Thursday, January 12, 2012

THE REAL OF 2011

It’s all like Gunset Park history made a moment for me to Sunset. Walking down to the Music Center we still calling Major’s Video. At the near corner of 48th and 5th to look for the real for hours. Maybe a Kenny Dope mixtape if the albums out just too west coast. 808s and hand clap snares won’t go if it’s popped up. A digger of young means still hoping all the credits list like The Main Ingredient. Orale! It seems like there’s always been boots in the bakery where niggas stomp dough and leave with the cake. And the pastry puppet pigs pop up to slow down the yeast of the mere Sunseteer working for honest bread. Adelante! This is the cipher I’m from and those beats and rhymes been a sedative of truth and comfort through Every Negative Environment Manipulating Your Mindz. From the most high Ras there are scores for those who go into the worst Wors. How many in Sunset and beyond can build and not get smoked or be supreme master of their cipher?…
Years and years later, the Real cannot be less important. Only more so. So I share the tracks I go in with, not just telling but some understanding to enjoy the discourse of like and dislike and have some history of this music that might help its future.
EPs
Kevlaar 7 – Who Got the Camera?
The most timely relevant work of the year. It came with Black consciousness, revolution and real MCing just before all the sparked uprisings in Egypt and the Western side of the world and all the Occupy movements. Kevlaar uses beds from producers and added verses from guests world wide as a truly dynamically crafted short album, the ideal EP, that preludes his debut, Die Ageless.
Hasan Salaam – Music Is My Weapon
A great prelude to his 3rd solo LP, Life In Black And White, this EP also supports a righteous cause 100 percent.
Planet Asia & Madlib - Cracks In the Vinyl
Except for Madlib’s “Boiler makers,” Planet Asia’s Crack Belt Theatre LP released last January had average beats that provoked average battle rhymes. When the backing is right, Planet Asia builds heavy. This 14 minute EP reminds us that the right beatmaker (i.e. DJ Muggs and the resultant Pain Language classic LP in 2008) is all PA needs. Up next for Asia is his Black Belt Theatre album where he has chosen some quality beatmakers (i.e. Khryis, Oh No). Madlib shared more quality Medicine Show LPs as we await the new Madvillainy album.
Bambu – DJ Muggs x Bambu – Los Angeles, Phillipines &
Diamond Supply Co EP
Walk Into A Bar (w/Prometheus Brown aka Geologic of Blue Scholars)
Bambu, my Brown Filipino brother, was the best live performer I saw this year. Knowledged at the last stop of the Cinematropolis tour, he didn’t have any consciousness with the crossover for the blanquitos in the crowd. The breaks fired and he fuckin went in on every last savage, devil and system oppressor with vigor, clever songwriting delivered clear and furious. His tracks are often filled with timely 808’s and that west coast funk but the verses are the timeless component.
Undeniable – Black Market Artists
Reppin’ Crown City, Queens, Omnipotent (O7) and Sinnagi are rugged slow flowers who continue to improve as they do with this 7 track EP with the highlight of “Gotham.” With a backlog of classics like “Blue Bacon” and personally hearing some of their new material that actually dwarfs this material, this EP is a proper hype of greatness coming.
Mixtape Albums
Skyzoo – The Great Debater
Skyzoo’s original material mixtape features the beat styles of the day for much of it. It doesn’t feature anything close to the rhymes of the day. Skyzoo has the stylings of BK Hood Rich with a fluidity and wordplay dexterity that is astronomical in its ability. His 100 plus bars on “The Definitive Prayer” is one of the classic songs of the year. He is one of the few young MCs reaching a prime where he is already a great talent and has the potential to create a complete classic album.
Elzhi – Elmatic
Elzhi is the other young MC out in Detroit with the same forecast as Skyzoo. Elmatic is overrated in the sense that paraphrasing Illmatic cleverly and having wonderful live renditions of the Ilmmatic beats doesn’t come close to the superior work Elzhi deserved this type of credit for. His solo debut The Preface, largely produced by Black Milk, was near perfect while Elmatic is just free throws if you’re really listening. One track not paraphrased is “Genesis,” as it was never rhymed on by NaS and his complex crafting is evident “My punchlines knock niggas the fuck out/Still earn block figures, cop triggers and duck droughts” of his internal rhyme gifts.” A beast on the mic paying homage to the legends, Detroit stays reppin the right state of mind.
Immortal Technique – The Martyr
My man Tech really is this militant. He didn’t learn how to occupy, do activism or be militant from Zuccotti Park. He believes in everything he spits and spits everything with intense fury. The diversity here is better than most quality albums we’re being charged for. It ranges from the rugged revolutionary declaration on the title track, the comically clever "Rich Man's World (1%)" versed through the eyes of the devils in power, the beauty of the Original woman on “Natural Beauty” and the ill collabos with Chuck D, Dead Prez and Vinnie Paz to name just three. His flow shows elevation on “Eyes in the Sky” rolling over the Southpaw track, who did the majority of the work here. The insights on Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movements worldwide is timely and useful. As Tech instructs, “your responsibility is to burn this for every muthafucka that you know.” Use that shit. You scared? You playin wit it. Use that.
Nitty Scott, MC – Cassette Chronicles
- Doobies x Popsicle Sticks
Nitty Scott is one of the best new MCs of today. Her beauty, youth and vocal flow has such an 1989 vibe that she literally seems beyond her time. The Boricua Morena has a growing dexterity and as revealed a wonderfully rigid adherence to the principles of keeping it real by keeping it right. With Cassette Chronicles, tracks like her version of “Deep Cover” and Gang Starr’s “Work” really reveal more than flow but a cleverness to willingly represent the female. She also reveals lyrical intimacy in telling her story on “Here I Am.”
The Hardcore
The Hardcore always deserves special mention particularly when the snare coffin is getting so many bodies. The Wu-Tang Clan and Fam still represent in their 3rd decade with a quality compilation, Legendary Weapons. The project really has excellent verses particularly from RZA, Ghostface KIllah and the amazing comeback from Killa Sin. Cappadonna’s Pilgrimage had some bangers but lacked consistency.
Dom Pachino released his pronounced retirement with The Last Armageddon. Just as rugged as he came with 2002’s Tera iz Him, his continued achievement is his newest artist, the very talented flow of Bugsy Da God. Bugsy’s debut, The Terrorist Advocate is exactly the type of hardcore albums of yesteryear with only tough beats, hard rhymes and perfected flows. Releasing a free EP, The Seven Angels of Death, all produced by Falling Down, Bugsy has real potential with perfect backdrops to be an MC of ruggedness and substance that could take Napalm Records to another level.
Lyrically of note is Reks LP, R.E.K.S.(Rhythmatic Eternal King Supreme), who continues to make quality albums consistently. Rek’s performance on “25th Hour” was this writer’s choice for best performance over a DJ Premier beat. Brownsville, Brooklyn’s Maffew Ragazino, with better beat selection will have even better albums than his free debut, Rhyme Pays. Still, the hardcore is about pure tough breaks and rhymes and Gage’s The Desolate Lands, Meyhem Lauren’s Self Induced Illness, J-Love’s Egotistical Maniac, M.O.P.’s Sparta, Neek the Exotic and Large Professor’s Still on the Hustle, Outerspace’s My Brother’s Keeper, Apathy’s Honkey Kong, KRS-One & Showbiz' Godsville and Hassaan Mackey & Apollo Brown's Daily Bread all deserve note. There are flaws in these albums from length to content limitation and/or just overshadowed by better performance albums but years from now these will still be appreciated as the rarity they are.
