Darkness I Am – “Psycho / Strange” (Album)

Out of Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN rising underground artist Darkness I Am releases his new 2-part album titled “Psycho / Strange”.  Started out as one half of a duo ended up parting ways after a short time, he considers his style vulgar, disturbing and grimey yet motivating.  We Definitely recommend this project for all real Hip Hop heads!

Conway the Machine – “La Maquina” (Album Review)

Conway the Machine is a 39 year old MC & entrepreneur from Buffalo, New York who blew up in late 2015 as part of the 3 OGs of Griselda Records alongside his brother Westside Gunn & their cousin Benny the Butcher. Ever since the trio have rose to prominence, they’ve had hip hop lock by their constant work ethic balancing quality & quality as well as vividly detailing their lives in the streets on top of boom bap production kin to that of RZA & Havoc in their music. Con’s full-length debut From King to a God was my Album of the Year for 2020 & his sophomore effort with Big Ghost Ltd. that just came out a couple months ago If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed is a worthy sequel to No One Mourns the Wicked. But just when even thought we were getting the Shady Records-backed God Don’t Make Mistakes next, we’re getting another prelude album out of the woodwork.

“Bruiser Brody” is a a grimy opener from the boom bap production from JR Swiftz to the lyrics calling out those who pray on his downfall whereas the Bangladesh-produced “6:30 Tip Off” is a jazz-trap fusion speaking on his profit. The song “Blood Roses” is about how “I came to prove I came improved” with a fiery beat from Cardiak, but then “Clarity” opens up on how he spares “no feelings when my pen is movin’” on top of a soulful trap instrumental from Don Cannon.

The track “KD” has a weepy trap instrumental from Murda Beatz with lyrics talks about those speaking on Conway’s legacy while “200 Pies” with 2 Chainz of course gets on that pusher shit & the bare loop that The Alchemist comes through with is hypnotic as fuck. “Sister Abigail” is a dusty boom bap tune where The Machine recruits his new protégés Jae Skeese & 7xvethegenius to declare themselves as world champions, but then Jae returns on the peppily-produced “Grace” to talk about how they don’t live in disguise to get their blessings.

The song “Scatterbrain” brings in J.I.D & Ludacris to get murderous on top of a frigid instrumental, but then Elcamino & Shots hop on Had to Hustle” to speak on what they had to do to get where they are now. The closer “S.E. Gang” serves as a response to those who said Conway was leaving Griselda earlier this year as he, Westside Gunn & Benny the Butcher spit that mafioso shit over a flute sample from Daringer.

Not what I was expecting from Conway, but still a dope album regardless. In comparison to him returning to a more grimier sound on If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed, I like how he continues to build off the the versatility that From King to a God brought. Whenever the time for God Don’t Make Mistakes comes, I’ll be more than ready to hear where he takes it.

Score: 7/10

Gotham – Self-Titled (Album Review)

Gotham is an MC/producer duo from New York consisting of Talib Kweli & Diamond D. The latter being a founding member of the seminal collective D.I.T.C. & was one of the first to co-sign Kweli back when he originally formed Black Star alongside childhood friend Yasiin Bey. The first time we really heard Gotham together was on “Where’s the Love?” off of Diamond D’s 2014 solo album The Diam Piece & then they got back for “The Zone Out” on the follow-up The Diam Piece 2 back in 2019 but ever since then, they’ve been hard at work on their full-length debut as a duo & I’m very excited to hear the results.

“Sons of Gotham” kicks the album off with a misty boom bap beat along with lyrics calling out “rappers acting like Kanye” whereas the next song “Olympic” incorporates an organ & a guitar as Kweli proclaims that they do this rap shit for sport. “The Quiet One” touches down on being the voice of the people accompanied by an eerie instrumental & an animalistic Busta Rhymes verse while “On Mamas” goes into a more synth-heavy direction with Kweli spitting about getting the speakers pumping. Meanwhile, the song “Attention Span” is a more atmospheric cut addressing those who’re out to lunch & the Skyzoo verse hits the nail on the head.

