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Mixtape & Album Review

Mixtape & Album Review

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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

We have all heard the phrase, "levels to this," right? Insert the ILLUMINATI REJECT project to that sentence and walk away. This project is probably one the strongest ones to meet our review gauntlet.

OVERALL RATING:

For everyone who thinks lyricism is dead and that creativity in hip hop is no longer existent, we should play them some Nino Bless. We have all heard the phrase, "levels to this," right? Insert the ILLUMINATI REJECT project to that sentence and walk away. This project is probably one the strongest ones to meet our review gauntlet yet.

Admittedly, at first listen, it seemed that the project was going to have an average rating, but as the review process continued, we found gems in bar after bar mixed with some quality production to present something rap fans will definitely appreciate from both sides of the proverbial lyricism fence.

From the first half of the project, tracks like The Rise, Turn Around and Bamboozled provide the perfect example of his ability to not only rap, but DELIVER his words with exact precision.

Our playlist vote went to Silver Bullet feat. Cambatta. This is one of the most versatile tracks on the project, and it's lyrically bananas! With more of a southern sounding production, its combination is a lethal dose of music.

It's hard to truly criticize this project. The only real weak points to the album were some minor mix issues, like dropping the high hats in This Song Might Get Me Killed, and a lack of some breakdowns in the beat for Bamboozled. Additionally This Song Might Get Me Killed was a very long song. If they made a shorter version balancing verses and vocals, it might make some serious waves.

Overall, this project is one of the strongest examples of how to create your own genuine sound and creative brand through music. Everything from lyrics, production to the delivery and mix was on point. We would recommend this anyone enjoys rap music, period. You can download it free on DatPiff.com on the link below and see one of his videos off this project below.


MIXTAPE DOWNOAD LINK:
http://www.datpiff.com/Nino-Bless-Illuminati-Reject-mixtape.642635.html

Twitter @NinoBless

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Monday, February 10, 2014

The RED SKY album is probably one of the most unique projects we have gotten the chance to review.

ARTIST(S): Aja Lorraine & Wally Clark
ALBUM: Red Sky

OVERALL RATING:
 
The RED SKY album is probably one of the most unique projects we have gotten the chance to review. It's definitely an experimental project featuring Aja Lorraine's vocals mixed with Wally Clark's production. Let's also be clear, this is NOT a rap album. If you enjoy listening to R&B like vocals over various styles of production, and you enjoy the more eclectic styles of music; this would be the album for you.

This album was more abstract in its content and production, and didn't necessarily follow the standard formats for verses, hooks, etc. It seemed to have a more organic composition to it overall.

The ability of Aja to blend her writing and delivery to the production definitely showcased her strength as a vocalist. The melodies were absolutely unexpected in many of the tracks, but made sense.

One of the key factors that gave this album a good rating was the mixes. Most of the tracks were well balanced. The clarity in most of the tracks is what made this a smooth listen.

Tracks like BEEN AWAY could have used a little less on the synths, and WHAT KINDA CAT had some horns that would have been better more prominent in the mix.

While the production had a good range even within tracks, with drops and sequences that created various moods within the songs; there were some tracks like 1 SIDED LOVE and SKIN TO SKIN that seemed a bit monotonous after a while. The best songs were those that had a variety of sequences where Aja would follow the moods it created.

Our top picks for this album are REPO CHICKS, WHAT KINDA CAT and RED SKY. Check those out and let us know which ones are your top picks.

Overall, if you're looking for something more experimental and less Hip Hop; this is a good project to check out. There are links below with streaming and purchasing options.
 


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Monday, December 23, 2013

The Snooze Button is definitely not an album to be taken lightly or slept on. It's properly titled and boasts a myriad of tracks that will make any fan of Hip Hop remember why they enjoyed emcees in the first place.

ARTIST(S): Annex (@annexhiphop)
ALBUM: The Snooze Button LP

OVERALL RATING:

The Snooze Button is definitely not an album to be taken lightly or slept on. It's properly titled and boasts a myriad of tracks that will make any fan of Hip Hop remember why they enjoyed emcees in the first place. There's a total of 12 tracks, including intro and outro; and the production ranges from hard drops and bass lines to smooth production with insightful lyrics.

The opening track, "Respect My Carpet" jumps off with an authoritative flow and anthemic production. Annex makes it clear he understands the limitations of lyrical emcees, while still demanding the respect for his craft as an artist.

