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Welcome to the October editions of Glaciers. Nope, we ain't covering the 50 Cent/Kanye sales beef here, as that's been beaten to death at this point. We do have a slew of new indie releases to get through, however, so sit back and strap on your seatbelt.
Illa Ghee, long affiliated with Mobb Deep, released Bullet and a Bracelet (Depth Charge) last month, chock full of dirty, sinister beats and gully rhymes. The MC is a mixtape veteran, and his street savvy and sense of humor shines through, whether employing Young Frankenstein samples ("Project Illa") or trading verses with Prodigy ("Walk with a Shotgun"). Alchemist shows up to lend his production skills on "Maintenance Man," the two having previously collaborated on Al's "Hold U Down" single. Illa gets candid on an interlude that shows up near the beginning of the album, where he talks about his "live nigga" style and how although he's left the drug dealing and "gun bussin'" life behind, he's still street. This album provides all the proof he needs.
Speaking of Mobb Deep, Havoc has a new solo effort out called The Kush (Nature Sounds). The record is kind of disappointing, just not sounding up to his usual standards in terms of both beats and rhymes. Several tracks do stand out, including "I'm the Boss" (which uses A Tribe Called Quest's beat from "Luck of Lucien," as did the Mobb Deep track "We Don't Love 'Em" from Americkaz Nightmare), "What's Poppin' Tonight," and "Be There." Havoc, usually on point with his production, sounds tired and uninspired here, which is too bad because he's obviously capable of much more.
On the feel-good tip this month, we have Y Society, a collaboration between Insight, an MC many of you are probably already familiar with, and Damu the Fudgemunk, a producer whom you've probably never heard of. Their debut, Travel At Your Own Pace (Tres Records), is full of the indie hype-rap that appeals to some and annoys the shit out of others. This one leans towards the former. Starting off with some obscure '70s kids record sample and picking up with old soul, funk and hip-hop tidbits, this is really Damu's party, although Insight's quick-tongued contributions are vital to the mix.
SoulStice isn't just an MC; he also works for the DOD (boo!) and has a Masters in Electrical Engineering (sweeeeet), according to his press release. Also one half of the excellent duo Wade Waters, SoulStice releases his second solo album, Dead Letter Perfect (Wandering Soul), this month. The record rides smoothly over beats from top indie producers, including the inimitable Oddisee (check the intro track "Southside Ride"), rendering it instantly accessible and enjoyable. SoulStice blends Common's every-man vibe with the Wordsworth's swift wordplay, who also happens to show up as a guest, earning his place in the hip-hop pantheon.
DJ Rekha, queen of the NYC bhangra movement, a blend of hip-hop, dancehall, and South Asian beats, has a new one - DJ Rekha Presents Basement Bhangra (Koch). This mix CD incorporates Indian musicians with a few US rappers, like Wyclef Jean, recreating the atmosphere of her Basement Bhangra night at New York's SOB's club. It's an interesting mix of styles, all held together by throbbing South Asian beats and instrumentation, something no doubt felt much more strongly on the dancefloor.
Want some more indie shit? Here you go: Rhymes and Beats, the new album from Boston MC Gnotes. The title about sums it up. Gnotes ("with the silent 'G'") claims to speak to ostriches, backpackers, and hipsters, if I heard the lyrics from "Muddy Treble Clef," the album's opener, right. His high-pitched flow packs a ton of words in over some interesting beats, though I'm not really feeling the metal guitars of "Throw Your Nickels Up." Still, Gnotes seems to be truly interested in expanding the art, so check for this one for something a little different.
Maybe my brain isn't working right, but I've never been able to get into Army of the Pharaohs. Their new one, Ritual of Battle (Babygrande), is another serious-minded effort from the super group of sorts, featuring Vinnie Paz, Outerspace, Esoteric, Celph Titled, Chief Kamachi, Reef The Lost Cauze, and more. Phew. All skilled MCs, but the death-drone beats and general sense of despair that reigns supreme just isn't fun. "Black Christmas" is kinda nice, but these guys need a massage and some mojitos.
