Hip-Hop Reviews – S (44 reviews, February 2019)
Please note that the reviews are ordered by Artist first name..
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.
Sareem Poems and Terem – ‘A Pond Apart’
Sareem Poems, once of LA Symphony but now with five solo projects under his belt, continues with his effervescent mix of poems and beats and who’s been involved in various creative projects in the Detroit area. For this album, he’s teamed up with French hip-hop producer, Terem who took on the music and live instrumentation side of the album while Sareem Poems took on the writing and subject matter. The hopes of the artists for the album was to rekindle the feeling when they first heard hip-hop collectives like De La Soul and Tribe Called Quest. The album really does have that kind of feel, maybe best represented in the instrumental “Emotional Flood” but heard throughout (listen also to “Rhythm” with Ozay Moore). “Tic Toc” with an almost part spacey synths, part jazz sees Sareem look at the clock, telling us to move on and seize the day. “After The Factory” takes a challenging look at Detroit and its semi-abandonment after the closure of the factories, seeing tens of thousands leave the city. Sareem then challenges Christians to be there for their fellow man and offers hope for Detroit. For every Christian, wherever they are the message is ‘take action’. From beginning to end, Sareem Poems shows the skills of a master wordsmith, crafting poems and weaving wordplay together to reflect life, his personal life and the life of faith.
Sareem Poems and Ess Be – ‘Beautiful Noise’
Over mostly synth-laden strings, spacey epic sounds (“We”), Sareem Poems, now working with Sphere of Hip Hop’s Illect Recordings, brings his own unique mic style back to an album. The founding member of LA Symphony originally out of Long Beach, California teamed up with Lansing, Michigan based producer, Ess Be. At times it feels like the instrumental dominates the vocal rather than the vocal riding the beat except on the hooks but this is more of a mastering issue than anything to do with Sareem Poems. “Push It Along” has more of a jazzy, east coast feel (at moments reminiscent of Tribe Called Quest) and sees Sareem on great form as he testifies and encourages us to push along with God. “I find peace in prayer. Music is silence that overpowers any problems I ever joust with.” With remixes and instrumentals dominating the release, this is an eight-track EP that is solid, soulful and deep without ever truly being spectacular. But that is also the beauty of this project.
Saving Strike – ‘Get Up’
Saving Strike are a 4 piece rap rock band fused together with various musical influences. The raw and passionate message mixes a rap fuelled desire to keep the fires burning through the struggles of faith, with a hard rock rapcore sound. “Get up, get up, keep trying!” is the shout. Musically the band bring a tight, heavy and musically dynamic sound with a raucous and almost punky edge, with nice changes in guitaring and drumming. More rock than rap, this adrenaline fuelled 3 mins 20 seconds seriously rocks with a tight flow on the rap too. Nice.
Scooda – ‘Romans 12.2. (Out The Box)’
Octavia Thomas aka Scooda has released a number of hit singles, having initially started his rap career as part of a group. He comes out of Saint Louis, Missouri and has been rapping since age twelve, as well as being a gospel radio host. Scooda’s style is quite gritty though clear, with a passion for the gospel and encouraging, spurring people on with God. In “Definition Of Understand” he’s clear that “I’m not the person that I used to be. Now I’m a person that he can use to be a vessel for the lost to see.” There’s a great encouragement on Track 4 to keep going despite all the tough things in life. Scooda brings a clever play on words in “Soap Bars” letting us know that his rhymes are clean, washed by Jesus – as well as dropping some serious double-timing. We end with the uplifting slow-bouncer, “Check Me Out”, as Scooda brings integrity in rhyme and person.
Scratch – The DVD
Want to know about hip hop and turntablism? This is essential. It’s so good people recommend watching even if you ain’t a hip hop head! It’s a kind of lesson in how to document a culture. It features everyone in the scene from the old skool to the modern day headz. I love this DVD. I’d say to know where you are you need to know where you’ve come from. If you’re a head then check it.
Scribbling Idiots – ‘Invitation Only: Mixtape by DJ Aslan’
The Scribbling Idiots are back with another boom bap-tastic offering, mixed by the talents of DJ Aslan, with 16 tracks mixed into two sections – a Side A and a Side B. Proper old skool, vinyl or cassette tape style, as you’d expect from this collective in excellence. This is underground ‘backpacker’ boom-bap hip-hop at its most meticulous. If you don’t know about Scribbling Idiots, where have you been…?! Along with other guests, the core of Scribbling include JustMe, CasMetah, Theory Hazit, Wonder Brown – with Elias, Jaq, MattmaN, Motion Plus, Mouth Warren, muszeONE, Re:Flex the Architect and Ruffian making up the legendary collective. The mixtape itself features even more top MCs, like a list of mainly underground hip-hop ‘who’s-who’ – Playdough, Jurny Big, Manchild, Red Cloud, Sintax the Terrific, Sev Statik, CookBook, Knowdaverbs, Sojourn, even KJ-52 and many more. This project is cut, scratched and mixed up with true hip-hop freshness by DJ Aslan, Production across the project is creative and shows the evidence of digging and plain dopeness. This project is like a lesson in boom-bap, mixtapes, lyrical dextrousness and hip-hop. Thankfully you won’t get hollow rap or a commercial cash crop from Scribbling Idiots if that’s your thing. But if you’d rather head underground than overground in your hip-hop mission, this is the place to park up.
Scribbling Idiots – Just Me & Cas Metah
Scribbling Idiots consists 6 emcess and 2 producers, including the UK’s, Re:Flex the Architect who brings the heat on production (track 3, ‘For Christ’s Sake’ among others). Guests include Sintaxtheterrific, CunninLynguists and Pigeon John. Like much indie hip hop, there are hidden and conceptual depths to the album that deserve a deep listen. Variation in production is standout on this album, from head-nodders to soulful jazziness to cut up and compressed breaks. We journey through melodies, loops, cut up samples and breaks, rhodes chords, soulful sung hooks, underground tracks and insightful & well delivered lyrics. Content varies from a plea to buy their CD (‘Buy My CD’), a tongue in cheek track with a serious message, to ‘As You Are’, which flows about their deepening relationship with Christ. DJ DNA scratches it up on ‘Pen A Trait’, an element of hip hop too often overlooked on albums. Standout tracks for me included the excellent ‘ Finalized’ with Tara Kennedy on vocals and a beautifully haunting piano riff – a smooth picturesque tale of staying focused and taking responsibility against sin. ‘Image Of Me’ drops head-nodding breaks over a lovely jazzy riffs, alongside great lyricism as Just Me & Cas Metah jot down their thoughts to the listener (with Mouf Warren). Really grew on me this album. Looking forward to more from the Scribbling Idiots fam as they continue to step up the game. Don’t sleep on these guys and check out the other releases too such as Elias – www.scribblingidiots.com. Summary – real, underground hip hop with soul from Scribbling Idiots. Run Time – 49.32.
