May, 2014

Camp Lo Teaming Back Up With Ski Beatz For New Album!

By admin on May 28, 2014 in Upcoming - 0 Comments

 

This is going to be crazy! It’s official, Camp Lo is coming out with an official NEW ALBUM! And Ski Beatz is going to produce the whole album too! It’s been a minute, right? I mean, we’ve heard a mixtape from Camp Lo that Pete Rock produced called 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s Pt 2. That mixtape was good, but I was really expecting more from Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede. And nothing against Pete Rock because that dude is one of the G.O.A.T’s when it comes to producing Hip-Hop.

Ski Beatz doesn’t need any introduction! I mean, the dude produced Uptown Saturday Night for Camp Lo back the nineties. And of course, the dude is known for making those killer beats off of Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt album. Question is, have you heard Ski Beatz do anything for awhile? He’s kept himself VERY under the radar. After 24 Karate School dropped, you didn’t really hear that much from the producer. I digress though, because we know he’s still got heat!

How many of you are pumped to see this happen?

 

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Skyzoo & Torae – Barrel Brothers – 2014

By admin on May 28, 2014 in Album Review - 0 Comments

Had to cop this album! I’m a big fan of Skyzoo and although I haven’t heard much from Torae since his collabs with DJ Premier back in’08, I was definitely down for this colalb! I was pretty sure from the beginning of hearing about this it was going to be FIRE! And, when I saw the producer line-up, it was over: Oh No!, Illmind, Black Milk, and Antman Wonder just to name a few. With that said, let’s do this!

Who would have thought 2 emcee’s that have been part of the underground circuit for a minute now would join forces to make an album like Barrel Borthers? Not sure exactly how it happened (besides being both from Brooklyn, it had to be fate)! This album is just NASTY! These 2 emcee’s are those dudes in many rapper circles. Especially Skyzoo, who I’ve been following since his humble beginnings in 2006 with Cloud 9: The 3 Day High. That’s not to take anything away from Torae, because this dude can spit his ass off. Both are heavily influenced by the East Coast Hip-Hop culture. Both rhyme styles remind me of the Golden Nineties battle emcee that is still relevant because of their punchlines and wit. To me, these guys are your rappers rapper.

1) Even the Intro is dope! What better away to start an album than to have Flavor Flav kick off a new year and a random sample (don’t know where from) talking about the idea of “Your Brothers Keeper”. In the background, you here O’Jays classic “For The Love of Money” song from a lone trumpet! Okay, we can all dig where this is going, right?

2) After the Intro, it just starts with Talk of The Town! Oh No is such an under-rated producer! He flipped this sample crazy! It’s so dirty and jazzy. Skyzoo and Torae jump in with complete confidence on this joint. Torrae comes in with heat:

 

This all what they been waiting for aint it/why people paid paper for, aint it?/While niggaz got famous

I was camped in the lab and made bangers/The more hein-ous – the bars – the more flame it is/

what’s more dangerous than I in the pad/a beat-tape from Oh No/My brother Sky in the lab/

I’ve been dying to spaz…

 

You get the idea, the wordplay is there from the get go. What a great introduction to the album. Torae has been putting in work lyrically, developing his own set of punchlines that sound like he’s boxing you. And of course, Skyzoo is just finding those words that are going to embarrass your idea of how they should be put together. DAMN!

3) I’m sure you’ve heard of Jhalil Beats. If not, you’ve been living under a rock. This dude has more instrumentals floating around for mixtape use than anyone I’ve ever heard. If you’ve never heard of him, I’m sure you’ve heard his tag: “Jhalil beats, holla at me”. This producer got heat and he doesn’t sample very frequently. He doesn’t disappoint in Make You a Believer. It’s good to hear Torae and Skyzoo rapping over newer style beats! Both just murder this beat. This is basically a track with one statement: Don’t Sleep On Us! DOPE!

4) Man, Illmind is that dude! I got put on to this producer from the “Blaps, Rhymes & Life mixtape”. He always has a way of making beats that are different, infectious, and devious (in a good way). Tunnel Vision has that new school feel laced with an old school feel. Very little sampling (or at least none that I could hear). 808’s, a haunting synth reminiscent of one you hear from a B rated horror movie from the 70’s, and plenty of boom-bap! The hook is one of the most infectious on the whole album! Skyzoo comes with some heat:

Naw, homey I rap/as far as throwing a rap/mine throwing your clothes – if your trying to go for your strap

Mind giving ’em doe like I’m trying throw you a pack/my model is for the low and she’s riding low in the back…

The wordplay is definitely there! His whole verse is just ridiculous!

