CZARFACE / A TRIBE CALLED QUEST / LA COKA NOSTRA / TONE SPLIFF / JOE BUDDEN [#GeekSwag Reviews]: A Fistful of Peril.
For anyone who’s been under a rock and managed to miss Every Hero Needs a Villain, which was probably 2015’s best #GeekSwag Album, A Fistful of Peril is similarly like breaking loose from gravity, falling through the atmosphere and traveling through a portal in space to another dimension; one full of comic book heros and villains. AFoP is the third collaborative studio album from the legendary Inspectah Deck of Wu-Tang and the hip-hop duo 7L & Esoteric who together form Czarface, what I personally view alongside MF Doom as the epitome of everything #GeekSwag. As Esoteric once eloquently put it, “The backbone of Hip-Hop is its authenticity, its realness, yet magically it blends with the escapism of superheroes seamlessly”, to which I agree wholeheartedly.
The album starts out with “Level Electric One”, as your aforementioned portal, spiraling your consciousness into this nostalgic and hard-hitting trip to both the golden era of hip hop and superhero comic books. On “Two In the Chest” we’re finally introduced to our hosts, and to an array of raw lyrical punches, imagery, storytelling and comic book references that carry on the rest of the album’s nearly 36-minutes.
Of particular interest is the track “All In Together Now”, an homage to the Black Panther which they debuted in a video of Marvel’s writer Ta-Nehisi Coates detailing his plans for the title. The only knock I can find to this album is the same as with every Czarface project: there’s simply not enough it. Why can’t we get it monthly, like comic issues? Like its two predecessors, this “Fistful” of beats ‘n rhymes is absolute crack. Check it out, geeks–you’ll love it. 4.25/5 Bibles.
The fact that We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service is so listenable already goes against the typical legacy-artist, late-album archetype.
But, then again, A Tribe Called Quest was never typical.
Everything was going against this album: Tribe had been broken up for years, founding member Phife Dawg passed away unfortunately earlier this year, and, usually, ‘classic’ acts lose touch in their later years. Again – Tribe transcends. We got it from Here doesn’t rely on nostalgia, yet it doesn’t try too hard to feel like one of its contemporaries — benefiting from Tribe’s adherence to their signature ‘sound’. The music is just as soulful, well sampled, and as eclectically blended together as before. All the while, Phife and Q-Tip both sound like they soothed their throats with tea made from the Fountain of Youth.
The album is proof that Tribe has hip-hop in their bones. It seems to come so naturally to them that it shouldn’t be a surprise that the best tracks on WgifH all feature ATCQ only. Although Busta Rhymes (who is basically Tribe adjacent), Anderson .Paak and Kendrick Lamar adjust well to the ATCQ feel. Andre 3000 on “Kids…” and Kanye on “The Killing Season” take a little more getting used to, but there isn’t really escaping the sound quality trap that Q-Tip and co-producer Blair Wells have laid from the beginning.
In fact, the album feels like such a worthy entry into the ATCQ discography that the lack of an overall theme doesn’t really take away too much from the complete experience. On the contrary, tracks like “The Space Program” and “We the People”, two atypically politically specific Tribe songs, only make it hurt all the more that this is their reported final album.
Luckily, this disc is dope enough to keep in the rotation for as long as the days of The Low End Theory. 4.25/5 Applebums.
Yo, it’s been a long 4-years since La Coka Nostra hit us straight in the mouth with a new LP. There’s no more Everlast, but former House of Pain members Danny Boy (art direction) and DJ Lethal (production, 4 tracks) are still the backbone. The only issue, then, is.. the present La Coka serves more like a marvelous team-up between Slaine and Ill Bill. Now, normally, I would neverevereverevereverrr complain about a collab between two of my fav emcees goin’ monster bar-for-bar over 12 delicious tracks, most of which relays a newborn maturity for each of the emcees (peep the personal journal over Statik Selektah‘s mellow percussion on “Stay True”).
