Big Hoodoo – “The Hoodini Chronicles, Pt. I: The Redbook” (Album Review)

Big Hoodoo is an MC from Detroit, Michigan who originally came up as Doe Dubbla. Under that original moniker, he put out a double-disc full-length debut in 2008 called Stack’n & later followed it up with Hiatus in 2012. However it wouldn’t be until 2013 when Dubbla signed Psychopathic Records, put out his 3rd album Crystal Skull that summer & became the black magic practitioner that he is today. Now the last time we heard from Hoodoo solo-wise was in 2016 when he released asylum, which was pretty much a more refined version of Crystal Skull. But just a little over year after founding his own label Ear Drug Musik as well as teaming up with Anybody Killa to drop Tha Hav Knots’ debut EP, the man is now delivering his highly anticipated 5th album.

The opener “Juice” with Bam Beda sees the 2 talking about being grateful for making out the hood & getting lit when the pressure’s on over some keyboards, but then transitions into a Sada Baby type beat that isn’t too bad. The next song “Hoodooinit” triumphantly celebrates his return over an anarchic trap instrumental while the track “Bitch I’m Gone” finds Hoodoo boasting over a sinister beat from Str8jaket. The song “Hatchetman” is a full-blown Psychopathic anthem backed by a trap instrumental with some eerie keyboards while the track “7+3” hooks back up with Bam Beda to talk about murdering those who want beef with them over a solemn beat.

The song “Take Over” with Blac finds the 2 talking about running shit over a bass-heavy instrumental while the track “Ride High” talks about going at those praying on his downfall over a ghostly beat with a killer guitar riff. The song “Juggalo Love (Murder Medley)” with Ouija Macc sees the 2 talking about how juggalos don’t play over an instrumental with a creepy atmosphere to it while the track “RIP” talks those who tried to stop him & this is probably the most evil-sounding beat on the whole entire album. The song “Against the Grain” teams up with Hoodoo’s mentors the Insane Clown Posse finds the 3 thanking those who helped their dreams come to fruition over a tranquil instrumental & then “Time of My Life” is an emotional finale as Hoodoo’s spitting some real life shit & the background singer throughout was a remarkable touch as well.

After a 4-year wait, this was very much well worth it because I think The Hoodini Chronicles, Part I: The Redbook is neck & neck with for Big Hoodoo’s best work. His evolution throughout the past 7 years is quite evident as his lyricism has only gotten better with time & the production on here is just as raw. Great comeback effort.

Score: 8/10

J57 – “The Analog Tape 3.3” (Album)

MC/Producer J57 just dropped his latest instrumental album titled “The Analog Tape 3.3” via his label FiveSe7en Collective/Soulspazm Distribution. The theme for the album covers for the “Analog Tape 3.0” series has all consisted of photos from the very early Brown Bag AllStars days; working at Fat Beats, doing shows, and more all from 2008-2009. The sound of this series is very eclectic/genre-bending boom bap, electronic, indie, and much more. The last song on the album “Rell Swank” is a requiem J57 created when he found out his friend Rell Swank (Joey Bada$$‘s cousin) was murdered in an incident. RIP!

You can stream/purchase this album via J57’s bandcamp.

JL – “The Devil Hates Sundays” (Album Review)

This is the brand new album from Missouri emcee JL, who started out as a member of the B. Hood crew before signing to Strange Music in 2015. His full-length debut on the label D.I.B.K.I.S. (Do It Big Keep It Strange) that came out a few years ago was a proper introduction to the Strange fanbase & I really liked that Kontra-Band collab effort he did with Stevie Stone in 2018 too. But after teasing new music for quite some time now, JL’s officially back with The Devil Hates Sundays.

After the intro, the first song “Silver” makes numerous references to the titular color over an organ-inflicted boom bap beat from Seven (who produced about half the album) whereas the track “Sunday Morning” with Marley Young finds the 2 comparing them & their significant others to Adam & Eve over a euphoric beat. The song “Means to an End” with Tech N9ne sees both spitters talking about doing anything for better luck over a trap beat with some bells while the track “Ask for It” with LeezoSTG & Maez301 finds the trio talking about giving their significant others anything they want over a rubbery instrumental.

