Buckshot – “I’m the Boss” review

Buckshot is a 47 year old MC/producer from New York City coming up in the early 90’s as the frontman of the trio Black Moon & the Boot Camp Clik collective along with for founding one of the most beloved record labels in all of hip hop Duck Down Music with the assistance of his business partner Dru Ha. Not only would The B.D.I. Thug & Backpack Travels become the only 2 solo albums he’s put out to date, but Hanif Alwin al-Sadiq would also form a duo with 9th Wonderdropping 3 full-lengths together & a collab effort with KRS-One called Backpack Skills. But in light of him getting into the NFT game, he’s celebrating by dropping a debut EP.

After the “UPG” intro, the first song “Hey” opens up the EP with a dramatic boom bap instrumental from none other than Da Beatminerz going at the throats of anyone who dares to step up to him in a battle whereas “Come Take a Ride” goes into funkier territory with talking about cruising around at night. “Your Choice” laces some pianos written towards a ride or die bitch leading into “Roll My away” taking a more lavish route & the storytelling throughout Buckshot’s verses painted is very eloquent. The song “Dear Daddy” takes it back to boom bap range talking about his father while the penultimate track “1 Nation” spaciously declaring that it’s time to connect. “Thug Life” ends the EP with a bass guitar-infused tribute to 2Pac.

Considering how much I enjoyed Black Moon’s comeback effort Rise of da Moon a few years back, I was definitely interested in how The B.D.I. Thug would deliver with this EP given how long it’s been since Backpack Travels & it’s definitely worth the listen for any Boot Camp fan. In fact, I’d consider to be some of the best solo material he’s put out yet. Rather than just being lazy & compiling primarily songs that’s been already previously released like Snoop Dogg did with Metaverse: The NFT Drop, we’re getting all new music from the one who gets the job done & he still sounds great on the mic after being the game for almost 3 decades.

Score: 3.5/5

Hodgy – “Entitled” review

Hodgy is a 31 year old MC, producer & music video director from Trenton, New Jersey who came up 1/2 of the duo MellowHype alongside Left Brain in the mid/late 2000s prior to helping I Smell Panties, Casey Veggies & The Jet Age of Tomorrow form the impactful albeit now defunct alternative hip hop collective Odd Future. He was also the first person in the Wolf Gang to put out a solo effort, dropping his debut mixtape The Dena Tape only 9 months after the crew put out their 1st tape as a unit The Odd Future Tape. Higashi Miyagi would go on to expand his solo discography with 2 more mixtapes & 3 EPs prior to his full-length debut Fireplace: TheNotTheOtherSide a day before my 20th birthday which to this day, I still think it’s possibly the most criminally overlooked offering that we’ve gotten since OF’s disbandment due to how much growth was shown on that album. But after taking 5 & a half years off to focus on his personal life, Hodgy is finally returning with his 4th EP.

“Everyday” sets off the EP with Hodgy over some crooning boom bap production from Jeff Wootton & Ging talking about always staying on the grind whereas “People Change” is MellowHype reunion taking a more minimal trap route addressing his growth as a person. The song “Into Someone” works in an acoustic guitar to get in his romance bag while the penultimate track “We Never Knew” finds MellowHype reuniting once more accompanied by a cloudy trap beat spitting some braggadocio. “Again” ends the EP with yet another acoustic ballad singing about a bitch who’s crazy.

This dude has been off the radar even longer than Kendrick & it’s not my favorite solo effort that he’s done, but it’s very much respectable. I respect that he’s trying to expand as an artist & not only do I find how he does it to be solid, but I also knew he’d have some shit to get off his chest lyrically about where he’s at now in life given that he’s been gone for a minute & he delivers.

Score: 3.5/5

Madchild – “Super Beast” review

Madchild is a 46 year old MC from Vancouver, Canada coming up as part of the trio Swollen Members & the founder of Battle Axe Records, but would be until 2012 when he officially broke off solo with his Suburban Noize Records-backed full-length debut Dope Sick. He would later go on a hot streak of follow-ups including Lawnmower Man, Silver Tongue Devil, the Evidence-produced The Darkest Hour & Demons. But even though he went into a more trap direction on The Little Monster LP a year & a half ago ago, the results of that stylistic change weren’t all that interesting & the sequel he dropped 3 months later spring The Little Monster LP 2 was slightly better. Shane & Shane 2 both took a more personal approach with the sequel enhancing the seriousness of the predecessor, but is returning 6 months later in the form of his 10th album.

