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Archive for the ‘Album Review’ Category

On occasion myself and some of my friends get lumped into a category we laughingly refer to as “classicist grump” due to our vocal preference of pre-crunk Hip-Hop and our rants about “the good ol’ days” and how it was so much better way back when.  Fortunately for us, we are not alone in this feeling so there is a neo-nineties movement strewn all throughout modern Hip-Hop.  However, though there is a lot of music that’s a throwback to that time, it’s extremely rare to come across something new that’s actually from that era.  Well, the Hip-Hop gods have decided to smile upon us in the form of the now defunct Milwaukee Hip-Hop group known as Stranj Child (formerly Stranj Fruit) and Dope Folks Records teaming up to release previously unreleased music recorded between 1994 and 1996 as an EP…on vinyl!

The mid to late 30′s mindset that I carry around in my very out of shape 28-year-old body is giddy with the joy most 10 year olds exhibit after being let loose in a Chuck E. Cheese for the afternoon.  Now in the same way that a child prays his favorite game is wide open to plug with tolkens for hours of continuous enjoyment, I’m doing the same with this EP…praying that it is good and spin-again worthy.

The Hip-Hop gods answer me once again in the way that I wanted…this EP is completely fantastic.

The sound of the album is very much a kin to what you’d expect from East Coast rap around the mid-nineties and it very much in the same vein of Jeru the Damaja’s Wrath of the Math, The Fugees’ The Score (minus the female emcee and singing), KRS-ONE’s KRS-ONE, so on and so forth.

The lyrics are dripping with cultural critiques, metaphysical concepts, spiritually, and a pro-black consciousness, that seeks to deal with the after effects of the crime spike within the African-American communities brought about by the upswing of drug use/availability, etc.  Many people outside of Milwaukee…and maybe even the younger generation of Milwaukeeans…might not know that Milwaukee has a very violent history and this project serves as a snapshot of a generation and it’s issues that Milwaukee has always done it’s best to sweep under the rug.

The beats are old school hardcore and they completely match the delivery and the content being laced over them.  They will definitely get your head nodding and you might even catch yourself doing old school gestures as your listen to them…dare I say, you might even break out a B-boy stance or pose?  Yes, I do dare to say it, because you just may.

It’s rather confounding to know that this could’ve held up well against any other release during that time, and that it didn’t come out until now.  It also makes me think about what a full length would’ve been like, even though the 8 tracks on the EP are pretty damn full themselves.  You don’t get any of the vinyl left on the table on this release.

This is completely worth your purchase and speaking of purchase, you can buy the album from Dope Folks Records by going RIGHT HERE.  Information about the release party happening this Saturday can be found RIGHT HERE.

My favorite songs on the EP are “Split Personality” and “S.O.D.I.S.” and I have them right here for you to stream and enjoy, hopefully as much as I do.

Split Personality –

S.O.D.I.S. -

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Def Harmonic is back with another album, this one titled Figs, and after giving it several listens, I’m convinced it could possibly be the best album to come out of Milwaukee this year (my apologies to all the artists that are going to get mad at that statement, but remember this is just opinion).  It’s daring, experimental, smooth and polished, and truly shows the chemistry of people who have been working together for a long time and what they’re capable of doing together as a unit (even though what they do separate of each other is great as well).

This album is Hip-Hop, Pop, Soul, Funk…this album is dope.  The sonic qualities of this album will be mind-blowing to people who have ears open to many different textures and the music lover will have so many things to dig through, track by track, that you can’t just listen to this one, once through.  The songs are enormous tapestries of delight created in an alternate universe apparently.  The lyrics and vocals match the exosphereic tunes with poignancy, personal and metaphoric images, and a pop sensibility that never allows any one direction to get stagnant.

Basically, what I’m trying to say, we all need to thank JTodd and Lunaversol9 for doing this album…and then beg them for more.

Things on the album kick off with an 80′s pop tinged track and then meanders into a brief song called “Backpack” before slamming you into “My Own Devices”, and from there on you will be locked into a constant groove.  My favorite cut off the record, at this moment in time, is “My Own Devices”.

I want to keep writing about this album but it’s far more beneficial for you to just listen to it (AND BUY IT) then it is to read what I have to say about it.  I provided the Bandcamp below, but RIGHT HERE is the link to it directly so you can buy it.

