Tech N9ne – “MORE FEAR” review

This is the 7th EP from the ever-hardworking Kansas City veteran Tech N9ne. He’s fresh off his 22nd full-length ENTERFEAR that just dropped back in April & it turns out so much material was recorded for that particular album, that N9na has seen fit to release some of those cuts in the first of 2 EPs.

After the “Heist” skit, the first song “ENTERFEARENCE” talks about feeling disoriented over a groggy beat from 7 whereas the track right after “Bitch Slap” with Corey Taylor, GreatDaeg & Hopsin sees the 4 talking about hitting anyone who tries to harm their personal spaces over a trap metal beat. After the “Report” skit, the song “I Don’t Give a Pho” talks about not caring for bullshit over an eerie trap beat while the penultimate track “Inside” talks about giving himself a pick-me-up over an unexpected boom bap instrumental that works pretty fantastically. The EP finishes with “Specter”, where Tech talks about being a ghost over a melancholic beat from N4.

Personally, I think I might enjoy this EP a bit more than the album itself. As dark as ENTERFEAR was, most of these cuts should’ve made it onto that album because they would play into it much more solidly than the weaker cuts on there. Can’t wait for FEAR EXODUS at the end of the year.

Score: 4/5

Stevie Stone – “Black Lion” review

Stevie Stone is a 39 year old MC from Columbia, Missouri who first gained attention as one of the very last 2 artists to ever sign with Ruthless Records alongside Hopsin. Both of their full-length debuts New Kid Comin’ & Gazing at the Moonlight received little to no promotion, leading both artists to leave the crumbling label. Hopsin went on to form Funk Volume shortly after before closing shop in 2016 whereas Stevie signed to Strange Music in 2012. He eventually became one of the label’s biggest artists with albums like Rollin’ Stone, 2 Birds 1 Stone, Malta Bend & my personal favorite: Level Up. Then came the JL collab album Kontra-Band in 2018, which was really good too. But after Tech N9ne dropped his latest album ENTERFEAR this past spring, things over at Strange slowed down drastically due to the pandemic. However, Stevie is helping the Snake & Bat back in their groove by dropping Black Lion.

The album kicks off with “Set in Stone”, where Stevie talks about being unchangeable when it’s all said & done over an acoustic guitar. The next song “V.I.P.” serves as a club banger with a cavernous trap beat while the track “Type of Time” talks about being a threat over a 7 instrumental with a cool woodwind thrown in. The song “Underrated” vents about deserving more appreciation over a delicate instrumental while “The Worst for Me” details how this woman can’t leave him over a luxurious boom bap beat.

The track “Can’t Deny It” talks about a groupie wanting to chill with him over a smooth instrumental & while the song “Selfish” with Flawless Real Talk finds the 2 talking about why they’re so finicky over a vibrant beat with a woodwind sample. The track “No Permission” gives the listeners a proper clue of what his do’s & dont’s are over a druggy instrumental while the song “Teknique” with Tech N9ne gets sexual over an hyphy beat.

The track “Conquer” with Spaide R.I.P.P.E.R. is a decent mosh pit starter while the song “Jungle” with King Iso gets on the more braggadocious tip over a trap beat with a unique cricket loop throughout. The song “Dope Sick” talks about hard he be going over an intimidating instrumental from Wyshmaster while the track “Holiday” with Maez301 is an incredibly fun party anthem.

The song “Hennessy & Harmony” talks about being all in over a cloudy instrumental while the track “Vibe” with ¡MAYDAY! stoner’s tune backed by the reggae style production that Wrekonize, Bernz & NonMS dabbled in throughout the trio’s last album South of 5th. The song “Some Days” speaks on having all these emotions bottled up over a piano-inflicted trap beat while the penultimate track “Still Standing” with Rittz finds the 2 talking about how far they’ve come over a melancholic instrumental. The album ends with “Taste”, where Stevie opens about how much fame has changed him over a chill beat.

Like I said earlier: Stevie Stone is one of the most prominent acts on Strange Music & this album is a fine example as to why. There are a couple of features that don’t really land with me, but you’re gonna get a good look at how much he’s changed throughout the years & the artist/person that he has become today.

Score: 3.5/5

Run the Jewels – “Run the Jewels 4” review

Run the Jewels are a super-duo consisting of Killer Mike & El-P. They first crossed paths with each other in 2012 when the latter produced Mike’s 5th album R.A.P. (Rebellious African People) Music in it’s entirety, but came together officially the following year with a self-titled debut. Their sophomore album in 2014 is my personal favorite though, as it’s a lot darker. Last we heard from Mike & El-Producto together in a full-length capacity was in 2016 with their much more political 3rd album but in classic Run the Jewels, they’re releasing their long awaited 4th album a couple days early.

Things kick off with “yankee & the brave (ep. 4)”, where the duo display their chemistry over an abstract chaotic instrumental. The next song “​ooh la la” with Greg Nice sees the 3 talking about over a piano-inflicted boom bap beat while the track “out of sight” with 2 Chainz talks about being menaces over a vintage rap rock instrumental. The song “​holy calamafuck” is a dark shit-talking anthem with a phenomenal beat switch about halfway through while the track “​goonies vs. E.T.” talks about having another chance over an abrasive instrumental.

The song “​walking in the snow” is pretty much a well-timed response George Floyd’s recent murder over a dynamic instrumental while the track “JU$T” with Zack de la Rocha of course talks about the industry over a Neptunes-influenced beat which is fitting because Pharrell kills it with his additional vocals. The song “never look back” talks about moving on from the past over a futuristic instrumental while “the ground below” talks about how love never meant much to them backed by an amazing sample of “Ether” by Gang of 4. The penultimate song “​pulling the pin” cleverly uses grenades as a metaphor for their hearts over an instrumental with a cavernous instrumental with phenomenal guitar playing from Josh Homme & then the album finishes off with “​a few words for the firing squad (radiation)”, where Killer Mike & El-P make an epic dedication to those whose voices were never heard over a more minimalist instrumental.

These guys now have 4 consecutive classics together, because this did not disappoint me at all. I love how they took all the elements of their first 3 albums & fused them all together into 1 near-perfect 39 minute album. The production is off the wall, their chemistry is unmatched at this point & the political commentary is perfect for everything that’s going in the world right now.

Score: 4.5/5

Tech N9ne – “ENTERFEAR” review

Tech N9ne is an MC from Kansas City, Missouri who really doesn’t need an introduction at this point. The man has put in an insane amount of work over the course of his nearly 3 decade career from starting up the most successful independent label in hip hop Strange Music to a lengthy discography including Anghellic, Absolute Power, Everready [The Religion], K.o.D. (King of Darkness) & Special Effects. The last we heard from Tech was just about a year ago with N9NA & with the 1 year anniversary of that coming up, he’s back with his 22nd album.

The album kicks off with “Just Die?”, where Tech takes aim to those saying it’s falling off over a rap metal beat. The next song “Suckseed” with King Iso sees the 2 telling everyone to suck their dicks over a rock/trap fusion while the track “Outdone” talks about going from rapping for the first time in 1985 to being co-signed by some of the greats & I love how layered the beat from 7 gets as it progresses. The song “Look What I Did” with the Flatbush ZOMBiES talks about making it in the industry over a cavernous trap beat while the track “Yeah No!” talks about being reclusive now over a dark instrumental.

The song “Dr. Sebagh” with Landxn Fyre sees the 2 showing off their skills over a spacious beat while the track “Question Mark This!” with Lex Bratcher sees the 2 talking about backstabbers over a druggy beat. The song “Snake & the Batman” is a short yet merciless flex over a slow yet suspenseful instrumental while the track “Feel So Sad!” talks about how he isn’t perfect over a dreary acoustic instrumental.The song “Leave It on the Flo!” talks about hooking up with 2 women over a sensual beat & an awkward Landxn verse in the middle while the track “Phonk” with Merkules & Scru Face Jean is a decent sequel with a soulful boom bap beat.

The song “Angel Baby” talks about all the times he’s survived death over a funereal instrumental while the track “On the Outside” talks about getting money over an upbeat instrumental. The song “Smell Good” with Krizz Kaliko sees the 2 getting flirtatious over a smooth instrumental while the track “Stoli Doli” continues the same themes over a more meditative beat.The song “For Ya Love” talks about this woman holding a grudge over an intoxicating beat while the track “B.I.B. (But I’m Blessed)” sees Tech & Krizz talks about being grateful despite their shortcomings over a calming yet atmospheric beat. The song “Saw Somethin’” with Iso sees the 2 talking about the supernatural over a ghostly instrumental & then the closer “KC Smile” pays tribute to his hometown over a jazzy beat.

Tech has always been one of my favorite artists in all of hip hop & this just goes to show why. A couple of the features could’ve been better at points, but I really like how the album takes a much more darker approach than N9NA did.

Score: 4/5

King Iso – “World War Me” review

King Iso is a 30 year old rapper & producer from Omaha, Nebraska that came up as a protege of San Diego chopper Twisted Insane, dropping his 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 last spring & couldn’t wait to see what would happen on his debut with the biggest independent hip hop label in the world.

The album kicks off with “Requiem”, where King Iso links up with Tech N9ne to deliver some vicious battle bars over a dark piano trap instrumental. The next song “Chopped Liver” talks about being on the rise over an ominous beat while the track “My 1st Body” talks about the first time he killed someone metaphorically over a funereal instrumental. The titular song vents about his inner demons over a bloodcurdling instrumental & after the “Pride” skit, the track “G.I.’so” compares himself to that of a soldier over a vibrant instrumental.

The song “T.F.B. (Training For Battle)” is a really cool gym anthem with a trap beat backed by a chilling choir sample while the track “I Declare War” talks about being at war with himself over a bassy yet supernatural sounding instrumental. After the “Gluttony/Greed” skit, the song “Manic” talks about being insane over a solemn instrumental while the track “Tally Bandz” talks about making paper over a nightly instrumental.

The song “War Zone” talks about surviving through anything over a buoyant instrumental while the track “AWOL” talks about being better off dead. The song “Dog Tags” is a cool take on DMX’s “Where My Dogs At?” over a trap beat with a luxurious piano lead while the track “Weakened Dad” talks about how he never really knew his father growing up over a cloudy instrumental.

The song “Apparent Absence” talks about children in the hood without parents over a grim instrumental while the track “Trippy Love” is a decent, intoxicating lust anthem. The song “Euthanamerica” is a insightful message to the youth in our country over an spacious beat while the track “Jealous” talks about the feeling of envy over an pretty acoustic instrumental. The penultimate song “Folded Flags” provides the listener with some knowledge over an instrumental with a godly atmosphere to it & then after the “Thank You” skit, the closer “Edicius” talks about ending a part of himself over a dreary trap beat.

As expected, this is King Iso’s best work to date & it shows why he’s a brilliant fit for Strange Music. His production skills are refined as is his pen-game & flows, but what I really love about the album most is that he provides a unique take on struggling with mental health & the lack of features truly cements that.

Score: 4.5/5

Maez301 – Self-titled review

Maez301 is a 26 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 last year. And as the label closes out 2019, they’re letting Maez shine with his self-titled debut entirely produced by Ervin.

The intro “Change” finds Maez pouring his heart out over a mellow instrumental while the next song “Advance” starts bragging over a nocturnal trap beat. The track “On One” talks about his newfound success over an instrumental with a chill West Coast feel to it while the song “Ay” with Tech N9ne sees the 2 talking about being on top of the game over a colorful instrumental.

The track “Rider” with Infinite E sees the 2 talking about their main chicks over a dream-like instrumental while the song “Fuck No” with Nef the Pharaoh sees the 2 talking about not loving hoes over a galactic instrumental. The track “Fake Love” with Leila sees the 2 talking about a chick frontin’ over a smooth trap beat while the song “Get ‘Em” goes at his competition over a minimalist instrumental. The track “Emoji” is a sensual R&B tune while the song “Watch Me” angrily raps about his haters over a suiting instrumental.

The track “Fucked Up for You” vents about an ex over a chilled out instrumental while the song “No Rest” finds Maez pouring his heart out over a vibrant instrumental & I absolutely love the Travis Scott homage in the hook. The track “Dream” with Black Jesus talks about chasing their lifelong goals over a relaxing beat with this prominent acoustic guitar while the song “Made It” of course continues to brag about Maez’ success over a rich instrumental. The track “Dogg’n These Hoes” gets back with Infinite E to talk about just that over a trap beat with some Neptunes inspired piano chords & the song “Grab a Bag” while repetitive is a catchy club banger.

The track “Switch” talks about how he came a long way over a moody instrumental while the song “Break Your Heart” talks about making it right with his girl over a funky beat. The penultimate track “Real Bitch” talks about needing a good woman over a futuristic sounding trap beat & then the album ends with “Momma”, where Maez pens an endearing tribute to the woman who gave him life over a spacey beat.

To me, this kid is the future of Strange Music alongside King Iso. The features were hit or miss for me personally with my favorites being Tech & Nef, but Maez has a lot versatility & I really think Ervin’s production really helps hone that in. Really excited to see him grow as an artist & what the label has in store for him next.

Score: 3.5/5

Joey Cool – “Old Habits Die Hard” review

Joey Cool is a 33 year old rapper from Kansas City, Missouri that first gained attention as a long-time affiliate of local independent hip hop powerhouse Strange Music, releasing a total of 4 mixtapes & a studio album on his own before Tech N9ne decided to officially sign him to the Snake & Bat just about 2 years ago. He made his official Strange debut last May with his self-titled sophomore effort & as we approach the last quarter of this decade is coming around the corner, he’s back with his 3rd full-length album.

It all kicks off with “King Coolie”, which talks about his newfound success where some luxurious keyboards from Burna Music. The next song “Turn It Down” flexes over a dark beat from Leonard DStroy while the track “Pieces of Me” talks about being broken over a gloomy beat from 7. The title track talks about maturity over a downtempo electro beat while the song “I Got Dat” talks about the things he has over an atmospheric beat.

The track “‘Til Further Notice” with Krizz Kaliko sees the 2 claiming their spots to the throne over a grimy trap beat while the song “C.w.d.B. (Coolie wit da Bitches)” speaks for itself over a banger beat. After the “Put the Swank On It” interlude, the track “Come On” is a rowdy club banger while the song “Stop That” with King Iso sees the 2 going at studio gangsters over some twinkling bells & heavy bass.

The track “Decisions, Decisions” gets self-explanatory lyrically over a psychedelic beat Kato while the song “Remedial” with JL finds the 2 claiming themselves to be just that over a gritty instrumental. The track “Speak on It” with Emilio Rojas sees the 2 telling their naysayers to talk smack to their faces over a moody trap beat from Suli4Q while the song “Bye Now” is basically Joey saying he ain’t got tolerance for foolishness over a keyboard instrumental from Info Gates.

The track “I Can’t Remember” with UBI sees the 2 talking to this chick they thought they saw at the club the night before over a woozy instrumental while the song “Above Average” with Maez301 sees the 2 getting lavish over a blissful beat. The track “Throw It” with Godemis finds the 2 tossing dollars & getting laid over an abrasive beat while the song “Head Case” with Stevie Stone sees the 2 wanting all the smoke over a somber beat with some rubbery bass.

The track “You Ain’t Know” talks about being in the middle of the map over a cavernous beat while the song “Bet It All” with Tech N9ne, JL & Zoo gets celebratory over a hyphy beat. The album then finishes with “Violent Contradictions”, where Joey pours his heart out over some low ranged piano chords.

Personally, this is tied with the self-titled album as Joey’s best work yet. In contrast the previous album being a proper introduction to a wider audience, he comes off as more mature this time around & I really welcome & respect that of him.

Score: 3.5/5

UBI – “U.B.I. (Under Bad Influence)” review

UBI is a 40 year old MC from Kansas City, Missouri who came up as a member of the CES Cru. A group that has had multiple members, but only he & Godemis have stuck around since it’s inception. They’ve made themselves at home with indie hip hop powerhouse Strange Music since 2012 & with Godemis recently talking a break from music due to personal issues, UBI has saw fit to deliver a full-length album on his own.

The album kicks off with “Gameshow”, where UBI talks about his prowess over a nocturnal boom bap beat from Kato. The next song “Lock Load Shoot” talks about his rise up over a trap beat from 7 with some very smart old school samples while the track “The Quill” with The Palmer Squares sees the 3 talking about being underdogs over a cavernous trap beat from Leonard DStroy. The song “Read ‘Em & Weep” talks about UBI’s grind over a symphonic beat while the track “What If?” ponders the biggest mysteries of life over a funky boom bap beat from 7.

The song “Light ‘Em Up” is a hard hitting CES Cru reunion while the track “Missing Somethin’” talks about depression over a boom bap beat with some somber piano keys. The song “Double Yous” with Maez301 talks about being successful over a banger trap beat while the track “The Good Guy” is an endearing positivity anthem. The song “What It Takes” takes the listener through the things he’s done to get him where he is today over a demented Kato instrumental while the track “Involved” takes a jab at the frauds over an apocalyptic 7 beat.

The song “Pharmacy” talks about fiendin’ over a druggy trap beat while the track “Way Down” reflects on his past over a wavily settle beat. The song “Prey” gets into battle bar mode over a militant beat while the track “Madness” with Breaking Bad News sees the 3 speaking on just that over a funky bass-line with some sinister horns. The song “Get Busy” with Locksmith, King Iso & Jarren Benton sees the 4 talking about hip hop being their religion over a gritty 7 beat while the penultimate track “Bitty Betty” with Joey Cool & Karma Knows sees the 3 is a decent alcohol anthem. The album then finishes with a “Madness” sequel with Tech N9ne, Krizz Kaliko & ¡MAYDAY! that’s just as a raw as the original on all fronts.

