Friday, October 26, 2007

Hell Rell - "For The Hell of It" - Diplomat Records/Koch Records (2007)

The latest release from the Dipset camp, Hell Rell’s “For The Hell of It” (Diplomat Records/Koch Records, 2007) does much to uphold the street aesthetic that the
Diplomats are known for yet little to continue with the commercial flirtation that some members (ie. Cam’ron, Jim Jones) have enjoyed in recent time. Don’t expect “Ballin’ Pt.
2” on this record, just brace yourself for Dipset’s standard bombastic production coupled with grimy, hard-hitting rhymes courtesy of Hell Rell, who sounds like he has a bone to pick with the rap game on this, his long-awaited solo disc.
Based on the cover art alone for this album (Rell looks like he sees his dentist Dr. FullClip twice a year for regular checkups), you know you are in for some typical Dipset street anthems with an added dose of malice. On album opener “Intro”, Hell Rell boasts over a panicky instrumental, “I don’t get high no more/I smoke for the smell of it/Money just a hobby/N**** get it for the hell of it!”
“Streets Gonna Love Me” is reminiscent of Cam’ron’s 2002 hit “Oh Boy”, as Rell paints a picture, over a high pitched soul sample, of the bittersweet relationship he has with the streets that don’t reciprocate the love he has for them, “It’s funny that/I love the streets/But they on’t love me back.”
Rell invites a few guests to help add some menace to this already gritty album, including Styles P, Young Dro as well as Dipset alums Cam’ron, JR Writer and Juelz Santana. Absent from the album is Dipset “capo” Jim Jones, which seems to reinforce rumours about a widening divide between Jimmy and the rest of the Diplomats fam.
“I’m The S***” featuring Killa Cam, is one of the album’s standouts with Rell and Cam spitting over this car rattler that sounds like a jam session between a ghostly choir and the devil playing the drum kit.
Rell wraps things up smoothly near the end, with “Where You From” featuring Juelz, where over a laidback, soul-drenched beat, Rell gives thanks and praises to his Harlem crew that gave him time to shine in one of rap’s most interesting collectives, “Before I run off in the sunset/I f*** with a few things/But I’m only loyal to one set!”
After numerous mixtapes and guest appearances, it is nice to hear Rell stretched out over a long-player with no gimmicks, annoying DJ catchphrases and skits; just tight production and strong rhymes. This offering makes a strong case for Rell to receive a quick promotion within the Dipset ranks from a street soldier to at least a lieutenant. Hey Jimmy, what do you think?

Rating: 7.5/10

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Common - "Finding Forever Tour" - September 24th, 2007 - The Kool Haus, Toronto, ON, Canada

A quick glance at the massive crowd and lines outside of the Kool Haus on Monday night were a good indication that the stock of Chi-City’s illest MC has clearly risen since the last time he touched down in the T-Dot, back in February 2006 at this very same (albeit less crowded) venue along Toronto’s waterfront.

Common, who was in town for a stop on his current tour to support his latest release “Finding Forever” brought along some lively opening acts in the form of Stones Throw artist and legendary underground lyricist Percee P and Q-Tip, whom some might remember from a little group called A Tribe Called Quest. Unfortunately, due to the lack of complete organization and a proper lineup system courtesy of The Kool Haus security staff (this is a persistent problem at this venue, and will continue to be until someone in charge gets their act together!), many concert-goers (including myself) were trapped outside steaming, listening to the muffled sounds of each artists’ opening sets.

Once inside I was immediately hit with a stifling wall of heat and humidity created by the combination of poor ventilation and the thousands of hipsters, b-boys and girls, thugs and middle-aged couples eagerly anticipating the return of Kanye West’s favorite rapper. The lights dimmed and the screaming began as vocal snippets off “Finding Forever” played over the sound system. Common bolted onto the stage dressed to impress in a white tee, expensive-looking denim and one of his trademark hats; and immediately had the floor bouncing with “Go” from 2005’s instant classic “Be” and his current single, “The People”.

A welcome addition to Common’s performance was the inclusion of a live drummer (Karriem Riggins, a producer/musician/power player who is known from his close association with the Stones Throw family); which added some sonic muscle to Common’s already dope live show. Common kept the energy of the crowd up as he played a little call-and-response with the sweaty party people in attendance during crowd favorites like “The Corner” off his last album.

The floor shook when Common unleashed a classic throwback collage in which he spit Toronto-centric rhymes (Shouting out street names, landmarks, etc.) over classic beats like “Just A Friend” by Biz Markie and Nas’ “N.Y. State of Mind”. Those fans who weren’t at his last show in Toronto, wouldn’t realize that Common pulled the same trick the last time around and it wasn’t something new; however it worked like a charm nonetheless.

The energy in the building waned slightly during “Testify” during which Common left the stage to change clothes and cut the music to deliver a spoken word portion of the track to create drama; however all it did was cause the crowd to stir restlessly and complain until the beat kicked back in. The unbearable heat was surely a factor, as several people were carried out unconscious by security; but the “mini-stage production” seemed to miss it’s intended target.

Common closed off his set with a stirring rendition of one of his all-time greatest tracks “The Light” which was produced by the late production prodigy J Dilla, whom was shown love by all inside the cramped Kool Haus. He then stated that, “I always close the show with The Light and typically don’t do any more songs….however because y’all been so good, I’ll do a couple more!” The crowd roared its approval as Common bounced through the Kanye-assisted “The Food” and “I Want You” off “Finding Forever”.

All in all, Chicago’s finest delivered yet another memorable performance filled with everything you would expect from Common and maybe a little you wouldn’t. Hopefully next time Toronto is graced with Common’s fine mic presence it will be at a venue that that offers some relief from the heat being produced on stage and amongst the fans.
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