Friday, January 26, 2007

DJ Honda

Japanese dance innovator DJ Honda has been crafting his funkadelic hip-hop slicing and dicing since his late teens, yearning to play up to American stylings of rock music. Such motivation led him to play guitar with the band Clique, but they didn't achieve the sort of stardom that DJ Honda was looking for. Instead, DJ Honda headed to the mixing booth, which lead him to make friends with Afrika Bambaata and Universal Zulu Nation and earn major airplay on Tokyo radio stations. In the mid-'90s, he released a slew of singles while making international headway in the club/dance circuit, and made his debut with Out for the Cash in 1995. Hll followed three years later, showcasing collaborations with De La Soul and KRS-1. That same year brought a split between he and Sony Music, leaving DJ Honda to create his own label DJ Honda Recordings.

DJ Honda - DJ Honda (Jul 2, 1996: Relativity)
DJ Honda's eponymous album is a mix CD featuring the DJ's seamless remixes of cuts by Tha Alkaholiks, Grand Puba and Sadat X, Al Tariq, Redman, and Biz Markie, among several others. It's an excellent album — not only are the beats and grooves continually danceable, it's possible to hear how inventive and talented DJ Honda is.

DJ Honda - H2 (Mar 24, 1998: Relativity)

DJ Honda's second album HII is a quantum leap over his debut, largely because he's given himself freedom to cut-and-paste his own backgrounds and he's enlisted a number of collaborators (X-ecutioners, KRS-One, Mos Def) to spice up the mix. He's not a post-modernist like DJ Shadow — he's a modern hip-hop DJ, reviving the musical adventure of early hip-hop. Occasionally, the tracks collapse under their own ambitions, but much of HII simply tears along, pushing acid-jazz and street-level beats together. It's a fascinating, invigorating listen that more than makes the case that in the late '90s international hip-hop can be more exciting than the homegrown kind.

DJ Honda - H3 (Apr 3, 2001: Import)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Kool G Rap & DJ Polo

Queens-based Kool G Rap & DJ Polo left one of the most impressive rap discographies in their wake. Though Kool G Rap's growth as an MC from their first single in 1986 to their final album in 1992 was considerable, the duo started off running and never looked back. The pair never had the large profile enjoyed by others in Marley Marl's extended family (including Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, and Roxanne Shanté), but aftershocks continue to be felt throughout the East Coast, from the Notorious B.I.G. to Nas to Wu-Tang Clan to the underground scene. When their first single, 1986's "I'm Fly"/"It's a Demo," was released on Cold Chillin', G Rap was already a formidable MC who could boast with the best of them. However, it would be narratives that he would become most known for, in addition to some of the raunchiest rhymes hip-hop has ever known. Throughout the years, Marley Marl, Large Professor, and Sir Jinx provided valuable production assistance. The duo released the formative "I'm Fly"/"It's a Demo" in 1986, but G Rap (born Nathaniel Wilson) truly broke out on the Juice Crew's "The Symphony," a group cut of great legend produced by Marley Marl that also included turns from Masta Ace, Craig G., and Big Daddy Kane. After a good deal of anticipation was built for the first Kool G Rap & DJ Polo album, Road to the Riches saw the light of day in 1989. Produced by Marl and released on his Cold Chillin' label, the album included a handful of timeless moments while alluding to greater potential.That potential was fulfilled with the following year's Wanted: Dead or Alive. Marley Marl remained partly responsible for the duo's sound, while Main Source's Large Professor and Eric B. also pitched in with production work. On this album, G Rap became an MC of top caliber; he expanded his range as a magnificent storyteller on tracks like "Streets of New York" (a number three rap single) and "Wanted: Dead or Alive." Released in 1992, Live and Let Die landed the duo in a bit of hot water; its cover, depicting the duo feeding meat to rabid dogs in front of two restrained white men, gained a fair amount of attention in the press. The controversy played a role in shooting the album up to the Top 20 of the R&B/hip-hop albums chart, but the attention unfortunately waned. Just as accomplished as Wanted: Dead or Alive (if not more so), the album featured the sympathetic handiwork of Sir Jinx and Trakmasterz and helped bring G Rap's increasingly profane and vivid tales to extreme levels. G Rap and Polo went their separate ways shortly after that. G Rap put out three albums between the mid-'90s and early '00s, while Polo cut a single with Ice-T and porn star Ron Jeremy. Landspeed kept the duo's legacy alive through a low-key reissue campaign; in 2000 and 2001, separate releases combined the first two albums and anthologized their entire
career together.

Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Road to the Riches (Mar 14, 1989: Cold Chillin')
Kool G Rap & DJ Polo's Road to the Riches had been a long time coming when Cold Chillin' released it in 1989. It didn't disappoint. After some successful singles and G Rap's contributions to Marley Marl's Juice Crew, the duo arrived almost fully formed on its debut. Whether boasting (his greatest strength at this point) or spinning tales (which would become his greatest strength), G Rap's knife-edged rhymes — delivered with the hardest-sounding lisp in hip-hop — tear through Marley Marl's productions and DJ Polo's scratching with all the ferocity of a pit bull devouring a piece of meat. Though tracks like "Poison," "It's a Demo," and the title track won this record a lot of respect, there are several other moments that help make this a remarkable debut. On "Men at Work," lines like, "I drop rhymes on paper and then build a skyscraper/When I die scientists will preserve my brain/Donate it to science to answer the unexplained" whip by so fast that it's easy to overlook Marl and Polo's perfectly snarling, densely percussive backdrop. Marl's imaginative sampling gleans from all sorts of unexpected sources, like the harmonica from Area Code 615's "Stone Fox Chase," the odd phasings of Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express" (no one used it like this), and the burbling synths from Gary Numan's "Cars" (remember, this was the late '80s). G Rap's occasional homophobic and woman-hating lyrics, along with some production nuances that haven't aged well, are the only hindrances. Aside from that, Road to the Riches showed promise while providing a jolt in its own right.

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Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Wanted: Dead or Alive (Aug 13, 1990: Cold Chillin')
Marley Marl remained on board, and Large Professor and Eric B. also hopped on to help produce Kool G Rap & DJ Polo's second album. With a wider range of sounds and the expansion of G Rap's lyrical range, Wanted: Dead or Alive is wholly deserving of classic status. The opening "Streets of New York" remains one of the most thrilling and unique rap singles released; the sparse rhythm, adorned with assured piano runs that complement the song to the point of almost making the song, falls somewhere between a gallop and a strut, and G Rap outlines more vivid scenes than one film could possibly contain. The track cemented Kool G Rap & DJ Polo's role as East Coast legends and showed Kool G Rap's talent as an adept storyteller like nothing before or since. Likewise, "Talk Like Sex" is the nastiest, raunchiest thing he ever recorded, with "I'm pounding you down until your eyeballs pop out" acting as an exemplary claim — as well as one of the few that is printable — made in the song. The boasts, as ever, are in no short supply, but "Erase Racism" takes a break from the normal proceedings with guest spots from Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie. It's both funny and sobering, with Biz Markie's Three Dog Night chorus providing comic relief after each verse. Adding yet another dimension to the album, DJ Polo throws in a hip-house instrumental that avoids coming off like a throwaway. This album is only part of a major swarm of brilliant rap records from 1990, but it will never be lost in it.

