Saturday, January 29, 2011

January 2K11 in Hip Hop Terms

The Lowdown, 1/29/11

So, I've decided to start doing a little rundown at the end of every month of rap-related releases that stood out to me in the last 30 days. Consider it like a series of mini-album reviews and headliners. Or better yet, consider it an excuse for me to find more things to write about to keep this blog active with, cus' that's what it primarily is, HAH! The backpack does need to stay bigger, after all.

January 2011 kicked this year off with a couple of interesting indie rap releases that stood out to me. Namely:

1) Carnage "Worth the Wait" (Fill in the Breaks/Hecatomb)

The first rap release of this year that caught my attention was Carnage's long-overdue sophomore album, which registers as one of the most aggressive and abrasive hip hop albums in recent memory. I would refer to Carnage as a "Minneapolis rap veteran" or "Eyedea's protege," but he openly airs his disgust for both of those titles on the track "Black Steal," so I think I'll refrain from fueling his flames any further. Carnage seems angry enough as it is, after all. This album is a pretty far stretch from easy listening, and it took me a couple of spins before the songs began to click, but they did after a while. Carnage has his own style that he's been honing for years and he just sounds hungry as hell on here. His style sounds sort of like a mix between the more modern off-beat angry rappers like K-the-I??? or Sole and old school Run DMC, and he flips some really sick verses over the course of the album. At times, I feel like Carnage is trying a little too hard to wow people with his styles and is not focussing enough on making a cohesive album, as the smattering of noisy beats and outlandish directions can feel like a bit of a mess. He would probably benefit from working with one or two key producers (*cough*MediumZach*cough*) rather than recruiting a different producer for every track, as this might unify the sound of his next album a bit. Never the less, there is some seriously ill material on "Worth the Wait," and it really grows on you with repeated listens. Give his single "I Want It All" a listen below:

2) Onry Ozzborn "Hold on For Dear Life" (Fake Four Inc.)

Well what can I say, Onry Ozzborn and Oldominion have pretty much been killin' shit these days. Dark Time Sunshine's "Vessel" was easily one of the top 5 hip hop releases of last year, and Onry has just continued grinding out quality material non-stop since then, whether it be his guest spots on his numerous Oldominion cohorts' albums or his free full length solo endeavor "No Hoax" (available for download at Circle Into Square and recommended by this humble blogger). "Hold on For Dear Life" is reported to be the final Onry Ozzborn solo album, but you can hardly blame the man when he has his hands full working on new material for both Grayskul and Dark Time Sunshine. This new album features production from a number of Seattle's talented beat-makers, including Smoke, Budo, Bean One, and Peegee13. I was also very happy to see some of Onry's slept-on Oldominion pals guesting on a couple tracks, with Candidt and Xperience (would somebody sign this man already?!) standing out in particular. All in all, "Hold on For Dear Life" is a very good album that I'd rank above any Grayskul release, but which isn't touching the heights attained by Dark Time Sunshine's full length. The songs have a quirky electro vibe to them that works well for the most part, but while Budo and Bean One deliver exceptional beats, Smoke is a bit of a disappointment to me on this. Maybe it's because he's generally my favorite producer of the Oldominion collective and my expectations are high, but I felt that a number of Smoke's productions didn't stand out to me on this album... Then again, his contributions to "N.W.A List" (possibly my favorite song on the album) and "All to Herself" are pretty damn crazy. A fairly solid piece of work overall, worth checkin' out. Listen to the single "That Good" featuring Sapient below:

Onry Ozzborn - That Good (f. Sapient) by Fake Four, Inc.

3) Neila "Only This One Counts" (Grimm Image)

I just love how all my favorite LA underground artists keep dropping dope albums out of the blue, like the homegirl Neila here. This record was nowhere on my new release radar, and then all of a sudden it magically appeared up for sale and looking mighty tasty. To be honest, I have yet to hear "Only This One Counts" because of my lack of record player, but I'm listing it here because Neila has rarely disappointed in her output and deserves your support in her current fight with vocal chord cancer. Thankfully, she seems to be in high spirits and on the road to a swift recovery, but the $$$s invested in this piece of wax are going to cover hospital bills, so make sure you support it if you dig her music! I'm gonna snatch one of these LPs up for a friend of mine in the near future, but memo to Grimm Image Records: could we get a taste of these tracks on CD at some point as well? :) This LP is currently orderable via Access Hip Hop (of course!) or through Neila directly. The track "Run Closer" is listenable with a slideshow of art below:

That about sums it up for January... February is looking like a mighty fine month for releases with new ones from Sims, Awol One & Factor, Void Pedal, and Austin Peralta on the way. Bring it on.

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