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Welcome to the December edition of Glaciers of Ice, the last one before January's one-year anniversary. 2006 has been a good year for hip-hop, so read on for a roundup of some of the best and worst November/December releases.
Another month, another mixtape. But don't front - most mixtapes these days are 100 times better than their companion full-lengths, and Termanology's new effort, Hood Politics IV (ST Records/Brick Records), is no exception. Hosted by the ultra-dope Clinton Sparks (New Crack City, Smashtime Radio), the Boston-area MC kicks things off with the DJ Premiere-produced single, "Watch How it Go Down," where he talks about "packin' a mack again, like Capital Punishment" over Preemo's succulent beat. Big Pun references aside, Termanology proves his mettle on tracks like the Ice-T-sampling "H.U.S.T.L.E.R." and the soulful butter-beats of "Think it Over," where he's joined by Ghostface cohort Trife da God.
The Game is back with Doctor's Advocate (Geffen), a record that's sure to continue his multi-million record-selling legacy, as well as his instant hip-hop legend status. The lead single "It's Okay (One Blood)" makes it clear, under a Junior Reid sample used previously by Wu-Tang Clan, that the Game doesn't have beef with 50 Cent, Jay Z, or Dr. Dre, even with lines like "You 38 and you still rappin' / I'm 28 and so is the dubs." Even while comparing himself to Nas and 2Pac, the Game still sounds on top of his shit. It takes balls to employ will.i.am for your beats, let him rhyme, and still sound hard ("Compton"). But the Game pulls it off. Despite a tacit falling out with his mentor Dre, much of the new album, as indicated by the title, is still something of a homage to him - an uncommon and admirable move in this world of trite hip-hop beefs. Just Blaze is put to good use here on tracks like "Remedy," and Mr. West makes a welcome appearance on "Wouldn't Get Far." Aftermath in-house producer Hi-Tek also shows up on the title track, featuring Busta Rhymes and Chuancey Black. The Game's verse is extremely emotional here, as he relays his thoughts and remorse about his relationship with Dre, almost crying in the process. Not since Wu-Tang Clan's "I Can't Go to Sleep" has an MC left himself so vulnerable. Not too shabby for a big-budget major-label release.
Speaking of which, 2Pac's still putting out albums. His latest posthumous release, Pac's Life (Interscope), is another record full of recycled verses from the apparently limitless vaults set to new beats from producers like Swizz Beatz, Sha Money XL, and LT Hutton. This time around, collaborators include Young Buck, T.I., Chamillionaire, and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. The latter shows up on a Swizz Beatz remix of "Untouchable," and while the production is edgy and tight, it's not necessarily a boon to include the Bone Thugs on your track. Would Pac have approved this if he were alive? Would he have approved the r'n'b track "Pac's Life," where Ashanti croons a tired chorus over a synth beat? He very well might have, but we'll never know for sure. This album was executive produced by 2Pac's mother, Afeni Shakur, and it contains instructions on how to donate to the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts. Hearing Pac rhyme over some of these tracks, such as "Dumpin'," reminds one of just what a great MC he was - no one really matches him in cadence, and that voice is so deep and full of emotion. But the precarious line between commercial exploitation and artistic endeavor is always skirted on these posthumous releases. Decide for yourself here.
Allah Mathematics has been DJing and crafting tracks for the Wu-Tang Clan for years now, from Iron Flag to Supreme Clientele to his own solo albums. His new effort, Wu-Tang and Friends: Unreleased (Nature Sounds) is a compendium of remixes and songs that never made it onto proper releases. It's a mixed bag, but for any fan of the Wu, the standouts here make it a worthwhile listen. A remix of "Maxine," originally released on Bulletproof Wallets and featuring Ghost and Rae, a remix of "Wu Banga" featuring GZA, Cappadonna, Ghost, and Masta Killa, and "King Toast Queen" featuring U-God, Buddah Bless, Masta Killa and Solomon Childs over a syrupy soul samples, all make the cut as essential unheard songs. Tracks featuring lesser-knowns, like "Where's Brooklyn At?" (Bad Luck, All Day, Allah Real), and several unnecessary skits are not as vital. Still, Mathematics seems to have taken the reigns from RZA and True Master as the go-to producer for everything Wu-affiliated, and most of his current production is on point.
Clinton Sparks has already made it into this month's Glaciers of Ice, but it would be remiss not to give him another shout-out for his new mixtape, Smashtime Radio: SHADE 45 Anniversary Edition (mixunit.com). A rollicking journey through tracks featuring Eminem, 50 Cent, Young Jeezy, and Juelz Santana, among many others, this is another tour de force from the "get familiar" DJ/producer, Mr. Sparks. It also happens to be one big advertisement for the Sirius Satellite radio program he hosts. Included in the mix are some interestingly revealing and humorous interviews with the likes of 50 and Jim Jones, which while not necessarily the most PC, showcase these artists in a much more relaxed interview environment than, say, one on Hot 97. An unfortunate addition to this is an interview with Janet Jackson, where Sparks makes stupid jokes in an attempt to hit on her. Highlights here include a chain of snippets from 50, Lloyd Banks, and Lil' Wayne over recycled beats, Juelz Santana and Snoop's "My Girl," the Clipse and E-40's "D-Boy," and Young Jeezy's "Bad Guy." Also, don't miss Jay Z and Diddy together on "Show Em What U Got" and Kanye West's freestyle ("She ordered the Kobe beef like Shaquille O'Neal").
The Lox's Styles P is back with his second solo album, and he contributes one of the better December releases to round out 2006. Although a bit heavy on the r'n'b guest appearances (Gerald LeVert, Rashad), Styles keeps a tight-knit tension throughout as his lazy flow laces these street anthems. "G-Joint" kicks off the record over a wonderfully cheesy synth-guitar sample, reminiscent of MF Doom's "Rap Snitch Knish's," allowing Styles to confidently kick off the album. Whether he's trading rhymes with Talib Kweli (and besting him) on the Hi-Tek-produced "Testify" (which employs the sample used for ATCQ's "Luck of Lucien") or bringing it back to the '90s with partners Jadakiss and Swizz Beatz on "Who Want a Problem," this may just be one of those commercial releases that, in the manner of Fishscale, pleases both critics and masses.
Iowa City's Coolzey may find some new fans with his EP, He Did (Public School Records). Taking lyrical and humor cues from Edan and Biz Markie, Coolzey's rhymes are lighthearted but skillful, as he raps over the spryly bouncing beats of "French Fries and Ice Cream" and "Funny Rappaz."
Finally, love him or hate him, Eminem has become one of the hardest-working men in hip-hop, a commercial empire, and a name brand. His new mixtape, Eminem Presents the Re-Up (Shady), furthers this legacy with the help of usual cohorts Obie Trice, 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, and more. This isn't the most interesting mixtape out there, but it's definitely gonna please fans eager for new material from Marshall Mathers and G-Unit disciples hungry for exclusive collaborations.
And that's peace. Glaciers will be back in the '07. So until thenů 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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