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It already feels like spring in NYC, a welcome event after a cold and snowy winter (especially for music writers who spent way too long in Los Angeles and are not used to such things). This is neither here nor there. What is right here, right there is a roundup of some excellent (and not so excellent) new hip-hop releases.
Special Teamz' Jaysaun has a new album out in collaboration with DJ Revolution, Game of Breath (Brain on Drugz Music). This one actually came out in January, but it's worth a mention here. The Boston MC and LA-based DJ have put the album together like a mixtape, with track after track of razor-sharp production and fiercely pointed lyrics. Guests include EdO.G, Slaine, and more. Check the track "Snake Decapitation," where he takes aim at G2, the DJ for his former group, The Kreators.
Freddy Madball, he of NYC hardcore band Madball fame, has a new hip-hop album out, Catholic Guilt (Familia Entertainment). Bad idea. Sure, Freddy has supposedly been a hip-hop fan his whole life, but this doesn't matter. His rhyme style is cheesy, and aside from a remake of The Clash's "London Calling," some guests appearances, and the passable "Real Recognize Real" (thanks to its beat), the album is an exercise in cliché and borderline rap-rock garbage.
Bay Area-based MC Rasco's new album, Global Threat (PocketsLinted Entertainment), features more of that gritty West Coast boom-bap this Cali Agent has based his career on. Along with some help from friends like Planet Asia, Supastition, and Jae Nut, tracks like the Madskillz -produced "Who's the Enemy?" find Rasco spitting personal philosophy and well-deserved boatss bounce over cinematic, bouncing beats.
Another Bay Area MC, this time from San Francisco, is DaVinci, whose new album, The Day The Turf Stood Still (Sweetbreads Creative Collective), paints his hometown streets with a lyrical brush that is poetic and gritty. Hailing from the Fillmore district, DaVinci uses his hardscrabble upbringing to craft tales in an emotive, almost guttural flow. And there's something charmingly old school about it. On "Real Niggaz (Somebody)," featuring R.O.D. , a sped-up vocal sample (production handled by Kris Styles) backs DaVinci's sharp lines and detailed storytelling.
Masta Killa has a new live album out this month, Live (Gold Dust). Live hip-hop can be a tricky thing. Rappers yell, the music is muddled, and they mostly do only snippets of their songs. The first and the last points apply here, although Killa manages to not get too hoarse in the process, but the recording is still a good one. Street Life's verse on "Street Education" proves that rappers don't have to yell when performing on stage, and the several tracks with GZA hearken back to the glory days of Liquid Swords. Over all, Live is a solid if brief effort from one of the key members of the Wu-Tang Clan.
Donwill's new album, Don Cusack in High Fidelity (Interdependent Media), is a concept album of sorts, based on the titular film it references. Rappers including Von Pea, Che Grand, Opio (of Souls of Mischief), and Nicky Guiland fill out the rest of the cast. But all of this aside, the album stands competently and proudly on its own as a creative triumph and one of the better hip-hop albums to be released in this new year. The beats are vibrant and innovative, and Donwill's lyrical landscape follows suit, as he spins yarns and spits lyrics with a good-natured hunger and evident dexterity.
Zion I producer Amp Live has a new album out this month called Murder At The Discotech (Childs Play). Kanye West only wishes he could make futuristic rap-techno beats this dope. The album skips around the farthest corners of dance and beat-based music, while keeping a decidedly hip-hop sensibility throughout. Myka Nyne, Yak Ballz, Grouch, Eligh, and Zumbi are just some of the guests who show up to lend their vocals. Check out the posse cut "Hot Right Now" for a taste.
Kenan Bell's new album, Until The Future (Sonata Cantata), is definitely kind of emo, but it's still an interesting and likeable effort from this underground LA rapper. He often performs with a live band, the production on the album reflects that--there is a rock influence that carries that album as much as the electro and traditional hip-hop flourishes that permeate the sound. Bell's voice is nasal and appealing, and his rhymes are sometimes thoughtful, sometimes boastful, but always a revealing window into this MC who defies expectations.
I had absoutely the lowest expecations for B. Dolan's new album, Fallen House, Sunken City (Strange Famous). After all, it was produced by Anticon affiliate Alias, who I've mentioned many times before that I'm not a fan of. But this shit is undeniably dope. The album's opening track, "Leaving NY," is hard, emotional, gritty, and full of lyrical and drumbeat bombast. The rest of the record follows suit--Alias creates a slew of rugged breakbeats for Dolan to spit his dour but introspective rhymes over.
General Steele of Smif 'N' Wessun has a new album out, Amerikka's Nightmare Part 2 (Duck Down). The attitude is angry, political, and gruff, with shots at both the Bush and Obama administrations. Perhaps drawing inspiration from his guests Dead Prez, Steele takes careful lyrical aim at a variety of issues over fantastic beats that sample Ennio Morricone ("Cry Freedom") and what I think is a Neil Young song ("Child of War"). This is one to revisit many times over just to gather all that he's saying.
Finally, GDP's new album, Realistic Expectations (Division East) came out a few months ago, but it's worth a quick mention here. The constantly touring MC claims equal parts punk rock and hip-hop as his influences. It shows on his new album, full of quality beats and quick-witted and biting rhymes.
That's all for now, so until next month… 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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