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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sean Price Ft. Freddie Gibbs - "Remember"

Sean Price's "Mic Tyson" album hit stores everywhere yesterday, including the digital iTunes release which as usual features a few exclusive bonus tracks. The most interesting of those are probably the Statik Selektah-produced collaboration with Freddie Gibbs, "Remember", which you can check out below.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Journalist 103 / Fashawn / Saigon - "Hear Me"

Besides releasing his new album today (see below), The Audible Doctor is also responsible for the stellar production work on this second single from Journalist 103's "Reporting Live" LP (following the equally knocking "Walk With Me").  103 is far from a slouch on the mic, and when inviting Saigon and Fashawn to break bread you know you're about to hear some real lyrical ish right here. The CD drops today, vinyl on November 6 - take your pick.

[ALBUM] Audible Doctor - "Doctorine"

Wisconsin producer Audible Doctor is releasing his 12-track instrumental album "Doctorine" on the Brown Bag AllStar imprint today. Although fully produced by the Doctor himself, the project is actually executive produced by The Large Professor with Gustavo Guerra. I'm not sure if this will be available as a physical LP yet, but you can purchase it from iTunes via the streaming player below.

Ill Bill / El-P - "Severed Heads Of State"

Ill Bill's really been on a run lately, pumping out dope music whether working with Muggs, La Coka Nostra, Vinnie Paz or solo. Besides the project he's supposedly doing with Sean Price (check the interview linked in the post below), he's preparing another solo LP; "The Grimy Awards" is set to hit stores on January 29 next year so get prepared. The list of producers and guests Bill has brought in for this one should make for one unreasonably sick LP - how about DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Psycho LES, El-P, DJ Muggs, Large Professor, Ayatollah, MoSS, and C-Lance? Or what if I said Cormega, OC, Shabazz The Disciple, Lil' Fame, Meyhem Lauren, Jedi Mind Tricks, Q-Unique, and more? Yessir, it should get you hyped too!

The first single just dropped; "Severed Heads of State" is both produced by and features a cameo from El-P. The video is directed by Ill Bill, and produced/edited by NO/FI.

Sean Price Ft. Pharoahe Monch - "BBQ Sauce"

"Mic Tyson", the highly anticipated third solo album by Sean Price finally drops on Duck Down Records tomorrow. If you're still not convinced whether to pick this up or not, check out the brilliant cut "BBQ Sauce". Featuring Pharoahe Monch, and produced by Evidence and Babu... Kinda hard to argue with! Pre-order the CD and check out Pattch's dope Sean P interview @ HipHopSite.

[Tracklist] WU-BLOCK

The Wu-Tang / D-Block collaboration is just around the corner, with a November 13 release via eOne Music, and finally the tracklist is up for views. Basically a Sheek Louch / Ghostface album with lots of cameos from fellow Wu- and LOX-members, with the right production this will indeed be a rugged LP. It seems that most of the tracks will be completely new to most of our ears as I think "Stick Up Kids" is the only song of the previous singles to make the album. Pre-order the CD @ UGHH.

1. Crack Spot Stories (Feat. Ghostface Killah, Sheek Louch, Raekwon & Jadakiss)
2. Pour Tha Martini (Feat. Ghostface Killah, Sheek Louch & Cappadonna)
3. Pull Tha Cars Out (Feat. Sheek Louch, Ghostface Killah & Method Man)
4. Guns For Life (Feat. Ghostface Killah, Sheek Louch & Styles P)
5. Comin For Ya Head (Feat. Sheek Louch, Ghostface Killah, Styles P & Raekwon)
6. Cocaine Central (Feat. Ghostface Killah, Sheek Louch & Styles P)
7. Take Notice (Feat. Ghostface Killah & Sheek Louch)
8. Drivin Round (Feat. Sheek Louch, Masta Killa, Gza & Erykah Badu)
9. Different Times Zones (Feat. Ghostface Killah, Sheek Louch & Inspectah Deck)
10. Stick up Kids (Feat. Ghostface Killah, Sheek Louch & Jadakiss)
11. All in Together (Feat. Ghostface Killah, Sheek Louch, Styles P & Jadakiss)
12. Do It Like Us (Feat. Sheek Louch, Ghostface Killah & Raekwon)
13. Stella (Feat. Ghostface Killah, Sheek Louch & Method Man)
14. Been Robbed (Feat. Sheek Louch & Ghostface Killah)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

