16 March 2018

REVIEW: Elzhi & Khrysis - Elzhi & Khrysis Are Jericho Jackson

Hip Hop has four main pillars: rapping, DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti art (I know there are synonyms for each pillar, but I'm going with the Zulu Nation's wording). The mainstream influence that Hip Hop has can primarily be attributed to the music pillars: the emcee and the DJ. Yes, all four pillars form like Voltron to give us the true essence of Hip Hip culture, but the global entertainment reach Hip Hop has is because of the music.

I've said on multiple occasions that there is a certain magic that a project has when it comes from one emcee and one DJ/producer. The late 80s/early 90s gave us classic duos like: Pete Rock and CL Smooth, Eric B and Rakim, Gang Starr (Guru and DJ Premier), DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, and more (didn't feel like researching, we know there are more). The late 90s and oughts had a few gems as well: Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek), Madvillain (MF DOOM and Madlib), Murs and 9th Wonder, Blu and Exile, and Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El P) (again, we know there are more duos). I'll make one more point before this review completely gets away from me (too late?). A few years ago Royce Da 5'9" and DJ Premier formed their emcee/DJ group, PRhyme. They are actually dropping their second project today (hope to hop on that joint next). Even though it really doesn't matter, I feel there is more..commitment(?) when you name your group. So when Elzhi and Khrysis revealed that they were forming the group, Jericho Jackson, my curiosity was peaked. Actually, my expectations were SKY HIGH. My expectations were not only based on their individual pedigrees, but also the climate of recent pairings (ie, PRhyme). So how did Jericho Jackson fare? Let's go.

The intro track "World of Illusion" features a minimal piano melody with words from British philosopher Alan Watts. The speech he gives is a metaphor for information processing. You can lose yourself in your own thoughts. People who are overwhelmed with thoughts, are not able to live in reality. Instead, they live in a..world of illusion (well played Elzhi/Khrysis). The following track "Overthinking" takes the baton from the philosopher and into Elzhi's current state of mind. This track appears to be a therapy session (actually, a few tracks feel this way). Elzhi has had a few personal and professional trials the last couple of years. This track allows him to heal while contemplating over lessons learned. Elzhi works through his emotions in a sort of "book of rhymes" style. He deals with: politics, record contracts, family, fame, acceptance, social media, fake friends, street life, self awareness, hope, doubt, religion, love, revenge, and regret. Technically, the Detroit spitter is in top shape. His flows, delivery, cadence, subject matter and metaphors are all flawless. The track ends with Alan Watts predicting our current environment (I think this speech, and his intro speech, must be from the 50s or 60s). He states:

And all so called civilized peoples. Have increasingly become crazy and self-destructive. We confuse science, words, numbers, symbols, and ideas with the real world. Most of us would have rather money than tangible wealth. And a great occasion is somehow spoiled for us unless photographed. And to read about it the next day in the newspaper Is oddly, more fun for us than the original event.

The aptly named final track, "Thank you", is a beautiful and complex approach to a subject that has been touched on by many artists. Elzhi's vocals and Khrysis' SOULFUL beat are enough to make this track a stand out. But the way Elzhi navigates his way through ups and downs is masterful. The balance of how his life went vs how it easily could have gone creates an intriguing duality. His destination is important, but the journey is what made him the man he is today. Elzhi acknowledges that without his family, friends, and fans none of this would be possible. Again, not a world changing discovery. But this track Elzhi and Khrysis create is a perfect bookend to an entire album that is full of depth and emotion.

