Isaac Castor – “The Rabbit Hole 2” review

This is the long-awaited sophomore album from Detroit emcee Isaac Castor. Coming up in 2010 under the original moniker Gameboi, he would go on drop 4 mixtapes & 3 EPs prior to signing to the local underground hip hop powerhouse Middle Finger Music following its formation 8 years later. He then enlisted the label’s co-founder Foul Mouth behind the boards for his full-length debut The Rabbit Hole a month after the world stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic & both parties are reuniting to deliver a sequel in light of the predecessor’s 3-year anniversary in just a couple months.

“The Sequel” is a psychedelic boom bap opener with Isaac responding to those asking where he’s been all this time prior to Marv Won assisting him on “75 South” talking about how nobody puts it down the way they do accompanied by some keys, kicks & snares. “Eye See” has a more sample-based sound basically touching on life being as wonderful as it is & destined for greatness leading into the dusty “Admit It” comparing his raps to that of pure, uncut coke.

Moving onto “Tourniquet”, we have the Gameboi over a darker instrumental talking about pulling up to murder shit just before Jypsy tags along for the bluesy “Vamanos Pest” dropping some lethal bars for anyone who dares to step up to either one of them in a rap battle. “Nosebleeds” dives into more jazzier territory encouraging the goofy asses to walk back, but then “Cliffhanger” returns to the boom bap once again getting loose at the venues they shut down.

Dango Forlaine & Ronnie Alpha both tag along for the cutthroat “Napalm 8Ball” so all 3 MCs can flex their lyrical prowesses while “Smoke All Night” switches things up with a mystic trap beat & the subject matter of Isaac professing his love for weed is relatable to any stoner including myself. “Power of the Mind” instrumentally has a bit of a J Dilla influence to it advising that one is unable to front on titular topic while “Riddim” with Bang Belushi has a woozily dope sample flip as the pair go on to belittle their opposition.

Meanwhile with “Fall from Grace”, the production & DJ Skyrah’s hypnotic chorus give me quite a bit of Portishead vibes setting the course for Speak of the Devil’s upcoming debut as Xtra Overdoze joins Isaac talk about being stitched together kin to pain & pleasure while “Grand Prix” with Fatt Father & Guilty Simpson is a rock/boom bap crossover with a Pink Floyd sample toasting champagne off the Grand Haven Pier as long as his people are by his side. The song “Studio Vibe” with Bizarre is a mellower cut bringing exactly that while the crooning penultimate track “Still in the Hole” admits he’s finding the steps to climb out to the hole he’s still in. “Yes (Intro in Reverse)” comes through with a horn-inflicted closer attacking wack rappers 1 last time.

Considering the 3 year gap between this & the Gameboi’s full-length debut, it had me anticipating to hear how much dude has grown as artist since then & I happen to enjoy this sequel as much if not more than predecessor. Isaac sounds even hungrier than he did last time with the features all being as well-picked & the production that Foul Mouth cooks up is more eclectic in sound from boom bap to jazz rap & trap. Middle Finger Music always has something exciting going on & The Rabbit Hole 2 is just the beginning of their 2023.

Score: 4/5

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Bizarre – “He Got a Gun” review

Bizarre is a 45 year old MC from Detroit, Michigan who came up as an original member of the now defunct D12 led by the late Proof. He was also among the first in the crew to put out solo efforts, with his 1998 debut EP Attack of the Weirdos being a hometown classic in my eyes. Fast forward 7 years later, Biz followed it up with a worthy full-length debut Hannicap Circus & has continued to put out music on his own since, with the last time we heard him being his 10th mixtape Peter this past winter. But for his 5th album, the idiotic kid is bringing in one of the city’s greatest producers Foul Mouth behind the boards for the whole thing.

“Uzi” is a soulful boom bap opener with Bizarre going at the throats of anyone who wants to step up to him lyrically whereas “Hecker” with Kool Keith takes a grimier route talking about how they’re just built different. “Gauge” works in some strings reminding everyone he doesn’t think realistically just before Dope D.O.D. tags along for the dusty “Desert E” talking about how dangerous they are.

