Elevated Focusion – Self-Titled review

Elevated Focusion is a producer from Queens, New York who initially emerged in the underground under the moniker Jonny Rythmns dropping a handful of beat tapes such as Slow & Steady or The Sinthmeister. But after changing his name earlier this year, he’s looking to further introduce the new him to the underground by cooking up a full-length debut album of his own that’s primarily instrumental even though it’s most certainly worth pointing out the small handful of vocal performances from a few featured recording artists.

“Elevation” by Brigid Bites is a trippy opener to the album as she raps about climbing to the top of the mountain whereas the beat on “Stolen Time” by Bassiedee & Larissa Almeida feels like something out of an acid trip in a good way as both of them give off a more melodic delivery clarifying it’s not the end as they will find love again. “Yoko Loko” is a fresh little instrumental cut pulling from electronic dance music & after the “Amplifeyed” interlude, “Mind Frames” blends these chopped up operatic vocal samples with kicks & snares.

Continuing from there, “Waltz into the Wilderness” dabbles a bit with spoken word a bit over a hair-raising backdrop taking you through the jungle that is until “Late Night Dive” gives off a groovier feel & Katie Burke’s singing here is are provocatively passionate talking about needing to look out for herself. “Trypnotica” perfectly lives up to its name as a 105 second instrumental piece pulling from trap & psychedelia prior to “Natural Born Scumbags” pulling from dance once more.

“Tabla Tea Party” by EIMAS & Vincenzo Nocerino mixes some tablas with synthesizers declaring to be both the bullet AND the gun while “Stained in the Zone” delves further into a more futuristic sound. “About Today” by Day Vision resurrects the dance vibes singing about gazing in the mirror expecting to find herself & looking for help while the song “Psychodelicate” by Brigid Bites turns into trap turf bracing herself for a bad trip. The penultimate track “Trance Bender” gives us 1 last EDM joint & “Lost Time” ties things up entrancingly.

He’s come a long way from those early beat tapes & this eponymous debut album takes his career to the next stage in an impressive fashion. His production here is more genre-bending as he combines his love for New York culture & all genres of music but at the same time providing a place where the outsiders & insiders can meet through music & clothing representing creativity, originality, counterculture, passion, and the moment of change.

Score: 3.5/5

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X-Raided – “A Prayer in Hell” review

X-Raided is a 48 year old veteran from Sacramento, California exploding onto the scene in 1992 off the strength of his full-length debut Psycho Active. He was shortly after sentenced to 31 years in prison on murder charges, only to be granted parole in the fall of 2018 & continued to build his discography by dropping 13 more albums whilst incarcerated. Following his last 2 since being a free man California Dreamin’ & There Will Be a Storm however, the Nefarious Loc surprisingly signed to Strange Music last spring & his making his 17th full-length his official debut through the Kansas City independent powerhouse.

The title track is a chilling opener produced by 7 praying for everything that’s holy to give him strength from slaying this child that only feels disdain whereas “Return of the Living Dead” goes into trap territory talking about having a heart full of pain & dread. “Life Sentences” gives off a more shimmering flare to it telling y’all what his life like just before “To Whom It May Concern” talks about ending it all over a morbid instrumental.

Tech N9ne comes into the picture for “Stratus Fear” to hop on a booming trap beat from Wyshmaster claiming that they fear the ascension of the lyricists leading into “Any Challenger” featuring Ras Kass hop on top of some strings courtesy of Robert Rebeck so both of them can talk about taking on anybody. “Legendary” featuring King Iso on the other hand fuses these horns & hi-hats making it known what the mission is, but then “Knoccin’” has some of the weaker feature performances from Bleezo & Playboi Prada despite the heinous instrumental & lyrics comparing themselves to Michael Myers on Halloween.

“No1 is Safe” was a cold choice for a lead single talking about carry the Heat like Mourning with a fittingly depressing atmosphere to the beat while “Celebration” featuring A-Wax dives into soulful turf as both MCs find themselves in a more commemorative mood. “Blaxploitation” hooks the strings back up comparing his music to the soundtrack of the titular genre of films while “Villains in the Field” has another mundane feature performance except this time it’s from Yowda even though I like the piano instrumental & the concept of who he’s with these days.

