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Monday, June 19, 2017

[Review] KOOL G RAP - "Return Of The Don"

1.0. Introduction to G Rap as a solo artist
If Kool G Rap would mumble-lisping nothing but double time flows over trap beats for the rest of his career from this point on, he would still and forever be one of Hip Hop's most cherished treasures. He helped change the game at least two or three times through an out-of-this-world wordplay that's out of this world, a delivery and cadence that is instantly recognizable, On top of that he brought mafioso and gangster rap to the East Coast and he did it damn beliveable over the hardest East Coast bangers you could imagine. And he is still doing his thing although his P.N.C. DJ Polo has stepped back from the scene. I'm a big fan of his three albums with DJ Polo which he made as part of The Juice Crew (meaning Marley Marl, Sir Jinx, Large Professor, Eric B and Trackmasters oversaw the end product).

1.1. "4.5.6" and "Roots of Evil"
In 1995 he decided to go for dolo - no Juice Crew, no DJ Polo, and the result was one of his hardest album of his career - taking multi-sylllables crime sagas to the next level over some of the ruggedest East Coast mid-'90s bangers signed Dr. Butcher, Naughty Shorts (remember him), T-Ray and Buckwild. As for guests his mission was to give some up-and-coming really talented cats their shine - how about MF Grimm, B-One and Nas, To me, "4,5,6" was the last all-around classic G Rap album, which is not to say that he han't dropped plenty of heat since but never this focused again.
For example in 1998 he dropped "Roots of Evil", getting away from his home town of NYC to fully record this gangsta epos in Arizona. There's plenty of hot stuff on this LP, especially considering it's a front-to-back concept album which is best experienced fully focused on with a pair of headphones on. Some of the beats aren't all that interesting, while some definitely are epic, but G Rap in his prime is one of the few emcees who can kill a mediocre beat and make a real jam out of it. Just check a song like "Hitman's Diary", "Home Sweet Funeral Home" (Papoose first session), "A Thug's Love Story Pts. 1,2,3" and so on. It's deifnitely a solid album, and an underrated one at that.

1.2. Making ends meet at Rawkus
Now throughout the years Giancana (i'm not even going to mention that was the travesty known as "The Giancana Story" on Rawkus) has in a way sold out his integrity for cash, appearing on several wack non-rappers that can't even the slightest bis e called rappers. The worse one was trust fund baby who got the trust fund money from his father to have The Kool Genius Of Rap not only spitting on his song but also appeared extremely uncomfortable in the music video. Luckily the video ís now blocked, but it took a couple of years. But we all got to make a living and the reason "The Giancana Story" failed was mainly due to A&R;s who didn't understand they had a legend on their hands. Just check out the solid 12" single "First Nigga", "The Streets", "Thug For Life", none songs that appeared on the final product despite being laced by DJ Premier, Buckwild and Younglord, respectively. At the same time he dropped impressive verses on Big L's "The Big Picture" and the Reflection Eternal LP.

2.0. REVIEW: Return Of The Don (2017)
01. Return of the Don
It's been a few years since Giancana dropped an album as cohessive as this. Right of the bat we get a bass heavy joint that just over a minut give us the entire narrative of what to expecta. Ater a sample from a concert where the crowd is shouting in hype to summon the artist in question, The bass melody, slamming drums and the low-key opera vocals running behind the strong voice of G Rap is just acceerate, As it's one of the only solo cuts on the album one wish it was longer. But a solid opening that sets the tone nonetheless.

02. Mack Lean (Ft. Fred The Godson & AG Da Coroner)
The druns are hard but the flute sample give the song an exotic vibe to it. G Rap sets it off nicely with some choice quotes but once Fred The Godson and AG Da Coroner the discrepancie between an excellent emcee and the standard rappers becomes very apparant. Usually you want to start your apbum with a banger that will give you the straight up strink-face. For some reason G Rap decided to kick things off with the weaiest cut on the project.