[Comp] Ras Kass, Xzibit & Saafir as GOLDEN STATE PROJECT

Few rappers as talented and well-known as Ras Kass have had as many failed deals and shelved projects. From the "Van Gogh" and "Goldyn Child" solos to the Four Horsemen supergroup, fans have been left with dodgy bootlegs and broken promises. Similairly, Ras was also an official member of the group Golden State Project, along with fellow West Coast heavy hitters Xzibit and Saafir. Originally going by Golden State Warriors, the trio was supposed to deliver a full-length called "The Coast is Clear" as the first release on Xzibit's now defunct Open Bar Entertainment imprint. This was right around the time of the major success X was enjoying with 2001's "Restless", and had everything gone down as planned Golden State would've probably made a lot of noise around the same time. As is often the case when dealing with multiple artists signed to different labels, Priority wouldn't release Ras Kass from his contract for the release. It's unknown how much of an actual album was recorded at the time, but through multiple collaborations between its members we can still get a pretty good idea about how fantastic this power trio could be on wax. 

My man Ant, who previously contributed with several superb compilations and other material for The Lost Tapes (including the original "Center Of Attention" rip), brings the goods yet again with ten tracks featuring Golden State Project. The opening number, "Bounce, Rock, Golden State", is lifted from the Training Day soundtrack and is to this day the only 12" single released in the group's name. "The Big Picture" was ripped from Xzibit's MySpace and is supposedly a song from the actual recording sessions circa 2001. The other tracks is borrowed from various releases by all of the individual artists and totals 40 minutes of heat that will have you curse Priority Records for standing in the way for this to happen in any official capacity. Major thanks to Ant for hooking me up with this banger, it's really well put together!

01. "Bounce, Rock, Golden State" [prod. Battlecat]
02. "3 Card Molly" [prod. Bud'da]
03. "Touch Somebody"
04. "The Big Picture"
05. "Plastic Surgery" [prod. E-Swift]
06. "Sex" (Ft. JellyRoll)
07. "Back Up Offa Me"
08. "Break Yourself" (Ft. Truth Hurts) [prod. Rick Rock]
09. "Harder" [prod. JellyRoll]
10. "NBA" [prod. Rockwilder]

Friday, October 26, 2012

Wally Left - "How It Be" [prod. Yontz]

"How It Be" is the title of the latest single by North Carolina spitter Wally Left, complete with some hot work behind the boards by producer Yontz. Peep the track below and read more about Wally and his projects @ his WordPress site which also provides a lot of audio material to enjoy. 


Roc Marciano - "Bozak"

A few days later on this single, but I'm always up for some fresh Marc so here's "Bozak". Just like the two/three previous singles that have hit the internet, this will not appear on November 13's "Reloaded". I think it's an ill idea to keep his name out there with new tracks while not giving up too much of the album on beforehand. This will rather appear as a bonus track on the deluxe 2xCD edition of "Marcberg" on Fat Beats, which also includes the instrumentals. I noticed that no release of "Marcberg" besides the original CD press features my favorite cut "Hide My Tears", so I guess they must have ran into trouble with sample clearances with that one. Makes me glad that I got myself the original copy!

Journalist 103 - "Walk With Me" [prod. Oddisee]

Journalist 103 made his name known as lead vocalist of Detroit trio The Left and their impressive debut "Gas Mask". Now, he's prepping his own solo project, "Reporting Live" which will be out on BabyGrande on October 30. Production include Apollo Brown, Oddisee, Snowgoons, ATG, The Audible Doctor, and more. The first single is a real stand-out on both the lyrical tip and from Odd's triumphant backdrop.

