Rittz – “S.O.S.” review

Rittz is a 41 year old MC from Gwinnett County, Georgia who made himself a household name in the underground a decade ago by dropping his only mixtape White Jesus under Yelawolf’s independently owned Slumerican Records. Eventually, this lead to him jumping ship to Strange Music for a 4-album contract with each one showing his fantastic growth both as an artist & as a person: The Life & Times of Jonny Valiant, Next to Nothing, Top of the Line & Last Call. Once the contract was fulfilled, Rittz formed his very own CNT Records & Put a Crown on It became the inaugural release on Black Friday a couple years back. But with the 1-year anniversary of Picture Perfect coming next month, he’s celebrating with an 8-track EP.

“Frozen Peas” is a ghostly opener detailing his lifestyle whereas “Dig Deeper” works in some keys & snares telling us he’s harder than ever. The atmospheric production “UFO” is perfect with Rittz comparing his whip to such just before “La Familia” gives us an energetic CNT ode.

Meanwhile on “Keep It Like That”, we have Rittz & Vinnie Paz on top of a signature boom bap instrumental from C-Lance going at fake motherfuckers leading into the short yet beautiful “Expert” declaring himself as such. The title track has a morbid trap beat pleading to be saved from his misery & “Sick of Suffering” ends the EP where the previous cut left off on all fronts.

Even though I was personally a bit indifferent towards Picture Perfect & Rittzmas, I can’t deny that S.O.S. is an improvement. I think the production choices have stepped up in comparison to those last couple projects & some of his most vulnerable lyrics pop up in effect.

Score: 3.5/5

ZillaKami – “Dogboy” review

ZillaKami is a 21 year old rapper & singer/songwriter from Islip, New York who originally came up as part of the punk band Scud Got Quayle. He later began ghostwriting for someone who’s name I refuse to acknowledge on my platform to leave it at that before forming City Morgue alongside SosMula & their honorary 3rd member/producer Thraxx. Together, they started to make a name for themselves in the fall of 2018 by uniquely fusing trap with metal on their full-length debut Hell or High Water. But just a month after Sos dropped his solo debut 13 Songs 2 Die 2 to mixed reception, it’s only right for Kami to step next at bat before the gang gets back together for Bottom of the Barrel at the end of the year.

“Chewing Gum!” is a ass-kicking trap/rock opened produced by Thraxx taking shots at a certain rat whereas “Chains” is a Hellish follow-up about choking betrayers with his ice. I can definitely see “Lemon Juice” getting the pits going with its lyrics about punching motherfuckers & it’s down-tuned guitar riff just before “Not Worth It” goes into grunge territory saying he doesn’t deserve everyone’s love.

Meanwhile on “Hello”, we have Kami paying homage to the iconic Nirvana joint “Smells Like Teen Spirit” leading into Denzel Curry tagging along for the emo-tinged “Bleach”. I think the chaotic Suffolk County homage that “631 Made Me” delivers does a great job at showing us his upbringings, but then “I.H.Y. (I Hate You)” serves as a distorted “fuck the world” theme.

“Badass” has a bit of a nu metal flare to it with Lil Uzi Vert coming into the picture to help declare themselves as such & after the “Tactical Nuke” interlude, “Nissan Only” aggressively gets in his shooter bag just before “Black Cats” comes off as another Nirvana tribute.

The song “dedgrl” is a downtrodden story about a broken woman killing herself while the penultimate track “Frosty” goes into alt-rock turf detailing ZillaKami’s very own depression. “Space Cowboy” then ends the album with grungy tribute to his fallen homie.

I was a bit worried given how mediocre 13 Songs 2 Die 2 was, but he really came through with it. He sticks to the trap metal sound that City Morgue came up on with the exception of the alt-rock/grunge shit, but his songwriting is much better & I like how he only brought in 2 features rather than having one on damn near every joint.