5) Once again, Illmind drops another gem! Actually, I like this beat better than the previous. But I’m always attracted to that Jazzy sounding old school sound (which this beat has in SPADES)! Wow! This is hard for me to say, but this is probably my favorite beat on the whole album. Sonically, it screams city scape! It feels Premierish (if that’s a word). Yankee Fitted is CRAZY! The production is nuts, the lyricism is at it’s finest on this track. Torae says some of his best punch lines for this track:

Ben was in the Duffel/I lift that up above you/fans is bamboo and they been that on the humble/

Youngins trying to get in the way like they divvying up the gold/I Chris Paul on the draw/put clippers in the hole

Yes, this is the SINGLE:

6) What’s an album without collabs, right? And this is such a NICE collab! All In Together is that track! Sean Price has been around for a minute and still goes hard! And, how can you go wrong with Guilty Simpson (dude has some of the best punchlines I’ve ever heard in Hip-Hop)! This album just keeps getting better! Black Milk is a cold producer! I mean, he’s one of the most under-rated producers out there. And this track displays his gritty beat making skills at its finest. LOVE IT!

7) Man, they’re giving MAD props to Illmind! And why not, when you’re making those CRAZY beats (if it aint broke, don’t fix it). This beat is all over the place. But it’s still got that reminiscent old school feel. The synths are ridiculous on this track. No hook needed over this track either. Oh yeah, and there’s one more surprise: another feature! Sha Stimuli is nice with it! Though I hadn’t heard him in a little while, dude still got heat!

8) Movie Album (skit) is a nice concept. This is straight free styling. It’s funny and pretty true!

9) Man, I hadn’t heard of the producer Praise before. I’ve been looking all over for anything on him and all I can find is a bandcamp page (hoping this is the right link). Albee Square Mall is nuts! I’d say this is my second favorite beat on the album! Skyzoo is bringing the heat as usual! It’s nice to hear Sky talking about where he’s from and the fact he hasn’t conceded to the industry. Oh, and did I mention another collab! Yep, this time we’ve got Living Proof! Never heard of this dude, but he’s sounding nice!

10) The Hand Off is smooth. Khrysis and Cyrus The Great are killing it on the beat. Man, Skyzoo and Torae got RHYMES FOR DAYS! They just keep on getting more nastier as the album progresses. They definitely came hungry over this album, but this track in particularly is just murder.

11) I had never heard of the Stuyvesants either! I’m going to have to start paying attention to these guys though. There a collaborative effort between Algorythm and Flwrpt. 4 Bar Friday is crazy! The sample flip is pretty good and the drums are layered nicely. This is a feel good beat for sure! And those scratches at the end are FIRE! Of course, Torae and Skyzoo go! This is a strong effort by the two but not the best on the album.

12) Antman is Skyzoo’s go to producer! The dude has close ties with DJ Premier and you can tell he’s definitely influenced by one of the G.O.A.T.’s. The hook is pretty infectious and live instrumentation is so good! The sample is jazzy as hell! This is one of the better dynamical beats. The beat drops are infectious too. Definitely digging this!

13) The beats just keep coming! Rediscover is a track produced by MarcNfinit. The sample is a great flip! But those low, hard hitting drums and hard hitting snare are what really makes the track go! And you ready for another feature? That’s right, we’ve got my man Blu on the track. Blu has been working on his skills for along time on the underground circuit. Always love what I’m hearing from him and it’s no different over this track.

14) What a way to end the album! DJ Premier and Antman Wonder working together to give you a classic track. The sample is cut up so nicely and the beat is just super jazzy. The hook is nice over this beat and I can tell Torae and Skyzoo wanted to go out with a bang! They leave you wanting more too!

 

I’m giving this 4.7/5! The beats alone would have made this album that rating! But Skyzoo and Torae are definitely skilled in their craft! It’s crazy how this album is going to be slept on because it’s not poppy enough for radio play. That’s okay with me though. We’ll keep the best kept secret of the year so far!

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Album Review – Michael Jackson – Xscape (2014)

By admin on May 13, 2014 in Uncategorized - 0 Comments

YES! After much anticipation we finally have that posthumous album we’ve been awaiting! After all, Michael Jackson is that dude: Mr. Pop himself! You can’t get much better than Michael. One of the first records I ever owned was Thriller and it changed my life! After his death, I was just waiting for something, especially because I knew he had plenty of music that hadn’t come out. Even though I grew up on Michael, I don’t think I really listened to him much after Blood on The Dance Floor. It’s not that I stopped listening entirely, it’s just I started getting into other trends and such. I still listened to every single of his though, and it’s still that classic Jackson feel in one way or another.

