Hip Hop Album Reviews, Week Ending April 28, 2017

Hip Hop Album Reviews, Week Ending April 28, 2017

The weeks keep rolling along but we’re back at it with some more music news to tell you fine folks about. We have Bliss N Eso, DJ Quik & Problem and Wale on the radar. The theme this time seems to be fun, as each artist gives his take and spin on the good times, though some do better (or worse) at it than the others.

 

Off The Grid by Bliss N Eso (Illusive Sounds)

At least there is one project of the week that deserves some considerable respect. The new and sixth LP by Sydney, Australian trio Bliss N Eso, entitled Off The Grid is a fine addition to the renowned crew’s expanding catalogue. A hip-hop band conscientious and observant of the true elements of the culture and music, Bliss N Eso (MC Bliss, MC Eso and DJ Izm) make a strong upright showing on Off The Grid, which is packed full of motivation, inspiration and friendly anthemic cuts for fans. Their tone at the top is to turn lemons into lemonade with hopes to raise the youth with “love, compassion and empathy.” They emit positive energy obviously but also firm strength, going off with clever interesting braggadocio in “Tear The Roof Off” and remembering to go off the clock from their jobs for some cool-out in the herbalised “Coolin’” and especially “Birds in the Sky.” Of particular note, the gang give an ode to turntablism, live producer accompaniment on stage, scratching and all that good stuff on “Whatever Happened to the DJ,” and in “Moments,” they honorably rap, “f*ck the money, cars and accessories ‘cause the only thing we take to our grave is our memories.” For sure a lively, peppy roundup of skilled men, Bliss N Eso may seem to some a little too sweet and happy with predominately PG-rated ballads of nice warm cozy notes, but you cannot knock their fine wordplay and lyricism and their concentrated focus on going on, living life, working hard and spreading goodness of word to the people. (3 out of 5 stars)

 

Rosecrans by DJ Quik & Problem (Diamond Lane Music Group/Blake Enterprises)

Legendary Compton musician/emcee DJ Quik (David Blake) has turned his 2016 joint EP Rosecrans (with rapper Problem, also from Compton) into a full length album. It certainly brings more to the table yet not in ways much different from the songs on the original extended play. Right off the bat, Quik’s artistic production-signatures (whiny funk, talk-boxing, nice keys) are heard and felt, and Problem is honestly dope and excitable with some solid wordplay and confidently delivered flows. The LP is thoroughly satisfying from a hip-hop music composition standpoint but less so in its topics and subject matter, which consist of typical rap chatter on the traditional street/hood essence – sexing with floozies, visiting the jeweler and the dealer, laying back and chillin’ and other similar preoccupations and pastimes. The boys are wild, profane and superficial unfortunately and while this is an independent release (off Diamond Lane Music Group and Blake Enterprises), it’s championed by the mainstream because of its formulaic, run of the mill attitudes and sensibilities. It’s sadly a real shame they are regressive, destructive and immature to boot. Quik and Problem’s homies, even two Quik’s reconciled with in the past (AMG and MC Eiht), make a full fledged showing but they are the stereotypical players of the game here. Expect little else from them. Chill out and relax with some fine music pieces in Rosecrans but do not put significant trust in the words laid upon said music pieces. (2 out of 5 stars)

 

Shine by Wale (Atlantic Records/Maybach Music Group)

The jig is up for Wale in his Atlantic/MMG-released fifth studio album Shine. The D.C. native may have star-studded guests like Lil Wayne, Major Lazer, G-Eazy, Travis Scott and Chris Brown on the week early arriving project but there are dangerous ulterior motives being played out behind the scenes and its superficiality is not an accident by its makers. The gang and Wale most notably are coarse, materialistic, misogynistic and hedonistic over trend-settling production from the hands of the typical lineup of beat-makers. Talk on bands, rims, cars and designer brands metastasizes Shine’s entirety, and Wale and company’s attitude toward women by carelessly dropping words “b*tch” and “h*e” like they’re nothing renders intended romance cuts like “My Love” and “Fine Girl” completely powerless and ineffective. The last joint “Smile” of course lightly discusses some politics by way of police on black violence but it is only here to fill a quota, to make us think Wale is some sort of conscious emcee. He really is not, never has been one. In fact when he insinuates in the song that Trump is a bigot/misogynist, it’s pure hypocrisy because he himself sounds like one in several other spots on the album. This is an Atlantic release and secondarily one by Wale, who has been molested by the former into degrading himself on record and to put his name across the cover like he is the only one responsible for its flagrant issues. (1 out of 5 stars)

