Joey Cool – Self-titled review

After being affiliated with Strange Music for several years, Kansas City MC Joey Cool finally signed to the label in October of last year. Now, he’s releasing his first full-length album with them. The album opens perfectly with “The Rhythm Lounge”, where Joey gets hungry for success over a tuba-heavy lounge music-inspired instrumental from Info Gates. The next song “Hard” with JL & Tech N9ne sees the 3 getting braggadocious over a decent trap beat while the track “I’m the Plug” has a nice bass heavy instrumental & the concept isn’t bad either, but the hook is kinda annoying.

The song “Change Your Life” is basically Joey’s success story over an eerie Seven instrumental while the track “Under Pressure” is about how he’ll never fold over some horns. The song “Handle of Jack” is an ode to alcohol over a relaxing beat and the track “Fall” is about Joey staying up when people try to bring him down over an atmospheric trap beat from Seven with some rubbery bass. The song “Divine” is a smooth sex jam while the cleverly titled “Stranger Things” with Ubiquitous gets conscious over a somber beat.

The song “Life Lessons” talks about never taking Ls again and I love the synthesizers on here. The track “One, Two” with the CES Cru sees the 3 talking about they have things they need to do over a gritty instrumental and the song “Secure the Bag” intelligently touches down on the subject of money over an abrasive beat. The track “Bottom Bitch” with Breaking Bad News talks about grinding over a settle beat & the closer “Family” tells intriguing stories his relatives over a gloomy trap beat.

As expected, this is Joey Cool’s best work to date. He sounds more passionate, hungrier, his lyricism is sharper and the instrumentals are some of the best he’s ever been given. A truly exciting new member of the Strange family and I’ll definitely be looking forward to more of him in the future.

Score: 4/5


Stevie Stone & JL – “Kontra-Band” review

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

MURS – “A Strange Journey Into the Unimaginable” review

On the day of his 40th birthday, former Living Legends member MURS is celebrating by delivering his 11th full-length album & he has enlisted  7 to produce it in it’s entirety. The album starts off with “The Unimaginable”, where MURS vents about his recent divorce & the death of his newborn son over a gloomy acoustic guitar with some militant drums added halfway through. The next song “Melancholy” touches down on the titular feeling over a somber acoustic guitar & some live drumming while the track “‘Midtown” reflects on coming up from South Los Angeles over a twangy guitar. The song “Same Way” with Tech N9ne sees both MCs telling their loved ones they know that their families don’t like them over a laidback beat while the song “Powerful” takes a jab at the current state of hip hop over a woodwind-infused boom bap beat.

The song “G Lollipops” with Fashawn & Prof is a humble brag about their talents over an fun instrumental fit for the clubs & then the track “Superhero Pool Party” sees MURS telling a bedtime story to his son where he was at the fictitious titular party. It is filled with creative references to iconic superheroes such as Superman, Wonder Woman & The Incredible Hulk just to name a few. Also, Kanye West & Jean Grae are both mentioned as well. The song “Whiskey & Patron” with XV is a fun liquor tune with a druggy beat while the track “A Lean Story” recalls a time where he tried lean before a show in 2000 over a gloomy beat.

The song “Lo-Fi Nights” touches down on internal conflict & finding inner peace over a beautiful instrumental while the track “So Far Close” is a heartfelt message to his ex-wife Kate over some somber yet jazzy instrumental. The song “Celebrate” is a smooth ode to all of the good memories in MURS’ life while the penultimate track “Vows” tells us how he met who I presume to be his new wife & where they are now over a beautiful piano instrumental. To be honest with all of you, this song almost made me cry the first time I heard it. The album finishes with “God Is the Greatest”, where MURS is getting in the faces of his critics over an eerie boom bap beat.

