Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Tape Deck: Volume #12 (Reviews)

Ace Hood, Juelz Santana, Fabolous & Jadakiss - BET Cypher
These BET Cypher jump-offs are always legit! They're what real hip hop is really about: a bunch of guys kickin' some sick punchlines over a solid freestyle beat. This one's no exception. Each and every emcee gives a grade-A performance. Here are my three favorite quotables: Juelz Santana "It's only two men I fear when it comes to battle/ God and my shadow/ Everyone else get unraveled/ Tangled/ Mangled/ Totally disabled/ Hung from a roof/ Watch 'em dangle/", Juelz Santana "Sooner or later/ You're gonna have to face it/ I'm like the Penthouse/ You're a fixed up basement/", Fabolous "Word-play king, I'm not the one to scrabble with/ The rock's got more carots/carrots in it than rabbit shit/", Fabolous "Cause everybody coming in the year is failing/ Ask why and they just play Sarah Palin/", Fabolous "Get your lil' money/ You isn't a threat/ When we was making it rain, you wasn't drizzling yet/", Jadakiss "Yo, I'll tell you this much: hip hop is not dead/ Change gone come just like Barack said/ "Money, Power, Respect" like the Lox said/ You'll be the man of the house my pop said/", Jadakiss "You can know so much yet but no nothing/ If I don't know nothing else, bet I know hustlin'/". Wow!
Ali Vegas - Testify
Vegas hops on Nas' track of the same title to question his fans (and not-so-fans) over their allegiance.
Black Milk - Bond 4 Life (feat. Melanie Rutherford)
Naw, this ain't the new James Bond theme song (although maybe it should be). Milk kicks some ol' Boonie & Clyde-type spit over his dusty-but-glistening production.
dead prez - PolitricKKKs (feat. Malcolm X)
The duo known as dead prez make their return to hip hop - and not a moment too soon! M-1 and have been known for dispelling their distrust for the American political system, and "PolitricKKKs" is no different. Being that Barack Obama is running they take a noticeably more diplomatic approach to the matter as spits: "I don't wanna discourage my folk, I believe in hope, I just want us to want more/ Politics is a game, how they keep us contained, there gotta be more than we can hope for/".

For the sake of fact-checking, I've gotta raise an objection with a specific line on M-1's verse in which he spits: "...if Obama wins, he wouldn't be the first black/ Take your 2 dollar bill and turn it over to the back/". The truth of the matter is that this is a long-running myth about the 2 dollar bill that is nothing more than that: a myth! If you turn over a 2 dollar bill (I've got plenty of them I saved during my childhood) you'll see the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The man in question is seated on the left side of the bill. Sitting down, he's the eleventh person to the left of John Adams. Adams is amongst the group of men standing on the right side of the bill; he is to the far left of this group. Anyways, like I said the man in question is the eleventh person to the left of John Adams. He's recognizably darker than those sitting beside him. But the fact remains that this man's name was Robert Morris. Simple and plain, Morris wasn't black as M-1 would put it. Just sayin'...
E-40 - Break Ya Ankles (feat. Shawty Lo & Diamond)
The hook to this track goes as follow: "Go stupid, get retarded/". Sorry, but I stopped listening after that. Epic fail.
Glasses Malone - Brolic
This beat is knockin' on some war-chant ish. G. Malone's threatening vocals blend right into the element. [NOTE: The .zip has this track listed as "Glass Malone - Brolic"; sorry 'bout that!]
Illa J - Air Signs (Prod. by J Dilla)
Dedicated to the Aguarius, Libra and Gemini members of his clan, "Air Signs" is a family affair with a 'little dash of brotherly love. Illa J does justice to his gone-but-not-forgotten older brotha, the one and only J Dilla. The beat is smooth and knockin'!
Jamie Lidell & Zion I - Out of My Mind (Zion I Remix)
New Zion I? Hell yeah! As long as the Bay Area duo stays as far away from the hyphy craze they were once tampering with, I'll be a very, very happy camper. As I've discussed with Rizoh in the past, MC Zion is one of my all-time favorite emcees: great lyrics, crisp flow and a voice that blends Q-Tip with West coast linguism. G'yeah! I can't wait for their new album now... Stan rant over.
Joe Budden - Overkill (feat. Heartbreak)
Solid mixtape-type track. Budden comes through with his traditional punchlines, but Heartbreak surprisingly has more to say: "I've gotta excel/ So I sell X/ You're like Nextel/ Who you gon' tell next?/".
Joe Budden - The Soul
Ya gotta love a lovely, soulful sample blanketed by a sequence of thunderous kicks! "The Soul" is a nice, nostalgic track in which Joey reflect over the days "when we had soul".
Kanye West - Coldest Winter (Official Version)
I've given up on reviewing Kanye as an emcee. In part because it's crystal clear that the early Auto-Tune/singing/poppy tracks that leaked don't seem to have been a fluke. It's also due in part to the fact that I've just thrown in the towel of waiting for him to make the music I'd prefer that he make. Ah well.

