SKYZOO & PETE ROCK – Retropolitan

RELEASED: September 20, 2019, Mello Music Group, review written by Michael Grant, C.E.O. of RePPiN4U, and UK Ambassador for Wu-Worldwide DJ Coalition and Mixx Mafia DJs

TEN YEARS AGO, The Salvation dropped…

…and indeed, what a moment that was for who was once 9th Wonder’s protege and who could have been the face of Jamla Records, but he gave that proud honor to Rapsody. Two artists who have been consistently great over the last decade and only recently people are starting to pay attention, with Rapsody getting over a little more since she appeared on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly album.

skyzoo pete rock retropolitanThe great thing about Sky is, he is a humble man. Unlike a certain kid heads seem to be focussing their energy on as he snitches on the whole game and claims to be the King of NY, Gregory Skyler Taylor just continued working… and the veterans who have being doing this for years have been calling up Sky, not the other way around. 6 albums (Salvation, Dream Deferred, Music For My Friends, The Easy Truth, Barrel Brothers, In Celebration Of Us)  and several side projects (Cloud 9, The Three Day High, Live From the Tape Deck, The Great Debater, Theo Vs JJ, Ode To Reasonable Doubt, Corner Store Classic) later, Pete Rock decides to aid him on this latest offering – Retropolitan; A Love Letter and a Wake Up Call to New York, and rightfully so, it is a sad state of affairs to see so much quality music coming out this year and yet the rainbow man with drawings on his face continues to grab head’s attention.

BLACK PEOPLE!

Pete Rock was unreasonable with the start of this journey! A Glorious moment with reggae dancehall influences throughout this track and Sky maintains his integrity: “Still a black fist in the air quick as a heart rate/Nikes over Yeezys, Kaepernick over Kanye…”

After that start, it didn’t take long for Pete to jump in the booth himself for Truck Jewels, and he hasn’t missed a beat over the frantic vibe.

If Nas’ Carry On Tradition didn’t come off well on Hip Hop Is Dead… Sky’s version certainly will, and he’s brought Styles P along with him. This is classic Pete Rock production if I do say so myself. Three tracks in and you may have to consider plastic surgery because you have screwed up your face for so long. It flows beautifully into ‘Homegrown’… this is Sky & Pete’s way of reminding us where Hip Hop all started while other places (Dirty South, Westside, overseas, etc) took the artform and ran with it over say the last 20 years or so.

THIS GOES OUT TO YOU

The beauty of this one right here, is that Sky & Pete revealed this particular beat was dug out from the 90’s vault, so for all those who are still listening to 90’s Hip Hop in 2019, and haven’t listened to hip hop as soon as 2000 hit,  you can finally add on a single track in your collection. Now that my dig at those people has been established, It’s All Good…

Indeed it has been Ten Days between this release and when this review was written so it all ties in together. Word on the street is this album was done in just 12 days… maybe on the tenth day this happened. With this feel good track, sorry Craig, no one wants to know what happened in your seven days anymore…and ‘Richie’ sees Sky once again go into vivid storytelling mode, and the whole block was in Penny Jerseys, an item of clothing that will never go out of style just like football strips over here in the UK.

LET’S JUST MAKE TONIGHT ANOTHER WONDERFUL NIGHT

Ever since Drew & Derwin from A Dream Deferred, Raheem DeVaughn seems to be the soulful side of Skyzoo, just as Aaron Abernathy is to Black Milk, and as Dwele is to Common. This makes his third or fourth collaboration with him. I guess you cannot make a love letter to New York without including the Love King. In ‘One Time’ Sky thanks New York for everything thus far, and these lines may serve as a reference to his previous album ‘In Celebration of Us’ when he spoke of him escaping death as a kid over a school basketball game: “Where counting will lead you into the fold like origami/It could’ve overlapped and then chose to au revoir me…” And on top Sky talks about being harassed by cops just before teenage life which just goes to show how brutal police are over there, so Sky takes every day as a blessing…

…and then what many call as the posse cut of the year, Sky, Elzhi (The only non NY artist featured) and the Griselda crew form the Eastern Conference All Stars.  Benny the Butcher, Westside Gunn and Conway might well be the hottest NY artists today that not enough people know about and this is a great starting point for everyone else to catch up. there are so many one liners throughout this cut that serves the test of time, and they all have the Audacity of being Dope, and JUST.LIKE.THAT… Sky shuts it down with these bars over a soul drenched album closer: “Grew up with real Huxtables dealing with real Carters/Due to what they took but told you to still harbor/And the way that it rides, I’m just taking what’s mine/But forgive me for tryna steal honor like Killmonger
Praise due to the corner stores that I’m still part of/And for me being able to come home to my real father/All of this was said one way or another…” Trust me when I say this Sky, WE FORGIVE YOU!

If we’re being that honest then can’t too many follow this – Stage left, curtain drawn, Retropolitan

Skyzoo Pete Rock

This right here is exactly what heads want, nostalgia, lyrics to decipher, posse cuts, soulfulness, bangers, feel good joints, real life stories, plenty of replay value. Skyzoo has come a long way from being simply 9th Wonder’s protege to the underrated lyrical wordsmith and respected veteran in his own right he has become, if I could nit-pick at this project, I would have loved to see Torae here too, Sky’s fellow barrel brother could have jumped in on the action but decided nah, I had my fun with Pete, I’ma let Sky handle this. Otherwise this is flawless Hip Hop. This is Sky’s best work since either The Salvation or A Celebration Of Us, it really is a coin toss…You talk about a love letter to New York? This is more like a love letter and wake up call to Hip Hop in general, and many artists and fans have answered the call. It’s 2019 and Hip Hop is in the best shape of her life right now. I can see Sky & Pete making their way to the album of the year trophy… however they are still a few MCs who might still make exception to that. Until then, take a bow gentlemen.