03. Criminal Outfit (Ft. Noreaga)
Now we're talking! "Niggas want to juks us, turn 'em to pressure cookers", and shouting out 5 Family Click and even N.O.R.E. comes through. Something I noticed about NORE, on a solo record he can spit some real amateur bars but when he's got something to prove ("Hate" with Blaq Poet, this with G Rap, the joints with Big Pun) he can really step up to the plate. The percussion beat is pure excellence, and the mixture of dark synthesizers and electric guitars create an agressive mood just perfect for the album. Ir's no wonder that Mo$$ is the only producer not affiliated with Year Round that's signed a production deal with DJ Premier and here he really proves he can hang with the legends for a full album.

04. Wise Guys (Ft.Lil' Fame, Freeway & Statk Selekthah)
The first single releaed from the project and it's easy to see why. This could've come straight from "4,5,6"; straight up boom bap with a hard jazz flavor, excellent drum and bass combo with a beautiful soulful vocal sample. Giancana and Freeway delivers that real shit, Lil' Fame is always great to hear but he sort of sound like he's on Autopilot here. The dot over the I is definitely Statik Selektah turntable wizardry on the hook - I really wish he or Premier had supplied more turntable work here, but you can¨t win them all. All around an excellent joint.

05. Time's Up
Following on the uptempo boom bap posse cut that was "Wise Guy", the bass and drums is all agressive, only slightly breaking up for a nice soulful vocal sample and an electric organ loop reminiscent of Bo Hansson. Best of all this is one (of only two songs on the entire project) that stands as a G Rap solo song and as such he makes the most of it. And so does MoSS.

06. Out For That Life (Ft. Raekwon)
Moss and G Rap is an excellent combination, that much is clear by now. Keyboards, drums, bass, strings, organ and flutes creates a fascinating soundbed that both G Rap and guest Raekwon makes the most of. These two should undoubtedly make an album together as their styles go together like fish in water..

07. Capitol Hill (Ft. Sheek Louch & Cormega)

Another excellent G Rap collaboration on the short project and both lyrically and muscally it makes the most of the ocassion as it might just be the hardest joint on the entire LP. Sheek Louch doesn't have the lyrical grace of Giancana or 'M3ta but if we're talking sheer energy and street presence he sounds right at home on here. And they obviously decided to end this with a big red cherry on top as Cormega drops the illest verse on the entire track - "Equal opportunity was merily a dream/ The illegal life influenced me I reacted like a savage who's been civilized. Seen Rikers as a rite of passage/ My mind adaptated to supplying packets and writing raps quite emphatically/ I tramped over Tragedy/ Understanding the clarity, helped to see/inaccurate excpect to see the half of me gradually proved wrong, gradually proven wrong/ substantiay it merely an excuse to be mad at me/ it sucks to come after me/ Sheek and G Rap smashed this beat drastically/ if not for rapping B, a siniliar reality the listener in particular in the street..." What a monster of a track too, MoSS beats are constantly excellent and G Rap has gathered some of the finest emcees in the game and even then there's no question who's the most taented spitter on this album. This album, although short, is a true blessing.

08. Running (Ft. Termanology & 
I'm not too big fan of Termanology, its just something about him that bugs me, and I think he's way weaker than the other guests and the main artist here. That's not to say he is bad, and MoSS boom bap beat and sampled saxophone and piano keys create a nostalgic piece that really wotks well. However, theres a big discrepancie between G Rap and Termanology. Term got some nice punchline, but G Rap got lines which sounds truly one with the music, his voice over that marvelous saxophone sample is just something else.. Hardly filler and luckily we get a solid Sagon verse to boost.

09. The World is Mine( (Ft. Willie The Kid, Crooked I & Pearl Gates)
This is the obligatory posse cut featuring Willie The Kid and Pearl Gate and of course KING Crooked, and it's an intriguintg soul infected boom bap affair. Not the strongest song on the LP but Moss comes through and so does Willie The Kid. As a stand-alone it's far from a standout but as part of this album it works very well. Overall it's a very good, thought-out album both from a lyrical and production stand point. I for one hope that MoSS ajd G Rap will ccontiue in thiis vein. They certainly got chemistry,

10. Popped Off (Ft, Sean Price & Ransom)

Sean Price, Ransom appear on antother posse cut near the end of the album and they all sound good over this soulful, melodic production that MoSS cooks up. The sampled chorus sounds really natural and add a lot to the overal song. Sean Price absolutely murders this agresivvely as only he can and my guess is it's a tribute to this fallen legend as Giancana doesn't even appear on the track, leaving it all to Sean P and his ight hand man..

