recordsroundup: November 24th, 2004
Special Ed “Still Got It Made” (Semi)
Disclaimer: I – tadah – am somewhat of a Special Ed fan. I love “Revelations” and the older albums. And I buy everything that has this guy on it. Thus I was excited to hear that he has this new album coming out, and rushed do buy it. And now, now I’m about to throw it out the window, because it’s so horrible.
I don’t really issue warnings on albums you must avoid, but this is one of them. Do you remember that Special Ed used to have this dope flow? Well, he still does it, but now minus the ignorance, irony and I’ma-mess-you-up cadence. Now he does it lackadaisically and it does not work. Plus he got chubby. So he’s definitely not hungry anymore and you can tell in his music and his voice even. The photos in the artwork show him to be this smooth cat, and that’s the persona he brings across on the album. But who wants to hear Special Ed romance the ladies on a "Kryptonite" or get all mushy on "So Long, Goodbye"?
The album is badly mixed, so Ed often doesn’t meet the beat but hovers above it. The beats are often really bad, and sometimes really good, but don’t match Ed. Like "Special", "Dying Young" and "Smile", they are pretty good, for anybody but Ed. This is a style that does not fit him. It gets really bad with "I Know You" and "Somebody Gotta Bleed", both horrible attempts at commercial club music. All of that makes “All Night, All Day” with The Dogg Pound to be the best song on here, and Ed is so bad that he makes Snoop sound good on "We Gon Ride".
So this is really horrible. Yes, I usually don’t use words as harsh as this. But this is truly horrible.
MaD SoN “Peace Amongst The MaDness” (N.E.Time)
MaD is half of the Minneapolis based Unknown Prophets who made some noise back in the days with “World Premier”, not just because they had Sluggo on their record. Years have passed now, and the team steps up with a couple of new releases. MaD keeps it in family, letting Big Jess, the other half of Unknown Prophets, do all the beats. Which are not always very impressive. They are sample based but lack a certain charm. They sound too much like 1999 beats by a dude back just learning his trade. Even though a “Unimpressed”, “10 Days Left” and “Don’t Cry” really sounds good. But when you listen to a “Rise Up”, these orchestra are just kept too close to the original and are probably not meant for a rap record. MaD on the other hand keeps it very conscious, forwarding strong messages like on “Times Like Those”. There’s actually no stupid babbling on here, with the lyrics reaching a depth the beats struggle to follow.
Team Demolition “Yo! TD Raps” (Depth Charge)
Can we please get the old “Yo! MTV Raps” episodes on a DVD or something? I’d camp outside the store to get that shish. I’m pretty sure the Team Demolition would join me. Building their album around old snippets of Fab Five Freddy interviews, the guys then break into the album with take-no-prisoners raps. There’s four people in TD – Zechariah Wise, Jady Experience, Lord Op aka J Cosell and DJ Dialtone – and they each sound different, adding a lot of shades to this pretty good record. Heck, listening to them scratching the surface of a really accessible mainstream-ish vibe, this is better quality than what you have to endure on any given BET program. The songs range from funky to old schoolish to straight up gritty to also some moments of humor. Heck they even let the DJ shine on two interludes. So yes, for all those that like a little street in their music, go check this out.
The Foreign Exchange “Connected” (BBE)
I’m pretty sure everybody knows about this already, so no reason to say much but: don’t be surprised if this appears on several ‘best of 2004’ lists. Heck, this is much better than Little Brother. So, make sure to get this. Play it for your woman. You’ll get a smooch for it.
Various Artists “Kingston 5 presents The New Sound Of Reggae” (Kingston 5 / Sony)
This is probably a good record, if you like this type of sound. I hate it. So I don’t like this record. But if you wanna discover what this ‘new sound of reggae’ is, and what people like Vybz Kartel, Tubby T, Ms. Dynamite (yes, that Ms. Dynamite), Lady Posh, Junior Reid, Buju Banton, and Mile High do. Now, if anything Flava feat. Macka Diamond “Crazy Thing” and Tyla “Far Away” sound kinda good. But that’s because they’re the least Reggae on here and actually just pure good old soul. The Hiites “The Dream” is at least kinda interesting and Buju’s “My Pen” and Alaine Laughton’s “Deeper” are good because they’re more traditional reggae.
