1. “When They Remember”-Freeway(click song title to preview or DL each track)
While I do have mixed feelings when listening to Freeway’s latest offering “Free At Last”, the Bink produced heater “When They Remember” is pure bananas! Mostly known for his contributions to Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint” (“The Ruler’s Back”, “All I Need” & “Mamma Loves Me”), Bink really hasn’t been making that much noise as of late…most recently crafting productions for the likes of Amerie, Jahiem, Memphis Bleek & Beanie Sigel to name a few. “When They Remember” should get his name back out there earning an even higher price tag for his services. Lyrically, the biggest “beef” that the average Hip Hop fan has with Freeway as an emcee will always be his voice. On “Free At Last” there are moments such as the album’s opener “This Can’t Be Real” where Free’s vocal tone sounds a little less “strained” even when discussing the details of the Roc’s demise. The thing that’s gonna’ hinder not only “Free At Last” but the majority of the forthcoming releases from the future of the Roc (Bleek, Young Chris, Tru Life, etc.) is undoubtedly going to be the timing of their actual releases. Confused? Let me expound…for example, we first heard that Jay was working on a solo joint (the recently released “American Gangster”) when? Not too terribly long ago, right? So the point I’m trying to make here is that Jay rushed to get his new shit out (just as with “Kingdom Come”), in the meantime, we’ve been waiting on a new album from Freeway for nearly 3 years! So when “Free At Last” dropped a week or so ago, everyone (including myself) is just left in limbo…..like ehh, “I’m not really checkin’ for Freeway anymore”. So, not only are Free’s sales going to plummet but I’d also be highly surprised if he even releases another album. It’s a damn shame too, because honestly…..I can say that I enjoy “Free At Last” waaaay more than “American Gangster”. Even though it may not light a match to Free’s debut “Philadelphia Freeway” (woooooooo! that was the JOINT in Iraq), “Free At Last” is still a nice album that I wouldn’t hesitate to give a 7 outta’ 10. Hell, I’ve even found the 50 Cent assisted “Take It To The Top” to be a “guilty pleasure”. By the way, speaking of Def Jam artists that’ll probably never drop an album, is Joe Budden still on their roster?
What’s that you say? You wanna’ hear the best non-Pete Rock produced beat that lyrical legend C.L. Smooth ever spit on? Well, thanks to Japanese producer Nujabes you now have it….and what’s up with all these overseas cats putting out better beats than Americans these days? I was introduced to this track by the heads over at the OkayPlayer forums (which I may visit twice a year) a few weeks ago, which directing me to the link on Nujabes MySpace where I previewed the track. Let me just say this….I damn near fell outta’ my chair when my ears were first blessed with “The Sky Is Falling”! This shit is so beautiful I don’t even know where to begin. While C.L. Smooth needs no introduction whatsoever, Nujabes truly brings the horns on “Sky Is Falling” so much in fact, that Pete Rock has gotta’ be smiling somewhere. It almost makes you wonder what an entire full length collabo from Nujabes and Corey Penn would sound like. The only negative about this track is that at times it does feel as if the music tends to overpower C.L.’s lyrics. Not that it’s that noticeable, I just feel the track could have been engineered a bit tighter. Still, one of my favorite cuts from 07′ that will be in rotation deep into the year ahead. This one’s a treat folks…Enjoy!
If it wasn’t for Ill Poetic’s “The World Is Ours”, Blu & Exile’s almost flawless collabo “Below The Heavens” would be my hands-down favorite for “Album Of The Year”. I can sit here and honestly state that Blu is without a doubt the most talented emcee in Hip Hop right now. If you’ve been sleeping on “Below The Heavens” please do yourself a favor and cop this album….matter of fact, pick up two copies! It’s that dope! It’s quite a rarity nowadays in Hip Hop where you can let an album “ride out” from jump-street without hitting the “next track” button on your CD player or your Ipod, “Below The Heavens” is that type of album. For quite some time “Simply Amazin” was my hands-down highlight of the album, then it was “So(ul) Amazin”, now I’ve been bumpin’ the conversational “The World Is…” like it’s going outta’ style. Not only is Exile’s production top-notch but Blu displays a lyrical maturity that exceeds his age in years. Touching on subjects such as religion and finding your own peace on this earth “The World Is…” is…at the end of the day, the most uplifting and empowering track on ”Below The Heavens” that will have you reachin’ for a neckbrace from all the “chicken necking” you’ve done.
