Recognize Ali – “Guerilla Dynasty 2” review

This is the 14th full-length album from Ghanan emcee Recognize Ali. This guy has been a dominant force in the underground from his vast discography of LPs, mixtapes & EPs within the last decade or so to the stellar feature performances that he’s provided for numerous artists. Some standouts in his ever-growing catalog to me personally include the Giallo Point-produced Back 2 Mecca, the Stu Bangas-produced Guerilla Dynasty & the Bronze Nazareth-produced Season of the 7 to only name a few. He’s just coming off Back to Mecca II & is reuniting with Stu Bangas to drop Guerilla Dynasty 2.

After the intro, the first song “In a Rebel’s Mind” is an eerie boom bap opener talking about being on another level with the MCin’ whereas “Guerilla Warfare” works in some pianos, kicks & snares getting in his battle rap bag saying he slays rappers for the fun of it. “Put You to Sleep” jumps on top of a boom bap instrumental with a crooning sample claiming none of y’all are realer or iller than him leading into “Pulverized” featuring Lord Goat bringing you the hardcore over some string sections.

“Full Clip” has a futuristic boom bap quality to the beat letting it be known that your whole crew can catch a whole round just before “Get Folded” talks about hating actors that play as rappers with a dingy ass instrumental. “Real Housewives” by the Dueling Experts brings back the pianos aiming to leaving heads backwards whenever this comes on & after the “Che Guerilla” skit, “Sheep’s Clothing” featuring Eff Yoo &Spit Gemz sonically feels like something ripped out of a monster movie as they deliver a catastrophe in the making.

Ali begins the final leg of the album with the intergalactic-leaning boom bap joint “Eat What You Kill” tackling the titular metaphor while “0 Smoke” eerily makes it clear that he’ll start clapping motherfuckers. The track “Murder Was the Case” featuring Boob Bronx & Sage Infinite is a rock/boom bap crossover informing what the case they gave them was that is until the final song “Bearer of Bad News” prior to the outro giving off a scary atmosphere preparin’ y’all for an ass-kicking.

Back to Mecca II in my opinion was Jamal’s best album since Season of the 7 & my expectations were already high going into this but needless to say, Guerilla Dynasty 2 is his finest album of this year as of me writing this because I’m sure he could drop at least 1 or 2 within the next 6 months. The feature performances are mostly ok, but he & Stu Bangas really elevate their chemistry to the next level here building upon what made the previous Guerilla Dynasty as great as it was.

Score: 4/5

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Apathy – “King of Gods. No Second” review

This is the 8th full-length album from revered Connecticut underground MC/producer Apathy. Emerging only 2 decades back as a member of the Demigodz & the Army of the Pharaohs collectives founded by Open Mic & Vinnie Paz respectively, he was also signed to Atlantic Records at one point even though he eventually left due to creative differences. Since then The Alien Tongue has built up quite the solo discography on his own, with my favorites being Honkey Kong! as well as The Widow’s Son & even his last one Where the River Meets the Sea. But a year & a half later, Ap’s enlisting Boston’s very own Stu Bangas to produce King of Gods. No Second from top to bottom.

“The Kingdom of God” is a spine-tingling boom bap opener with Apathy dropping some imperiling hardcore bars whereas “Malediction” with Pharoahe Monch works in a rap rock instrumental talking about being at their breaking points. “Green Olives” has a more ghostly atmosphere to the production with it’s sample referring himself as the only white boy in the hood à la Han Solo just before Jadakiss tags along for the sinister “No Time to Waste” preparing to become homicidal.

Moving on from there with “Cry”, we have Ap providing a genuinely heartfelt motivational anthem advising that one doesn’t have to shed tears leading into Sick Jacken coming into the picture for “Face Down” returning to the boom bap with some trumpets talking about leaving motherfuckers on the pavement. “Disgusting” with Black Thought finds the 2 over a soul sample referring to themselves as the bullies of the block, but then the Esoteric-assisted “Draw Blood” ruggedly gets on their battle rap shit.

The song “1 Man Army” hooks in a unique vocal loop to declare himself as the villain that we were warned about while the penultimate track “MK Ultra” with Celph Titled sees the dynamic duo over a dusty beat wanting to turn bodies to beef stew. “The Devil’s Frequency” with RJ Payne however finishes the album with both MCs over an uncanny instrumental talking about the holy beast watching both of them.

As personal as Apathy’s last album was & the one before being more centered around Freemasonry, what he & Stu Bangas concoct here is a lot more rawer & only serves as yet another reminder of how consistent that The Alien Tongue has always been as it’s yet another standout in his already-impressive discography. He shows he can effortlessly shine alongside an elite class of greats & the production that Stu cooks up is extremely deadly.

Score: 4.5/5

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RJ Payne – “My Life’z a Movie” review

This is the 3rd full-length album from Philly emcee RJ Payne. Coming up in the battle rap circuit under the original moniker Reignman, he would go on to build up an extensive solo catalogue for himself with 23 mixtapes as well as well as 6 EPs & of course his last 2 albums.Benny the Butcher even signed RJ to Black Soprano Family Records for a brief period of time, putting out some of best material like Leatherface & Square Root of a Kilo under Benny’s ever-growing indie label of his own. But to follow-up If Cocaine Could Talk 7 & Blood on My Chainsaw from the beginning of the year, RJ’s enlisting Stu Bangas to produce My Life’z a Movie in it’s entirety.

After the “Home Sweet Home” intro, the first song “Central Park Vibes” is a piano/boom bap-laced opener with RJ letting y’all in on a day in his life whereas “Time Hotel” takes a more jazzier route confessing that he feels like he never rests & that no one can stop him. “Little Italy” goes into drumless turf spitting some mafioso bars & after the “Vintage Brooklyn” interlude, “Brooklyn Love” returns to the boom bap professing his appreciation for the titular city in NY. After the “Q Borough” interlude though, we have RJ getting in his selfish bag on the dusty “Jamaica Ave” just before the funk/gospel hybrid “Long Island Expressway” talks about how this gon’ be a Hell of a night & that he feels like King Kong.

“Top Down in Harlem” weaves some synthesizers to flex about drive around the titular neighborhood in the City of Dreams” with the top down & after the “D Train” interlude, the song “Bronx Tale” comes through with a bluesy story that occurred in our culture’s birthplace. The penultimate track “Staten Island Vibes” works in a soul sample & a flute so RJ can rep Shaolin prior to “The Check Out” sending off the album with him on top of an orchestral yet jazzy beat talking about having a great time chilling at the Time Hotel.

As much as I enjoyed RJ’s brief run with BSF, I can argue that My Life’z a Movie is quite possibly the most cohesive body of work in his his catalog thus far. The production that Stu Bangas cooks up on here pull from an eclectic range of sounds & it’s a bit conceptual with the lyrics throughout basically serving as a genuine love letter to the Big Apple with the references to all the cities.

Score: 4.5/5

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Cappadonna – “3rd Chamber Grail Bars” review

Cappadonna is a 53 year old MC from New York City notable for being a member of the almighty Wu-Tang Clan since the mid/late 90s. His verse on “Winter Warz” is still regarded by many to this day to be one of the greatest verses in hip hop history & as much as I love his criminally underrated solo debut The Pillage, I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say with all respect that his solo discography since has been nothing short of inconsistent ranging to be mediocre at best & complete trash at worst. But when it was announced that underground veteran Stu Bangas was going behind the boards for Cappa’s 15th album right here, my expectations for it were very high considering that Stu has been on a ROLL for the past few years now producing projects for the likes of Ill Bill & Recognize Ali only to name a couple.

After the intro, the first song “Bring It Out” sets it all off with some braggadocio on top of some suspenseful boom bap production whereas “Get Lost” takes a more solemn route talking about how the Wu’s the hardest team. After the “Discovery” interlude, Celph Titled tags along for the horn-laced “Toss the Blick” to get on their hardcore shit just before “How We Rolling” dives into more playful turf talking about a fun night out.

Meanwhile on “Continuous Threat”, we have Planet Asia accompanying Cappa over a keyboard-driven boom bap instrumental spitting some lethal battle raps leading into Sick Jacken coming into the picture for the dusty “Everything is Measured” talking about how fly both of them are. The track “No Fake Dreads” following the “Redemption” interlude works in some more horns to get that bread & prior to the outro, the final song “Tryna Survive” with Ill Bill ends the album on an uncanny note talking about life in the projects.

All 3 of the singles that Cappa has dropped throughout the summer had me anticipating 3rd Chamber Grail Bars to be amongst his best solo albums yet & not only did it achieve that status, but it’s also my favorite project to come out of the Wu-Tang Clan anthology this year. Stu Bangas’ production is a breath of fresh air compared to most of Cappa’s output post-The Pillage & lyrically, he reminds everyone exactly who the fuck he is.

Score: 4/5

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Sheep Stu – Self-Titled review

Sheep Stu is a East Coast duo consisting of New York emcee Dres & Boston producer Stu Bangas. Both of whom have cemented themselves as legends in the game in their own rights, but have never worked with each other prior. However considering how incredibly consistent Stu has always been (especially in recent years) & as a fan of A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, I was very much looking forward to this debut EP of theirs.

“Simple is an uncanny opener to the EP with Dres coming out to say he ain’t like these other motherfuckers whereas “Hate” fuses boom bap & rock together talking about what doesn’t help the hood rise. The title trackadvises everyone that nothing in the world will ever hit like the same thing over a trunk-knocking instrumental while the penultimate song “Killin’ It (For a Lil Bit)” returns to dustier territory with Dres talking about being a class act. A.G. then comes into the picture for the grimy closer “Walk About It”, where he & Sheep Stu describe the way they lay motherfuckers down.