Score: 3.5/5

The Brazy Bunch – “Written n Blood” review

The Brazy Bunch is a duo from Omaha, Nebraska consisting of A-Wax & King Iso. We’ve heard them a couple times throughout the year with songs like “At All” by Taebo the Truth or even “Bag Up” & “Blemish” off of A-Wax’s latest solo projects but after a small debacle revolved around the pair’s full-length debut Written n Blood getting pulled within hours of it’s initial release over the spring due to proper procedures not being followed by Iso’s current contract with Strange Music, they managed to work everything out with Travis O’Guin & officially drop it under the It Goes Up Entertainment subsidiary of the renown Kansas City label.

The acoustic/trap-tinged title track opens things up about how it’s their lives whereas “Ran Up” works in some sirens to speak on being chased by the cops. “Helpless” is a guitar ballad saying that money multiplied their problems just before the spacious materialistic ode “Slimy”.

Meanwhile on “Spain”, we have The Brazy Bunch somberly talking about revisiting the past even though it’s hurtful leading into them telling motherfuckers to get out of their feelings for the misty “Mad For”. The pianos on “Go Brazy” are pretty cool as they come through with a riot starter, but then “Measure It” serves as an ominous coke pusher’s theme surprisingly.

“Tears Dry” has a minimal beat going on about their bitches try’na fix what isn’t broken while “Time” is a much more downtrodden cut detailing going from their harder days to where they are now. “Flooded” continues the darker vibes saying they can’t scrub the blood on their hands whereas “Corrode” is an atmospheric cut about being paranoid that everyone is with the feds.

The keyboard passages on “So Strange” fit well given that they’re telling us that fame came with a cost leading into “Omaha”, which is a decent lil homage to their hometown. The song “Trip” is a cloud rap banger about never wishing jail on their brothers while the penultimate track “Fuck It Up” atmospherically details getting these bitches to trust them again. “Packin’” finally ends things with a foreboding theme about running up checks.

If you’re expecting more of that World War Me shit, then you’re gonna be disappointed. However, I think this is a solid debut nonetheless. King Iso’s production goes into more of that trap shit than he did on the last album & the chemistry with A-Wax is pretty unique as well.

Score: 3.5/5

Lil Nas X – “Montero” review

Lil Nas X is a 21 year old rapper & singer-songwriter from Lithia Springs, Georgia who skyrocketed to stardom in 2019 of the novelty country rap banger “Old Town Road”. His debut EP 7 later that summer would later prove that he was no 1-hit wonder, especially with tracks like “Panini” & “Rodeo”. But since then (this year specifically), it’s safe to say that Nas X has made himself one of the most polarizing figures in hip hop today from his most recent music videos to some of his outfit choices at award shows which I’m not gonna get too deep into because people in the culture have been wearing questionable shit for a very long time now dating back to my all-time favorite producer Dr. Dre wearing lipstick on those World Class Wreckin’ Cru album covers & I don’t understand why people are acting like it’s new when it really isn’t. I guess I just contradicted myself there but let’s dive into this full-length debut of his over here, shall we?

The title track starts off the album with a catchy Flamenco pop/rap fusion with the help of Take a Daytrip telling his lover to call him when he needs him whereas “DEAD RIGHT NOW” works in some synths & snares going at a fraud. “INDUSTRY BABY” brings in some horns as he & Jack Harlow with co-production from Kanye West surprisingly declare themselves champions just before “THAT’S WHAT I WANT” goes into acoustic expressing his desire for love.

After the “ART OF REALIZATION” skit, we have Lil Nas X & Doja Cat coming together for the bouncy yet futuristic “SCOOP” talking about trying to be the daily for one another leading into the Elton John-assisted piano ballad “ONE OF ME” going at those who called him a 1-hit wonder. “LOST IN THE CITADEL” has a bit of a rock flare paying tribute to his guardian angel, but then Megan Thee Stallion pops up for the braggadicious & vibrant “$ SLIME”.

“TALES OF DOMINICA” has a bit of a summery feel instrumentally as he addresses his relationship with his mother whereas “SUN GOES DOWN” is a contemporary R&B cut talking to his younger self. “VOID” serves as a passionate note to a friend from the road while the song “DON’T WANT IT” serves as a moody look at the cons of fame. The penultimate track “LIFE AFTER SALEM” samples “Take What You Want” by Post Malone calling out someone he used to love & “AM I DREAMING?” is an acoustic duet with Miley Cyrus telling the listener to remember them.

