Tuesday June 25, 2019

The (W)rap Up - Week of June 5, 2018
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, June 12th, 2018 at 1:00PM :: Email this article :: Print this article

If you missed any of new reviews this past week including Murs' "A Strange Journey Into the Unimaginable" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!

[A Strange Journey Into the Unimaginable] Murs :: A Strange Journey Into the Unimaginable
Strange Music, Inc.

Author: Sy Shackleford

"I think that sometimes everyone simply needs a good cry, or at least, their approximation of one. Despite pressure to do otherwise, one has to release all of that pent-up emotion before it explodes from within. Some release it through physical activity, some engage themselves in creative pursuits, and some release it by flat-out crying. But in any case, a trigger is required. For me, it was a recent Hulu binge session of the NBC series "This is Us". An acclaimed family drama, what's astounding about the series is how relatable it is, and how viewers will always relate to at least one story happening within an episode. Four episodes in and I learned first-hand that the series really is, as most viewers and critics have described it, emotionally provocative and a sure-fire tear-jerker for anyone. The release it brings is not unlike the end of a therapy session, for both the creator and the audience. For former Living Legends emcee Murs, his 11th studio album, "A Strange Journey Into the Unimaginable", comes close to reaching that emotional plateau with its relatable content. Now, Murs has always been a self-aware rapper who wears his heart on his sleeve in his lyrics, but he opens the album with "The Unimaginable". Rapping over strings of melancholic guitars, Murs provides the listeners with rhymes plucked from the most private of diaries, but packed with powerful emotional gut punches throughout. He's returned to the album formula of one emcee/one producer, enlisting Strange Music in-house beatsmith Michael "Seven" Summers for all fourteen of the albums tracks. Though Seven doesn't have a trademark sound like frequent Murs collaborator, 9th Wonder, he is consistent and keeps the music interesting for the most part. Murs, in his own words, has had a rough couple of years, and lays down his experiences over Seven's layered beats. "Melancholy" is framed as a group therapy song and, like the album opener, is also a production driven by woeful guitars. The lyrics indicate that he's uncertain and sad, but he isn't looking for others' opinions on his state of mind. Seven provides a soulful production on "Powerful", which has Murs temporarily leaving behind the melancholic tone of the previous tracks and replacing it with a commanding voice that lets social commentary on hip-hop music, race, and his own coming-of-age influences fly. Fashawn and Minneapolis emcee Prof lend their raps on the minimalistic bounce of "G Lollipops", with Murs and company taking aim at inferior rappers."

Phunk Junkeez :: Phunk Junkeez :: Naked Language/Ichiban Records 
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Phunk Junkeez]"Discovering this album by accident forced me to immerse myself in the extensive, and apparently at times controversial, history of the band Phunk Junkeez. The first thing to know is that it's almost impossible to pigeonhole them into one genre. They've been branded rap, rap metal, punk rock, alternative and rap rock among many other descriptors. The second thing to know is that the line-up of the band has changed numerous times over the last 25+ years, with some members quitting over fights (which has been documented in song by fellow hard to classify band 311), some leaving to pursue their Holllywood dreams, and some just plain getting burnt out. The third thing to know is they've earned a reputation for both rocking crowds and simultaneously pissing off promoters. When they do play shows they play until after curfew and get the plug pulled on their set. When they DON'T play shows it's because they joined a new label and a new tour without informing the venues (or their fans) they won't be making previously announced dates. Despite all the turmoil they seem to have a sizeable cult following and a few crossover hits including 1995's "I Love It Loud" from the "Tommy Boy" soundtrack. This self-titled debut album comes a few years before that point though, first issued on their own Naked Language imprint and eventually being picked up for distribution a decade later by Ichiban Records. The members of the band who were with them in 1992 and still are today in 2018 are Soulman (vocals), Jim Woodling (bass guitar) and DJ Roachclip (on the turntables obviously). Additional members who round out this first album including K-Tel Disco (vocals), Jeff Holmes (multiple roles), Mike Kramer (guitar) and "Disko" Danny D (drums). The copy I found is the Ichiban re-release but I have no way of knowing if they remastered it. I certainly can't find any additional material on it - the track listing is exactly the same as the original - 14 songs and all in the same order."


