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

King Iso – “Get Well Soon” review

This is the 5th full-length album from Nebraska emcee/producer King Iso. Coming up as a protege of San Diego chopper Twisted Insane, he would only drop first 2 albums & The Insanity Plea & Autophobia under Brainsick Muzik. Shortly after, they had an unfortunate falling out & it prompted Iso to put out his next album DeMenTia independently in 2018. However, I was thrilled to see him sign with Strange Music the following spring & his debut on the Kansas City powerhouse World War Me has quickly become one of the label’s best albums ever. So given that & the singles that Iso released for Get Well Soon over the fall, my expectations were very high.

The title track opens up the album on top of a somber trap instrumental confessing that he no longer feels the same whereas “0 Dark 34” weaves some hi-hats behind the sound of a phone beeping talking about being too busy to work on himself. “Today” has a more jangly ring to it pondering if people would call him if they didn’t need a favor or wanted to get money leading into “6 AM” has a darker tone sonically talking about getting high before the sunrise.

Meanwhile on “Big Farm A”, we have C-Mob & X-Raided tagging along with Iso over some tropical guitar licks & skittering drums letting the masses know we’re living in a sick market just before “Under My Tongue” takes a more spacious yet bass heavy route talking about how he was getting it in in the mental hospital. Rittz & Twista come into the picture for the rambunctious “Self Destruct” admitting they’re about to implode any moment, but then “Hellthy” talks about smiling while burning away over a downtrodden trap beat.

King Kash joins his brother for the cloudy/trap infused “I’m Okay” lying about their state of mental well being prior to jumping on top of some hi-hats & pianos admitting he’s “Not Well”. Following this, “Window” kinda has the same feel as the previous cut instrumentally except it’s more somber & detailing having so much on his mind while “Made Me Crazy” makes the sounds of Cuckoos into a trap beat with Snake Lucci & Tech N9ne talking about being unhinged.

“Big Facts” with Taebo tha Truth finds the 2 taking shots at those who be talking too much over an atmospheric instrumental whereas the guitar-heavy “My Flowers” is basically The Brazy Bunch demanding their respect. Taebo returns for the aggressive “6 PM” reminding the world that they had to run it on their lonely. The song “Cover the Scars” is an acoustic/trap banger paying tribute to all of those out there who have Iso tattoos while the penultimate track “Hypocrite” has a churchy quality to it talking about how his music has helped others yet he’s not helping himself. “Help Yourself” ends the album with an energized ballad encouraging self care.

I think it’s safe to say that Iso’s output ever since signing to Strange has been the best of his career thus far & Get Well Soon wound up being a fantastic follow-up to World War Me. His production skills continue to progress while continuing to raise awareness of how much mental health matters further & detailing the obstacles he constantly faces.

Score: 4/5

Maez301 – “Hello, Goodbye.” review

Maez301 is a 28 year old rapper from Gaithersburg, Maryland that first got his start in 2017 with his debut mixtape Nowhere. The project eventually caught the attention of Ervin Pope & Jerome Taylor, both of whom helped Maez get a record contract with Strange Music the following year & dropped his eponymous full-length debut showing Strange fans who he is artistically a little bit after his 26th born day. The sophomore effort HASAAN took a more personal tone to it & now that he’s home from the Strange New World Tour, Maez is keeping EP behind the boards for his 3rd album.

The title track has some gospel qualities to it telling listeners to be ready when he goes whereas “Let Up” with Tech N9ne is a west coast-tinged banger talking about never slowing down. “First Place” goes into cloudy, trap territory striving for victory & “Black” has to be one of the best songs of his career thus far detailing issues that’re very much relevant today on top of a bluesy instrumental.

Meanwhile on “Frenemies”, we have King Iso joining Maez on top of an acoustic guitar as well as a flute & some snares addressing trust issues leading into “Olsen Twins” serving as a romantically lush trap banger. After the “Different” interlude, “Fallen” is a downtrodden cut cussing out those who wanna see him fail just before “Inspire Me” tells his lover how much she means to him & the beat kinda reminds me of DJ Mustard for whatever reason.

Jehry Robinson tags along for the ethereal “Strange Flows” talking about hoes, but then “Slow Down” keeps the cloud rap vibes going by trying to steal a girl fed up with fuckboys. “Girlfriend” is a smooth dedication to his new sweetheart whereas “Lot on My Plate” has a bit of a cavernous feel to it venting about people hating him because he did it his way.

“Nun 2 Me” is a more spacious cut saying it ain’t shit to him while the song “What a Life” follows it up with a high-spirited bop about how blessed he is. The penultimate track “Ecstasy” psychedelically encourages listeners to live in the moment & “No Limit” rounds it all off has this sparkling quality to the beat talking about taking things as high as possible.

If you liked how Maez introduced the world to who he is artistically & personally on the last 2 albums as much as I did, then I HIGHLY encourage you to check this new one out as soon as you can because he really outdoes himself this time. I always appreciate when one tries to expand themselves artistically & that’s EXACTLY what he does with EP on here successfully.

Score: 4/5

Tech N9ne – “Asin9ne” review

This is the 23rd full-length album from Kansas City icon Tech N9ne. Getting his footing in 3 decades back as a member of the groups Black Mafia as well as the 57th Street Rogue Dog Villians & Nnutthowze, his profile began to increase in the late 90’s after landing a spot on the Gang Related soundtrack & becoming among the first to join Yukmouth’s then-newly formed collective The Regime. But after having issues with Interscope Records & Universal Music Group following the release of his iconic 3rd album Anghellic, that’s when Tech decided to form his own label with the help of a man at Paradise Originals named Travis O’Guin. Together, they would call it Strange Music & solidified itself as one of if not the biggest indie label in the world. Tech has made it a tradition to drop an album every year since Everready (The Religion) back in ‘06 & given that’s been going on at Strange throughout 2021, I was very curious to hear how Asin9ne would address it all.

“The Herder” kicks the album off with Tech villainously proclaiming himself as just that with production from Wyshmaster whereas the King Iso & Seuss Mace-assisted “I Don’t Fit” has a symphonic trap vibe with the help of N4 talking about not fitting in even though they’re the shit. “Kickiter” has a bit of an EDM flare encouraging the crowds to riot leading into the spacious “Too Good” produced by Ervin Pope & featuring Lil Wayne tackles the idea of being too good for their own good.

Meanwhile on “No See Umz”, we Snow Tha Product tagging along with a poorly sung Russ hook for an anthem going at their doubters just before King Iso returns alongside Joey Cool & even The Rock (although you can definitely tell Tech wrote his verse) with the combative “Face Off” serving as 7’s only production on the album. E-40 comes into the picture for the explosive strip club anthem “Clydesdale”, but then “Still Right Here” with X-Raided serves as an emotional ballad about loyalty.

“Take Your Halo” reveals itself as an angry response to those who’ve been talking shit on Strange Music as of late while “Knock That Noodle” speaks on the violence in KC over a cavernous beat. “Heightened” despite it’s brevity feels like something you’d hear in the trailer of a good horror movie just before the horrible dubstep/rap fusion that is “What Rhymes With Threat’ll Kill Ya?” with Phlaque the Grimstress & Zkeircrow.

If you couldn’t tell by the title, “I Been Thru a Lot” delivers one of the more vulnerable moments on the entire album & “Dial It Back” has a more cloudier sound talking about how he ain’t bragging. The song “Zaza” with Oobergeek meditatively gets sensual while the penultimate track “Close Yours Eyes” is a more boom bap-tinged pleading to keep faith in him. “Special” finishes it off with a powerful, feel-good guitar ballad.

I’ve been a huge fan of Tech N9ne since my senior year of high school & his music has helped me through some dark times, but I’m kinda indifferent towards Asin9ne. He definitely proves that he can hold an album without 7 but much like ENTERFEAR, he overdid it on the features & their contributions are either hit or miss.

Score: 3/5

Jehry Robinson – “The Name’s Not Important” review

This is the sophomore album from New York rapper, singer, songwriter & producer Jehry Robinson. Coming up in 2016 off his self-titled mixtape then an EP the following year, his biggest breakthrough came around Christmas 2019 when he signed to Strange Music & put out his full-length debut 20/Twenty at the tail-end of that following summer. However, it looks like Jehry is already back with The Name’s Not Important & has enlisted Wyshmaster to produce the whole thing from start to finish.

“Out My Face” starts things off with Jehry & his mentor Tech N9ne telling their naysayers to leave them alone with Wyshmaster whipping up an energetic trap instrumental whereas “Scars in My Mind” is a piano ballad opening up about “we’re only holy when we hover inside”. “On Read” takes a more moodier turn airing out a woman ghosting him just before the acoustic “Everything’s on Fire” tells listeners that “you’re the only one that can be you”.

