Let That Mac Rip: October/November Album Reviews (Producer Edition)

Posted: November 11, 2014 in Blog, Dyscyplynary Action, Hip-Hop, Music Review
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Run The Jewels – RTJ2

Three years in a row and once again Jamie and Mike rule the Earth. It always looked to be an unlikely pairing at first in 2012 when Atlanta’s Killer Mike linked up with New York’s rapper/unorthodox beatsmith El-P for his sixth studio album R.A.P. Music. The unholy alliance became a match made in Heaven, as the respected underground veterans evolved into a beloved unit for rap publications and purists alike. The blend of politically-charged and humorous lyricism with explosive production made Run The Jewels a refreshing unit that kept Hip-Hop on his toes.

Homeboy Gary Suarez said that the sequel was a safe sophomoric effort, but on the contrary it is anything but. It is as gully, cut-throat, and effortless as the first as the grumpy vets delivers one-two punches across the jaw. They can be as vulgar (“Love Again”) as they are intimidating (“Jeopardy”) and even have their features sounding as sharp as they can ever be. Gangsta Boo stomps through turning boys into men, Zack de la Rocha comes out of hiding reminiscing about Rakim, and overlooked upstart Wiki crush the buildings on the deluxe-only closer “Blockbuster Night Part Two”. Guys better get comfortable with seeing any formation of these two on Top 5 lists for the next five years.


Vince Staples – Hell Can Wait EP

Vince Staples has came a long way from being the sidekick to the sidekick of Tyler, The Creator. After releasing a slew of mixtapes on his own and outshining Earl Sweatshirt on the latter’s Doris LP, it earned Staples placement on Def Jam Records and No I.D.’s newest pet project. Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2 was just a sample of how talented the Compton rapper can be under improved production. Hell Can Wait is three tracks and ten minutes shorter than the former, but it is every bit of a perfect culmination of gritty west-coast rap.

While we have our Kendrick Lamar who raps from the scope of a bystander, Vince is actually embedded in the dope dealings, shootings, and gang lifestyle that help raised him. It is perplexing to think that “Handz Up” was written months before the tragic incident in Ferguson, Missouri, but it has became a battle cry in recent rap records protesting police brutality. Along with the exhilarating “Blue Suede” and “Feelin’ The Love”, Hell Can Wait is a showcase for a proficient sixth man ready to start.


DJ Quik – The Midnight Life

On the sentimental cut “Puffin’ The Dragon”, DJ Quik prides himself on “plying a hard road for people like Lil Wayne”. An unsung hero in the West Coast Hip-Hop scene, Quik has seen himself as someone that gets overlooked in the all-time great discussions. Always humble, moving, and steadily working, he sounds a little perturbed nowadays not being ranked among the Dr. Dres, Pete Rocks, and DJ Premiers. However, it’s not all bitch fits and bitterness on his ninth album The Midnight Life as there are more laughs and lightheartedness amongst the reflection.

Keeping it funky, Quik shines most when his production shimmers. “Pet Semetary” bellows with heavy horns and soothing piano keys melding with sweeping guitar riffs. The locomotive sample on “Trapped On The Tracks” erupts into a whirlwind of synths and mind-bending energy, adding to the unpredictability of Quik’s sonic mindset. It is one of his more engaging beats to date, though he doesn’t get too weird with his experiments and making it a wonderful experience to listen to on a night out in the city.  It is clear that the stress doesn’t get to him when just want to ‘skeet til his balls are light’ on “Fuck All Night” and leaving a chuckle at the end.


Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!

“Now it’s no longer can he do any wrong, but more of what can he do next?” as I wrote in my previous Flying Lotus review of the tremendous Until The Quiet Comes and Los Angeles most enigmatic producer has done a lot. Between the time of that album’s release, he has created the rapping alter-ego of Captain Murphy, manned the soundtrack of 2013’s most anticipated video game Grand Theft Auto V, and provided an elegant sonic backdrop to Thundercat’s Apocalypse album. It was only right that the build for his fifth album came into a grander and progressive format with You’re Dead!

In light of the passing of close ones and thinking deeper into his mortality in his Fader cover story, You’re Dead! spirals into a vividly lucid jazz affair. Frequent collaborators Thundercat and Nikki Randa join in the fray, as the 38 minutes are packed with tracks that flow with one-another. Expanding from his previous effort with warping grace, FlyLo’s sonic tendencies boom from cathartic euphoria (“Never Catch Me”), to playful charm (“Turtles”). There’s a sense that Steven Ellison is trying to tell us something with each subsequent release and message becomes clear with each listen; He’s willing and able to do whatever he can until time stops for him.


Black Milk – If There’s A Hell Below

Quiet as kept, Black Milk has been one of the most consistent artists going today. Ever to expand his sound as one of Detroit’s most prolific producers not named James Yancey, he also aims to grow lyrically as a well-rounded rapper. Last year’s No Poison No Paradise had him licking his storytelling chops to great precision and we get more of the same on If There’s A Hell Below. He recalls a one-night stand gone horribly wrong (“Story and Her”) and taking a teenager under his street hustling wing (“Quarter Water”). Tried and true is the strength of Detroit rap and its determination and Black Milk’s latest LP continues to embellish the buoyant soul of his production.

Honorable Mention:

Diamond District – March On Washington

Mello Music Group wins out again with DC’s triumvirate of emcees bring the soul of the region at its finest. (“The Back Up”, “Apart Of It All”)

Dilated Peoples – Directors of Photography

Evidence, Rakaa, & DJ Babu (and sometimes Alchemist) come back with their first album together in eight years and it is like they never left.  (“Cut My Teeth”, “Show Me The Way”)

Arca – Xen

If you didn’t like Kanye West’s Yeezus and FKA twigs’ LP1, it’s a foregone conclusion that you won’t like this. Well it sucks to be you as the sonic mastermind of those two brilliant albums manages to save some sorcery for himself. (“Now You Know”, “Failed”, “Bullet Chained”)

Bishop Nehru & DOOM – NehruvianDOOM

As we await the Madvillain follow-up that’ll never come, this does little to raise our hopes. (“Om”, “Darkness (HBU)”)

SBTRKT – Wonder Where We Land  

Unsurprisingly weirder than his debut, it hits high when focusing on soul and trails off in over-ambition. (“Higher”, “New Dorp, New York”, “The Light”)

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