As you’re all well aware of by now, Trav of the now “world famous”
Wake Your Daughter Up and I came up with the bright idea of “Hey, we get all these promos in the mail every week, let’s take two of them, give em’ or stamp of approval (or disapproval) and we’ll flip flop the hosting site every other week”. So this week it’s W.T.R.’s turn. Now for anyone out there who has ever attempted to conduct some sort of analysis of a recently purchased or downloaded album….well, for a pretty accurate review it’s some time consuming shit. After you spend the majority of the week taking in the promos over & over then instant messaging our responses back and forth…well, we hope that our readers really enjoy this. So far, Trav & I have really enjoyed sharing our “insight” and with each passing review I feel that not only will our chemistry improve but also we’ll be able to cut down on the length of some of these reviews. Lord knows, we can go at it pretty good with our vast differences pertaining to some of the music we love. This week we will be “conversatin” over Soulstice’s sophomore release “Dead Letter Perfect” & 9th Wonder’s second compilation “Dream Merchant Volume II”. If you somehow missed last week’s reviews of Top Shelf’s “8/8/88″ & Aesop Rock’s “None Shall Pass” (told ya’ll that album was gonna’ be somethin‘ special….dude’s plastered all over MTV!) you can peep em’ HERE. Oh, and don’t forget to drop Trav a comment in his C-Box and congratulate him and the rest of W.Y.D.U. for their most recent appearance in VIBE magazine, along with other prevalent sites that are equally as dope and important such as Bust The Facts, Unkut & Soul Sides. I demand a recount Gottdamnit!!! Looks like we have some dues to pay…..Rookie! Have a good weekend ya’ll, Fall is right around the corner….-Eric
Trav: I Can’t seem to get into it, not sure if its because my head is up in the clouds or what.
Eric: Yeah, I really, really liked “Dead Letter Perfect” when I first got the promo in the mail. The problem is, that same day also happened to be the day my nuts where snipped ( no more kids for me) so maybe I was a little loopy off of the Zanex to begin with. It sounded crazy good on the way home from the hospital though!
Trav: Soulstice, dude is part of another group right?
Trav: Pain in a man’s unit will do that to you. I’ve been all over with this release myself with my feelings about it
Eric: Damn, this is not lookin‘ good…you mean we’re actually gonna’ agree on something again??
Trav: Soulstice sounds like a thinking man’s MC, with a Masters in Electrical Computer Engineering and he works for the Dept. Of Defense. Impressive
Eric: Your right, Soulstice actually looks like a good, clean cut fella’….but lyrically…well, not even lyrically because he’s an above average emcee….it’s just that his flow at times lacks……what’s the word I’m lookin‘ for???
Trav: Kind of boring?
Eric: No, not even that, more like..well, he’s not very compelling on the mic and lacks that certain presence that makes you wanna’ really tune into his lyrics
Trav: Well, to start off, I didn’t mind Soulstice on the mic. I didn’t even mind the beats. There was just nothing that really grabbed me. The first time I listened to it…it blended together for me. The second time, I was in the right mood, so I liked it. Then the last few times I listened to it…a few songs stuck out, but the rest just kind of….they were just there. I like to call stuff like this “Mood Music”….you just have to be in the right mood for it
Eric: Yeah, even Panacea’s new album “The Scenic Route” or an effort such as Ill Poetic’s “The World Is Ours” could also be categorized as “Mood Music”, but like you mentioned it’s pretty inconsistent and is sorely lacking cohesiveness
Trav: See…I disagree, I thought it was too cohesive, it all kind of blends together to me
Eric: You said that the album “has no real standouts”. I do however feel that Soulstice’s ode to the his hometown the CHI “Still Love” (produced by everyone’s favorite mistake for 9th Wonder….M-Phazes) is the absolute “head and shoulders above the rest moment” on “Dead Letter Perfect”…at least for me
Trav: Oh, there are some standouts cuts for sure. Without looking at the production credits I could have sworn that track (“Still Love”) was a 9th Wonder track, but that wasn’t one of the tracks that grabbed me…..but it’s not bad…it’s just like everything else on the album to me
Eric: So what did exactly “grab” you on the album?
