Darby O’Trill – “Amputate” review

This is the 5th EP from Floridian emcee Darby O’Trill. Coming up in the fall of 2018 off his full-length debut Blood, Guts & a Whole Lotta Love, he would go on to follow it with Fester almost a year later & has extensively been working with Chapter 17/Psychopathic Records in-house producer Devereaux by bringing him into the cut to fully produce his 3rd album Piecemeal to critical acclaim during the COVID-19 pandemic. His last full-length Gully came out this past spring under Lyrikal Snuff Productionz & instantly became a modern day wicked shit classic so when it was announced that Darby & Dev were giving us Amputate as a prelude to The Tomb on Halloween, the anticipation was most certainly there.

“Carcass in the Car Wash” kicks off the whole EP with a synth-laced trap beat taking aim at all the knock-offs while the penultimate track “Take a Shower & Clean Your Clothes, You Smell Like Complete Garbage” has a more haunting atmosphere to it talking about drinking bleach. “I Hate Rappers Who Only Rap About Rapping” though sends Amputate off with an operatic loop, some hi-hats & Darby describing the sick world that we all be living in.

You know for a 3 track/5 minute EP, I think it’ll hold off just fine until we enter The Tomb a little over a month from now. Devereaux’s production continues to elevate, Darby lyrically continues to push himself as one of the best newcomers in the underground right now & the Jugg-A-Holics tags throughout are a fresh homage to DJ Trap-A-Holics.

Score: 3.5/5

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SmooVth – “Project Near You” review

This is the 14th full-length album from Hempstead emcee SmooVth. Coming up as 1/2 of the duo Tha Connection alongside Hus Kingpin, he would also build an impressive solo discography for himself along the way with my personal favorites being just about everything that Giallo Point has ever done with him: Portrait of a Pimp, Medellin, the sequel to the latter Medellin II: Don Fabio & Amongst Wolves. But when it was revealed that Fredro Starr of the revered Queens duo Onyx was gonna behind the boards for Project Near You from beginning to end, my anticipation for it was very high considering that Q started making beats recently as well as Onyx vs. Everybody being the best thing that he & Sticky Fingaz have done together since the Snowgoons-produced SnowMads nearly 3 years back.

“Project” is a soulful opener vividly describing how it be in Hempstead whereas “The High” works in some pianos to talk about making a band. “That’z Us” brings some stellar vibraphones in the mix so that both parties can give it to you raw & uncut, but then Tha Connection links up for the piano/boom bap hybrid “Niggary” with both MCs spitting some gritty ass gangsta raps.

Meanwhile on “17 a Key”, we have SmooVth over a drumless loop getting on his pyrex shit leading into J.D. Era tagging along for the dreary “100 Up” talking about how no one can fuck with them even though J.D.’s verse has to be the weakest feature on the album with all respect. Fredro himself comes into the picture for the title track lacing some acoustics & dusty drums advising that they’ll be pulling up to a hood nearby just before “Straight A’s” brings back the keys looking back on being told he can’t get paid or laid.

The song “Imagine” shoots for a more tranquil aesthetic instrumentally providing food for thought while the penultimate track “Corner Pockets” returns to grimier territory talking about how ruff & rugged shit can get. “Sad & Blue” however ends the album with glossy beat & a sample of “La Di Da Di” by Slick Rick as SmooVth tells his audience that’s exactly how he’s feeling.

Now, if you happen to be a fan of both of these guys like I am, then I highly recommend giving Project Near You a listen because it’s one of my favorite SmooVth albums to date. The lyricism from him & nearly every feature takes you through the harsh realities of the Big Apple with Fredro’s continuing to refine his production game, as the shit he cooks up here is even better than what I heard on the last Onyx EP.

Score: 4/5

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Lucki – “Flawless Like Me” review

This is the highly anticipated full-length debut from Chicago rapper & occasional producer Lucki. Beginning to turn heads in the summer of 2013 when he released his debut mixtape Alternative Trap to critical acclaim, he would later go on to give his fans 6 more tapes & a dozen EPs with the last one being the F1LTHY-produced Wake Up Lucki a week before my 25th birthday. But after nearly 4 years in the making, Lucki’s finally giving the world Flawless Like Me.

“Made My Day” is a psychedelic yet bassy opener confessing that he’s been looking for this bitch all over Chiraq over whereas “Geeked n Blessed” takes a more triumphant route talking about how he’s feeling exactly. “Kapitol Denim” on the other hand dives into cloudier territory boasting the lifestyle that he lives over a just before “Coincidence” is an airier ballad reconnecting with a significant other.

