Reviews – U to Z

Hip-Hop Reviews – U, V, W, Y (19 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.

University Of The King – ‘The Huckleberry 5000 EP’ 

Incomparable remixes of famous 1940s, 1950s and 1960s songs! Another intriguing project from University Of The King. We kick off with a unique remix twist of “Lollipop, Lollipop” (the 1958 version made famous by Ronald & Ruby). Next up for the idiosyncratic University of the King treatment is “Sandman”, a remix of the 1954 hit by The Chordettes. Next, the Temptations classic, “My Girl” from 1965 is given the makeover treatment. Then “With These Hands”, a 1967 Temptations track is given the shouting treatment. A personal favourite remix, “The Sound of Music” track “Favourite Things” (made famous by Julie Andrews in the classic movie) is given the humorous treatment with much surrealness. We’re then invited and entreated to have a “Very Merry Christmas” in the downtempo “Christmas Bonus”. Nice.

University Of The King – ‘Zang Hibidy’ 

Totally unique and compelling concept album to blow your mind, it’s musically anarchic and yet delicious! Zang Hibidy is an absorbing UK project, taking an underground themed look at life in the womb through to birth and beyond. As you’d expect from the creative minds behind Zang Productions, this is an ethereal, eclectic and surreal journey, yet inescapably engaging. As we travel through mainly electronic musical soundscapes (“Womb Hugs” and the spacey “Love It Here”), vocal ensembles (“Just Inches Between Us” with a focus on the glory of God “standing inside a woman’s belly”) and creative lyrical excellence “Geronimoses” among others, we are challenged about life, why we are here, what is life all about anyway (“Life After Birth”) and the complexity and beauty of life and the gift of life from God, as found in “139” to name but one track. “The Wishing Well 51:5” with a nod to Psalm 51.5 is a diamond in its own right, with some drum-funk, a grooving vocal flow and some musical excellence as we find how God loves us so dearly. This is a project unlike any other as we view life through the lenses of triplets with unique personalities in the womb (“Life After Birth #1, #2 and #3”). In essence, this is a true hip-hop project, where imagination, creative thought, cut up underground breaks, musical fusions, scratching, vocal hooks and lyrical magic.

Uprok Records – Mixtape Vol 1 (mixed by DJ Allstar) 

Featuring Playdough, Raphi, KJ-52, New Breed, Freddie Bruno, Ill Harmonics, Tunnel Rats, Sev Statik, Deepspace 5, BK, LPG, Peace 586. Worth every penny. Retails for no more than £5.00 if you can find it. Run Time – 71.64.

Uprok Records – Mixtape Vol 2 (mixed by DJ Allstar) 

Featuring Mars Ill, Jurny Big, Playdough, Playdough, Illtripp, Underground Rise, KJ-52, Tunnel Rats, Raphi, Listener, Sintax the Terrific, Freddie Bruno, LPG, Deepspace 5, Propaganda, New Breed and Peace 586. Again, worth every penny. Should retail for no more than £5.00. Run Time – 73.03.

Urban D – The Immigrant (Album) 

Urban D, Pastor at Crossover Community Church, Tampa, FL and hip hop minister of the gospel, takes us on a journey with him, contrasting immigrants to the US and Christians – both being ‘aliens’. Hebrews 11.13 and 1 Peter 2.11 tell us that as Christians we are aliens to this world, our real home being heaven. Interesting production on ‘The Immigrant’ – giving a unique stereo sound. Great Spanish sounding track with a video available from Some spiritually deep and real insightful tracks blend with lots of Greek sounding fills too. ‘The American Dream’ with the amazing Corey Red & Precise and ‘Our Culture’ are real gems of spiritual wisdom from Urban D, dissecting US culture. ‘Passport’ with Pettidee looks at John 14.6 with Christ being our ‘passport’ to heaven. The first week US sales were apparently exactly that of Urban D’s zip code – 813! I’ve heard about, had contact with and seen Urban D perform in London – so buy this album, just to support the Godly, integrity-filled hip hop ministry God’s developing at Crossover. Run Time – 68.05.