Trav: I have four tracks that I loved on the album. I’d probably say my favorite would be the second track “High As You Wanna”, basically just on the strength of the beat
Eric: Awwwww C’mon! Not “High As You Wanna”!!! I was just listening to that in the headphones thinking “watch, this has gotta’ be Trav’s shit”..I knew it…but, guess what? I thought it was… if not the worst track on the album it’s pretty darn close to it. I’m talkin‘ beat, content, chorus…..basically the whole nine yards. Chalk it up as yet another ineffective 9th Wonder knockoff courtesy of Analogic
Trav: Ah man, how could you not like this (“High As I Wanna”)? This is that melodic shit you are always talking about?!! Shit, he (producer Analogic) is doing it better than 9th has lately. I like the shit. It’s different, more upbeat than the rest of the album, the chorus is something different. Man, I was just bobbing my head to that beat. It’s great, not original, but if you have to bite, at least make it sound as good as the originator. Which he does.
Eric: Who is doin‘ it better than 9th??? Are we talkin‘ about “High…” or “Still Love”??
Trav: “High….”, that beat is great…shit everyone is doing 9th these days, might as well do it well
Eric: No way, the best 9th impression on “Dead Letter…” is “Still Love”….hands down!!!
Trav: Yeah, your right, M-phazes did a great imitation of a “lets rush this beat out and my fans will like it” 9th impression…”High As I Wanna” sounds like a 9th joint back when it still mattered, 3-4 years ago. Shit, he even has the snare down pat.
Trav: Whatever, listen to that snare on “Still Love”, he ROBBED 9th’s snare section on Fruity Loops!
Eric: Ok, since we’re on the subject of M-Phazes..what’d you think of his other track on the album “Not Perfect”? Also, where is that piano loop from? Didn’t Cormega freak that for a track that appeared on “The Realness”? Man, it’s killing me! Who else jerked that sample? Arrghhh!
Trav: That joint (“Not Perfect”) would have to be one of the other songs I love on this LP. I’m not dissing on M-Phazes, most of the shit I’ve heard from him has been quality and this joint is another example. That “swirling piano key” sample is freaking great. I’ve been knocking my brain trying to place it myself
Eric: Okay, so you’ve offered me three of the four cuts that you’ve deemed as “standout”…so, what’s the fourth??
Trav: Only two…”High As You Wanna”, “Not Perfect” and the third would be the Oddisee produced “Book Of Days”
Eric: You know dude’s (Oddisee) got his own blog now, right?
Trav: Yeah, I’ve heard that, if it isn’t Paul Rosenberg though, I ain’t messing with it…hahaha…Nah, I’m still kind of on the fence with Oddisee
Eric: I usually like Oddisee’s stuff but…without reading the production credits I would’ve never guessed that those where his beats, and that’s not a good thing in this case.
Trav: So what, a producer’s beats all have to have their signature sound?
Eric: No, not at all…but they weren’t of the quality that my ears are used to hearing from Oddisee.
Trav: Like I said, I wasn’t the biggest Oddisee fan, so maybe thats why I kind of liked them a bit more on “Dead Letter Perfect”
Eric: Trav, I really wanted to like this album….I really did…..it’s just that at times Soulstice is overly “preachy” and some of the hooks are just plain repetitive and boring….and honestly, Ye’ kinda’ ran the whole “sped up” sample thing into the dirt…
Trav: Yes, the hooks do hinder the album. The fact the tracks never switch up bpm’s much, hinders it as well. Honestly, like I mentioned earlier…I was shocked when I listened to it then went back to the production credits and didn’t see 9th on one track, when I thought I heard him on 3 or 4 tracks at the very least.
Eric: Yeah, me to…..hard to believe Soulstice is yet another quality emcee out of Chicago….sounds like an East Coast head to me lyrically and flow-wise. I mean, I’m not knockin‘ dude’s hustle…he’s talented lyrically..no question. The album and Soulstice just don’t seem to have that “IT” quality.
