38 Spesh – “Beyond Belief” review

This is the 4th EP from Rochester emcee/producer 38 Spesh. Notable for being the leader of the Trust Army, he’s been steadily busy throughout the last few years whether it be him producing projects for the likes of Planet Asia & Elcamino. He’s also built up an impressive solo discography for himself with my favorites being the Big Ghost Ltd.-produced A Bullet for Every Heathen & even his last full-length Interstate 38 a couple Christmases ago. But to follow-up 7 Shots almost 3 months ago, Spesh is enlisting Harry Fraud to fully produce Beyond Belief.

“Warm Winter” is a rap rock opener with Spesh talking about flying out to Hawaii with a bunch of bitches in December whereas “Speshal” works in more guitars as Stove God Cook$ comes into the picture following his immaculate feature on “Shootouts in Soho” off Westside Gunn’s latest mixtape Hitler Wears Hermes X to help Spesh deliver an ode to the drug dealing lifestyle. “2 23’s” has more symphonic boom bap quality to it as Conway the Machine drops the best feature verse with it’s insane rhyme scheme & Spesh talking about never stressed visits when he was locked up. “Loverboy” acknowledges that he was living exceptional behind bars, but then “Back to Shore” with Elcamino & Wiz Khalifa is an impassioning ballad about the road to riches.

Following that on “Target Practice”, we have Jim Jones & Spesh over more rock guitars talking about pulling up to your show with backstage passes until “Band of Brothers” with Benny the Butcher & Ransom finds the trio saying they came together similar to how The Jackson 5 did & the string sections throughout the beat are just absolutely fucking stunning. The song “Sal’s Pizza” has a cool vocal sample before the verses as Spesh hops on top of some pianos & guitars confessing he moved out of Rochester because home is where you receive the worst hate while “Mint Green” with Curren$y has a more chilling quality to it calling out those who were never them dudes. “Sharlene” though ends the EP chipmunk soul style talking about chasing big money ever since he first realized what it was.

For this to be the first EP he’s done outside of the Shots trilogy, it’s gotta be my favorite one he’s done so far & absolutely a highlight on his solo catalogue. Harry’s production has a predominant boom bap sound with some chipmunk soul & drumless undertones, the features all bring their unique styles to the table excellently with Spesh ensuring that people don’t sleep on him lyrically.

Score: 4.5/5

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Black Soprano Family Records & TCF Music Group – “Trust the Sopranos” review

This is a brand new collaborative compilation between New York independent hip hop labels Black Soprano Family Records & T.C.F. Music Group. One operates as an E1 Music imprint owned by Benny the Butcher & the latter being founded by 38 Spesh. The pair have been working together for a long time now (case in point: Stabbed & Shot), so it only makes sense for them to bring their crews together for Trust the Sopranos.

The opener “Immunity” by Benny & Elcamino kicks off with a succulent instrumental from Rick Hyde as the 2 go on about having their block under control, but then the Camino solo cut “Corner” is a horrendously sung R&B ballad despite the luscious 38 Spesh production. We later have Che Noir, Klass Murda & Ransom detailing their lifestyles on the angelic “Price of Fame” before the latter teams up with Benny to talk about fake people on the piano-laced “Spineless”. Ampichino & Spesh come together to talk about their lives being like a movie for the victorious “Tokyo Drift” whereas the Heem solo cut “Long Story Short” is him jumping on alluring boom bap beat saying that he’s about to take shit over.

Ricky accompanies Heem on the cinematic “Load Up” to talk about their homies mobbin’ while the song “Love Left” by Benny, Che Noir & Klass Murda is a smooth heartbreak anthem. The penultimate track “Blue Money” by Benny, Elcamino & 38 Spesh finds the trio talking about getting it out the mud over an organ-laced instrumental from the late DJ Shay whereas the closer “Silent Death” by Chase Fetti & Rick Hyde is an airy ode to murder.

It was only a matter of time both labels would come together given their intertwining history & the end result is pretty decent. Benny & Spesh always bounced off each other well on projects like Stabbed & Shot and the Cocaine Cowboys duology, but the TCF artists (i.e. Ransom & Che Noir) outperform the BSF signees throughout the half-hour.

Score: 3/5

38 Spesh – “Interstate 38” review

38 Spesh is a 35 year old MC/producer from Rochester, New York known for being the leader of the Trust Army. He’s been steadily busy throughout the last few years whether it be him producing projects for the likes of Planet Asia & Elcamino or his own solo output. But to cap off 2020, Spesh is back with his 4th full-length album.

The opener “I-38” talks about how he’s just getting started over a nightly instrumental from STREETRUNNER whereas the next song “Interstate” with Che Noir finds the 2 talking about getting rich off the road together over a somewhat funky beat from Spesh himself. The track “Toll Booth” with Ransom sees the 2 talking about never switching up on the gang over an instrumental kin to Wu-Tang Forever-era RZA while the song “Stash Box” with Benny the Butcher finds the 2 on their drug dealing shit over a grand beat.