Continuing from there, “Parasitic” begins the final leg of the album gives off a more traditional west coast sound talking about not giving a fuck about anyone or anything while “The Bridge” featuring Joey Cool returns to the boom bap looking back on childhood memories. The penultimate track & 2nd single “Kal-El” gives off an eerier trap feel declaring he cannot be brought down no matter how hard you try & “Many Apologies” closes out the album some pianos talking about embracing the dichotomy.

As someone who considers Psycho Active to be a west coast classic & a Strange Music fan since high school, my anticipation was very high for these 2 parties to crossover & I can argue that it’s X’s 2nd best album right behind his debut. The production is incredibly consistent as are a good majority of the features & the tale of his dysmorphic relationship with time itself is profoundly well-told.

Score: 4/5

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J Billz – “Streetz Hottest Young’n” review

J Billz is a 23 year old rapper from Spartanburg, South Carolina who came up at the beginning of 2020 off the strength of his debut mixtape Home Detention. He also happens to be a protege of local recording artist, songwriter, producer & engineer Pi’erre Bourne by signing to SossHouse Records prior to that previous tape coming out. However, he’s enlisting Pi’erre to make a bigger breakthrough on his debut full-length album following the sophomore efforts of his 3 labelmates last month Frazier Trill alongside Chavo & Sharc respectively.

“Trappin’ Like a Fool” is a piano-trap opener to the album talking about riding around with the toolies whereas “Onion” has a more peppier flare to it calling himself a trap junkie going hard 25 hours & 8 days a week. “Pick Today” returns to a more ominous groove so he can reminisce of all the shit that he didn’t say that is until “War with Us” aggressively airs out those who want beef with the Sosshouse crew with a cloudy instrumental backing him.

Meanwhile, “Steppas” keeps things hazy as Billz makes it clear that he sees all the fuck shit just before “Fuck Dat” talking about feeling like DJ Khaled since all he does is win & stomping a bitch boy out in public on sight. “Megan Thee Stallion” gives off a more playful sound comparing his bitch to the queen of the hot girls herself, but then “Kreepin’” weaves some pianos & hi-hats advising everyone to lock their doors since the young homies out here.

“Tony Jeff Story” gives off a somber trap tone as he tells the story of both Tony & Jeff being deep in the streets while “Depend on Me” pulls from plugg music a big asking how things are gonna work out if she claims she hates him. The song “Back to Trappin’” returns to a cloudier vibe talking about never forgetting where he came from even though he can’t stay away from the trenches while the penultimate track “Best of Me” brings in more keys & hi-hats wanting everyone to be up front about any smoke with him. “Opp N****z” however ties the album up with a booming trap closer saying he drops people instead of dissing them.

It was only a matter of time until J Billz got an album produced by Pi’erre & now that we got Streetz Hottest Young’n, I consider it to most certainly be a cut above Home Detention & a solid introduction to his mentor’s fanbase. It’s more well-produced than that previous mixtape which is kinda what I expected so Billz can improve both his songwriting & performances by giving more introspective content without needing any guest verses.

Score: 3.5/5

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Metro Boomin’ – “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Music from & Inspired by the Motion Picture)” review

This is a brand new soundtrack album curated by St. Louis producer, DJ & record executive Metro Boomin’. Gaining notoriety in the middle of the previous decade as one of the most in-demand beatsmiths in hip hop today, he’s gone on to produce some of the best trap projects of the decade in their entireties including Future’s 3rd album D.S. 2 (Dirty Sprite 2) as well as Gucci Mane’s 53rd mixtape Droptopwop and the Offset/21 Savage collab tape Without Warning. It was until after Halloween 2018 when he put out his solo debut Not All Heroes Wear Capes & returned last winter with the superior sophomore effort Heroes & Villains widely & rightfully earning him more respect as a beatsmith, but is now being recruited to do the soundtrack for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

“Annihilate” by Lil Wayne, Offset & Swae Lee kicks off the soundtrack talking about being in another universe with a bit of an electronic trap flare to the instrumental with co-production from Mike Dean whereas “Am I Dreamin’?” by A$AP Rocky & Roisee finds the pair triumphantly admits to feeling beaten yet refusing to give up. “All the Way Live” by Future & Lil Uzi Vert works in some synths & hi-hats so both of them can discuss the type of time they on just before “Danger (Spider)” by JID & Offset gives off a smoother sound despite the fact that it was solely produced nby Honorable C.N.O.T.E. as they both demonstrate being made for this dangerous life.

