Hip Hop was thoughts from the superheroes of the Real. Real problems from real nigga lives. Lives that once cruelly made spectacles of us, misilluminated and maldefined to justify the quelling of our rebellion that is supposed to become revolution. The MCs, the DJs, Graff artists and B-boys and B-girls all amplified supremacy that flew us out of oppression and mediocrity dynamically. Somewhere the flesh became weak and the desires strong, minds became finite and the bay flooded with disgust merely because the Sun is, just is. Sunshowering. Hip Hop, a movement sharing its developing awareness just as these few infidels of industry hopefuls become aware of the deceiving hustles they will wax and wane with.
So today is another moment I am a writer embracing an honorable moment to reveal realness. That I may do this is because I can be found with certainty at the same time, the same saloon with the simplest of prepared weapons. Weapons that don’t make money in our Arts anymore. No. The rappers can now rap filthy of skill and honestly of their dishonor. Supposedly them other ol’ niggas I said was with me as “We” have been in Hip Hop so long they gladly exhale their fears and relate down and below the people. Why should an Original man verse with a heroic cape when he can fiscally relate with disruptive escape? Composers of music retired by the phonies lasting the times all making the music less Black, never Brown, more American, more for everybody, now about no one for fucking Real’s sake.
I won’t belong in these times where carelessness is a style and loyalty is auctioned by best return options. Where the integrity of Art is measured by crude like or dislike, the principled are purveyors of an outdated theme and virtue is now the accumulation of winning. Because I won’t belong I share these insights to those who may be careful of their Art. So full of care, it is themselves they seek to repair first. As always, so full of care that any artist I mention may read these words as if I had told them directly. I’m from the ol’ cipher with no borders that block showing and proving. We will all be righteously daring on these paragraphs.
Ultimately, Hip Hop music, particularly, is not dead. It is just vastly smaller than the massive waste that labels itself the same. Now then, here are builds on my understanding of that vibrant core, with achieved daring and even misplaced flaw, innovation and preservation present, that make music of Hip Hop culture:
- NITTY SCOTT, MC – THE BOOMBOX DIARIES, VOL. 1
The lovely wordy abolitionist preludes her debut album further with clever MCing, heartfelt intimacy and strong breath control.
A brutally gothic and highly intelligent MC, G.S. out of Goblin City’s Opposition movement rhymes with lyrical abandon, stylistic changes and cryptic imagery.
An obsessively articulate and vicious MC, another MC develops by leaps and bounds out of Goblin City.
The beginning of a strong free 5 volume series from Queens duo Omnipotent and Sinnagi. Full review & download link here: http://premierehiphop.com/2013/01/06/undeniable-five-finger-discount-vol-1-review/
ORIGINAL & VINTAGE MIXTAPES
An incredible debut album that isn’t a debut album. A features filled work of original material, Spit Gemz may be the most diverse MC technically, lyrically and content filled working towards an official debut. Hellzgate is literally classics mixed with bangers.
The best way to offer a prelude mixtape to an album that is one of the year’s best is to fill it with exactly what Diggin in the Crates is all about. An immediate appeal that sets up an album who’s strong worth is a slow efficient burner.
JMega the God is extremely prolific and has the Killarmy spirit in his lyric veins with a sharp delivery and militant drive. This is piercing snare and booming bassdrum work whether done by MighGawd of Truemasterz or with Junior Makhno.
If swagger was a term for the real, Shaz would wear it. Blessed with a definitive vocal articulation he barrages with declarations of supremacy and a palette of complete Hip Hop lifestyle happenings, through the legit and illicit. The work here is a prelude to an MC that can make great albums easily. His Deadstock Revival LP is forthcoming.
A precocious intensity, internal rhymes and other techniques perfected via New York, he is looked at as the prime example of Hip Hop’s future. Sadly, the great swordsman in his crew, Capital Steez RIP returned to the essence. Bada$$ has immediately recognizable talent and if he continues to disregard pop trends his talents will flourish and honor his fallen comrade.
With a very Hiero lyrical energy, Detroit’s CSF are extremely live and have a collection here that easily could have been developed to be a strong debut in and of itself.
A classic mid tempo lyricist, London’s Malachi is a champion of social and spiritual depth over some of the best hardcore snapping snares and crunchy drums that set up his sophomore Black Athena album after his superior Ancient Future debut in 2011. (http://firstson.bandcamp.com/album/isis-papers-vol-3)
The charismatic Waze is a developing lyricist with the ability to flow over a variety of tracks. Full review here:
All original material shared freely, Lauren releases truckloads of rugged songs that allows us to witness a battle rhymer become something much more diverse very charismatically.
- SHABAAM SAHDEEQ – DEGREES OF SEPARATION
A strong MC who drops a true mixtape filled with DJ work and nuff opportunities to shine. One of the best reintroductions to those who ain’t know and those who slept.
There were many albums worthwhile even as there still is too much released in this era. Lil’ Fame & Termanology’s Fizzyology begins to ruggedly recuperate Term’s missteps on 1982’s 2012. Billy Woods’ History Will Absolve Me is an experimental journey with many highlights. Planet Asia’s Black Belt Theatre featured strong tracks and live raps. The Coup’s Sorry To Bother You is a unique Hip Hop Funk LP while Oh No’s Ohnomite had the Dolomite funk sampled dynamically through a mixtape quantity of ill MCs. Saigon’s The Greatest Story Never Told – Chapter 2: Bread and Circuses is noteworthy for his lyrical abilities and versatility in content despite tracks that just aren’t as ill as his mic presence. KRS-One’s BDP album has KRS’ wordplay on display with beats that aren’t the best motivators to a more higher intensity KRS.
