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Hip-Hop Reviews - O to P (18 reviews, 03/08/15)

Please note that the reviews are ordered by Artist first name..

All reviews are opinion, a guide only. Some are short and to the point, others go into more depth. No real reason why other than when the reviews were written! For other reviews, check out the awesome sphereofhiphop.com, plus rapzilla.com and Cross Rhythms.

Please note if you see any of these reviews elsewhere, it is because I have done the reviews for others (Cross Rhythms). The reviews on these pages are my full reviews.

O Femi – ‘Amazing Grace’ | TOP

Bringing a contemporary twist on the classic song “Amazing Grace” is O Femi, from Camarthen in Wales. Both emcee and producer, O Femi showcases a smooth flow, tight beat and rolling lyrics. His writing is insightful as he expresses God’s love for all people, with God asking people to come to him just as they are – with people accepted on the basis of the love Jesus has shown. Independent UK hip-hop, well produced, laid back flow and a musical integrity and quality.

Ohmegga Watts - The Find | TOP

Some albums you just feel that you need to have. On hearing snippets of this most excellent piece of hip-hop work, I felt called to acquire it. Played it out around Christmas 2005 and the jazzy funky Pete Rock style vibe just gently waves over you bringing pure positive hip-hop quality. The album describes itself as moving from "laid-back sunshine styled tunes to turntable-bound rare groove-fueled breaks." We find all the elements in this album full of live instrumental sounds, cut up and crafted breaks, interludes, grooves and boom-bap. This is pure hip-hop at its finest, with influences all over the place (but think De La, Tribe etc). But it's more than this, with killer deliveries left and centre. Guests abound especially from within the Lightheaded crew. If only I could create something as good as this. "Where It All Started" with DJ DNA immediately kicks in with one of those rare groove beats, talking of where hip-hop all started. "That Sound" is familiar to me as I have this on vinyl. A funky piece party track roller with shout-outs featuring Lightheaded, the Procussions and Noelle of Rebirth. "You Are Now Tuned In" reminds very much of Tribe Called Quest. with Adma L and DJ Bombay in the mix. "Full Swing" feat Neogen and Deacon again mixes soulful rap with laid back jazz and bass grooves. Another dope track is "Mind Power" about a woman learning that love is worth waiting, rather than a quick fix. Outstanding. "Your Love" feat Tiffany Simpson is a rare grooved roller about God's love. "Treasure Hunt" exposes something of the Jamaican roots of Ohmegga, coming out of Flatbush, Brooklyn. "Groovin on Sunshine" feat Sugar Candy is an eclectic mix of 70s sounding jazz funk. We move on to "The Find" feat Stro the 89th Key shows the depth of the production that goes into the songs on this album. "Saturday Night Live" features Sharlok Poems and Surreal bringing together 2 MCs to work together - a funky piece that plain works. "The Treatment" features Manchild and has a definite Mars Ill vibe. Both Braille and Big Rec come through on a verse - quality - and a real range of deliveries contained in one track. "Stay Tuned" has another rare groove beat over church organ and rhodes keys. Another masterful piece of work, feat Sojourn. "Floor Rock" was created as a beat for all the bboys and bgirls out there. "Long Ago" reminds me of some early late 80s/90s hip-hop work, a great compliment - reminiscing on the old days 'when the rhymes were fresh and the beats had soul." We end with instrumentals as we start. For me, this album is the hip-hop equivalent of the drum'n'bass perfection of LTJ Bukem - fusing elements to create something very deep and beautiful. Run Time - 72.17.

Only Won – ‘The Lyrical Engineer’ | TOP

It’s always exciting to hear projects with a completely fresh angle on hip-hop. Only Won has a refreshing and unique sound with a message born out of experience, having been in the game since ’91. This is mixed with a lucid yet underground flow that mixes honesty, humour and intelligence through the album. Not always tight to the beat, but it's eccentric and engaging. “It’s Only Won” is an amusing lead-in with clever plays on his name as he keeps praising til Jesus comes. “Glory” is a big reverberating track, “I can see clearly now the pain has gone…” before grooving into a Chinese and English hook. Inventive wordplay fills a number of tracks like the excellent “Lyrical Engineer” with a host of technical names, acronyms filling the track. In the gently grooving, “When” you can hear the heart of God beating for one of his children. “Dim Sum” sees Only Won proclaiming his favourite food is Dim Sum. Yum yum! “Nations Under” challenges an America founded under God, but rejecting God and denying the rights of faith to the believer. This is true across the globe. The cry to God is that America be “under you Lord” featuring E-DOGG and One Truth. The powerful “Searchin” with Larissa Lam informs that in the deepest, darkest pain God is the answer we need, “there is a love that can overcome any pain.” The “Outro” features some tight beatboxing. This album has a depth of character not always found in hip-hop projects. Inspiring.

Othello & the Hipknotics - Classic | TOP

Will appear here soon. But if you like jazzy hip hop, especially with a live band, get this CD. The jazz backing band comes in the shape of drums, rhodes keys, bass and a sax. There are studio produced jazzy soulful tracks - alongside a couple live joints - and some other tracks produced away from the live band - with Mr J from The Procussions on the mix. A short but very dope album. Track 2 'Opposite Side' is almost like an Outkast in the intro. This is a very catchy track with a sax riff, an addictive hook and fuses lyrical agility from Othello with jazz music and even freestyle, turning a great track into a funky creative groover. 'Organic' is a more down tempo song with a more lounge jazz feel. Othello delivers fast lyrics with real soul and passion. He challenges us to make the most of what we have before 'upgrading' but urges us to experience life, true life in Christ. 'It all boils down to what you put your value in..' The next track, 'Right Here' moves back up tempo with syncopated rhythms, grooves and Othello's rap vocals - another great sung hook in which, 'If the time is right and the time is now, then right now's the time, to go ahead and do it..' Next up is the album track, 'Classic'. A well layered track, put together with a syncopated verse, then sax riff over more laid back flowing beats and no vocals.. then into a beautifully rap sung hook with sax riff over the top. 'Just make sure you know who you are..' The next 2 tracks are recorded live in a venue. 'Conquered' takes a new vibe with a more studio rather than live sound. Again, great delivery and production. 'Peace' again sees a great beat and underground sound from Mr J of The Procussions. In this Othello speaks on the hook of, 'Searching for a place that I can call my own.. moving, to a place that I can call my own..' Last up is 'Rock Rock' which is a great last grooving party track - 'Rock Rock Come On..' Run Time - 41.40.

Othello – ‘Elevator Music’ | TOP

This album can best be summarised as relaxed, jazz infused hip-hop music to soothe, enlighten and elevate the soul. If you’ve come across Othello (and his fellow members of the Lightheaded crew) before, this quality and jazz (boom bap styled) project will come as no surprise. It retains the usual fresh mix of innovative and flowing wordplay, soulful reflections, uplifting sounds and positive, finely hand-crafted lyrics. Othello, like Lightheaded have gained a crossover appeal across the US and into Japan, Europe and beyond. This is well founded and deserved, with the crew and individual emcees such as Othello dropping outstanding projects. Lyrically, Othello brings depth rarely seen within the realms of secular commercial hip-hop. More than that, there is a lyrical agility and rhymin depth and ability, that many secular rappers would do well to observe and learn from. Right from the off in “Floor One” we are introduced to an album that is intended and succeeds in elevating your senses - with guitars, trumpets, keys and samples fused together seamlessly. Subjects range from hip-hop (“Rock Rock”) to the seasons (“Seasons Greetings”) to relaxing yourself (“Relax Yourself” – reminiscent of Tribe Called Quest) and deeper challenges to the soul (“How Ya Livin”). Guest emcees such as MG! the Visionary, Braille, PageOne, Ohmega and RedCloud bring their unique vocal styles. DJ cuts, scratches and varied producers bring a homogenous, yet distinctive flava across the album. Lyrically, Othello brings a variation in lyrical styles from the breakdance inspiring “Heart”, to the double-timing tempos, innovative intonations and melodies in “Goodwill Chopping”. This track is off the hook and Red Cloud and Othello kill the track. I've played this to people who hate hip-hop and they're blown away. Sounds vary from the head-nodding “Consider It” and “Oblivious Enlight” to the chilled “Elevator Music” to the instrumental live sounds from Hipknotics. There are a couple tracks here, also on the ‘Classic’ album but with different mixes, which is pretty dope all round. Some tracks don't reach the heights of others, but we're talking tracks dropping from 10/10 to 8/10 so no complaints here! In fact, it adds to the album's variety. Time to elevate. No, really.

Panache - ‘Die To Live’ | TOP

Manchester rapper, Panache, brings a free download album sharing his journey, his passion for Christ and his mission to die to live. In “Clean” he focuses on how he lets Christ guide him, as he puts Christ first. His style is passionate UK hip-hop with a range of flows. Beats-wise the project is full of rolling mostly east coast style beats (“Monkeys Fake” ft JGivens) and almost live sounding breaks, with synth hooks. The excellent, “Never Hold Me Down” is a great example, with Panache blazing a constant almost breathless flow. The slow yet powerful testimonial “Transformed” is a musical voyage through Panache coming to faith. “Focus on Jesus” is more of an anthemic track, with a heavy guitar lick underpinning Panache’s focus on Jesus, not any human. “My weaponry is Christ and it’s him I’m repping.” The project is full of some outstanding breaks - “Bigger Picture” being a standout for its east coast, vocal mix break. Panache is clearly revelling in his freedom, his new man life in Christ (“Freedom” ft Nu Breed). At times there’s more of a dirty south beat / UK grime flow as in the declaratory and Christ-surrendering, “Die To Live”. As with the rest of the album and Panache’s passion to live for and point to Christ, we end on the powerful, “Outro” as Panache guides his listeners to Christ. With that extra production push on some tracks to allow vocals to really cut through, this would be a classic.

Paradox and DJ Sean P - 'Mending' | TOP

In a hip-hop world that’s commercially controlled with marketing, contrived beats and lyrics, it’s incredibly refreshing to get back to the roots of hip-hop with crafted beats, lyricism and an emphasis on the art itself. Boom-bap beats and scratching from DJ Sean P plus underground, astute and rounded rhymes from the excellent Paradox creates a project putting the hip back into hop and the hop back into your hips! There’s a huge number of quality guests that drop in on the project. Two of those guests, Griffin and Relic drop verses on the politically incisive “Here Lies” as we learn about the political lies, propaganda and control inherent within government, asking many pertinent questions. “Go Outside” and “He’ll Come Back” are just a couple of examples of some creative beats and scratching, but pretty much every track drops some serious scratching skills and innovative dug up and re-fashioned beats. “Blessed Broken Shared” featuring Sivion and Sintax sees each MC spit similes and metaphors that track the title track words. “I Don’t Believe Them” sees Paradox share some of his lyrical skills as he effortlessly raps and calls out people to clean up and to speak truth rather than the same old lies. “Don’t You Know” has a funky edge to it (as does the well chosen end track to some extent, “Lift”), featuring JustMe and Ruslan. “Not Worthy” is a powerful slower tempo jam as Paradox gives glory to God, speaking God’s story and truth. Each track is individual, but together the project is one. This is a testimony to the quality of “Mending”, and to the artists, beatmakers, MCs that contributed in. As if an album wasn’t enough, the project also features all the tracks as instrumentals. For fans of underground hip-hop, lovers of crafted beats and finely tuned rap, and fans of any of the artists featured. Absolute class and highly recommended.

Patrick Davis (and guests) – ‘The World Album: Every Tribe’ | TOP

The theme behind “Every Tribe” is to bring a project together that truly features artists from around the globe – each bringing their own elements, fusions and flavours. The project certainly succeeds in bringing different worldwide tunes and rhymes and the production across the project is great, with many tight and inspiring beats. One of my favourite tracks comes in “Voice Beyond Reason” featuring Mr Dialysis from Birmingham (no home bias here!) Other standouts include the epic end-times ode in “Final Hour” ft XPIGX, aided by live instrumentation (as with many tracks including “Awaken The Dawn” and the thought provoking “Little Boy” with Sestor from Nigeria, although not very African-sounding!) The eerie and percussion-focused “Inspiration” sees Alan C Duncan bringing a seriously flowing flow and lyrics. Spoken inserts come from Australia “Stolen Innocence” with James Galea- and India, “The Gigantic Figure” with Ravi Zacharias, as well as Patrick Davis with “God’s No Circle”. We draw a close with “Photoshop Girl” with a strong vocal hook and message about true beauty. Then, a spoken word from Ireland with Peter Rollins in “I Deny The Resurrection” – not a heresy, but cleverly meaning that we deny the resurrection every time we don’t live like Christ calls us to. We end with Revelation, hope, heaven and eternity in “Every Tribe”. A project that has many strengths but somehow doesn’t seem to fully be a true ‘world hip-hop album’.

Pettidee - ‘Race 2 Nowhere’ | TOP

Pettidee is back with a banging fresh project, bringing a mass of fresh energy and passion. Pettidee adds guitar and rock elements – from “On The Run” to the mellow, acoustic and Biblical “My Friend” – to the rocking and powerful end track “Fly”). This infuses distinctiveness to the album, while Pettidee brings his own powerful and energetic southern hip-hop lyricism to represent Christ. On one level, there are references to various cars, bikes and accessories (“My Trunk Bangin” among many others). But way above this, this is about living and finishing the race for Christ. “The Ghetto” is a message of hope, of Christ reaching down even into the gutter of the ghetto. As ever, there is a dirty south roll and bounce to the album Pettidee firing out lyrics on banging tracks like “Hydro” where, “When the DJ play this song, make the club wild out!” On “Dirty Duval” there is a real crunk vibe with double-timing and a delivery with hints of ragga, showcasing Pettidee’s dexterity. On more than one track, Pettidee calls out the excess and evil of much hip-hop like “Freeze” – where rap is likened to a disease, with record labels “drinking the devil’s juice”. In contrast, Pettidee “don’t fear nothing but God.” Daily life and life in the ghetto is an on-going theme (“The Grind”), while all the time recognising God is the potter, he’s the clay and God will always lead us. “Finish The Race” is an impassioned sermon and response to God.

P.O.E.T – poet prophet of eternal testament | TOP

This is an engaging album that mixes styles and schemes to bring something fresh each track. Occasionally an album just connects with you in a creative way. This is one such CD. As has become increasingly popular, POET delivers some accapella inserts through the album (such as “Thankful”), but kicking off with “The Bullet” as he ‘rolls off (his) parables and paragraphs.’ At times, we ride across the hip-hop landscape, from west to south, and across the east coast. In the west coast “Was handed the mic”, POET testifies to all, including any haters that it was God who handed him the mic. Other bouncers include the grooving west-coast inspired “7” – and the “Rock The Cross” rider, looking at people wearing a cross, and the fact that his Rock is The Cross. One of my favourite tracks is the east-coast, “Theme of the wise” where the vibe and POET’s flow reminds me of Talib Kweli, comparing the depth of Christ and his message with the superficiality pumped across the airwaves. Some compliment! There are a number of contemplative, minimalist and deep tracks like “Power”, the powerful “Saved” and “In Memory Of” looking at the effects of killing in the ghetto, over a gentle vocal hook. All in all, this is a complex and interesting album. While it has a number of styles and diverse tracks, it hangs together well and speaks well for POET’s future.

Poetic Apostles – ‘Tha Truth’ | TOP

The Poetic Apostles comprise two emcees, Tre and 2Ten and hail from San Antonio in Texas. The project is a laid back, dirty south styled album with both Tre and 2Ten laying down some rolling vocals. Beats-wise, this is a mostly full of sub-bass kicks and loops. Many tracks have a fairly mellow vibe, but not all. “Hard” shows real grit, as does the determined “Ready Fo War” which they wage in the strength of Jesus. The exception beats-wise is “Check Yo Reality” which ditches a full beat for hi-hats and clicks over a background loop. “The South” has a more in yer face break as they “give God all the praise”, as does “Tha Lord’s Time”. A more jump-up track comes with “Win” over synthy stabs – as the Poetic Apostles determine to overcome and win. “All About You” has a slightly anthemic feel to it as the album goes out on a high note. A solid project and one where production doesn’t dominate, allowing the Poetic Apostles to come through.

The Praying Mantis – ‘The Rusty Halo Effect’ | TOP

Ever get used to the sounds of much-hyped and often over-produced hip-hop? Long to find something underground with street poetry set to sick beats. Welcome ‘The Praying Mantis’, a Midlands based artist with an album of uncompromising lyrics and political astuteness, without a hint of the usual industry promotional embellishment. In “Pipelines” we discover that life and religious pursuit is worthless without accepting Jesus, over a nice nodding break. “News” is another great summary as a sample from JFK is followed by this rhyming excellence, “The world is corrupt and their system is flawed, a handful of men invented religion and wars, and forgot about the wisdom of the risen Lord..” as the Praying Mantis goes on to expose the devil and the lies of this world. Lyrically, there is a depth of wordplay often not displayed on other albums (“Armour”, “Hear My Prayer”) but combined with accessible hooks. Combined with a range of beats and delivery styles, this album is encouraging for those looking for insightful UK hip-hop as the tracks open our eyes to reality and to Jesus – the powerful and sublime “Broken Pottery” being a great example. Get beyond the slightly under-produced beats and you’ll find an album full of passion, perception, purpose and lyrical excellence. Powerful ending too. This is a cracking project that showcases much of UK hip-hop at its best.

Presah – ‘No More’ (Feat Tunday) | TOP

Robert ‘Presha J’ Awuku Junior ft Tunday lets it rip “bringing gospel” through a jump-up grime track. We journey through Presha’s testimony as he lets rip with a smooth, impassioned street-edged flow. Well produced, clear and quality UK grime. Get looking out for future releases.

PRo – ‘Dying To Live’ | TOP

One of the unique things about Christianity is that Christians are called to die to self and to ‘die to live’. This is a counter-cultural message in our world and PRo brings a bang on project from the title track (and on) to enable listeners to journey with him and to bring the truth. This carries through the album to later commercial tracks like “No Limts” ft Rio. Social issues and struggles feature, as in tracks like “So Far Gone” ft Niy, where struggles around internet porn are explored carefully. “Beautiful” reflects its name as PRo brings God’s truth to women (and others) struggling with themselves, letting them know they are beautiful. There are a few slower tracks such as the powerful, “Drink From His Cup” with PRo’s gritty southern flow perfectly flowing over the soaring soulful vocals of Suzy Rock. Some hear lies like Pinocchio but “life is only found in Geppetto, Creator, God.” There is killer production through the album as we jump up into an extraordinary life in the southern booster “Mission To Mars” through the heavy metal themed stormer with furious lyricism in “Full Court Mess” (equaled by the unashamed “Going In” ft Lecrae and Tedashii) and to the clicking basslines of “Get It”. We end out with awesome anthemic shouts for God in “No One Greater” ft Json and Trip Lee, and ”Never Back Down”.

Procussions - As Iron Sharpens Iron | TOP

This is a real true hip-hop album from this very creative, underground crew reaching out to the mainstream. We have jazzy interludes, underground deliveries, tuneful tracks, shouts out, moments of fun and scratching. This brings the underground to the upperground and it does so musically, with life and creativity, as evidenced from the off with “Introduction” with varied deliveries over old skool church organ and breaks. “Wegotta” and “Move Yer Self” both remind me of Tribe Called Quest - 2 very dope tracks! “How Do I Describe” is another lively jazzy track with smooth flows over old skool beat, a real skill of the Pros. One of my favourite tracks without doubt is jazz-filled, trumpet-edged, “All That It Takes” which also features on DJ Maj's Mixtape 2. The story of Job, told in “Just Over Broke” is truly outstanding. The album eases to an end with “Water's Edge” the final track on the album. “Make It Happen” calls for a revolution of mind, body and soul, following God. 'As Iron Sharpens Iron' is the perfect title for this album from this inventive hip-hop crew mixing old skool and new. Another great buy, letting the rest of us know how to do hip-hop. Run Time - 63.54mins.

Propaganda – ‘Excellent’ | TOP

Propaganda’s latest album is a combination of rap, street poetry, philosophy, thoughts and unique historical and personal perspectives. Running at 12 tracks, the project almost feels slightly short or incomplete, especially considering the sheer quality throughout. I’d describe this project as introspective, reflective and poetic with some production by the trio that is Beautiful Eulogy (Braille, Courtland Urbano and Odd Thomas) that is as sweet as anything I’ve heard. At times you’ll be challenged by the views and insights of Propaganda (“Precious Puritans” looking at the Puritans that settled America and their ignorance towards the plight of slaves). Other times, you will be blown away by the sheer brilliance of a track, its production and lyrical eloquence. The lead track sits into this mix, as the lyricism, breaks and instrumentals fit together jigsaw-tight as Propaganda loads us with insight and knowledge and points to the Creator. What else lives in this state of excellence? Well there’s the awesome “Redefine Cutter” which does have a hint of the Eagle Eye Cherry, “Together” about it. You’ll listen to the poetic paradoxes in tracks like “Be Present” live from Atlanta. You’ll marvel at the eccentricity (“Excellent Anaology” ft Alphonso McAuley). You’ll wonder if this is a hip-hop project, a discourse or street poetry. Of course, it’s all of the above. Guests like Sho Baraka don’t overload but simply enhance the project (“I Ain’t Got An Answer”). The only pity is that it’s so short.

Propaganda - Out Of Knowhere | TOP

Got bought this for my birthday from the young people I work with (props to you guys). Propaganda comes from the Tunnel Rat stables in LA so you know it's gonna be tight and underground but with commercial appeal. Track 2 "Keep It Live' sets the standard with some dope rhymes and varied flows. 'We Are' with Sharlok Poems of LA Symphony and 'Keep On Singin' with Dax of LPG are 2 of my favourite tracks, both with rhodes and jazzy riffs. I love the funk! 'My Life My Music' with the excellent Macho of New Breed is a Hispanic flowing joint. 'Ya Never Know' with Raphi is about women troubles, stuff many of us guys can relate to in varied ways! 'Don't Let Us Lose It' drops steady beats and delivery under a piano riff - rapping about his own style. This album is varied in production, style and rhymes ending with the clever 'It's Just Life'. Run Time - 47.57.

Proxy - Magnificent | TOP

From the great city of Denver in the spectacular state of Colorado comes Proxy with an album of sounds and occasional jazzy licks that is often as inspiring as the nearby Rocky Mountains.  Proxy describes his 16 track album as life stories, communicating by proxy to the listener from the stories and experiences of his life and others. The album does traverse various terrain musically (from west to east to mid-west) as Proxy demonstrates his skills – like his delivery on “The Day” as he lives life, back from the grave as a “lifeaholic”.  With jazzy bass lines fused through a number of tracks (“For The Streets” with its laid back street swing as Proxy confronts the deceptively hypnotic attraction of the streets, to the more west coast but equally jazzy “Kingdom”). Guests abound through the project including well known names like Jurny Big (“I Am That”, God meaning for us to be all that we are); the southern pulsating minimalist party boomer “Crash Landing” with Mr Del and Shonlock; to the final upwards thrust in “Rise” with the unique rap talents of Braille, Propaganda over killer production. A standout tasty old skool styled, gospel roller comes in the testimonial “The Promise”.  Another standout is the God’s grace-filled-message in “Life Changed Me” in which Proxy testifies to how life and grace changed him. The equally gliding “Real Love” is a smooth latte on love. A quality and solid project!

 

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