Meanwhile on “Been a Minute”, we have Lucki over some woozy yet rubbery Tay Keith production advising not to hit up his phone whatsoever leading into Babyface Ray tagging along for the euphoric trap hit “White House” talking about being them dudes. “13” on the other end embraces a wavier sound bragging that he’ll “drop a 50 on that bitch like old Harden”, but then “Archive Celine” has a more uptempo vibe talking about a hoe out in Berlin with the same name.

“How Tf?” weaves some quirky synth leads & hi-hats into the fold opening up on his drug problems while “DNA” spaciously expands on the subject of the last cut, comparing himself to his aunt who also abuses drugs. The synthesizers throughout “Goodfellas” have a more chilled out feeling to them talking about having bodies in the trunk while the horn-laced “I Get It, Twin” confessing that he can’t help but love this pricy ass bitch. 

Following that, “VVS Keyski” has a more cavernous tone to the instrumental describing the life of a rockstar while “Brazy Weekend” calling out a hoe for stalking everyone he’s around on top of a mystic trap beat. “Droughtski” however returns to a more mind-altering sound talking about being rich off stubbornness while the synth-based “Life Mocks Art” confesses that he raps what he lives. 

“Noticed Ya” acknowledges that this person doesn’t want to change as much as he does on top of a glossy trap instrumental with the vibrant “10pm in London” calling out a gold digger for not actually loving him & using him for his wealth. “Out of Lve” has to be my least favorite cut on the album with it’s underwritten lyricism despite the synth-based beat & “On Point” basically suffers from the same problems even though the production here is more high-spirited. 

The penultimate track “Free Sex!” throws some organs into the mix talking about being fucked up off ecstasy & lean whilst paying tribute to Atlanta trap trailblazer Young Thug while “My Way / Codeine Cowboy” starts off with an otherworldly banger of a 2-Peter being on space time & then going on to discuss codeine usage yet again. The first bonus cut “Super Urus” is a solid trap/cloud rap hybrid admitting that he misses some hoe & the other “Y Not?” officially sends off the album with some plugg undertones talking about getting it out the mud.

Although I’d have to say Watch My Back & Freewave 3 are still my favorite projects from Lucki but nonetheless, Flawless Like Me still serves as a great full-length debut for Lucki & one that fans whether you’ve been with him since 2013 or now would both enjoy. I think the production is more varied than F1LTHY’s was as much as I enjoyed Wake Up Lucki last winter on top of some animated performances from the man himself. Curious to hear 2Neptune&Back whenever the time comes.

Score: 4/5

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Cam’ron – “U Wasn’t There” review

Cam’ron is a 46 year old rapper, record executive & actor from Harlem, New York who came up in the mid-late 90’s as a member of the Children of the Corn. He eventually signed to Epic Records as a solo artist, dropping his first 2 full-lengths Confessions of Fire & S.D.E. (Sports, Drugs & Entertainment) with them until the contract expired. However Cam’s biggest exposure would come by forming his own group The Diplomats as a well as signing to Roc-A-Fella Records & Def Jam Recordings in 2001. His next 2 efforts Come Home with Me & Purple Haze would become his most sought out bodies of work, but Cam would leave The Roc & sign to Asylum Records in ‘05 due to the poor promotion of Purple Haze. Cam would yet again drop 2 outings with Asylum before parting ways, Killa Season & Crime Pays. He has since dropped a couple mixtapes & originally planned on retiring from making music following Purple Haze 2 a few Christmases back, Killa has had a change of heart & is bringing in Fool’s Gold Records founder A-Trak to produce his 7th EP.

Things kick off with a superior remix to “This is My City” off Cam’s last album featuring co-production from Thelonius Martin whereas “All I Really Wanted” works in some lavish keyboard embellishments & chipmunk soul with G Koop’s assistance talking about all the things he desires most in life. Conway the Machine tags along for the horn-laced “Ghetto Prophets laced with the help of DJ Khalil wittingly declaring themselves to be such, but then “Dipset Acrylics” weaves some reggae influences into the fold down to the Mr. Vegas feature awkwardly talking about sex.

After the spoken word Dame Dash skit with Kenny Beats supplying the synths, “Cheers” comes through with a colorful celebratory anthem just before Jim Jones & Styles P come into the picture for the tropical trap banger “Think Boy” demanding to know how others really feels bout them. The penultimate track “What You Do” is a jazzy ode to Killa’s accomplishments that !llmind helped put together & “Dipshits” ends the EP with a throwback to the Dipset era from the Juelz Santana appearance to Just Blaze having his hand with the beat.

