Skepta is a 38 year old rapper, songwriter & producer from London, England notable for co-founding the Boy Better Know collective just 16 years back. However, a lot of people in the state including myself didn’t hop on board with him until 2016 when he dropped his 4th album Konnichiwa to critical acclaim. This was followed up a couple years back with Ignorance is Bliss but after laying low throughout 2020, he’s preluding a new album by dropping a sophomore EP.
“Bellator” starts things out with a wavy tribute to Pop Smoke whereas “Peace of Mind” with KiD CuDi & Teezee is a clubbier tune about how fine their bitches are. The song “Nirvana” with J Balvin takes a turn into Latin territory saying they’re gonna take their women to a place of happiness while the penultimate track “Lit Like This” is just him flexing & the instrumental almost has a dancehall quality to it. Then there’s “Eyes on Me” which samples “Oi” by Platinum 45 & says no one can diss them.
Overall, I like All In a tad bit more than Ignorance is Bliss. Despite being an EP, I admire how he shoots for many different production styles & you can tell he really took his time with it, as he hadn’t recorded anything this year prior to. Hopefully this next full-length of his can reach the bar that Konnichiwa did.
Tha Dogg Pound is a renown hip hop duo consisting of Long Beach emcee/producer Daz Dillinger & Philadelphia emcee Kurupt. I really shouldn’t have to say much about their 1995 full-length debut Dogg Food since it’s widely recognized as one of the last great albums that Death Row Records ever put out. They’ve gone on to release some music here & there since but just 11 years after their last album 100 Wayz, they’re reuniting for their 8th full-length album.
“Ghetto” kicks things off with a chilled out depiction of having bills to pay & them doing fine whereas “We Rollin’” goes into a funkier direction with them stuntin’. “Dissolution of Marriage” is a calmer tune talking about just that, but then “Used 2” follows it up going into a more depressive tone.
Meanwhile on “Bottom Bitch”, we get a classy theme for all the pimps out there right before Snoop Dogg comes into the picture for spacey sex anthem “Nice & Slow”. The highnamic trio stick around for the g-funk thug anthem “Skip Skip” prior to going back to the romance tip on the atmospheric “Baby I Want U Bac”.
“It Ain’t Nuthin’” is an auto-tune trap ballad talking about smoking in an old school Chevy while “I’m On It” with Soopafly works in some snares & squeaking synths to talk about being hustlas. The song “Let’s Roll” serves as a melodic cut talking about partying with their ladies while the penultimate track “Hood Girl” brings in some keys to talk about their taste in women. Then they put the feel-good West Coast tribute “LA Here’s to U” off of Kurupt’s 2013 sophomore mixtape Money, Bitches, Power for the closer.
We’ve had to wait a little over decade for Dillinger & Young Gotti to reunite in a full-length capacity. The end results are a bit of mixed bag for me personally. I think the lovey dovey shit sounds forced even though “Let’s Play House” is one of my all-time favorite DPG songs but when they’re on their g shit, it sounds more natural.
This is the 6th full-length album from New York emcee Rome Streetz. Breaking out in 2016 off his debut mixtape I Been Thru Mad Shit, he would make his presence known as one of the most skilled lyricists in the underground today off projects like Headcrack & the Noise Kandy mixtape series. His last album Death & the Magician that came out back in February is not only Rome’s magnum opus, but one of the best albums that I’ve heard all year with DJ Muggs’ production being a damn-near perfect fit for dude’s acrobatic lyricism. But after a 5 month break, Rome is re-enlisting Futurewave for a Headcrack sequel entitled Razor’s Edge.
The opener “Mud to Moet” operatically looks back on when his pockets were frail whereas “Most High” goes into boom bap turf talking about being made in the image of God. His wife Chyna tags along for the hypnotic title track touching down on maturity leading him talking about going through some things on the luxurious “Same Way”.
