Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category
The state of New York Hip-Hop has been the topic of discussion on message boards and blogs for so long; just the thought of bringing it up again is enough to make the biggest Hip-Hop connoisseur throw up in his or her mouth. Even though the subject is more outdated and tiresome than reading up on the daily antics of Lindsay Lohan and her gal pal Samantha Ronson, some people still can’t get enough. Instead of the general public being so obsessed with what’s wrong in the Big Apple, they should be paying more attention to their hometown artists trying rectify the problem—and that’s where newcomer Donnie Goines comes into play. The Manhattan native has climbed the ladder by dropping mixtape after mixtape culminating in the debut of his first official project, Minute After Midnite. Filled with production by beatsmiths such as Dame Grease, K-Salaam & Beatnik, Statik Selektah, and M-Phazes (winner of the beat competition at Sha Money XL’s One Stop Shop Producer Conference), the album does its part to give the Empire State a well-needed jolt. Starting with ‘The Triumph,’ he wastes no time in getting situated with lines like, “Passin’ of the torch, newest disciple/I’m the prophecy fulfilled, call me music survival/rappers ruin the cycle/now the movement is stifle/but my motions are perpetual/conclusion is final.” From there, he takes people on a journey through the worst neighborhoods in America with ‘Ghetto USA’ featuring Tess. Donnie Goines takes the classic ‘What I Am’ from Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians and turns it into his own version, while running through numerous characteristics that make him the person who he is. On ‘Ricky’s Story,’ Donnie Goines gives the listeners a taste of his narrative abilities, as he executes the tale of a young soul lost in the concrete jungle. One of the standout tracks on the album is ‘I Am Moving’ (one of three songs produced by Dame Grease). The song itself is sort of like a break in the album with production going away from the edgy New York sound and being replaced with soothing melodic melodies instead. The rest of the CD contains a mixture of material like the female accounts of ‘The Look,’ the self-biography of ‘Can’t Fit In My Shoes,’ ‘As The World Turns,’ and the true story of him losing his son on ‘Heaven Is With You.’ Minute After Midnite is one of those debuts that stand a chance of getting slept on due to the fact it lacks the flashiness that has engulfed today’s Hip-Hop scene. But the people who pass on this record can be the same ones to blame for the reason why New York Hip-Hop has faltered. Without the support of new blood, there’s no telling on how much longer the old blood banks will hold up—and Donnie Goines is a transfusion worth taking a chance on. Rating: 3.5
Proclaiming yourself, as “The Hardest Out” can be a difficult task if you don’t have the firepower to back it up—so it’s a good thing that Styles’ mouthpiece is like a broken safety on an automatic assault rifle. If you visit any street corner, in any ‘hood, in any project; chances are you might come across some people who don’t believe in day jobs arguing about who’s better out of Jadakiss and the Ghost himself. While “Al Qaeda Jada” might have more commercial appeal, denying Styles’ street credibility is like trying to convince Donald Trump that Melania-Knauss Trump married him for his looks and not for the three billion dollars he has tucked away in his piggy bank. Since the dust from his third album Super Gangster (Extraordinary Gentleman) settled, the Yonkers-bred lyricist has released Phantom: Gangster Chronicles vol. 1, a mixtape/DVD combination. Filled with gritty rhymes, “SP” wastes no time in getting things underway with songs like ‘Two Clap.’ The material that makes a valid point on whether he’s actually the best LOX member or not comes into play with lines like, “Now I’m the boss of the bosses/if you think you’re married to the streets, I can make you divorce it/always hear me speak on the Porsches/I think it’s the horses/and how it zig-zags on the courses/big bags of money, try grabbing a fortune/the wheel get real, gotta spin it with caution/I ain’t really into the flossin’/I’m a stay dark/follow you home/get into your Porsche-in.” An eerie piano loop is the star of the show on ‘I’m Your Pusher’ featuring Straw and Trav; where Styles sits this one out in order to let the young D-Block associates get their own individual shine. But he returns on ‘Told You,’ and goes for self, “They can tell a n*gga to pop off/I’m here to pick all the money up, when it get dropped off/crossin’ n*ggas over like Hot Sauce/but this ain’t a ball game.” Styles taps into the R&B world on ‘Real N*gga’ as it features Ray J; and the mixture of the crooner’s faint tone blends in perfectly with the MC’s coarse word play. Other songs like ‘Where I’m From’ featuring Tre’ Williams, ‘Don’t Want It’ featuring Bucky and AP, and ‘Nuttin’ Come EZ’ also featuring AP are good additions as well—while the Next Generation could’ve used a little more prepping for their debut on ‘Cook Up.’ Phantom: Gangster Chronicles vol. 1 is a cool listen, and worth checking out, especially if you’re on the side of the debate that thinks Styles P is the best member out of the three-man collective. With only nine tracks (including ‘The Hardest’ which was previously featured on AZ’s Undeniable album), the Ghost manages to give the streets that love him so dearly more heroin bars that should hold them down until they start itching for another fix. Rating: 3.0
