Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hip Hop Album Reviews, Week Ending April 28, 2017

The weeks keep rolling along but we’re back at it with some more music news to tell you fine folks about. We have Bliss N Eso, DJ Quik & Problem and Wale on the radar. The theme this time seems to be fun, as each artist gives his take and spin on the good times, though some do better (or worse) at it than the others.

Off The Grid by Bliss N Eso (Illusive Sounds)
At least there is one project of the week that deserves some considerable respect. The new and sixth LP by Sydney, Australian trio Bliss N Eso, entitled Off The Grid is a fine addition to the renowned crew’s expanding catalogue. A hip-hop band conscientious and observant of the true elements of the culture and music, Bliss N Eso (MC Bliss, MC Eso and DJ Izm) make a strong upright showing on Off The Grid, which is packed full of motivation, inspiration and friendly anthemic cuts for fans. Their tone at the top is to turn lemons into lemonade with hopes to raise the youth with “love, compassion and empathy.” They emit positive energy obviously but also firm strength, going off with clever interesting braggadocio in “Tear The Roof Off” and remembering to go off the clock from their jobs for some cool-out in the herbalised “Coolin’” and especially “Birds in the Sky.” Of particular note, the gang give an ode to turntablism, live producer accompaniment on stage, scratching and all that good stuff on “Whatever Happened to the DJ,” and in “Moments,” they honorably rap, “f*ck the money, cars and accessories ‘cause the only thing we take to our grave is our memories.” For sure a lively, peppy roundup of skilled men, Bliss N Eso may seem to some a little too sweet and happy with predominately PG-rated ballads of nice warm cozy notes, but you cannot knock their fine wordplay and lyricism and their concentrated focus on going on, living life, working hard and spreading goodness of word to the people. (3 out of 5 stars)

Rosecrans by DJ Quik & Problem (Diamond Lane Music Group/Blake Enterprises)
Legendary Compton musician/emcee DJ Quik (David Blake) has turned his 2016 joint EP Rosecrans (with rapper Problem, also from Compton) into a full length album. It certainly brings more to the table yet not in ways much different from the songs on the original extended play. Right off the bat, Quik’s artistic production-signatures (whiny funk, talk-boxing, nice keys) are heard and felt, and Problem is honestly dope and excitable with some solid wordplay and confidently delivered flows. The LP is thoroughly satisfying from a hip-hop music composition standpoint but less so in its topics and subject matter, which consist of typical rap chatter on the traditional street/hood essence – sexing with floozies, visiting the jeweler and the dealer, laying back and chillin’ and other similar preoccupations and pastimes. The boys are wild, profane and superficial unfortunately and while this is an independent release (off Diamond Lane Music Group and Blake Enterprises), it’s championed by the mainstream because of its formulaic, run of the mill attitudes and sensibilities. It’s sadly a real shame they are regressive, destructive and immature to boot. Quik and Problem’s homies, even two Quik’s reconciled with in the past (AMG and MC Eiht), make a full fledged showing but they are the stereotypical players of the game here. Expect little else from them. Chill out and relax with some fine music pieces in Rosecrans but do not put significant trust in the words laid upon said music pieces. (2 out of 5 stars)

Shine by Wale (Atlantic Records/Maybach Music Group)
The jig is up for Wale in his Atlantic/MMG-released fifth studio album Shine. The D.C. native may have star-studded guests like Lil Wayne, Major Lazer, G-Eazy, Travis Scott and Chris Brown on the week early arriving project but there are dangerous ulterior motives being played out behind the scenes and its superficiality is not an accident by its makers. The gang and Wale most notably are coarse, materialistic, misogynistic and hedonistic over trend-settling production from the hands of the typical lineup of beat-makers. Talk on bands, rims, cars and designer brands metastasizes Shine’s entirety, and Wale and company’s attitude toward women by carelessly dropping words “b*tch” and “h*e” like they’re nothing renders intended romance cuts like “My Love” and “Fine Girl” completely powerless and ineffective. The last joint “Smile” of course lightly discusses some politics by way of police on black violence but it is only here to fill a quota, to make us think Wale is some sort of conscious emcee. He really is not, never has been one. In fact when he insinuates in the song that Trump is a bigot/misogynist, it’s pure hypocrisy because he himself sounds like one in several other spots on the album. This is an Atlantic release and secondarily one by Wale, who has been molested by the former into degrading himself on record and to put his name across the cover like he is the only one responsible for its flagrant issues. (1 out of 5 stars)

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