26 June 2014

REVIEW: Ab-Soul - These Days...

After sitting on the sidelines for the past couple years, we finally get a new album from Ab-Soul in the form of 'These Days...' From 2009 until 2012 we were able to enjoy stellar efforts from him every single year until it all came to screeching halt when his two projects were shelved in 2013. The lofty expectations for his follow-up to Control System almost aren't fair, as that album still remains as one of, if not TDE's strongest album to date. So after four albums of ambitious, thought provoking, and near-masterfully produced music, which direction would he take his latest project in?

'These Days...' starts off in typical Soulo fashion with 'God's Reign.' Along with 'Tree of Life,' these songs fit everything we have come to expect from Ab-Soul, but it's a shaky ride from then on depending on your particular tastes. Other than the Lupe-assisted 'World Runners' and the slaughterfest led by none other than K.Dot on 'Kendrick Lamar's Interlude,' (which really doesn't count) most of the meat of this album severely falls flat. With obvious west coast "club bangers" like 'Twact,' it is obvious that Soul aimed to make this project more accessible to a wider audience who are simply not on the level to grasp the concepts found on an album like 'Longterm Mentality.' This trend continues with no shortage of ignorance with tracks like 'Hunnid Stax,' and 'Nevermind That' with a feature from Rick Ross for absolutely no reason at all. It's questionable features, production, and subject matter like the ones found on these tracks that may make a long time Ab-Soul fan feel a bit alienated.

It's a shame that the heart of this LP almost abandons everything Soul is known for, because it starts off fairly strong, and picks back up during the last four to five tracks, saving the mind-rattling lyricism fans are used to for the very end. The final track spends the first five minutes warming us up on the JMSN-produced 'W.R.O.H.,' and then transitions, in pure bonus track fashion, into eighteen minutes of nonstop BARS between Ab-Soul and battle rap veteran Daylyt that is sure to make your mind spin in circles with every line each of them spit. It's almost like an in-case-you-forgot-who-the-fuck-I-am moment where Ab puts out a clear reminder of why he is one of the best things going on in Hip-hop today. The battle does not come close to atoning for the sins committed throughout the bulk of this album though, but it at least lets fans know that the Black Lip Bastard they've grown to love has not gone anywhere.

This was never meant to be Control System 2; a fact that you should come to grips with sooner than later. But as a fan who has been waiting for two years for a new project from Ab-Soul, it's difficult to not want to compare 'These Days...' to his previous albums. If you are able to judge this album on its own, you will no doubt enjoy it more than someone who was expecting him to stay in the same lane as the 'Long Term' saga or 'Control System.' That's not to say that it is a terrible album, it's just that fans have been spoiled by the quality of Ab-Soul's music. The best way to sum this project up is, one half of the Hip-hop world is sure to love all of the exact same tracks that true Ab-Soul fans will hate on 'These Days...' and vice-versa.


19 June 2014

VIDEO: Game - Bigger Than Me

Last week Game dropped the single Bigger Than Me. He takes shots at the XXL Freshman class of 2014, and apparently any young fake gangster rappers. Game also big ups current vets, as well as legends who left before their time. If you get passed all the name dropping the song actually goes hard. The instrumental has a sort of eerie Bourne Identity vibe to it. Game attacks the track with raw emotion and lyrics. I'm sure many people tired of Game dropping names and beefing with rappers on the regular, but if you this lyrical with it, do your thing. Only issue I have with song is why give props to 50? I get he is referencing the time 50, Game and G-Unit were on top of the hip hop world, but 50 straight clowns Game on the regular now (especially with latest G-Unit reunion thing). But over all, a hard track with a really cenematic video. Game raps inside a decrepid haunted house, while Leather Facing a scared young rapper. Great visuals throughout that really go well with tone and feel of song.

Peep video below (also adding stream to single if video don't work, don't know how accessible a WorldStar video embed is).