He follows it up with "Over My Dead Body," that features hard hitting production along with the slightly dismissive tone we once knew emcees to thrive off of. In one of his verses, he has the following advice for the younger generation: "Smarten up young thug / they want you talking about the guns and the drugs / they love to hear you ni**as scream no love / it's fuel for the agenda before they pull the rug"

This album has a lot of gems for thought mixed within the wordplay, and it will take a few listens to catch all the lines. The good part about this project is that most tracks will actually make you want to listen again. The delivery and texture of his voice flows well with the production of the tracks; so, it makes for a good listen. His ability to transform his delivery is obvious in tracks like "On My J.O." and "Don't Remind Me."

The features on this project from Laws, Vayga, imagiin360, Knucklez, Mike Mass, Aja Lorraine, Laz, J. Scriptz, B. Worthy and Jae Luis bring their own style to the respective tracks they appear on. His ability to pick good features was one of the things that gave him a good rating. So many times, features take away from the album, and for the most part, his features didn't water down the project at all.

Nonetheless, the few weak points of the album were on tracks like "This World," where the mellow feel was definitely needed, but it lacked the impact it could have had with a hook was mixed with a bit more strength and the production had a few more buildups in the instrumental.

Some of the mixes on the instrumentals clashed a bit as in the track, "On My J.O." that should have probably had horns on a different octave so as not to take from the vocalist. Other than that, the only lacking element from the album was the fluidity between tracks. This could have been a good storyline album, but it lacked the cohesive interludes to phase in between tracks.

Overall, the project was solid and a must have for any Hip Hop enthusiast that loves raw indie rap with no filters. Annex not only found his voice, but stepped his character up a bit more through the years and it shows in every verse he drops on this album. Seeing the growth from the last project was indeed refreshing.

We'll finalize this review with the following Annex line from his outro track: "You're self-driven if you're doing what you love / but understand that even the best of us benefit from a shove."
 
 
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

From the very beginning, it became clear why so many people enjoy hearing his music, and why he might fling fans off his stage as seen on various YouTube videos.

ARTIST(S): Action Bronson
ALBUM: Blue Chips 2
 
OVERALL RATING:
 

So, this is our first review on one of the most currently talked about emcees in the market. Known for his similarity to Ghostface, it became very obvious this guy was definitely an emcee who stood on his own regardless of what his voice and cadence resembled. From the very beginning, it became clear why so many people enjoy hearing his music, and why he might fling fans off his stage as seen on various YouTube videos.

His delivery is one of his greatest strengths, and the listener can feel this from the very first track of the project. He jumps off SILVERADO with a strong tone proclaiming "this is a grown man sport," and continues bodying beats track after track.

Some slick talk from Big Body Bes makes the intro and interludes entertaining and comical, while he continues to hammer out bars track after track. Honestly, this is a project for those who enjoy the wordplay and menacing lyrics of hardcore emcees. His ability to adapt to any beat and make it a masterpiece of lyrical onslaught is absolutely undeniable.

A few of the tracks have some pretty slick instrumentals and samples of saxophones in IT CONCERNS ME and FLIP YA. Additionally, you will find a few moments in the project where it's strictly acapella.

As with many projects, there are some downsides to this project, and we would be amiss if we didn't point out some of those flaws. JACKSON TRAVOLTA was worth a listen, but the mix on the lows was a bit too high and it Mayhem's delivery didn't really fill the beat well after hearing Bronson go in on the track. Vocals were a bit too low and the guitar riff needed to be in the forefront a bit more on the instrumental mix.

While the project was definitely lyrically ingenious, it did get a bit monotonous toward the end and made it hard to get through the whole album without feeling mentally exhausted. It would have been nice to have some more upbeat tracks with some simpler punchlines. It never hurts to give your audience a quick break from what they expect to hear if done correctly.

Some of the production on tracks like TWIN PEUGOTS and MAN THE MIRROR, and MIDGET COUGH seemed to drag on without much variation. This definitely made it easier to catch the thoughtful wordplay, but it took away the impact these tracks could have had.

Overall, this project was solid. One of the best we have done in a while, and we are looking forward to hearing more from this Queens native. If you haven't jumped on the Bronson wagon yet, you might want to give Blue Chips 2 a listen and see what you have been missing out on.
 
 
 
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Monday, November 04, 2013

There are rarely groups that truly go outside of the box to deliver some good music mixed with great comedy AND dope production. This is definitely one of THOSE kind of projects.

ARTIST(S): FoulMowf & Hagan Lee
ALBUM: Here to Hear
 
OVERALL RATING:
 
So, we received this project from some St. Petersburg emcees that redefine the meaning of UNIQUE. There are rarely groups that truly go outside of the box to deliver some good music mixed with great comedy AND dope production. This is definitely one of THOSE kind of projects. FoulMowf and Hagan Lee combine forces to create a completely unfiltered approach that will have you rewinding just to hear the wild punch-lines and metaphors used throughout the project.