For a little 27 minute EP, I can honestly say that U Wasn’t There is the most I’ve enjoyed a Cam project in a minute & will go down as a high point on his catalog in due time. A-Trak’s production happens to be admirably more eclectic than Purple Haze 2 was with Killa Cam sounding like he has a fire under his ass lyrically.

Score: 4/5

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Ransom – “This Life Made Me” review

This is the 8th EP from Jersey City wordsmith Ransom. Coming up as 1/2 of the short-lived duo A-Team alongside Hitchcock, he branched out on his own in 2008 following their disbandment beginning with his 2008 full-length debut Street Cinema & the Statik Selektah-produced sophomore effort The Proposal. But it’s been safe to say these last couple years have been his biggest so far whether it be the 5 EPs that he put out produced by Nicholas Craven & his last EP 7 based around the 7 deadly sins or his previous album Heavy’s the Head produced by Big Ghost Ltd., the Rome Streetz collab album Coup de Grâce & more recently his latest album No Rest for the Wicked earlier this spring. But now that fall’s here, Ransom’s enlisting Mayor & Ty Jamz to produce This Life Made Me top to bottom.

“Pain is Glory” is an organ-laced opener declaring himself to be the modern day Michelangelo whereas “Ignorance” works in a boom bap instrumental to talk about talking about being a businessman. “The Prophecy” takes a more triumphant route bragging that he’s the greatest while 38 Spesh tags along for the soulful “Last Gasp” confessing that they wanna see the best sides of them. “The World is Yours” has some cool rock undertones to the beat talking about swerving the law, but then Havoc comes into the picture to bring back the organs for the closer “Purge Night” belittling their opposition.

Ran went on social media last night calling this EP “a warm up for what’s about to come” & whatever that may be, I’m very excited to hear it because this dude is one of the most consistent MCs in all of hip hop today. Not only does he manage to explain how he the life he loved made him, but Mayor & Ty Jamz also manage to cook up some very eclectic production together pulling from boom bap to soul & even rock.

Score: 4/5

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Milano Constantine – “Pay the Ghost” review

This is the 5th full-length album from New York veteran Milano Constantine. Coming up in the early 2000s as a D.I.T.C. affiliate, it wouldn’t be until 2008 when he dropped his debut Sidewalk Stories & returned in 2015 with his debut mixtape The Believers. This was followed up with the Drum Majors-produced sophomore album The Way We Were along with the Oh Jay-produced Attache Case & the Showbiz-produced Boulevard Author, which is some of his best work in my opinion. However, I did enjoy his 2nd EP Eating But Still Hungry quite a bit when it came out a year & a half ago. So when it was announced that the revered underground producer Big Ghost Ltd. was hopping behind the boards for Pay the Ghost following up Milano’s last EP Block Work, anticipation going into it was very high for me personally.

“Church Service” is a bout of an uncanny way to start off the album lettin’ y’all know where you can see ‘em servin’ whereas “Target Practice” sonically feels like something out of a horror flick with Milano talking about painting the whole town red. The title track takes a more cinematic route saying that’s exactly what you gotta do sometimes, but then “Judge Mathis” itself is a piano/boom bap hybrid delivering some grimy criminology rap.

Continuing from there with “Parmigiano”, we have Crimeapple tagging along with Milano on top of some synthesizers & similar drums to the previous cut boasting their skills leading into the futuristic yet raw “Ghost Photo” getting on his gully shit lyrically. “Firewater” returns to the boom bap comparing his dialogue to such while the song “Lose You” dives into soulful turf with it’s sample along with some incredible wordplay referencing the likes of Sam Cooke & Al Green.

The penultimate track “Apex Predator” blends some pianos & synths bragging that he’s on the top of the food chain while Daniel Son & Rigz both come into the picture for “Mental Health”, which is a rugged closer to the album from the rugged beat to the vivid lyricism that all 3 MCs on the mic each have to offer individually.

Compared to the 2 EPs that Milano put out last year, Pay the Ghost is the best thing he’s put out in the 2020s thus far & a new favorite of mine in his ever-growing discography. Lyrically, the murals that Milano describes are extremely intricate & I really admire how Big Ghost decided to pull from both horror & 70s/80s sci-fi movies as far as production goes.

Score: 4/5

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Ramirez – “The Tragedy of a Clown” review

This is the 8th mixtape from San Francisco emcee Ramirez. Coming up in 2014 as a longtime affiliate of the $uicideboy$, he would go on to co-found to the New Orleans-based indie label G*59 Record$ with them & build himself as an artist by dropping his last 7 tapes, 10 EPs & 4 full-lengths in the span of nearly a decade. The last album Tha Playa$ Manual was his best yet with it’s g-funk production from Rocci & the gangsta rap lyricism, so that definitely intrigued me to check out The Tragedy of a Clown over here.