As a whole, I think this was a beautiful way to celebrate the man’s 40th birthday. MURS gets at his most personal lyrically & 7’s production suits him near perfectly. I’ve always wanted the 2 to work on a whole album together ever since MURS signed to Strange Music in 2014 & the end result is his best album with the label as well as being tied with …The End of the Beginning as the magnum opus in his solo discography

Score: 4.5/5

Tech N9ne – “Planet” review

After dropping 2 Collabos albums in 2017, the legendary & ever so hardworking Kansas City MC Tech N9ne is now dropping his 20th full-length album. The album opens with “Habanero”, where he talks about how hot he is over a futuristic trap beat from 7 (who produced all but 5 songs). The next track “Fresh Out!” with Swisher Sleep sees the 2 going back & forth about not giving any more fucks over a skittering electronic beat from mR. pOrTeR & while the song “Kick It With Myself” does touch down on loneliness, both the 7 instrumental & the hook are just alright to me. The track “Drink Up” is of course an alcohol-themed club banger & the song “Don’t Nobody Want None” is an ode to the all the b-boys with an instrumental kin to the classic Afrika Bambaataa track “Planet Rock”.

The track “Bad JuJu” with King-I.S.O. sees both MCs getting confrontational over an eerie instrumental & the song “Comfortable” is basically about feeling just that over a spacey trap beat. Also, the sample during the hook is alluring. The track “No Reason (The Mosh Pit Song)” is basically about fucking people up over an eerie trap beat from 206derek & Frizz that kinda fits the vibe. However, the auto-tuned Y2 hook sound annoying, but the MGK feature is really trite to me. Especially with the corny Dr. Dre reference at the very beginning of his verse. After the “Brightfall Confession” interlude, we then go into the next song “Brightfall”. Here, Tech delivers a cool throwback to K.o.D. (King of Darkness) from the spiritual content to the orchestral strong-tinged production.

The song “Red Byers (Say Som’n Do Som’n)” gets conscious over some live instrumentation with some hi-hats & the track “Never Stray” talks about how far he’s come with his label Strange Music over an ambitiously atmospheric beat. The song “Sho Nuff” continues where the last one left off as it talks about about celebrating where he’s at now over a bouncy beat from Dem Jointz while the track “How I’m Feeling” with Snow Tha Product sees both MCs saying what’s on their minds over a dinky piano with some rattling hi-hats.  The song “Not a Damn Thing” vents about having a day off from his usual grind over some ambitious keys with some funky guitars while the track “My Fault” addresses his supposed beef with the Insane Clown Posse along with a story about a legal issue revolving around the classic 816 Boyz banger “Areola” over a smooth beat. The song “Tappin’ In” recalls the story of a 21 year old Tech fucking his homie’s 40 year old girl & I absolutely love the way he incorporates Joey Cool on here as he delivers from the point of view of Tech N9ne’s friend. The penultimate track “Levitation” talks about succeeding over a beat that’ll make you feel like you’re in space & then the album finishes off with “We Won’t Go Quietly”, where he insightfully gets conscious again over some beautifully played keys.

To be honest, this is Tech N9ne’s best album since Special Effects in 2015. Aside from 1 track I could do without, you can’t deny that his pen-game is still deadly for someone who’s this deep in his career. Most importantly too: it’s mostly focused & consistent, both of which are what I feel like his last couple albums lacked. Just goes to show Tecca Nina isn’t leaving his place as the biggest independent artist in hip hop any time soon

Score: 4.5/5

Tech N9ne – “Strange Reign” review

Strange Reign artwork

When it was announced in January that indie hip hop icon Tech N9ne was releasing 2 Collabos albums this year & his next solo album being in 2018, I didn’t really mind it at all. However, I found the first one of the year Dominion that dropped back in early April to be average at best due to feeling like his Strangeulation duology due to the entire Strange Music roster being the sole features & having the label’s in-house producer 7 produce in it’s entirety. And while that is being repeated on this new Collabos album here, I think Strange Music is one of the best indie hip hop labels of all-time & that’s why I’m still giving it a shot.

