Reviews

Reviews

Run The Jewels 3 Album Review.

It’s hard to believe that Killer Mike’s ‘R.A.P. Music’ LP is basically 5 years old, the album that first brought forth the audacious pair that is now Run The Jewels. Those in the know knew that El Producto producing an entire album for Dungeon Family’s Grammy award winning slept on heavy weight would bring forth something special.  Those that knew didn’t know it would lead to Hip-Hop’s most sought after new duo, in an era where groups are virtually nonexistent and album’s production being entirely overseen by one producer is seen as even less of a commodity, Run The Jewels manage to bring these two iconic staples back from the foundation and into present-day and furthermore the future with shocking ease and much needed acceptance.

El-P’s soundscapes always exceeded the integral polarizing noise-like aesthetic that Hip-Hop sonically set out with as a means of separation and ironically acknowledgment. A student of the ‘golden-era’ El-P has described his sound as Boogie Down Productions on acid, this adherence to the roots of Hip-Hop coupled with progression and growth has lead to El’s beats being the one true sonic descendant of the original East Coast sound, a rightful evolution in a genre where many claim farce in the direction the sound has gone toward since the mid-90s. ‘R.A.P. Music’ and even RTJ2 deviated off the path and even stumbled upon melody on some tracks, especially on Killer Mike’s solo record, El specifically catering to Mike’s southern flow-driven roots, RTJ3 completely strips that down to a skeletal scarcity. Almost to a fault Run The Jewels 3 plays as pure minimalist angst, synths, distorted basslines, thumping 808s, and not much more create a haunting dystopian background. Tracks almost blend together in their scarcity only to be lifted into distinction through choruses, sung hooks, and features. Danny Brown stops by on a indistinguishable muddled bassline on ‘Hey Kids’ and  Tunde Adebimpe chimes in to bring “Thieves” up from obscurity and drill home the message of a much needed lyrical analysis of societal problems. ‘2100’ ft. BOOTS shines some sonic lights as the distorted abstraction of sound materializes as melody and guitar chords string out of the gutter and combine to bring beauty to the listener. Immediately we are plunged back into oblivion on the Trina assisted ‘Panther Like A Panther’, war drums bang and a constant percussion loop reverberates in the background.

Run The Jewels not only push the envelope sonically, bringing early 80s electro-funk 100 years into the future on ‘Call Ticketron’, they push the envelope lyrically and topically. ‘Thursday In The Danger Room ‘ has Hip-Hop’s new dynamic duo dealing with the reality of death and how it effects the psyche of more than those just physically going through it. The album’s finale hosts a bonus track where the crew brings back Zach DeLa Rocha on ‘Kill Your Masters’ a call to arms after an introspective look on the proceeding ‘A Report To The Shareholders’ a message to their aware fans while noticing their stock rise which doubles as a pledge to ‘remain hostile’. ‘Strike while the iron is hot’ seems to be the maxim this crew is going for so we still expect more following the conclusion-filled final statement on the last track, in under 5 years Mike and El have already put out 3 stellar albums and 2 joint effort solo albums so it’s a safe bet to say that Run The Jewels aren’t quite done with their heist yet.

 

Rating 8.3/10

A Tribe Called Quest ‘We Got It From Here…’ Review

The Beats Rhymes & Life documentary (2011) ended with a slight hint that Tribe owed their record label one more album under their original contract from 1988. This seemed just an optimistic way to end a revealing documentary about one of Hip Hop’s greatest groups. Tumultuous times and social injustice brought the groups members back together behind the scenes and secretly the entire Tribe began recording one last album. These stories always come up with legendary bands or groups in music but with the amazing independent release of Tribe’s musical brother’s long awaited new album De La Soul broke the mold and perhaps sent shock waves through the dormant Native Tongues camp. Jarobi the “and sometimes Y” member of the group, the mysterious figure who always remained a core member of Tribe but was seldom seen and even less likely to be heard ironically was the only one of the four putting out material. Jarobi teamed up with fellow Native Tongue legend Dres of Black Sheep to release an astounding debut under their new group Evitan in 2012- 4 years after QTip’s last release. With one member getting their creative juices flowing and rumors of QTip’s solo album ‘The Last Zulu’ always rumbling their seemed be a small percentage that something tangible may actually appear out of the Tribe camp. After the Paris shootings, and a brief reunion on the ‘Yeezus’ tour, the secret recordings were kicked off in full gear- the heavy social climate of the time would only be a precursor to the social angst that would accompany the moment of the album’s release.

