Skyzoo – “Retropolitan” review

Skyzoo is a 36 year old MC from Brooklyn, New York that first gained attention in 2006 with his 9th Wonder debut album Cloud 9: The 3 Day High. This was followed up in 2009 with The Salvation & then the !llmind produced Live from the Tape Deck the following year. Then after taking 2011 off, he came back with his 3rd & final Duck Down album A Dream Deferred. Zoo would go on to form his own label First Generation Rich Inc. & make his debut on there with Music for My Friends in 2015. He would then drop the Apollo Brown produced The Easy Truth under Mello Music Group the following year, but would go back to dropping projects on FGR at the beginning of last year with In Celebration of Us. But almost 2 years later, he’s teaming up with MMG once again for his 8th full-length album & has enlisted the revered Pete Rock to produce it from front to back.

After the “Men Like Us” intro, we go into the first song “Glorious”. Where talks about how he’s just that over a boom bap beat with a soul sample & some horns. The track “Truck Jewels” with Pete sees the 2 getting fly over a woodwind infused instrumental & the song “Carry the Tradition” with Styles P lyrically needs no further explanation, but I really like the claps in the beat a lot.

The track “Homegrown” talks about keeping it just that over a funky instrumental while the song “It’s All Good” is a positivity anthem with an instrumental that was made during the illmatic sessions. The track “10 Days” gets lavish over a euphoric instrumental while the song “Richie” gets motivational over a boom bap beat with some keyboards.

The track “Penny Jerseys” reflects on his block over the same sample that Gang Starr used for “The Planet” while the song “1 Time” finds Zoo paying homage to a number of things over a smooth beat. The penultimate track “Eastern Conference All-Stars” with eLZhi & Griselda Records is an triumphantly epic posse cut & then the album ends with “The Audacity of Dope”, where Sky comes through with a bar-fest over a soulful boom bap beat.

Personally, this is the man’s best work to date. You can really tell that he & Pete Rock took their time in crafting a near perfect love letter/wakeup call to NYC & a nonchalant chemistry.

Score: 4.5/5

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Ameer Vann – “EMMANUEL” review

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Ameer Vann is a 22 year old rapper from Houston, Texas who came up as one of the original members of the most beloved hip hop boyband of this decade: BROCKHAMPTON. He played a key-role in their SATURATION trilogy in 2017 but last spring, he was kicked out of the boyband for sexual misconduct allegations. I said this in my review of BROCKHAMPTON’s latest album GINGER & I’ll say it again right now, but his removal from the boyband was a decision that is still polarizing by many to this very day. Ameer completely disappeared after his dismissal, but now he’s coming out of the shadows with his 2nd EP.

It all kicks off with the title track, where Ameer vents about his inner demons over a rubbery bass-line from Cool & Dre of all people. The next song “Pop Trunk” compares & contrasts his past & present self over a generically cloudy trap beat while the track “Glock 19” gets violent over a syrupy instrumental. The song “Los Angeles” has a dark hip house beat from Hit-Boy that’s somewhat interesting, but the lyrics & the tone of Ameer’s voice sound like they come from a place of bitterness. You didn’t lose your friends to fame, you lost them because of your actions. The penultimate track “Sunday Night” talks about drug use over a comatose instrumental & then EP then finishes off with “Plastic”, which pretty much sounds like an unfinished demo.

And that’s the thing: For a comeback that a lot of people including myself were waiting for, the results are pretty lukewarm. It’s probably his darkest work yet granted, but it’s so 1-dimensional & monotonous. Even the beats that Cool & Dre and Hit-Boy bring to the table are just so basic, that it’s disappointing. If Ameer continues to make anymore music in the future, he can certainly do better than this.

Score: 2.5/5

Conway – “Look What I Became” review

This is the sophomore album from Buffalo, New York emcee Conway the Machine. Who rose to stardom with his brother Westside Gunn & their label Griselda Records just a few years ago. Last we heard from Conway was in July when he dropped the song “Bang” with Eminem, which is the lead single to his upcoming Shady Records debut God Don’t Make Mistakes. And to prep us for it, he’s releasing Look What I Became independently.

The album kicks off with “No Women No Kids”, where Conway gets mafioso over a haunting Alchemist beat. The next song “Hawks” attacks his biters over an intoxicating instrumental & after the “RIP Owen” interlude, the song “Tito’s Back” is just pretty much Conway & Benny the Butcher showing off their chemistry over a Daringer beat with some eerie keyboards.

The track “Black Spoons” gets back on the mafioso tip over a demented DJ Muggs beat while the song “Vino D” with Dave East & Jim Jones pays tribute to Conway’s friend with the same name over a boom bap beat from JR Swiftz. The track “Half of It” talks about his success over an organ-inflicted trap beat from Rick Hyde & then after the “Bells Palsy” interlude, the closer “You Made It” pays tribute to his mother over a relaxing beat from Statik Selektah.