Beginning with a sample from The Fugitive, MF Grimm's The Hunt for the Gingerbread Man (Toaster Entertainment), is a perplexing affair. Half candy raps (literally, as it weaves a tale around a character created by the MC) and half vintage Grimm lyrical skills, the wheelchair-bound rapper's new effort is at times brilliant and at times frustrating. I'm not gonna get into the backstory of the character here, as you can read all about that online, but Grimm has latched onto the alter-ego/split personality thing and is holding firm. It works well on songs like "Head in the Clouds," about a hip-hop heaven, but less so on "Half Baked," a completely candy-themed rap. But it's the Grimm you know and love who appears on tracks like "Earth," where his off-kilter rhymes and insights break through.
A new addition to the Duck Down family is EDO.G's Special Teamz, debuting their new album, Stereotypez, for the venerable hip-hop label. The group consists of Jaysaun, Slaine, and DJ Jayceeoh, as well as the Boston vet. Production comes courtesy of Ill Bill, Young Cee, Pete Rock, and DJ Premier, among others. It's a solid effort, held together by EDO.G's experience and a grimy style of rhymes over a nicely varied set of beats.
The new Rick Ross career retrospective, Rise to Power (Suave House II), pretty much had me until he tells a woman he wants to dig up her father and take the rings off his fingers in a skit near the beginning of the album. According to Rick, that's street love. Oh, well, can't take it too seriously. Ross is at the top of his game these days and it's interesting to hear some of his older work, even for a non-fan like myself. Some highlights include "B.L.O.W." featuring The Clipse, "Dear Lord" featuring Scarface, and "It's On" featuring Noah and Jiggalo.
Now for some quick takes… NYG'z offers up a somewhat disappointing effort with G-Dom, the first for DJ Premier's Year Round Records. The group, consisting of MCs Panchi and Shabeeno, create basic street rap that is occasionally boosted by the production from Preemo himself (see "Same Team No Games" and "Giantz Ta Thiz" for prime examples). On the '90s tip, A Constipated Monkey, Kurious' 1994 album, has been re-released by Amalgam Digital. While classic '90s tracks like "Uptown Shit," "I'm Kurious," and "Walk Like a Duck" definitely stand the test of time, echoing horn samples and loose-snare drums intact, the rest of the album doesn't necessarily sound as dope as one might remember. Nevertheless, Kurious will release his long-overdue sophomore effort next year, featuring production from MF Doom, and heads are surely hyped to hear this one. Hezekiah may be borrowing a title from The Kaiser Chiefs with his new one, I Predict a Riot (Soulspazm/Rawkus), but dude is infinitely more talented. This talented Philly MC and producer blazes through some of the freshest songs I've heard this year, begging the question of why he's not more well-known in indie rap. Featuring guests including Freeway, Bilal, and Jaguar Wright, Riot is the musical and emotional statement of a new and unique voice in hip-hop. The Project, an new NYC trio consisting of Brooklyn Supernova, King Gutta and Jah C, delivers a competent if somewhat mundane release this month, The Truth Today (Glow in the Dark). The group is talented and versatile, but there's nothing here that lifts it above the pack. Live instrumentation is performed by a Brooklyn indie rock band called Sankofa, according to the press release, but you might not realize that just by listening. And finally, Stones Throw has returned with another fantastic compilation, Peanut Butter Wolf Presents 2K8 B-Ball Zombie War, a companion soundtrack to the new 2K8 video game. Nearly every track is worth the 3 or 4 minutes required, from MF Doom and Guilty Simpson's collaboration, "Mash's Revenge," to the electro throwback "Professor X Saga" from Arabian Knight, to the Jaylib remix of Quasimoto's "Hydrant Game."
And that's all for this month. Until next time… 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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