Trav: It just seems like another “soul” sampled artist appears to be the “in thing” in the “backpacker” underground scene right now. I like that kind of music, but when everyone starts doing it, there’s no wonder why I start leaning toward other things that aren’t the “in thing” right now. I mean let’s pick a song….let’s go with “No Chance” which features Wordsworth, but the track sounds like just about anything else on the album.
Eric: I agree wholeheartedly….but..Wordsworth IS the kinda’ of dude that can do a spoken chorus or hook on 3/4 of the album and succeed masterfully in doing so. It’s just not the same case with Soulstice….probably one of the reasons that it’s brought to the forefront on “No Chance”, as a matter of fact, it sounds like a track that may have been better suited for Words’ “Mirror Music”
Trav: Words is in a league of his own, no doubt. It’s not that this is a bad album, it’s not. It’s just that I’ve heard this same album 10 times this year from 10 other MC’s/groups…give me something different
Eric: I hear ya’ brother and to be honest, I really don’t see any reason to beat it to death anymore…especially a sophomore solo effort coming from an established artist…..I’ll take the last Wade Waters joint (“Return Of The Kings” or “Dark Waters”) over “Dead Letter Perfect” in a minute
Eric: So let’s have a little fun here Trav. “Ear Drum” or “Dead Letter Perfect”??
Trav: This was my first exposure to Soulstice and I’d check him again. He just needs to switch things up, try some different production or something. Well, I’m not a big “Ear Drum” fan and it seems like people either love it or hate it, so I’ll catch heat for this but I’d rather listen to “Dead Letter Perfect”
Eric: The only track that I see myself going back to is “Still Love”, which will probably find itself near the top of my “Most Played For The Week”, but hell no!….there is no way on earth that “Dead Letter” is a better album than “Ear Drum”. To each his own I guess. So let’s just take it a step further…..
Eric: “Dead Letter” or “Desire”
Trav: Probably “Desire” just because it’s at least switching shit up
Eric: Damn, I can’t believe you even threw a “probably” in there!!!
Trav: Like I said, it’s not that I dislike the album. There is stuff on both Talib and Monch that I definitely DON’T like
Eric: That’s here nor there….Gimme’ an “?” outta’ 10 for Soulstice’s “Dead Letter Perfect”
Trav: I know that a 5 will probably look bad, but it’s an average album…not good, not bad…it’s just there, so a 5, or 5.5 based on “Southside Ride” (which I forgot to mention as one of my “standouts”), “High As You Wanna”, “Books Of Days”, and “Not Perfect” which are all standout tracks. Maybe even 2 or more of them might find their way on my 100 favorite songs lists at the end of the year
Eric: I have to save face with a 5 outta’ 10 as well. There are a few decent tracks such as the album’s closer, the Oddisee produced “The Quickening” but man….the perfect word to describe “Dead Letter Perfect” just came to me…..”Bland”. He’s got the meat and potatoes, but it (“Dead Letter Perfect”) needs a little seasoning and some additional herbs & spices.
Eric: You got anything else to add to that my friend?
Trav: Yup, bland is a good word for it. I don’t dislike it, but I don’t see it gaining more listens
Eric: It’s a damn shame too….because after the first listen of the promo I thought that this would’ve been an easy review to do. Sometimes we gotta’ get our hands a little dirty, I guess?
9th Wonder-The Dream Merchant Vol. II
Eric: First things first, I gotta’ get this off of my chest…after peepin‘ aka DL’in 9th Wonder’s compilation “Dream Merchant 2″ I’m fully prepared to admit that the “so-called weakest link” in the JL spit my favorite verse on the album.
Trav: I’m guessing you mean the Joe Scudda verse on “Saved”. You know, you have a point there. I’ve never hated on him all that much, but it was probably the best verse i’ve heard from him thus far
Eric: Yeah, for one thing….my Mom’s been teachin‘ for 34 years so I get the “get’s paid the least for her profession” line. Also, my Dad is not doin‘ the greatest (he was diagnosed with MS in 83′) with his health and he stays full of life always kickin‘ back havin a brew so I also get when Scudda spits “I swear he can’t win” and the “end’s comin‘ no time quick. I’m also all about a “crisssppp pair of Nike’s” and hell I aint even “Saved”….damn Trav, I love that fuckin‘ song!