 

GHOSTFACE KILLAH – Ghostface Killahs

RELEASED: September 6, 2019 (ghostfacemusic.com), September 13, 2019 on all streaming platforms Now Generation Music Corp, review written by Michael Grant, C.E.O. of RePPiN4U & UK Ambassador for Wu-Worldwide DJ Coalition

Ghostface Killah has a unique gift. One which he shares with the likes of mainstream Hip Hop’s Mount Rushmore (Jay-Z, Biggie, Eminem, 2Pac, Nas) and that is, anytime any of these guys release new music (yes I’m including Big & Pac) the world stops, and they are subject for either praise or total music assassination. Thankfully for Ghostface, he’s the one who does the assassinating!!!! 13 solo albums deep, and no one dares say anything bad about him… last time that happened, well actions speak louder than words…

I’d like to think that 10% of those views were by me! I can tell you from experience, that Ghostface Killah is one of nicest dudes you will meet…

You know what that is right there? The Art of Fighting without fighting!

GHOSTFACE KILLAHSThose fans in Texas were indeed your – GHOSTFACE KILLAHS. We are gonna get into the latest project like this. – Yes the title is not as imaginative as say Bulletproof Wallets or The Big Doe Rehab or 12 Reasons To Die, yes I know it’s not the long awaited Supreme Clientele II: Blue & Cream, but the man has promised us fire…

“Do You Recognize This Technique? (5 Elements)!”

Knowing that the album kicks off with the famous kung fu villain who throws his killing plates at his victims, Ghostface is showing that he means business, and if he is the true heir to the Abbott throne, he feels he must set an example with Cliff & Darryl. Those signature soulful bangers he specializes in never fails… but then he sends for the mosh pit in ‘Burner To Burner’… trading those soulful sounds for guitars to provide a rock style backdrop, in fact it does remind me of what happened to that imbecile in Texas in the video posted above…and doesn’t mince his words either… “My Favourite 2Pac song, I Ain’t Mad At Cha/Skinny jean faggot, you ain’t man enough!”

Then just like that, Ghost quickly brings the soul back in Flex, and just like Mad Cobra in the 90s, it’s time to have sex, something Ghost will indulge in with these Geishas except eat them out…

Three tracks in and Ghost could have chosen any of them as the first single and have the fans in a frenzy…but THIS, demonstrates no matter what era of Hip Hop, 90s, 2000s, 2010s, not many can test him and indeed have them stuttering – I-I-I-C-C-Can’t Believe, Ghost Is Still Gutter! You gotta also love some of the other lines in this such as ‘Twelve eggs and my coach is Anderson Sil’… showcasing his strength that his known for and his status in the game.

Fly Everything sounds like a triumphant return to that Pretty Toney/Fishscale era circa 2004-2007, and just when you thought Ghost forgot about the Theodore Unit, Shawn Wigs and Sun God let you know they haven’t gone anywhere.

With the re-emergence of Theodore it’s time to pop bottles. It is well needed for them right now to bring more balance over the garbage hip hop that radio wants to ram down our throats. Ghost does make me chuckle with his bars in this, “I wasn’t born with a slit between my legs with a hole that’s pink?”

Where you find Sun God & Shawn Wigs, Solomon Childs is not far behind. Hauntingm threatening sonics and his signature ‘GET EM!’ catchphrase gives you that screwface head nodding satisfaction.

Ghost may be accustomed to bustin’ his gun and taking what is his, but at the same time the yin and the yang comes into play with New World and joining him on the hook is Eamon. He has worries for this generation: “The babies got it harder then ever
They calling them the internet babies/Microwave cell phone towers, fake food
Red meat makes the state of mind crazy/Police killing brothas like it’s okay
It’s like a modern-day slavery/Everybody stand up – Man Up!”

HIGH POWERED PUTTING ADINA HOWARD TO SLEEP

The next track is a video waiting to happen surely… you can call this the third instalment to the classic Cuban Linx ode to the French Vanilla, Butter Pecan Chocolate deluxe and Caramel Sundaes who love the Wu-Tang (you may or may not remember Raekwon revisiting this in the Lex Diamond Story)… it just a shame this couldn’t go on longer though… he keeps the revisiting going with ‘The Chase’, of course I’m making reference to his Pretty Toney hit – RUN… difference this time, is a car chase from the po-po, with Sun God playing passenger seat. Finally Ghost closes out the album the way Masta Killa ended Made In Brooklyn and this maybe the first time Ghost injected a bit of reggae sauce in his music, and he made sure he brought the Jamel Irief himself with him to make sure it’s right!

GHOSTFACE KILLAH

AND….STILL!!!!!

13 albums in and Ghostface Killah still holds the title, and his eagle. How does he do it? What’s his secret? Only 33 minutes though… some of those tracks could have added some Raekwon but that’s just nit-picking. It’s also a nice welcome return of the Theodore Unit (even though they will tell you they never left). The only worry from here is, will Supreme Clientele II become one of those albums that never was? Could it be time for us to move on from that and just look forward to more great music from this man? Or is it that Supreme Clientele has been held in such high standard that even Ironman is not confident enough that he can match it?