13 June 2014

REVIEW: Nitty Scott MC - The Art of Chill

As no stranger to BITM, Nitty Scott MC is back with her newest project The Art of Chill. Negating the title as a “femcee,” this adept young MC has stayed in her lane and conquered her own real estate in hip-hop. With her recent appearance in USA TODAY grabbing one of the bigger slots recognizing female rappers, she demonstrates yet again why she has gained the success she has over her career; and it is not for her jaw dropping beauty, girlie can spit.

The Art of Chill is Nitty’s introduction to her spirituality and diving into her past to show how she's grown as an individual. Her past mixtapes weren’t personal, just displays of her talent. Recently Nitty has been reading books on chakras, nature, astral occurrences, and elements of hindu and Islam which is reflected through her sound and the artwork of the tape. “Unfiltered Offering” is a prime example of the combination between her recent reading and spiritual approach.  On this track she alternates her voice to an alien tone and a spaced out beat to bring the listener closer to the scene of her track/album. “Apex” featuring Ab-Soul brings a similar type of eeriness with more of a jazz influence. A lot of artists have a lot of features to attract listeners to their project, this feature isn’t the case. I think this record is more of a statement for her as she definitely holds her own against The Black-Lip Bastard.

“Knowbody Knows” deals with Nitty and her depression from dealing with a dysfunctional family and having to move between homes while having her panic attacks. This is more of a darker tack introducing listeners to Nitty Scott’s life. “Still I Rise” is probably my favorite track on here. This is by far the most moving and emotional track on this tape. Nitty Scott takes the time out to talk to her mother and vent about her step father’s indecencies of sexually abusing her as a child and having to leave her home. You can almost feel the pain as if you were with her through her words and feelings. This is my favorite song because of how strong Nitty Scott MC had to be to finally come forth with this part of her life on a track. The title of the track is also the hook and it displays hope from coming from Nitty’s dark past while telling her fans that you can overcome your situation(s). 

The Art of Chill is yet another a solid project from Nitty Scott MC that she can place under her belt. This is her first time letting fans in through her music and is a deep 1st chapter. There are a few features on here but many are just for vocals. Appearances are made by Ab-Soul, Eliki, Sene, Rob Regis, Rapper Big Pooh, Sam B, and Stacy Barthe. If you have never listened to Nitty I highly recommend it, she is not your average female rapper like Nicki or Iggy Azelea. She has a passion for hip-hop and puts in the work to separate her music from the mainstream female rappers.

12 June 2014

THE TAPE DECK: Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz - Deja Vu (Uptown Baby)

Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz gave us the hit single Deja Vu (Uptown Baby) from their debut (and only) album, Make It Reign, in early 98. This was easily the most commercially successful track on the album, going platinum (in less than 4 months) and topping at #9 on the Billboard 100. This even became one of the staple summer tracks of 98. No BBQ was safe. The Bronx duo gave us that 90's flow on a simple yet classic instrumental. This track actually peeked my interest from the first trumpet notes of the instrumental. It took a sample from the hit salsa single, Amores Como El Nuestro (Youtube it). This was the singers, Jerry Rivera's, biggest hit off of his biggest album. He won single and album of year for the album Cuenta Conmigo. So for the past 6 years or so, this song was a staple at all family gatherings. And to hear a hip hop song sample something from "my world/culture" was huge to me. So sit back, dust off the boombox or walkman..and enjoy.

10 June 2014

Dizzy Wright & Bishop Nehru – brILLiant youth EP (produced by 9th Wonder)

Hip hop clothing line LRG teamed up with Detroit emcee Dizzy Wright and NY emcee Bishop Nehru to create the 3 track album, brILLiant youth EP. In addition to having the clothing staple promote the project, the duo also benefited from LRG's association with long time brand advocate 9th Wonder on production duties. 9th also brought along his Jamla emcees Add-2 and Big Remo to feature on a few tracks. Of course the production is top shelf. 9th provides instrumentals that showcase his amazing ear for music. Each track provides a foundation for each emcee to go in and flow with ease. Since this is only a 3 track  product, I felt a review would be a bit unfair. With 9th on the boards and only having 3 tracks to focus on, I expected this to be a solid trio of songs. That being said, there is no disappointment here. Both emcees (and Jamla featured artists) took full advantage of the instrumentals before them. Great flows and melodies seem to come easy to Dizzy and Nehru. With such a short track list, this is def worth the 9 mins.