Now I’m absolutely not one of these Karen’s spouting off about how “He’s confusing children, he’s a bad role model to them” because it should all really boil down to the quality of the music. That being said: I think this is a solid, respectable album. His versatility is undeniable as demonstrated on 7, but he expands it further & gets a bit more personal on the lyrical end.

Score: 3.5/5

A.M. Early Morning – “Late Night Early Morning III” review

A.M. Early Morning is a 34 year old MC from Chicago, Illinois who emerged off his debut EP The Maxi Single Project back in 2017. He would later go on to release a couple more installments making a trilogy & then 7AM 747 but with the 1-year anniversary of Oakley approaching this Devil’s Night, it’s only right for A.M. to return for a 6th EP enlisting local producer Nightwalker to lace the entire thing.

The title track that kicks the album off is a jazzy boom bap with [Eto] tagging along to talk about hustling 24/7 whereas the PozLyrix-assisted “Herb Adams Sniff” has a bit of a [i][Wu-Tang Forever][/i] era [RZA] feel to the production getting on their gangsta shit. Otis Ghost comes in for the bluesy “La Historia De Mi Primo” addresses the opioid crisis in their city just before the symphonic “Holy Matrimony” expresses being married to the game

The song “Dusk ‘Til Dawn” with [King Magnetic] is a lot like the opener in the sense that it’s a boom bap joint about grinding except there’s no jazz influences while the penultimate track “Bape Sweats, Supreme J’s” serves as a rich dedication to their favorite streetwear brands. Little Vic then joins A.M. for “Jacob’s Ladder”, a guitar/soul infused closer about making it up to their own heavens.

Coming away from this, I think it’s A.M.’s best work yet. He paints a vivid picture of the Hell that he’s been through in his hometown & Nightwalker’s production has a bit of an East Coast flare to it despite the fact that he’s from the same city as the MC is.

Score: 4/5

Injury Reserve – “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” review

This is the 4th mixtape from Arizona duo Injury Reserve. Originally coming together as a trio in 2013, it wasn’t until Floss & Drive It Like It’s Stolen where most people (myself included) really started tuning into them. It was really cool how the guys brought their own hardcore west coast sound to the table with a bit of an experimental edge that would later come full circle on their full-length debut a couple years back. But with the unexpected death of Stepa J. Groggs last summer, Ritchie with a T & Parker Corey are coming back together for By the Time I Get to Phoenix.

“Outside” is a 6-minute opener dabbling in electronics saying they’ve been talking to ’em kindly whereas “Superman That” takes a glitchier route going on about how there “ain’t no savin’ me or you”. ZelooperZ tags along for the guitar-driven “SS San Francisco” with him & Ritchie expressing their desire to not want to be there anymore just before “Footwork in a Forest Fire” reveals itself as amongst my favorite Injury Reserve songs ever made, with them manically depicting an apocalypse ever so flawlessly.

Meanwhile on “Ground 0”, we get a deranged cut detailing how he “got my shit buss down” leading into the dissonant “Smoke Don’t Clear” putting their own spin on the idiom “when the smoke clears”. The drumless instrumental that “Top Picks for You” brings to the table is entrancing as Hell with Ritchie going on about how “your patterns are still in place & your algorithm is still in action”, but then “Wild Wild West” takes a more sporadic route sonically referencing the shitty Will Smith movie of the same name fittingly enough.

The song “Postpostpartum” psychedelically goes in about birthing motherfuckers while the penultimate track “Knees” takes a turn into experimental rock territory with the group asking if there’s any way they can grow. “Bye Storm” ends the tape with some blaring guitars & Ritchie saying the show must go on even though Stepa is no longer with him or Parker in the flesh.

Given the events that have transpired within the past year or so, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that By the Time I Get to Phoenix would become Injury Reserve’s darkest body of work to date. Parker Corey’s production is absolutely out of this world & Ritchie couldn’t have done a more excellent job at paying his final respects to Stepa.