“The Beast” is a horn-laced boom bap opener produced by C-Lance calling himself a damn dirty ape with the .38 whereas “Blood on the Carpet” works in a guitar to take aim at his competition. “Swamp Monster” keeps the boom bap rolling with an chilling vocal sample thrown into the mix talking about how some things never change & after the first interlude, the instrumental that “Bat Phone” delivers sounds ripped straight from the Adam West incarnation of Batman declaring himself the most devious in hip hop.

Meanwhile on “Skeleton”, we have Madchild over what sounds like a Godzilla flip challenging anyone to bring the smoke to him just before “Bad Thoughts” has a quirky tone to the beat talking about being a lunatic his whole life. “Nostradamus” takes a more dramatic route saying he can see the future & after the 2nd interlude, “Arson” mixes some pianos detailing pyromania.

The track “Scattered” keeps the keyboards intact admitting he still needs darkness despite being in God’s light while the penultimate song “Problem Child” has this relaying vocal sample throughout declaring himself as such. After the 3rd & final interlude, “Bang” closes out the album with a trap cut talking about how life is awesome.

For those of you who weren’t feeling the trap influences that were present on Madchild’s last few albums, I think you’re gonna like Super Beast a lot more. The production primarily takes it back to his boom bap roots & the same goes for the aggressive lyricism as well.

Score: 4/5

Whitney Peyton – “The Audacity” review

This is the 5th full-length album from Philly emcee Whitney Peyton. Rising to prominence in the underground in late 2010 off her full-length debut The Remedy, she would go on to release 3 albums as well as 2 mixtapes & 4 EPs all in the last 12 years. Last we heard from her was a couple months before the pandemic broke out when she dropped Alpha under Suburban Noize Records & that just further cemented her status as a force to be reckoned with. But now in light of her starting up her own label Alpha Howse, she’s returning in the form of The Audacity.

“Give It Gas” opens up the album with a suspenseful trap instrumental talking about being back in her ways whereas “Ding Dong” goes full-blown Detroit trap to deliver a party anthem. C-Mob tags along for the cloudy “Suck It Up” produced by Godsynth reminding us all how important mental health is with both MCs putting their own perspectives out there just before the Mega Ran-assisted “Don’t Even Ask” takes things into more braggadocio territory & the instrumental that Godsynth brings to the table here in comparison to the joint we heard earlier has a much more vibrant aesthetic to it.

Meanwhile on “Outta My System”, we have Whitney Peyton on top of a trap beat from C-Lance surprisingly talking about flushing an ex out leading into Reverie coming into the picture for the thunderous “Slippin’” to declare that you’ll never catch them taking Ls. “Over & Over” works in some impressive rock influences talking about being a puppet to her own emotions while the actual closer “Bad Bitch” with Melissa Marie take it back to the MySpace days in terms of sound for the ladies to go wild too. We are then treated to “On My Way to Phoenix” off of Bag of Cat Tricks’ last EP Milk & Vodka as well as the “Give It Gas” remix as bonus tracks.

I’ve been wondering for the last 2 years how Whitney would follow-up what I consider to be her finest hour & I think this new album just further proves that she’ll find great success with Alpha Howse down the line. It’s really cool to hear how every cut has it’s own different vibe & lyrically, she still sounds as hungry as she did in ‘09 when she was starting out.

Score: 3.5/5

Onyx – “Onyx vs. Everybody” review

This is the 2nd EP from Queens duo Onyx. Consisting of Sticky Fingaz & Fredro Starr, the first 3 outings Bacdafucup as well as All We Got Iz Us & Shut ‘Em Down are rightfully considered by many to be East Coast classics. They went on to release 2 mediocre albums in the early 2000s before going AWOL, returning in 2014 with the Snowgoons produced #WAKEDAFUCUP. Black Rock was ok Snowmads was a great follow-up to #WAKEDAFUCUP, but Onyx 4 Life & 1993 were as mid as Black Rock to me. That being said, I was very much looking forward to Onyx vs. Everybody given that Fredro is producing the whole thing.

After the titular intro, “It’s Goin’ Down” opens up the EP with some horns talking about going brazy whereas “Shoot Wit” is a raw boom bap banger calling to raise the hand that the shooters let off rounds with. “Real Evil” ominously opens up about killing people leading into Termanology tagging along for the symphonic “Project Gladiators” declaring themselves as such.