This is a fantastic prelude. Couple tracks I could’ve done without, but the beats are mostly grimy & Conway’s lyricism just keeps progressing with each new project he drops. Definitely looking forward to his major label debut coming soon.

Score: 4/5

JPEGMAFIA – “All My Heroes Are Cornballs” review

JPEGMAFIA is a 29 year old rapper & producer from Baltimore, Maryland that made his debut in 2016 with Black Ben Carson. A solid album at that, but it wouldn’t be until the beginning of 2018 where he dropped his critically acclaimed sophomore effort Veteran. Which I personally regret not reviewing when it first came out, because it truly revealed Peggy as a fresh new face in the experimental hip hop scene. But as we’re about to enter the final quarter of 2019, the man‘s hitting us with his 3rd full-length album.

The hilariously titled opener “Jesus Forgive Me, I’m a Thot” finds Peggy praying for a number of things over a somewhat cloudy instrumental while the next song “Kenan vs. Kel” finds him attacking his enemies over a dreamy beat that later has an abrasive switch-up. The track “Beta Male Strategies” is pretty much a jab at keyboard warriors over a psychedelic instrumental & after the trippy “JPEGMAFIA TYPE BEAT” interlude, the song “Grimy Waifu” talks about murder over a gorgeous acoustic instrumental.

The track “PTSD” talks about the titular mental disorder over an atmospheric yet glitchy beat while the song “Rap Grown Old & Die x No Child Left Behind” talks about a life cycle over a distorted boom bap beat. The title track finds him bragging over a spacious beat while the song “BBW” talks about his success over a mellow beat. The track “PRONE!” finds Peggy talks about snitching a chaotic beat that switches into something more soothing for the outro while “Life’s Hard, Here’s a Song about Sorrel” is a 1 minute interlude where Peggy sings pretty beautifully.

The track “Thot Tactics” needs no further explanation over a meditative beat while the song “Free the Frail” talks about shit being outta his hands over an slow yet infectiously atmospheric beat. The track “Post Verified Lifestyle” continues to address his newfound fame over a dreamlike instrumental while the song “BasicBitchTearGas” is an awkward 1-minute cover of the iconic TLC joint “No Scrubs”. The next track with Buzzy Lee is a decent remix of the “DOTS FREESTYLE” that Peggy did with Kenny Beats for The Cave. The “BUTTERMILK JESUS TYPE BEAT” is mostly this wavy interlude & then the album finishes off with “Papi I Missed You”, where Peggy talks about racism over a spacey beat.

This is easily the man’s best work to date. The production is more creative & Peggy shows his versatility a lot more on this one from his angry rapping to his catchy & melodic singing.

Score: 4.5/5

Ghostface Killah – “Ghostface Killahs” review

7670549Ghostface Killah is a 49 year old MC that came up as a member of the almighty Wu-Tang Clan. He’s easily the most consistent member of the group with albums like Ironman, Supreme Clientele, FishScale, Apollo Kids, 12 Reasons to Die & Sour Soul just to name a few. He just dropped his Big Ghost Ltd. produced comeback The Lost Tapes about a year ago & to commemorate it, he’s teaming up with Danny Caiazzo to release his 15th album.

After the intro, we go into the first song “Me Denny & Daryl”. Where Ghost gets murderous with Method Man & Cappadonna over an instrumental with the vintage Wu-sound. The track “Burner to Burner” with Inspectah Deck & Cappa sees the 3 going at their competition over a grimy guitar lead while the song “Flex” speaks for itself over a mellow instrumental. After the “News Report” skit, the song “Conditioning” finds Ghost goes back at his competition over a flute-heavy instrumental.

The track “Fly Everything” with Shawn Wigs & Sun God of course finds the 3 boasting over a lavish instrumental while the song “Party Over Here” is a bland club banger. The song “Pistol Smoke” with Shawn Wigs of course spits that gun talk over a suspenseful beat & after the “Revolution” skit, the song “New World” gets conscious over a funky bass-line.

The track “Waffles & Ice Cream” with Cappadonna is a modern bastardization of the iconic Raekwon joint “Ice Cream” while “The Chase” with Sun God is pretty much a boring remake of “Run” off of The Pretty Toney Album. The album then closes out with “Soursop”, where Ghost links with Masta Killa & Solomon Childs to deliver a painfully trite reggae fusion.

Not sure what else to say, this is just so average on all fronts. The Wu will forever be all-time favorite group & Ghostface is defiantly the most consistent member, but the beats & the lyricism on this new album are so mediocre. However my biggest issue with this album is that it sounds rushed, as it’s only 33 minutes long. Hopefully, he’ll take his time with the next album.