There is much missing. As the lead MC of Jedi Mind Tricks, he was surrounded by music and content to explore. Thus, owing somewhat to Jus Allah’s identity, the spiritual ideas I heard were from a militant Muslim, with insight to my Nation of God and Earth, where application was always difficult as most Sicilians deny their Black Moorish roots. But that fire was there to make some sense of conspiratorial theories, straight oppression and the principled Hip Hop man of fortitude all in verse. After the Heavy Metal Kings album illogical York talk led to a lack of Islamic ideas or even self knowledge insight. Without Stoupe, the greatest debuting producer of the 00’s after Madlib & Metal Fingers, the gothic soul fury often are mere caricatures disposable or just acceptable. So Paz’ 2nd solo, after the musically derivate Stoupe-less Jedi album, is a hardcore showcase that lacks the depth of his debut and also some of the classic beatmaking. Nevertheless, rap is pussy filled and Paz’ work is guaranteed tough stuff.
An MC clinic on verbal dexterity (“90 Bars of Intervention”) and battle intensity (“Afraid of Nothing”) with strong moments of intimate thoughts (“Father’s Day”). Beatwise, the 2 hour 13 minute album is marred by some weak hooks and some redundant trebled tracks. Still, there are few MCs with the technical skills and insightful daring Chino offers.
The failure of media and radio is often their own. Certain pioneers go unnoticed for their efforts and this is where the honor in this writer craft, in the role of journalist/historian, emerges. Looked on negatively, the emergence of rare b-side mixtapes to original music mixtapes expands the possibilities of artists to release work and re-up stronger for making their best music and keeping in the eye of the listeners. J-Love is the primary positive pioneer in this. As a DJ, his mixtapes of lost material from Kool G Rap and Rakim to NaS, Wu-Tang Clan and BIG PUN are essential. He has also served as a forum to propel some of the best MCs we hear from Cormega to Meyhem Lauren to making great works with Large Professor. Without J-Love, Hip Hop music sucks a whole lot more. It isn’t an overstatement to note his existence is necessary to Hip Hop.
J-Love albums, for others, would just be original material mixtapes. However, as a more than respectable MC with a dynamic intensity and strong flows, with the capability to feature every great artist you can think of, these works are compilation albums. Following 2011’s equally strong Egotistical Maniac, The Most Interesting Man Alive has J-Love more focused on topics yet features the strongest feature lineup of any album this year from Method Man & Killa Sin to Cormega and Large Professor to Shaz Ill York, AG Da Coroner and Tragedy Khadafi. The beat selection is live, mid to upper mid tempo Boom Bap that allow every MC to just rock the best verse they have. These are tracks that all can be performed live lively. A large majority of them J-Love has expertly produced as he has for RZA, Cormega and others. And in the end, Most Interesting Man Alive is not just a forum to catapult Boricua J-Love but his peoples…again.
A stretched EP via skits to an LP, one may miss that the God Jamel Arief proves with limited time that he is one of the great MCs of the most skilled group of MCs of all time. The 9th member of Wu-Tang Clan makes a Hip Hop Soul album by punctuating beautiful groove tracks. From Inspectah Deck’s “R U Listening,” 9th Wonder’s “Food,” the 80’s R&Ber “Divine Glory” or the classic PF Cuttin stuttering break crooning on “Things Just Ain’t The Same,” Masta flows with an on the break glide that sways. It makes sold soul an infectious content of knowledge of self builds and streaming visuals–a pure union of rhythm and blues.
Possibly the greatest voice in Hip Hop history, Sadat X guides it with a content of endearing sincerity, insight and classic inflection. With Love, Hell or Right, the 12th degree in the Supreme Alphabet becomes a testament of understanding. An understanding of his intentions as an MC building on his career (i.e. title track), the ethics of music making (“G Lanes”) or authenticity and integrity that go through intense hell of work (“The K,” “Ghetto Bird, ” “Cancer”) to see a brighter, righter outcome (“Here I Am”). “I don’t have a need to belong/I’m God” is the toughest fact Sadat has shared with the dynamic everyman conversational flow that continues to cement a foundation for MCs. Musically, this is one of the best produced albums in his solo catalog with vigorous breaks and sharp snares throughout.
A concept album by one of the greatest MCs to ever apply concepts to songs (“Crooklyn Dodgers”) and entire albums (1993’s Slaughtahouse LP). The more aged the greats are from Sadat, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa to Chino, Buckshot or Doom, the diversity of their content broadens and gains depth in sharing experiences that are so unique they relate even more profoundly. A record dedicated to his Ol’ Earth, Masta tells us his vinyl adventures through his Momma’s crates, the environment he went through with Mom’s principles taught as a shield (“Son of Yvonne”), bios of the hood brothers (“Me and My Gang”) and countless details of the places he’s been (“Home Sweet Home”) and tales (“In Da Spot”). The Metal Fingers instrumentals are all near classic at the high penalty of being used and joyously abused for almost a decade giving Ma-Doom a slightly unfortunate derivative familiarity.
Electro and obsessive digi-exploration is appreciated but is as robotically awkward as it is non-gutter. Still Jneiro Jarel’s 3012 synth electro can’t fuck up DOOM’s MCing. DOOM is one of the greatest MCs ever via dominance of the entire 00’s decade. On Key to the Kuffs, his diversity in content is noteworthy with his flow, cleverness and lyrical dexterity still hovering at their normally astronomical peaks. From bombing the white man saga (“Guv’nor”), the horrors of genetically modified organisms (“GMO”) or the lack of proper hygiene (“Wash Your Hands”), DOOM only preludes future projects (i.e. Madvillan 2) with prime anticipation.