But after seeing early leak photos of the duo alongside such renown, like-skilled indie emcees like Apathy, Vinnie Paz and Q-Unique, I was hoping for more of a super group this time around. While you do get to hear all three guest emcees on To Thine Own Self Be True (and even 2/3 together on Slaine’s EP, reviewed down below), and plenty of Sick Jacken (“High Times” and “I Need Help”)–who had one of my fav slept-on albums this year–I can’t help but feel like most of the jawns on here were outtakes from Ill Bill and Slaine’s work earlier in the year. Head-nodders, for sure! But not exactly the street classic I was waiting 4-years for. 3.5/5 Bibles.
2016 has proven that our current timeline, is indeed, “The Darkest Timeline.” There is a bit of a silver-lining though. The Hip-Hop albums that have dropped this year have been fire–and producer/DJ Tone Spliff’s latest: Pull No Punches, can be added to that list. First off, his guest list is insane: Sadat X, Born Talent, Cheef Rockaz (Vast Aire & Realz), Blaq Poet, Emilio Rojas, Saigon, Ed0 G, Percee P, Fatlip, Ruste Juxx, Celph Titled, Tragedy, King Magnetic, Baby Blak, Copywrite, Blacastan, Jukstapose, and Illa Ghee. From the very first cut, Tone has the listener feeling like they are in that Nintendo game Punch-Out. The album cover aesthetics help that, or, likelier, just me thinking about #GeekSwag. Pull No Punches calls out Doctor Doom and even RL Stine & his Goosebumbs books.
Further, Pull No Punches is 10 tracks of smooth and defined cuts & scratches, fat-ass flows and heavy raps. Also within the 10 tracks you get taken through a span of hip-hop generations; tracks that give you lyrics with everyday life and grown-up decisions that come with time. The album should read everyone on a certain level with songs like the old school vibe of “Playtime Is Over”; “Grown Rhyme” sticks like a cool glass of sweet tea; “Splits & Politics” goes back to a 90’s feel I would bump alongside Redman; hell, if you need a 420 track, “What’s In The Future” has you covered (winking at you, CA.). 4/5 Bibles.
Fresh off his onslaught of Drake wih four disstracks, Joe Budden literally jumps out of a plane early September to announce that he dropping his album Rage & the Machine. The Drizzy beef seemed to be nothing but a small warm-up for his release; every time Toronto’s finest reacted or or took a breath, Budden had another 100 bars ready for him 2-hours later. But don’t fret; he didn’t use up all his energy with the beef. Rage flourishes even more creativity as he and 27-year old producer araabMUZIK journey into a world of sound unheard in Hip-Hop in a minute. While the rap industry seem to cater ultimately to the 16-25 age range with a bunch of club tracks, Joe embraces his elder maturity. Unlike that of his last project, No Love Lost–that catered more to the mainstream sounds of current times–the 36-year old MC gives us 80s babies (that flocked to 90s era), the rap we’ve been craving.
As soon as you press play, araabMUZIK goes so hard on “Three” with that dark ominous atmosphere that makes a true MC like Joe Budden flow with relentless fury. The next track “Uncle Joe” reflects on an older age and embracing it. “Serious” is a, ahem, serious tag-teaming with fellow Slaughterhouse member Joell Ortiz. Man, no rapper has a chance–especially with that Das-Efx line. Pow! My other favorite is Budden’s homage to the legends of this rap shit on “Idols”; the track packs with a fresh hook that goes, “if you ever live long enough to see your idols turn to rivals”, with Budden reminiscing on past hip-hop events. Overall, Rage & The Machine feels like an underground MC on some mid-90s Bad Boy backing. 4/5 Bibles.
From the strong style and heartbeat of the underground, comes a continued pulse in the movement of bass, beat, and lyrical presents. Slaine spares no verbal punches on his latest piece, Slaine is Dead, crushing everything in his way out the gate. I truly enjoyed how this EPcomes across: a bloodline behind a classic 80’s action flick, or, for the matter, a showcase behind someone’s hosted ditch party of a high-school students rebellion (Yo! Hear “Pusher”). Other than an average hook on “Nobody Prays For Me”, I can see a fresh bunch of teens soaking up the atmosphere Slaine — and pals Termanology, Rite Hook, Vinnie Paz, and Ill Bill — are injecting into the O-Zone for the future up-and-comers only this time around keep your nose and watch your surroundings. 3.75/5 Bibles.