‘We The People’ finds Tribe in their most militant, sandwiched between two other powerful socially conscious songs that kick start the album. ‘The Space Program’ deals with a Sci-fi theory that is all to analogous to gentrification, white-flight, and the Country’s all to obvious cultural divide -highlighted by the controversial election of 45th President Donald Trump only a few days prior.  ‘Kids’ has a surprise appearance by Andre 3000, who seems to be popping up a lot more as of recently, Tip and Dre’ trade verses about adolescence and it’s accompanying naivety. ‘Dis Generation’ has all 3 original Tribe MC’s finally trading bars Beastie Boys & Run DMC style over the beat. Jarobi makes sure you know ‘dude’s nice he’s tight screwed in with some pliers’ he holds his own with legendary MC’s fans have known to kill a track, Busta Rhymes even jumps into the cypher on the second verse to take the track to an even higher level. Busta has always been linked to Tribe and always linked to surprise show stealing verses but on ‘We Got It From Here’ Busta and reemerged Tribe member Consequence arguably steal the album on ‘Mobius’, putting on a clinic for all up and coming rhymers and veterans.

On the production side the album sounds like the logical step forward from ‘The Love Movement’ with a slight mix of ‘Kamaal The Abstract’ and a pinch of Madlib-ness with sudden sample switches and vocal snippets. ‘Conrad Tokyo’ is the only track which has a ‘The Renaissance’ vibe, QTip’s more recent Jazz-based work, which fittingly features Kendrick Lamar going toe to toe with Phife. With the untimely passing of Phife Dawg this album seems to have a somber side, though fans are glad that we get to hear his final work he is not physically around to experience A Tribe Called Quest’s first number one album in 20 years. ‘Lost Somebody’ is dedicated to Phife and has Tip and Jarobi sharing heartfelt memories about one of Hip Hop’s most slept on Legendary MCs. ‘Thanks 4 Your Service’ is the perfect final lap in a journey that has produced art that will live on forever. The titled, picked by Phife, but understood by none of the members can be taken many different ways and will never actually be deciphered but whatever the meaning truly is, we are indeed thankful 4 their service.

 

Rating 9.4/10

Solange ‘A Seat At The Table’ Review

As America’s first black President is getting ready to leave and the two replacement choices range between an outright arrogant anti-other non-inclusive billionaire and the former’s former foe, with more behind the scenes ties to people identical to her adversary than her actual adversary, people of color seem to be approaching this transition with a new reemergence of 60’s-esque political consciousness and racial pride. ‘A Seat At The Table’ will truly take a long time but if metaphors mirror reality the process will be completed simply with perseverance, dedication and an acknowledgement for the need of independence. ‘Table’ has been in the works, according to some publications, as early as 2008-09. After suffering “a little of a breakdown” Solange stepped back and reevaluated her artistic approach and the toll it was taking on her life, set up her own label, dropped an EP, and continued to craft “Table” with just a piano, melodies and ideas.

These sketches were brought to soul music heavyweights ?uestlove and Raphael Saadiq to flesh them out and add their special brand of sauce to the slow cooking recipe. Solange cooks up a soulful dish which has not many contemporary equals, “a project on identity, empowerment, independence, grief and healing” is how Knowles describes ‘Table’ all topics that transcend time and human barriers giving way to having tracks come to fruition almost a decade after inception. ‘Cranes’ originally worked up as a demo from a Raphael Saadiq instrumental CD in 2008 gets revisited and polished by it’s original creator and years later is reborn as a Billboard Hot 100 lead single. Sonically ‘Table’ never really wavers from a soulful somber melancholy mood, a feeling characteristic of the social change the album speaks on topically. Live instrumentation and an astonishing ensemble of guest appearances and collaborative contributors weave in and out of the airy strings, funky basslines and programmed-acoustic drums intertwined with interludes that construct a project more along the lines of documentary than album. Master P narrates an intrepid journey to independence through self-awareness and enlightenment.

‘Mad’ features Lil Wayne venting, alongside philosophical sung lyrics on the dangers of the self-titled emotion, only to come to the correct conclusion a verse later. ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ and ‘F.U.B.U. pinpoint emotions and frustrations almost all blacks face in a world so obviously stricken with the fear of a black planet. “Don’t feel bad you can’t sing along just be glad you got the whole wide world” lyrics that perfectly simplify the “why can’t we use the N word” argument to those too blind or foolish to see the world for what it really is, all cleverly sung over an interpolation of C-Murder’s ‘Down For My Niggas’. Knowles really shows the power of music with this LP showcasing how effective an honest message is over artistically beautiful and accessible music. ‘Table’ concludes with Master P professing ‘We are the chosen ones’ and declaring that ‘we are going out as royalty’ a real seat at the table.

Rating 8.6/10

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