The continued casualty of the hardcore is the legendary MC Black Thought at the hands of The Roots with the 3rd straight album, Undun, where white rock creamy choruses line out more verses without Black Thought. While Undun is excellent in its sonic quality and often in its actual musicality, we need the hardcore.
Honorable Mention
Common – The Dreamer/The Believer
Another quality comeback from Common that misses the top ten because of its brevity and addition of some softies (i.e. “Celebrate”). But a Common softie is just a feel good track and he’d be on the list just for calling out that fake ass Drake (and as a brother noted to me really others higher on the popped throne) for what he really is. “Sweet” is rugged perfection and just an ill look for an MC that went Hollywood and Obama gaga. No ID’s beats are 10's upgraded but still comes tough on “The Cloth,” “The Dreamer” and the classic duet with NaS, “Ghetto Dreams.” Common’s politics is crossover and he’s got the mass appeal but not the underlying Hip Hop intention that's here, all real.
Sa-Roc – Ether Warz
A rare treasure, a strong conscious Black sister who has lyrics for days and days. With her sophmore album, Ether Warz, she delivers fluidly verbose lyricism. This album is to be explored for exceptionally written verses and the charisma expressed through a dynamic cadence and aura of strength and femininity. "711 A.D." tells the story of the Moors in Spain being outed by the re-conquering Europeans through the resurrection of the warrior ("Grey skies prevailed over sunlight then. Purple hearts marked the chest bones of valiant men. For those who fought brilliantly, a legend was formed.."). "Pretty Poison" tells the tale of the good Negro crossing over ("He was not really dark, and not too light, was that--non intimidating shade of brown , you know the one---just right? Groomed to be an all star in the dream team of life, studied hard so he could go to schools his daddy would like.."). The battle tracks are heavy too as "Fire, Wind then Earth," "Samurai Soliloquy," "Sun Tzu" and "Sun Eaterz" easily reveal. Beatwise, the sampling is not deep crated but well executed and nothing is candy coated. Sa-Roc is one of the best MCs today. Actual fact.
Kool G Rap – Riches, Royalty & Respect
G Rap is absolutely a major cog in the foundation of every real hardcore MC, that is the MCs that fuckin count. His triple R album is not a title of what he is trying to get in Hip Hop but what he as already earned. To superficially note his contribution to the opening of wildly free and dynamic excursions of the street underworld of violence and crime to Hip Hop is ultimately weak. Hip Hop is a music of the people and street that is sold commercially. It is inevitable that contradiction and hypocrisy have its proper war. In this war, G Rap is the realness, the contradiction of merging extra ordinary skill in dexterity, fluidity and descriptive technique to tell the realest stories and the most blaxploitated visions in the mind. Just as the best movie directors reveal truth and exaggerated storytelling excitement, G Rap blends it all. Seeing it deeper, the real hypocrisy is not to see that in so skillfully breaching boundaries it allowed the greatest MCs of the best decade in Hip Hop’s recorded history to flourish (i.e. Raekwon, BIG PUN, Ghostface, NaS, AZ, Black Thought, Monch, Cormega.. etc.)
RR&R is an album that deserves note because it is a greater album than the sum of its limited parts. Beatwise, nothing is bad but much of it is poorly chosen in retrospect. A variety of beatmakers from the known Alchemist and legend Marley Marl to The Insurgency and Leaf Dog, the album needed better work in making each beat thicker and cohesive. Some mistakes are mere repetitiveness as Supa Dave, who contributed the most (4 ) gives two of the best beats, “Sad” and “Pages of My Life” but employs the same stuttered cymbal crash that works great for G Rap but is noticed on the earned repeat listenings. There isn’t unique sample digging as a veteran’s album shouldn’t be filled with so many “vintage” choices yet tracks like “Pimptro” where Blastah Beats mines Marlena Shaw’s “Woman of the Ghetto,” the added snare work and rolling kick drums work as nice vegetables to G Rap’s “Goldie Flow.”
And just lay on this motherfucker like silk and just nice and soft on them is how KGR takes the entire album. As a legendary veteran, this album is not a complete package of his abilities; rather, it’s a special album focusing on his airy pimp stride cadence and extreme detail on the street life as seen through a pimp. Interacting with his women (“That’s right she call me Daddy, I’m the only Ho’s father/gator shoes getting lined up at the barber/ they see me as that nigga in these streets going harder/no dough for my hoe believe I’m a starve her understand it’s worth it/ the plan work perfect…”), telling tales of lost love (“Maggie” ), the demise of a thieving damsel (“America’s Nightmare”) or that straight Goldie Flow (“Ya Chic Chose Me”). In a discography that is legendary for its skill, its engagingly entertaining brutality and complete consistency in musical purity (no sellout), R,R&R is an album that broadens the analysis of his palette.
Rasheed Chappell – Future Before Nostalgia
With some great new MCs this year releasing debuts of some sort (i.e. Maffew Ragazino’s Rhyme Pays), it is Rasheed Chappell of Project City, New Jersey who really comes with a completely crafted album that reveals a very nuanced and sincere lyricist. The nostalgic force in his abilities are straight out of Queensbridge as his voice is similar to Capone with a mastery of chopped phrasing that lends itself to introspection on the right phrase as he does perfectly on “Stay Sharp” (“Freedom is a state of mind, so is the ghetto..Pure light, the key to my genetic code, is one part mineral, two parts physical, combine both parts equals no identical…”). Chappell is an MC that takes pictures of his environments and his skill broadens when those pictures are socio-economic or street spiritual. The peak may be on “Building 8” where he builds on the true science of self that the poorest and most down trodden have accessed through these hells. Chappell not just is taking a stance as a man sincerely adding on the best part of what he can righteously use but also lends us the moments with places, feelings and peoples he witnesses. On “Building 8” he leads this with “I was building with my barber bout the teachings of the Father/How the woman is the Earth and the Black man is Allah/preachers in the churches what they hooping and they holler and the secrets of the Masons on the back of the dollar/mysteries of life from the Buddha to Kabbalah…walking hypocrites, still trying to make my mind up…tell me where it started/it’s hard to see the view from my projects/Positive Energy Always Creates Expansion and elevation/Peace!”` Still, his battle raps are mythical portrayals of self as a thriving survivor of the ghetto wars. These introductions from “Picasso in Print” to “What I’m Here For” are done with a slow, broken flow that is syncopated perfectly because he measures his syllables exactly and annunciates vividly.
On the boards, Sunset Park’s Kenny Dope makes the hardcore seem easy. There is a great nostalgia in the samples chosen from the Big Daddy ode on "Break Loose" to the PE tribute, “Shut it Down.” However, the skill of Kenny Dope is his ability to amplify the soul of a record. As far as Boom Bap with soul leaking lovely from the RZA school, the soul sample on “Thankful” rides in smooth and grooved and on “People” he elevates the break as he introduces Rasheed one last time. That expertise is rare today to go along with the new MCs today. Ultimately, the familiarity of a sample runs a thin line of success as it may seem repetitive and stale if flipped generically or it can bring great nostalgia if it is cleverly chopped and/or laced with new melodies and great equalizing. The quality of the sound is what makes producers as Large Professor and Pete Rock so respected. Here Kenny Dope works the nostalgic theme beautifully introducing a new MC, Chappell, who is already a veteran of life. A great debut that shows even more promise and hope that this duo keeps adding on together.