Trav: Well, his last line kind of hit home for me ….cause I ain’t even “saved”, because I’ve always struggled to be a better person, but shit is hard!
Eric: No doubt…keep it real though, what was the first thought that crossed your mind when you saw Scudda paired with Saigon (who’s killin‘ it with that Just Blaze shit right about now) on “Saved”?
Trav: Well, it looks kind of crazy on paper, but Just Blaze, who does a lot of stuff for Saigon, also did Scudda’s “The Authentic” Mixtape, so I guess there is a logical connection
Trav: Crazy things happen, thats for sure. It’s the one verse that sticks out the most. When we first did this (editor’s note: Trav & I first did this review on Tuesday, but leave it up to blogger to somehow delete our entire post!), I thought you were crazy, but I’ve paid attention to it since then and you are right.
Eric: Damn, I never thought I’d hear those words from you! Thanks….now only if you’ll grasp my review of Milk’s “Never Dated”.
Trav: Yeah, don’t push it!
Eric: I’ve got “Sunday” playin‘ in the headphones right now. I know you can’t hold it in any longer, speak ya’ clout!
Trav: I freakin‘ love that joint. The beat is different for 9th, you have probably my second favorite JL MC in Chaundon, you have a beautiful little voice in Keisha. The joint is just great to throw on a Sunday afternoon and let it play. This song and the whole album for that matter are perfect for the autumn season
Eric: Hard to argue with you on the “autumn” thing but I don’t know about “Sunday”. I loved Keisha on 9th & Buckshot’s “I Don’t Know Why” and Chaundon has carved a nice little niche for himself in the Justus League but I’m just not really feelin’ this one. It’s pretty much been “skip worthy” thus far for me. Sad thing is I usually have to let it ride out just for the outro that features …..(who is that chick) spittin’ over Little Brother’s “Whatever You Say” sample? The outro to the track alone almost makes “Sunday” listenable just to get the candy center.
Trav: I think you have your head phones on too tight and can’t hear the beautifulness of that song
Eric: “Sunday” would have been the perfect soundtrack to your company picnic you attended this afternoon….that is, provided it was set in scenary similar to the barbecue O-Dawg & A-Wax aka MC Eiht attended in “Menace II Society”!
Trav: It’s soulful dude…and like I said, 9th changed it up on that beat. Which is one thing about this album in general, 9th changes things up a bit. We’ve both admitted we’ve grown kind of bored with 9th the past couple of years. His shit sounded rush, he seemed stretched and a lot of the “soul” was missing on some of his projects, so in general, it was a welcomed relief to hear some different things
Eric: I know that we’ll probably see a few of those “9th sucks, and that same ol snare” comments in the C-Box but I’m fully armed and ready to defend “Dream Merchant II”
Trav: He has even changed up “that” snare a bit on this project. He’s changed things up a bit and I think he needed to. I mean, listen to the Camp Lo track (“Milky Lowa”), who would have thought that was a 9th track? He does his best Ski impression and in some cases, even better than Ski. This joint would have probably been one of the best song on the recently released Camp Lowa LP/Mixtape
Eric: I take a serving of Camp Lo & 9th over Camp Lo & “Post-Uptown Saturday Night” Ski anyday. “Milky Lowa” would’ve been the best track on “In Black Hollyw
ood” had it been included on the album. Speaking of which, when’ s the last time you actually listened to “In Black Hollywood”???
Trav: Last weekend actually. I like that LP and I like Ski, but I ain’t going to argue 9th did it right with them. How does that shit sound in a decent system?
Eric: (While nodding furiosly to the outro on “Reminisce”) Damn!! Who is this chick spittin’ near the close of alot of these tracks. I like how 9th flipped some of the samples he’s already used for her to bust on
Trav: I think that it may be the chick that used to be in The A.L.L.I.E.S. and she is supposed to be 9th’s next project
Eric: Shit, he oughta’ group her with Jean Grae’s ass & drop a female “Only Built 4…”
Trav: I’m not sure I need to hear that. What else were you feeling on this album?
