Category Archives: Album Reviews

Album Reviews

Rapsody – Thank H.E.R. Now (Mixtape)

This mixtape by North Carolina rapper Rapsody is getting mad love on Twitter. With production by 9th Wonder and Khrysis (among others), and blazing guest appearances by Phonte, Mac Miller, Jean Grae, MURS and Raekwon (!), Thank H.E.R. Now may be one of the finest free albums I’ve heard in a long time.

Rapsody, a relative newcomer, is absolutely brilliant on the mic, dropping intricate and emotional rhymes on a range of tracks – from smoothed out, down tempo jams to minimalist, East Coast boom bap. Such easy versatility is rare among young rappers. Combined with Rapsody’s evident passion for her music, it’s impressive to behold. And the guest spots, all of which are solid, make every verse worth listening to.

Beat wise, the mixtape is blistering. Ninth comes correct, as usual, but so do the other producers. Nearly every track is well crafted, with the exception of “Out Tha Trunk”, which has an errant snare in the hook. But that’s a minor critique; the album otherwise glides smoothly across a nice mix of East Coast and 9th Wonder-ish beats, giving it a professional polish sorely lacking on most mixtapes.

Overall, Thank H.E.R. Now is a seriously impressive effort, and definitely worth a download. And if you don’t trust me, believe Tribe’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad, who co-signed it on Twitter. Here’s further proof:

Rapsody – Star Warz ft. Murs and Sundown (Thank H.E.R. Now)

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Download the album here.

Album Reviews

Elzhi – Elmatic Mixtape (2011)

Elzhi, formerly of Slum Village, has released Elmatic, a mixtape reinterpretation of the legendary Nas album Illmatic. Produced entirely by Will Sessions, it also features Royce da 5’9” on an updated version of “Life’s A Bitch” and an appearance by Pete Rock (who produced the original “The World Is Yours“).

The project is ambitious, to say the least. Rather than simply reusing the Illmatic beats, Will Sessions crafted new tracks using the same samples chopped in new and different ways. Elzhi’s versions thus capture the sound and feeling of the Nas originals, but are different enough to pique your interest. Unfortunately, it’s a novelty that quickly wears off: they’re different, sure, but not necessarily better.

Same thing goes for the lyrics. Elzhi is a talented rapper, no doubt (and so is Royce), but is he on par with early Nasir Jones? Probably not. To be fair, I doubt anyone is. Nas’s verses on his first album are absolutely blistering; “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” may be one of the finest lyrical performances in the history of rap music. And AZ’s guest appearance on the first “Life’s A Bitch” kick-started – and continues to define – the man’s career.

That being said, Elmatic is still worth checking out. It’s a creative and unique homage, and some of the tracks are well done. Ultimately, though, it’ll just make you want to listen to the original.

Download: Elzhi – Elmatic

(Image credit: XXL Mag)

Album Reviews Music

Reflection Eternal album got slept on

Apparently we here at 4080 got a little too wrapped up in ourselves an missed a big album drop this past year. Reflection Eternal, the hip hop team made up of Taliban Kweli and Hi-Tek have been consistently making solid hip hop that dwarfs any of their solo stuff.

Pitchfork’s review of their latest album (http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/14292-revolutions-per-minute/) speaks pretty damn highly of it. The album, titled Revolutions per Minute, has garnered a solid following. Pitchfork also notes that while it is not a momentous revival, it is still a worthy record.
” But those are minor demerits, and the things people do listen for– conscious yet unpretentious lyricism delivered with acrobatic dexterity over on-point, no-gimmick beats– are all over this album. Kweli and Hi-Tek never had to rework their styles to stay on the cusp of mainstream-name status, so they’ve spent more time playing to their strengths than distracting themselves from them.”

I’m pretty down with it, and very much agree. While it doesn’t shift the musical landscape, it is very much an album I plan to throw on again.

Album Reviews Featured

Download This Mixtape: Mac Miller – K.I.D.S.

Mac Miller’s Kickin’ Incredibly Dope Shit (K.I.D.S.) may be the best mixtape I’ve heard all year, fo reals.  Miller, an 18-year old Pittsburgh native who just signed with Rostrum Records, home of fellow up-and-comer Wiz Khalifa and the 1988 Top Shelf catalogue, has a seriously proficient flow and a knack for complex wordplay.  On “Knock Knock,” for example, Miller raps “I feel like a million bucks/but my money don’t really feel like I do”, and later, “In deeper than the water Michael Phelps was in.”  The beats are hot, too, spanning a range of styles from pulsing Drake-ish synths to jazzy boom-bap drums and xylophone samples.  Download K.I.D.S. and say you heard of this kid before he blew up!

