Ice Spice – “Like..?” review

Ice Spice is a 23 year old rapper from The Bronx, New York who actually grew up with a hard knock life at the Hudson Street Orphanage ran by Agatha Hannigan. After being adopted by Oliver Warbucks, she grew up to pursue a music career last summer after uploading a couple viral music videos & landing a Capitol Records contract. Drake eventually flew her out to join him at OVO Fest not too long after & unfollowed her on Instagram rather quickly once the festival concluded, with him calling her “a 10 trying to rap” & that her music is “good on mute” on the highlight track “BackOutsideBoyz” off his recent collab album with 21 Savage that dropped a couple months ago Her Loss. But to prelude her full-length debut, she’s surprise dropping her debut EP in only a few hours’ notice.

“In Ha Mood” is a decent sample drill opener with a jersey club flare to it convincing her mans to stay with him even though she wants to turn up whereas “Princess Diana” compares herself to the late Princess of Wale over some more safer drill production. “Gangsta Boo” with Lil Tjay averagely flips “I Need a Girl, Pt. 2” by Puff Daddy touching on gangsta love & having nothing to do with the late Gangsta Boo whatsoever while the song “Actin’ a Smoochie” staying in sample drill turf getting raunchy. The penultimate track “Bikini Bottom” has a fresh slack-key guitar as she discusses what fame has brought her & “Munch” is a Brooklyn drill closer paying tribute to cunnilingus.

Before I wrap things up, lemme just say the Annie references at the beginning of the review were clearly jokes. As far as the quality of the music being presented, it’s a decent EP. I can definitely see why she’s popular in the Brooklyn drill scene, but it’s just that I’ve heard the sample drill style that she also pulls from on here pulled off better with projects such as RealYungPhil’s 7th EP Dr. Phil & even Pasto Flocco’s most recent stuff.

Score: 3/5

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Sk8star – “rebel” review

This is the 4th EP from Atlanta recording artist Sk8star. Blowing up in the spring of 2021 off Superstar Status, he would go on to follow it up last year with both the B4NWØ EP & his debut mixtape New World Ørder respectively. The latter being my introduction to Sk8’s music after my lil brody UnreleasedSnip put me on, with songs like “Standin’ on Business” & “YSL Flow” being the standouts for me personally. He just dropped his previous EP Mogul a month after we saw him live in Brooklyn & just so happened to surprise drop rebel here over the weekend, 4 weeks later.

“king of the hill” is a guitar-tinged trap opener with Sk8 talking about a baddie in high heels being totally unaware of how good he makes her feel whereas “mono boots alyx” has a more atmospheric approach asking a shorty what her sign is & shows off the titular boots that he happens to own. “imma ride” works in some hi-hats & strings speaking on being by his homie’s side, but then “status” takes the cloudier route to talk about how he been ballin’. The woozy penultimate track “in the shadows” produced by Indigo finds Sk8 acknowledging that he’s doing better than his enemies & they hate him for it just before “motion” sends things off on a peppy yet melodic note having just that.

If anyone’s still not up on this dude yet, then I recommend you change that because I think one of the ATL’s most exciting up-&-comers at the moment is gonna go even harder than he did last year when I got put onto him & this definitely goes to show it. It’s really fresh to hear him detail where he’s at in his life currently & even displaying his versatility with some the beats that these producers bring to the table.

Score: 3.5/5

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Skyzoo – “The Mind of a Saint” review

This is the 8th full-length album from Brooklyn veteran Skyzoo. Emerging in the underground off the 9th Wonder produced Cloud 9: The 3 Day High, he continued to make a name for himself with a lengthy yet very consistent discography. Highlights include The Salvation, the !llmind produced Live from the Tape Deck, A Dream Deferred, Music for My Friends, the Apollo Brown produced The Easy Truth, In Celebration of Us & my personal favorite: the Pete Rock produced Retropolitan. Last time we heard from Sky was a year & a half ago when he dropped the gentrification-themed All the Brilliant Things, but is returning to dedicate The Mind of a Saint to one of my favorite shows ahead of it’s final season next month: Snowfall.

“Eminent Domain” is a jazzy boom bap opener encouraging to picture opportunities by rewriting the rules whereas “Views from the Valley” takes a more soulful route in terms of sound acknowledging how the angels look different on the other side of the city. “Panthers & Powder” brings back the jazz with some kicks & snares admiring the beauty within all of it leading into the spacious “Straight Drop” talking about how it’s God levels in the town when they up.