Since New Year's Eve, we've been teased with the Jericho Jackson project. Last month we got the first single "Self Made" (which is DOPE, definitely a track that has a bit more "grime" than the rest of the album) and the follow up track "Listen". Khrysis curated the entire album with a neo soul infused canvas for Elzhi to work with. The 9th Wonder disciple has clearly elevated his beat game to another level. No club bangers. Not a problem (for me). But if you need one, then go listen to Lil...Rainbow Head? The Soul Council alum is a perfect evolution of the 9th/ATCQ/Raphael Saadiq-type sounding beats. Can't wait to see what he has cooked up for the sequel. Oh, and dude got to flex his pen game in "Talkin' Bout". But of course when it comes to lyrics, we all came for Elzhi. Since his solo debut in 08, many Hip Hops were waiting for him to take his place with the top emcees. Elmatic in 2011 (damn, I swear that JUST came out) added fuel to the debate. But a DELAYED album Kickstarter (with lawsuit threats from fans that pledged money) revealed that the emcee had been dealing with depression. From that darkness Elzhi was able to give us an extremely introspective album, Lead Poison, in 2016. Really until we heard a few months ago about the Jericho Jackson project, we had no idea when we'd see him again. As I stated above (somewhere up there), my expectations where high for this one. I'm a fan of all things Jamla, and Khrysis has been on a steady incline for his whole career. And I've been a fan of Elzhi since his Slum Village days. I can gladly say that these two artists did not disappoint. This album is EXACTLY what you expect and want from this duo. We've said it before, there are some DOPE ASS LYRICISTS out there. You just gotta dig for them. This album isn't going to push 21 Savage numbers (I saw his name pop up recently, that is the extent of my knowledge of dude), it ain't gonna be poppin in the clubs, and it probably won't hit the airwaves (maybe on an XM channel somewhere). But if you want those straight up BARS and BEATS, you need look no further. I hope this is the project Elzhi needed to get better, get healthy, and get back to taking his place in the upper echelon of emcees. Peep video for Jericho Jackson's first single below. 

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REVIEW: Nipsey Hussle - Victory Lap

Replay value, something that is no longer a leading trait or stat in the music industry especially when it comes to hip-hop. What is probably the leading factor that goes into calling an album a classic project is now something that isn’t too prevalent in our culture. Reflecting back over the last calendar year of the music we’ve received from heavy hitters like Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar, Rick Ross, CyHi The Prynce, and Rapsody; they have shown us that their integrity still remains in their artistry to deliver to fans  a cohesive project that is not only sonically enjoyable but will leave you lyrically pleased. Adding to that list of artists is West Coast King Nipsey Hussle. Nipsey after formulating a brilliant album roll-out and press run has released his long-awaited album completing the mixtape series, Victory Lap. Seeming to resemble Dr. Dre’s Detox, based off of the arrival time of Victory Lap fans like myself were more than ecstatic to hear when Nip dropped an actual release date for this project. After all of the build up and hype we finally have the complete debut project, and weeks after its release it has the accolades to support how good this album really is.

With what seems to be a flawless into track featuring Stacy Barthe the song “Victory Lap,”  Nipsey is braggadocios from his time that he remained honorable in the streets to his legitimate success in business ventures that he’s currently acquiring more of. Segueing into the first single from the album “Rap Niggas” is a fucking west coast classic banger already. The energy that Nipsey brings forth is guaranteed to get you to spill some liquor on your shoes or get you in the middle of a mosh pit, so be safe with this one. To lead into yet another song that’s guaranteed for summer pool parties is “Last Time That I Checc’d” featuring YG. Now if you have any history about any track with a Nipsey and YG, you know that they are shooting 100% from the line with no miss in sight. From their last big hit “Fuck Donald Trump,” this is a great follow up to have you feeling yourself as if you run your city when you really don’t. 

With 11 features on 16 tracks and only about 4-5 with actual verses from artists on the others, “Dedication” is lyrical sparring with none other than Kendrick Lamar as Nip’s sparring partner. This has been the theme with Nipsey for as long as I can remember that I’ve been listening to him. Discipline is something that he prides his self on having not only among his self but his team, which is how he’s come to enjoy his sacrifices now that the blueprint has come into fruition. Kendrick blesses the track telling not only part of his story that we are already familiar with but why he respects Nipsey being that they come from different gangs (Nipsey being a Crip and Kendrick a blood), yet Nipsey speaks and ACTS on building black businesses, self education, and owning our community. “Blue Laces 2” is my favorite track on the album and it’s upsetting because as amazing as this album is, I could not bring myself to hit the next button. Keeping almost the same beat from the original with some minor tweaks, this track is impeccable. This track strikes me in a realm of pain and understanding, with even a small reference to Marvel’s record breaking Black Panther movie. “ In a Spook by the door this the infiltration,” refers to a book about a CIA agent who was a token black in the agency and drops out to train Chicago blacks as “freedom fighters” to become militant black citizens; sound similar to the plot of the highest grossing solo superhero movie of all time? If you think so that’s because that story is similar to Michael B. Jordan’s “Eric Kilmonger” in the film. Blue Laces 2 is something that will definitely have you wanting to sit your seat back and cruise to in the car or roll up to. 

