Category Archives: ALBUMS

Hip hop album archive, including reviews, info and images of new and old school rap albums. List includes many pictures from my own collection

Venomous 2000 – Sounds Of The Great Ones (ALBUM REVIEW)

I must first admit that as of late I have been slowly becoming disillusioned with hip hop music. There was once a time when this music was consistently dope, at the forefront and in abundance. When these dark clouds begin to surround me and I start to drift away from the culture, a glimmer of hope drags me back to continue this love affair with hip hop. In walks Jersey native Venomous 2000 and Serbian producer X Trilian with “Sounds Of The Great Ones” and order is once again restored to the hip hop universe!

I love to write album reviews, but before I transcribe my thoughts I first must fully digest the offering. With that being said I listened to ‘Sounds Of The Great Ones’ constantly from when it first dropped a few months back. I don’t believe in flicking through the contents of an album then hurrying out a quick review. This album was no exception. In fact, I probably spent more time absorbing the contents of this album than any of V’s previous work including the most excellent Will To Power.

First off, the album cover art is fresh and the title is fitting. You instantly get a good feeling that the content is going to be dope. The next thing I noticed is the number of awesome guest spots on this album, the older heads will definitely recognise and appreciate some big names from the 90’s and early 2000’s including The Artifacts, Cella Dwellas, Inspectah deck, 9th Prince, Tiye Phoenix, C Rayz Walz and Shabaam Sadeeq.

Venomous opens up with “Know Things,” hard hitting lyrics over a hard hitting beat from Trillian and some ill cuts from UK turntablist DJ TMB. Trillian is not a producer I’m familiar with but after this one I’m already wanting to hear more. A stand out track in my opinion is “Hot Damn” oooooweeeeeee!!! It’s a banger! Venomous, El Da Sensei, Tame One and Tiye Phoenix trade verses over some neck snapping production from Trillian. DJ Trickalome adds the finishing touches with some very nice cuts. Every verse is dope but Tiye Phoenix blows the spot on the track finale showing that she is indeed officially up there with the top femcees in the game.

After listening to “Homecoming” I felt it didn’t fit with the style of the rest of the album. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed it but it was like I was suddenly listening to a different album. The original “Rock The Bells” was my introduction to Venomous back in 2011 and when I saw “Rock The Bells PT2″ on this track list I was full of anticipation. Just as I hoped, it didn’t disappoint. You won’t hear a better opening verse than the one V2G drops on this, it is flames! The combination of Reks and C Rayz Walz who add their own individual and unique styles heightens the all round listening experience. Again the production from Trillian and cuts from DJ TMB are near perfect.

Things slow down a little bit on “My Grandma Used To Say” A beautifully produced song that I immediately fell in love with. Venomous rides this hypnotic beat perfectly, his therapeutic verses had me reminiscing back to different times in my life. Shabaam Sadeeq and the Cella Dwellas lend a hand on “Products Of Evironment“. All four lyricists flex their mic skills to great effect, weaving in and out of Trilians production with the smoothest of flows. Another thumbs up.

Any comic fans out There? I’m a big fan of MF Doom and all the alias’s he uses on his albums and intros. I must say that I’ve never heard anything quite like “Marvelous” and the reference to so many Marvel characters on one track from venomous which is just exceptional. V shines here and shows just how gifted he is as a writer.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better, along comes a Wu-Tang / Venomous combination on “Make Ya Speakers Pop.” This time Inspectah Deck , 9th Prince and NLZ step up to the mic. Trilian has pulled out all the stops on the production here and you can’t help but nod your head to this beat. DJ TMB lays his artistry to the cuts.

I kind of expected a low point towards the end of the album, but that didn’t actually happen, quite the opposite in fact. Over the course of the album I listened to a side of Venomous I’ve not heard before, a more aggressive mc and a more aggressive approach to his flow, an mc with the versatility to stand along side anybody on a track and shine. “Psalms 76” is one of my favourite joints on the album. V spazzes out without drawing breath and spits some heavy bars. I don’t live in the hood or remotely near anywhere dangerous but this had me stomping through the quiet streets of my home town like a Universal soldier. “It’s Over” is a short track acting like a musical outro. Still very dope all round. Conclusion, I’ve spent a lot of time with Venomous 2000’s music overall and he continues to produce albums that go from strength to strength. He always seems to grow and add something different to his arsenal on every joint. V is one of the few that still rides and bleeds for hip hop, something his fanbase will be most appreciative of. V proves time and again he can stand alone or shine alongside some of hip hops elite. The production on this album was top notch throughout. As I said before Trilian is a producer I was unfamiliar with but after listening to this I will definitely be checking for him in the future. The chemistry was almost like these guys had been working together for years. Hats off to DJ TMB and DJ Trickalome for making this album sound complete with all the dope cuts. All in all this is a dope sounding hip hop album that gave me a lot of listening pleasure. 4/5

O.C. – Word Life/Jewelz – Limited Edition Box Set

Here we have the 2 most acclaimed OC albums, Word…life and Jewelz brought together in a ‘limited edition’ collectors box set.

First, a little back-history of how this album box set came about. I had a brief online chat with O.C. a few months back and he revealed that it was in fact an “unofficial” release from a label based out in Australia in which he never actually received any royalties from. The label in question is called “Grindin”, a subsidiary of Central Station Records, whose aim (so they claim) is to get quality hip hop music from both local and overseas artists released in Australia and across the globe. If that wasn’t enough, the Box set was also released in Europe under another subsidiary label known as Altered Ego who’s parent company is Pickwick Group Ltd.

Although the box set was a semi bootleg released in limited numbers, it was available for purchase in all the major retailers at the time of distribution in 2008. The fact that the box set was not official doesn’t really detract from the music contained on within, and if I’m being honest the whole package was given some of the highest quality presentation treatment I’ve seen. The discs themselves are stamped with O.C’s iconic crown logo in a high gloss finish and the packaging contains some linear notes about O.C. himself. It’s clear this set was put together by someone who has respect for both the artist and the art form. Financial and compensatory matters aside I’m sure even Omar himself would be proud of the finished product.

As for the CD content, the first disc contains the full 14 track Word…life album with the addition of 5 extra bonus tracks including 2 “Time’s Up” remixes by Katalyst and DJ Eclipse, an un-credited “Snakes” track, and a demo version of “Ozone”.

Disc two, contains the original 15 track Jewelz album but with the additional bonus tracks;  “Dangerously Making Money” Featuring – Fatman Scoop, Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz, the Buckwild produced “Burn Me Slow “, “Champagne Thoughts”, and Bonafide
Featuring – Jay-Z. All in all it’s a win win for any O.C. D.I.T.C fans.

Those who know me personally can attest that O.C. places high on my all “time greatest” list! Any serious hip hop head who owns just one of these albums will understand why.

Revered by many among hip hops elite, Omar “OC” Credle or O-Cizzle (as he is also known by in close circles) is an artist that I consider to be an “emcees mc”, meaning other rappers can only hope to aspire to his level of lyrical mastery. This is some achievement when you consider that his most successful spell was during the 90s when hip hop had no shortage of talent and great albums littered the shelves at record stores.

The D.I.T.C native has dropped so many gems and featured with so many heavyweight emcees’ that I could dedicate a whole book! There isn’t really very much for me to say about these 2 classic albums that hasn’t already been said a thousand times before. Check my previous Jewelz review for more on that joint. I might do a stand alone review of Word Life in the future. But for now just know that both are equally impressive testimonies to that golden era New York sound that the 90’s was so famous for.

Have you got a favourite O.C. album?

Tell us in the comments below ⇓ ⇓ ⇓

 

DFC – Things In Tha Hood (1994)

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DFC were originally known as Da Flint Crew before changing to Da Funk Clan. They first gained acclaim when they teamed up with MC Breed on the co-credited 1991 album, MC Breed & DFC. Fast forward a couple of years and the Flint Michigan boys were ready to serve up something entirely of their own recipe, with their 1994 gangsta funk debut “Things in tha Hood”.

I initially overlooked this album when it first hit the UK stores. Being a US import it carried a hefty price tag and having never heard anything from Da Funk Clan before I wasn’t going to risk £25 on it. It wasn’t until the following year while digging through the sales rack at my local HMV that I finally found a copy at a more reasonable price so I decided to take a chance on it. A decision partly based on the guest producer/artist collaborations, D.O.C, Warren G, MC Breed and particularly MC Eiht and DJ Slip whose “We Come Strapped” album had been virtually glued to the tape deck of my Walkman for months. 

al-breed-t-double-e-dfc1994 was one of the strongest years in West Coast hip hop history, with Spice 1, MC Eiht, Above The Law, Kokane and many more all dropping monster albums. In retrospect Things In Tha Hood had a lot to live up to and although it doesn’t quite compare to these bonafide classics it still has enough going for it to make it somewhat worth checking out.

MC Breed appears on almost half the tracks, with solid energetic upbeat production, especially the George Clinton inspired “Put Your Locs On.” The best tracks are the collaborations, namely “Caps Get Peeled” and “Mo’ Love,” a pair of summertime jams with Compton legend MC Eiht. “Hand’s on My Nine” and the D.O.C’s dark and moody “Digga Bigga Ditch” are solid too. “Roll With The Clan” was also a track that resonated with me and of course the title track “Things In The Hood” with it’s insanely deep bass. A definite one for a hot day in the whip with the top down. All in all the album is fairly solid. Nothing is truly outstanding but nothing is completely awful either, except for maybe the Warren G produced “Pass The Hooter”, in which he also makes an appearance  spitting the very same verse he used on his own album on the track “What’s Next“. The final track “You Can Get The Dick” also sounded a bit sloppy to me too.

DFC cd albumD.F.C. returned in ’97 with “The Whole World’s Rotten” but have remained quiet ever since. Those of us who still remember DFC will no doubt give respect to Alpha Breed and T Double E as early Michigan rap pioneers, but for the most part their musical legacy has been fairly forgettable. I wouldn’t recommend that listeners go too far out of their way to own a copy of Things In Tha Hood but if your a 90’s hip hop collector then this one might be a nice addition.

RATING:

 

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MC Ren – The Villain In Black (1996)

I remember back in 1996 while working at a record shop, I just got news that MC Ren was about to drop his new album, “The Villain In Black”, and as a huge Ren fan, I was ecstatic to say the least. The day it came out I got in my Camaro, (which was fully loaded with the best sound system around), popped in the disc and BOOM! You could hear every word of the songs in crystal clear detail from well outside the car and the second the Bass kicked in for “Bitch Made Nigga Killa”, I knew Ren had out done himself. That bass just held on one key, and everything around the car shook, then when Ren came in with his verse, the bass just goes nuts! That was the moment I knew what Ren was capable of, and for me this album was his pinnacle moment. Don’t get me wrong, it may not contain huge mind blowing cuts like one or two off his previous album “Shock Of The Hour“, but where that album tended to peak and dip, the Villain In Black disc was very consistent from start to finish. The sad thing is, I remember thinking at the time that nobody would ever catch on to it, partly because none of it is radio friendly. But it’s Ren’s unwillingness to conform to industry trends that always made me stay loyal to him. He always gave the fans what they wanted, not what the radio jack offs wanted.  He may have made videos but you rarely got to see them unless like me you paid to watch them. Remember the old music video station called the Box? it was essentially a video jukebox where you called in and ordered what music video you wanted to watch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_-dOCbMYRY

Upon initial release the Villain In Black enjoyed relative chart success, peaking at #31 on the Billboard 200. But despite this the album didn’t come without it’s critics, mostly on account of Ren’s partial transition from the socio-political tone and darker production of previous albums to a more g-funk sound that was so heavily influential during the mid 90s. But regardless I love the album and with Ruthless Records label mate Cold 187um producing just over half the tracks, how can you go wrong. “Mad Scientist” has probably one of the tightest beats ever done, just an all around tight song. “Live From Compton Saturday Night” is my next favorite joint, followed by “Mind Blown”. Ren brings back Big Hutch and the rest of Above The Law for the final track called “Bring It On”, (not to be confused with the legendary posse cut by the Geto Boys’).

mc ren

Overall there isn’t a track on this entire album that I don’t like. The Villain In Black is probably one of the most unnoticed albums ever made, by one of the most underrated legends of the gangsta rap genre. To me, he will always be a west coast icon regardless, but just like Ren says, “Fuck a legend”.  An all round solid disc, which I cant say enough about. To this day, Ren continues to be the most unsung and in some cases disrespected member of the N.W.A crew, when in all reality, he was the genius, and mastermind behind most of their best shit. So what if he may never have his own branded headphones, at least he stayed true to where he came from and kept it that way. I hope he never changes. Salute to “the Ruthless Villain”

Big Mike – Somethin’ Serious (1994)

After his flawless contribution on the Geto Boys 1993 classic, Till Death Do Us Part, (arguably outshining Scarface in the process), Big Mike went out on his first solo project – Somethin’ Serious.

Big_Mike

A New Orleans native, but Texas bred, Big Mike has one of the most appealing flows I’ve ever heard. He gets flossy on “Havin Thangs” with the late great Pimp C lending one of his most memorable hooks. Gets his ride on in the bouncy “Creepin-Rollin”. Discusses love and hood romance on “Ghetto Love”. Deals with absent fathers on “Daddy’s Gone” with Mr. Scarface, and gets his thug on in “Smoke Em and Choke Em”.

