After wowing the majority of Hip Hop’s underground last summer with his ridiculous production as one half of the Seattle duo Blue Scholars, producer Sabzi arrived back on the scene pairing up with RA Scion this time around for their tightly wrapped EP, “Black Patch War”. Oh, and by the way, wasn’t it fresh to see the re-emergence of the EP again? (i.e, Analogic & Rashid Hadee’s “Serenade The Moment”, Tanya Morgan’s “The Bridge”, Has-Lo’s “Fu*k Has Day”, The Program’s “The Article” and most recently Illogic’s “One Bar Left”….just to name a few) Sheeeet! I actually would much rather prefer that the artist(s) compile 7-10 of their best tracks, than unleash an album 16 tracks deep with only 1/4 of the tracks being solid. Anyway, back to Common Market’s “Black Patch War”, and I’m gonna’ go out on a limb here and state that this EP may very well be one of the top 3 EP releases of 2008 (damn, is it really November?). Even though, at times, RA Scion’s message may be a little too political for some, there’s absolutely no denyin’ that dude can straight up spit knowledge with the best of them along with a very attractive delivery to match.
And Sabzi’s production?? Straight up and down, some of the best I’ve heard in awhile. Admittedly, I initially listened to this album back to back in the headphones when it first leaked and I really wasn’t that impressed, especially when considering that Beyonce also utilized the exact same sample that fuels Common Market’s first leak from the EP, also titled “Black Patch War”. However, when I played this EP in the car, Sabzi’ production truly shined…especially on “Bonanza” (is that a Black Rob vocal sample I hear?). The rolling bass lines serve as a solid backbone for each and every track on this EP to elevate the overall “sound” of each track to new heights.
Meanwhile, for those of you that may have also slept on Common Market’s self-titled debut…it’s time to wake up! With tracks like “G’Dang Diggy”, “Connect For” & “Poison”, Scion & Sab’s debut collaboration might as well be first on your “albums to listen to” this week. Engulfing the duo’s debut only serves as a greater appreciation for the growth and cohesiveness that is displayed with the follow-up success of this EP release, “Black Patch War”.
Gotdamn! How did I go from Common Market to Prodigy? Talk about two opposite ends of your musical spectrum!! Strangely enough, I really didn’t hear (or read) very much positive feedback regarding Prodigy’s follow-up to Alchemist’s….errr….or P’s “warm-up”/mixtape/album, “Return Of The Mac”. Truth be told, I loved “Return Of The Mac”, especially when you took Alchemist’s throwback 70′s soul production into full account. And let it be known, “H.N.I.C. Pt. 2″ is right up there with the rest of my favs from this year as well. Can P’s lyrics hold a match to some of his earlier work as 1/2 of the “dun duo” better known as Mobb Deep? Or even his solo debut, “H.N.I.C.” (which was yet another heat-rock)? Ehhh, probably not…but who gives two sh*ts, right? Simply put, the majority of the production on “H.N.I.C. Pt. 2″ is raw, dark and creepy, or better yet the signature sound that many of you have grown to love comin’ from some of QB’s finest.
“Click Clack”, which featured one of the grimiest voices in Hip Hop, Infamous Mobb’s Big Twin (too bad dude can barely put two bars together) follows suit with the rest of the album. Produced by Sid Roams aka Joey Chavez, whom along with DJ Khalil has solidified this cinematic, emotional, airy, keyboard reliant type of sound that is scratchin’ my itch right about now. Upon first listen, there’s no doubt in my mind that you too will also mistake Sid Roams’ production on “Click Clack” for that of the Alchemist. Easy mistake, being that Alchemist and Roams production styles are very similar and it also doesn’t help that this tag-team is also responsible for the majority of the beats on the album (with a couple tracks from Havoc as well). Again, as a friendly disclaimer: “Lyrics?…Somebody want lyrics?” Proceed to the next album on the Ipizzy , but for bone jarring production that damn near makes you wanna’ murk somethin’ yourself…this one’s for you my friend!
Once again, it was Ohio producing another strong act as the producer emcee duo of Amos Famous and Bru Lei managed to churn out a pretty darn good album. Bru Lei, while maybe not “deepest” emcee out there, is still very solid while having a good voice (like Guru said: “It’s mostly tha’ voice”) along with a delivery that is very reminiscent of an early Erick Sermon doesn’t hurt matters either. Matter of fact Danger Zone’s “Dangerous Styles” and the “Write Hear” by the Educated Consumers are both very similar albums, especially production-wise as producer Amos Famous succeeded in bringin’ back “that ol’ Boom-Bap”. Both albums also followed the same structure guidelines, both Bru Lei and SeezMics (Educated Consumers) surely know how to pack enough “fun” in their rhymes to keep the party live, however, they also know when it’s time to get down ta’ bidness as well.