 

 

 

COMMON – Let Love

RELEASED: AUGUST 30, 2019 Loma Vista Recordings/Concord Records, REVIEW WRITTEN BY MICHAEL GRANT, C.E.O. of RePPiN4U & UK AMBASSADOR for WU-WORLDWIDE DJ COALITION

Imagine, you wake up one morning, setting out for your side hustle… you are an aspiring artist who would one day dream of making it big, but instead of doing the corny reality TV route and coming with some sob story to get the nation behind you, you would rather do it the hard way, go in your local city centre, put down a collection plate, and rhyme your @$$ off as a means to get by, but you had no idea that Lonnie Lynn was in town doing his grocery shopping and then not only stop in his tracks to listen to you, but he would vibe with you and rhyme with you as well…

With that single act of LOVE shown to you, you become a global sensation. That’s the mode Common is in right now, now an author of two best selling books, One Day It Will All Make Sense and Let Love Have The Last Word, both of which have albums to supplement it. But we are here to talk about the latter, which follows on from 2016’s ‘Black America Again’, and adopts more of the sound from the August Greene project and this is what we have; 11 tracks of pure soulfulness. if you are looking for ‘bangers’… so to speak, the likes of ‘Like Water For Chocolate’, ‘Be’ and ‘Finding Forever’ is THAT WAY.

…and so it begins. Love becomes it’s own entity with Samora Pinderhughes kicking it off. It’s a tone that maintains throughout.

The way I typically listen to albums, a track like this would usually serve as the outro. Common continues his ongoing relationship with H.E.R. over a J Dilla beat. This is so smooth, but by the third verse, Common tries his hand at name dropping… and the while the names he mentions are relevant as far as mainstream, they will not sit well with true hip hop heads at all. Cannot quite see J Dilla himself working with them either if he was still here with us. Thankfully Dwele steps in for the interlude to make us quickly forgive Common for that last verse.

The closest to a fast paced track on this album is this one right here… Hercules with Swizz Beatz serving the hook. It truly is a sad state of affairs when the real star of Ruff Ryders is the group’s main producer. Eve & Drag-On are in the shadows still making music, The Lox have accepted their fate as good artists who no matter how much good music they do they will and forever be known as the guys who introduced DMX in Money Power & Respect, and as for the main dog himself, just when you think he’s making a comeback, he finds himself behind bars time and time again.

common-let-love-streamTrack 5 is aptly titled – Fifth Story… where Common goes into storytelling mode, narrating what happens when infidelity has the last word instead of love. LeiKeli47 plays the woman who got played and takes drastic consequences…

…then in ‘Forever My Love’, Common puts his entry in the Mother’s Day soundtrack. Over the years we have always heard Common’s love for his father, but this time BJ The Chicago Kid helps him gets all that expression out for his moms.

Jay-Z might have wanted to rhyme like Common Sense at one time, but in Leaders (Crib Love), Common reveals he just wants to find love like Beyonce has or like Cardi B and Offset have. So with that, Common portrays struggle, and Samora Pinderhughes reminds us that they want us to fail within our struggles. This continues in Memories of Home where Common reveals his dad and uncle did time so at one point he looked towards older wiser figures to keep him on the straight and narrow. At this point you just wanna hug the man because a lot of what has been spoken so far has resonated with us.

This might be the most touching track in the album… you bring Jill Scott into the mix, you’re listening to a relationship between a father and daughter. Common reveals he wasn’t there enough for his daughter and now he has to play catch up, and the roles are reversed as he becomes the student and she becomes the teacher. This could and should have ended the album beautifully. It has all the ingredients, especially when the beat rides out.

However Common decides to pick the pace back up one more time for ‘My Fancy Future Love’… who would have thought Anita Baker and Ghostface Killah would be used in the same sentence? This is Common’s way of saying that Ghost has made it in the annuls of soulful music. As stated earlier, ‘Show Me That You Love’ could and should have ended let-love-have-the-last-word-9781501133152_lgthe album but Common was confident enough to end it with a smooth gospel sound in God Is Love. What is so great about this is Common has no problem showing love to God, and if you notice throughout this project, Common hardly cursed, if at all.

Take this album as Common’s ‘4:44’, this could well be his most vulnerable, most personal work to date, and one that when performed live, it’s intentions are to have live musicians as opposed to DJs on set, and may have an even clearer understanding once the book has been read. Again as stated earlier, this album is not for those who love bangers, or maybe it is… because Common is displaying that grown man’s approach, showing you can be human and still make great music, and being a playa or gangsta or anything of that nature isn’t the be all and end all.

Common believes that the phrase “let love have the last word” is not just a declaration; it is a statement of purpose, a daily promise. Love is the most powerful force on the planet and ultimately, the way you love determines who you are and how you experience life.

Touching on God, self-love, partners, children, family, and community, Common explores the core tenets of love to help others understand what it means to receive and, most important, to give love. He moves from the personal—writing about his daughter, to whom he wants to be a better father—to the universal, where he observes that our society has become fractured under issues of race and politics. He knows there’s no quick remedy for all of the hurt in the world, but love—for yourself and for others—is where the healing begins.

 

RAPSODY – Eve

Released: August 23, 2019, Jamla/Roc Nation, Review written by Michael Grant, C.E.O. of RePPiN4U and UK Ambassador for Wu-Worldwide DJ Coalition

GENESIS Chapter 3: Verse 20… And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. –

The African/Edenic woman, Eve, created from the rib of Adam, is the mother of all nations. She was black, liken unto the source from which she came (GENESIS Chapter 2: Verse 21-24)

Rapsody EVE…Today’s contemporary scholars verify that the first people of the earth were of African descent. Scientific evidence has recently revealed that the earliest findings indicate that Eve lived in sub-Saharan Africa. The great anthropologist/paleontologist Louis S. B. leaky made important discoveries of the earliest and older fossil remains of man in Eastern Africa. therefore, it is logically reasonable to conclude that the original man, ‘Adam’, who was created in the image and likeness of God, was African/Edenic.

(The Original African Heritage Study Bible King James Version) 

Now… for those who claim to be atheist… the breakdown of Rapsody’s new album title may not mean much to you, which is a real shame, because it sets the standard of great black women past and present, bringing about the concept of this project which is unheard of. Each track features the first name of a great black woman, and the first lady of Jamla warps her mind and thinks like that woman in her music. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you EVE.