1. The Foundation (produced by Lex Luthorz)
2. Rockstarz (produced by: Snowgoons)
3. Where Is The Love (featuring Vstylez & Eternia) (produced by Apollo Brown)
4. Dreamer (produced by ATG)
5. Do What I Do (featuring Jack Freeman) (produced by Lex Luthorz)
6. Hear Me (featuring Saigon & Fashawn) (produced by The Audible Doctor)
7. Moving 2 Fast (produced by ATG)
8. Arson (produced by Traveling Merchant Productions)
9. 3 AM (produced by: Monkodelic)
10. United We Stand (produced by Monkodelic)
11. Danger (featuring Freeway) (produced by Marc Byrd)
12. Revolutions (produced by: Black Bethoven)
13. The System (produced by Lex Luthorz)
14. Urban Legend (featuring Stryfe) (produced by: Monkodelic)
15. Walk With Me (produced by Oddisee)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Guilty Simpson x Apollo Brown - "Truth Be Told"

We recently got the news that two of Detroit's major players have recorded a full-length album for Mello Music Group. Guilty Simpson and Apollo Brown's "Dice Game" will hit stores on November 13, and just like OC and Brown's recent "Trophies", expect nothing but raw, unncut hip-hop with a splash of soul. Today we are treated to the first single from the project, "Truth Be Told", and it's nothing but pure greatness; finding the perfect blend between the smooth and the rugged n raw. Check out the tracklist and pre-order here.

[Video] Masta Killa / Kurupt - "Cali Sun"

Masta Killa hooks up with Kurupt for this West Coast themed anthem from the Wu emcees' forthcoming "Selling My Soul" project which was announced a couple of days ago.

[LP Teaser] DJ Duke Ft. Alchemist

Fresh sounds from DJ Duke's session for his forthcoming debut album, "Here Comes The City Brother" which is set for release next year. Alchemist pops up for a guest verse too as you can see, and in case you missed out on the Absouljah featured first single, check out "Walk With Devils & Angels".

[Mixtape] Tokyo Cigar Presents WU2

M-Phatik presents another sick mixtape; to celebrate all the new Wu-Tang projects that's on the near horizon right now, producer Tokyo Cigar decides to try something relatively unexpected - a mash-up of classics Wu and U2 samples. With the wrong guy behind the boards such a concept could've easily turned into a cheesy mess, but this one delivers on the goods!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

[Video] Alchemist x MidaZ - "Don Seymour's Theme"

One of the most overlooked albums of the year has to be Alchemist's "Russian Roulette", which just seems to have flown right above most people's heads due to it's experimental nature. Oh well, those who got it, got it, and whether or not you did, you might enjoy the latest promo video for it - "Don Seymour's Theme", featuring a stunning guest apperance from MidaZ The Beast.

Karriem Riggins - "Matador"

If you're not up on Karriem Riggin's, you definitely got some enlighting homework to do. He was one of few people J Dilla trusted as an outside producer on his own projects, in fact he was even the one trusted to put the finishing touches on Jay's last official opus "The Shining", he has played drums behind the legendary Herbie Hancock, and knows his way around hip-hop and jazz purists. Today, Riggins is releasing "Alone/Together", an album of 34 bite size instrumentals in a format not too different from "Donuts" or Madlib's "Beat Konducta" projects. Take a listen to the single "Matador" below, and get your order on from the Stones Throw shop.

[EPK] Rakim's "The 18th Letter"

"The 18th Letter" might not be the classic album that many expected from the greatest emcee of all time's solo debut. But with the songs "It's Been A Long Time", "When I'm Flowing", "New York", "The Mystery", "The Saga Begins", the title track, "Remember That", and "Guess Who's Back", the majority of the album was a powerful excercise in lyrics and beats that still sounds fresh fifteen years after its original 1997 release. This EPK that Universal Records released in promotion of the then forthcoming album features interviews with Ra himself as well as hip-hop giants like Pete Rock, Jam Master Jay, AZ, Fredro Starr, Busta Rhymes, Rampage, Coolio, and more paying their respects to the man who influenced them all. All thanks to Afro Gwada for the YouTube upload and shouts to Jammin for spreading the word!

Beneficence prepares "Concrete Soul" LP

Underground heads should have a pretty clear memory of Beneficence's smashing 2011 debut, "Sidewalk Science" that showcased a serious and overall skilled emcee with a love for the golden era boom bap; sporting beats by Diamond D, and cameos from Roc Marciano, Truth Enola, Rob-O, Prince Po, and Lord Tariq. On November 13 (December 18 for vinyl) this year, the Ill Adrenaline Records signee strikes again, with "Concrete Soul"; an album that will most likely be one of the must-have's of the year. Some of the stand out tracks on the tracklist is a K-Def produced reuion of InI with Beneficence, a Buckwild laced Roc Marciano collaboration, a guest verse from Finsta on a track produced by Da Beatminerz. There's also a lot of talented cats here that may not be known to everyone but for does who knows can surely attest to their heavy talents - I'm talking about people like 12 Finger Dan, Confidence, Madsol-Desar and Troo Kula, and there's a lot of other great stuff going on here. Just check the tracklist below, peep the single "Reality vs. Fiction" featuring Masta Ace and Total Eclipse above, and get your pre-orders on.

