GOAT Not From the East Coast Round 3


First batch of matches for Round 3 just went up on the “Tournament” page. This round is all consolations and will be a little shorter than the previous rounds, as there are only 8 matches. Not entirely sure how long I’ll keep them up yet, so vote early.

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The Last Emperor – Music, Magic, Myth (2003)


After a difficult career beginning which saw Philadelphia rapper The Last Emperor spend unsuccessful periods with both Aftermath and Rawkus Records, he finally released his debut album “Music, Magic, Myth” via Raptivision Records in 2003.

From the over the top intro, which depicts The Last Emp as a warrior destined to save the nation of hip-hop from an “invading army of whack MCs”, you will realize this isn’t a standard rap album. His creativity is certainly his strongest point, as shown on a number of successful concept-based songs such as “Animalistics“, “Tiger Trail” and best of all, two bonus tracks titled “Secret Wars“, in which he puts some of his favorite rappers up against famous comic book characters in an epic 16 minute battle that is amongst the most creative concepts I’ve heard.

On other tracks such as “Prisoner“, “Karma” and “Let’s Ride” he focuses on more serious issues such as poverty, social injustice, life in the hood and politics. On “Hold On”, he explains the label difficulties surrounding his time at Aftermath and how Dre was only interested in socializing while Emp wanted to work on the album (which probably explains why Dre is taking over 10 years to make one record).

The highlight of this album comes on the brilliant “One Life“, thanks to the incredibly poignant guest verse from rapper Too Poetic (of Gravediggaz) who raps about his terminal cancer which killed him just a few months after the recording, over the beautiful acoustic guitar loop and eerie strings.

The production (which is handled by the likes of Prince Paul, Da Beatminerz and Ayatollah) lives up to the high standard set by the lyricism. It covers a wide range of styles and influences due to obscure samples featuring a wide range of instruments. From the boom bap drums on “House Party”, the jazzy “Do You Care?“, guitar riffs on “The Incredible Man” to the layered chanting vocals on “Meditation“, the beats perfectly match the mood of the lyrics.

Perhaps the only fault of this album is its length. Running at over 90 minutes (including bonus tracks), it can be hard to stay concentrated to any album for that long. Although none of the tracks are actually bad, it may have benefited from cutting out a few of the less memorable ones in favor of a more concise experience.

Despite its somewhat excessive length, “Music, Magic, Myth” manages to stay interesting thanks to a wide variety of subject matter and Last Emperor’s intelligent lyricism, making this underrated gem a must listen for any hip-hop lover.

Best tracks: One Life, Animalistics, Secret Wars Part 1, Meditation

Overall: 90/100

DJ Sound- Volume 10: Hatred


 

For every Drake, there’s 20 rappers in Toronto that probably should have made it big before him, for every Three 6 Mafia, there are 20 other Memphis artists that deserve twice as much praise. DJ Sound is a Frayser area DJ, in house producer for the Frayser Click, and Memphis legend. His 11 volumes of mixtapes/albums are widely circulated around the internet on underground Memphis rap forums, yet DJ Sound is a virtually unknown name.

DJ Sound’s style is slow, dark and brutal. Most of his beats are similar to those of early Three 6 Mafia tapes, and some even include the same samples. The Frayser Click laces his beats with the darkest, most misogynistic, violent raps possible, which adds to the overall tone of the tape. Watch Out For Da Click introduces each member of the Frayser rap outfit over an almost spacey beat, which is a lot more upbeat than the rest of the tracks on this tape.

Hoish Ass Niggas and Kickin N Doors better portray the overall sound of the tape, slow, plodding beats with rapid hi hats, completed with vocal samples about various forms of robbery and murder. “Hatred” is not a nice album, nor will it make your day bright and full of joy. The tape is early 90’s Memphis rap at it’s hardest, and doesn’t let up for a second.

The one song that somewhat changed tempo is O.S.P. which speaks about violence among blacks and calls for an end to it, but this song is followed by All I Want Is Just Cheese which sees the lyrics fall back to the “rob, murder, repeat” formula, for better or worse.

If you always wanted to hear how Three 6 Mafia would sound if they never hit it rich, this tape is for you. If MOP isn’t hardcore enough for you, then this tape is for you. Good old fashioned Memphis gangster rap, no filler, no softness. A personal favorite of mine, and the greatest Memphis rap tape ever released in my personal opinion. NOW GO BUMP THIS JUNT MAYNE

 

98/100

 

 

Edit: Now that megaupload is dead, I realize it may be hard (see: impossible) to find this album. If you are interested in hearing it, leave a comment and I will provide a link.