Jacki-O “Poe Little Rich Girl” (TVT)
Hmm….what to say about this? Well, it features Jazze Pha, the Ying Yang Twins, Ghostface (doing “Tooken Back” that was already on “The Pretty Toney” album) and Trick Daddy. You wanna hate this but “Living It Up” is actually pretty nice. Sure Jacki is no impressive rapper but you don’t listen to this because of the lyrics. You listen to this because it plays in the club. Even though Jacki actually has a nice way to deliver her rhymes, a certain effortlessness and acting twist to, it and a good voice to back it up. What she says is still forgettable. Sure, all the 14 year olds will get a snigger out of “Pussy (Real Good)”, but anyone older? Not really. Production comes from Timbaland (who cannot/does not go wrong with “Slow Down”) Red Spyda, Cool & Dre, Jazze Pha, Gorilla Tek, Beat-in-Azz, Young Hollywood (like on the nice “Pretty”, but isn’t this a bastardized “Waterfalls”?) and Nottz. Oh, and the “Fine” music video is on here too.
Unknown Prophets “The W.E.T. (WhodaEverThought) EP” (N.E.Time)
MaD SoN and Big Jess of Unknown Prophets return after their 2000 album “World Premier” which featured Brother Ali, Slug and DJ Abilities of the Rhymesayers massive. Only nine songs, ranging from songs with braggadocio content (“Warning”), to reminiscing (“Look At Us Now”) and more braggadocio on “Shit Talking Material”. Best song is “Writer’s Block” which features a dope piano hooked up Jess. “So Live” feat. Tek is also kinda nice, with the rappers honing their bragging and boasting personas. All in all there’s a lot of promising moments, but you still cannot fully grasp these artists, who they are and what is exactly them. They still need to find their own personal sound and it’s hopefully along the lines of “Writer’s Block” which both musically and lyrically is really good.
Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz “Cunk Juice” (TVT)
The list of people on this record will be reason enough for some to pick up this album. For others to avoid this album. But we got the following on here: Ice Cube, Chris Rock, Lil Scrappy, Gangsta Boo, 8 Ball & MJG, R. Kelly, Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Suga Free, Ying Yang Twins, Pharrell Williams, Nas, Bun B and Jadakiss. We even get a “Yeah” part two, as Usher, Ludacris and Lil Jon team up again for “Lovers And Friends”, a balladesque snooze song. The tracks all sound very similar, both amongst each other but also compared to the last album. They come with the same tired way to scream hooks. Even worse though is that Jon struggles to really do something new and exciting. “Contract” is kinda interesting, on “Bitches Ain’t Shit” he recreates a cool westcoast vibe. But in general this would flop without all the hype that’s currently surrounding this Crunk phase.
Muph & Plutonic “Hunger Pains” (Obese)
On Muphin’s last album “More Than Music” things always got exciting when Plutonic Labs was behind the boards. So we’re very happy to get a full album by the two entities teaming up. And we’re not handed a disappointment but a great release, with Muphin sounding very comfortable over these most of the time splendid beats. We go from “Work Hard” to “Beer Goggles” (one of the best songs) to the double timing of “The Jason Chapman Sway” to the very dope beats on “Hunger Pains” (feat. Raph Boogie) and “Paracetamol” to “You’re Choice ‘Kings’ ” which features no other than The Grouch. Good album; really good album.
Various Artists “Definition: The Hip-Hop Compilation” (Neblina)
The Carolinas are really hot right now. Not just since the success of Little Brother. Nope, nope, nope. And the quality doesn’t end with Little Brother either. This compilation digs a little deeper than what you’re likely to be force-fed by all those scratching the surface cats. So we get dudes like Chapter 13, K-Hill, Medinah General, Mercury Waters, Manov War, Cpectac, L.E.G.A.C.Y. and Rockwell. With beats by 9th Wonder, K-Hill, DJ Forge, Rashid Hadee, Nick the 1da, Chopy Chop-E and Rockwell. There’s a hype bubbling about this record right now, for all the right reasons. So get with the program, this is some good rap right here.
Jedi Mind Tricks “Legacy Of Blood” (Babygrande)
Now, the JMT fanbase is already quite big. And finally with this album, there’s reason for it again. As reluctant as I was to really sink my teeth into this (I’m one of the ‘ignorants’ who wasn’t too impressed by “Violent By Design”), but just a couple of spins really impressed me. Vinnie is still spitting hard, of course with repetitive subject matter, but over excellent Stoupe production. They get help from GZA/Genius, Sean Price, Des Devious and Killah Priest. So give this a chance, even if JMT hasn’t been your thing so far.