Sean Slaughter – ‘Back Home’
Sean Slaughter is on his fifth project and has produced an album that musically and lyrically has a sense of completion about it. There’s a fearlessness about the album, evidenced from the passion and the fire of the banging “Blast Off” right through to the end of the CD. Sean spits that “The beat is the capital, the hook is the President and the flow is the mayor.” In this lead track, we’re looking for “A land where sin is not winning and good trumps evil like Spidey over venom.” This same vocal energy vocally is evident Biblically – as Scripture and spiritual zeal pervades the project (“Get At U” and the brilliant head-nodding “Log In’ with God on call through prayer 24/7). In “Who We Are”, we find that “the Spirit is my artist, the Bible’s the instrumental.” Standouts include the radio-friendly and crunk’n’b styled “Go!” which encourages us, like Sean to get off our backsides and go! (See “Survivor” with Canton Jones too). There’s a loud cry for the merits and reach of Christian artists in “Got Em Again” – “If you’ve slept on Christian rap, then this is your alarm clock.” The worldliness of rap and its bad influence is confronted in “Handz India Air” with Sean Slaughter infiltrating the industry for God in “I’m Gone”. In “Lemme Go”, there’s a grooving vibe. The powerful down-tempo, “Itsa Reynolds” sees Sean express the struggles of the Christian life and his desire to make more of a difference. Outstanding.
Sean Slaughter – Die Another Day
Sean Slaughter is the son of Alvin Slaughter. In a recent interview, he confessed his desire to see both platinum sales and a platinum number of souls saved. The influences on this album are highly contemporary and commercial, as is much of the subject matter. Sean Slaughter openly admits he wanted the album to be the kind that would appeal to the MTV audience. This is apparent right from the opening track “Die Daily” which sets the tone for this excellent album with fast and precise delivery over an epic east coast track. Across the album we find Sean Slaughter mixing up a gritty style yet with a really smooth delivery. There are a couple beats that could’ve been changed up a little (although this is personal taste, I completely see where the album is coming from) – but musically and sample-wise, the album is diverse, with well-conceived production. In “Love Jones” we get more downtempo with gentle backing vocals, as Sean Slaughter often talks about his daughter. “Pop Off” is a good party tune where we get a little more crunk. “Don’t Cry” beautifully recounts the story of Job, showing a real story-telling gift. In “Beautiful” Sean delivers an encouragement to women’s inner beauty with great insight over vocal hook – “You are beautiful..” We end with “Undefeated” a determination to walk undefeated as a soldier of Christ. Outstanding music, delivery and album.
Selah The Corner – “Hoodie Season 2”
Nathaniel Martinez (aka, “Selah” or “The Corner”) is a gospel music revolutionary whose total focus is to spread the message of Jesus Christ to the ears of the masses via the poetic art form known as hip hop. Taking inspiration from 1 Peter 2:9, Selah is an artist whose passion is to speak Christ’s truth over verses without compromise. In “Better Than This”, Selah sets out his message for the album, calling us to higher standards with God being worthy of better than we often give him. Some of the more fluffy elements of Christianity are called out in tracks like “Prophecy.” There’s a clever construct put together in “Quarter Quell” where the Christian life is likened to the Hunger Games. Style wise, Selah is effortlessly able to move between more East Coast flows “The Purge” through to southern tracks like “Ride the Slowest”. Throughout, Selah references the state of the nation, the church and faith but is never afraid to take social injustice, street problems and other issues. In “RIPNY”, with Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” song being used ironically, the selfish New York dream of money and fame at any cost is called out. Instead Selah flips the song with verses expressing his desire to see evil driven out and not promoted.
Shachah – Let The Light In
Shachah are back with their second CD release. Having reviewed the previous release and identified them as being musically gifted, diverse and funky, this project carries on this flavour but builds well beyond it. Shachah are are 4 piece hip-rock outfit, breaking down to Brenden, Josh, Earl and Stephen, between them covering rap, vocals, guitar, bass and drums. It is unfair to liken Shachah to any other band (though comparisons with bands like TobyMac, Linkin Park, and 4th Avenue Jones may be inevitable). However, Shachah have their own live, instrumental and edgy sound that stands them out as unique and very gifted artists. “Turn, a big and assertive number, sets us off as the project continues – representing God, encouraging us to “return to the living God”. The hip-rock flavour continues with the loud and rocky declarations in, “None Forsaken”, the excellent “Stand Therefore” and “Deliver Us” – a cry to God to deliver us from evil, “break into the system” and a desire for God to separate a people unashamed for him. “The Harvest” brings a heavier rap rock vibe asking God to bring the harvest and get that God fire started. Other tracks like “Lord Speak” and “Watching, Waiting” bring a lighter, funk and soulful vibe, while “Revive Me” sees a more fun reggae style to mix up the album. If you like your rap rock or want a rock-fuelled rap project, this is essential.
Shachah – On The Move
Shachah are a 4 piece hip-hop band, mixing emcee-ing, keys, guitar, bass, synths and drums / loops. The result is a funky and old skool feel hip-hop with a fresh and live instrumental edge. Add in some soulful hooks and you’re getting the feel. While Shachah inhabit their own unique dimension in hip-hop, there are similarities in sound with other live hip-hop pioneers (such as 4th Ave, check “Won’t Stop” and “Hero”). But Shachah cannot be pigeon-holed as they do their own thing. As Shachah press forward with the message of the cross, we are encouraged to “watch out” in an upbeat and funky fresh title track, “On The Move” with Brendan “Proclaim” McPeek showing his verbal agilities with a smooth flow. Through the album, this is a common thread as Proclaim demonstrates thoroughly Biblical and fluid lyricism, such as “Are You Ready” among others. As Shachah rightly claim, their songs cover a broad range of styles that allow them to minister to various cultures. Heavy guitaring laces different tracks such as “Stand Up” while others present a more acoustic edge. “Choose Life” is part of the album’s more eclectic feel, with a soul / r&b vocal feel. “Found My Place” brings a nice drum riff, something people feel is lacking in contemporary bands. Nice double-timing from Benito P. “Go Forth” and “Lion of Judah” add in a reggae feel, while “Overcome” keeps the old skool vibe. Musical, diverse, funky quality.
Shai Linne – The Solus Christus Project
Having bought the Grassroots sampler joint, I committed to get me hold of Shai Linne’s album. When it arrived this week (taking about 10 days from ordering from Philly, US) I unpacked the seal and dropped me some fresh hip hop. This is a full-length and awesome album, packed full of true hip hop, music and words that are truly Christ-centric. This album is about Christ and you are left in no doubt about the impact God has had on the Lampmode Crew in Philly. Coming from the same hood as Cross Movement, we see Silas drop guest vocals on the album too, though this project is different to a CM recording and varies it up more, having a more authentic hip hop feel. There are other guest appearances (Stephen the Levite, Phanatik, Cruz Cordero) but mostly the album is handled and delivered in exemplary fashion by the Lampmode crew – Shai Linne, DJ essence and Timothy Brindle. The mastering and the production is extremely tight with a higher level and superior quality to the Timothy Brindle album dropped 2 years previously, with production from a variety of producers such as Vessels of Mercy, Official, Jas Knight and of course, DJ essence. Progression indeed as we’d expect from this very dope team. Musically, we have some very catchy samples and riffs across the album, with the cuts from DJ essence dropped to perfection, nicely sitting alongside the music. The tunes vary between and mix live instrumentation and drums with programmed sequences too. Lyrically, we have a wide range of story-telling, lyrics from the heart, a range of topics. . Varied rhyme schemes and delivery techniques (demonstrated on ‘Lift Him Up’ among others) – bring a variation to this album, again, not as prevalent on the Timothy Brindle. But it’s all about growing and developing, honing the hip hop art. So, what about the tracks on the album? ‘Christ crucified’ and ‘Solus Christus’ both rep Christ to the max. There’s a challenge to preach Christ even in the churches in ‘Random Thoughts’. In ‘Heart’ we have nice vocals from Gina Campbell and a dope roller of a track. T here’s the insightful and highly clever ‘World Wide Web’ In ‘Dark night of the soul’ Shai Linne drops an awesome song of lament (often overlooked in so-called contemprary worship) from Psalm 31.9-10. ‘My portion’ is a rap of praise and worship to God, ‘who have I in heaven but you?’ In ‘Justified’ we have a look at Paul’s explanation of the doctrine of justification. ‘Memoirs’ is a clever concept. Finally the outro, Shai reflects, gently preaches and gives shouts out over mellow keys and beat. A Christ honouring, excellent project that deserves a 9/10 rating, if I rated albums in such a way. Inlay also includes lyrics. Run time – 71.30.
Sho Baraka – ‘Lions and Liars’
Sho Baraka with his sophomore release brings more heat than a California Summer in a challenge to be fearless for God – like lions. “Lion’s Anthem” is a fist-pumping shout to all the saints working out in the world (the ‘jungle’) representing Christ. Sho is assertive, passionate and raucous for the fame of God and in stirring us up, spiritually and musically no matter who or where we are – “With every act, make Him known” (“Famous”). There are some radio-friendly tracks like the rock-hook based and fearless “Shut Us Down” – “there’s nothing they can do to stop what the Lord is doing.” Love, ladies and marriage are smoothly addressed in “We Can Be More” – where (like the whole album) Scriptural strength cleverly interplays with contemporary references. The world is in pain and in need of hope and grace. Sho points the world to Christ in the catchy “Mercy On Me”. Worth a mention is “I’m Black” into the military rolling drum based “It’s My Life” in which Sho relives his struggles with life and meeting Christ – “perfection wrapped in flesh”. Pain is explored in the powerful, “Half Of Me”. Musically creative tracks and lyricism characterise this project throughout (“Me, Myself and I”, “Revolutionary Died, ‘The Rising”). In “Liar’s Anthem” Sho explains how the world does evil and tries to play God. The smoother than silk “4ever is 2morrow” points us the one who is the path, bringing God and man together. 4 bonus tracks complete this more than complete project.
Sho Baraka – ‘Turn My Life Up’
The thoughtful and creative Sho Baraka has synthesised a challenging and quality project, where hip-hop meets thinking meets the Bible meets the street. Sho Baraka was brought up in South California where he met hip-hop at a young edge and found redemption in education and Jesus from the streets at college. The life of faith is given musical expression on different levels through the album – from the album info (‘”We are the boombox of heaven”) – through to the lyrics. In the rolling and challenging “Music of Life” Sho encourages us that “we live by different beat” – loving God and loving our brother. “Overrated” is a brilliant, powerful insight and check on US priorities and how things have been messed up, “the youngest can quote 50 Cent but can’t count to 50 cents” with Sho demonstrating lyrical creativity. In “Great Day II Die”, Baraka verbalises the need to die daily and die to self – with a ragga styled hook bringing some variation. An uplifting and creative track is “Slow It Down” which needs to be heard to be appreciated, as with the “Oh My Lord” – which both demonstrate why hip-hop is an essential music and voice in society. Inspiring project with top-quality lyricism, beats, production and creativity. I didn’t know much about Sho Baraka before this release, but he’s definitely someone to look out for with a flow, passion and vibe that I love.
Shopé – ‘Shope’
Shopé’s heart is to speak uncompromising truth in the language of the culture. Quoting Lecrae, Shopeé is clear that, “I’m not here to impress. I’m here to impact.” His five track EP is an impressive and sharp piece of work. The standout “Cinema” is both an epic piece of work, moving from a rolling testimony and morphing into a feisty southern track. Fresh from a UK tour, Shopé shows his flexibility, moving from the southern “Confetii” to the beautifully laid back “Don’t Let Me Stop” in which he brings truth from his own life and God’s help. This short EP is a taster of the skills of Shopé – from southern verses to reflective east coast numbers through to uplifting vocals. In the middle of it all is a heart for God, for people, for hip-hop and the talents to go with it.
Sicily – ‘Fighter EP’
Sicily is a rapper from Brooklyn, New York City who was part of the (then) record-holding team for the longest freestyle session recorded in 2014 – along with KJ-52 and other rappers who recorded at Tampa’s hip-hop church, Crossover Church. While Sicily pulls no punches in her delivery and message, this is not aggression but her passion for God and people. The inspiration for Sicily’s EP was the first eighteen verses of the book of James, standing strong and “remaining faithful” with God right there in the mix through hard times. Standout track “Fighter” featuring the vocals of V.Rose showing that with God we can still be standing at the end of the last round. Through the project we repeatedly learn about God that “he is enough.” One of the standout tracks is “More” where Sicily and KJ-52 bounce off each other with supreme ease as she aims to show people more (in God) while relating to their struggles – “see I was there before. I think I’ve seen it all. No longer caught in a net like a basketball.”
Sintax The Terrific – Simple Moves
This kicks in with samples & shouts of ‘Move Somethin’ reminiscent of Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek’s ‘Reflection Eternal’. If you’re down with the underground delivery and beautifully created breaks from Mars Ill & Deepspace 5 you’ll love Sintax. It interweaves diverse dope beats and well crafted samples. Crystal clear delivery over both profound and intricate lyrics – with varied rap styles and subjects. This is for the true headz and those wanting to learn. Deep, funny at times, thought provoking, non commercial, plain dope – something new each time you listen for real. Favourite tracks – Track 2, Blowing Smoke, Track 4, The Way We Walk, Track 6, Understudy – Track 21, When I Don’t Show. Check the last track too which even drops an Abba thing. Disturbing but it sums up the fun and energy of this release! This album from Illect is one of the most original and outstanding recordings you’ll hear. Some people have already described this as a ‘must-have’ release like the dope Mars Ill ‘Raw Material’ album. This is set for re-release with some beefed up beats too. If all releases rival this then I’m’a buy all the Illect recordings, believe! This has now been re-issued having been re-mastered with even better beats. (Sept 04). Run Time – 70.52.
Sivion – ‘Mood Enhancement’
Moode Enhancement is a deep, profound, highly creative & thought-provoking hip-hop for the underground heads. It’s quite unlike the more jazzy and lighter ‘Song Of The Songbird’, in favour of a more abstract delivery and rhythmic production style. Throughout the album, expect the unexpected in the beats and basslines, as they roll lazily behind the bar to a very syncopated and unusual timings. This is quite noticeable, as are the rhythmic harmonies and deconstructed sounds. It sounds quite arty and in a wy, it really is. But that is one of the album’s strengths, along with the insight and delivery of the ever excellent Sivion and guests. From the first syncopated track (“Out of the Blue”), with its drifting bass – to the rhythmic displacements in “The Name Game” and “Let Me” (show you what the living God can do), you realise that Sivion is going to be doing something profound and authentic with his album – not sipping on moonshine ‘but sipping on new wine’. Throughout the album, Sivion points to the living God as being the truth and provides insight and wise lyricism to both reveal some of the darkness in the world and give glory to God as the only answer –‘Jehovah is fact, not fiction. If you don’t know, that’s what’s messin up your diction’ (“In The Know”). We move from struggles that we have (“Down But Never Out” with the rest of the outstanding Deepspace 5 crew guesting), to a call to open up the floodgates of love – ‘It amazes me how you can do something you love, but love never comes into play’ (“Flood Gates). By the time we reach “Fly So High” with its mildly discordant minor-key melodies and sung-rap interlude, we are moving into more chilled out, jazz-infused music. “Side Rhodes” with its radio-styled vocals, the standout “Father Time” and the more downtempo “SHANNON” all bring jazzy vibes, harmonies and sung hooks. As we move towards the end of the album, we find that Christ is still central, over the glamour of life and as the architect of our lives in God. Run Time – 71.04.
Sivion – Spring of the Songbird
One of the best albums of the year, no doubt. This Deepspace 5 crew member delivers a definite top 10 album, for me. A light and tight spring-fresh jazzy beat and flow kicks off the album, enlightening the listener to what this life is really ll about. The track clues you in to the kind of quality production and delivery yet to spring forth from this incredible album. ‘All MY People’ is another nice joint, distinct with an almost reversed instrumental sound on the verses and an electronic riff over the chorus. A track about rolling with the beat, with hip-hop, putting God first. Some nice rhyhme schemes.. One of my favourite lines is ‘life is too short to be a critic’. Another encouraging, spring-y, type track with a rolling bassline and flute-laden is ‘The Fall’, you have to get back up when you fall. ‘Listen To This’ brings yet another fresh beat, this time from the Netherlands. A story about Sivion, about what he was born to do, street prophet on the block. Sivion rolls about the delight and passion he gets and brings as an emcee, sowing seeds with the lines he laces. In ‘Going Through It’ we have a change in the album. The beat gets more downtempo as Braille brings yet more hotness on the mic about going through hard times and long days. Track 6 brings another Spring, almost summery feel.. Beautiful beat and sentiment, calling out hip-hop with its excesses and failings. Sivion’s rhyme scheme sees every single line in a verse end with the same rhyming sound. No mean feat. Next up ‘Today IS the Day’ – a smooth and magical roller, with some nice chords and break. This is about living, about Christ, about God orchestrating your path. A dope sax lick underpins ‘Let Go’ featuring Othello, who drops some smooth rapid-fire lines. A jazzy offering from these two funky soulful hip-hop-heads. ‘Who Am I’ reminds me a little of a Ill Harmonics type bit for some reason.. Oh yes, it’s because Playdough guests (LOL) – and Freddie Bruno. ‘Melted Chocolate’ features the man Sivion, flexing his musical muscles in a saxophonist direction. ‘Walk With Me’ is one of my favourite joints off, mixing a number of elements including smooth vocal hooks, rap, sax, keys and guitar licks. Sivion dedicates the track to his wife and to marriage. A moving track no doubt. A hint at this point – listen to the album through, don’t skip tracks, you may miss something.. Oops! ‘Live It Up’ features a fresh verse from Theory Hazit and a more lively break. ‘Caterpillar Dream’ features an almost eerie backing synth sound and minimal break / bassline. Sivion likens life to a caterpillar, dreaming of the day of getting the wings and flying higher. ‘Songbird Saturday’ is one of the freshest tracks there is out there. A jazzy, rhodes-styled, spring, summer piece of completeness.. Sivion brings a hint of his family life at weekends in all its life, with Andreon and Ashtyn (his kids) also featuring. Absolutely stunning track. ‘So Perfect’ is a song about how hip-hop thinks it’s so perfect, but it isn’t. Listen closely to the 7-bar loop on this one, yep 7 bars. Not 4, not 8, not 16, but 7. We end with a typically grimey, sampled, sick beat from the genius that is Dert, ‘Hip Hop IS Music’. Phew! Run Time – 61.23.
DJ Skillspinz – S The Foundation
DJ Skillspinz has a rich inheritance of turntable skills and beat making. Dj Skillspinz has been the tour DJ for groups such as Grits, The Ambassador and others. Influenced by DJs like the pioneering Jazzy Jeff and Jam Master Jay, Dj Skillspinz has been rocking the turntables since he was 8. He’s also spun the turntables for acts like L.P.G, The Tunnel Rats, Sup the Chemist, and Knowdaverbs and has over 18 album features. This album is part of his progressive approach to hip-hop, showcasing both his scratching and beatmaking skills. Skillspinz fires off some serious skills starting with the lead track, “Follow Me” cutting up the ‘fresh’ sample, a classic in the world of scratch DJ-ing. Skillspinz expertly scratches an assortment of scratches, dropping baby scratch, drags, tears, transforms, flares.. You name it, it’s probably in there.. Then Skillspinz moves into the transformer to give an old skool feel, before dropping basslines onto the break, before ending up doing a ‘tornado’ scratch (moving the hand on the vinyl back and forward furiously). Standouts include “Beat Boy Battle” with some sub 303 kicks and simple lyrics for the bboys and girls, “Crazy Scratching” and my personal favourite, the outstanding cuts and scratches on “Scratch of Fury 2”. Dirty south prevails across the album (although not exclusively, see “Get Up”), with guests such as Pettidee dropping simple and clear rhymes. Run Time – 43.44.
S.O. – ‘These Things Take Time’
With an album cover of S.O covered in clay and an album title to reflect a process, S.O is back with a 6 track EP that he describes as something for the fans while he’s in between projects. As before, the now State-side S.O. manages to combine smooth rap with smooth vocals. From the more grooving southern “New Wave” through to the more laid back vibes of “I See You” and the esoteric breaks on “The Fall”, the EP showcases a variation of styles. “You Already Know” with the soulful vocals of Christon Gray is quite an experimental more vocal-laced track with even more smoothness. This EP may just be an appetizer but it’s one worth eating…
Social Club – ‘Misfits 2’
Name: Social Club. Rappers: FERN and Marty Mar. Location: Miami. About: “We make music you’re not embarrassed to show your friends.” Sounds just right. The album (which has 5 out of 5 on iTunes from 302 ratings!) kicks off with an inspiring God-talk from guest Chris Durso called “Misfits” where he reminds us of our calling to be representatives of Jesus, a commitment to God, a life choice that others don’t want. The album itself is more like a work of hip hop art. If it were a painting it would be something avant-garde and likely surrealist. It is by definition, indefinable. Rapping skills are outstanding. Production is vast and varied with mainly a focus on electronic sounds, basslines and creativity. With a southern and testimonial starter ft Andy Mineo is “Coogi Sweater” (Coogi is a semi-hip, colourful but expensive brand). Then we break into a sung and rapped fun strummed ode to a girl, highlighting the paradox of social media ‘friends’… “Well isn’t it awkward that we’re close on the internet but in real life we’re so far.” Immediately we’re transported into “Cops” which is a dubstep rap track. Then we keep the bassy feel flowing as FERN and Marty Mar consistently drop some furious and impeccable flows. We slow down with “Burn The Bridge” (walking the other way from a relationship and more)… “so I can’t look back on a life that took me away from a life in the first place.” Misfits.
Social Club Misfits – ‘The Misadventures Of Fern & Marty’
Within Christian hip-hop there is some judgmentalism among both artists and reviewers regarding ‘Christian’ content of albums. I believe artists should be free to express who they are in Christ without others commenting on the validity of their faith. Each artist has to follow God’s path, something that Social Club Misfits make clear in the opening track, “God’s timing is perfect… We operate to the beat of God’s drum… We are the Messiah’s soldiers.” Can’t get much clearer than that. The rappers, re-named as “Social Club Misfits” from “Social Club” in 2016. The rest of the album is an exercise in creativity, lyrical excellence and musical diversity and a project that connects with the wide spectrum of hip-hop. There are some smoothies about love and relationships (“Different People” and “Love 4 Real”), countered by jump up and fun tracks like “Pop Out Revenge and the at times amusing “Who Else”, “You look like a Men in Black alien trying to blend in on earth. Stop talking.” In between there is the creative (“One With The New Yorkers”) to the challenging (“Maybe”) to the “Misfit Anthem” sampling the Hillsong version of “Amazing Grace.” Amazing grace. A good phrase to describe the heart and the content of this project.
S.O.C.O.M – ‘About Face’
S.O.C.O.M, out of Lacey, Washington brings a powerful banger of an album. S.O.C.O.M has a gritty and passionate flow fuelled by some action packed beats, especially in the first half. In this album About Face is basically the same meaning as repent which means to turn from, not do again, and do a 180 to face the other direction. We’re pointed to God’s grace in what Jesus did for us in “Grace” as a pulsating bassy beat underlies S.O.C.O.M’s flow into an R&B hook. S.O.C.O.M. is letting the world know to do an About Face and turn from the lies and corruption of this fallen world and come into the light of Christ, showcased by the first single of the album, “No Place I’d Rather Be” with a catchy hook from J.Carter. About Face challenges you to turn from sin and the darkness of this world into the light of Jesus Christ by living out and setting an example with our lives on a daily basis. This is evident through the project in tracks like “Fallin Away” as Mico sings an R&B smoothy giving everything to God and questioning why the world keeps falling away from God. This laid back vibe contrasted with powerful storytelling in the thought-provoking “Realities” as S.O.C.O.M shows his delivery goes beyond jump-up tracks with vocal hook from Tremaine Harris. S.O.C.O.M lets us know that we can have the world but he sees life through a different lens (“Eyes Of A Different Lens”). “Sex Slave” may seem an interesting choice to end on but in essence this reflects the album – a straight talking, straight up project that confronts the gritty realities of life and emptiness with the truth and love of Christ.
S.O.C.O.M � Time Out
SOCOM is a Christ-centred dirty south filled album that jumps at you from the off. There is a continuing theme through the album of being a soldier in Christ’s army (eg ‘Warriorz’). Musically, the album is heavily synthesized (sometimes overly) with the occasional seeming live instrumentation. A song tackling the enemy with the truth that Jesus died on the cross for you and me is ‘Spiritual Warfare’, a track that bangs atmospherically with a passion notable throughout the album. This is also found on other tracks like ‘Strapped’ and ‘I’m A Rider’. There are a number of tracks that roll with a classic 303 kick and clap, with a raw flow, such as ‘Makeya Fingers Snap’ and ‘What It Do’. Not afraid to tackle serious social issues, we investigate gun crimes in schools and beyond, and reasons for it, in the thought-provoking ‘I Keep Cryin’. There are a number of rollers to keep your head nodding, such as ‘Fix Ya Face’ and ‘Shake Dem Sins’ encouraging us to get right with God and shake off our sins. In other tracks, there is a creative flow such as ‘John 3:16’ with a double-tracking lyrical flow. In ‘Awesome God’ featuring TONEX with have a dirty south worship track with Michael W Smith’s classic ‘Our God is an awesome God’ on the hook. ‘Never Leave Me Alone’ also has a worshipful and powerful feel. Overall, a solid dirty south album for those dirty south heads.
Solomon Gehazi – Knowledge Lessons
Wolverhampton’s Solomon Gehazi’s debut album “Knowledge Issues” is a raw piece of UK hip-hop. Mixing samples, underground breaks and Scripturally sound, thought-provoking lyrical streams. While some projects focus on gloss, Solomon Gehazi lets his ability speak for itself. He does this effortlessly over a flurry of underground beats that occasionally loop too far (eg “Don’t Be A Slave To Sin”), but exude a reality and raw-ness that over-produced hip-hop could never hope to reach. From the off, Solomon comes out firing – first up against rap of guns, violence and profanity. Instead he spits Christ against this with ”verbal masterpieces… to teach about truth and justice”. Hard to find standout breaks as there are so many, mixing samples, scratches, cuts and breaks (“The End Is Near”, “Thank You”). In “Demons Get Executed”, there’s wordplay, delivery and instrumental that twists perfectly together as we stand for good against evil with the power of Christ the only war-winning weapon. There’s a mix of compressed beats (“Give Him The Glory”) to some rolling cuts (“The Essence” ftg D7) and cut back beats (“The Jorney”). The project is Scripture filled (“Stay In The Ship”), covers social issues such as “Racial Injustice”. In terms of flow, Solomon Gehazi is on point with his vocal clear through the production (a problem on some projects). We end with a standout “Let My Light Shine” ftg Natali J and P.G. Solomon encourages us to be ourselves, let our light shine in the short time we’re here.
Soul Plasma – Soul Affect
Hailing out of the Northwest is Soul Plasma, repping Portland, Oregon. He brings a full length, 18 track album of serious hip-hop quality in every respect. This CD is another absolute ‘must-buy’ album, no doubt. This mixes up different genres, but has street written over it. Having grown up in tough neighbourhoods and seen how social problems have destroyed people, Soul Plasma brings an album offering a better way. He keeps it real, but offers solutions, unlike so much hip-hop in the world. ‘Soul Affect’ is kind of Soul Plasma’s raison d’etre, and is a great piece of soulful work (as is the great, ‘Soul Searching’). Another soulful track is the excellent, ‘Survive’ with some nice backing vocals and organ riffs. The musical vibe is in contrast to the theme of the song, talking about surviving life and on the streets. SP takes on some very serious issues such as ‘My Freedom’ (looking at the consequences of ‘freedom’) and then in the outstanding ‘Black Ghetto’ which assertively addresses the many problems in the ghettos, offering antidotes and solutions. This album features many issues that have obviously effected Soul Plasma’s personal life, as well as life on the streets – such as ‘It’s Been’ (looking at his missing little sister) and ‘Hey Pain’ and ‘Heart Break’. We have some varied deliveries, such as in ‘Takeaday’. In ‘Goodness’ we have a real uplifting track, reminding me (at least) of some late 80s / early 90s style laid back rollers with an almost ‘Outkast’ hook, love this. In ‘Misunderstood’ I get a little of a 2pac (and almost 50Cent) vibe in places. Very dope rolling track. One of the highest points of the album is ‘Radical Profile’ taking a look at the ‘n***a’ word and all its connotations, calling on African Americans to really live and make it, stepping out of the negative racial profile. In ‘100 Miles’ we have one of the nicest breaks I’ve heard with street life delivery riding the beats. A brilliant album, one of the ones I’m playing out wherever I go! Run Time – 72.08.
Soul P – The Premiere
Soul P steps up his game to bring party and powerful tracks to reach out through hip-hop. If you’re looking for more of the same from ‘Soul Affect’ then look elsewhere, as Soul P has been re-branded and big money chucked at production. In ‘Premiere’ Soul P brings a commercial sound with production distinctively but well handled by Beatmart. What characterised the previous album, ‘Soul Affect’ was a deep, social conscious rap with soulful beats. ‘Premiere’ is somewhat different, as we start up with more contemporary crunk beats, some with a party edge and hooks, such as in the excellent “Step Clap” with Sharp Skills guesting with some spiritual lyrical flames. Other bouncy tracks include the intro track, “I’m Here” and “Whoa” among others. “Goodness” (first found on ‘Soul Affect’) is a smooth soulful roller featuring Lisa Kimmey of Out of Eden, with extra fizz to the production. Throughout the album, we can find Soul P’s faith continue to spill in and through the tracks such as ‘We Don’t Know’ (when it’s our time to go) and ‘I’m Grindin’ talking about achieving and investing his talents for God. Delivery style is tight and varied, with Soul P and beats moving more from dirty-south to much more personal tracks as the album moves on (“Hold On”, “Hear My Cry”). We end up with an album sounding more like ‘Soul Affect’ by the end, almost like an album of two halves. In “You Can” and the incredibly insightful “Money More” we have a more traditional hip-hop feel, reminiscent of ‘Soul Affect’. A standout track is the laid back, “I’m The Street” which paints a powerful picture of the streets, an all-round awesome track, as is “Hey Young Man”. We end with “All I Want” explaining Soul P’s heart. Overall, it’s quite a change from ‘Soul Affect’ but this is still quality, contemporary hip-hop – just different than before. Run Time – 57.04
Souls Rest – ‘Demo EP’
Souls Rest continue to bring their piano-fuelled hip-hop jazz smoothness. This three track EP is a showcases their mellow style. Fairly recently installed in Vancouver, Canada, A.son and DJ Philamonic have been blessed with the emcee talents of Canadian, abide.n. “Her City” and “Small Triumph”, as has become trademark with Souls Rest, are underpinned by a piano as beats, bass and brass polish off the mix. This album is a laid back, smooth mix with sensitive and soulful lyrics and delivery. Souls Rest has an underground edge that’s accessible enough to draw in the casual listener too. “So Many Words” brings a slightly faster pace with vocals, as we’re encouraged to walk the walk one step at a time.
Souls Rest – Extended Wordplay
Souls Rest deliver hip-hop that hits you with distinctiveness and innovation bringing a highly varied 4 track EP of underground UK hip hop. This mixes up samples, turntablism, hot production and a live band. We start up with ‘Games’ with the sung hook, “You… can’t play no games no more… truth is at your door.” This is a catchy and head nodding track to start things off properly. In ‘Damage’ we find Juvenile working the cuts nicely while The Rawface brings vocal insight into culture and the choice between God and Satan – “the war is on, whose side are you on?”. The simple guitar riff over bass and drums is highly effective. Next up is ‘Underground’ where violin, piano riff and delivery all perfectly represent the theme (reminding me a little of 4th Avenue Jones musically). A deep look at the struggles of the life of faith – “At the end of the day, all I have is your hand” with tight musicianship. “Mr Grey” moves between a jazzy style, to an orchestral swing-time style – as we take a stroll through the ups and downs in the life of Mr Grey. Clever concept, well presented. A final headz up on the album cover and nice touch with the CD looking like a vinyl record. Run Time – approx 20mins.
Spec – In Your Eye
This is Spec’s first album. I came across Spec first on the Flavor Fest DVD. He’s one of the crew at Crossover Community Church, the right hand man to Urban D. A couple tracks seem lower in the mix like ‘Forgive You’ – but I like some of the production on this album, using techniques like the classic ‘Cher’ slur on ‘Against The Grain’ on track 4 which is a very dope track. ‘Enemy Lines’ is a catchy and challenging 4/4 banger, with the distinctive Los 1 on vocals. Varied sounds, vocal levels in the mix, styles and guests – crossing east to west coast and down south – add to the flava. Tracks 3-6 confront spiritual issues head on. ‘False Prophets’ is very dope, catchy and rips in Spanish and reps for the ‘True God, the Risen Son, Jesus the Christ..’ with Upperground and Urban D. One of my favourite tracks is definitely ‘Indi.Pen.Dance’ with a beautiful string hook and electric guitaring. There are a couple freestyles, some dope tracks based around the speck and log ting in Matthew 7.1-5. Track 13 ‘Embrace’ is a harmonic worship r&b rinse out. Track 17 reminds me almost of an old style breakbeat rave track – cool. I gotta mention Track 16 – a moving talk and prayer with the man Spec. Awesome. Run Time – 58.24.
Sphere of Hip Hop – Mixtape Vol 1 mixed by DJ Aslan
A full length mix album well cut up and mixed by DJ Aslan and mastered by Elected Official. No massive innovations on the mixtape but it’s a more than solid piece of work that features so much quality that you need grab this CD and rock this mixtape regularly. Money also goes to support the great work that Sphere of Hip Hop do on their website. Get this and support Plastic and the crew. So who does it feature? Where to start.. (take a deep breath) – Lojique, Malachi Perez, Stu Dent, Boombox Titans, The Procussions, Sintax.the.terrific, Black Soil Project, Playdough, Freddie Bruno, Enock ft Sev Statik, Moodswing 9, Listener, Bobby Bishop, JustMe, Urban D, YSG Timothy, LMNO, Ill Harmonics, Soul Plasma, DJ DNA, Rhymes Monumental ft Playdough, Flynn. Need I say more? Get it, get it, get it and enhale some positive hip hop vibes. Run Time – 71.52.
Spoken Nerd – ‘Apocalypse Awareness Day’
Who is Spoken Nerd? Well, if you’re a fan of Satirical Indie Hip-Hop, Prophetic-Poetic Talk Music or Nerd rap, then Spoken Nerd is the man. In fact, even if you don’t like these styles or don’t think you like these styles, Spoken Nerd (Nathan Conrad) deserves your listening attention! If you’re a fan of artists like Red Cloud, then Spoken Nerd is for you. This is quality indie hip-hop with an MC with amusement, wit and insight. Who else starts off a project with the seminal line, “All this time that you thought I was gay, I was looking for a girl like Rachel Ray”?!? Beyond this there is the mix of poetry and production that makes you think and consider. With a range of beats including from the legendary Mars Ill (“Just another werewolf in the night”) and some staccato and smooth MC-ing (eg “Synchronicity”) through creative, expressive wordplay and delivery (“Snake Assassin”). Other intelligent tracks include “The Last Real farmer Alive” and . Other times we have some vocal rap with near songs such as “End Of Days”, “The Boy That I Called Wolf” and extending to the fuzz-fused “The Anti Depression” – with grooving breaks and flow over introspection and insight – a description of the album itself.
Spoken Nerd – ‘Our Team Is Going To Win’
Spoken Nerd brings another great underground rap type project from the indie-hip-hop-poetic-fuelled Spoken Nerd a vibe that will appeal to fans of Manchild / Mars Ill among others. If you nerd, I mean need to get a fresh dose of indie / vocal hip-hop inspired by a number of indie bands, this is for you. Fusing main musician Joel J. Dahl, Spoken Nerd’s bass lines and some drums from Jerry Pentecost, you have an album that goes beyond simple pre-programmed beats and electronic lead lines. The standout “Watermelon Track” with some great live drumming and sounds, Spoken Nerd speaks, sings and shouts about protecting your heart. Kick drums, electronic arepggiations and acoustic guitar predominate in “Our Team Is Going To Win” as Spoken Nerd speaks satirically and yet seriously at ‘winning’ and the Christian life. “Stripes On My Shirt” has a ‘It’s a hard knock life’ type hook as more satire meets creative breaks. In “Big Beards” featuring Ceschi, there is an awesome and amusing look at Spoken Nerd and the impact of his incredible beard. Absolutely brilliant track that features more or a rap vibe from Spoken Nerd, showing his range of lyrical styles. Social and church commentary is found across the project in tracks like “I’ve Got A Friend In Money” and the brilliantly eccentric and energetic electric guitar driven “Politics And Religion” among others. Spoken Nerd – rapping singing poetic indie spoken word talk rap.
St John – ‘Dirt Road Experience’
This is a unique album, full of laid-back, deep and soulful dirty south. “On almost every dirt road (in the south) there’s a church. How y’all gonna rep the south and leave God out?” St John flows with a smooth and deep voice, his vocals in stark contrast to the powerful message he brings ‘Come down from the Cross’. ‘Sometimes I Wonder’ is a laid back starter track as St John ponders many questions, mixing his hook lines with Grandmaster Flash, “it’s like a devil, sometimes it makes me wonder, how I keep from going under.” In Legacy, St John displays his intonation and tonal variation. Overall, the album keeps a laid back vibe, even when the flow is distinctively dirty south (‘Legacy’). A change comes with the downtempo r&b styled track, ‘Beautiful’ featuring the voice of Lorinda Donnell. The track is dedicated to the beautiful things, acts and people in life, and the Lord who changes lives. ‘Genesis’ retains the theme of the album, with a rolling, head nodding booming kick and St John’s engaging vocals and lyrics. ‘Momentum’ is a banging dirty south number, before we end with ‘Walk on Water’ with a simple drum pattern, a mostly near monotonal, yet hypnotic flow with two messages that spring out of the album – “let em know Jesus is the way” and “get your eyes on Jesus, man, you can do all things.”
The Street Pastor – ‘The Underdog’s Anthem’
We enter the Street Pastor’s world with the “Underdog’s Anthem” – a hip-hop; storybook, as he sets the scene in an almost epic track as he swings in from the mid-west and we hear a determination to fight the battle for Christ and not the soldier of the streets. This is the story..
Fired up by Jeremiah 3:15, the 20 year-old Street Pastor has been called to shepherd the sheep that refuse to step foot in the church. Street Pastor delivers a varied and feel-good album with a street sound and energy. Across the album there are jump-up tracks fizzing with zest, such as “Don’t-Cha” and “I Got Ya” with K-Drama. Street Pastor brings an insight into secular hip-hop with its superficial and weak lyrics. Instead, Street Pastor is on a mission to produce tunes that demand to be turned up. “Yet the radio stations don’t want to play us, cos they don’t want to hear Jesus unless Kanye made it..” Moving sideways, “The Box” is a guitar-based east coaster with a smooth commentary from Street Pastor about the hood, swiftly followed up by another tuneful number dedicated to his mother. There are odes to the hood’s social consequences such as the down-paced, “For The Family’. There is a fun edge with “Goodbye World” with an almost John Reuben trace over acoustic guitar strum as we hear how of what Christ has done, and how we need to live for Christ. Hidden tracks complete the album.
Stu-Dent – Nephilim
Starting with a sample from The Twilight Zone, this album is a roller – phat beats that make you nod your head. Accomplished lyrics ride the beats with perfection and underground clarity. Varied and masterful production compliment a range of dope beats laid under creatively deft licks & samples. At times, this rivals stuff like Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and of course the awesome Deepspace 5 collective in style, delivery and tightness. No surprise, Stu-Dent gives shouts out to Hi-Tek. Track 2, Longest Night, drops a tight delivery with a brooding bassline and ringing sample. Track 4, Invisibullet talks candidly about being hit unexpectedly with stuff. Something close to me, remembering losing my brother. Track 6 brings back an old school beat with head-nodding vocals riding the break. Track 12, Tell No Man just has a nice string sample. This recording from the Illect label really is awesome. One of my absolute favourites, no doubt. Why waste money buying commercial, godless, soul-less hip hop when y’all can buy this! HHH the future. True excellence on the mic. Run Time – 56.32.
Sundance – ‘Midlife Marauders’
The vastly talented Sundance from the excellent Illect Recordings brings a 14 track album that includes eight tracks and then six of those tracks as instrumentals. From the top, the project shows immense freshness in production and creativity. When you have the range of artists that Sundance unleashes, how can it be anything other than diverse and epic. “Rain” alone features Propaganda, Wonder Brown, Cas Metah, Elias, KJ 52, J Givens & Khadia Che! Thankfully “Midlife Marauders” departs from the constraints of same-sounding consumerist beats, blazing its own path mixing up electronic sounds, harmonious melodies, some beasty basslines and a heap of live-sounding drums and more. “Dig Deeper” leads the charge, encouraging us to dig deeper to find the real music – with Sivion, Shames Worthy & Caps The Elusive. “Rapid Fire” and “Survival” bring some choice underground hip-hop. “Choose Your Weapon” kicks in sounding like a rocky punky live thing before morphing into a reggae-infused break as Elias and Sintax The Terrific make a killing on the lyrics with a catchy hook. The gospel “Still I Follow” brings a slightly old skool feel with Theory Hazit, Ozay Moore and Sojourn bringing more heat than the sun. Sitting in the mix is the instrumental and yet multi-timbral and thought-provoking “Ode To Freights”. Sitting at the end is the instrumental “Begending” which perfectly blends maybe five tracks, any one of which would be an awesome backing track to spit a few verses over from twisted basslines through ethereal eeriness. Wow.
