Bronze Nazareth – “Ekphrasis” review

This is the 4th full-length album from Grand Rapids emcee/producer Bronze Nazareth. Coming up as a member of the group Wisemen alongside his late brother Kevlaar 7 & eventually the Wu-Tang Clan’s in-house production team the Wu-Elements, he would also go on to build a solo career for himself beginning with The Great Migration in ‘06 & then School for the Blindman only 5 years later. But after returning from a decade-long hiatus at the end of January by enlisting The 4 Owls’ very own Leaf Dog to produce Bundle Raps from front to back, Bronze is already kicking off the 4th quarter of 2021 by dropping a follow-up produced entirely by New York titan Roc Marciano.

After the “Proem” intro, the first song “Crazy Horse” starts the album off with a little bit of a jazzy quality to it speaking of something in his spirit burning whereas “The Precipice” takes a grimier route saying you can bet them on the cliff. Skyzoo tags along with Brizz Rawsteen & Termanology on the synth-laced “Brass Jehova” to get on their battle shit but after the “Refocus” skit, the vocal sample that “Survivor’s Vow” is entrancing as fuck saying he has to live it up.

After the “Kevlaar” interlude, Fashawn comes into the picture for the bluesy “Fanta 6” to impressively spit back & forth with Bronze while the track “Kettle Black” with Lord Jessiah brings in a violin addressing elevation. The penultimate song “Papayas ’21” with Roc Marciano & Killah Priest finds the trio on some dusty hardcore shit & just before the “Epilogue” outro, I think “Nosebleeds” with Boldy James serves as the true closer opening up about growing up in Detroit with it’s folksy sample.

As much as I fucked with Bundle Raps, I think it’s safe to say that Ekphrasis is just a tad bit better. Marci’s sample-based production is ever so pleasing to the ear & lyrically, this could very well be the best that Bronze has ever sounded.

Score: 4/5

Recognize Ali – “Season of the 7” review

Recognize Ali is a Ghanaian emcee who’s been shaking up the underground for the past several years now off projects like Back 2 Mecca, The Shining, I.S.L.A.M. (I Self Lord And Master) & Guerilla Dynasty. Dude’s previous effort Recognition just dropped back in August & for his 9th full-length outing, Ali has enlisted Bronze Nazareth of the Wu-Elements to produce the whole thing from front to back.

After the “Motown Connection” intro, the first actual song “God Aura” incorporates some horns as Ali spits about the champ being here whereas “Hand Count the Cake” is a dope money ode & the vocal loop was well-picked out. The orchestral-tinged “Tear Drops in the Sky” connects with his Dueling Experts cohort Verbal Kent alongside former Army of the Pharaohs member King Magnetic to rap about catching bodies while “Street Gospel” is a soulful tune about “bringing Terror to your Squad like Big Pun”.

After the “Knew Legends” skit, the song “Silver Spear Promise” seems like a homage to the iconic Jay Electronica joint “Exhibit C” from some of Ali’s rhyme schemes down to the sample of “Cross My Heart” by Billy Stewart while the gospel-tinged “Olympic Gold Medalists” taps in TriState & Willie the Kid to get on the spiritual side of things lyrically.

After the “Find It in Him” skit, the title track has a plinky piano loop throughout with lyrics about greatness whereas “How Many Times” finds Bronze hopping on the mic with Ali as the 2 pondering about a number of things on top of an elegant beat.

“Rivers in the Basement of Truth” taps in Napoleon da Legend & Lord Jessiah to spit the battle bars over a piano & some vocal harmonies while the track “How We Roll” brings in a boom bap beat with some harmonization in the background as Ali spits about being on the corner until the AM. I also like the Money Miz shoutout at the end of the first verse as well.

“Camouflage Dons” is a cool homage to the Wu-Tang Clan & the Killa Beez as Ali jumps on an instrumental that has the Wu sound alongside Dom Pachino & before the “Outro to Detroit” outro that finishes off the album, “The Grind” is a symphonic coda about his hustle.

In my opinion, this is one of the best albums that Recognize Ali has ever done. Dude continues to further demonstrate as to why he’s one of the most thought-provoking MCs to emerge from the underground in recent years & Bronze Nazareth comes correct on the production per usual.