[BONUS BUILD: GUILTY SIMPSON & APOLLO BROWN – DICE GAME]
Hip Hop is biased. The more a man knows the more he must let it affect the insight received of the work. That’s the core of realness and it goes beyond like or dislike. The negative response to sellout music is to make Boom Bap a sign and manufacture it in mass repetitively. Trophies features the best MC Apollo Brown has ever had for a full long player and offers a diversity of insight and uniqueness not heard since Boog Brown (2010’s Brown Study). O.C., one of the most smoothest paced and as so many of the greats enduring is filled with a personal insight that is modulated by humble dignity. No one will be disappointed with Trophies as a singular work that offers O.C. a forum of hard tracks to consistently dialogue with us. From the daily struggles of the people (“We The People”), the consequences of this Babylon (“Signs”) and introspection and reflection (“Fantastic”), O.C. shines. However…this prematurely aged genre has deeper stories. Apollo Brown has come to represent consistency of Boom Bap and I have heard something else. I have heard through the produced LPs from The Left’s Gas Mask, Hassaan Mackey’s Daily Bread and even this year’s Dice Game an over reliance on what works. I hear ill tracks and the same stabbing melodic pattern in his rhythms. I hear head nodders and I knowledge the use of Soul and Blues samples already mined for classically. They may have a unique chop/loop/take on them but this has been the exception rather than the rule in the catalog. I hear bangers but I also knowledge the same drums used repeatedly. Prolific beatmakers often get these situations and the rule is to ignore it if the people get injected the crack audio. 9th Wonder suffered this criticism and only developed further and truly became a producer. For now Trophies is O.C. excelling over Apollo’s formula.
[BONUS BUILD: BUMPY KNUCKLES & STATIK SELEKTAH – AMBITION]
DJ Premier hasn’t produced an entire album since Blaq Poet’s 2009 Blaqprint and is the star on this album. Since 2003’s final Gang Starr album, that next level experimental track from Premo is more and more rare. It is only the full album and the great MC that provoke those best. What we often get with Kolexxxion is the archetype Hip Hop break that Premo virtually defined. So we are not surprised by the brilliance of the live “B.A.P.” or the mean “Weare at War” but the wild shrilling chimes on “Shake the Room” reveal Premo still has that next shit. With Bumpy, the straight talk hardcore is the right instrumental and Premo serves up a huge Kolexxxion.
Well now, Bumpy is a tough motherfucker that happens to MC well. He turns off many because he’s too real to criticize and takes the opportunity to sincerely offer generalizations as understanding. However, this freedom he takes leads to countless ideas that earned a forum (“Crackers got this game locked down more than we do” – “My Thoughts”; “These IP killers I wanna crack their snousers/Log on/Now everybody wanna be philosophic..” – “Weare At War”; “It’s not my job to fix Hip Hop/I didn’t fuck it up” – “The Key”). The length of Kolexxxion is extreme where Bumpy needed more experiments with specific topics and/or storytelling formats. This is why Bumpy’s lyrical efforts were more impressive on the all quality Statik Selektah produced Ambition.
[BONUS BUILD: THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS SCORE]
An uneven soundtrack that has Wu-Tang and G Rap bangers, beautiful ballads from Corrine Bailey Rae and Frances Yip but has Ghostface surrounded by Wiz Khalifa and Raekwon sweeping up after Pusha T. There is the R&B track excellently produced by Kanye & RZA that Kanye doesn’t really misstep and the ferocious verse from Killa Sin coupled with RZA’s tough track with the Black Keys. Uneven indeed. However, while the soundtrack contains Hip Hop it really is just more music. We don’t need to know Wu-Tang, G Rap or Monch still have the ability to make great music. If you needed to hear that here you’ve been nailed in the snare coffin too long. Word to RHA founder Gillie Gillz.
The real jewel is RZA’s score for an equally uneven movie. The Man With the Iron Fists is designed like the ol’ Shaw Brothers/Venoms/Gordon Liu classics mixed with anime, wuxia and even western motifs. So the score itself ranges from beautiful Chinese classical as “Zen’s Request” and “Shipwrecked” and mighty amplifiers that have breakbeat scenes as “Jack Knife,” “The Brothel,” or the 8 Diagrams instrumental “Unbelievable” here as the “Rodent Fight.” And many tracks morph between funk, blues licks isolated then back into classical scene setting backdrops of elegance and intensity. RZA’s intelligence has grown exponentially in composition and his natural flow of expressing it is catching up. We never had the chance to take that time with a Hip Hop producer becoming a deeper and broader ranged musician and RZA has shown us it ought to be done with him. This score as well as his direction of Man With The Iron Fists film is filled with moments of brilliance that are beyond random.
Ghostface Killah is one of the greatest MCs of all time. Every category one can think of…content, storytelling, flow and flow patterns, breath control, charisma, vocal pitch, slang/creative language, insight, liveness on wax and live show presence, beat selection, etc., Ghostdeini is on an extreme level. A focused project with Sheek Louch, Ghostface reaches down to their level of gutter rugged content and over tough, though overly trebled tracks, they murk everything. The science of analysis is in Ghostface’s never extinguishing abilities and finding worth in allowing anyone else to rhyme. As one of the better albums of the year, Sheek Louch overachieves and this is another of Ghost’s album side projects that have made for continuing the greatest and most diverse wax career of any MC ever.
Flowing like instruments, the Dominican brothers Oprime39 & Solace finally release their debut repping much more than Queens. Their excellence here is another example of the immense talent that refuses to quit because the tools of the trade are said to be replaced by the fools seeking to be paid. Throughout Rock-it Science, their MC skills and techniques are realized to be absolutely necessary and extra-ordinary they’d be mentioned even if they were recording themselves via speakerphone onto tdk cassettes from 1993 used to redub the Stretch and Bobbito show for 8 years straight.
As a duo, their cohesiveness has the potential to reach Smif N Wessun levels and their songs are filled with breath control feats (“Wherever We Go,“) and chorus routines (“Hot 110”) that will make for the livest shows. Beatwise, Rthentic RTNC makes equally live tracks with snares that pop and basslines that crunch. The album’s pacing is about intensity in flow and declaring their presence and Rthentic offers no flaws in the beat basket. These are the type of Hip Hop albums that introduce us to new regulars in our collection and the joy in the embrace of skill.
Do the knowledge to the entire album: https://soundcloud.com/timelesstruth/sets/rock-it-science
Pure fury on wax targeted by musical integrity and given excitement by the destruction of those that lack this. That’s the fuel of the hardest of the hardcore. That’s why Countdown ‘Til Napalm is the most rugged album of the year. There are no bad R&B hooks. There are no bad displays of money cash success obsessions. There are no good ones either. There is only Colonna’s productions with smart sampling where even the identifiable (i.e. the MJ’d “Gun Powder,” Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me”) is done perfectly because they’re flipped differently. Breaks that thump and pause for punctuated violent inflection by Arewhy, Thanos and the rest of Brotherhood 603 affiliates. Snares are cut and chopped too (“Battlefield Infantry”) with way more than the same fuckin drums re-equalized (i.e. “Stuck in the Hood,” “Genocide,” “C-4,” etc. etc.). These drums, the core of this brilliant production can be found, greats and sellouts have used some, but not as consistently as I’ve heard on this record.
On the mic, led by Arewhy and Thanos, these are masters of flow completely confident in their supremacy. They rhyme with reckless abandon and are never off beat. One of the reasons the hardcore tough Hip Hop isn’t widely done, aside from the fakeness of the rappers themselves, is the difficulty entailed in flowing over such chaotically beautiful instrumentals. None of Brotherhood 603 has that problem and there is no song on this album that one will find useless, no point where the samples and skits are off the theme or any track where one doesn’t get amplified hype off.
Inspired by Killarmy, this is also a ghetto oppressed brother in the struggle score. Coming from this writer’s very own trenches of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, the most slept on poverty plains in New York City, it’s an honor to know warriors still prevail there.
[BONUS BUILD: MURS & 9TH WONDER – THE FINAL ADVENTURE]
9th Wonder, like Pete Rock and DJ Premier, is a master of the crack beat. With over 350 tracks produced, 9th Wonder offers The Solution as grooves (“SAM”), tough bass driving croons (“The Solution”), Saturday night funk (“Keep It Going”), Boom Bap cuts (“Stop Rapping”) and lots of souled tracks (“Shorty Left,” “Pat Em Down,”). 9th saves his best experiments for Mur’s Final Adventure and his intimate beats for Rapsody while he serves mere addiction, seemingly simple for him, to Buckshot.
Buck, one of the great slow flow innovators rocks nice on 9th’s thudding bassdrums monotonously pounding to hypnotic effect. Buck’s wordplay is understated and exciting to find with each listen (“Call me underground for now, but I got thousands above you/Shit, I would love to/Dude, did you ever think I would be here like Hot 9—no clue/I got mine/Even though you got enough I still flex my rhymes” – “Crazy”). Boot Camp Click continues to persevere because they continue to develop the craft. For Buck, it means breath control that goes unnoticed (“What I Gotta Say”), relevant storytelling (“Shorty Left”) and complete control of pacing on the break (“SAM”) that reflect natural talent developed by hard work.
[BONUS BUILD: REKS – REBELUTIONARY]
Reks is a superior MC of this generation and I see him as a lyrical athlete training his mind and body in any and every way that allows him to develop his skill. Straight No Chaser is an immediate delivery of songs that are all of distinct topics and varying mic techniques. Statik Selektah is prolific to success (here & Bumpy’s Ambition LP) and uneven output (1982’s 2012 & Strong Arm Steady’s Stereotype). With Straight..he shows his production abilities as Reks glides through every track and also flaunts his beautiful soul crates.
Reks’ followup album Rebelutionary continues the great MC barrage with focused militancy to social issues and our communities. However, Numonics, a very capable beatmaker, didn’t consistently match up to the level of work Reks has already versed over.
Here is my review of Straight No Chaser: http://premierehiphop.com/2012/05/30/reks-straight-no-chaser-review/
Also my build with Reks: http://premierehiphop.com/2012/06/01/reks-thoughts-of-an-mc-building-straight-no-chaser/
The return of greats is the expectation of expertise. We usually expect the same again but better. With Mugshot Music there seems to be something that isn’t expected but works out.
Showbiz tracks here are not his expected jazz horned rooted or dungeon thud bass drums; instead they are filled with obsessively sharp snares with all the ticking high hats at an addictively modest pace. There is a sharpness to the entire record from its bass drums now focused and targeted to a point with the light melodies of keyboard riffs and quick appregio behaving loops.
Vocally, A.G. is another one of the original slow flow MCs and he is on perfect inflection mode here. Show knows that over these type of deliberate tracks, with emphasis on the snares’ and bassdrums’ specific points highlight A.G.’s mastery in timing. Elevated over the great mixtape Mugshot Music Preloaded, A.G. hits on more topics and rhymes in the definitive nature these wax superheroes are known for. A.G. drops jewels over “Timeless” on the illusion of aging and the worth of endless development.
