Skribbal – “In Their Blood…& from the Gutter” review

Skribbal is a 30 year old MC from Los Angeles, California who came up in 2016 off the strength of his full-length debut Drug Spun Funk. This would catch the attention of the rising Wisconsin underground label Force 5 Records & they would put out his sophomore effort Skinwalker a couple years later. But once Skribbal dropped his debut EP Quarantine Sessions a month after the pandemic started, he would leave the label to form his own Sony Music imprint Hell Patrol Records & celebrated this newfound independence by dropping his 3rd album Black Eyed Children last spring distancing himself from horrorcore in favor of a more hardcore hip hop style. However in light of his born day coming & going last month though, he’s keeping things rolling with his 2nd EP.

“Holocaust Winds” kicks the whole thing off with a portentous instrumental talking about how no one can hold him back whereas the grimy “Tim Allen Coke” with Lord Goat finds the 2 clapping back at everyone. “Master of the Moon” gets in his wicked shit bag with an occult boom bap beat while the penultimate song “The Black Sleep” goes into trap territory working in an infectious vocal sample talking about living in between 2 worlds. The title track then enlists Praiseone taking a dustier route in terms of sound declaring themselves as soul reapers.

If this dude has something bigger coming down the pipe later on in the year, then I think In Their Blood…& from the Gutter serves as a solid appetizer for the main course. It picks up right where the last album left off continuing to embrace a more traditional hardcore hip hop style except he’s throwing his horrorcore roots back into the mix.

Score: 3.5/5

King Iso – “Get Well Soon” review

This is the 5th full-length album from Nebraska emcee/producer King Iso. Coming up as a protege of San Diego chopper Twisted Insane, he would only drop first 2 albums & The Insanity Plea & Autophobia under Brainsick Muzik. Shortly after, they had an unfortunate falling out & it prompted Iso to put out his next album DeMenTia independently in 2018. However, I was thrilled to see him sign with Strange Music the following spring & his debut on the Kansas City powerhouse World War Me has quickly become one of the label’s best albums ever. So given that & the singles that Iso released for Get Well Soon over the fall, my expectations were very high.

The title track opens up the album on top of a somber trap instrumental confessing that he no longer feels the same whereas “0 Dark 34” weaves some hi-hats behind the sound of a phone beeping talking about being too busy to work on himself. “Today” has a more jangly ring to it pondering if people would call him if they didn’t need a favor or wanted to get money leading into “6 AM” has a darker tone sonically talking about getting high before the sunrise.

Meanwhile on “Big Farm A”, we have C-Mob & X-Raided tagging along with Iso over some tropical guitar licks & skittering drums letting the masses know we’re living in a sick market just before “Under My Tongue” takes a more spacious yet bass heavy route talking about how he was getting it in in the mental hospital. Rittz & Twista come into the picture for the rambunctious “Self Destruct” admitting they’re about to implode any moment, but then “Hellthy” talks about smiling while burning away over a downtrodden trap beat.

King Kash joins his brother for the cloudy/trap infused “I’m Okay” lying about their state of mental well being prior to jumping on top of some hi-hats & pianos admitting he’s “Not Well”. Following this, “Window” kinda has the same feel as the previous cut instrumentally except it’s more somber & detailing having so much on his mind while “Made Me Crazy” makes the sounds of Cuckoos into a trap beat with Snake Lucci & Tech N9ne talking about being unhinged.

“Big Facts” with Taebo tha Truth finds the 2 taking shots at those who be talking too much over an atmospheric instrumental whereas the guitar-heavy “My Flowers” is basically The Brazy Bunch demanding their respect. Taebo returns for the aggressive “6 PM” reminding the world that they had to run it on their lonely. The song “Cover the Scars” is an acoustic/trap banger paying tribute to all of those out there who have Iso tattoos while the penultimate track “Hypocrite” has a churchy quality to it talking about how his music has helped others yet he’s not helping himself. “Help Yourself” ends the album with an energized ballad encouraging self care.

I think it’s safe to say that Iso’s output ever since signing to Strange has been the best of his career thus far & Get Well Soon wound up being a fantastic follow-up to World War Me. His production skills continue to progress while continuing to raise awareness of how much mental health matters further & detailing the obstacles he constantly faces.