Timbo King – From Babylon to Timbuktu
The debut of Wu Fam veteran Timbo King in 2011 is a testament to the bullshit of the industry. A recurring positive in the gloom of such immaculate bullshit is the glaring counter response of so many MCs that are sincere, humane and completely hardcore. Timbo King is a leader of that and despite this being a debut, there is a great familiarity with what he presents as he has shined from his Royal Fam albums, the underground mixtapes, the Maccabeez tracks and the many features from the dozen plus with Hell Razah, others with RZA, Cappadonna and the GZA to name most of them.
With that said, Timbo King is a spiritual focus and a rugged socio-cultural build done with expertise. Also, there is no technique that Timbo decides to display that isn’t done perfectly, so well you won’t notice until repeated listenings. Timbo does rely on phrasing but after decades of MCing there are no chops in his flow and when the tracks rage chaotically, as on “Ruling Class,” one can see the craftsmanship he puts into it.
Lyrically, Timbo’s experience with the countless ideas, ideologies and spiritualities makes him an elder to me. Criticizing his personal choice of preferred ideas in his build is disrespectful. However, there is a great mosh of Israelite, Rastafari, Muslim and Nation of God and Earth ideas that sonically blend but offer a sincere mystery at times with this writer. With Timbo paying homage and recording the video for the excellent LP title track in front of the Nation of God and Earth school in Harlem (Allah School in Mecca), that point deserves note. Still, the goal is the unification of all of our people and that direction he takes it is through his Art. With this Timbo succeeds completely.
The production is also where Timbo must receive great credit. Initially intended to be completely produced by Bronze Nazareth, the switch to blending different productions seemed difficult. However, Timbo’s ear is superior for sound. It isn’t just for breaks as in Bronze’s brutally vicious bass drums on “Thinking Cap.” Instead it’s his feel for the melodies and the myriad instruments that work them. From “The Book of Timothy”’s bass fingerings to the steady traveling horns of “The Autobiography of Timothy Drayton,” a great Lil’ Fame track. Horns are the predominate course yet vary wildly from the irie horns of “The Rebellion” or the siren horn through the verses on the title track. And of course the Soul, Soul and more Soul. With such production, there are many tracks Timbo provides MC clinics. From the most comedic line of the year on “High Ranking” (“You that rapper in that Boolay movie/ playing with his booty cootie/ Ducking from the jury duty/ niggas call you foofie foofie/Breath smell like Twilight Zone, do do DO DO do do DO DO…”) to the spiritual opening, "The Book of Timothy" ("Born in a world ascended child from a heavenly family/In a village where civilization was raised and taught/From the first steps on the Earth as so/Acknowledge the son whose father was a builder for-self/Who birthed the blesses of life/Amongst the merchants and messengers/The genuine rulers Tzu rises with his holy army of righteousness/ Godly by human-nature"). This is a great first solo effort by Timbo and is up there with the best work from the Wu Fam solo albums.
10. J-Live - S.P.T.A. (Said Person of That Ability)
The complete conclusion to last year’s Undivided Attention EP (included in the physical purchase), J-Live reveals himself as the Triple Threat (MC/DJ/Producer) with a subtlety that rewards repeat listening like the best Jazz records. T As one of the great Hip Hop veteran MCs through the 00’s, the many facets of his repertoire have been on display if you studied closely. A true Hip Hop artist, performing tracks like “Braggin Writes” looping Peacock’s “Survival” with deft scratches and cuts perfectly dropping his bars proved it. In the studio, his production technique has been its best when it focuses on the thickness and the filled sound he can create. His 2003 EP, Always Will Be, from the title track, “Add A Cipher,” and “Car Trouble” are perfect examples. As a DJ his skills have been featured more so on his mixtapes than his albums.
As a DJ, the cuts are prominent as their first appearance on “From Scratch” are incredible. Illastrate’s only track and it has boom bap kicks and a sharp stuttered snare doubling up nicely. It’s ideal to lead in J-Live’s scratching and they are sharp, prominent and blended through the vocals lovely. The theme of this album is that each J-Live element is a different person and the more closely you listen you can hear the deliberate conversation he makes between them in union and in competition with each other. The cuts on the “How I Feel Pt. 3” echo lovely over the top of the track and while the other 2 elements get more rep, his ability on the tables is unquestioned.
As a producer, J-Live may be studied immediately through his five productions on the album. “Life Comes In Threes,” the instrumental track is the most notable J-Live production with a beautiful long playing flute solo by Rasheeda Ali aided by a smooth guiding tenor saxophone and trombone over a consistent smooth bass drum kick and cymbal notes. The diversity is apparent as we move from the hand clap snares and airy vocal loop of “Home or Away (Remix)” or the pensively smooth guitar and snare laden “Half A Glass” to the B-Boy horn filled, tough snared “Watch Sun Watch” to the actually fun, cautionary tale of “Great Expectations” with its piano driven basslines reacting to J’s vocals. Still, actual beat making isn’t the only measure of the producer. Constructing a unique track to one’s name is most crucial but hardly the entire reality. For an MC, it is about those choices they make to rhyme over and as an Executive Producer of this entire record, he took the lead and wonderfully arranged the majority of the album. This is why there is a consistency of perfect engineering, vocals all perfectly on break as they were originally MC’d and a diversity of tempos, melodies, sampling and topical themes and concepts from his other element, the MC.
Still the legendary element of J-Live is the MC and with a discography of incredible themes and concept driven songs, on S.P.T.A. the general 3 element theme and the MC legacy are the consistent concepts shining forth. There is the introspective application of the 3 way musical theme to all of life on “Home or Away (Remix)” and on “Pronounced Spitta” and “Watch Sun Watch” he declares who and what his skills represent. The incredible wordplay of J-Live is one of the most subtle techniques one can enjoy uncovering. On “No Time To Waste” it’s more immediately apparent as he verses visions of a better world, “Heroes allotted, jerks are reported/Deeds are applauded, works are rewarded/Food, clothes and shelter, all are afforded/Love, peace and happiness, pride in your nappiness/Plots to destroy your culture, give orders/See the self hate and doubt get deported/Beyond your borders, relay the orders/Delays and setbacks get drawn and quartered/Teach the lambs to repel that slaughter/Teach the horses to drink that water/Teach to build or destroy like mortar/And like muscle tissues get torn/Let's grow from these lessons stronger than before”
J-Live has little to prove in his career and his albums play as if he has a plan to share ideas and talents with us sincerely. This excellent album leads one to note that an album where J-Live makes a complete album with 100% J rhymes, J-Live beats and DJ J-Live cuts, he should have another classic album in his discography.
9. Mohammad Dangerfield – Hasan Salaam & Rugged N Raw are
An album that unites two like minds but two unique talents. Perfectly titled, the comedy of punchlines, flows and techniques coupled with insight, principle and hardcore aesthetic over diverse, yet well-chosen tracks make this album a rarity.

