Monday, 15 December 2014

Wu Tang Clan - A better tomorrow album review

In late 1993 The Wu-Tang Clan unleashed their debut 12", "Protect Ya Neck" Bw "Method Man" on an unsuspecting Hip-Hop world and with the help of Nas brought back hardcore Hip Hop to New York after its long hiatus on the West Coast.  From there the Wu Tang Clan went onto own the 90s as far as Hip Hop was concerned with two group albums (One of them a double and it really was a double, not a single with a shitload of filler), more than fourteen solo albums, countless guest spots, soundtrack appearances and also side projects like Gravediggaz and The Redman and Method Man collaboration Blackout.  It is easy to forget how powerful the Wu-Tang Clan were in the nineties; artists never game themselves Mafioso pseudonyms until the Wu Tang came along, everyone was scrabbling to get a guest spot from anyone even closely associated to the Wu-Tang, they were independent before it was cool to be independent and that dusty distorted production was frowned upon until it was Rza behind the boards 
Then came the noughties and thing slowed down with only Ghostface consistently releasing strong projects.  Meth was off acting and Rza was more concerned with scoring films than producing Wu-Bangas.  When albums did drop they didn't have enough Rza production and too many tracks produced by Rza's acolytes and non Clan guest spots.  Yes one or two of them still went gold and even platinum in the case of The W.  However by the time we got to 8 Diagrams they weren't even going gold.  Compare this to Wu-Tang Forever which went 8XPlatinum.  I understand that sales is not an indication of a good album but it is an indication of however interested the fanbase is in the group.  As the late noughties arrived so did a resurgence in the Wu-Tang lead by Ghostface and Raekwon.  Ghost had not stopped releasing interesting projects all along using outside production from the likes of MF Doom, Jay-Dee, No ID, K-Def, Nottz, Just Blaze, Pete Rock, Adrian Younge,m Scram Jones and Jake One amongst others to ensure his sound stayed fresh and relevant.  Raekwon came back with a nice dose of nostalgia that took quite some time to deliuver but was awesome when it did drop, Only Built for Cuban Linx part 2.  That was swiftly followed up by Wu-Massacre which had Method Man joining Rae and Ghost, which was a very dope album.
Soon after this talk began of a new Wu-Tang Clan album.  There were disputes and arguments along the way but it appears they have been laid to rest and the group has managed to produce a full album (I'm not going to discuss the other ridiculously priced one of a kind album).  So this is my review of that album.  I will go over each song individually, all fifteen of them.
The album starts off with "Ruckus in B Minor" which is produced by The Rza and Rick Rubin and comes in at five minutes and twenty five second.  It begins with a Raekwon samples followed by and ODB sample telling us that we're "Going to love this".  This is a great track featuring all nine members and although its not a "Triumph" or "Protect Ya Neck" it is a step in the right direction.  It has a hard hitting beat that changes tempo a number of times throughout.  It has Rza's fingerprints all over it but some of the hard guitar and cymbals sound like Rubin's ideas.   There are some lovely strings and scratches throughout that add character to the track.  Meth throws in some nice ad libs and once again sounds like he did before he changed his style back when he did that Riddler track.  However lyrically all of the Clan sound hungry on this one, even Rae and Gza who have the parts of the song where the beat slows down.  But it still works despite the complexity of the music and the different styles of the lyricists.
The second track is called "Felt" and is almost the exact opposite of the first.  It starts off with a terrible Rza monologue over a double time beat.  there is a nice guitar sample that may it may have been possible to turn into a good track but this isn't it.  Rather than allow the lyricists to shine someone (namely The Rza) asked some low rent lyricists to get on board as if things weren't bad enough.  Skip this track.
The third track is called "40th Street Black / We Fight" and is an interesting upbeat track produced by Mathematics with The Rza taking a co production credit.  The beat sounds like it was made on an old dusty 808 and is totally stripped down with a nice vocal sample.  The track features INS, Deck, Meth, Gza, Cappadonna, someone who's name I cant place and The Rza all rapping with their foot on the accelerator.  It works and it sounds like it was made in a basement on a very tight budget and because of that it works.
