Tuesday, April 22, 2008

ATMOSPHERE - When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold (Rhymesayers, 2008)

The title of the new album by Minneapolis’ indie duo Atmosphere (rapper Slug

and producer Ant) says it all as apparently Slug’s still having his ass handed to

him by life; but this time around it looks like he may have a positive outlook on

things. Maybe.

Known for their lengthy career (this is their sixth studio album) and strong

underground following, Atmosphere have built their reputation on Ant’s innovative

and funky West Coast-leaning production and Slug’s misery. The act has been credited

with being one of the innovators of the “emo-rap” scene with Slug’s “everyman”

lyrics touching on blue collar topics like girlfriend problems, paying bills,

alcoholism and trying to find a job that pays a decent wage. Their refreshing take

on hip-hop has allowed them to sow the seeds of a sub-genre of rap that is the “anti-

bling” if you will. This is rap music for the aging hipster or hip-hop head in a

midlife crisis (Slug himself is approaching his mid-thirties and has a teenage son)

wondering if after all of those years of hard work there actually is any light at

the end of the tunnel.

The lead single off of When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold

(Rhymesayers, 2008), “Guarantees” is a surprising twist for Atmosphere in terms of

production but not in subject matter however. Over a spare guitar strum, Slug speaks

on how hard life is when you’re trying to make ends meet on next to nothing “My

better half is mad at making magic out of canned goods / My tax bracket’s got me

questioning my manhood”. You wait for four minutes and thirty seconds for the beat

to drop but it never does. It’s just Slug and a guitar making a statement so strong

a beat wouldn’t do it any justice.

The depressing duo amp things up a bit with “Shoulda Known” where over a future-

funk squelcher Slug spins a narrative of an addiction he has to woman who is more

interested in her drug habit then her relationship with him. Slug admits to his own

love addiction that he can’t shake on the chorus, “Shoulda known better not to *uck

with you / Ain’t got nothing but too much to lose / Lost in the rush don’t know what

to do / That drug got you / Like I want you”. It’s no surprise that Slug’s looking

for love in all the wrong places, as this is a guy who has namedropped the infamous

Suicide Girls (Google them!) as a vice.

Atmosphere yet again deliver a dose of reality served up with hot beats on their

latest offering and prove that some pretty decent lemonade can be made with the

lemons life hands you. However, I’m sure Slug would enjoy his spiked and with a


Rating: 8/10

To read this review online click here: http://www.peacemagazine.com/

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sean Price @ SXSW 2008 (courtesy of Vimby.com)

P-Body doing his thing at the festival this year. He mentions the upcoming posse album Random Axe featuring himself, Guilty and Black Milk. Set to drop sometime in 2008. Whoah.

Guilty Simpson @ SXSW 2008 (courtesy of Vimby.com)

This a clip about Stones Throw artist Guilty Simpson rocking Austin's annual SXSW festival this year. Just dropped his debut Ode To The Ghetto. Solid. Like a slug to the chest.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Del The Funkee Homosapien - Eleventh Hour - Def Jux (2008)

It’s been ages (8 years to be exact!) since we’ve had a good taste of rap’s favorite West Coast boho/leftfield don, Del The Funkee Homosapien; when he last made our heads spin on his previous solo album, 2000’s Both Sides of the Brain (Red Urban Records, 2000) and on the futuristic collabo project Deltron 3030’s (75 Ark, 2000)self-titled release with Dan The Automator, Kid Koala and Blur’s Damon Albarn. This time around on Eleventh Hour (Def Jux, 2008), Ice Cube’s cousin (yeah that’s right!) hooks up with the Def Jux squad and label honcho El-P to release his long-overdue follow up to Both Sides of the Brain, where he brings his trademark voice and spacey wordplay to a solid release that loses a few points in the production department.

Del starts off strong with album opener “Raw Sewage” where he flows over a horn-infused West Coast throwback complemented by some record scratching that harkens back to the mid-90s when Del was repping Oakland with his cohorts Souls of Mischief. He quickly reminds us why he doesn’t fit in to rap’s currently bloated braggadocio mold, and instructs us that he’s simply here for a good time, “Salutations,now you face it / A real D-E-L / I don’t feel bigger / Up here on stage / Man I keep it real with ya / I’m here to entertain y’all / Let’s play ball”.