Meanwhile with “Envy”, we have Rome & Daniel Son coming together for a morbid shot back at those who’re jealous of them just before he & Starker jump on top of an organ for “No Sample” to say they ain’t changing shit. “Dry Ice” opens up about having to learn the wrong turn burns on top of a tense instrumental prior to the bloodthirsty “Sage or Gunsmoke” with Ransom, which has some jazzy undertones in the beat.
“Bible or the Rifle” works in some heavy horns to say it’s game over for those who make the wrong moves while “Disconnected” jumps on top of a soulful instrumental to acknowledge how doubters wanna work with him now that his profile is increasing. The song “9 4 Judas” grimily proclaims the only thing you need to know is how to earn dough while the penultimate track “High Grand Strandz” with Plex Diamond devilishly calls out those who try to take shit from New York emcees. Then there’s “Rated R”, which works in a gospel sample to compare his life to the MPA rating of the same name.
If anyone puts Razor’s Edge over Death & the Magician, I wouldn’t be mad at it at all because this is just as spectacular. Wasn’t feeling a couple of the features, but everything about Headcrack from the pen-game to Futurewave’s production is being turned up to 11.
Hologram is a 36 year old MC from New York who came up as a part of The Outdoorsmen collective alongside his older brother Meyhem Lauren & Action Bronson under the original moniker Jay Steele. He’s been featured on a plethora of the latter 2’s projects in the past such as Bon Appetit……Bitch! & Gems from the Equinox, but is finally being treated to a full-length debut of his produced entirely by none other than Cypress Hill’s very own DJ Muggs.
After the intro, “No Off Season” is a hair-raising opener saying he always keeps the heat on him because he’s so cold whereas “Don’t Ride with the Drugs” enlists Action Bronson is a luxurious boom bap cut about thinking like a G. The title track is a rock-flavored cut saying the limit’s the sky but he’s gonna go higher just before the murky, self explanatory “Smoke Weed & Figure Shit Out”.
Meanwhile on “You Know My Name”, we have Hologram bragging on top of a cinematic instrumental leading into him saying if the gun ain’t on him it’s around him with the bell-heavy “Black”. He later tells his detractors their out their mind on the jazz-infused “Duck & Cover”, but then “808” is a 1-minute trap banger getting on his hustler shit.
“S.T.F.U. (Shut The Fuck Up)” works in a slowed down vocal sample for him to say he hustles for a sense of urgency & paper while “Moon Rocks” with Big Twins & Meyhem Lauren finds the trio proclaiming themselves as them front row cats over a lurid boom bap beat. Meyhem sticks around as he, Bronson & Hologram talk about wearing black on the gruesome “Colors” just before the brothers jump on the bleak “P.C.H.” by themselves to speak on smoking a couple pounds & hitting up Malibu.
The penultimate track “Traditional Bull Shark” brings in an organ & a guitar telling us he goes through life imitating art, but then “Murder at 5” finds Meyhem Lauren coming back into the picture to end the album by letting us know they’ll be counting money ‘til their hands break & I really dig the forlorn tone that the instrumental gives off.
If anyone out there is a fan of Meyhem, then you definitely gotta check out American Cheese because his lil bro Hologram proves that he can hold down an album of his own. His songwriting is at it’s best & the sounds Muggs goes for is a healthy variety ranging from boom bap to rap rock.
This is the sophomore album from Harlem emcee Dave East. Breaking out in 2014 off his 8th mixtape Black Rose, this resulted in the man signing a joint deal with Def Jam Recordings & even Nas’ independently owned Mass Appeal Records as well as a spot in the iconic 2016 XXL Freshman Class. However, his full-length debut Survival wouldn’t come out until 3 years later & was very disappointing in the sense that he tried appealing to a more mainstream audience that just didn’t exist. But when Westside Gunn announced that Hoffa was being produced entirely by Harry Fraud, I went into this album wondering if it was gonna be his best yet.
“The Disappearance” is a jazzy, soulful opener addressing those who’ve been asking him what’s up with the music whereas “60 for the Lawyer” is a bluesy follow-up saying he hope someone ain’t informin’ on him. “Diamonds” has a bit of a funky feel in the production & a chipmunk soul sample for Dave to say he been legit leading into him going at his competition for the bassy trap cut “Just Another Rapper”.
Meanwhile on the guitar-driven “Go Off”, we have G Herbo tagging along to snap on their nonbelievers just before the woodwind-infused “Uncle Ric” serves as a lethal prelude to his upcoming collab EP with Benny the Butcher entitled Pablo & Blanco. Things take a more atmospheric turn for him to say he’ll take a fight to pick up “The Product” prior to Jim Jones coming into the picture to talk about their accolades for the slick “Money or Power”.
“I Can Hear the Storm” is a heart-wrenching look back at his life before making it in the music industry whereas “Dolla & a Dream” brings in a glossy trap beat to talk about doing shit cats never seen. “Count It Up” with French Montana of course serves as a sumptuous ode to stacking paper, but Cruch Calhoun’s verse on “The Win” is wack as fuck despite the celebratory tone of it.
The penultimate track “Yeah I Know” with the late Kiing Shooter is a piano trap ballad about not needing any further reminders of both of them being the shit & then the album ends with “Red Fox Restaurant”, where Dave East & Curren$y come together to express gratitude for where they’re at now in luxurious fashion.
To me, this is what Survival should’ve been & quite possibly Dave’s best work yet. Westside Gunn helps him stay true to his street roots rather than trying way too hard to appeal to wider audience in terms of his lyricism & the production that Harry Fraud brings to the table. Really hope Dave continues to travel further down this road.
Isaiah Rashad is a 30 year old rapper from Chattanooga, Tennessee emerging in 2013 by signing to Top Dawg Entertainment & dropping his 2nd EP cilvia demo to universal acclaim the following year. Then came the full-length debut The Sun’s Tirade in 2016, which received as much praise. But after 4 years in the making, TDE is finally letting Zaywop put out a follow-up with the help of Warner Records.
“Darkseid” starts things out with a melancholic ballad about how toddlers got Purple Hearts whereas “From the Garden” with Lil Uzi Vert is an energetic trap banger about them comin’ out bustin’. “RIP Young” beautifully samples “Cheese & Dope” by Project Pat addressing his fame & although I love the vibe of “Lay Wit Ya” (especially the “Ridin’ n’ tha Chevy” sample), the Duke Deuce verse is fucking garbage.
Meanwhile on “Claymore”, we have Zaywop & Smino coming together for a tropical tune asking their lovers if they runnin’ or exercisin’ just before “Headshots (4r da Locals)” serving as an equally excellent sequel to “4r da Squaw”. He & Amindi jump on top of a boom bap instrumental on “All Herb” saying they all hurtin’ leading into the luscious “Hey Mista”, which is a nice lil off-the-top freestyle.
Jay Rock & Jay Worthy come into the picture to talk about smokin’ on the fumes yesterday with the slick banger “True Story” whereas “Wat U Sed” with Iamdoechii is an atmospheric tribute to “Bunny Hop”. Zay details someone who says he ain’t got nothing to lose on the psychedelic “Don’t Shoot” while YGTUT-assisted “Chad” calls out “cats foldin’ like huns” & I really dig the guitar playing behind the snares.
“9-3” works in some keyboards & hi-hats to get a bit repetitive in terms of the lyricism, but then SZA & 6LACK come in for the Kenny Beats-produced slowjam “Score” without sounding forced or corny as fuck. The title track is a pillowy look at Zaywop’s struggles with addiction & the closer “HB2U” goes into a jazzier direction saying he did this all for his baby.
I didn’t think this day would ever come, but it goes without saying that The House is Burning is the best project that we’ve seen come out of the TDE camp since CTRL. It serves as a fantastic tribute to the dirty south in terms of the overall sound to the blatant references throughout the lyrics. I really hope we don’t have to wait another 5 years for this dude to drop.