Meanwhile on “Weekend”, we get a tropical party theme leading into him & Krizz saying their lives are a mess for the bassy trap banger “Can’t Hold My Head Up”. I think “Butterflies” has to be my favorite on the whole album with it’s boom bap production & Jehry showcasing his speedy flows, but “Take Me Home” works in some beautiful keys saying he’ll change some day.

“Cancellations” with Nani Layilaa is a harmonious cut looking back on the struggle whereas “24/8” is a short boom bap ballad saying he can’t believe he’s made it this far. “Full Moon” serves as a full-blown contemporary R&B cut that isn’t too bad, but “All These Colors” with Hi-Rez is a downtrodden trap cut talking about change.

“Full View” enlists Rose the Mermaid for a keyboard/boom bap cut saying they ain’t worried about the next man while the song “Another Round” with Justina Valentine serves as a fiery strip club banger. The penultimate track “Too Much” energetically talks about doing the most & for the closer “Living Proof”, we got Jehry & Joey Cool coming together for a summery tune hoping the good days will weigh the bad ones out.

20/Twenty is a tad bit better to me, but The Name’s Not Important is a worthy follow-up. I like how it picks up where the previous album left off with Jehry once again showing that he’s one of if not the most versatile artist on Strange Music currently.

Score: 3.5/5

Joey Cool – “I Tried to Be Normal Once” review

Joey Cool is a 35 year old MC from Kansas City, Missouri who first caught attention as a long-time affiliate of local independent hip hop powerhouse Strange Music. However after releasing a total of 4 mixtapes & a studio album on his own, Tech N9ne decided to officially sign him to the Snake & Bat in 2017 & dropping his eponymous sophomore album the next year. This was followed up with Old Habits Die Hard & now as the 1-year anniversary of Coolie High approaches this fall, Joey is following it up by dropping his 5th full-length album.

After the “Swanktastical” intro, the first song “Way Down” works in a pillowy trap beat asking to dim the lights whereas “Jumpin’” is an energetic crowd mover down the Kato production. “Strange Sinatra” declares himself as such on top of a glossy trap instrumental from Dominique Sanders just before going into rap rock territory for the Tech N9ne-assisted “Man on Fire”.

Meanwhile on “Protect Thine Energy”, we have Joey going back into trap turf talking about dominating every season leading into him & Kye Colors jumping on top of some pianos & finger snaps showing their new bag for “New Phone”. He later opens up about a party in the hills that’ll probably kill him on the quasi-boom bappy “Bad Dreams”, but then “Like I’m Supposed To” atmospherically opens up about never following suit & being him.

Jon Connor of all people tags along for the jingly “Thomas Shelby” comparing themselves to the Peaky Blinders character of the same name whereas “Don’t Touch Me” has a more minimal sound saying he’s not down with the fuckery. C-Mob, Rittz, Suli4Q & Whitney Peyton come together on the trap banger “It’s a Pity” saying they did it now while “Here We Are” is a moodier jam about how “we take it far”.

The penultimate track “Whiskey of the Day” with Jehry Robinson & Wrekonize finds the trio joining forces to deliver a catchy homage to Jack Daniels down to the stripped-back production & the closer “Coolie Time” is a just yet hyper dedication to Red Rocks Amphitheatre, which is where his Strange Music contract was publicly revealed at.

Now I don’t know where Joey Cool is going from here because we all know a lot of artists have been leaving Strange to do their own thing throughout these last few months, but I’m gonna stick along for the ride because this is as solid as his previous efforts. I love the confidence in his voice & even though 7 usually produces the label’s output, they make it work without him.

Score: 3.5/5

Oh! The Horror – “1692” review

This is the sophomore album from California trio Oh! The Horror. Emerging a couple years ago off their debut EP The Devil Made Me Do It, they gained even more exposure just last summer by becoming the very 1st act under Majik Ninja Entertainment’s new sub-label Welcome to the Underground & put out their full-length debut Halloween 365. And after a hot streak of singles throughout the first half of 2021, it was only right for Oh! The Horror to return with 1692.

“Strange” is a trap metal opener about how they’ll never change whereas “Let Me Be” is a vicious response to those who ever doubted them. “All’s Fair” goes into a punkier direction as they takes shots a deceitful woman before going emo on all fronts for “Dead Inside”.

Meanwhile on “Alive”, we get a fiery ballad about how thrilling murder is just before the explosive yet suicidal “Bodybag”. We go into an almost alternative direction on the possessive “If I Can’t Have You” leading into the trap metal/industrial fusion that is “Istilldontcare”, which is about giving no fucks.

“Groceries” takes things back into punk territory with them saying they’re always eating their girls’ asses while shifting gears into post-hardcore on “Eating Me Alive”. The song “Never Found” is a chugging ballad about a witch they knows & that leads into the penultimate track “Witch Bitch”, which is a freaky trap metal-flavored follow up. The album then ends with “Tears of Gold” which is a great cover of the Faouzia joint of the same name.

If you go back to my Halloween 365 review, I had stated that Oh! The Horror would start to grow more down the line. And that’s exactly what they just did on 1692. I feel like their sound is more refined, it’s more adventurous, the songwriting has improved & they feel more comfortable in their performances.

Score: 4/5

BL1GHT – Self-Titled review

BL1GHT is a newly formed duo consisting of HU$H & Tech N9ne. One is a rapper/producer from Los Angeles known for his work in the EDM scene under numerous aliases & the latter being amongst the biggest independent hip hop artists of all-time. Now I’m not really sure exactly how these guys’ paths crossed, but my morbid curiosity for this eponymous debut EP of theirs got the best of me given how much of a N9na fan I’ve been since high school. Especially off the strength of albums like Anghellic, Absolute Power, Everready (The Religion), K.o.D. (King of Darkness), All 6’s & 7’s, Welcome to Strangeland and Special Effects.

”Let Lost Happen” starts the EP by going into a brostep direction as BL1GHT tell the listener that “false starts isn’t how they play” whereas the next joint “Noise Baby” sounds like a rehash of your generic EDM track from 2011 with it’s repetitive structuring. We go into a more glitchier sound on the lyrically aggressive “Move Back Right Now” before fusing elements of dubstep & trap metal with “Smiley”.

Meanwhile on “Wear U Down”, the instrumental for some reason sounds like the theme music you’d hear whenever a Blacklight: Retribution match would end as BL1GHT rap about the way they show love while the penultimate track “41 Days” is much more melodic & the lyrics are more depressing. The closer “Suffering” is a lot similar to “Smiley” in terms of the production with the duo rapping about wanting their opposition to suffer.

I have nothing against dubstep or EDM as an entire genre, but boy was it a struggle for me to sit through this entire EP for 22 minutes. The chemistry between the duo seems to be hamfisted rather than natural because as a performer, Tech N9ne is just washing HU$H on every song. On top of that, the latter’s production isn’t as invigorating as someone like Burial’s

Score: 1/5

¡MAYDAY! – “Minute to Midnight” review

This is the 8th full-length album from Miami-based trio ¡MAYDAY!. Formed in 2003 by keyboardist/guitarist Plex Luthor & emcee Bernz, the duo released their self-titled debut in the fall of ‘06 before adding 4 more members into the fold: emcee/producer Wrekonize, bassist Gianni Ca$h, percussionist NonMS & drummer L.T. Hopkins in 2009. Together, they would begin to rock the underground off 2 EPs & their sophomore album Stuck on an Island. This would catch the attention of Kansas City veteran Tech N9ne, who signed the group to his independent powerhouse Strange Music in 2011. They would go on to cement themselves as a flagship act on the label’s roster off critically acclaimed projects like Take Me to Your Leader, Thrift Store Halos, Believers & Future Vintage. However since 2016, ¡MAYDAY! has been a 3-piece consisting of Wrek, Bernz & NonMS. Their first album as a trio Search Party was a decent sequel to Stuck on an Island & the heavily reggae-influenced South of 5th was slightly better, but it’s been a little over 2 years after the release of their previous EP The Thinnest Line II, the 3 are getting back together for Minute to Midnight.

After the “In Due Time” intro, the title track that truly kicks the album off talks their patience being tested as well as divine new moralities over some wavy synth-lines & live drumming from ¡MAYDAY! themselves whereas the next song “Make Noise” talks about how “them boys won’t let you live in peace” over a Carribean-flavored trap beat from 7. The track “See You Smile” motivates the listener to stay strong in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic over some bass & acoustic guitars while the song “Hard to Leave” details relationship issues over a moody beat from Bernz with co-production from The Pushers.