The album opens with “Cold Piece of Work”, in which a 30 second snippet of closed out Dominion. Here, Tech teams up with JL alongside Strange Music’s 2 newest signees Jay Trilogy & Joey Cool to compare their flows to cocaine over a creepy trap beat. The next song “Minimize” with Stevie Stone & Krizz Kaliko is a jab at all the shit-talkers & the production is absolutely HAUNTING! The track “Let’s Go” with Big Scoob & Darrein Safron spits that g shit over a hard hitting instrumental, but Darrein’s rapper verse isn’t as obnoxious like his usual singing voice that’s blatantly bitten off of Chris Brown. The song “Happen” is pretty much Tech by himself talking about how the label stays working & not only is the instrumental super funky, but Tech’s signature chopper-style delivery is insane too. The track “Dangerous” with AboveWaves is a beautiful romance tune, as frontman Ryan Bradley & Tech N9ne are telling their significant others about how deadly their love is & the instrumental is dreamy yet gorgeous.

The song “Stick It In” sees Tech getting braggadocious over a demonic instrumental & the Krizz Kaliko hook is great as well. The last 2 tracks in the standard edition “These Hands” with Prozak, Wrekonize & Mackenzie Nicole as well as the Bad JuJu preview seem very similar to how Dominion’s standard edition ended. “These Hands” like a sequel to “Jesus & a Pill” off the last Collabos album as it contains spiritual lyrics & an explosive rap metal instrumental while the Bad JuJu preview is a 30 second snippet of a song with King-ISO that‘s more than likely gonna pop up on Tech N9ne’s next solo album Planet. I’m not gonna get too deep into the bonus tracks as almost all of them sound like they’re gonna be on upcoming albums, but I do wanna talk about the 2nd one “Off My Square” with ¡MAYDAY! & Rittz. It’s the only one out of the 5 bonus tracks where Tech N9ne appears on, but I do enjoy it as they tell you that they can’t be to fucked with over some funky bass along with some explosive drums & a psychedelic-esque guitar.

While I did have some concerns given that the last Collabos album was just ok, but I’m glad that this new album put them to rest because it overall sounds more well-put together Dominion from removing the needless interview skits to the step-upped performances

Score: 3.5/5

Rittz – “Last Call” review


A little over a year after the release of his last album Top of the Line, Georgia rapper Rittz is releasing his 4th full-length album & his last with Strange Music. The album opens with “Middle of Nowhere”, where Rittz is talking about on how far he’s came over an ambitious sounding instrumental from 7. The next song “Press Rewind” sees him reflecting on his rough adolescence from getting in trouble at school to his father’s abuse towards him over a gloomy instrumental. The track “Indestructible” is an uplifting anthem about staying strong no matter what & the hook also does a great job of giving that vibe as does the instrumental. The song “Down for Mine” speaks on being just that & the rap rock instrumental from M. Stacks will make you get down to party.

The track “Shootin’ Star” gets charismatically braggadocious over a mellow instrumental & the Peso Piddy produced “Dork Rap” is an unapologetically abrasive shot at all the dork rappers out there (hence the title) along with bringing the hardcore back. The track “Crash & Burn” tells the story of his friend & his ex-girl having a kid over a wavy instrumental & the way he tells it is so vivid. The song “Reality Check” talks about getting your life together over a nice country/rap instrumental & the track “Different Breed” tells the haters that he’s like no other over a twangy guitar/trap beat from Matic Lee.

The song “Illumination” is another empowerment joint over a futuristic sounding instrumental & the auto-tune on here is an awesome throwback to the late great Roger Troutman. The track “Into the Sky” is another braggadocious tune & the bass on this thing is absolutely perfect for your whip. The song “Fuck Cancer” is a diss track towards cancer & the way he uses his experiences from seeing his wife’s friend & one of his closest friends successfully beating it was very personal. The track “Lose My Cool” starts with some nice piano keys & DJ scratches, but then some hard drums are incorporated as he’s delivering his frustrated bars. The song “So Long” is an endearing eulogy to a friend who had committed suicide along with another who was murdered & to his own grandpa over a somber instrumental from The Avengerz. The track “Victory Lap” is basically his farewell to Strange over a smooth instrumental & the standard edition closer “I’m Only Human” talks about all of his mistakes over a airy trap instrumental & the strings at the beginning & end are gorgeous.

