Homeboy Sandman – “anjelitu” review

Homeboy Sandman is a 40 year old MC from Queens, New York who came to my attention when he dropped his 4th album albeit his Stones Throw Records debut 1st of a Living Breed almost 9 years ago at this point. The dude would go on to drop 3 more full-lengths & 7 EPs with them before jumping ship to Mello Music Group in 2019. His first album on the label Dusty was alright, but the Quelle Chris-produced Don’t Feed the Monster. that came out last October was much better. But after forming the duo Lice with local wordsmith Aesop Rock & dropping 3 EPs together, we’re actually getting a change of pace as Sandman’s letting Aes produced his 8th EP from front to back.

“Go Hard” is a charismatic opener about being in beast mode with some guitar licks whereas “West Coast” is a g-funk banger with references to “Hail Mary” & “Hand on the Pump”. Meanwhile on “F.Y.I. (For Your Information)”, we go into a bit of a rock direction for Sandman to talk about how he’s still dope after a decade just before continuing to bust into a more speedier flow on “Cow’s Milk” & the beat on here is kin to 70’s exploitation films. The penultimate track “No Beef” is a powerful vegetarianism anthem & the closer “Lice, Lice Baby” works in a piano instrumental possibly preluding Lice 4.

I think Anjelitu has to be my favorite project that Sandman has dropped under MMG so far, although I do enjoy the vulnerability of Don’t Feed the Monster. It’s really interesting to hear him put his own spin on the whole yin/yang concept in Ancient Chinese philosophy & it just goes to show that we don’t talk about Aes’ production skills as much as his massive vocabulary.

Score: 4/5

Skyzoo – “All the Brilliant Things” review

Skyzoo is a 38 year old MC from Brooklyn, New York rising in the underground off l the 9th Wonder produced Cloud 9: The 3 Day High. He continued to make a name for himself with a lengthy yet very consistent discography that includes the full-length debut The Salvation, the !llmind produced Live from the Tape Deck, A Dream Deferred, Music for My Friends, the Apollo Brown produced The Easy Truth, In Celebration of Us & my personal favorite: the Pete Rock-produced Retropolitan. Last time we heard from Sky was a year ago with the Father’s Day-themed EP Milestones & knowing his grind, he’s back at it with his 7th album.

“Free Jewelry” starts the album off by sampling Gap Mangione’s “Diana in the Autumn Wind” & lyrics looking back on Sky’s career whereas “St. James Liquor” is a celebratory boom bap banger. Al Skratch of all people appears on the jazzy “A Tour of the Neighborhood”, is which literally a look into the area they grew up in. “Rich Rhetoric” is a intricate breakdown of the wealthy backed by a dusty beat while “Bodega Flowers” incorporates some kick-drums & a somewhat funky bass-line accompanying lyrics about appreciation.

Meanwhile on “Something to Believe In”, we get a sample of the iconic Roy Ayers joint “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” along with the concept of being blessed even when Satan is testing him & even though “Humble Brag” speaks for itself conceptually, the vocals in the background are pleasant to the ear. “I Was Supposed to Be a Trap Rapper” takes a look at Skyzoo’s past with JR Swiftz’ production constantly switching from gritty to jazzy while “Plugs & Connections” has rich instrumental & the theme of this is: “ain’t nobody tell nobody what’s to be expected”.

“The Scrimmage” has a hypnotic vocal sample as well as lyrics about minding your limits while we go back to into jazz territory for “Culture-Ish”, which is about passing it down until the baton’s gone. The song “Bed-Stuy’s Burning” speaks on the gentrification of the titular neighborhood accompanied by a live band while the self-produced penultimate track “What Money Taught Us” tells us just that over some keyboards. The album then ends with “Soft Eyes”, which is a glossy romance tune.

It’s always a rejoicing thing whenever this dude drops a project & this is no different from that. Not just because the production has some jazzy undertones to it & some great sample choices, but the whole concept of new era of cultural appropriation is well executed.

Score: 4/5

Namir Blade – “Imaginary Everything” review

Namir Blade is a 28 year old MC/producer from Nashville, Tennessee who first emerged at the beginning of 2018 off the strength of his debut album O.S.T. Worlds & Dreams. However, a lot of people (including myself) weren’t really familiar with the cat until he signed to Mello Music Group & dropped his critically acclaimed sophomore album Aphelion’s Traveling Circus this past fall. 8 months later, L’Orange is being tapped in to produce Namir’s 3rd full-length outing from start to finish.

The titular opener has these grand horn sections & Jimi Hendrix-esque guitar lead that I really like, but Namir’s vocals are totally buried in the mix. The next song “Lyra” continues to go into rock territory with lyrics about possibly becoming the next big thing whereas “Nihilism” is a wailing look into just that. Quelle Chris jumps on the boom bap flavored “Point to Point” to help talk about spending time on the road & despite the brevity of “Out East”, I love the Chappelle’s Show homage at the start & the overall charm of it.

We go back into that rap rock sound on “Corner Store Scandal”, which is literally about a unique purchase he made at a corner store. Fly Anakin jumps on the bass guitar-tinged “Gassed Up” to depict “pulling a shinobi” while “Shotgun” talks about holding it down backed by an instrumental that kinda has a psychedelic-flare to it. The peppy “Somebody’s Anthem” opens up the struggles of being “black on the interstate” before going into a more soulful direction to talk about wanting a lil life.

Meanwhile on “Murphy’s Law”, we get a warping beat as Namir foreshadows a shitty day before going melodic for 2-minutes on the minimally-produced “I Can Change”. The album then finishes off with “Pipe Dream”, where he & Marlowe jump on a spacey instrumental to boast their lyrical skills.

I was curious to hear where Namir Blade was gonna take things after Aphelion’s Traveling Circus, but man he really killed it on Imaginary Everything. Easily his best work to date in my opinion. His writing has improved & L’Orange’s production is otherworldly. If their goal was to make something extravagant out of the mundane, both parties have succeeded.

Score: 4/5

Che Noir – “As God Intended” review

Che Noir is a 26 year old MC from Buffalo, New York that I’ve been keeping up with for the past couple years now. I first caught wind of her through here extensive collaborations with 38 Spesh whether it be Che featured on his projects or Spesh producing a couple of her EPs. But to change things up, she’s enlisting Detroit veteran Apollo Brown for her full-length debut.

The album kicks off with “Anti-Social”, where Che talks about being a star since she was a kid over a boom bap beat with a luxurious piano-lead. The next song “Blood’s Thicker” paints a picture of what it was like for her growing up in Buffalo over a vintage soul sample while the track “Hustle Don’t Give” with Black Thought finds the 2 spitters being money hungry over an upbeat instrumental. The song “Money Orientated” lyrically needs no further explanation over a mystical beat while the track “12 Hours” tells the story of Che killing her man after catching him cheating on her with her friend Lisa over a desponding instrumental.

The song “Hold It Down” with Ty Farris sees the 2 talking about fighting until they die over an orchestral beat while the track “Daddy’s Girl” talks about her father being absent in her life on top of a spacious instrumental. The song “Worth Gold” talks bout being an adolescent over a somber boom bap beat while “The Apple” with Planet Asia finds the 2 making a dedication to black women worldwide over over a peaceful instrumental.

The song “Freedom” tackles racism in the United States over a woozy boom bap beat while the track “Follow the Wisdom” with Skyzoo displays a churchy beat & the way Apollo flips Scarface’s “My Block” on the hook is just incredible. The song “Winter” talks about how this man loves the streets more than her over a jazzy beat while the penultimate track “Live By the Code” over a tempting instrumental. The album then finishes with “’94”, which is a tribute to some of Che’s influences from Biggie to G-Unit over a meditative boom bap beat.

Buffalo has really been taking over the hip hop scene in recent years thanks to Griselda & this album only proves that Che Noir is on her way to becoming one of the illest female spitters out today. Throughout its 51 minute runtime, you’ll find some of her best songwriting to date accompanied by Apollo Brown‘s ever-so-phenomenal set of production.

Score: 4.5/5

Skyzoo – “Milestones” review

This is the 6th EP from New York veteran Skyzoo. Rising to prominence with the 9th Wonder produced Cloud 9: The 3 Day High, the man continued to make a name for himself with a lengthy yet very consistent discography. This includes his full-length debut The Salvation, the !llmind produced Live from the Tape Deck, A Dream Deferred, Music for My Friends, the Apollo Brown produced The Easy Truth & In Celebration of Us. But I really think it wasn’t until last September where he really outdid himself & dropped his magnum opus Retropolitan, which was entirely produced by the revered Pete Rock. However with Father’s Day coming around the corner, Skyzoo is celebrating with Milestones.

The opener “Memory Serves Me” fondly looks back on the early years of his childhood over a jazzy boom bap beat & keep in mind: This is a sound that’s prominently featured all over the entire EP. Following that is the next song “At Least I Got One”, where Skyzoo speaks on being grateful for having a father figure in his life in such a profoundly fashion.