After the intro, the first song “Return of the Corpse” kicks off the tape with some heavy bass & a plucky loop asking if there’s a problem whereas the Pouya-assisted “Bacon, Eggs & Grits” finds the 2 over trap beat with a violin sample belittling everyone who be on their balls. “The Dungeon” dives into boom bap territory declaring himself to be the motherfucker you better run from, but then Germ tags along for the quirky yet alien-like trap banger “Carthart Vest” spitting aggressive braggadocio.

Meanwhile on “What the Hook Gon’ Be?”, we have Shakewell & Fat Nick joining Ramirez for an energetic Memphis gangsta rap heater just before “6 Feet Under” shoots for a more haunting aesthetic talking about being in rehab. “The Root of Demise” follows it up with a twangy trap ballad detailing depression leading into the misty yet rowdy “Murdered Out Vehicles” spitting some wicked shit.

“The Gallows Wait” has a more psychedelic quality to the production especially with the chopped & the screwed sample at the start & finish talking about being 1 gangsta ass ghost with Shakewell returning for the closer “Shameless Gorilla” boasting that there’s no shame in their game” with some morbid production from Mikey the Magician.

For him to give us this coming off his most critically acclaimed work to date, I think G*59 fans like myself are gonna be more than satisfied with it considering how consistent they’ve been. Ramirez takes it back to a more Memphis rap emphasis as far as sound goes with the lyricism being a bit more darker 2 & a half years later.

Score: 3.5/5

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Trizz – “Baseline Cavi” review

Trizz is a 30 year old MC from Los Angeles, California who first picked up a microphone at the age of 9. But it wasn’t until his late teens where he properly introduced himself to a wider audience in the form of his debut mixtape Suicide with No Note, which was followed up with New West & The Right to Bear Arms before being taken under the wing of Sacramento horrorcore veteran Brotha Lynch Hung by signing to Madesicc Muzicc for a brief period of time. He would later go on to drop 5 more tapes, 4 full-lengths, 5 EPs, 5 collab projects with Chuuwee, 1 with Flashy B & another with Sahtyre all within the last decade. But for his 5th album over here, he’s decided to bring in former Strange Music in-house producer 7 behind the boards from start to finish.

After the titular intro, “the inLAnd” kicks off the album with an incredible g-funk ode to Los Angeles whereas “Keep It a Buck” works in a trap instrumental with a weeping loop talking about being legit. “90210” comes through with a warm romance anthem with it’s acoustic instrumental & Bino Rideaux’s hook leading into the synth-funk “Shit Don’t Stop” flexing with an insane amount of charisma.

Meanwhile on “Summer Break”, we have Trizz delivering a mellow summertime bop just before “Tha Front Yard” brings back the g-funk talking about how people wanna be like him & the John Givez hook is pretty catchy. “Hollywood, Oh Hollywood” is a rich yet jazzy depiction of the titular city, but then “Red Headed Stepchild” kicks off with an eerie sample confessing he doesn’t even know how many time’s he’s been counted out.

T.F. & IceColdBishop both come into the picture for “Bless the Dead” with it’s soulful boom bap beat opening up about seeing their deceased colleagues looking at the sky tonight while the song “Crashed” fuses trap with rock spit reflecting on a car accident that he got into back when he had nothing. The penultimate track “Had to Do It Myself” is of course a spacey ode to self-hustle & to round it all off XV tags along for the cloudy “On & On” talking about a walking a path that never ends.

As someone who’s been rocking with Trizz for about a decade now, this is his most well-rounded body of work to date & one of the best West Coast albums I’ve heard all year. He gets a lot of his chest detailing his life in the City of Angels as far as lyricism goes with 7’s production being incredibly versatile pulling from g-funk, boom bap, rock, trap, synth-funk & jazz rap.

Score: 4.5/5

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H.A.R.D. – “Harbor City” review

This is the sophomore album from hardcore hip hop super-duo H.A.R.D. a.k.a. the Housing Authority Rap District. Consisting of Joell Ortiz & KXNG CROOKED, both these guys had notorious label issues at the start of their careers only to see success as members of the supergroup Slaughterhouse along with Royce da 5’9” & Joe Budden from the late 2000s up until the mid-2010s. The quartet had quietly disbanded in 2016 after Joe’s retirement from making music even though it wasn’t confirmed until 2 years later, but the other 3 members have been keeping themselves busy ever since. H.A.R.D. introduced themselves a couple months after the pandemic hit with an incredible eponymous debut EP followed by their full-length debut The Rise & Fall of Slaughterhouse earlier this spring. But as the 3rd quarter of the year draws to a close in a couple weeks, Crook & Joell are taking the world through Harbor City.