Stream below.

05 June 2014

REVIEW (+ STREAM): Skyzoo & Torae: Barrel Brothers

I've referenced the Rap Is Outta Control satellite radio program before, and it is on that show that I was introduced to Torae. Honestly I had no idea that this dude been in the game as long as he has. So this weekend I'm def gonna scoop up a few Tor tapes and school myself a bit. But before that, I made some time to hear the Brooklyn emcee link up with his borough-mate Skyzoo for their collab effort, Barrel Brothers. The duo kept the features low (4 out of the 14 tracks) with just 5 emcees: Sean Price, Guilty Simpson, Sha Stimuli, Livin Proof and Blu. Production wise, damn near every track has a different producer. From millennial hit makers like Oh No and Illmind, to underground cats like Black Milk, and vets like DJ Premier. Lyrically both emcees attack each instrumental with sharp metaphors and bravado. While I will admit that the main reason I wanted to cop this album was for Sky, Tor has shown that he can hold his own with the pen (no shots though, I still feel Skyzoo took the alpha emcee title throughout).

The "first" (technically second) track, Talk of the Town, is an Oh No produced joint that provides an intricate instrumental evocative of that early 90's sound. Torae jumps right into the track with energetic lyrics that ride the beat like a vet. You can def tell his golden era influences in his rhyme patterns and bar structures. Skyzoo follows up with his insane flow and cool cadence. They each split the emcee duties with two verses each. Torae ends with the chorus, "You talking about us?/ You talking about the talk of the town/ We the only ones mentioned when there's talk of the crown/ We the only ones in it that ain't alter the sound/ That ill shit, that we bringing you now."

The final track, Aura, might have some story behind its inception. Earlier this year (or maybe late last year), DJ Premier was on Rap Is Outta Control (which he does from time to time) and Antman Wonder called in. I believe they were discussing An Ode To Reasonable Doubt (peep review here). Preem congratulated Antman on his production of the album. Antman thanked Preem and praised Preem as one of his biggest influences, and boldly asked him to work together someday. Preem agreed, and I believe this might be the track that came from that convo. It def has the orchestral vibe that Antman provided with his previous Skyzoo collab. And of course Preem came in with the breaks, the boom and the bap. Both emcees maintain the lyrical quality on this track that is consistent from the beginning to the end of the album.

The Brooklyn duo managed to combine their lyrical efforts to achieve a very solid album. There was a lot of thought that went into the lyrical arraignments and production selection. For the most part this sounded like a proper hip hop duo album, and not just an album with an individual emcee featuring the other. This is not a flashy fancy collection of tracks, it is just good old timeless raps with top notch production.

Stream album below. And peep the music video for the single Blue Yankee Fitted.

04 June 2014

HOT OFF THE PRESS: Amerigo Gazaway Presents - Yasiin Gaye : The Return (Side Two)

Yo, remember that Yasiin Bey/Marvin Gaye mash up album that Amerigo Gazaway dropped a while back? Remember how hot that shit was? If you don't remember, then maybe you should click here and read up on what you've been missing. Well, Part 2 of that mash up project aptly titled Yasiin Gaye : The Return (Side Two) is available right now. If you are reading this then you need to stop what you are doing and grab the download RIGHT NOW. You remember what happened with the the first one that dropped, right? Corporate music got their panties in a bunch and it had to be taken down and an arguably "slimmer" version had to be released. Will that happen this time? Who knows, but do you really want to risk it? So, take some comp time, drop the kids at the sitter, take an extended lunch, do something! But grab this now while the getting is good. Follow the drop here to Amerigo Gazaway's Bandcamp page and grab the free download. I'm pretty sure it's gonna be another winner.