Eric: Speaking of “The A.L.L.I.E.S.” take this one to the bank. 9th needs to truly give those cats a nice full length filled to the room with the soulful shit similar to beat displayed on “Reminisce”. Big Remo & Novej sound like a perfect fit over 9th’s beats and the “9th Wonder presents The A.L.L.I.E.S.” EP was waaay overlooked. Coincidentally, The A.L.L.I.E.S. assisted “Reminisce” takes the cake as the “Oh Shit” moment on the album
Trav: Yeah Big Remo and Novej were really good on that track. I was slightly disappointed in the beat though. It’s picky but that sample was used a couple years ago on Masta Ace’s “Survival” joint that was done by Koolade. I think Koolade hooked it up better and to me its just kind of lazy to use the same sample again.
Eric: My dude, Krisch picked “Survival” for one of his “Top 25 Beats”. Isn’t Koolade from Croatia or some shit??
Trav: Yeah, I think Phatsoul, who is MIA, did a write up on him on WYDU last year
Eric: “Reminsice” is obviously a sentimental favorite of mine (hence the song title and my blog’s title) but I really like this shit…..I played it more than any other track this week with “Saved” comin’ in a close second. You said somethin’ earlier about how’s the album sound in a nice system. The answer is NIIIIICE!!!
Trav: Yeah, its a good song, I guess I’m being a bit biased and snobbish. The album seems like it would knock in a few places and I know thats been a “knock” on 9th in the past
Eric: Jesus Trav! This album KNOCKS in the trunk. I mean, 9th LOADED this album with bottom…check “Thank You” a prime example…that’s another cut I’m particulary fond of
Trav: Oh hell yeah!! That beat is some junk in the trunk. I like that song a lot as well. O-Dash seems like he is kind of underrated in the grand scheme of the JL although I’m not sure if he’s an “official” member
Eric: Shit, I was just gonna’ say the opposite. I thought that D.O.X. & O-Dash were subpar lyrically but that 9th Wonder beat overcomes all the lyrical shortcomings on the track
Trav: I just like the “in your face” lyrics. They are not great, but they just take it back to that ‘bragadacio” hip hop of yesteryear
Eric: OK then, let’s switch it up a bit. Gimme’ the WORST lyrical performance on “Dream Merchant II”…I know I have my pick ready awaiting your response
Trav: Shit, that’s hard. I’ve been so intuned to the beats, I’ve just recently started paying attention to the lyrics on the songs I like. I guess I’d have to say Sean Boog’s performance on “Backlash”. I don’t usually have a problem with Boog, but he just bugged me on the “Backlash” joint with Buckshot
Eric: I liked that “Backlash” joint. It’s a odd pairing between “Buck & Boog” but it works for me. All I have to say is Big Dho needs to stick to managin’ and thank sweet Jesus for Sean Peeeeee (who along with the smooth 9th production saves “SHOTS”)
Trav: Big Dho isn’t really an MC, but I didn’t think he took anything away from that song. Jozee also bugged me on “It Ain’t Over” as well. One of my current favorite MC’s makes an apperance on “The Last Time”, Royce is just a fuckin’ beast and it was kind of cool to hear him spitting on a 9th beat, although it was kind of one of the more lackluster beats on the album
Eric: You’ll think it’s even more “lackluster” when you hear the opening track “Scream Out” from the Away Team’s new album “Training Day”. It basically sounds like the same track with a sample from D.O.C.’s “Funky “thrown in for good measure. Sad thing is, I like the Away Team joint (“Scream Out”) even better than “Last Time…”
Trav: Great. You still haven’t asked me for my favorite track on the album, so I’m going to offer it anyway. “Merchant Of Dreams” sounds like something beatwise that 9th did on the “Chitlin Circuit” tapes, which I thought was when he was at his pinnacle. The Embassy (LEGACY & Chaundon), Skyzoo and Torae all make an apperance. Fucking song is great!
