Rick Hyde – “Stima” review

This is the 9th EP from Buffalo emcee/producer Rick Hyde. One of the flagship artists on Benny the Butcher’s very own MNRK Music Group imprint Black Soprano Family Records, he would go on to drop the impressive full-length debut Plates at the beginning of 2019 after warming everyone up with his first 7 EPs a feature-studded sequel last summer that was preluded by an EP of it’s own. But coming fresh off that, Ricky’s still applying pressure by releasing Stima.

“Who Am I?!” opens up the EP with a chipmunk soul banger properly reintroducing himself to the world whereas “Y Bother Talkin’?” works in some operatic vocal loops to declare no mercy on the weak minded. “Arrivederci” takes a more sinister approach in terms of sound dissing the wankstas leading into the braggadocious “La Spina”, which goes into somewhat of a more futuristic direction with the instrumental.

Meanwhile on “Like This”, we’re treated to a dusty yet raw B$F posse cut describing what real d-boys look like while the song “Ms. Young” gets on his hustler shit & the beat here is kinda similar to that of “Lemon” off Conway the Machine’s classic debut From King to a God. The penultimate track “Poza” with Rome Streetz finds the 2 over a brassy Alchemist instrumental belittling their competition & “Perspective” finishes it off on a glossier note talking about where he’s at now.

For an EP, I’d say Ricky delivered some of the best work of his career with Stima. In comparison to his last album, I really admire how he decided to step it up in the production department & tone it down on the features so he remind everyone that he can undoubtedly hold it down on his own because some of his best pen-work pops up here.

Score: 4/5

Conway the Machine – “Organized Grime 2” review

Conway the Machine is a 40 year old MC & entrepreneur from Buffalo, New York who blew 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. But to celebrate his freedom from Eminem-owned Interscope Records imprint, La Maquina is reuniting with Trillmatic Goods to host his 10th EP.

After the rock-tinged intro, the first song “Chop 22” kicks off the EP with a lavish Mephux instrumental with Con declaring he’s still on go time whereas the soulful “Phone Call” produced by Detroit’s very own Apollo Brown talking about earning everything he has from hustling. Rome Streetz tags along for “Murder He Wrote” to advise you don’t push them backed by a ghoulish boom bap beat from Hobgoblin leading into Benny the Butcher & Flee Lord coming into the picture for the cloudy “Marathon” talking about running it on the blocks.

After the “Intermission” interlude, the 2nd half of the EP starts off with the cinematic “State” reminding that he’s the illest rapper alive just before the organ-laced “From the Bottom” reflecting on coming up from nothing. The penultimate song “Soul Cry” with T.F. finds the 2 over some horns talking about never capping & prior to the turntablism outro, “Keep Up” with Vic Spencer ends the EP on a jazzy note pointing out that they can’t keep up with them.

Organized Grime is one of the best EPs that Conway has ever put out in my opinion & I happen to think this sequel is even better than it’s predecessor. In comparison to the much more personal approach that God Don’t Make Mistakes took, Con sounds a lot more rawer lyrically & some of the best producers in the underground currently went as hard as he did behind the boards.

Score: 4.5/5

Hodgy – “Entitled” review

Hodgy is a 31 year old MC, producer & music video director from Trenton, New Jersey who came up 1/2 of the duo MellowHype alongside Left Brain in the mid/late 2000s prior to helping I Smell Panties, Casey Veggies & The Jet Age of Tomorrow form the impactful albeit now defunct alternative hip hop collective Odd Future. He was also the first person in the Wolf Gang to put out a solo effort, dropping his debut mixtape The Dena Tape only 9 months after the crew put out their 1st tape as a unit The Odd Future Tape. Higashi Miyagi would go on to expand his solo discography with 2 more mixtapes & 3 EPs prior to his full-length debut Fireplace: TheNotTheOtherSide a day before my 20th birthday which to this day, I still think it’s possibly the most criminally overlooked offering that we’ve gotten since OF’s disbandment due to how much growth was shown on that album. But after taking 5 & a half years off to focus on his personal life, Hodgy is finally returning with his 4th EP.