Meanwhile on “MG3”, we have Kain Cole joining Bizzy over some pianos admitting that they just wanna fly leading into “XM307 (Night Shift)” throwing a soul sample into the mix talking about him looking forward to his bitch clocking out of work as she comes in during the evenings. “FN” returns to boom bap turf asking if people are really living what they’re rapping & after the first of 2 skits, “9MM” shoots for a more psychedelic sound telling the story of his sex life.

NEMS & Young Z both come into the picture for the gully “25” to get ignorant on the mic while “Smith & Wesson” with the homies Dango Forlaine, Nick Speed, Ty Farris & 7 the General finds the quartet over some keys for an incredible Detroit posse cut. “AS50” encourages listeners to run because you don’t wanna get shot by him over an uncanny beat, but then “Dillinger” fuses elements of rock & boom bap talking about fucking up people outside.

Following that, Guilty Simpson & Mvck Nyce join Bizarre for the forlorn “Saw Off” to apply pressure while “45” incorporates a guitar talking about coming from the gutter. “Glock (College Bitch)” is one of the weaker cuts on the album despite it’s soulful production due to it’s subject matter about fucking bitches that’re over 2 decades younger than him & after the “Coney Island” skit, “Detroit” picks it up with a raw ode to the city. Prior to the outro though, “Rusty 38” with Big T ends the album on a chaotic note delivering that raw hip hop.

A lot of people like to dismiss Bizarre as an MC, but I came away from He Got a Gun liking it just as much as Attack of the Weirdos & Hannicap Circus. Easily some of the best work of his career in my opinion. There are a couple lackluster features & song topics throughout, but Foul Mouth’s production doesn’t miss a step & Peter S. himself has a fire under his ass lyrically.

Score: 4.5/5

Kain Cole – “S.U.M.P. (Survival Under Major Pressure)” review

Kain Cole is a 38 year old MC from Belleville, Michigan who’s been in the game since he was in high school. He then perfected his craft after spending 8 years in prison but now that he’s out, it makes perfect sense for one of the hottest labels in the underground Middle Finger Music to sign him & have co-founder Foul Mouth produce his full-length debut from start to finish.

“The Arrival” sets the album off with a drumless yet buzzing instrumental letting motherfuckers know he’s officially here whereas “The Bag” works in some suspenseful keyboards & dusty drums getting in his hustler bag. “Ain’t My Home” takes a more soulful route looking back on the days when he was locked up just before “L.M.K. (Let Me Know)” has a bluesy quality to it talking about being back in his old ways.

Meanwhile on “Feel This Way”, we have Kain jumping on top of a grimy boom bap beat confessing that he has no idea why he feels the way he does leading into the disgusting drug dealer’s ode “Kain”. Things go into a funkier direction for “Have You Ever” talking about being one of a kind, but then “Fuck ‘Em If They Mad” takes a more alluring turn clapping back at those who’re envious of him.

“Run Away” weaves in a perfect vocal loop talking about how he has to find another way whereas “Rock n Roll” returns to boom bap territory letting listeners know how reckless he truly is. “K Cole Shit” gets in his battle rap bag with the instrumental taking it back to the days of 70’s action films just before the eerie “D.O.G (Definition Of Greatness)” speaks for itself lyrically.

Following this, “Do My Thang” brings in the horns to talk about how all he does is own thing while the track “Church” has a more colorful tone to the beat encouraging listeners to praise God after him. The penultimate song “Count Stacks” comes off as a sequel to “The Bag” that lives up to the predecessor & the title track sends the album off with a synth-laced instrumental talking about how no one can knock him down.

It’s always exciting when a Middle Finger Music artists drops an album & even more so when they add fresh new faces to the roster because S.U.M.P. (Survival Under Major Pressure) definitely surpassed my expectations even though they were high to begin with. Kain sounds hungry as fuck on the mic & Foul Mouth cooks up some of the best production of his career thus far.

Score: 4/5

Xtra Overdoze – “The Xodemik” review

Xtra Overdoze is a 29 year old MC from The Bronx, New York breaking out a few years ago off his first 2 mixtape W.T.F.I.X.O.? (Who the Fuck is Xtra Overdoze)? & Goody Bag. This was followed up with the full-length debut Viral Injection in March of 2019 but after 2 & a half years with much anticipation, he’s tapping in one of my favorite producers within the last decade Foul Mouth to lace his sophomore album from front to back &

After the “Beginning” intro, the first song “This is It” demonically let’s listeners know of his return whereas “66Sick Shit” takes a turn into trap territory talking his shit. “Lose Control” is a more rock centered cut encouraging the crowd to get crazy just before “The Plague” aggressively looks for the smoke.

Meanwhile on “Want It All”, we get a chaotic club banger on all fronts leading into the spooky trap cut “Runaway” saying he’s fucking a crazy bitch. “Inexorable” ruggedly depicts how ruthless he is, but “Reality” works in some creepy keyboard melodies saying everybody’s looking for something.

“Forever More” takes things into boom bap territory saying this music is so inviting whereas “What’cha Came For” is an aggressive sex cut. “Unordinary” hectically describes how this one bitch ain’t normal just before “Middle Fingers Up” is a dusty “fuck you” anthem.

Isaac Castor tags along for the EDM-inspired “Choose Death” getting murderous while the penultimate track “Horror Party” gets on that wicked shit & the trap instrumental is just off the wall. “The End is Near” finishes the album letting the world know this is for the record.

Personally, I think this is XO’s best work to date. I feel like his songwriting has stepped up tremendously in comparison to Viral Injection, but then Foul Mouth’s production is absolutely incredible in every sense of the word.

Score: 4/5

Fatt Father – “Soccer Dad” review

This is the 5th full-length outing from Detroit emcee Fatt Father. Coming up as 1/4 of the world famous Fat Killahz, he eventually went solo in 2006 off his debut mixtape Tales of the Childless Father. Going on to release 3 more tapes along with 4 albums, it’s only right for Fatts to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of his previous effort King Father by dropping the long-awaited

The “Raging Angel” intro kicks off with a gospel sample as Fatt Father celebrates being reinstated whereas “The Commute” details being pulled over by a cop taking his son to a soccer game over a boom bap beat with a heavy guitar. The title track is a grimy follow-up that let’s the listener know who they be fucking with while the soul sample-laced “Stick to the Script” comes through with that grown man spiritual street corner material”.

The song “Head Shot” in pirates some organs as the Twin Towers & Tone Plummer go at those running they mouths while “Papa Free” is simply just Fatts getting a lot of shit off his chest for 3-minutes backed by a relaying vocal sample. “The Price of Freedom” of course gets on the conscious side of things with a fitting rock loop whereas “Smoke” is an up-tempo banger about how you ain’t want beef with him.

Meanwhile on “Underground Ballin’”, we get a charismatic anthem about how underground MCs can ball as much as the mainstream cats can whereas “Party of 1” talks about taking off heads over a deadly instrumental. The song “Do Better” is a cinematic cut tackling daily self-improvement while “#1” goes into a more trap direction with lyrics about failure not being an option. The song “In All Fairness” brings in some hi-hats & catchy vocal harmonies to say he ain’t do nobody wrong, but then “Truth” serves as a well-written response to those people with a dusty boom bap beat incorporating icy keyboard melodies.

I’ve been waiting on this album for almost 2 years now & I’m glad the day has finally come because this could very well be the best thing Fatt Father has ever done. A lot of the same reasons I enjoyed Bang Belushi’s latest album Rudy make it’s way onto here, especially the personal lyricism & the eclectic sounds Foul Mouth uses throughout.