Young Metro returns behind the boards for the colorfully laced “Hummingbird” with beautifully sung vocals performed by James Blake realizing that his lover might be all he needs leading into “Calling” by ΠΔV & Swae Lee providing y’all a syrupy pop rap anthem with the Brown Boy continuing to improve as a performer like he previously showed on Demons Protected by Angels. “Silk & Cologne” by Ei8ht & Offset is essentially a dancehall remix of a Fortnite lobby track that Ei8ht recently did, but then “Link Up” by Don Toliver & Wizkid is easily the worst cut on the entire soundtrack as they get on the more melodic side pulling from afrobeats alongside pop rap & pop reggae talking about syncing up.

“Self Love” has to be one of Coi Leray’s best songs to date with a poppy, futuristic cut detailing a man that doesn’t even love himself trying to love on her while “Home” by Donny Womack & Uzi dives into more atmospheric trap turf talking about being alone this evening. The song “Nonviolent Communication” by James Blake, Pretty Flacko & 21 Savage is a somber acoustic trap ballad caught up in the whip with Mary Jane Watson in his head explaining their bond is misunderstood while the penultimate track “Givin’ Up” by Don Toliver, 21 & 2 Chainz come together for 1 last Honorable C.N.O.T.E. banger psychedelically talking about refusing to lose. “Nas Morales” however ends the album with Metro going drumless so Nas can cleverly compare himself to Miles Morales.

Now I really don’t review soundtrack albums unless it has something going for them since a lot of movie soundtracks these days are generally trash, but there was no doubt in my mind that this would live up to the expectations set by the respective Black Panther and Judas & the Black Messiah soundtracks especially given the growth Metro shown this past winter on Heroes & Villains. Lo & behold: I stand corrected. Metro continues to expand on his evolution as a producer with a primarily consistent guest list joining him.

Score: 3.5/5

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3-Headed Monster – “Obliteration” review

The 3-Headed Monster is a horrorcore supergroup consisting of Esham, Violent J & Ouija Macc. One of them being the unholy godfather of the wicked shit founding Reel Life Productions, the other co-founded Psychopathic Records as 1/2 of the Insane Clown Posse whom the Boogey Man was once signed to from 2002-2005 & the other has become the hatchet’s biggest artist since Twiztid departed over a decade ago to form Majik Ninja Entertainment now continuing to gradually build Chapter 17 Records as a subsidiary of the label that runs beneath the streets as he’s been their only current artist other than the wicked clowns themselves since the pandemic. But as they head out on the road earlier this week fresh off Bloody Sunday & Detritus alongside the preparation of Purgatory next month, they’re announcing the formation of the trio & even unleashing a full-length debut.

After the intro, the first song “Fire Breathin’” opens things up with a hardcore hip hop anthem produced by Dead Heat advising to run from the 3-Headed Monster itself whereas “Crushin’” blends trap with rock & these grueling bells during the hook talking about squashing on all y’all motherfuckers. “Clownzilla” gives off a more suspenseful trap groove courtesy of Shaggytheairhead so J can himself the Godzilla of juggalos just before “Juggalos 4 Jesus” gives off a cloudier route thanks to Devereaux with Ouija heavily calling back to “24/7” off 4th album Closed Casket which is widely considered by suicidalists to be his best even though I’d put KKKill the Fetus above it personally.

“Don’t Sell Your Soul” switches things up with a jazzy boom bap ballad as Esham solely reminds the world to never sellout leading into “The Biggest” weaves these chilling horn melodies likening themselves to 30 gorillas. “Leave That Dope Alone” is another Esham solo cut works in a soul sample with these kicks, snares & twinkling keys so he can get on his hustler shit à la Dead Flowerz that is until Violent J singlehandedly covers “Possum Kingdom” by The Toadies which really isn’t a surprise to me considering the Duke’s love for rock music. Especially with Zug Izland’s debut album Cracked Tiles turning 20 this year & that being one of the most underrated Psychopathic albums of all-time in my humble juggalo opinion.

