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

Trent Stark – “CIRCA 97” (Album)

Out of Phoenix, Arizona rising independent Hip Hop artist Trent Stark releases his new 8-track album titled “CIRCA 97“.  Follow him on Instagram @trentstarkmusic.

ethemadassassin – “Bear Handz 5: Gram Newton” (Album)

North Carolina hailed and currently making his mark in California, ethemadassassin premieres the latest installment in the “Bear Handz” series, “Bear Handz 5: Gram Newton.” Produced entirely by Akthentik, the album features guest appearances from Hus Kingpin, Supreme Cerebral, and XP The Marxman.

Shaw Calhoune – “The Rudy Tape” (Album Review)

Shaw Calhoune is a rapper from Maryland who has recently blessed us with his new 9 track album, “The Rudy Tape”. The rapper, known for his heavy hitting bars and boom bap production, enlists the help of some very cool samples from the late, great Rudy Ray Moore, himself. From start to finish, this tape is sprinkled with sound bites of the Godfather of Rap.

“Rudy Moore” is the second track on the project and Shaw delivers a special performance. Several different flows and multi syllable rhyme schemes over production that has you feeling like going for a cruise in a Coupe Deville. This beat is menacing, gritty and gangster. The perfect way to start this project.

“Henny Bottles” is a future classic. Minimal percussion, but a super lush bass laced with a string section and some keys. This is whiskey and cigar music. Shaw’s flow is consistent on this song, reminiscent of a Rick Ross vibe as he uses his lyricism to embody the character of the 70’s pimp, Dolemite. Yes, as far as concept albums go, this is truly impressive.

“Changing of The Guard” is another stand out. That sax was among my favourite moments in this entire project. Again, this one isn’t heavy on the percussion. But it is big on the horns and the woodwind sections. This gives Shaw Calhoune the opportunity to smoothly ride over the beat, playing with different rhyme schemes and seamlessly switching flows. His gritty delivery gives this song a heavy presence without the need for a hard hitting kick.

If you love samples, boom bap, clever rhyme schemes, story telling lyricism and concept projects; then this is the album you have been waiting for! I am honestly pretty happy that this was the first album that I got to review for the year. Shaw Calhoune has set the bar nice and high. This project had a consistent cadence to it that I haven’t heard in a while. Calhoune used vocal samples from Rudy Moore to really bring everything together and the story telling was masterful. Follow him on Instagram: @shaw_thegreat

Score: 9/10

Spencer Bonds & 4DHxH – “Daze B4 Bluebeam” (Album)

Check out this new project “Daze B4 Bluebeam“, by up and coming Hip Hop artists Spencer Bonds & 4DHxH. This project is inspired by the very real Project Blue Beam that goes over the deception of a rapture being seen in the sky and perceived by our population on Earth.  4DHxH (A.K.A. The 4th Dimensional Hitchhiker) introduces us to ancient knowledge and open mindedness while Spencer Bonds introduces us to a life of hustling and being villainized for generating controversy and seeking survival.

Spencer Bonds · Daze B4 Bluebeam By Spencer Bonds & 4dhxh

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

Milano Constantine x BodyBagBen – “Write It In Blood” (Album Review)

New York City & Cali come together with Milano Constantine & BodyBagBen new release “Write It In Blood“.  The album cover reminded me a old Hollywood Gangsta film with the blood red overtone and trigger happy host! The classic Hip Hop sound caught me by surprise, the quality of the mixes made each song resonate even more. The Dj scratches were on point fell right in to the pockets of production adding a full spectrum of elements.

The 1st song on the album “Hell Or High Water” was smooth at the roots reminding me of slick storytelling of Griselda Records artist. The production sounds east coast born with the hi hats and drum hits. The chant style hook screams New York influence the origin of our Hip Hop culture. “Jesus Pieces” was all about bars the substance was hot merger, I especially like the  Biggie sample used in the hook it made the record fuller. The 2nd verse its gritty and raw substance stays constant but again this song is more focused on the bars.

“The Hearse” Production felt a lot like the previous song but the bells changed the a bit. We see the Dj scratch formula is used time after time in the arrangement of the songs. Each artist came out swinging on this one like piranhas sniffing blood. “Sparks Steak house” Was one of those confidence boosting songs, you see the story of a don learning to move and Finesse the streets. I get a Nas influences from the terminology  which would parallel the east coast starts. The Dj Scratch is a major elements to this album giving it a dated feel. It doesn’t matter when you drop this record it will always song golden age.

“Jazz Cafe” Gave use exactly that feel, The Conway style deliver hits hard on this one with massive punch lines ! Jazz sounds merge with the gangsta style approach and horror sounds which can be an exciting Halloween video or short horror film. “Sobre” was Raw it came in demanding you to Bop your head with passion its like the production commands your attention. “Primavera” was  dope  lyrical content “2 greats dodging the pearly gates” there verse 1st quoted the start of the eternal process music will never die as these 2 hope to influences the HipHop Masses.

“Write it in Blood” Feat Planet Asia was my favorite song on the album as the bar arrangement and chemistry on this record is unmatched I can wait to see a visual on this one. Planet Asia came so gritty and raw showing why he holds a legendary spot in the underground fans psyche.”Brutus” sounds in compliance with the rest of the album, the high bell influence mad it a bit annoying but overall it average. “Vicious” feat Supreme Cerebral  was hot I digged the lyrical words chosen along with delivery intensity. The super hero vibe makes it dope and I would like a larger variety in the style of the hooks other than all Dj Scratches. Keep updated with Body Bag Ben & Milano Constantine on social media for news music and visuals.

Rating: 8/10

XP the Marxman – “Make the Devil Pray” (Album Review)

XP the Marxman is an MC from Los Angeles, California who came up as 1/3 of the trio Rhyme Addicts. As far as his solo career goes, the dude has a few projects under his belt already (most notably the Roc Marciano-produced Keep Firing EP that came out just this past spring). This was followed up 3 months later with Sincere Leader 2 but to cap it off, we’re being treated to another full-length effort before the year is out.

The opener “Double Bubble” talks about hustling’ over a psychedelic instrumental whereas the next song “Wave ‘Til the Grave” talks about switching his lifestyle because he needed much more over a soulful beat. After the titular skit, the track “Losses” talks about how he ain’t taking any over a laidback instrumental while the song “Zooted Shooters” talks defeating the king so he could wear the crown over a boom bap beat with some vocal harmonizing in the background.

“The Conduit” talks about those faking over a cinematic instrumental while the track “True Lies” with MALCOLMSEF sees the 2 trading back & forth with each other nonchalantly over a weepy beat. The song “Suenos” talks about living in a dream over a glistening boom bap instrumental while the penultimate track “Mi Clasa” talks about those who aren’t even on the same level as him over an unhinged beat. The closer “Still Laughin’” then gets on his gangsta shit over a drumless, symphonic instrumental from Roc Marciano.

Overall, this is a good follow-up to Sincere Leader 2. XP continues to reveal himself as one of the most hard working & consistent dudes in the west coast currently as his lyricism remains unmatched & the production choices are well picked out.

Score: 7/10

TNT Tana – “Detour” Da EP

Coming straight out of North Atlanta, rising underground trap artist TNT Tana ends 2020 strong with his latest project drop titled “Detour” Da EP, exclusively available on Livemixtapes.com & Certifiedmixtapez.com.  This EP has 4 hard-hitting tracks, sure to impress all underground trap rap fans worldwide!  Make sure to follow him on Instagram @tnt_thereal_tana.