When I was a boy, we had to wait six months backwards in the snow, in diapers, with a chainsaw, for any new rap albums to make it to the country store. They were all great in those days, and nobody complained about "sucker MCs" or "*%!# $*#!%." Why, I remember getting Ice-T's Rhyme Pays on wax and listening to it so many times that my mother's Sanyo speakers turned into cardboard sou ffls. N.W.A. taught us kids about the way to properly respect the po-lice and the subtle nuances of slangin'. Nowadays, any MC with a sampler, a potty mouth and "Serpentine" font can put out a "heeip-hop" record album. (We didn't have "heeip-hop" in my day. There was just rap, and we liked it!) Nowadays, there's a deep, cess-filled swamp of new rap record albums full of execrable beats and reprehensible rhymes, and the youth of today have no one to turn to for guidance. That is why I have come to help navigate a small portion of that perilous aisle known as "Soul."
Ghostface Killah featuring Raekwon
Ghostface Killah is servin' you up something on the cover of his latest solo shot, standing indifferently over the stove holding a spatula with what could be a pancake, a latke or a well-fried hamster. It's just as difficult to tell what Ghostface and Raekwon are serving up for rhymes aside from a preoccupation with losing their Bling Bling. RZA's beats sound canned, and the other guest producers seem to have discovered Dr. Dre's R&B sampling secret about 10 years too late. With the exception of the last track "Strawberry," just not feelin' the Wu Tang and their spin-offs these days.
The Return fo the Regulator
Sorry, East Coast. You may be freestyle, but West Coast can bump. From Warren G, the man who played matchmaker for Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre., comes another lineup of head-bobbing, funk-infused Friday night low-rider beats. "I like the girls with the tight brown brown skin/ dark and fine/ that's the kind of girl I wanna play with tonight." Sadly, the review copy we got only had snippets. But with the unfadable touch of Dr. Dre on the first track, plenty of wockachicka-wockachicka, and Warren G's unassuming beat-slinging, you should get more than a few hydraulic lifts from this record.
Soon come ..
Asheru and Blue Black of The Unspoken Heard
7 Heads Record Company
Hip-hop with a jazzy, college party feel and nonsensical freestyle rhymes that occasionally deliver little lessons in urban morality. Reminiscent of Guru Jazzmatazz and De La Soul, but with more ambience. Smooth, gorgeous samples for late-night smokes, but a wee bit pretentious at times and unmemorable MCing.
Wake Up Show Freestyles, Volume 4
Sway and King Tech
High Def Media
A sit-around-and-listen compilation of live studio freestyles from syndicated radio DJs Sway and King Tech's "Wake Up Show." An interview with Notorious BIG just after Tupac died and a long improv with prescient Biggy rhymes like "I spit phrases that'll thrill you/ You're nobody 'til somebody kills you." Wu Tang spits memorably minimal scat over trademark spooky piano licks and kung fu soundtracks. Best of all is Eminem's disturbingly quick-witted asylum rhymes like "Met a retarded kid named Greg with a wooden leg/ Snatched it off and beat him over the head with the peg." The 25 tracks include appearances by Sadat and Xzibit, RZA, Redman, Babu, Common and mucho more.
Bang or Ball
Cash Money Records
This album sounds way too much like a half-baked Ice-T's brand of hustler rap. The cameos and bass just can't cover up the lack.
Beats At Will Records
I only got a three-track sampler, and the only notable one of those three tracks on this Detroit white boy's latest album is "Armor All." "Spray it. Wipe it. Shine it up" drawls the chorus in a white-trash affect that sounds just like Bubba Sparxx, and then "Armor All" comes in through a synthesized Moog. Shout it y'all: "Whether you're in a Vette, Jetta or Beretta or even a Grocery-Go-Getta, Armor All make it look betta." (Note: Murphy's Oil Soap is actually much better for your car, especially on vinyl.)
Posi-corps activist rap la Dead Prez and The Coup. Plenty of deftly dealt propaganda to frenetic beats for the good cause of providing all Africans with "food, clothes and shelter for ourselves and our families, DO OR DIE."
Oh, man. More raps without anything even remotely resembling flavor. No hooks. No style. The ghost of Tupac on "World Wide Remix" can't even lift the start-to-finish curse on this album.
Murder She Spoke
In the Paint Records
Panning for gold always takes patience, but here's a nugget: La' Chat, Memphis' hybrid of Roxanne Shante, 2 Live Crew and Lil' Kim. Not every track glimmers, but her infectious vocal lag with phrase-punctuating thumps gets you to feelin' it. By the time you get to "Slob On My Cat," she'll have you by the sensitive parts. "Slob on my cat/ Get it nice and wet/ Check in with me/ Holler at La' Chat." Indecipherable phrases from the dirty South are an added bonus. "Salt Shakers" has perfect hurry-up-and-stop beats that cut back against La' Chat's Memphis accent. DJ Paul and Juicy J's beat on "Yeah, I Rob" and "Wolf Pack" will leave you butt deep in your bucket seats.
Definitive Jux Records
Lush Tricky trance meets an artier version of Dr. Octagonish/ Kool Keith spit -- so refreshingly musical, imaginative and stylish. "I call him god and he calls me Jesus/ When I lost my religion he fell to pieces" goes the lyric while a Moog counts the 1, 2, 1234 thump on "Maintenance." So nice to hear a smooth introspective melody on "Daylight": "All I ever wanted was to pick up all the day/ Put the pieces back together my way." A few tracks suffer weak beats, but a lovely overall ride through a dreamy urban sky.
Never Say Never
More rap activism from Raptivism. Have to say I'd rather hear somebody brag and talk rot than endure 45 minutes of self-conscious lyrical hypocrisy. Nothing terribly new or interesting on the less political tracks here either.