Track four is "Mistaken Identity" which starts off with some anonymous crooner singing about going home.  Fortunately the singing dies and the end of the introduction and a nice off kilter piano sample comes in over some crisp snares. The lyricists spin tales of Mistaken Identity and the consequences.  Good old fashioned Wu storytelling.  Theres also a nice bass guitar sample in there somewhere that works well along with the occasional cymbal. This is a decent track not a major banga' but an album track off one of the better solo Wu albums.
As we reach the end of the first third of the album we get to "Hold the Heater" a mid tempo track with a shouty chorus.  The beat features a nice guitar loop that is somewhat under utilised and by that I mean its a good loop but would sound better on a Mobb Deep track rather than this one.  Meth continues to have somewhat of a renaissance returning to his older style that he used on the original 36 Chambers and Tical. 
The sixth track is a short one called "Crushed Egos" but its a real nice one featuring Raekwon over an ominous beat that could have easily been on one of his more successful solo joints.  In fact he is the only one rapping on this two and half minute track apart from The Rza who drops the third verse.  I like this mid tempo track that appears to be some sort of reconciliation to show Rae and Rza are in fact friends, perhaps the titles alludes to this.  Its a good track albeit kinda short but it works.  It's produced by The Rza and Adrian Younge who produced that Ghostface album last year, "12 reasons to die".  It has some nice tight snares and a good strings sample that sounds like it may have been lifted from a Western soundtrack.  This is a good but short track that I enjoyed.
The seventh track is called "Keep Watch" and is reminiscent of classic Wu joint; a off key piano loop, with some nice crisp drums and a haunting soul vocal sample.  Meth kicks of the track continuing his trend of traditional Meth rhymes.  As Meth finishes the first verse the song suddenly goes from being a possible banga to a disappointment with the inclusion of some rubbish soul singing for the chorus provided by Nathaniel.  It adds absolutely nothing to the song and only detracts from being a good Hip Hop track into a sad play for radio air time which it will not get because of the rhymes.  Deck, Gza and some other members of the Wu rhyme but they are overshadowed by the wack singing. Mathematics produces this one. Underwhelming at best.
At just past the half way mark of this album things are not looking good and the eighth track "Miracle" only send the album further into a dismal abyss of mediocrity. It starts off with some second rate JoJo or K-Ci telling us that we need a miracle via the medium of poorly sung lyrics.  Then the beat starts and its a decent orchestral beat with strings and cymbals.  Lyrically it works as various members of the Wu tell tales of street life in their own style.  However the JoJo rip off from the intro returns in between each verse reminding us of the poor choices made by the songs producer or even the group as a whole.  The producer by the way is that serial offender of Wu mediocrity, 4th Disciple with a Rza co production credit.
Up until this point the album was at it's worst mediocre but with track nine the album goes beyond that into cheap, offensive rip offs.  Track nine is called "Preacher's daughter" and it rips off the Dusty Springfield classic, "Son of a Preacher man" completely.  It really makes no difference how good the lyricists are on this track because the track itself is terrible.  The Rza takes full responsibility for this aberration.  If you were to take the rhymes out and drop them over a nice Doom beat or some Pete Rock track it would be fine probably even good but the underlying beat detracts from the skilled emcees.  It has a guitar sample with some horns directly replayed following the style of the original.  As if the poor use of sampling wasn't bad enough they have decided to have members of the Wu singing a terrible chorus.  Avoid at all costs.