What’s left to be said about EPMD? Besides being one of first MC’s that actually made it cool to use your government name, their track record includes six albums and over 20 years of legendary Hip-Hop status. But for the past couple years, Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith’s love/hate relationship had them giving each the silent treatment as usual. As we enter another year, the duo that brought the world ‘You Gots To Chill,’ ‘So Wat Cha Sayin,’’ ‘GoldDigger,’ ‘Head Banger,’ and never ending saga known as the ‘Jane’ series reunites for the seventh time around with We Mean Business. The two can easily be thought of as Hip-Hop’s Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney due to the fact that they’re literally the last of a dying breed; who are still capable of creating their own sound without worrying about BDS spins. They stick to the “If it ain’t broke” mentality by having the “Green Eyed Bandit” handle the production duties, but switch it up with a hint of 9th Wonder. The album gets underway with ‘Puttin’ Work In’ featuring Raekwon. Over a well-placed violin loop, all three rhyme veterans prove that they have more than enough left in the tank. From there, they throw church organ in the mix on ‘What You Talkin’ featuring Havoc. Erick Sermon starts things off with his metaphor-heavy rhymes, “Comin’ for ya, the Oscar De La Hoya, the Golden Boy/I’m that dude, don’t believe, I’ll show you boy/ask Destiny’s Child, I’m not soldier boy” and Parrish Smith ends it with his straight-to-the-point talk, “I be killin’ it when I’m feelin’ it/straight drillin’ it when I’m peelin’ it/comin’ through in the Tahoe truck four-wheelin’ it.” ‘Roc Da Spot’ includes elements of the funk-influenced sound that people are accustomed to hearing from E-Double’s production. ‘Blow’ gives listeners more of the vintage EPMD sound with the tandem bouncing off each other perfectly, while the voice sample of woman screaming echoes in the background. ‘Run It’ sounds more like an old school class reunion of sorts, as it features someone else who also has meaningful letters in his name for Hip-Hop, who happens to be KRS-One. Method Man joins in the fray on ‘Never Defeat ‘Em,’ and shows that he hasn’t forgotten where the booth is, and uses is signature rhyme pattern wisely, “Nothin’ to lose cause I got nothin’ to prove, I’m rugged/who be like f*ck it, If I front in my shoes, you love it.” 9th Wonder’s unmistakable snares take center stage on ‘Left 4 Dead’ featuring Brooklyn newcomer Skyzoo—as they pay tribute to all of the people who lost their lives in the hook (including Hip-Hop as a whole). The rest of the album contains authentic Hip-Hop material like, ‘Jane’ (of course), ‘They Tell Me’ featuring Keith Murray, ‘Back Stabba,’ and ‘Yo’ featuring Redman; while songs like ‘Listen Up,’ could have used a little more tweaking before making it to the final cut. EPMD’s We Mean Business won’t break any sales records (especially in this economy), but for those who yearn for that throwback sound in a world filled with Auto-Tuned voices, listening to Erick Sermon’s lisp-flow with the combination of Parrish Smith’s monotone vocals puts their newest business installment right up your alley. Rating: 3.0
Here is another mixtape from one of the best from the west, Crooked I. He has put out a mixtape called “The Block Obama”. Maybe it’s politics or maybe he is getting blackballed, but it’s no reason why he shouldn’t have a major deal with some label. Most of this is straight heat, with the exception of a few duds. check it out and tell me what you think. Crooked I “The Block Obama” Additional reporting by Rashaan Meador
A few weeks ago, iHipHop ran a post on the new DJ AM and Travis Barker unexpectedly mixtape, entitled Fix Your Face for fans and haters alike to jam to. There was virtually no press for the release until after it already came out, but it’s definitely worth the hype it’s recieving. The tape is basically a medley of clever blends by AM and an uncanny showcase of Travis’s drum skills. By delving into different genres, sound effects and dozens of artists, AM keeps his DJ set creative and unprecedented – all while Travis improvises on the drums to go along with every track. What’s so amazing is that Travis dives into every new track as if he expects it minutes before it comes, and adds so much to every song – you’d think the original artists would be coming to him for remixes on the regular. Travis and AM have been doing shows together for a while in LA, and recently got some more hype after playing the role of house band during the MTV VMA’s – and performing alongside Katy Perry and Kid Cudi. If you don’t yet have this mixtape, make sure to get it immediately here.