01. "Intro" (Ft. Doo Wop) [prod. 12 Finger Dan]
02. "Y.W.E." (Ft. Lord Tariq) [prod. 12 Finger Dan / Qmega]
03. "Under Construction" [prod. Gensu Dean]
04. "Put it on the Wire" (Ft. Simone Hines) [prod. Presto]
05. "H.E.Y. (Hood Early Years)" [prod. Confidence]
06. "Cold Train" (Ft. Rob-O & Grap Luva) [prod. K-Def]
07. "Rulez to the Game Remix" (Ft. B-1 & Herb McGruff) [prod. 12 Finger Dan]
08. "Concrete Soul" [prod. Troo Kula]
09. "Straight Out The Gate" (Ft. Rashad & Confidence)
10. "Getting Stronger" (Ft. Finsta) [prod. Da Beatminerz]
11. "All Real" (Ft. AG) [prod. 6th Sense]
12. "Way We Rockin'" (Ft. El Da Sensei) [prod. Confidence]
13. "Hood Cartel" (Ft. Roc Marciano) [prod. Buckwild]
14. "Art of War" (Ft. Billy Danze) [prod. 12 Finger Dan]
15. "Masterful Method" (Ft. Chubb Rock) [prod. Mr. Brown]
16. "Perfect Navigation" (Ft. Asu & Blacksun) [prod. Confidence]
17. "Metal Cuff Links" (Ft. Nature) [prod. by Madsol-Desar]
18. "Reality vs. Fiction" (Ft. Masta Ace) [prod. 12 Finger Dan]
19. "Rebel Muzik" (Ft. Rampage Last Boy Scout) [prod. Confidence]
20. "Real Life We Livin'" (Ft. D-Flow) [prod. Panik of Molemen]
21. "Somethin' Y'all Can Roll With" [prod. P. Original]

7evenThirty - "2012" [Apollo Brown Rmx]

Whoa, sweet remix by Apollo Brown of the "Twenty Twelve" single by 7evenThirty, another ill Mello Music Group signee hailing from the Mississippi area. 7evenThirty released his debut about a month ago, the concept album "Heaven's Computer" which you can stream via the provided link.

Sheek x Ghost x INS - "Bust Shots"

After learning from some of the best in the industry (Tarantino, Jarmusch, Rodriguez, etc.), RZA's now taking the step to direct, produce, score, and star in his very own feature length high-budget flick - "The Man With The Iron Fists". The score and original soundtrack is available now via Soul Temple Records, and is filled with quality music ranging from straight hardcore hip-hop to classic soul, and rock/rap fusion. As seems to have become the norm for hip-hop albums during the past five years or so, one of the hottest tracks from the sessions have been left off the regular release and is only available on a very pricey Deluxe Edition. If you intend to buy that I bet you'll do so whether or not you have heard this song or not, which is why I don't see no harm in posting this here. I myself placed a pre-order on the O.S.T.'s 2xLP version yesterday, which is said to be available on October 30.

So what exactly is this song that I am talking about? It's called "Bust Shots" and could be seen as another prequel to the "Wu Block" album as it stars both Ghostface Killah and Sheek Louch. The extra ingredient is INS The Rebel (Inspectah Deck that is) and together they make for a pretty damn cool posse cut. As much of the soundtrack, this one too is produced by the very skilled Frank Dukes who really has started to become a household name on the scene.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Talib Kweli - "Take It Back" [2007]

Talib Kweli recently hit us with the free "Attack Of The Block", but the Kweli project that's really been in heavy rotation for me lately is 2007's excellent "Eardrum"; in my opinion the BK poet's finest hour as a solo artist. I love how it blends political/conscious rhymes with self-reflecting shit as well as lighter material. But what really brings it home is the soulful production that so seamlessly blended live instrumentation form The Fyre Dept. with sample based records by beat wizards like Madlib, Pete Rock, Hi-Tek, Kanye West, Just Blaze, DJ Khalil,, Sa-Ra, and more. 