Track ten is called "Pioneer the Frontier" and is produced by The Rza.  It starts off with some nice marches drums and a nice horns sample with cuts from various Wu joints over the year.  Rza starts off with some softly spoken rhymes with some simple but nice scratches in the background.  The horns sample is reminiscent of a Godzilla sound track sample.  INS and Deck follow The Rza on the mic.  All round the track sounds ominous and suspicious due mainly to the horns sample and the various Wu samples in the background.  Its a nice Wu track, not a major attention grabber but a good album track which has some nice ODB sample scratches towards the end of it.  One of the better tracks on the album.
Track eleven is called "Necklace" and is produced by 4th Disciple.  A slow track with a dark double bass sample with what sounds like a g├╝iro loop (one of those pieces of wood with notches on it that you run a stick along to create a ratchet like sound) dropping in sporadically.  Its a dark track with Cappadonna, Raekwon, Ghostface and Gza dropping dark rhymes over a track inter cut with a vocal sample saying "Brother I think that necklace is causing you trouble" that sounds like it was taken from a James Cagney gangster movie.  I really like this track its dark and gritty with a nice use of samples and loops by 4Th Disciple.
"Ron O'Neal" is the 12th track on a "A Better Tomorrow" and again is entirely produced by The Rza. The beat has a nice bass sample over what sounds like live drums.  Meth starts things off with a nice verse and is followed quickly by Deck who also shows he still has skills.  But then the hook comes in and yes its another wack soul singer crooning again before Ghostface grabs the mic.  One more chance to hear the boring hook before The Rza grabs the mic.  A fairly decent track ruined by another weak hook sung by some soul singer.  Do they think that putting a singer on it will get them radio play?  I really don't see how putting that soul singer on track helps either them or the singer.
"A Better Tomorrow" is the thirteenth track of the album and it is The Rza behind the boards again.  The beat is faster than most of the album and is uplifting featuring a nice piano loop and some lovely strings.  Lyrically the emcees are in a brighter place than the rest of the album.  Yes there is singing on this joint but it adds to the track and does not detract from it like the previous tracks on the album. I like this track.  I'm not sure who the male vocalist is but the female is Tekhitha who has been on a number of Wu tracks over the years.  Its a nice uplifting track with some decent singing for the hook.
The penultimate track of this album is another one produced by The Rza called "Never let go".  Again the drums on this sound live rather than sampled, not a bad thing as they work well with the horns samples.  All emcees resent nicely although Rza's verse sounded somewhat unenthusiastic as if it was being read rather than rhymed.  Again there is some singing for the hook, its not that bad is probably the best I can say about it but it would put me off listening to it again.
Onto the final track of the album, "Wu Tang reunion" which is produced by The Rza.  Its an upbeat joint with a fun xylophone sample and some nice 808 drums.  Again they insist on someone singing the chorus but this time it practically takes over the whole track leaving only space for three verses.  The track had promise and being called "Wu Tang Reunion" gave me hope it was going to be another nine emcee bang instead we get three of them and a whole lot of singing.
I had such high hopes for this album, I honestly thought that having The Rza back behind the boards would solve a lot of the issues their previous group albums had.  I was wrong the worst tracks on this album had The Rza's name down as producer.  Lyrically They all still showed considerable skills, although at times some of them seemed a little disinterested.  However what was so damming about this was the unnecessary singing and that terrible track "Preacher's daughter".  The inclusion of weak sung choruses add absolutely nothing to the album and only served to put me off listening to it again. Out of the fifteen tracks on the album I only gave six of them four or more stars and only one of them got a five.  Ultimately disappointing, in fact it doesn't even come close to my least favourite  Ghostface solo album.  In fact theres a new Ghostface album I will be reviewing a next and I'd almost bet money that will be a better album.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Deep Fried on Crackers

