Larry June – “The Great Escape” review

Larry June is a 31 year old MC from Vallejo, California been steadily grinding his ass off since dropping out of high school by dropping his last 8 studio efforts as well as 14 EPs & 7 mixtapes. My favorites of his ever-growing discography include the Lex Luger-produced Trap Larry, the Cardo-produced Cruise USA & it’s sequel Into the Late Night, the Harry Fraud-produced Keep Going & more recently the mobb music-influenced Jay Worthy collab effort 2 P’z in a Pod that just celebrated it’s 1-year anniversary last weekend. But coming off Spaceships on the Blade last summer, Larry’s enlisting The Alchemist to fully produce his highly anticipated 9th album.

“Turkish Cotton” is a jazzy opener to the album as Larry talks about making sure your tax is right whereas “89 Earthquake” dives into boom bap turf airing out every single person out here still looking at him as a threat. Action Bronson comes into the picture for the slick “Solid Plan” doing it all for the motherfuckin’ bankroll leading into Big Sean tagging along for the groovy “Palisades, CA” paying tribute to the titular city in the sunshine state.

Moving onto “Summer Reign”, we have Larry over a warm sample to provide a fitting anthem to ride around with the top down to as the spring weather continues to roll it’s way around the corner just before the Beat Butcha co-produced “Orange Village” enlists T3 & Young RJ of Slum Village has a more hypnotic sound to it as the trio work, live & try for a better day prior to him flexing with a fresh amount of charisma throughout the drumless “Porsches in Spanish”.

“Art Talk” with Boldy James has a more spacious, psychedelic quality to the beat as they discuss getting it off the black top until the summery, calm “Ocean Sounds” gets into romantic pop rap territory & actually not coming off as forced as some try to do it these days. “Left No Evidence” with Evidence perfectly enough hope over some pianos, kicks & snares as they both rock the shit in their own respective ways while “What Happened to the World?” with Wiz Khalifa has a more mellow approach talking about the only thing on their minds is to get the money.

Meanwhile on “Éxito”, things take a more twangier route as Jay Worthy assists Larry in showing off just how well respected they are & not wanting to beef with anyone as they continue at trying to succeed while the song “60 Days” with Uncle Al himself finds the 2 exuberantly talking about how anything can happen in 2 months. The penultimate track “Barragán Lightning” with Curren$y & Joey Bada$$ provide a colorful anthem addressing living off life & “Margie’s Candy House” is a jazzy, soulful closer looking back on his younger days.

Of the 9 full-lengths that Larry has dropped throughout his 17 year career, The Great Escape will no doubt quickly become the strongest of them all & one that I think new fans will find to be a perfect introduction into his discography. Uncle Al’s production is more drumless yet jazzy this time around perfectly suiting the Vallejo delivers some calm bars of luxury cars as well as presidential suites & of course fresh-squeezed orange juice that’re cooler than the other side of the pooler. Amazing job, Larry!

Score: 4.5/5

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Roc Marciano – “The Elephant Man’s Bones” review

This is the 10th full-length album from Long Island emcee/producer Roc Marciano. Starting out in the very late 90’s as a member of the Flipmode Squad, he then went solo in 2008 to drop classic albums that would pave the way for those like Griselda such as Marcberg & Reloaded. However after focusing on producing projects for other artists like Flee Lord & Bronze Nazareth following Mt. Marci a couple years ago, Marci’s enlisting The Alchemist to produce The Elephant Man’s Bones.

“Rubber Band Grip” is a spaciously suspenseful opener talking about having the pump on him whereas the Action Bronson-assisted “Daddy Kane” works in synths to deliver bars like ”I been gettin’ off that soft white long before shorties was rockin’ Off-White. Water color ice, I call it Walter White” or “Know the in and outs, they want dinner? We get ’em In-N-Out”. The lead single “Deja Vu” takes a more drumless route with it’s bare piano instrumental confessing he had a breakthrough, but then “Quantum Leap” has some jazzy undertones to it talking about how your favorite rapper send him fan mail & your album ain’t worth 12 pennies to him.

Meanwhile on the title track, we have Marci brings back the luxurious keyboards providing food for the spirit just before “Bubble Bath” has a more glistening yet dusty quality to it talking about being rich for real. “Liquid Coke” shoots for a more symphonic aesthetic saying that’s exactly what he’ll leave when he slits ya throat leading into Boldy James tagging along for “Trillion Cut” getting in their hustle bag on top of a flute & some pianos. Stand-out bars being “Me & G on Stockwell, filthy as Rockwell. Turn an eye on high fresh out a dry spell” & ”My pops had tracks in his arms from heroin, this is rap meets Gil Scott-Heron”.

