1. “My Tunes”-Specifics(click each song title to preview or DL track)
Canada is in the HOUSE!! Very seldom, do I listen to what some may categorize as “International Rap”…but this week here at W.T.R., Canada has most definitely blessed us with two very strong outings. The first coming from a very talented emcee/producer/dj trio that hails from Montreal, The Specifics. While his moniker may tiptoe along the lines of “corniness”, DO NOT sleep on MC Golden Boy’s mic skills. With a voice and flow that could be easily mistaken for a combination of Cormega & Baby Blak (more of the later), Golden Boy is a very talented emcee who was successful in doing what 90% of other rappers today have a hard time doing…..keeping me tuned in! On the production side of things, producer Think Twice more than holds up his end of the bargain with original beats that are loaded with bottom without sacrificing clarity….which makes sense because Think Twice also “double-dutied” as the engineer on “II”. Last but not least, the group’s latest addition (DJ Goser) is nice with his on the cut, slicing many of the hooks to bits. The Specifics dropped their debut “Lonely City” in 2004. I’ve never heard their first offering…but, if it sounds half as dope as this follow-up then I’m all ears. Even when touching base on commonly addressed subject matter in Hip Hop (clubs, chillin’, braggin’ & boastin’, etc.) tracks such as “We At The….” & “Lampin’” (that word NEEDS to make a comeback) sound dope thanks to Think Twice’s ill production & Golden Boy’s catchy rhyme patterns which never become dormant. Upon first listen, “My Tunes” was the only track that that left me in “Oh Shit” mode. Admittedly, there is just something that I can’t quite put my finger on that brought me back to this album throughout the course of the week. I feel that it’s a very well rounded album as the duo of Golden Child & Think Twice seem to compliment one another very well which in turn leads a very complete, almost effortless album. For the second go round’ the Specifics “II” sounds more like a follow up from seasoned veterans rather than an album from a triumvirate who garnered very little attention nationally with their debut. Check out the group’s MySpace and in the meantime peep “II”.
Uhhhhh, so just how long have the Cool Kids been bubblin’? Singed to A Trak’s (Kanye’s DJ) record label “Fool’s Gold” and following a long line of talent that hails from the Chi (Kanye, Lupe, Rhymefest, Twista, Kidz In The Hall, Common,etc.) the Cool Kids have officially arrived with their newest offering “Black Mags”. Rhyming about BMX rims, all the while rockin’ some late 80′s “nut-huggers” complete with the “tightroll” and all, the Cool Kids are in quite a position to garner the tag as “the next big thing”. Truthfully, “Black Mags” is irresistible. Equipped with a BOOMING bassline and quirky but catchy rhyme styles flaunted by both of the emcees, “Black Mags” is to “bike riding” as to what “Kick, Push” was to skateboarding. The self described “black version of the Beastie Boys” also have another cut leaked that truly captures the late 80′s essence of the Beasties titled “88″ that hits just as hard as “Black Mags”. With a forthcoming EP (“Bake Sale”) in January and a full length that just might be available around mid-2008, the hype that will build for The Cool Kids’ debut may reach the “ink levels” that Kanye or Lupe received before their respective debut albums dropped. In the meantime, big ups to “Soundamentals” for “Totally Flossed Out” which is an EP of sorts that serves as a “teaser” before “Bake Sale” drops. “Totally….” features both of the aforementioned singles “Black Mags” & “88″, I’ve just sampled the EP earlier today but from what I’ve heard thus far there is only one word that best describes the 19 year old emcee Mickey Rocks & 23 year old emcee/producer Chuck Inglish……FRESH! Also, even though the subject matter and content of their rhymes differs drastically, the beats that I’ve heard from The Cool Kids thus far remind me of soundscapes that would serve the Clispe just as well. Peep the video for “Black Mags” below.
Canada’s in the HOUSE once again! I swear up until this past week, I’ve never even bothered with any International rap…Period! Hailing from London, Canada, Shad blesses us with his latest outing “The Old Prince”, which is an eclectic album from an emcee who strangely lists his musical influences as Warren G & Morrissey (WTF?). Touching all the bases with content that ranges from playful, non-threatening rhymes (see “The Old Prince Still Live At Home”) to lyrics that involve heavy social commentary (see “Brother Watching” which features a real smooth piano loop and soothing soul sample). “I Heard….” is Shad at his best, featuring a fading piano stab and a subtle guitar riff the track hits it’s apex near the 2:50 mark when the track is inserted with a thunderous drum kick. The cut fades out to an ill acoustic solo which I assume is played by Shad himself since there is a YouTube clip of him doing an acoustic cover of a techno track on his MySpace page. Admittedly, the first time I sat down and engulfed “The Old Prince” I felt the same way as I did after peeping Danny’s “Danny Is Dead” EP (released on Def Jux earlier this year), meaning both are quirky, emo type back rappers that will most likely never receive their proper due despite their obvious musical talents and penchant for “never being too serious to make fun of yourself”. The highlights of “The Old Prince” include both of the cuts addressed within this little spill along with the “intro” track that features what may possibly be the hardest track on the album. Still, a very noteworthy effort from an impressive emcee that with the proper backing could make some noise here in the States. To hold you over in the meantime, check out Shad’s “The Old Prince” HERE and then cop it….it’s well worth the $9.99.