“I Rap Like” works in some pianos & dusty drums showing y’all they still got it, but “Bac Up Off Me” with Harrd Luck is so short that there’s literally no point of it being on here in my opinion. The song “Raze the Crime Rate” returns to the raw street life anthems despite the Ricky Bats feature missing the target & after the “Brooklyn Bullshit” interlude, the closer “Talk in New York” with Big Twins rounds everything out with a fresh ode to the 5 boroughs.

For an EP, I think this happens to be one of Onyx’s best bodies of work in a while. I wish it was a little more fleshed out & a couple of the features are questionable, but Fredro schools it behind the boards as he & Sticky Fingaz still deliver the hardcore hip hop style they blew up off of.

Score: 3.5/5

Kendrick Lamar – “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers” review

It’s really here: The 5th full-length album from Compton emcee, songwriter & actor Kendrick Lamar. Coming up in ‘04 off his debut mixtape Y.H.N.I.C. (Youngest Head N***a in Charge): Hub City Threat (Minor of the Year), he would go on to follow-up with 2 more tapes as well as an eponymous debut EP before breaking out in the fall of 2010 off his 4th mixtape O(verly) D(edicated) & then Section.80 that next summer. Then came him signing to Dr. Dre’s very own Interscope Records imprint Aftermath Entertainment, where Kendrick has made himself home since then. Especially given that good kid, m.A.A.d city & To Pimp a Butterfly have quickly become some of the most beloved hip hop albums ever made in their own rights for good reason whether it be gkmc coming off as a hood movie on wax or TPaB delivering relevant social commentary on top of jazzy, funky production. Kendrick’s last album DAMN. however was definitely his most commercial one yet & I don’t listen to it as much as his other work, but it’s still a great listen nonetheless with it’s phenomenal duality concept. But only 3 months after performing the Super Bowl halftime show, Kendrick has finally returned in the form of the double disc Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers to fulfill his Top Dawg Entertainment contract.

“United in Grief” opens up the album a piano & drum instrumental from oklama himself surprisingly alongside Sounwave amongst a few others talking about mourning differently whereas “N95” works in some synth-horns & hi-hats provided by Boi-1da & Baby Keem to declare that “You’re back outside, but they still lied”, obviously referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. I also loved when he says “You entertain the mediocre, need to stop it. You entertainin’ old friends when they toxic” during the outro. “Worldwide Steppers” takes a more tenser route with co-production from Tae Beast sampling “Breakthrough” by The Funkees talking about how “we’s them killers”, but then the DJ Dahi co-produced “Die Hard” shoots for a more catchier vibe down to the hook shared by both Blxst & especially Amanda Reifer flipping “Remember the Rain” by Kadjha Bonet encouraging listeners to not let your past keep me you from your best.

Meanwhile on “Father Time”, we have Kendrick over some solemn boom bap production sampling “You’re Not There” by Hoskins ‘Ncrowd detailing the relationship that he had with his pops with a killer hook from Sampha & the “Rich” interlude is basically Kodak Black detailing what he learned in the business over some bare pianos. “Rich Spirit” turns things into more spacious territory with some finger-snaps, snares & hi-hats talking about staying strong mentally, but then “We Cry Together” is pretty much Kendrick & Taylour Paige (should’ve been Rico Nasty but it is what it is) re-enacting a legitimate argument that K-Dot had with his fiancée Whitney Alford over an Uncle Al beat flipping “June” by Florence + the Machine. It’s tense, but feels reminiscent to “Kim” off of Eminem’s iconic 2000 masterpiece The Marshall Mathers LP.

Ghostface Killah & Summer Walker tag along for the smooth love ballad “Purple Hearts” to the complete the 1st disc even though I can’t stand the “yeah baby” at the end of the hook & the 1 line on Summer’s verse co-written by fellow Compton representative/Shady Records signee Westside Boogie about eating ass had me rollin’ while “Count Me Out” opens up the 2nd disc by mixing trap influences with some catchy vocal melodies taking aim at his detractors. “Crown” is a vulnerable piano ballad admitting that he can’t please everybody while “Silent Hill” easily has the worst hook on the album, although I appreciate Kendrick & Kodak riding a nocturnal trap beat talking about pushing snakes off them.