 

I can’t deny L.A. Reid when it comes to finding talent. And this is the guy that had the honor of having full access to Michael Jacksons archive and pulling out what he thinks are those “gems”. Of course, there’s reason why Michael Jackson shelved a lot of his material. He is a perfectionist anyway, right? But some of these tracks were because of studio pressure and others were because it just wasn’t that strong of a track. And yet, L.A. Reid decided to dust off those old tracks and add some shine to them by hiring Timbaland! In turn, Timbaland got to choose his producers: J-Roc, StarGate, John Mclain, and Rodney Jenkins to name a few. And so, this review begins.

Love Never Felt So Good would have been good on his Off the Wall album. Everything is there: Signature Disco sounding pop vocals, piano, and strings. Here’s the deal though, it’s not 1970. Even after they remixed and remastered this, it’s not anything you would expect on the radio today. It’s dated obviously, and even though I love nostalgia tracks, not really feeling this. Has nothing to do with what Jackson was able to do with it, because you know it’s classic Jackson, but it’s classic 70’s Jackson.

Chicago is smooth! I mean, it has the ability to really get you within the first couple of seconds just with that bass line! This is a Michael Jackson putting game on a girl kind of track. Jackson has the ability to really set the mood so well and this track is a great example! The production of this track is perfection! It just sounds so good dynamically and there’s plenty of peaks and valleys to make it a great ride. it might sound a little dated, but I really don’t care this time. This is my favorite tracks on the whole album!

Loving You is like they took the time machine back again. And although I hear what they did by putting a strong brass and drum beat behind Jackson, it still sounds old school. Although the song feels smooth, there’s nothing really unique about this song. Michael doesn’t really do anything amazing on this song besides the usual harmonizations. It’s okay but if  L.A. Reid is calling this a gem, I don’t know what he was going for.

A Place With No Name has a funky bass line with some primitive (almost African like) sounding drums. This track is probably one of the more modern sounding tracks off of this album. Reminds me of something he would put on Blood on The Dance Floor. His singing is more dirty on this song and it’s much needed. That raspy Jackson voice is great on this track. The beat itself continues to push the song forward and it’s arranged so nice! Only thing is that this song could have been up to a minute and a half shorter.

You know I want to like Slave To The Rhythm. I mean, it’s all there! It’s easily a dance song and I can tell what Jackson was trying to do. But I can also tell what the producers were trying to do to make this song more “modern”, and it just didn’t work for me. This song sounds to beat machine to me. And those synths aren’t helping it at all either. The original track is better than this remake to me. Timbaland didn’t need to add a beat to this, at least not this type of beat.

Do You Know Where Your Children Are is a nice synth track. And the beat isn’t overbearing at all. Jacksons in the pocket and the arrangement feels good. Different variations of the melody help in making it not so repetitive too! The harmonizations are nice. The subject matter is a good idea but I don’t really know why he would make this song so upbeat. Sometimes we must hide depressing subject matter in a energetic song though so it doesn’t sound too depressing.

Blue Gangsta sounds strange at first. The harmonization is nice but the orchestration in the background doesn’t sound like it should be there. Once the beat drops though, it makes you want to forget about the beginning because that beat is so funky! It’s also nice to see how they play with the dynamics of this song. This track is the most modern of the tracks off this album! In fact, you could almost call it crunk or dirty south. It’s nice to hear this sound on a Jackson track! Those harmonizations though are killing it. Almost makes you wonder what Jackson could have done over some newer Hip-Hop style beats.

Xscape should have been that track! I mean, that’s what the album title is, right? And yet, I really wasn’t feeling this track. It’s just too much clutter, too much going on. Love the strings and brass on this song but it’s just too much vocally. Which brings us to the end, right?

I mean, 8 tracks ought to be enough for an album, right? I think not! In fact, that’s what really pissed me off about this offering of Jackson goodies. I was expecting an album by todays terms: at least 14 to 15 new tracks I’d never heard before. Instead, L.A. Reid would rather give us the original versions of these songs to lengthen the album. Some of the original tracks are completed but others are just sparse scratch tracks. Which makes you wonder, why even put the original versions on the album? And the surprise track for you: Love Never Felt So Good again! This time we’ll have Justin Timberlake singing a verse.