“The Horns of Abraxas” however has these chilling organ harmonies throughout talking about the road to success being Hell sandwiched in the middle of a great spoken word intro/outro from the O.G. himself Ice-T while “JJ Flash” returns to soulful territory spitting that kingpin shit. “Zig Zag Zig” is dramatic boom bap ballad about his life being a fantasy & you getting no pussy while “Stigmata” takes it back to the soul samples as Marci gives free game. Favorite bar is definitely “Like 2 teens playin’ Call of Duty, but all of these is real toolies”.

Following that, the sinister” Zip Guns” with Knowledge the Pirate intimidatingly paints some vivid gangsta rap imagery while the song “Think Big” has a more summery vibe to it talking about taking destiny in his own hands. The penultimate track “Macaroni” returns to a synth-based sound encouraging his competition to hang up the mic & get a job with “Momma Love” sends it off with fireworks as Marci hops on top of a on operatic loop putting it all on Ma Dukes.

From the moment I first heard “Flash Gordon” alongside “Pistolier” & “Paradise Pimps” during my sophomore year of high school a decade ago, I’ve been screaming for Marci & Uncle Al to do an album together. Now that it’s here, it’s the masterpiece that I could’ve ever dreamed from them. There is not a single moment from the beginning of The Elephant Man’s Bones to the end that I genuinely dislike from the smooth & witty gangsta rap lyricism from the New York veteran to the perfectly crafted production pulling from drumless, boom bap & jazz rap.

Score: 5/5

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Benny the Butcher – “Tana Talk 4” review

Benny the Butcher is a 37 year old MC from Buffalo, New York who’s been making music since 2004. However, it wouldn’t be until 2016 where he alongside his cousins Westside Gunn & Conway the Machine would take the culture by storm off projects like Tana Talk 3 & The Plugs I Met. Last year alone, he teamed up with Harry Fraud for The Plugs I Met II in the spring & then Pyrex Picasso in the summer. However, he’s finally linking back up with Daringer & The Alchemist for his 3rd full-length album as well as the 4th installment of the Tana Talk series.

“Johnny P’s Caddy” kicks off the album with a soulful Alchemist beat & J. Cole joining Benny in talking about deserving to be where they are now whereas the Stove God Cook$-assisted “Back 2x” follows it up by bringing the coke raps back & Daringer taking the instrumental back to the basement. “Super Plug” works in a dejecting beat talking about how his only wish was to get his close ones rich just before Boldy James tags along for “Weekends in the Perry’s”, where he & Benny jump on top of a chipmunk soul sample addressing how it’s always been.

Meanwhile on “10 More Crack Commandments”, we have The Butcher delivering a stellar sequel to “10 Crack Commandments” that would make Biggie proud down to Puff Daddy’s spoken word outro leading into Conway coming into the picture for “Tyson vs. Ali” talking about how everyone compares the greatest to the greatest nowadays on top of some dusty drums & pianos. “Uncle Bun” goes into a more suspenseful direction as a Benny & 38 Spesh toss the mic back & forth with one another, but then “Thowy’s Revenge” incorporates a horn sample talking about how he went & got it.

“Billy Joe” brings an organ into the picture to describe the shit he be doing within the first 3 days of every month while the song “Guerrero” with Westside Gunn finds the 2 on top of a futuristic boom bap instrumental with some amazing wordplay. The penultimate track “Bust a Brick Nick” viciously attacks those who haven’t been the places he’s been to even though the beat is opulent as Hell & lastly, “Mr. Chow Hall” ends the album by confessing what’s been on his mind lately & the instrumental here is just spine-tingling.

Much like Conway did with God Don’t Make Mistakes a couple weeks back, I think Benny gave us some of the best work of his career with this album. From the vivid street imagery to Daringer & The Alchemist’s production, every one involved kills it at picking up where the previous installment of the series left off while recapturing that sound.

Score: 4.5/5

Curren$y – “Continuance” review

This is the 18th full-length album from New Orleans veteran Curren$y. Getting his start with No Limit Records as a later member of the 504 Boyz in 2002, he would then hop over to Young Money Entertainment & Cash Money Records in ‘06 before branched out a couple years later with his own label Jet Life Recordings. Since then, the man made a name for himself by dropping a handful of projects every single year with the latest being the Ski Beatz-produced 4th installment of the Pilot Talk series. However, he’s reuniting with The Alchemist for Continuance which I was actually fiendin’ for because Covert Coup & The Carrollton Heist have always been some of the standouts in Spitta’s ever-growing discography.

