Che Noir – “Noir or Never” review

Che Noir is a 28 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. But coming fresh off her sophomore effort Food for Thought & her last EP The Last Remnants, Che’s enlisting Big Ghost Ltd. to fully produce her 6th EP.

After the “Female Rappers” intro, the first song “Resilient” is an intense sample-based opener taking pride in killing wack MCs & proving people wrong every time they spoke on what they thought she wasn’t capable of doing prior to Flee Lord tagging along for the demented boom bap cut “Sleep Paralysis” cautioning to never chill on the weekend. “Quiet Moves” works in some pianos, strings, kicks & snares detailing touching on the power of keeping a secret leading into 7xvethegenius coming into the picture for the grimy “Veracruz” getting in their battle rap bag.

“Cap Locks” featuring Planet Asia sets off the 2nd half of the EP with both MCs on top of a piano instrumental bringing you the hardcore, but then “Low Altitude” opens up about the road she had to travel down to get to where she is today over a calmer boom bap beat. The penultimate track “Brilliance” with Skyzoo touches on brilliant minds being a minority this day in age blending some kicks & snares with a delicate loop leading into “Bad Apples” with Ransom & 38 Spesh coming through with a horn-inflicted closer as the trio talk about their corruptness.

Wasn’t Built in a Day has quickly become my favorite album of 2023 so far since it dropped only a few days ago & Big Ghost just ended the week the way he started it except Noir or Never could very well be my favorite EP of the year as of me writing this review. The production is more consistent than it was on The Last Remnants as one of the best females in the rap game currently continues to ascend on the lyrical front.

Score: 4.5/5

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Rome Streetz – “Wasn’t Built in a Day” review

Rome Streetz is a 36 year old MC from New York who broke out in 2016 off his debut mixtape I Been Thru Mad Shit. This was followed up by a plethora of projects, most notably the Noise Kandy tetralogy & Headcrack. But this current decade is easily his biggest one yet, as he dropped some of the best work of his career from the DJ Muggs-produced Death & the Magician or the Futurewave-produced Razor’s Edge to the Ransom-assisted collab effort Coup de Grâce & the Griselda Records deal that followed. His debut with the Buffalo powerhouse Kiss the Ring came in at the #9 spot on my Best Albums of 2022 list & is now enlisting Big Ghost Ltd. to produce his 8th album.

“Godspeed” is a spine-tingling piano opener with Rome talking about going from having to take a chance to doing shows internationally prior to Conway the Machine tagging along for the boom bap inflicted “Suicide” to acknowledge that both wordssmiths are on the opposite sides of the spectrum compared to anyone who wants to step up to them lyrically. “8Balls” ruggedly sets his eyes on the Ms just before “Gem Drop” works in some keys, kicks & snares justifiably referring to himself as the finest on the mic.

Method Man comes into the picture for the dusty “P’z & Q’z” to explain the policy being putting plenty of bread in their pockets leading into “Royal Flush” weaving a harp into the fold talking about eating gluttonously & trying to stack the money higher than the pearly gates. “Lobsters in Shoreditch” returns to the boom bap as he flexes the fact that he’s a mobster prospering, but then “Dope Stampz” has a more minacious tone sonically talks about being a king & not wanting to be compared to any of these washed motherfuckers.

The penultimate track “Majisty” keeps things dusty as he declares himself as royalty while the closer “Antidote” with Plex Diamonds finds the 2 hooking listeners up with the rap that they all fiending for from the cutthroat lyricism to the raw instrumental. “U Mad Huh?” however truly ends the album with a piano-boom bap laced bonus cut performed by Chyna Streetz as she calls out those envious of being the one that people chose & it happens to be amongst her best songs yet, raising anticipation for a potential full-length debut.

Big Ghost is amongst the most consistent producers in recent memory & Rome Streetz’ technicality is unmatched, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that both of their worlds colliding on Wasn’t Built in a Day would wind up being as much of a match made in heaven as it is. I’ll even argue that it’s an early Album of the Year contender. 35 & a half minutes of the greatest lyricists in the game rapping circles around everyone as the production takes it back to the basement as opposed to Gucci Ghost 2’s diverse range of sounds

Score: 4.5/5

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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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Mickey Diamond – “Gucci Ghost” review

This is the 5th full-length album from up-&-coming Detroit 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 4 albums alongside 5 EPs & & a mixtape. But when it was announced that Big Ghost Ltd. would be jumping behind the boards to lace Gucci Ghost in it’s entirety, I had to check it out considering the fact that the revered underground producer tends to bring the best out of the MC that he links up with.

