Thursday, December 14, 2017

Eminem - 'Revival' (Album Review)

If you were thinking you’d get anything different from Eminem in his ninth LP Revival, based off the pre-release singles, you better think again. Aside from the two useful political tunes, “Untouchable” and “Like Home,” the rest is an extended pummeling of hypocrisy in which Eminem attempts to make amends with loved ones he’s wronged but also spits, kicks and screams in vulgar, violent fashion as usual.  

“Chloraseptic” causes the first major symptom of Interscope-slash-Eminem-made toxicity by way of gratuitous, inappropriate sexuality and the next comes in the raunchiness of “Remind Me.” The macabre Eminem comes back full force in “Framed,” in the form of a guilty man making a weak plea of innocence on wax. The next three songs continue to unabatedly supply bitter spitting at misperceived enemies (“Nowhere Fast”), objectification of women (“Heat”) and then extreme misogyny (“Offended”). Right before he tries to explain himself in the last two tracks, Eminem admits in such a way that he is literally out of his mind via “In Your Head.” 

When all is said and done, all the big name singers, Eminem’s famous wordplay virtuosity and even Rick Rubin’s classic pop-rock resurrections (if you’re into his slightly cheesy style of it) together can’t make up for Eminem’s awful rap persona ruining the vast majority of the project. Once again, his sharp rhyme mechanics have been employed to twist and confuse the minds of listeners. If Eminem continues his relationship with Interscope Records (subsidiary of Universal Music Group, subsidiary of Vivendi SA) or another major label and especially if he continues to pump out filth, his credibility as an integral artist is hereby gone. (1 out of 5 stars) 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Futuristic - 'What More Could You Ask For?' (Album Review)

Emcee Futuristic, or Zach Beck, from Illinois and Arizona, couldn’t let the year slip by without a project so he’s released the What More Could You Ask For? EP. In safe independent fashion, Beck has added a few spiritual elements that go back to the essence of existence, particularly at the end, when he upholds life high above money and material gain in “Human Being.” Before that he shows love to those he’s been distanced from by work and success. Still he rejoices in making it, through struggle, to the celebration after reaching goals, and all the way to his appreciation for his fans. Beck does spend time strutting his stuff, and sections like “I Want It, I Get It” are simply fly jams just for fun, but little integrity is sacrificed in general. We might not be challenged to think outside the box or leave our comfort zones much, but again, Beck proves himself one of the best at making feel-good rap at this point in time. (3 out of 5 stars)   

Dizzy Wright - 'State of Mind 2' (Album Review)

Unlike his one time Funk Volume labelmate Hopsin, Las Vegas emcee Dizzy Wright is on the right track when it comes to giving fruit-bearing subject matter. Wright’s second album of the year, and the followup to The Golden Age 2, bursts forth with wisdom, ultra-positive as usual for the independent rhyme-artist. The album, State of Mind 2, the sequel to Wright’s 2014 EP, advocates for an alkaline diet, rediscovers the importance of black activism, exhorts us to consider others’ hardships and much more. Guests like Audio Push, Ill Camille and Jon Connor promise lectures for above-and-beyond thinkers, and producers Roc N Mayne, DJ Hoppa, FreezeOnTheBeat and others guarantee a mixture of traditional hard-hewn sounds and relaxing soul and jazz. It has the typical Dizzy Wright feel and format and not many new talking points (the newest of which are Wright’s abbreviated raps on healthy eating) but fans and newcomers will still appreciate his commitment to intelligence, philosophy and consciousness. (3 out of 5 stars)      

Stream here 

Official Dizzy Wright website

Hopsin - 'No Shame' (Album Review)

Let’s make one thing very clear before we delve into Undercover Prodigy Hopsin’s fifth LP, No Shame. It is his first on his second self-made label since the dissolution of Funk Volume in 2016 but more important to note, it is also released in association with 300 Entertainment, which hosts several mumble rappers and is the creation of former major label execs Lyor Cohen, Roger Gold, Kevin Liles and Todd Moscowitz, men whose mission has always been to turn out the most popular music, not the most publicly beneficial music. It comes as no surprise then that No Shame has plenty of demons. 