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Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Live and Let Die (Nov 24, 1992: Cold Chillin')
A strong case could be made for Live and Let Die as Kool G Rap & DJ Polo's crowning achievement. Who can really say for sure if the controversy surrounding the cover artwork — which shows the duo feeding steaks to a pair of rottweilers, in front of two noose-necked white men — clouded a proper consensus? With across-the-board stellar production help from Sir Jinx and Trakmasterz, G Rap (who also produces) thrives on his no-holds-barred narratives that peaked with Wanted: Dead or Alive's "Streets of New York," but most everything on this album comes close to eclipsing that song. "Ill Street Blues" is practically a sequel to it, and it manages to use more swanky piano vamps and horn blurts without making for a desperate attempt at capitalizing on a past glory. Few tales of growing up in a life of crime hit harder than the title track, in which G Rap displays the traits — unforced frankness, that unmistakable voice, and a flow that drags you involuntarily along — that made him a legend. The album is one story after another that draws you in without fail, and they come at you from several angles. Whether pulling off a train heist, venting sexual frustration, analyzing his psychosis, or lording over the streets, G Rap is a pro at holding a captive audience. All die-hard East Coast rap fans, especially followers of the Notorious B.I.G., owe it to themselves to get real familiar with this album and the two that predated it. If you were to take this duo's best five songs away from them, they'd still be one of the top duos rap music has ever seen.

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Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Killer Kuts (Mar 29, 1994: Cold Chillin')
The unfortunate early-'90s bust-up between Kool G Rap and DJ Polo cleaved one of the finest rap duos of all time. Leaving behind a trio of fine LPs — the raw Road to the Riches, the refined Wanted: Dead or Alive, and the underrated Live and Let Die (the latter unfortunately gaining more notice for the provocative cover than the content) — the duo was nonetheless out before releasing a poor record or embarrassing themselves (i.e., they did not make a Don't Sweat the Technique). At the drop of a hat, Kool G Rap could shift gears from relaxed to vicious and from bawdy to philosophical, and DJ Polo's instrumental prowess could just as ably flit between fractured and grim to smooth and precious. The first disc commemorating their nearly decade-long run, Killer Kuts selects a handful of tracks from each of the three albums made for Cold Chillin'. It's a good introduction, hits all the crucial moments, and thankfully doesn't ignore Live and Let Die, an album that has gotten the short end of the stick since its release. This 1994 compilation would be trumped six years later by The Best of Cold Chillin', a more extensive venture that also includes curiosities like the duo's first track ("I'm Fly") and another that had only appeared previously on the relatively disposable Rated XXX compilation.

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Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - Rated XXX (Jun 4, 1996: Cold Chillin')
Doing a bit of a spin on themed anthologies that hone in on particular corners of an artist's catalog — like Smokey Robinson's Ballads or Aretha Franklin's The Delta Meets Detroit: Aretha's Blues — Rated XXX shines a light on Kool G Rap & DJ Polo's raunchier side, evidenced through titles like "Talk Like Sex," "Check the Bitch," and "Fuck U Man," a title that's meant to read like a superhero of sorts and not as a diss directed at another male (picture a big "F" emblazoned on Kool G Rap's chest). This disc hardly presents a full picture of the duo's output and does something of a disservice to Kool G Rap's versatility as a lyricist. Besides, Cold Chillin' wasn't able to find enough sex-crazed songs in their catalog to fill out the entire disc. "Rikers Island," for instance, hardly has anything to do with the theme. "Talk Like Sex," however, is the most exemplary of Rated XXX, containing lines such as this one: "Get a grip on your headboard and hold on to it/Or get sent right through it." (That's probably the tamest line, by the way.) At the time of its release, Rated XXX featured a couple of previously unavailable songs, but the early-2000s overhaul given to the duo's catalog has eradicated the issue and makes this cash-in compilation all the more irrelevant.

Stay tune...As Salam Aleikum

Friday, January 19, 2007

Kool G Rap

Kool G Rap never rose to superstar status during his late-'80s reign as a leading member of Marley Marl's Juice Crew, but the Queens-bred hardcore rapper endured for over a decade, eventually enjoying a renaissance in the early 2000s. Throughout his tour of duty, G Rap maintained a reverent following, mainly among his original late-'80s/early-'90s fan base and the subsequent wave of gold-age revivalists. Cold Chillin' furthermore repackaged his key recordings with DJ Polo periodically over the years, so G Rap remained visible even as his productivity slowed considerably. While countless other golden-age rappers thus fell by the wayside, G Rap quietly ascended to legendary status, perhaps as recognized in the early 2000s as he had been during his late-'80s prime. The "Kool Genius of Rap" began life as Nathaniel Wilson in a rough section of Queens, where he first met Eric Barrier and Polo, two friends with a mutual interest in hip-hop. While Barrier went onto a short-lived yet successful career as the less-acknowledged half of Eric B and Rakim, Polo and G Rap collaborated and released the It's a Demo/I'm Fly 12" on Cold Chillin' in 1986. This legendary single was the first of several; "Streets of New York," "Poison," and "Road to the Riches" also being noteworthy singles. G Rap also graced Marl's "The Symphony," a performance that promised him legendary status in itself. By 1989 he was making LPs rather than 12" singles, signaling G Rap's rise from the underground to mainstream recognition. Yet while Juice Crew peers such as Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie scored crossover singles, had big-selling LPs, and soon found themselves on MTV, G Rap struggled with his sudden position on the uncomfortable brink of crossing over. Sure, his LPs had their share of highlights such as "Road to the Riches" and "Erase Racism," in addition to the aforementioned singles, but his albums with Polo never achieved what many had hoped for in terms of popularity. By the mid-'90s, G Rap parted ways with his longtime partner and attempted a solo career with 4,5,6 (1995) on Cold Chillin', followed by Rated XXX (1996) and Roots of Evil (1998). None of these albums garnered too much attention, commercial or critical, and it seemed as though G Rap was bound to suffer old-school status like most of his '80s peers. As G Rap's name became less and less acknowledged among contemporary rap listeners in the late '90s, the stalwart MC simultaneously began channeling his efforts toward guest appearances. Collaborating with the likes of Fat Joe, Big Pun, M.O.P., Mobb Deep, Nas, RZA, Big L, and Talib Kweli — along with a surprising appearance on U.N.K.L.E.'s high-profile Psyence Fiction album as well as the Lyricist Lounge 2 compilation — G Rap gained substantial momentum. Once joining forces with Rawkus, the rapper's renaissance officially began as the label began promoting his comeback album months before its proposed 2001 release. The album, The Giancana Story, unfortunately wouldn't street until late 2002, as Rawkus became increasingly entangled in major-label affiliations. Though some of the anticipation simmered during the long delay, the album nonetheless impressed many and forcibly signaled another of G Rap's periodic returns.