Urban D – The Immigrant (Maxi Single) 

With the main featured tracks off the album. You get 20 tracks on one maxi single, for around £6.80. This includes ‘The Immigrant’ – ‘The American Dream’ – ‘Passport’ – ‘The Value’ – the DJ Lopez remix of ‘The Immigrant’ – ‘Eternally Alive’ – plus instrumental and accapella versions of many of the tracks, and some radio intros. Great value to test the Urban D rap waters. Run Time – ? 

Various – ’13 Letters’ (116 Clique Compilation Album) 

This project on Reach Records is intended to bring God’s Word to life, with a range of different artists carefully writing and then delivering Bible based lyrics, to encourage us all to listen and get discipled as we listen while reading our Bibles. The 116 Clique is a group of like-minded believers with a clear intention to rep Christ in every area of their lives. This project delivers exactly as it sets out to – with Lecrae giving us a clear intro on “Begin With The End”. A range of quality artists and producers step up, firing a range of east coast and crunk-fuelled beats with words from the Word. Trip Lee starts off by encouraging us to ‘dig in’ to the Word as we listen. Shai Linne brings his great sound and vibe, with a head-nodding overview of Romans – the gospel of righteousness. Lecrae, Tedashii, Dillon Chase and other stake us through Colossians, Timothy and Thessalonians with a dirty south vibe. Sho Baraka, Flame and Trip Lee bring a more east coast sound. We end with a testimony from Sho Baraka and an encouragement to take up our cross and be a disciple from Tedashii.

Various – The Fallen Soldier Compilation. A Tribute to D-Boy 

Danny Rodriguez, or D-Boy, was a gifted Christian rapper ministering to gangs in Dallas, Texas. In 1990 he was shot dead in a drive-by aged 23. I’d heard of D-Boy from the Corey Red, Precise album where “A Martyr’s Anthem” is dedicated to him.  But here is an album dedicated to D-Boy’s memory. This album has a gritty, street feel to it with laid back, rolling dirty south style delivery. We start up flicking through some of D-Boy’s tracks, before moving into the album proper. 2 tracks of bouncy dirty south encouraging us that seeds planted will grow – and ‘church hopping’. There’s more of a rap feel with Nate G. TekSon brings a great old skool beated and styled track with “GODS Posse In Effect.” In “That UB Urself” brings an interesting beat with some interesting syncopated timing. The album isn’t afraid to confront social issues, as in “Cease For Peace”, a look at gangs being the only family kids know, the trap of the ghetto, violence and guns.  “Shout” samples The Isley Brothers, ‘shout, throw my hands up..’ Nate G calls out hip-hop in ‘Hip-Hopracy’. We end up with a track dedicated to D-Boy, “Fallen Soldier” – a true pioneer and ‘the first big rapper to lose his life on the streets..’ We even have the great Fred Lynch (a HHH pioneer no less and author of ‘Get The Word’) dropping a track. As Corey Red says, ‘yo D-Boy, see you at the resurrection.’ Amen. Meanwhile, let’s continue to rep Christ through hip-hop. Just like this album does.

Various – Hip Hope Hits 2005 

The CD kicks off with ‘Hittin Curves’, the lead single off the ‘Dichotomy A’ album from Grits, the Christian crew rightly enjoying critical acclaim. Next up are Philly’s super crew, Cross Movement with ‘When I Flow’ from the Holy Culture album. As ever from CM we have an in yer face gospel message. John Reuben brings his fun and commercial vibe in ‘Life Is Short’. TobyMac continues to show his flexibility in ‘Extreme Days’. LA Symphony drop their underground flow to their synthesized funk sound in ‘Here To Party’. Next up KJ52 brings the tuneful and well delivered ‘Dear Slim Part 2’, the second part in his message to Eminem from his ‘It’s Pronounced Five Two’ album. In ‘Take Me Away’ the 4th Avenue Jones band demonstrate their awesome hip rock soul sound. Pigeon John speaks encouragement to keep going in ‘Life Goes On’ – featuring scratched sampled from Nas, ‘I Can’ among others. We also catch a preview track from the very ill Mars Ill crew called ‘All Out’ – from their delayed ‘Pro Pain’ album – bringing underground hip hop to new levels. T-Bone brings his usual West Coast sound in ‘ Blazin Mics’. Ill Harmonics bring their distinct vibe on ‘Monkey Business’, an acoustic & catchy look at the music game. Paul Wright with Lightheaded bring their jazzy and head-nodding sound in the awesome ‘Rock The Show’. A move in the rapcore direction comes with Hero and ‘Raised In Harlem’, a story of Jesus healing. DJ Maj pops up with a mid/west coast sound, Verbs brings some dirty south flava, Liquid steps up with ‘Gangsta’ – a contemporary hip hop sound that flirts with r&b, a kind of Christian version of a 50 Cent / Usher collabo. High production levels, commercial vibes, a hip hop party album and a good intor to many of the different flavas of ‘holy’ hip hop. Run Time – 65.52.