The track “Words Get in the Way” picks up where the previous cut left off as Bernz & Wrekonize talk to their partners about trying to change over an instrumental kin to a 70’s blaxploitation film while the song “Golden Hour” talks about meeting their lovers in “that place where the night moves slow” over a funky beat. The track “Lost Cause” talks about the reason why women do them wrong over a cavernous trap instrumental & then UBI provides the album’s only guest verse on the song “All In” as he & ¡MAYDAY! talk about being fully committed over a cloudy beat from NonMS.

The track “Let You Tell It” talks about letting their loved ones speak their minds over a reggae-tinged instrumental while the song “Flatline” is a rap rock anthem about chasing death. The track “1 Eye Open” is a piano-boom bap ballad calling out the fact that everyone says they’re woke nowadays & then the song “Flowers” expresses their hope of being appreciated while they’re still here over an instrumental with some heavy jazz undertones.

The track “Empty” is a stripped-back, catchy look into depression while the song “Can’t Do That Anymore” talks about wandering down a windy road over a disco-flavored beat. The track “Get There” talks about how they’re not sure where they’re going over a pillowy instrumental while the closer “Foul Out” goes back & forth dismissing all the bullshit being said about them over some punk-like guitar riffs & drums. But then there’s the bonus cut “Hit’s Different”, where Bernz & Wrekonize talk about trying to break out of a cycle over a plaintive instrumental from Wyshmaster.

Even though their last couple projects have been just ok to me, I was very excited for this given how much I enjoyed Wrekonize & Bernz’ latest solo albums Pressure Point & Sorry for the Mess. At the end of the day, this is the best ¡MAYDAY! album I’ve heard since Future Vintage. The songwriting is some of their most captivating ever & the way the trio fuses together all the sounds they’ve ever dabbled with into 1 continues to show how unique they are.

Score: 4.5/5

Intrinzik – “Lasers & Poison” review

Intrinzik is a 43 year old rapper from Phoenix, Arizona most notable for being the founder of Underground Hustlin’. Aside from that, the dude has put out a total of 9 albums & 3 EPs through his own label Intrinz Ink Records since 2004. But for his 10th full-length effort, Intrinzik is getting it backed by none other than the Majik Ninja Entertainment sub-label Welcome to the Underground.

The album kicks off with the title track, where Intrinzik talks about commercial sponsors feasting on inhibitions over a rap metal beat. The next song “Dinosaurs” talks about devouring these other rappers over some heavy guitars while the track “Force Fed Famine” talks about watching the market collapse like skyscrapers over a dreary backdrop fused with some hard rock instrumentation. The song “Chemicals” talks about paying it forward genetically over a punky beat while the track “Lizard Tongues” talks about overdosing on power over some live drumming & chugging guitars.

The song “Heart of the Table” with Dienasty the Mexican Thuggalo sees the 2 talking about the 3rd world over an instrumental that almost has a bit of a nu metal influence to it while the track “Lied To” ponders what’s real & fantasy over a riot-inducing beat. The song “Amphetamine Suicide” talks about drug usage over some thick instrumentation while the track “Broadcast the Apocalypse” takes aim at television as a whole over some Hellish riffs.

The song “Losing My Mind” with Twiztid finds the trio talking about insanity over a robotic instrumental while the track “Built for This” talks about annihilating anything that comes after him over a chaotic beat. The song “Try to Stay Alive” with Skeptik sees the 2 talking about survival over some more punk rock flavored production while the track “End of the World” with McNastee finds the duo talking about living in the apocalypse over a hard rock instrumental.

The song “First World Problems” with Krypto Man sees the 2 talking about that very issue over a somewhat thrash-esque instrumental while the penultimate track “The Right to Vote” with Bisshop & Raw-D finds the trio talking about how they use music as their weapon & I love how the build-up in the production. The album finishes off with “Toy Gory 2”, which is a decent 8-minute Underground Hustlin’ posse cut.

If you wanna get into Intrinzik, I would recommend starting with this because I find it to be his best work to date. Not just because of how the sound of the album continuously bounces from metal & punk to straight up hip hop, but his songwriting on here in comparison to his previous material is a lot more conscious this time around.

Score: 3.5/5