There are more broad appeal tracks with digital soundscapes as on “One Way,” “The Soul” and “Beautiful Lies” but it comes with A.G.’s more particular subject matter. The skills that Showbiz reveals here will be unrecognized for a long time. In time, they’ll hear that Show developed a sound for an MC that has actually grown in ideas yet remained consistent in toughness. If Showbiz got/took the amount of work of a DJ Premier we would hear what this already dusty crate album reveals.
- CHIEF KAMACHI – RISE & RHYME VOL. 1
One of the last of the grimy, dirty complex lyricists has effortlessly made his best work yet. My insights archived here: http://premierehiphop.com/2012/04/05/chief-kamachi-rise-rhyme-vol-1-album-review/
- MELANIN 9 – MAGNA CARTA
Another superior debut album from UK’s Triple Darkness crew, Melanin 9 gives us militantly deep, wonderfully worded lyrics and hardcore beats. My full review here: http://premierehiphop.com/2013/01/07/melanin-9-magna-carta-review/
The funky homosapien is one of the most underrated MCs of all time. Musically, Del is eccentric to the funk and has built up a long catalog the last ten years that is filled with wordplay, off beat pacing purposefully mastered with authenticity thoughts. Del is an MC that breaks down the wack rapper psychologically. Every aspect of humanity that is not right is expressed through the wack MC (“Ownership”) and all that is right is expressed as a communal building (“On Momma’s House”). The mastery of Hieroglyphics works is lyrical prowess. With Del, he uses every tool available. He inflects on the bar, emphasizes his accent, plays with puns and flows in consonance all over his verses. His bars are at the pace he decides is right for the track that he can easily hold to a halt. An expert who plays with Hip Hop with youthful enthusiasm.
Parallel Thought creates a diverse bed of tracks that is unified by his strong knowledge of the Hiero catalog and jazz funk roots. Whereas Del’s lesser known works go heavy into the funk, his best work is more Funk Inc. than pure Funkadelic. There are the organ riffs and piano slices over snare heavy “Blow Your Mind,” the incredible floating horn that brings the big beat crunch on “Different Guidelines,” or the flute centered with the soft cymbal drum rolls leading into verses backed by a precise piano lick for the jazzy “Get to Drillin” or just the basic tough trombone blast on “Charlie Brown.” These tracks aren’t just immediate attraction hot beats; instead, they are pensively thought out production for one of the most dynamically paced and clever MCs in Hip Hop.
Queens. Starvin B told me that they have a certain sound and this is what he loves capturing on wax. So he is right. There is something in the water there. Few have sipped of this while Starvin B has intoxicated himself with it. An MC who technically has no limitations. His vocals come in crisp with a grimy rasp, his flow is on the snare so naturally it seems like he’s been sampled and the break is playing to him while his content is filled with the cleverness of immediate contact and the wittiness of many rewinds.
His works are collections of moments, the best work he has created for a time. On Something in the Water, the stress of life is given detail and the verses used as testaments toward his fiery direction (“Secret Weapon”) and notes of struggle (i.e. “Madhouse,” “Something in the Water”). He peaks when he ventures out of his inner soul with the classic “99%” on the reality he sees fuels the need for an Occupy Wall Street and movements of awareness against the man. “The Heart” is the distilling of that water as he spills bars on the way he has lived Hip Hop all while the pure battle verses are on full display via mic techniques (i.e. “Higher Power,” “Slanted Eyez”).
My build with Starvin B: http://premierehiphop.com/2012/10/03/the-opposition-origins-starvin-b/
Real talent and real fun in 2012 were between the Sean Price and Rugged N Raw album shuffles. Rugged, in the midst of musical experimentation, is easily becoming a stronger MC, with a variety of content and iller flows that are meeting fresh, unlikely instrumentals. My full thoughts on this great album:
The tenth record is the hardest. To say these are the records to immediately put cream on, indulge in, one of the highlighted best for what particular reason over the very next one. That choice made beyond like and dislike over the legends and greats (i.e. Ghostface, Sadat X, Buckshot, Show & A.G., Del, O.C., etc.) that did continue to earn my respect and admiration and those personal favorites (i.e. Starvin B, Timeless Truth, Reks, Colonna & Brotherhood 603)that also easily fill the spot. Yet, the understanding of much of what I have seen in Hip Hop is coming through Skyzoo.
I realized it live at December 18th’s Duck Down Holiday Party in Medina. Skyzoo would come to contrast the coon skills of Flatbush Zombies. Withholding their talents and diving in the watermelon patch face first, a chunk of skinny jeaned, topless brothers did homoerobics to sloppy bass techno tracks splashing the rows with various liquors and absolving themselves via the “I’m fucked up” lyrical mantra. With class, Skyzoo came out with one trumpet player in front of DJ Prince while !llmind, vital to the catalog, played the sidelines. The new bullshit we hear as backing music has no breaks, snares, timing, nor syncopation. Just repulsively pulsing club music. And the sound that !llmind is bedding under Skyzoo’s verses, described as “vintage dirty hip hop drums and 808s with dubstep grime, a signature boom-trap sound,” starts off like it’s supposed to be wack. As Skyzoo’s trumpet man wails and the breaks violently pop through, Skyzoo’s verses reveal command, sheer vocal power to be heard and I’m proud to be from Medina again just as if Thirstin,Sean P, KA, Buck, Doom, Brotherhood 603, Jamel Irief, RZA, GZA, ASUN RIP or even GURU RIP made it.