Opening up the album with a completely comical sample; the beat drops to expose their absolute dedication to hard hitting production on "You Can Find Me." While opening up the album with a long track of features is usually not the best move, it did create the feeling necessary to understand exactly how diverse these guys could be.

Tracks like "Dominate," "Morning" and "Words" will definitely be one for the Hip Hop heads to save in the playlist. The authoritative flows and production on these tracks are enough to gain respect in any circle of emcees.

One of the most unique and hilarious tracks is "Smart Dummy." FoulMowf's off the wall delivery and completely insane lyrics are one of our favorites on this project. It's definitely not a track for those easily offended; but if you can take a joke, this will be one of those tracks that people play back for their friends simply because of how crazy it really is. The production definitely compliments the flow and it simply WORKS.

 
 
Overall, the project was solid and one of the most creative sounds we have heard in a while. There were some weak points to the project, which were mainly mix related, thus dropping their rating here. "Black Hoodie" was a dope track and concept, but the overall mix on the production could have used more strength on the low to mid-range frequencies. "Bad Seed" was another track that would have made the playlist easily had the mix had a bit more power to it. "Everything" had a great concept and sound, but the vocals needed more of bump in the overall mix; and "Strictly Commercial" somewhat drowned out FoulMowf's vocals a bit. These are a few of the examples of tracks that needed some engineer work, but also made us question what would happen with these guys on a project with a very polished mix and master.
 
This project is definitely a must have for those who enjoy a different sound that is both creative and still true to its roots in Hip Hop. One of the cool things about this project through the whole CD is the use of Hip Hop samples and references from ODB to KRS and more. While their sound is definitely new school, you can clearly hear the influences that heads will appreciate. This is not to say that they sound anything like Golden Age Hip Hop… believe us when we say that they have THEIR OWN SOUND. Download their project for free below and let them know what you think.
 
 
 
 
 
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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

There has been a common eclectic theme in the more refined emcees these days, and Black Milk is no exception. His latest release, No Poison No Paradise, can be considered one of his more musically mature projects.

 
 
ARTIST(S): Black Milk
ALBUM: No Poison No Paradise
 
OVERALL RATING:
 
There has been a common eclectic theme in the more refined emcees these days, and Black Milk is no exception. His latest release, No Poison No Paradise, can be considered one of his more musically mature projects. From start to finish, this project has a mixture of hard-hitting production with musical arrangements you might find on an Erykah Badu album.

This project keyed in on Black Milk's ability to adapt and experiment with his delivery over sometimes random production; which was the strength of this project. From the start of "Interpret Sabotage," the beats are solid and the vocalists in tracks like this and "Parallels" definitely compliment the track and fit well with the production.

Another feature of this project is the wide array of instrumentals, whether they are intro, outros or full length interludes. The production definitely focused on providing a more musically rounded theme around deep drops, thoughtful lyrics and artsy jams like "Sonny Jr." and "X Chords" that simply fit the overall feel of the album.

One thing that is obvious from this album is that Black Milk doesn't mind experimenting, and he pulls it off well with tracks like "Black Sabbath," where he completely dominated the delivery over tight-knit drums and a grunge-like sound selection. Truthfully, sometimes the experimenting went a bit far and didn't blend well as in "Poison," where the background vocals clashed with his own vocals. Nonetheless, he still pulls off some deep thought in lyric with lines like, "What does it all mean, to lose your soul to try to live an american dream / fuck a life here, I'd rather go to sleep and live inside my nightmare."

If you like experimental production and slick wordplay, this is definitely an album you will want in your collection. The only down sides to this project were that in some tracks like, "Deion's House" where the overall production of the song wasn't bright enough and became a bit monotonous. While the lyrics were on point in "Codes and Cab Fare" from both Black Milk and Black Thought, the production just left the listener wanting a little more impact.

Overall, the album was well put together, musically mature and definitely one that lyricists will appreciate. Take some time to check out the video for "Sunday's Best" and "Monday's Worst;" which seemed like a good duo of contrast concepts.

 
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Friday, May 31, 2013

Joe Stu and Hip Hop producer, D.R.U.G.S. combined to make a project that would exemplify not only the culture of our music; but the struggles and battles that come with being an artist.

ARTIST(S): Joe Stu + D.R.U.G.S. (ATL)
ALBUM: Wrong Turns in the Right Direction
 
OVERALL RATING:
 
In an age where messages are rarely received, and everything is about the party life, it's refreshing to get projects like these. Joe Stu and Hip Hop producer, D.R.U.G.S. combined to make a project that would exemplify not only the culture of our music; but the struggles and battles that come with being an artist. Conveying personal, political and spiritual messages through powerful production and undeniable lyricism, "Wrong Turns in the Right Direction" definitely lives up to its name.