Varied Artists – Hip Hope Hits 2007 

Hip Hope Hits, from Gotee Records, always produces an album with great artists, quality music and enough diversity to cater for most hip-hop tastes. In 2007, they’ve done it again. There is a great mix of hip-hop here, even delving into the underground and dirty south in order to bring you a great mix of hits. There’s a couple of new faces, some old favourites, new styles and even a remix, just to add to the flava. Grits start off the project with a slow mover, and the fantastic live Pettidee brings the heat to start with some good ol dirty south business. Mars Ill and LA Symph bring some deeper lyricism. There’s some familiar sounds from John Reuben, TobyMac and a remixed KJ to liven up your day. A couple of a downtempo sounds come from the laid back Japhia Life, a song about love from Verbs and a smoothy from DJ Maj. There are some street sounds from the lively Shonlock, Manafest with a rock styled hook and Liquid with a great jazz funk crossover track. MOC bring a bouncy hype pop-hip-hop track and B Reith ends the CD with a very catchy track laced with humour. He sounds very much like KJ52 in flow, lyrics and humour, but he is his own artist and one to look out for. If you’re looking for a great all-round hip-hop CD gift for yourself, friends or people you work with, this is one of the freshest places to start for an all-round insight into positive and Godly hip-hop. My only gripe with this is that the production is very up and down. For example the Shonlock track is lower and more muffled in the mix than say Grits. But this also has its own strength as it sounds more like a hip-hop album and less like the clinical project that many secular over-produced CDs suffer from. Run Time – 58.20. 

Verse – ‘Lay My Life Down’ (not the artist ‘Verses’)

There are times where the message and motivation behind a song are more important than the song itself. This is an average dirty south track with Verse spitting about how he and we have to lay our lives down, pointing to our example, the one who paid the cost upon the Cross – Christ. But this song also has another aim. Mike ‘Verse’ Mills’ wife, Loralee was born with a congenital heart condition and needs a heart transplant. All proceeds go to this cause, so make a difference, buy this track and support Loralee today.

Verses – Listening Session 

When I read on Sphere of Hip Hop about this album and listened to the preview track, I knew it was going to be a must. So it turned out! If this project is anything to go by, Verses has a bright future with his smooth delivery. We’re welcomed to the album with a ‘live’ band ‘open mic’ styled sound with great sounding soulful vocal harmonies from Chloe, Verses’ wife. Next up is the astounding ‘We Do It’ produced by the great Tony Stone, with Mark J guesting. Mixed beats on the production, lyrics that do it for the love, for the people, in ‘hopes that the listener will become a parishioner..’ Word! In a great twist, ‘Funky Dividends’ uses a track that varies tempo and has a real change up between sections within this story, looking at music. A horn laced collabo with the distinctive and highly talented Braille launches ‘Confusionunion’ onto us. Verses confesses that the words Braille dropped for this track forced him to re-write and up his own lyrical content. The result is a nice medium paced track. On ‘Fa La La’ we have a guitar riff dropping down the chromatic scale over a heavy beat and lyrics that Verses hopes will be the antithesis to the club banger, ‘we wreck the party for the G-O-D’. Tony Stone kills the beat, again, wow! In a timely call out of MTV and its booty shaking videos of scantily clad women, we have ‘Ms O’Ginny’ with Verses saying’..I don’t want to see your nasties over my TV screen..’ The responsibility lies with individuals and the system that abuses women and uses s e x to sell. Another stormer of a beat comes in ‘Fatherless Child’, an empathetic look at the reality of life in the hood and beyond – and the consequences to society – pointing to Jesus as the answer, the only answer. No hook on this, just a constant flow on an constant social ill. ‘Love Jawns’ is a beautiful downtempo track written just for and featuring his wife (about their life journey). In ‘Cassette Tapes & Roller Skates’ (feat Cult-Free and Verbs) we take a journey back to the early days of real hip-hop, ‘there was a time when we rocked rhymes that matter, nowadays, MCs just chit-chatter..’ As ‘Yoof Rally’ kicks in, it initially reminds me of Jay Z, ‘Hard Knock Life’. Verses encouarges parents to discipline a child. As Proverbs 29.15 says, “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.” Finally we end with a Radio Edit of ‘We Do It’. Great project, more please! Run Time – 47.47. 