I DRAW A LINE WITHOUT SHOWING MY BODY THAT’S THE SKILL

This is the album setter right here, and Rapsody shuts it down within the first few bars of this atmospheric Strange Fruit sample. JUST. LIKE. THAT. Only one track in, Rapsody boasting thought provoking poetry, mentions other great black women such as Angela Bassett and Whitney, and somewhere in the world, Jermaine Dupri isn’t getting who is the best rapper…to him they are all rapping about the same thing – dancing in the club. Then in Cleo, 9th Wonder does Phil Collins proud, and Rapsody goes out guns blazing on the music industry and by the second verse, she has the Donald Trumps and the Boris Johnsons on the ropes big time and commends Jay-Z for the Tidal movement he has going on.

ARE YOU THAT SOMEBODY?

This is a personal favourite of mine, and I am begging and pleading with Rapsody to drop a visual for this. You talk about a tribute to an artist who is still relevant to today’s generation who is not with us in the physical… like how Missy Elliott has recently re-emerged on the scene and making mad waves, this is also begging for a remix to be made. Phenomenally Epic, that’s Aaliyah. Props to Battlecat who lends his Westcoast seasoning all over the track. We may know 9th Wonder, I say get to know Eric G. I fell in love with his production since his early work with Heather Victoria.

Sonically, it’s going to be very hard to top that, but Eric G is gonna give it a try. ‘Oprah’ comes with that funky vibe that will have Carlton bussin’ a move.

You can see crazy Oprah street dance challenges waiting to happen. Shout out to the B.O.D. Dance crew out in Wolverhampton/Birmingham UK! Actually never mind dance crews, I can see Oprah and even Ellen going for it on this track… it’s that sort of vibe.

Oprah’s celebration of money is a nice clever Segway to Whoopi. By that I mean in the film Ghost, Whoopi’s character is reluctant to give away $4MILLION to nuns…

I don’t know how you see it but I would give Whoopi an Oscar too… $4MILLION?

At this point the album has transitioned to a more party like – flow. It sounds slightly odd at first, but you’ll get it! I’m sure that with $4MILLION you could drop your own street carnival, probably not the best way to invest your money, but we are celebrating powerful black women here.

‘Serena’ sees Rapsody shift into a more ‘trappish’ vibe, and one that works. Serena is that chick who we have seen celebrate in Tennis, whether it be through determination or by bussing a move on the tennis court, as mentioned earlier with Rapsody channeling her mind and thinking like these iconic figures through music. Rapsody & Eric G have captured this beautifully, and Serena ain’t gonna stop until she gets that title of the G.O.A.T. if she hasn’t captured it already. Going on to Tyra which has Rapsody speaking on natural black beauty and intellect…and Tyra is arguably the epitome of that…

PHENOMENAL WOMAN, THAT’S ME

…but in ‘Maya’, featuring K. Roosevelt, and knowing that Maya Angelou is one of the greatest poets to ever do it, Rapsody knows that lyrics are the focus here… “Gotta check myself, Mama/Told me, just like old Morgan, free man (Free man)
A caged bird sings a song for freedom (Freedom)/
Goin’ borderline crazy thinkin’ ’bout the children/Michael Jackson told us all, get off the wall, back then…” Rapsody’s pen goes off in this, numerous references to Maya’s Autobiography ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ before making another clever reference to Jay-Z… something tells me that Jiggaman needs to stop playing with his funny looking hairstyle and get on a collab with Rapsody…it’s history waiting to happen and if this album doesn’t convince Jay I don’t know what will…

YO RZA FLIP THE TRACK

The visual to ‘Ibtihaj’ was very different to how I imagined it, and yet Rapsody took it to all new levels of epic proportions. She could have had herself and GZA walk around on a massive clock while 9th Wonder took wack records and throw it against the wall and have tarantulas crawl all over it… but instead she gets proud Muslim women in the video, displays of Ibithaj’s sword style, and then she goes and grabs Mary J Blige and Roxanne Shante to vibe with her. Incredible. When was the last time you recall GZA appear on a track not by a Wu-member or affiliate? We’ll wait as the countdown clock whittles down…

Another great thing this album does is educate the young. They know about Tyra, Serena, Oprah… but they may not know about Myrlie… widow of civil rights activist who was assassinated because he knew too much… “Invisible veil, Coretta wore that, you could see Israel/Martin Luther wasn’t a big enough deal?
Trayvon Martin ain’t a big enough deal?/I kid you not
How many Martin’s we had shot?/Pouring Remy Martin on the block…” You can feel your blood boiling on this subject can’t you? GOOD – that’s the idea. How you doing Jermaine? enjoying your popcorn you call your words back there?

If Cappadonna’s message ain’t a big enough deal, surely this will. Massive shout out to Reyna Brady for coming through with the spoken word. The powerful words here are sure to uplift and uphold our women.

‘Michelle’ is that great sounding record you can imagine being rocked at family gatherings, let’s not lie about that…You can imagine all your moms, aunties, grandmothers, sisters, all forming that all female soul train in the venue to this feel good record, while ‘Iman’ is just classic 9th Wonder. He has evolved his sound as of late but this takes it back to almost that Little Brother type era. SiR assists on the hook while Jid  expresses his frustration of the media purposely makes iconic women and makes them something that they are not unless you do the knowledge. This is that Miss Black Beauty pageant music, but Jid makes a creative error in his lyrics which is fantastic… mentions the dreaded B- word which goes into maybe the album’s biggest highlight…

U-N-I-T-Y

Rapsody using that iconic line ‘Who You Calling A B!tch’? was all apart of the plan to go into ‘Hatshepsut’ which sees the re-emergence of Queen Latifah and Hip Hop History been made, Queen Latifah (and GZA) DO NOT appear on other people’s albums like that and this track shows two things: one – Rapsody is really something special and two – Rapsody demonstrates her sense of humility and becomes a student in her own right, and that can only be a beautiful thing.