Here is my original review: http://www.lavoerevolt.blogspot.com/2011/03/hasan-salaam-rugged-n-raw-are-mohammad.html
8. 9th Wonder – The Wonder Years
These writings of the Real primarily are inspired by illogical claims. One is that this year was an attempted comeback for 9th Wonder. Can’t call it a comeback when he’s been the most consistent premiering producer in the 00’s. Last year saw the high quality beats on Actual Proof’s EP and Rapsody’s Return of the B-Girl along with the exceptional album with David Banner, Death of a Pop Star. Exceptional because David Banner is a talented MC with much to say and his work usually completely contradicts that. Over 9th backdrops he drew out a Goodie like performance. With the Wonder Years, 9th caps off an incredibly prolific year. There are the great tracks (i.e. “Black Diamonds”) that fueled Rapsody’s ill album of progression, Thank H.E.R. Now and countless contributions. Of immediate note are those on Median’s The Sender album and the saving tracks (i.e. “The Good Fight,” “Not Here Anymore”) on Phonte’s Charity Starts At Home LP as mmtigalo-mmtigalo-mmtigalo decided to crossover trash his own album cuz he won seeeng an alla dem ting.
Unlike classic producer albums like Pete Rock’s Soul Survivor and DJ Muggs Soul Assassins Volume 1, the majority of 9th’s artists are not A-list artists or underground legends. After Raekwon , Masta Killa and Talib Kweli, all are 9th affiliated artists that make this a reinforcement of taking the production challenge to bring out the best of young talents. What he crafts is an affirmation of his consistency of being able to make snare poppin tracks with completely filled spaces through soulful melodies and harmonies. He also introduces us to a myriad of styles making Wonder Years a complete package of countless techniques on the boards. The styles can be named from raw Boom Bap to rugged portrayals of Neo-soul and even isolated jazz scenarios.
The straight up grimy Hip Hop goes in many variations when we begin with Raekwon’s still increasing lyrical dexterity on “No Pretending,” a track with perfect bottom and thudding snares or using Skyzoo as a perfect melodious instrument to flowingly complement the groove highlighted prior to the beat drop on “Hearing the Melody.” As stated the ability of 9th to produce tracks with a body that fills all the spaces is exactly what bullshit tracks produced for jingles, ring tones or soft computer speakers can’t have. Tracks like “Streets of Music” with very Dilla-like organs welcome the smashing spilled splat snares or the digital siren on “Piranhas” over muted sounding drums are all the traits that make 9th addictive to the ear. The neo-Soul of 9th is Boom Bapped soul where his tracks have the right piano melodies and snares to let his singers (i.e. Mela Machinko on “Now I’m Being Cool”) wail through choruses or flips the modern disco with a riding bass thud on “Peanut Butter & Jelly” where Marsha Ambrosius dominates lovely.
Despite the unknowns, there is a sincerity throughout from the MCs like Actual Proof reminiscing on “Streets..” While he gets nice work out of Thee Tom Hardy on the crushy clap snares on “Your Smile,” using Mac Miller as a suave ladies’ man (“That’s Love”) or as anything like an MC is rotten to the corn. Still, Phonte is still a dynamic MC on 9th tracks of any style like the digi R&B of “One Night” or the tough “Band Practice” with Median. Wonder Years is a thickly spaced, thudding beat breaked and crunchy snared variety showcase that proves 9h Wonder as a supreme uniter of bass, drums and melodies in Hip Hop.
7. Random Axe - (Sean Price, Guilty Simpson & Black Milk)
The supergroup union is no random event but really one of Hip Hop’s answers for building a righteous breakbeat globalization network. With the gravely bass of Guilty Simpson fresh off Madlib tracks, Black Milk honoring the passed Dilla baton and Sean P straight bodying every feature prepping his Mic Tyson LP, they unite and show us the direction of Detroit and the reinvigorating of New York.
The music of Hip Hop, an original style of studying the history of music and re-toughening through a restructuring that entails complete creativity. So the Boom Bap of 9th Wonder is a total different portrait that the axes that Black Milk wields. Black Milk is the best beatmaker directly from the J Dilla school with overtly drummed tracks that are designed for beat exposure. He doesn’t fill up his tracks like Pete Rock but keeps his drums coming out of a very disjointed melody that pops them intensely. They appeal beyond Hip Hop ears because they aurally show you their elements. Whether he does this with extremely loud sharp snares on “Black Ops” or keeps them in his version of a muted break on “Chewbacca.” The drums can be digital but they sound like a wild band is angrily playing behind Sean Price and Guilty on “The Hex” in a song that keeps the MCs versing on the run lovely. The quality of Black Milk beats are their highlighting of the MCs as he puts Guilty and P to ride a coughed snare, rolling drum roll and digital blurps on “Understand This.” Every track is wildly different as it can go from tambourine’d snares on “Shirley” or the watery melody on steady march drum on “Karate Kid.”
Also repping Detroit, Guilty Simpson is an ill MC that earns his paper over great tracks as he did last year with Madlib. Here his vocal point is fake bashing (”Somebody needs to take the blame/These dudes throwing rent money up just to make it rain”) but the guidance here is P-Body. Sean P has become one of the great, brutally unique, abstract, street MCs with Pun charisma and a Dare iz a Darkside Redman wildness. P constantly re-masculinizes emo’d Hip Hop (“The God spit aggressive content/Due to my jail time and crack sold on the park bench”) and his abstract leanings even influence Guilty’s cleverness as on “Monster Babies” (“I'm beastly, I better have monster babies/with teeth already, to chomp on prey”).
Random Axe is one of the most entertaining albums this year and the kind of Hip Hop that’ll “never be mainstream/They make you sell crack, bust gats and blaze green/Ravishin' Ruck Rude, a motherfucking savage who bust tools..P!”
6. Raekwon Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang
RZA gave the entire Wu-Tang family the beds to work a career out of. After his great 5 year plan was proven in 1997 with Wu-Tang Forever, the classic double disc, the Wu has worked to prove themselves sincerely and/or gratuitously since. Raekwon’s classic Only Built For Cuban Linx Part II proved it for the Chef and many others yet he also needed to prove it again..and again. Raekwon’s Shaolin Vs. Wu-tang develops out of the issues that range from business and fam merging too long, 8 Diagrams' symbolic representation of progressing the sound versus keeping the sound vintage and Raekwon’s increasing talent expressing a reality with greater verve, lyrical dexterity and smoothed flow that has been the most bitten core of sellout gangstas.
Like CL Part II was not really a second part but a more viciously detailed and triumphant caper laced reprise of Cuban Linx. It continues with Shaolin as Raekwon makes an incredible album most importantly on the strength of his MCing skill actually increasing. Rae often speaks with less versatility on content yet far more developed and detailed in his approach with a mastery of his rapid fire flows of “Meth vs. Chef” and the slow flow thug he rode greatly on 8 Diagrams (i.e. “Gun Will Go”). Skills everywhere, the verses are sharp from the broken chopped phrasing of the battle lined LP title track (“With flyish 'Berg, buying herb, new kick, designer birds/She on, and we up, let's re-up, and free'd up/Jakes hate it, Rae made it, Clientele, we gon' sell/You gon' starve, he gon' jail, night boots, swim with whales/Better snub, surgical leather gloves, never loved/We gon' kill, take it to the Hill, we forever real”) to the descriptive fluid phrases on “Rich And Black” (I'm rich, black, umbrella calico captain/Wes Craven with a blade and a black/I'm hood ornaments, junkies win awards in my tournaments/My shit is listed like informants pics/You know we order hits, planes flying, niggas is sure to getcha…”). The storytelling goes dynamically from Kung Fu flix on “Chop Chop Ninja” where he creatively notes “he threw a piece of a chain with a long blade on it/And a nigga was buckwild, I'm ducking and dodging/Trying to stick 'em with my little blade, Rae in some trouble/I got to the glove box, I threw two shots, he disappeared..”) to the mafia cinema tale of retribution on “Snake Pond.” Darts are all over these verses if we analyze opinionated but the actual fact is their strength in detail and smooth cadence he's always had.
