so close I had to check the credits to be absolutely sure it wasn't him. It's not... but if there was an impersonation contest Blabz would win!! What's equally impressive about "Here Comes Another One" if not moreso is Cooper's slyly throwback jazz track, a hip-hop song that could easily be mistaken for a bonus track from a Jazzmatazz or Us3 album. You could bop your head to the song with or without the raps from Cooper and Blabz and it would be dope either way."
Das EFX :: Hold It Down :: EastWest Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"In many ways "Real Hip Hop" is a representative song for mid-1990's East coast hip-hop. The stripped down boom bap beat from DJ Premier reflects the desire to make head nodding music for the streets and the Jeeps. The obsession with what's "real" reflects increasing skepticism about how commercially successful the rap music spectrum of hip-hop has become. The punchlines are peppered with pop culture references, some of which stand the test of time, while others make the song instantly sound dated (I was still in high school when the movie "Sliver" came out). The rampant homophobia of the era is immediately evident too. Rappers who casually used the word "f----t" might have pretended it was synonymous for "whack," but in hindsight the second verse of KRS-One's "We In There" leaves little doubt about the prevailing attitude of the times. Unfortunately when you take a look back you have to take the good with the bad, but fortunately it doesn't ruin the lead single from Das EFX's "Hold It Down." In actuality it was the break up of EPMD that nearly did this album in. The dissolution of the Hit Squad forced everybody affiliated with Erick Sermon or Parrish Smith to choose sides, and despite E-Double being (A.) one hell of a funky producer and (B.) affiliated with the Squad's biggest star Redman, Skoob (Books in reverse) and Krazy Drayz chose to side with PMD along with DJ Scratch. P still tried to claim ownership of the Hit Squad names on tracks like this album's "Bad News," which led to Sermon branding his own affiliates the Def Squad. This was one ugly break up and ironically "Bad News" lives up to it by being one of this album's weakest songs -- an entirely unnecessary 2:20 long affair. The good news is that the rest of "Hold It Down" mostly fares better. It's an unusually long album for Das EFX as their debut was under 40 minutes and the sophomore album was just over 40, but this album clocks in near the original industry maximum of 74 minutes for compact discs (improved technology since then has stretched it out further). "
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