Taken from the Up Above Records compilation “Carving A New Standard Volume I”, “Tears” was also featured on Self Scientific’s 2005 release “Change”. Comprised of emcee Chase Infinite & DJ Khalil, Self Scientific has always been one of my favorite underground duos since their release of the impressive “Self Science” in 2001. DJ Khalil has caused quite a ruckus this year with production featured on Evidence’s “The Weatherman”, 50′s “Curtis”, X-Clan’s “Return From Mecca” and Kweli’s “Ear Drum” providing thunderous beats for each of the aforementioned emcees. “Tears” is one of those joints that I played out like crazy when I first heard it in 2005 and then just let it sit amongst hundreds of “burned” CDs until a week or so ago. Of course, the whole “sped up” sample idea has been run into the ground by now, but this track still holds up to the test of time. After the kind of year that Khalil had in ’07, your best advice is to keep your ears peeled for more goodness in ’08.
“Money/Cars/Cash/Clothes…Sigs (pronounced “Seeegs”) if your bout that shit then let me know! Pretty typical lyrics for most of the material that gets regular spins on urban crossover radio today, right? Even more surprising that isn’t the typical hook that you’d expect from the man who gave you “The Truth” (prod. by Kanye West) or the haunting “Feel It In The Air” (prod. by….believe it or not…Heavy D). With opening lines such as: “I got dem’ diamonds on my neck/they so icey/I think they like Sig/In dem’ white tees/S.P. Jeans/Sneaks is mean/Dark green with the camouflage print”/, the first thought that comes to your mind is “Hell naw! What happened to my dude Beanie? And the first single that features the king of R & Pee….errr….R & B, R Kelly? Shame on you Roc-A-Fella for leading off “The Solution” (to be released Dec. 11) with this bullish. What’s even scarier is looking at some of the features on this album. James Blunt? Ozzy Osbourne? P Diddy? Is Sigs out of his gotdamn mind? So just why is this song at #5 over my last two weeks of listening material you ask? I’m not even gonna’ lie, some of the beats on this album KNOCK. I mean, yeah the lyrical content of “Bout That” (hell, the track title nearly reeks of lameness) is mostly BS but thanks to a great hook (musically that is) and a knockin’ Cool & Dre production I just can’t seem to stop from uttering “Sigs if your bout that shit let me know!” throughout the work day. I’m not gonna’ write “The Solution” off just yet, with all the goodness that’s leaked over the past week I have yet to give it a full listen. Stay tuned for even more backlash, being that I have yet to read a positive review on this album.
While I’m sure that everyone and their mamma has peeped the superb first single “My Piano” from Hi-Tek’s forthcoming “Hi-Teknology 3″ the true gem on the album (which I’m not extremely impressed with) is this instrumental banger. Incorporating what sounds like car hydraulics and variable BPMs that switch up the track quite nicely, “Come Get It..” sounds eerily similar to another track that is sure to be in my top two or three by years end, Cunninlyguists “Wonderful”. While the drum track isn’t the same that K-No used for the highlight of “Dirty Acres”, you can hear the similarities in the piano sample which Tek skillfully flips. Also, what is up with all these producer/emcees wasting the best beats on the album for mere instrumentals? Black Milk did the same thing with “Luvin It” (a 1 minute 10 second teaser of pure dopeness) from his “Popular Demand”. Oh well, maybe Hi Tek and Black Milk are doing us a favor as neither of the “wannabemceez” are taking home any “lyricist of the year” awards this year.