Every Thursday DJ Paulo and DJ Scott (me) will be playing classic Funk, Soul and Jazz breaks from 19:00GMT to 22:00 on Crackers Radio.  Tune in for some funky tunes and soulful grooves.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

El-P and Killer Mike - Run the Jewels 2

El-P and Killer Mike are back with another dose of unapologetic hardcore underground hip-hop following on from their first Run the Jewels album which was released in June 2013.  The duo first worked together on Killer Mike's critically acclaimed "R.A.P. Music" album which was entirely produced by El-P in 2012.  Later that year Killer Mike appeared on the track "Tougher, Colder Killer" on El-P's "Cancer 4 Cure" album before working on the first Run the Jewels album.  The first one was given away free as a download with a number of exclusive packages available for various different price ranges including all sorts of extras like t-shirts and signed posters.  The album itself was a perfect combination of El-P and Mike's complex though provoking rhymes over El-P's beautifully chaotic soundscapes.  Easily one of the best albums from recent years; original, creative and intelligent.  Thankfully they are not content to sit on their laurels and after touring the first album hard they managed to create a second volume before going back in the road.  The album is again a free download with a number of exclusive packages available and this time is being released on Mass Appeal Records.  they have also announced a remix of "Run the Jewels 2" which will be released on Fool's Gold Records in 2015.  They will also work on another remix project using entirely sounds recorded from cats, this one will be called "Meow the Jewels" which will feature production from Just Blaze, The Alchemist and Prince Paul with all proceeds going to charity.
The album is eleven track longs with no intermissions and a few guest spots.  
The first track in the album is called "Jeopardy" and starts off with a vocal samples telling the listener that "I'm gonna bang this bitch the fuck out" and thats a pretty good description of the track.  It starts off with a heavy bass line behind Mike's intricate rhymes as he tells us "The Jewels Runners, the top tag team for two summers".  He goes on to show us how deep he can get when he makes the following comparison of his style "The passion of Pac, the depth of Nas, Circa '93, Mix the mind of Brad Jordan and Chuck D and find me, I spit with the diction of Malcolm or say Bun-B"  The track evolves throughout reaching a crescendo by the time Mike hands the mic over to El-P who is also spittin' rhymes with an abrasive edge "Motherfuck your permission, it was never yours to begin with, and every bar of the bitch shit you spit is your prison, I've been here makin' raw shit and never asked to be lauded, Run the Jewels id the answer, your question "Whats Poppin?""  The second track on the album is the first single and is called "Oh my darling don't cry" which features another incredibly heavy bass line that would not be out of place on a Grime track.  The speed of the rhyme delivery is faster on this track and the looped vocal sample used throughout gives it an interesting twist however halfway through the track the beat suddenly takes it's insanity to another levels completely before calming back down for the fade out.
Blockbuster night part 1 is the third track on the album and Mike kicks this one off to another killer El-P beat.  Each emcee drops shorter verses on this one trading the mic back and forth over a marching beat.  Mike takes the trophy for the dopest verse with the following gem "This Run the Jewels is murder, mayhem, melodic music, Psychotics use it then lose it, Junkies simply abuse it, thats word to Philip Seymor Hoffman, I'm pushin coffin, I probably smell like a pound when they put me in a coffin."
Zach De La Rocha joins Mike and El-P for the fourth track on the album, "Close your eyes".  A beat made up of a vocal loop, a strong drum and some distorted electrical sample.  Mike drops the first verse, El-P the second and Zach comes on for the finale.  Track five is "All my Life" and it a has a slower beat then most of the album up to this point.  Lyrically though neither emcee drops off, they keep on coming with the fast paced deep lyrics.
"Lie, Cheat, Steal" is the album's sixth joint and on this track El-P's production could album be called Grime if it weren't for the guitar samples during the chorus.  However this is not a bad thing the track is deep and almost forces your to nod your head.  El-P drops the first verse with aplomb and Mike comes in with a fast paced aggressive style that works well.   "Early" is the 7th track on the album and features a guest appearance from Boots (rapper, singer, producer & musician who has worked with Beyonce).  Boots drops the haunting vocals used in place of a chorus.  Mike and El-P drops some more thought provoking lyrics touching on Police brutality and everyday struggle in modern society.  A goos track with the nice addition of Boots' vocals.
Travis Barker joins the duo for the 8th track on the album, "All Due Respect".  Travis brings some lovely percussion skills to the track providing crisp tight drums and some nice cowbells (more cowbells).  Mike and El-P drops some deep lyrics with each emcee taking a verse then combining on some EPMD shit for the last verse.  Dope track with Travis providing some heavy drums for the duo to spit over.
"Love Again" at first appears to be a typical sex laced rap track with the usual misogynist rhymes that we're used to from rappers these days and yes there is that element to it along with the lewd chorus.  However Gangsta Boo jumps on board for the final verse and gives us the view of things from the female player.  The beat is sick and sounds like El-P in Cannibal Ox mode which of course is a good thing.
 The album's penultimate track is "Crown" featuring Diane Coffee.  A more mellow joint musically with a slower tempo although the lyrics still come hard, with thought provoking rhymes covering subjects like religion, pregnancy, drug abuse, war and shame.  The album finishes on another classic El-P beat with Mike and El-P dropping paranoia tainted rhymes.  The beat is almost double time with some ominous organs providing the backdrop for their dark rhymes.
To summarise this is another classic album that sits nicely alongside their first album and their solo works.  I enjoyed this album immensely; the beats and the rhymes are different to anything else out there.  The tracks are original and the lyrics intelligent  providing deep social commentary.  And its free, what more could you ask for?  A European tour? Well thats happening right now and seeing this performed live is well worth the cost of the ticket price.  The thing I love most about this duo is not only their originality and their in depth lyrics but the fact that they originally come from two different arms of Hip-Hop (Indie NY and Down South Dirty) but their sounds work so perfectly together.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Are You Ready DJ MK & DJ GO Ft Super Dertie & Phaze What

DJ MK and DJ Go drop join up with Super Dertie & Phaze What from London's Piff Gang for this track from their upcoming album.  A dope slice of original UK Hip-Hop.  You can pre order this now from iTunes by clicking here.  Go grab this now and the album when it drops, I guarantee it will be dope.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

MF Doom and Bishop Nehru - NehruvianDOOM album review

The veteran and the rookie could easily be the subtitle for the album that brings together the legendary MF Doom and young MC Bishop Nehru.  Bishop Nehru first made contact with MF Doom when he opened for Doom and Ghostface at London's 100 club back in 2013.  They got on well and decided top work on an album together 
"Well it's titled NehruvianDOOM. It's DOOM producing the beats and I'm rapping over them, though he's going to be on some of the songs too. We don't have any outside features, it's just me and him."  
For those that don't know Bishop Nehru is a young rapper, born in 1996 who dropped a mixtape presented by Peter Rosenberg and DJ Semtex a couple of years ago before meeting Doom and working on this album.  
The album is nine tracks long (ten if you get the iTunes Special edition) and is released on Lex records.  Eight of the ten tracks are produced by MF Doom with one more being produced by Madvillian (Doom and Madlib) and Bishop Nehru produced the bonus iTunes track.
The album kicks of with a typical Doom intro; Crisp snares, 80s soul samples and strange vocal clips.  Pretty much the usual Doom album intro minus the Fantastic Four samples.
The first real track on the album is "Mean the most" which features a lovely synth sample probably taken from some dodgy 80's soul jam.  The beat is very nice indeed but equally nice is Bishop Nehru's dope lyrics paying homage to the lady in his life with skill and subtlety that rappers twice his age haven't mastered.  Doom sits this one out on the lyrically side of things but the beat could have easily come off Mmmm..Food.
The next joint is a more sublime track called "So Alone".  The beat is a more mellow beat than we're used to from Doom featuring some strings and a piano loop over a slowly drum sample.  Again Bishop shows us he is a skilled emcee discussing loneliness.  I wasn't originally sold on the sing song chorus but its growing on me.
Track four is "Coming for you" which is a more upbeat joint with a nice vocal loop alongside a cool xylophone sample that seem to speed up and slow down throughout the track.  In the track Bishop Nehru refers to himself as "The most underrated, underpaid but still most amazing teenager making music since the cavemen" and to be honest I would be hard pressed to think of a teenager making music now that is better than this.
Track five is "Darkness" another upbeat track with some sick horns and pan pipes throughout and some nice little scratches.  Lyrically Bishop reflects on the darkness of our world with aplomb giving us an insight into his life.
"Caskets' is the sixth track on this album and this time Doom grabs the mic for the first verse of this dope little gem.  The beat features a nice strings sample and some nice drums.  No need for a chorus just the odd nice movie sample.  Doom drops some nice metaphors as usual; "You messed up like O-Dog in Menace" and "Villain get paid laid back like Chacmool, enough to make Pac drool wherever he at".  Not to be outdone Bishop drops some gems on this joint too; "I'm Jordan in '96, sinking everything ands still playing for the chips" and "Life's like a big playbook of audibles, you never know the play until you toss a few, packing rappers in caskets your boy Nehru"
Track number seven is called "Great Things" and features an electro laden track with some nice cymbals too.  Doom again joins in on this joint although this time Nehru drops the first verse with Doom bringing the fire for the second verse.  Its an upbeat track and each emcee works well of the electro sample and the up tempo drums.
Track eight is called "Disastrous" and the production duties on this one are handled by both MF Doom and Madlib, collectively know as Madvillain.  The beat uses a light vocal sample along with some cymbals and strings sporadically.  Lyrically this is another track from the Doom and Bishop duo.  A great tarck that works on a number of levels.
Next up is the final track (or the penultimate track if you got the iTunes special edition version)"Om".  A fast paced track featuring both emcees with a nice chorus and a nice electro loop.  Both emcees spit fire on this fast paced track.
The bonus track on the album is called "They Bishy Bish" which is produced by Bishop Nehru.  The production is very different from the rest of the album and somehwta sparse to say the leats.  However the track works; a simple drum beat and what sounds like a Hammond organ sample.  Its laid back in its simplicity but this should not be seen as a detrimental comment, I like the track a lot and its a fitting ending to the album.  In summary this is a very strong album that showcases Bishop Nehru's considerable lyrical prowess.  The beats are fresh and should appeal to any decent  Hip-Hop fan, especially any fan of Doom.  The only bad thing about the album is its shortness but it only costs me £6 (Yes I paid for it and so should you).  A veyr strong album that will sit nicely next to Monsta Island Czars and Mmmm Food.   I look forward to hearing more from Bishop Nehru.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Lord Finesse @ The Jazz Cafe June 2014