49 Stories “Blind Faith” (Voicebox)
Straight from one of the heartland Red States comes this collective. It’s a three people team up of Gollum, Once and Paradox. The last two spit over the Gollum produced beats, who must like the Mood album “Doom”. You get a similar darkish, esoteric vibe, what can be as good as “Arms Bend”, “Hardcore”, “Hypochondriac” and “Drop The Drums”, but as boring as “Together” (the posse cut with Sentence, NottheSame, Effort, Bantar, The Fool, AES and DJ Thought) or bad as “Fake Pain” and “Escape”. Lyrically the cats are secure behind the mic, but say far too much on one song to not exhaust you by the third track. The ignorant amongst us could describe this as ‘typical’ white guys rap, along the lines of an Adeem. That’d be a little bit unfair though. Because the rappers and especially the producer are too good for being labeled that; as accurate it may be. Worthy of a try, but definitely not for everybody.
Various Artists “Silvertab: Harambe Dope Sessions” (DIY)
Various Artists “African Dope Soundsystem” (African Dope)
Kalahari Surfers “Muti Media” (African Dope)
Straight from the motherland, or more precisely: from the country of South Africa come these three CDs. All three albums are interesting, just because of where they are coming from. But even if some of the rap sounds kinda clumsy (like MC Einaar & DJ Cool Guy “Milk And Cookies”), the standard is actually surprisingly high. People like Crisis (“Taking Over”) are really good and people like Hymphatic Tabs (“Come”) really creative. And even if we don’t understand what people like Ozone (“Monate”) say, we can still really ride with this nice beat. And well, then there’s of course the plain bad, like “Kasi Soul” by Gciwane, Gzus & T-Klep. These songs are all on the “Silvertab” record.
“African Dope Soundsystem” does another misplaced music genre, considering that we get Reggae on here. But it’s still a little more ‘locally’, as there’s much more of an expected African influence on these songs. Starting with “Big Trouble” by Black Dillinger, going to the pretty good second Black Dillinger song “Black Repatriation,” to the drum-n-bass of Juan Thyme feat. Crosby “Mo Fire Mo Presha (Funky Love Mix)”, to the excellent dub on “Pump Da System” by Juan Tyme, who happens to be the most interesting artist on here. And having heard this, the Kalahari Surfers are a little less of a surprise. They give us a really good dub-ish, electro, pop, trip hop hybrid. So while this is not just widening adding new geographical areas to the music that you’re listening to, this might actually also widen the spectrum of music you listen to.
Automato “Automato” (Coup De Grace)
We already had an interview with the guys (read it here). So basically everything is already said. Apart from: is this any good? It often is. Like on the opener “Focus”, the great “Capes Billowing” (which should have been kept entirely instrumental) and the funky “The Let Go”. Sure, they struggle sometimes with getting rid off the live-ish vibe (like on the not so great “Walk Into The Light”), but often the beats are gritty enough to work, like the background drum on “Cool Boots”. Yes, they do much better than the majority of other live instrument rap groups. So check this out.
Dooley-O “The Beat Segment” (Female Fun / Domination)
Many have done it before: grab a bundle of old break records, put them in a mix and call it a day. Sure, many have done it and often it’s been good too. This here however is beyond good. Why? Well, for one because the casual listener will not recognize most of these songs. Heck, Dooley digged deep into his private stash and pulled out some gems. Sure, those ever in the know folks that dig themselves, will know some, but whateverAnd second, this is a bag full of surprising, severely funky joints. You gotta play this loud too. Play at your next party and while doing private dances around your apartment. Yes, this is very, very good and belongs in everybody’s collection.
Jennifer Johns “Heavyelectromagneticsoularpoeticjunglehop” (Nayo Movement)
Yes, this is a gimmicky title. But it’s still an appropriate summation of this ten song limited edition EP. And the thing is: whatever Jennifer does, she does it well. Be it the smooth singing of “Beautiful”, the bonus track “Afraid Of Me” or the Sade song “Cherish The Day,” which takes minimalism to new depths. She can however also do the aimed straight forward song “Heavy (808-Jungalistic Afro Freak),” with a dope bassline, not much of a beginning, but quite possibly no end. Or there’s the jungle in the ‘what have you done lately’ song “Do You Believe In Love”. Of course her versatility will be her downfall, as this is hard to market. There’s just no market for ‘simply good music’ anymore. So they’ll emphasize the finally-some-good R’n’b of “Never Give Up”. And who produced much of this? Remember Spontaneous of “Spur Of The Moment Musik” fame? You know the album on GoodVibe? Well he did these beats. Now make sure you give this a listen.