The song “Ahh Haa” talks about being high over a hyphy beat from Wyshmaster while the track “Who Raised You?” talks about how they don’t make ‘em like this over a beat with some bells & a background singer humming. The song “Flashing Out” is filled with clever Hollywood references over a cavernous instrumental from Dominique Sanders while the track “That’s Him” with Joey Cool displays an impeccable chemistry with one another over a monstrous beat.

The song “Sleep on Me” with Krizz Kaliko sees the 2 talking about being underrated over a bleak instrumental while the track “Petty Bop” does a good job of living up to it’s name both lyrically & sonically. The song “Common Sense” talks about him being one of a kind over a cloudy beat while the track “Coming Down” talks about being off of the high over a woodwind-infused beat.

The song “SOS” talks about being too far gone over a dense beat while the track “Voices” with Jehry Robinson sees the 2 talking about the internal conflict within them over a desolate beat. The song “MIA” talks about getting to the money over a woozy instrumental while the track “Moonwalker” links up with Suli4Q & the CES Cru finds the 4 talking about revenge over a somewhat quirky beat.

The song “If I Wasn’t” with Saigon & Starrz finds the 3 painting scenarios of where they’d be if they never made it in the rap game over an intoxicating instrumental while the penultimate track “Bat Shit Crazy” talks about his boo being as wild as him over a sensual beat. The album finishes with “Inner Demons”, where JL apologizes for how he is over an instrumental with some slick guitar-playing.

Overall, I think this is JL’s best work date. There are a couple of features that I personally could’ve done without, but the lyrics on here are at his most introspective with the religious theme only enhancing it & the production fitting each cut like a glove.

Score: 7/10

eLZhi – “Seven Times Down Eight Times Up” (Album Review)

eLZhi is a 42 year old MC from Detroit, Michigan rising to prominence as a member of Slum Village shortly after the departure of J Dilla in 2002. Fast forward to 2008: His solo debut The Preface would go on to be a hometown classic & was followed up 8 years later with Lead Poison. Last we heard from eLZhi was in 2018 when he formed Jericho Jackson with Khrysis & dropped their critically acclaimed self-titled debut that same year but almost 3 years later, eLZhi is returning with JR Swiftz for his 3rd full-length album.

After the “Foolish” intro, the first song “Smoke & Mirrors” talks about seeing through the lies over a luxurious instrumental while the next track “EarlyBird NightOwl” talks about how they can’t bar him to death over a cloudy boom bap beat. The song “Hot Winter Cold Summer” talks about being a problem over a euphoric instrumental while the track “Light 1 Write 1” talks about how that’s all he does over a boom bap beat with a harp & occasional background vocals.

The song “Ferndale” talks about memories with a significant other over a slow instrumental while the track “Guns & Boats” with Fes Roc sees the 2 painting vivid street imagery over an atmospheric beat. The song “THUGGed Out Zombies” talks about racial injustice over a rock-influenced instrumental while the track “Potential” talks about how he wishes they could’ve seen that in him over a punchy beat. The song “G.O.D. (Gold, Ore & Diamonds)” talks about materialism over a meditative instrumental while the penultimate track “Master Class” talks about the lyrical level that he’s on over an eerie beat. The album finishes off with “JASON”, where eLZhi analyzes himself over a droney instrumental.

Man, this is on par with The Preface for his magnum opus & one of the greatest albums I’ve heard all year. The cohesion is off the charts, JR Swiftz kills it behind the boards, the themes of resilience being presented in eLZhi’s lyrics throughout sure need to be heard after all we’ve been through in 2020.

Score: 9/10

Ouija Macc – “Zodiac” (EP Review)

This is the 4th EP from Las Vegas rapper Ouija Macc. Coming up as member of the duo Swag Toof, he & Choirboy Dank had put out a few projects together before unfortunately disbanding in 2017 due to a falling out with one another. Later that same year, the Insane Clown Posse took Ouija under their wing & signed him to their label Psychopathic Records. His 2018 full-length debut Gutterwater saw him putting his own spin on the SoundCloud aesthetics & has consistently been grinding since with videos as well as mixtapes like Waterdamage & Resistance: The Walk to Wasteland, he just dropped Resistance II: Hell’s Holotape back in May & now after putting out PRETTY/UGLY just a couple months ago, Ouija is teaming up with Ayshon for Zodiac.