Figs is being released via Listening Party, a boutique label that uses the “pay what you’d like to” format for the digital version while asking a modest price for the vinyl versions of all their label’s projects.

The party to celebrate the release of Figs is being held at Bay View Brew Haus (2535 S Kinnickinnic Ave) starting at 9PM, THIS SATURDAY.

P.S. Shout out to Listening Party for really seeking out some dope stuff to push into the world, regardless of genre.  I kind of want to hug you.

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Milwaukee’s Hip-Hop landscape is by and large a male dominated entity, per capita speaking.  But, that is NOT to say that Milwaukee doesn’t have some extremely dope women doing fantastic things in the medium of Hip-Hop.

Last decade gave us two women who are super nice on the M-I-C, crafting a great sound within their respective groups and also as solo artists.  One of those artists is Element Everest, one of the members of the now defunct Black Elephant.  The other person is Lunaversol9 of Def Harmonic.

Lunaversol9 teamed up with Listening Party to release what they are calling a mini-album, A Novel Slur, which contains 5 tracks of poignant lyricism and groove based beats, creating a nice atmospheric (and I’m not talking about the Slug/Ant Atmosphere) feel to the music.

My favorite track, “Hellbent” is the lead track of the project and features JTodd on production.  The rest of the project is produced by Brusabardis, and it features vocals from JTodd and Epcot.  The artwork was done by Samantha Sanborn.

Listening Party is offering the album up to you as a “pay what you like” consumer experience, and you can get it RIGHT HERE.  Go over and check out Listening Party’s WEBSITE as well and see what else they have to offer.

On a sidenote, Def Harmonic’s new album is set to be released Oct. 12th with a party on Oct. 9th, following a pre-sale period that begins Sept. 28th.  They’re pressing vinyl for the project as well, but only 500 copies…so make sure you get your order in once that pre-sale hits.

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IV Tin Soldiers representative SPEAK Easy is one of those emcees that can be counted on to deliver consistent music, driven by his smooth yet abrasive lyrical style, that sprinkles hydrochloric acid on anybody who could possibly catch feelings from his abusive lyrics.

For those of you who might not know that version of SPEAK Easy, you haven’t been keeping up with the newer music that followed his extremely solid front-to-back album Well Spoken.  The man has reinvented himself, allowing himself to go no-holds-barred…finally…while still holding true to what caught people’s attention initially to him as an artist.

The track “I’m Ready” which really starts off the mixtape has the potential to ruffle the feathers of a lot of local artists, calling out the “hollywood” types that have been populating the scene in his opinion.

There are a couple of tracks that you might be familiar with if you’ve paid attention to the internet over the past year. “Kick Down The Doors”, “Black 007″, “That Was Easy”, and “Warning Shot” have all hit the web with “Black 007″ finding itself on several important Hip-Hop blogs in addition to gaining a spot on the first edition of Yo! MKE Raps.

The project is short and to the point…which the point of the project is to re-introduce people to SPEAK Easy before his new album comes out.  If this jawn doesn’t create buzz around SPEAK for what’s to come, then skills have no place in Hip-Hop anymore.

That Was Easy features production by Dave Derrilykt for AudioPilot Productions (who also engineered the project), Big Steve of GooniTunes, and has guest verses from Raze, Big Trip, Frankie Flowers, TKS, and Maal Himself.

If you like raw Hip-Hop, this is the joint for you…so download it now!

While you are downloading the joint, peep “I’m Ready” –

DOWNLOAD THAT WAS EASY RIGHT HERE

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Yesterday I received all the low down, dirty, filthy, information about the brand new KHB project…the Remember The Name EP.

Peep the presser:

Die-hard Milwaukee hip-hop group KingHellBastard continues to deliver raucous boom bap and potent lyricism on their latest release from Uni-Fi Records. The album comes off a stellar 2009 which saw KHB receive constant airplay on 88.9 WYMS and 91.7 WMSE and led to the group winning Artist Of The Year and Video Of The Year in the Radio Milwaukee Awards, a trend which continues in 2010 with 88.9 already adding the first single “I Believe” to their rotation. Building upon years of riotous performances and international collaborations, KHB brings out the heavy artillery on the 8-song record with appearances from Sadat X of the legendary Brand Nubian, Def Jux affiliate Akrobatik, Raashan Ahmad from Crown City Rockers, Stricklin from hip-hop supergroup EMC, and blazing cuts from The White Shadow of Norway. Starting off with a veritable explosion of sonic energy and a thunderous verse from Akrobatik on the song “Clubber Lang”, MCs Dana Coppafeel, Shemp, and DNA waste no time heralding their return with steely-eyed conviction over a heart-stopping beat from producer Reason, accented by the nimble bass playing of LMNTlyst and deft scratching of resident DJ OneL. Keeping the intensity high, the record hits a celebratory note with the second track “I Believe” featuring an exuberant verse from crowd rocker Raashan Ahmad over joyous horn blasts and breakneck drums from Reason and a blistering scratch coda from White Shadow. Side A closes with two slices of serious funk, the booming bass of the White Shadow produced “It’s The Crew Again” featuring the unmistakable voice of Sadat X, and the certified G-Funk banger “North Coast” featuring a hilarious verse from fellow Milwaukee native Stricklin. With Side A dedicated to showcasing some of the collaborative efforts KHB have generated from constant touring, Side B allows the group to stand on it’s own considerable talents with three songs from in-house Uni-Fi producer The White Russian. First is the kaleidoscopic “PhD” where the MCs weave in and out of the verses as the beat builds up in layers of shifting soundscapes. Next comes the fist-pumping ode to hip-hop’s golden age “A Tribe Called Bastard”, where each MC references quotables from the past over a beat that could have been at home on a tape deck in 1988 and recalls classics like “Scenario” and “The Choice Is Yours”. Lastly comes the heartfelt hometown anthem “Ma’waukee”, an introspective look at the blue-collar roots and hardscrabble character of the Midwest set to a soulful and exultant beat that has already proven to be a show-stopper during live performances

The homies in KHB are having the release party at Mad Planet and in exchange for your $10 cover, you get a copy of the project ON VINYL…how Hip-Hop is that?!  Even nicer than that is the fact that Raashan Ahmad is going to be in the house doing his thing while they shoot the music video for  “I Believe” which features Ahmad.  You can’t go wrong going to this one.

Speaking of the project, this shit is just fresh.  I’ve been sitting on it for a minute now and have been quietly enjoying it like a muhfucka.  I’ve been a supporter of KHB for a while now and I’ve also dug all the side projects…Cups and Bottles, DNA’s solo, Dana’s slew of work…and I have never heard them sound better as a group than on this project.  They sound like a tight knit unit.  You can tell tons of work has gone into this jawn, so props to the bastids for adding another quality project to their discography.

I also want to make sure that I highlight the quality of the production on the album, courtesy primarily of Reason and The White Russian.  They bring raw energy that ebbs and flows in and out of being frantic and smooth, showcasing further the 90′s revival in the underground while keeping it today *no autotune*.

My Side-A favorite is probably “I Believe” right now and my Side-B favorite is “PhD”, right now.  3 weeks ago is was “Clubber Lang” with Akrobatik and “Ma’waukee” (side A and B respectively).

Matter of fact, cop this joint when it comes out.

For your listening pleasure, “Ma’waukee” –

Here is the art for the project:

FRONT

BACK

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In the land of underground Hip-Hop, the styles and approaches are vast and plentiful. This has allowed many quality artists to be accepted even if they are slightly left or right of center. The Hollowz is a group that is undoubtedly talented, and everybody that isn’t satisfied by the mainstream and what is emerging as being the underground mainstream, will find them to be a breath of fresh air.

The Hollowz is made up of emcee Logic and producer Edward Cayce, two gentlemen who have been kicking around Milwaukee musically for a decade apart from each other and have only been The Hollowz for a couple of years now.

Logic has a very effortless flow that is fun to listen to. His lines are witty and his rhyme structure shows that he enjoys extending himself beyond the typical A-B-A-B scheme.

Cayce’s (formerly known as Eddie Nygma) production is top notch that has dope samples and excellent drums. The music has a great feel to it and it’s most certainly Hip-Hop, but something about it feels fresh.

 The Premonition EP is a free project they have released in advance of an album due out in fall. All 5 tracks are strong and do exactly what an EP should do, get the listener excited for what is yet to come.

To obtain a free copy of the EP, email the.hollowz@yahoo.com, and while you’re doing that you can hear the 5 tracks right here.
Oh No
Magic
Bring It Back
It’s You
Roadz…
If you are seeing this…this is what you call an “easter egg”.