The first bonus track “Live & You Learn” is about just that & the keyboard instrumental from Mista KA reminds me A LOT of Scott Storch. The next one “Win” with Hitman Shawty & Kane sees the 3 rapping about success over a laid-back instrumental from 7 & while Hitman Shawty & Kane are the only 2 featured MCs on here, their verses were just ok to me. The 3rd bonus track “Good Life” talks about living good over an intergalactic sounding instrumental & then the 4th one “Side Note” is about the current state of hip hop a bunch of creative name-dropping over a southern-tinged beat. The penultimate bonus track “Spiraling Outta Control” then vents about his deer of the world ending (especially with Donald Trump as our current president), but the beat is pretty uncharacteristic. The album then closes out with “Happy Ending”, which is Rittz ambitiously talking about his hopes of maintaining success despite leaving Strange Music.

Given the title, Rittz is walking away from Strange with his greatest work yet. The production is on point, the lyrics are passionate & the lack of features is very refreshing as well. Can’t wait to see what he’s gonna do in the future

Score: 4/5

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

Tech N9ne – “Dominion” review

Only 4 months after releasing his last album The Storm, Kansas City indie hip hop icon Tech N9ne is now returning with the first of 2 new Collabos albums that’re set to be released this year. Much like the last 2 Collabos albums Strangeulation & Strangeulation 2, Tech N9ne has the entire roster of his Strange Music record label solely featured on here & he has enlisted his label’s in-house producer 7 to produce it in it’s entirety. The album’s first song “Drama” is a response to Missouri passing a bill that allows anyone to carry a handgun over a heavily sinister beat. The lyrics on the next song “Casket Music” with the CES Cru are definitely hardcore & the Wrekonize hook is on point, but the beat holds me back from fully enjoying it. The track “Put ‘Em On” with Stevie Stone & Darrein Safron is a bit self explanatory, as it talks about how they started out broke putting the listener onto their label over an eerie beat. The track “Wheels Like Hill” sees Tech solely talking about getting away from all the gold diggers out there & the production is just THUNDEROUS! The song “Some Good” with JL is a weed track & unsurprisingly, the instrumental has a relaxing tone to it. However, the finger snaps were unexpected & I actually didn’t mind them at all. The song “Salute”‘ with ¡MURSDAY! is basically telling the haters not to fuck with Strange over some catchy horns & a funky bassline. Even though Tech himself has said there are no plans for a 2nd ¡MURSDAY! album, this song actually gives me hope for it. While I really like how the next song “Fish in a Pita” sonically sounds like something from the 70’s, the content about vaginal odor is just really lame to me. The following track “Mo’Ammo” with MURS & Rittz has this decent guitar loop, but all 3 of them flow really well over it. I also really love the hilarious “gag reel” line during Rittz’ verse. The track “Jesus & a Pill” with Prozak & Krizz Kaliko talks about seeking inner peace & while the rap metal instrumental is mainly a down-tuned guitar with some drums, it predictably gets heavier during the hook. I understand that Tech N9ne wants to showcase every single person on his label & I think he achieved that with his last 3 Collabos albums (especially on my personal favorite Collabos album Welcome to Strangeland), but I would REALLY love it if he got a lot more non-Strange artists on the next Collabos album that he’s dropping later on in the year. Don’t get me wrong I like everyone that’s signed onto Strange, but solely hearing every signee being featured on there for the 3rd Collabos album in a row is actually getting tiring for me
Score: 3/5