Del is in his comfort zone on tracks like “Hold Your Hand” which has the Bay-Area emcee flowing over a sunny G-Funk beat that would make either Kurupt or even Cube sound right at home on also. On album closer “Funkyhomosapien” Del finishes off correct when he pairs his obscure couplets with a next level beat that sounds like a cut that should have made the Deltron 3030 release. The track is a perfect example of how Del’s left-field subject matter and laid-back persona when combined with a future-funk beat result in a dope track. Plain and simple.

If there is a bone to pick with Eleventh Hour, it’s that the beats could have used a shot in the arm. Del himself handled the bulk of production (with a few assists from cats like J-Zone, Opio and KU) and it remains a mystery why he didn’t take advantage of the production skills available to him from Def Jux label mates like El-P or Blockhead. All in all, Del’s latest effort is a great soundtrack to those lazy, hazy summer days ahead of us. Hyphy this ain’t. It’s a throwback/fast forward rap attack mixed with a little crazy. Go on try it. You might just like it.

Rating: 7/10

To read this review at AllHipHop.com, click here:

Pete Rock - NY's Finest - Nature Sounds (2008)

It’s been a minute since one of hip-hop’s O.G beat architects has blessed us with a full length of fresh material (his last release was 2004’s Soul Survivor II); and Rock’s latest release, NY’s Finest (out on hot Brooklyn indie label Nature Sounds); doesn’t disappoint in breathing some much needed life into the rap game. Rock keeps the momentum flowing from his last release, by combining no-nonsense, vintage East Coast production with dope lyricists. The result is a “Rock” solid release that satisfies those heads fiending for an East Coast trip down memory lane circa 1995.

Rock milked his hip-hop Rolodex on this effort as his beats are beefed up with tight lyrics courtesy of everyone from Dipset’s Jim Jones and Max B, Styles P and Sheek Louch of the Lox, Masta Killa, Raekwon , Papoose and Redman. Lead single “We Roll” featuring the aforementioned services of Jim Jones and Max B, is a horn-infused throwback that allows the Dips’ capo and their crooner to temporarily put aside their apparent beef, and flow confidently over Rock’s breezy soul.

“PJs” featuring Wu Tang’s Raekwon and Masta Killa is a track that we have already heard before on 2006’s Nature Sounds compilation Natural Selection; however Rock does us all a favour by including it on this release. Rae and Killa flow flawlessly over this funk-inflected head nodder as they trade verses about life on the street. Rae spits his usual Wu metaphors while Masta Killa bodies his verse where he reminds us of his well-earned street pedigree, “Degrees of experience/Qualifies me to speak/In certain areas where many can’t reach”.

On the Papoose-assisted album closer “Comprehend” yet another guest lyricist sounds right at home over Rock’s soulful keys and drum kicks as Papoose’s staccato bars add the finishing touches to this certified New York heater. Pap shows love to one of the game’s best producers as he tips his hat to Rock lyrically, “Say my name when you sneeze / Pap is a blessin’/ It’s an honour to be in this session / Pete Rock is a legend”.

From start to finish, Pete Rock’s latest offering NY’s Finest (Nature Sounds,2008) plays out like your favorite mixtape from the mid-90s that you just found again and popped into you cassette deck. Only this time around the old is mixed with the new resulting in the soon to be classic that many of us thought couldn’t be made. For rap to continue evolving and progressing as an art form, there is no doubt that the younger generation needs to be leading the charge. However, it is reassuring to know that O.G’s like Pete Rock are still here to steer the ship in the right direction and are given the love and respect they so rightfully deserve.

Rating: 9/10

To read this review at AllHipHop.com, click here:

Mighty Joseph - Empire State - Urchin Studios (2008)

While the underground collectively waits for the rumoured follow-up to Cannibal Ox’s seminal debut album Cold Vein (Def Jux, 2001) to drop sometime later this year (hopefully!), one half of the progressive hip hop duo, Vast Aire (the other half being Vordul Mega) has teamed with long-time friend and collaborator Karneige to push out some solid post-millennium product that bridges the gap between gritty street tales and a paranoid view of the future in NYC after 9/11. With numerous references to gorillas and King Kong as well as their name giving a nod to a certain movie starring an ape (Mighty Joe Young anyone?); Mighty Joseph are clearly looking to climb to the top of the rap heap with Empire State (Urchin Studios, 2008) and beat their chests lyrically over some dope production.