Hip Hop Album Reviews, Week Ending April 14, 2017

Hip Hop Album Reviews, Week Ending April 14, 2017

This release date Friday is being celebrated most fervently for being the day that Compton’s company line-toeing Kendrick Lamar drops his fourth LP, but actually that’s the least noteworthy of all the week’s new albums. Check out some of the others that surpass the famed Damn in intricate artistry and valuable concepts and messages.

Altars by Sadistik (Equal Vision Records)

Seattle bred emcee of the night Sadistik returns with another semi-concept album of dark clever metaphors, powerful puns and just fine advanced wordplay of high quality in Altars, his fourth full-length overall. The theme of the LP seems to be examination and critique of religious idol-worship, followings and cult tendencies plus the pitfalls of societal subjugation and conformity of course, staples for Sadistik. Of his analogies are the “Roaches” and “Honeycomb” cuts comparing our existence to that of insects, the “Free Spirits” warning of the no-cost liquors and poisons dispensed to those off guard uninhibited soul-searchers, and tracks “Cotard’s Syndrome” and “Salem Witches” exposing the demons around us, specters like ghosts and surely witches not to mention those they wrongfully target, hence the name of the latter record. Humbly introduced in the second half come guests Kristoff Krane, P.O.S from Doomtree, Terra Lopez and Lige Newton. The straightforward, overcast drama of the production leaves a bit more to be desired on the beats, and Altars is just a little too gloomy, helpless and hopeless sounding in general but overall it’s another very substantial effort (especially on the vocal end) from Sadistik.

4 out of 5 stars

The Cover by Smizzy (I Forget, Sorry!)

Emcee Smizzy from Sydney, Australia releases something of a serious-slash-fun mixed bag with his ten-track debut album, The Cover, and in that order in fact, serious then fun, political and then heartfelt. The first two tracks off the project, “We Swear” and “Lucky,” handle wisdom and consciousness toward a variety of topics in the first and next how grossly excessive wealth and unneeded material possessions won’t bring happiness in the second. Rappers usually confine songs like those to the end or next to the end, but since they are real draws naturally, Smizzy got it right and put them in the right place to begin with. Through it all we listen to a light twist on IDM music tailored for rap and other chill music vibes near the close in addition to some fine guests and friends of Smizzy from the land down under.

The songs steadily become more light onward, especially after Smizz refuses to argue with family and friends over meaningless trivialities in “Problems Aside” and also after he connects with fans in “You Don’t Understand.” In fact the middle section may not be the heaviest in material but it works as a good bridge to the finale. Smizzy puts out fun, multi-themed rhymes with Cooper and Di Apprentice in “Shark Party,” reviews love nuances in “On My Nerves,” and tells of a run-in he had with the cops in “Don’t You Blame Me.” The finale couldn’t be more appropriate. Smizzy pays homage to an emcee hero he had as a younger aspiring artist plus some of his other inspirations in hip-hop through “Who I Owe My Rhymes To,” a good dedication to the music in general. Aside from the beginning comments and their weighted messages, everything seems to fall in place quite perfectly for Smizz, perhaps a little too squeaky cleanly as a matter of fact but his game and craft as an emcee are a sound for sore ears. For a man from a country/continent that needs all the strong hip-hop representation it can get at this point, Smizzy does well as an Aussie and as an artist.

3 out of 5 stars

Damn by Kendrick Lamar (Interscope Records/Aftermath Ent/Top Dawg Ent)

Truthfully, Kendrick Lamar’s fourth studio album Damn confirms some of the most alarming suspicions that hip-hop’s most cautious fans had of it leading up to its drop. Now steeped in the quagmire of mainstream rap, Lamar was no doubt overwhelmed into conforming to the pop industry’s steadfast rules for the music, requirements that he’s fulfilled dutifully for his labels – Interscope, Aftermath and Top Dawg. To a production spread that takes avant-garde acid soul, jazz and trap on a slow trippy journey through heavily modified samples, sound clips and instruments, Kendrick Lamar is once again sufficiently lyrical but it is an afterthought if one focuses on the tone and example he sets with his words.

His undomesticated hood personality rules strongly to be frank. Talk on “money to get, b*tches to hit” (“Yah”) and “100k spread across the floor” (“Element”) and later remarks on wanting to be a gun man since a young man, “flexing, laughing to the bank” and paying people to have others killed (“God”) are simply littered all throughout the project. Still not convinced? Notice how “b*tch” so easily slips out of K Dot’s mouth in single “Humble” or how flagrantly he spews the following dangerous advocations in “Lust”: “go hit you a lick, go f*ck on a b*tch, don’t go to work today, cop you a fifth maybe some kicks.” Also, a number of listeners may be somewhat concerned by the subtle, perhaps subliminal insertion of Israel promotion in both “Yah” and “Fear.” Kendrick goofily and outrightly says, “I’m a Israelite” and then a preacher talks about a few of America’s minority groups as the “children of Israel” respectively in those song-sections.

The only words on the disc worth holding onto for any extended period of time can be found in the U2-assisted “XXX” in which Lamar states, “it’s murder on my street, your street, back streets, Wall Street, corporate offices [and] banks; employees and bosses [have] homicidal thoughts.” Still there are very few positive signs of hope, words of encouragement, pieces of advice, plans of action or remedies addressed by the media’s chosen one of hard, hardcore rap. Be very careful here, as Kendrick Lamar has let himself go slow, hazy, cold, bitter and openly aggressive in the problematic LP-entry.

2 out of 5 stars

Joey Bada$$ – “All-Amerikkkan Bada$$” (Album Review)

Joey Bada$$ – “All-Amerikkkan Bada$$” (Album Review)

Really, Pro Era de jure headman Joey Badass’s sophomore album, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, is pretty good, quite solid, despite a few recurring flaws so not everything from the mainstream is wack after all. Coming two years after his B4.DA.$$ debut, A.A.B.A. finds Joey taking much more of a political stance now. American ways are the subjects for the most part and critical is very much the tone. Still Joey shows strength, wisdom and optimism to just about make up for what the project lacks or leaves out. If he and his crew point out the problems with the U.S. of A, it’s because they want a better one, not because they want to extinguish it.

Joey is the great motivator in tracks like “For My People,” singles “Land of the Free” and “Devastated,” and “Legendary” (feat. J. Cole) shining forth with raps on changing ourselves for the better, striving, overcoming a dangerous challenging environment and remaining positive. It’s only right to make that clear right off the bat. As far as his nation-protestations are concerned, Joey does some good but also some one-sided arguing. His best unveilings include such revelations as that penitentiary and record label owners are sort of like one and the same and that the media tell “lies” (take the latter with a small grain of salt). Jo’s wording could have been expanded and framed better in that last case but he’s largely right.

The biggest issue in his political schtick here though is the government bashing without mentioning those integral things known as corporations and capitalism. For Joey it’s like the ladder up stops at the corrupt government level. Actually, there is a level above it that is much wealthier working ferociously to control anything and everything below it. Five of the twelve tracks bring up something wrong with the government but almost none analyze the overarching capitalist economy.

Otherwise, only one or two less major points might be misconstrued. Joey goes after Obama (once) and Trump (twice), not surprising, and yes there is a purpose for gov heads but remember there is also a school of thought that thinks only the deficient need leaders (the answer is inside) and also, shouldn’t we spend more time upholding good instead of beating down the bad? Why give Obama, especially Trump more of a sense of importance by calling them out at all at this stage in the game? The other thing is Joey says “f— white supremacy” in last cut “Amerikkkan Idol” when it should be: f— any form or idea of one race supremacy completely, period.

The sincere, system-conscious Joey Badass has more or less succeeded overall though. He’s invited fine new guests for this round, including a few of his Pro Era boys, and he’s right at home over groovy soul and jazz, rock/pop and hard piano and drums at various turns in the production. Further growth as a rhyme lyricist/wordsmith could be desired of Joey (based off an infrequently-occurring, basic flow-pattern or two) but with this album the skilled one does satisfy expectations well. Compared to Bada$$ album one, AABA is a firm step forward and Joey does good by regularly hitting on meaningful subject matter.

3 out of 5 stars

Locksmith – “Olive Branch” (Album Review)

Locksmith – “Olive Branch” (Album Review)

True enough, Richmond, California emcee Locksmith (Davood Asgari, formerly of Frontline duo) has come through on his promise to release his third studio album Olive Branch, and in timely fashion at that. Olive Branch was promoted briefly on Lock’s masterful 2016 mixtape The Lock Sessions but what’s better is that the LP is every bit as outstanding as fans had hoped it would be. Everywhere here the fierce, respected lyricist has an extraordinary sense of manhood and social responsibility and strong-willed moral character. His messages alone blow out at least three quarters of the mainstream rap field easily and when you add his top notch rhyme flow to the equation, he automatically moves to the upper echelon of hip-hop music. Also, new and returning guest artists and variably textured beats are in store for listeners old and new in what should prove to be Locksmith’s greatest album yet.

The whole idea of the project is to impart critical words of wisdom. There are few breaks from it, but it’s also impossible to tire from it. Spoken word advice atop leads to thoughts on arriving plus toughness in the Kato-produced “Nobody,” which opens for some softer focused lessons-to-carry via “No Way” before Lock’s beast-slaying “Agenda” wakes us up like a bucket of ice cold water to a fast asleep face. Make note of the Tribe “Kick It” quote there and especially the line “’til we see ourselves as one we can never progress.” Next we have “The Margin,” Lock’s special attention to hurting people drowning in a decadent society and a call to think about how we are all connected in this world. Similarly yet some four tracks down, in “Helpless,” Locksmith again touches on our disconnectedness as people. “Home,” with returning Lock music-mate Rebecca Nobel, in her second of three appearances, tells us to be ourselves in the face of resistance, focuses on individual strengths over weaknesses and helps to shed our fears of being perceived poorly by others.

Still, great feelings of love pervade the entire LP and in a few tracks most particularly. In “The One” Locksmith is concerned about struggling to make it work in a relationship enough to voice it (with fine eloquence), and later reconnects with his love in a spell of passion through “Neck Pillow,” which flips the melody and chorus of the Aaliyah tribute song “Miss You” (2002). Much as how “Go There” from Lock Sessions uplifted his and all mothers in general, this set’s “One More Time” immortalizes Lock’s passed mom with so much heart but mournfully this round, dropping the upbeat clip of “Go There” for a slower more soulful style.

The title tracks ends the project here, save for the live version of “Home,” which is just as welcomed and really drives home (pun intended) its many valuable points even further. “Olive Branch” the song sees Lock comment with humble conviction on holding onto his integrity and dignity, and that’s basically what the whole of the album does in one way or another. This is not the same Locksmith of two or three years ago. This is a better Locksmith. The work he’s put in since has delivered him great credibility and proven his confidence in spreading sense, intelligence and reason through his bars. For all those “tough” guys and girls listening out there, know this – the Olive Branch LP is mellifluously inspirational at times but it is incredibly powerful and heavy in subject matter, enough to instantly knock down the cold hardened persona of anyone willing to look at it.

5 out of 5 stars

Raekwon – “The Wild” (Album Review)

Raekwon – “The Wild” (Album Review)

All brown-nosing aside, it’s about time Chef Raekwon step out of the mafia-rap box he willingly occupied for the last twenty plus years, since the Wu-Tang burst onto the scene in 1993 opening the door for his legendary “Purple Tape” of ’95 (a.k.a. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx). He’s been in that niche since the beginning and he’s rarely left. And it’s not like he can’t go back. He just doesn’t go to other artistic spaces enough lately. For his seventh solo LP, The Wild (Ice H2O Records/Empire), Rae’s retreated back to the jungle for yet another gangsta rap album very lightly peppered with intelligence and original substance.

Rae lets us know almost immediately that he’s not gonna change his stance in the hip-hop area of underworld mystique. The first four tracks offer only standard gangsterism over hard beats, but at least there is the short bio of and tribute to Marvin Gaye with guest Cee-Lo Green (“Marvin”) right after. The highlights continue to arrive in intermittent blips. In the next two songs (“Can’t You See” and “My Corner”), some nice advice from Rae and a tight Wayne verse emerge but only around more tough guy street talk and romanticism of rising within the established hood hierarchy. Some fine rhyme interplay between Shallah and P.U.R.E comes via “M&N,” and that’s pretty much the end of Wild’s act one.

Raekwon actually has a great attitude in a few spots on this project, taking turns being hopeful, resilient, wise, firm and persistent, but there is a lack of unique concepts to display these traits and Rae’s moneyed vanity just hides them from sight too often. Fly rhymes are activated in service of capo wealth status, brand names and uninventive aggression-raps, and Rae has let it all happen without trying much that is new or fresh.

If it helps, the bang of the beats and the soul of the samples restore some value to the album though with not a lot of musical breadth. That’s pretty much all there is to say about The Wild. Rae is still ensconced in the thick of his brambly mafioso origins and only starts to claw himself free here. He hasn’t gotten very far in that pursuit at this point. Frankly, he’s philosophically and intellectually lazy at times in these jungly whereabouts, more concerned with his flashy image and adherence to the status quo than his inner integrity, and caring more about looking rich than being mentally rich. Raekwon needs to reevaluate.

2 out of 5 stars

Hip Hop Album Reviews, Week Ending March 17, 2017

Hip Hop Album Reviews, Week Ending March 17, 2017

Page Kennedy, Dominique Larue, duo Two Things and brusque backpacker Outpatient are the features to watch this St. Patrick’s Day weekend. This time, we’re tying up loose ends, since there were so many wonderful albums that came out last week. Some had to wait, but not anymore. Those albums will be covered here. It’s all a work in progress, but we at SwurvRadio have your back.
Torn Pages by Page Kennedy (Kennedy Entertainment)
Detroit actor/rapper Page Kennedy – TV programs Weeds and Blue Mountain State are just two of his many acting credits – has finally taken the plunge into a full length studio debut, and it’s paying off in spades, thanks to Kennedy’s quality rapping on meaningful issues over solid beats.
Straight away in the “Reintroduction,” Kennedy makes clear he’s a substantive lyrical rapper, not about the bling or things, and he proves it from then ’til end. Wasting no time, he then details an encounter with the police resulting in a shooting for petty reasons, follows that up with a modern timely tale of the ups and downs of Uber driving, proves the pursuit of popularity and empty fun can come at the cost of one’s soul and resists overeating and weight gain before the pointed subjects take a seat very briefly midpoint.
Still, Kennedy remains tough in “Haters Be Like,” “Assassins” and “Testing Me” with heavy spitters King Los, Royce 5’9”, Mr. Porter, Fred The Godson and Elzhi, who all bring nothing short of super clever wordplay. Kennedy is back to the salt mines thereafter, throwing down on moochers, bills and making ends meet with his tools of crazy nice storytelling, and from there, PK’s personal struggles get worked out in the conclusion.
Kennedy talks from the heart and soul on growing up in Detroit, getting into trouble but also into rap, hesitant yet determined to face the past demons that are his neglectful mom’s mistakes and foul influence on him in the emotional “Renee (Momma)” but there’s learning to be had for him and us. Loaded coda and title track “Torn Pages” has deep therapeutic pockets for Kennedy (and us) in his recovery from purported sex addiction, falling in love with the one and being separated from his kids.
There are obviously so many problems hashed out, handled and gotten over on the disc that the whole thing seems like a big mess, but a relatable one for many. Solutions and the proper reaction to take for each issue may be lacking on Kennedy‘s itinerary – they’re simply implied at times, not explicitly stated – but Torn Pages will continue to be highly lyrical, in depth hip-hop music with relevant rapping-points and some great storytelling.
4 out of 5 stars
Help Me, I’m Poor by Dominique Larue (The Magna Media Group)
There’s no getting away from the despair in the tone of Dominique Larue’s latest, the Help Me I’m Poor EP. The Columbus, Ohio native begins her studio project rapping on feelings of being lost and on the edge from living without (“IDK”), but her resolve tightens up further on. Her independent decision making is plenty evident, and we begin to really understand the “f*ck it” response to being poor in “Do What I Wanna.” The theory is that under poverty, things seem so hopeless no matter what and circumstances can only get better so you might as well let loose and have fun.
It’s from that philosophy that Larue finds the energy to rock out in tracks “Coin Toss” and “You May Stay.” She gets serious in concluding track “Help Me Please” to fight off some of her depression. HMIP is not politically jampacked but at least begins to look at and handle economic inequality. The empathy-generating EP may be hard to listen to in spots but Larue‘s lighter humorous side, in the interludes especially, softens the blow and her emcee skills will have your respect.
3 out of 5 stars
I Am I Be by Two Things. (self-released)
Rapping duo Two Things provide a fine example of maturity in the rap game with their I Am I BeLP. With inflated tones of voice and fine rhymes but also seriousness of subject matter most importantly, the emcee twosome from Pine Valley, California are hard edged from being the victims of theft in “UNLV Starter Cap” and right afterward in “Back To Coney” but they also consider and embrace the opposite side of the spectrum – the tender, loving and joyous aspects of life.
“Love Song” attempts to hold on to a romantic connection that seems all but destined to split apart, “Theme Song” with its splendid piano/horn combo is nothing but a fun interlude in the heaviness of the project, and “Pink” is blindsided by the bliss and change of growing up, sacrificing and accepting the responsibility of raising a child, a baby girl in this case. There isn’t much by way of shock or audacity from the low-on-the-radar rap troupe, but I Am I Be remains an uncontrived piece of healthy hip-hop music no matter what.
3 out of 5 stars
Ascended Basterd by Outpatient (self-released)
Hardcore backpack rap, while mean and layered, can be pretty bland all by itself. That’s why its practitioners need some interesting talking points, guests and production to be worth a damn. Veteran, New Mexico rhyme-spitter Outpatient, author of album Incorrigible and other works, fills his new LP, Ascended Basterd, not just with coarse complex wordplay but some conscious topics, notably failed policy, unequal unjust economics and fabricated, twisted news stories in the album’s attractive centerpiece “Idiocracy.”
Credited guests Sean Price and Pacewon among others, Outpatient‘s satirical jabs at popular white rappers in “Refundz” and simply the richness of all the rhyme verses constitute the remaining major draws. The ad-nauseam boasting, bullying and vulgarity reach a tipping point regularly so what should have been a lively effort in Ascended Basterd instead becomes a dark dismal effort with only a few pockets of sunshine.
2 out of 5 stars
Hip Hop Album Reviews, Week Ending Mar. 10, 2017