“Half Morning Moons” starts off the album on a spacious note telling this woman she can kick it with him as long as she can keep a secret whereas “Reese’s Cup” is a piano ballad taking aim at his competition. Boldy James tags along for the soulful “No Yacht” talking about having an acquired taste for the finer things leading into “Obsession” talking about his being infatuated by how much money he can make over a glossy boom bap beat.

Meanwhile on “Corvette Rally Stripes”, we have Havoc & Wiz Khalifa joining Spitta on top of a grim instrumental to flaunt just before the Styles P-assisted takes a more stripped back route as the 2 talk about what it all sounds like to them. “The Tonight Show” almost has this jazzy quality to proclaiming himself as a living legend, but then “Signature Move” goes into a hazier direction talking about getting everything he wants

Detroit’s very own Babyface Ray comes into the picture for the bluesy “Louis Baggage” speaking on reaching underground king status prior to “The Final Board” going full-blown rock turf talking about getting paid in full. The song “JoDeCi Tape” gets in his romantic bag over a synth-heavy beat while the penultimate track “Endurance Runners” with Larry June returning to jazz territory declaring themselves as such. “Kool & the Gang” ends the album with a touching tribute to his son.

For this to be Spitta’s way to kick off his 2022, it absolutely lived up to my expectations & I’ll even say it’s on the exact same caliber as it’s predecessors Covert Coup & The Carrollton Heist. Alchemist’s production is superb as to be expected, the features all come correct & the man himself sounds like he’s in element lyrically.

Score: 4.5/5

Boldy James – “Super Tecmo Bo” review

Boldy James is a 39 year old MC from Detroit, Michigan who broke out in the fall of 2013 off his Alchemist-produced debut M.1.C.S. (My 1st Chemistry Set). He would later go on to land a contract with Nas’ independent label Mass Appeal Records for a little while before getting locked up but once Boldy came home, Uncle Al would help get his name back out there once getting out by dropping the Boldface EP around Christmas 2019 & then the sophomore album The Price of Tea in China at the beginning of last year. This was followed up with the Sterling Toles-produced Manger on McNichols which was as equally fantastic, but the Griselda Records-backed Versace Tape EP was a tad bit disappointing given how rushed it was. He & Alchemist just dropped Bo Jackson to widespread acclaim over the summer, but are returning together out of the blue for Boldy’s 4th EP.

“Level Tipping Scales” sets it off well by spitting that pyrex shit on top of an atmospheric instrumental whereas “No Laughing Matter” follows it up by warning listeners that the drug dealer life ain’t no joke & the upbeat production is just fly as fuck to me. “Hot Water Tank” has these cool little whistles throughout the beat as well as how it details the gangsta mentality even though ICECOLDBISHOP’s verse is wack as fuck, but then “Bumps & Bruises” takes things into jazz territory & it’s nice to hear him getting more insightful through his lyrics.

Meanwhile on “Great Adventures”, we have Boldy on top of a silky yet drumless beat vividly detailing getting the gang tied up just before “Moth in the Flame” talks about being true to the game & the theatrical production enhances the seriousness of it very well. The song “300 Fences” compares his Concreatures crew to that of the infamous Black Mafia Family on top of an apprehensive instrumental while the penultimate track “Guilt” incorporates in some weepy strings talking about someone not being built for this life. “Francois” then ends the album with a gritty dedication to the thugs out there.

Bo Jackson has quickly become the best work of Boldy’s career in my personal opinion & for them to follow it up as quickly as they did, Super Tecmo Bo is very close to being on that same caliber. I respect that they toned it down on the features even though I wasn’t feeling the only one on the EP at all, but both parties continue to bring the best out of one another both lyrically & sonically.

Score: 4/5

The Alchemist – “This Thing of Ours 2” review

The Alchemist is a 43 year old producer, DJ & rapper from Beverly Hills, California who started out as 1/2 of the duo The Whooliganz in 1993 with Scott Caan. They would only disband a year later after recording a debut album that eventually got shelved & Scott went onto acting like his father, but Mudfoot on other end quickly established himself as one of the greatest producers in hip hop history with a resume including ranging names from Mobb Deep to even Eminem. Over this past spring, he produced the latest Armand Hammer album Haram to universal acclaim & followed it up his 9th EP This Thing of Ours a month later. But now in light of the confirmation that he’ll be producing the next Earl Sweatshirt album, Uncle Al dropping a sequel to his latest EP hopefully as a little warm up.

“Miracle Baby” by MAVI is a heavenly opener proclaiming himself as such whereas “Lossless” by MIKE serves as a jazzy boom bap follow-up talking about never losing. The song “Flying Spirit” by the Bruiser Brigade works in a drumless loop for the group to proclaim their work isn’t done while the penultimate track “Wildstyle” by ZelooperZ has a more ominous sound showcasing his wordplay. “6 5 Heartbeats” by Vince Staples ends the EP by somberly recalling his youth.

Uncle Al has made it known that he’s one of the most consistent producers in the game & it’s no surprise that This Thing of Ours 2 wound up being a little bit more enjoyable than the predecessor. Another notable factor of it is that he brings in some less-bigger names into the fold & give them the exposure they truly deserve.

Score: 4/5

Boldy James – “Bo Jackson” review

This is the 4th full-length album from Detroit emcee Boldy James. Breaking out in 2013 off his Alchemist produced debut M.1.C.S. (My 1st Chemistry Set), he would land a contract with Nas’ independent label Mass Appeal Records for a little while before getting locked up. Uncle Al would help get Boldy’s name back out there once getting out by dropping the Boldface EP around Christmas 2019 & then the sophomore album The Price of Tea in China at the beginning of last year. This was followed up with the Sterling Toles-produced Manger on McNichols which was as equally fantastic, but the Griselda Records-backed Versace Tape EP was a tad bit disappointing given how rushed it was. But with the 1-year anniversary of that project coming up this weekend, it’s only right for Boldy to reenlist Alchemist for Bo Jackson.

“Double Hockey Sticks” starts out with a haunting boom bap instrumental getting on his pyrex shit, but then has a hazy switch up talking about beating a case. The next song “Turpentine” has a more chipmunk soul vibe speaking on hard times whereas “Brickmile to Montana” with Benny the Butcher serves as a rugged sequel to “Scrape the Bowl”. The pianos on “E.P.M.D. (Everybody Plotting My Demise)” are eerie as fuck with Boldy calling out those who want to see him fail just before declaring that nobody is cut from his cloth for the airy “Steel Wool”.

Meanwhile on “Photographic Memories”, we have Earl Sweatshirt & Roc Marciano jump on top of a vocal loop saying they never forget faces leading into the demented storytelling “Speed Trap” provides. He later talks about taking the pot & going gold for the piano-laced “Diamond Dallas”, but then “Flight Risk” puts heavy reverb on the sample getting in his mafioso bag.

“Illegal Seizure & Search” gets back on the soulful tip talking about 5-0 whereas “Fake Flowers” with Curren$y & Freddie Gibbs viciously calls out those who be faking the funk with them. The song “3rd Person” has a more rock feel to it pondering how many times you can get away with murder while the penultimate track “First 48” is a cold blooded freestyle going on for 3 minutes. Then there’s “Drug Zone”, which ends the album with Boldy comparing himself to such.

If you happen to like Bo Jackson more than M.1.C.S. (My 1st Chemistry Set) or even The Price of Tea in China, I wouldn’t be mad at it at all because this is the 3rd damn near perfect album they’ve done together. Boldy’s raw lyricism never fails to amuse me & the production is much better than The Versace Tape although I do respect Jay Versace.

Score: 4.5/5

The Alchemist – “This Thing of Ours” review

This is the 9th EP from Beverly Hills producer, DJ & emcee The Alchemist. Coming up as 1/2 of The Whooliganz in 1993 with Scott Caan, the disbanded a year later after recording a debut album that eventually got shelved & Scott went onto acting. Mudfoot however, quickly established himself as a household name in hip hop production by working with a handful of the culture’s most iconic names ranging from Mobb Deep to Eminem. Last thing we heard from him solo wise was The Food Villain back in October & after producing the new Armand Hammer album Haram to universal acclaim last month, Uncle Al is staying busy by amassing 6 emcees for This Thing of Ours.

The opener “Nobles” weaves in a Sun Ra sample as Navy Blue & Earl Sweatshirt trade bars back & forth with one another while the next song “TV Dinners” is a bit oxymoronic with it’s calming instrumental along with Boldy James & Sideshow declaring themselves as soldiers through the lyrics. The penultimate track “Holy Hell” by Maxo & Pink Siifu goes on about the devil wanting their souls over a guitar & a vocal sample before Earl returns to talk about people nickel & diming on the trumpet-heavy closer “Loose Change”.

Not the best EP we’ve heard from The Alchemist, but still an enjoyable listen. His production is a lot more chilled out in comparison to Haram & despite a couple of the guest MCs providing weak verses, most of them do what they do best.

Score: 3.5/5

Armand Hammer – “Haram” review

Armand Hammer is duo from New York City consisting of Billy Woods & Elucid. Forming together in 2013 off their only mixtape Half Measures & the debut album Race Music, the pair would go on to release an EP & 3 more full-lengths worth of abstract political hip hop. Their previous effort Shrines just came out this past summer & not even a year later, Billy & Elucid have tapped on The Alchemist for their 5th full-length album.

