We’re gonna try something a little different to critique this week’s new albums since there are so gosh darn many of them. We’re gonna lump them together. Below are the reviews for the best ones left after those already published here on SwurvRadio. Enjoy!…
Monday, October 31, 2016
Saturday, October 29, 2016
Friday, October 28, 2016
Monday, October 24, 2016
|Nihilismo by Sole & DJ Pain 1|
By the end, you'll see that deep down Sole knows exactly what's wrong with the world, and he's not afraid to voice his concerns. He exposes inherited wealth, Native American genocide, privatized education, slave-employment, vanishing democracy, fracking and more in "Generation F*cked," the intro. In "Too Small To Fail (DIY)," he spreads more awareness, this time about big brother taking over our time and lives, and "Capitalism (Is Tearing Us Apart)" is his pop-anthem decrying how neoliberalism and out-of-control free markets are crushing the world. Nature and people are visited in "Flood" with topics on chemically and genetically modified foodstuffs, women being pushed into the workforce away from their children and families, and white privilege versus black despair. In fact, his epiphanic observation there about how whites can freely run weed stores while blacks get jail if they sell the same product is extremely telling and embarrassing for America.
"Hostage Crisis" is concerned with the very usual practice of the US, NATO, OECD nations, really any of those entities, being at perennial war with third world countries and their seemingly endless, restricting imperialism overseas. Sole's got incredibly conscious knowledge, criticizing leadership when the shoe fits, describing the last days, extending end-of-the-world feelings, even polemicizing those people who are actually afraid to die ("Exodus"). DJ Pain 1 is likewise right there with Sole in essence, matching all the lyrics with fitting sound pieces note by note, tone for tone. It's all brought together at the end with Sole's intelligent accelerated lyrics saying people everywhere pretty much think the same and agree on many of the same values in "Our Words" with family struggles and the fortitude to work through them being the focal point of "Battle of Humans," the one spot where Sole gets really personal about his own life. Nihilismo is one of those rare wonderful moments in hip-hop when artists really focus on the painful conditions of real people all around the world, not catering to the agendas of corporate machines. It's a sign of the times, a cry to rally around the common cause for good and a sign of cohesion in hip-hop - in this case one proven undersurface rapper linking with a supremely gifted producer from aboveground. Nihilismo explains why nihilism is prevalent these days but makes it its goal to find a better lifestyle and philosophy.
5 out of 5 stars
(Review by Alex originally appeared on Examiner.com on April 24, 2016.)
|Everything in Between by Ugly Heroes|
Everything in Between gives us a lot of what we all need more of, beautiful universal truth. Let's start at the top. In "Today Right Now," the refreshing lyrical duo of Red and Kent bring forth eye-opening revelations with the ultimate message being to not take life for granted, and they proceed with more fresh wisdom ("Daisies"), the advocation of good strong character ("Peace of Mind") and their own experiences with diversity, tolerance and community ("Place Called Home"). The most time-marked, most newsworthy song of the first half, "This World" lets Kent and Red Pill set things straight and rap sense about maladies across the globe - racism, Trump, brutal police, etcetera, and everything is presented in a very calm, serene and unobjectionable way, especially thanks to Apollo Brown. His gorgeous soul and easygoing jazz productions are to die for, commonly agreeable listening for all.
Down the line, the subject of "Can't Win For Losin'" is falling on hard times, and then Red Pill, who is the biggest star of "Roles," raps about being reluctant of bringing innocent children into a hateful world there. "Heart Attack" makes sure dreams, goals and high aspirations do not drop dead, and "Unforgiven" lays out two great rap stories. Red Pill confronts a detached resentful grandfather and Verbal Kent says accurately that a criminal set free by the justice system will forever be in mental prison. Lastly, they show their fangs in "Fair Weather" to help balance out any softness heard in the lead up sections. This timeless triumvirate are nothing short of magnificent in this perfect Everything in Between album. These Ugly Heroes could literally bring anyone onto their cause because one: they speak the truth and very eloquently at that, and two: they are backed by beat-prodigy Apollo Brown and his soothing jazz, blues and rock in a dynamic mixture. Furthermore, he reaffirms and strengthens his own style. Three heads are better than one here. Each man makes the other two tremendous people by giving them support and approval, and overall, they simply have an exceedingly splendid project on their hands and now it's in their fan's hands.
5 out of 5 stars
(Review by Alex originally appeared on Examiner.com on June 24, 2016.)
|Supreme Aftermath by Blak Madeen|
This album, that was released in January by label Rhyme Dawah, was without surprise completely ignored by pop music culture and even left tragically undiscussed by many recognized hip-hop outlets for similar reasons. The Islamic Boston duo made up of Al-J and Yusuf Abdul-Mateen are known for their socially progressive ideas and their exposure of real world ills, many times initiated by the U.S. and its allied countries, so do these facts have anything to do with what seems like their commercial gloss-over? Yes indeed, and it's truly a shame because Supreme Aftermath is classic hip-hop fire.