Hip Hop Album Reviews, Week Ending Mar. 10, 2017

Want an eloquent rhymestress’s perspective on love and the everyday struggle? A saucy sauntering Brit’s flippant mockeries about anything and everything? Or maybe even a quote/unquote living legend’s exposition of the dangers found in the ghetto? Ill Camille, Jam Baxter and MURS have you covered. We’ve narrowed down the list of this week’s new releases, and the best are below.
Heirloom by Ill Camille (Illustrated Sounds/Frontroom Entertainment)
Los Angeles emcee Ill Camille spreads out more food for thought and invites everyone over on her third album, Heirloom. The author of LPs Illustrated (2011) and The Pre Write before it (2012) is back with her questioning reflective mind frame to share on love, sex, dreams, hopes and optimism in a sweet escape style format. Strong with wisdom and insight, the smooth Ill Camille learns from her hardworking, blue collar elders in “Spider’s Jam,” expresses disappointment that people let love (and the possibility of) fall by the wayside due to trivial fixable matters in “Slip Away,” and slowly sadly mourns the souls lost to gun violence in the streets on “Lighters.”
After her teaching job has been accomplished, Camille admits the major reason behind the album in “Few Days.” Because problems have been building up, she decides to just get away from them all for a bit, and the calm uninterrupted “Renewed” follows through with the plan, allowing Camille to get still more pests out of her psyche and cleanse. Heirloom is a little up in the clouds with its almost dream-state feel in the semi-soft music and Camille’s casual flows, not extremely rich or intricate in any one way, but through the soulfully extended slow burners and despite her knowing of all the foulness around us, Ill Camille is committed to grinding on in life.
3 out of 5 stars
Mansion 38 by Jam Baxter (High Focus Records)
London emcee of posses Contact Play and Dead Players, Jam Baxter, is on solo album number four and shows no signs of weariness or halt in his step. Out on High Focus Records (like each of his three previous LPs), Mansion 38 is yet another wild ride from the weirded out rapper, packed with bizarre lyrical revelries and a message or two here and there. The critique of manipulative marketing schemes and gullible consumer culture in “For A Limited Time Only” is right on but an exception in the album’s dreary malaise of hokeyness and horseplay.
Baxter purges his cluttered mind of all his pent up frustration, angst, irreverence and goofiness to tracks of dismal art-house music that is impossible to dance to but perfect for Jam to jam awkwardly to. For the most part, this is a showcase of Baxter describing abnormal far-out circumstances in involved left field wordplay and random wacky prepared freestyles.
Mansion 38 is perfectly content basking in strange wonderment, which is one reason why it lacks a great amount of useful messages. The young man Jam Baxter is only occasionally intriguing in an intellectual sense, and he comes across depressive and hopeless with his dark sometimes morbid humor, but his textured metaphorical rhyming deserves attention, some study even, and although the feel in and out is largely low and despondent, Baxter is dedicated to getting back up to rub uptight people the wrong way for his and our amusement.
3 out of 5 stars
Captain California by MURS (Strange Music, Inc.)
The MURS man himself is here again, two years after his breakout hit-album Have A Nice Life for Captain California, his tenth solo LP overall and second on Strange Music Inc. With his prominent, unmistakeable mic-presence, the “Maker of Underground Raw Sh*t” surely brings the raw topics, around fewer of great social responsibility, for a mostly standard project in the current hip-hop landscape, and not exactly underground anymore at that.
MURS has some significant things to say here no doubt; however, they are in just a few songs or looked at through dicey seedy tales from the hood. MURS playfully squabbling with rapper Curtiss King over a girl (which of course helps to give her all the power of choice in the dating arena, like it or not) in the opener “Lemon Juice” clears the lane for stories of tragic love, hustling, gang-banging, cheating and just people behaving badly all throughout the project, and the foulmouthed in-studio jibber jabber of final track “Wanna Be High” makes matters that much more unrefined and uncouth.
The glimmers of light exist in how MURS describes scenarios of urban violence in “GBKW” (though the Kanye-mention is misplaced and too much praise already for the super famous mogul), in the advancement of love and family-rearing in “1000 Suns,” and in how MURS shows the differences across socioeconomic lines in “G is for Gentrify.” Except for MURS’ fine storytelling, he hasn’t changed or challenged himself lyrically, and all the themes and tones follow mainstream establishment rules, rarely encouraging people to question, think deeply and get to the root causes of our madness. It’s decent but simply doesn’t dare decry the most major underlying evils in society, like wildly out of control, government-sponsored capitalism and the divisive, inhumane, materialistic media.
2 out of 5 stars