I probably don’t even need to post up audio for this track, being that it’s been featured on every relevant Hip Hop blog for over two months. Truth being told, I’d completely written the Wu off as “has beens” and wasn’t really expecting much from the new album “8 Diagrams”. However, when the album leaked nearly two weeks ago that was also the first time I’d heard “Heart Gently….”. The track as a whole nearly sums up the complete listening experience of “8 Diagrams”. Clocking in at nearly 6 minutes, “Heart..” has it’s shares of ups and downs, backed with a THUMPING bassline and pleasant guitar licks Rae, Ghost & Meth revisit the chemistry that made the first two Wu albums a commercial success. However, I could have done without Erykah Badu’s singing on the hook and hearing Ghost’s failed attempt at crooning makes me cringe (yes, I know he’s just clownin’, but still…). The same could be said for the album, while there is plenty of fly iddish (“Campfire”, “Take It Back”, “Wolves”, “Life Changes”) there is also plenty of material that should have never left the cutting room floor. I will say this though, Method Man has made me a believer again with his M.V.P. performance on “8 Diagrams”. Give me 12 Meth cuts with some dope production and you got yourself a winner any day!
Damn, Is Blu trying to pull a DMX on us by releasing two full-lengths in a year’s time? Connecting with Mainframe to form a producer/emcee duo tagged as “Johnson & Johnson”, Blu comes correct with the cleverly titled “Powders & Oils”. While anything that Blu has blessed lyrically as of late has damn near given me a “hard on”, upon my first few listens to “Powders & Oils” it hasn’t captivated me the way that “Below The Heavens” has….that is a difficult task and one strike against the album from jumpstreet. As always, Blu’s lyrics are on-point as all the focus on the album shifts toward his lyrical prowess and clever wordplay. The only thing that I’m not crazy about with “Powders & Oils” is the production, not to say that Mainframe doesn’t dig up a few obscure samples that you’ve never heard before. It’s just that the album is more…..well…..”Madvillianary” than “The Main Ingredient” if you catch my drift. Of course, I dug Madlib & MF Doom’s collaborative effort, but “Mecca & The Soul Brother” and “The Main Ingredient” are both timeless classics in my book. Beware, if you’re just looking for a few good tunes that rattle your license plate than just go right ahead and skip over “Powders & Oils”, most of the tracks are seriously lacking in the “thump” department. When the album has a John Lennon feature (“Hold On John”) it pretty much speaks for itself. Still, another promising performance from Blu will have me dishing out some dollars for the purchase of this album without any second guessing.
Even though I’ve spent a fair amount of time over the last two weeks with Akir’s “Legacy” in my headphones for my pending review of the album at Hip Hop Linguistics.Com, not once did I grow weary or “tired” of this emcee. Straight up and down, dude is sick!! I’d put him right next to Blu as my favorite new jacks for Hip Hop’s next wave of talented lyricist. “Treason” is one of the strongest produced tracks on “Legacy”, sped up sample (not again!) and all. Even though, Akir follows in mentor Immortal Technique’s footsteps and gets a little too political for my tastes at times, it’s not enough to deter you from recognizing the lyrical skill that he displays. I actually purchased this album on Amazon this weekend, a true testament to Akir as an emcee….Lord knows, I may have only purchased a dozen or so new releases this year in general (Panacea, Ill Poetic, Evidence, Blu & Exile, Cunninlyguists, Uncut Raw, Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monch, Buff 1, Blue Scholars, etc.) Peep the video for Akir’s “Treason” below, a clever concept for a low budget video.
The track from the album of the same name, Educated Consumers bring a refreshing sound to the face of Hip Hop. Hailing from College Park, Maryland, the duo of Seez Mics & t.E.C.K. drop an impressive second effort that plays out nicely on those lazy Sunday afternoons. With original production and solid lyricism Educated Consumers (although not overly witty) have crafted a solid album that is well worth you attention. “Write Hear” is a throwback to the days of the emcee/DJ combo that ruled Hip Hop. The album is hardly groundbreaking, but I wouldn’t hesitate to say that Hip Hop could use a few more Educated Consumers (pun intended) to populate the landscape of the culture. Big ups to the fellas at Hip Hop Bootleggers for puttin’ me on to this fresh ass album.