It’s a new year and the new music we were given in the first week of 2017 is pretty solid, some great some lacking, but sturdy overall. The big showbiz artists are scheduled for later this month and next but the mighty underdogs of the game keep barking and these hip-hop hounds can’t be ignored. Check out what the hunt has yielded this time…
Connecticut emcee Harold Walker II, or Millenium (with one, not two n’s) Falcon, drops an outstanding project with his new EP which is called The Deeper They Dig The Blacker The Planet Gets. The healthy conscious one discusses the clone-populated rap industry of late in “New Age Slaves” and what we use the web for in “Internet,” and particularly how it fosters vanity and self centeredness. Later his words focus on his responsibilities and becoming a man, all to hypnotically fresh production. The clever rhyming Walker, who stands for goodness, strength and knowledge, has the progressive wisdom of a good Millennial and the grace, upward momentum and aggressive ambition of a peregrine falcon in this properly oriented album.
Longtime QN5 artist and past label-member of Mello Music Group, Substantial, releases his fifth solo LP, The Past Is Always Present In The Future, at the top of 2017 and he’s at the top of his game and on top of his craft with a fully grown mentality, a byproduct of him remaining a responsible emcee and deciding to be a good father (“In My Daughter’s Eyes” includes lessons on raising our world’s little girls). Substantial has an iron-will as he fights for the have nots, shows where he comes from, and looks at the state of the ghetto and his past daze (and days) with perfect clarity. T.P.I.A.P.I.T.F. may sound a little too rosy for some hardcore listeners, but with peace and love, Substantial nevertheless comes bearing hopes, values and lots of motivational speech in the everlasting, time-conscious masterpiece.
Styliztik Jones, an LA emcee, member of both Malcolm & Martin and the legend-claiming Likwit Crew, and generally speaking an overachieving rhyme-writer and exciter, has major connections obviously, but in his new EP, A Thousand Words, he doesn’t rely on them, going at it just about single-handedly, save for guest Sindri in the project’s opener, “Ok.” Truth be told he doesn’t need their help to succeed anyway. The clear-minded line-grinder is once again super clever with his bars, eloquently fluent in delivery and balanced and conscious in his subject matter. He states his aims in the game and addresses hard times and the problems of the world but trudges on with the appropriate mindset and positive vibes. Prominent new-age beats assist in a major way but Jones alone steals the show. There may seem to be a lack of original topics, but lyrically, A Thousand Words is a gem that paints a vivid picture for its audience.
PENPALS emcee Cynic The Apache from Brooklyn provides a public outlet for his audio free-association, some shock music-therapy for him and plenty of rad rough East Coast demeanor in Get The Gringo 2, off the quality-providing UK imprint Millennium Jazz Music. For the better, Cynic is not a mirror image of the golden era Flavor Unit emcee with whom he shares the second part of his stage name, but he definitely shares the same tough rugged nature of the former Apache, a nice homage from one perspective. Cynic is not shy when it comes to admitting his past mistakes and letdowns though he’s also sure about the new path he’s headed down in life and love. His style is old New York rap one hundred percent with punched, upright vocals that are lyrically heavy and supported by an unshakable foundation of firm, modernized boom-bap from Squires, Rapswell and Killclaw. Re-experience early ’90s hip-hop all over again in Get The Gringo 2 but with a fresh new face and an energetic young narrator in Cynic The Apache.
Internet TV comedian Filthy Frank steps into the ocean of hip-hop and gets his feet wet once again as character Pink Guy in his sophomore album Pink Season, the followup to the self-titled Pink Guy from 2014. The controversially vulgar and nerdy Pink Guy uses his shameless mockery and side-splitting humor to spoof trap rap and frolic insensitively over topics of sex, backwoods white racism, homophobia, sex, dog meat consumption, mass shootings, sex and oh yeah, sex, highly raunchy sex in fact. Filthy Frank as Pink Guy here certainly does not come with the most hardcore of lyricism, and actually it’s quite difficult to came him a full blown bonafide rapper, and the album does drag between the most notable tracks, but one thing that Pink Season does very well is open a window to some of society’s major prejudices, bigotries and stereotypes to show how ridiculous they are. It never accommodates our hypersensitive culture nor gets dead serious about really anything, but it is good for a few laughs and a straight shot of goofiness.
Independent rapper Justin Lucas from Massachusetts released his debut album We’ll Be Fine to a modest congregation of dedicated followers on Friday, and while the project generically explores themes of an aspiring emcee on the come-up, there are glimmers of hope for the artist. Lucas has a serious flow with some solid though mostly just decent wordplay, but conceptually he hardly goes into anything of monumental substance or specific original value besides his own individual situation. At a distance, he tells the tale of a young man (himself) from a relatively quiet place fighting to banish vices and naysayers from his life and striving to achieve great things in hip-hop, possibly on a major public stage. Producer Frace supplies a mellow, downtempo, blankety production-spread with enough knock to grab attention. They’re the type of beats that sync perfectly with the regular guy status of Lucas himself. Ultimately, there is nothing outrageously objectionable about We’ll Be Fine; however, there is little here that can reasonably compete with the most outstanding pieces by the greatest emcees in game right now.
2 out of 5 stars
There are a lot of young hungry artists working hard in the field right now. The vocalists above can attest to that. Most importantly, they are putting out cohesive collections without major label deals, and they’re getting plenty of fans at the same time. They are making serious moves behind mainstream scenes, which is where the heart of the game lies.