MURS – “Captain California” review

After dropping his last solo album (but his debut with Missouri based independent powerhouse Strange Music) Have a Nice Life as well as reuniting with 9th Wonder to drop Brighter Daze in 2015, former Living Legends member MURS would spend 2016 doing a couple features & he even won a Guinness World Record for the Longest Rap Marathon back in September. However, he’s now returning with his 10th solo album but his sophomore effort with Strange. The album kicks off with the track “Lemon Juice”, where MURS & Curtiss King are battling back & forth with each other over this chick & the production from 7 on here is pretty smooth. The next track “Shakespeare on the Low” is a hood version of the timeless Shakespeare play Romeo & Juliet & honestly, it’s just ok. The track “G.B.K.W. (God Bless Kanye West)” isn’t really about Kanye himself, but rather about a man who’s under stress over an upbeat instrumental enhanced with these twinkling keys. The next track “Colossus” originally appeared on the bonus disc of Strange Music founder Tech N9ne’s latest album The Storm & it sounds just as great as it did when I first heard it on that album 3 months ago. The song “Another Round” talks about sex, but the way he describes it isn’t excessively raunchy at all & the pre-hook from Krizz Kaliko as well as 7’s production on here are all on point as well. The song “1,000 Suns” is a dedication to his wife Kate & you can just tell that he wrote/delivered it from the heart. Not only that, but 7’s electro-tinged production isn’t a bad touch either. The song “1 Uh Those Days” with Reverie discuss their individually shitty days & the production from former Company Flow member Mr. Len has these string passages as well as some hard ass boom bap drums too. The penultimate track “Ay Carumba” is about getting another woman pregnant & the way he describes the situation isn’t bad at all, I’m indifferent towards the production on here. Not only do I consider this to be an improvement over Have a Nice Life, but I also think that this is the best thing MURS has done with Strange Music thus far. While I feel like the production could’ve been better on some tracks, the storytelling throughout is fantastic.

Score: 3.5/5

Tech N9ne – “The Storm” review

With the 18 year anniversary of his debut The Calm Before the Storm being a month ago, renown Kansas City MC & Strange Music founder Tech N9ne is delivering his 17th full-length album & it actually happens to be a sequel to his debut. The opening track “Godspeed” has an eerie beat from Strange’s in-house producer 7 & Tech is pretty much talking about how he can’t be stopped. There’s also a bridge right before the 1st verse that makes fun of rappers like Desiigner & even though I’m all for that, Hopsin did it a lot better a year & a half ago with the “No Words” track off his last album Pound Syndrome. The cleverly titled “Sriracha” with Logic & Joyner Lucas sees the 3 spitters bragging about their rapping skills & while I do enjoy the chopper style delivery that Tech is known for, there’s a line near the end of his verse about studying “Chrislam” that’s painfully weak. If you couldn’t tell by the title of the next song “WiFi (WeeFee)”, Tech N9ne’s interestingly comparing himself to Wi-Fi but there’s these plain drums throughout the instrumental that happen to be it’s only characteristic. The hook is HILARIOUSLY bad, too. The song “Starting to Turn” talks about this chick driving Tech insane over a nu metal instrumental kin of that Therapy EP he did with Ross Robinson a few years back & we even hear KoЯn frontman Jonathan Davis on the hook. To me, it sounds a bit of a rehash of the track “Wither” with Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor off of Tech’s last non-Collabos album Special Effects. The song “Poisoning the Well” discusses the current state of the music industry over some country-esque guitar picking as well as some trap drums. The song “Buddha” is a weed anthem & not only is the beat on here semi-smooth, but it was cool to hear Boyz II Men on the hook of this joint. Even though I can totally understand what Tech means as he talks about wanting to escaping the cons of fame on the song “Anywhere”, the production from D12 member mR. pOrTeR on this song is disappointedly average. The standard edition closer “The Needle” sees Tech reflecting on his career & it sonically has this victorious vibe throughout. Even though the deluxe version has 3 more tracks than the standard edition, there’s also a bonus disc wth 12 tracks & I’m not even gonna get too deep into them because half of them sound like singles from upcoming projects from those such as former Living Legends member MURS & even Mackenzie Nicole (who happens to be the daughter of Tech’s business partner/Strange Music co-founder Travis O’Guin). I don’t think it’s as good as Special Effects, but I still find this to be a solid album overall. Just goes to show Tech’s still one hardest working people in all of hip hop
Score: 3.5/5