Score: 4.5/5

Cymarshall Law – “I Still Love H.E.R.” review

Cymarshall Law is a 40 year old MC from Burlington, New Jersey who emerged back in ‘04 as part of the duo Power Man & Iron Fist alongside the late Pumpkinhead. However it wasn’t until 3 years later where he branched out on his own off the full-length debut Hip Hop in the Flesh, which was followed up by the Hip Hop in the Soul trilogy & Freedom Express. He’s made a handful since, but is returning in full effect for his 11th album.

“Intro to H.E.R.” begins things with a bit of a plinky instrumental saying he’s still here because of his dedication to the culture whereas “MF Law” has a bit of a Tribe feel to it reiterating the JAY-Z line “Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?”. The title track with Venomous2000 & Kafeeno is basically his own rendition of the Common joint “I Used to Love H.E.R.” just before the self-explanatory “4 Jersey” pays homage to Law’s home state on top of a heavenly instrumental.

Meanwhile on “The Innocence of Love”, we have Kafeeno returning alongside Dynasty for a sensual R&B-tinged cut leading into U.G. taking Dynasty’s spot for the tense “For the Love (No Cap)” talking about the future. After the “Voice of Hip Hop” interlude, “The Normal New (Growing Up in the Pandemic)” richly details how he’s been living with the post-COVID world & “Electric B-Boy” is fresh ass anthem for the breakdancers out there.

The song “The Incredibles” with Grafh finds the 2 on top of an organ loop to start going at their opposition’s throats while the penultimate track “Creators” is easily the most motivational one on the entire album & the production really kicks the emotion up. “Spit It Dad (King’s Revenge)” ends with a 3-minute barfest with a dusty ass beat.

This dude has damn near a dozen albums under his belt already after being in it for almost 2 decades, but I Still Love H.E.R. is definitely amongst his best. You can easily tell the dude was having fun spitting again given how animated his performances are & the vintage production is also much appreciated.

Score: 4/5

Konspiracy Kamp – “Infidel” review

The Konspiracy Kamp are a quintet from Kalamazoo, Michigan consisting of Checkmait, Drama Treason, J Cutlass, Shneal & Young Ghost. The group has gone on to release 4 full-length albums & an EP throughout the 7 years they’ve been together but for the 20 year anniversary of 9/11, they’re enlisting Boston veteran C-Lance to produce a 7-track EP in it’s entirety.

“TV & Jesus” hypnotically kicks the EP off by telling us the 2 things that America really needs whereas “Neck Cutter” goes into boom bap territory getting bloodthirsty. 9th Prince tags along for the Middle Eastern-tinged “Blood on the Hand” proclaiming themselves as rebels. The titular song has a more trap vibe calling for unity just before “Regicide” heinously calls to kill all the kings. The penultimate track “Loud Ass Mouth” is a boom bap banger about how they’re always talking shit, but then the closer “Heretic” works in some snares & a guitar talking about how people wanna burn them.

I’ve been following these guys for a few years now & coming away from Infidel, I was not disappointed by it whatsoever. The raw production of their previous efforts is taken to a whole new level as is their conscious lyricism & even the way all the members bounce off one another.

Score: 4/5

Yeat – “Up 2 Më” review

This is the 3rd full-length album from Portland rapper Yeat. Breaking out in 2018 off his debut EP Deep Blue Strips, he would go on to follow it up the next year with his debut mixtape I’m So Me. Then after dropping We Us, & Hold On that, it’s safe to say that 2021 is his biggest year yet. Especially given the success of Alivë & 4L. But now with a month since putting out Trëndi & earning a co-sign from Drake, he’s continuing the hustle with Up 2 Më.

“C’mon” is a cloudy opener about killing pussy whereas “Morning mudd” works in some synthesizers to say he had to get up & chase a bag. “Got rich” has a bit of a Pi’erre type instrumental with Yeat bragging about his newfound wealth just before “Lët ya know” has a more futuristic sound telling us this might be his last song.

Meanwhile on “Stayëd tha same”, we have Yeat jumping on top of some snares & bells to talk about never switching up despite his recent success leading into “Gët Busy” having a bit of a retro video game feel in the beat with boastful lyrics. “Rokstar” boisterously details his new lifestyle, but then SeptembersRich tags along for the rubbery “Trëndy way” talking about how they do shit.