The Rae beat choices were always the problem since 1999’s Immobilarity and they only peak through on the shitty low budget quality, high yielding dividend waste, “Rock n Roll.” Yet for the most part, the beat choices honor the classic RZA sound to the best of their recreation. There are the classics from Wu-Disciple i, Bronze Nazareth on the rugged “Butter Knives” and the use of Chinese classical themes works with the ill loop of the Tea Song of Xiang River on “Snake Pond” and the rolling bongos on “The Scroll.” The epic nature is worked on as the strings on “Masters of our Fate” where Raekwon knows how to tell about the come up and Black Thought gives his best verse of the year.
It’s true that no one can make a RZA album but RZA. Yet RZA gave them blueprints to make great records. The legend Raekwon is was manifested on RZA tracks and has continued to propel itself since. With his 3rd best solo album, he follows a classic album with MC skills that are unique, filled with innovative slang and rhyme schemes and textures almost no one can match. The beats almost always mimic RZA to proper effect and hopefully leads to a Cuban Linx 3 with the real RZA.
5. Pete Rock/Smif-n-Wessun – Monumental
This is where the sharing is about revisiting a record we know must have more in it. Everyone that knowledged this record respected it but expected more out of Pete Rock’s tracks and/or Tek and Steele’s verses. Of those, the special bullshit critics said Pete is played out and Smif is irrelevant with too many guests. Even Primo left it off his 25 to gift spots to Jigga, Kanye and Drake for the moments where what the fuck must be spelled out completely. All I listened to was this album again and again letting the proofs spill out and disprove the naysayers and neglecters.
Pete Rock’s career is a discourse in obsessive progression. There is so much detail developing that goes unnoticed. Aside from the easy choice of Babe Ruth’s “The Mexican” on “Do It” there is great sample work like Millie Jackson’s "I'll Live My Love For You" for the title track or “Little Boy Blues’ “Echoes of You” on “That’s Hard.” The samples come from everywhere and they reaffirm the classic elements that make Pete Rock. Rock’s greatest gift is his bassline melodies and this is where the tracks are so full, thickly spaced and yet propelling of the MC. The bassline grooves drive everything on “Go Off” and “Night Time.” Still horns are the Pete Rock trademark and they are actually used as the bass line melodies which those not indulging properly won’t notice as on the mean trombone wail on “I’m A Stand Up Guy” or the incredible beat changing on “Prevail.” The bass on the former is a pure deep pluck while the horn rides through the verse every few bars. His drums are rolling on the classic “Roses,” the bass booms through “Fire,” while the tempos studder on the dancehalled “This One.” In addition his tables work is exceptional, a very unrecognized part of his repertoire, as he tears through the finale, “Time To Say.
Pete Rock gives grimy tracks that let Tek and Steele dive in with strong effect. Tek and Steele are not lyricists of complex textures; instead, they are stylists of exceptional measure. There are great duos that premiered in the last 20 years that rhyme well on the same track but none rhyme as effortlessly together. If the Pete Rock side of this album is lauded for its hard work in constructing a distinct pure sound, then Tek and Steele’s synergy as a duo must also be applauded as their verses are truly well worked routines. The emphasis of brotherhood, loyalty, honor and perseverance are essential in the success of their stylings. It’s why Smif-N-Wessun, at their best, are the core of the Boot Camp Clik unity. To get particular, the mentality of the ghetto mind lost is perfected on “Fire” where they play off each other as voices within struggling for success and maintaining sanity. Fake rappers can’t make records like these. The declarations they make throughout are anthemic. Verses like Tek’s lead on “Go Off” with “This thing build from the ground up /around hounds and pups/ it sounds tough/salute to the founders/Grew up underground with the shooters and scoundrels/ Don't assume or confuse us with the losers around you…” to then evolve into patterned routines is exactly what made their ‘95 debut classic. Their speeds, pacing and tempo control is beyond the best MCs of the last decade and combined with the legendary beat maker make this Smif-N-Wessun’s best LP after Da Shinin.
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4. Thirstin Howl the 3rd – Natural Born Skiller
“Eminem took this rap shit without no warning/wasn’t mad when he didn’t come back for me…” – “Natural Born Skiller”
1988. Brooklyn/Medina Gods. Boricuas. Lo-Lifes. Welfare. Hip Hop prime originators.
2012. Gentrifylyn/Nets. Porto Reekins. Botti-Skinnys. Hood Rich. Pop Hop sellouts.
It ain’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re at. And where we’re at in hell, the best are the resurrected raw straight from where it’s from. This year had a wave of Lo-Life affiliated and Skillionaire artists and records that begin a reviving of a Lo-Lifes Brooklyn root that on many levels has always been overlooked and greatly disrespected. From Meyhem Lauren, Spit Gemz, J-Love to Skillionaire artists German Regime, Thirstin Howl leads it all representing a lost crucial content with a rejuvenated, extra ordinary charisma that brings back the roots lovely.
The death of Hip Hop music in the commercial arena was official by 1999 but there were two classic BK debuts that took it back to the raw: MF Doom’s Doomsday and Thirstin Howl’s Skillionaire. Doomsday became a cult classic and Doom became one of the top 10 MCs of the 00’s. However, Howl released excellent follow-ups like 2000’s Skillosopher and 2001’s Serial Skiller. Yet, just as the emergence of true lyricism from a Boricua BIG PUN in 1998 seemed to allow a portal for the other Original people in the NY hoods, it was closed immediately. Howl is an MC with exceptional content relaying the contradictions of his violent survivalist realities, the real Hip Hop struggle to make and preserve creative outlets and his immense family love in a land designed for our oppression. In ‘99, Howl brought this with a sincere humor, clever wordplay and a broken, chopped flow that could repair itself depending on the tempos chosen.
With fake and diluted versions repping while Howl’s work being delivered only for the underground in mixtape form, he faded out of many peoples’ views. After the well done but lost Skillitary album in ’04 and the niche driven La Cura album of ’06, essentially Spanish Hip Hop not bullshit reggaeton, he comes back with Natural Born Skiller, his most pure album. The purity begins in that many Lo Life albums, particularly Thirstin’s, are mixtape formatted and so there is too much filler with repeated themes, styles and tracks. In addition, the quality of the production is on a deeper level where the beats are sharper with a wonderful sloppiness and the choruses are extremely well written leading to a collection of songs, a great album.