We have received classic Nipsey Hussle mixtapes before, most notably being his Marathon series or the 2013 classic Crenshaw, but even he has said recently he has never put this much focus and emphasis methodically into not only a project but the other aesthetics and nuances that go into creating an album. From the way the track list was built to the instrumentals sampled to the different flows he used, Nipsey is clearly stepping further into his own artistry. You would think the way the beats were chosen that this is a Rick Ross album (Ross has a great ear for beats), however that is the help of Mike & Keys, 1500 or Nothin, Diddy and more. Mike & Keys and 1500 or Nothin are of my favorite producers that work with Nipsey and their chemistry produces nothing but classics. 

I am a huge fan of Nipsey so with my bias, this album is a classic and I don’t care who debates it. I can’t be by myself based off of the reception of this album and its been out for a month. The support that Nip has received from rappers, fans, bloggers, athletes has all but certified this project as something truly cohesive that can be placed with the greater projects we’ve received from other artists recently that will surely stand the test of time. As not just another rapper but a real student of the game and intellectual, I understand the moves that were made and the patience needed for Nipsey to release his debut album. As someone who prides his self on ownership of his music and publishing, to work out a partnership deal with Atlantic Records after being noted for his Independent success, as the last step before his release shows me that he is calculated and is looking to stay here for the long haul (hence the term Marathon he so frequently uses). Go get Victory Lap today!

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01 March 2018

REVIEW: Black Panther: The Album

Ever since the TDE collective Black Hippy started to gain notariety after Kendrick Lamar burst onto the scene in 2012, fans have been clamoring for a project featuring all four members of the label.  As years have passed and Top Dawg Entertainment grew into a juggernaut in the industry, they also acquired new members and made several alliances along the way, so an album with just Kenny, Soul, Q, and Jay Rock began making less and less sense.

Luckily, an opportunity arose when director Ryan Coogler approached Kendrick about an idea to be at the helm of the soundtrack for the movie Black Panther.  In an interview, Coogler stated that "Kendrick's artistic themes align with those we explore in the film."  So following the DAMN. tour, Kung Fu Kenny and his in-house production team began laying down the groundwork for what could possibly go down as one of the best movie soundtracks ever created in the form of Black Panther: The Album.  In addition to providing the backdrop for the film itself, the soundtrack inadvertently satiates the hunger from fans that have been longing for TDE to form like Voltron and shock the world with their immense talent and perspective.  This may not be a Black Hippy project per se, but this is definitely an amazing consolation.

Let me start off by saying THIS SOUNDTRACK IS FUCKING PHENOMENAL!  Black Panther: The Album can be enjoyed whether or not you've actually seen the film, but understanding the references heard throughout will hit you much harder if you are familiar with the source material.  The reason is because this album is a perfect illustration of every major event in the movie and its overall significance.  In some ways, Kendrick creatively re-tells the stories of both T'Challa and Killmonger, as well as the societies each character comes from.  Kendrick's verse on "All The Stars" is from the perspective of T'Challa when Killmonger came storming into the throne room making demands, while Khalid & Swae Lee sing an ode to the powerful women of Wakanda on "The Ways."  The West Coast-infused "Paramedic" almost serves as Killmonger's theme song, while "Bloody Waters" and "King's Dead" are essentially the height of the conflict between both main characters, as Killmonger defeats T'Challa and assumes the throne.

Even though Kendrick isn't featured on every track, his influence is heard thematically throughout.  This album features notable contributions from artists representing every facet of urban culture, and most of it works extremely well, with only a few head scratchers.  Swae Lee and Future may be in a similar lane in this industry, but the gap in their creativity and ability to blend into a song are staggering.  Swae Lee fits perfectly alongside Khalid on "The Ways," despite Khalid's reputation as being more of a true 'artist.'  Meanwhile, Future's embarrassing attempt to flex his creative muscle on "King's Dead" is so bad that it ruins a moment that could have been special for Jay Rock, who managed to pull a whole new style out of his arsenal on this song.

"Redemption's" rhythmically African sound may come across as jarring when compared to all the other vibes that precede it, but it quickly becomes an infectious change of pace that is both unexpected and welcome.  Kendrick has a way of piecing together a project to where you won't ever feel fatigued by a single style becoming redundant.  One of the album's strongest tracks is "Seasons."  Equal parts hood and motherland, this song exemplifies the internal struggles Killmonger faced being stripped from his roots in Wakanda and forced to grow up in a poverty-stricken environment in Oakland, California.