‘SoJourner’ featuring J.Cole originally appeared on the compilation ‘Jamla Is The Squad II’… You have to admire the sequencing of this project, going from a collab with an all-time great to a collab with a current artist which the youth can relate to. It’s great strategy for those who know Rapsody but not the Jamla Squad. Fun fact – Rapsody was going to name this ‘Harriet’, as Harriet and Sojourner share the same ambitions as regards to ‘being free’… it’s also worth noting that Rapsody did mention an ‘EVE 2’ in interviews… so who knows? Maybe a ‘Harriet’ track could re-emerge…

The album’s closer is a picture perfect one, because 2Pac’s lyrics from ‘Keep Your Head Up’ are brought into 2019 with the heartfelt ‘Afeni’ (Don’t worry Voletta, you might be Eve2’s album closer)… Rapsody pens an heartfelt letter to us men and basically urges us to fix up and to those who have, mad respect due. The last few bars of the first verse refers back to the album’s title and it’s bible scriptures… “We ain’t your hoes or your bitches, trophies, or meant for pimpin’/Recognize a gift from God outweighs a birthday or a Christmas/To protect our lives, you gon’ take it to the limit? (You gon’ take it to the limit?)
Rib of my rib, do you still feel us in ya…”

rapsody

I TREASURE Y’ALL LIKE DIAMONDS

‘Eve’ is a triumph and a half from Rapsody, so much so that her first album ‘The Idea Of Beautiful’ had to be revisited just to see how far she has come. Integrity has maintained throughout and so has the musical genius of 9th Wonder & The Soul Council. Sure, a lot of people got on board from her appearance on Kendrick’s critically acclaimed album and rocked with Laila’s Wisdom… but this, shows the passion from her pen in a elevated way. From the beginning, she did not want to be acknowledged as a female MC but siply – an MC, but as far as I’m concerned, and as humble as she is, legendary guest appearances, three albums in and numerous side mixtapes/Eps, Rapsody has DONE IT. She has earned Lauryn’s throne, but Rapsody would rather build another throne and put it side by side as opposed to sitting in Lauryn’s. Take a bow queen, here’s to waiting for an artist to create a track entitled ‘Marlanna’.

 

LITTLE BROTHER: May The Lord Watch

RELEASED: AUGUST 20, 2019, Imagine Nation Music / For Members Only / EMPIRE, Review written by Mark Mcauley, Foreword & Final thoughts by Michael Grant for Wu-Worldwide DJ Coalition

SEPTEMBER 29, 2018: Beautiful Morning

It was the Art of Cool festival in Durham North Carolina. 9th Wonder was scheduled to perform. But little did the fans know that the bossman of Jamla Records was bringing two familiar faces with him. The fans in the vicinity lost their minds as they bear witnessed Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh with 9th on stage together… this could only mean two things: a reconciliation has happened and two, a possible new album. A dream come true right? Well almost.

MAY 21, 2019: N!&&@$ Ain’t Listening…

Little Brother May The Lord Watch“I’m excited to announce that my brother Big Pooh and I are back at work. New Little Brother music and a tour are coming soon,” Phonte wrote in an email to DJBooth.

He continued: “After conversations with 9th Wonder following our Art of Cool reunion show in Durham last year, the three of us mutually agreed it was best for LB to continue as a duo, as Pooh and I have officially been Little Brother since 2007.” 

Hip Hop is Knowledge. The Teacha himself  taught us that, So it is a personal pet peeve of mine that if heads don’t do the knowledge before hand, they wonder why 9th (see what I did there) is not on this new project. They start bad mouthing the genius producer on social media. Let us not forget that this man gave us Smif N Wessun – The All,  Jamla is the Squad, the new Eve album from Rapsody on the way (at time of this review) and the recently released new Murs album. Very upsetting and ignorant to hear.

AUGUST 19, 2019…Nighttime Maneuvers

We knew they were dropping a new album, we just didn’t know when… meanwhile we were distracted by Top 50 lists, Tommy Boy taking liberties with De La Soul and Jay-Z and his polarizing partnership with the NFL. It was all a distraction. ALL OF IT, perfect timing and opportunity for Little Brother to unleash their new LP: May the Lord Watch… perhaps a fitting title, especially to Christians who believe that the Lord is watching all of our movements while he prepared his second coming. Over to you Mark Mcauley…

Can’t Let H.E.R. (How Could I Let You Get Away?)

1. The Feel 9/10 , I really like the way they started off this album, with the loose piano & funky instrumentation, they get nostalgic but rap about starting back from where they left off, with some smart lyricism on the hook “Get back to the feel, relax and chill, I got a license to Ill again..”

2. Everything 7.5/10, The song starts off with an abrupt sample courtesy of M.O.P, Phonte raps about life’s highs & lows, his life commitments and those who passed away in life, I really like this one too but the female on the hook doesn’t add much to the song.

3. Right On Time 10/10 , this song is amazing and funky as hell, the production sounds straight out of the 2000’s and got a Slum Village feel to it, the keys & drums are really nice, the lyrics are strong too on this one & the hook blends well this time, unlike on the previous song for me.

4. Black Magic (Make It Better) 9/10, The song is really uplifting, again the production is really nice on the ear and the content is really feel good, I’m not in love with the hook from the female on this one either but the lyricism and direction of the song makes up for it for me, Common would have been right at home on this one.

5. Goodmorning Sunshine 8/10, the drums are really good on this one too, they spit some heartfelt lyrics about settling down with that special someone, instead of living life reckless, the hook is pure 90’s, I respect the honesty of the record.