The diversity makes all 21 tracks a virtual necessity as it goes from hood portraits from the concrete on “Brooklyn Killers” to the corresponding Lo-Life fashion consciousness on “Return of the Polo Rican.” Then there is the classic “Surrounded by Criminals” that goes even deeper on the mentality and history of dastardly activities that’s brought through an ill loop of GZA and Biggie. The piano melody that slowly dies bar to bar over a pounding bass drum is addictive when coupled with “Back on the ave of Livonia and Bristol with a pistol…I’m surrounded by criminals” to make that Boricua grimy. Thirstin attacks these street angles comedically as well as on “Brownsville Gold Card Membership 2012” flowing “I’m the pistol packing Papi in the party pissing…”
And the Boricua element, the Original peoples most neglected and repressed in the history of this Hip Hop shit there is a real need for Thirstin’s side. “50 More Cuzins” relates heavy as he embraces clich├ęs that are just fuckn true with love and clever lines. “La Muelte” is a nicely crowded track with a montuno riff and a wailing Fania horn where Thirstin rhymes in Spanglish as the rice and bean monster reveling in the embrace of the death-welcoming street life. The best battle reppin is on “Double Dosage” as the Lo-Life versus Decepticon, Thirstin vs. Sean P, Chapter 1 of a great back and forth that continues with Meyhem Lauren for Part 2. On the first Thirstin rips through double time rhymes while on the second he retorts, “we always ran with Decepticon fam/Stole from the rich/quick lied in the precinct..”
Topically, it continues with his comedic cleverness exposing hypocrisy on “Skiluminati” versing, “Religious decisions, obeying the lies… Priests molest boys/use God as an alibi…” or the racist police on “I 800 Cop Shot,” the homage to the New York root of Hip Hop, “The Mecca” or the love song, “Long Lost Love.” But the battle track, whether with great guests as Canibus, Keith Murray and Chino XL on the title cut’s remix or “High Price” with Edo G and Special Ed, Thirstin’s style remains distinctive. Over the years, he has developed a greater lyrical dexterity within his chaotic flow, quirky word choices and wildly brutal ideas. Natural Born Skiller is filled with beats that work because they are produced right for the artist and exudes the boom bap funk he has always constructed for himself. NBS is Thirstin’s most completely pure Hip Hop album, a collection of all his ideas and creative worth, repping so much history that may be lost otherwise.
2012. Thirstin Howl the 3rd. Marcus Garvey Village. Puro Boricua. Double L’s. Poor but more Righteous. New Hip Hop Greats.
3. Pharoahe Monch – W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)
Monch is not a lyricist. He isn’t a stylist. He isn’t a thematic song crafter. Monch is everything, the complete MC. There isn’t any flow, technique, insight to content, voice pattern, dexterous pattern, use of vocabulary that Monch cannot employ. W.A.R. then can only be perfect if he really does take the time to employ every facet of the complete package. Shit, and the beats gotta be right. Regarding the latter, the beats are right but not perfectly exact. On the former, the LP is too short to reveal a truth that needed at least 65 minutes.
Monch possesses an endless array of dynamic cadences and melodic shifts that the beds to perform best will not be as stripped minimalist as say a Guru or GZA would have them. The production can seek to be chaotic and quirky. Unfortunately the move for a chunk of the LP is toward a hard rock ruggedness that works well but muddles. Still, tracks as the straight wild funk of “Haile Selassie Karate” allow Monch to amazingly steady his flow to a rolling flow or the organ laden “Let My People Go” can get him to reverberate and echo his voice naturally off beat in Juvenile style or the funky guitar riff of “The Hitman” for him to bomb the industry, this being a central theme to this album.
When taken as instrumentals, beats as the steady pedestrian break of “Black Hand Side” seem less than stellar. Still, the beat choices, the major under spoken task of the solo MC, are excellent in their furthering of Monch’s vocal instrument to propel them. Key to Monch’s approach is as he reveals in “Black Hand Side” saying “My hood told me ‘nigga keep it simple and plain.’” Just as this track’s break and hook is simple, Monch tones down the lyrical dexterity and content depth but drastically amplifies the vocal techniques particularly his patterning and voice fluctuations. The epitome of this are in the classic singles, “Clap” and “Shine.” On “Clap,” there is a content simplicity in getting his point across (i.e. the pigs ain’t shit and ain’t never gon do shit good for us Black and Brown peoples) that is then amplified by his clever similes and anthemic statements (“In other words, the police, say it/Say it like 'Pac, ‘the police,’ fuck 'em/ Uh, and that's straight from the underground/where little kids got it bad cause we brown..”). Yet, his song crafting skill takes the ‘clap’ metaphor to its extreme as the last verse goes acapella over a crowd clap that displays consistent alliteration and perfect dexterity to work oblique rhymes dynamically all with perfect syllabic patterning. Over Diamond D’s vibraphone track, “Shine,” the charismatic dexterity is supreme. The vocal fluctuations, pacing of pausing and timed speeds, perfect rhyming, alliteration and oblique rhymes are displayed magnificently again. Sampling any part will highlight a skill from “Two hundred thousand dollar whips and chains/Crooked cops, Crips, crack cocaine/Tupac, Chris, I'm still feelin the pain/Seven year old girl, shot and slain?/What does it all mean? We go insane” or “Where I come from, no one runs when funds run low in lump sums/We chose to dump dumb dumb but live dunn dunn/We livin hum drum in the slums/Where scum conceal stun guns/The words mum for fun son/Conundrums, Ain’t Pretty!”
The best records of the year have mainly been MC efforts and there is none as deliberately designed to showcase the technical skill of the MC that achieves it as well as Monch does. With the theme of the Artist making the Real in a blind world through a fake industry, he gives another great addition to Hip Hop, from a legend’s discography.
2. Cyrus Malachi – Ancient Future
Worldwide, the expression we created here our people have used everywhere. Just as Reggae reached the UK from Jamaica and saw beautiful works from Steel Pulse and so many others. However, while it is has been shown to be a simple task for anyone to rap, Hip Hop is not as easy as it seems to export. Foreign countries have an infinite wealth of Black, Brown and Yellow peoples, immense talent, engaging insights and hells far more enormous than any U.S. ghetto yet have often popped it out or just made wack shit. For instance, we can see the vast differences in cultural syncretizing when we study the countries where Zulu Nation and Rock Steady Crew went and others that only got B.E.T. visuals.
Cyrus Malachi, from the Triple Darkness crew, repping the UK, debuts with a near classic as he has absorbed the most idealistic senses of the culture and relayed it all with a sincerely intense consciousness for our peoples’ elevation and poetry of incredible sociological content. Ancient Future, named after the classic anthropological work on the universal principles of ancient Black Egyptian Tehuti (named Hermes by the Greeks) authored by Wayne B. Chandler, is an opus portrait of ghetto hell and the enlightenment tools of engagement. Cyrus, a Persian word meaning ‘of the Sun’ and Malachi, meaning ‘messenger’ is exactly manifested as he shares nineteen songs of the most complete and thorough content of any album this year. The simple comparisons may put AF as a focused reprise of Killah Priest’s legendary Heavy Mental (i.e. epitomized by his a-alike version of “From Then Til Now” with the melodiously harped “Native Son”). The deeper analysis of AF is that it is a socio-cultural discourse of the righteous MC lighting a path in every dark alley that surrounds us.
Cyrus takes the role of MC seriously and it is a righteousness that is not pompous but a merely blatant, non-apologetic embrace of real Hip Hop (“intelligent street shit/mental medicine for all my brothers riding a street bid enveloped in a level of decadence and Iblis”). Albums like Ancient Future are only done by legends and greats today but never as a debut of a young MC. It becomes an even greater rare treasure when we note that Cyrus enlists 9 beatmakers for 19 songs yet his superior choices reveal a sound direction desired and achieved. The focus is on a 90’s sound with breaks with high treble yet brutally popping snares and bass drums with wonderfully distorted crunch. Technically, Cyrus is a deep voiced, articulate writer of complete phrases where the mid-tempo range is his most preferred yet I expect over time for this to expand.