The ball is still bouncing in Young Jeezy’s court as he dropped his third studio album, The Recession. Jeezy completely took a different approach in The Recession then his first two albums, Thug Motivation 101 and The Inspiration. The Recession focuses more on the economy and the decline society is in. But Jeezy still is able to throw in his hustla tracks in to album. The album starts with a collage of some 2008 news reports where America is going broke and is in a recession. Jeezy enters with his trademark raspy southern voice preaching the drought the nation is going through. As you press next, Jeezy gets your blood boiling with “Welcome Back” and follows it up with a clever hook in “By the Way.” “Circulate” is perfect track in which Jeezy raps about economy stating “Nothing going up but the rent.” Jeezy carries a savy attitude in “What They Want” and carries a smooth harmony to “Everything” featuring buttery smooth Anthony Hamilton and Lil’ Boosie. In his second single “Vacation” Jeezy stresses that he needs a vacation, relating to the average Joe. And yes, Jeezy drops classical beats on this album but not as many as he did in Thug Motivation 101 and The Inspiration. “Amazin”, “Who Dat”, “Get Allot”, and his first single “Put On” are few to list. Jeezy even puts his attention to politics and showing his support for presidential candidate Barack Obama as in “Crazy World” and “My President” with special guest Nas. This is by far the best lyrical album Young Jeezy has put out. Young Jeezy proved with The Recession that he is one of the elite rappers in the south and more importantly the nation.
When their debut album, Papercut Chronicles, dropped way back in 2003, Gym Class Heroes were the most promising rock/hip-hop crossover act to hit the scene. Half a decade and a whole load of shit songs later, that potential has quickly disappeared and long-time fans just don’t know how much longer to hold on to GCH’s golden age. The first album was made when the quartet was young, hungry, different and contemplative (even if it was the drugs forcing the thinking). Travis McCoy, the lyricist and songwriter, was a witty wordsmith and delved into interesting high-school related topics that hadn’t really been tackled in the laid-back-yet-edgy style GCH made so popular. The second album, As Cruel as School Children, proved to cause a huge falling out with their fans – mostly because of the tacky lyrics and sappy choice of song themes. GCH’s latest, The Quilt, has been anticipated for a long time, as fans and haters alike wanted to see if Gym Class would complete the rare artist turnaround or become, for lack of a less cliché word, sellouts. Sadly, Gym Class threw away most of what their fans adored most – passion – and they ended up falling to sellout status. The new album features guest appearances from unlikely collaborators Busta Rhymes, The-Dream and Cool & Dre, which exemplifies GCH’s transition to hip-hop as of late. Even with some Cool & Dre production, the album’s production seems to all sound the same, thus causing songs that aren’t even related, to fall into a bucket of forgettable lyrics by Travis. Trust me on this – it’s hard to hate GCH, because they have this certain appeal that you just want to root for them, but their new album truly makes it hard. Whether its their transition into the radio realm with tracks like “Peace Up/Index Down” and “Cookie Jar,” or Travie’s growing lack of creativity, they just don’t seem to be doing this thing for the right reasons anymore. A perfect example is an interview done with the other three band members (besides Trav) during the cliché club shoot for their video for “Cookie Jar,” when one is asked what they think of the video concept – and he says “It’s…(5 second pause)…fun!” Whether it’s the money or the lack of drugs in their system, the GCH we once knew have fallen off in a big way. But, if you’re looking for some mindless happy jams, check out “Cookie Jar,” “Home” and “Drnk Txt Rmeo” from The Quilt.