After the “Rookie’s 1st Dead Body” intro, the first song “Heat Wave” kicks off the album with a gospel-tinged instrumental to get into their hardcore bag whereas “Welcome to Harbor City” takes a more airier route thanks to DJ Silk talking about the titular California location. “Energy” works in a deadpan beat to describe how they walked out of the projects, but then “Drip Club” fuses a piano & a hi-hat for a party anthem.

Meanwhile on “Holy Water”, we have H.A.R.D. officer a flute-heavy trap instrumental talking about having permission to take a higher road leading into AZ tagging along for “Vibrate Higher” over some crooning boom bap production provided by The Heatmakerz dodging all the bullshit. “Brooklyn” is a rock-flavored Joell solo cut paying tribute to one of the biggest cities in NY & after the “BK LB Blend” interlude, “Community Center” blends some strings & congo drums reflecting on the days where you used to find them.

“Long Beach Blvd.” is of course a rugged KXNG CROOKED solo joint talking about his neck of the woods while “Pawnshop Jewelry” shoots for a jazzier aesthetic bragging that they have a waterfall full of diamonds. After the “Officer Pirelli Schools the Rookie” interlude, “911” has a more chaotic vibe airing out the biggest gang in America while “1-800-Get-Hard” & “Stop Playin’ with Kim” are 2 skits going up back-to-back with each other.Continuing from there with “Don’t Forget About Her”, H.A.R.D. jumps on top of a high-pitched sample vividly describing a woman who’s unforgettable while “Dead Body” following the “Nahdeadassyo” interlude ghoulishly paints the image of a corpse floating besides themselves.

After the “Pirelli Doesn’t Like Us!” interlude, “Underground” is a soulful Yaowa solo cut talking about getting what you gotta get & staying clear while the track “Ocean Terminal” with Lin-Manuel Miranda dives into calmer yet melodic territory providing inspirational lyricism. And prior to the “Who Shot Ya?” outro, “Game Over” is a gully finisher calling for everyone to quit snitching on themselves.

Now if you loved H.A.R.D.’s self-titled EP & their full-length debut like I did as someone who was a big fan of Slaughterhouse back in my teen years, then you’re gonna wanna check Harbor City out because it’s their 3rd consecutive banger together. I think the production on here is a bit better than Rise & Fall of Slaughterhouse, but I do admire that they took it back to the basics of self-titled as far as lyricism goes & I like how they bring in more features than they did on their earlier work. Also, I feel like the amount of “commercials” & “dialogues” were a bit excessive.

Score: 4/5

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Boondox – “So Much Blood” review

This is the 6th EP from Georgia emcee Boondox. Coming up as 1/3 of the trio Southern Hustlas Inc. under the moniker Turncoat Dirty, he would go on to sign with Psychopathic Records in 2005 following the release of his debut EP Dama Blanca & remained under the Insane Clown Posse’s wing for about a decade putting out his first 4 albums along with his 2nd EP PunkinHed through the infamous Detroit label that runs beneath the streets. Former label-mates Twiztid then brought the Killer Scarecrow on board over at Majik Ninja Entertainment in the winter of 2016, whom he’s still signed to today. Last time we heard from Boondox was last summer with the 7-produced Cryptodirt EP that Mobstyle Music backed with the help of MNE & is now ringing in the fall 4 days early in the form of So Much Blood.

After the titular intro, the first song “Prey for Me” is a demented opener produced by Fritz the Cat with some rock undertones talking about being unable to pray for those who be hoping on his downfall whereas “A Beautiful Death” dives into trap territory thanks to 7 pondering how he ends up in the situations he gets himself into. “Re-Animator” works in some more rock undertones expressing that he wants something real while the song “Devil’s Due” returns to the trap talking about possession. The penultimate track “Open Vein” has a bit of a boom bap flare to it admitting that he feels alive committing murders & “Gravely Ill” ends the EP with a heinous trap banger about falling asleep in the cemetery.

In comparison to the heavy gangsta rap themes of Cryptodirt about 13 months ago now, So Much Blood finds Boondox returning to the wicked shit just in time for the Autumn Equinox next Thursday. Lyrically, the killer scarecrow sounds more vicious than ever with 7 & Fritz’ production excellently honing in on a darker sound to help bring these gruesome tales to life.

Score: 4/5

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