So, here’s what I’m thinking happened. And this is all speculation, but I think it’s enough to get the general gist of what happened. We all know that Jacksons archive is extensive, right? I mean, he was in the studio a lot during his prime perfecting his sound. And his death put his catalogue under enormous attention. But, what good is a catalogue if you can’t sell it in spurts, right? You want to be able to sell as many albums after his death as possible. And I hate to say this, but I think that’s what is ultimately going to happen with the catalogue. We’ll get probably another 4 to 5 albums of original works like this in spurts. They’ll add some producers and features to make it sound newer. They’ll P-Diddy it and remix it to put another 2 or 3 albums out. By the time their done, Sony Music Entertainment will have raped this catalogue for all it’s worth and some. Which is why it’s so hard to listen to a new Jackson album after his death and why I think I’m just going to stop buying a new Jackson album from here on out! Let the man rest and leave the tracks alone.

With that said, I was really disappointed in this album. I’m giving it 2.5/5!

 

EnjoY In Music!

Album Review – Pharoahe Monch – PTSD (2014)

By admin on May 05, 2014 in Album Review - 0 Comments

You know, I really have to hand it to Pharoahe Monch. For a dude that can rap his ass off, I’m really surprised how slept on he still is. Here’s arguably one of the best lyricists of all time and he never gets the respect of more major artists. In all honesty, I’m okay with that. I don’t think I’d want Monch to go mainstream. Just think about how toned down his records would be if he didn’t have creative control over them. Which brings me to the review.

I love Pharoahe Monch! His technique is off the hook and he goes over a lot of people’s heads. Why? My guess is because he’s using metaphors with such crazy delivery that you have to slow down the album, listen to it a couple of times, or just read the lyrics afterwards. He doesn’t create Hip-Hop hits though. Let’s be honest, if you’re introducing someone to Monch for the first time, you’ll probably start by playing his classic Simon Says track. They’ll be a lot of people that will automatically recognize the beat and the crazy flow. However, he’s not one to create catchy hooks or songs you remember.

Enter his newest album Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). With all of the underground hype around this album, you think we were looking at the Holy Grail of underground albums here. Here’s an emcee that has giving us solid material with Internal Affairs, Desire, and W.A.R(We Are Renegades). All of those albums have been completely different and have really shown off how creative Monch can be. But here’s the thing, as much as you like Pharoahe for his imaginative mind frame, creativity, and killer flow, he tends to be stuck in a box in some ways. Have you noticed how much Pharoahe tends to use the same multiple rhythmic placing with his delivery? He doesn’t really venture out into changing his style up at all. Sometimes, you need that to happen. Especially when it comes to just how much knowledge Monch is dropping on you. So, with that said let’s get to this album.

We start off in the recollection facility. This seems to be a medical facility used to recondition the brain from stress disorders. You’re not supposed to know anything further, as it’s just an intro to the album. Automatically, you’re thinking, “this should be interesting”.

Times2  opens up with a sparse beat track with Monch singing the hook. Here’s the deal, although Monch does sing better than many emcee’s, that doesn’t mean he should. He’s a pretty nasal singer and it doesn’t always work well with the track. In this case, I don’t think it does. But, that being said, this dude just starts his flow crazy! This dude is so creative, at one point in this track, he starts stuttering to the beat like he’s lost his mind:

“La-la-la-last ye-ye-year they hired me/And this-s-s-s we-we-we-we-weekend the-the-they fired me/And I g-g-g-got all these b-b-b-bills to pay/And what the f-f-f-f-fu-f-f-fuck am I supposed to say/T-t-t-t-to my wife she’s p-p-p-pregnant/And if the kid does not go to college his life’s irrelevant.”

Damn Pharoahe! Talk about hitting the nail on the head with this one! For many, these ordinary stressors when it comes to day-to-day can start to wear down on anyone. And that’s exactly where Monch wants to take you. How even the most mundane schedule can start to eat away at you.

Losing My Mind has an old school rock feel! The track sounds live with those guitars and live drums feel. I’m glad to hear that Pharoahe left the singing for the most part to dEnAun. However, the dude still got to sing a little bit, right? The hook is smooth, catchy, and pretty frightening. Which is probably where Monch wants you to be. The flow is classic, but I don’t know if you’ll remember the track.