The strength of Ancient Future is every track powerfully guides one of his direct themes. The themes are not delivered with any clever metaphors or dynamic similes. Instead, the gloom and dark melodies let him directly tell his stories. In these stories aplenty come the intricately woven details of the said ciphers and the insights of enlightenment. Knowledge of self is the core of the album and the piano keys and strings sifting in and out of “Dark Skies” and the aforementioned “Native Son,” and the siren wailing “Streets of Sodom” introduce the hells to be detailed.
The range is extra ordinary and goes from his youth and that transition to adulthood gaining K.O.S. proclaiming, “let’s endeavor to shine although we’re kept in the slum” (“Concrete Flowers”), the details of the police state on a addictively sloppy bass track “Brave New World,” the vivid metaphor of the street crime and violence as pure war on the female vocals wisping and fluted chorus on “Hell’s Garrisons.” With this chorus of “when I open my eyes/I see death, pestilence and lies/a testament to our decadent lives plagued by poverty and crime/honestly I’m dependent on the element of time/to show me I won’t forever be confined/to Hell’s Garrisons where we struggle and fight/in this system of destitution and oppression/our retribution is why I parry” the now trademark Endemic snares drives the track on.
The themed songs are classic as “Black Maria” is one of the best songs I've ever heard about the struggle through the interior cipher, jail, and his striving to self educate self listing everything from Autobiography of Malcolm X to Destruction of Black Civilization by Chancellor Williams to the works of Cheik Anta Diop. This is one of the most beautiful untold stories for so many of my brothers locked down and to have it told here from a real first person perspective is anthemic. As anthemic as the balance he achieves in understanding the Orginal woman as he classically tells the story of a lovely dark sister, without self love but well informed by this racist society that she must be lighter and more loose, eventually falling into every crack that this sad ignorance affords (“Black Madonna”). He counters this with awakening to the necessity of the beauty and depth of the Black woman on “Duality.” All of this leads to “Kemetic Love” where he engages in this war together with his wife and children. “That’s my duty as a provider/It’s life’s obstacles that define us, whether colossal or minor/ I’ve been labeled a phenomenal writer with a sociological cipher cuz I take the time to meditate on life/but on this joint I praise my kids and wife who stood by my side…”
This album still is the waging of war not merely through its lovely detailing but through its engagement through the rhyme, the battle raps. “Crimson” and “Elemental” where Morph laces it with an incredible doo wop laced “whooo” over a thick hand clap snare and deft cuts, portraiting the hood placing himself in it as a savior. The posse cuts leads with two classics off Endemic beats, “Master Builders” and “King Cobras” where Kevlaar 7, Bronze Nazareth and June Megalodon of the Wisemen, the God Darkim Be Allah and Rustee Juxxx kill it. Virtually every last bar is a quotable and again, Endemic’s trademark snares are only matched by his fiery horns and soul howls.
There is a long journey of an MC from the UK earning his place here in America and the rest of the world. “Animal Circus” take us through their experience with Hip Hop music and it is now our blessed moment to listen to this movement Ancient Future comes back to share.
1. Bronze Nazareth – School For the Blindman
Hip Hop is a genre of music that suffers as no other. Commercialization’s corruption strikes Hip Hop at a pace that no other genre, be it Jazz, Funk, Reggae, Salsa, Merengue, etc., has ever experienced. Now, innovation is desired from the same artists (i.e. Jay-Z) that transitioned dilution through its quality era to today’s dead bin period. These same qualifying A-list artists sanction and qualify the newcomers (i.e. Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Drake, etc.) as common practice that now appropriate and imbed tactics that prior would be considered horrid (i.e. pseudo-singing/auto-tuned talking, clear dance/club tracks as beds for rapping) or once known as unacceptable (i.e. the merging of homo-erotic ambiguity with the increase of caricatured misogyny). As commercialization prevails the principles that hold a movement together become irrelevant when mass purchases are a mere click and memory is lost with a mere drag.
Hip Hop music has its set definition--a cultural music created by Black and Brown people, of specific relevance to all Original people, that when performed by anyone, is consistent with Originality in the production of breakbeats and rhyme verses that merge the reality of the said artist’s life and his creative mind. All together it’s the Realness and alotta muthafuckas ain’t Hip Hop by definition. The true innovator then of a defined genre today, where years are behind it and massive legends have produced classics setting it, is one who masters the innovations, the progressions and reveals a new depth to it. Since 2005, Bronze Nazareth has shown the progression of an innovator. With School For the Blindman, his sophomore follow up to the classic debut, The Great Migration, he proves it once again.
To begin, Bronze is part of RZA’s Wu-Elements, the great production core honored to further the sound of one of the greatest true innovators of the genre. While highly esteemed a position, the brutal task of honoring it puts the Bronzeman literally in the Shaolin Temple fighting his way through the 18 Bronzemen for true innovation. If the major Wu principles can be named they are the lyrical expression of the Knowledge of Self, United Brotherhood and the Soul of Sound. Throughout Bronze’s debut LP, two mixtapes and two Wisemen group albums and the Almighty group LP, he has presented us with a mastery of these ideals through his wholly unique interpretation. With School, the refinement is so focused that it powers itself as the best album this year and an arguable classic.
The essential Wu core element, the Knowledge of Self, is at its highest extreme the truth of the Nation of God and Earth that there is no mysterious being, force or energy that controls our reality. That we, the Original people are the true and living sole controllers of our reality and everyone has a right to know themselves as a righteous person. At its most basic is the sharing of insight in the most creative proportions from the arcane thought to the dramatic life lived. There is no limitation in content or style of lyrical expression and the diversity of brothers sought to relay it. This Way is through the United Brotherhood that blends all the talents needed to share this. It is composed through a Soul of Sound that does not merely sample vocals but composes tracks that merge lyrical ideas to its matched passionate aural score.
School for the Blindman has all the course work for these 3 key elements. Immediately known as a beatmaker, it must be said that Bronze is a producer here orchestrating samples, breaks, live devices and lyrics that becomes a deep route of Soul of Sound that is Hip Hop Blues. This Hip Hop Blues that he continues to create (with Kevlaar 7 now, as well) is the perfect bed, the drum that keeps the dumb intrigued, for one of the most artistic lyrical expressions of struggle to enlightenment that I’ve heard today. Clearly, the Soul is sampled as blatantly as before and to great effect. “Jesus Feet” introduces the album with beautiful strings and a wooing vocal sample that couples with a simple bass drum and sharp cut snare. Of the specifically themed tracks, “The Letter” employs a beautifully sung verse sampled to introduce one of the strong thematic songs. “Pictures (Stem Cells)” cascades the lady soul vocals as chimes to go with instrument chimes in the background over a breakbeat that drum rolls vaguely behind it all letting the story propel. “Records We Used To Play” again uses the soul vocals the way Primo makes his cuts to support the story told.