Victizzle – In My World 

18 year-old Victor ‘Victizzle’ Akata from East London is an MC, producer and is now studying music & media management at university. At his heart is to speak, letting God control his words and speak Christ into people’s lives (“Welcome 2 My World”). Victizzle takes us through his life in the bouncing “Come A Long Way”). The project mixes bassline-filled beats with Victizzle issues a challenge to the streets through the album, encouraging people to let the Holy Spirit change them (“Jam Yourself”). There are a number of jump up tracks such as “AV” with Utter Once and the contemporary, almost pop flavoured “Can’t Take It From Me”. The astute and politically perceptive “iPray” sees Victizzle and Tunday with hearts cry to take away pain and hate, for God’s love and peace to bring a brighter day and way. Guests throughout the album add extra layers and flavas to the project, such as the collab with BlushUK (“Smile”) and the slower roller in “Life” with Lola Goodhead. The slower pace continues with deeply powerful “Father” with one of the tastiest rolling beats on the project. This stands in stark contrast to the soca, African-infused “iSing”, guaranteed to get you jumping and bouncing wherever you are! A bit like the Tunday project, we end with an acoustic-guitar based track, “Me, Myself & iPod”. Exciting and fresh project no doubt.

What Are You Listening To – Hip Hop 2 Sampler 

One way labels or distributors get you to buy their products is by offering samplers such as this one that include discounts off albums. In this case, £2 off albums. In most cases you’d present this at the shop. In my case I lost the vouchers. I think this is £1.99 to buy. I’d advise it. You get the awesome song ‘Cry No More’ by Cross Movement, the dirty south Grits, John Reuben, the mixmaster DJ Maj, the funky West coast style of T-Bone, the kid rapper Lil l’ROCC Williams, the true head Propaganda, the excellent hip hop worship song of Peace 586 and the funky almost breakers track ‘Rock of Ages’ by Sev Statik. Run Time – 47.20.

Whosoever South – ‘Come On In’

I once read an article on a hip-hop website relating underground hip-hop and country music and pointing out some similarities. Strange but true as country music isn’t something I’d naturally associate with hip-hop. Then I hear ‘Whosoever South’ who mix country music with southern rap and do it well in this, their sophomore album. The three Georgia natives – Rowdy, Sarah and Mike manage to mix country and southern instrumentation with southern breaks seamlessly. “Come On In” with its bouncy banjo and southern 808 kicks brings the album to an uplifting and rolling start as Whosoever South welcome you with southern hospitality and reveal how they’re “… walking by faith with a song and a prayer.” Not afraid to mix things up, “Crying Out” contains powerful stories of God’s grace and love to those crying out to him. “War Going On” mixes in more of a soulful edge as Whosoever South confront us with the reality of the war going on in our streets but of God’s hand reaching out. Another change up is found in the sublime double-timing in “Nothin To It” (and on “Down Here”). But the main spirit of the project is a rolling southern country spiritual vibe.  “We all have one thing in common,” says Sarah. “We all need Jesus. Some folks just don’t know it yet.” This album with its southern roots and welcome is sure to open the eyes of many to this amazing truth! 