The track “In Due Time” is a fiery anthem about how you’ll be getting yours eventually on top of a classy boom bap instrumental whereas John Forté of all people comes into the fold to take a jab at the system on the minimally-produced “Pick Ya Head Up”. The song “Chillin’ While Black” is the one of the only 2 on the entire thing where Diamond D himself jumps on to spit as he & Kweli talk about racial profiling over a horn-inflicted beat & even though the penultimate track “I’ll Tell Ya Later” has a cool concept, the skeletal beat is underwhelming & the Niko Is feature is kinda weak. The album does end strong though, as Kweli & D hop on a dusty instrumental with some jazzy undertones to talk about holding it down.

Despite the fact that Talib’s recent output has been hit or miss with me admittedly, Gotham knocked it out of the park on this one. He & Diamond D do a damn-near perfect job at paying homage to their home-state as the lyrics & production both take listeners back to the traditional days.

Score: 9/10

Recognize Ali & Bronze Nazareth – “Season of the Se7en” (Album Review)

Recognize Ali is a Ghanaian emcee who’s been shaking up the underground for the past several years now off projects like Back 2 Mecca, The Shining, I.S.L.A.M. (I Self Lord And Master) & Guerilla Dynasty. Dude’s previous effort Recognition just dropped back in August & for his 9th full-length outing, Ali has enlisted Bronze Nazareth of the Wu-Elements to produce the whole thing from front to back.

After the “Motown Connection” intro, the first actual song “God Aura” incorporates some horns as Ali spits about the champ being here whereas “Hand Count the Cake” is a dope money ode & the vocal loop was well-picked out. The orchestral-tinged “Tear Drops in the Sky” connects with his Dueling Experts cohort Verbal Kent alongside former Army of the Pharaohs member King Magnetic to rap about catching bodies while “Street Gospel” is a soulful tune about “bringing Terror to your Squad like Big Pun”.

After the “Knew Legends” skit, the song “Silver Spear Promise” seems like a homage to the iconic Jay Electronica joint “Exhibit C” from some of Ali’s rhyme schemes down to the sample of “Cross My Heart” by Billy Stewart while the gospel-tinged “Olympic Gold Medalists” taps in TriState & Willie the Kid to get on the spiritual side of things lyrically.

After the “Find It in Him” skit, the title track has a plinky piano loop throughout with lyrics about greatness whereas “How Many Times” finds Bronze hopping on the mic with Ali as the 2 pondering about a number of things on top of an elegant beat.

“Rivers in the Basement of Truth” taps in Napoleon da Legend & Lord Jessiah to spit the battle bars over a piano & some vocal harmonies while the track “How We Roll” brings in a boom bap beat with some harmonization in the background as Ali spits about being on the corner until the AM. I also like the Money Miz shoutout at the end of the first verse as well.

“Camouflage Dons” is a cool homage to the Wu-Tang Clan & the Killa Beez as Ali jumps on an instrumental that has the Wu sound alongside Dom Pachino & before the “Outro to Detroit” outro that finishes off the album, “The Grind” is a symphonic coda about his hustle.

In my opinion, this is one of the best albums that Recognize Ali has ever done. Dude continues to further demonstrate as to why he’s one of the most thought-provoking MCs to emerge from the underground in recent years & Bronze Nazareth comes correct on the production per usual.

Score: 8/10

BIG S.I.N. – “The Hulk Smash” EP

Bar for Bar, we haven’t heard a refreshing project like this in years! Stream “The Hulk Smash”, the new EP by North Carolina standout BIG S.I.N..

Wilhelm Duke – “Elixir” (Album)

Swedish American rapper Wilhelm Duke is taking over the lyric game in Chicago. His new project “Elixir” represents a collection of 13 singles he started working on in early 2018 while in his former hip hop duo Bombay Boyz.. Every song on here is symbolic of his growth as the styles of hip hop vary. “Elixir” is a record concocted of cutting edge sounds, bellowing vocals, and brilliant lyricism.

New Mello Music Group Label Compilation ‘Bushido’ Now Available!

‘Bushido’ Features Appearances From Oddisee, Open Mike Eagle, Joell Ortiz, Quelle Chris, Alchemist, !llmind, Skyzoo, Apollo Brown, Homeboy Sandman, Kool Keith, B-Real, Murs & Georgia Anne Muldrow

In feudal Japan, the Bushido Code defined the way of the samurai. It was a blueprint to conduct warfare with honor: a system built upon the qualities of rectitude and courage, honor and loyalty. In the modern world, these historical tenets may seem antiquated, or sometimes even obsolete. But the power of tradition is resolute and unyielding. The art of the rugged drum and the razor-tongued rap are timeless.