"Coldest Winter" isn't as bad as I had initially reviewed it. I was too cruel. The track's got some great qualities: emotive, lyrical catchiness and lush sounds are persistent throughout. I'm beginning to anticipate 808's and Heartbreak as a fitting release for winter. Not just because the song's title, but because the emotions on the album seem to be a mirror reflection of the elements of winter: dark, deep, cold, sparse. We'll see what's beyond the horizon soon enough...
Kanye West - Robocop (Leak)
This song sounds a bit sloppy (and I'm not just talking about the quality of the rip). To be fair, Kanye has stated on his blog that this track wasn't supposed to be leaked because it's far from being wrapped up. Subsequently, I'll refrain from passing judgment on it for now.
Kanye West - What It Is
Another incomplete rip: Finally, he's emceeing. Unfortunately, it's not too good... Beat doesn't hook me in either. At all!
Killer Mike - Delilah
Killer Mike reminds me a bit of Biggie on this track, what with his baritone vocals and a similar knack for memorable storytelling. "Delilah" is all about the sukkubus-type chick, the girl that plays you for everything you've got. Mike's massacre continues...
King Phaze - Yonkers Anthem (feat. Styles P, Sheek Louch & DMX)
King Phaze hooks up a crunk rock beat for Yonkers legends Styles P, Sheek Louch and the hermit known as Dark Man X to rep their hood. Get ready for some high-octane performances on this track!
Lloyd & Rock City - Year of the Lover (Remix)
Rock City's been doing a good job of blending in well with original tracks ("Paper Planes" comes to mind). This remix is strictly for the ladies.
Lucky Don - BK Distinguish Ones (feat. Newz, Uncle Murda, Maino & Joell Ortiz)
This one's a well-balanced posse cut full of emcees repping Brooklyn. Can't go wrong there.
Ludacris - Do the Right Thang (feat. Common)
This is what happens when you put a pair of Illinois-born emcees in the booth with 9th Wonder production. Great hip hop.
Mavado - I'm So Special (Remix) (feat. Tru Life)
The original track is boring. Tru Life adds some... life to it (ironically with rhymes about killing people).
Money Malc - I Came Up (feat. Sam Scarfo & Straps)
A trio of underrated emcees hop on an anthemic beat as as they shoot a flurry of slick rhymeplay. Solid.
Mos Def - Life in Marvelous Times
The Renaissance Man of hip hop (sorry Tip) sounds fired up on "Life in Marvelous Times"! This Mr. Flash beat helps Dante vent out his thoughts on current events as he walks is traditional tightrope of relevance as an emcee and singer. The Mighty Mos Def can do it all! The Ecstatic is coming soon, and thanks to this new track, I'll definitely be taking a cue from the album title, i.e. I CAN'T WAIT!
Ox - Microphone Fiend
Soulful production. Solid OX delivery. 'nuff said. This is a great "where'd the soul go?" type track right here for all the sentimentalists out there.
Papoose - All That
The Nacirema Dreamer has been making a new push lately, and it's about time. I was starting to think that Pap was falling off. Papoose returns in prime form with "All That", discussing his free agent status after ditching Jive's games. We need an album Pap! Kay Slizzy: make it happen already!
Ruste Juxx - Optimistic
Sean Price approved, Ruste Juxx has been making noise in the underground circuit for quite some time and his new album is finally here. Indestructible is a solid release full of bangin' beats and well-directed lyricism. I like to turn heads on to underrated cats as often as I can and Juxx is one of 'em. "Optimistic" is one of my favorite shots from the album, so give it a shot and make your decision.
Ruste Juxx - System On Blast (feat. Reek)
Another cut from Indestructible, "System on Blast" is an appropriate title for this heavy-knockin' track. The beat just might make your woofers bust! Don't say I didn't warn you.
Sean Garrett & Pharrell - Patron
These are the kind of tracks that Pharrell is great on! Over a smooth and mellow Neptunian soundscape, Sean Garrett croons to his lady as Skateboard P lingers with a playful hook. Lovely.
Skyzoo & MC - For the Love of the Game
Damn it Skyzoo! Again? "Oh, you betcha" (C) Sarah Palin. "For the Love of the Game" is just some more soulful hip hop from Jay-Z Jr.
T-Pain - Karaoke (feat. DJ Khaled)
T-Pain goes after all the Auto-Tune users who swagger-jacked his self-proclaimed authentic style. He makes a note of excluding Kanye and Lil Wayne from this list, of course, because otherwise it'd be career suicide. Thankfully, T-Pain gives some love to Roger Troutman the true pioneer of this style.
Trick Trick & Eminem - Who Want It
This isn't the kind of track that Em would usually hop on, but Em does it justice. If the lyrics are a hint of what's to come on his new album, then I'm definitely checkin' for it.
Zion I - The Rebel
Yup, it's official: Zion I are back and they mean business. They flip the script on a Public Enemy classic! I couldn't ask for anything else.