The track “Turning 10” then  talks about his relationship with his father adjusting as he got older & this subject matter is continued on in the song right after “Duffel Bag Weekends” as he looks back on what it was like for him having to visit both his parent’s individual houses as an adolescent.

Then the track “Eyes Wide Shut” continues to speak from the heart as Skyzoo discusses how his father has ”been up” since the Christmas Eve he was born & that he himself has “been up” since late 2017. The song right after is a touching dedication to all fathers worldwide & then “Duly Noted” is a great way to finish things off as we delivers a long verse full of wisdom on top of a blissful piano lead.

Skyzoo has always had an impeccably consistent discography & this is no exception at all. I really love the way he incorporates the jazz elements into the production & it’s refreshing to hear an MC talk about fatherhood in a more positive fashion.

Score: 4/5

H.A.R.D. – Self-Titled review

This is the brand new collaborative EP from Brooklyn & Long Beach veterans Joell Ortiz & KXNG CROOKED. Both of whom have had notorious label issues at the start of their careers, but would go on to see success as members of the supergroup Slaughterhouse along with Royce da 5’9” & Joe Budden from the late 2000s up until the mid-2010s. The quartet had quietly disbanded in 2016 after Joe’s retirement from making music, but it wasn’t confirmed until 2 years later. However after the 3 remaining members got back together on “I Will” off of Eminem’s latest album MUSIC TO BE MURDERƎD BY, Yaowa & Crook are teaming up on H.A.R.D. (Housing Authority Rap District).

The title track finds the duo talk about being humble for too long over a Heatmakerz instrumental with some beautiful background vocals whereas the next song “Get Ya Money” talks about how there’s 6,000,000 ways to make bread over a boom bap beat from Erick Sermon. The track “Caddy Bump (LBC)” is a Crook solo joint about growing up in the eastside with a ghostly instrumental from !llmind while the song “Catchin’ Bodies” sees the 2 getting back together for some vicious battle bars over a grand instrumental from Apollo Brown.

The track “Lose My Mind” talks about growing up where they come from over a lone acoustic instrumental while the song “Wolves (BRKLYN)” is a solo Joell joint where he totally airs someone out over bloodcurdling beat from the J.U.ST.I.C.E. League. The penultimate track “Lovely” talks about waking up to the same thing over a shadowy beat & then the EP finishes with “Memorial Day”, where Crook & Yaowa pay tribute to those who’ve passed away this year.

If this is the closest we’ll ever get to a new Slaughterhouse project then coming from someone who used to be a huge fan of the supergroup back in the day, then I’d be totally ok with it. The production is grimy as Hell & the chemistry between both MCs is fantastic as well. 

Score: 4/5

Skyzoo – “Retropolitan” review

Skyzoo is a 36 year old MC from Brooklyn, New York that first gained attention in 2006 with his 9th Wonder debut album Cloud 9: The 3 Day High. This was followed up in 2009 with The Salvation & then the !llmind produced Live from the Tape Deck the following year. Then after taking 2011 off, he came back with his 3rd & final Duck Down album A Dream Deferred. Zoo would go on to form his own label First Generation Rich Inc. & make his debut on there with Music for My Friends in 2015. He would then drop the Apollo Brown produced The Easy Truth under Mello Music Group the following year, but would go back to dropping projects on FGR at the beginning of last year with In Celebration of Us. But almost 2 years later, he’s teaming up with MMG once again for his 8th full-length album & has enlisted the revered Pete Rock to produce it from front to back.

After the “Men Like Us” intro, we go into the first song “Glorious”. Where talks about how he’s just that over a boom bap beat with a soul sample & some horns. The track “Truck Jewels” with Pete sees the 2 getting fly over a woodwind infused instrumental & the song “Carry the Tradition” with Styles P lyrically needs no further explanation, but I really like the claps in the beat a lot.

The track “Homegrown” talks about keeping it just that over a funky instrumental while the song “It’s All Good” is a positivity anthem with an instrumental that was made during the illmatic sessions. The track “10 Days” finds Rich Porter talking to Azie over a euphoric instrumental while the song “Richie” is vice versa over a boom bap beat with some keyboards.

The track “Penny Jerseys” reflects on his block over the same sample that Gang Starr used for “The Planet” while the song “1 Time” finds Zoo paying homage to a number of things over a smooth beat. The penultimate track “Eastern Conference All-Stars” with eLZhi & Griselda Records is an triumphantly epic posse cut & then the album ends with “The Audacity of Dope”, where Sky comes through with a bar-fest over a soulful boom bap beat.

