Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Scarface "Emeritus"

While Texas saw quite a bit of success in recent years, it hasn’t maintained the level of notoriety it looked to achieve and for the most part the “stars” of that year haven’t kept up. Regardless of what it is the younger cats do on a national scale for the lone star state, one man has consistently delivered the country the truest in the form of rap music straight out of the fifth ward.

While never gaining the widespread acceptance, Scarface has consistently put out records filled with his own style of violent imagery coupled with a sense of humanity that gives his stories a moral center “gangsta” rap is often, rightly so, criticized for dismissing. When Face talks about these things that go on in communities across the country it isn’t to promote violence, but to offer an honest look at what’s going through the minds in those involved and how something better can come out of even the worst of situations.

With Lil Wayne and countless other rappers claiming to be the greatest to ever rock a mic, Scarface releases his 9th, and supposedly final, album, Emeritus – and with that alone he proves just how far ahead of all these kids he is.

“Emeritus: retired or honorably discharged from active professional duty, but retaining the title of one's office or position: dean emeritus of the graduate school; editor in chief emeritus.”
He is one of the greatest to do it, but does this parting effort close out a historic discography justly? You better not bet against the man.

Even with the somewhat pointless (after the first listen) “Intro” where J. Prince airs out his legal issues with various Houston entities Emeritus carries an overall sound of epic proportions. The haunting Mike Dean composition provides just what you need to get ready for what’s to come.

“High Powered” the lead off track comes courtesy of longtime Face collaborator N.O. Joe and his up-beat synth heavy banger works perfectly for the scathing lines shot at those around Houston who want to take Rap-A-Lot down. Just how long have they been running shit? And y’all think you can bring ‘em to an end. Scarface knows the truth.

Cool & Dre new that they couldn’t hit Scarface with none of those weak tracks they have been known to drop recently (Nas, Busta) and come correct with the lead single “Don’t Forget About Me.” Pulling a great sample for the loop, Wayne and Bun join Face for a braggadocios yet honest appraisal of legacies. Rightly so Wayne kicks this off allowing the legends to hold down the rest of the track – giving us a glimpse of what might be to come should Scarface return to rap.

"Don't Forget About Me"
Nottz laces a couple joints here with “Can’t Get Right” and “Still Here.” On the former Bilal delivers the hook in his high pitched voice while piano’s tinkle in the background over 808s and organs (No Kanye). The later sees Scarface in storytelling mode reflecting on his past and how to reconcile where he’s from and where he is.

The hustler life seems to weigh heavy on his soul here as most of the tracks find him looking back on his past asking questions of himself and, I would guess, of those kids out in the streets today. He speaks on the death of friends with sincerity yet at the same time can spit lines about his own animosity and need to go the way of the gun. Scarface may have lived a successful life thanks to his wordplay ability, but how many of the kids on the corner will you ever hear of?

Not all is sad though, Jake One (Seattle, What up!) delivers one of the best beats here (and one of his top of the year) for “High Notes.” Changing the vibe for a second, Scarface takes this time to break down how he pleases the ladies – “makin’ ‘em hit the high notes!”

“The streets always been my daddy and mommy is the county jail.”
“Solider Story” – where the above line can be found on the hook, is right in line with classic Face songs such as “Smile” and “Never Seen A Man Cry.” Over a somber but hopeful beat The Product and Z-Ro explain the contradictions and downfalls of a hustler’s life, paying tribute to lost friends and their home. Yet the song still feels like its positive, while this is the life - they find the good and use it as hope for brighter days to come.

If you have ever enjoyed Scarface you have no reason not to cop this album immediately. It’s not any different than what you have heard before (well the beats might have evolved just a little) from Brad Jordan, just a continued move forward from a man who has never lost touch with that which made him or ever let his accomplishments define him. Scarface knows where he comes from and that makes him the best.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Clipse "Road to Til The Casket Drops"

Like the drug they spit numerous bars about, the Clipse make music with a similarly addictive quality. Sneaking the Road Til The Casket Drops onto the internet just as the year had begun to wind down, Malice and Pusha show us once again how they stayed relevant for four years, even with the those crackers at Jive not playing fair.