Following that, the “Savior” interlude is in the same vein as “Rich” from the string/piano instrumental to Baby Keem recalling some memories that he had growing up while the actual “Savior” song itself has an irresistibly catchy groove to the beat from Cardo asking if one is really happy for him as well as admitting that he started questioning Kyrie after catching the rona. “Auntie Diaries” starts off with a moodier aesthetic before getting triumphant at the end with Kung Fu Kenny discussing his uncle & one of his cousins being transgender while the song “Mr. Morale” opens up about the heavy shit that’s been on his mind as of late over a Pharrell instrumental with a peppy, futuristic tone to it. The penultimate track “Mother I Sober” is definitely the saddest on the album with it’s bare pianos along with former Portishead frontwoman Beth Gibbons on the hook & K-Dot reflecting on witnessing his mom being sexually assaulted when he was 5 years old as “Mirror” finishes the album by apologizing for choosing himself over anyone else over a colorful beat with an empowering hook.

5 long years later & Kendrick is parting TDE with what I consider to be hip hop’s best double album since Big K.R.I.T. dropped 4eva’s a Mighty Long Time only 6 months after DAMN. came out. Hell, I find Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers to be superior to it’s predecessor because I really admire that he decided to come back after all this time to reflect on his life past & present over production mixing together it’s more trappy, poppier cuts with the politically charged jazz rap from the greatest hip hop album of the 2010s even down to the latter’s experimental, neo-soul undertones.

Score: 4.5/5

Mr. Hyde – “We’re the Nightbreed” review

Mr. Hyde is a 44 year old MC from Queens, New York who came up alongside his Gruesome Twosome cohort & longtime friend/collaborator Necro ever since the death rap inventor conceived Psycho+Logical-Records. After years of being featured on numerous albums from the label, Hyde finally got to shine on his own in the summer of ‘04 with his classic full-length debut Barn of the Naked Dead. He has since gone on to release 4 more albums on his own since then, with the last one being The Boogeyman’s Real in the fall of 2019. But given that it’s been a little over a year since Bonnie & Hyde put out their eponymous debut, it’s fitting for Hyde drop a debut EP on Friday the 13th.

“Don’t Forget My Number” is a demonic boom bap opener spitting the wicked shit whereas “Beast Bars” works in a guitar & some dusty drums talking about how hot his bars are. “Dipped in Death” shoots for a more unsettling atmosphere thanks to Cotardz for Hyde to deliver some brutal death rap while the track “Filthy Beasts” with G-Mo Skee declares themselves as such over an organ-laced instrumental. The final song “Nightbreed” ends the EP by ominously comparing himself to that or a monster & “Putrid Decay” is just a 34 second outro.

Much like Bonnie & Hyde’s self-titled debut from a little over a year ago, We’re the Nightbreed is definitely one of the better projects that Mr. Hyde has put out in recent years. Now I’m not saying he ever lost his step lyrically because he sounds as grisly than ever on this EP, but the production choices are progressively improving & that’s what I like to hear.

Score: 4/5

O.T. the Real – “Maxed Out” review

O.T. the Real is a 36 year old MC from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who came up in 2016 after coming home from prison & dropping his debut single “Papercuts”. His profile began to grow from there after showcasing his skills on radio stations as well as dropping 3 full-lengths & 4 EPs so far, my favorites of the bunch so far being the Heatmakerz-produced The Irishman & the DJ Green Lantern-produced Broken Glass. But fast forward 5 months later since we last heard him, O.T. has recruited Boston veteran Statik Selektah behind the boards for his 4th album.

“Loyalty” is an airy boom bap opener declaring trust being everything to him whereas “Make It Count” works in a symphony providing words of wisdom for the listener. “Revelations” feels like something out of an Italian mobster flick talking about disclosure just before [Statik-Free] tags along for the soulful “Hardcore” spitting that rugged street shit. Meanwhile on “Turned on Me”, we have O.T. on top of some pianos & dusty drums taking aim at those who betrayed him leading into Merkules coming into the picture for “The Bottom” to talk about never forgetting what having nothing feels like over a cheery instrumental.

G-Weeder definitely has the weakest feature on the album with “Treachery” even though I like the production & the concept of deceiving people, but then “Windows” has some jazzy undertones talking about his coming up. The penultimate track “Came Up Fast” incorporates an operatic vocal sample discussing his meteoric rise in the underground within the last year or 2 & finally, “History” ends the album with an organ advising to check his resume.