Lord Finesse is one of those emcees that I had been waiting to see for a long time and recently he paid a visit to London with the 5th Platoon's Boogie Blind on the decks.  I made sure I had a ticket to this jam.  He did not disappoint at all; he played all the jams I hoped he would, the sound was good, Boogie Blind was great and they stayed on stage for almost two hours.
Finesse played all the classics and at one point showed he had considerable skills on the decks too. 
Not only did Finesse show a great deal of respect for the UK by putting on a great show but he stayed afterwards for signings and photos

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Crate Digging 6 - Haiku D'Etat - Los Dangerous 12"

I picked this joint up from back in late 1997 when I was buying a lot of vinyl from this site because they had such good deals and always threw in lots of cool merchandise like T-Shirts, stickers and other cool stuff.  I was interested in this 12" because of the artists featured in the group; Mikah 9, Abstract Rude, Aceyalone and the drummer of rock group Third Eye Blind Adrian Burley. Obviously I had enjoyed the lyricists work as part of Project Blowed, The Freestyle Fellowship and Abstract Tribe Unique.   This group of artists along with other musicians created a dope fusion of Hip-Hop, Jazz and Funk. 
This was the first 12" released by Haiku D'Etat and they did go onto release two albums; Haiku D'Etat (1999) and Coup De Theatre (2004).  This 12" features three joints and an instrumental.  All three tracks are backed by live musicians with all three lyricists dropping verses alongside a female vocalist.
The title track is called Los Dangerous and features a nice saxophone over the Deep Cover bass-line with a guest Reggae vocalist dropping the hook.  Each emcee drops a nice little verse providing their own take on the early morning police raid which is such a staple of the gangsta rap genre.  Its a nice take on the Deep Cover classic and for good measure they throw in an instrumental too.  The B-Side is a more mellow affair with a nice bouncy joint called Kaya.  It has a nice uptempo beat with some suitable singing for the hook.  I'm sure there is some xylophone in there somewhere with some Jamaican influenced lyrics promoting an Irie lifestyle.  The second track on the B-Side is called Still Rappin' and is a very nice ode to persevering with the career choice of rapping.  Its a mellow upbeat jam with a nice chorus.  Check the Link below for the vinyl rip (apologies for a few skips)