C-Lance – “The Demon of Hiroshima” (Album Review)

C-Lance is a 33 year old producer from Boston, Massachusetts who broke out in 2010 after becoming an in-house producer for Vinnie Paz. He would go on to become one of the underground’s most prominent names for the likes of the Army of the Pharaohs, La Coka Nostra, Swollen Members, R.A. the Rugged Man & G-Mo Skee throughout the last decade. However, C-Lance has decided to drop a new album every month throughout 2021 & is kicking it off with a sequel to his previous instrumental album The Ghosts of Mt. Fuji.

Things kick off with the title track, which has these dusty boom bap drums & some horns that kinda remind me of the classic Pharoahe Monch joint “Simon Says” for some reason. The next instrumental “Duel Under Autumn Leaves” has a sound kin to that of Visions of Gandhi while “The Ghost of Yarikawa” gets back on the boom bap rip albeit with a more alluring loop attached to it. The “Bamboo Forest instrumental has these string sections throughout that give it a cinematic feel to it while “The Hannya Mask” sounds like it was originally made for Chaly & the Filth Factory.

The “Curse of the Snow Woman” instrumental perfectly lives up to it’s name with it’s spooky vocal harmonies & icy keys whereas “Oni & Yurei” dives right back into that Jedi Mind Tricks sound. The “Haunting in Kawasaki” kinda reminds of me C-Lance’s first instrumental album House of 1,000 Beats with its horror movie quality while “Shrine of Kobe” stands out as the most uptempo beat on the entire project without question.

The “Spirits of Inunaki Tunnel” instrumental is laced with a heavenly vocal loop throughout while the penultimate beat “Shadow of the Samurai” is the complete opposite as the crooning samples sound evil & the trumpet is a nice touch as well. The album ends with “Tears Falling in Tokyo”, where C-Lance & Aaron Hiltz come through with a more mellow & relaxing beat.

This dude has been one of my favorite producers in recent memory & I can’t wait to hear everything else he has in store for the year. Much like The Ghosts of Mt. Fuji, he does a good job at taking all these Japanese samples & putting his own grimy spin on them.

Score: 7/10

Various Artists – “Conflicted: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” (Album Review)

This is a brand new soundtrack album brought to you in part by Buffalo hip hop labels Griselda Records & Black Soprano Family Records. Both of whom have been taking over hip hop with a plethora of high quality albums, EPs & mixtapes since late 2015.Their first feature-length film Conflicted is set to be released next Friday & of course the movie had to be accompanied by songs from or inspired by it.

After the intro, the first song “Mobbin’” finds Benny the Butcher teaming up with Chase Fetti & Heem to talk about just that over a devilish instrumental while the track “Element of Surprise” by Lloyd Banks talks about being mindful of snitches over a supernatural beat. The song “Ain’t Hit Nobody” by Westside Gunn, Flee Lord & Eto sees the trio coming together for the brick buyers over a grim, drumless instrumental from Daringer while the track “Pride” by Ransom triumphantly talks about his success over a soulful beat from the man himself.

The song “Welcome Home DMX” by Dave East & Jonesy finds the 2 comparing themselves to Sam Giancana & John Gotti over a weepy trap instrumental from the late DJ Shay & the 808 Mafia while the track “Squaaaaad” by Elcamino, Rick Hyde & Smoke DZA sees the 3 talking about being baptized by the streets over a victorious beat. The song “3:30 in Houston” by Benny the Butcher addresses being shot a few months back over a despondent instrumental while the track “Voices” by Boldy James, Chase Fetti & Heem finds the trio telling their opposition to run over a bloodcurdling beat.

The song “Rank” by YN Billy gets braggadocious over a mediocre trap instrumental & after the “I’m Not the Enemy” skit, the track “Nerve of You” by Armani Caesar talks about someone doing her dirty over a Camouflage Monk beat with some plinky keys. The song “Conflicted” by Flee Lord talks about the hustler lifestyle over a dreary instrumental from GhostDave while the penultimate track “Mission Accomplished” by Armani Caesar, Benny the Butcher & Westside Gunn sees the 3 talking about turning to the boss life. “The Hurt Business” by Westside Gunn, Smoke DZA & Wale then talks about being the flyest in the game over a thunderous instrumental.

I was curious to hear how this would turn out given how cheesy a lot of soundtrack albums turn out nowadays, but I’m actually pretty impressed with what we got here & it has me even more curious to watch the movie when it comes out next weekend. Much like Griselda’s collective debut W.W.C.D. (What Would Chinegun Do?) that was released under Shady Records a couple years back, everyone involved manages to stay true to themselves & not whip up a focusgrouped product.

Score: 7/10

I.V. – “Truth” (Video)

Independent Hip Hop artist out of Toronto, Canada I.V. releases his new single and lyric video titled “Truth“.  The seasoned emcee hands out forceful bars delivered over hard hitting basslines, asserting his dominance in the game while keeping unfaithful artists in check. Follow him on Instagram @idotvdot.

Zerdle Bandz Shares New Song, “Wanted”

Buzzing recording artist Zerdle Bandz had a hella of a 2020 — in which his fans accumulated over 138,000 streams. Entering the new year, the rising star continues on last year’s momentum with the release of his new song, titled, “Wanted.”

Like most of his music, on “Wanted,” Bandz raps about dealing with drug addiction & the pull of the streets. Through the melancholy vibes you can feel the longing for connection in the midst of drowning in one’s demons. He continues delivering punchy introspective street bars intertwined with catchy heartsick hooks on top of melodic trap beats. The new song follows “Zwervin” off his PM2 project.

As the new year revs up, Zerdle and his new song are off to a great start in the race for the year’s best new artist. Let’s see how the new star directs his trajectory moving forward. “Wanted” is available on all streaming platforms. Stream it below.

After “Wanted,” want more Zerdle Bandz? Follow him daily on Instagram and Twitter.

Dough the Freshkid – “Blow” Ft. Cuzzy Capone & Wee Dogg (Video)

From the Crenshaw District of California native to the late great Nispey Hussle, rising underground rapper Dough the Freshkid releases his latest music video titled “Blow” featuring label mates Cuzzy Capone & Wee Dogg.  The song “Blow” comes off his latest project Tal’s Café. The video is shot as a small film rein-acting criminal Mob Bosses robbing banks in the late 1940’s. Produced by up and coming Bronx producer Val and Directed by Alexander Pardo.

R.A.P. Ferreira – “Bob’s Son: R.A.P. Ferreira in the Garden Level Cafe of the Scallops Hotel” (Album Review)

R.A.P. Ferreira is a 28 year old MC/producer from Kenosha, Wisconsin who’s been making music for a little over a decade now. However, I personally have had him on my radar since his 2015 sophomore effort So the Flies Don’t Come. His last album Purple Moonlight Pagesthat came out almost a year ago at this point was not only his most reflective work yet, but one of my favorites of 2020 too. Fast forward to New Year’s Day, we’re already being treated with a follow-up.

After the psychedelic boom bap “Battle Report” intro, the first song “The Cough Bomber’s Return” talks about being the last of a dying breed over a meditative boom bap beat whereas the next track “Yamships, Flaxseed” with s.al sees the 2 talking about “pain coming in dreams” over a soulful instrumental with a piano-transition during the 2nd half. The song “Diogenes on the Auction Block” talks about riding on when he was alone over a minimalist beat while the track “Redguard Snipers” with SB the Moor finds the 2 talking about people complaining about new verbs & sounds over an instrumental that starts with a upbeat vibe, but then transitions into something more deadpan in it’s final moments.

The song “Sips of Ripple Wine (No Stemware)” talks about having to level up over a funky beat with an acoustic switch-up while the track “Skrenth” talks about what it is to be a poet over an instrumental with some keys & bass guitar. The song “Bobby Digital’s Little Wings” talks about his father having a panic attack 2 weeks after he was born over a piano-inflicted boom bap beat while the track “Listening” talks about how he’s doing good in the end over jazzy instrumental.

The song “High Rise in Newark” talks about spirits clinging to theoretical lives over an abstract beat while the penultimate track “Rejoice” speaks for itself lyrically over a wavy instrumental. The album finishes off with “Abomunist Manifesto”, where R.A.P. Ferreira tackles abomunism as a whole over a bass guitar & an acoustic guitar.

Even though I didn’t think we’d get another album from him this quickly, I really enjoy it for what it is. I think it serves as a fantastic tribute to Bob Kaufman as his cryptic lyricism is always captivating & jazz-flavored production is once again well incorporated.