WriteWay-Music – ‘One Way’ 

WriteWay-Music comprises four artists… Tunday, Rhema, Leke and Presha-J. The project is a mosaic of their combined crafted skills as rap meets fresh vocal hooks. Contemporary sounds, breaks and vocals meet hip-hop (“One Way”) with assertive flows all headed one way with strength and determination. “Alienated” about being an alien in this world as we go under cover on secret missions to mirror Christ’s image. “Can’t Stop Me” is a slight military anthem to keeping on speaking and dropping verses for Christ as upward focused vocals lift us higher. Other tracks flow this pattern as even suffering is offered back to God as a sacrifice as praise (the thought-provoking “Rained With Thoughts”). Some of the minimalist beats are tasty and really work, building into the hooks (start of “Won’t Let Me Fall” and “Look Up” etc). A project that elevates and brings hope from start to finish.

Yah-Key – ‘Back Home’ 

Yah-Key describes himself as a street savvy, entrepreneur and artist from Chicago. Mixing midwest, southern and east coast influences through the project with varied musical moods, Yah-Key stays focused on his desire to carry on what he’s been doing since 16. Now he speaks with a new spirit, evidencing his changed life in God as in, “God Strong” featuring K-Low. The challenge is when will people submit to God and not to the streets, “The Lord Jesus Christ is the King of kings.” The album is full of challenge to the streets and to secular rappers as in, “Who Yah Know”. His desire is to see Christian and positive hip-hop unleashed. A standout track is the syncopated and uplifting, “Everyday” which flows over one of the sickest beats on the album. Musical influences are varied through the project, with Yah-Key flowing with the beats such as the almost dancehall, “God Will Reveal”. Yah-Key’s heart is revealed, “I don’t care if I don’t never get a deal, as long as y’all know that Jesus Christ is real.” Another party track is the pulsating, “Dance Like David” – hip-hop dance as David’s character is revealed and the listener challenged to be obedient to God. A personal account of his life lessons is found in “My Life”. The last original track (before 2 remixes) is “Listen” featuring the soulful tones of Cudda Brown is the perfect way to end a challenging project, encouraging all to listen to God who “has no equal.”

Yaves – ‘In Winters Ear’ 

Native of Columbus, Ohio, Yaves is a highly gifted and educated rapper, mixed media expert and working at a church in Columbus, Ohio. The “Winters Ear” album consists of seven tracks. One standout is the smooth as butter “Down Bad” with the silky vocals of Zoe Boston. Yaves calls things right when he identifies the problems in the world as a problem with the heart.” The other standout is the gently epic “Blood Covered Snow” which is more story-telling centric as he gives testimony to Christ. On both tracks, good production, great vocals and some tight rhyming from Yaves show his skills. At other times however, tracks show great promise (like the intro to “Revolver” with Keisha Solei, almost in a Lauryn Hill vein) but then becomes more repetitive and . At times the lyricism and delivery isn’t quite up with the two standout tracks, which is sad because Yaves has some serious gifting that isn’t quite expressed through the album as a whole. 

Young Chozen – ‘Class President’ 

Young Chozen is already big news with various rave reviews such as being the Will Smith of his generation. But Chozen focuses himself on God. He wants to “have fun, love God and be cool” without compromise – from “Class President” – a banging fresh mix with an equally smart video found on the web. Young Chozen brings a tight flow which glides effortlessly across the project, mixing old skool 80s type 808 beats (“Drive Through” – with a humorous, almost KJ52 vibe) through to more rocky beats “Backyard” and the epic “The Rock”) to the much more contemporary minimalist “Here I Come” and “Way Up There” – where Young Chozen confesses that “Daddy is the King, guess that makes me the new fresh prince..” Young Chozen shows his caring side with two slower tracks about love – “La La La Love” (1 Corinthians 13), “Pot Of Gold” (about lurrrrrv and finding your perfect match in God’s time and way). Then he kicks in with the massive dancefloor-filling “31 Status” (looking for that ‘Proverbs 31’ woman). More standouts come with “I’m So On” which is another fresh contemporary track that trailblazes Chozen’s flow with an awesome beat and powerful message about God. “I’m Gone” is more of an r&b/rap mix which showcases Chozen’s message, past and looking to the future with God. The slower and incredibly worshipful, “Your Stereo” closes things (before the final skit) to end off what is one of the year’s best projects that is relevant across the generations.