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First up this month, some July releases overlooked in the last Glaciers of Ice:
Freddie Foxxx, aka Bumpy Knuckles, has a "new" album out, Crazy Like a Foxxx (Fat Beats). Originally supposed to come out on MCA in '94, but shelved due to some mischief between Foxxx and the label, this album could be mistaken for a really good contemporary release from an MC fixated on the Golden Era. Equal parts MOP and DITC, Foxxx brings a lyrical dexterity to his often thugged-out persona. Featuring production from Showbiz, Lord Finesse, and Buckwild, this is a step back in time to an era that many pine for, but few actually capture the spirit of.
NY Oil is supposed to be making some waves with Hood Treason, a two-CD album out on Babygrande. I guess this is due in large part to a controversial video he did for the single "Ya'll Should Get Lynched," juxtaposing footage of stars like 50 Cent, The Game, and Jim Jones with images of lynchings - YouTube promptly banned it. But the album doesn't quite live up to the creative possibilities Oil's clearly capable of. Perhaps it's a case of excess - one disc would be enough here.
Hell Razah and Shabazz the Disciple have teamed up as T.H.U.G. Angelz to release Welcome to Red Hook Houses. This ode to their Brooklyn neighborhood is disappointing. It's full of the morose lyrical pining, familiar to fans of Wu-Tang, but totally lacking in real creativity. I hate to say it, as I had high hopes for this, but feel free to skip it.
Dipset member Hell Rell's new album, Black Mask, Black Gloves: The Ruga Edtion (Babygrande) is certainly more successful than JR Writer's last effort, but it's not gonna change your life or anything. Fueled by some soulful beats and songs with a personal bent, like "Rumors," Rell spits that Dipset slang and challenges Freddy, Jason, and Michael Myers as to who is the most ominous presence in the hood.
Typically bleak and self-serious is the new release from Jedi Mind Tricks-affiliated MC Doap Nixon. Sour Diesel (Babygrande) features likeminded purveyors of gloom Vinnie Paz and Apathy, but dark doesn't equal dope here. Is Babygrande overextending itself with its multiple releases this summer? All signs are pointing to yes…
Fortunately, the label is saved by Almighty's Original S.I.N. (Strength in Numbers). Killah Priest, Bronze Nazareth, C-Rayz Walz, Son One, M-80, and 5-Star have joined forces for a cinematic tour de force of grime and gloom that is boosted by the combined talents of this mix of known and unknown hip-hop fanatics. Guests include Canibus and Keith Murray, who boost the track "Handle the Heights," but the album is strong even without cameos.
And now let's move onto August…
Bugzy Bogart - agent, manager, label head, producer, and rapper. The founder of Culture VI Records has worked on several albums throughout his career, rapping and producing, the latest being Ninety-Four (Culture VI). Bogart maintains a nice, laid back flow over breezy east coast beats, as exemplified by the opening track, "Ninety-Four." He jacks the BBD beat for "Poison" on "Dangerous," on which he is joined by Joe Budden, but the track is kind of ruined by excessive r'n'b vocals and a breakdown that's a little too similar to "Crazy in Love." "Sinatra," featuring the talented Wordsworth, gets things going again over a breezy, smooth-jazz piano beat. Maybe Bogart is the Kenny G of this rap shit.
Oakland's Azeem has released one of the more interesting records of the summer, Air Cartoons (Oaklyn). A combination of El-P-style paranoid claustrophobia with straight up Bay Area hyphy funk, Azeem tackles the Bush Administration, Jesus, terrorism, and drug use in his stream-of-consciousness raps. Beats are provided by Meat Beat Manifesto and DJ Zeph, among others, lending an industrial boom-bap atmosphere to the record. Don't miss out on this one.
Tanya Morgan is a pretty ludicrously named group set to release a new EP called The Bridge (Interdependent Media). Though their debut album got a coveted 3.5 mic rating from The Source, it's hard to tell why from this effort. They are definitely hooked on Golden Era-influenced "conscious" rap, but this album feels too unfocused. "Hip Hop is Dead II" and "We Doin' Our…" are nice ATCQ tributes in sound and style, but the electro "How Low" is just cheesy.