After a decade in the music business, Mello Music Group has witnessed the dealings and promises of the record industry. Running counter-clockwise to the mainstream ethic, Mello has settled on its own code of conduct and value system. Their catalogue is a Hagakare of hip-hop — a practical and spiritual guide to the essence. While the sounds are varied, an MMG release ensures that the art comes first, the artists are religiously devoted to the upholding of standards and values. The musicians swing fast blades and fly the Mello banner with speed and strength.

This is Bushido, the latest Mello Music compilation gathering the current roster and the label’s closest brethren. As always, the core shoguns are present: Apollo Brown, Oddisee, Quelle Chris, L’Orange, Joell Ortiz, Skyzoo, and Homeboy Sandman. The rated rookies brandish sharpened swords: Solemn Brigham, Namir Blade, and The Lasso. The legacy teammates with championship trophies are all present: Open Mike Eagle, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Elaquent, Kool Keith, and Mr. Lif. So are label affiliates, Murs, The Alchemist, RJ Payne, and B-Real. The veteran general rounds out the roster, Stalley, the newest member of the Mello family. This isn’t merely an anthology, it’s a fully-formed vision of what hip-hop can be. A meticulously assembled arsenal of past, present, and future.

Label Daimyo Michael Tolle, has historically used these compilations as an opportunity to create and build, pair new collaborations, and curate the sound for the coming year. At first, these albums heralded the arrival of a new hip-hop force; now, they serve as a reminder that Mello has expanded upon the proud lineage of seminal indie labels like Loud, Stones Throw, Rhymesayers, and Def Jux. It is a sanctuary of the raw. At its core, the artists achieve a platonic ideal of hip-hop. You can hear the spirit of Mobb Deep and Wu-Tang in a song like “Iron Steel Samurai” — where The Alchemist conjures a brimstone inferno of crunching guitars and anvil drums, and Quelle Chris drops haikus in blood, dousing sauce on everything like siracha.

The label’s ingenuity partially stems from its gift at bridging the generations. Between Kool Keith, Mr. Life, Murs, Alchemist and B-Real, you have artists who fathered entire schools of hip-hop (Keith might well be the Abraham for every left-field MC ). Similarly, the first generation of Mello artists has defined the otherground of this era. Here, Oddisee, Apollo Brown and L’ Orange, embody the distinguished tradition of Pete Rock and Preemo, Dilla and Madlib. On “Gold Gloves” and “Symbol of Hope,” Open Mike Eagle whimsically balances between comic despair and existential mind wandering, like the last great member of the Native Tongues. While Skyzoo and Joell decapitate microphones with masterful swings. So on the beautiful carnage goes.

Bushido harkens back to the spark of creation that underpins the label: the rigorous code and idiosyncratic originality. A place that reveres the past, while securing the present for future generations. Something that goes on past the music, a deeper aspiration towards something that Tsunetomo Yamamoto wrote in The Book of the Samurai: “It is said that what is called “the spirit of an age” is something to which one cannot return. Although one would like to change today’s world back to the spirit of one hundred years or more ago, it cannot be done. Thus, it is important to make the best out of every generation.”

You can now purchase, add and favorite Bushido at your preferred DSP: https://smarturl.it/MelloBushido

Watch Quelle Chris & The Alchemist “Iron Steel Samurai” Video: https://youtu.be/N2hwzH8Xob0

Stream Bushido at Bandcamp: https://mellomusicgroup360.bandcamp.com/album/bushido

Bushido TRACKLISTING

Iron Steel Samurai feat Quelle Chris (prod by Alchemist)

Gold Gloves feat Open Mike Eagle (prod by The Lasso)

One Of The Last feat Marlowe (prod by L’Orange)

Yours Truly feat Homeboy Sandman (prod by Kensaye Russell)

No Trouble feat Oddisee (prod by Oddisee)

Gwan B OK feat Zackey Force Funk (prod by The Lasso)

Ya-Neishi The Vocals feat Skyzoo (prod by L’Orange)

Symbol Of Hope feat Open Mike Eagle & Namir Blade (prod by Elaquent)

Never Lived feat Oddisee (prod by Oddisee)