Personally, this is the man’s best work to date. You can really tell that he & Pete Rock took their time in crafting a near perfect love letter/wakeup call to NYC & a nonchalant chemistry.

Score: 4.5/5

Joell Ortiz – “Monday” review

img_9980-1

Joell Ortiz is a 39 year old rapper who first gained recognition after being included in the Unsigned Hype column of The Source in 2004. He then signed to Aftermath Entertainment in 2006, who allowed him to release his debut album The Brick: Bodega Chronicles with E1 Music in the next year. Yaowa would eventually leave Aftermath in 2008 & form Slaughterhouse with Royce da 5’9”, KXNG CROOKED & Joe Budden shortly after. The supergroup rose to prominence with their self-titled debut that just celebrated it’s 10 year anniversary this year & would go on to sign with Eminem’s Interscope Records imprint Shady Records in 2011. But sadly, their major label debut welcome to: OUR HOUSE in the summer of 2012 would unfortunately end up being their last. Joell has been focusing on his solo career ever since then & not even a year after his Apollo Brown produced Mona Lisa, he’s hitting fans with his 7th full-length album.

After the titular intro, we go into the first song “Captain”. Where Joell talks about his place in hip hop over a stylistic Heatmakerz beat. The track “Sip Slow” is filled with clever battle bars over a joyous boom bap beat from Apollo Brown while the song “Champion” declares himself as just that over a tribal instrumental from Nottz. The track “Anxiety” vents about his insecurities over a soulful acoustic instrumental while the song “Same Time” talks about hearing a lot all at once over a boom bap beat with some strings.

The song “Learn You” talks about the sacrifices he made to chase his dreams over a grand Big K.R.I.T. instrumental then the track “Screens” talks about his kids & reflecting on his own childhood over a colorful instrumental. The song “Jamaican Food” is a lust anthem with a sweet minimalist beat while the track “Before Hip Hop” talks about his life before making music over some bongos & soulful background vocals. The penultimate track “Momma” of course pays tribute to Yaowa’s mother over an piano that suits the vibe & then the album ends with “Grammy”, where Joell talks about doing him over a boom bap beat with some more beautiful keyboard passages.

This is easily one of Yaowa’s best releases to date. The production is sweet to the ear & the lyrics are some of his most personal yet.

Score: 4/5

Joell Ortiz – “Mona Lisa” review

Joell Ortiz is a 38 year old rapper from Brooklyn, New York who rose to prominence after being featured in the Unsigned Hype column of The Source in 2004. He then signed to Aftermath Entertainment in 2006 & they allowed him to release his debut album The Brick: Bodega Chronicles with E1 Music in the next year. Then in 2008, he left Aftermath & formed Slaughterhouse with Royce da 5’9”, KXNG CROOKED & Joe Budden. They saw a lot of success together with their self-titled debut the next year, landing a contract with Eminem’s Interscope Records imprint Shady Records in 2011 (the same year Joell put out his sophomore album Free Agent. However, the supergroup’s only album on the label welcome to: OUR HOUSE in the following year would unfortunately end up being their last. He’s been focusing on his solo career ever since then & now for his 6th full-length album, he has enlisted Detroit’s very own Apollo Brown to produce it in it’s entirety.

After the “Brushstrokes” intro, we go into the first song “Reflection”. Here, Yaowa putting his 2 cents in on the demise of Slaughterhouse over a mellow beat with some strings. The track “‘My Block” is a vivid tribute to the Cooper Park Houses over a soulful beat while the song “Cocaine Fingertips” is filled with hilarious battle bars over a settle bass-line. The track “Grace of God” is about making it out of the projects with an orchestral boom bap beat while the song “That Place” recalls a friend of his being shot over a somber beat.

The track “Word…” talks about his main squeeze over some bass guitar while the song ““Decisions” contemplates whether to keep rapping or selling cocaine over a gloomy instrumental. The track “Timberlan’d Up” sees Joell linking up with Royce to talk about fighting people over a gritty boom bap beat but if you were a huge Slaughterhouse fan like I was, then you’ll definitely like the remix with KXNG CROOKED a lot more. The penultimate track “Come Back Home” reflects on the good times in his block over a soulful boom bap beat & then the titular song is a 3 minute epic that finishes the album.

As expected, this is Joell’s best work yet. His lyricism is sharper over time & the organic Apollo Brown production suits his stories near perfectly. If you wanna hear an underrated vet at his most mature moments, then give this a listen.

Score: 4.5/5