Now if you ask me, this is the best that Dres has sounded in a long ass time & I really hope we get more stuff from them down the road. The passion is clearly there in his voice, he never lost a step lyrically & Stu gives him the best batch of beats that he’s received in a while.

A.M. Early Morning & Novatore – “Kingdom of Criminality” review

This is a brand new collaborative album between Chicago emcees A.M. Early Morning & Novatore. Both of whom have been turning heads in the underground for a couple years now, but didn’t actually connect with each other until “Looking Back” off the latter’s Embrace the Darkness II: Explorers of Experience produced by C-Lance last spring. However, the pair are now coming together to take the world through the Kingdom of Criminality & are bringing Stu Bangas on board to produce the whole thing.

The titular intro sets the album off by grimly talking about turning crews into fairy dust whereas “Sons of Satan” mixes a guitar in with some dusty drums proclaiming themselves as hellspawn. Spit Gemz tags along for the piano/boom bap laced title track welcoming you to the titular world just before the raw “Jumanji” talks about getting into any obstacle. Lord Goat & Recognize Ali come into the picture for “Circle of Goats” to spit some deadly battle raps leading into “Left in Ruins” by detailing how the crime life will follow you & the beat on here has an alien-esque feel to it. “Cannibal Feast” weaves in a piano & guitar to provide the theme for cannibals while the orchestral “Pissy Stairwells” finds the 2 trading rhymes back & forth excellently with one another. The penultimate track “Another Dimension” with Chino XL heinously talking about being beyond sick & “Underestimated” with Apathy ends the album on rock-tinged note calling out those who doubted them.

Given that both of these guys just came through with some of the highest points of their careers last year, I was pumped going into this & it certainly lived up to my expectations. A.M. Early Morning & Novatore both bring the best out of each other with unique chemistry while Stu Bangas still maintains to be a monster behind the boards.

Score: 4.5/5

Stu Bangas – “Deathwish” review

This is the full-length solo debut from Boston producer Stu Bangas. For the last 15 years, the dude has become a household name in the underground realm by giving beats to an ever-growing list of veterans ranging from members of the Army of the Pharaohs collective to the late Sean Price. But since 2019, he’s been steadily grinding his ass off producing projects for the likes of Ill Bill & Recognize Ali. He just dropped the conceptual Empires with Cypress Hill percussionist Eric Bobo back on 4/20 & is now branching out on his own once more in the form of Deathwish.

After the titular intro, the first song “So What You Wanna Do?” by the Heavy Metal Kings is a dramatic boom bap opener thirsting for blood whereas “Candy From a Baby” by Vangarde takes a happier note looking back when Mr. Lif’s mom gave him his 1st boombox. “Levitate” by Apathy lividly talks about defending the throne & after the titular interlude, “Skull Fucker” by Starvin’ B weaves in some grim pianos telling listeners to be glad he ain’t tapping their chins.

Meanwhile on “Come Correct”, we have Tha Connection forlornly spitting that dope slanger shit just before “Dead Body” by Lord Goat & Recognize Ali wickedly quenches for blood. “Brotherhood” is a serious Watson & Holmes reunion talking about getting right, but then “Same Spot” by Juga-Naut weaves in some keys speaking on not really advancing when you know the path.

The track “Outta My Way” by Snak the Ripper & Young Sin finds the 2 aggressively advising their opposition to walk away before it’s too late & before the titular outro, the final song “Fill the Cemetery” by Celph Titled & G-Mo Skee rounds out the album with endless wig-flipping punch you in the face bars & an apprehensive instrumental.

As much as I liked Beats & Blood, I’d have to say that he really stepped it up on Deathwish. His production is top notch as it usually is, but the list of MCs that he brings along for the ride is much more consistent in terms of their performances.

Score: 4/5

Eric Bobo & Stu Bangas – “Empires”

This is a brand new collab album between Eric Bobo & Stu Bangas. The latter is one of the underground’s most in-demand producers hauling from Boston, Massachusetts & the other notably being the percussionist for South Gate titans Cypress Hill. Despite being on different coasts, both parties developed a close friendship off similar interests & are joining forces for 4/20 to drop Empires.

The title track by Vangarde is a baneful opener about painting pictures with Mr. Lif’s mind, but then the next song “Chemtrails” by RJ Payne, Vinnie Paz & Xzibit wastes no time jumping on that boom bap as the trio start shit-talking. “Get With This One” incorporates some percussion & a Godzilla-like horn section as B-Real & Pharoahe Monch get together for a homage to the classic Black Sheep joint “The Choice is Yours”, but then “Total Kaos” by Psycho Les is a spooky recap of 2020.