None feat Homeboy Sandman (prod by Iman Omari)

Bane Bran feat Quelle Chris & James Shanan (prod by Quelle Chris)

Black Rock feat Joell Ortiz, Stalley, Namir Blade & Solemn Brigham (prod by Namir Blade)

Outlast feat Dueling Experts & Joell Ortiz (Prod by Apollo Brown)

Black Man feat RJ Payne (prod by Apollo Brown)

Turnt Garveyite feat Murs (prod by Georgia Anne Muldrow)

Nightmare feat Cambatta (prod by Apollo Brown)

Rap feat Homeboy Sandman (prod by Eric Lau)

You To Me feat Oddisee (prod by Oddisee)

Zero Fux feat Kool Keith, B-Real & Joell Ortiz (prod by Nottz)

Banners feat The Perceptionists (prod by !llmind)

For More Information:

Follow Mello Music Group:

https://www.instagram.com/mellomusicgroup

Nef – “Tebula Rasa” (Album)

NYC based beat-maker Nef just dropped his solo debut “Tabula Rasa” Friday.

As he explains the significance “Tabula Rasa translates to scraped tablet, literally a fresh start. The significance to me is that I went through a really dark period growing up and was supposed to end up dead or in jail. I was in AA at the age of 17 and struggled with sobriety and finding my place in the world but luckily I kept with it (over twelve years of sobriety as of this year) and beat the odds.”

“Tabula Rasa showcases an all-star lineup of MCs with the likes of TekRas KassG4 JagRome StreetzWais PNemsLil FameMadhattanFastlifeMoochRigzUFO FevEa$y Money and Statik Selektah along with Termanology on the album’s intro.

Purchase / stream Tabula Rasa Here

McGuire is God – “The BlackOut” (Album Review)

Milwaukee, WI own McGuire is God drops a new album titled “The Blackout“. I didn’t know what to expect either a revolutionary album or a lyrical onslaught. Milwaukee is the home to Hip Hop legend like Brother Ali. The vibe fueled by mobilizing hook “I aint getting no sleep till I ball like Kobe” showing the artist hard working persona and drive. The rhythmic flow and delivery is believable I can for sure see the city supporting the artist evolution. “White Lion” is a substance strong song with some very intriguing concept highlighting the spiritual and economical deficit African Americans have faced in this country. So far this album fuses trap and revolutionary overtones.

As the album continues we reach “Test Me” and the I caught distortion within the beat and voices causing conflict with the master. The lyrical content reminded me of Eminem from the later years. The rapid flow with quirky beats doesn’t necessarily compliment the artist. The next song on the album is titled “Act Up” the concept is wild-in out the lyrics visualize the appalling personality of the Ego which rules Hip Hop music from its origin.  A very repetitive song reminding me of the others with a high energy controlled flow. “Do What I Do” is a catchy club song with a bouncy vibrant energy, When it 1st came on I felt the potential this record has in the club and radio market. In this case repetitive won some simplicity is best.

“Now Or Never” is that track everyone can relate to, especially the love and break up overtones. You can hear the confusion and empathy in the lyrics turned toxic. The hooks almost have a signature way of dropping were you can eventually catch on. “Hate” started with strong delivery and convection as the song begins, The Midwest song reminds me of music created in the south. This has been a movement we have seen more lately with artist merging southern and Midwest sonic sounds. “That’s Tuff” was about letting go and how hard it can be at times. This was probably my favorite song on the album substance and lyrical wise. The concept fell right into the lyrics but I would have liked a better ending it was very abrupt. The production was captivating from jump very simple lyrics and again repetitive.

“All right ” sounds just like the downside of the album, the production was very mellow and spacey setting up a heart to heart with Mcguire is God and himself. He continues with his signature delivery he uses throughout the album which can be a make or break in collective of songs. “Tidal Wave”is the single from the album the refreshing vibe shows itself instantly. I can tell the master was worked on with concern showing the amplification of the track. I wish there was a bit more to showcase his writing ability as this album draws to a close. The  album comes to a close with “Make me of break me” This is conceptual my fav song on the album now, The desperado production sets it up for a wild mid west ride ending the album with a melodic overtone. Follow Mcguire is God on social media for news music & Updates.

Rate 6-10

Likes: Energy

Dislikes: Tracks all written in same format