“Swërved It” has some incredible organ harmonies talking about calling out those fronting on him while “Ya Ya” mixes a bass-line higher than the synths answering “yes” to all these questions people been asking him. “U could “tëll” grimly proclaims his top dog status whereas “Factz” brings in a flute saying he didn’t get this shit for free. “ Bak on ‘ëm” takes a murkier direction speaking on being in a rich climate, but then the instrumental “Hëy” brings to table sounds more robotic & Yeat taking about punching these bitches off the Earth.

“Turban” has a more chaotic sound continuing to detail where he is now leading into the unhinged “Twizzy Rich” proclaiming it’s all on him. The wobbly instrumental on “Told ya” is dope with Yeat saying he just caught the vibe, but then the rubbery synth banger “Monëy so big” needs no further explanation.

“Dëserve it” brings back the bells to speak on needing it all while the song “K’ant changë” is a rowdier cut continuing the theme of not letting fame get to him. The penultimate track “Callin’ më” serves as a response to the labels & old friends/bitches contacting him again now that he’s famous & then “Lying 4 fun” is a skeletal closer telling us he’s livin’ life just how he dreamed of it.

Even though I’d have to say 4L & Trëndi are his finest bodies of work to date, I think Up 2 Më continues to build up to Yeat’s hype. I could’ve done without like 5-6 joints & some of them could’ve been more fleshed out, but his unique personality is still shining as bright as it ever did.

Score: 3.5/5

Common – “A Beautiful Revolution 2” review

Common is a 49 year old MC, actor & writer from Chicago, Illinois who first emerged 3 decades back by being featured in the Unsigned Hype column of The Source back in the publication’s heyday & resulted in a 3-album deal with Relativity Records shortly after. Can I Borrow a Dollar? was a solid debut even though you can tell that he still hadn’t come into his own yet, but embraced the conscious hip hop that became universally known for with his next 2 albums Resurrection & One Day It’ll All Make Sense. However once we entered the new millennium, Common ended up signing to MCA Records for 2 albums: his magnum opus Like Water for Chocolate & the experimental Electric Circus. The label then dissolved at the beginning of 2003 & he jumped ship to G.O.O.D. Music/Geffen Records. His debut under Kanye West’s then-newly formed label Be received universal acclaim, but Finding Forever was a respectable follow-up & I can’t really say the same for the hip house-centered Universal Mind Control. After his contract with G.O.O.D./Geffen was fulfilled, he decided to reunite with No I.D. & drop The Dreamer/The Believer under Warner Records before Immenslope was granted his own Def Jam Recordings imprint ARTium Recordings. Nobody’s Smiling was a great response to the ever-increasing crime rate in his hometown & the Karriem Riggins-produced Black America Again was even greater given that it was revolves around the 2016 presidential election. But it’s safe to say that Common has been making himself home at Loma Vista Recordings & sticking with Karriem on the production end of things these last couple years, as proven on his previous album Let Love & his debut EP A Beautiful Revolution. However with the 1-year anniversary of the latter approaching at the end of next month, the Chicago/Detroit emcee/producer duo are dropping a sequel in the form of Com’s 13th full-length outing.

After the “Push Out the Noise” intro, the first song “A Beautiful Chicago Kid” is a funky kickstart to the album saying he manifests everything that you see whereas “When We Move” with Black Thought has a groovy instrumental talking about the world following their path. “Set It Free” has a more summery vibe talking about being you just before “Majesty (Where We Gonna Take It?)” serves as a seductive love tune.

Meanwhile on “Poetry”, we have these twangy guitar licks with Com advising to never question the motive leading into the boom bap-tinged “Saving Grace” with the lyrics of course getting spiritual. “Star of the Gang” keeps the dusty drums in motion saying he’s fortunate even though he’s been through a lot while the penultimate song “Imagine” speaks on a paradise over a sample of “Imaginary Playmates” by René & Angela. And before the “!” outro, “Get It Right” ends the album on an uptempo note saying be patient because good things happen in time.

As much as I enjoyed the predecessor, I think the sequel is better. In comparison to the EP tackling all the bullshit that transpired in 2020, the full-length sequel picks up right where things left off & provides the listeners optimism for a brighter day which is perfect given that states are opening back up completely.

Score: 4/5