SCHOOLBOY Q / CUT CHEMIST / BLU & NOTTZ / UGLY HEROES [#GeekSwag Reviews]: Yah! Yah! Yah!
There isn’t much to say about the new ScHoolBoy Q album, Blank Face LP. Now, that’s not to say that the album isn’t dope as hell. There just isn’t much about it that is new or shocking. It feels like the same story is being told. Not even a different part of the same story; the same part of the same story told on the last album. The power of this album comes from the increased skill Q has acquired since Oxymoron came out. His lyrics and song structure have improved. There’s also more energy in his delivery. With “That Part” as it’s 1st single, the album doesn’t disappoint anyone looking for the heavy beats and party vibe that we expect from Q.
(Cont.) What sets him apart from the other party rappers is that there are legit stories of struggle and sacrifice in each song. The story is told from a wise perspective, aware of the right and wrong decisions he’s made. However, that wise perspective also really likes to smoke weed, get drunk, and party. The party vibe is expressed as a celebration of surviving the street life, instead of glorifying it. That’s what I like about Q, that’s why I like this album, and that’s why I think he has a solid purpose in the TDE crew. While this album doesn’t have anything to push it way over the top in my opinion, it’s also not lacking anything. It feel like ScHoolBoy Q just got way better and rewrote Oxymoron. I enjoyed every song on Blank Face; but when it ended, I had a blank face. 3.75/5 Bibles.
If you aren’t up on who Cut Chemist is, or what his process is, you’ll get all you need to know in the track “The Break In” (ft. Mix Master Wolf). On that track, he answers Wolf’s questions about his process and influences by using samples of other tracks — describing his style as a crate digger and old school turntable sampler. The Audience’s Following is a collection of B-Sides and original samples that never made it onto his 2006 debut (as Cut Chemist), The Audience’s Listening, which was simultaneously a throwback to core hip-hop values, while pioneering the new sound that would become the producer driven hip-hop of the late Aughts. TAF strips everything from that album down to it’s most raw essence. “O Jardim” and “Van Van” pay homage to Chemist’s Latin-fused beats, with only sparse hip-hop beats underneath.
(Cont.) The demo version of “Siesta” (ft. Edan & Mr. Lif) and “Big Brother” (ft. Brother J) feel more like core hip-hop and are a nice break for people who can’t just listen to the minimalist breakbeat or abstract turntablism straight through. Standouts on the album are a nice little throwback to his hit off of TAL‘s “Altitude” with “Sea of Time” by Curtis Knight. Hymnal from Altitude also makes an appearance on the preceding track, and fits just as well with Chemist as he did back in 2006. Unfortunately, TAF doesn’t play as well all the way through as TAL did, as tracks like “Beats Thru Space” will only appeal to die-hard breakbeat heads, or turntablist purists. You’ll have to dig through the album, like Chemist digs through crates, to find what really suits you–but no matter what, there will be something there for everyone. 3.5/5 Bibles.
What y’all might understand… I’m a Virginian who grew up listening to Nottz‘ beats on 103 Jamz here in the 757 area, which happens to be where the beat guru is from. Nevertheless, I’m a day one fan. The newest edition to his catalog sees him team-up with the superb and precise rhyming skills of the MC known as Blu. The California to Virginia connection plays off like a hip-hop version of the Incredible Hercules. Blu’s flow beats in and out of Nottz’ hard hitting thunderclaps and action packed melodies. Seeing his history, soul-infused beats (Exile, Ray West, etc.) are what Blu’s used to expressing his message over–and this is no different; the emcee shares some soul-saving lessons from God and thoughts on the political unrest of the country.
(Cont.) But it’s not a straight Hip Hop record without a posse Cypher right? Blu & Nottz give heads two, with the first being a “Giant Step” featuring Bishop Lamont, Torae, Skyzoo, with DJ Revolution on the 1&2’s scratching on the hook. The second is “To The East” featuring Definite Mass, Tristate, Mickey Factz, and Johaz, with a Nottz beat so dope it needs to form a good Lawyer team. All of the features verbally assault each beat, with each track on TITF packing super hard lyricism and high caliber production. 4/5 Disciples.
This writer had never heard of the Ugly Heroes prior to being tasked with reviewing their most recent title, Everything In Between. I’ve learned a few things after giving the project an uninterrupted–and albeit enjoyable–listen. The hip-hop supergroup consists of Apollo Brown (the group’s producer who provides the MC’s with many soulful, jazz inspired beats), Verbal Kent (a Chitown drummer-turned-emcee), and Red Pill (a Detroit native who uses music to reflect the struggle, passion and resiliency of the Motor City). Solo artists in their own right, the Mello Music Group trio combine talents in a wonderful reminder the culture that is hip-hop is still being well represented.
(Cont.) Everything in Between leaves the mundane, overly mysoginistic, drug-abusing hip POP manifesto looking more ridiculous, if that’s even possible. This is an album that everyone can find subject matter to relate to: LIFE and all of its twists and turns. This is far from the “turn-up” trap music that currently floods radio airwaves. With tracks like “Today Right Now” and “Daisies”, with a much lighter and more optimistic spin than U.H. fans are accustomed to, and bangers, “Choir Practice” and “Force Fed”, the record is more of a reTURN to the essence of honest street poetry. With even some zany comic book superhero namedrops later in the LP — #GeekSWAG, yo! — the Ugly Heroes deliver a beautiful struggle to the hip-hop community. 4/5 Bibles.