Kool G Rap - 4,5,6 (Sep 12, 1995: Cold Chillin')
After a three-album run with DJ Polo that stacked up favorably to any other rap act, Kool G Rap went solo with 1995's 4, 5, 6, and it's the only time he sounded as if he was running out of steam. Though "Ghetto Knows," "Take 'Em to War," and "Money on My Brain" (featuring a slick sample of Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon") are far from missteps, they have little on G Rap's legacy with DJ Polo. Furthermore, there are telltale signs that he either needs to gain new inspirations or take a break. "Blowin Up in the World"'s lyrics could've been written by just about any MC, and the lazy chorus is particularly dull by his standards.The production from Buckwild and T Ray is merely passable and lacks the unique spark that masters like Marley Marl, Sir Jinx, and Large Professor were able to provide years earlier. It has to be stressed that few other MCs could release a record like this and have it considered a failure; in fact, had this been a debut from a youngster, it would've doubtlessly created a stir of some sort. Thankfully, G Rap went on a very necessary hiatus after this.

Kool G Rap - Roots of Evil (Nov 10, 1998: K-Tel)
Since his last album, Kool G Rap made two very critical life decisions that would greatly impact his career. First, he left the hustle and bustle of Queens behind and relocated to the blistering desert heat of Arizona. Secondly, tiring of major-label hassles and poor promotion, he severed all ties with Cold Chillin and started his own label, Ill Street. After a four-year hiatus, it was finally time for the self-professed Godfather of Street Rap to unleash his ferocious appetite for rhyme upon his unsuspecting prey. Sounding reinvigorated after a lengthy layoff, his skills remain completely intact, blazing verse after verse in grand fashion. Standout cuts include the eerie, bass-heavy "One Dark Night," and G Rap lyrically drenches the wavering keyboard of "Mobstas." Also, "Let the Games Begin" and the well-executed "Mafioso" stand out. One of this album's crown jewels, "Thugs Life Story (Chapter I, II, III)," is a nine-minute excursion into the underworld, finding G Rap at unparalleled echelons. Though rarely diverting from his usual topic matter of money, murder, and mayhem, there is a definitive method to his madness. G Rap's intricate storytelling ability and keen attention for detail enables him to flip futuristic tales of criminology in a totally unique fashion. However, just as the production failed to take his first solo album, 4,5,6, to that next level, the same can be echoed here. It's abundantly clear that G Rap needs to map out a strategically stronger battle plan when searching for just the right tracks to compliment his flow, because that's the only thing holding him back on this album.
Kool G Rap - Gianciana Story (Nov 12, 2002: Koch International)
Delayed for over a year while Rawkus sorted out its increasingly labyrinthine label affiliations (it was eventually licensed to a Koch subsidiary), The Giancana Story proves that time means nothing to one of the greatest rappers ever (though Rawkus took it too far when they declared "the game was named after him"). Don't call it a comeback because he never left — he recorded continually during the '90s — but Kool G's third solo record illustrates the rare case of the hip-hop world moving closer to a veteran than when he made his breakout. What sounded refreshing and genuinely unique in 1990 — check out before-their-time shots like "Road to the Riches" or "Streets of New York" — was becoming nearly ubiquitous by the end of the millennium, and besides slipping in a few more words per line than he used to, the first real hardcore rapper hasn't changed his style a whit (or needed to). The opener, "Thug for Life," is as clean a track as any classic golden-age production, but with the type of mid-tempo roll that gets it closer to later hardcore rap. The single "My Life," with Capone-N-Noreaga, is the best track here, the only one with any crossover appeal (via a remix complete with talk box and stuttered chorus). Everything else is pure hardcore rap, with all the dark intelligence and heavy venom hip-hop fans expect from a master.
Kool G Rap - Click of Respect (Oct 21, 2003: Blaze The World)
1 Intro 1:07
2 I Die 4 U 4:44
3 Cold World 3:27
4 Blackin Out 2:30
5 Breaker Breaker 4:28
6 Click of Respect 4:28
7 Get da Drop on Em 3:41
8 Gully 4:05
9 On My Grind 3:30
10 Pimped Out 4:21
11 Slide in My Whip 4:21
12 Air U Out 4:02
13 Niggah Nah 3:39
14 Sick Wit It 2:55
15 Stop Playin Wit Me 3:35
16 I Am What I Am 2:42
17 Takin Over 4:00
18 Never Gonna Let You Go 3:21

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ol` Dirty Bastard

One of the founding members of The Wu-Tang Clan, who recorded some of the most influential hip-hop of the '90s, Ol' Dirty Bastard was the loose cannon of the group, both on record and off. Delivering his outrageously profane, free-associative rhymes in a distinctive half-rapped, half-sung style, ODB came across as a mix of gonzo comic relief and not-quite-stable menace. Unfortunately, after launching a successful solo career, his personal life began to exhibit those same qualities. ODB spent much of 1998 and 1999 getting arrested with ridiculous, comical frequency, building up a rap sheet that now reads not so much like a soap opera as an epic Russian novel. At first, his difficulties with the law made him a larger-than-life figure, the ringmaster of rap's most cartoonish sideshow. Sadly, his life inevitably slipped out of control, and the possibility that his continued antics were at least partly the result of conscious image-making disappeared as time wore on. It was difficult for observers to tell whether ODB's wildly erratic behavior was the result of serious drug problems or genuine mental instability; bad luck certainly played a role in his downfall, but so did his own undeniably poor judgment. Despite being sentenced to prison on drug charges in 2001, it's worth noting that while he was running amuck Ol' Dirty's offenses were largely nonviolent; the saddest part of his story is that, in the end, the only person he truly harmed was himself.Ol' Dirty Bastard was born Russel Tyrone Jones in Brooklyn in 1969, and grew up in the neighborhood of Fort Green as a welfare child. As he got older, he started hanging out more and more with his cousins Robert Diggs and Gary Grice; they all shared a taste for rap music and kung-fu movies. The trio parlayed their obsessions into founding The Wu-Tang Clan, renaming themselves Ol' Dirty Bastard (since there was no father to his style), The RZA, and The Genius, respectively. The Wu grew into an innovatively structured hip-hop collective designed to hit big and then spin off as many solo careers for its members as possible. Buoyed by The RZA's production genius and a number of strong personalities, The Wu-Tang Clan's first album, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), was released at the end of 1993 and became one of the most influential rap albums of the decade. Earlier in the year, Ol' Dirty had been convicted of second-degree assault in New York, the only violent offense ever proven against him; trouble continued to stalk him in 1994, when he was shot in the stomach by another rapper in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn following a street argument.
R.I.P. ODB. Russell Jones a.k.a. Ol' Dirty Bastard passed away on November 13, 2004!