All that being said, I really think Ubiquitous has really solidified himself as a solo artist on this one. The production is a lot better than it was on his 2012 mixtape Matter Don’t Money & you can really tell the dude you really put his heart into it.

Score: 3.5/5

Tech N9ne – “N9NA” review

This is the latest full-length outing from the highest-selling independent hip hop artist of all-time; the King of Darkness himself: Tech N9ne. If anyone is far behind in his catalog, the dude has made himself one of the hardest working men in the culture by dropping at least 1 or 2 albums a year since 2016 & his previous one Planet ended up being one of his best ones yet. However with a new tour starting earlier this week, he’s celebrating by releasing his 21st album.

After the “Le Horde” intro, we dive straight into the first song “Lord of Weird”. Where Tech pretty much proclaims himself as just that over a gloomy trap beat. The title track serves as a reintroduction for N9na’s new fans with 7’s trunk-knocking production fitting like a glove while the song “Hit the Ground Running” with JL & King Iso sees the 3 talking about how no one can stop them over a trap beat with some acoustic strumming over an eerie beat. The track “Like I Ain’t” reflects on his accomplishments while the song “Green Lit” with Iso alongside Tech’s latest Strange Music signee Maez301 sees the 3 calling out people who double crossed them over an infectious instrumental.

The track “Chuki Fever” is a shot at everyone jealous of his success over a somber trap beat while the song “Fuckin’ Do It” with Futuristic & JL is a decent alcohol anthem with a skeletal trap beat. The track “Don’t Let Me Fall” is a boring diatribe of a 1-night stand with a simplistic beat while the song “You Line!” with Krizz Kaliko viciously attacks frauds with a perfectly suiting beat. The track “EDI’s” serves as a tribute to edibles with a monstrous beat while the song “Rata” takes a surprising direction in Latin territory & it somehow works.

The track “F.T.I. 2.0” serves as a vicious sequel to the iconic “Fuck the Industry” off his 2001 classic Anghellic while the song “She Fell” is a moody sex tune with a horrendous hook. The track “Sink” talks about depression with a gorgeous bass-line while the song “H.O.B. (History Of Bitches)” talks about crazy chicks trying to come back into his life over an atmospheric beat. The track “Ion Memba” recalls his past addiction with an average C-Mob verse over a spacey bass-heavy beat while the song “Active” talks about gang life over a nocturnal instrumental.

The track “EF U (Easier For You)” with Jelly Roll is a heartfelt dedication to the broken with a pretty guitar passage while the song “I’m Caught Crazy! (4Ever)” is essentially Tech embracing his insanity over a nocturnal instrumental. The closer track “I’m Sorry” is a triumphant ode to his family & then there’s the bonus track “Disparagement”, where he & King Iso diss their haters over a generic trap beat.

While I personally prefer Planet, this is still a solid listen. Of course Tech brings his A-game lyrically & I like how he kept the features minimal just like that previous album, but some of the production choices on this one in comparison could’ve been better.

Score: 3.5/5

GloToven – Self-titled review

Chief Keef is a legendary 23 year old rapper & producer from Chicago, Illinois who blew up onto the scene in 2012 with his Back from the Dead mixtape & his debut album Finally Rich. Both of which I highly recommend if you wanna get into drill music. He’s dropped a handful of projects since then & this new one with Zaytoven producing it from front to back really stopped me in my tracks.

The album kicks off with “3rd Person”, where Keef talks about how life is fabolous over an abrasive beat. The next song “Old Heads & Regretful Hoes” with Lil Pump sees the 2 talking about good dope over a somber trap beat while the track “Batman” spits that gun talk over an atmospheric instrumental. The song “Ain’t Gonna Happen” is an emotional piano ballad while the song “Fast” addresses fake cats over a spacious beat.

The track “Spy Kid” is a vicious diss towards 6ix9ine while the song “Fuck What the Opp Said” is self-explanatory over a flute-inflicted beat. The track “Petty” is a druggy auto-tune ballad that doesn’t go over very well while the song “Han Han” talks about money over a piano-inflicted trap beat. The track “Posse” gets confrontational over a glimmering trap beat while the song “Sneeze” continues the gun talk over a haunting beat. The album then finishes with “What Can I Say”, where Keef talks about hoes over a moody beat.

To be honest, this is Chief Keef’s best effort in a while. He sounds angrier than ever & Zaytoven provides him with some of the most hard hitting instrumentals that we’ve heard on one of his projects in years.

Score: 4/5