Sundance – ‘Pop Failure’
Producer Sundance brings a 20-track tape of cuts, breaks, samples and beats for your audio delectation. With a focus on electro, synthy, pulsating, argpeggiating, anthemic moments and square / sine wave sounds, there’s a range of big beats, east coast rollers, dance tracks and more. Available as a free download or for a price that you name, this is a tasty treat into the skills of Sundance, with great production and nothing really ‘pop’ about it thankfully!
Surreal and DJ Balance – Future Classic
Sometimes you get an album that just seems to connect with you. This is one of those albums – yet another hot album from Hip Hop Is Music. Although it may not be a future classic to many, it’s already one of my favourite albums without doubt and I probably bang this one more than any of my other albums, except possibly Braille! This has a fresh, old skool and real essence to it. It brings back memories of a great hip-hop era, sadly being submerged in dark forces of commercialism, no-brainer lyrics and self-gratification. This album is quite the opposite. The packaging is very funky, as is the CD. An EP from the album has been released, featuring the puslating breaks through ‘Can’t Stop The Bumrush’, the ‘Summertime’ guitar-riffed and funky ‘Speak Facts’ and the laid-back, self-reflecting ‘Moment in Time’. From the off, we have a jazz-laced grooving break over trumpet riff with ‘Rebirth of Skill’ – beat from Moo. Surreal flows incredibly smoothly as he challenges hip-hop to bring the skills back. “Just goes to show that the facts are expendable.. All you gotta have’s a couple bucks and some distro. The songs suck but they play them in the disco.” Word! A realistic assessment of too much commercial hip-hop music. Humour is injected throughout the album such as in ‘Car and A Job’ with a tasty beat from Ohmega Watts. DJ Balance brings some serious skills and funky breaks across the whole project, dropping a funk-tastic breaker in ‘One Man Band’. Another standout track for me is ‘Permanent Ink’ (beat from Vintage), with a catchy female hook, ‘The things I say..’ featuring Braille and Sivion. We end perfectly with another outstanding down-tempo banger from Tony Stone, ‘Let The Horns Blow’ as Surreal, pointing to the one true, creator God. Sivion displays his mad skills as he plays saxophone on the track too. Winding down to a perfect ending. Run Time – 51.24.
Sway – ‘The Signature LP’
For those who haven’t heard of Sway, here’s some info… In 2004, Sway took Best Newcomer award at the Urban Music Awards and the Best Hip-Hop award in 2005, winning the award despite being a relative newcomer. Starting off by releasing mixtapes, 2006 saw Sway release ‘This Is My Demo’, selected as one of the Mercury Prize albums of the year. In 2007, Sway was awarded a coveted BET Award. Many high-profile collabs and global opportunities later, Sway has released, ‘The Signature LP’. Let’s be clear, as the previous album review stated, this is not a Christian album – there is a parental advisory warning and a confusing mix of spiritual beliefs. Nevertheless, the album reaches beyond the usual limited mix of guns, gangs and women. Sway enters the stage with two big tracks, “Fit For A King” and the crowd-friendly, “Say It Twice.” The collab with Lemar is the banging, “Saturday Night Hustle.” Another quality collab comes in “Silver and Gold” with Akon on fine form. Sway brings a humour-filled grime roller with the liquid-voiced $tush in “F Ur X” (as in ‘forget’). Throughout, Sway explores his life (with live instrumentation in “End Of The Road”), his losses and heartache, with the moving “Pray 4 Kaya” and powerful “Letters To Heaven” with a 22 piece orchestra adding soul to Sway’s emotional flow. The project is an excellent musical mix with dynamic flows from Sway, and includes a DVD with music videos and Sway discussing his project.
The DVD features music videos from “The Signature LP” and other projects. Additionally there’s a 15 minute interview with Sway who takes the viewer through the album discussing each song, including some live snippets (“Say It Twice”), his trip to Ghana and on the road with Swayn7yt . Unfortunately recorded before final album release, so doesn’t contain final tracklisting as the audio CD.
Fit for a King – big entrance with passionate flow.
Say It Twice – for the crowd
Saturday Night Hustle – written in 2005, ft Lemar – a banger
‘F UR Ex’ (as in ‘Forget’) featuring the $tush
Upload – (the sequel to ‘Download’ from 2005) with advice on artists using internet to advantage rather than feeling it robs
Jason Waste – character invented by Sway about a 100% waster, bringing some humour
Look After My Girl – hard to look after a woman as he’s so busy. Look after your special girl (singular!)
Pray 4 Kaya – God has a plan for everybody, but you can’t ever change God’s plan. Talking about Kaya, who made a lasting legacy.
Letters To Heaven – lost a lot of people close to him, with 22 piece orchestra. Dedicated to friends, telling stories. A powerful piece of music
End Of The Road – outside of Sway’s genre – rap-pock-indie-rock with Cuban guitarist, Coco. Great live feel, telling his true life. French.
Special Place – again orchestra, about the whole world, finding special music – the special place is in your heart. Ghanaian rhythm.
Swoope – ‘Sinema’
This project is a concept album dealing with sin through a journey of Swoope’s changing relationship apparently with a ‘woman’ (Rosemary) representing sin (see “TGC2” with Shop Baraka). Like the Bible, you need to listen to the entire album to understand each track in the overall context (e.g. “Bow Down”). Swoope’s flow is slick and on point (“Best of Me” featuring the harmonious vocals of Natalie Lauren). His rolling, laid back yet effortless delivery and production (“On My Mind” featuring the cracking vocals of JR and awesome beat) focuses your ears onto the message. Guest flows from a quality list of rappers and vocalists only kicks the project into a higher gear (“#Same Team”). The standout “LSD” with the soaring vox of Christon Gray is where the album begins to fully reveal itself as Swoope expresses his craving and battle with sin. Apparently fighting lust it exposes the real battle with the sickness of sin. “Beauty And The Beast” is another standout with a jazzy flowing break. Swoope is clear – using the metaphor of the ‘wayward woman’ (Proverbs), we see the only result is death. In the brilliant “Sin In Me” we see sin’s true nasty, evil nature. This is where the album reaches the point of confrontation to reject sin, “Inside the mire is Rosemary’s baby, but my only hope is from the grave, rose Mary’s baby…” The solution to this sin nature? “Fix My Heart” (featuring Denise Powell and Propaganda).
Syntax Records – The Wages Of Syntax
Lots of different artists who come together to form this 18 track sampler album showcasing syntax records artists. Should be able to pick this up for around £2-£3. Worth listening too. Both tight and very varied production levels too! Different flows – go pick up a copy. Run Time – 68.19.