In true Kendrick Lamar fashion, Black Panther: The Album concludes on a high note with The Weeknd on the futuristic "Pray For Me."  Like most of the album, it's just great hearing songs that both fit the movie, and are simply enjoyable to listen to from a musical standpoint.  This epic conclusion caps off a 14-track thrill ride that solidifies just how dominant TDE truly is.  These guys are checking off a lot of boxes this decade, and building a truly legendary resume to boot.  With so many artists from within TDE and outside the camp, this soundtrack often feels like Top Dawg Entertainment's compilation album, similar to The Dynasty.  What a time to be alive!  Kendrick is becoming a renaissance man of sorts, by curating one of the greatest soundtracks of all time up there with the likes of Above the Rim, Juice, Superfly and Purple Rain.  Top Dawg may have been the coach, Kendrick may have been the quarterback, but the entire squad gets the W for this soundtrack.

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23 February 2018

REVIEW: Skyzoo - In Celebration of Us

3 weeks ago today I woke up to my pre-order of Skyzoo's fourth (unless The Easy Truth counts, then it's his fifth) studio album, In Celebration of Us. My pre-order criteria is..let's say extensive. But Skyzoo DEF makes that cut. I put Sky in an elite group of "new" emcees (he's been around since the early oughts) that I feel hit a sweet spot (pause?). His beat selection: DOPE. Lyrics: top shelf. But those are both Hip Hop abilities that are a bit "easier" to have in your skill set. What Skyzoo adds to his repertoire is his superb subject matter and the ability to successfully create thematic projects. If your bars are insane, but you ain't saying shit, then you won't be around for long. At least I hope that's still the rule. Skyzoo remains relevant because he consistently pays attention to his subject matter. And to take it a step further, Sky is able to parlay those concepts into entire albums. To come up with an idea in your head and have it translate well to the masses is extremely difficult. When an album flows in a linear structure (with a beginning, middle, and end), it just gives the listener a totally different experience. I won't say better or worst, but it is something I can appreciate. In Celebration of Us is thematic, but I don't want you to think it plays as: chapter 1, chapter 2, etc. There is a theme that plays throughout, and you really notice this when you play the first and last track. 

The first track, "Everybody's Fine", starts off with a skit. ONLY negative critique: Sky should have let the skit be it's own track. It's a dope skit. Actually, it's very important to the album as a whole. But when you are reviewing the album (I also listen to albums on repeat even if I ain't reviewing them) and have to hear it 50+ times, you wish you could get right to the song. Like Netflix, I want to skip the intro credits. That's it. Back to the review. The skit is a conversation between two men in early 1982. You find out that one man is Greg, Skyzoo's father. Skyzoo's real name is Greg Skyler Taylor. Papa Greg is telling his friend (Tray Duce?) that he wants to leave the street game. Greg gets nothing but love and support from his friend. The friend tells Greg that he'll will be there for whatever he needs. After the skit we get into the actual track. Skyzoo hits us with one of his most beautifully complex verses I've ever heard. His signature cool flow rides the predominantly drum heavy instrumental. Where Skyzoo elevates his lyrical style is with the repetition of his rhyming patterns. Sky paints juxtaposing images that compliment each other like: 

Or you in a hall, up on the wall/ 
With department of corrections letters hovered up over where your name is/ 
Or you by the door, cap and gown to the floor/ 
8 years of proof hovered up over where your name sits 

Of course we still get all those internal rhymes and double entendres that are common from a Skyzoo project. But the effortless way he connects contrasting imagery is amazing. In two bars with similar poetic structures, we see two different people: one is a person getting their mugshot before they are incarcerated, and the other is a graduate (I assume with a masters since its 8 years) looking at their diploma in their home. The single verse actually plays twice. After a few DJ scratches, the beat looses the drums and Skyzoo speaks and comments that we are always told that "everybody's fine". The same verse plays again on the stripped down drum-less instrumental. I'm dissecting this part, but it might take me a while to truly appreciate the single track in its entirety. If you're a Hip Hop nerd like me, you'll loose track of time breaking this joint down. 