One amazing track from those sessions that really manages to capture the vibe of the entire album is a joint called "Take It Back", produced by the multi-talented Karriem Riggins. Reminiscing on hip-hop's golen age and how that music can still pick us up in the worst of times, coupled with a soothing backdrop that includes guitar, acoustic piano, live drums and the beautiful voice of Marsha Ambrosious, this is classic Kweli right here.

Action Bronson x Alchemist - "The Symbol"

A superb Action Bronson and a batch of dirty funk by The Alchemist equals "The Symbol". Add a hilarious video by Rik Cordero and you got a winning concept that will have you fiending for the official "Rare Chandeliers" mixtape. Knowing ALC's previous projects of similiar nature ("Covert Coup", "No Idols"), I'm betting it will be more of a free album than what usually passes for a mixtape.

Masta Killa to release "Selling My Soul"

Masta Killa's third outing "Loyalty is Royalty" was announced quite some time ago, along with the release of several singles and recording information. Now an album entitled "Selling My Soul" seems to have taken it's place as The Masta is aiming to put out the 16 track project via Nature Sounds/Royal Lion Ent. on December 11. I notice that the main singles are still to be seen on the tracklist, so this might just be the same project with a new title. Either way, I've been a fan of Masta's two previous releases and at least now we got a release date. Production from PF Cuttin', 9th Wonder, and Allah Mathematics with verses by Kurupt and even the late ODB looks all right to me. Check out the deluxe edition package too, pretty cool haha.

01. "Skit"
02. "Intro"
03. "Soul & Substance"
04. "R U Listening"
05. "Things Just Ain't The Same"
06. "Part 2"
07. "Cali Sun" (Ft. Kurupt)
08. "What U See"
09. "Food"
10. "Skit"
11. "All Natural"
12. "Wise Words"
13. "Divine Glory"
14. "Skit"
15. "Dirty Soul" (Ft. Ol' Dirty Bastard)
16. "Wisdom"

Sunday, October 21, 2012

[ALBUM] MadKem - "Charles Workman"

Last year Soulspazm released the great "back-to-basics" debut album "Charles Workman" by talented wordsmith MadKem. In celebration of the LP:s one year anniversary, MadKem, Soulspazm and the crew have decided to let loose of the entire 11 track set as a free download for a limited amount of time via Bandcamp. Included are also a full spread digital booklet, two unreleased instrumentals ("Malcolm Browne" plus "How We Do") and the video for "The Moon", so it can't be anything but a done deal. I wasn't previously aquainted with the Queens rhymer, but this set really hit home with me as it's filled with great stuff that guarantees many future revisits. Not only do MadKem pack a distinct voice and a solid flow, he's coming with some really well written and clever verses. Not to mention that "Charles Workman" is built around a variety of interesting topics spread over the 11 songs. With production from DJ K.O., Madwreck, Analogic, Beatnick Dee, and more, this one comes highly recommended. Make sure to grab it while you can!

[Video] J57 x Rasheed Chappell - "Elite Status"

Since I started The Lost Tapes I've been getting tons of new music in the mail on a daily basis. This is of course mainly a great thing, but as I don't have the time to check even close to everything, a lot of good stuff tend to get lost in the shuffle. Cleaning out my inbox I just found this funky J57 versus Rasheed Chappell song in an unopened promo letter from the BBS crew dating back to October 3. In other words, there's a good chance you are familiar with this one by now, but just in case you've been as sleepy as I, here goes the Rob Levy directed visuals for "Elite Status" - featuring DJ Brace on the cut. The track is one of ten songs that can be found on J57's latest EP "2057", which is available exclusively at

Saturday, October 20, 2012

[comp] BUMPY KNUCKLES - "FREDDIE @ it Again"