So the release date for the long-awaited Saigon debut has been pegged for December 4th (hey, isn’t that Jay’s birthday?), anybody wanna’ make a bet that it gets pushed back….again? From what I’ve gathered thus far over the last few years (damn, it’s really been that long, huh?) on numerous Hip Hop related sites is that “The Greatest Story Never Told” will feature production handled entirely by the one and only Just Blaze and also be the first release on Blaze’s label, “Fort Knocks”. From the two tracks that I’ve heard from the album thus far (“Come On Baby” & “Saigon Meets Just Blaze”), I’m fairly amped and looking forward to this collective effort from what is probably the hottest producer in the game right now and an emcee who is trying to avoid “another hot New York mixtape rapper not to release an album status” (i.e, J-Hood, Uncle Murda, Red Cafe, Tru-Life, etc.,etc.). “Come On Baby” is the hottest thing that I’ve heard from Just Bleezy since “P.S.A” from Jay’s “The Black Album”. Backed by a “heavy metal guitar-like” riff and a hard-hitting drum track “Come On Baby” follows along the lines of prior Just Blaze classics like F-A-B-O’s “Breathe” & Fat Joe’s “The Incredible”. As far as Saigon is concerned, I think that dude has his own steez but I’ve never seen what all the the fuss concerning him is. If I buy “The Greatest Story Never Told” it’ll have to be on the strength of Just Blaze’s ridiculous production and not Saigon’s lyrical capabilities. Oh, and Jay-Z stops by for a guest spot on this club banger in case I forgot to mention. Can somebody explain to me what Jay-Z is doing by trying to reincarnate outdated phrases such as “Swwweeet” & “make it do what it do baby”? It’s almost as if dude is trying too hard to start another trend, it’s not like as if dudes still aren’t donning throwbacks and button-ups anymore. Don’t front on the “Get At Me Dog-ish” video for “Come On Baby” either, even though it appears as if the budget for it was $258.00.
While I have been far from impressed by Cassidy’s previous two efforts, I thought that I’d go head and give “B.A.R.S.” a chance simply based on the catchiness of the album’s first single “Drink & My Two Step” (which, by the time you read this I’ll probably be tired of already). So, I stroll up into Best Buy on Tuesday during my lunch-hour hoping to cop Jigga’s “American Gangster” (since every “Retail” version that I DL’d sounded like shit!) and Little Brother’s “Get Back”, little did I know that I’d walk out with a copy of “B.A.R.S.” as well. Damn A-One after reading your reviewI should have taken heed to your advice because you hit the nail on the head with this one (on a side, more cats should check for “Know Good Music” which has been amongst some of my favorite blogs that I check for as of late). However, even though…in essence, Cassidy may very well be “the pot calling the kettle black” on “Damn….”, the underlying rhythms that fuel it are what has won me over. “Damn I Miss The Game” features a soulful, head-nodder that falls somewhere between production from 9th Wonder & Just Blaze but in fact is produced by…..shit, I couldn’t even tell you cause my wife must’ve scooped this up on her way out the door a while ago…no linear notes for me! Whatever the case, “B.A.R.S.” will most likely end up amongst the other “one hitter quiters” in my CD booklet after this week…oh well, at least “Damn I Miss The Game” provided some enjoment for me this week.
“Uncle Tony’s Coloring Book” is actually the first instrumental LP that I’ve checked for from Blockhead (who’s handled much of the production for Aesop Rock). Much to my surprise, I’ve found that this Ninja Tune release is pretty dope to listen to while at work or running or shit….doing just about anything. “The Strain” is my hands-down favorite from “Uncle Tony’s” due to it’s laid back feel that normally leads to me doing the robot circa 87′ (not really, my bones are too old for that shit). Blockhead inserts an array of sounds within “The Strain” that all come together for an unconventional mixture of samples that are just as good and “unpredictable” as Louisiana gumbo. Released in conjunction with Aesop’s “None Shall Pass”, this third release from Blockhead sounds far from the normal, moody, depressing shit that he’s laced for Aesop, but rather most of the tracks are (for lack of better words) “bouncy” and somewhat “lighthearted” which can be due to it’s heavy reliance on soul samples. Still, probably one of my top two or three instrumental albums that I’ve heard so far this year, which is weird because as I get older I find myself enjoying “instrumental” LPs more than much of the lyrically defficient bullshit that wastes a good track nowadays.
If there’s one R & B chick in the game who I check for on a regular basis, it’s gotta’ be Alicia Keys. Not only does she have some of the most powerful, “butterfly inducing” vocals in Soul & R & B right now, but each year she ages, she gets easier on the eyes (had to be that Proactiv shit). It’s just a damn shame that she’s got “Mariah Carey syndrome” aka “got no rhythm”, I mean…after all, she is half white, right? Even though I love this Hip Hop shit, I have to admit that Alicia’s newest LP “As I Am” has been one of the most anticipated albums of the year for me. Even though, I’m not as impressed with “As I Am” as I was with say…”Songs In A Minor”, it still pretty much puts a fork in any other “Soul” release this year. While her first single “No One” was a nice choice to get the album bubblin’, “Where Do We Go From Here” is the true “diamond in the rough”. With Al Green’s “Love & Happiness” providing the backdrop for “Where…” ( I know you remember MC Eiht & crew rollin’ to that shit in “Menace II Society”), the heavy drums and prevalent organs sound as if it would be just as well suited for the RZA due to the similar production style.