“Everyday” sets off the EP with Hodgy over some crooning boom bap production from Jeff Wootton & Ging talking about always staying on the grind whereas “People Change” is MellowHype reunion taking a more minimal trap route addressing his growth as a person. The song “Into Someone” works in an acoustic guitar to get in his romance bag while the penultimate track “We Never Knew” finds MellowHype reuniting once more accompanied by a cloudy trap beat spitting some braggadocio. “Again” ends the EP with yet another acoustic ballad singing about a bitch who’s crazy.

This dude has been off the radar even longer than Kendrick & it’s not my favorite solo effort that he’s done, but it’s very much respectable. I respect that he’s trying to expand as an artist & not only do I find how he does it to be solid, but I also knew he’d have some shit to get off his chest lyrically about where he’s at now in life given that he’s been gone for a minute & he delivers.

Score: 3.5/5

Buckshot – “I’m the Boss” review

Buckshot is a 47 year old MC/producer from New York City coming up in the early 90’s as the frontman of the trio Black Moon & the Boot Camp Clik collective along with for founding one of the most beloved record labels in all of hip hop Duck Down Music with the assistance of his business partner Dru Ha. Not only would The B.D.I. Thug & Backpack Travels become the only 2 solo albums he’s put out to date, but Hanif Alwin al-Sadiq would also form a duo with 9th Wonderdropping 3 full-lengths together & a collab effort with KRS-One called Backpack Skills. But in light of him getting into the NFT game, he’s celebrating by dropping a debut EP.

After the “UPG” intro, the first song “Hey” opens up the EP with a dramatic boom bap instrumental from none other than Da Beatminerz going at the throats of anyone who dares to step up to him in a battle whereas “Come Take a Ride” goes into funkier territory with talking about cruising around at night. “Your Choice” laces some pianos written towards a ride or die bitch leading into “Roll My away” taking a more lavish route & the storytelling throughout Buckshot’s verses painted is very eloquent. The song “Dear Daddy” takes it back to boom bap range talking about his father while the penultimate track “1 Nation” spaciously declaring that it’s time to connect. “Thug Life” ends the EP with a bass guitar-infused tribute to 2Pac.

Considering how much I enjoyed Black Moon’s comeback effort Rise of da Moon a few years back, I was definitely interested in how The B.D.I. Thug would deliver with this EP given how long it’s been since Backpack Travels & it’s definitely worth the listen for any Boot Camp fan. In fact, I’d consider to be some of the best solo material he’s put out yet. Rather than just being lazy & compiling primarily songs that’s been already previously released like Snoop Dogg did with Metaverse: The NFT Drop, we’re getting all new music from the one who gets the job done & he still sounds great on the mic after being the game for almost 3 decades.

Score: 3.5/5

Onyx – “Onyx vs. Everybody” review

This is the 2nd EP from Queens duo Onyx. Consisting of Sticky Fingaz & Fredro Starr, the first 3 outings Bacdafucup as well as All We Got Iz Us & Shut ‘Em Down are rightfully considered by many to be East Coast classics. They went on to release 2 mediocre albums in the early 2000s before going AWOL, returning in 2014 with the Snowgoons produced #WAKEDAFUCUP. Black Rock was ok Snowmads was a great follow-up to #WAKEDAFUCUP, but Onyx 4 Life & 1993 were as mid as Black Rock to me. That being said, I was very much looking forward to Onyx vs. Everybody given that Fredro is producing the whole thing.

After the titular intro, “It’s Goin’ Down” opens up the EP with some horns talking about going brazy whereas “Shoot Wit” is a raw boom bap banger calling to raise the hand that the shooters let off rounds with. “Real Evil” ominously opens up about killing people leading into Termanology tagging along for the symphonic “Project Gladiators” declaring themselves as such.