To say that Al-J and Yusuf are backpack rappers would be just wrong. Blak Madeen have backpacks, belt bags, cargo pants and utility jackets with extra pockets packed with rhymes that would make Drake and J. Cole crap themselves. The two spit hardcore verses that are amazing and outstanding, easily said here but not easily made or put on wax the way these pros have done it. They are focused on building independent minds in themselves and in their fanbase, ones that cannot be swayed by the media and typically corrupt politicians. Not only that but it's extremely refreshing how they address foreign affairs, international conflict and religious disharmony, things so few emcees in the game rap about.
Al and Yusuf shine light on the hard harsh conditions of the oppressed classes around the world in "Long Way To Go" and the overbearing, outlandish actions done by the continental mega powers of this Earth to peoples in the Middle East in "Blood of Our Brothers." In "Words in Red," Shabazz The Disciple of Sunz of Man on the hook raps frankly and courageously on the hate and derision between the ill informed of various religions, and in "The Worst Part," the ultimate climax, they do what so many hip-hop heads wish they could hear more of and rap on a lot of interesting global phenomena: Sandy Hook, Hurricane Sandy, Obama's drone attacks, Israel fighting the Palestinians, the love for family and much more.
There are so many great lines here that quoting a few won't spoil the appetite of soon-to-listen readers. Just take a minute to think about the following ones: Coco Chanel won't deflect the flames in hell, mainstream media don't fight fair, I ain't watchin' CNN when I'm looking for the truth, the world don't move to the beat of one drum, murder and genocide in places you never heard, you can be my brother whether Jew or Christian. Do they hold any weight? It's impossible for them not to. Blak Madeen are shocking but compassionate also. They are dedicated to uncovering the truth as much as seizing upon the goodness there can be in life.
The heavily rock-based production sounds are the perfect match for the album's power lyrics. Skin Ced serves as the main producer though Teddy Roxpin, Sicknature, The Arcitype, and golden era notable Divine Styler from Brooklyn provide variety with fast intriguing piano, hard jazz and other samples, styles and flavors. The guest list is a little longer. In order of appearance, Blacastan, Gift of Gab, Cyrus Deshield, Divine Styler again but in guest mode, Planet Asia, G. Dot & Born, Shabazz The Disciple, Red Baren and Krumb Snatcha go bar for bar with our two main heroes and match their vocal unbelievability line for line in their respective tracks. Galaxies away from being radical Jihadis or anything of the like, Al-J and Yusuf bring a fair and enlightened Muslim perspective to Supreme Aftermath that takes their subgenre to the next level, over philosophical planes established by Sunz of Man, Army of the Pharaohs, Jedi Mind Tricks and a few others, groups that are also persuaded towards theories of the Mid East and Near East regions. In Supreme Aftermath, Blak Madeen tell us what is really going on in the world exactly how they should tell it.
5 out of 5 stars
(Review by Alex originally appeared on Examiner.com on March 7, 2016.)
|Top of the Line by Rittz|
At every stop along the way, Rittz is generous with his relentlessly incredible rap-lyricism as usual, but the way he works these vocal/poetic capabilities of his around situations, stories and topics is truly something to marvel at. He is dissatisfied with parts of the game in "Ghost Story," lends a hand of support to Black Lives Matter and the anti-bullying movement in "Until We Meet Again," fights to stay away from depression and drugs in the uplifting "My Window" and "Just Say No," and humbles up cocky outsiders by informing them of the pure misery of the ghetto with Cheeto Gambine in "Diamonds & Gold." Starting in on the theme of family connections and afflictions, "KISA" cherishes reciprocated love, "Back To Yesterday" drops off separation woes, and then we seem to almost experience with Rittz firsthand one of the most devastating losses he's ever had to endure in "Nostalgia," the official closer.
Rittz can't help but be stunning here with his flows. He's got skills good enough to run a million good mills, and they're all the more useful in tracks like "Day of the Dead" and "Is That That B*tch" where he's forced to keep outrageously hateful violators and trolls at bay, or better yet drowned beneath the waters of said bay. Authentic and real to be correct, Rittz is open, honest, forthcoming and intimate about his experiences and affairs, with the hope that we the listeners can take something valuable from them to help our own lots in life, and it's all a joy ride to take in. The music can come with some calm pulsing sounds and cool rhythmic soul or harder bumping, knocking beats of household hip-hop blends. In a like manner, the name brand value is given variety from the input of E-40, Mike Posner, Tech N9ne, Krizz Kaliko, Devin The Dude and MJG (of 8ball & MJG). Although Top of the Line has the same basic structure and arguably makeup (a little) as the first two Rittz albums (just lengthier obviously), it definitely feels closer to the man's heart, and it definitely shows growth in him. Top of the Line: an all around excellent project with different shades, dimensions and flavors from Rittz.