After the “Crimes of Fashion” intro, the first song “The Invisible Man” sets off the album with Mickey hopping on top of a synth/boom bap instrumental dropping some gruff yet hardcore bars whereas “Vineyards in France” has a more sinister atmosphere to it advising wack rappers to tear up the contracts that they just signed. “Icicles” has a more symphonic flare to it whilst keeping it dusty showing off his ice just before Pro Dillinger & Snotty tag along for the forlorn “Stone Island Shooters” to insult their opposition.

However with “Maurizio’s Ghost”, we have Mickey over some dramatic boom bap production delivering some wig-splitting rhyme schemes for nearly 5 minutes asking what you’d expect while the song “Deluxe Flux” following the “Answer to a Dream” interlude keeps it in the basement as far as sound talking about being more than just an emcee. The penultimate track “GG Buckets” has a more grimier aesthetic to it with it’s blaring beat & Mickey’s lyrics discussing closing the function than opening prior to “Chain Gretzky” is such a perfectly gully finish to the instrumental to the war-ready pen-game.

I’ve already covered a few of the Umbrella collective’s members in the past like Substance810 & Jay Royale, so it was really overdue for me to be to get to one of Mickey’s project & I’m sure as Hell happy that I did because Gucci Ghost just so happens to be is the crown jewel of his discography thus far in my eyes. Lyrically, dude’s the best he’s ever sounded & Big Ghost’s signature boom bap production compliments his gruff style in an impressive fashion.

Score: 4.5/5

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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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Knowledge the Pirate – “Wolves Don’t Eat with Shepherds” review

Knowledge the Pirate is a 40 year old MC from New York City who’s came into the music biz since the 90’s & was discovered by Will Smith’s former bodyguard Charlie Mack. He then signed to Interscope Records for a brief amount of time before leaving the game temporarily & re-emerging in the 2010s as a close Roc Marciano affiliate. His full-length debut Flintlock eventually saw the light of day in the summer of 2018, which was followed up with the sophomore effort Black Cesar as well as the debut EP Family Jewels & his 3rd album Hidden Treasures. But for his 4th full-length outing here, Knowledge is bringing Big Ghost Ltd. into the picture to produce the whole thing.

“Pull Up” is a string-laced opener talking about hopping out on those running their mouths whereas “Devotion” takes a funky, soulful route giving his flowers to all the people who’ve sacrificed a lot out in the streets. “Heavy Crown” shoots for a rawer aesthetic addressing street politics just before “Trenches” is a boom bap heater talking about making a $100k a month.

Meanwhile on “Young n Dumb”, we have Knowledge on top of a crooning sample expressing his desire to be the man in the slums leading into “Russian Sable” is a brooding eye-opener for those who don’t understand the dope game. “The Tombs” is a grisly shot at the people who be talking slick until the real G’s pop out, but then Flee Lord tags along for the guitar-laced “Bad Boys” to declare themselves as such.

“Wolves Eat” returns to the boom bap with some more chopped vocal flips saying he got service while the song “Know God” takes a soulful approach looking back on forming a team to make bread during his adolescence. The penultimate track “Treasure Chest” with Ty Farris finds the 2 over a another guitar-driven beat talking about balling like MJ & Dr. J with “Sweetwater” serving as a bluesy closer advising not to be found floating in the Hudson River.

As much as I’ve enjoyed Knowledge’s work in the past, Wolves Don’t Eat with Shepherds could very well be my favorite of the 4 albums that he’s put out yet. You can never go wrong with Big Ghost Ltd.’s production & lyrically, it really does cemented Knowledge’s status as a wolf in the rap game.

Score: 4.5/5

Conway the Machine – “What Has Been Blessed Cannot Be Cursed” review

This is the 11th EP from Buffalo emcee & entrepreneur Conway the Machine. Blowing up in late 2015 as part of the 3 OGs of Griselda Records alongside his brother Westside Gunn & their cousin Benny the Butcher. Ever since the trio have rose to prominence, they’ve had hip hop lock by their constant work ethic balancing quality & quality as well as vividly detailing their lives in the streets on top of boom bap production kin to that of RZA & Havoc in their music. Con’s full-length debut From King to a God was my Album of the Year for 2020 & just dropped his Shady Records-backed sophomore effort God Don’t Make Mistakes back in February, which is the most personal he’s ever been. He just dropped Organized Grime 2 a few weeks ago & is reuniting with Big Ghost Ltd. for What Has Been Blessed Cannot Be Cursed.

“Salutations” is a grim opener talking about whacking motherfuckers whereas “It’s a Green Light works in a piano & a harp admitting that he’s more confident than ever. “Bodie Broadus” takes a richer albeit drumless route calling out those who waited until he blew up to reach out to him leading into Jae Skeese tagging along for bloodcurdling “In My Soul” talking about people wanting them gone. “Y.B.C.M. (Your Bitch Chose Me)” goes into more soulful territory saying they know the game just before “Why You Ain’t Move on Me?” eerily gets on his murder shit.

