Thursday, December 06, 2012

Album Review: Saigon- The Greatest Story Never Told Chapter 2: Bread And Circuses

Album Review: Saigon- The Greatest Story Never Told Chapter 2: Bread And Circuses

Artist- Saigon
Year- 2012
Rating- 8/10

In 2011 New York rapper Saigon released the critically acclaimed album The Greatest Story Never Told. The album was well received and praised for it's conscious content all throughout sky rocketing Saigon to the ranks of the top current artists in Hip-Hop. A year later Saigon releases his sophomore album bringing the listener that same social awareness with the right mix of grittiness Saigon is known for.

The entire album has original production with not a single sample anywhere on it which is extremely rare for rap in these time, it actually may be the only album to do so this year. As expected Just Blaze lends his talents holding a few producer credits, but DJ Corbett produced the majority of the album. Sonically the beats have a more accessible mainstream feel to them, but wouldn't exactly be categorized as “pop”. The sequel has far more features than the first album with Styles P, Chamillionaire, Sticman from Dead Prez, and the returning Marsha Ambrosius providing vocals alongside others.

The intro “Plant The Seed” sets the tone for the album nicely. It touches on how if you were to listen to the music being promoted at this time to try to get a gauge on what is going on in real life at the time you would be completely misguided, a recurring theme throughout the album. The subject of the illusions Hip-Hop gives the listeners is further delved into with the second track and my personal favorite “Rap vs Real” in which Saigon examines the lines between entertainment and real life. “Let Me Run” is one of the aforementioned mainstream accessible songs that I can see being a hate or love song. Somehow the transition from this song to the more street orientated “Not Like Them” feat Styles P, an artist Saigon shares many parallels just feels natural which I find a welcome change from the last song.

Saigon goes back to depicting a portrait in the world we live in today with the following song “Brownsville Girl” which explores scenarios of black on black violence that is all too common in today's youth. Saigon then takes the time to reflect on his musical career with “The Game Changer” stating his purpose as an artist and how the direction he chooses to take with his music has hindered his progress as an artist on the way to stardom. He takes it a step further with his next song “Blown Away” about how influential people in life have their lives stolen from them and alludes to his fear of sharing the same fate. His thoughts culminate to speculation of whether in his death he will find the appreciation he deserves in the first verse of the song “When Will You Love Me”. Saigon trades bars with Lecrae over the topic of finding salvation and appreciation in religion on probably the best produced track on the album “Best Thing I Found”.

The flaws of the album are Saigon's attempts at singing that he should really leave to his features and the fact that a few of these same features add very little to the song in some cases. Saigon's attempts at crossing over also leave a bit to be desired on more than one occasion, but even with these problems the album still manages to be one of the better releases in an already stacked 2012.

The topics on the album are all very diverse ranging from religion, addiction, black-on-black crime, to child care. Pretty much everything that needs to be said right now, but no one puts in their music. If you're one of those people that is looking for an album that could be considered a reflection of the times we live in now, Bread And Circuses is exactly what you're looking for. Some people may criticize Saigon for being simplistic lyrically, but there is more to bars than your syllable count or your punchlines. When you can make a song with a clear message, and make it a good song at that, you're doing something right lyrically. Saigon holds a mirror up to our lives and shows us how things really are past all of the illusions and misdirections other artists try to feed us. There aren't many albums that I would call a classic, but I would go as far as to say that this should be remembered as a classic if only because of how well Saigon depicts life in the black community for this generation. Years from if you wanted to show someone what we had to show for this generation, pop in The Greatest Story Never Told Chapter 2 and use it as an audio movie.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Hip-Hop inspired short film

Short film titled "The Waitress" based on the Atmosphere song of the same name from the album "When Life Gives You Lemons You Paint That **** Gold"

Video was shot in Copenhagen, Denmark.

 Hopefully we'll see more things like this in the future.

Album Review: Skyzoo- A Dream Deferred

Album Review: Skyzoo- A Dream Deferred

Artist- Skyzoo
Year- 2012
Rating: 8/10

Skyzoo has been one of the forerunners of quality music in underground hip-hop since his debut on the mixtape scene. Over the years he's been working diligently and picking up and over growing band of loyal followers along the way as a result of his hard work. His debut solo album “The Salvation” was released in 2009 and is highly regarded as a cult classic and one of the best albums in the decade. Skyzoo kept pressing forward with his music coming out with the The Great Debater project and the Penny Freestyle Series mixtape to build a buzz for his sophomore album “A Dream Deferred” which hopefully will meet the high standards set by his previous projects.