4 out of 5 stars
(Review by Alex originally appeared on Examiner.com on May 6, 2016.)
|A Lack of Convention by O'hene Savánt|
O'hene's awesome lyricism and twinkly beat in "Ntro 2 Aloc" deliver him out of his shell, and again his real awesome raps and rhymes help him to give others notice of his rising come-up and to leave behind folks that never helped him along the way and people riding on his coattails now. "Login Out" and "Silence in the Morning" are elected as the album's two love-blues songs, grieving and mourning dying love and the absence from an ex-lover's departure. They're blessed with E. Snipe, Sheda B and Joey Bean Little, who with O'hene are fully devoted and indescribably expressive poetically. In between them coincidentally, the funky "Femp," or the "female version of a pimp," cuts in to warn of these times' ultra-independent woman. After the hot, creatively narrated foreplay of "Misty Love" with razzBearry Vonté, the dreadfully important "Speak The Truth" describes how the financial elite directing quote unquote advanced society from up high are intentionally keeping the masses down (through entertainment among everything else) so they can continue to steal all the wealth and power of the world in dark secret, under concealment. The specific example of overseer control and domination from which O'hene derives his true conclusion has to do with music and the consumed arts being dumbed down to keep the people stupid so they won't get smart, wise up, rise up and lead lives counter to the wishes of demonic corporate forces.
"IDC" runs free into a fun wander through the realm of not giving an f over funkedified talk-boxing. It's the type of song that people in-the-know will understand in terms of what O'hene is thinking, but it would have helped if he made it a little clearer that it is the little harmful insignificant forms of hogwash in life that he is saying "I don't care" about there. In the satire of our society's focus on ego, selfishness and self-centeredness called "A Theory of Mine," O'hene leads us to conclude on our own (self-discovery) that the key mentality is for community, connection and common sustainable values. In "Pro-gress Music," he is fed up with the reoccurring stagnation in the black community, showing very tough love and sharing the fact that progress starts as a mindset, and in "Cesare Borgia," his super conscious flow dances on time with the rhythm of his trained piano fingers. A Lack of Convention is simply outstanding from top to bottom. The wisdom is striking with O'hene's perfect delivery and the music is hip and painstakingly made to mesmerize. It's bound to come out in the wash for 2016 as one of the best efforts of the year, as we'll soon enough see. O'hene Savant is a savant in a handful of technical art and music areas, but the idiot type he could never be.
5 out of 5 stars
(Review by Alex originally appeared on Examiner.com on May 10, 2016.)
|Layers by Royce Da 5'9''|
The syllable butcher from Slaughterhouse and Bad Meets Evil returns with more technical language wizardry, talking and reminiscing about his past in "Tabernacle" and showing that from one bad thing can come a good thing, a positive can present itself after a negative. In "Pray," he doesn't just pray for himself but for everybody as well and raps about the pot of gold at his journey's end in "Hard." We are invited to hear Royce share personal stories from his childhood and about his past troubles: a collapsed lung as a baby, poverty and addiction in his family, and alcoholism in his own life. Layers is nicely mixed with some skits and interludes that add wisdom and humor and setup for song ideas that come afterward. In "Shine," Royce stresses that for everyone, the pursuit of a good work ethic must replace the obsession with making lots of money. He sometimes drifts into condescending braggadocio and great complex lyrics just for their own sake, but that's his cunning calling card and it doesn't sound dull anywhere at all.
Moving right along, "Hello" serves as the assist for "Misses" featuring K. Young, where Royce documents problems with side-chicks and the general tone relates that the drama and pain that come with cheating are not worth the initial lustful desires. Another setup and assist, "Dope!" revisits the dangerous, ubiquitous drug-dealing culture of the ghetto and leads the way into "America," where Royce deals with a number of America's sicknesses, like the vast lifestyle differences between the black and white races in The States and its peace-crushing decency-destroying commercial consumer culture. Pusha T, Rick Ross, Tiara and Mr. Porter are then given openings in cuts where the greatest contributions are mainly fine strong rap-lyrics. The grand finale of "Gottaknow" and "Off" dedicates and commits itself to instincts, intuition, more good wisdom, a persistent urge to go forward and survive, and commentary on gadget-fixation, over-consumption and other problems prevalent today.