6. What I Came For 8/10, Really nice song too, they rap about why they came into the rap game and how they still have aspirations while still here making music, nice motivational record for those who need it!

7. Sittin Alone 10/10 , This is my favorite record so far on the album, they rap over a sample of Bobby Caldwell “Open Your Eyes” , its a nice self-reflective deep song, really like the lines from Phonte about feeling too old for the club & being at home is better than hanging around the 25 and less age brackets.

8. Picture This 8.5/10, the hook is pure 90’s, I really enjoy the lyrics about the old school Hip-Hop , with EPMD “You’re A Customer” being referenced nicely in the first verse, another really nice record,

9. All in a Day 10/10, this song is really focused, from the production to the lyrics, to the rapping, to the hook, it’s got everything I’m looking for in good Hip-Hop song, definitely one of the stronger records on this album to me, they sound resilient when lashing out at these new rappers and doing music on their terms and own freedom, great song.

10. Work Through Me. 9/10, Nice way to close out the album, with another motivational record, they come across passionately about how long they have been in the game and want the respect, the hook gets a little spiritual with the “Work Through Me Lord”, as they speak on wanting that push to keep persevering with life and this music.

My opinion as a whole : This is a smooth album, With Little Brother back with their usual thoughtful lyrics, the album is a nice blend of that 2000’s Underground Hip-Hop and 90’s esque R&B displayed on the hooks, they did not stray too far from their path or overstay their welcome on their return, there are no dud’s on the album to me, just good solid Hip-Hop, that will hopefully retain that love and replay value, as time goes on.

Little Brother

I SEE NOW: Final Thoughts

This is a beautiful welcome back for the once trio turned duo, and for the right reasons. Not only have Little Brother shown that they can be successful without their super producer, but in the process they have his blessing. They kept a great thing going too, with The Listening based on a ‘radio station’, The Minstrel Show being just that, and now this album taking the role of a streaming network a la Netflix, great skits throughout with some familiar and lovable characters like Percy Miracles and Roy Lee producer extraordinaire, probably the only part of the album where 9th Wonder is listening somewhere thinking ‘oh naaaaw…’! Little Brother has shown that sometimes, surprising attacking us like Pearl Harbor is the way forward…as opposed to announcing a major project, keeping us with anticipation for months, maybe even years, until either we are disappointed with the end result or worse – the project doesn’t see daylight. Take a bow fellas. I shall subscribe to the ‘UBN Network’ straight away!

Shut up and take my money

 

 

NAS – The Lost Tapes II

RELEASED: JULY 19, 2019, Def Jam/Mass Appeal Records, REVIEW WRITTEN BY MICHAEL GRANT, C.E.O. of RePPiN4U and UK AMBASSADOR for WU-WORLDWIDE DJ COALITION

In mainstream Hip Hop, the media have developed an imaginary ‘Mount Rushmore’. The real one has four heads, Hip Hop has FIVE: 2Pac, Biggie, Jay-Z, Eminem & NAS. For Obvious reasons Pac & B.I.G. are exempt, but for the other three, they could well be the most polarizing figures in Hip Hop. Any major release they do will be praised by their fans, but heavily scrutinized by the ‘True Hip Hop Heads’. With Eminem, it may boil down to ‘white privilege’, with Jay, it’s his dumbing down of lyrics and his global status, had Big and Pac be alive, the true heads would surely find a major fault with them let’s Nas The Lost tapes 2keep it 100, and as for NAS, it’s his ‘bad’ ear for beats… every release from God’s Son onwards leaves heads saying one of two things: One – it’s not better than Illmatic/It Was Written or… there’s no DJ Premier production… Nas & Premo made a huge mistake in 2010 – announcing that they would do a joint project together, and ever since then, that’s what the fans have been clamoring for. Life Is Good came out, NO PREMO. After eight years, a ‘quasi’ follow up came in the form of ‘NASIR’, produced entirely by Kanye West, and that brought major disappointment within the fans, and perhaps didn’t get it until Nas released his mini movie. Now in 2019, Nas finally unleashes the sequel to The Lost Tapes, with the predecessor held in high regard by the fans, the pressure is on Nas to come through here. 16 previously unreleased tracks ranging from Hip Hop Is Dead, The Untitled (N!&&£r) Album, Life Is Good and Nasir with an all-star cast of producers, surely Nas cannot falter….can he????

TURNIN’ NOTHIN INTO SOMETHIN’ IS GOD WORK

When it comes to Nas, fans love to play the comparison game, so we are going to do the same thing here. The way the album starts off, one would think the listener is at church with arms spread out and head tilted up with eyes closed as if the heavens have opened up. If Nas is hoping for ‘No Bad Energy’, social media is the wrong place to start let me tell you. Instantly this track sounds as if Swizz produced an ‘Echo Part 2’… one thing is for sure, the glorious start he achieved with Doo Rags from the first Tapes was also achieved here.

Vernon Family sees Nas flawlessly flowing over a relentless Pharrell Williams beat, already by this time, heads are already playing the game ‘Which album was this made for’? We already know by the recent interviews that these are based on the last four album releases.

As we enter the most polarizing track of Nas career… we know he can have his creative moments. It simply boils down to if you are a fan of the Jazz sub-genre – ‘scat’…you will appreciate this track. If you’re not, well good chance is you won’t. On first listen, your confusion will go into overdrive. From that point, you will either decide to listen to it multiple times to absorb it or immediately dismiss it.