Formed in 2005, Danger Zone is the collaborative result of of a chance meeting between the emcee and producer while they were performing at the same show. A few beat cd’s and blunts later and the deal was sealed. Prior to “Dangerous Styles” the duo of Bru Lei and Amos Famous dropped a self-titled EP. Collectively, these two have rocked shows with some of the best, and with their debut full-length “Dangerous Styles” they set themselves up to be placed in that same category. For 17 solid tracks Danger Zone took you on a journey from “Bright City Lights” to “Video Games” and “Addictions”. With guest appearances from Dove Ink label mates Illogic (who absolutely has KILLED every record I’ve ever heard him spit on…BTW, Ill Poetic is producing his forthcoming LP as well) & Ill Poetic, “Dangerous Styles” has almost instantly found itself amongst one of the biggest surprises of 2008.
If you’ve ever heard any of DJ Jamad’s “Afromentals” mixtape series you may recall a certain cat by the name of W. Ellington Felton. Others may recall this D.C. resident’s inclusion on Prince Paul’s “Politics Of The Business” concept album. Well, Mr. Felton reappeared in ’08 with “Distraction City”, this time as “Wes”. The son of Jazz pianist Hilton Felton, music runs in his veins. Wes is a singer, actor, poet and an emcee…with a heavy emphasis on the “emcee”. “Distraction City” is a real laid back album, yet it’s extremely soulful and poignant. Even though I’ve heard better lyrics, Wes’ subtle delivery definitely hammers the point home on each and every track without much filler. “You’ll Never Know” is a breezy, airy track that goes down extremely smooth but packs enough punch to keep your neck snappin’. Plus, added vocals from Bilal Salaam only add to the “Midnight Marauderish” flavor of the track. Lyrically, Felton’s hip-hop rhapsodies paint vivid images that engage, and sometimes unnerve the listener. Yet, there’s no element of originality, or surprise, or spontaneity..just damn good “headphone” music. Strangely enough, this track also reminds me of one of my favorite tracks from last year, Ill Poetic’s “Cincilluminati” due to the echoing chorus that closes the track on a high note. Good music people, don’t sleep!
Produced by “legend in the making” Just Blaze, “The Light 2008″ revisits Common’s smash “The Light” that was originally laced by the late, great J Dilla. Dare I say that this “2K8″ version trumps the original? I don’t know, but it’s pretty darn close! Some of you may have first heard the loop that fuels this track on Consequence’s “Pretty Little Sexy Mama” (from “Don’t Quit Your Day Job) around this time last year, matter of fact, Quence’s joint also found it’s place atop my “Most Played” for the year once or twice. I have to disagree with Trav’s sentiments (at least with the lazy part), just why can’t there be more tracks that deal with “love” in Hip Hop and when you improve on the original, why not? Hmmm, I guess it’s not cool for a rapper to express his true emotions on record anymore. Whatever the case, this sh*t is crazy nice, slick drums, a nice sample and a sultry hook make for the perfect track to bump with your better half.
The more I listened to Has-Lo’s “Fu*k Has Day” the more impressed I become. Flaunting an ill lyrical flow, with a mounting confidence and swagger, Has delivered an ill tale of cheating, deception and heartbreak over a somber yet funky (damn, those are two words that are rarely used together) track. If you missed my spotlight on Has’ debut EP earlier in the year (see below) be sure to check that out as well cause’ dude is definitely one emcee that you’ll be hearing alot more from in the future. Matter of fact, “Fu*k Has Day” should be amongst the “Tronics”, “Tobacco Roads” and such as your “album” of the year thus far, even though new releases have been somewhat limited as of late. Very seldom do I hear a so-called “new artist” that makes me say “damn, dude is nice”, but Has is that cat. Most definitely an up & comer with major up-side. Did I mention Has is from Philly? Ahh, no wonder he’s nice!