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Hip-Hop is a little over 30 now and very often in a state of confusion about how to deal with it’s age…and the growing ages of its artists.  Not too long ago, rappers were given an unofficial burial once they hit a certain age by the consumer base that seemingly preferred the trends brought forward by the younger and fresher artists.  An artist’s shelf life was very short.

Fast forward a decade and we see a paradigm shift in the attitude towards the aged.  Hip-Hop is still of course a young man’s game, but the age of “retirement” has been raised to much higher levels.  We see many people who are over 35 either continuing to sell large amounts of records, or they are making critically acclaimed albums and eating well off of tours and really finding creative ways to own their title of elder statesman.

Case in point, Jay-Z, who is over 40, has taken a firm grip once again of Hip-Hop and Pop culture with last year’s release The Blueprint 3.  Q-Tip, a man whose voice, face, and energy seem ageless isn’t in his 30′s anymore and I doubt anybody will say his most recent album wasn’t anything other than awesome.  The Beastie Boys are all over 40, with MCA being 45, and they will always draw large crowds to their shows while selling a solid amount of records.  Raekwon, 41, has enjoyed a reinvigorated career with the release OB4CL2 and the recent EP (yeah, I’m not calling it an album anymore) with Meth and Ghost…with Ghost being 40 now himself.

Method Man, Common, Busta Rhymes, Eminem, Mos Def, Scarface, Snoop, Andre 3000, Big Boi, Nas, Mos Def, Black Thought, and will.i.am, are all examples of Hip-Hop artists still having success though they are now in the age range of 35-39.

50 Cent, Ludacris, Kanye West, Young Jeezy, Talib Kweli, and Rick Ross are great examples of rappers 30-34 that didn’t have their rapper pass taken away from them just because there is a “3″ as the first digit of their age.

I think that it’s fair to say that ageism in Hip-Hop has been greatly reduced, thanks in no small part to the fans of Hip-Hop themselves aging and not giving up on the music or the artists that they grew up with.

Some Milwaukee Hip-Hop artists are even seeing the benefits of this new attitude towards those who have been around for a while.  The Rusty P’s continue to rock shows and put together music, with Phantom Channel also finding sans P’s success recently with The Lab Partners release.

Another hardworking artist that has been around for a while is D. Ellzey, one of the former members of Black Elephant.  Ellzey had been focusing his time most recently on mentoring younger artists because of the experiences he gained through years of touring and hitting the studio.  During that time he began putting together what is now the album A Shift In The Wind, a true example of grown up Hip-Hop.

From the very beginning of the album, you completely understand that this isn’t an album that chooses to pander to the younger generation’s specific tastes.  Ellzey immediately attacks BET for their programming while stating they he’s not going to allow his 4 daughters get caught up in the negative stereotypes the network has been called out for pushing into the brains of those who watch the it.

Many of the Hip-Hop artists that choose to speak about faith typically leave that sort of message for the end of their album because the front end is loaded with what they hope will be seen as being “bangers”.  Ellzey, in having crafted an album before and not just hits plus filler, knows how to arrange tracks for the flow that he conceived, and so we have a track about faith as the 3rd song.

As every track goes by you truly understand that this is an album with a purpose…many purposes.  Ellzey is not only airing out his thoughts on certain topics, but he is truly giving you his life’s philosophies and soul.  He’s letting you in to who he is and doesn’t give an ounce of thought to whether or not he should try to appeal to the swag generation.  Again, it’s part of the well calculated truth D. Ellzey set out to give listeners.

This truth is capped off by “The Huxtables”, a very intelligent song that uses familiar characters in an alternative reality’s view of the legendary family.  Everything is symbolic and the song requires you to think, as do the other songs on the album, which is something the current swag generation of artists and fans seem to refuse to do.

If thinking hurts your brain, don’t listen to this album.

Lastly, the music on the record is fantastic.  Ellzey put together a sound that is a wonderful mixture of organic and inorganic textures.  While so much rap is looking closer to how technology can be manipulated for the greater destruction of musicianship, Ellzey decided to enlist people who can blend the soul sample style with the progressive instrumentation needed to give many of the tracks the sound that was required to match the lyrics and delivery Dame brings to the table.

This album comes out tomorrow, via digital methods only, and though the old album collector in me isn’t thrilled about that aspect, that shouldn’t detract anybody from getting this album.  Whether or not you go to the party at Stonefly to experience the release and the veteran performer’s dynamic stage show, you should set several dollars aside to purchase A Shift In The Wind.

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