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


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

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