Tha God Fahim – “Dump Gawd: 6 Ring Champ” review

This is the 19th full-length album from Atlanta emcee/producer Tha God Fahim. Coming up as an affiliate of Griselda Records alongside Mach-Hommy & Your Old Droog, he also has a incredibly vast discography with a couple of standouts being Breaking Through tha Van Allen Belts & Dump Assassins. Last year alone, Fahim dropped his 18th album Dump Gawd: Stock Lord & the 2 Dump Gawd: Shot Clock King EPs produced by Nicholas Craven. However, is bringing him & a couple other producers on board for 6 Ring Champ.

Your Old Droog tags along for the opener “Titanism” as he & Fahim talk about keeping their engines running with a horn sample provided by the latter whereas “Iron Mic” goes into dusty boom bap territory thanks to Camoflauge Monk saying he does this for his own liking. “4 Matic” works in a drumless loop provided by Nicholas Craven to spit some battle raps leading into the chipmunk soul-heavy “Love n Hate” talking about how people be acting towards him.

Meanwhile on “Job Well Done”, we have Droog & Fahim linking back up on some jazzy boom bap shit reflecting on their come ups just before the self-produced “Countless Nights, Endless Days” incorporates some sinister piano melodies talking about being bad to the metronome. “61 in a Game” has a more peaceful tone giving motherfuckers hope, but then Droog returns 1 last time for the dusty “Checkers” clapping back at their competition.

“O.W.J. (Off-White Jordans)” talks about running numbers up all night over a slick Craven instrumental while the song “Stay Down ‘Till You Come Up” is self-explanatory as far as subject matter goes & Fahim himself provides a dejecting atmosphere to it. The penultimate track “Drivin’ Me Crazy” goes back into soul turf confessing how these last few days have been for him & “The Last Shot” is a jazzy finisher expressing his desire to live free of pressures.

Much like Stock Lord & Shot Clock King, I think 6 Ring Champ is yet another example of Fahim leveling up as an artist. He sounds hungrier than ever on the mic & the production is so incredibly consistent whether it be the man himself or the outside collaborators he brought in.

Score: 4/5

Your Old Droog – “YOD Wave” review

This is the 5th EP from Ukrainian-American emcee/producer Your Old Droog. Emerging in the underground off his self-titled debut, many first thought he was an alter ego of Nas given that their voices are somewhat similar. Nonetheless, the guy has reached legend status at this point by proving that he was in his own lane off later albums such as Packs & It Wasn’t Even Close. But coming fresh off the incredibly conceptual TIME & Space Bar over the summer & fall respectively, Droog is kicking off his 2022 by enlisting Nicholas Craven to fully produce YOD Wave.

“Fela Kuti” kicks off the whole EP with some gorgeous piano melodies saying he’s being away for too long whereas “Scooby Snacks” takes a more soulful boom bap route looking back on where he came from before getting back to business. “.500” works in some dramatic string sections talking about having less than nothing just before the organ-laced “Purple Rain Freestyle (Game, Blouses)” comes through with some braggadocio. The song “Black n Red Huaraches” with Tha God Fahim finds the 2 comparing their lives to operas even though the instrumental is my least favorite on the whole EP while the penultimate track “Lost Love” gets romantic over a drumless chipmunk soul sample. Fahim returns once more for the closer “Body Right, Mind Right” to jump on top of some solemn piano chords talking about taking no one’s advice.

Coming from someone who’s been down with Droog since the beginning, I genuinely believe that YOD Wave is the best EP he’s made yet. It’s not as conceptual as his last 2 albums, but he’s just spitting nothing but pure heat for 20 minutes accompanied by some of the most astonishing production that Craven had to offer.

Score: 9/10

Mach-Hommy – “Balens Cho” review

This is the 11th EP from New Jersey emcee Mach-Hommy. Blowing up in the underground off his Griselda-backed sophomore effort H.B.O. (Haitian Body Odor), he & Tha God Fahim fell out with them shortly after only to reconcile this past Christmas & then Mach returned to the label over the spring with one of best albums of the year: Pray for Haiti. But in light of his Dump Gawds colleague Your Old Droog dropping Space Bar last week, Mach is continuing to apply pressure by dropping Balens Cho.

After the “La Prèmiere Bougie” intro, the first song “Labou” starts the whole thing off with Nicholas Craven weaving in some incredible saxophones wittily talking about being the new Rick Rubin & Russell Simmons whereas “La Deuxième” is just a decent interlude. “Separation of the Sheep & the Goats” incorporates a sweet vocal sample humbly opening up about his blessings leading into the “Magnum Band” sequel produced by the late Ras G which I’ll go as far to say is superior & darker than the predecessor.