The Jazz/Soul influence is quickly noticed from the very intro of the project, complete with consciously-driven spoken word over a smooth saxophone and piano combo. This blends nicely with the hard drop of ARE YOU READY, and sets the tone for what could be called, "struggle music."

The tracks that really stood out on this project were the one's featuring vocalists like LIFE feat. Jahah, and LOVE GONE feat. Sage and Najja. Their selection in vocalists complimented the song and the artist; which is not always a strong point for rap artists. Another notable collaboration on this project was CLOUDY DAYS feat. Krystal and Shred TVT; which definitely made it to the BSR playlists.

One of the strongest values to the project was the delivery on tracks. Having bars is one thing, but when you can properly execute them over a rhythm and make it your own sound; that separates the rappers from the emcees. Joe Stu's ability to weave concepts and execute them precisely led to a high rating on lyrics. One notable line on REALITY RAP explaining the fraudulent nature of reality TV, he stated, "Basketball Wives got these women thinking if they spread their thighs, that they could get a house and a ride / and a TV show to match plus some child support payments, in the end, I guess it's all entertainment." Rather than judge the watchers and fans, he merely questions whether the concept of watching and participating in the circus is wrong or right. And at the end of that track, he was real enough to just say he likes to watch his shows. How more honest can it get?

Overall, the project was definitely a quality product, and we would recommend it to anyone who loves an artist who is transparent and conscious; yet down to earth enough to make it comical and real to the listener.

Like any other project, this one had a few down sides to it. ARE YOU READY needed a bit more variation on the production as it seemed to drag on a bit. HOOKED wasn't really up to the standard of the other tracks and seemed a little flat on the mix. CLOUDY DAYS, though being one of the favorites, still needed a bit more prominence on the vocals in the hook. And PARTY feat. Los Rider was a great party concept (true to its name), but the mid-range frequencies seemed to clash a little bit and took away from the dynamics of the production and delivery.

Nonetheless, the project from start to finish held strong through the review process. A salute to Joe Stu and D.R.U.G.S. for a great collaboration of music that we believe every Hip Hop enthusiast will enjoy.
 
CHECK OUT THE MUSIC VIDEO OF THE "GORILLA" SINGLE:
 
 
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Thursday, March 07, 2013

With the cover art of William Cooper's "Behold a Pale Horse," and titled, FIELD VISION, A-M-P makes it clear that his art is more than just rap music.

Artist: A-M-P (Tampa, FL)
Mixtape: Field Vision
 
OVERALL RATING:
 
With the cover art of William Cooper's "Behold a Pale Horse," and titled, FIELD VISIONS, A-M-P makes it clear that his art is more than just rap music. Opening the album with an acapella over war sounds on "Draft Day," the feel of the album seems to be more political in nature but definitely takes quite a few turns throughout the playlist. It's safe to say that A-M-P doesn't necessarily stay in any one lane on this album.
 
Tracks like "Good Mood" and "Friends Mutual," put an unexpected twist on his style. Though it's versatile (and versatility is generally a good thing), it could also divert some listeners to pick and choose tracks as opposed to listening to the whole project in one take.
 
An obvious strength of the album is his more conscious tracks like "New Nation" where the wordplay picks up a bit, and his ability to paint the concepts through lyrics work well. A definite REPEAT TRACK would be "Someone to Hold" that has a strong vocalist hook, and the verses tell a clear story for any listener to sink into.
 
The production and arrangement of most tracks give them a good vibe and the mix on this mixtape was absolutely clean. The sound from track to track was even and there weren't much weak points on the mixes track by track. The mix held a lot of the weight in the final overall rating on this review. Minus a few bumps in levels here and there, we couldn't complain about this one on general sound at all.
 
While this project was generally well done, it didn't stand out a lot in regards to wordplay and delivery. The content was great and topics ranged from relationships to 120 lessons, but there wasn't enough fluidity between tracks; and sometimes the delivery was a bit too mellow on some tracks like "Good Mood." There were times when the laid back approach could have used a more lively approach.
 
Another pain point for this mixtape would be some of the hooks on tracks like "Shut 'em Down" and "Two Bad Chicks," which could have used a little bit of work on the hooks. It took away from the value of songs that had some potential.
 
Overall the album was clean and well diversified. I would like to see a more conceptual project from him in the future where he chooses a lane for that specific project and runs with it. A few of these tracks made it to our playlist. Get your copy online
 
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Monday, March 04, 2013

Every so often there comes an artist who projects a very sociable personality that is both authoritative and friendly. Infinite Skillz is one of those types of artists, and he accurately titled his mixtape, "You're All Invited."

