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Welcome to the March edition of Glaciers of Ice. Big news as of late: Shamrock winning the big purse on the White Rapper Show. Sure, he was better than half the MCs participating, but when it came down to it, I threw my support behind John Brown. Dude's a freak ("Hallelujah, hollah back!"), but at least his shit was semi-original. Sham's durrty South flow was a weak interpretation of experts of that genre. Anyhoo, on to the music…
A longtime bastion of the Detroit hip-hop scene, Phat Kat, has released an excellent new banger of an album, Carte Blanche, on Look Records. The gritty-voiced MC has partnered with the late J Dilla many times throughout his career, and fortunately several of the album's tracks feature beats from the sorely missed member of the rap community. Starting off with "Nasty, Ain't It?" Phat Kat sets the tone early - futuristic urban anthems laid down over a bevy of booming concrete tracks. Black Milk, another Detroit native, provides some of the music, and MC's including Guilty Simpson and T3 join the party, creating a hard-knock atmosphere and a welcome addition to the Motor City's storied hip-hop history. And speaking of Black Milk, whose EP was covered in last month's Glaciers, Fat Beats is releasing his new one, Popular Demand. Another stellar entrant to the Detroit scene, Milk, nee Curtis Cross, lets loose his sharply-honed lyrics over many self-produced tracks that build upon the success of his recent EP. He's joined by Guilty, Slum Village, and Baatin on several tracks, musically culled from the future-funked out beats that are the bedrock of the underground scene in the Midwest's northern region. And finally, it would remiss to ignore the latest posthumous release from Dilla, Ruff Draft (Stones Throw). We can all heave a melancholy, collective sigh as we imagine what the future might have held for this amazing talent. This album was actually a vinyl-only release from 2003, now widely available thanks to the powerhouse that is Stones Throw. Dilla was simultaneously working on the Jaylib project while crafting these songs. They are actually more construction snippets than fully fleshed out tracks, but they're still better than much of what is being released today. Dilla rhymes over many of them, disproving the criticism of his lyrical skills; sure, he's not a master of the rhyme, but his call-and-response choruses and simplistic cadence fits perfectly here. Don't sleep on this one, as it may be the last we're going to hear from this legend.
The first notable thing about Los Angeles MC Omni is that his voice sounds remarkably like Aceyalone's. They both have the same bass-y, playful tones, nimbling flipping west coast party rhymes as well as more serious subject matter. Omni's last album, Ballyhoo, was a tour de force for this young rapper. His new one, Batterie (NatAural High), is not quite as good, although by no means is it a complete failure. Recorded in Australia with the Obese Records crew (I don't know who they are either), the songs tend to bleed together, as Omni is missing some of the pep that made Ballyhoo such a standout effort. There are some highlights, like the violin-ridden "Bang the Drum" and "Golden," featuring the previously mentioned Ace-1. But overall, this is a relatively pedestrian effort from an MC who's proven he's capable of much more.
Babygrande has two contributions to the world of hip-hop this month. First up is Snowgoons' German Lugars. This German production team has paired up with a plethora of MCs from the States. The album starts off with "Heads or Tails" featuring Chief Kamachi, Virtuoso, and Jus Allah. The track is a good example of Snowgoons' production style - sped up vocal samples and dour, dour melodies, like an Alchemist/RZA blend. This collection is good, but the quality really depends on the MCs present on each song, as the beats tend to blend together. Celph Titled does a good job on the MOP-style "Who What When Where," and Sean Price kills it (as always) on "Gunz," where he's joined by Jus Allah and Doujah Raze. It's also interesting to hear MED joining forces with the Living Legends crew on "Black Woods." But the Snowgoons uniform style ensures a middle ground of quality for this new album.
The much better release from Babygrande this month is, without a doubt, the Wisemen's Wisemen Approaching. This group is Bronze Nazareth's baby, and that alone should give it points, judging by Nazareth's excellent debut that came out last year. The newest, and most vital, member of the Wu-Tang Clan has taken the reigns where RZA dropped them off, picking up the slack for producers like True Masta, 4th Disciple, and Mathematics. It's a surprise that Nazareth's talents behind the boards aren't being used more by rappers these days. He's joined by Kevlaar 7, Phillie, and Salute (the Kid) , and the four rhyme with a hunger like it's 1994 over Nazareth's always quality beats. The intro track, "Introducing (No Matter How)" is one of the jewels of the set, an almost-beatless slow burner that allows the MCs to set the tone, while "Associated" features stutter-step, RZA-minted snares with a guest appearance by the GZA. If you're hungry for some early-'90s-tinged gully rap, this is your ticket.
And some small faces for March… OK rappers, the last good weed-themed hip-hop album was Cypress Hill's Black Sunday. Please pay heed to this undeniable truth. And if your album's title, hell the name of your group, is bud-related, you may have a problem. Sure, Potluck hails from California's Humboldt County, famous for its sticky-icky, but that's no excuse to stick to marijuana rap. Straight Outta Humboldt (Suburban Noize) is saved only by the fact that the beats are actually not garbage, and somehow 1 Ton and Underrated managed to recruit guests like E-40 and Chali 2na to contribute to their budded new effort, but the theme is still centered too heavily on weed, and at over an hour in length, that's just too much.
The former Antipop Consortium member, High Priest, has certainly not had the post-breakup success of fellow ex-Popper Beans. Nevertheless, this abstract MC has kept his ball rolling, first with M. Sayyid as Airborne Audio, now on his own with Born Identity (Sound-Ink). As with Antipop, the beats are tweaked-out dark-wave synth creations, and the rhymes are often disjointed stream-of-consciousness that will definitely not appeal to the traditional hip-hop fan. Though the production is murky at times, Priest's debut solo effort deserves the effort (and yes, it's an effort at times) of repeated listens, as there are some worthy moments: the fast-rapping "Elevation," "Keep Time" (featuring members of TV on the Radio), and the taut "Banger Up Top."
Another Sound-Ink release this month is from New York's Team Shadetek. Pale Fire employs guests including Ruste Juxx, Baby Blak, and Jammer to mix elements of grime, dancehall, abstract electronic, and hip-hop into a blend that feels more UK than U.S. And that's OK, especially for those who are bored with the average boom-bap.
And that's all for this month. More on the way next month, and until then… 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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