Ol' Dirty Bastard - Return to the 36 Chambers (Mar 28, 1995)
As a member of The Wu-Tang Clan, Ol' Dirty Bastard's bizarre, free-form rants added both comic relief and a dangerous unpredictability to the group's chemistry. ODB's RZA-produced solo debut Return to the 36 Chambers stretches his schtick over a full album, which if anything makes him sound even more unbalanced. Long before the album ends, it's clear that ODB has emptied his bag of tricks — loose, off-the-beat raps that sometimes don't even rhyme, unbelievably graphic vulgarity, gonzo off-key warbling (which sounds a little like Biz MArkie as a mental patient), and general goofing off. Yet within that role as hardcore rap's clown prince of psychosis, ODB is pretty damned entertaining. His leaps in association are often as disturbing as they are funny, whether they're couched in scatological detail or not; they certainly don't make his widely publicized erratic behavior seem at all surprising. And, despite the unstructured feel dominating most of the album, there are a fair share of hooks, and two absolutely killer singles in "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" and "Brooklyn Zoo." Certainly, there's no reason for the album to be as long as it is, considering the dull filler toward the end. But, even though Return to the 36 Chambers might not be the most earth-shattering piece of The Wu-Tang puzzle, it's an infectious party record which proves that, despite his limitations, Ol' Dirty Bastard has the charisma to carry an album on his own.

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Ol' Dirty Bastard - Osirus: The Official Mixtape
Listening to Osirus — the posthumous "official mixtape" released with the blessings of the late ODB's manager and mother — is as bittersweet an experience as you can get. Maybe it's not as hot as the slew of street-level mixtapes that have surfaced since ODB passed, but they've got the advantage of flying under the radar and grabbing whatever unlicensed classic, freestyle, or blend they want. What those bootlegs won't expose you to is how on fire Dirty was before it all came to a halt and how ready he was to take the hip-hop world over once again. Kicking off with the bouncy and Roc-A-Fella propping party tune "Pop Shots," Osirus causes a lot of excitement from the get go, and while the third and fourth quarter filler brings it down a bit, you can't help but note that the Bastard hasn't been this driven since Nigga Please. He wants it all back, bad. The great DJ Premier's helmed cut gives way to perfect party jam number two, "Dirty Dirty," overseen by producer MArk Ronson, who combines that good old jaunty piano ODB loves so much with a rock-solid beat and funky organ. The rapper delivers one classic line over the track, boasting and bragging, more on point than obtuse. "High in the Clouds" with Black Rob and "Dirty Run" with it's uncredited sample of Bowie's "Fame" round out the highlights and while they're all upfront, the lesser tracks towards the end trump anything on The Trials & Tribulations of Russel Jones. You can talk about Dirty's crazy past all you want, but Osirus is entirely pointed toward the future. Tragic the man won't get to see those Wu-heads bobbin' and digging his wicked return to form.

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Ol' Dirty Bastard - A Son Unique (Aug 9, 2005: Def Jam)
1 Lift Ya Skirt
2 Pop Shots
3 Operator
4 Back in the Air
5 Work for Me
6 Odb Dont Go Breaking My Heart
7 Stomp
8 How Ya Feelin
9 Intoxicated
10 Dirty & Grimey
11 Danger Zone
12 Skrilla
13 Dont Hurt Me Dirty

Ol' Dirty Bastard - Nigga Please (Sep 14, 1999: Elektra)
Hollywood may have Austin Powers, but hip-hop has it's own international man of mystery; his name is Ol' Dirty Bastard. ODB lives and suffers with the adage that any publicity is good publicity, since he hasn't spent the greater part of the last two years gaining widespread notoriety for the music he makes. Rather, he has spent a majority of that time turning up on local crime blotters from coast to coast, trying to raise bail money, recuperating from gunshot wounds, rescuing a kid who was struck by a car, and hijacking the 1998 Grammy awards. With that in mind, it should be obvious by now that personalities of ODB's magnitude come around once in a lifetime. And even though he is repetitiously contradictory with his neurotic ramblings, who cares? That's half of his appeal, as there is an irrefutable attraction to ODB's carefree and inebriated outlook on life. With rhymes frequently so garbled that they are barely decipherable, calling ODB a quintessential lyricist would surely insult the intelligence of any hip-hop purist. Yet the dirt dog is indubitably a distinguished emcee and a uniquely abrasive one at that, as he turns an array of voice cracking/bloodcurdling hooks into grisly masterpieces. Examples include the nonsensical crooning of his Rick James interpolations "Cold Blooded" and "You Don't Want to Fuck With Me," and the ridiculously addictive "Rollin Wit You." Despite that ODB's production chores are handled admirably by the Neptunes, Irv Gotti and RZA, the backing acoustics are hardly needed; ODB rarely stays on beat and there is little, or no structure to his rhyme sequences. Safely nestled away in his own little world, there is no containing ODB's free-spirited outlook on life. His is a world that is heavy on shock value, yet undeniably entertaining.

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Ol:' Dirty Bastard - The Trials and Tribulations of Russell Jones (Mar 19, 2002: D3)
When he wasn't busy running from the authorities in late 2000, Ol' Dirty Bastard haphazardly recorded vocals for his third album after escaping a court-ordered drug rehab program in Los Angeles. ODB's record label at the time, Elektra, didn't want anything to do with the rapper; in fact, when the infamous Wu-Tang Clan member was convicted of possessing 20 vials of crack-cocaine a few months following his notorious escape from rehab, Elektra released a best-of collection, despite there only being a grand total of only two albums in the ODB catalog. This crafty decision by Elektra partly intended to capitalize on ODB's legal problems while simultaneously ending the label's relationship with the obviously troubled rapper. However, given the lucrative parade of posthumous 2Pac albums in the early 2000s, it wasn't surprising when the crass D-3 label began assembling ODB's third album by any means necessary. First of all, D-3 gathered all the miscellaneous vocals ODB had recorded as a fugitive. Second of all, since there weren't many vocals to work with, let alone many quality vocals, D-3 hired a cast of guests to fill out the album and make the songs more palatable: C-Murder, Mack 10, E-40, Big Syke, Too Short, and more. Last of all, the label brought in the Insane Clown Posse for the album's lead single, "Dirty and Stinkin'," and recorded a hard rock version of the track as well. What all of this adds up to is The Trials and Tribulations of Russell Jones, a shallow album that substitutes exploitation for substance. Producers like RZA and the Neptunes made ODB's past work successful; not ODB himself. Unfortunately, the producers on this album aren't nearly as talented and don't have as much to work with here. ODB's rhymes are sloppier and more incomprehensible than ever, and the guests do most of the rapping. Furthermore, the 2Pac-esque "Trials and Tribulations" frame is nothing more than a frame; sure, there are many skits where ODB rambles illogically, but you're more likely to hear him narrate defecation — which, believe it or not, actually takes place late in the album — than speak rationally. In the end, it was perhaps smart of D-3 to bring in the Insane Clown Posse, since that's precisely the level that ODB has sunken to on this album — juvenile exploitation for disenchanted suburban white boys. For years, ODB seemed funny, but here the laughter is nowhere to be found, replaced instead by the disheartening reality that the most outlandish member of the Wu-Tang Clan had fallen victim to America's drug war and, subsequently, to crass commercialism.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Ghostface Killah

As one of the original members of the seminal '90s rap crew The Wu-Tang Clan, Ghostface Killah (aka Tony Starks) made an impact before he released his debut album, Ironman, late in 1996. Like all members of The Wu-Tang Clan, the rapper used the group as a launching pad for a solo career, which was assisted greatly by other members of the Clan, particularly producer RZA. Ghostface Killah had rapped on Wu-Tang's 1993 debut, Enter The Wu-Tang, but he didn't distinguish himself until 1995, when he was showcased on fellow Wu member Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. Ghostface received good reviews for his appearance on the record, and his contribution to the soundtracks for Sunset Park and Don't Be a Menace to South Central While You're Drinking Your Juice in the Hood also were well-received. All of these guest appearances and soundtrack contributions set the stage for Ghostface Killah's solo debut, Ironman, in late 1996. Like all Wu-Tang projects, it was produced by RZA and was quite successful in the large hip-hop/rap underground, debuting at number two on the pop charts upon its release. Ironman was also the first album to be released on Razor Sharp Records, RZA's record label on Epic Records. Work with The Wu-Tang and their various members kept Ghostface Killah busy until solo singles started appearing at the end of 1999 followed by his sophomore full-length, Supreme Clientele, in early 2000. Supreme Clientele was a success, but it was followed a year later by Bulletproof Wallets, an album that didn't sell well and had fans declaring the Ironman had gone soft. Once again it was back to The Wu for a couple years before the rapper would be appearing solo again. Epic issued the compilation Shaolin's Finest in April of 2003, and by the end of the year two new Ghostface tracks had started to appear on mixtapes. The chaotic "Run" with Jadakiss and the more commercial "Tush" with Missy Elliot raised the anticipation for the rapper's first album for Def Jam and his first under the simpler moniker Ghostface. The Pretty Toney Album hit the streets in April of 2004. The Top Ten hit Fishscale followed in 2006, but not before 718, an album from his Theodore Unit.
Ghostface Killah - Ironman
Every Wu-Tang Clan solo project has a different flavor, and Ghostface Killah's Ironman is no exception. Though it boasts cameos from nearly every other Wu-Tang member — notably Raekwon and Cappadonna — Ironman is unlike any other record in RZA's catalog of productions, particularly because it's significantly lighter in tone. There are still touches of The Wu's signature urban claustrophobia throughout the record, but the music is largely built on samples of early-'70s soul, from Al Green to The Delfonics, who make a guest appearance on "After the Smoke Is Clear." Consequently, the mood of the album can switch tones at the drop of the hat, moving from hard funk like "Daytona 500" to seductive soul with the Mary J. Blige duet "All That I Got Is You." Ironman bogs down slightly in the middle, yet the record is filled with inventive production and rhymes, and ranks as another solid entry in the Wu-Tang legacy.

Ghostface Killah - Bulletproof Wallets
Sprucing up the scratchy soul samples of his sophomore Supreme Clientele into a relatively pristine mainstream gloss, Ghostface Killah also, unfortunately, removed much of the flair from the most distinctive sound in the Wu-Tang camp. And fans looking for the genuine pain and emotion of his standout, "Hollow Bones" (from Wu-Tang's The W), won't be rewarded, either. Bulletproof Wallets is basically a party album, at least compared to the usual Wu-Tang gloom and doom, featuring smooth, romantic R&B tracks like the single "Never Be the Same Again" (with Carl Thomas & Raekwon) and "Love Session." One of the few highlights is the opener, "Maxine," an inner-city nightmare given heavy menace by Ghostface's tight rapping and an excellent one-note-horns production. From there, Bulletproof Wallets heads south, with a few oddball interludes (usually nursery rhymes substituting weed references) and smooth or stale productions from Wu associates RZA (five songs total), Alchemist, Allah Mathematics, and Ghostface himself. (Listeners should also beware of the back-cover track listing, which is completely wrong.)

Ghostface Killah - Supreme Clientele
Most of the members of rap's Roman Empire, the Wu-Tang Clan, experienced sophomore slumps with their second solo releases, whether artistically or commercially (usually both). The second offerings from Method Man, Ol' Dirty Bastard, GZA, and Raekwon featured some of the old Wu magic, but not enough to warrant a claim to their once total mastery of the rap game. Just as the Wu empire appeared to be crumbling, along came the second installment from the Clan's spitfire element, Ghostface Killah (aka Tony Starks, aka Ironman). Every bit as good as his first release, Supreme Clientele proves Ghost's worthiness of the Ironman moniker by deftly overcoming trendiness to produce an authentic sound in hip-hop's age of bland parity. Some of the Wu's slump could be contributed to Wu-Abbott's (aka RZA) relative sabbatical. This album has RZA's stamp all over it, but the guru himself only provides three tracks. On this effort, the Wu-Pupil producers at times seem to outdo their teacher. RZA's best composition is the piano-driven, double-entendre-laced childhood retrospective "Child's Play." But of the many standout cuts, it's the slew of disciple producers paying homage to the Wu legacy that truly makes this album fresh-sounding: "Apollo Kids" (Hassan), "Malcolm" (Choo the Specialist), "Saturday Nite" (Carlos "Six July" Broady), "One" (JuJu of the Beatnuts), "Cherchez la Ghost" (Carlos Bess), "Wu Banga 101" (Allah Mathematics). While the album is complete and characteristically Wu-sounding, each track is distinctive lyrically, thematically, and sonically. Ghostface's Supreme Clientele is a step toward the Wu-Tang Clan's ascent from the ashes of their fallen kingdom. The once slumbering Wu-Tang strikes again.

Ghostface Killah - The Pretty Toney Album
Ghostface Killah fields questions from reporters on the intro to The Pretty Toney Album, the rapper's first under the just-Ghostface moniker and his first on Def Jam. According to the intro, The Wu-Tang are doing fine and waiting for the right moment to drop their next album, and it's none of your business why Pretty Toney took so long to come out. That's about all Ghostface wants to say about any of the drama surrounding the album. With tracks this good, who can blame him for the "let's get to it" attitude? The Pretty Toney Album has a lack of Wu-related references on it. It's Ghostface's album entirely and all the better for it. It's partly a party album like 2001's Bulletproof Wallets, but freer, more inspired, and tempered with pure street tracks that were missing last time round. Perhaps feeling the lack of hood interest for his last album, Ghostface puts a handful of Pretty Toney's hardest tracks at the beginning as if he's ready to prove something right away. The best of the lot, "Metal Lungies," could be the theme for any aspiring mack, but the rest are very good, suffering a bit from being laid out one after another. The sleazy "Bathtub (Skit)" has the repeat-play value of a porno movie, but it brings on the lighter and more rewarding part of the album. "Save Me Dear" is a bumpy and fun Ghostface production and another great singalong from the rapper. Don't expect a ton of chemistry between Ghostface and Missy Elliot, but their "Tush" is a hedonistic, club-aimed highlight with both in top form on their own. Jackie-O connects much better with the man on "Tooken Back," one of two great productions from Nottz and first of the three solid tracks that finish the album. The chaotic "Run" and the sentimental laundry list of beloveds on "Love" finish the album on a high note, but there's something missing. Rumor has it Def Jam wouldn't pony up the dough and clear samples for the tracks that didn't make the album. Songs the rapper has posted on his own website and mixtapes like DJ Kayslay's No Pork On My Fork, Vol. 1 or the MC's own Pretty Toney (The Lost Tracks) (released under his original Ghostface Killah moniker) tell the whole story. Get them all and you might be able to piece together a classic Ghostface album. Pretty Toney comes close, very close, and puts the man's solo career back on solid ground.
Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
Whenever a veteran artist professes disinterest in modern music, a safe retreat into the past — a tired attempt at recapturing the magic of classic material — tends to follow. Since Ghostface Killah towed that line after the two least-thrilling albums of his career, Fishscale seemed destined to be just another part of his discography; if his fans were lucky, they'd get a couple flashes of his mad maverick genius and nothing as clumsily foul as "Tush." Fishscale is much more generous than that. It's evident that Ghost knows where he's at in his career, and it's directly acknowledged by the Mickey Goldmill-like boxing coach during "The Champ": "You ain't been hungry...since Supreme Clientele!" Ghost responds by pouring all that he has, both lyrically and vocally, into every track on the album. The scenarios he recounts are as detailed and off-the-wall as ever, elaborate screenplays laid out with a vocal style that's ceaselessly fluid and never abrasive. This is especially remarkable since each one of Ghost's lines, when transcribed, require one-to-five exclamation points, and every frantic scene's details — from the onions on the steak, to the show on the television, to the socks sticking out of the "big Frankenstein hole" in a shoe worn by an accomplice — are itemized without derailing the events. Since no active MC sounds better over obscure '70s soul samples, Ghost was wise to select productions that are best suited for him, no matter how bizarre or un-pop. Just Blaze, Lewis Parker, MoSS, Crack Val, Pete Rock, Doom, the late J Dilla, and several others supply Ghost with a tremendous round of productions. "Underwater" is the loopiest of all, even by Doom standards; its balmy Bobbi Humphrey flute and slippery beat, aided by burbling water effects, backs a hallucinatory journey in which Ghost swims with butterflies, casts his gaze on numerous riches (rubies, the Heart of the Ocean, "Gucci belts that they rocked for no reason from A Different World") and bumps into a Bentley-driving, Isley Brothers-listening, girlfriend-smacking SpongeBob Squarepants before hitting spiritual paydirt. "Back Like That," featuring Ne-Yo, is the lone apparent crossover attempt, and it hardly compromises Ghost's character the way "Tush" did in 2004 ("In the summertime, I broke his jaw — had to do it to him quick, old fashion, in the back of the mall"). Another completely unique track is "Whip You with a Strap," where Ghost recalls the pain of being whipped by his mom with more than a hint of misty-eyed wistfulness. How many other MCs are capable of making you feel nostalgic about leaking welts you never had? More importantly, how many MCs entering their late-thirties have made an album as vital as any other in his or her career?
Ghostface Killah - More Fish (Dec 19, 2006: Def Jam)
Loosely speaking, More Fish is to Fishscale what Theodore Unit's 718 was to The Pretty Toney Album, albeit with more focus on Ghostface. While the title of this disc seems synonymous with Have Some Leftovers, it's not at all stale, if not nearly as spectacular as its precursor. Again, Ghostface showcases Trife da God, Cappadonna, Shawn Wigs, and Solomon Childs, while Sun God (Ghostface's son), Killa Sin, Sheek Louch, Redman, and a few others also assist. Ghost goes it alone on four tracks, and three others are left strictly in the hands of his protégés. With the exception of weak link Wigs, each one of them continues to improve. Unsurprisingly, Ghostface's performances are never outstripped by those of the other MCs, and no track — with the exception of the tacked-on "Back Like That" remix — makes any kind of commercial concession. Since Fishscale wasn't even close to going gold at the time of the disc's release, it's obvious that More Fish was issued to get the instant sales of Ghost's devout fanbase. "Guns 'n' Razors," "Outta Town Sh*t," and "Block Rock" generate the trademark breakneck high adventure, with Ghost on full, furious blast. Apropos of nothing, one of "Block Rock"'s tangents is an amped-up dismissal of Lil Jon: "If Little Jon could ice his cup, I'd chop that sh*t, it'd ice my nuts." After that, the intensity drops for several tracks, regained temporarily by "Alex (Stolen Script)," where Ghost makes the life of a fledgling movie mogul sound as dramatic and nearly as twisted as the crack trade. In the "too much information" department: when, in "Street Opera," Ghost recalls exploits shared with his son, "We ran trains for hours up in the Days Inn" probably has nothing to do with a dictionary's definition of "train" (unless, of course, your source is

Friday, January 12, 2007

Method Man

Method Man was the first — and biggest — solo star to emerge from the groundbreaking Wu-Tang Clan. His mush-mouthed, sandpaper-rough bellow (at times recalling EPMD's Erick Sermon) and imaginative rhymes easily made him one of the most recognizable, unpredictable MCs in the group, yet his flow was more deliberate and laid-back than The Wu's resident loose cannon, Ol'Dirty Bastard. On his solo records, Method Man developed a persona that swung from offhand, understated menace to raucous stoner humor. Toward the end of the '90s, his frequent team-ups with Redman produced not only a terrific musical chemistry, but an eventual big-screen comedy team as well.Method Man was born Clifford Smith on April 1, 1971, in Hempsted, Long Island; he split his childhood between his father's Long Island residence and his mother's Staten Island home. It was the latter locale where he met his future Wu-Tang cohorts RZA, Genius/GZA, and Ol'Dirty Bastard; when they set about forming a hip-hop collective in the early '90s, Method Man was one of the first to sign on. Meth was heavily featured on the group's classic late-1993 debut Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), even getting his own showcase track with "Method Man," which certainly put him out front in terms of name recognition. Thanks to The Wu's innovative contract — which allowed individual members to sign solo deals with whatever label they chose — Method Man inked a contract with Def Jam, and in 1994, approximately one year after Enter The Wu-Tang's release, he became the first Wu member to release a solo album with Tical. Highly anticipated, the album entered the charts at number four and quickly went platinum, while singles like "Bring the Pain" (which just missed the pop Top 40) and "Release Yo' Delf" made him an even bigger name in the hip-hop community. He began making numerous guest appearances on other artists' records and in the summer of 1995, his one-off single with Mary J. Blige, "I'll Be There for You/You're All I Need to Get By," soared into the pop Top Five, giving Meth his first major mainstream exposure. Shortly thereafter, another duet — this time with Def Jam labelmate Redman — on the compilation track "How High" climbed into the pop Top 20.Wu-Tang Clan reconvened in 1997 for the double-album Wu-Tang Forever, and about a year later, another round of solo projects commenced. Method Man issued his sophomore effort, Tical 2000: Judgement Day (ironically), in late 1998 and took a more expansive approach this time out, filling the album with between-song skits and a variety of guest rappers and producers. Tical 2000 was another hit, entering the charts at number two. Meanwhile, in addition to recording the album, Meth had spent much of 1998 getting his acting career off the ground; after landing a few bit parts, he made his first prominent big-screen appearance in Hype Williams' Belly. In 1999, Meth partnered up with Redman to form a duo act that hit the road with Jay-Z's Hard Knock Life tour; they also entered the studio together to record the collaborative album Blackout!, which entered the charts at number three that fall and received highly complimentary reviews.The Wu returned in late 2000 with the lower-profile The W. After completing the record, Meth refocused on his acting career; in early 2001, he put in a month's worth of appearances portraying a young gangster on HBO's gritty prison drama Oz, and teamed up with Redman for the Cheech & Chong - styled stoner comedy How High, which hit theaters toward the end of the year, around the same time as the fourth Wu-Tang album, Iron Flag. After numberous delays, the MC released his third solo album, Tical 0: The Prequel, in 2004. He allegedly finished off 20 tracks with RZA as the producer, but Def Jam opted to release a version that featured only one of those cuts. In 2006 Meth issued 4:21...The Day After, which featured appearances from many Wu-Tang members, including a posthumous verse from ODB.

