Canibus – “C” review

This is the 5th EP from Kingston emcee Canibus. Coming up as 1/2 of the duo T.H.E.M. alongside C.I. about 3 decades ago, they eventually split up a few years later & Bis would blow up in ‘97 after appearing on the LL Cool J song “4, 3, 2, 1” that later resulted in a beef between both parties. He would then go on to make a lengthy yet consistent discography with albums like Rip the Jacker being breathtaking at best & then Mind Control being unlistenable at worst. He just dropped Body Bag Ben-produced 16th full-length Kaiju this past winter after a 3 year break & it wounded up being one of his better albums in his discography, even though the follow-up 1 Step Closer to ∞ was a little underwhelming. But when I found out that one of my top 5 producers Pete Rock was coming in to lace C from front to back, I had to check it out for myself.

“Princibly This” is an incredibly jazzy opener with ‘Bis talking about how life’s a bitch while the next track “Poet’s Palaquin” pulls from some Bollywood influences spitting bars like “They stealth bombed Wakanda after they killed Black Panther” & “You know this, still the dopest. Free the people like Moses, hyper focused with both barrels loaded ‘cause I’m a Poet”. The closer however is just a remix of the song they did on Time Flys, Life Dies…Phoenix Rise almost 7 years ago at this point except it’s more soulful & Bronze Nazareth is spitting a fresh verse on it.

Even though I’m a little disappointed that it’s only 2 songs & a remix, I still enjoyed what I heard & I’d definitely recommend it to the hardcore fans. Canibus sounds much more focused than he did on 1 Step Closer to ∞ & as far as the production goes, it’s pretty much night & day unsurprisingly.

Score: 3.5/5

Flee Lord – “The People’s Champ” review

Flee Lord is a 36 year old emcee from Queens, New York & one of the hardest working people in hip hop today. Dude dropped a total of 5 projects last year & since this past February, he’s been putting one out every single month with the previous being Alter Ego Fleeigo Delgado. To kick off the 2nd half of this run, Flee is starting to bring the big guns out by enlisting the revered Pete Rock for his 10th EP.

The intro starts out with Lord talking how he’s living in the danger zone over a menacing instrumental & then the song right after “Stuck on a Grip” talks about his plan to become rich over a boom bap beat with a whimsical loop. The track “Surfin’ wit a K” talks about how he never caps over a forlorn instrumental while the song “24 Hollows” proclaims himself as a top dog over a rugged instrumental. The track “Different Options” talks about how he’s gonna always bring it home whether it be going independent or major over a ghostly instrumental while the song “Retired from the Sniffy” is a short yet killer freestyle backed by a boom bap beat with a dope ass piano loop.

The track “Job Done” talks about how he’s still moving in the hood over a slow instrumental while the song “Mini Mac on the Fridge” talks about he be spitting facts over a jazzy beat. The penultimate track “Givin’ Ya my View” is essentially his opinion on the George Floyd protests with a dismal instrumental & then the EP finishes off with the outro, where Flee Lord starts bragging about where he’s at today on top of a Bollywood-influenced beat.

This guy’s been one of my favorite NY spitters for about a year now, but he really outdid himself on this one because this is his best body of work yet in my personal opinion. Lord keeps taking his pen game to a higher level & Pete Rock completely knocks it out of the ballpark on the boards.

Score: 4.5/5

Smoke DZA & Benny the Butcher – “Statues of Limitations” review

This is a collaborative EP between New York rappers Smoke DZA & Benny the Butcher. The 2 have collaborated a couple of times in the past with “Debiase Decisions” & “Luck of Draw”, but they’re now hooking up with the revered Pete Rock in order of helping them take it to the next level.

The opener “By Any Means” trading vicious bars back & forth nonchalantly over a meditative boom bap beat while the next song “Bullets” with Conway the Machine speaks for itself over a tense instrumental. The track “Smoked & Butchered” gets murderous over an enticing instrumental while the song “7:30” gets mafioso over a luxurious keyboard instrumental. The penultimate track “Drug Rap” needs no further explanation over an eerie boom bap beat & then the closer “Toast” gets celebratory over a blaxploitation-esque instrumental.

As expected, this was a damn near perfect effort. I wish Styles P & Westside Gunn had verses instead of doing the hooks on the joints they were featured on, but Pete Rock’s production is raw & the chemistry between DZA & Benny is fantastic.

Score: 4.5/5

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