“Lyrically sick! Two words that best describe Philadelphia (PA stand up!) product and unsigned (WTF?) emcee, Has-Lo (pronounced “Haas” like “Haas G of the UMC’s”). I must admit, after being hipped to “Fu*k Has Day” by Trav @ WYDU (bout’ time you put ME on to some new music!) then downloading this 8-song EP, it’s since sat on my F: drive for nearly two weeks. Matter of fact, I think that I actually deleted the e-mail that I received from Has-Lo himself….my loss, trust me! While the release of “new” music has been fairly stagnant since the 1st of January, over the last week things have started looking up with notable releases from Torae, EMC, Toy Box Scholars (more on “We Get Love” later this week) and now Has-Lo’s has appeared virtually outta’ nowhere to slap you upside the dome with this….dare I say….lyrical masterpiece.
From what I’ve gathered from Trav, Has also doubled up as the producer for the album as well. Now, there is some work that needs to be done on the production side of things. While Has’ phenomenal lyricism is an enjoyable listen no matter what he spits over, out of the eight tracks on the EP I didn’t really care for three of them…production-wise that is (”Calibration”, “Hands” and the title track). Not so say that they were bad, it’s just that the other half of the album…err….EP, is far superior as far as the beats are concerned. But, word on the street is that there may be a few “goodies” in the works via a collaborative effort between Has and Small Professor (who dropped the best “American Gangster” remix project of last year, “Crooklyn Gangster”), so let’s keep our fingers crossed.
The EP races out of the gates with “Prelude”, where Has displays a flow in which it sounds as if he’s having a conversation with another person and the other person completes the first person’s thoughts. Confused? I guess I could expound, but just think Slick Rick’s flow or Biggie on “Warning”. While “Prelude” isn’t the so-called “gem” of the EP it does succeed in establishing a nice feel for the album. A good warm-up I should say. Now, for the true “gem” it could probably go to either “Unsigned Emcees”, “Molotov Cocktails”…or…nah, the saddening tale of heartbreak, lies and deception, “All’s Fair” takes the crown. On “All’s Fair”, Has-Lo unleashes his vulnerability over a somber, mellow, head-nodder that sounds like a mix between the RZA and RJD2 (specifically his work with Soul Position), while delivering vivid, descriptive lyrics that actually make you feel for dude in this messed-up situation. I don’t mean to be on some “bitch sh*t”, but Has brings the realness on the album’s finale and his honesty and emotions are on front street for all to witness. Passion, focus, delivery, wit, this kid’s got the whole package.
I could sit here for hours and go into much detail about Has’ lyrics and delivery, the whole album is basically one gigantic “Hip Hop Quotable”. So, don’t let me spoil it for you. The album’s free, download it, burn it to CD, upload it to your Ipod or whatever you do to put it in your eardrums. Has Lo has all the makings of a great emcee and let’s only hope that it leads to a fruitful career and longevity in Hip Hop. By the way, could someone PLEASE explain to me why this dude is unsigned? Now, that’s a crime! Besides, Has is from Philly so you know he’s dope, right?”
Warning: All you fraudulent, phony emcees out there fakin’ jax…it’s time to step up your lyrics son! Or, better yet, you’re bound to put yourself in harm’s way of a mighty healthy barrage of lyrics from a (*gasp*) female who is yet only one more impressive emcee to emerge from the “D”. Yep, that’s right fellas’ the wait is OVA!! With the release of “ShapeShifters”, “Mrs. Lyrics Galore” aka Invincible is bound to catch the attention of any true Hip Hop head within earshot. Released on the label that also blessed us in ’07 with Waajeed’s “The War LP” (Bling 47), Invincible boasts not only an impressive resume herself but also an all-star lineup of production talent for “ShapeShifters”. Not only does the album feature bangers laced by resident “heir to Dilla’s throne” Black Milk, but also beats from the L-L-L-Lab Techs (Buff 1) and of course Waajeed. I’m tellin’ you right now that if you love some of the quality that has been delivered via Detroit over the last year or so (and, even if you don’t ) this album is right up your alley! Hell, why beat around the bush? At least in my opinion, this album sh*ts all over “Ode To The Ghetto”, “Carte Blance”, “Popular Demand” and “The Set Up”! Cohesive as a muhfuc*a’, Invincible showcases all the great qualities that any aspiring emcee should carry in their “battle pack”, story-tellin’ skills, adequate battle rhymes and a crowd-demanding delivery and cadence. Do yourself a solid and pick it up HERE in the meantime.