Showbiz :: A-Room Therapy :: D.I.T.C. Studios/Slice-of-Spice 
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[A-Room Therapy]"I have a few questions for Showbiz. What is the 'A-Room'? Is it a cabinet, chamber, cubicle or something on the D.I.T.C. Studios premises? If the hyphen shouldn't be there, what exactly is 'a room therapy'? Is it the opposite of a wilderness therapy? Or are we talking about aromatherapy? Oh, and this: David Bars wrote a touching song called "The Kalief Tale" for the album that recounts the tragic story of Kalief Browder, a young man who committed suicide after being held for three years without conviction on Rikers Island. In that context, how could a regrettable line like A Bless' "I done touched all type of islands, you niggas only touched Rikers Island" (from "Toe 2 Toe") slip past everyone involved? That's a worst-case lyrical coincidence. While producers usually cannot be held accountable for the stuff rappers say on their beats, it's a little bit different when your name is on the marquee. Your release, your responsibility. Still the single mishap should not distract from the substantial contribution that is "The Kalief Tale." Following Maino's attempt to recount the story with "The Ghost of Kalief Browder" last year, David Bars keeps the lyrical finesse just modest enough to not detract from the emotions he's trying to convey as he describes the dire situation the caged teen finds himself in. Showbiz and Motif Alumi provide a serene backdrop, eventually enriching the basic melancholic piano with a celestial sphere, a gentle hint at the pure soul that was destroyed by the apparently wrongful incarceration."


Wreckx-N-Effect :: Hard or Smooth :: MCA Records 
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Hard or Smooth]"Wrecks-N-Effect was a modest success in 1989 with their self-titled debut LP. The group had an "in" most of their competitors did not thanks to group member Markell Riley being the brother of chart topping super producer Teddy Riley, and it should come as no surprise he appeared on the album's most successful single (appropriately named after the genre Riley is often credited for) "New Jack Swing." The album topped out at No. 16 on the Billboard R&B charts, but sadly founding group member Brandon Mitchell was shot and killed in 1990 just as the group was enjoying the fruits of their hard work from the late 80's. Three years later the reformed group changed their name to Wreckx-N-Effect, stating that the name change was a deliberate reflection of Mitchell being absent after his passing, which is both a heartwarming gesture and a little bit odd upon reflection. It's definitely appropriate to change a group's name when a founding member is tragically killed, but did changing an "S" to an "X" really change anything that much? Nevertheless the '92 line-up was now a duo instead of a trio and featured remaining rappers Aqil "A-Plus" Davidson (not to be confused with this A+) and the aforementioned Riley. This time around Teddy Riley took more of a direct hand in the group, going from making a cameo and being the executive producer to getting a production credit for every song (11) on this 46 minute CD. In addition Teddy made ANOTHER cameo rap appearance on the smash hit "Rump Shaker," a song which proved to be bigger than anything from their debut LP, rising all the way to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles charts."


various artists :: Fresh - Music Inspired By the Film :: BMG/Loud/RCA Records 
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Fresh OST]"The film "Fresh" much like the "Music Inspired By the Film" accompanying soundtrack are both largely forgotten over two decades after they were released. They're each worth discovering though. The movie is an underrated coming of age tale featuring the titular character Fresh (portrayed by Sean Nelson) trying to escape from a life of poverty, violence and drug running using both street smarts and the chess moves he learned from his alcoholic dad (portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson). These aren't the only actors you'll recognize in the film - N'Bushe Wright plays Fresh's sister Nichole, Giancarlo Esposito (yep that's Gus Fring from "Breaking Bad") plays drug dealer Esteban, and so on and so on. I'm not saying your life will be ruined if you never watch this movie, but you certainly won't consider it two hours of your life wasted if you do. Now let's clarify the word "soundtrack" here because it both is and isn't any such thing. "Music Inspired By the Film" is both more accurate and a less satisfying way to describe this album. I'm honestly going to have to rewatch the film myself to even recall if any of these songs were used in it, though I strongly suspect that they were at least background music in many scenes, particularly the selection of old school hip-hop tracks. These days most heads would consider this entire album "old school" but when it came out in 1994 there was a very clear delineation between the three new Wu-Tang Clan related songs and the nine OLD "old school" songs that dated from the early 1980's. I had a pen pal friend back in the day who was a New York deejay named Bubs and when he sent me "old school" mixtapes the selection was uncannily similar - everything from Spoonie Gee to Cold Crush Brothers to Whodini. Odds are you know the latter's "Freaks Come Out at Night" if you know any of the classic tracks here."



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