Upon downloading Havoc’s (1/2 of Mobb Deep) most recent “leak” on Nature Sounds (clockin‘ those independent dollars, I see) I was very anxious to sit down and engulf what was almost sure to be a better solo effort than partner Alchemist’s…err, Prodigy’s most recent album/mixtape (I don’t know why P called it a “mixtape“) “Return Of The Mac”. For years die hard Mobb Deep fans have been itchin‘ for a solo release for what many consider to be the “better half” of the Queensbridge duo. Myself, I’ve always felt that not only was Havoc solely responsible for the insane beats on the majority of Mobb’s work such as “Shook Ones Pt.II”, “Quiet Storm” and many other bangers that are to numerous to mention, but I’ve also positioned Havoc as the better lyricist of the two. Of course, we may have already witnessed Mobb Deep at their prime with CLASSIC discs such as “The Infamous”, “Hell On Earth” and hell…..even “Murda Muzik” was dope, but Havoc’s “The Kush” is pretty darn discouraging. If you were anything like me and would pretty much bet the farm that Havoc would roll through with a solo debut that would not only crush Prodigy’s “Return Of The Mac” but also “H.N.I.C.”, I’m sorry to inform you that we couldn’t have any more misjudgement. Prodigy’s “Return Of The Mac” surpasses “The Kush” by far in terms of quality (due largely in part to The Alchemist’s reliance on soul samples that makes “Return..” favor the soundtrack of a late 70′s blaxploytation flick). Lyrically? Well, that’s a tough one to call…it’s quite evident that this duo needs each other and no matter how they’ve faltered lyrically over the last few years, they always manage to churn out a record that sounds pretty dope when paired together. “The Kush” is not a total wash, “I’m The Boss” managed to stay in constant rotation for the majority of last week. The first single leaked from the album “Be There” is a pretty soulful production that finds Havoc questioning friends and freaks “would you be there” if I wasn’t clockin‘ g’s & pushin‘ a Bently Azure? The album’s highlight belongs to “Hit Me Up” which features a neck snapping drum kick and a clever and catchy chorus that’s delivered by Un Pachino. As for the rest of the album, it’s very difficult to differentiate the remaining 9 tracks that are better unmentioned. Havoc seems to have gotten lazy on the production tip and with the rhymes. Rather than delivering the message to fans “watch me do this sh*t on my own”, “The Kush” feels more like yet another poor effort released from a major label artist trying to go the indie route with Nature Sounds. On that note, anyone else hear that Foxy Brown is releasing her next LP on Koch? Remind me to not check for that!
On a more positive tip, I didn’t think that I’d hear anything else drop this year that would bump Ill Poetic’s “The World Is Ours” from it’s position as the best album (at least, in my opinion) of 2007. Although I feel that it would take an almost flawless effort to overtake “The World Is Ours” I’m not totally ruling out the notion that it can be done. From nowhere, Panacea has emerged with an impressive follow up to “My Ink Is My Drink” (which I have yet to peep, thanks for the link Trav!), which also made a few year end list at one of my favorite sources to get the scoop on albums past and present Rate Your Music.Com (I see you Elgringo!). Yet another act signed to the resurfaced Rawkus Records, Panacea has managed to drop an album to definitely check for with “The Scenic Route”. While I’ll be the first to admit that “The Scenic Route” may take a few listens to digest (it did me), fans of the Native Tongues will surely be attracted to the beautiful (damn, I guess that’s not the word that most Hip Hop fans want to read when describing “beats”) production courtesy of K-Murdock. What some may deem as “soft” K-Murdock’s musical masterpieces are what sets Panacea apart from most of the Hip Hop World. Emcee Raw Poetic (Ill Poetic? Raw Poetic? Could there be a correlation between the two monikers?) deserves his propers as well, spitting educated lyrics with a rhythmic flow. Raw Poetic is at his best when delivering heartfelt lyrics dealing with life’s lessons and everyday sh*t that you and I go through. I’ve been meaning to give “The Scenic Route” it’s due credit with a indepth album review, but “fortunately” work has kept me tied up as have the “reviews” that Trav & I have been conducting. Hailing from Washington D.C., Panacea bring you an album that is sure to stay in your headphones for the rest of this year and many more to come, you’ll have to trust my judgement on this one and peep it HERE. After you “peep it” be sure to by the album (which I’m doing right after I finish this post). Somewhere, Questionmark Asylum must be smiling!