"It's not my job to fix hip-hop, I didn't fuck it up", Bumpy Knuckles a.k.a. Freddie Foxxx boosts on his masterful DJ Premier laced  2012 "KoleXXXion". And damn right he is; his first album back in 1989 might not have been the hottest album, but since then he has always stood out as one of hip-hop's last true purists left, putting his love for the music and culture above any money train any day of the week. "The Kolexxxion" has been one of the three albums I've bumped from beginning to end most all year, just like "Industry Shakedown" before it, and the same goes for the reissue of "Crazy Like A Foxxx". Bumpy's ear for beats are something else; never abandoning the hardhitting boom bap that compliments his flow and lyrics so well, and whether he's working with one of the best producer in the game (and he pretty much worked with all of them), producing the music himself, or grabbing a track from someone up-and-coming, the result is in 90% of the cases straight up heat. Then you got his microphone skills of course; ever since the "Ruff Ruff" days, few rappers in the game has such a commanding voice, he rhymes agressive as hell but never let it interfer with his delivery; Foxxx walks the perfect balance between "punch-you-in-the-face" music and social commentary ("Angels Sing"), politics ("New Millenium"), and self-reflection ("Searchin'"). In other words, just like colleagues M.O.P., Foxxx got a whole lot more up his sleeve than the casual listener aeem to think.

A while back I put together an appreciated compilation of Bump titled "Gangsta Poetry", and since I attended a straight-up superb performance by Bumpy Knuckles and DJ Premier on their KoleXXXion tour yesterday- I just knew I hadt to make a second installment with tracks I don't have on my Bumpy CD:s and LP:s, The show was superior to most shows I ever been to, the energy was crazy from both the audiecence and the duo on stage, and especally Bumpy seemed to love Malmö, even dubbing the entire audience Gang Starr Family haha. Besides great sound quality, Bump and Preem tear the roof down with about 85% of the "KoleXXXion" LP (which really makes for mind-blowing live material), a few classics from '99 like "Who Know Why?" and the timeless "Industry Shakedown". After about 40 minutes Bumpy left, while Preem played some GURU and Big L tributes in the form of a gang of Gang Starr classics (including "Full Clip") before Bumpy returned to the scene again for another 40 minutes set before they both left. I'm still blown away by how great and professional this show was.. A huge difference from the guys who comes out, rock for 45 minutes and leave (Jay-Z, I'm looking at you)... So of course, there's a lot of Bumpy getting played this morning, so why not make it a compilation of non-album material so y'all can enjoy it too, right?!

I call this one "Freddie @ It Again: Gangsta's Poetry V.2" and it includes 18 slamming songs consisting of various guest features, B-sides, unreleased material and soundtrack exclusives... You know the drill! I think it came out REALLY nice, fans of Foxxx will definitely appreciate this, and it's no doubt that this works great as a front-to-back listen as well as a perfect companion piece to the previous "Gangsta Poetry". Just check how it starts with a good qualiy radio rip of a rare Future Flavaz promo freestyle over an unreleased Pete Rock beat, and from there bangs along for over an hour until it closes with Foxxx recent feature on none other than Grandmaster Caz's comeback LP. Besides the intro, there's some great unreleased Pete Rock / Bumpy collabos on here that I think you will enjoy if you missed out on them earllier - tracks like "The Mack", "45 Don" and "U Krazy". As far as Gang Starr family, Foxxx joins Big Shug on two cuts, one of them being a Premier production; M.O.P. joins forces with Foxxx as guests on Wyclef's hard-hitting "Masquerade" and both Lil' Fame and Bump are part of the unbelivable posse cut "Reppin' NY" that DJ JS-1 produced last year. Please support good music, because this guys really deserve it, and if you want to keep hearing well executed projects like "The Kolexxxion" there's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't purchase it - buy music from Bumpy Knuckles @ UGHHFoxxx @ iTunes or directly from Gracie Productions which now has all versions of "KoleXXXion" on 50% of the price (including the instrumental and acapella LP:s). At least this way, you can listen to "We Are @ War" without feeling like a total sucker haha! But for now, enjoy this highly dope compilation everyone!

