Saturday, August 12, 2017

Hip Hop Album Reviews, Week Ending Aug. 11, 2017

Is it a surprise to anyone that the two best albums of the week are completely independent, meaning not released by a label or outfit outside of the artist’s own camp, and also meaning these artists retain full control over the direction of their projects? It shouldn’t be, but maybe some folks subconsciously think those albums promoted most heavily by the mainstream are the best. In reality the opposite is usually always the truth. The best ones are most often found behind the scenes, away from big commercials and advertisements and such. Anyway, so as not to move too far off course, enjoy our briefings on the latest from Dizzy Wright, Wordsworth, John Robinson and the others, and then check out the music for yourself.

The Golden Age 2 by Dizzy Wright (self-released)
With each new album, invigorated hip-hop soul Dizzy Wright proves he is a man of integrity, something not common in showbiz rap and thus harder to find than your average celebrity-rapper. Still, it’s not difficult to tell him apart from the field, and his message is also not hard to relate to. In fact it’s quite easy to feel. In The Golden Age 2, the sequel to his 2013 mixtape and his third official LP, Wright emphasizes a long spread of honorable values and noble personality traits—generosity and a providing nature, peace and love, mental liberation, positive attitude, gratitude, maturity and the importance of family.
Additionally, he’s gravely troubled by the racial and economic problems in America, the culture of fakeness, and diminishing rapper qualifications in the industry. Later in he shows some city-love to his hometown Las Vegas and describes what life was like for him as a child. While T.G.A.2 is not perfect in that some arguably unnecessary skits get in the way of the album’s procession and though the general structure of the project is nothing new, Dizzy Wright makes it his first priority to send out words that are deeply motivational and deeply inspirational, to help him and us get our mentalities and lives on the right track. (4 out of 5 stars)

Our World Today by Wordsworth & Sam Brown (Wordsworth Production, LLC)
It’s come to mean something very special when Brooklyn representer and eMC artist Wordsworth puts out an album. Now on his fourth as the main solo emcee, Words shows no signs of changing course from conscious hip-hop. Our World Today, which enlists good traditionalist Sam Brown for the music (tasty boombap with cool sample incorporation), captivates but also humbles by educating, but not always on comfortable subject matter mind you.
Words’ curriculum includes the divisions, ill preoccupations and distractions in society and the devastating, sometimes horrifying happenings in the ghetto. A native of Brooklyn himself, Words knows a bit about what he dispenses though, to say the least. In the thick of it however, he recalls the small joys and little things that give him and his hope, encouraging goodness, embodying care and showing concern in the process. Our World Today may seldom leave the hood, or The States for that matter, but it’s essential for setting the example of turning an examining eye inward and not always outward. (4 out of 5 stars)

Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?! by Milo (Ruby Yacht/The Order Label)
Milwaukee rapper and producer Milo draws comparisons to buddy emcees Open Mike Eagle and Busdriver, both of whom he’s collaborated with. Also known as Scallops Hotel, Milo, or Rory Ferreira, has established a reputation for quirky cavalier nerd-rap and dry wit in his music, which is also pensive, sarcastic, sardonic and poignant, all to beats that are more will-do than thrill-you in style. The allure is thus in Milo’s poetry and wordplay and not so much on the production end, as is the case in Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?!, Milo’s third LP after A Toothpaste Suburb (2014) and So The Flies Don’t Come (2015).
This round, Milo is slightly less flatly cheeky than in his previous two as he yet again gives his random uncut train of thought, scattered, somewhat unorganized, and seeming to be barely processed, barely reworded, so as to keep its original rhyme-impact and spontaneity, even if jumbled and attention deficit at times. Without making himself super clear or getting very specific, Who Told You To Think? can sound like much ado about not a ton, but when Milo really wants to get something across, he does talk to us straight, if only briefly. Remember this does feel a bit more serious than the last two Milo albums, and that might be Milo’s most profound effect on Who Told You To Think?—that he’s approached it a little differently than his other works. (3 out of 5 stars)

Penelope by John Robinson & AG (Red Apples 45)
Both veteran emcees from the East Coast, rhyme-spiritualist John Robinson (from Scienz of Life and solo fame) and line-slinger AG of Showbiz & AG release Penelope, their second joint project of the year, following They Watching from April. Off indie Red Apples 45, the love-themed Penelope creates an aphrodisiac-atmosphere that is something like twinkling candles, dimmed lights and of course, romantic background music complete with silky song choruses and JR and AG spilling the beans about their fine lady-loves.
Final songs “Neva Ends” and “We Been Here” freestyle a bit with the duo discussing some important black history figures and moments and more. With only a couple concepts, the EP is not very long or in-depth but Penelope sure is a cool companion to listen to anywhere and any time you need to relax. (3 out of 5 stars)

Manna by Fashawn (Mass Appeal Records)
There is perhaps a small feeling in the air, amongst hip-hop heads in the know at least, that Fresno emcee Fashawn’s Manna studio album (his third) is not as profound as his last, The Ecology (2015). For starters, it comes just two years after Ecology, it’s only a bit over EP-length, and it falls in line with the styles mandated by Mass Appeal Records. It is in fact a lot like its predecessor but Fashawn’s writing and reciting skills make it more or less a success.
As much as he devotes himself to being mic-stylish and braggadocious, and even if he drops an objectionable phrase here and there, he just as often or more finds his deep meaning signatures. Lamentations for the depression of lower class America, praise for black leaders of the past and advocation for friendship coupled with Fashawn’s fine flows over Fashawn-able beats truly make Manna the manna of this man’s life, and that of several hungry fans as well. (3 out of 5 stars)

Imperius Rex by Sean Price (Ruck Down Records/Duck Down Music Inc.)
With heavy hearts, fans will listen to Boot Camp Clik and Heltah Skeltah emcee Sean Price’s second posthumous album and fourth LP proper with content nostalgia but also wonderment at what new levels the Brooklyn lyricist might have taken his craft to had he not passed away unexpectedly in 2015. With eager, sometimes enthusiastic participation from many of Price’s rap-friends, and the full support of labels Duck Down and Ruck Down hoisting the new project – Imperius Rex, Sean Price has kept all his past credibility in the rap game but perhaps not as much integrity, when one looks at what he’s rapping about.
Imperius Rex brings rough, semi-intricate bars and some sincere new surprises like the two guest-spots from the widow Bernadette Price, but the subject matter never veers from meat-headed quibbles and brash talk on violence, vulgar gratuitous sex, drug-dealing and the like, the status quo for Price’s brand and niche, if not for Price himself, the worse part being that he is not here to clear the project himself. Possibly the album’s most perplexing line comes in “Rap Professor” when Price states, “this ain’t the same Sean from the last album,” which is halfway true but unfortunately for the not so good.
The focus here is more on antics and buffoonery than on sharp new wordplay and far less on messages, and when one puts it side by side next to the most positive, illuminating conscious-rap out there, it’s merely hardcore spewings and dribble. Even when we do get the same basic Sean Price as before, it is only in the area of muscled insensitive backpack-ery, which is not fun anymore. So at this point, with a host of greater, fresh-faced emcees coming out of the woodwork, Imperius Rex can’t help but be dwarfed by some of its more underground competition and their much healthier rap music options. It pains anyone to face it but this set is best fit for Sean P fanatics only. (2 out of 5 stars)

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