Score: 2.5/5

Post Malone – “Hollywood’s Bleeding” review

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This is the 3rd full-length album from New York born & Texas raised rapper, singer, songwriter & producer Post Malone. Who rose to stardom in 2015 with the single “White Iverson”, which landed on his subpar debut album stoney at the tail-end of 2016. He took the following year off, but his sophomore album beerbongs & bentleys last spring showed a little bit of improvement as the songs were a lot catchier than last time around. And a little over a year later, here we are.

The title track essentially finds Post going on about some woman over a dull instrumental while the next song “Saint-Tropez” is a by the numbers club banger. The track “Enemies” with DaBaby sees the 2 talking about people who’ve turned against them over a moody instrumental while the song “Allergic” is a trite & obnoxious ballad.

The track “1,000 Bad Times” talking about how crazy this chick is over an airy instrumental while the song “Circles” is a whiny attempt at going indie pop. The track “Die for Me” with Future talks about scandalous women with Halsey providing a terrible verse from the ladies’ perspectives at the end over a drab beat while the song “On the Road” with Meek Mill & Lil Baby finds the 3 bragging over a generically atmospheric beat.

The track “Take What You Want” with Travis Scott sees the 2 diving into more romantic melodrama & not only is the instrumental equally uneventful, but the Ozzy Osbourne hook on here has to be one of the worst features I’ve heard all year. The song “I’m Gonna Be” is essentially the trap equivalent to Logic’s “Don’t Be Afraid to Be Different” minus the awful Will Smith verse while the track “Staring at the Sun” with SZA is an awkward duet about their past romances over an instrumental that’s blatantly similar to the playful “Sunflower” joint that he did with Swae Lee for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. And funny enough too, that’s the VERY next song on the album.

The track “Internet” is basically him moaning about the things people say about him online & the song “Goodbyes” talks about leaving a girl whereas Young Thug is talking about working it out with her over a bleak instrumental. The track “Myself” sounds like a total Tame Impala ripoff while the song “I Know” talks about how his love with this woman will never be duplicated over a skeletal instrumental. The torture finally ends with “Wow.”, which is a boring sequel to “Congratulations”.

I didn’t like this. Not even a little bit. With the last album I felt like Post actually came through with writing & delivering some catchy radio hits, but this feels WAY more cumbersome. Maybe even more so than [i]stoney[/i] was almost 3 years ago. Another thing is too that it seems like him hopping on the emo rap bandwagon & failing miserably. By far the worst thing he’s done to date.

Score: 1.5/5

EARTHGANG – “Mirrorland” review

The EARTHGANG is a duo from Atlanta, Georgia consisting of Olu & WowGr8 that’s been at it since the very beginning of the decade. They dropped 3 mixtapes, an EP & 2 studio albums independently until J. Cole signed them to Dreamville Records in 2017. They promoted this new association with a decent trilogy of EPs & not even 2 months after appearing on Revenge of the Dreamers III, the time has come for their highly-anticipated major label debut.

The opener “LaLa Challenge” finds the duo flexing over an instrumental that starts off slow, but then breaks into a faster pace by the end. The next song “UP” brush off their doubters over an oracular instrumental while the track “Top Down” challenges their opponents over a bassy trap beat. The song “Bank” of course talks about the paper over an immense instrumental while the track “Proud of Up” with Young Thug sees the 3 paying tribute to women all across the world over a gleaming beat.

The song “This Side” talks about paranoia over a settle yet dark instrumental while the track “Swivel” that originally appeared on Revenge of the Dreamers III a couple months ago talks about overcoming their insecurities over a funky beat. The song “Avenue” gets confessional over a groovy instrumental while the track “Tequila” with T-Pain of all people is a dedication to the titular alcoholic beverage over a Latin instrumental.

The song “Blue Moon” gets sensual over an instrumental with an amazingly charming vibe to it while the track “Trippin’” with Kehlani is of course a lust anthem with a playful instrumental. The song “Stuck” finds the duo simping over a boom bap beat with a down-tuned guitar lead while the penultimate track “Fields” talks about never changing over a MOSTLY skeletal beat. The album then finishes with “Wings”, where the EARTHGANG talk about their hustle over a psychedelic beat.

Personally, this is the duo’s best work yet. The instrumentals are decent, but the hooks & the verses are mostly pretty great. If you wanna hear Johnny & Dot continue to hone their unique style, then give this a listen.