11. Rest in Peace (Ft. Conway & The Machine
Oh shit! This is a slamming outro, just like he did with "4,5,6" and "Roots Of Evil" G Rap invites up-and-coming very talented emcees and MoSS goes all out with unpredictable HARD ass drums, an addictive bassline, wah-wah guitars, and G Rap getting his most agressive flow on."Where I'm from it's poverty stricken/ For you to make it out you need to win a lottery ticket/ I set my eyes on my goal like a robbery visit/ mad dissapointed to set the shit, You got to be kidding/ had to unleash the beast to be a side of me flipping... Rest in peace!", Again it's a short, agressive cut and talented but relative newcomer Conway and Westside Gunn definitely hold their own almost as well as tje star of the shoe. Very good album closer for what is esentially G Rap's best LP in years.

This album comes highly recommended, it's one of G Rap's msot cohessive albums in several years. Bangers upon bangers upon bangers, certainly no weak verses, delivereis, guests, cuts or beats here. Let's hope MoSS and Giancana will continue to work as this is about as good as it gets. The guests, while I wouldn't mind 2-3 G rap solo sogs more all come through. It's evident they had something to prove rhyming wiht one of the true Hip Hop legends. Don't sleep on this release, Easily a very strong 4/5 rating.

Tomorrow, I'm gonna review G Rap's stop in Copenhagen during his first anf only Scandinavian tour. So stay tuned!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mr. Lif & Akrobatik (THE PERCEPTIONISTS)

Back in 2000/2003 I was big on Def Jux, the label, they released several quality releases that mixed true school hip-hop with really heavyhitting, distorted beats and banging lyrics that ranged from political discourse to fine storytelling and metaphor street raps. My favorite was always Cannibal Ox's "The Cold Vein" (still one of the best albums of the 2000s decade). A perfect marrige of mindblowing, agressive El-P sonic attacks underlining the hard knock life of Vordul Mega and Vast Aire - but not in no ordinary way, the verses were full of metaphors and riddles. Another favorite released shortly after was Mr. Lif's first full-lenght LP on the label, "I Phantom". A deep, and very slept-on concept album which proved that Lif and El-P was not far from the fantastic trio that Can' Ox was with El-Producto. Both LP:s was released in 2002, along with very solid projects like Aesop Rock's "Labor Days" (technically 2001), RJD2 mostly instrumental storytelling project "Deadringers", El-P's balls-to-the-walls aggressive "Fant´´´´astic Damage" and MURS' "The End of the Beginning". Speaking of the latter make sure you get the vinyl version as for some reason the perhaps two best song on the album was decided by some bright heat at the label to serve best as vinyl bonus track..

[Above is a 2005 single from the album a which proes how long this Percepionists been in gestaltion]
Now Def Jux is no more, El-P is putting his energy on other ventures like Run The Jewels, Zack De La Rocha (fucking sick), The Veils. But as I already established above, Def Jux was a lot more than El-P or Company Flow and between 2000 and 2003 they had a really talented roster of artists major labels wouldn't touch with a stick. Another one of those like Mr. Lif was the highly lyrically skilled Akrobatik who dropped People like El Da Sensei, Camu Tao, Akrobatik, Jean Grae, and many more. So there you go - a brief history lesson for those of my readers who might be a little younger. The big news here is that the two emcees buid off each other like they've been a team for years, keeping the guests to a mnimum (Syne on the single "Hose Down" and "Free at Last" as well as "When Push Comes to Shove" featuring Dutch Rebelle). Visit their BandCamp for tracklist, production info, release date (about a month left) and keep checking back because I have a feeling more singles will appear ASAP). Take a listen to the debut single "Hose Down" featuring Syne below.