01. "Future Flavaz Freestyle: Intro"
02. "PhUcKu!!" (w. DJ Wayne Ski)
03. "Real Recognize Real" (w. Jesse West & Busta Rhymes)
04. "Dream Catceher" [prod. King Karnov]
05. "Reppin' NY" (w. DJ JS-1, Lil' Fame & Joell Ortiz)
06. "U Krazy" [prod. Pete Rock]
07. "Take Money" (w. Marco Polo, Ruste Juxx & Rock)
08. "123 Bang" (w. Bif Shug & Hectic)
09. "If We Can't Build" (w. Akrobatik)
10. "Damage" (w. DJ Revolution & Blaq Poet)
11. "Masquerade" (w. M.O.P. & Wyclef)
12. "Pimpin' Ain't Easy"
13. "How to Rob 2008"
14. "45 Don" [prod. Pete Rock]
15. "The Mack" [prod. Pete Rock]
16. "Sick A Nigguz" (w. Big Shug & DJ Premier)
17. "Dumpin' Em All" (w. DJ Nu-Mark)
18. "Swing Hi-Swing Low" (w. Grandmaster Caz & Cold Crush)


[Review] ROME CLIENTEL - "The Empire II"

Rome Clientel has been lurking in the shadows since the mid-'90s, even recording with then future legend Just Blaze as early as 1997, but due to various circumstances things didn't work out as it was supposed to go down. But better late than never as the saying goes; earlier this year he released a gang of hype-buildig singles, leading up to the release of his free´ debut EP "The Empire: The Lost Catacombs", that was highly praise among true underground heads. Now, not even a year later, he's back at it again with 10 more cuts collected on the official follow-up - "The Empire II: The Battlegrouds". Can it live up to the hype surrounding it, or was Rome simply a "one EP wonder" who just got lucky? Keep reading and find out...

The project starts off strong with ”The Glass House”; rather than your typical energetic intro track, Rome and producer Mr. Scott settles for quite the moody opening number. Based around electric recurring organ stabs, various strings instruments, horns and a central bass line that is perfect for Rome. There’s no question this recently debuting artist deserves to be called a true lyricist, using the somber meloides and the aforementione deep bass as a canvas to reflect over where he came from, and where he’s going in life, all while sympathizing with his people that's still stuck in the streets though he's refusing to go back. “So why you celebrating for, I’m in the basement, trying to make a name for myself and time’s wasted” is a good example of the first verse, which deals with the past. While “I got to hand it to ‘em, they in the light but the camera’s ruined, fighting for that same slice of pizza like it’s vicodin, I choose another path tryin’ to change life” is a prime example of the thoughts he conveys in the second verse, or as Rome so excellently puts it in his closing bars: “Gotta get it now, we can’t hold back, we fall in the trap when we lie, so it’s time to survive… Let’s make it happen!

Amongst a few other cuts, ATG produces the soulful, almost mournful “Free”. A beautiful record,  and an early favorite of mine. There’s a few more ATG productions on here, and there’s a few producer/MC constellation that will go down in history; you know the name, but maybe one day we will see Rome Clientel and ATG on that list as well. ATG makes heavy use of haunting vocal samples that run through much of the song, couples it with melodic basslines and somber keys, effect builing horns and an overall nostalgic feeling, that creates an unbelievable chemistry with the emcee in question. Rome takes the opportunity to spit some social commentary, something he does well, speaking on what’s really going on with his people and those still in the street, and how to overcome a bad situation. Rhyming from first person, the Elmira rhymer constructs bars like "Set us free from the demons free as that side of us we’ll never be. From the stereotypes, it’s time to take off som our mask, prepare for the fligh – Until we FREE”. Beautiful stuff with a strong message!

Both “The Crisis” and “My Inner War” are laced by Kount Fif, someone I’ve been keeping an eye on since his excellent work with Killah Priest a few years back. The couple of tracks here does not disappoint, though they don’t quite live up to the two aforementioned unbreakable cuts. The former features guest verses from Rav P and Alias, in particular the latter who spits the most 16 on the entire song; coming in with a story about being in the hospital after a bad set-up by a bride while her guys took all his stuff and pistol whipped him. “The Crisis”  is slightly reminsicnet of Pete Rock's classic "The Game" with its hard-hitting rhymes and array of strings. “My Inner War” is the stronger of the two, both from the musical backdrop and from Clientel's lyrical exercise