“I Rap Like” works in some pianos & dusty drums showing y’all they still got it, but “Bac Up Off Me” with Harrd Luck is so short that there’s literally no point of it being on here in my opinion. The song “Raze the Crime Rate” returns to the raw street life anthems despite the Ricky Bats feature missing the target & after the “Brooklyn Bullshit” interlude, the closer “Talk in New York” with Big Twins rounds everything out with a fresh ode to the 5 boroughs.

For an EP, I think this happens to be one of Onyx’s best bodies of work in a while. I wish it was a little more fleshed out & a couple of the features are questionable, but Fredro schools it behind the boards as he & Sticky Fingaz still deliver the hardcore hip hop style they blew up off of.

Score: 3.5/5

Mr. Hyde – “We’re the Nightbreed” review

Mr. Hyde is a 44 year old MC from Queens, New York who came up alongside his Gruesome Twosome cohort & longtime friend/collaborator Necro ever since the death rap inventor conceived Psycho+Logical-Records. After years of being featured on numerous albums from the label, Hyde finally got to shine on his own in the summer of ‘04 with his classic full-length debut Barn of the Naked Dead. He has since gone on to release 4 more albums on his own since then, with the last one being The Boogeyman’s Real in the fall of 2019. But given that it’s been a little over a year since Bonnie & Hyde put out their eponymous debut, it’s fitting for Hyde drop a debut EP on Friday the 13th.

“Don’t Forget My Number” is a demonic boom bap opener spitting the wicked shit whereas “Beast Bars” works in a guitar & some dusty drums talking about how hot his bars are. “Dipped in Death” shoots for a more unsettling atmosphere thanks to Cotardz for Hyde to deliver some brutal death rap while the track “Filthy Beasts” with G-Mo Skee declares themselves as such over an organ-laced instrumental. The final song “Nightbreed” ends the EP by ominously comparing himself to that or a monster & “Putrid Decay” is just a 34 second outro.

Much like Bonnie & Hyde’s self-titled debut from a little over a year ago, We’re the Nightbreed is definitely one of the better projects that Mr. Hyde has put out in recent years. Now I’m not saying he ever lost his step lyrically because he sounds as grisly than ever on this EP, but the production choices are progressively improving & that’s what I like to hear.

Score: 4/5

IDK – “Simple.” review

IDK is a 29 year old British-American rapper, singer, songwriter & producer who broke out in the spring of 2014 off his debut mixtape Sex, Drugs & Homework. This was followed up with Subtrap & The Empty Bank, but his profile began to significantly increase in 2017 when he signed to William Street Records put out a 4th tape entitled IWasVeryBad to critical acclaim. He continued the grind by putting out a debit EP IDK & Friends as well as the full-length album Is He Real? & a 2nd EP IDK & Friends 2, but his sophomore effort USEE4YOURSELF last summer was very underwhelming. That being said, I was very much looking forward to his 3rd EP right here after learning that KAYTRANADA would be producing the whole thing.

“Drugstore” is a hip house opener about seeing that money talk & after the “Southeast to Paris” skit, Denzel Curry tags along for the jazz rap banger “Dog Food” with a fresh Lil Wayne interpolation during the hook. “Zaza Tree” returns to hip house turf & the hook here interpolates the late Soulja Slim very well.“Breathe” is a more atmospheric ballad talking about catching his breath leading into “Taco” incorporating some funky house influences settling some beef. Mike Dimes comes into the picture for the final song The Code” to discuss their #1 rules over a piano instrumental & “Paris to Southeast” ends the EP with yet another skit.

This is definitely much better than USEE4YOURSELF & I’ll even say that this is the crown jewel of IDK’s discography so far. Not only because he sounds incredibly laser-focused & comes through with some fantastic subject matter, but KAYTRANADA’s production is a breath of fresh air as it’s the most detailed it’s ever been on any project that Jay has put out previously.