Score: 8/10

38 Spesh – “Interstate 38” (Album Review)

38 Spesh is a 35 year old MC/producer from Rochester, New York known for being the leader of the Trust Army. He’s been steadily busy throughout the last few years whether it be him producing projects for the likes of Planet Asia & Elcamino or his own solo output. But to cap off 2020, Spesh is back with his 4th full-length album.

The opener “I-38” talks about how he’s just getting started over a nightly instrumental from STREETRUNNER whereas the next song “Interstate” with Che Noir finds the 2 talking about getting rich off the road together over a somewhat funky beat from Spesh himself. The track “Toll Booth” with Ransom sees the 2 talking about never switching up on the gang over an instrumental kin to Wu-Tang Forever-era RZA while the song “Stash Box” with Benny the Butcher finds the 2 on their drug dealing shit over a grand beat.

The track “Road Back” talks about treating this woman like she’s one of his over a lush instrumental while the song “Route 38” talks about how you ain’t man if you ain’t taking care of your family over a jazzy beat from Buckwild. The track “Investment Pieces” talks about not rocking ice over a luxurious instrumental provided by The Heatmakerz while the song “Money Calling” talks about wealth over a demonic beat.

“The Mule” with Dini is a lust tune with a decent instrumental & a horrendous execution while the penultimate track “Under the Table” talks about having a metaphoric relationship with his kitchen table over a drumless horn loop. The album ends with “Made It Home”, where Spesh talks about being blessed now over a soulful beat.

Even though I think A Bullet for a Heathen is his best work, this is still a dope follow-up. I like how he brought in more outside producers into the fold so he can remind listeners of his skills as a spitter too.

Score: 7/10

Dono Vegas – “No Excuses” (Album Review)

Dono Vegas is an upcoming rapper who has been establishing a name for himself with projects like “Jackpot 1.5” and “Valley St. Vegas”. Recently, he released a brand new album titled “No Excuses”, which is available on all major streaming services. With a chance at rising to superstardom, can Dono Vags deliver the body of work fans have been waiting for?

Through 16 well put together tracks, Dono Vegas brings the heat. He shows he is a jack of all trades by showing off everything from his auto-tuned infused vocals on “No Excuses” to his charged up flow on the closer “Missipie River, Pt. 3”. The best part of his performance is that each track plays a pivotal role in further painting the picture he is pushing so hard to create. This leaves nearly no room for filler as whether he’s making a hard-hitting banger like “Perfect Timing” or a fly anthem-like “$300 Nike Fit,” you will find something to enjoy. Aside from the array of bangers embedded throughout the tracklist, there are surprisingly some pretty introspective interludes which do a masterful job at easing tension and creating some depth. “Pain” and “3:13 A.M.” were also top tier moments that did a splendid job at expanding on the character of Vegas. As the rest of the record goes, there’s a strong close to home which fully ties this experience together into something that merges two different thought processes into one well put together experience. Highlighted by the climatic “Dirty,” hearing Don at his spiritual lowest is inspiring and rejuvenating. Overall, Don Vegas’s well-equipped set of skills makes him an artist that will be a threat going forward. 

Behind the boards, there’s a safe but intricately crafted soundtrack supporting every word of Don Vegas. For the most part, each instrumental follows the same formula of starting off with a sample or pattern then playing out, with the beat dropping into something Vegas can rap over, but this is not a bad thing. With insertions of epic choirs on “Dirty” and a memorizing drum pattern on “Half A Baby,” the loops of these sonic backgrounds are more than enjoyable. Out of all the cuts, the glossy keyboard of “Free Kevin” stood out to me the most due to its emotional undertones and well-done chord switches. As a whole, the soundscape of this record may be pretty standard in today’s industry, but it’s still above average. 

In conclusion, “No Excuses” is a well-rounded album that will certainly blow up in the near future. Dono Vegas is absolute trouble on the microphone as his versatile vocals are only matched by his potent songwriting. Going forward, if Dono can improve his ear for some more memorable instrumentals, he can truly be something special. If you’re like me and want to see what this gifted rising artist does next, be sure to follow @donovegas_ on Instagram!

Rating: 8/10

Highlights: Lyrics, Flow, Versatility