Out of the ten tracks featured on “The Battlegrounds”, three songs are produced by ATG, three by Parks, and as mentioned above two courtesy of Kount Fif. This is good since it gives the EP a very coherrent sound, and they all do a good job. Especially ATG, but also Parks who's stand-out tracks are “The Chips Fall”; a banger dripping of ‘70s soul and Motown, set over some real smacking drums. Cleverly disguising his story with poker metaphors, Rome transform the song into a short autobiography, starting from his birth and ending up today, at the beginning of his recording career, where he also speaks about the pros and cons of being in the industry (remember that he was supossed to have come out a long time ago if things would have turned out differently). It’s clear that the song is a motivitional “aim for the stars” type of song, and it works. Parks also laces one of my favorites, the militant “You Want War”; it keeps the soul element but it’s definitely more aggressive and driven than much of the other material. I also have to hand it to him for incorporating a good chunk of turntable work, something that otherwise are missing from the EP. I'm always very positive about the use of scratches in hip-hop music, as you see it so little in the music today, despite it being an extremely important part of the culture. On a side note, I think I hear the name Statik Selektah cutted up here, could it be that he's an uncredited guest or is my mind playing a trick on me?

ATG returns for the impeccable “Betta Luv ‘Em”, where Rome is just having fun with it; like a true pro he’s rhyming intricate but making it sound so effortless. ATG is already establishing a signature sound with the soul laced backdrops, the vocal chops and beat breakdowns juxtaposed against the progressive drums. This can be heard futher on the mini-albums two closing records, the previous released singles, “One Life to Live” and the bonus cut “Troubled Child”. That signature sound is further established here, and I really hope that we one day will get a full project by Rome Clientel signed ATG, because out of all the producers I’ve heard him work work with so far, he is by far my favorite due to the unbelievable chemistry these two share. “One Life…” teams Clientel up with another highly praised lyricist in the form of REKS; a song about striving for your dreams, and in their case to follow their passion as emcees and walk the balance to never sell out while still making sure that their families is taken care of. REKS is another one of the sickest “newer” emcees doing it, but it’s honestly hard to say who had the greatest verse here which is a feat in itself and speaks volumes of Rome's talents. “Troubled Child” was the first single, and is still my favorite; with the high-pitched, sad and nostalgic soul sample, the classic bass ostinato and the melody of the recurring trumpet, this is the album's masterpiece and true stand-out. Just as good are Clientel’s vocals, conveying a sad tale that happens every day, everywhere, about a young child lost in his way, seeking an identity but instead comes across an identity crisis as he goes further and further down the wrong path. Rome's reminiscing on how they used to play basketball when he was a kid, and draws a parell with how it's looking for more and more kids today: “The court is empty now, the kids are having babies/ Getting high and committing robberies at early ages … Selling weed at 15 to feed the seeds, makes it hard to believe [in god]”. The whole song is filled with messages like this without ever getting preachy, and if you ever been a so called “problem child” you'll be able to completely relate to this type of material, and will mean a lot to you.

As the second EP in less than a year, the second entry in Clientel’s “The Empire” series is also the best. While I really liked the first installment, here you can hear that Rome already has evolved as an emcee, he sounds more confident, he speaks on some terrific topics and tells stories, all while doing it incredibly well and completely natural. Even his ear for beats seem to be a step sharper this time around. Now, “The Battlegrounds” is not a perfect 5/5 album, but it is undoubtedly a DAMN GOOD ten-track set that will warrant many listens. There’s some real stand-outs and there’s a couple of cuts that’s just good but not great - but remember that this is just the beginning of what is hopefully a career of longevity. I believe that Rome will one day have the potential to be mentioned in the same breath as the A-game lyricist of this culture we call hip-hop. There’s not a single weak track on here, plenty of stand outs, and the 30 minutes plays smooth from start to finish and should be enjoyed by anyone who still got a love for that true school / boom bap style that The Lost Tapes feeds you on a daily basis. Of course it’s all delivered with Rome’s personal twist, and upgraded to a 2012 version, but nevertheless the authencity is here and it’s in full effect. Now that Clientel’s got our attention with two sick EP’s (that together totals an album worth of 60 minutes), I hope the next step is a full-length retail album from the man himself. And as mentioned before, I wouldn’t mind if ATG produced the majority of it, as he and Rome clearly bring out the best/the beast in one another. After reading this review, you have absolutely no excuse whatsoever for not giving this EP a chance, so download, stream or whatever, but just press play and TURN IT UP!!