Speaking of “albums of the year” (damn, I love lists!!) Blu & Exile’s combined effort “Below The Heavens” has been popping up with positive feedback all over the internet. While I’d like to take the credit for hippin‘ most of these cats to “Below The Heavens”, Blu’s lyrical acrobatics and Exile’s original production are too dope to go unnoticed. I know that I’ve written about this album in length with a “Let’s Talk About…” post, I truly hope that Hip Hop heads of all shapes and colors are aware of the star in the making that goes simply by “Blu“. Of course, this album wouldn’t be half of what it is without the assistance from beatsmith Exile, who’s compilation of sorts “Dirty Science” made a few rounds on the “blog scene” last year as well. However, the album would b
e nothing without the clever, introspective lyrics of Blu. After listening to “Below The Heavens” countless times since it’s “leak” a few months ago (uhhh, shame on me….I have yet to buy this album as well…gotta’ cop it with Panacea tonite!!) , with each passing listen I’ve grown to appreciate just what a talented cat Blu is. I mean, the phrase “the sky’s the limit” may be a bit cliche but Blu is without a doubt a dude that I have no problem anointing as the “next big thing” in Hip Hop. Blu is entirely too dope, to be taken for granted, this young emcee is somethin‘ special! I have yet to listen to “Below The Heavens” and hit the fast forward button…okay, maybe a few times on “I Am..” but nothing other than that “occasionally”. Even though Exile’s beats may not hold my attention on tracks like “Juice N’ Dranks” or “Blu Collar Worker”, I’m always tuned into Blu’s witty lyricism and wordplay. I guess what I’m tryin‘ to say is….I hope that cats aren’t sleepin on this dude, it’s most definitely a rarity in Hip Hop today when a cat like this comes along and captivates this self proclaimed “beat junkie” with lyrics, charisma and delivery like Blu. I’ve pretty much locked this album in at #2 for the year and “Below The Heavens” just seems to get better and better each time. Appreciate Blu for what he is, hopefully this is just beginning for this youngster. For Hip Hop’s sake I sure the hell hope so!!
Okay, I touched on Unified School District’s “Brokedown Palace” (emcee Super Ugly can be seen floating all over the blog scence from time to time, you may wanna’ check your c-box) a bit yesterday in my “Most Played For The Week”, but here’s the rest of the story. More like an abbreviated “Eric Eats His Words” post if you will and why I fronted on this record at first: Super Ugly contacted me about two months ago with the download link to peep “Brokedown Palace”, after uploading the album to my Ipod I propped my ass down on the couch with NBA2K7 on the screen and attempted to give Unified’s “Brokedown….” a go. Needless to say, I couldn’t even make it through the first listen. Admittingly, Super Ugly’s voice may take some getting used to and the beats are anything but “traditional”. So more or less “Brokedown Palace” sat on my Ipod just taking up space, all the while Super Ugly had e-mailed me a few times asking me if I had the chance to peep their album. Trav @ WYDU will tell you, I told him “dude, you gotta’ help me out here…I can’t review this!!”. Let’s get one thing clear here, I’m just an ex-jock, a 31 year old husband with two kids who has absolutely no background in the music industry (DJing for three years is as remotely close as I’ve come to any hands on experience). This blog was conceived from my love and passion for Hip Hop, it’s the only music that I ever knew…EVER! So, who am I to tell an up and coming artist or group who wants me to print an honest “review” of his or her work that basically “your sh*t sucks”. I’d rather just leave it be, I’m not gonna’ knock someone’s hustle who is just out there workin‘ a regular 9 to 5….while also pursuing their dreams in Hip Hop. Some things are better left unsaid, especially if you may not be a “well known” act just yet. While this site is far from Smoking Section, W.T.R. does get about 1300-1500 hits a day….I don’t want to dimmer anyone’s career over a negative review. So Super Ugly to be straight up with you….I just didn’t want to write about your album because I just wasn’t feelin‘ it, but I respect your talent and hustle.
Here’s where it gets interesting. I run out to my mailbox Friday after work and find what definitely takes the cake as the most clever packaging for any promo or hard copy that I’ve received thus far. For the first time in months since we had our youngest daughter I was free’d up to grab a couple (more like a case) frosties with one of my best friends and catch the Arkansas/Bama‘ football game at a local dive. It’s about a 20 minute drive to this “whole in the wall” and on my way out the door I grabbed Unified’s “Brokedown Palace” and popped it in the deck. For some reason on that day, the album sounded COMPLETELY different to me. For one thing, the album is loaded with bottom and sounds real sharp in the system. From what little I’ve gathered on Oaktown’s Unified School District thus far, Ecto One handled the majority of the production duties on the album and Super Ugly handled all the mic duties. This album is typically not something that I mix it up with, but I really do like this album. The beats aren’t like anything else you’ve heard lately, very original sampling backed with window rattling bass knock that is sort of reminiscent of early Hiero beats. Like I said, Super Ugly’s voice may not be your cup of tea at first but after a few listens to the album I really dig his unique delivery. The album also features appearances from the legendary Prince Po of Organized Konfusion and Copywrite. As big as I was on Uncut Raw’s “First Toke” this weekend and everytime I listen to the album that same initial feeling that I had for “First Toke” is shared with “Brokedown Palace”. I’m not gonna’ post a link for this record, but I do highly suggest you give these cats a listen. I’m confident that you will be pleased with the results. For all you tech heads be sure to download the album on Itunes and support these cats. In the meantime, Super Ugly hit us up with some purchasing info in the comments section.