This is the 8th mixtape from Maryland rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, author & Twitch streamer Logic. Coming up just about a decade ago off the strength of the Young Sinatra mixtapes, he potential would continually be shown on his first 2 albums Under Pressure & The Incredible True Story. But it’s no secret that since the release of Bobby Tarantino in 2016, the dude’s discography has become a definition of inconsistent. ΞVERYBODY, Bobby Tarantino II & Young Sinatra IV were all mid at best, but who can forget the embarrassing attempt at going indie rock on Supermarket or the unlikeable bitterness of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind? Then he bounced back with No Pressure last summer, which was a mature sequel to his full-length debut. I also thought the Doc D concept mixtape Planetory Destruction was decent too, but now Logic is looking to close out the Bobby Tarantino trilogy with Bobby Tarantino III.
The intro is just him jumping on top of a boom bap instrumental admitting that his retirement didn’t last very long whereas “Vaccine” is a mediocre attempt at a vibrant trap anthem about going hard all year. “Get Up” takes a more melodic turn trying way too hard to get motivational, but then “My Way” is a HIDEOUS contemporary R&B/pop crossover despite the decent synth instrumental.
Meanwhile on “Call Me”, we get a moody sequel to “1-800-273-8255” just before the flute-tinged “Inside” opens up about his depression. “Flawless” is forced sex song that’s really anything & after the admirably self-aware “Stupid Skit”, he addresses to the new generation on the short yet smoky boom bap-tinged “Theme for the People” except this time he isn’t dissing them like he & Eminem did a couple years back with “Homicide”.
The song “God Might Judge” sounds a lot more sincere than “Get Up” down to the instrumental being inspired by College Dropout-era Kanye like he says at the start while the penultimate track “See You Space Cowboy…” is a bassy trap cut about putting his city on the map. Finally there’s “Untitled”, which works in some vocal harmonies hanging in the background for him talking about being blessed.
Although this is a step down from No Pressure, I’m not saying it’s as unlistenable as Supermarket & Confessions of a Dangerous Mind were either if that makes any sense. Like half of these sound like they actually come from the heart, but then the other just seems as if he’s trying too hard to appeal to a mainstream audience.
This is the 13th full-length album from Russian-American horrorcore veteran Scum. Coming up as the founder of the local independent powerhouse Lyrikal Snuff Productionz, the man has literally dropped dozens of projects either on his own or with side projects like M.M.M.F.D. & the 4 Horsemen. Dude just dropped Dyin’ World Chroniclez: Grey Skiez about 5 months ago & after a couple of new singles following that, we’re being treated to the sequel Dyin’ World Chroniclez 2: Red Groundz.
After the intro, the title track works in some violins for him & King Gordy portraying their own versions of Hell whereas “Beyond Comprehension” is a trap banger talking about how his intentions are clear. Smallz 1 tags along to let people know they’ll remain underground on the frosty “My Damnation” just before trapping cats into a “Lion’s Cage” with a demented instrumental.
Meanwhile on “We the Onez”, we have M.M.M.F.D. jumping on top of a skeletal trap beat to talk about parents warning their children of them leading into “Wonder” continuing to delve into that sound except it has more meat on the bone & Scum pondering what’s going through his victim’s mind. “Groundhog (Fri)day(13)” is an aggressive, high-tempo anthem to murder whereas “Intrauterine Cannibalistic” with Hex Rated goes into trap metal territory talking about making cats bleed when they catch ‘em.
The song “Humpty Dumpty” speaks on cracking people’s heads over a nocturnal instrumental while the penultimate track “Keep That Shit” works in some keyboards & hi-hats to admit that he’s sick in the head. Then it rounds out with “Nevaendin’ Story”, which is Scum talking about murder being addictive accompanied by a misty beat.