I think O.T.’s been putting out some of his best work within the last year & you haven’t checked him out based on The Irishman or Broken Glass yet, then PLEASE give Maxed Out a listen. Statik remains one of the most consistent producers in hip hop today & O.T. continues to put his life on wax ever so sincerely.

Score: 4.5/5

Jack Harlow – “Come Home the Kids Miss You” review

Jack Harlow is a 24 year old rapper & songwriter from Louisville, Kentucky who broke through when the pandemic started off the single “What’s Poppin’?”. This resulted in DJ Drama & Don Cannon signing him to their Atlantic Records imprint Generation Now Entertainment as well as them putting out his full-length debut That’s What They All Say that same winter, which was pretty mediocre in my opinion. However, I still went into this sophomore effort of his with an open mind given some of the features that were revealed earlier this week.

“Talk of the Town” kicks off the album with a sample of “No No No” by Destiny’s Child so Jack can speak on coming a long way from Bardstown whereas “Young Harleezy” is a generic trap cut with braggadocious lyrics. “I’d Do Anything to Make You Smile” follows it up with a corny romance ballad produced by Boi-1da, but then “1st Class” is no better as he pretty much bastardizes the classic single “Glamorous” by Fergie & Ludacris.

Meanwhile on “Dua Lipa”, we have Jack simping over the titular singer accompanied by a bland trap beat just before “Side Piece” butchers “Beautiful” by Snoop Dogg talking about wanting to bring DeJ Loaf home to meet his family. “Movie Star” is one of the better cuts on the album thanks to Pharrell’s bassy instrumental & his verse at the back end declaring themselves as such, but then “Lil Secret” gets back to the tepid lovey dovey bullshit even though the GoldLink sample is impressive.

“I Got a Shot” is such a pathetic attempt at him hitting on any bitch he wants over a tropical beat while “Churchill Downs” has a more skeletal approach talking about where he’s at now & Drake just phones his verse the fuck in down to the cringy Pusha T jabs. “Like a Blade of Grass” shoots for a moodier vibe with uneventful storytelling about a woman he met in the dark & “Parent Trap” picks it up with cold trap production from Timbaland talking about his lover holding him down.

The song “Poison” with Lil Wayne sees the 2 comparing their significant others to such over a cloudy trap instrumental sampling “Mrs. Officer” while the penultimate track “Nail Tech” is a decently victorious ballad about the “king” if you can even call him that being back in his hometown. “State Fair” on the other end closes out the album with some hi-hats & a mellow atmosphere reflecting on fame.

What else do y’all want me to say beyond that? I still don’t see what’s so appealing about Jack because this album to me is even worse than That’s What They All Say was. Not that I have anything against pop rap since I’ve made that clear as day if you look at some of my past reviews in the subgenre, but Jack’s performances/songwriting are primarily mediocre mixing that with some decent features & annoying production.

Score: 1.5/5

Donnie Darko – “Another Day at the Office” review

This is the latest EP from East Coast hip hop artists Sutter Kain & Donnie Darko. The first of whom is a producer, DJ & occasionally MC from New York & the latter being an MC from New Jersey. The 2 have been collaborating with one another pretty much since the beginning, with the last time we heard from them being Before the World Got to Us & After the World Got to Us during the pandemic. Almost 2 years later, they’re back in effect with Another Day at the Office.

The EP opens up with the 4th installment of the “Block Game” series accompanied by some soulful boom bap production whereas “Origin Stories” takes a more cinematic route declaring himself as the reaper. “Gut Check” is a short yet visceral riot starter from Black Sunday leading into the piano/trap laced “M.V.J.”, which the duo stick around to talk about being beasts.

Meanwhile on “Skywalker”, we have Donnie coming through with a gritty declaration of being the realest in the game while the song “Summer Vibes” perfectly lives up to it’s name from the chipmunk soul sample to even the lyricism. The penultimate track is the 5th installment of the “Block Game” series picking up where the predecessor left off & “Life’s Battles” ends the EP with some horns talking about some more serious topics.

For this to be their comeback after nearly 2 years, I enjoyed it almost as much as their last 2 EPs. I wish a lot of the cuts on here were a bit longer than a minute, but both parties continue to bring the best out of each other from the traditional East Coast production that Sutter Kain provides to the vividly dark lyricism that Donnie & occasionally his Black Sunday cohort display.

Score: 3.5/5