The track “Road Back” talks about treating this woman like she’s one of his over a lush instrumental while the song “Route 38” talks about how you ain’t man if you ain’t taking care of your family over a jazzy beat from Buckwild. The track “Investment Pieces” talks about not rocking ice over a luxurious instrumental provided by The Heatmakerz while the song “Money Calling” talks about wealth over a demonic beat.

“The Mule” with Dini is a lust tune with a decent instrumental & a horrendous execution while the penultimate track “Under the Table” talks about having a metaphoric relationship with his kitchen table over a drumless horn loop. The album ends with “Made It Home”, where Spesh talks about being blessed now over a soulful beat.

Even though I think A Bullet for a Heathen is his best work, this is still a dope follow-up. I like how he brought in more outside producers into the fold so he can remind listeners of his skills as a spitter too.

Score: 3.5/5

Flee Lord – “Loyalty & Trust 2” review

This is the 11th EP from Queensbridge emcee Flee Lord. Coming up as a protege of the late Prodigy, he eventually became a force to be reckoned with in the underground. But 2020 has proven to be Flee’s most prolific year yet, dropping a new project every month since February. And to make up for not dropping in January, he’s reuniting with 38 Spesh for a sequel to Loyalty & Trust before dropping Pray for the Evil 2 next week.

The EP kicks off with “5 on Us”, where Flee talks about doing it for his kids over a boom bap beat with menacing piano loop. The next song “Lords & Gods” with the late Fred the Godson sees the 2 talking about building an empire over an eerie instrumental while the track “2 Pics on My Gram” talks about how he isn’t gonna be missing anymore over a beat with some kids singing in the background. The song “Aunty” talks about cooking coke over an instrumental that sounds like something RZA would’ve made in the late-90’s while the track “Weird Time” talks about how “cats kill mice, but the dog kill cat” over a boom bap beat with an nice orchestral sample.

The song “Still Trapped” talks about how he thought he wanted out of the dope game over a bleak instrumental while the track “Motivate tha Real” is a touching dedication to Fred the Godson. The penultimate track with Che Noir is a fantastically cold-blooded sequel to “Both Views” off the original Loyalty & Death whereas the titular outro that finishes the EP off talks about how fucking with him will get your melon banged over a sorrowful boom bap beat.

Flee Lord has yet again come through with another stellar project. He continues to reveal himself as one of the most ferocious lyricists out of New York today with each passing month & 38 Spesh’s production on here compliment his gritty bars just as much as it did on the predecessor.

Score: 4/5

Planet Asia – “Trust the Chain” review

This is the latest full-length album from Fresno veteran Planet Asia. Starting off as a member of the duo Cali Agents, he would go on to have a very successful solo career & has made a lengthy yet consistent discography for himself. Including albums such as The Grand Opening, The Medicine, Pain Language, Abrasions & Anchovies. And to kick off his 2020, Rochester’s very own 38 Spesh is being enlisted to produce Trust the Chain in it’s entirety.

The album kicks off with “Body After Body”, where Asia reclaims his prowess over a triumphant beat. The next song “Resurrect Pharaohs” with The Musalini sees the 2 talking about how superior they are to their opponents over a suspenseful beat while the track “Mystery School” talks about running the game over a colorful soul sample. The song “God Degree” is filled with knowledge backed by an atmospheric beat & while the track “Passport Player” has some dope mob-bars over a boom bap beat with a luxurious piano lead, the hook is horrendous.

The song “Snake Charmer” talks about pushing drugs over a prominently icy flute lead while the track “Learned from OGs” with Elcamino & Fred the Godson sees the 3 showing love to those who came before them over a boom bap beat with an incredible orchestral loop. The song “Tec & a Mink” talks about how hard it is to be a good dude over a melancholic instrumental while the penultimate track “Juggernauts” talks about his crew shining over a victorious beat. The album finishes off with “Wintertime”, where Asia reflects on his childhood over a euphoric instrumental.

Personally, I find this to be one of Planet Asia’s best efforts yet. Could’ve been a bit longer as it only only runs for a half hour but in that short amount of time, he quickly reminds us of his place in the culture as a west coast legend with a ferocious pen-game & 38 Spesh backing him up with some very rich & grand production.

Score: 4/5

Elcamino – “Martyr’s Prayer” review

This is the brand new EP from Buffalo, New York emcee Elcamino. First time I listened to him was in November 2017 when he dropped his self-titled EP with Griselda Records. This was followed up by his Walking on Water mixtape in the summer of 2018 & last year alone, he dropped 2 studio albums & a few EPs. However to ring in the new year, he’s dropping off the 38 Spesh-produced Martyr’s Prayer.