Scum has been putting it down for the underground wicked shit scene for a very long time at this point & the whole Dyin’ World Chroniclez series that he’s been doing lately turning out pretty hard. In comparison to the previous installment, I think this one sounds darker & rawer in terms of production choices & pen-game.
Shoestring is a 48 year old MC from Flint, Michigan who came up in the mid-90’s as a member of the trio The Dayton Family. However, it wasn’t until 1999 when he put out his solo debut Representin’ Till the World Ends under Tommy Boy Records & then followed it up 2 years later with the Reel Life Productions-backed Cross Addicted. Shortly after, Shoestring focused on DF for the next 15 years & eventually returned on his own in own in 2016/2017 by dropping Fix My City & Black Friday respectively. But as the 2 year anniversary of The Bake Up Boy came & went last month, he’s enlisting MonStar Entertainment in-house producer Lennon Smiley for his 6th full-length album.
The album begins with “Da Bomb Weed”, which works in some piano embellishments saying that’s what he chokes on. “Fuck Pop” is a grimy yet vibrant ode to stacking bread whereas “Get Rich” continues the themes of the previous cut except it takes a more hyphy direction. “Kill You” needs no further explanation with it’s combative lyrics or it’s baleful instrumental just before “Do Do Brown” works in these guitar licks & horns to spit that nickel bag hustler shit.
Meanwhile on “Ice Cold”, we get Shoestring bragging about himself over a Bollywood-influenced beat leading into gruesome trap cut that is “Murderers”. The song “Timbos” gets back on the hustler shit over a glum instrumental while the penultimate track “2020” formidably talks about getting back to business after COVID fucked everything up last year. Finally there’s the closer “Coka Cola”, is a piano trap ballad ode to that powder.
If you ask me, Da Pandemic is one of the best solo efforts Shoestring has put out to date. Whether he’s by himself or with Bootleg & Backstabba, dude’s always been a seminal part of the gangsta rap subgenre & his writing on here are no different. Lennon Smiley is also becoming amongst my favorite producers out of this reviewer’s home state right now because the wide range of sounds he brings to the table is fantastic. Score: 8/10
This is the 3rd full-length album from Jersey City emcee Ransom. Coming up as 1/2 of the short-lived duo A-Team alongside Hitchcock, he branched out on his own following their disbandment beginning with his 2008 full-length debut Street Cinema & the Statik Selektah-produced sophomore album The Proposal. But it’s safe to say 2020 was his biggest year yet so far, dropping a total of 5 EPs produced entirely by Nicholas Craven & all of them being equally stellar. Then the dude dropped 7 last month, which is a well executed concept EP based around the 7 deadly sins. However, all of this has been leading up to Heavy is the Head produced by Big Ghost Ltd. from start to finish.
“Lord Stark” starts off the album with a 1 minute skit & then Ransom jumping over some heavy synths to see who can propel higher than him whereas “All the Kings Men” is pretty much Mickey Factz & [J. Arrr tagging along to leave a piano instrumental scarred up like they said they would at the end of the first verse. “Ransom the Destroyer” works in a Viking-esque beat to proclaim himself as such just before RJ Payne assists him for the symphonic battle rap cut “The Red Wedding”.
After the “King’s Intermission” interlude, “Tyranny” is a heartbreaking portrayal of how people are cold blooded while “Blackwater” is a rock-tinged barfest appetizing heads for his upcoming collab album with Rome Streetz. The penultimate song “Off With His Head” with the Heavy Metal Kings & Lou from Paradise is basically the quartet quenching for blood over a dusty instrumental & after the “King’s Landing” interlude, the closer “A King’s Ransom” has these haunting choir vocals throughout & it’s about how a fortune is granted to whoever hands him a traitor.
I’ve been listening to this dude for almost a decade now & I gotta say: Heavy is the Head is the best body of work that Ransom has attached his name to yet & one of the best things you’ll hear in 2021. Dude’s in his prime lyrically & Big Ghost’s production is epic as fuck! God can only imagine how his next album with Pete Rock will sound.