The opener “Fucc Face” is a moshpit anthem with rambunctious instrumental while the next track “Pussy Murda” gets sexual over a skeletal beat. The song “Pew Pew” taunts his haters over a plinky instrumental while the title track talks about receiving head from a Cancer bitch over a druggy beat.The song “Vertigo” continues the shit-talking while the track “Something New” talks about how he’s been working like crazy over a beat with a dark atmosphere to it. The song “Trash Can” talks about grabbing bags over a demented instrumental & then the closer “Can’t Even Tell” talks about those who he thought were on his side over a cloudy beat.

Even though I prefer Resistance II: Hell’s Holotape & PRETTY/UGLY, this EP is still enjoyable. It’s refreshing to hear Ouija work with a different producer again & he continues to present himself as a unique face on the Psychopathic roster.

Score: 7/10

Johnny Smoke – “Self Titled” (Album Review)

Johnny Smoke is an upcoming hip hop artist who has just released his self titled debut on all streaming services. In the past, Smoke has been recognized as an award-winning producer and songwriter for John Legend, Fortnite, League of Legends, and Nickelodeon, to name a few. Growing up in a civil rights activist family, Johnny’s artistic drive has been fueled by the recent chaos in what has been a tragic year for American injustices. Furthering this, he is donating all profits from the record to ACLU to help end police brutality and systemic racism. With a powerful backing and message, can “Johnny Smoke” make a strong start to a promising career?

Stylistically, the versatility displayed by Johnny Smoke is focused and enjoyable to watch unfold. Setting the tone with the hard-hitting “Wonderland”, we watch the young MC go on a lyrical exercise filled with regret, remorse, and rage. On the more abstract side of things, cuts like “Picasso” and “Novocain” show that Smoke’s not afraid to play around with new sounds as we see him go from montone off-beat rapping to excreting his heart out. On the more straightforward side of things, songs like “High How R U” and “F**k Em” with Mr. Sin are just as enjoyable as the rest of the tracklist as Smoke’s memorizing delivery and technically proficient lyricism is a joy to breakdown. As a whole, Johnny Smoke shows he can thrive in multiple situations, which raises his overall worth as an artist in today’s musical climate. 

Sonically, the self-produced and engineered soundtrack matches the vocal side of the project perfectly. Off the bat, “Smoke Up Johnny” gives me Ghostface Killah vibes as the vocal clips from old superhero tv shows feel adventurous and audacious. Building on this touch, there is a ton to be admired on every corner of the record. From the hell-raising boom-bap cut, “Wonderland” and “F**k Em” to the psychedelic ‘Fade II Black”, there is something for nearly every hip hop fan here. “Off the Leash” is the best example of Smoke’s sonic bravery as he successfully makes an intense hip hop-rock cross over. Overall, Johnny Smoke’s talent as a producer makes him one of the most well-rounded hip hop artists coming out of the underground right now. 

In conclusion, “Johnny Smoke” is an outstanding entry point into a super talented artist world. The only reason the rating for this project is not higher is that I feel it lacks a narrative and depth, but right now, it is mere perfection for what this is. Going forward, I can’t wait to see Johny grow and progress as a rapper/producer, and if you are too sure to follow @johnnysmokez on Instagram!

Rating: 9/10

Highlights: Lyricism, Production, Versatility

Rose Dupree – “Quarantine” (EP Review)

Rose Dupree is a rising rapper from Dallas, Texas. After being trapped inside the house for months, Rose decided to put his energy towards a brand new EP titled “Quarantine”. In a time where the culture is flooded with generic projects, will Rose Dupree start a prominent career here, or will he be the next generic rapper who’s music is flooding the market? 