Moving on from there with “100 to One”, we have Sky acknowledging that he has more to say than a few 16 bars & a hook on here saying it’s best to act like you ain’t know over a swooning beat with some trumpets leading into the piano-infused “Bodies!” opening up about everyone Franklin has killed so far deserved to die. “The Balancing Act” blends some horns & crooning vocals together talking about being the messiah type while “Brick by Brick” returns to the boom bap kicking that outside shit for the 1 time. The penultimate track “Apologies in Order” is an endearing open letter with the beat having a glistening quality to it & “Purity” is a solemn 7-minute closer with talking about becoming the oracle.

There’s always been a source of inspiration for every single body of work that Skyzoo has put out & it’s amazing how he continues to be consistent after all these years because I don’t see how anyone who has the sane amount of love for hip hop & Snowfall would dislike this album. He excellently captures what Franklin Saint’s innermost thoughts could be when dealing with the world he’s caught within & the production playing to the conventional jazz/boom bap hybrids we’ve come to know & love him for.

Score: 4/5

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Declaime – “In the Beginning 3” review

This is the 14th full-length album from Oxnard veteran Declaime. Debuting on “WLIX” off Tha Alkaholiks’ sophomore album Coast II Coast in 1995, it wouldn’t be until 2001 when Dudley Perkins started putting out albums under his own name by dropping Andsoitisaid. But coming fresh off LMD’s long-awaited debut Flying High last summer, he’s linking back up with Madlib for the 3rd installment in the ongoing In the Beginning series where the 2 dig up some of their earliest & previously unreleased work together.

“Ill Minded” is a bit of a hazy opener with Declaime talking about verbally abusing those who dare step up to him whereas “Laff Now Cry Later” goes into more boom bap turf advising people that your day will come sooner or later. The cassette demo version of the “Andsoitisaid” title track is interesting to hear considering the version we got 8 years later has a different beat & is a little bit longer just before Roc C tags along for the lo-fi “Come with the Ill Grammar” advising to have some dope ass syntax when speaking to them.

The remix of “Why Do We Go Out Like That?” is cool even though I personally prefer the version we have on [the Lootpack’s rarities compilation The Lost Tapes leading into “Too Much Clout” returning to the boom bap flexing his lyrical prowess. God’s Gift’s verse on the battle rap-themed “12th Floor” is just ok with the sounds of ocean waves in the beat gives it a bit of a calm atmosphere prior to the raw sounding “Next Episode” with Christopher McCray showing y’all how they move it. “Ass Will Get Dropped” with M.E.D. finds both Oxnard emcees letting y’all know what’ll happen whenever C.D.P. pulls up to your spot over a mellow instrumental & prior to the outro beat skit, we’re treated to the original version of “Rollem Right” off Dudley’s debut EP Illmindmuzik as the official closer.

If you’ve been keeping up with the In the Beginning series, you should already know what you’re gonna be getting yourself into & I don’t mean that in a bad way because all 3 installments thus far are must-listens for any hardcore Madlib fan. His production pulls from funk, jazz, soul & psychedelia with Declaime continuing to pay homage to the city that he came from by further presenting his early days on the mic. However, one of the biggest criticisms I have is that I feel that the intros to 6 of the 11 actual songs we get here are kind of annoying especially since the track listing is prominently intro & song back to back.

Score: 3.5/5

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Babytron – “Bin Reaper 3: New Testament” review

This is the 8th mixtape from Detroit emcee Babytron. Coming up as a member of the trio ShittyBoyz along with his childhood friends Stanwill & TR Dee, he also branched out on impressive solo career for himself as well as the side groups Lewis & Clark and the Dookie Brothers. But the last couple years was probably his biggest yet landing interviews ranging from No Jumper to even Rolling Stone following the release of Luka Trončić a couple summers prior to signing with EMPIRE Distribution later that same month & then Bin Reaper 2: The 2nd Coming that same fall. But now coming off Megatron last spring & a spot in the 2022 XXL Freshman Class a couple months later, he’s dropping the other half of the final installment of the Bin Reaper trilogy.

“Forever $cams” is a suspenseful hyphy opener with Tron talking about never stopping whereas “Next Level 2” works in multiple beat switches as he welcomes everyone to the next chapter. “Michigan Ave” has a bit of a catchy groove or rhythm to the instrumental advising to meet him on the titular road, but then “#FREEUNKY” comes through with a more uncanny sound courtesy of Detroit trap veteran Helluva shouting out his uncle that’s currently incarcerated.