The album features a list of producers and emcees such as Murs, Vordul Mega,Poison Pen, Madlib and J Zone who all inject some extra flavour into this fresh release. Vast and Karneige come out strong over a menacing King-Kong-ish stomp on album opener “The Uprising”. Both emcees bully the mic with Vast Aire staking his claim for topping NYC’s Best-Dressed Underground Rapper list, “I don’t care what you talk / I am the supreme King New York / Raccoon hat, sheepskin coat, Playboy sweater / Wow, isn’t that dope?”

While the release does feature some of the apocalyptic production that made both Cold Vein and Vast’s solo project Look Mom No Hands (Chocolate Industries, 2004) albums to cop if you were looking for a slightly different flavour; the beats on Empire State are a little more varied. One example, is the bouncy, futuristic beat chock full of soundbites from old-school videogames that Madlib provides on “Legend”. Vast takes the reigns solo as he delivers a vivid street report over the blunted soundscape.

The only tracks that don’t quite wind into the tapestry of Empire State are the Murs-assisted “The Dark Ages” where the usually tight emcee sounds disinterested on his possibly phoned-in verse and “Nightlife” which has a clumsy beat drowned out with unnecessary vocal effects, which end up suffocating Karniege and Vast Aire not allowing the two emcees to breath properly on this track.

Overall, the debut release dropped by Mighty Joseph proves to be a refreshing listen amongst all of the other forgettable noise masquerading as hip-hop that is currently saturating the market. If there was a Hip-Hop Zoo and there was a gorilla exhibit, you’d surely find Mighty Joseph occupying that space with a confident strut and a ferocious growl. Be careful not to feed the animals however. Not because it’s dangerous, but because they’re already full…from eating other lame emcees.

Rating: 7/10

To read this review at AllHipHop.com, click here:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

DJ Chong Wizard - American Ironman (Shawn Carter vs. Tony Starks) Mixtape - (2008)

Imagine what a typical day might be like for two of the games most revered emcees, Jigga and Ghost. Now picture what it would be like if both men switched identities and lived for a minute in each other’s worlds. Hip-Hop Trading Places if you will. Over at the “Wu Mansion” in Staten Island, Jay is chilling in his 3-piece tux struggling to make out the time on his Cartier piece through his bloodshot eyes; while over in Manhattan, Ghost is arguing with security at the 40/40 Club explaining that his fresh mint green Wallys do indeed fit the dress code.

DJ Chong Wizard’s (who hails from the west coast of Canada, Vancity to be exact) latest mixtape, American Ironman, is the aural equivalent of the aforementioned strange scenario. It is the latest (and freshest) in a recent string of American Gangster-related mixtapes that gives the heads out there the opportunity to hear Jigga’s rhymes over some other artist’s music. This latest installment mashes Jay-Z’s lyrics from American Gangster (2007) over beats from Ghostface’s classic, Ironman (1996) and vice versa.

The melding of Jay’s laid back, grown man bars over smoky, off-kilter soundscapes crafted by the RZA equal automatic reloads on “Ignorant After The Smoke” where Jay-Z and Beanie Siegel drop knowledge from “Ignorant Shit” on top of Ghost’s “After The Smoke Is Cleared”. Hearing Hova spit “They’re all actors / Looking at themselves in the mirror / Can’t even face themselves / They don’t fear rappers” over RZA’s haunting backdrop creates 2008’s first smoker’s anthem.

Ghost sounds equally comfortable slinging his lyrical nonsense over “Success” a blaxploitation-style key frenzy that No I.D. and Jermaine Dupri produced. The quality of the track (including a few others) are not top notch but yet again the pairing feels as comfortable as Tony Stark’s bathrobe.

On this memorable and unique mixtape, DJ Chong Wizard shows us what the “Best of Both Worlds” should have sounded like the first time around minus Kells. Staten Island and Marcy Projects’ finest need to build on this mixtape and make an official collaboration, because this mixtape can best be described in Ghostface’s own words; it’s comparable to “Plush robes made from suede/And knitted by virgins”; or something like that.

Rating: 8.5/10

To read this review posted on AllHipHop.com click here: