38 Spesh – “Beyond Belief” review

This is the 4th EP from Rochester emcee/producer 38 Spesh. Notable for being the leader of the Trust Army, he’s been steadily busy throughout the last few years whether it be him producing projects for the likes of Planet Asia & Elcamino. He’s also built up an impressive solo discography for himself with my favorites being the Big Ghost Ltd.-produced A Bullet for Every Heathen & even his last full-length Interstate 38 a couple Christmases ago. But to follow-up 7 Shots almost 3 months ago, Spesh is enlisting Harry Fraud to fully produce Beyond Belief.

“Warm Winter” is a rap rock opener with Spesh talking about flying out to Hawaii with a bunch of bitches in December whereas “Speshal” works in more guitars as Stove God Cook$ comes into the picture following his immaculate feature on “Shootouts in Soho” off Westside Gunn’s latest mixtape Hitler Wears Hermes X to help Spesh deliver an ode to the drug dealing lifestyle. “2 23’s” has more symphonic boom bap quality to it as Conway the Machine drops the best feature verse with it’s insane rhyme scheme & Spesh talking about never stressed visits when he was locked up. “Loverboy” acknowledges that he was living exceptional behind bars, but then “Back to Shore” with Elcamino & Wiz Khalifa is an impassioning ballad about the road to riches.

Following that on “Target Practice”, we have Jim Jones & Spesh over more rock guitars talking about pulling up to your show with backstage passes until “Band of Brothers” with Benny the Butcher & Ransom finds the trio saying they came together similar to how The Jackson 5 did & the string sections throughout the beat are just absolutely fucking stunning. The song “Sal’s Pizza” has a cool vocal sample before the verses as Spesh hops on top of some pianos & guitars confessing he moved out of Rochester because home is where you receive the worst hate while “Mint Green” with Curren$y has a more chilling quality to it calling out those who were never them dudes. “Sharlene” though ends the EP chipmunk soul style talking about chasing big money ever since he first realized what it was.

For this to be the first EP he’s done outside of the Shots trilogy, it’s gotta be my favorite one he’s done so far & absolutely a highlight on his solo catalogue. Harry’s production has a predominant boom bap sound with some chipmunk soul & drumless undertones, the features all bring their unique styles to the table excellently with Spesh ensuring that people don’t sleep on him lyrically.

Score: 4.5/5

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Jay Worthy – “You Take the Credit, We’ll Take the Check” review

Jay Worthy is a 36 year old MC from Vancouver, Canada who caught my attention in 2017 after The Alchemist produced his debut EP Fantasy Island from top to bottom. He would go onto drop 5 more EPs & just put out a fantastic collab album with Larry June back in March called 2 P’z in a Pod even though initial plans of putting it out through Griselda Records fell through for whatever reason, but is now reuniting with Harry Fraud for his full-length debut.

“Believe” is a classy opener talking about how he did it whereas the soulful “Pacific Coast Highway” with Larry June confessing that they’re married to the hustle. “Good Lookin’” takes a funkier route as Kamaiyah tags along to talk about how you have to pay for their time just before the Conway the Machine-assisted “Helicopter Homicide” works in some lush guitar licks so both MCs can kill shit lyrically.

Meanwhile on “Tonight”, we have Harry taking back to the 80s instrumentally with Jay verbally harassing all the peons out there leading into Curren$y coming into the picture for “Editorials” talking about the rebirth of Max Julien & gunning your spot over a well-flipped sample. “Daytons” with Ramirez layers a harmonica on some crooning vocals expressing their desire to take trips & break hoes, but then “Almighty” returns to soulful turf talking about how he been through it.

The vibraphone/boom bap combo throughout “Stickup Kids” is a nice touch with Detroit’s very own BandGang Lonnie Bands joining Jay in recalling them knocking people down before getting involved with hip hop while “Earth Sky” with MadeinTYO talking about all their homies who’re not here with them anymore. “Monday Motivation” has a funkier flare to it providing words of wisdom going into the new week while the song “Winnipeg Winters” with A$AP 12vy brings in a harmonious loop talking about being them dudes. The penultimate track “6 Figure Strolls” with $ha Hef brags that they made $100k off 1 hoe over a shimmery instrumental & to finish off the album, the sound of “St. Nick the P” is more guitar-heavy talking about being worldwide.

Anticipation for this album was very high for me personally considering that Eat When You’re Hungry, Sleep When You’re Tired has to be one of my favorite EPs that Jay has put out & I think his full-length debut over here is yet another example of a sequel that living up to or surpassing the expectations set by the original. Harry Fraud’s production is more varied compared to the mobb-inspired 2 P’z in a Pod, the features are fantastically consistent & Jay himself comes through with some of his hardest verses he’s ever laid.

Score: 4/5

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French Montana – “Montega” review

French Montana is a 38 year old rapper from Casablanca, Morocco who came up as a close Max B associate. He would then go on to drop 9 mixtapes until Puff Daddy signed him to Bad Boy Entertainment in late 2011, where French has made himself home ever since dropping 4 albums & 6 more tapes. Every album he’s put out thus far haven’t been as well received as his mixtapes, but I was very intrigued to hear that Harry Fraud would be fully producing French’s 5th album in it’s entirety given how well the producer/rapper pair have worked with one another in the past.

“Blue Chills” opens up the album with some hi-hats & a Skylar Gudasz sample as French declares that he’s coming for those who’re trying to escape him whereas “Rushmore Pack” works in a soulful instrumental talking about how lies don’t faze him & that he ain’t the same Montana as before. The hottest rapper in Detroit right now Babyface Ray for “Drive By” flipping “Swan” by Ionna Gika explaining that everything they do is mega leading into EST G. coming into the picture for the energized “Keep It Real” telling their shorties that keeping it 100 is better than being perfect.

Meanwhile on “Kind of Girl”, we have French & Rick Ross on top of a Lou Courtney sample describing their taste in woman just before “Higher” flips Everton Blender to talk about dying for the paper. “Bricks & Bags” with Benny the Butcher & Jadakiss finds the trio over a grittier beat detailing their d-boy lifestyles, but then “Poetic with No Justice” embraces a symphony to talk about dreaming filthy.

“Drop Top” with Quavo incorporates a chilling vocal sample so they can get materialistic while the song “Shorty So Bad” is just an annoyingly airy love ballad. The penultimate track “Drunk Words, Sober Thoughts” with the late Chinx goes full-blown boom bap throwing some piano chords into the mix talking about how no one can fuck with them & “Bronx Mecca” closes it all out by flipping There’s a Ghost” by Fleurie with French getting vulnerable lyrically.

A lot of people like to reasonably clown this dude for his most recent output, but I seriously don’t see how anyone can come away from Montega looking at it as his most consistent body of work in a very long time. Harry Fraud’s sample heavy production is a breath of fresh air considering that his last 4 albums were just chockfull of generic pop rap & the performances from French’s performances himself actually sound decent.

Score: 3.5/5

Lil Peep – “High Fashion” review

This is a brand new posthumous EP from Long Island rapper, singer/songwriter & model Lil Peep. Blowing up in late 2016 with the release of his 4th mixtape Hellboy & then following it with his debut album Come Over When You’re Sober last summer, I can see why it connected with a couple of my friends even though I found both of them to be underwhelming. Unfortunately though, Lil Peep passed away just 2 weeks after his 21st birthday of an accidental fentanyl–xanax overdose right before a show in Tucson, Arizona. The rights of his unreleased music were then given to Columbia Records, who dropped a sequel to the full-length debut showing some improvements compared to his early work. But with Harry Fraud announcing High Fashion earlier this week, he & Columbia have managed to put it out there for the public.

“Choose” is a great opener to the EP accompanied by a pillowy instrumental & Peep calling out a woman who’s lying about being in love with him while the penultimate track “Old Me” follows it up with an acoustic cut chillingly looks back on the person that he used to be prior to his untimely death. Finally, the closer “Living Rooms” sends off the EP with a slow guitar ballad venting about the drug addiction that costed him his life.

I was immediately drawn in when I saw Harry Fraud was involved & at the end of the day, I think High Fashion is amongst some of the best material of Peep’s career. Much like Tierra Whack’s new EP RAP?, I feel like it could’ve used at least a couple more songs but I’m not totally sure if I can blame that on anyone because who knows if they have any more material together? Nonetheless, both parties compliment reach other well.

Score: 3.5/5

Dave East – “Hoffa” review

This is the sophomore album from Harlem emcee Dave East. Breaking out in 2014 off his 8th mixtape Black Rose, this resulted in the man signing a joint deal with Def Jam Recordings & even Nas’ independently owned Mass Appeal Records as well as a spot in the iconic 2016 XXL Freshman Class. However, his full-length debut Survival wouldn’t come out until 3 years later & was very disappointing in the sense that he tried appealing to a more mainstream audience that just didn’t exist. But when Westside Gunn announced that Hoffa was being produced entirely by Harry Fraud, I went into this album wondering if it was gonna be his best yet.

“The Disappearance” is a jazzy, soulful opener addressing those who’ve been asking him what’s up with the music whereas “60 for the Lawyer” is a bluesy follow-up saying he hope someone ain’t informin’ on him. “Diamonds” has a bit of a funky feel in the production & a chipmunk soul sample for Dave to say he been legit leading into him going at his competition for the bassy trap cut “Just Another Rapper”.

Meanwhile on the guitar-driven “Go Off”, we have G Herbo tagging along to snap on their nonbelievers just before the woodwind-infused “Uncle Ric” serves as a lethal prelude to his upcoming collab EP with Benny the Butcher entitled Pablo & Blanco. Things take a more atmospheric turn for him to say he’ll take a fight to pick up “The Product” prior to Jim Jones coming into the picture to talk about their accolades for the slick “Money or Power”.