After the titular intro, the first song “Legal Money” shows off his riches over a spooky instrumental whereas “Flowers” finds Camino aspiring to be respected while he’s alive over a calming beat. The track “Street Signs” talks about how he would’ve died for his block over a boom bap beat & after the “Martyr’s Speech” skit, the song “Young Lordz” talks about coming a long way from the hood over a blissful boom bap beat. The track “Get Hi Too” is a short yet effective stoner anthem with a mellow instrumental & before the outro, the final song “2K20” with Che Noir sees the 2 flexing over an impeccable BADBADNOTGOOD sample.

Compared to Elcamino’s last 2 projects that he dropped this past fall, this is a big step-up. I feel like it could’ve been more fleshed out since every single cut is under 3 minutes but nonetheless, Spesh cooks up some of his best production & the pen-game has improved also. Looking forward to see what else he does this year.

Score: 4/5

Flee Lord – “Loyalty & Trust” review

Flee Lord is a 36 year old rapper from New York that first came up in 2017 with the release of his debut EP Loyalty of Death: Lord Talk, which was followed up last year with his debut album I Want Out & his 2nd EP Loyalty of Death: Lord Talk 2. He just released his sophomore album Gets Greater Later this March & now just 3 months after his debut mixtape Later is Now, he’s continuing his hustle with a 9-track project as well as 38 Spesh producing it in it’s entirety.

The titular intro sees Flee pours his heart out over a boom bap beat that suits the vibe & then the next song “Contract Plus a Bag” with RJ Payne & Grafh pretty much speaks for itself over an amazing BADBADNOTGOOD sample. The track “Both Views” with Che Noir gets romantic over a smooth instrumental while the song “Kitchen Talk” of course gets on the drug dealing tip over a minimalist beat.

After the 20 second spoken word piece from Benny the Butcher, we go into the song “Perfect Plate”. Where Flee & Spesh get mafioso over a somewhat psychedelic boom bap beat. The track “Hoody Flee” is filled with gritty street bars over an alluring boom bap beat & while the song “Not for Fashion” with Termanology sees the 2 getting into some vivid storytelling, the instrumental on here might be the weakest on the entire project. The tape then ends with the titular outro, where Flee talks about his success over a haunting beat.

Despite the brevity of this project, it’s easily Flee’s magnum opus thus far. His lyricism is getting sharper & the production that 38 Spesh brings to the table is some of his best yet.

Score: 4/5

38 Spesh & Kool G Rap – “Son of G Rap” review

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Just a few months after the release of the Stabbed & Shot collab EP with Griselda Records’ very own Benny, Rochester MC/producer .38 Spesh is now teaming up with the legendary Kool G Rap for a full-length collab album.

After the intro, we go into the first song “Upstate to Queens”. Here, the 2 get confrontational over a soul sample. The track “Land Mind” is the first of 5 without G Rap, but Ransom fills in for him & they both spit about their closets being filled with fabrics as well as their skills over this somber Alchemist beat. The track “Shame” is basically Spesh solely freestyling over the instrumental of the classic G Rap song “It’s a Shame” while “G Heist” sees the 2 reuniting to talk about a robbery over a Daringer beat with a faint soul sample in the background.

While the song “Dead or Alive” with Cormega does see the 3 vividly talking about the street life, the beat is just alright. “The Meeting” is definitely a big improvement though, as the duo talk about making either problems or peace over a grimy DJ Premier beat. The song “Binoculars” is the 3rd without G Rap, as it’s basically .38 Spesh with Benny, N.O.R.E. & Vado talking about drug dealing over a boom bap beat with some eerie strings. The track “Nothin’ Gonna Change” contains more mafioso bars over a decent instrumental as does the song “Bricks at the Pen”, except I feel like the Showbiz instrumental on the latter suits the vibe a lot better.

The track “Flow Gods” with Meyhem Lauren & Freddie Gibbs is a lyrical onslaught with a soulful boom bap beat from Pete Rock while “Heartless” displays their individually compelling storytelling skills over some sinister piano chords. This is also the last song on the entire album to with G Rap on it. The song “Honest Truth” is basically Spesh & AZ “showing cats how to rhyme” over a gloomy beat while the penultimate track “Young 1s” with Che Noir reminisce about growing up over a DJ Premier beat that’s almost as hard as the one he provided earlier. The album then finishes with Spesh freestyling over “Last Name” off of Smoke DZA’s 2016 magnum opus Don’t Smoke Rock about his aborted child.

Wasn’t expecting this around the corner, but it’s pretty solid for the most part. Other than the freestyles being ok & some of the beats being a bit generic, the chemistry between G Rap & .38 Spesh is definitely there on the tracks they appear on together & most of the instrumentals suit them both very well

Score: 3.5/5