YOU GOTTA LOVE IT

Now the Lost Freestyle screams NAS all day long… Statik Selektah nailed this sound perfectly and becomes one of the albums highlights… one would think that fans on social media completely forgot about this being played in the initial trailer and focussed all of their displeasure on the track previous. To keep the zoning out going, Statik lets the beat ride out, always a beautiful thing… Nas is also one of the few non-Wu artists on the planet who can rhyme crazy over a RZA beat, we know how unorthodox they can be… this time Nas directs his verbal intercourse over oriental sounding sonics and a Renaissance sample.

You have heard Royalty by Gangstarr, now hear Nas’ version. In this tune he contemplates getting married again after the failure of Kelis and RaVaughn providing the chorus enforcing our young women to respect themselves.

‘Who Are You’ is an interesting tale of a black man who made it out the hood, and while he tries to teach values to those still in the hood, he seems to have almost lost a part of who he was… “And we all know the code of the block/And you talking some gibberish, anti-n!&&@ sh!t/’Cause you marched back with Rosa Parks?
Brother, don’t start, go build your Noah’s Ark/You could float to the end of the world, and pretend what you not/But I know what you are…”

BYE BABY

…meanwhile in ‘Adult Film’, even though Nas has been well known to go wild for the night as far as sexual encounters, Nas expresses his frustrations with insecure women, and their friends putting words in their ear… almost sounds as if these are wounds re-opened from the Kelis experiences…

The way Nas is talking in this video? It’s as if he’s thinking of pushing this as the next single under the strength of Lauryn Hill, and there is so much truth in this. War Against Love sounds as if it was recorded for the Untitled album as regards to lyrics and subject matter, talking about the savages trying to kill us off since the days of the Moors… “Cause we could be so great, pray it’s not too late/Put pride aside, coincide, I bet we both be straight/Straight to the top, side to side, twin Rolls Royces/We made choices to be devoted
To go at those foes who come at us with upside down crosses…”

WRITIN’ IN MY BOOK OF RHYMES, ALL THE WORDS PAST THE MARGIN

The production guessing continues in this next album highlight with the Pete Rock Produced ‘The Art Of It’, The Soul Brother flips Naughty By Nature’s Uptown Anthem in such epic fashion, and here Nas reveals when this could have been made in terms of his age at the time. The hook sounds a bit unfinished but that doesn’t matter… this track right here further validates some heads claims that Nas doesn’t know how to pick beats for his albums… this one right here is inexcusable. This is an instant banger. According to Nas, he didn’t want to tarnish Pete Rock’s legacy…so that’s why it never initially came out. Then in Highly Favoured, this sounds like one of the Wu-Tang Killa Beez were actually working on it and then Nas stormed in and said – ‘RZA – I’ll take that – this is Highly favoured for me…’ Next, Nas goes all Marvel on us in Queen’s Wolf, but Netflix might have cancelled that season before it even started.

HOW MUCH OF BIGGIE’S RHYMES GONNA COME OUT YOUR FAT LIPS?

Don’t you think it’s ironic that during the legendary battle between Nas & Jay-Z, Nas calls out Jiggaman for reciting many of B.I.G.’s lines, and in The Alchemist produced ‘It Never Ends’, Nas winds up doing the same thing? It’s like John Cena calling out The Rock for turning his back on wrestling in favor for Hollywood, only for Cena to do the same thing years later… and most likely end up on the same film in the future (Fast & Furious 10?)

They say ‘You Mean The World To Me’ could be the best Kanye West produced track for Nas and was meant for Nasir…if that is so, it wouldn’t stop the Kanye haters going in on the Nasir album. In this track, it seems as if the woman in this tale actually took Skyzoo’s words of advice.

Again, with ‘Queensbridge Politics’, it’s hard to buy Nas’ claim of tarnishing Pete Rock’s legacy especially when when you are paying homage to Prodigy, amidst all the ups and downs over the years. Finally RaVaughn rejoins Nas in the album’s feel good finale – Beautiful Life. It feels as if when this was recorded, Nas was juggling between this and Bye Baby for the Life Is Good album closer. Maybe he didn’t want to put too much spotlight on Kelis at the time. Nas fans wouldn’t have minded, they see Kelis as the enemy anyway… especially in the eyes of Redman & Method Man.

SOMETIMES HATING IS CONFUSED ADMIRATION

And that line right there resonates everything I have seen in recent days… this line stuck with me ever since Nas said it in 2012, and heads are falling for it every time. This collection of unreleased material is a nice project, it could have been trimmed down a little to match the original, but it is nice no less with plenty of replay value. Perhaps maybe not as consistent as the first in terms of production (it seemed like Nas worked with the same team over It Was Written, I Am and Nastradamus which made it flow well). However for those fans who most likely gave it one spin and then updated their status with negativity, they will forever be stuck in their ways and there is no helping them. They want that Nas/Premo project and to that I say this: ABANDON HOPE and tweet Royce Da 5’9 why it didn’t happen…and if Nas brings out The Lost Tapes 3 & 4… the same thing is going to happen – heads will pay attention, they will curse out Nas for having a bad ear for beats, listen to it anyway, and curse him more EVEN IF the album is good, such is the case with this. It’s just how it is.

INSPECTAH DECK: Chamber No. 9

Released: July 12, 2019, Tuff Kong Records, REVIEW WRITTEN BY MICHAEL GRANT, C.E.O. of RePPiN4U, and UK AMBASSADOR for WU-WORLDWIDE DJ COALITION

The number NINE seems like a very powerful number within the Wu-Tang Clan of recent memory. NINE living members (rest in peace Ol’ Dirty), 2018 was the official 25 year anniversary of Hip Hop’s greatest dynasty but the celebrations have spilled into 201(9) big time, with the unveiling of their own district (first Hip Hop group to ever achieve that), Staten Island has an official Wu-Tang Clan Holiday (NOVEMBER 9), to celebrate 36 Chambers… RZA would tell you that 3 add 6 makes 9… with the success of the Inspectah Deck Chamber No 9documentary ‘Of Mics and Men’ and the upcoming show ‘Wu-Tang: An American Saga, and the Gods of Rap tour which was originally a UK show but demand made that go worldwide, the Wu-Tang Clan is truly REBORN, as the number 9 suggests in Supreme Mathematics. For Inspectah Deck, his first album ‘Uncontrolled Substance’ was released in 1999 featured a track called ‘9th Chamber’, and that same title re-emerged in his 2010 album – Manifesto, on October 9, 2012, he came out to the UK to perform and did so in epic fashion, and after many Czarface projects, NINE years later Inspectah Deck returns with his new solo album – CHAMBER No.9. For this brother, he feels REBORN.