Now, I first heard Anthony Hamilton’s “Do U Feel Me” while catching a glimpse of “American Gangster” last Friday with wifey. While Hamilton was singing a snippet from the track during a club scene in the movie I turned to my wife with a funk face and said “Dayum!”. Both “Do You…” and “Where Do We…” do sound quite similar due to both tracks’ dependence on a boisterous organ samples, however, the rolling drums on “Do You..” is what separates the two. I’ve never been big on Anthony Hamilton, even though he was kind of the “it” artist after his appearance on that Nappy Roots joint a few years back…..but man, this shit is just SOULFUL! It’s really a shame that the summer is over, because this one really does possess that laid back, sun goin’ down, Sunday evening feel. Almost makes me wanna’ tuck it away til’ next summer due to fear of overplaying. Even though both the aforementioned tracks are not defined as “Hip Hop” you just can’t front on good music. Do yourself a favor and give em’ a listen! Oh, and just how good of a move was it to insert Public Enemy’s “Can’t Truss It” into the final scene of “American Gangster” (where Frank Lucas is released from prison)?
Let’s state the facts…..Nina Sky have become the “it” hook girls for New York rappers even though their vocal talents are less than impressive, Prodigy can’t rap for shit anymore and The Alchemist is better suited behind the boards rather than on the mic. However, thankfully Alchemist is the shit with the beats, his…..errr…..Prodigy’s “Return Of The Mac” mixtape/album IMO is one of the best produced albums of the year. Clever move on ALC’s part to re-create the entire essence of “70′s soul music” on the Prodigy joint, “Key To The City” follows the same blueprint. In what is a somewhat “nosier” track than usual from the Alchemist, a clever studder-step drum loop is laid beneath a sliced “Apache” sample to create a fly, rendition of “rider music”. I anointed Alchemist as my mid-year “comeback producer of the year” thanks to his work with Prodigy & Evidence, but his “buzz” has worn off somewhat due to his lack of output lately….hopefully, “Key To The City” will provide a nice ending to a strong year for him. Oh, and before I forget, it may be a bit off topic but….what in the living hell is Pete Rock doing lacing tracks for Jim Jones?!
Even though Quence’ dropped his actual full-length debut “Don’t Quit Your Day Job” earlier in the year, I still like to give it a spin every other week or so. On my drive back from PA a few weeks ago, believe it or not, I listened to Shade 45 (Whoo Kid Radio) for nearly 10 hours in succession. Between the monotonous rhythms of 50 Cent, Young Buck & Llyod Banks there just happened to be a few decent guest spots that featured the odd appearances of Cormega & Consequence. It was then, that I was equally surprised to learn that Quence’ was dropping a mixtape with Whoo Kid. So, after hearing Cons discuss some of his past and present work with ATCQ & Kanye, I came to the realization…..whoa, dude’s been in the game for a minute now. Sadly, his “debut” ”Don’t Quit Your Day Job” was somewhat overlooked by the Masses. While some might not have taken too kindly to the “College Dropout” format that many of the skits seemed to follow on the album. I, however, have really enjoyed this album. Consequence has always been a more than competent lyricist, it’s just that some of the tracks on the album weren’t particularly well produced. Whatever the case, it’s hard to believe that after various mixtapes, it was nearly 11 years between Cons’ appearance on ATCQ’s “Beats, Rhymes & Life” to “Don’t Quit Your Day Job”…..crazy. Check this out, if you may have missed it….a decent album for fans of Ye’, Rhymefest and the whole G.O.O.D. music fam.
What haven’t I said about this cat that hasn’t been said already? Currently on a European tour with Reef The Lost Cauze, Eternia, Zion I, O.C.,etc. Ill took enough time out of his hectic schedule to shoot me a few new tracks including this remix to an already bangin’ track “Move” from Ill’s classic debut “The World Is Ours”. The remix definitely has Ill (who produced the track as well) on some next-level Just Blaze shit. With a trunk-rattling bassline and a sliced siren sample this track is the perfect soundtrack to Armageddon. Ill’s noted in his last few e-mails that the new album is gonna’ be on some “Organized Noize shit” musically, so be prepared…..if it’s even 3/4 as musically advanced as “The World Is Ours” was, then we’re all in for a treat. In the meantime, be sure to hit up Ill’s MySpace for a list of tour dates, a set of blogs that Ill’s composed detailing some of the recent events involving the current European tour and a new cut titled “The Warm Up” that finds Ill on “some Shock G mixed with Hank Shocklee” iddish.
“Black Mags”-The Cool Kids
“Do You Feel Me”-Anthony Hamilton