Meanwhile on “Sunday Sermon”, we have Conway reuniting with Jae Skeese to go back & forth with each other over yet another soul sample bragging about their legendary status while the song “Scared II Death” with Method Man is a ghoulish boom bap banger taking a shot at those who be afraid of them. The final song “Big Drum” comes through with yet another Drumwork posse cut except he’s showcasing damn new the full roster at this point & “Dog Food” ends the EP with an outro from the skit gawd himself Lukey Cage.

No One Mourns the Wicked & If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed have quickly become some of the best EPs that Con have put out yet, so I had very high hopes going into into What Has Been Blessed Cannot Be Cursed & I’m very satisfied with it. As raw as Organized Grime 2 was, the production from Big Ghost Ltd. is much spookier & Con’s lyricism remains unmatched in today’s hip hop climate.

Score: 4.5/5

Jae Skeese – “Authenticity Check” review

Jae Skeese is a 31 year old MC from Buffalo, New York who first emerged in 2010 off his debut mixtape W.A.C.K. (Women, Alcohol, Cash & Kicks). However, it wasn’t until a decade later where he & 7xvethegenius got their biggest break thus far after the very first signees to Conway the Machine’s very own EMPIRE Distribution imprint Drumwork Music Group. He just dropped his 7th mixtape Revolver Ocelot over the fall & then his 2nd EP Iroquois Pliskin a couple weeks ago, but is now tapping in with Big Ghost Ltd. to produce his 3rd EP from top to bottom.

“Shuttlesworth Form” is a creepy boom bap opener reintroducing himself whereas “Premium Grails” continues to flex his lyrical abilities & the groove of the bass happens to be my favorite part of the instrumental here. “Double Nickel at MSG” takes a more chilling route as far as sound goes talking about big stepping just before “Drip or Drown” works in a guitar & some dusty drums explaining that he’s in over his head.

Meanwhile on “Triple Post Offense”, we have Con & 7xve assisting Jae for a stellar Drumwork posse cut with an interesting vocal sample while the song “Stick-Up” reveals itself to be a perfect ode to muggin’ from the raw beat to the “Gimme the Loot” sample around the 43 second mark. The penultimate track “Vintage Eastbay Pages” encourages listeners to staying committed to making that bread over some vibraphones & “$1.50 wit Tax” admits how crazy his life has been when you really think about it over a shimmering instrumental.

Now for those who loved Jae’s verse on “Drumwork” & you’re looking to get into his music, then I’d recommend starting with Authenticity Check because I happen to look at it as the crown jewel of his discography thus far. In comparison to Iroquois Pliskin he’s at his best lyrically & the production that Big Ghost Ltd. brings to the table is incredibly consistent.

Score: 4.5/5

al.divino – “2 Nights in Marrakesh” review

This is the latest full-length album from Massachusetts emcee/producer al.divino. For the last 4-5 years, the dude has been steadily dropping music ranging from the Dump Gawd: Divino Edition duology to the Futurewave-produced Kataklizm & the DJ Muggs-produced Kilogram. He’s also dropped a total 6 EPs & 2 mixtapes throughout 2021, but they’ve have been either hit or miss unfortunately. That being said though, I was undeniably excited for 2 Nights in Marrakesh given that one of my favorite producers in recent memory Big Ghost Ltd. was lacing the whole thing from front to back.

“Locusts” is a disgustingly ill opener weaving in a bare guitar loop talking about he’s trying to get rich than drunk whereas “Premium Octane” gets on the hustler shit & the jazzy production is super fresh to me. “Aqua Pyro” goes on to tell the listeners to trust what he rights with a fittingly Hellish tone to the instrumental, but then “Derelict Wisdom” talks about wetting up the block & the drumless beat enhances the seriousness of it to me.

Meanwhile on “Fuck the Covenant”, we have al.divino just going in on top of another guitar wailing in the background proclaiming himself as a product of the ghetto leading into the “Alhambra” interlude which has some dope vibraphone embellishments. I like how “Drunken Monk” sounds like something from a blaxploitation chase scene spitting that blick talk just before “Estevanico” brings in some soothing horns calling out those tough talking through cyber space.

The penultimate track “Malevolence” perfectly lives up to it’s name lyrically & the instrumental that Big Ghost brings to the table send chills straight down your spine. “Byzantine Slang” then finishes the album off on a more calmer note sonically wisely & compellingly encouraging to teach the babies.

To me, this is the most consistent divino project I’ve heard since Kilo. My only real complaint about it is that it could’ve used a feature or 2 because it can be a tad bit 1-dimensional as far as the rapping goes, but he really sounds focused & it’s very interesting for Big Ghost to go into a more Moroccan-inspired sound through his production.

Score: 4/5

Ransom – “Heavy’s the Head” review

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.

Score: 4.5/5