The final track, "Honor Amongst Thieves", follows a more typical Hip Hop song structure. Instead of single verse/no hook/repeat same verse (like "Everybody's Fine), we get the verse/hook/verse layout. The song ends with a skit (more like a recording of Skyzoo telling a story about his family at a listening party, I assume). By the way, this is another completely acceptable option. Instead of having a skit on its own track, it can start at the end of the song. The first part of the song repeats the question "do you believe" and provides different scenarios. The second verse is an autobiography that focuses on Skyzoo and his father. The speech that Sky gives after the song basically mirrors the story he tells. His youth was a Boyz n the Hood parallel, where he lived with his mother until he reached adolescence. After that he moved in with his father to learn "how to be a man". This song brings the album full circle. The first thing you hear at the start of the album is a skit reenacting the moment Skyzoo's father decided to leave the street once he found out he was having a son. The album ends with Sky speaking in present day, telling a story about being raised by his mother and father. Even though they were different households, his parents made sure to give young Sky the upbringing that was rare in his environment. 

#Blackexcellence. This hashtag has been at its peak this month. It is not by accident that Skyzoo decided to drop In Celebration of Us during Black History month. About the album, Skyzoo comments, "Conceptually, this is Ta-nehisi Coates meets Chappelle’s Show, The Autobiography of Malcolm X meets Black-ish, the case of Sandra Bland meets the birth of Air Jordans". As I mentioned above, Skyzoo keeps his subject matter relevant. He talks about police brutality, the street game, appropriation, love, family, relationships, gentrification, politics, black on black violence, death and religion. This featureless project (from an emcee standpoint) is probably one of his most complex works in his ever expanding catalog. Skyzoo once again comes correct. His lyrical ability is one that garners a certain amount of expectation. We EXPECT top notch production and bars. The Brooklyn emcee is product of NY Hip Hop but evolved into the next iteration of what you think of when you think "NY emcee". Lyrics are at the forefront. And the instrumentals harken back to the Golden Era NY sound. At this point it is hard to image Skyzoo missing any of his shots. In my humble opinion, In Celebration of Us needs to be in the mix when talking about #blackexcellence. 

Peep the whole album below. 

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13 February 2018

VIDEO: PRhyme - Era ft. Dave East

About a week ago we got the visuals to the first single from PRhyme 2, "Era". It's been a little over 3 years since we heard from the dynamic duo. But if you've been following Royce or Preem, you've been fiending for this project since the sequel was first teased about 2 years ago. The duo tapped Harlem emcee Dave East to split the lyrical duties with Nickel. Dave East is on a SERIOUS upswing in his career. East is riding the high of his own sequel project P2 (Paranoia 2) that dropped about a month ago. East switches up his flow to ride the stripped down Preemo beat, but remains true with his signature raw style.

But then Royce Da FUCKING 5'9" drops his BARS. Coming second to Nickel (especially in his own joint) is nothing to be ashamed about. East goes HARD. But Nickel goes INSANE. The way he effortlessly switches up his flow is classic Royce. And his metaphors are out of this world. Again, classic Royce. I love when two lyrical emcees team up to push each other to elevate their game. I have no doubt that Royce went as hard as he did because he knew the young East was gonna bring that fuego. As I mentioned, Dave East is aware that he needs to strike when the iron is hot. And that iron don't get hotter than a Preemo beat on a PRhyme track.

The video is more artistic than you would expect. A large dark room is filled with 4 (5?) rows of people from all walks of life. You get lines of people that are old/young, different races and from various occupations. Within this very organized scene you see Dave East, Royce and DJ Premier. In addition to this stage you two very juxtaposed scenes: you get flashes of a police officer (looks like SWAT, or something tactical) beating a black male and another scene of a black male beating up a person wearing the KKK garb. If the strength of this single (and the thoughtful nature of the video) is a glimpse as to what Preemo and Nickel are cooking up, we got another top shelf project next month.

Peep "Era" video below.

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07 February 2018

BITM Podcast Ep. 4 - 2017 Wrap - Up

The BITM crew is back with our first podcast episode of 2018!  On this episode, we finish discussing the last few albums of 2016, and jump into a few notable 2017 albums as well.  TwonJonson and The Niftian trade opinionated blows as stayfly remains neutral and plays his role as the voice of reason.  Just to name a few artists we touch on in this episode, we discuss Ab-Soul, Logic, ATCQ, De La Soul, Eminem, and Kendrick Lamar.