Well? What are you waiting for???? GO!!!

03 June 2014

VIDEO: Pharoahe Monch - Broken Again

Today Pharoahe Monch dropped a visual for the track Broken Again, off of his last LP PTSD (which was recently reviewed, peep review here). It is no surprise that Pharoahe Monch chose to submit a video that is as cinematic as the single itself (and overall album for that matter). PTSD dealt with mature and emotional subject matters, and Broken Again tackles the issue of heroine addiction. Lyrically Monch personifies the drug and chooses to represent her as a person in the video as well. There are a lot of blurred and out of focus camera techniques throughout the video. The addition of the use of shadows and darkness all add to the despair, isolation and confusion associated with heroine abuse. Overall this is just a beautifully made video to supplement and very strong track.

02 June 2014

REVIEW (+ STREAM): Slaughterhouse - House Rules

The Slaughterhouse movement is going on it's fifth year and the super group seems to be headed in the right direction with their upcoming LP, Glass House. This will be their second studio album under the Shady umbrella. And they will follow the same formula as they did with their debut LP, Welcome to: Our House, by dropping a mixtape before the album release. The groups previous mixtape, On The House, was met with positive feedback and set the bar high as it was most peoples introduction to the collective. Now the Slaughters have left us with another pre-album mixtape, House Rules, to hold us down before their next LP.

The intro track (and title track), House Rules, is a solid showing from the emcee quartet. Produced by 8 Bars, this track is definitely a trunk bumper. The instrumental goes through a few transitions, with arraignments varying from simple low keys to heavy bass segments. With the crews third Shady tape under their belt, we are starting to see a more cohesive consolidated effort from each emcee. Not all tracks in the mixtape feature all four members, but this track not only features the complete team dropping a verse but has them contributing to the chorus as well. Joell starts the intro giving us an inside look at what the crew does in the studio while they are laying down bars. "Royce giving his beard a scratch again/ Crooked lit a Cuban/ Joe acting like he Tweeting but he do that once the track begin/ I'm just nibbling on this plastic pen." Crooked I takes the baton and delivers his usual accelerated rhyme pattern that asserts his ambition to make his mark in the game. "Success is the mission before the mortician/ Fill me with embalming fluid, I promise that I gotta do it/ I took some street money, that I added some commas to it." Royce starts off aggressive but then breaks up his verse with a more melodic tempo, almost like a mini chorus. "I'm bogarting, the so called un-bogartable/ Turning your artist to post modern, flow particles." Joe rounds up the last leg of the track tackling an amazing array of topics. "I'm in all black like I just got a funeral call/ Stand up guy that was rumored to fall."

The Rat Pack has found a way to effectively balance the mixtape by choosing when and where to divide the emcee duties from each artist. House Rules features singles that range from all four members on the track, to solo tracks and every combination in between. This also mirrors the range of topics, from: alcoholism, success, drug abuse, friendship/betrayal, death, cancer, greed and even rap battles. Each emcee brings their unique rap style and perspective to the mixtape, but the difference with this showing is that they seem more like a cohesive group and not just a grouping of great emcees. They are starting to feed off of each other and are transitioning smoother with each baton they hand off to each other. They constantly refer to each other as "brothers", and the genuine admiration and respect is displayed throughout the tape. Production fluctuates from amazing to meh. Lyrically this is the tightest consistent showing from all members. Glass House is said to be a more introspective album, and House Rules is a great appetizer before the next main course.

Stream album below!

01 June 2014

VIDEO: Ab-Soul - Stigmata

TDE releases a video that looks to be a prelude to a seriously dope album. Ab-Soul is seen carrying a cross with a crown of thorns on his head, alligning himself with lines borrowed from Nas' "God's Son" album. The video serves as a teaser for the album coming next month, but the biggest surprise is at the very end they display what could be the final album art, and more importantly the official release date for "These Days..." 

Ab-Soul fans rejoice as we will finally be blessed with this new album the end of this month on June 24th!

@BestInTheMix @TwonJonson