After the “La Troisième” interlude, we have Mach talking about making it out the hood rich for “Lajan Sal” accompanied by an instrumental that gives me crazy Italian monster vibes just before the “La Quatrième” interlude comes into play. “Wooden Nickels” is probably the most heart-wrenching cut on the EP cautioning shady motherfuckers while the song “Traditional” cleverly uses the same rhyme scheme throughout over a healthy mix of horns & whistling even though it could’ve been a little bit longer.

After the “La Cinquième” interlude, Tha God Fahim tags along for the penultimate track “Money Magnets” getting on some boom bap shit talking about dominating the rap game & “Self Luh” finishes the EP with Mach encouraging listeners to treat their bodies like it’s the only one they got on top of a comforting beat from Conductor Williams.

I’ve been fiending for this shit hard ever since it was originally announced a month ago & my God is it a great follow-up to Pray for Haiti. The excessive amount of interludes are annoying because they’re all so short that there’s no point of them being on there, but the production is as equally fantastic & Mach still manages to drop bars that’ll make you run it back.

Score: 4/5

Blu – “The Color Blu(e) review

Blu is a 38 year old MC from Los Angeles, California who became notorious in the underground in 2007 when he & Exile dropped their debut album Below the Heavens: In Hell Happy with Your New Imaginary Friend. Since then, he’s managed to put out a handful of collab projects & solo efforts of his own. The most notable being: Her Favorite Colo(u)r, the M.E.D.-assisted Bad Neighbor produced by Madlib, the Oh No-produced A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night & the Damu the Fudgemunk-produced Ground & Water. But with the 1-year anniversary of the 3rd Blu & Exile album Miles: From an Interlude Called Life passing by over the summer, Blu is enlisting Nature Sounds to back up his 7th full-length solo outing right here.

“I Am Blu(e)” starts off the album with some keyboard embellishments going on about how magnificent he is whereas “Everyday Blu(e)s” has a bit of a jazz flare to it saying he shakes off negativity every day. “People Call Me Blu(e)” incorporates an ill ass blues sample reminding everyone who the fuck he is, but then “Because the Sky’s Blu(e)” harmoniously proclaims himself as a reflection of God.

Meanwhile on “You Ain’t Never Been Blu(e)”, we have Blu jumping on top of some pianos to get conscious leading into “I Was Born to Be Blu(e)” flipping the Ella Fitzgerald cut of the same name telling us he was destined for this. “Blu(e)r Than Blu[e]” fuses orchestral & boom bap bragging about himself just before “We’re Darker Than Blu(e)” serves as a heavenly pro-black theme.

The song “Mr. Blu(e) Sky” is an upbeat ode to living in the moment while the penultimate track “Mr. Blu(e)” has some crooning vocals & trumpets sending a message to the youth. “Blu(e) World” ends the album with an angelic sample & paying tribute to the coolest kid in his city named Ricky.

This dude’s been in the game for nearly 15 years at this point & still come together with incredible music like it’s nothing because I think The Color Blu(e) is amongst his best solo efforts. Blu’s jots down some of the most personal lyrics of his entire career & the production is very creative.

Score: 4/5

Gift of Gab – “Finding Inspiration Somehow” review

Gift of Gab was a 50 year old MC from Sacramento, California who came up as 1/2 of the duo Blackalicious & a member of the Quannum Projects collective almost 3 decades ago. However, it wasn’t until the spring of 2004 when he broke out solo by dropping 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up. This was followed up with Escape 2 Mars as well as The Next Logical Progression & Rejoice! Rappers Are Rapping Again! but with his passing over the summer, he was able to complete 1 last album & Nature Sounds is now putting it out.

After the intro, the first song “Slaugtah Dem (Godly)” has a thunderous instrumental with Gab getting in his battle rap bag whereas “Going Farther” works in a boom bap instrumental with some plinky keys & the title basically speaks for itself in terms of content. “The Gentrification Song” has a moodier sound addressing his feelings on the process of changing the character of a neighborhood through the influx of more wealthy residents & businesses just before “You Gon’ Make It in the End” with Lateef the Truthspeaker & Vursatyl is a touching moment on the album telling the listeners to push on.

Meanwhile for “Vice Grip”, we have Gift of Gab switching in between rhyme schemes over an explosive beat from Nick Andre leading into him describing “The World Without Money” & the instrumental is funky as Hell. I like the atmospheric shift on “Alchemy” as Gab tells the listener to keep it going, but “Enter the Dragon” has a more cinematic sound ascending to another level.

“A Weekend in Venice” is more of an R&B-tinged interlude while the song “The Idea of America” has a funnier sound with Gab continuing the streams of consciousness. The penultimate track “Breathe In” is a more tropical cut saying all you need is love & then “Back to the Light” couldn’t have ended the album any better by providing a beautiful glimmer of hope despite the dark days.

Overall, I think Finding Inspiration Somehow is a bittersweet swan song from the late Sacramento emcee. It showcases why a truly one of a kind lyricist lyricist he was, the production’s on point & I love the miniminal amount of guest MCs being featured. Just exactly how he would’ve wanted it to be.

Score: 4/5

Your Old Droog – “TIME” review

This is the 7th full-length album from Ukrainian-American emcee/producer Your Old Droog. Emerging in the underground off his self-titled debut, many first thought he was an alter ego of Nas given that their voices are somewhat similar. Nonetheless, the cat has reached legend status at this point by proving that he was in his own lane off later projects such as Packs & It Wasn’t Even Close. But just a little over 4 months after letting his homie Tha God Fahim produce his 4th EP Tha Wolf on Wall St. from front to back, Droog is dropping TIME ahead of 2 singles in the last week

After the titular intro, the first song “The Magic Watch” speaks on finding a watch that will take you back to any moment in time over some strings & dusty drums whereas “Please Listen to My Jew Tape” is a mellowed out reflection of Droog’s career up to this point. The late MF DOOM comes along to advocate self-education on “Dropout Boogie” as Edan incorporates a pots & pans loop into boom bap production while “So High” is a summery weed smoking anthem.

Meanwhile on “Lost Time”, we have Droog hopping on a drumless instrumental explaining that he has the chips to prove that he’s a winner prior to flexing his lyrical prowess on the slyly-produced “You’re So Sick”. We go into a more guitar-driven direction for the depressive “Quiet Time” leading into Aesop Rock & eLZhi stopping through for the exuberant, pleasant “Field of Dreams”. Blu & Mick Jenkins later fill in on “One Move”, which is about the choices you make accompanied by a jazzy beat from Quelle Chris.

“The Other Way” is a dreary depiction of him avoiding negativity while “A Hip Hop Lullaby” is a smoky look back on riding the train with his mom. “Madson Ave” is a homage to the titular road in New York with slick guitar passages provided by 88-Keys & just before the “4:49” outro, the final song “No Time” taps in with Wiki for a meditative ballad about loving your family & friends when they’re still here.

Didn’t think Droog would drop another project on us this fast, but I’m glad he did because this is an absolute high point in his career The production is a purist’s wet dream & lyrically, you get to hear him at his most personal.

Score: 4/5

R.A. the Rugged Man – “All My Heroes Are Dead’ review

R.A. the Rugged Man is an MC from New York that’s been at it since the very early 90’s. However it wouldn’t be until 2004 that he would make his full-length debut with Die, Rugged Man, Die. This was followed up in 2013 with Legends Never Die which was so fantastic, that it actually gave this reviewer inspiration to name himself Legends Will Never Die. Fans have been waiting for a 3rd album & 7 years later, here we finally are.

The album kicks off with the title track, where R.A. triumphantly announces his return & I love how dynamic the production gets. The next song “Legendary Loser” talks about being a scumbag over a vintage boom bap beat from Psycho Les while the song “Golden Oldies” with Slug sees the 2 paying tribute to their influences over a soulful boom bap beat. The song “Wondering (How to Believe)” gets conscious over a gorgeous piano instrumental while the track “Dragon Fire” with Ghostface Killah, Kool G Rap & Masta Killa shows that all 4 still got it lyrically over a grimy beat.

The song “All Systems Go” talks about how deadly he is over a punchy beat with a slowed down sample & after the “Cancelled” skit, the track “Angelic Boy” talks about killing a 6 year old boy & getting killed by the cops over a tense instrumental. The song “Gotta Be Dope” with A-F-R-O talks about being ill on the mic over a boom bap beat with C-Lance with a vintage sample while the track “First Born” talks about becoming a father over a Mr. Green instrumental that enhances the emotion. Especially with that piano loop.

The song “E.K.N.Y. (Ed Koch New York)” with Inspectah Deck sees the 2 talking about growing up in the Big Apple over an eerie beat while the track “Hate Speech” talks about just that over an ominous boom bap beat. The song “Living Through a Screen (Everything’s a Lie” gets back on the conscious tip over a somber instrumental while the track “Contra-Dictionary” talks about hypocrisy over a hypnotic beat. “The Slayer’s Club” is a phenomenal all-star posse cut while the song “Life of the Party” speaks for itself over a classy boom bap beat from Prince Paul.