While my memories of their successful We Got it 4 Cheap series are a bit hazy (can you blame me?) they emerge here sounding as good as ever rocking over a variety of beats. Some you will recognize, like their great take on “Pop Champagne” one of two tracks featuring the now only other member of the Re-Up Gang, Ab-Liva. Can anyone hip me to what went down with Sandman? No one disappoints, but Liva sounds especially sweet on this track with both his flow and voice blending well with the minimalist Ron Brownz track.

With the tape serving as a promotional tool to their clothing line Play Cloths ("Stop searching for the E cause the O is long, I spell it how the fuck I want") we are treated to a fair amount of self promotion, but in exchange we don’t have an annoying DJ shouting all over the tracks! It’s interesting to hear the Clipse embrace so much of what is getting a lot of rappers labeled as “hipster” rap. Maybe they are grandfathered in, or maybe those who take the time to label this shit are scared of ‘em?

While mixtapes emerge by the handfuls anymore, Malice and Pusha keep this a personal affair. At only tweleve tracks, two of which are interludes, they waste no time getting right into it with them rocking over a great beat on the “Intro.” Over some deep drums and an organ they do what we have come to expect from the Virginia Beach duo:

I cut it just right like when I parallel park
My hands in the white like on them parallel bars
The coke that I push is as pure as a childs heart
I still take part
I can’t even say formally
Til the casket drop
Or cops corner me
Oyster rollie watch
White diamond adorning me
You better cry for yourself
Ain’t no sense in you mourning me
“The Haters Wish” finds them tackling “Da Art of Storytelling Pt. 4” to, again, great sounds. The nature of the beat is the perfect back drop for them to get aggressive with the doubters. I don’t know how much of the “talk” is just to maintain an image, but if ever there were rappers to believe have done what they claim on wax I think we’re listening to them. On another note, as much as I love this joint, I can’t get Wayne’s auto tuned refrain from his take on this beat out of my head – what’s up with a remix?

The hits just keep on coming with “Big Dreams” mashing as hard as it did on day one! Lauren London makes a quick cameo leaving a voicemail for the duo asking for a song for the girls, they happily oblige. “So Fly (Now We’ve Had Her)” features a stuttering beat that’s emptiness is as important to its success as the right sample is to a song. Guaranteed to get the chicks on the dance floor shaking what they got, I’ll never understand how girls ignore the content of songs and then get mad when they don’t get any respect from their man. This isn’t the best example of the Clipse usually introspective look at the streets, but everyone needs a break and it is the perfect escape from the realities of life.

The Re-Up Gang unites one more time here for their take on “Swagga Like Us” to far better results than 99 percent of the countless attempts. They grab Lupe’s “Dumb it Down” for what they call the street version, “Numb it Down.” Not a merging of emcees you would expect, they give Lu a shout as the first dude to rock Play Cloths on stage before updating his track, which not even Lupe could get mad at after even just one listen.

That one listen will be all you need to know that this will be on repeat for awhile! Like the white they rep for their music is a hell of a drug you can’t escape. Good thing it’s free.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Jay-Z "The Black Album"

Jay-Z has done it all. While Biggie may have told the ultimate rags to riches story (what up Pomz?) , Shawn Corey Carter has lived it.

From record sales, to sold out concerts…
As the Dynasty began to crumble leave it to the man who built it to come through with one final (we all knew it was a joke) farewell. It was a great idea, and he gave us a great album that would have served him well in the annals of rap if it had in fact been the last. But it wasn’t and those most recent two are up next, right now it’s time to ask where does The Black Album stand next to the rest?

As with any Jay-Z album this has it’s flaws, but they are minimal. DJ Quik contributes a weak track that should have been scrapped when the sample they had intended to use was denied (Why Madonna, why?) and the still unknown Buchannans lace a ridiculous track in “What More Can I Say” but even in all it’s glory it doesn’t do the rhymes Hov delivers justice, and that is a crime.