Download: Mac Miller – K.I.D.S.

Via illroots

Album Reviews Featured

Bun B Picks Up First 5-Mic Album Since 2005


In a rambling speech yesterday, Bun B, formerly one half of UGK, accepted the 5 Mic award from The Source for his new album, Trill OG.  While dude seems like a nice guy – his speech is a humble tribute to other emcees – is his new disc really in the same league as other five mic recipients like Illmatic, Life After Death, and The Low End Theory?  I haven’t listened to the whole thing, so I can’t say for certain.  To give you a taste so you can judge for yourself, here’s “Right Now” featuring Trey Songz, Pimp C (!), and 2Pac (!!):

Via The Rap Up

Photo by NRK P3 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/nrk-p3/)

Album Reviews Music

Stream the new Reflection Eternal Album

As we mentioned previously, Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek have reunited as Reflection Eternal and released a new album titled Revolutions Per Minute.

I’ve been pretty critical of Kweli over the last couple of years, and that’s not exactly the fairest journalism around.  It’s likely I’m too tainted by the greatness from the Black Star or the first Reflection Eternal albums to truly appreciate his more contemporary work.

Still, I’ve got high hopes for this new album.  The great thing is that you can stream the album for free from Entertainment Weekly.  I don’t know how long the album will remain up online, so check it out as soon as you can.

As for the tracklist, while I’m not a fan of City Playgrounds, I do think Back Again is a bit more classic Kweli.  However, Strangers may run away with the album.  Either that or Just Begun.

The best part about this disc is the variety of styles the duo uses.  There’s some old gospel-sounding samples that sneak in (In this World), and a couple of tracks hit you with the traditional ballad hooks (Ballad of Black Gold).  A few of them hit you in the face with a hard beat (So Good), or are covered with a gritty phone filter (Get Loose).

Album Reviews

Pitchfork’s Guide to Upcoming Releases has some gems

Pitchfork released a guide to upcoming releases that has some gems.  The list is worth looking at in general, but I’ve picked out a few ones that would catch your attention.

04-13

Murs & 9th Wonder: ForNever [SMC]

04-20

Little Brother: LeftBack [Hall of Justus]

Ozomatli: Fire Away [Mercer Street/Downtown]

05-18

Nas and Damian Marley: Distant Relatives [Universal Republic]

Rhymefest: El Che [dNBe Entertainment]

Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek: Revolutions Per Minute [Blacksmith/Warner Bros.]

06-08

The Roots: How I Got Over [Def Jam]

06-22

Diddy: Last Train to Paris [Bad Boy]

Album Reviews Music

T.Shirt & Darvin Silva – The Tan Face Children EP

Tan-Face Children EP

Free mixtapes and EPs are usually unpolished and gritty.  Slapped together on tight schedules and low budgets, they’re a way for rappers and producers to generate noise without much expense (and, sometimes, effort).  The prevalence of mixtapes and EPs in hip-hop is probably due to a combination of several things, including the culture’s DIY aesthetic, the widespread availability of music production software and the lack of formal training and equipment necessary to spit a few rhymes (anyone can rap into a mic, playing even a basic melody on an instrument takes practice and, obviously, an instrument).

T.Shirt and Darvin Silva’s new EP, however, seems to defy that logic.  Called The Tan Face Children EP, it sounds distinctly professional.  It borders on experimental, with the electro drums, pulsating bass lines and off-kilter, almost broken beat sequencing that’s popular nowadays.  A couple of songs feature indie melodies and hooks, and Shirt and Silva bolster the EP’s coolness and esoteric factors by sprinkling Walt Whitman quotes throughout (hence the title).  The lyrics are generally good, especially on “24 Frames (Movie Night),” on which all three verses are composed entirely of movie titles – and it actually works.  Even better, it’s extremely well mixed, and sounds like it was recorded in a studio rather than some dude’s basement.  And for a free EP, you can’t ask for much more than that.