Meanwhile, “Kiccin’ the Bass” dives into the wavy trap territory including a chopped & screwed samples of “What’s a Juggalo?” off their 1997 wicked shit masterpiece as well as this reviewer’s personal favorite Joker’s Card The Great Milenko & even “Dead Body Man” off my 2nd favorite Card Riddle Box for the hook so Ouija can shine with his own solo cut talking about being born as a corpse that they called a disgrace that is until “Shaggy Shit” pops up as a brief Shaggy 2 Dope interlude. The final song ends the album “Rubble” finds Obliteration reuniting once more with monster movie soundtrack flips spitting that hardcore shit one more time & the Mike E. Clark remix of “Fire Breathin’” is most certainly on par with the original.

If you call yourself a fan of the wicked shit, then you’d know how much of a big deal this album is considering Esham’s influence on ICP & eventually ICP’s on Ouija. We knew they were going on tour together too, but the formation of 3-Headed Monster & Obliteration as their debut is on par with the Quest for the Ultimate Groove that Shaggs went on last weekend. Each member’s generationally distinctive styles are all well displayed & to hear their chemistry together is quite fascinating.

Score: 4/5

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Odd Holiday – “L.I.S.A (Life is Strangely Altering)” review

Odd Holiday is an MC/producer duo consisting of Mattic on the mic & Daylight Robbery! behind the boards. Both of whom are members of the group Clouds in a Headlock from the ŌFFKILTR collective, whom just dropped their full-length debut Breakfast in Phantasia last fall. But as we enter the last month of spring, Mattic & Daylight Robbery! are joining forces to bang out a full-length debut together just in time for summer to arrive in less than 4 weeks or so.

“Brute Starr” is a remarkably jazzy opener to the album talking about being in terminator infrared mode whereas “Adam West High School” samples Shamek Farrah’s cover of “First Impressions” talking about about being a graduating fool from the fictional high school in the long-running FOX animated series Family Guy. “Boarded Up Portals” has a mystic quality to the instrumental so he can ether anyone & anything who steps up to him just before “Cream of the Crop” flips The Escorts’ cover of “Look Over Your Shoulder” with the title saying it all pretty much.

Meanwhile, the title track goes into classier turf tackles the idea of how this crazy thing we call life can be strangely changing as time goes on leading into “Free Folk” weaves some strings into the fold advising to stop rushing to be next. “Artistically Sheldon (Autism Lyricism)” if you couldn’t tell by the title revolves around Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory & the speculation of him being autistic which is a pretty interesting subject matter in my opinion over a bluesy guitar, but then “Omen Key” gives off a more alternative edge reminds the listener to “bust the glass in case of an emergency”.

“Varsity Team” begins the final leg of the album incorporates some spine-tingling background vocals talking about letting the freshman in while “LSD Written” offers a glossier approach going with the breeze. The song “Odd Holiday” dives into minimal territory wrecking the normal for those doing it solely for clout while the penultimate track “It Is Whut It Iz” has a wavier feeling this time around talking about the Earth being in it’s ending stage. “The Mandalorian” however is a jazzy closer calling himself a lyrical maniacal & that he was lying when he said he called others dope.

For those of you who walked away impressed by Breakfast in Phantasia, you’re gonna want to give L.I.S.A (Life is Strangely Altering) a listen because Odd Holiday really help being the best out of one another on this debut album of theirs. Daylight Robbery!’s production is rooted by a crate-diggers ear with minimal intervention to maximum stirring effect with limitless range & Mattic engages with the altering world around us in the wake of global upheaval with a lazy laid back simple but puzzling pen.

Score: 3.5/5

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SK da King – “Made 4 This” review

This is the full-length debut from Baltimore emcee SK da King. Emerging as a member of the Checkered Flag Boyz under the original moniker Paul Skola, it wasn’t until a couple years ago where he signed to Conway the Machine’s very own EMPIRE Distribution imprint Drumwork Music Group as a solo act as announced by his debut single “Actions” & would go on to introduce himself to the Drumwork fanbase that fall in the form of the debut EP Horus. But coming fresh off last September’s prelude tape Before the Album, da King is returning to make it clear to everyone that he was simply Made 4 This rap shit.