The album kicks off with “Sir Benni Miles”, where Armand Hammer gets cryptic over a grimy instrumental with a couple of vocal samples laced in. The next song “Roaches Don’t Fly” talks about how “you don’t have to be here if you don’t wanna” over a synth-heavy beat with some occasional guitar passages while the track “Black Sunlight” gives the listener profound motivation over a cheerful instrumental. The track “Indian Summer” talks about swearing vengeance in the 7th grade & how they “can’t walk them dogs with you” over a mystical beat while the track Aubergine with Fielded finds the 3 talking about hysteria over an instrumental that starts off with a demented atmosphere, but then switches into something more forlorn.

The song “God’s Feet” talks about “blowing that horn fast” over a glistening boom bap beat while the track “Peppertree” talks about how “there’s something else out there” over a saxophone & a reversed loop. The song “Scaffolds” talks about always being late with the epiphanies & having excuses over a paranormal instrumental while the track “Falling Out the Sky” with Earl Sweatshirt sees the trio opening up about their demons over a lachrymose beat.

The song “Wishing Bad” with Curly Castro & Amani finds the 4 talking about how all their problems come from no compensation over a minimal, yet deranged instrumental while the track “Chicharonnes” with Quelle Chris sees the 3 talking about corrupt cops over a ghastly beat. “Squeegee” is another favorite of mine with it’s enraged verses, the ear-grabbing hook & repose production while the penultimate track “Robert Moses” talks about a new day over a jazz-laced instrumental. The album ends with “Stonefruit”, where the duo talk about having so much to undo over a celebratory beat.

This is hands down one of the best albums I’ve heard all year & I’ll even go as far to say that it’s Armand Hammer’s magnum opus. Couple of the features were a miss for me personally, but the gruesome imagery that Billy Woods & Elucid paint goes hand to hand with Uncle Al’s signature sound almost flawlessly.

Score: 4.5/5

Freddie Gibbs – “Alfredo” review

Freddie Gibbs is a 37 year old emcee from Gary, Indiana that started out in 2004 with his debut mixtape Full Metal Jackit. Interscope Records would eventually sign him in 2006, but he left shortly after without releasing a full-length debut. This was made up for with the mixtapes The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs & Str8 Killa No Filla, which would catch the attention of Jeezy & land Freddie a contract with CTE World in 2011. This didn’t last long though, as Gibbs would leave CTE the following year after releasing the tapes Cold Day in Hell & B.F.K. (BabyFace Killa). In 2013, he decided to form his own label E$GN Records & finally dropped the full-length album, E.$.G.N. (Evil $eeds Grow Naturally). He & iconic Oxnard producer Madlib would drop their MadGibbs debut Piñata the year after that, which is EASILY one of the greatest hip hop albums of the previous decade. Gibbs continued to grow his profile after that with Shadow of a Doubt, You Only Live 2wice, Freddie, the Curren$y collab EP Fetti & of course there’s MadGibbs’ sophomore effort Bandana almost a year ago at this point. However, he’s returning out of the blue with his 3rd full-length album & The Alchemist producing it in it’s entirety.

Things kick off with “1985”, where Freddie talks about his flow being God level over a psychedelic guitar instrumental. The next song “God Is Perfect” talks about “Gangland shit” over a dreary instrumental while the track “Scottie Beam” finds Gibbs getting conscious & Rick Ross flexing over a dreamy instrumental. The song “Look At Me” talks about how he ain’t looking back over a soulful instrumental while the track “Frank Lucas” with Benny the Butcher sees the 2 talking that drug dealing over a grim boom bap beat.

The song “Something to Rap About” with Tyler, The Creator sees the 2 discussing rapping about crime & fame respectively over a tropical instrumental while the track “Baby $hit” talks about how soft dudes be nowadays over a more spacious instrumental. The song “Babies & Fools” with Conway the Machine sees the 2 reminiscing on their first & second loves over a gorgeously smooth instrumental while the penultimate track “Skinny Suge” opens up about feeling like someone’s tryin’ to kill him over a meditative beat. The album finishes off with “All Glass”, where Gangsta Gibbs gets on the gangsta tip over a hard hitting instrumental.

For this being the lyrical surprise album everyone was talking about dropping this week, it’s phenomenal. Probably Freddie’s best solo effort yet in my opinion. The production is phenomenal as we’d all expect from Uncle Al at this point & Freddie’s pen-game is just as gruesome as it was on Bandana.

Score: 4.5/5