Friday, September 21, 2007

Grayskul - "Bloody Radio" - Rhymesayers (2007)

Grayskul’s latest offering, “Bloody Radio (Rhymesayers, 2007), their first release since 2005’s “Deadlivers”; is an album that shares a similar (albeit darker) feel to other artists coming off of the Rhymesayers label such as Atmosphere and P.O.S, yet it fails to leave a lasting impression after repeated listens; like numerous other albums have on this respectable indie label known for holding the torch for what’s known as “emo-rap”.

Grayskul, who are comprised of MCs Onry Ozzborn (aka Count Draven, Reason) JFK (aka Fiddleback Recluse, Count Magnus) and bassist Rob Castro hail from Seattle, Washington and came up on the underground circuit with the Oldominion collective based in the Pacific Northwest. On “Bloody Radio”, Grayskul definitely bring the gloom and chills similar to the unpredictable weather experienced on that part of the map.
“3000 Voices” kicks off the album with a mesmerizing, hazy beat while the chorus of “3000 voices and they’re speaking through you / No telling what these party people might do…” leaves you feeling as if you have just woken from a bad dream, yet you can’t recall exactly what it was all about.

Title track “Bloody Radio”, sports a beat that falls a few BPMs short of becoming a drum and bass track; which is coupled with double-time verses from Onry and JFK that are for the most part undecipherable. We are again left guessing as to what subject matter is being covered in this particular track. The chorus, “What makes the world go ‘round? Radio! / What makes you scream and shout? Radio?”, suggests that Grayskul are waxing poetic on commercial radio and it’s negative effects on society. Possibly, but then again maybe not.

Track by track the album takes the listener through the many different negative feelings one can have experience, ,paranoia, fear, confusion. The list goes on and on. Grayskul spit aggressively on the majority of the tunes that make up “Bloody Radio”; it just seems that their anger is directionless.

Thankfully, there are a few notable guest appearances on the album. Def Jux’s Aesop Rock and Cage take their turn on the “radio”, as does Rhymesayer’s golden boy Slug (from Atmosphere). The album’s standout is definitely “The Office” which features guest verses from Slug and Aesop. The beat features a soulful sample and steady drumkick that all MCs sound right at home on. The track would fit in nicely as a bonus track on either Aesop’s “None Shall Pass” or Atmosphere’s last release 2005’s “You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having”.

Grayskul’s MySpace page states that, “Bloody Radio is a perfect blend of study music intended for the open-minded listener…”. While an open mind is definitely required in order to enjoy all types of music, one can only hope that Grayskul themselves maintain an open mind when creating their next project, even if that means taking some cues from the “Bloody Radio” that they seem to despise so much. It could reap some benefits.

Rating: 6/10

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Raekwon - "Icewater: Polluted Water" - Babygrande Records (2007)

As time ticks by and we enter the fourth and final quarter of 2007, Wu fans are still awaiting the impending releases (or so we hope!) of the Clan’s 8 Diagrams (rumoured to drop sometime in late ’07 or early ’08) and Raekwon’s highly anticipated Only Built For Cuban Linx II which apparently is already completed and currently collecting dust at the offices of Aftermath Entertainment awaiting a release date. (For some insight into that situation, check’s exclusive interview with the Chef himself in our Features section.).

In the meantime, to satiate the thirst of Wu-heads worldwide Raekwon The Chef has put out a new album, Icewater:Polluted Water (Babygrande Records) which introduces us to his crew Icewater whom Raekwon pushes into the spotlight for the first time. Unfortunately, while this release does feature special guests such as Busta Rhymes and Three Six Mafia as well as production by Scram Jones and some fire rhymes courtesy of Rae himself; it fails to bring the same bang for your buck expected from a release stamped with the Wu Tang seal of approval.

Album opener “Animal” features a grimy New York beat and acts as an introduction to the members who make up Icewater; Polite, Stomach, P.C. and D.C.
A regular fan of Staten Island’s finest might be a little taken back at the simplicity of the rhymes that kick this album off, “…they say I’m wildin’/Plus I’m from the island/Something like Gilligan.” It’s clear right off the bat that this is not going to be the second coming of 36 Chambers, but there is promise.

The album starts moving in the right direction with “Do It Big” featuring Raekwon and Busta Rhymes trading verses with members of Icewater where they explain that the hustle they’re involved with on an everyday basis is not one of choice but one of necessity and survival. The soulful and somber beat is reminiscent of a cut off of 2005’s brilliant collab-filled album Wu Tang Meets The Indie Culture.

The album follows an almost hit/miss formula both in actual tracks as well as Raekwon’s experimentation. For example, on “I’m A Boss” where Rae teams up with Rick Ross, he sounds out of place on the South –flavoured club track. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but it’s hard to picture Raekwon popping bottles at the club. A more reassuring image is Rae on the corner, in the middle of a cipher spitting darts.

He does however sound especially tight with his Icewater soldiers and Three Six Mafia on album highlight “Let’s Get It”. Rae kills his verse over the Sergio Leone-style Spaghetti Western beat, as he closes the track off with, “Wu Tang’s foulest/Icewater’s wildest/Three Six Mafie/Big Papi with the chalice”

While Icewater:Polluted Water, does allow us to hear some up and comers within the Wu dynasty it is evident that the Chef needs to add a little more seasoning before Icewater is ready to fully meet their potential as strong additions to the Wu’s satellite family. However, what this album does is remind us that a surefire classic in Only Built For Cuban Linx II is currently sitting on a shelf, when it should be bumping out of stereos worldwide. The Chef has surely prepared a fine meal in Cuban Linx II. Icewater:Polluted Water is just the appetizer.

Rating: 7/10

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