“I Can Hear the Storm” is a heart-wrenching look back at his life before making it in the music industry whereas “Dolla & a Dream” brings in a glossy trap beat to talk about doing shit cats never seen. “Count It Up” with French Montana of course serves as a sumptuous ode to stacking paper, but Cruch Calhoun’s verse on “The Win” is wack as fuck despite the celebratory tone of it.

The penultimate track “Yeah I Know” with the late Kiing Shooter is a piano trap ballad about not needing any further reminders of both of them being the shit & then the album ends with “Red Fox Restaurant”, where Dave East & Curren$y come together to express gratitude for where they’re at now in luxurious fashion.

To me, this is what Survival should’ve been & quite possibly Dave’s best work yet. Westside Gunn helps him stay true to his street roots rather than trying way too hard to appeal to wider audience in terms of his lyricism & the production that Harry Fraud brings to the table. Really hope Dave continues to travel further down this road.

Score: 4/5

Benny the Butcher – “The Plugs I Met II” review

Benny the Butcher is a 36 year old MC from Buffalo, New York who’s been making music since 2004. However, it wouldn’t be until 2016 where he alongside his cousins Westside Gunn & Conway the Machine would take the culture by storm off projects like Tana Talk 3 & The Plugs I Met. He just dropped his Hit-Boy produced sophomore album Burden of Proof this past fall & as the 2 year anniversary of The Plugs I Met approaches this summer, Benny is enlisting Harry Fraud for the sequel EP.

The EP kicks off with “When Tony Met Sosa”, where Benny talks about how the rap game saved him over a jazzy beat. The next song “Overall” with the late Chinx sees the 2 talking about winning over a grimy instrumental while the track “Plug Talk“ with 2 Chainz finds the pair talking about how they address drug shit in interviews over some harmonious background vocals hanging behind their verses. The song “Live by It” talks about living & dying by the gun over an uncanny instrumental while the track “Talkin’ Back” with Fat Joe sees the 2 responding to everything from dope money to the streets over a flute-tinged beat.

The song “No Instructions” talks about how there’s no rules to the drug game over a poignant boom bap instrumental while the track “Longevity” with French Montana & Jim Jones finds the trio talking about making sure their cash is the strongest over an alluring beat. The song “Survivor’s Remorse” with Rick Hyde sees the 2 talking about how they could’ve died or wound up in jail over a dirgelike instrumental & then the closer “Thanksgiving” tells the rap game to be grateful for him over a soul sample & an organ.

The Plugs I Met is a crown achievement in Benny’s catalog & this sequel is almost as enjoyable as the predecessor. In comparison to the mature & polished vibes that Burden of Proof gave off, he & Harry Fraud take things into much more darker territory as the dark production & the harsh realities The Butcher paints mesh well with one another.

Score: 4/5

Jim Jones – “The Fraud Department” review

Jim Jones is a 44 year old rapper from The Bronx, New York who came up in as a member of The Diplomats in the 2000s. His first 5 full-lengths from 2004-2011 had some highlights in them, but they were all average at best as whole albums. However it wouldn’t be until 2018 after dropping Wasted Talent where he would really start putting out his best material ever & then came out with his magnum opus the following year El Capo. But just 3 months after putting out the sequel El Capo 2, we’re already being treated to Jimmy’s 9th full-length album produced entirely by Harry Fraud.

The opener “Laps Around the Sun” talks about being grateful over a bare flute instrumental whereas the next song “Fucked Up” is about a lil bitch who got her perception of Jimmy wrong over some harmonizing & a saxophone. The track “Aunt Viola” with Dave East finds the duo talking waiting your turn & then turning tables over an airy trap beat while the song “Lose Lose” talks about his success over a soul sample & some snares.

The track “Bada Bing” with French Montana sees the 2 on their gangsta shit over a rubbery beat while the song “Barry White” talks about turning the hood into a paradise over a ghostly instrumental. The track “Say a Prayer” with Curren$y & Jay Worthy finds the trio talking about hustling on the block over a triumphant beat while “The People” with Conway the Machine sees the 2 talking about George Floyd’s murder over a boom bap instrumental with a haunting vocal sample.

The track “Luxury Lies” shows his doubters what he can do over a jubilant beat while song “3 Cuts” with Maino finds the duo on their fly shit over some exuberant horns. The album finishes off with “Make It Home”, where Jimmy talks about his fallen homies over a boom bap beat with some dour keys.

It’s very rare for artists to be putting out their best material later in their careers, but this puts Jimmy on a 3-peat because I like The Fraud Department almost as much as El Capo & El Capo 2. Harry Fraud comes correct on the production as he usually does & when it comes to Jimmy’s lyrics, it seems like this isn’t even his final form.

Score: 4/5