“Rick Flare Flow” is a dirty boom bap opener referring himself to be a heavyweight & comparing his flow to that of amongst the greatest wrestlers to ever step in the ring Ric Flair whereas the title track gives off a more somber trap vibe talking about being destined to take over the music game. “Where I’m From” featuring Izm400 works in a hazy loop & some hi-hats so the pair can discuss their respective backgrounds, but then “Show Me” has a more triumphant tone to it wanting to know exactly how he’s like these other motherfuckers.

Meanwhile, we have Ejwarwick coming into the picture for “This Side” experimenting with Latin trap talking about the specific side they don’t fuck around with just before he sticks around on “Earn Ya Stripes” following the “P.O.M.E.” skit so both of them can return to the boom bap calling out those who ain’t ever do shit in their lives. “Solid” featuring Heavygold has a somewhat dramatic feel to it talking about being on top leading into Izm400 returning with Mandriq for “The Kitchen” to ruggedly spit that dope shit.

“When It’s Over” experiments with a more Carribean sound trying to get some Ms as well as leaving a legacy when it’s all said it & done while “Nervous” featuring Tony Bosco goes back into trap territory to address the elephant in the room that nobody shining like they are. The song “Came from Nothin’” blends some hi-hats & chipmunk soul talking about not having shit while the penultimate track “Been Thru” weaves in some keys unbottling his mental stresses. “God Willin’” on the other hand closes the album with a churchy beat talking about coming from hard living.

Now I didn’t get the chance to cover Before the Album last fall but considering how much I enjoyed Horus, I was eager to hear how much SK’s grown both artistically & personally Made 4 This. So if you’re enjoying the Drumwork takeover that’s been going on for the past few months, he’s definitely playing his part in applying pressure. The production choices are gradually improving & da King takes his hunger to a whole nother level.

Score: 3.5/5

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Jay Worthy – “Nothing Bigger Than the Picture” review

Jay Worthy is a 37 year old MC from Vancouver, Canada who caught my attention in 2017 after The Alchemist produced his debut EP Fantasy Island from top to bottom. He would go onto drop 5 more EPs & just put out a fantastic collab album with Larry June over a year ago called 2 P’z in a Pod even though initial plans of putting it out through Griselda Records fell through for whatever reason. But Jay’s looking to come off his Harry Fraud-produced full-length debut You Take the Credit, We’ll Take the Check & the DJ Muggs-produced sophomore effort What They Hittin’ 4 by enlisting Long Island veteran Roc Marciano behind the boards throughout the duration of his 3rd album.

After the intro, the first song “Underground Legends” featuring Bun B kicks things off rightfully declaring themselves as such with a drumless loop accompanying them in the background whereas the title track with A$ton Matthews calling this the shit you see only in gangsta movies with a slicker instrumental. “The Field” featuring Jay 305 brings in the drums & a Middle Eastern sample as they both pray for those still in the trenches until “The Plug” featuring Ab-Soul jumps on top of some pianos & choir vocals talking about being resources for obtaining something valuable that would otherwise be difficult to obtain.

Marc joins Jay on the mic for “Wake Up” spitting that fly shit with a luxurious beat just before “My Own 2” featuring A$AP Ant & former 2x NBA All-Star Baron Davis has a soulful, jazzier flare to it as they bring to you a day in their lives. “How?” keeps the soul in tact addressing those who always want to know his background & how he reps the CPT even though he was born in Vancouver by telling them not to worry about it since it really doesn’t concern them whatsoever, but then “Players Only” has a triumphantly wavier feel to it talking about how life been different.

The song “Simple Man” featuring Kurupt make it clear to understand that they only want the money with a glossy, drumless instrumental backing them while the penultimate track “The Huddle” featuring Baron Davis brings back the horns & soul sample so all the real ones can click up declaring trouble for all the fakes out there. “Fur Coat Talk” featuring Da$h on the other hand sends off the album on a jazzier note as they discuss minks if you couldn’t already tell by the title of the closer.

I’ve been hearing some people online still calling Jay a boring MC oddly enough considering that he’s been at his best for the past year after putting out 2 P’z in a Pod with Larry alongside his previous couple solo albums & Nothing Bigger Than the Program continues that trajectory if you ask me. Sure one can complain about the amount of features & their performances kinda being 50/50, but the bars from Jay himself continue to elevate solidly over Marci’s signature production style.

Score: 3.5/5

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7 – “Ciicada” review

Michael “7” Summers is a 43 year old producer, songwriter, composer & engineer from Kansas City, Missouri who rose to prominence after becoming an in-house producer for Strange Music from 2006 to 2021. He’s also known for his collaborations with XV, Mac Lethal, Psychopathic Records, Majik Ninja Entertainment & more recently Mobstyle Music garnering comparisons to Mike E. Clark for the simply fact that both of them are able to literally produce anything. But coming fresh off entirely lacing Trizz’ critically acclaimed 5th album Baseline Cavi last fall, 7’s following up The 7th Symphony & Revelations to deliver his 3rd solo album over 2 decades in the making.

“Ultraviolet” by XV starts off the album with a twangy boom bap ballad talking about completing the cycle putting the wheels back in motion whereas “ART_DEALER” by Aaron Alexander & XV works in some more kicks & snares with an organ loop airing out that people think they know his based off the shit they write. “Kubriick” by Ubiquitous & XV is a classy boom bal follow-up talking about being geniuses leading into “a bit dramatic” by Stik Figa has a more stripped-back, psychedelic groove to it a acknowledging that this is more than promotional material.

Meanwhile, “Inflammation” by Jon Connor has some multiple well calculated beat switches throughout as the people’s rapper delivers that counterculture music just before “Ledger” by Trizz ominously yet cleverly comparing himself to Heath Ledger in his historic Dark Knight role. “Aquariium” by Curci & XV has a more summery boom bap quality to it talking about waking up & choosing success, but then “Safety” by Wrekonize dives into more soulful territory clearing the air by saying that’s what he’s been on lately for those who’ve recently have had him in mind.

“Astral Projection” by G Watts gives off a more shimmery boom bap edge calling himself a “Smooth Criminal in his Mike Jack shit” while the song “Lemon Tree” returns to a more sample-based sound so Mac Lethal can talk about wanting a mansion with the titular type of trees. The penultimate track “Be.” by ¡MAYDAY! has a more acoustic feeling to it figuring it out whatever it is that’s running from them & “Shells” being a masterfully instrumental closer to end the album.

I‘ve always felt like 7 deserves to be mentioned more in hip hop producer discussions considering his decorated discography of production credits & I happen to think Ciicada is a solid way of introducing himself to a wider audience. A couple spotty guest performances, but most of them bring their unique styles upfront as the Kansas City extraordinaire dabbles with all sorts of sounds behind the boards.

Score: 3.5/5

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$uicideboy$ – “Yin Yang Tapes 4: Winter Season” review

This is the 27th EP from New Orleans duo the $uicideboy$. Consisting of Ruby da Cherry & $crim, these guys released a plethora of projects within the last decade whether it be the Kill Your$elf saga & Eternal Grey or even I WANNA DIE IN NEW ORLEANS & the Travis Barker-produced Live Fast, Die Whenever. The boy$’ just dropped their last album Sing Me a Lullaby, My Sweet Temptation over the summer & are wrapping up the month of May by concluding the Yin Yang Tapes tetralogy.

After the intro, the first song “Bossier City Kidnap Victims” starts the final entry of the saga by making the block wet with an eerie trap instrumental backing them while the penultimate track “Didn’t They Give You Percoset?” takes a more straightforward dirty south turn talking about getting the money. “I Deleted Facebook a Long Time Ago” rounds out the EP with a cloudy Memphis trap banger knocking motherfuckers out they case, thus ending the Yin Yang Tapes era & marking the beginning of the Grey Sheep III rollout.

People were complaining about the predecessor to be 1-dimensional & I think I can just come straight out the gate saying that’s not the case with this final installment of the series. I mean yeah we still get doses of cloudy Memphis gangsta rap & rare phonk, but the dirty south opener was a refreshing change of pace from what we heard throughout the dozen joints we got from the boy$ this month excluding the intros & makes me confident about the Grey Sheep trilogy coming to a conclusion this summer since the original contains some of their strongest material.

Score: 3.5/5