Method Man - Tical (1994)
The first Wu-Tang Clan solo album to follow the seismic impact of Enter The Wu-Tang , Method Man's Tical similarly delivers an otherworldly wallop, one that instantly sets the madcap MC apart from his clansmen as the collective's shining star. Not only is Meth madcap, both in terms of mentality and delivery, he's also incredibly witty and wordy. Here he inspires hilarity as well as astonishment, and the way that he fires off his rhymes with such seemingly spontaneous ease compounds this sense of wonder. Just as Meth is quite clearly leagues above practically every other rapper in 1994 sans a small handful, if that, so is his producer, Wu-Tang abbot RZA, who produces the entirety of Tical: from the antiquated flutes and kung fu flick samples that open the album, to the pulse-accelerating beats of "Bring the Pain" and the fist-pumping ones of "All I Need" (the b-boy version rather than the radio-geared one featuring Mary J. Blige), to the rallying, warlike horns of "Release Yo' Delf." Despite a few outside contributions, most notably from Raekwon on the rowdy spar-fest "Meth vs. Clef," Tical is strictly a two-man show, Meth bringing da ruckus and RZA the swarming soundscapes, and that's precisely what further makes this album such a treasure amid the many Wu-Tang gems. Where most of Meth's clansmen delivered guest-laden albums that sounded more like group efforts than solo ones, Tical strictly spotlights the group's two stars and does so with refreshingly straightforward flair. There's none of the epic overreaching that mars so many rap albums of the era; rather, there's just over a dozen tracks here, and they're filled to the brim with rhymes and beats and little else — no pop-crossover concessions nor any heady experimentation for the sake of experimentation, just good ol'-fashioned hip-hop, albeit with a dark, dark deranged twist.

Method Man - Tical 2000: Judgement Day (Nov 10, 1998)
Unlike Method Man's straightforward debut, Tical, which was a simple yet brilliant MC/producer collaboration, and a classic one at that, his follow-up, Tical 2000, is an ambitious undertaking, involving a long list of collaborators and a conceptual scope. In many ways, it's a much more interesting album than its predecessor because of its ambitions. There are 28 tracks in total here, most of them featuring some sort of guest, mainly fellow East Coast hardcore rappers like Redman but also surprise guests like Chris Rock and Janet Jackson. The 28 tracks furthermore feature an abundance of producers rather than just RZA like last time. Some of the more notable contributors include Rockwilder, Erick Sermon, Prince Paul, and The Trackmasters as well as in-house Wu-Tang beatmakers RZA and True Master. This large cast navigates its way through a loose narrative about a so-called Judgement Day that seems to liberally take its inspiration from the film Terminator 2: Judgment Day. All of this makes Tical 2000 a daunting venture that is occasionally entertaining (the many skits), intermittently brilliant ("Dangerous Grounds" and the climactic title track), but unfortunately too often ill-conceived (the overly calculated "All I Need" sequel "Break Ups 2 Make Ups," this time featuring D`Angelo rather than Mary j> Blige) and also tiresome (again, the many skits). Rarely have such ambitious undertakings as this worked well for rap artists, and Tical 2000 exemplifies this, as did many of the myriad other epic, often double-disc albums released during the late '90s that were heavy on collaborators but light on consistency. Hand it to Meth, though, for embarking on such a visionary engagement, for its final completion winded him so much that he'd take a few years off before even considering another solo endeavor.

Method Man - Blackout! (Sep 28, 1999)
Hip-hop fans have known for years that Method Man and Redman are two of the top MCs in the field, and their tour together not only proved the fact, but also showed they rap incredibly well together. Their deliveries are similar and the flow never falters, but the hint of gravel in Meth's voice makes them easily distinguishable. Now, with Blackout!, the duo's first album together (though both guested on each other's 1998 LPs), listeners have the proof on wax. Skating on top of spare, hard-hitting productions by Erick Sermon, Wu-Tang's RZA, Mathematics, and Redman himself — under his Reggie Noble alias — Meth and Redman trade off on hardcore rhymes and freestyle over each other. There's barely room for breath, but the rhymes are tight and inventive throughout. There are only two guest appearances (for Ja Rule & LL Cool J on "4 Seasons" and Ghostface and Street on the hilarious Blair Witch Project send-off "Run 4 Cover"), and the focus on just Meth and Redman makes for an even tighter, more combustible LP. Even with the high expectations that come along with a project of this magnitude Blackout! rarely disappoints.

Method Man - Tical 0: The Prequel (May 18, 2004)
Method Man's third solo work, following 1998's uneven Tical 2000 (and released a month after Ghostface's superior-in-every-aspect Pretty Toney Album), arrived with many conflicting rumors and circumstances attached to it. On the M2 program Spoke 'n' Heard, Meth informed journalist/host Touré that Tical 0 is his best record, and alluded to being boxed in when working with one producer and one sound. Around the same time, the official Wu-Tang website reported that the MC was not pleased with the version Def Jam opted to put out, due to its scant number of RZA productions — one single cut, when an entire record's worth was allegedly put together throughout the past couple years. Whatever the circumstances might be, there's no doubt that Tical 0 is even less penetrating than Tical 2000, a record that at least had its ambitions to retain interest during the lulls. At its best, this one offers brief bursts of okay-to-decent tracks. The most energizing moments typically come when Meth's supported by the likes of Busta Rhymes ("What's Happenin'") and Ludacris ("Rodeo"), but the productive conveyor belt of guest spots — which chucks out well over a dozen of them, including Missy Elliot, Raekwon, Kardinal Offisha, Chinky (not Chingy), and soon-to-be fellow sitcom star Redman — also weighs down the whole process. Likewise, the list of producers comes pretty close to being lengthier than the list of guest MCs; this makes the record seem unfocused and disjointed, not diverse and well rounded. Meth seems more clear-headed than ever, possibly a result from his cleaned-up, family-oriented lifestyle. (The lyrical matter, however, does nothing to reflect this change.) His throaty rasp isn't nearly as doped out as it was a decade prior, but his personality remains an attraction. As an MC, he's had nothing to prove for quite some time. Give or take a couple hot tracks, this release is not likely to play a significant role in his legacy.