We talk a lot of the bad progression. Let’s build on the poor part made better for a while. Here’s how. There is a transition where the young mature, no longer old but they take something that isn’t a good idea and show the good in it. This is why the young are the Best part. They grow to take the poor part out of the worst part and, at their peak, make it a best part anew. Skyzoo, like Elzhi, Rugged N Raw, Hasan Salaam and others have that ability. This year Skyzoo achieved his daring most blatantly and I cringe occasionally and am amazed almost all the time. This album, A Dream Deferred, is the middle of the beginning of Skyzoo’s progression. It is Art music and I’m today’s Modal/Hard Bop man working to appreciate the progression of Miles into Funk and Coltrane into Avante Garde, usually seeing others with dismay and appalled fury at the shit it is all becoming.
Generalizing lyrical peaks, facts were once expounded on like, “the Original man is God. We make Original work.’ Questions deeply spoken in retrospect like, ‘Who are these Original brothers? What’s Original?’ These used to be the questions and offered answers painted over the hells. Today, lyrical content is more affected by the striving for success, the horizon over the trials. We did it, we made it, let’s do it again. Pauses for pretty hiccups and fiscal details the worse you go. Skyzoo noted via Rap Genius that “this whole album’s about ambition and getting it and succeeding in every facet possible.” This is the next wave of lyrical Hip Hop and they let us know they persevered.
Musically, ADD works to digitally orchestrate compositions and as on “Dreams in the Basement,” Skyzoo’s verses are the strongest instrument. The verbatim dexterity, the subtle wordplay he constantly overlaps impressing a point multiple times in such a short amount of bars is exampled here. “The track, which mashes/Celebrating the win, celebrate what it meant/Do remember and celebrate it again/Right newly winners we celebrate where it went/And sewn different we celebrating the hem/Right you sing along you celebrating the hymn/Bet em to prove me wrong you’ll be celebrating they end,” all versed on a tough break that works epic punctuation via the lovely vocals of Jill Scott. “The Knowing” achieves this peak with Jessy Wilson and gentlemen caller lines like “And I’m attracted to getting rid of your past like/Everything you need, you believe and you react like/No one ever did this, they had you underprivileged/Cause you was in your mirror for a reason though…”
Musically, the !llmind boom trap sound does work uniquely on “Give It Up” and “Glass Ceilings,” where Skyzoo’s doin-it-big themes fit right in. When they don’t work is when this style leaves space open for poppier hooks and ringtone melodies as on the Colin Munroe’s disgusting melodic something labeled singing on the chorus of the “Live for the Moment” bonus cut. The tough snare and steady break on Skyzoo’s baller lyricism (“Picture what it be, what/Explain it means and what we be like/Driven through the seams and the scenes of the weaving mic/Be enough to be what they need to believe the flight…”) all leave to an over shrilled, over produced digital autotuned aided shit storm. That’s the experiment gone wrong. Still, the experiment is strong as on DJ Khahlil’s shimmery cascade on break for “The Rage of Roemello” or the big beat and horn cascade of Craig B’s “How To Make It Through Hysteria.”
Ultimately, there are few MCs of this new generation that rhyme as intricate as Skyzoo. Even with such a singular theme that is constantly used to the ruin of all things right and used to push every wrong ideal from our oppression to its unholy weapon, Capitalism, Skyzoo’s sincerity is prevalent in the inspiration through tribulation he details in portraits of mentality.
The more beats are made, the better they are and the worse and worse they get, the more I learn of how ill Large Professor really is. Afrika Bam said Hip Hop has the funk. The funk is that Black exploration of the beat. And when Large Pro drops a solo it’s to study the funk. Do the knowledge to the dismissal of this type of album. Though a rarity it is dismissed condescendingly as a rehash of the 90’s or as “an extremely focused listen. Possibly too focused…” and other crossover pop pop pop pub. This is ol’ school and LP wants you to know it (“Don’t try to say I’m not ol’ school/this is light years right where’s it’s supposed to be…” – “Light Years“). When you know it you will prepare to engage in a master of the bass drum and the thud that provokes the infatuation. One can take one listen and study his snares like the wiping splash on “UNOWWHTMSAYN” or the drumroll altering that gives us the panned hit on the chorus for “Happy Days R Here,” or the thud hit bangin between cymbal high hats on “Live Again.” This is beat lyricism and the dexterity is exceptional on P@L.
Just as a legendary beatmaker, Large Pro’s MC abilities are not in charismatic display, intricate content or tongue twisting dexterity. Instead, he is blessed with a perfect vocal resonance, clarity that never alters and the opportunity on every verse to listen to someone literally Real permeating with the best example of the essence of Hip Hop available. Every moment the verses are needed beyond Pro’s beat builds and his Queens trail tales, he lets loose MCs from Saigon and Roc Marciano on “Mars,” M.O.P.’s Lil Fame on “Happy Days R Here” or Cormega and Tragedy on “Focused Up” who all deliver exceptionally.
With Mega Philosophy with Cormega soon come, Professor @ Large is a great development for Large Professor. Not dealing with conventional formats, he gives tracks that fit the depth of his greatness whether from the experimental bass drum stutter for Busta Rhymes on “Straight From the Golden,” the higher bpm on “Key To The City” or the instrumentals “Barber Shop Chop” and “Sun, Star & Crescents.” To label albums as these as just 90’s condescends and dismisses the difficulty in making a beatmaker clinic album with MCing from LP and others that all capture that Hip Hop essence that is so rugged it just makes a brother happy.
An exceptional album from an even greater rarity: a female MC with real sincere content and beautiful sensuality in all its measures. My full review is my understanding on this:
[Bonus Build: The Evil Empire of Everything]
Chuck D is a legend on the mic. Works by him with Public Enemy are supposed to be on these type of lists. Why? Chuck D is the greatest stylist MC of deepest content in Hip Hop. The master at inflection by breaking silence with baritone punctuation and delivering his verses so filled with phrasing (“Catch the Thrown”) and clever puns (“Truth Decay”) they become song titles and even the foundation of anthemic ideals. Every insight that is needed expressed right is exactly spoken on Most Of My Heroes.
Musically, the decades working give them so much to mine through that just exploring the depth of their own sound makes a diverse album. Classic cuts “I Shall Not Be Moved” and “Get up Stand Up” are filled with great track changes that again show how PE made the breakbeat a living instrumental like the brothers told us the park jams were.
Vocally, the core Chuck D and Flava Flav are volubly viable to vigorous effect. On “WTF,” they cover every of today’s necessary topics insightfully without unnecessary verbiage and the more you listen the more one realizes didacticism isn’t present. The toughness, the militancy is all there because nothing seems contrived. “Clock ticking 3 songs a day like it’s food/carry on I’m that rambling man…we the people keep get robbed by these corporate jerks…” (“Get it In”) are commentaries heard throughout that are dynamically juggled.
Now then, notes on a legend…Chuck D’s baritone power and definitive articulation have often been countered by wild rocked up tracks. Never this writer’s like for making our Soul yet this exposed the contradictions of this America (United States, that is). Chuck is an MC that takes the battle style to the content of the times. It’s so innovative that labels as conscious rapper exist. Yet, the deeper one listens the didacticism and disingenuousness to niche his unique persona and character are media definitions of complacency as opposed to Chuck’s worth to us. The illness needed to start off an LP with “Bomb drop, designed as a warning shot” on “Run Til It’s Dark” can’t be taught. To then rock statistics to an understanding capper simply put (“Listen, cause some of us don’t check statistics/Kick it: 40 or so million blacks in America/How can 13.5% of the population be scaring ya/88% of U.S. cities are Black/95% of America’s suburbs are white/But 10% are Blacks and 50% are white/But post racial politics, tricks/and lessens the fight”) is the skill of the righteous wax. It’s an opening verse naysayers always say he doesn’t do: show and prove. Everytime Chuck goes in on what’s wrong about our music (“Hoover Music”), society’s ills from politics to police brutality from “Truth Decay” to “Fassfood” all to note his position today properly on “Rltk,” “At the age I am now/If I can’t teach/ I shouldn’t even open my mouth to speak/ I bomb drop on those that be makin y’all weak/24 hours, 7 days a week.” With the companion piece The Evil Empire of Everything album released after Most of My Heroes… that features powerful statements against police brutality and the Trayvon Martin RIP issue, Public Enemy continues to fulfill their legacy. MCing becomes an honorable profession again even if Chuck isn’t on any fuckin stamps.
“Hood forever, I just act like I’m civilized/Really what’s in my mind is organizing a billion Black motherfuckers/To take over JP and Morgan, Goldman and Sachs/And teach the world facts and give Saudi they oil back” – “No Introduction”
Lyrical genius with insights that detail exactly what we go through in the role as Black men, oppressed peoples or just as a father, as a divorced man with a newly made baby momma and as a legend making Black music in an industry cipher that reflects its takers’ fiscal comforts, not its makers’ creative intents. With interviews that do little to reflect his thoughts but further his chameleon effect as the last MC in the commercial limelight, NaS’ contradictions will always be prevalent.
However, it is something to root for as proof of contrast. A contrast so apparent that on Life Is Good, as on every post Illmatic album, the eclectic mix of sounds, conflicting diversity of ideas and the expectations that we need whoever is up there to bring it back down to where it belongs. NaS never lacked that talent but the truth is the success of such a Real Operation is theoretical. The masses never wanted to hear our stories, listening to niggas talking, sharing ideas, recognizing self through artistic excellence. The life of sold Hip Hop then is merely predicated off the infinite intrigue of the Black and Brown man’s enticing Soul, a Soul that those without, crave to savor. And this still is the safest way.
These naturally occurring contradictions and the struggle to identify and eliminate hypocrisy from them is the method by which a NaS album plays from track 1 to end track. To survive he must be lyrical to those who only care for his amazement, not his peoples. He must keep it real street official for those who never even care to venture that far in mere empathy. Must he then rock over the hardest Boom Bap, sharp snare, deep bass drum and angriest horn digable to preserve the Art? To save the guilt in purchasers who also ituned Aslop Cocks (Pause), Chief Koon and that overweight officer. He can’t stop a hypocrisy out of his control.
With Life is Good it’s MCing to its fullest with expected missteps at a minimum and lyricism at an enormous peak. The overweight officer fiscally replaces better options (i.e. Kool G Rap) for “Accident Murders” and the shoving of the great “The Don,” “The Black Bond,” “Where’s the Love” and “Trust” as bonus tracks for a dated backdrop to Mary J. Blige’s feature and the worst beat in the universe, Swizz Beatz’ “Summer on Smash” are most notable. The strongest production (“Locomotive,” “Black Bond,” “A Queens Story”) certainly overshadows decently lush backdrops (“Trust,” “Roses”). With NaS albums that is acceptable as he has proven to be a weak beat selector. However, if production must be more than that then NaS succeeds as they are designed well for him to shine. Nas’ extremely portraitist lyricism and equally subtle charisma overshadows his articulated delivery and smoothly voiced flow. This is why NaS’ versing acapella or without breaks works (“Stay”) are the brilliant spotlight to these unnoticed gifts. The illest peak is “A Queens Story,” which easily is one of the most lyrical and perfectly MC’d songs of the year. The content details the entire quandary of voice of the people voicing himself to a completely different reality away from the people. Vocally, he chain links his vowels in an incredibly understated PUN fluidity and intense inflection. An inflection that begins detailing the surveyed Queens landscape to then particularize the ensuing mentalities with notes on hustles. By the third verse he champions the success of the realness to a classic acapella verse with NaS’ mentality where the grief of his mother’s passing got him mystery god jesus cristo chain clutching while he notices the new cipher is safely lavish and lacquered with plastic. People want MCs with honesty and expertise merging. Here NaS achieves it with what I must call sincerity.