Score: 9/10

Bang Belushi – “Rudy” review

This is the sophomore album from Detroit emcee Bang Belushi. Coming up as 1/4 of the world famous Fat Killahz, it wouldn’t be until 2011 when the veteran branched out solo by releasing his debut EP The Bridgecard as well as the help yourself. EP in 2017. But it wouldn’t be until the following year when Bango signed to Middle Finger Music & dropped his full-length debut The Adventures of Bang Belushi, which in my opinion was a near-flawless showcasing of his lyrical abilities over some of the grimiest production Foul Mouth has ever cooked up. However, the pair is reuniting for Belushi’s long-awaited sophomore album.

“The Opening” that starts the album off gives listeners the blueprint to being great over an entrancing loop whereas the title track talks about how amazing he is over an unhinged boom bap beat. The song right after “It’s Going Down” talks about how they get it poppin’ over an instrumental kin to the late J Dilla while the track “Bar 4 Bar” with 2 Door Coupé finds the 3 talking about Middle Finger Music taking over the game over some horns & a bass-line.

The song “Dumb” talks about how disrespectful he is over a noisy instrumental while the track “N****z Like You” with Bub Rock sees the duo talking about those who’ll do anything for respect over some drums & piano arpeggios. The song “Red Bottlez” talks about being drunk as fuck over some keys & snares while the track “Murder” with J-Classic & Xtra Overdoze finds the 3 getting on the horrorcore side of things over a trap beat.

The song “Smoking Section” with Boom2G, Bub Rock, Pahlavi & Roc Danielz sees the quintet talking about getting money & staying low over a dingy loop while the track “Mark, Set, Go” with Isaac Castor finds the 2 talking about their skills over a wistful boom bap beat. The song “B is for Bang” breaks down the meaning of the moniker Bang over a flute sample while the track “Feeling Like Biggie” is a rugged sequel to “Feeling Like ODB” off The Adventures of Bang Belushi on all fronts.

The song “Such & Such” talks about a bitch he used to know over an amiable instrumental while the track “Nobody” talks about how there isn’t anyone else like him over a boom bap beat with a glossy piano loop. The song “Watermelon Red Bull” talks about how he refers to his AK as “Big Daddy Kane” over some prominent organs while the outro talks about feeling like they won’t recognize his skills until he’s gone over a beat kin to College Dropout-era Kanye West.

The Adventures of Bang Belushi is one of my favorite albums that Middle Finger Music has ever put out & this is almost as great of a follow-up. The lyrics on here are much more personal than they were last time & the sounds that Foul Mouth bring to the table are bit more diverse.

Score: 4/5

Isaac Castor – “The Rabbit Hole” review

Isaac Castor is a 24 year old rapper from Ann Arbor, Michigan who I first caught wind of through his association with Middle Finger Music a few years ago. He eventually landed a contract with the label & now he’s hooking up with it’s co-founder Foul Mouth for his full-length debut.

The album kicks off with “Homesick”, where Isaac talks about how he’s ready to take over the game & I love the meditative boom bap production as well. The next song “Retrospect” with Bub Rock sees the 2 reflecting about their past & how they’re doing better now over a beautiful soul sample while “The Sickness” charismatically shows off his skills over an organ-inflicted boom bap beat. The song “Regal” talks about how raw his music is over an instrumental that sounds like something RZA would’ve made in the 90’s while the track “Fire Drill” talks about being built for this over a jazzy boom bap beat.

The song “Headless Horsemen” with Fatt Father & J-Classic sees the 3 challenging their competition over a boom bap beat with a psychedelic guitar lead while the title track talks about partying over a woozy beat. The song “Name 5 Songs” talks about groupies over a fast-tempo trap beat while the track “Guess What?” talks about this girl he was seeing running off with another guy over a funky beat. The song “That Ain’t Love” pays tribute to those who’ve been heartbroken over a boom bap beat with some somber piano chords while the track “Paramount” with A-Minus sees the 2 talking about earning their stripes over an upbeat instrumental.

The song “Green Pill” with Aztek the Barfly sees the 2 talking about how no one’s on their level over a suspenseful instrumental while the penultimate track “Can’t Decide” talks about his demons over some strings. The album finishes off with “Challenged”, where Isaac talks about being blessed in the moment over an energetic beat.

