Curren$y – Fear and Loathing in New Orleans (2008)


Curren$y is a rapper that, seemingly commodiously, appeals to just about everyone. And with a very respectable discography sporting a copious amount of innovative material, The Hot Spitta’s semi-stardom is well deserved. Among these releases are his mixtapes, some of which are unfairly slept on.

The title of this 2008 release is an allusion to a term coined by Hunter S. Thompson in a book called “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” It refers to a hell of a night motivated by the excessive consumption and abuse of substances. It’s only fitting, seeing as Spitta’s a full-time pothead, as made evident by effortless, yet adroit, laid-back flow and mellifluous lyrics.

Seeing as this is a Curren$y tape, smooth beats are a given. He’s got a history of exceptional beat selection. “It Starts” sparks a promising start with a familiar, appropriate sound. A jet engine, followed by a quick pre-flight briefing from the pilot himself.

Roll something up, like I always instruct y’all to do at the beginning of these tapes… Pour something, if that’s what you do… Get yourselves straight, sit down, roll your windows down, put your foot on the gas, and get into it. I hope you enjoy it, ’cause I enjoyed making it.

A good intro for a better mixtape. “Title Track” offers a perfect sample of Curren$y’s charismatic lyrical ability over a jazz-esque sound, and “Murda” magnifies it as he fires shots at the comical hook-centric rappers of the industry. They also, however, introduce us to his tendency to be monotonous, which some many consider a drawback. “Movie Writers, Business Men, and Gangsters,” is, frankly, a nothing-special generic track, but it features Mr. Marcelo, who comes pretty close to outshining his younger brother. Young Roddy accompanies Spitta on the next track, “Sky Barz,” and contributes a nice verse reflecting on the Fly Society. “World Class Bitches” is a track I knew I would enjoy after hearing five seconds of the ridiculously smooth beat, courtesy of Pharrell/The Neptunes. Curren$y strays away from his usual subject content on the short but sweet, synth-heavy “Lost in Transit,” shedding some much needed light on the relation between the power of outside influences and the neuro-science of early development in the kids of today. Of course, on the next tune he goes back to his signature, cunning braggadocio style. Two stand-out tracks for me were “Come Up,” as the instrumental is borrowed from one of my favorite songs of all time, Camp Lo’s “Luchini,” and “Intergalactic Society,” just for its mechanical obscurity.

All in all, this project is well above average and will give you a taste of Spitta’s well-roundedness but may leave you a little unsatisfied if you’ve already heard his studio albums. My favorite tracks on the album were Lost In Transit, World Class Bitches, Come Up, and Calm Down.

Overall: 76/100

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QuESt – Fear Not Failure (2012)


If I asked a group of hip-hop fans to name their favorite rappers that debuted within the last five years, there’s a good chance the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Freddie Gibbs, Blu and Big K.R.I.T. would be mentioned a few times. One rapper that deserves to be added to that list is QuESt. In his short career the Miami emcee has proven incredibly versatile, being equally comfortable rapping over 70’s soul samples on ‘Distant Travels Into Soul Theory’ and more traditional hip-hop beats on ‘Broken Headphones’.

For his latest offering, QuESt is using dubstep influenced production which suits his style perfectly. Generally, I’m not a huge fan of this but when it’s done properly the results can be worthwhile. Compared to this year’s other successful elctro-hop album, Chiddy Bang’s Breakfast, which was much more upbeat and party orientated, the sounds on this are more atmospheric and occasionally downtempo, but it still packs a punch with powerful drums over deep, wavy basslines (you will need headphones to fully appreciate this). I can’t think of many other rappers that would suit these beats but his flow (which is somewhat reminiscent of early Jay-Z) is flawless and he has the ability to switch pace in the blink of an eye to keep up with he varying tempo of the beats.

The title, “Fear Not Failure” serves as an underlying theme throughout the tape, as he explores the idea of overcoming fears and learning from your mistakes. This is exemplified by the following quotable at the end of Nothing to Fear;

Even if god came down and said “You know what, this isn’t gonna work out, you should just quit while you’re ahead”, I’d probably still take my chances.

This leads perfectly onto the next track Gambler, which is about doing just that, taking chances even when the odds are “slim to none”. This attitude comes across in a resounding display of confidence, resulting in a level of charisma few can match. Throughout the tape, QuESt delivers thought provoking lyrics and clever punchlines over a wide array of instrumentals, which manage to remain cohesive yet significantly different from one another. FNF is brought to a close with Darkest Before Dawn, which is probably my favorite song on the tape and features another spoken word segment that sums up the concept behind it;

Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure doesn’t keep us away from what we desire in this world. Fear does. Fear is the absence of love. The absence of trust. The absence of belief. It is fear that destroys us. To embrace failure is to embrace growth. It is fear, not failure, that holds us back.