There's never been a nigga this good for this long
This hood, or this pop, this hot, or this strong
With so many different flows there's one for this song
The next one I switch up, this one will get bit up
These fucks, too lazy to make up shit, they crazy
They don't, paint pictures, they just, trace me
You know what? Soon they forget where they plucked
they whole style from, they try to reverse the outcome
I'm like - TOUGH!
I'm not a biter I'm a writer for myself and others
I say a B.I.G. verse, I'm only biggin up my brother
Biggin up my borough, I'm big enough to do it
I'm that thorough, plus I know my own flow is foolish
So them rings and things you sing about, bring 'em out
It's hard to yell when the bar-rell's in your mouth
I'm in - new sneakers, dual-seaters
Few divas, what more can I tell you?
Let me spell it for you
Double-U I, double-L, I-E
Nobody truer than, H-O-V
And I'm back for more, New York's ambassador
Prime Minister, back to finish my business up
But that is the level we are at with this Jay album, nitpicking about little things. Regardless of these slight indescrepinces, we are treated to a brilliant 14 tracks of intimate wordplay – the Black Book, Jay’s rumored autobiograhpy, may have been shelved, but with this album we are taken inside the man we have been learning to love for over a decade with countless perosonal moments laid to wax.

He brings his mother into the lab for one of Just Blaze’s greatest achievements in “December 4th” sampling the Chi-Lites to beautiful results. The track gives Jigga an oppurtunity to reflect on his child hood while having his mom give her own account of the good, and bad, times. Eminem slides another beat to Jay, this time for him to handle on his own. “Moment of Clarity” onces again sees Em producing a forumlaic track, but the eductaion from Dre still proves to make his beats listenable. Lyrically Jay speaks on his father, airing out their differences and confessing his appriciation for being able to settle them before his passing. The second verse, of course, speaks to all of us who thought he sold out:

Music business hate me cause the industry ain't make me
Hustlers and boosters embrace me and the music I be makin
I dumbed down for my audience to double my dollars
They criticized me for it yet they all yell "HOLLA!"
If skills sold, truth be told, I'd probably be
lyrically, Talib Kweli
Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense
But I did five mill' - I ain't been rhymin like Common since
When your cents got that much in common
And you been hustlin since, your inception
Fuck perception go with what makes sense
Since I know what I'm up against
We as rappers must decide what's most impor-tant
And I can't help the poor if I'm one of them
So I got rich and gave back, to me that's the win/win
So next time you see the homey and his rims spin
Just know my mind is workin just like them...
... rims, that is
9th Wonder proved his underground accalim could translate into big dollar beat making sessions laying down the beat for “Threat” in the lab using a Jay selected R. Kelly sample. Jay shows off his story telling skills with great class. “99 Problems” is another oppurtunity for Jigga to tell a story, this time adding some social relevence to the discussion addressing police harrasment over the monsterous Rick Rubin banger – if ever Jay was to do an album with one producer, here is my vote for Rick to helm it. But maybe Just can come through and assist?

Fellow Americans, it is with the utmost pride and sincerity that I present this recording as a living testament and recollection history in the making during our generation.
Of course The Black Album is home to the scathing “Public Service Announcement” – this is the truest demonstration of pure emceeing skill. Nothing is wrong with the track from the Little Boy Blues sample to Justs hard hitting drums, this is why Jay is the greatest.

And it’s more of these perfectly crafted beats that Kanye and the Neptunes contribute that keep this album alive through the final song. “Lucifer” sees a classic reggae groove chopped up – showing an impressive move by Kanye breaking away from the sounds so constantly turned to by too many Hip Hop produers. The Max Romeo vocal loop provides the perfect backdrop for Jay to tell us about where he’s from, “the murder capital of the world where we murder for capital.”

The Neptunes recover from their disappointing commerical go round on “Change Clothes” with “Allure.” A beautiful track that isn’t ruined by Pharrells vocals, Jigga gets honest with us about his dreams and the path he’s rode over the years getting to where he is before hitting us with his “1st Song.” The stutering beat bothered me for far too long, but hearing Jay flow to it today sounds pristine and shows the technical skill this man posses.

The Black Album lives and dies around the beats. When they are on, they are some of the best Hip Hop has seen. Unfortunatly this makes the not so great great ones sound like less than they are. But still, you are getting this album for Jay-Z and Jay-Z is in full effect spitting some of the best lines of his career – this may not be his greatest project as a whole, but this stands next to anything lyrical the man has ever done.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Music Lounge Podcast, Vol. 6

Between getting in almost three hours behind schedule to having more tracks than any week yet, time just seemed to be against me today. In todays filled show (no joke, this will just barely make it onto that disc you know you wanted to burn before going out for your evening session)you get more of what you have come to expect from the TML podcast! Stay tuned, one.

The Musik Lounge Podcast, Vol. 6

Sundays of Soul, Vol. 6

Took a break last week, but I'm right back at it with ten soulful jams for your Sunday evening. Mixing it up this week, you'll find a bit of everything in here including some Jazz and a couple modern cuts that have been impressing me as of late.

Sundays of Soul, Vol. 6
Eddie Kendricks "My People... Hold On"
Rick James "Mary Jane"
Barrington Levy "Under Mi Sensei"
Joy Denalane "Stranger In This Land"
Mandre "Money (Thats What I Want)"
Sahib Shihab "S.M.T.W.T.F.S.S. Blues"
James Brown "Sometimes"
Amnesty "Free Your Mind"
Eugene McDaniels "Outlaw"
Keyshia Cole ft. Nas "Oh Oh Yeah Yea"

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saturday Spin: Three for 1

Hello world! It’s the last week of work for me, gotta get on my job hunt game… but yeah – let’s not go there. I kicked it with some of the homies last night, kind of like a reunion of the summertime! Burning that sticky and listening to some tunes, you can’t ever go wrong. The next morning is always good too and this fine morning as I kicked backed before work I put on a few different joints that I’m going to share with y’all!

Erick Sermon The Funklord Files Vol. 2 (Courtesy of Jaz @ Cold Rock Da Spot)

Perhaps inspired by my impression with the latest EPMD release, I decided to throw on this collection of Sermon produced tracks – he is rapping on a number of them as well. From his work with Parrish, to the Def Squad crew the Green Eyed Bandit has always cooked up some of the funkiest bangers! Here you get Keith Murray’s “Get Lifted (Remix)” complete with his trademark flow and the voice that always stands out. While listening to these tracks what stands out constantly is the BASS. It’s always heavy, but subtle. It doesn’t blow your speakers, the flaw in far too many rappers tracks, but floats out into the air and fully vibrates your body – you FEEL it.

Eugene McDaniels Outlaw

Changing it up just a little, going into the soul meets folk meets rock arena with Eugene McDaniels a name you may be familiar with from a number of Atlantic sides as a writer and session player which of course led to his own solo recordings. Unfortunately he was too righteous for the powers that be and Atlantic received letters from the government looking for help silencing Mr. McDaniels. Outlaw was still released, but to little fanfare or promotion quickly disappearing into the bins.

Inside you will find a raw and passionate singer with an incredibly unique voice that suits his musical backing well. Somewhere between the southern funk and rock fusion of time and some of the more classic soul that Atlantic was known for. The lyrics are piercing and honest, the delivery is perfect at times coming across like an emcee flowing with the beat.

dZihan & Kamien Orchestra Live in Vienna

I might be alone as a fan of this crew, but even with the hints of cheesy eighties smooth jazz, dZihan & Kamien Orchestra display an impressive full sound that blends electronic instruments with more traditional ones. Proving that the word Orchestra isn’t misplaced in their name on this live date from Vienna you will hear a great Jazz band improvising with a DJ who blends in a mix of ethereal trance inducing sounds and more up tempo club driven beats to keep it funky and fun. A couple guest vocalists make appearances as well that only add to the chill vibe this project bounces in and out of.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

EPMD "We Mean Business"

With Hip Hop seeing an explosion of new artists (who are almost exclusively found throughout this here internet) and a shift in sound that is progressing with the times, artists from the previous era or two are looking to remain relevant and continue to deliver to their fans what they have come to expect.

EPMD may have taken some time off, but with their recent reunification leading to the release of We Mean Business it seems Erik and Parrish are serious about continuing their legacy into a fourth decade – this year marks their twentieth year in the industry, spanning three decades.

While the title is an obvious continuation from the always business minded pair, it suits the quick hitting album incredibly well. From the opening track Sermon never lets the beats mellow out as everything remains up tempo along with his trademark funk samples that knock hard.

EPMD ft. Raekwon “Puttin’ Work In”
Raekwon joins them for the opening cut “Puttin’ Work In” where they walk a line between discussing what that means on the street and for them as artists. It feels more street oriented than I remember them being on past albums, but as my boy Swerve pointed out, you have to adjust to the times and this is a minor adjustment that doesn’t weigh down the album as a whole.