Eric: Exactly, it sounds like something 9th did on the “Chitlin’ Circuit” tapes, which to me sounds a tad dated and doesn’t really do anything for me. Although, all the emcees featured on “Merchant Of Dreams” more than hold up their end of the bargain
Trav: While we are on the topic of Skyzoo, I have to admit something. Although I’m going to miss doing my Skysnooze and Skyzzzzzzzzzzzzz jokes, that joint he did “Let It Bang” is actually pretty good. Ness (of Bad Boy’s “Making The Band” fame) sucks and takes away from the track, but after bashing Skyzoo whenever I could, I actually like this song
Eric: Good to see your opinions are swaying regarding S-K-Y-Z-O-O! Like I said before, he’s not a favorite of mine but dude really does have that Lil Wayne/Fabolous flow that is extremely marketable in the “overground”. With the right push I think that dude could blow up
Trav: Not sure about that still, but I’ll admit my turnabout concerning that song. We can’t finish this without mentioning the Little Brother joint (“No Time To Chill”) and the Big Pooh joint (“What Makes A Man” featuring Buddy Klein). Your thoughts?
Eric: Fair enough, Lackluster and Lackluster
Trav: The LB track was a disappointment for me as well, but I liked the Pooh track. You need to get up off my boy Pooh, dude isn’t that bad.
Eric: I’ve never been a fan of Big Pooh…although, “Heart Of The City” from “Sleepers” was my shit….he’s nowhere near the emcee Phonte is. The Big Pooh joint (“What Makes A Man”) sounds like a Preemo production
Trav: Nothing wrong with that!
Eric: Alright homeboy, let’s bring it on home….since this was essentially a “producer’s showcase” more or less…in order of your favorites, list your top 5 cuts on “Drea
m Merchant Volume II
Trav: 1. “Mechant Of Dreams”, 2. “Sunday”, 3. “Thank You”, 4. “Brooklyn On My Mind”, 5. “Milky Lowa”
Eric: That’s crazy….no “Reminisce”??? Here’s my top 5: 1. “Reminisce”, 2. “Saved”, 3. “Thank You” (surprise ,surprise we agree on something), 4. “Shots” 5. (tie) “Baking Soda” & “The Last Time”
Trav: BLAHHHHH “Baking Soda”….thats the worse song. I’d rather bang my head against a wall than listen to that
Eric: Personally…..I’d rather “go to Wal-Mart and start “checkin’ out the price of the Bakin’ Soda…BAKIN’ SOOODA”!!
Trav: Yuck, I don’t mind Big Treal, he did a joint on the DJ Drama mixtape that was my favorite from it, but that chorus and beat…fuck that shit!
Eric: Does “The Dream Merchant Volume II” have a chance to pop up on any of your year end lists??
Trav: Well, there are easily 11 out of the 18 tracks that I really enjoy and since I had a problem coming up with 10 albums I really liked at the halfway point, I’d say this does stand a chance. The only thing that might hinder it is the replay value. When “Minstrel Show” dropped, I played it non stop for two weeks. Then after that I grew extemely bored with it, because of the beats. We’ll see how I feel about this a few weeks down the road, but I say it stands a good chance of being in the top 10 year end list
Eric: Funny that you mention “The Minstrel Show” it’s been almost a year since I’ve heard that album, I do, however feel that 9th has shown some progression between “The Minstrel…” and this compilation…if nothing else, I’d say this album is a solid 7. 5 outta’ 10…maybe even pushin’ an 8. What do you think??
Trav: We’ll agree on that, 7.5 MAYBE an 8
Eric: Would you say 9th is to be considered as one of the “elite” producers in Hip Hop right now or do you feel that his appeal has tapered off a bit in the last few years
Trav: Nah, he still has his 9th Wonder “Stans” and probably will even more so after this. Hell, he would have been one of my top 5 producers back in ’03-’04
Eric: Would you buy this album?
Trav: I am going to buy this album
Eric: Yeah, me too….well, that should rap up this week’s addition of “When They Reminisce Waking You Daughter Up”. Trav, thanks for stoppin’ by to help out the “little fellow” now that your “big time” all up in the VIBE and shit.
Trav: Yeeaaah, Yeeaaah