Koncept – Awaken (2012)



Koncept, of Brown Bag AllStars, is a thought-provoking, confident, class act. Upon hearing some of his material, it becomes evident that, like most underground acts, he receives far too little recognition for his talent.

Throughout his contemplative new album, Awaken, Koncept ventures through a variety of concepts, giving us a sense of his poise, while at the same time, a more sensitive side. Production is handled by J57, The Audible Doctor, and Marco Polo, among others. And featuring names like Royce Da 5’9″, Sene, and Soul Khan, the guest appearance department is equally impressive.

Following the title track is “Watch the Sky Fall,” which, with a soulful vibe, gives us an introduction to Koncept and his background. You can’t help but be reverent, as he further gives a vivid breakdown of his experiences on “Save Me,” telling of his father, who chose heroine over him. “Too Late,” sports a number of voice samples, including one of Eminem in “Lose Yourself,” which is appropriate, seeing as the theme of the song is based on missed time and opportunities. The single, “Aspirations,” is an uplifting song about living the hip hop lifestyle, and features an incredibly well-chopped sample, in addition to Soul Khan, who offers an extremely catchy chorus. Although, his more avid fans know he could have just as easily killed a verse. Another ten points for the far from cliche music video. Sene doesn’t fall short on the next track, “Getting Home,” on which Koncept reflectively informs youth about the dangers of street life and drugs. “Narcotics ain’t happiness, you can’t clone a smile,” he says. The feel of “Understanding” can get fairly repetitive, and is the one track I didn’t enjoy as much as the others.

“Driving in these circles ’til my gas run dry, and who the fuck told you that a man can’t cry?”

In conclusion, if you’re in search of aplomb, originality, and quality hip hop, Awaken may interest you. Take an interpretive role and give the album a listen. My favorite tracks on the album were Aspirations, Getting Home, and Save Me.

Overall: 85/100

GOAT MC Tournament


Over the next several days/weeks, Review Hip-Hop will be hosting a tournament to determine who is the greatest MC of all time (GOAT) as determined by you, dear reader.  Those of you who know me from Yahoo! Answers may recall that I’ve done similar tournaments in the past, which have all been dominated by East Coast MC’s.  So, to change it up a bit, every MC featured in this small tournament (32 MCs, double Elimination) are from the Midwest, South or West Coast of the United States (sorry Canada).  The day’s Matchups will be posted on the “Tournament” page.

 

Has-Lo – In Case I Don’t Make It (2011)


‘In Case I Don’t Make It’ is the debut full-length album from Philadelphia MC/Producer – Has-Lo. He signed to the label Mello Music Group back in late-2010, which is home to artists, such as Apollo Brown, The Left and Finale, among others. He first made his name back in ’07, finishing in the top 5 on MTVU’s Best Music on Campus contest. Following that, he released a couple of EPs, ‘F*ck Has’ Day’ and ‘Small Metal Objects’, which gathered a small amount of buzz in the underground community.

All 15 tracks on the album are self-produced by Has-Lo, whose production style is very Rza/Stoupe-esque. Having 1 producer on the album creates a  very cohesive listen and a fantastic overall vibe to the album. The dark, atmospheric production provides the perfect backdrop for Has-Lo’s vocals. ‘Conversation B’, which is the remix version of the album, features a different producer on each track. Although most of the beats are good, from the likes of Apollo Brown, Exile, J-Zone and many more, ‘Conversation B’ lacks the cohesiveness that brings ‘In Case I Don’t Make It’ to the next level.

The title of the album could mean two things. In case Has-Lo’s rap career doesn’t ‘make it’, or in case he dies. He says “Is this an unfunny joke, or a suicide note?” on the title-track. The lyrics on the album are very introspective, like looking inside the mind of a man on the edge. Is Has-Lo really depressed, or just saying the things most people try not to think about?

The album has a smooth and cohesive sound that pulls the listener into a web of psychoanalytical and melancholy musings, lyrical exercises, and storytelling. Has-Lo’s flow is very laid-back, almost to the point where he sounds like he’s just talking. His delivery could use a little work, but he’s definetely an artist you should keep an eye on.

Overall this album was definetely one of the high points of 2011 hip-hop. If you haven’t listened to it, I highly reccomend you give it a couple spins.

Standouts: Fiber Optics, Kinetic Energy, Sub-Ether and In Case I Don’t Make It

Overall: 86/100