Royce's Layers is serious and sincere with a great variety of topics and awesome lyrics everywhere. If you're at all concerned for example that "Hard"'s expressed joy for women, jewelry, cars and money conflicts with Royce's other non-physical, antiestablishment feelings, that would only make you a caring, cautious hip-hop listener. But knowing the type of person Royce is and his reputation for substance, artistry and meaning in the music suggest that these are just naturally some of the things he likes and that he quests for a secure financial safety-net and a comfortable life. Besides, that is just one song among many better ones. Some forgiveness is in order, and he probably doesn't overdo it materially in real life. Overall, he's a very respectable figure in all the layers of Layers. This is perhaps Royce's best album yet because he is remarkably more mature and conscious in it than at anytime in his past, the music is crisp and very enjoyable, and the guests are perfect all round. Royce said a little while back that he has another album, Book of Ryan, in the works for later this year, and if so, keep the music coming, Royce!
5 out of 5 stars
(Review by Alex originally appeared on Examiner.com on April 11, 2016.)
|Lead Poison by Elzhi|
In a work that is as much science as art, Elzhi has taken his time crafting this amazing masterwork. With absolutely no dull moments, it has the man unwinding fine creative rhymes with tons of meaning about down feelings, relationship negatives, ghetto poverty, loneliness, and the struggle to maintain and prosper. The expert, emotive music score comes from a pretty big handful of producers. Nick Speed, Bombay, 14KT, Quelle Chris of Mello Music Group, Karriem Riggins, Soledad Brother, Oh No of Gangrene, Joself and Agor are right there for Elzhi, with the appropriate samples and instrument supplements, whether his mood is sad, motivated, energetic or reflective.
The first four-song block in Lead Poison is quite depressive, but Elzhi uses his music and writing as therapy, not to mention his flawless delivery practices. He goes into the hard knock life in the formal intro, the correspondingly titled second track "Introverted." His great lyricism and wordplay are on display right away in the uninterrupted streams of smart philosophy of "Medicine Man" and continue without break thereafter. El's problems with pot and his sadness from longing and loss are very well showcased on "Weedipedia" and "February" made all the more affective with beautiful soul samples of horns, guitar and piano in at least two of these tracks.
In "Egocentric," El spits some ridiculously nice rhymes in crazy good rapping that would be insurmountable in battle. Tragedy hits home in "Two 16's" as El describes the despair and severe misfortune of two 16 year olds from the ghetto. "Hello!!!!!" celebrates communication, or more specifically the joy, magic and technique of reaching out using the device of hip-hop and song as tools, and "Friendzone" expresses righteous vitriol to girls that go for low quality dudes, chicks who choose terrible guys.
Over twinkling vibes, Elzhi raps wisdom in nimble and neat rhymes and speaks on avoiding trouble once again with more stories in "Cloud." The "Alienated" mega-piece is El's ode to not fitting in and closing oneself off from the world by force and/or by choice. It may not feel lonely, and in fact, there is something joyful in the split here, yet again, there is no escaping the overcast darkness looming over the loner Elzhi. What probably started as the depiction of a particularly sad abysmal time in El's life, this brilliantly affective song will be commonly felt by most if not all in years to come. This third block ends with "She Sucks" featuring Chris Dave, a conceptual/metaphorical story with links and relevance to one real-world phenomenon in particular.
The last section ends positively. Elzhi works hard and spreads thoughts of wanting to be self-made in "Cosign" featuring Skonie, and in "Misright," he is looking for a good "down" girl, fighting to stay afloat in a sea of constant discouragement in this matter. Thabisile Griffin has her wonderful way with words in "The Turing Point" interlude-slash-poem, and in the finale, Elzhi chucks some accurate agreeable braggadocio as well as some powerful last words of weight, meaning and lasting value, as he tapers off via a cappella recitation, "Keep Dreaming" y'all.
Elzhi has really delivered well with Lead Poison. We get to experience his prodigious pencil work of fury here ("lead"), and we're warned of some of the natural pitfalls of life too ("lead poison"). We also get just incredible hip-hop raps straight to the gut, no chaser, paired with music productions made in that old style of taking the old and making it new again, fresh. Instead of pimping, hoes, goods, gangsters, guns and green (well, except for maybe a little weed), Elzhi and his team of producers impressively convey real human emotions and feelings. They demonstrate how the ordinary can be made extraordinary with vast mic skills accompanied by equally vast music pieces, brought together in touching concoctions. May he be slept on no more. Elzhi is exquisite to the extreme in Lead Poison.
5 out of 5 stars
(Review by Alex originally appeared on Examiner.com on March 26, 2016.)