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06 February 2018

VIDEO: ILL Conscious - The Narrative ft Jay Royale

One of my boys sent me this single a few weeks ago. Had it on deck for a review, but I slept on it. Not really slept, more like knocking out a rack of album reviews and getting ready for our latest podcast. But I was hit with the follow up video to "The Narrative" single a few days ago. I've been aware of the existence of ILL Conscious for a few, but for one reason or another he fell under my radar. Which is crazy because the few tracks I've heard from him have been dope. With the blog, IG (I'm the lead for the squad) and the podcast, I'm even more immersed in the culture than ever. Sometimes there just ain't enough hours in the day to catch everything.

ILL Conscious is a Baltimore emcee who ain't even 30 yet (well 29, so comment still true). In the few tracks I've heard before "The Narrative", I would compare his rhyme scheme to a young AZ. But after hearing his latest joint, I can definitely see a touch of Big L in his flow. Everyone calm down. I ain't saying this dude is the second coming of a AZ/Big L hybrid. But if you know me, you know I always differentiate between the rappers from the emcees (I'm not gonna break that all the way down now, maybe for a future podcast). Emcees are students of the culture and have superior lyrical abilities (among other things). And for me, ILL checks all them boxes. Now onto the track.

The single benefits from a Golden Era influenced instrumental created by Venice Beach producer Eyedee. Real talk, this joint sounds like it jumped straight out of Doe or Die. The intro alone sets the mood with some soulful vocals (I STILL can't find out what sample it's from). Once the beats drops, ILL rides the track with an insanely smooth flow. If you need DEM BARS in your life, this joint will provide you with that lyrical sustenance. I can bring up more emcee references to compare ILL's style, but I won't. Just know this young dude is a prefect blend of past and present lyricists (in terms of influences, of course this dude is his own man). Enter Jay Royale, another Bmore spitter cut from the same cloth. The complimentary pairing of these emcees seems effortless. It kind of makes you wish for a Jada/Styles back and forth. The pair give you a glimpse into that Bmore life with grimey bars and metaphors. The track ends with DJ TMB chopping up a few vocals from Mobb Deep, Jay Z, and KRS ONE (I might have missed one or two others), providing a perfect bookend to the track.

The video for "The Narrative" fits naturally with the grimey bars and instrumental. The duo jump from a corner store, a residential and the metro. Besides the j.o.b. in Maryland, I ain't that acquainted with that many Bmore areas. Except for the metro of course. That's a DMV staple. But I'm sure there are a few landmarks that native Baltimoreans(?) will recognize. There is a "low fi" quality to the video that adds to the authenticity of the overall product. So whether you bumping the track in the whip or you watching the video at work, you will not be disappointed.

Final thought: this joint is a street BANGER. "The Narrative" is the debut single off of ILL Conscious' upcoming 2nd album, The Prerequisite. Keep your ears to the streets for that to drop (think I saw somewhere it was February 19th). And run through his first LP, The Essence, and his mixtape catalog. Bmore stand up.


Want your single, video or album featured/reviewed with BITM? Get at us:
https://www.instagram.com/bestinthemix/ (this might be best option)

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09 January 2018

REVIEW: Statik Selektah - 8

On December 8th, we got Statik Selektah's 8th studio album, 8. Obviously continuing with the number wordplay he started with his previous album, Lucky Number 7. Now that the holiday rush is finally dying down and I got over my review fatigue (I am not a machine), I am able to get back to form to start the year off right. Mr. Selektah has been climbing up my "top DJ/producer" list the past decade or so. His latest offering is another eclectic mix of rappers and emcees paired with his ever evolving sound. But let's just jump into it. Stop wasting time in 2018.

The soulful boom bap track "But You Don't Hear Me Tho" is an instant classic. Statik taps fellow ROC NATION label mates the muthafuckin' Lox to take on the lyrical duties. Statik said, “This is classic hip hop music, for lovers of hip hop music. No gimmicks.” The legendary trio ride the smooth instrumental like the vets they are. Each emcee (Sheek Louch, Styles P and Jadakiss) gives us nostalgic bars and take trips down their respective memory lanes. Not only do they reminisce about their personal upbringing, but they also recall what Hip Hop meant to them in it's early stages. Statik flexes his cutting skills and drops scratches throughout the track. You can't get a more polished joint than this one.