This inspection of the production work goes beyond making hard breaks and ill loops and chops to dress it. Instead it is complete musical production where they reflect the themes exactly of the tracks and unite in perfect blends. For the increases in rhyme tempo there isn’t just simple increases of bpm. Bronze’s gift is his awareness of choices and then the power to make them with the use of melodies, horns, pianos, strings and vocal loops in myriad ways. For “Farewell,” there is the Marvin Gaye vocal over a dynamically grooved cymbal crash snare. “Reggie” has its incredible beat change from tough horns over slushy snares into a baritone vocal whoo. It’s accompanied by trombone’d bass brewing through beat snares that are wonderfully frenetic and overactive becoming crunchier with alternating pops and doubling. “Worship” is fueled by sinister cinema strings over a double up bass drum that pops off a splatt snare. Then there is the expert chopping on “The Road” with such a great marching drum stuttering through a honking horn and a vocal calling “Find a Way” looped throughout. The bridge between verses makes the re-introduction of the versing track more amazing. Reviewing the original Dip______... source gives a clue to the creativity employed.
When Kevlaar adds on, it reminds of their great success in live experimentation from last year’s Wisemen group work, Children of a Lesser God. “Gomorrah” is amplified by a bass line that has an incredible purity to it and horns that capture the hood sketches they draft out. On “Fourth Down” there is an amplifying vibe given through the use of drum crescendo and the piano vibes hitting singularly. As the track increases and the verse tempos get more intense from Salute to Bronze through Kevlaar and Phillie, the horns just introduce themselves so vividly. Throughout this album, Bronze breaks down and rebuilds his tracks so well with chorus bridges and isolated breaks throughout. The drum work on this album is extremely diverse in its arranging and pacing. The main problem with The Great Migration, it’s mastering, is solved with great reward as these tracks deserve time to take apart and put together again listen after listen.
However, the real core to School is Bronze’s lyricism that has expanded so much. Throughout, it affects his technique as he raps throughout countless tempos and not only matches his vocal pacing with it but a root is in the incredible writing. On the slow tempo of “The Road” he employs shorter phrasing that is abstract upon first listen but becomes an exposure of engaging metaphor and similes. Bronze’s constant revision is in his word choices to give many of his verses perfect rhymes and virtually complete syllable synergy through his bars. The ingenuity in the verses is throughout School. Battle raps like “Fourth Down” feature “simmer hell hole/ smell of gold when I rummage/ chop the charge, holy prayers all leaking from it” or the best abstracted, poetic writing I heard this year on “Jesus Feet” that includes “"Black master implant/message dressed to enchant/many bent under modern Bethlehem street lamps/also for deep cramps exchange chlorophyll grants/oil spilled days make the sun rays enhance/the forecast, four diecast metal cats on a warpath paragraphs sera-laced raps/Bless the 13th amendment that I ever braced tecs/ take the X out the rebel flag/Malcolm got next ...Royal fam with the loyal hand/murals of my sonograms/nickname sauna hands..."
The creative lyricism matches any era propelling songs of distinct subjects into engaging explorations. There is a simple straight conversation on “The Letter” saying everything he wanted to say to his brother, in the heart, who returned to the essence from drug abuse. Yet, while “Pictures” tells of conversations he’s having with portraits of the beloved dead his wordplay is exceptionally clever where merely saying it simple is unacceptable. “I keep my hat low, roll up the dreams and blow…delusional off the smoke fixture…Stash the heat when I move cuz the sun don’t shine/ I keep my eyes low/natural sunglass/pass the wine…outlandish off the green lanterns…” Over an old flame on "King of Queens" Bronze reminisces, "I miss the old shit/splashing the clit/spilling the oceans..sometimes I think about you through a wind draft of old fragrance..." On "Farewell" and "Reggie" the poetry continues promoting the detailed advance of stories. The former is on a jail bid where his pacing increases and poetic detail expands versing "a wrong corner turning in the precinct/ finger print me like a German D-Day inmate/ I'm still great/ held down by colors and some change/ I buy heat it rains/I buy sleep i'd never wake/ fuck the easy route/the hard road will keep you in shape/I'm shipped upstate to truncate my freedom and I could feel it.." The latter is a quest for a junkie who stole from him. Of the entire powerful verse, the plea the junkie gives is worthy of particular note versed, "we were once the same/ but he got caught in the flame/ now his daily routine is making sure the kids ate/ along the way he started to climb rocks to escape/ never been to the mountain or ever had a full plate/ said he ain't mean to offend but its expensive stakes/ offered his shoes, I commence to take/ so I could see, probably do the same if I were he/ next word he speak built a stunning array/ he quoted Martin as I forgave and put my thunder away," ending the song abruptly with the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote the junkie recites. Complete with this type of supreme construction, School is the epitome of the ideally perfect listening record that bangs beastly.
In addition, the United Brotherhood is here in full force as Bronze’s own group of brothers, the Wisemen, drop some of their best performances. Kevlaar’s verse on “Worship” is perfected lyrical bombing while Phillie’s two appearances have some of the best stylings on the mic one can hear today. Special guests as Canibus on “Bronzemen 2” drop jewels of note (“revolution is not an event/it’s a process…it’s not about money/it’s about interdisciplinary studies that’s why sometimes things get ugly…open mic night but not an open mind in sight…”) while the Wu reps, greatly epitomized by RZA’s 4 appearances being some of his best lyrics in years. "The Fellowship” reveals such where he builds as the Abbot accepting the apprenticeship of Bronze, the disciple: “Accept the Four Agreements/perfect them, more achievements/correct them more grievance/reject them, more deviance… realness overfills life illness until it’s revealed through stillness/ I’m never jealous or overzealous/ Wu-Tang Clan, my fellowship.”
Like Mobb Deep’s Hell On Earth, Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders and even Ice Cube’s Death Certificate, School For the Blindman is an elevation of Bronze’s expression and an even more complete work than his classic debut. The core of the Wu, and all Hip Hop music, at its best is that long crafted Art that embodies keys to enlightenment, sincerely, non-didactically and with a raw, gutter score for lyrics as creatively structured and imaginatively dynamic as they could be. Today, a great album, School for the Blindman, is grossly unrecognized and an entire movement, Bronze Nazareth and the Wisemen, is being missed. That is part of the culture’s corruption and the enjoying/studying them is a key to reinvigorating Hip Hop fresh from the morgue.
0. Heaven Razah – Razah Reborn
The Greatest Hip Hop Comeback…
…of Heaven Razah is symbolic to the entire steady falling of Hip Hop as the cultural tool of our peoples’ expression and one of the last pure communication forums. Razah’s Razah Reborn mixtape album, featured more great b-sides from a 2010 top 5 LP, Heaven Razah, and some new tracks post-surgery. Unfortunately, his falling out with Shabazz the Disciple is a fan’s disappointment. That two MCs that made a near classic album in '08, Thug Angelz, and rhyme upliftment with exceptional skill are separated says much and also nothing (i.e. what do we really know?!). With so many health related deaths in Hip Hop from PUN nearly 12 years ago to Heavy D months ago, rooting for Razah is obvious and willed for. In 2012, Razah and beatmaker Tokyo Cigar will release the heavily anticipated Heavenly Cartel which includes new verses.
See Hip Hop is our cultural expressive force and it is rooted in the mentality that we have chosen to best share. We embrace negative energies of competition to engage in the positive enforcement of Originality. We elevate it all by the mentality of studying ourselves through everything we have been, crates to loops, old books to new loops, all to something deeper and more profound. And just iller. That mentality must extend to all things. That’s what it means to be Black, Brown, Yellow, ghetto, hood—Original.
This writer is willing this mentality continues with Razah for a most proper and healthy recovery.
Peace,
Sunez