Summer’s just about over, but this fall’s hip-hop releases (and some summer ones that I missed) abound. Yeah, yeah, now check the method.
There’s good and there’s bad things about MF Doom’s newest album, Expektoration… Live (Gold Dust). First the bad – this is yet another new Doom album that doesn’t actually have anything new on it. These are all tracks you’ve heard before, mostly culled from Mm… Food, Madvillainy, and Operation Doomsday. The good news, however, is that the audio quality is good and Doom is actually rapping, not screaming, as many MCs tend to do at their live shows. Hardcore fans will be satisfied, neophytes will be left wanting more.
Moe Green’s debut, Rocky Maivia: Non-Title Match (Interdependent Media) was an exceptional new release from this past summer. The Bay Area MC (Vallejo, to be exact – birthplace of E-40 and Mac Dre) has crafted a personal and emotive but still banging statement of hip-hop intent, complete with some superlative production. Half nuevo-West Coast funk, half Golden Era mindset, you should go listen to this one now.
Roots Manuva and Wrongtom have collaborated on the remix album, Duppy Writer (Big Dada), which finds producer Wrongtom re-imagining Manuva’s already reggae-heavy hip-hop as products of 1970s roots reggae Studio One and Trojan work. The songs, culled from several of Manuva’s albums, sound modern and fresh even while incorporating some seriously soulful bass and drum hits. Enjoy this one for now; a new Roots Manuva album is reportedly in the works.
This fall, some UK hip-hop-electronic fusion comes courtesy of The Qemists, a group mixing intensely hyper jungle, techno, rap, and rock into a sometimes irritating but always energetic mix of amped up beats. Spirit in the System (Ninja Tune), at its worst and its best, sounds like a Linkin Park-Prodigy collaboration. Pass.
Another mix, albeit a very different one, is present on Double Vision’s debut album, Bifocal (No Sleep Records). They liken themselves to the Pharcyde and Outkast, but that’s kind of a reach. Tracks like “Skinny Jeans” are Cool Kids-lite, while the rock-rap fusion of “For My” should have been shelved.
Production duo Black Sky Blue Death’s new album, Third Party (Fake Four Inc.), is a collaboration with Alexander Chen, vocalist for Boy in Static. BSBD’s past hip-hop production work has kind of hinted at what’s going on here, an extremely un-hip-hop collection of fuzzed-out shoegazer instrumentals over which Chen sings. Think M83 with a dash of early New Order, and you’re on the right track as far as what to expect here.
Common Grackle is a co-production of singer/songwriter Gregory Pepper and hip-hop producer Factor. The duo’s new album, The Great Depression (Fake Four Inc.) takes sweet and sometimes overly precious indie pop and enhances it with hip-hop beats. This works on songs like the intro track, “Thank God It’s Monday,” mostly due to a guest verse by Kool Keith. The rest of them time, Pepper’s fey singing style is buttressed by clever and textured beats courtesy of Factor. One can’t help but think that his contribution is the real key to the album’s success.
Chicago’s 14th Century is an MC/producer fascinated by all things mob-related, and clearly heavily influenced by the Wu-Tang Clan. Via the sinister samples and dour beats on his new album, Raw Fish & Sake (Double Sun), he displays a serious background in grimy, underground rap music. “She Say” has a particularly eerie and effective warped sample that is a good example of the album’s tone. 14th Century’s rapping is precise and gritty, reminiscent of a younger Raekwon, although his wordplay isn’t nearly as clever. Overall, an interesting listen from a rising young MC.
Ill Bill and DJ Muggs have teamed up on Kill Devil Hills (Fat Beats), a reliably morose audio journey through Bill’s depressing world, augmented by Muggs’ likeminded beats. Beyond grimy, way past gully, this album is psychedelic and street all at once. It’s nice to hear a producer like Muggs, who could easily resting on his Cypress Hill laurels, still keeping one ear to the ground and releasing hard and innovative hip-hop. Some nice guest appearances here from B Real and Sean Price as well.
Finally, The Pack have returned with their sophomore album, Wolfpack Party (SMC). Let’s see, we got sex, bass-heavy beats, chants, and techno-infused song construction. This is like 2 Live Crew 2010. This is like some other shit. This is not an album I’ll be listening to very often.
That’s all for now, so until next month… e-mail with thoughts and insults, and send me yer shit! I’ll listen to it. Glaciers is ghost like Casper.
Wu-Tang affiliate and Sunz of Man MC Hell Razah is joined by fat, white guy (and suddenly fast-rapping) R.A. The Rugged Man on his new single, “Return of the Renaissance,” a jitterbug-sampling track with very little percussion. Sounds good. Listen here.
Group Home is back with a Guru (RIP) tribute album, due out next week, titled Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal. Sounds literal if nothing else. Listen to the first single, “Up Against The Wall,” below.