Meanwhile on “Gimme Dat”, we have Lil Yachty coming into the picture with Babytron for an explosively raw trap hit as they talk about popping out that cut prior to “CatDog” with Babyface Ray finds 2 of the best rappers in Detroit at the moment calling out those who be talking shit online & backing down in person over some triumphant Bay Area inspired production. Cordae tags along for the mellow “Beetleborgs” getting on some category 5 type shit leading into “Mr. Hanky” referring to himself as the shit over a trap instrumental with a menacing loop.

“Remote Control” finds Tron doing his thing with some beat switches sampling shows ranging from Kenan & Kel to Samurai Jack just before “R.I.P. Hutch” with Rico Nasty & Remble has more vibrant tone to it as the trio deliver a party anthem. “Mike Amiri Monster” is a 2-parter with a piano-trap crossover during the first half & some background vocals for the other referring to himself as such while “Golden Child” mixes some hi-hats & saxes talking about feeling like an Egyptian with all the ice he is.

Following that, “Euphoria 2” has a more dramatic approach in terms of sound reminding that tomorrow’s price isn’t the same as today’s whatsoever while “Sunday School” calling out another for having the sauce yet it’s far from marinated over some keyboard melodies mixed with strings & hi-hats. “Dirty Draco” with KanKan keeps the pianos in tact as both artists speak on sipping Faygo & staying strapped while Certified Trapper’s feature on “Zap Zone” is one of the weakest on the tape despite the whistling loop & the claps within the beat & the lyrics talking about having a game to win.

“Ricky Henderson” compares his lil brodie to that of the titular baseball player accompanied by a wavy trap instrumental while “Waffle House” by the ShittyBoyz, Drego & Beno, RMC Mike, Babyfxce E, JHunnit & Prince Jefe is a decent 3 & a half minute Detroit posse cut. “Mainstream Tron 2” has a cloudy aesthetic to it talking about how it’s all rah-rah with the yacht & the Glock.

As for “100 OVR”, the beat blends these strings & bells as Babytron explains that his crew still sin because all dogs go to heaven as well as calling himself a hustle fiend while “Za Morant” returns to a more atmospheric vibe talking about him balling. “You Would’ve Thought” with DaBoii pulls from nu disco as they both flaunt their success to those who didn’t believe in them while “Animorph” gives off a more saddening feel expressing the pain of watching someone he once respected turning into a snake.

The instrumental throughout the “2 Ea$y” is more horn-laced talking about being the early birdie while the penultimate track “Tronalation 28:27” is a synth/hyphy crossover as Tron confesses that he can’t trust what some fraud has to say to him. “I Can’t Call It” with $camaurion” closes out the tape admitting that they don’t know what they be on these days with a thumping bass-line, some chords & hi-hats.

Although I’d still say that Old Testament is my favorite between both parts of the Bin Reaperfinale, that’s not to say New Testament isn’t worth the time of anyone who’s been following him up to this beat Other than it being a little longer than it should’ve, the 2 things that really wowed me the most about it was the fact that the feature-list is more consistent in comparison to Babytron’s past efforts & the insane punchlines that he endlessly comes up with

Score: 3.5/5

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Bukshot – “When Hell Freezes” review

This is the 18th EP from Louisville, Kentucky emcee & Mobstyle Music founder Bukshot. From his lengthy solo discography to the group & duos that’s formed with some of the biggest names that the underground has to offer, there’s no question that dude’s been putting it down for the culture for a grip at this point. He just dropped the ferocious Never Safe last spring prior to his appearances at Astronomicon around that same time & is now seeing fit to put When Hell Freezes up on DSPs in light of Friday the 13th.

After the “Kafkaesque” intro, the title track truly opens up the EP with a cinematically haunting instrumental courtesy of 7 airing out those who want him out of the game prior to the almighty Alla Xul Elu & Lo Key tagging along for the apocalyptic trap banger “Rise Up” talking about running this shit from underneath. Stevie Stone comes into the picture for the cavernous “We Was” looks back to the days on the block while the song “Chant” with the Super Famous Fun Time Guys sees the trio over some kicks & snares talking about having these ways of crushing their dreams. The penultimate track “Death Dance” with the Lune Squad has a more morbid trap flare to it confessing they see their skeletons dancing & the Godsynth-produced “Beat ‘Em Up” ends with The Underground Avengers reuniting alongside Zitro for a fight anthem.

Mobstyle have been rightfully experiencing a rise in popularity within the underground wicked shit scene within the last 3 years & if this is how Buk’s gonna ring in 2023, then it only increases my anticipation for what Mobstyle has coming down the pipe such as Cabal’s sophomore album The Bottomless Pit & of course The Horde’s eponymous debut. The production’s knocking, nearly every feature comes correct & Buk sounds as ruthless as before.