Mixtape: You're All Invited
Artist: Infinite Skillz (St. Petersburg, FL)
 
OVERALL RATING:
 
Every so often there comes an artist who projects a very sociable personality that is both authoritative and friendly. Infinite Skillz is one of those types of artists, and he accurately titled his mixtape, "You're All Invited."
 
From the beginning of the mixtape, the energy is unmistakable. "Break It Down" is the perfect wake up track and his delivery definitely fits the mold of the production. His remakes of industry tracks like "Grind So Hard" are good remakes, but it would have been good to see them more distinctive to his style as opposed to sounding a bit too much like the originals. Perhaps that was the purpose, but it would have been good to hear it a little differently.
 
One obvious plus to Infinite's mixtape is that his ability to create hooks makes the songs catchy and memorable. Many times artists get caught up in the verses and forget the importance of a hook. This artist doesn't make that mistake and weaves both rap and vocal hooks that complement each track. Tracks like "Rogaine" and "Same As You" validate this point.
 
If one thing that could be said about him as an artist throughout this mixtape; it's that his ability to mold himself around beats makes him versatile enough to survive the changing trends. The only track that really didn't fit him well was "Pretty Nasty." While the track had a good hook and he was obviously on beat; it just didn't fit his persona very well and it came through on the delivery a bit.
 
The mixtape was an overall QUALITY PRODUCT, and it's FREE; so there's really no reason to avoid listening to it. It needed some work on the mixes that were missing a little low end frequencies, but everything above 120hz+ (rough estimate) seemed to be leveled well. Overall, 3.5 boots on this one. With some fine tuning, it could have been 4, but we'll be sure to keep our eyes out on the next one and watch the growth.
 
 
 
 
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Monday, February 18, 2013

In an age where jackin' for beats is the normal part of the journey; there comes the inevitable throwback mixtape that will take that concept and turn it into an ingenious piece of work.

ARTIST(S): Beast Corps / Tony Touch
MIXTAPE: Spittin' to Da Oldies, Vol. 1
RELEASED: 2012
 
OVERALL RATING:

In an age where jackin' for beats is the normal part of the journey; there comes the inevitable throwback mixtape that will take that concept and turn it into an ingenious piece of work. This is how the collaboration project between Tony Touch and Beast Corps felt with their "Spittin' To Da Oldies, Vol. 1" mixtape.

It's one of those mixtapes that is niched to the 90's era fan mostly; blending the older production with an authentic DJ touch, and then adding some witty lines and comical punch lines to resemble a bit of the "spoof rap" people like Redman and Lords of the Underground were well known for. (Yes, reader, if you remember these names and beats, YOU will soon realize these "oldies" meant the music YOU listened to as a teen… pause)

If there's one thing that the listener becomes quickly aware of, it's to not underestimate the power of a remake with Beast Corps behind it. Their ability to not only match the flow and delivery down to syllables; but their odd ability to blend even the mixes similar like in "New York City Love" that was an NY rendition of "California Love" complete with effects and melody to match.

Not only was the delivery and mix similar to their originals, but the wordplay was complimentary to each track. In "Twinz Pt. II," you even get the Spanish rap twisted into the wordplay on a Big Pun remake when they say… "My blood is puro, my corazon is oscuro / hit these menudo n***az with a little puerto rican judo."

The DJ feel to the whole project was definitely much needed in this era of automated mixtapes. Having the Tony Touch name and brand along with drops of everyone from Parish Smith, to Lord Finesse, and even Method Man on the intro to their remake of "Bring the Pain" called "F**kin' Wit the Beast".

The bottom line on this project is that it's for the golden era lovers. If you don't appreciate 90's era production, you probably will not like this mixtape much. It's the risk taken when doing projects like these. The mixes definitely sound more golden era than contemporary; so it won't have that advanced HD feel that younger generations are used to. Honestly, it's not supposed to.

While we hesitate to call this a spoof mixtape; that's the best way we can describe the style of lyrics and delivery. There are a lot of funny lines and scenarios Beast Corps paints throughout the entire mixtape. It makes for a very entertaining compilation of remakes that both compliment the instrumentals and helps make the songs their own.

Unfortunately, this also means a lack of serious tracks that most golden era fans also enjoy. There's not really much substance in a lot of the tracks beyond the fact that it's made to have a good time. So, while the wordplay was on point and the blends and drops have the listener going; there was no real MEAT to the project that could push it beyond a house party favorite.

WATCH THE VIDEO
 
 
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