What a fantastic debut. Foul Mouth reminds us why he’s my favorite producer out in Detroit with his versatile sound whereas Isaac really shines on here as his pen-game sounds smarter than ever & you really get a good look at who he is as a whole. Really looking forward to watch him grow in the future & to see what else Middle Finger Music has in store for the new decade.

Score: 4/5

Kovax – “Manifestor” review

Kovax is a MC from Detroit, Michigan who’s been at it for quite a while now. I personally started noticing him when he opened up for LARS last year, but his set during the show left me impressed to see what he would do in the future. And that leads us to his 5th full-length album, in which he enlists Foul Mouth to produce it in it’s entirety.

It all kicks off with the title track, where Kovax brags about his skills over a trap beat some haunting background vocals. The next song “Dread of Winter” vents about some personal issues over a gloomy beat while the track “Special” talks about his place in the game over a rock/boom bap fusion. The song “I’m So Beat” talks about the positives & negatives of life over a jazzy instrumental while the track “Buzz Kill” is filled with charismatic battle bars over a beat with some prominently somber guitar licking. The song “Ashes” with Xtra Overdoze sees the 2 displaying a vicious chemistry over an eerie trap beat while the track “Heat” talks about how dope he is over a soulful beat.

The song “Desk Job” talks about how trash his competition is over a horror film-esque trap beat while the track “$1.25” talks about his hustle over a trap beat with an immensely dark atmosphere. The song “Popov” takes a jab at his naysayers over a beautiful soul sample while the track “Empathy” talks about someone he’s beefing with over a minimalist beat. The closer “I Won’t Fall” gets triumphant over a joyful beat & then there’s the bonus track “Egodeth”, where Kovax destroys the confidence of all wack rappers over a grimy boom bap beat.

This is easily the man’s best work yet. It’s a little too short, but Foul Mouth continues to prove that he’s the best producer in hip hop right now with his varied instrumental palates & Kovax’ lyricism is more gruesome than ever before.

Score: 4.5/5

L.A.R.S. – “Foul World” review

L.A.R.S. is a Detroit horrorcore duo consisting of childhood friends & longtime collaborators Bizarre of D12 fame & King Gordy of the Fat Killahz. The duo originally formed & debuted as The Davidians on Esham’s Butcher Shop mixtape back in 2008, but now they’re re-emerging with a new name along with a recent record deal with Twiztid’s Majik Ninja Entertainment & this 7 track mixtape preluding their upcoming debut album.

The opener “L.A.R.S. (Last American Rock Stars)”, sees the duo talking about partying over a decent rap rock instrumental from their DJ & honorary 3rd member Foul Mouth, who produced all but 1 song on the entire project. The next track “Put Me Thru” has a very surprising soul sample throughout & the way Gordy talks about this woman who’s being physically abused is super vivid. Also, there’s one line during Bizarre‘s verse where he accidentally mixes up Conway with his brother Westside Gunn (both of whom got signed to Shady Records earlier this year). The song “Fuck Yo Baby Daddy” with Big T shittalks an unnamed baby daddy over a decent trap beat from Rooq, but I think both Gordy & T’s verses at the beginning & the end respectively fit the concept a lot better than Bizarre’s verse in the middle. The track “Lose Your Mind” gets gangsta over a sinister boom bap beat & the way they go back & forth with each other just goes to show how strong their chemistry still is. The song “Mother’s Best Friend” is a hilarious sex tune over a jazzy instrumental & then the penultimate track “Savage Life” talks about how insane Gordy & Bizzy are over a fittingly sinister instrumental. The closer “I’m a Celebrity” then boasts about the lavish life & the rap rock instrumental here sounds a lot more exciting than the one we heard during the opener.

I personally think Majik Ninja is one of the rawest labels out right now & I think this latest mixtape from their newest sign act is no exception. Sure it feels like an EP given that’s only 7 tracks & 23 minutes long, but Foul Mouth’s production is on point & both King Gordy & Bizarre sound as crazy as they’ve ever been. Here’s to their upcoming debut album & hopefully some solo albums from both MCs at some point in the future

Score: 4/5