DOWNLOAD: T.Shirt & Darvin Silva – The Tan Face Children EP

01. Pioneers! O Pioneers!
02. (Written Somewhere In Miami)
03. Monday Massacre
04. 24 Frames (Movie Night)
05. Recommendation
06. Starry-Eyed
07. Allure (Must Have Been Love)
08. Outro Music

Album Reviews Featured Music

New Souls of Mischief Album out

som-itunes Holy dopeness.  This is one new hip hop album I’m truly excited about.  Souls of Mischief have just dropped their newest album titled Montezuma’s Revenge.

The album is shaping up to be great Tour Stories is one of the best tracks I’ve heard.  Not even just this year.  It’s an unbelievable effort from some aging hip hop legends.  I’m not even going to bother giving you a hip hop history lesson for the Souls of Mischief, because if you don’t know who they are then you and I may just straight up have a problem.

Just playing.  The Souls of MIschief are a strong contingent of emcees who also run with the Hieroglyphics crew.  A-Plus, Opio, Phesto, and Tajai gave us the ever-so-classic ‘93 til infinity, the memorable track that has to be in my top ten songs of all time.  This effort, their 5th album to date, is no slouch of an effort.  The sound of this new album is pretty consistent with what they’ve been doing.  It’s co-produced by Prince Paul & Domino, so you know it’s going to be full of pretty strong piano samples and mellow hooks.

I haven’t had the chance to hear the entire album in detail yet, so I won’t spoil it for you by posting half-finished thoughts.  But I do want to encourage you to check it out.

It’s a strong effort to be sure, and  I’ve hooked you up with some youtube goodness below to check it out.

Here’s Proper Aim off the same album.  A very different vibe, but shows how diverse they can be.

Buy this album!

Album Reviews Featured

Wale releases “Attention Deficit”

Attention DeficitWale, the widely-acclaimed D.C. rapper, has finally dropped his debut album, Attention Deficit.  The darling of the indie hip-hop crowd (are they still called backpackers?), Wale has spent the past two or three years meticulously engineering a reputation as a talented lyricist and astute pop culture scrutineer.  From “doing justice to Justice,” to dropping a Mixtape About Nothing, to rising up with The Roots, Wall to the A (whose real name is Olubowale Akintimehin) has mastered the art of raising expectations; to say that his first major label attempt was highly anticipated would be an understatement.

Clocking in at 14 songs, Attention Deficit has an expansiveness that belies its modest track list.  Wale, trying to refute recent accusations that he lacks personality, touches on a surprising range of topics, jumping almost at random from “persona to persona.”  Meditations on “insecurity, bulimia, infidelity, intra-racial discrimination, self-loathing and coked out, aspirational celebrities” form the basis for an ambitious, almost experimental, record.

The results, I think, are mixed.  On “Shades” and “Diary” (featuring Marsha Ambrosius doing her best Michael Jackson impersonation), Wale’s remarkably candid thoughts on race and relationships are sincere and profound.  I was initially disappointed by “TV in the Radio,” on which K’Naan at first seems to absolutely steal the show, but after repeated listens, Wale’s clever punch-line laden verse (on whack emcees: “It’s utterly baloney / so I’m Muslim to these rappers”) is growing on me.

Less impressive are “Let it Loose” and “Chillin,” the Lady Gaga collaboration Wale made to appease his label:

Attention Deficit’s beats are similarly varied.  Spanning saccharine commercialism (“90210”), grimy funk (the excellent “Mirrors” featuring Bun B) and an homage to go-go (the irresistible “Pretty Girls”), the album is nothing if not sonically diverse.  The beats are also more complex and polished than most of the beats on Wale’s mixtapes – an obvious benefit, I suppose, of having money to spend on big-name producers like Mark Ronson, The Neptunes and Cool and Dre.

Reaction to Attention Deficit has been generally favourable so far.  Metacritic, for example, has it pegged at 77 based on 11 reviews.  I tend to agree: the album is certainly no classic, but its successes outweigh its failures, and it boasts enough solid hip-hop tunes to ensure multiple listens.  Wale’s creativity and willingness to branch out are a welcomed and refreshing break from the predictability of the hip-hop mainstream.  Ultimately, Attention Deficit is a flawed but promising debut, its occasional poor decisions tempered by flashes of raw talent and potential, and it mostly lives up to Wale’s carefully-cultivated reputation.

Buy Attention Deficit on Amazon or iTunes.

Listen to: “TV in the Radio” featuring K’Naan (courtesy of Surviving the Golden Age), “Mirrors” featuring Bun B and “Diary” featuring Marsha Ambrosius (courtesy of Culture Bully).