The song “Move Weight” by Khujo, Lonnie Lyle & The Wordsmith is a downcast look into being street-smart while “Red Dot” incorporates some chilly keyboards as Rob Markman details how every rhyme he writes is 25 to life. The song “No Survivors” by Nowaah the Flood and Watson & Holmes is a cold-blooded depiction of the streets, but then “Pass the Fire” by Demrick is a classy weed-smoking anthem. Meanwhile on “Call It Like I See It, we have Reverie hopping on a weary albeit funky instrumental to insult her competition & then we have Lord Goat teaming up with Krazy Race for the horrorcore-themed “Dark Mind”.

The song “City of Angels” by Blu & Rakaa is g-funk homage to their hometown of LA, but then “Another One for the Books” by Apathy & Celph Titled is a disgusting look (in a good way) at the things they’ve done. The penultimate track “Street Smarts” by Ill Bill & O.C. is one of the most lethal cuts on the album as they talk about “hittin’ ’em at point blank range”, but then “The Reset” by Sick Jacken & Huero Diablo is a feel-good tune about living their lives to the fullest.

I know this album has been in the works for the past couple of years now, but man is the end result a wild ride. The list of guest MCs that got to hop on board is damn near-stellar & it’s really cool to hear both of Eric & Stu’s signature sounds mesh in with each other seamlessly.

Score: 3.5/5

Lord Goat – “Final Expenses” review

Lord Goat is 46 year old MC most known for being a member of the seminal New York underground quartet Non Phixion. His 2004 solo debut The Art of Dying is a certified underground classic & it wouldn’t be until 9 years later when it was followed up with Electric Lucifer. He just dropped Coffin Syrup back in March & now 7 months later, here we are with a brand new EP produced entirely by Stu Bangas.

The opener “Red Asphalt” talks about murder over an icy instrumental whereas the next song “Infernal Majesty” with Vinnie Paz sees the 2 talking about being top notch spitters over an unsettling boom bap beat. The track “Devious” talks about how psycho he is over an ominous instrumental while the song “Mystics in Bali” with Ill Bill finds the 2 talking about Satanic antics over a grimy beat.

The track “AGC” with NEMS sees the 2 bragging & talking their shit over a demented instrumental while the song “Live from Mexico” with Blizz, Ill Bill & Spit Gemz finds the 4 talking about mobbing on dudes over an frightening beat. “The Neighborhood” with Apathy sees the 2 talking about what it was like growing up in their hometown over an hair-raising instrumental while the penultimate track “John Stamos” talks about engaging in criminal activity over a spooky beat. The EP finishes with “Glasses Onion”, where Lord Goat & Recognize Ali talk about carving up their competition over a heinous instrumental.

I think Final Expenses is the best thing that Lord Goat has put out ever since he returned to the rap game & I’ll even say it’s right behind The Art of Dying for his magnum opus. He sounds as relentless as ever on the mic & Stu Bangas does a great job at providing a great musical backdrop for him as well.

Score: 4/5

Watson & Holmes – “The Case of the BPM Killer” review

Watson & Holmes are an East Coast hip hop duo consisting of Stu Bangas on production & Blacastan on the mic. They made their debut together in 2014 with a fantastic self-titled album, which was followed up with The Uncanny Adventures of Watson & Holmes in 2017. been another 3 years, the duo are reuniting for their 3rd full-length album.

After “After Intro”, we get into the first song “Bull’s Eye”. Where Blacastan talks about how skilled he is about over an eerie instrumental. The track “Crumpets” is a continuation of where “Bull’s Eye” left off despite only being a minute & a half then the song “Don’t Judge Me” with SmooVth sees the 2 talking about growing up in the 90’s over a boom bap beat with a cumbersome guitar in the background.

The track “Sincere” lyrically is probably the most introspective cut on the entire album & the beat is pretty calming too whereas the song “Crawl Space” with Goretex sees the 2 getting murderous & the instrumental fits the vibe like a glove. The track “Behold” talks about his longevity over a suspenseful beat while the song “23 x 1” talks about how sharp his lyricism is over a daunting instrumental.

The track “Bookies” with Nowaah the Flood has a mobster feel to it down to the Italian-flavored beat while the song “Styles” talks about how original Blacastan is over a cutthroat instrumental. The track “Hair Pins” finds the duo linking back up with SmooVth to go at their competition over a buzzing instrumental with 80’s-like synths & then before the outro, the final song “Grand Imperial” with Marvalyss is just a decent riot starter.

If you wanna get into Watson & Holmes, I’d recommend their first 2 albums. However,  what they do on this new one is still dope. The chemistry between Blacastan & Stu Bangas is still there without a bit of doubt but the features are hit or miss & it’s too short, only running at 27 minutes.

Score: 3.5/5