This gets us into a kind of prelude to the next track. Heroin Addict is a very rock influenced heavy guitar-sounding track. Can’t say I particularly understand why he needs an introduction to the next track. But, nonetheless:

Damage is a nuts beat! I mean, this turns the whole Heroin Addict track before on it’s head and makes it a slow rock beat. This dude is completely going nuts with his delivery! He’s doing everything he can to switch it up, which I love. At one point, he almost sounds like a serial killer but it could also like he’s a gang member looking for revenge. The opening to his second verse is just ridiculous:

Nigga I will twist your liver like Oliver (TWIST)
Scratch your name off my calendar
See that was me thru a silencer
What you just heard was a .44 caliber
Now you can fill in the blanks
I will pillage your town
Killing them with Dillinger rounds
Nigga fill in the clip cause I’m willing to flip

Again, I will say this however. This track is not catchy. Sure, Monch is doing his thing but I wouldn’t remember it. There’s no hook that really catches on, which seems to be a problem with this album overall.

Monch loves those heavy beats! This is one of the funkiest off of the album, but it’s definitely rocky. Bad MF is pretty much exactly that. And man, for once on this album Monch makes a pretty catchy hook. In fact, it’s almost enough for me to remember it! I can’t say this is the most lyrical of his tracks on this album, but that beat, hook, and background vocals makes it one of my favorite on the albums!

Friendly reminder that we’re still in a reconditioning medical facility and that he’s dreaming. Makes sense, I think…

Which brings us to one of the most energetic tracks on the whole album! Rapid Eye Movement is fun, fast, and furious! Oh, and the hook is memorable! You heard me right, he finally made a track on this album where I remember the hook! He gets help from another ill emcee that’s been at it for years: Black Thought from The Roots. Both of them are completely killing this track. The beat is just ridiculous! Probably the most “mainstream” tracks on the album too.

Back to some abstract. It’s not that Scream is a bad track at all. However, after hearing Rapid Eye Movement, I just wasn’t expecting it. By the way, the track list for this album is very dissonant. What I mean is, he doesn’t place songs in this album the way a lot of emcees would do it. He tends to put you on this emotional rollercoaster of fast songs right after slow songs. I’m sure he does this on purpose though, as it gives you that crazy, multiple personality effect. He is singing over this track, which might not be the best idea. However, he has the ability to spit that undeniable flow. Dude is straight spitting!

The skit is funny and a little scary after Scream, enough said.

The Jungle is tamer on the beat. Which is a nice break, considering that he’s been taking us on an emotional rollercoaster with the sound. The hook is dope and memorable (score 2 for Monch). I think this might be a possible second single after Rapid Eye Movement. The beat is a little more acceptable for mainstream and Monch is taming his flow down a little (probably on purpose for a possible single format). However, he’s straight getting it! I mean, it’s just that good with his word play!

I don’t know if Monch is singing the hook on Broken Again, but if it is, GOOD JOB! If you haven’t noticed, I’m not big on Pharoahe singing on his tracks. For the first time I’m really liking it (if he’s actually singing on the hook). The track is a huge dynamic of sorts. You go through the different volumes as Monch is flowing. It’s a nice departure from his other tracks. It’s a smooth beat with him “calming down” on it. He’s got a nice contrast flow:

Family infuriated by the myriad of tracks but my train never came
So humiliated, started begging for change
Failed rehabilitation so the scars still remain
Nice clothes became frayed

 

Okay, so Monch is getting a little happier over this album I guess. Here he is in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder talking about living! I got to admit, after all the emotional roller coaster of feelings, experiences, and craziness, I think I would have problems understand what’s to live for too. But I think the perseverance to stay alive is inherent in everyone, which is definitely noticeable through this track.

Another pleasant reminder from the medical “Recollection” facility as we go to the next track.

I’m saying this, I don’t know what it is, but Eht Dnarg Noisulli is my favorite production wise. There’s so much happening but cohesively it just works. This track is so crisp and clean! Don’t know who the Stepkids are, but it’s nice to hear a different sound from a feature! Pharoahe kills it on the track. I don’t know what the significance of the title means, but it doesn’t really matter. This track takes you into a dreamscape.

Which gets us to the last track, a bonus track called Stand Your Ground featuring Vernon Reid. Wasn’t completely impressed by this track. The hook is kind of catchy, but truthfully I could have done without this track on the album. It’s pretty funky though.

So, overall PTSD is a rollercoaster of ideas and sound. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Hip-Hop album with such multiple personalities. Its heavily rock influenced which is definitely needed in an era of repetitive beats and rhymes in the Hip-Hop world. Pharoahe is also stretching out with his style as well! For the first time in any of his albums, I could hear him breaking away from those repetitive delivery placements. Sure, he still does it from time to time. Hands down, this album is the most creative I’ve heard in quite some time. Great idea for a theme and it’s one that is seldom talked about in the Hip-Hop world. I still think he needs to stop singing on his tracks, but that’s a small price to pay for such creative wordplay!

I give it 4.5/5! Monch is just going crazy!

 

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