MASTA ACE / FLUME / HAVOC & ALCHEMIST / BLUEPRINT [#GeekSwag Reviews]: Vigilante Genesis.
I was pretty excited when offered a chance to review the new Masta Ace joint, The Falling Season. This has long been one of my most respected rappers; one I even pulled for in our discussions of who to place in our “Top 5 #GeekSwag Albums of the Year in 2004” for for his storytelling mastercraft, A Long Hot Summer. It didn’t make the final cut, as the ceiling was just too high that year and that mention was just for point of reference.
Ace’s 5th solo dish (and 11th studio album overall having started his career back in ’88 with the Juice Crew), The Falling Season, features yet another concept, this time telling the story of his trials in surviving high school. He borrows from “The Symphony” on the lead single “Me & AG”, featuring, of course, D.I.T.C. member A.G, a slow burn head-nodder, one of the highlights of the whole album. Unfortunately, the production quality level suffices to accentuate the legendary emcee’s skills of painted pictures and punchlines.
(cont.) The albums also suffers from an almost amusing, bad robotic delivery of most of its skits, which are between most of the album’s tracks, and from uneven production from KIC Beats, who provides backdrops on the entire album. On the few tracks with the elevated quality of production, Masta Ace and his features–Chuck D, Wordsworth, Cormega, etc.–get a chance to really shine, but these are too far between. As a result, The Falling Season never matches up to his earlier works (i.e. Disposable Arts or A Long Hot Summer), and only shows flashes of what could be. I imagine most fans will play through this album once and maybe revisit a few of their favorite tracks before ultimately shelving this and revisiting the classics. 2.5/5 Bibles.
Australian electro-tech producer Flume’s sophmore LP, Skin, has the summer guest list on lock. And I don’t just mean Vegas poolside. Canadian singer/songwriter Kai features on arguably the EDM smash of the year, “Never Be Like You”. Then, every track flip is a change in tone/mood, from Grammy nominated hip-hopper Vic Mensa, LBC rapper and Cutthroat Boyz member Vince Staples, and, perhaps the biggest shocker of them all, Wu-Tang’s very own Raekown the Chef, with a joint (“You Know”, also featuring Allan Kingdom) that should wind up on Netflix’s The Punisher series. Yeah–that might even be a bigger surprise than seeing Flume lace American famed multi-instrumentalist genius, Beck. For the guests in attendance, it’s easily worth the price of admission. Not to fret, either. Melodic, hype and intricate, Skin is paced like a mixtape, often touching on more than one palette of music at the same time. 4/5 Bibles.
When I heard that Mobb Deep’s Havoc latched onto an LP with The Alchemist I was like, “Yes. Got to get it!” You’ll understand when you’re an 80s baby that grew up on Hardcore 90s rap and all you hear on the radio is a bunch of wining auto-tuned love songs to someone’s baby moms and speech impediment, fake drug kingpin rap; so, when you get a chance to hear some authentic hardcore hip-hop, be sure to cherish it.
(cont.) Bars and beats, my friends, that’s what we the true heads fiend for. And I swear, Havoc leveled up with his lyrics and going toe-to-toe with rap god Method Man on “Buck 50s and Bulletwounds.” Mister Mef does not hold back with his fierce rhythmic flow either, spittin’ jewels like “it’s nada, I brought you change, no Obama, like four quarters, some rappers change for a dollar,” and “or… Bullet holes in the Lobby door/ If you thinking I’m a Problem I’m probably yours.” Longtime Mobb Deep brethren Prodigy and Queens rap legend Cormega also see some action. Bottom line, Al’s production and Hav’s vocals mesh together with perfect symmetry, giving the project a nostalgic 90s rap classic feel. I felt like I was in high school trying to remember the choruses and lines of the project, so, you know, I can look the coolest in school again (y’all know you used to do the same thing). 4.25/5 Bibles.
Surprise EP, Vigilante Genesis, sees the mad, mad flow of a foundation artist like Blueprint spitting like a true comic book architect. Better–and perhaps even more surprising–the EP serves as a collaboration album between the Ohio native and New York-to-San Fran’s Aesop Rock, who does all the beats. (Yeah, I know what I’m talking about and am not kidding.) After reading about The Impossible Kid, maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that Aes’s production is now as sought out as his rhymes. And here, the two pals leave me no choice but to go cliche and label this particular partnering “peanut butter and jelly”. These gurus be jamming!
(cont.) Even the song titles alone push me to weave together a story like a good Image funnybook. Peep it, geeks: “Back and forth I go Ten Paces in front of me, Not Sure Why I Came Back? Am I out for a Vigilante’s Genesis? I’ve been out my mind over that Graffiti Writer Killed caught in the cross fire of the Corner Store Showdown. From what I heard down by The Watering Hole, he was just an innocent bystander. Man… Tear of a Drone, another has fallen.” Oh man, I did enjoy that. Beyond Blueprint’s rhymesaying panels put to ear, Aesop Rock’s industrial-edged instrumentals justify any sort of thematic justice. 3.5/5 Turntable Spins.
I found myself patiently waiting for the tracks on this album that sounded most like “old” Killah Priest because that’s what I’m used to. The album isn’t poor by any means; in fact, it is interesting, well-paced, and some of the beats/songs are pretty dope–especially the title track, “Planet Of The Gods,” “Just Take Over,” “Red Span (Instrumental),” “The Stroller,” and “Fifth Floor,” but I was just left wondering what the album was trying to do: simply experiment or is Killah Priest taking a new route musically. Whatever the case, I always enjoy the former Sunz of Man’s lyrical efforts with his spiritually inclined content, something that did not leave him with this record. 3.5/5 B.I.B.L.E.S.
One can’t help but to be brought back in time to the 1990’s era of New York hip-hop while listening to Meyhem Lauren’s most recent release, Piatto D’Oro. The 15 track project features production from some of the genre’s heavy hitters, such as Harry Fraud, Alchemist, Seth Silenser and Large Professor to name a few. Bass heavy, jazzy samples form the ambiance to which the Queens native MC paints the picture of being “good at life.” The co-star of Action Bronson’s foodie show, “F*ck, That’s Delicious,” steps out from the shadow of the red bearded lyricist to tell tales of successfully navigating the perils of street life while reaping the rewards. The album is filled with similes, metaphors and puns to highlight drug deals gone good, eating meals fit for royalty and beautiful women being satisfied to the fullest.
The overall feel of the album is a relief from the current auto-tuned state of hip-hop (in a loosely used term, course). Features from Action Bronson, Big Body Bes and Roc Marciano do not dominate the project, but add some necessary flavor and seasoning to a.k.a. Laurenavici’s offering. “Badmon Ting,” produced by Farhot, which features a sample from Dr. Dre’s, “Deep Cover,” is an absolute maximum volume play. Another standout track, titled, “Elevated,” produced by DJ Muggs, closes out the album with a percussion laden, bass thumping beat sprinkled with the right amount of piano keys. Consider Mayhem Lauren added to this writer’s cookout play-list while doing badmon tings. 3.5/5 Bibles.