Another hit (hit for me, not radio hit) is the track "Nobody Move" with Raekwon and Royce Da 5'9". The grimey track is LACED with crazy hard (pause) bars and metaphors from these two lyrical titans. Raekwon hits us with raw Purple Tape type lyrics that prove that this living legend has a hold of the fountain of youth. Royce makes Detroit proud with his top shelf metaphors and wordplay. Both emcees gives us different points of view but find common ground with a hunger that was essential in the Golden Era of Hip Hop.

Statik has been averaging about 18 tracks per solo albums (8 has 18). Plus his 17 collab albums, a pair of EPs, and that's not even getting into his mixtape arsenal and production credits. All that to say this: the man has been HUSTLIN' and has made a name for himself in the Hip Hop history book. That name allows him to comprise the CRAZY features found on 8: 2 Chainz, Wiz Khalifa, Run The Jewels, Action Bronson, Wale, G-Easy, Joey Bada$$, The Lox, Termanology, Conway, Westside Gunn, Crimeapple, Millyz, Nick Grant, Avenue, Chris Rivers, Joyner Lucas, Tek, Wais P, Sean Price, Cousin Stizz, Curren$y, PNB Rock, Lil Fame, Royce Da 5'9", Raekwon, B-Real, Everlast, No Malice, Prodigy, Juelz Santana, and Plays. As always you have to respect the fact that he can get this gumbo to talent. And the emcee pairings on single tracks is another skill altogether. Tracks that pair Raekwon and Royce, or G-Easy and Joey Bada$$, or Tek, Wais P and Sean Price are a true Hip Hop heads wet dream (pause #2 of 2018). But in comparison to his previous projects (Lucky Number 7, What Goes Around, and my personal favorite Extended Play) this one feels a hair disjointed. It's a catch 22. With such an array of options, this album is sure to please the masses. But it might not hold an individuals interest throughout. By no means is this album a flop. If you love Hip Hop, you'll enjoy this album. Point blank. If you can't find a track you love, rethink your Hip Hop head status. You know this is special project if he was able to get some Prodigy verses on an Alchemist assisted track. Besides Alchemist (or Havoc), you ain't gonna see P verses out there like that. Either way you cut it, Statik sent Hip Hop out the right way in 2017.

Peep videos and album below.

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03 January 2018

MAD Skillz - Murda Gram

Dammit I spoke too soon.  Shoulda known Skillz wasn't gon let this shit slide.  A day after my post about Skillz being lazy, he claps back at Uncle Murda in true veteran fashion.  He took it back to the days when people didn't tolerate biting someone's whole style and trying to profit from it.  Even though Uncle Murda's Rap Ups these past few years have been vastly superior to Skillz, it was more due to an overall lack of effort on Skillz part because the VA emcee is a far greater rapper than Uncle Murda ever was.  Neither one of them are really making much noise as artists these days, so I feel like both of them have the time to make this grow into a legit battle, unlike these pussy ass battles we've had from Meek and Drake, to Remy and Nicki, and most recently Ma$e and Cam'ron.

Helluva way to kick off 2018, fellas.  If Uncle Murda pulls a Meek and takes 3 months to respond, his nonexistent career might actually be over cuz Skillz completely buries that nigga on this track.  As a fan of the culture, I truly hope this is not another one-sided affair.  Peep the track below as the clock ticks for Uncle Murda's clap back.

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02 January 2018

Skillz vs. Uncle Murda - RAP UP 2017

I'm not even gonna sugar coat it, it's time for Skillz to hang it up.  Look man, helluva run but your spot got snatched a couple years ago.  Uncle Murda's brand of Rap Ups these past couple years seem to just hit harder than his counterpart's in all facets.  He infuses more energy and wit into his bars that manage to hold your ear better than Skillz's lazy efforts these past couple years.

The dichotomy between the two is interesting though.  It's like the devil and the angel on each shoulder, but when has anyone ever cared about what the angel has to say?  That shit is boring and corny, and instead, most fans are gravitating toward what the grimy street dude has to say.  Uncle Murda understands how to keep listeners entertained, while Skillz seems to just be doin this shit for the hell of it at this point.  I was hoping the competitive aspect would force Skillz to go back to mid-2000s form, but this 2017 Rap Up ain't it.  Peep both Year-End Rap Ups below.

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