The new project features some new storylines, the accuracy of which is questionable, and a general change of course for Hopsin yet they’re highly problematic. The bulk of it revolves around the plot of Hopsin splitting with his cheating, stripping girlfriend who is also pregnant with his son, a perfect storm of relationship misery and misfortune. Poisoned by angry misogyny and bitterness, Hopsin slings dirt around and about, with a resentful fixation on his departing lady. It’s depicted that she is all bad and that he is pretty much fine.

More wicked and toxic than ever, Hopsin has obviously been badly influenced by 300, alternately vulgar and sexually grotesque, self-absorbed, and sick and twisted in tracks “Money on the Side,” “Black Sheep” and “I Must Be on Somethin” respectively. When he aims to sound serious he’s instead a monotonous, emotionless talk-machine, and the ninth entry in his signature “Ill Mind of Hopsin” series is reserved for him to explain the break in the family to his new son, with blame that doesn’t go around but is rather plopped all on the woman. 

In an ironic, hypocritical twist, “No Words” vocal-drunkard Hash Brown (from Pound Syndrome) returns to be further ridiculed despite his voice actor being on a label that directly supports that same type of artist. But the problem is not alleviated by Hopsin rapping clearly and articulately. He must also rap in a socially responsible manner, which he does not do in No Shame. Hopsin has went the shady path here simple and plain. His talents have been wrenched into unnatural, uncomfortable configurations, all for shock value. Through this sordid engagement of dark tones and growth-stunted production, no one will see the light and few will make it out unharmed. (1 out of 5 stars)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Talib Kweli - 'Radio Silence' (Album Review)

Brooklyn Black Star and Reflection Eternal emcee Talib Kweli had been teasing his Radio Silence solo album since 2015 (at the most recent) so for it to come a full two years later is just enough time for fans to wait, even with the other projects Kweli's label Javotti Media made in the interim. Relax and exhale because the anticipated album, finally here, passes the hardest critical tests. With that cool, post-2010 Talib Kweli feel (in other words the first impression made after Javotti's inception), Radio Silence is an indie affair of flyness, anthems, calm vocal protest against violence in the streets, love, and guests from the under- and aboveground, all of them, even Waka Flocka and Rick Ross, pulling substance out for this particular artist and occasion. Despite all the wisdom and awareness in the author, the subject matter takes only some risks and not quite seismic, and the production, while prominent, won't have everyone coming back for seconds or thirds. It doesn't match the perfection or near-perfection of Talib Kweli's earliest work, but because it's nicely conscious, free of any major slip-ups and arriving at a time when mainstream rap is lowering its performance-related standards, Radio Silence really can catch on and silence the radio. (3 out of 5 stars)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Shredders - 'Dangerous Jumps' (Album Review)

Shredders quartet might be missing three key Doomtree members (Dessa, Cecil Otter and Mike Mictlan, the last of whom guests here), but they have surprisingly made their Dangerous Jumps album hot and very reminiscent of the original collective still. Emcees POS and Sims supply the endless energy on vocals, and Paper Tiger and Lazerbeak do the same on the beats. For an LP that is almost exclusively pump up jams and power raps, these Shredders have truly satisfied at the very least their core fanbase, using artistic EDM, amped up IDM in other words. (3 out of 5 stars)

Stream here

Mr. Lif & Brass Mena┼żeri - 'Resilient' (Album Review)

The genre-fusing swing of Brass Mena┼żeri is slightly new musical terrain for complex, conscious emcee Mr. Lif (not to mention more organic and acoustic than he's used to) but a compliment to his deep lyrics anyhow. In their collaborative project, Lif puts politics in play a few times though he also leans back to simply enjoy the ride, intermittently letting his band partners shine by themselves, like the sheen of their instruments. Resilient could use more rapping, and original rapping at that ("What About Us" is a remix of the 2009 Lif single), but for the most part, the album is a full-bodied treat for the refined palate. (3 out of 5 stars)