“The Big Snatch” takes a look into what’s in R.A.’s world over some plinky keys & a tuba while the track “Who Do We Trust?” with Immortal Technique sees the 2 talking about the system over a sitar-inflicted boom bap beat. The penultimate song “Malice of Mammon” stays on the political tip over a haunting beat & then after the “Sean riP” interlude, “The After Life” pays tribute to Sarah Smith over an angelic boom bap beat.

For the long wait, it’s pretty solid. A little too long running at 77 minutes but the feature list is top notch, the production’s on point & R.A.’s lyricism has only gotten more clever with time. If you wanna see someone remind you why he’s a veteran in the underground, then give this a listen.

Score: 4/5

Westside Gunn – “FLYGOD is Good…All the Time” review

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Up until this point, it seems that Hall ‘N Nash member & Shady Records signee Westside Gunn has been having a quiet 2018. However, he is finally coming out of the dark with his 3rd EP & he has enlisted Mr. Green to produce it in it’s entirety. After the Kool Herc intro, we then go into the first song “Part Deux”. Here, the FLYGOD gets reminiscent on his past & how far he’s come since then over a piano & an alluring soul sample. The track “Stash House” flaunts about the shit he’s bought from being in the drug game over a grimy boom bap beat while the song “Trash Bag” gets confrontational over a funky bass-line with the drums in the background popping like his famous gunshot adlibs. The penultimate track “8 Seconds” charismatically touches down on his success & pretty much says “fuck you” to those who didn’t have his back in the past over a gloomy instrumental. The EP then finishes off with “Brazy”, where he talks about being on his bullshit & basically tells you that he’s God over a dreary beat.

Overall, this was just as great as I expected it to be Westside Gunn’s grim street bars are vivid yet charismatic as always & they suit Mr. Green’s raw production just as well as I thought they would. I believe the Griselda camp is one of the illest out right now & despite this being released under Nature Sounds, it is no exception

Score: 4.5/5

Masta Killa – “Loyalty is Royalty” review

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It’s been 6 long years in the making & just when it seems like it would never come out, Wu-Tang Clan member Masta Killa is finally releasing his long-awaited 4th full-length album. After a 41 second intro, we are treated to the album’s first song “Return of thee Masta Kill”. While the instrumental from Blahzay Blahzay producer/DJ PF Cuttin’ has this twangy guitar with some boom bap drums & I’m fine with the verses from both Masta Killa & fellow Wu member Cappadonna during the beginning & end respectively, bu Young Dudas’ was just average to me. The self-titled track is basically Jamel Irief romantically talking to his lady & the beautifully smooth 9th Wonder instrumental compliments the tone very well. The track “Therapy” with Method Man & Redman insightfully talks about music being therapeutic to them over a piano loop & some boom bap drums & while the song “OGs Told Me” has a great Cortex sample throughout provided by the producer Dame Grease, my biggest issue with it is that it feels more like a Boy Backs song given the fact that he dominates almost every verse except for Masta Killa’s that comes in halfway through. After a 98 second spoken word piece from the Clan’s de facto leader RZA over somber piano chords, we are then treated into the next track “Trouble”. Here, Jamel’s vividly rapping about how his criminal days began over a soulful instrumental. Then after a 1 minute skit, we are then treated to the next song “Down with Me”. For this joint, Masta Killa gets with the late Sean Price to brag about their rapping prowesses over a boom bap instrumental with some bass. The track “Tiger & the Mantice” with GZA & Inspectah Deck sounds like a vintage Wu banger from the Kung Fu film sample to the battle rap lyricism from all 3 MCs. The song “Real People” has a murderous tone lyrically & the guest verses from Prodigy & KXNG CROOKED were absolutely perfect. The track “Flex with Me” charismatically spits about the lavish life over some jungle-ish drums & the Chanel Sosa hook is pretty catchy as well. The song “Calculated” has this wailing down-tuned synthesizer throughout & despite Jamel’s verse at the end sounding ambitious, I wasn’t feeling the 2 verses from Ra Stacks & Knick Gunz that precede it all that much. Also, the hook sounds like the type of hook I’d hear on the radio. Before we get a 2 minute outro to close out the album, we get 2 last songs with “Noodles, Pts. 1 & 2”. Both of these songs should’ve been combined into 1 entire track rather than being split in 2 parts, I do like the orchestral mafioso vibe of the first half along with the seductive vibe of the other half. Personally, I think this album was worth the long wait. Sure some of the tracks have already been released for a period of time & I could’ve done without a couple of the features, but it’s well produced & Masta Killa continues to prove himself as one of the Clan’s most underrated swordsmen over time

Score: 3.5/5