O.T. the Real – “Maxed Out” review

O.T. the Real is a 36 year old MC from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who came up in 2016 after coming home from prison & dropping his debut single “Papercuts”. His profile began to grow from there after showcasing his skills on radio stations as well as dropping 3 full-lengths & 4 EPs so far, my favorites of the bunch so far being the Heatmakerz-produced The Irishman & the DJ Green Lantern-produced Broken Glass. But fast forward 5 months later since we last heard him, O.T. has recruited Boston veteran Statik Selektah behind the boards for his 4th album.

“Loyalty” is an airy boom bap opener declaring trust being everything to him whereas “Make It Count” works in a symphony providing words of wisdom for the listener. “Revelations” feels like something out of an Italian mobster flick talking about disclosure just before [Statik-Free] tags along for the soulful “Hardcore” spitting that rugged street shit. Meanwhile on “Turned on Me”, we have O.T. on top of some pianos & dusty drums taking aim at those who betrayed him leading into Merkules coming into the picture for “The Bottom” to talk about never forgetting what having nothing feels like over a cheery instrumental.

G-Weeder definitely has the weakest feature on the album with “Treachery” even though I like the production & the concept of deceiving people, but then “Windows” has some jazzy undertones talking about his coming up. The penultimate track “Came Up Fast” incorporates an operatic vocal sample discussing his meteoric rise in the underground within the last year or 2 & finally, “History” ends the album with an organ advising to check his resume.

I think O.T.’s been putting out some of his best work within the last year & you haven’t checked him out based on The Irishman or Broken Glass yet, then PLEASE give Maxed Out a listen. Statik remains one of the most consistent producers in hip hop today & O.T. continues to put his life on wax ever so sincerely.

Score: 4.5/5

Lou from Paradise – “Not Dead Yet!” review

Lou from Paradise is a 25 year old MC from Brooklyn, New York breaking out in 2017 off the strength of his debut mixtape Humaniac. This resulted in a short-lived deal with Interscope Records, whom helped him put out his debut album Painkiller Paradise a couple years later. But after keeping a low profile since then, Lou is tapping in Statik Selektah for his 2nd EP.

“Brainless” serves as a classy opener with it’s jazzy undertones & the choir vocals in the instrumental as Lou tells listeners he’s still an asshole to this day. The title track jumps on quirky boom bap production to shove his return in our faces whereas “Antifreeze” is an eerier cut about how shit ain’t faze him in a while.

The gloomy “Cold Shoulder” speaks on how he’d never thought he’d make it out of the hood to give a fuck what others think while the piano-laced penultimate track “Outside wit Psychoz” tells the listener that he doesn’t feel shit. Then there’s “Stray Dog”, which is an off-the-top freestyle accompanied with a devilish beat.

I’ve been waiting 4 years for Lou to drop his magnum opus & I feel like he finally did it on Not Dead Yet!. His lyricism has improved quite a bit since he first came onto the scene & the signature sound Statik Selektah brings to the table suits the kid best.

Score: 4/5

Kota the Friend – “To Kill a Sunrise” review

Kota the Friend is a 28 year old MC from New York City that broke out in 2016 off his debut EP Palm Tree Liquor. This was followed up with 2 more EPs before dropping his debut album FOTO in 2019. Kota has gone on to release 4 albums since then but just 2 months after his previous one Lyrics to Go 2, he’s staying busy by enlisting Statik Selektah for his 5th full-length outing.

The album kicks off with “Wolves”, where Kota talks about how he can’t lose over a weepy boom bap beat. The next song “Hate” addresses those who throw shade on his name over some dusty drums & a piano loop while “The Cold” talks about how people wonder where he goes when he’s in his bag over a violin-tinged beat. “The Love” gets in his romance bag over a luxurious instrumental while the song “Go Now” talks about wanting to build with his partner over a dream-like beat.

The track “What Ya Sayin’?” calls out those who tried to bring him down with them over some rich boom bap production while the song “Live & Direct” talks about sharing your mind with your set over some more gorgeous keyboard harmonies. The track “Day Glow” talks about opening up the windows over a tranquil instrumental & letting it all in while the song “Sunrise” thanks the listener for having his back over a jazzy beat. The album then finishes with “Sunset”, where Kota talks about being true then over some heavy horns.

This is a super solid album in my book & it’s just been really awesome to see how much Kota has grown in the last 5 years. His lyricism is a lot more wittier in comparison to Lyrics to Go 2 & Statik whips up some of his most luxuriant beats ever.

Score: 4/5

Statik Selektah – “The Balancing Act” review

This is the 9th full-length album from Boston producer, DJ & radio personality Statik Selektah. From his output as part of the producer/MC duo 1982 alongside fellow Boston native Termanology to entirely producing projects for the likes of Action Bronson & Paul Wall, this dude has really made his presence known as one of the most consistent & hard-working producers in all of hip hop for over a decade now. Even his 8 solo albums have a chockfull of bangers on them, most notably Extended Play & #WhatGoesAround…. But as the 3 year anniversary of Statik’s last full-length outing 8 approaches in a couple of weeks, he’s joining forces with nas’ Mass Appeal Records to bring you The Balancing Act.

The opener “The Healing” by Black Thought talks about crooked cops over a haunting instrumental whereas the next song “Keep It Moving” by Joey Bada$$ & Nas finds the 2 trading bars back & forth with one another over well-flipped sample of “Walk On By” off of Jonathan Davis’ 2018 solo album Black Labyrinth. The track “Play Around” by Conway the Machine, Killer Mike & 2 Chainz sees the 3 talking about how they’re the real deal over a boom bap beat with some somber keyboards while the song “Hard Living” by Dave East & Method Man finds the 2 talking about what it was like for them growing up in the Big Apple over a melancholic beat.

The track “Time” by Jack Harlow talks about how life’s too short over a mellow instrumental while the song “Watch Me” by Joey Bada$$ talks about being the illest in the city over some keys & live drumming. The track “America is Cancelled” by Jadakiss, Styles P & 1982 addresses corruption in our government over a jazzy instrumental while the song “No Substitute” by Benny the Butcher & Paul Wall talks about pursuing the cash over a boom bap beat with some horns.

The track “Off My Mind” by Fly Anakin & Rome Streetz sees the 2 talking about the trials & tribulations over a soulful instrumental while the song “Welcome to the Game” by Kota the Friend & Marlon Craft gives some advice to those setting their foot in the music industry over a luxurious beat. The track “Soul Custody” by Blu & Evidence finds the 2 getting romantic over a perfect instrumental to get you in the mood while the song “No More” by Lil’ Fame, Rim da Villin & Smoke DZA sees the trio spitting battle bars over some churchy background vocals.

The track “Ralph Laurens” by the late Sean Price & Thirstin Howl III sees the 2 telling the listener to believe the rumors over an operatic instrumental while the song “Balance Beam” by CJ Fly, JFK & Nick Grant finds the 3 talking about being on a tightrope over a boom bap beat with some horns. The penultimate track “Way Up” by TrillStatik & Havoc finds the 2 paying tribute to Pimp C & Prodigy respectively over a mournful instrumental whereas the closer “Immortal” by Bobby Sessions talks about being just that over a quasi-jazzy boom bap beat.

Pretty good way for Statik Selektah to kick off his 2020s output. Couple of performers I could’ve done without, but I really dig how he used more original compositions on here rather than sampling & it does a good job at executing a concept documenting the times we’re currently in.

Score: 3.5/5