The street swagger remains in effect for their collaboration with Havoc “What You Talkin” before they “Roc-Da-Spot” for self. With a great Zapp sample in place this analog synth driven banger is sure to become a new monster for the group to drop live and will deservedly so sit next to any of their funky bangers of years past.

EPMD “Roc-Da-Spot”
The guests abound here with everyone coming out to assist in EPMDs return to the game and of course that means the Def Squad fam! Redman owns “Yo” holding down both the hook and a stellar verse over Sermons perfect keyboard driven beat with a well placed quite vocal hum in the background on loop – “Roll that shit, light that shit, smoke it!” Keith Murray comes through on “They Tell Me,” a darker affair than a lot of the tracks Sermon propels this forward with a thumping 808 for them to tell tales about their time in the industry – they’ve been around for it all.

EPMD ft. Redman “Yo”
Throughout the album it’s a recurring theme of theirs to discuss the haters and the assortment of topics spoken about them over the years. For those who said they fell off or they couldn’t make it check out the Teddy Riley assitsted “Listen Up” for a great introspective joint that offers one of only a few moments where the energy is placed as secondary to the message. Does anyone else find TR on the voice box impressive? That’s how it should be done.

“Bac Stabbers” uses the classic O’Jays cut of the same name - well, almost – to talk about, you guessed it, them back stabbing mother fuckers who just can’t stand to see someone else succeed. “Never Defeat ‘Em” serves as their victory track declaring their reign and breaking down why you can’t beat ‘em. Method Man shows up here with a typical show stealing guest verse – but Erik and Parrish own this, just listen to them take you to school.

While Sermon proves he is still an animal behind the boards, he takes one break to let 9th Wonder deliver a stellar beat on “Left 4 Dead.” Thumping like 9th has proven to deliver, and filled with a great organ chop Erik and Parrish are joined by Skyzoo for Hip Hop’s obituary.

EPMD ft. Skyzoo “Left 4 Dead” (Prod. By 9th Wonder)
We Mean Business is just one more reason this Hip Hop journalist won’t be writing that obituary this year.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Memphis Bleek "Eat off The Land"

If my Jay-Z series hasn’t given you any indication, I’m a Roc-A-Fella fan. Yes, part of this is because of my memories associated with their reign at the top (when do you think the dynasty ended? After the split with Dame? Or was it the signing of Cam’Ron and Dipset’s arrival?) but it’s hard to deny the amount of great music they dropped. Memphis Bleek was always the rapper that should of done better from the Roc being Jay’s boy since day one. He lacked the charisma to charm the world, but the same skills that impressed Jay proved to be enough for some to ride with Memphis.

I won’t claim he is on the same level as his benefactor, but Bleek has a smooth flow and can spit rhymes about smoking weed, chilling on the streets with his boys and impressing the ladies – this really is the formula for any one of his albums, along with some of the hottest beats from the streets of NY, the area his solo’s falter at times.

While he won’t ever have to worry about being broke again (“Bleek can be one hit away his whole career/as long as I’m alive he’s a millionaire”) he seems to have a passion for spitting that won’t let him stay quite for long. Earlier this year he reemerged once again with a mixtape that seems to be trying to promote his Get Low Records. But rather than being an opportunity for his boys to get on he holds down the tape for self, except for some skits from Pain in Da Ass (classic Roc type shit!) and a journey of sorts with Uncle Murda, a recent addition to the new Roc.

In typical mixtape fashion we see Bleek rapping over a number of industry beats making a great version of “I’m Me” as “I’m Bleek” demonstrating his skillful flow and confident swagger – even if he has never hit, he doesn’t ever show signs of losing confidence. He does what he does and knows that he has a fan base who digs it, pointing out that all his albums have gone gold at least. Remember when that was the standard of achievement for Hip Hop album sales?

Bleek proves his Hip Hop status pulling a number of classic beats from Primo and other NY heatmakers going in on “Living Proof” to excellent results and tackling Marly’s timeless Kane masterpiece “Ain’t No Half Steppin.” Proving he knows his history and at the same time repping for his hometown you can’t be mad at him.