Unlike the young MCs and wack rappers of today, success is the justification to its end. The experience of NaS again bestows a gift that others don’t have. That he has succeeded and has the skillful will to critique the newest hell is exactly how to continue to make music for the people.
“What have we become? Rap stars from trap stars/Black Gods to Ansars to Sunnis back to goonies…the old shit was learning Student Enrollment to focus…” – “Where’s The Love”
Sean P! is the star of the year. No MC in years makes the embrace of no concessions and/or has refused to even bother to answer to the questions of this decaying cipher as P. Every verse on Mic Tyson is the best destruction he could offer, the most clever, technically difficult dexterity he could perform then it’s over. Next track. Try and do it again. Another track. All the while his comedic video skits supplement the natural wit he has always possessed. The more comically rude and wildly disrespectful to the wack the more he becomes an iconic symbol of what this is all about. His performance at the Duck Down Party on December 18th, exemplifies this. We may all laugh in retrospect at his superhero stance during the chorus performance of “BBQ Sauce” by Pharoahe Monch all as the blue towel under his hat swayed like locks to the imagining minds on the balcony. However, what we saw through every minute of his set was effortless rhyming, lyrical dexterity, a complete package of MCing with no frills. Mic Tyson is the album representation of that.
My deeper thoughts on Mic Tyson:
Revolution of evolution in all Black music, on this continent or my islands, continues to be thwarted its credit and future by commercialism’s counterblows. Whether from the hypocritical gamma waves of Ebro or the diluting waters of the subtle wigger civil rights movement, labels as retro re-hash or old (dead) school are thrown at innovators that continue to innovate. No case is so clear of this than with Roc’s Reloaded. An album that achieves the innovation of diggin’ in the crates and elevates the slow tempo verse to a level that even is progressive compared to his great 2010 Marcberg LP.
My complete thoughts on Reloaded here:
Kevlaar’s debut album easily places him as one of the greatest lyricists of this era. Regardless to how many sellout chumps we notice, that is a powerful thought. Yet this opus perfectly titled Die Ageless, is a complete presentation of the essence of his intentions and the intensity of his proficiency. In retrospect, it is the most complex topically with storytelling gems (“Solstice,” “Fallen Angel”), anthems (“We Gon’ Make It”), social builds (“My People”), commentary (“Federal Reserve Note”) and rippin the m-i-c (“The Lean,” “Kings”). Kevlaar 7 is one of the rare MCs that we turn to when we need to be proud of our people.
Premiere Hip Hop interview: http://premierehiphop.com/2012/06/27/in-the-endless-life-of-kevlaar-7s-die-ageless/
The newest album, the latest verse, the soon-to-be heard bar of Kevlaar 7 is showing to be his illest. An MC of superior concepts wrapped in the sincere, real-time theme of our peoples’ betterment is Die Ageless. With Sophisticated Movement, he reveals himself as an MC with supreme narrative and amplifying resonance. Simply put, he rhymes live and livid. Backed by the emergence of the best debuting producer of the year and the best complete production performance is the work of Woodenchainz. Woodenchainz is the producer of a living breakbeat, tracks that have snares that conversate with each other, high hats that talk to bars and the sweetest Soul sampled that sing along with Kevlaar verbatim. With the aid of Indiana’s Woodenchainz debuting brilliantly, Detroit’s The Wisemen continue dominating the decade musically exactly when it is at its most rare.
Deeper thoughts here: http://lavoerevolt.blogspot.com/2012/09/kevlaar-7-woodenchainz-sophisticated.html
The score of poverty and the triumph of an ever realizing integrity. A dignity exuded word for word and punctuated over a stripped backdrop. An achieved revolution to have us just see Brownsville, Brooklyn, learn of this one man’s trials and receive his Grief Pedigree as his triumph. Every punchline is a punctuation of emotion or a highlight of understanding. KA’s sampling is never forced, not relying on simple loops and designed as a backdrop to allow him to write rhymes, a literal “lifetime in the paper’s lines.” Grief Pedigree is an Art album with visuals that all do what the Hip Hop solo album was meant to peak at: the creative portrait of one’s moment. This moment is virtually four decades and there is little that can outperform such an aged verse. As listeners, and this honored writer as well, it will be endlessly inspiring to be scored through Grief Pedigree.
The entire Grief Pedigree visual: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL188D9E3E7FEBE5F0
My full review: http://premierehiphop.com/2012/03/24/ka-grief-pedigree/
Premiere Hip Hop interview: http://premierehiphop.com/2012/06/12/ka-the-grief-pedigree-b-side-build/
The study of a genre commercialized entails finding salvation in numbers. Just as Detroit’s Wisemen has dominated this decade, the music is being reinvigorated by General Thirstin Howl’s call to the Lo Lifes to show more than just ill fashion and flood the world with music. Revealing experts of every facet of Hip Hop culture we can look specifically to Queens, New York where Goblin Studios houses the forum for the best MCs in New York including the aforementioned as well as Starvin B, Sean P, Sadat X,Spit Gemz, Beatnuts and so many others.
The Real is already written for 2013…