“Ropes”, which features production from Knowledge, is a track that nearly everyone can relate to. We’ve all been down that road where you struggle to make a dollar, while at the same time coping with all of life’s ills. Also, Knowledge laces Invincible’s potent lyricism with a definite banger that will instantly draw comparisons to much of Black Milk’s work. Make no bones about it though, with beats like this Knowledge will soon separate himself from much of the pack. Straight up and down, Invincible’s long awaited solo debut “ShapeShifters” is a definite must cop. I’m anxious to see just where this album will find itself among the “Best of ’08″ lists.
Emcees Biscuit and Jet Set Jay and DJ/Producer Mekalek have made quite a name for themselves over the last few years, garnering a nice little underground following with the success of their previous release “Slow Your Roll”. Sadly, I haven’t even peeped “Slow Your Roll” yet and the trio’s most recent release “Life Is Expensive” (lovin’ the cover art) was actually my first exposure to this LA-based squad. Elevating the outlook on their new album, Time Machine has successfully balanced the “good” times with a shrewd awareness of the cost of living in today’s state of near depression. Laced with high speed, up-tempo production and boasting heavy drum kicks overlapped with rich melodies, there is also room on here for a few ultrasonic, down-tempo type joints (i.e, the album’s ill opener “In The City Of Everything”). If the momentum of their popularity keeps up with “Life Is Expensive’s” pace, we’ll definitely be hearing more from them on a more mainstream platform…and with groups like this crankin’ out good music, that can be good for almost stomach-turning state of commercial Hip Hop.
As you can expect with nearly any track that would feature a guest appearance from Greg Nice, Greg Niiiice! Greg N-I-C-E (“ahh wee wee/Rock for a fee”) there’s nothing really all that serious going on within “The Unfortunate Twist”. No hidden agendas, or thought-provoking lyrics, just straight up, grab your nuts and freestyle type rhymes. Loads of story-telling wordplay with a catchy hook from Greg Nice (“Do the twist/Do the twist/The Unfortunate Twist”…do the twist”) intact, “Unfortunate..” is simply one of those tracks that you’ll hear first thing in the morning on the way to work and throughout the day, no matter how hard you try you just can’t seem to get that damn song outta’ your head. Plus, it also helps when both of your emcees are catchy as hell too. Man, I need to hip myself to some of Time Machine’s earlier work as well!
Sick, fuc*in’ SICK!!! One word that best describes DJ Khalil’s production as of late. From Chase Infinite & DJ Khalil’s forthcoming LP, “Come In Peace, Prepare For War” (C’mon already!!!), “Of Our Own” is a sonic-fused beast of a track. Taking a page out of Roger Troutman’s and Teddy Riley’s book with the “voice-esizer”, DJ Khalil provides a very appropriate track that coordinates perfectly with the album’s title. While I loved ’05’s “Change”, I’ve never been a huge fan of Chase Infinite’s lyrics over Khalil’s pulsing production. Not to take anything away from Chase ’cause dude is definitely a potent lyricist, it’s just that I’d much rather here….mmm, say..Evidence (see: “All Said and Done” from EV’s “The Weatherman”) over Khalil’s beats. By the way, did anyone else peep Khalil’s work for Nas’ new album, you know “Let’s Go Esco”, which….*scratching head*..never made the cut?
Many you of you may not know that Khalil was also responsible for making 50 Cent’s “I’ll Still Kill” at least somewhat bearable. I’m tellin’ you, Khalil is a producer you need to keep your eyes tuned in for in ‘09. I’m actually really looking forward to “Come In Peace..” as well, being that Self Scientific’s “Change” was laced with soo much heat….to include, “Tears”, “King Kong” and the album’s title cut.
Who said innovative? While Torae attempted to accomplish the same feat of taking on the lyrical styles of some of your favorite emcees with “Switch” (off of “Daily Conversation”) earlier this year, Beantown’s Reks has totally changed the game with “All In One (5 mics)”. Not only does Reks do a dead on 2pac impersonation, but he also morphs into some of N.Y.’s finest lyricist of all-time, the three “Bigs” (Biggie, Big Pun & Big L) all in one track. When I say “dead ringer” I mean DEAD RINGER, after hearing this for the first time I was amazed at how Reks seemed to transform into each legend….even down to their delivery and wordplay. Thrown in a Lil’ Fame to get the party amped, and you got yourself a certified banger!! Far from the only heat-rock on Reks’ “Grey Hairs”, the album would have been even more of a beast had it slimmed down to say….maybe 12 tracks.