Bleek will probably always be more than a hit away for whatever is left of his career (that commercial might have been the death toll?) but he hasn’t hung up the jersey yet and even if he didn’t do anything else in the ’08 but this tape it should keep him in your ear until the next project drops. Enjoy the flows, enjoy the beats, and enjoy some purple with this tape.

Grab it here, courtesy of Nah Right!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Musik Lounge Podcast, Vol. 5

Coming with it a day early this week, it's The Musik Lounge podcast! While it opens with a quick verse from Jada, mellowness ensues with some great piano work across a number of tracks (thus this weeks pic) before ramping the energy up with some new street bangers. Like Defari says "burn one before the wake up call" and let his play.

The Musik Lounge, Vol. 5

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ras G "Beats of Mind"

Any album that’s first words spoken is “first blunt of the day, time to make a beat” I’m fucking with!

Ras G would be one of the current new crop of beat musicians coming out of LA. While new is a relative term, his teammate Flying Lotus has been making waves for awhile now and hopefully leading more to discover Ras. Regardless of when you enter the mans world, I imagine he has been conquering record bins for years and will be filling them up with his own creations in the years to come.

Originally dropped on wax courtesy of the Poohbah label as a 6 track EP, here we find his Beats of Mind flushed out to a full 21 tracks of selector goodness. Drawing on numerous sounds from throughout the universe you are bound to hear a few you might be familiar with… and many you aren’t.

Using clips from the classic Sun Ra flick Space is the Place Ras G and his Afrikan Space Program rock out!
As a big fan of Sun Ra, you hear the influence come through as the disc plays out sometimes slow and hypnotic, sometimes fast and frantic, and sometimes it holds just what you need to hear.

Instrumental albums are journeys through their creators minds, and Ras has a dense one. From layering sounds to letting loops repeat, to programming dusty drums on his old MPC 2000XL we are treated to some great music.

Nothing ever plays out too long and just when you think you have found the groove of the album he flips the script and hits you with something else while at the same time keeping the grimey low end bass heavy for your speakers.

From vocal chops to floating melodies Beats of Mind will drift through the air like the haze from his backwood he keeps lit. Marinate on this album as it consumes your life, I’ve been going back to it for months now and he still surprises, still impresses, but most of all a hit from this is good all day – no tolerance need be broken down.

Bonus Video: Ras G breaking down Rastafari

Check him on myspace:
Crate Creator Music
Ras G & The Afrikan Space Program

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sabac "The Ritual"

“Everyone’s talking about Hip Hop is gangster, I ain’t no gangster. It’s about being true to yourself.”
-An emcee in the trailer to South Coast (If you aren’t up on that joint, check it!)

Sabac has been on his grind for a minute. Making a name for himself as part of the much loved Non Phixion and then dropping his solo debut exclusively produced by Necro he has always delivered his own brand of political commentary. With the release of his long awaited follow up The Ritual now out we are invited to hear where he is today and what is on his mind in these uncertain times.

“Americas A Business”

Leaving his hometown several years ago for the Bay area, to work with the school systems, Sabac has gone through some heavy changes which come to light throughout the album.

Sabac has always had the gift to come across as a genuine person, caring about what he is saying and concerned with using his art to give knowledge, if change is too much for one man to achieve? On “A Children’s Cry” he pulls on his experiences in the school systems to look at youth culture in America. Holding back nothing, he paints a depressing picture but offers hope for a better future both in his delivery (you can feel how much he cares) and in his content – never preachy nor dismissive he understands these kids and wants everyone else to see them and the potential they hold.

"Shift of the Earth"

The topics of discussion are far wide however and Sabac doesn’t get stuck in his own little world. He makes “The Commitment” to himself to eat better, read more, and to become an overall better person. While it may sound awkward at first to hear, he is being completely honest with us explaining what he feels he could do better with in his life. It’s an eye opening song that may make you consider some of those things you find yourself doing, or not.

He teams up with Slaine and Jordan “Playahnice” Battiste for them to discuss “Death and Destiny” and how the two intertwine. It’s a thoughtful song pulling from the personal pain of losing a loved one over a fitting beat from SickNature and Dennis Post. With great live guitar chords anchoring the song and those dusty drums I rave about far to often around here they paint a picture worth hearing.

Elsewhere Skammadix laces “Viva Boricua” for Sabac to pay tribute to his birthplace and the heritage of his family. Featuring a great salsa inspired guitar sample looping throughout and La Bruja drops a solid verse, but I’m unsure if it’s her on the hook. Whoever it is she carries the song!

“Breaking Through”

Blue Sky Black Death produce a number of tracks here in their usual cinematic style, which fits Sabac quite well. “Breaking Through” is a great example as they fade in a bouncing piano line before dropping in the drums and a chopped vocal sample. Between being up tempo and having bright feeling present, it’s the perfect beat for Sabac to give us his movements of happiness on wax. Expressing his enjoyment with life and the positive mental state that comes with it, he creates a great song that as the Prodigy sample scratched in the hook says, will make you “feel so good.”

While the added bonus tracks do little to continue that vibe, you won’t walk out of this album depressed. You may be thinking about some heavy topics, but that’s the goal. Take what Sabac has to say and think about it, talk about, discuss! It’s our future and with all that is going on, the only message worth transmitting is conversation is key – this album may not top anyone’s year end lists or sell a noticeable about but it will inspire you to think. What’s that worth?

Bonus Video: "The Commitment"

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Jay-Z "Unplugged"

It's that time once again...

So I took a little break from the Jigga man but what better way to return than with his Unplugged project which found him backed by The Roots band for the MTV show. Turning out as a pretty good greatest hits package was probably just an added bonus, but over the course of the fourteen tracks here you will be treated to the biggest songs of Jay’s career plus those classics even the Reasonable Doubt heads respect.

Coming out on the heels of The Blueprint (I know, I messed up the chronology) the disc is a little heavy on songs from there, but it’s all good – you all know what I thought about that joint! While it’s easy to get nervous about a band backing a Hip Hop artist The Roots aren’t just any band and ?uest and company do a great job of giving these tracks the live treatment, it’s only on originally synth heavy songs that things sound a little unfortunate – but these are few and far between.

For the most part you are treated to a selection of beats that come from the grooves of old wax out of Kanye and Just Blaze, among others, collections. Things kick off with a live rendition of “H to the Izzo” seeing the band break into the Jackson 5 classic sampled here along with some stunning vocals from Jaguar Wright – she is the hidden gem throughout this performance.


Jay keeps the energy up, or if you pay attention to his interaction with the crowd brings the energy up with some more BP material seeing “Takeover” get a monster makeover with the band dropping in a number of classic cuts interspersed with them playing the original beat, none of the changes ever throw Hov off as he keeps flowing with ease taking it to Nas and Prodigy just like he did on stage at Summer Jam a year or so prior.

After a nice, if mellow, rendition of “Girls, Girls, Girls” ?uest gives us that great percussion work we expect from him for “Jigga What, Jigga Who” with the crowd chanting the hook and then they segue right into “Big Pimpin” playing the Indian sample Timbo chopped up like they were the ones to originally lay it down.

“Heart of the City”

I mentioned Jaguar Wright earlier, and while she is present on the whole disc she gets her shine ruling the hook on “Heart of the City” coming across with all the pain and heartfelt sincerity a song like this deserves. Jay isn’t one to turn away the singers bringing Mary J. Blige in for their classic “Can’t Knock The Hustle” where he lets her flex her vocal chops a bit even breaking into her hit of the moment “Family Affair” – even if for only a moment, it still sounds fresh and gets the energy level up one more notch.

The hits keep coming, as do the guests and the band stays humming always rocking these tracks to perfection. Live Hip Hop albums are a rare occurrence for a number of reasons (I don’t know, maybe because rappers can’t perform for shit?) but this is a great demonstration of how it can and should be done. I guess Jay can add that to his list of accolades, and you should add this to your music collection.

And, even if live recordings aren’t your thing (I don’t really blame you) this is worth it alone for the last song here “People Talkin” produced by Just Blaze, listen:

Monday, December 1, 2008

Lil Wayne "Dedication 3" or "The Reincarnation"

Lil Wayne has used the mixtape as a tool that has got a large portion of people quick to claim he is the greatest rapper alive. He has skill and his passion and love for this culture is without a doubt as serious as anyone, but he still makes music for the masses and too often that means music of the moment - try giving The Carter III a listen right now, I think you might be unpleasantly suprised at how old it already feels, or maybe that is just me. Perhaps this is why he keeps the mixtapes steadily streaming out? Just after reteaming with DJ Drama for the third volume of their succesful Dedication series Tapemasters Inc. dropped off The Drought Is Over Pt. 6: The Reincarnation, which one should you be listening too?

Everyone knows the old cliche "if it ain't broke don't fix it." The Dedication volumes one and two were largly solo affairs (this is based on my memory of them, looking at a tracklist I see that guests were present) that felt like coheisive projects, for volume three almost every track has at least one guest many with multiple emcees - most from the Young Money Entertainment roster. It's not that they are weak, Jae Millz, La The Darkman, Willie the Kid and even the guy Gutta Gutta all display strong enough skills behind the mic to warrent the oppurtunity to reach the masses but something is missing.

"I Got That Gangster"

Maybe it's chemistry, maybe it's the difference in styles or maybe it was just laziness from all involved. Regardless, The Dedication 3 leaves you wanting more. They open the tape up well enough with a posse going in over "The Art of Storytelling Pt. 4" instrumental where Wayne makes it know that you are listening to "just a mixtape" getting his best T Pain impression on. Gutta Gutta stands out the most here, although Wayne doesn't dissapoint.

"The Art of Storytelling Pt. 4"

From here it is all pretty downhill from lacking guest spots to beats that are boring. I'm not up on my southern club hop game so I could be mistaken, but most of these I think are originals and while they are slightly heavy on basslines and cheap synths they rarely match even the most minimal of standards a rapper of Wayne's caliber should be found on, especially compared to what he is rocking on The Reincarnation.

When the beats do work it's generally to positive results. Although Wayne is a southern emcee he sounds far better to me over more east coast inspired beats and we are treated to a few of these here. "I Got That Gangsta" sees La The Darkman and Willie The Kid both deliver impressive verses over a laid back South meets West styled beat. On "The Other Side" we hear a thumping banger filled with a minimal sound allowing the 808s to emphasize Wayne, Jae Millz, Gutta Gutta and La The Darkman lines. And on "Whoever You Like" the Young Money crew explains who they would like to cut it up with in an amusing and entertaining take on the T.I. hit.

"Whoever You Like"

This makes it a little less disapointing seeing it included on The Reincarnation, although it seems odd they would with the two tapes dropping so close to eachother. Whatever, it's won't matter once you have heard the tape in full as it easily tops The Dedication 3 in multiple categories.

The first thing to make you aware of as you enter The Drought is Over Pt. 6 is that the guest problem is not an issue here. Instead we are treated to a number of solo cuts and a few key collaborations along with select Young Money appearences. One of the more interesting ones comes from Curren$y on the Swizz Beatz produced "First Place Winner." Over a classic Swizz joint we hear them explain why they are the best, but if you are familiar with Curren$y you'll know why it's worth checking and Mack Maine delivers a suprisingly dope verse as well just to finish it off strong.

"First Place Winner"

This Swizz joint isn't the only example of top shelf beats here however. Diesel hooks up one of the greatest beats I've ever heard for "Best Thing Yet" - utilizing a great R&B sample and silence like you would normally hear coming from a Jazz band, this is a cut that lends credence to Weezy's claims. "Street Life" is another great beat that has left me feeling mixed about Wayne's performace - his closing line is fresh though.

"Best Thing Yet"

"Street Life"

A few other repeats from The Dedication 3 show up here and there, but never the worst that disc had to offer. Tapemasters Inc. is guilty of stamping the hell out of their tracks which is as annoying as it is ignorable, but they get the hot exclusives so you can't be too mad at it. Maybe these tracks were stolen from Wayne's lab, but I'm thinking he is assiting in their leakage and here we get yet another little taste of he and Game together this time with them celebrating that "Red Magic" over a sparkling beat you will be certain to run back and turn up.

The middle may sag a bit thanks to some short one verse songs and beats that sink close to the lows we saw on the Drama tape, but as a whole The Reincarnation has an overall cohesion missing from The Dedication 3. Maybe Wayne jinxed himself when he turned his back on Drama after the raids or maybe the sryup is getting the best of him - whatever it is he might want to remember what made him.