Starting off with a couple of gunshots, Esham's bizarre new album, Sacrificial Lambz (Aknu Media), is a bizarre ride to the dark side. Esham dabbles in a style that could be considered horrorcore, but this Detroit MC's work, emotional, political, violent, and insightful, can't really be pegged into such a small hole. He calls his style "acid rap," and sites Iron Maiden as one of his influences. Tracks ranging from "Fuck U" to "Dead Rappers" to "Levies Broke" prove just how versatile this gruff-voiced rhyme writer can be. Even the weaker moments of this album show creativity.
Smut rap is truly awesome, but you have to be good at it to get it right. Khia's Nasti Muzik (Fat Cat), unfortunately, misses the target. Sure, "Put That Pussy on His Ass" offers some pseudo-shocking and hardly "nasti" concepts, and in hip-hop, cunnilingus is something of a pariah. But Khia's droning repetition doesn't count as good hip-hop, and frank sex talk really isn't as shocking as she thinks it is.
Breakbeat/electro artist Arabian Prince made his mark on LA hip-hop in the '80s, and Stones Throw has compiled much of his work into an album called Innovative Life: The Anthology 1984-1989. It's interesting to hear this original work, considering the influx of today's artists copping a feel of similar-minded beats and production like it's going out of style. Your tolerance for an hour of Arabian Prince will largely depend on your tolerance for pulsating electro beats, but if you can make it through, you'll be rewarded - especially by idiosyncratic NWA joints, who Prince worked with under the name Professor X.
Two new releases from West Coast hip-hop vet C-Bo, both on West Coast Mafia Records, are his solo album, West Side Riders 4, and the more successful Tradin' War Stories, a collaboration with Omar "Big-O" Gooding. Big-O is, in fact, the brother of actor Cuba Gooding Jr. , and an actor is in his own right. And he can rap. How about that? This is straight-up, no-frills West Coast funk, but it's surprisingly mellow. If it does fall back on clichés as far as beats and rhymes are concerned ("Money, money, money fallin' everywhere" is a key line), at least it doesn't get too entrenched into gangster mythology.
Also representing the West Coast is Souls of Mischief/Heiroglyphics member Opio, with his new solo album, Vulture's Wisdom, Volume One (Hiero Imperium). 39 minutes is all it takes for this talented MC to spit his game on 14 songs, influenced perhaps by his professed love of bands like Suicidal Tendencies and The Ramones. The Architect supplies a bevy of bass-heavy beats, which should continue over the course of the next two albums in this series.
The Invizzibl Men's The Unveiling (Backwoodz Studioz) is a new project from MC's Karniege and MarQ Spekt. We last heard from Karniege on the excellent Mighty Joseph project with Vast Aire, and Spekt has been down with ex-Company Flow member Big Juss for a while. The Unveiling is grimy in a futuristic way, like a Def Jux record with more edge and less hallucinagenics. Case in point: "Futurama," produced by Tef, with its shimmering Timbaland-style synths. Other highlights include "Zookeeper," featuring Vordul Mega, and "Mighty Broady," featuring Broady Champs and Vast Aire. This is an excellent record, which should come as no surprise, considering the pedigree of those involved.
Vordul Mega has returned with the excellent Megagraphitti (Backwoodz Studioz), a gloomy but banging collection of gritty NYC hip-hop. Mega reunites with Vast Aire on "AK-47," most likely furthering speculation of a Cannibal Ox reunion. Beats come courtesy of Zach One, DJ Marmaduke, and Bronze Nazareth, among others, making the album feel less unearthly than his solo debut. There are a few missteps, such as the r'n'b-crooning "Beautiful," but overall this album is aces.
OK, that's all for now, so until September… e-mail with thoughts and insults, and send me yer shit! I'll listen to it. Glaciers is ghost like Casper.
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
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