The bulk of the album is produced by the gifted !llmind who has his hand in every one of the beats on the album. Skyzoo has said that the album is truly just as much !llmind's as it is Sky's. A lot of the songs have a jazz-inspired sound to them which compliments Skyzoo's smooth, mellow voice perfectly. For features Skyzoo enlisted the talents of Jill Scott, Jessy Wilson, and Jared Evan for vocals with Freeway and Talib Kweli covering the actual rapping.

The intro to the album starts off with a quoted sample from the movie “Fresh”. The song itself has lines about ambition, the drive to get whatever it is you're trying to get what it is you're seeking in life. That drive is a recurring theme all throughout the album. Jill Scott delivers a beautiful hook in the same accompanied by an angelic production courtesy of !llmind. Towards the end of this song a few others there a live instrumentals giving the song an epic cinematic vibe. The very next song is much more upbeat with production by 9th Wonder, a producer Skyzoo is all to familiar with. Skyzoo dedicates the song to Chi-Ali, one of his inspirations that led to him deciding to become a rapper. Skyzoo pays homage to a lot of rappers in his own way over the course of the album by using classic lines that true hip-hop heads will get right away.

Range Rover Rhythm is one of the the stand out tracks on the album and cracks my top 10 of my favorite songs in 2012. Everything about the song is spectacular. The beat is smooth, but at the same time fast paced creating a perfect balance. Skyzoo who has the best voice in Hip-Hop right now comes with his basket ball metaphors that he's best at in one verse. His flow/delivery by itself makes anything he says come out as amazing so when he does say something that's truly innovative it sounds just that much better. The next few songs are more orientated to his growing female audience, but they're still great songs in their own regard.

A title fans typically give Skyzoo is the most poetic, similar to what Nas is regarded as. With that in mind it makes the ending segment of “How To Make It Through Hysteria” that much more fitting. He stops rapping and goes into a rhyming spoken-word as the beat calms down which may be my favorite point of the whole entire album. The next song “Steel'S Apartment” also captures Skyzoo at his finest. It starts out with a subtle question as to whether the rappers that lie about their past to claim a gangster lifestyle glamorize it and negatively affect others. Skyzoo has a seemingly simplistic style that makes some of his actual messages go right over your head if you aren't really paying attention, but that just gives you more of a reason to go and listen with an open mind.

“A Dream Deferred” is a solid release with many hidden gems from start to finish. Fantastic, original production and expert rapping. A very consistent album that will be remembered as a great piece of music in the artist's catalog. Skyzoo once again proves that the transition from mixtape to album is an easy one for him to make and that he's still a name to look out for in rap.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Album Review: MHz Legacy

Album Review: MHz- MHz Legacy

Artist- MHZ
Year- 2012
Rating 9/10

The MHz are a rap clique based in Columbus, Ohio. The group consists of Jakki Da Mota Mouth, Tage Future, RJD2 on the production, Copywrite, and the late Camu Tao. Despite being around for over a decade, dropping their debut single “World Premier” ( in 1998 until now the group never released the debut album fans were craving. Now is as the best time to give the fans what they've been asking for with the group's front man Copywrite's popularity at an all-time high with the release of his acclaimed “God Save The King” album. It is sad that founder Camu Tao could not be alive to see the creation of the project, but the MHz keep his spirit alive through their music.

The production all throughout the album is solid, RJD2 has always been one of hip-hop's most original talents and his work on this album is no different. Some of the songs have an older 90's rap feel to them, while others are designed to evoke feelings of sadness such as “Tero Smith”, the groups tribute to Camu Tao who passed away from his bout with cancer. The entire isn't solely produced by him and the other names in the beat making process such as !llmind serve their purpose well giving the album an even more diverse sound with each song coming off exactly as intended sonically. By it being a group album there aren't too many features, but Ill Bill, Slaine (La Coka Nostra) , and Slug (Atmosphere) make noteworthy appearances.