Score: 4/5

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Mickey Diamond – “Oroku Saki” review

This is the 6th EP from Detroit underground emcee Mickey Diamond. Emerging at the beginning of 2020 off the strength of his debut EP Bangkok Dangerous, the dude has since gone on to turn quite a few heads in the underground by building up the impressive discography for himself with his previous 6 albums alongside 5 EPs & & a mixtape. His last 2 outings Gucci Ghost & Gucci Ghost 2produced by Big Ghost Ltd. that dropped back to back last month have quickly become my favorite bodies of work that Diamond has put out yet so when I found out that one of my favorite graphic artists in recent memory Ral Duke would be behind the boards for Oroku Saki in it’s entirety, it was only right to give it my first review of 2023 since Gucci Ghost 2 was my last review of 2022.

After the “Can Opener” intro, the title track is a symphonic boom bap opener where Mickey talks about how he’s gonna make you learn to respect the throne whereas “Chrome Dome” works in some more strings whilst dashing some jazzy undertones to the beat as well referring to himself as the masked man. “Wow!” hooks up some kicks & snares with a piano loop talking about how those listening be knowing his style leading into “Multiverse” following the “Krangstrumental” interlude takes a more cavernous route in terms of sound echoing the iconic Tribe Called Quest joint “Can I Kick It?” painting images of the wicked mean streets. “Turtle Soup” is a killer rap rock cut talking about what he be dining on tonight & ruthlessly hijacking your whole residence while “The Foot” returns to the boom bap talking about how he could never take all of this from a rat. After the “Ooze” interlude though, Mondo Slade come into the picture for the closer “Shredder vs. Casey Jones” as he & Diamond essentially battle rap one another over an uncanny instrumental with co-production from & Swab.

It’s funny how Gucci Ghost 2 was a last minute addition to my best of 2022 list & now here is 3 weeks later kicking off the new year the exact same way: By giving us his 3rd consecutive classic. As someone who enjoyed the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series as well as the first 2 movies from the early 90’s & the ‘03 series, the concept of the EP is incredibly cohesive as Mickey ties in references into his hardcore lyrical style excellently. Now the only time I can recall hearing Ral Duke production a track was “Painkillers” off Conway the Machine’s 11th mixtape Everybody‘s F.O.O.D. 2: Eat What U Kill & that was always a highlight track for me personally, but I genuinely appreciate how much his production here has fluctuated so much in the last 4 years or so.

Score: 4.5/5

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Choco Valens – “Hollywood Burns” review

Choco Valens is a 33 year old MC from Miami, Florida who came up in 2018 off his full-length debut Kill Politics. This was followed up with his sophomore effort The Night Before the Fight the next summer & then his 3rd full-length album Wolfenstein a couple years later. But as the 2-year anniversary of the latter approaches next month, Choco has seen fit to return in the form of his debut mixtape following the 2-year schedule set by his last 2 efforts.

“Broken Bones” kicks things off with a 3 minute spoken word piece until we get a jazzy boom bap beat & Choco dropping some hard battle bars during the 2 half whereas “No Mercy” perfectly lives up to it’s title to the murderous lyricism to the funereal production. “7 Chakras” comes through with one of my favorite performances on the tape with it’s intricate rhyme schemes & flow switch-ups over an Alchemist instrumental that has kinda sounds like it was originally made for Griselda, but then “Blood Sport” has a more occult atmosphere to it comparing the rap game to such.

Meanwhile on “Heart of Evil”, we have Choco returning to the boom bap spitting the wicked shit to my surprise & pulling it off wonderfully leading into “Mad Villain” comes through with a 7-minute tribute to the late MF DOOM that I think any hip hop head would come to appreciate. Especially with all the multiple beat-switches. Serum, Duivan, King Tetrus, 8ch20wins & Lejnd all come into the picture for the 7-minute posse cut “Born Killers” produced by DJ Pain 1 declaring themselves to be such prior to the bombastic “Rage” encouraging that now’s the time to riot.

Orion Brass tags along for the bluesy “No Days Off” as the 2 talk about having no time to rest while “Free Country” is a short but sweet boom bap joint produced by Evidence & it’s just incredible how much charisma Choco puts on display with his delivery. “Bad Guy” has a more luxurious approach to the instrumental continuing to belittle his competition while the song “Scarface” with Wolf-gang finds the pair jumping on top of some prominent hi-hats to talk about not giving a fuck. The penultimate track “Blue Print” is basically a freestyle over “U Don’t Know” by JAY-Z until “Miami Estate” is a triumphant closer à la Maybach Music Group letting y’all know where you can find him.