Stylistically, Rose Dupree’s mellow style can be a drag to get through. The most important part of drawing in any listener is a groundbreaking intro, and with “Promenade Punch”, Dupree goes against that standard in every way possible. Adding insult to injury, the constant imagery of sex and women is excessive and gross most of the time. “100 Bitches” and “Flyin to the Bay” are no exception to this as they suffer from the previously stated ideals. There are still some salvageable moments as cuts like “Tex-Mex” taps into his technically proficient and introspective side. If there were more moments like this, I think “Quarantine” could be truly special, but instead, Rose Dupree chooses the easy way out most of the time. 

Sonically, the production on this record only further this sinks it into a hole. While there’s nothing wrong with the mixing, the beat selection is so plain it destroys the EP’s pace. From the lo-fi “Promenade Punch” all the way to choppy “Corinthian’s Outro”, each song follows a simple pattern, and this project collapses because of it. With no sonic risks, the EP leaves little to praise and a lot to hate. Overall, soundtracks like this are what is making hip hop so stale in this day and age.

In conclusion, Rose Dupree shows glimpses of talent on “Quarantine”, but for the most part, we receive a generic interpretation of modern watered down hip hop. With a lifeless delivery, surface-level lyrics, and terrible production, this project is already almost forgotten in my mind. Going forward, I hope Rose Dupree can find his artistic niche and make a name for himself as I think he possesses talent. If you’re like me and want to see what this talented up and comer does next, be sure to follow @Rosedupreemusic on Instagram!

Rating: 5/10

Highlights: Introspectivness

REASON OVER TREASON – “How to Cut a Diamond, Vol. 1” (EP Review)

Los angles Born project and Duo REASON OVER TREASON release their latest EP “How to Cut a Diamond, Vol. 1” a 2020 drop produced by Devine Milk and written by Osirius South central raised rapper. I was impressed with the slick look of the cover art it matched perfect with all the expectations.   As we dive into the album I can see this is one to anticipate as the 9 track album was cultivated by the two.

Track one started with a production with a sonic sound merged with Hip-Hop boom bap and Egyptian folklore music, This is a rare combination but impactful every-time. In recent hip-hop history we find artist who were able to successful merge the two like Busta rhymes “Arab Money”. “Higher Design” was calm and poised with the focus around over standing and the intricate bars. The delivery was dynamic and words used shows arrangement and gritty songwriting style. “Reason for Treason” has a unique vibe that yells golden age, I appreciate the the grass roots Hip-Hop elements as the collaboration enhanced the sonic approach.

“Schallah rock Universal” was another fusion sounding track with old school samples that push the soul forward. The Delivery of Osirius is hard hitting like a Big L mixed with a DMX, And the lyrics are just as impactful. I can see this alliance going far as they both excite the rap psyche for more.

“Kill Joy (Gods With Guns)” was a smooth production very classic feel this time around I got a Fabolous vibe with LA overtones. This track was explaining the war between the incarnated Gods,  So far on the album this was my favorite track because of the substance and delivery.  When I 1st heared “21 Grams” the low profile street vibe is perfect for the vibration created by the duo. This song makes me think of a short film explaining this song more in depth.

“Blood In my Ink” is another class of music as it nostalgic of 2pac songs like “Until The End Of Time” with this multi faceted song touching on the shadow side of the soul we see new elements around the rap duo. One thing we look for in great albums is delivery, substance and evolving content, I hear all of these elements as the album continues to play. Its only natural “Professional” is the next song on the track list , “The new Gods be the Old Devils” this was a impactful quote meaning the process of change and the flip side to understand yin & yang.

“Heart Grows” Starts with a dynamic soul sample that gets you in-tune with record right away. I especially like production as it stays consistent and unique every-time the sample heavy producer Devine Milk shows why sampling is his specialty creating classic sound after classic sound. “Still kill” was the perfect ending song with a Jedi Mind shot leaving the listener wanting more. “Waves extremely low but the frequent” This bar alone shows the wordplay and visual skill Osirius exhibits ending this album. For more updates from Reason Over Treason, Follow them on Instagram @osirius_lewsyphr_writer @divinemilk777 for new music and visual.

8/10

Highlights: Substance Production & Delivery 

Mister CR – “Reputable” EP

Los Angeles emcee and Project Blowdian Mister CR is back with a new 7-track EP, “Reputable”. His signature flow, consistency throughout the past decade, and dedication to the craft proves he’s one of the best out the West.