Score: 4/5

Che Noir – “Food for Thought” review

Che Noir is a 27 year old MC/producer from Buffalo, New York who caught my attention after 38 Spesh signed her to TCF Music Group & fully produced her first 3 EPs. However, her Apollo Brown-produced full-length debut As God Intended & then her self-produced 4th EP After 12 during the 2nd half of 2020 where her potential began to blossom exponentially. Given all that, I had a very good feeling going into her sophomore album right here.

After the “Eat to Live” intro, the first song “Split the Bread” kicks off the whole album with some rich pianos talking about being mentally dangerous whereas the self-produced “Eat or Starve” with Jynx716 has this killer guitar loop with the pair letting listeners know they never had it easy. After the “Daily Bread” skit, “Bless the Food” has a cheerful sound to it talking about being the voice of the people just before Armani Caesar & 7xvethegenius tag along for the string-laced “Ladies Brunch” reminding themselves that they’re the nicest females in the underground currently.

Meanwhile on “Praises”, we have Che on top of a cinematic boom bap instrumental from Chup talking about going down as a GOAT just before Ransom & 38 Spesh come into the picture for the piano/vocal loop infused “Table for 3” treating necks like footsteps lyrically. The track “Good Cutlery” encourages listeners to make wise decisions over some hi-hats & synths while the JR Swiftz-produced penultimate song “Brains for Dinner” goes straight into battle rap territory. After the “Water to Wine” interlude, “Communion” ends the album with a powerful ballad talking about some pain she’s been through.

Despite the brief delays the album faced prior to it’s release, it was very much worth it. It demonstrates her massive range, styles & techniques from nostalgic reminiscences to crime-driven narratives accompanied by the golden age-inspired production that’s all over her previous works.

Score: 4/5

iann dior – “on to better things” review

iann dior is a 22 year old rapper & singer/songwriter from Corpus Christi, Texas who first emerged in the spring after signing to 10K Projects in 2019 & dropped his debut mixtape Nothing’s Ever Good Enough later that spring. This would wind in a joint deal with Internet Money Records, who helped put out his full-length debut Industry Plant in the fall of that same year & then the debut EP I’m Gone the following summer. Now iann’s music in the past never really wowed me because I felt like 10K Projects was trying to strike gold with him as another Trippie Redd, but I was morbidly curious going into this sophomore album of his given that he had a spot in last year’s XXL Freshman Class.

“is it you?” starts off the whole album with a painfully boring summer ballad bitching & moaning about a girl who had his mind twisted whereas “complicate it” works in a down-tune guitar talking about being sick of being in the same situation as his lover. Lil Uzi Vert tags along for the poppy “V12” produced by Nick Mira & Taz Taylor getting boastful, but then “I might” has a more cloudier tone talking about his late-night habits.

Meanwhile on “heavy”, we have iann on top of a grungy guitar lead admitting that he can’t love leading into “dark angel” revealing how half assed it is both sonically & songwriting wise. “obvious” has some decent radio rock production from none other than Travis Barker even though the subject matter feels like some angsty middle school shit & “heartbreak3r” has to be the most pathetic Juice WRLD knockoff I’ve heard in a minute.

The instrumental that “option” brings to the table is a lot similar to the opener except he’s moping about his girl being the problem with him yet “regret” tries to go back into cloudier territory getting in his breakup bag except it’s just very trite. It’s only right that Machine Gun Kelly comes into the picture for “thought it was” talking about losing their minds except Travis’ dreary guitar licks & hi-hats are a lot more tolerable than either vocal performance whereas “sinking” comes through with a psychedelic albeit decent look at depression.

The song “let you” comes through with a pop rock instrumental talking about not looking back at the past while the penultimate track “fallin’” goes into acoustic turf with a shitty Tom Petty interpolation that have him rolling in his grave. “hopeless romantic” then sends the album off on a pop punk note further shoving his inability to love down our throats.

It’s really ironic that this is called on to better things because I happen to look at it as the worst thing that iann has ever done. Internet Money & Travis Barker’s contributions are a lot more detailed & interesting than the rest of the producers that were involved, but it just feels like his own rendition of Neon Shark vs. Pegasus & he manages to fall flatter on his face than Trippie did.

Score: 1.5/5

Dango Forlaine – “Mazmanadium” review

Dango Forlaine is a 26 year old MC from Detroit, Michigan who got his start in the summer of 2018 off his debut EP 95. He has since released 9 more EPs & a full-length debut but coming fresh off his stellar verse on Ty Farris’ latest magnum opus No Cosign Just Cocaine 4 a couple months back, he’s kicking off the new year by dropping his 10th EP & is bringing DJ Swab along to produce the entire thing.

The title track is a jazzy boom bap opener spitting that divine real whereas “The Ambassador” gets on some grimy hardcore shit. Ronnie Alpha tags along for the symphonic “Get It Up” talking about how they can’t slow down leading into the dramatic “25 Jefferson”, where A-Minus & Nappi Dev come into the picture to compare themselves to hustlers.

Meanwhile on “Blood Claat Ting”, we have Falcon Outlaw joining Dango on top of a guitar & some popping drums getting ready to go to war while the song “Night Owls” with Miskeen Haleem works in a crooning vocal sample going at those who think they’re better than them. The penultimate track “Crime of Passion” with John Jigg$ has a bluesy quality to it keeping the battle raps going & “In the Flesh” finishes it off in boom bap turf with a brief yet fiery verse that later transitions into some turntablism.

Now I’ve been following this guy for a little over a year now in thanks to my good friend/Middle Finger Music co-founder Pat Deegan & I definitely think Mazmanadium has to be one of my favorite projects that Dango has made so far. His pen-game’s continuing to sharpen up & DJ Swab’s production is great. However, I feel like the features are a little bit too much.

Score: 3.5/5

Maez301 – “Hello, Goodbye.” review

Maez301 is a 28 year old rapper from Gaithersburg, Maryland that first got his start in 2017 with his debut mixtape Nowhere. The project eventually caught the attention of Ervin Pope & Jerome Taylor, both of whom helped Maez get a record contract with Strange Music the following year & dropped his eponymous full-length debut showing Strange fans who he is artistically a little bit after his 26th born day. The sophomore effort HASAAN took a more personal tone to it & now that he’s home from the Strange New World Tour, Maez is keeping EP behind the boards for his 3rd album.

The title track has some gospel qualities to it telling listeners to be ready when he goes whereas “Let Up” with Tech N9ne is a west coast-tinged banger talking about never slowing down. “First Place” goes into cloudy, trap territory striving for victory & “Black” has to be one of the best songs of his career thus far detailing issues that’re very much relevant today on top of a bluesy instrumental.

Meanwhile on “Frenemies”, we have King Iso joining Maez on top of an acoustic guitar as well as a flute & some snares addressing trust issues leading into “Olsen Twins” serving as a romantically lush trap banger. After the “Different” interlude, “Fallen” is a downtrodden cut cussing out those who wanna see him fail just before “Inspire Me” tells his lover how much she means to him & the beat kinda reminds me of DJ Mustard for whatever reason.

Jehry Robinson tags along for the ethereal “Strange Flows” talking about hoes, but then “Slow Down” keeps the cloud rap vibes going by trying to steal a girl fed up with fuckboys. “Girlfriend” is a smooth dedication to his new sweetheart whereas “Lot on My Plate” has a bit of a cavernous feel to it venting about people hating him because he did it his way.

“Nun 2 Me” is a more spacious cut saying it ain’t shit to him while the song “What a Life” follows it up with a high-spirited bop about how blessed he is. The penultimate track “Ecstasy” psychedelically encourages listeners to live in the moment & “No Limit” rounds it all off has this sparkling quality to the beat talking about taking things as high as possible.

If you liked how Maez introduced the world to who he is artistically & personally on the last 2 albums as much as I did, then I HIGHLY encourage you to check this new one out as soon as you can because he really outdoes himself this time. I always appreciate when one tries to expand themselves artistically & that’s EXACTLY what he does with EP on here successfully.

Score: 4/5

Cordae – “From a Bird’s Eye View” review

Cordae is 23 year old MC from Suitland, Maryland that came up as a member of the YBN collective just a few years ago. He first came on my radar with “Old N****s”, an immensely well written response to “1985”, which was one of the better tracks that J. Cole’s 5th album K.O.D. had to offer. That single alone earned Cordae a HUGE co-sign from none other than Dr. Dre as well as a deal with Atlantic Records, where he put out a potential showing debut The Lost Boy the following summer right after his 2019 XXL Freshman Class placement. But after dropping a prelude EP Just Until….. over the spring, Cordae’s finally back with his 2nd full-length.

After the “Shiloh’s Intro”, the first song “Jean Michel” sets it off with a rich boom bap instrumental & Cordae providing listeners with introspection whereas ”Super” has a soulful trap vibe boasting his success. “Momma’s Hood” has a more woozier vibe to it talking about driving down his mother’s old stomping grounds in a Jeep just before “Want From Me” goes into a more psychedelic direction with the help of Dem Jointz & Jake One asking this girl what more does she want from him. Meanwhile on “Today”, we have a unique trap beat from Kid Culture as none other than Gunna tags along with Cordae to talk about grinding & dismissing bullshit leading into “Shiloh’s Interlude”.

Following that, “C Carter” instrumentally has a west coast feel to it reminding listeners that he’s arrived & then Lil Wayne comes in for the Hit-Boy produced “Sinister” going at anyone who chooses to go bar-to-bar against them. Boi-1da takes it into acoustic trap territory for the H.E.R./Lil Durk-assisted “Chronicles” talking about not being sure where their hearts are headed while “Champagne Glasses” with Freddie Gibbs finds them on top of a spacious beat detailing conversations being complicated these days.

The song “Westlake High” works in a soul sample apologizing for his mistakes as well as shouting out his loved ones while the penultimate track “Parables” finds him & Eminem talking about on top of a twangy boom bap instrumental from Cardiak. “Gifted” with Roddy Ricch then ends the album with the 2 going back & forth with each other telling the world how blessed both of them are over a moody Bongo instrumental.

Compared to The Lost Boy, I think From a Bird’s Eye View happens to be a slightly better yet very much enjoyable follow-up. His production choices have gotten better & lyrically, it seems to me that he’s detailing a lot more of his life than he did 2 & a half years back.

Score: 3.5/5

Earl Sweatshirt – “Sick!” review

Earl Sweatshirt is a 27 year old MC/producer from Los Angeles, California who began his career in 2008 under the name Sly Tendencies. He posted a handful of tracks for a mixtape called Kitchen Cutlery on MySpace, but the tape would never be released to this day. Then he formed a rap trio with 2 of his friends called The Backpackerz & planned to release a mixtape together by the name of World Playground, but they disbanded sometime in 2009. Shortly after, he joined Odd Future & appeared on their 2nd & final mixtape Radical that May. 10 months later, he put out his only mixtape to date Earl with OF’s de facto leader Tyler, The Creator producing a bulk of it. The tape received a lot of buzz, but Earl’s mother would send him to a therapeutic retreat school for at-risk boys in Samoa sometime after until February of 2012. He was then granted his own Columbia Records imprint Tan Cressida Records & released his full-length debut Doris in 2013 to critical acclaim for his clever rhyme schemes & the gritty production from those such as The Neptunes & even the RZA. He then formed the duo Hog Slaughta Boyz with OF affiliate Na’kel at the beginning of 2015 & released his sophomore album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside a couple months after. Many of which consider to be better than Doris for it’s darker aesthetic. Some Rap Songs not only wound up being my favorite album of 2018, but also the best work of Earl’s career as I look at it as the bastard child of one of my all-time favorites album: Madvillainy. But after dropping a small handful of average SRS leftovers in the form of Feet of Clay the year after through an ongoing Warner Records distribution deal, he’s returning from the shadows with his 4th full-length.

“Old Friend” kicks off the album with a bare orchestral loop from The Alchemist cryptically addressing someone he’s still cool with whereas “2010” has a cloudy trap vibe with the help of Black Noi$e talking about the days when he was hungry. The title track has a more fuzzier tone produced by Navy Blue saying he won’t let the devil in just before ZeelooperZ tags along for the extravagant “Vision”. Meanwhile on “Tabula Rasa”, we have Armand Hammer joining Earl in discussing the blank slate theory on top of some plinky piano chords & a vocal chop just before “Lyre” talks about making it straight over some horns.

“Lobby” gets on some grim trap shit detailing being a superhuman while the song “God Laughs” has a atmospheric yet drumless feel to it talking about searching for his lost halo. The penultimate track “Titanic” is an abstract trap banger showcasing some clever bars such as “Get ghost like I need a killer”, but then “Fire in the Hole” ends the album by working in a guitar talking about how he needed another go.

Given how mid Feet of Clay was, it didn’t really worry me going into Sick! because I knew he was gonna expand on the experimental sounds of Some Rap Songs & that just so happens to be the case here. Another thing that makes the album highly enjoyable for me is him telling the world how he’s been dealing with the pandemic.

Score: 4.5/5

Rigz – “Gold” review

Rigz is a 30 year old MC from Rochester, New York who came up as a member of Da Cloth. He eventually broke out solo in 2017 off his debut EP Calculated & then the debut mixtape I Got Samples, which was followed up with a sequel tape & then his 2nd EP A Piece of the Action. However, Rigz’ popularity began to grow in 2019 off his Chup-produced 3rd mixtape Roach Gutta Slums & then the Big Ghost Ltd. produced collab effort with fellow Cloth member Mooch called The Only Way Out. Then he brought in Futurewave to produce his full-length debut Substance Abuse to universal acclaim & now after coming fresh off the sophomore effort Wake Ups that came out over the summer, DJ Muggs is coming in the picture to produce Rigz’ highly anticipated 3rd album.

After the “Gold Standard” intro, the title track with Mooch sets off the whole album by talking about how all they need is a brick over a morbid instrumental whereas “Every Season” with Rob Gates finds the pair on some spectral boom bap shit going at those who’re only tough in their heads. “Supreme” weaves in some keyboards & dusty drums talking about keeping 10 toes down just before Meyhem Lauren tags along for gritty drug dealer’s anthem “Cook Off”. Meanwhile on “What We Got”, we have Rigz on top of a beat kin to Wu-Tang Forever era RZA just giving the listeners who he is leading into the Rome Streetz-assisted “Heads on the Wall” talking about keeping their foots on cats’ necks on top of some luxurious piano chords & sputtering drums.

Mooch returns for the bare soul sample-laced “Where Ya Soul At?” speaking on turning the streets to their home, but then “Fool’s Gold” works in an enticing vocal loop going into battle rap territory. “24 Karats” goes back into drumless turf expressing his desire for a fortune while Big Twins comes into the picture for the forlorn “We Want In” talking about riding for their respective cliques.

The guitars on “Eastside Blues” are a nice change of pace sonically reminding that you can’t change where you came from & they carry their way over to “Crack the Code”, where Times Change jumps in to talk about how masterful they are. After the “Balance” interlude, the final “Never Met a Real Gangsta” with M.A.V. sees the 2 on top of some strings telling listeners all the G’s they know wound up not wanting be involved with crime anymore & then “The Culture” ends it with a spoken word piece.

It’s been a long time coming & I’m glad it finally came because this would be an excellent entry point for those who’re aren’t already familiar with Rigz or Da Cloth as a whole really. He continues to reveal himself as the sharpest lyricist of the crew even though I got love for all the members & Muggs’ production is as equally superb as Futurewave’s was on Substance Abuse a little over a year back.

Score: 4.5/5

The Musalini – “The Don & Eye” review

The Musalini is a 34 year old MC from New York City who’s been making noise in the underground since 2018 after dropping his debut mixtape Musalini Season. He would go on to release 3 full-lengths & 1 more tape before signing to TCF Music Group, where he’s made himself home since then by dropping a couple EPs & Return of the Oro in the early part of this decade. But to follow up his 38 Spesh-produced 3rd EP In God We Trust that came out over the fall, he’s enlisting 9th Wonder behind the boards throughout his 5th album right here.

Planet Asia tags along for the charming opener “Summer League” spitting that fly shit on top of a guitar whereas “Skyview” has a more rich, boom bap quality to it talking about how he still gets around. “Been a Minute” goes into a more calmer route telling his lover that he ain’t like other guys, but then “Paid in Full” works in an incredible jazz sample talking about how even the blind can see the whole different sequence.

Meanwhile on “Don Music”, we have 38 Spesh joining Mus on top of some horns of course getting in their mafioso bag leading into the soulful “Cat Daddy” talking about the girl he sees in his dreams being all on him now. “Deja Vu” is a cool little anthem detailing that nobody can stop his crew just before “Sun Child” has a more drumless feel to it talking about how he’s that dude.

The song “Tunnel Vision” with Izzy Hott incorporates some strings taking aim at those who tried to break them down while the penultimate track “Miami Vice” with Ice Lord mixes a vocal loop with some keyboards to spit that braggadocio. And to round it out, King Draft & Swank come into the picture for “Sincerely” once again going into jazz territory to remind listeners they spit the shit they do because they live it.

For all the readers out there who’re fans of both parties, then you’re gonna absolutely be enamored by this album. The features at the back end of it can be hit or miss & a few of the songs could’ve been more fully fleshed out in my opinion but nonetheless, 9th cooks the best production of any Mus project & the latter scorches everything in his path lyrically.

Score: 4/5