Method Man - 4:21... The Day After (Aug 29, 2006: Def Jam)
Ever since the release of the somewhat disappointing Tical 0: The Prequel, Method Man has been trying to prove that he really is the MC he was on his fantastic 1994 solo debut. So maybe the fact that he decided to name his fourth record 4:21...The Day After has less to do with marijuana (though of course that is never completely forgotten) and more to do with moving away from all the comparisons to his first album, Tical (and the subsequent Tical-themed titles that came after). And while 4:21 may be an improvement over his previous releases, Method Man's not quite the funny yet insightful rapper he was on his debut. To his credit, however, there are still some pretty good tracks on the album, including "Say," with a Lauryn Hill-covering-Bob Marley sample; "Dirty Mef," which has a verse from deceased Clansman Ol' Dirty Bastard; and "Walk On" featuring cohort Redman, and when Method Man spits out "Me and my soldier, we're taking over/taking payola from all those stations and record labels" over a beat by RZA and Erick Sermon (both of whom appear multiple times), you almost believe that he's going to make a comeback. Unfortunately, there are enough songs on 4:21 that are so utterly boring that the claim of redemption can't be made quite yet. "Got to Have It" is trite and almost hypocritical; the balladic "Let's Ride," which features a chorus from Ginuwine, is completely uninventive; and the closer, "4 Ever," with labelmate Megan Rochell, sounds as if it's trying to capture the energy he and Mary J. Blige had on "I'll Be There for You/You're All I Need to Get By," but ends up seeming more like an empty radio track. There is some good production on the album (besides RZA and Erick Sermon, Scott Storch, Kwamé "K1Mil" and Mathematics all contribute beats), and there are some decent verses as well, both from Method Man and his myriad of guest stars, but they're lacking some of the punch and ingenuity of Tical. Longtime fans should be happy to hear that he's sounding better, but he's going to have to keep making improvements if he wants to win over many new ones.

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Stay tune......Rapaholic™ As Salam Aleikum

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Rawkus Presents VA - Sound Bombing

Sound Bombing Vol. I
1. Intro - Evil Dee
2. Flipside - Ra The Rugged Man
3. Fire In Which You Burn - Indelible MCs
4. Lune TNS - Company Flow
5. Nightwork - Sir Menelik AKA Cyclops 4000
6. Arabian Nights - Shabaam Sahdeeq
7. Fortified Live - Reflection Eternal
8. Show Me Your Gratitude - L-Fudge
9. 'Till My Heart Stops - Ra The Rugged Man
10. Freestyle - Mos Def
11. So Intelligent - Sir Menelik AKA Cyclops 4000
12. Empire Staters - B-One
13. If You Can Huh... - Mos Def
14. Universal Magnetic - Mos Def
15. What If? - L-Fudge
16. My Crown - Black Attack
17. 2000 Seasons - Reflection Eternal

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Sound Bombing Vol.II
1. Intro - Babu
2. (Any Man Intro) - The Beat Junkies
3. Any Man - Eminem
4. B-Boy Document 99 - The High & Mighty
5. (WWIII Intro) - The Beat Junkies
6. WWIII - Pharoahe Monch
7. Stanley Kubrick - R.A. The Rugged Man
8. A Message From J-Live & Prince Paul - Prince Paul
9. (Crosstown Beef Intro) - Kid Capri
10. Crosstown Beef - Medina Green
11. (7XL Intro) - Pete Rock
12. 7XL - Sir Menelik
13. Chaos - Reflection Eternal
14. Soundbombing - Dilated Peoples
15. Brooklyn Hard Rock - Thirstin Howl III
16. Mayor - Pharoahe Monch
17. (Patriotism Intro) - The Beat Junkies
18. Patriotism - Company Flow
19. (1999 Intro) - Q-Tip
20. 1999 - Common
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Sound Bombing Vol.III
1. Intro - Cipha Sounds & Mr. Choc
2. The Life - Styles P. & Pharoahe Monch
3. Freak Daddy - Mos Def
4. Skit
5. Crew Deep - Skillz feat. Missy Elliott & Kandi
6. My Life - Kool G Rap feat. C-N-N
7. Round & Round Remix - Jonell feat. Method Man
8. Yelling Away - Zap Mama feat. Common
9. Skit
10. What Lies Beneath - Q-Tip
11. The Trouble Is. - The Beatnuts
12. Put It In The Air - Talib Kweli feat. DJ Quik
13. They Don't Flow - Novel feat. Skillz
14. Rhymes And Ammo - The Roots feat. Talib Kweli
15. Spit Again - Cocoa Brovaz feat. Dawn Penn
16. On The Block (Golden Era) - R.A. The Rugged Man
17. Outro - Cipha Sounds & Mr. Choc

Monday, January 08, 2007

Fresh Releases!!!

1. The Show
2. Funny Money
3. Time is Right
4. Engine Runnin (Feat. Consequence)
5. Over The Counter
6. The Function (Feat. Strong Arm Steady)
7. Happy Home (Feat. Candice Anderson)
8. Soul Music
9. What Can I Do?

1. Nativity
2. Buried Alive
3. Renaissance ft. R.A. The Rugged Man
4. Project Jazz ft. Talib Kweli
5. Los Pepes pt. 1 ft. Bronze Nazareth
6. Dear Sistah (skit)
7. Yours Truly
8. Glow
9. Chain Gang
10. Runaway Sambo
11. Smoking Gunz ft. Killah Priest
12. Millennium Warface
13. Musical Murdah ft. Ras Kass
14. Maccabee House ft. The Maccabeez
15. Lost Ark 16. Thankful
1 Manifest 4:50
2 Step in the Arena 3:32
3 Put Up or Shut Up 3:15
4 Skills 3:17
5 Code of the Streets 3:27
6 Ex-Girl to Next Girl 4:38
7 Soliloquy of Chaos 3:14
8 The Militia 4:47
9 Above the Clouds3:44
10 Check the Technique 3:53
11 Royalty 4:11
12 Lovesick 3:23
13 Take It Personal 3:02
14 Now You're Mine 2:55
15 Just to Get a Rep 2:37
16 B.Y.S. 3:05
17 Mass Appeal 3:37
18 DWYCK ft.Nice & Smooth 4:05
19 Natural 2:45
20 Tha Squeeze 3:28

01.Intro [01:49]
02.Like You [03:30]
03.P-Body [03:15]
04.Cardiac [03:50]
05.Violent [03:36]
06.Da God [03:07]
07.Upside Your Head [02:39]
08.Church [03:57]
09.King Kong [02:51]
10.One [01:54]
11.You Already Know [03:18]
12.Directors Cut [01:22]
13.Hearing Aid [03:08]
14.Let It Be Known [03:20]
15.Mess You Made [03:56]