The album is full of quotable lines and top notch rapping giving the listener a reason to come back and catch the bars that went over their heads the first few times. Different subjects are explored all throughout the course of the album all while keeping their lyrics up to par. MHz continue push the envelope as far was what can be done on the mic in 2012 and after a solid debut like this hopefully they'll receive the recognition they deserve for the work they put in. Copywrite has the most standout verses on the album proving that even after 10 years since his debut album The High Exhaulted in 2002 he's still one of the heavyweights when it comes to punchlines in hip-hop. I don't think there is a single wack verse anywhere on the album, which is quite impressive for a group release. MHz have real chemistry on tracks which is a nice change a pace where as a lot of groups now just sound like a random assortment of verses compiled together with no real thought as to how cohesive they sound together.

MHz Legacy is a hidden gem, a welcome addition to hip-hop in 2012. If you never heard of the group listen to the album and I guarantee you'll become a fan instantly.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Album Review: Styles P- The World's Most Hardest MC

Album Review: Styles P- The World's Most Hardest MC Project

Artist- Styles P
Year: 2012
Rating: 6/10

If you know anything about Styles P you know that his music is some of the most gutter shit in rap. Always has been, always will be. Depicting the harsh life of the streets is what he does best and this is exactly what this album promises to bring you. Styles has been a veteran of the rap game for years debuting in 2002 with the classic “A Gangster And A Gentleman” album and arguably hasn't had a bad album in his catalog since. “The World's Most Hardest MC Project” claims to be a proper uncompromising representation of the gutter and it delivers.

The album is short, 11 songs counting the intro and outro making the length to be about 30 minutes. The production is stellar all of the way through matching the Ghost's content all throughout. The features are exactly what you would expect from a Styles P album with D-Block and their affiliates, sadly without Jadakiss.

The best thing about the album is sadly also the worst thing. The similar content from start to finish makes it blend together and sound uninspired. “The World's Most Hardest MC Project” would have made a great mixtape, but as an album it's lacking in terms of content. Styles P is good enough to make a release as short as this enjoyable. He's the type of artist that a certain conviction in his lyrics that makes you feel and believe whatever it is he's saying. Even when he makes a relaxed effort such as this it still manages to be better than a lot of the music other artists put out.

The album is definitely not an essential piece in Styles P's discography, but if you're already a Styles P fan it's worth a listen. It's not bad, just incredibly mediocre. The album has nothing that we haven't heard from Styles before. Maybe next time he'll come with something a little more innovative for his next album.

Album Review: Diabolic- A Liar And A Thief

Album review: Diabolic A Liar And A Thief

Artist- Diabolic
Year :2009
Rating: 8/10

Diabolic was first heard on record with underground staple Immortal Technique and instantly gained recognition from the hidden track on the album. Diabolic made a name for himself in the battling community by locking horns with the likes of legend Iron Soloman. Diabolic even tried his hand at the mixtape circuit with the Foul Play project, but an album was the missing piece to the puzzle that eluded his fans. This changed in 2009 when Diabolic released the highly anticipated debut “A Liar And A Thief”

With the exception of the song “Riot” the entire album is produced by Engineer. Despite the fact the bulk of the album is produced by the same person because of Engineer's diverse sounds none of the sounds blend together. The production is top notch, but at the same time hard to categorize. The album features an ensemble cast of underground icons by the likes of Canibus, Ill Bill, Vinnie Paz, and Immortal Technique to complete the cipher. The most impressive thing is that Diabolic outraps every single person on the album and makes it sound easy. The best way to describe Diabolic's lyricism is a hybrid of Eminem in his prime and Immortal Technique. He perfectly exemplifies how to create polysyllabic rhyme schemes while staying on topic. How to rap politically without coming off as preachy. All throughout the album he opens up a clinic of multis in one of the most technical releases of the year.

In the opening song “Stand By” Diabolic bombards the listener with a blitzkrieg of clever wordplay with punchlines and rhyme schemes setting the tone for what he's all about as a rapper. Early in the album the song “Riot” hits with rock production and Diabolic's social commentary to show that he isn't just witty lines, but that he comes with a message. The song is followed by “Reasons”, a song with darker, grimier production and more introspective lyrics all while touching on Diabolic's gripes with his current situation in the music industry. Diabolic seamlessly switches between the two different styles of rapping giving the album a more balanced sound than if he approached it in just one direction.