In 2006, rapper The Game released his second LP – The Doctor’s Advocate. Two years, one four-month trip to prison and countless struggles with estranged supporters Dr. Dre and 50 Cent later, The Game has dropped LAX. Hopping on the ubiquitous popular rapper manifesto, Game said this album would be his last, because he supposedly has nothing left to prove. However, the album – a 19-track feature-heavy compilation – is definitely not a high note for Game to leave off on. The album starts with a prayer from rap’s new preacher DMX, and just as quickly as you can press next, Game brings you the somber and boring “LAX Files.” A few skippable tracks later, Lil’ Wayne lends a T-Wayne singing feature to his West Coast cohort on “My Life.” Ultimately, this album is marred by poor production and boring lyricism by Game, save for a few tracks like “Dope Boys,” “Cali Sunshine” and “Angel.” On “Angel,” Game scores Kanye production and a Common feature for a cliché yet catchy ode to their leading lady – hip-hop. In previous albums, listeners looked forward to an entire album of hearing The Game’s witty lyricism and knocking production picks – no matter how vulgar or hard it got – because they knew what to expect. But on LAX, The Game enlists so many features (there are only three solo songs!) that any message he was trying to get across gets far too diluted and commercialized. If this truly is his last album – he better not expect to be mentioned in the same breath as Pac, Biggie and Jay-Z…or even Wheezy baby.
A few weeks back, I mentioned California-bred rapper Shwayze to you all and that he was on a quick rise to fame. To re-familiarize you all with his story, he’s from Malibu, and he got his start after he befriended rock producer and former Whitestarr member Cisco Adler. The two collaborated to make some songs and eventually got a deal with Suretone Records and got their own MTV show called Buzzin’. Anyway, their debut album came out on Tuesday, and I wanted to share my thoughts on it with you all. The album is 12 tracks long (actually 69, but I’ll explain later), and is filled with quotable lyrics from Shwayze’s laid-back raps, and tons of catchy melodies crafted by Adler. The two singles “Corona & Lime” and “Buzzin” basically set the tone for the rest of the album, but definitely are not the highlights. Shwayze and Cisco are definitely a great duo, however. They feed off each other creatively, and have the unique ability to transform regular album cuts dedicated to James Brown into potential singles that could get TRL play. The best track on the album is either the lead-off, “Roamin,” on which Shwayze discusses blowing up and having fun while doing it. Through all the weed and women references, this is a quality album with literally not one bad song. And, in an effort to surprise the CD-buying masses with a bonus, after the first 12 tracks, Shwayze & Co. add 56 tracks of white noise before track #69 – a bonus track. Enjoy this album and go out and buy it, if you can sit through all 69 tracks.
These days, you just don’t hear words like “def,” “dope” and “fly” as much as you used to. You also don’t hear as much classic hip-hop as you’d probably like to. You also probably don’t think about your high-school days and your first love as much as you once did. And, you probably miss all of those things. Thankfully, the new movie The Wackness can get you right back in that mindset and meanwhile have you jammin’ to some music you wouldn’t expect to hear in a movie theater. The Wackness is a new movie written and directed by Jonathan Levine, and stars Josh Peck (of Drake & Josh fame) and Olivia Thirlby (played the best friend in Juno). The movie is set in the summer of 1994 in New York City and tells the story of a kid fresh out of high school with absentee parents, which causes him to regularly visit his psychiatrist, Sir Ben Kingsley. Instead of paying the shrink with money, he pays him with weed, as he’s a weed dealer. He walks around the city by day playing his old-school hip-hop and dealing to customers from his “Fresh & Delicious Ice’s” cart. The lead character, Luke Shapiro, is definitely a lonely chap through most of the film. And, as most of us at one point or another learned how to do – he finds solace in hip-hop. Then, Luke meets a girl who’s far more social and outgoing than him, and before he knows it he falls madly in love with her. I have to say, Olivia Thirlby is amazing at playing a cute, funny and interesting chick that any high schooler would have a hard time not falling in love with. Whether you see this movie to check out Olivia Thirlby, Method Man as a (hilarious) Jamaican weed-dealer or Marie-Kate Olsen having sex with Ben Kingsley in a bar, one thing’s for sure – you need to see this movie. And aside from being a quality film, it features some amazing hip-hop from the likes of Tribe, Fresh Prince, Biggie, Nas and others you’ve probably not jammed to in a while. As a pleasant Friday afternoon gift, check out the official The Wackness Soundtrack Mixtape, mixed by DJ D-Nice. Enjoy. The Official Wackness Mixtape – D-Nice
iHipHop Blog Team