Score: 3.5/5

Ca$his – “The County Hound 4” review

Ca$his is a Chicago born & California raised rapper that came up as a member of The Renegadez. However, he‘d eventually sign to Shady Records as a solo act in 2006 & drop his debut EP The County Hound the following year. But after having them shelve his album for 5 years, he left & made his official debut with The Art of Dying. This was followed up with The County Hound 2 in 2013 & pretty much a new release or releases every year. He just dropped his last album The Art of Living a few months ago & if that isn’t enough, he’s already delivering his 9th full-length album & the 3rd sequel to the project that got him where he is today.

The album kicks off with “Fly High”, which is a killer rap rock anthem about weed. The next song “In Real Life” gets reflective over a smooth instrumental from longtime collaborator Rikinatti while the track “Bring It In” charismatically flexes over some knocking drums. The song “Don’t Like Me” gets rowdy over a hard hitting beat with some keyboards while the track “Whoomp” talks about how fresh he is over a Neptunes inspired instrumental.

The song “Live It Up” sees Capo bragging over a haunting piano lead while the track “Orange County” pays tribute to his California stomping grounds over a laidback beat. The song “I Got” is an awkward auto-tune ballad with a luxurious trap beat while the penultimate track “Don’t Care” gets reckless over a demented beat. The album then ends with “Whut’s Really Happnen’?”, where Capo gets bloodthirsty over a nightly instrumental.

A lot of Ca$his’ greatest bodies of work come from The County Hound series & this is no exception. Couple tracks I could’ve done without but for the most part, it’s a great representation of who he is & where he is now. Dude’s been in the game for a little over a decade now but to this very day, he & Rikinatti continue to the bring out the best in each other.

Score: 4/5

Meyhem Lauren – “Members Only” review

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Meyhem Lauren is a 36 year old MC from Queens, New York that came up as the leader of the Smart Crew graffiti team. He eventually started rapping in the mid-2000s, but it wouldn’t be until this decade that he saw success. Most notably with Mandatory Brunch Meetings, the Buckwild produced Silk PyramidsPiatto D’oro & most notably the DJ Muggs produced Gems from the Equinox. The latter was followed up with Frozen Angels last year, but it seems like now that the 2 are getting back together for Meyhem’s 9th EP.

The EP kicks off with “Aztec Snowflakes”, where Meyhem gets at his competition’s throats over an old school instrumental. The next song “GT3” gets lavish over a grimy boom bap beat while the penultimate track “Wavy” brags & the drums on here are thunderous. The EP then finishes off with “Blue Chinese”, where Meyhem gets mafioso over a morbid instrumental.

This is a dope continuation of Meyhem & Muggs’ partership. They continue to compliment each other’s own raw styles very well. Definitely looking forward to their next full-length album together whenever it comes out.

Score: 3.5/5

Joell Ortiz – “Monday” review

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Joell Ortiz is a 39 year old rapper who first gained recognition after being included in the Unsigned Hype column of The Source in 2004. He then signed to Aftermath Entertainment in 2006, who allowed him to release his debut album The Brick: Bodega Chronicles with E1 Music in the next year. Yaowa would eventually leave Aftermath in 2008 & form Slaughterhouse with Royce da 5’9”, KXNG CROOKED & Joe Budden shortly after. The supergroup rose to prominence with their self-titled debut that just celebrated it’s 10 year anniversary this year & would go on to sign with Eminem’s Interscope Records imprint Shady Records in 2011. But sadly, their major label debut welcome to: OUR HOUSE in the summer of 2012 would unfortunately end up being their last. Joell has been focusing on his solo career ever since then & not even a year after his Apollo Brown produced Mona Lisa, he’s hitting fans with his 7th full-length album.

After the titular intro, we go into the first song “Captain”. Where Joell talks about his place in hip hop over a stylistic Heatmakerz beat. The track “Sip Slow” is filled with clever battle bars over a joyous boom bap beat from Apollo Brown while the song “Champion” declares himself as just that over a tribal instrumental from Nottz. The track “Anxiety” vents about his insecurities over a soulful acoustic instrumental while the song “Same Time” talks about hearing a lot all at once over a boom bap beat with some strings.

The song “Learn You” talks about the sacrifices he made to chase his dreams over a grand Big K.R.I.T. instrumental then the track “Screens” talks about his kids & reflecting on his own childhood over a colorful instrumental. The song “Jamaican Food” is a lust anthem with a sweet minimalist beat while the track “Before Hip Hop” talks about his life before making music over some bongos & soulful background vocals. The penultimate track “Momma” of course pays tribute to Yaowa’s mother over an piano that suits the vibe & then the album ends with “Grammy”, where Joell talks about doing him over a boom bap beat with some more beautiful keyboard passages.

This is easily one of Yaowa’s best releases to date. The production is sweet to the ear & the lyrics are some of his most personal yet.

Score: 4/5