The major flaws in the album come from a few of the features where the artist clearly just phones his verse in. Luckily Diabolic is there to come in and salvage the song so it isn't a total loss. Also, the hook on “12 Shots” can be grating and the production doesn't help it much. Definitely the most skippable song on the album.

A Liar And A Thief is a hip-hop purists dream album. If you care about the technical aspects of rap, the rhyme schemes and the original wordplay then this is just the album for you.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Album Review: 24/7 & Tony Mahoony- The Room Full Of Empty Bottles

The Room Full Of Empty Bottles LP (Album)
Artist: 24/7 & Tony Mahoony
Year: 2011
Rating 7/10

    The Room Full Of Empty Bottles is the debut album of veteran battle rapper 24/7 completely produced by Tony Mahoney. The production is smooth, making you just want to vibe out and have a few drinks while listening. 24/7's voice meshes perfectly with the tone of the album, it sounds dry as if he he had just had a few drinks before recording before it compliments the songs instead of detracting from them. In perfect contrast to 7's voice the sound quality and production is every bit as polished as you can find on an album. There is an ongoing myth that battle rappers can't make music, but 24/7 proves that the cliche doesn't apply to him in the slightest. He creates songs with clear messages and switches up his flow nicely on each track while managing to throw in good hooks which is the biggest problem most rappers have with their music. Usually they rely on someone else as a crutch for their hooks or use them to carry them through a song, but 24/7 holds down the whole album by himself without a single guest appearance.

    The album is kicked off with "The Anonymous Alcoholic" where in the intro he says "The greatest thing about this that none of ya'll are going to like it". His indifference towards your opinion of his music is a recurring theme, he makes his music for him doesn't care in the slightest if you appreciate it or not, he doesn't do it to please you. The beat is smooth, it sounds like the child of hip-hop and blues giving it an original sound. 24's flow is perfect and sets the tone nicely for the rest of the album. The following song "Last Call" has a faster pace and beautiful piano in the beat coupled with a few witty lines throughout the song. The next song is about him performing a song he wrote live and getting no love for it because the crowd is used to more simple songs. Sadly, songs like this is what I have a problem with on this album. He spends more time talking about how he goes over heads than he does actually going over anyone's head with new topics. "The Underground (Pipe Dreams)" isn't a bad song at all, but rapping about writing a song that you feel is a classic without showing us the song is question is just not a good idea.

    The album slows down in tempo again with "The Point Of No Return" which samples a woman singing in what sounds like Latin in the beat. The lyrics have a darker tone than the songs before, but still have the theme of not caring of other's opinions. This transitions into the faster paced "Screaming Walls" which goes into more detail of 24's annoyance with everyone around him and his antisocial views. "The Never Ending Story Of The Parasite" is last song for this half of the album and has a similar theme as the last two songs with just more detail, but he switches up his flow and delivery in way that doesn't make the topics sound stale at all. All throughout each song there gems of wordplay giving them all massive replay value.

    "The Industry (Death To The White Man)" and "The Warden" are about the music industry and how 24/7 wants to stay independent to keep his artistry intact and the war in Iraq respectively. Regrettably neither topic is exactly unique and has been done a few times better in the past. There isn't any real new insight to the situations that we haven't heard before which gives the listener little incentive to keep the song in their library.

    "My Apologies" has a depressing beat to  go along with the introspective lyrics picking up the album's quality again after the last two songs. The next song "Abandoned House" is the only song that suffers from 7's voice on the hook. On every other song his voice goes well with the beat, but on this particular track the hook would have been much better if said by someone else. The verses make up for the hook enough to salvage the song, but it's hard to keep the thoughts of how good the song could be with a feature just for the hook out of your mind. Oddly enough the closing song "Battle Cry" doesn't have the same problems, the hook is actually very nice. As with all of the other songs on the album the production is stellar as are the verses.

    Despite all of my gripes with the album it still manages to be one of my favorites of 2011 which should be a testament to how good 24/7 really is as a lyricist and how impressive Tony Mahoony is as a producer. While the album isn't perfect it's still tremendously enjoyable and warrants a purchase. The Room Full Of Empty Bottles is an LP with an original sound which goes a long way in today's age. By the album's end you should walk away a fan and will be looking forward to what he's going to release next.