The following bonus track feels almost unnecessary after that conclusion, not to say there is anything wrong with it. It might just be a mixtape, but with all original production and the absence of a hosting DJ, Fear Not Failure feels like a complete album, and is one of the most creative and genre-defying projects I’ve heard in recent years. If you want to hear something new, you certainly won’t regret downloading it for free over at hotnewhiphop.

Best tracks: Darkest Before Dawn, Alone Tonight, Nothing to Fear, One Way
Overall: 89/100

InVerse TangENT – The Reality Tape (2011)


When listening to an unsigned and unknown group for the first time, you have no expectations or preconceptions, so you could be in for a pleasant surprise or a lackluster experience that won’t stand out among the thousands of other aspiring rappers out there. For me, this mixtape falls somewhere in between.

According to their bio, D.C. based InVerse TangENT, strive to make music that the common man can relate to. They manage to do a decent job of achieving this, with subjects including relationships, dealing with the death of a loved one and struggling financially. However, it sometimes comes across as corny and occasionally a bit on the preachy side. The main problem is that it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. Although it may be a bit harsh to expect anything innovative from a debut mixtape, they regularly fall into the cliches of complaining about the state of mainstream hip-hop, which has become almost obligatory for underground rappers these days. Coupled with bland production, this results in it having very little replay value for me.

Musically, it’s rather inconstant to say the least. There are a number of good tracks but just as many terrible ones that should never have left the studio, with ‘Uncensored’ and ‘I Get On’ being the lowest points of the tape. Some of the hooks are also pretty bad, with the painfully autotuned ‘Rollin Like a Baller’ and ‘She Ridin’ sounding completely out of place and more like something that escaped from a DJ Khaled album. In my opinion, ‘Talk of the Century’ is easily the standout track, with Buttafly G, Soulogik, Philasophikal and J Spitz trading verses over the menacing beat. This is a good demonstration of the group’s chemistry and provides a glimpse of their full potential. I feel that AlgahRhythm and Buttafly G stood out as the best members throughout the album, usually outshining the others on any tracks they appear on, sadly they only feature on less than half the songs respectively.

It isn’t all bad news though, if you ignore the flaws there is some solid rapping to be found and judging by the more successful tracks, this group certainly has potential and their hearts are in the right place, even if it doesn’t always satisfy from a musical perspective. You can stream and download The Reality Tape below via their bandcamp.

Best tracks: Talk of the Century, Simply Gesture, Always Remembered, Time Will Tell
Overall: 67/100

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.

Laws – 5:01 [Overtime] (2010)


Floridian and 2012 Freshmen Candidate, Laws, is an emcee who is conspicuously sincere and genuine. Unfortunately, this seems to be a gradually decreasing group in hip hop. With his fairly unique flow, insightful lyrics, and reasonable audacity, the “sarcastic Brazilian bastard” brings something new to the table, exhibiting a sizeable amount of talent. Vocally, he’s comparable to Talib Kweli, and so his intonation and approach may take a little getting used to. However, in the words of Laws himself, “making any comparisons is weak.” See him as himself, and no one else.

5:01 (Overtime) is an engaging, extended re-release of Laws’ 4:57PM mixtape. Laws points out on an interlude that 4:57PM was the time he would leave from work back in the day, which really wasn’t too long ago at all. Additionally, Laws states that on 4:57, he was quite unsure of himself and where he was going in life, but now that he’s more poised, he feels he should “finish up what [he’d] started.” This shows his loyalty to his fans, and his dedication to making music, if nothing else. The album features various other up-and-coming artists, such as Emilio Rojas and Big KRIT, as well as Funkghost, Jay Rock, and Mason Caine, among others.

Production comes from none other than the Grammy award winning trio J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, along with 9th Wonder, M-Phazes, and others. Just hearing the names, you can foresee this line-up delivering. Most beats make use of the stellar synths that we’re so accustomed to hearing from Laws’ past releases. Let it be clear, however, that not all of them were created solely for Laws.

Lyrically, it’s evident that complexity is lacking, but Laws competently makes up for it with his poise, sometimes bringing up and boasting about being the first lyrical MC of Brazilian-American upbringing. Fortunately, he doesn’t go over the top, and even pays his respects to Big Pun, the first Latino rapper to go platinum (on “Overtime” for instance.)

He raises a few pragmatic ideas throughout, relating to concepts like social class, along with a few religious references on “Believer,” but frankly, some of these ideas get drowned out because of the mediocre chorus, just as other great tracks get blurred out by less lyrically imposing, prosaic tracks. However catchy they may be, they unfortunately take away from the overall tone of the album. “Hold You Down (Remix)” was a standout track. Rojas and KRIT kill their respective verses, with Laws on the chorus, as well as spitting what could arguably be the best verse of the album. He makes an interesting allusion to the different elements of hip hop in the lines “I’mma snap and get up in some four element shit/Break you off while you dance/Scratch your face up, tag your place up/Wrap you from the waist up.” Another great track is “Shining,” which, having been produced by 9th Wonder, incorporates violin/alto sax samples.