It most definitely feels more like a mixtape compared to Choco’s last 3 albums to me, but it’s still a dope way for dude to ring in the new year. It’s cool to hear him pay homage to some of his influences by jumping on top of beats that we’ve already heard before as well as simply hearing how much he’s evolved as an MC within the last 5 years from the flow switch-ups to the passionate execution in his delivery.

Score: 3.5/5

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BeenOfficial – “America’s on Drugs II: America’s Still on Drugs”

This is the 3rd EP from Bronx emcee BeenOfficial. Coming up in the winter of 2015 off his 1st single “Why U Lie? (Y U Lie?)”, it wouldn’t be until 5 years later where he would put out his debut EP God’s Jewelry using that time to put out more songs to build up anticipation & eventually followed it up a couple months later in the form of America’s on Drugs. But as the 2 year anniversary of the latter continues to approach slowly & surely, the man himself’s returning in the form of a sequel merely days after Christmas.

The intro starts things off by briefly yet ruggedly reintroducing himself for those that don’t know whereas “Can’t Get Away” has a more sample-based trap flare to it looking back on the days when he was down & how he’s been doing better as of late. S.C. Money tags along for the luxurious “Life or Death” spitting that hustler shit just before “H.W.T.C. (Heavy Wears The Crown)” follows it up with a horn-inflicted boom bap instrumental talking about being his way now.

S.C. Money comes back 1 last time in the form of “I’m Working”, where both of them detailing that they’ve been putting it on over top of a beat that’s reminiscent to that of my favorite Slaughterhouse cut “Microphone” while the penultimate track “Got a Gun” returns to the boom bap acknowledging just how crazy it be out in his parts. The outro is just as short & raw as the intro, except the lyrics touch on those not knowing what it’s like to have a price on your head & thinking about the money he’s bout to collect whilst driving on the highway.

It’s really fresh to hear how much this guy’s grown as an artist in the last 7 years because as dope as his last EP was, America’s on Drugs II: America’s Still on Drugs to me further proves that evolution as much as the predecessor did almost a couple years ago. Lyrically, the themes of drug trafficking are stronger as they were before with Adwerdz’ production continuing to pull from boom bap & trap keeping it at a healthy balance.

Score: 3.5/5

Mickey Diamond – “Gucci Ghost 2” review

Mickey Diamond is an up-&-coming MC from Detroit, Michigan who first emerged at the beginning of 2020 off the strength of his debut EP Bangkok Dangerous, the dude has since gone on to turn quite a few heads in the underground by building up the impressive discography for himself with 5 full-lengths alongside 5 EPs & & a mixtape. He literally just dropped his last album Gucci Ghost produced by Big Ghost Ltd. at the beginning of the month & have now decided to drop a sequel 3 weeks later out of nowhere.

After the “Tax Evasion” intro, the first song “Paolo’s Ghost” kicks off the album with some sample-based boom bap production & Mickey declaring himself to be a troublemaker prior to Hus Kingpin & Mondo Slade both assisting him on “Vanity Fair” taking a more dejecting tone instrumentally as the trio leave the scene bloody lyrically. Especially with the hilarious thumbdrive line during the first verse. The electric guitar throughout “Gucci Godzilla” is absolutely badass confessing that he feels like an iced-out version of the King of Monsters just before “Gold Grill Villains” featuring Eddie Kaine & Mooch has a more rawer approach in sound as the 3 spit some ruthless battle bars.

“Aldo’s Interlude” is a self-described brief intermission with some down-tuned synths & a bass guitar layered on top of some kicks & snares discussing how no one can fuck with him leading into “Nowhere to Run” explains that the hood’s the only life he knows over a desolate boom bap beat. The song “Dapper Dan War Suits” brings back the rap rock vibes with some minimal drums talking about being dressed to kill while the penultimate track “Blood on the Runway” is a symphonic boom bap posse cut showcasing the Umbrella collective with each member standing out in their own way. “Death By Designer” ends things by reminding us that our demises are always 1-step away with a climatic instrumental. 

When we initially got Gucci Ghost at the beginning of the month, I had stated that it was Mickey’s most well crafted body of work to date. Fast forward literally weeks later & here we are with a sequel that’s on par with if not superior to that of the predecessor. Dude’s continuing to reveal himself to be amongst my favorite lyricists within the Umbrella by continuing to sharpen up his pen-game & Big Ghost Ltd.‘s production is more versatile than it was on the last album.

Score: 4.5/5

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