LET ME AT ‘EM!

The beauty of Clan/Solo projects is when they use kung fu film samples they are not random and just to sound good, they are carefully thought out and with purpose, particularly with intros. Here the Shaolin Rebel steps up vowing to do the best he can and putting everything on the line, but he’s been doing that for 25 years! He continues his disgust for how the rap game has turned out now an even worse, comparing him to them like one of the same… You know your man asks/How you gang gang with yoga pants and handbags?/I don’t get it, maybe I ain’t supposed to/Comparin’ ‘em to me is like Stop and Shop to Whole Foods…

Track 2 on the album is the opposite of what it’s title suggests… and by this time we should already be taking note of a one Danny Caiazzo… doesn’t come across as a hip hop name, or sounds like somebody we would see on Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge, but this is a producer we should keep tabs on. He has gone all soulful with this one with hard hitting thumping drums to boot, and Deck is letting the young ones know that the fast money lifestyle is No Good do not get it twisted.

The tributes to Ol’ Dirty just keep on coming, and guys like Deck, Rae and even RZA himself will let you know that ‘Life Changes’ will never be the lasting tribute remembered through the ages, but instead of being emotional and reflective, Deck switches up. Just calling the track ‘RUSSELL JONES is a highlight in itself, this goes hard. From here forward, saying the word ‘unique’ is cliche… say ‘Russell Jones’… he is the epitome of the word.

Can’t Stay Away might be INS’ confession that yes he did want to retire from Hip Hop and realised that wasn’t the case… call it the art of retiring without retiring… Deck talks about his origins and how he fell in love with H.E.R. and then switches up the head nodding volume up with the infectious Na, Na, Na! 5 tracks in and Danny (Caiazzo) is on fire! He is running this skullbuster with ease!

THE 9th CHAMBER, YOU GET TRAPPED INSIDE MY HALLWAY

This track right here is a blatant video waiting to happen, and it appears so the way Deck’s first video ended, with a hook filled with scratches of  classic Wu lines over it’s golden years, Chamber No.9 is EPIC and Certified gig ready… I can imagine this banging at a venue. True indeed, Inspectah Deck and Danny cannot be stopped even if they came with ABS. ’24K’ features the album’s only other guest clan member Cappadonna and Hellfire, and this time Boo Bundy steps in as the producer. Cappadonna even admits he wasn’t on form here! “You’re voices down low and your rhymes are whack/While I been flippin’ that, give me that sh!t, dimes and crack/My darts from the shot bust, I’m taking the shortcuts/You can’t get pu$$y, you’d be paying my whores up/This is the bad me, the good me don’t record stuff…”

…and in ‘What It be Like’, Deck describes the street life which is sounds no different from what they were when he was growing up, that’s why the Game Don’t Change, just the players do.

As far as visuals go, this could well be the best video Deck has done is his career to date. Seemingly paying homage to a combination of Terminator & Blade (incidentally my favorite all time film franchises/heroes), the Rebel is sent from the Wu-Tang skynet to terminate all the wack behaviour going on in Hip Hop today.

KICK THE TRUTH TO THE YOUNG BLACK YOUTH

Dolla Signs has Inspectah Deck & Mz Gemini exploring the subject of C.R.E.A.M even further and what people would do to get it, the opening lines are reminiscent of what a billionaire named Shawn Carter once did, and you would think the youth wouldn’t have to do through that…

‘Who Run It’? Seemingly Hellfire here. It’s either meant for a project Hellfire might be working on, or it’s Deck’s way of stepping back and making him shine as if to say ‘he’s next to blow…’

Even the Shaolin kung fu sample that starts before ‘FIRE’ fits in well, telling the story of how Wu-Tang became #1, and just like the title, Trife Diesel brings just that in his rhymes: “I was made in the Lord’s image/That’s a word to my mama, I was perfectly sculpted/Put rappers in surgery in the infirmary posted/Place ’em in body bags, you leave them virtually roasted/Turn a Moe to a John Doe, I never heard of these culprits
I’m back the being focus, reloaded, the book has been decoded/It was written way before Nas and Hova even wrote it…

YOU NEVER WILL CONQUER THE CHAMPION

With this album, you have to give the Fifth brother maximum props. He made two risky moves – one, he didn’t rely on well known producers like he did all his previous efforts and called on two hungry producers and two, He has always been one to not heavily call on his Wu brothers to jump on a track. I’ve heard heads express concerns about that but that hasn’t stopped Deck consistently put out good material and in this case it may have resulted in arguably Deck’s strongest album since Uncontrolled Substance. After all, Inspectah Deck & The GZA are known to be the clan’s best lyricists, and Deck prefers to keep it that way. Chamber No 9 is an album which does what it says on the tin – chop heads off lyrically with the fatal flying guillotine. Considering he was going to leave the game with ‘The Rebellion’ in 2013 which never came out (thank god), was Czarface responsible for adding longevity? What made INS make that U-Turn on retirement? And interestingly, what happened to Inspectah Deck  – The Producer? These are the questions I would like to ask Jason Hunter given the opportunity… say, are you available for radio interviews?????