Somethin Serious, also boasts some “serious” beat-smiths, with John Bido, Mike Banks, N.O. Joe, Pee Wee, Simon Cullins, all contributing some of that southern fried funk. Mike even tries his hand at beat making, producing five of the albums cuts himself. All in all, it has classic potential. If you like this one, you need to check out his 1997 follow up album “Still Serious,”. The production on that joint is a little bit better in my opinion. Somethin’ Serious is still a definite must have for your collection, especially for heads on the 3rd and West Coast.

Ghetto Boys – You Ain’t Nothin (1987)

The original “Ghetto Boys” (before the spelling change to Geto Boys) consisted of Raheem, Sire Jukeboxx, and Sir Rap-A-Lot. They released a single, “Car Freak” in 1986 but Raheem and Sir Rap-A-Lot left soon after. James Prince (the founder of Rap-A-Lot records) brought in DJ Ready Red, Prince Johnny C, and a dancer known as Little Billy (Bushwick Bill) and an LP, “You Ain’t Nothin” soon followed in 1987.

You Ain’t Nothin’ is a track that’s typical of the mid 80’s era, with lot’s of braggadocio flows, as Boxx and Johnny C call out sucka-emcees over Red’s drums and Elvis sample. The group released another LP a year later with, “Be Down” before dropping their debut album “Making Trouble” in 1988.

Tracklist
A. You Ain’t Nothing 2:58
B. I Run This 4:20

Credits
Art Direction – Kyle Wright
Drum Programming – Grand Wizard DJ Ready Red
Engineer – Clifford Blodget
Executive-producer – James A. Smith
Mastered By – Richard Simpson
Performer [Ghetto Boys Are] – Grand Wizard DJ Ready Red, Prince Johny C, Sire Juke Box
Photography By – Jeff Copp
Producer – Clifford Blodget, Karl Stephenson
Synthesizer, Programmed By – Karl Stephenson

Recorded at Rap Hard Studios, Houston, Texas.

Ice Cube – Death Certificate (1991)

Death Certificate, Ice Cube’s unflinching manifesto of early 90s young black male attitudes, targeting sellouts, uncle toms and even N.W.A. it is a brutal listen at times and not for the close-minded, the timid or the ignorant. His previous solo debut “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted,” stuck a middle finger to mainstream America, “Death Certificate” moves on to even more relevant issues.

death certificateIce Cube was never as angry as he was on this album, dealing with problems and injustices on every track, he is a man on a mission. Lyrically it’s one of my favorites. He uses metaphors often to explain his views, and emerges as one of hip hop’s best storytellers, spinning yarns of violence and struggles in the ghettos of South Central Los Angeles. This album was very controversial for its profanities and the way that Cube sometimes comes across as racist, sexist, and intolerant, because he tends to call it “like it is,” but he does his best to justify his views.  A lot of the songs are short but get their point across, so there is never a dull moment.

“Death Certificate is not for the weak of heart or mind. but is an infinitely rewarding musical experience”

Musically, there is no way anyone can deny the absolutely mind blowing complexity in the production at work here. the massively underrated Sir Jinx as well as Cube himself craft unbelievable beats obviously heavily influenced by the Bomb Squad production on Ice Cube’s Pic of ice cube audio cd albumfirst record. The amount of texture and depth to these beats, and the inventiveness and precision of the multi-layered samples used, result in some of the finest production ever heard in hip hop. Some of the best bits include the muffled drunken wail of the horns and the funky breakdown on “Black Korea”, the huge snare on “Man’s Best Friend”, the ridiculous vocal sample on “My Summer Vacation”, the bird call scratches on “A Bird In The Hand”. and Ice Cube as a rapper – his turn of phrase, his rhythm and his immense voice – was never and has never been better. Every syllable is ferociously slammed onto the beat like one of those licence plate machines and enunciated with such unbelievable clarity and power.

An absolute classic!!

RATING:

Kurious – A Constipated Monkey (1994)

Kurious’ debut album “A Constipated Monkey” represents another slept on classic album from the golden era. Half-Cuban, half-Puerto Rican, the Bronx-raised rapper was loved by many hip hop heads, at a time when hip-hop focused on a variety of different lyrical styles and funk & jazz based samples. Tracks like “Uptown Shit” and “Walk Like a Duck” have incredible funky bass lines, as Jorge blesses the mic with his smooth jazzy voice.

“Leave Ya With This” is a standout track, which Jorge dedicates to fallen member Subroc of KMD. The heartfelt lyrics and Jorge’s longing to one day return to the essence to see his friend, can make anyone who lost someone relate.

The horn sample on the hook adds to the melancholy track. Of course the classic cut on this album, “I’m Kurious,” makes great use of The Blackbyrds ultra melodic “Mysterious Vibes (yes the same one used by Paris on his amazing “Days Of Old” 2 years earlier). This cut will have you pressing repeat on your CD player.

“Nikole” finds Kurious rapping about a girl who has played him, and although he mentally suffers, he is over it and looks back in retrospect. Finally, “What’s The Real” has a funky beat as Jorge and Hieroglyphics crew member Casual share lyrical verses together! What more could you ask for?

Production wise, The Beatnuts handle most of the albums bulk, with Prime Minister Pete Nice & Daddy Rich, the SD50s (aka the Stimulated Dummies), and Bosco Money of Downtown Science each contributing (as well as the Groove Merchantz on a bonus track). This is an outstanding team of producers that provide a focused sound that lives up to their top billing. The beats are lively and appealing, almost every one boasting a potent horn sample, deep bass and hard drum kicks. Pete Nice and Bobbito Garcia are also credited as two executive producers.

Original Columbia copies do pop up on discogs from time to time at reasonable prices. However, Constipated Monkey was also re-released in 2007 on Amalgam Entertainment.

HIP HOP FACT: The album is also notable for being the debut of MF Grimm (aka Grimm Reaper) on the track “Baby Bust It

Ill Al Skratch – Creep Wit’ Me (RARE 1994 OOP)

What started off as a song by Ill Al Skratch on “Where My Homiez? (Come Around My Way)” soon spawned in to an entire album (of sorts). Released August 2, 1994, Creep Wit’ Me, was an LP that had some appeal with the mainstream as well as the underground heads. They were both smooth, yet rugged! Pimps, but ghetto!

Ill Al Skratch

“Chill With That” and “The Brooklyn Uptown Connection” are tag team efforts that highlight the duo’s chemistry and have a rougher sound. The album also contains 2 solo joints,  Ill’s “Classic Shit” and Al’s “Summertime,” with Al Skratch’s raspy flow being the stand out of the two.

The problem I find with this album is that tracks seem to interlink as if they are remixes of each other, as many songs use similar ear lines and hooks. “I’ll Take Her” featuring Brian McKnight, has a smooth feel and deserves a star all its own but was it really necessary to add yet another remix version? Then we come to “Where My Homiez? (Dub Version) which is basically 6 minutes of pointless instrumental filler.

The production by The LG Experience & Lowrider is decent enough and worthy of recognition but the album overall doesn’t hold enough substance to make it a true classic. Having said that “Wheres My Homiez” will always be a hip hop anthem.

RATING:

Yamin Semali – Monday/Friday (ALBUM REVIEW)

There are so many quality artists that fly under my hip hop radar, which is why I love the Hip Hop Foundation (a little shameless website promotion there). As a self-dubbed hip hop aficionado, I always take pleasure in discovering dope MC’s but with so many out there that don’t get the recognition they deserve, I’ve been put on to a lot of really good MC’s just through my affiliation with this site. One such artist is East Point, Georgia based MC Yamin Semali.

In the same vein that West Coast MC’s such as Digital Underground and Souls Of Mischief stifled the stereotype that all West Coast music was of the “gangsta” variation in the early 90s, Yamin is one of a plethora of Georgia MC’s that provides an alternative for the popular “trap” music that the Peach state has become generally known for in the last decade. Yamin’s style is a nice blend of consciousness and “everyman” music. His third release “Monday-Friday” is a smooth, ride through this MC’s philosophies on life, which includes jewels on everything from straight up knowledge with tracks such as “Prometheus” and “Top Of The 9th” to the temptations men deal with in the opposite sex on “Big Eyes (Ode To Tracee Ross)”. The production here is top notch from Illastrate who provides a cohesive sound that ties the songs together nicely. These beats are as good as any I’ve heard and provide a great backdrop for Yamin’s melodic flow and dope lyricism.

A major point for me is Yamin kept this album streamlined at 12 tracks (one is an instrumental). In today’s A.D.D. world with so many things to grab people’s attention, an album with too many tracks may get overlooked or passed on but here, less is definitely more. I think we’ve just generally gotten past the period of 17 to 20 track albums where 30 to 50% of the album is obvious filler. Give the people the best of the best and the value of an album rises significantly. I really can’t find any qualms with this album. Maybe a bigger track that could stand alone as a single but you know what? Give me a solid album from front to back any day. Dope album,definitely worth checking out.

Rating: