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

Conway the Machine – “If It Bleeds, It Can Be Killed” review

This is the brand new project from Buffalo emcee Conway the Machine. I really shouldn’t have to explain who he is at this point not just because I’ve been covering the whole Griselda camp quite a bit throughout these past few years, but just the way they have been dominating hip hop since late 2015 balancing quantity & quality by dropping a handful of dope projects a year. But 2020 was undoubtedly Conway’s most prolific year yet, dropping a total of 2 EPs & a full-length debut that’ve all quickly gone down as some of his best bodies of work yet. But as Conway gears up for his long-awaited Shady Records debut God Don’t Make Mistakes, he’s re-enlisting Big Ghost Ltd. for a sequel to No One Mourns the Wicked entitled If It Bleeds, It Can Be Killed.

After the “Commencement” intro from Lukey Cage, the first song “J Batters” calls to free his homie of the same name over some cinematic string sections whereas the next track “away We Move” talks about going from nothing to performing at Coachella over a soulful beat. The track “Kill All Rats” with Ransom & Rome Streetz finds the trio taking aim at snitches over an occult instrumental while the song “Toast” talks about aiming at fuck boys over a luxurious beat.

The song “Losses to Blessings” talks about the trials & tribulations over a melancholic, jazzy beat while the track “Highly Praised” talks about never falling off over a gospel sample. The song “Sons of Kings” with Knowledge the Pirate sees the 2 getting in their shit-talking bag about over a boom bap beat with some up-tempo keyboard melodies while the penultimate track “Red Beams” talks about wanting all the smoke over a devilish beat. The album ends with “Forever Ago”, where Conway talks about lying to protect his significant other from the truth over some harmonious vocal melodies.

I think If It Bleeds, It Can Be Killed is right on par with No One Mourns the Wicked & brought my excitement for God Don’t Make Mistakes to an all-time high. Conway continues to elevate as the best lyricist in Griselda & on the other end, Big Ghost Ltd. cooks up some of his best production yet.

Score: 4.5/5

K.A.A.N. – “All Praise is Due” review

K.A.A.N. is a 29 year old emcee from Columbia, Maryland known for his speedy flows & conscious lyricism. The man has made a lengthy yet consistent discography for himself in just 6 years with my favorites being Black Blood, Pure Intentions, Subtle Meditation & Requiem for a Dream Deferred. He just dropped Blissful Awareness back in May & exactly 2 months later, K.A.A.N. is surprise dropping his 14th album with Big Ghost Ltd. producing the whole thing.

Things kick off with “Foreword”, where K.A.A.N. talks about how life seems so slow over a luscious boom bap beat. The next song “Elevation” talks about his growth over a moody instrumental while “The Feeling” talks about having the urge that something’s wrong over a beat with some beautiful choir vocals hanging in the back. The track “Manifesto” cautions that the world will feel something that has never been felt before on top of a dreary instrumental while the song “Valley of Kings” talks about keeping his head high over a dim beat.

The track $100K & a Benz” talks about pushing it to the limit over an intoxicating beat. while the song “Sellasie” talks about how he doesn’t know where he’s going over a somewhat jazzy beat. The track “Flight” talks about trying to lead the blind over a reclining instrumental while “Apparations” is an emotional ballad from the heart. The album finishes off with “After Words”, where K.A.A.N. vents about questions that he’s been wanting answers for over a boom bap beat with a well-incorporated violin loop.

Overall, this is one of the best albums K.A.A.N. has ever made without a doubt. He comes through with some of his most captivating bars to date whereas Big Ghost Ltd.‘s production sounds unlike anything in the past & it turns out beautifully.

Score: 4/5

M.A.V. & Rob Gates – “The Dark Side of Nature” review

This is the surprise collaborative album between Rochester emcees M.A.V. & Rob Gates. Both of whom are members of Da Cloth along with Mooch & Rigz, who actually happened to drop their own collab effort with Big Ghost Ltd. production top to bottom late last year called The Only Way Out. Given that, it’s only right for Big Ghost to show off 2 other members of Da Cloth for a full project.

After the “Prelude” intro, the first song “Bad News” opens up about doing what needed to be done over a grimy beat with some rock influences to it whereas the next track “Bloodhounds” gets murderous over a wailing guitar. The song “Said What I Said” talks about how ugly the lives that they’ve lived are on top of an instrumental that sounds like something from a horror flick while the track “Wild Card” angrily paints themselves as mobsters over a melancholic boom bap beat.

The song “Green Light” talks about applying the lesions that they’ve learned throughout the years on top of a somber orchestral loop while the track “Tombstone” talks about engaging in criminal activity over a fuzzy boom bap beat. The song “Left for Dead” with Rigz sonically gets back on the rock side of things as the trio talk about how dudes in their hood don’t play while the track “Said Less, Did More” talks about grinding as over an elegiac piano instrumental.

The song “Authenticated” talks about how their credibility over a hypnotic beat while the penultimate track “By Myself” gives us a glimpse of what it was like for them growing up & I really love the instrumentation gets more layered as the song progresses. The album finishes off with “Smokin’ Aces”, where everyone in Da Cloth gruesomely show us what they’re capable of as a unit for almost 8 minutes.

If you loved The Only Way Out, then you’re gonna enjoy this just as much. Not only because M.A.V. & Rob Gates’ chemistry is just so unique, but Big Ghost Ltd. also continues to show why he’s one of the best producers in hip hop today.

Score: 4/5

Conway the Machine – “No One Mourns the Wicked” review

This is the 7th EP from Buffalo emcee Conway the Machine. In case you don’t know, he‘s been running the underground for the past 5 years as 1/3 of the trio Griselda with Westside Gunn & Benny the Butcher by consistently been putting out 1 modern East Coast classic after another. Earlier this year we saw The Alchemist entirely produce La Maquina’s previous EP LULU & now just a couple months later, Big Ghost Ltd. is getting tapped on for No One Mourns the Wicked.

After the “Family Secrets” intro, we go right into the first song “Dead Flowers”. Where Conway talks about rapping what you live over a menacing guitar lead. The next track “Icon” talks his already established legacy over a demented boom bap beat while the song “Fake Love” with Elcamino sees the 2 talking about deceivers over an instrumental with these ghostly vocals hanging in the background. The track “Shark Guts” looks back at all the accomplishments of his career up to this point over a soul sample & even though Conway’s vocals slowed down for whatever reason, it works.

The song “Bricks to Mural” talks about how he’s eating now over a dusty boom bap beat & after the braggadocious “Rich” interlude, the penultimate track “S.D.L.N. (Streets Don’t Love Nobody)” vividly paints how it’s cold the hood can be over some bleak piano chords. The EP finishes off with “Sicarios”, where Conway & Flee Lord get together to talk about being hitmen over a boom bap/rock fusion.

If you loved the Griselda Ghost EP that Hall ‘N Nash dropped about 5 years ago, then I really don’t see why you wouldn’t like this as well. It literally sounds just as gruesome from Conway’s lyrics all the way down to Big Ghost’s production & both parties show why they’re currently the top dogs of the underground.

Score: 4.5/5