“Five seconds from fame, a minute from legendary”

All in all, do not sleep on this if you’re in search of a fast-rising talent. That is, if you’re willing to gamble. Laws will either reel you in upon first listen, or will take some getting used to. My favorite tracks on the album were Shining, Runaway, and Hold You Down

Overall: 74/100

OJ Da Juiceman-O.R.A.N.G.E. (2010)


OJ Da Juiceman is probably one of the most universally hated rappers of all time. From his childish lyrics to his constant ad libs, OJ has gained many haters over his short time in the rap game. Despite this, OJ still manages to get props from highly respected artists like Bun B, and release a steady stream of mixtapes. The Juiceman’s type of music is polarizing for many people, you will usually either love him or hate him. If you hate him, this review isn’t for you.

ORANGE starts off with the Juiceman addressing the criticism he receives, and stating that he deserves most of it. He speaks about his small vocabulary saying “vocabulary extends way farther than the brain can imagine” and states that if people feel the need to criticize him, he must be doing something “perfect”. As simple minded as the Juiceman’s music makes him look, he comes across somewhat intelligent on this intro. He realizes he makes music for a certain market, and doesn’t try to be anything else, which I find very respectable.

This isn’t to say that this is OJ’s intellectual mixtape. OJ may realize he is seen as a joke to many people, but he simply does not care. This tape is populated with raps about diamonds, cars and clubs like every other OJ project. Although the Juiceman didn’t change his style at all on this tape, it’s still comforting knowing he isn’t really as dense as he comes off.

Anyway, the beats on the mixtape are great for the most part. Not Tonite is a straight banger, Touchdown has an incredible bassline provided by Drumma Boy, and I Do That is a great crossover R&B track with Bobby Valentino. A few beats, including It’s A Go and the unfortunately named Penis, just don’t work though.

Lyrically, OJ is being OJ. He says things that don’t rhyme. He says things that don’t make sense. And he seems to think Mexicans have some sort of superhuman running ability, as evidenced on Touchdown when he says “60 yard pass and I’m running like a Mexican”. Another notable line is from Houses For Rent when OJ says “Houses for rent got me dancing like a Mexican”. Ahh, those Mexicans, always running and dancing, who doesn’t love them?

Oddly enough, rhymes like this stick in your head for the wrong reasons, but are later remembered fondly. OJ has the tenacity to say something like “whip the same color as an armpit” and forces it to stick in your head until you find yourself thinking “Hey, that was a pretty funny line.”

I can go on all day just quoting silly things OJ says, and believe me, I would love to, but OJ isn’t the only MC on this tape. Juiceman doesn’t enlist any of his big name cronies for this mixtape, choosing to go to his own stable of artists in his YBC camp. They all have a similar style to OJ and break up the monotony of his voice and lyrics. OJ did somehow get Bun B to drop a verse, as well as west coast artist Jay Rock on one of the best tracks on the tape, Gunshots.

Overall, this mixtape is more of the same from OJ. After a somewhat eye opening intro, he goes back to doing what he does best. Bragging about all the stuff he has over trunk rattling beats. This mixtape won’t change the world, nor will it make you a fan of OJ. But true fans of the JewMan will enjoy this fun tape for exactly what it is, IGNANT TRAP MUZIK! AYE OKAY!

86/100

Starlito-@ War W/ Myself (2010)


Starlito, formerly known as All Star The Cashville Prince, is an MC from Nashville, Tennesee who was signed to Cash Money records. After numerous delays and setbacks, he decided to break free from the label and independently release his music.

Starlito used to be a run of the mill southern rapper, nothing special, but passable. Now that he has freedom from his label he can make the music he really wants to make, and you can tell on @ War W/ Myself.

On this mixtape Starlito enlists fellow Tennessean beat maker Lil Lody to handle most of the beats along with DJ Burn one and Coop, and one beat by Celsizzle. Lito also raps over some famous instrumentals including Tupac Back and Lil B’s Ellen Degeneres beat.

Lito’s lyrics are half insightful, half street braggadocio. He explains his problems with his label & the struggles of growing up in his neighborhood, all while bragging about the money, fame and females he has acquired. Lito’s voice has a thick southern drawl that adds to the ruggedness of the tracks.

Lito also delves into concept tracks on Like Mike and Dodge Music, the former being an ode to basketball from the point of view of Michael Jordan, while the latter is a love letter to automobiles manufactured by the Chrysler sub-company over the Maybach Music instrumental.

At 51 minutes, @ War W/ Myself doesn’t feel too long, nor does it lose steam at any point. With this effort Starlito has crafted a mixtape that both displays his skills, and allows Lito to have fun without compromising the integrity of either trait. The fun and insightful tracks balance each other out nicely giving Starlito one of the better mixtape releases of 2010.

90/100