Score: 4/5

Donnie Darko – “Another Day at the Office” review

This is the latest EP from East Coast hip hop artists Sutter Kain & Donnie Darko. The first of whom is a producer, DJ & occasionally MC from New York & the latter being an MC from New Jersey. The 2 have been collaborating with one another pretty much since the beginning, with the last time we heard from them being Before the World Got to Us & After the World Got to Us during the pandemic. Almost 2 years later, they’re back in effect with Another Day at the Office.

The EP opens up with the 4th installment of the “Block Game” series accompanied by some soulful boom bap production whereas “Origin Stories” takes a more cinematic route declaring himself as the reaper. “Gut Check” is a short yet visceral riot starter from Black Sunday leading into the piano/trap laced “M.V.J.”, which the duo stick around to talk about being beasts.

Meanwhile on “Skywalker”, we have Donnie coming through with a gritty declaration of being the realest in the game while the song “Summer Vibes” perfectly lives up to it’s name from the chipmunk soul sample to even the lyricism. The penultimate track is the 5th installment of the “Block Game” series picking up where the predecessor left off & “Life’s Battles” ends the EP with some horns talking about some more serious topics.

For this to be their comeback after nearly 2 years, I enjoyed it almost as much as their last 2 EPs. I wish a lot of the cuts on here were a bit longer than a minute, but both parties continue to bring the best out of each other from the traditional East Coast production that Sutter Kain provides to the vividly dark lyricism that Donnie & occasionally his Black Sunday cohort display.

Score: 3.5/5

Heem – “High Art” review

This is the debut EP from Buffalo emcee Heem. Catching my attention earlier this year after becoming of a protege of Benny the Butcher & signing to his MNRK Music Group imprint Black Soprano Family Records, he also made a few appearances on the label’s showcase EP that dropped a couple summers back before following it up with the impressive debut mixtape Long Story Short a day after my birthday that same year. A year & a half later, he’s now returning with some High Art.

“Don Mega” is a boom bap opener with a crooning vocal loop declaring himself as such whereas “Soul Food” works is some organs talking about smoking weed. The song “Cheech & Chong” keeps the stoner vibes coming down to the psychedelic instrumental while the penultimate track “Hydro Plane” mixes chipmunk soul with pianos talking about weed of course. “Buddah Love, North Fire” ends the EP on a jazzier note asking for an ounce.

Yeah it’s been a little over a week since 4/20 but as a pro-weed advocate himself, I still think High Art is still an awesome offering to all the smokers out there. Marc Spano’s production is some of the best of his career & Heem comes through with some clever raps about his love for that good kush.

Score: 3.5/5

Tha God Fahim – “Dump Gawd: Shot Clock King 3” review

Tha God Fahim is a 25 year old MC/producer from Atlanta, Georgia notable for his affiliation with Griselda Records as well as being 1/3 of the Dump Gawds alongside Mach-Hommy & Your Old Droog. We also can’t ignore the massive discography that he’s managed to build for himself, some of the standouts include Breaking Through tha Van Allen Belts & Dump Assassins. He just dropped his 19th album Dump Gawd: 6 Ring Champ last month & now, he’s re-enlisting Nicholas Craven to close out the Dump Gawd: Shot Clock King trilogy.

“Mr. Microphone Menace” kicks off the EP with some astounding guitar riffs declaring himself as such whereas “World Upside Down” goes into soulful territory talking about those who tried to make his life hell on earth. “Non Stop” has more jazzier flare to it saying he’s back cooking again, but then “Will’z Hand” works in some synths talking about fucking with the wrong one.

The song “Love n Hate 2” is a stellar sequel to a 6 Ring Champ highlight from the “it’s just possible” vocal sample to the lyrics expanding on the predecessor’s concept of how people act towards him while the penultimate track “Flex Brolic” follows it up with a passionate ode to those still striving. “From the Ground Up” ends the EP by victoriously bragging about his success.

Despite being an EP, I happen to like this a tad bit more than 6 Ring Champ because I find it to be a worthy conclusion to Shot Clock King trilogy. Nicholas Craven continues to expand on the sounds that be brought to the table on the predecessors & Fahim lyrically is coming for throats for a good portion of it.

Score: 4.5/5