Score: 4/5

Bronze Nazareth – “Bundle Raps” review

Bronze Nazareth is a 41 year old MC/producer from Detroit, Michigan who started out as a member of the group Wisemen alongside his late brother Kevlaar 7 & later became a member of the Wu-Elements, the in-house production team for the almighty Wu-Tang Clan. He also has 2 solo albums under belt with The Great Migration & School for the Blindman but after a little over 7 years, Bronze is ready to hop back on the mic in a full-length capacity & has enlisted Leaf Dog of The 4 Owls to produce it from front to back.

After the “Think Carefully” intro, the first song “Theatre Speak” talks about striving for perfection over some foreboding string sections whereas the next track “It’s On” with Leaf Dog finds the 2 getting cocky over a bare sample of Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s “If This World Were Mine”. The song “Madman” with Recognize Ali sees the 2 talking about trying to make it out the ghetto over a high-pitched vocal sample & ominous horns then after the “Wise Wakening” interlude, “The War on Us” gets conscious over a twangy beat.

The song “Lisbon Dinners” gets on the mafioso side of things over a funky instrumental with some wind-blowing samples & after the “Burnt Leaf” interlude, the track “Get It Myself” talks about hustling on his own over a boom bap beat with some triumphant horns. The song “Lyrical Wars” with BVA & Leaf Dog finds the trio challenging their opposition over an instrumental kin to Wu-Tang Forever while “The Deranged” is a full-blown Wisemen reunion talking about how it only takes 1 shot to leave your clothes stained in blood over a weepy beat.

The track “Grime Lords” with June Megalodon sees the 2 declaring themselves as such over a fuzzy instrumental with some vinyl cracking while the song “J My Man!” talks about being ruthless over some thunderous drums. Then before finishing off with the “No Turning Back” outro, the final song “The Immaculate” boasts his prowess about over a boom bap beat with some trumpets.

I was wondering when or if Bronze would drop another solo album, but I’m glad he did because this is a dope body of work. His lyricism is still as good as his production-skills & then Leaf Dog on the other hand continues to remind listeners that he’s one of the best producers the UK has to offer.

Score: 3.5/5

KXNG CROOKED – “Gravitas” review

 

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KXNG CROOKED is a West Coast veteran from Long Beach, California that got his start signing to the infamous Death Row Records in the early 2000’s. Eventually, he left the label in 2004 after they shelved his debut & released a handful of mixtapes that helped grow his profile. This was enhanced by his membership in the now defunct supergroup Slaughterhouse, who would go onto release their 2009 self-titled debut with E1 Music as well as their 2012 sophomore album welcome to: OUR HOUSE with Shady Records before imploding on themselves in 2015. He has gone on to release 4 studio albums since then & for this new one, Bronze Nazareth has been enlisted to produce it in it’s entirety.

The “Emperor’s Arrival” intro finds Crook comparing himself to royalty over some triumphant horns while the next song “Outer Limits” with Hus Kingpin & Killah Priest sees 3 flexing their pen-game over a grimy boom bap beat. The track “From Slavechains to Handcuffs” with Bishop Lamont, Compton Menance & Ras Kass sees the 4 getting conscious over a boom bap over an alluring sample & after the “Still” interlude, the song “I Can Still Remember…” talks about the struggles of the hood over an orchestral instrumental with an intense drum loop. The track “Westside Willie” with P.U.R.E. & Planet Asia sees the 3 interpolating the 1999 Nas joint “Hate Me Now” over an instrumental that enhances the overall charisma while the song ” Change Ur Beliefs” with Bronze & the late Kevlaar 7 sees the 3 getting triumphant over a blissful beat.

After the  “Precious Moments” interlude with Snoop Dogg, the song “French Connection” with Bronze, La the Darkman & TriState sees the 4 getting mafioso over a vintage soul sample. The track “Soul Drenched” talks about having his 3rd eye open over a soulful beat & then after the “Get Me Rich” outro, we are treated to 3 decent remixes to 3 different songs that’ve been previously released. First one being Ghostface Killah’s “Buckingham Palace” off that Lost Tapes album he did with Big Ghost Ltd. that came out last October, second one being “King Kong” off of Forever MC’s self-titled compilation with It’s Different from last March & then “Fresh from the Morgue” off of Bronze’s 2011 sophomore album School for the Blindman.

This is a solid effort from Crook overall. There’s way too many features & I can do without the remixes, but Crook reaffirms his status as of the illest MCs to come out of the LBC whereas Bronze Nazareth accompanies him with rich & colorful production.

Score: 3.5/5