Stevie Stone & JL – “Kontra-Band” review

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With the release of Stevie Stone‘s 5th album Level Up & JL‘s Strange Music debut DIBKIS last summer, the 2 are now coming together for a full-length collab album. Things start off with “Groomed by the Block”, where the duo talk about their come up over an eerie instrumental. However, the PHresher verse at the tail-end was pretty generic to me. The next song “Lessons” talks about learning from all their losses in life over a laidback trap beat while the track “Trappin’ On the Hill” reflects on their drug dealing days over a gritty instrumental. The song “Too High Today” is a weed anthem with a gloomy trap beat from Seven & the track “She’s So Fly” is a decent love tune with a reggae-inspired instrumental.

The song “I Was Ready” sees the 2 going back & forth about being prepared for the feds over a piano instrumental while the track “Envy” is a message to their haters over some a cloudy backdrop with some rattling hi-hats. The song “Not One of Them” with Tech N9ne sees the 3 talking about hoes over a gloomy beat & the track “Boss Sauce” gets braggadocious over some monstrous bass. The song “Miles Davis” with Joey Cool sees the 3 ambitiously talking about success & the Seven instrumental is ok too, but the hook is too repetitive for me.

The track “Pluto” talks about realizing someone wasn’t who they thought they were over a spacey beat from Suli4Q & while the song “Cautious” is an aggressive & rapidly delivered message to the haters, the Flawless Real Talk verse is just average. The track “Bad Habits” with Krizz Kaliko talks about how everything will be ok in the end over some bass with a piano in the background & the Navé Monjo hook isn’t too bad either. The standard edition closer “Only a Man” is a reflection of where the duo are at now with a beautiful Adrian Truth hook & Suli4Q instrumental while the pre-order track “What You Gon’ Do” gets braggadocious over an haunting instrumental.

While I wasn’t expecting this, I did enjoy the album at the end of the day.  Some of the features could’ve been better but the production mostly bangs, the song topics are delivered passionately & there’s quite a bit of chemistry between Stevie Stone’s huskiness & JL’s charismatic yet sharp lyricism. If they ever decide to make a follow-up in the future, then I’d be all for it

Score: 3.5/5

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JL – “D.I.B.K.I.S. (Do It Big, Keep It Strange)” review

After being affiliated with Strange Music for several years, Kansas City emcee JL finally signed with the independent hip hop powerhouse in 2015 & is now releasing his first album with them. The opener “Strange the World” has a killer rap rock beat & given the title of the track, JL does not disappoint. The next song “2 Up” with Strange founder Tech N9ne talks about being 2 brackets above everyone else & while I do enjoy verses as well as the heavy bass in the production, the execution of the hook could’ve been much better. The track “Own Thang” originally appeared on Tech’s last non-Collabos album The Storm back when it first came out back in December & it’s just as great as it was then from the stereotype topic to 7’s hard hitting production. The song “Hate Nature” addresses all the haters out there & 7’s production fits JL’s aggressive delivery like a glove. The track “Out Da Hood” is basically about going from rags to riches over a hyphy beat & the guest verse from Nef the Pharaoh isn’t too bad either. The song “Saturday” with Tech as well as The Popper & Marlon Young is a club banger, but it just feels redundant to me. The track “Risky” talks about sex over a spacey beat & while he does it cleverly, the hook from Navé Monjo is just ok. The song “Catch a Wave” with Joey Cool talks about grinding & I absolutely love how it starts off with some ominous strings. The keyboards on here are pretty nice, too. The track “Password” is yet another club banger just like the previously mentioned “Saturday”, but this one goes WAY harder. Not just because of ¡MAYDAY!’s production, but JL changes his flow near the end of both verses very cohesively. The song “Technology” with Tech N9ne talks about sexual activity via technology (hence the title) & both of them do it very creatively. Especially with the reference to the classic Zapp track “Computer Love” right before Tech’s verse. The perfectly titled “Fuck Everything” is pretty much JL angrily going at every single thing from clubs to excuses & while one may complain about the excessive use of the word “fuck”, I personally think it’s an abrasive track. The track “Done to Me” vents about a breakup & I like how the guitar matches the sincere vibe that’s being given off. The song “Propaganda” sees JL getting conscious & there are some really cool DJ scratches going on in the background throughout the duration of the track. The penultimate track “Elevation” talks about being stressed then eventually making it & between the guest verses from Joey Cool along with Emilio Rojas & Krizz Kaliko, I felt that Krizz had the best flow of the 3 despite the mediocre PlayStation simile that pops in a little bit after his verse starts. The album then closes out with “This Time”, where JL’s passionately spitting about how thankful he is that his time isn’t up yet as well as how he feels right at home with Strange Music over a beat from 7 that has an fittingly ambitious vibe to it. There’s also a pre-order track to this thing called “Everywhere”, which pretty much brags about success & the production from The Dead Beatz is just THUNDEROUS! If you ask me, this could very well be JL’s best work yet. His lyricism & delivery are on point like it’s always been & the production is probably the hardest set of beats he’s ever had. I’ve always felt that this cat is very underappreciated & the fact that Tech N9ne is giving him proper exposure with this album makes me very happy for both parties, because this dude really is gonna be Strange’s next big artist