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Reviews: Hip-hop


Review: The Alchemist Chemical Warfare

Label: E1

On his latest project, Chemical Warfare, producer/MC The Alchemist is rolling with bigger names than ever, but working with platinum acts like Eminem and Three Six Mafia doesn't spark anything especially inspiring. It’s only when ALC shakes up the concepts and combinations of guests that the tracks become really worthwhile. A '70s soul-inspired cut with Maxwell and Twista (“Smile”) is a smoothed-out sure shot where everyone shines. Read more » 

Review: Eyedea and Abilities By the Throat

Label: Rhymesayers

Heavy guitars, frenetic scratching, and some God-awful singing pervade Eyedea and Abilities’ By the Throat, the Minnesota duo’s third LP and first in five years. As with most rap/rock Frankensteins, it ain’t always pretty. But if you can get past Eyedea’s whiny, nasal delivery and respect Abilities’ tense, unorthodox production, you’ll find gems in their neurosis. Eyedea continues to paint vivid imagery while waxing emo about war, addiction, and love. Read more » 

Review: Amanda Blank I Love You

Label: Downtown

Though not quite raunchy enough to make Lil’ Kim blush, Amanda Blank’s unhinged lyrics and club-ready production (via Diplo, Switch, and XXXChange) on her debut, I Love You, makes for the perfect pre-sex party. Lead single “Might Like You Better” (a not-too-subtle rip of Romeo Void) is a bouncy, banging, and downright nasty electro jam. But while her claim to fame might be her sex raps, the Philly MC and singer isn’t afraid to open up (“A Love Song”) or write the traditional pop jam (“Shame on Me”). Read more » 

Review: James Pants All the Hits

Label: Miserable Beast

While any entrepreneur will tell you that all you need to start a successful business is a good idea, the same can't be said in the music world. Stones Throw wunderkind James Pants has put together a 25-track album of what sounds like unfinished song ideas. The music itself is produced in the same "late at night and high in my bedroom" style as Pants' debut album, Welcome, but with less satisfying results. Marketed as a genreless collection of "library music," elements of '80s boogie and old-school hip-hop are still the main components of Pants' arsenal. Read more » 

Review: Cage Depart From Me

Label: Definitive Jux

Depart From Me is a bold step for Cage, considering 2005’s Hell’s Winter turned some long-time fans sour after abandoning his drug-addled shock rap for sober and intense introspection. While casting out his demons, Cage veers further left, sonically. With much of the production handled by F. Sean (Hatebreed), Depart From Me is full of guitar-heavy, synthy, dark, and ominous soundscapes. “Nothing Left to Say,” a response to longtime collaborator and friend Camu Tao’s passing, opens with a spoken-word intro before El-P launches into an industrial frenzy. Read more » 

Review: DJ Vadim U Can't Lurn Imaginashun

Label: BBE

U.K. breaks master and recent cancer survivor Vadim Peare is still at the top of his game on Imaginashun. The survivor’s high is evident on the obscenely catchy dancehall jaunt "Hidden Treasure," and the wet, Zapp-esque disco of "Thrill 103" exudes the feeling of a stroll on gold-paved streets. Read more » 

Review: O'Neal McKnight The Pre-Prom Mixtape

Label: Universal Motown

While it’s unclear whether L.A. stylist-turned-rapper O’Neal McKnight ever made it to his high school prom, he’s making up for any missed opportunities with an album that altogether embraces the concept. Hosted and MCed by McKnight himself with DJ Cassidy and Dub-L in tow, the album rewinds to the mid-'80s when cornball guitar solos and gated reverb hashed perfectly with New Romanticisms and AutoTuned vocals. Read more » 

Review: Serengeti & Polyphonic Terradactyl

Label: Anticon

On paper, the marriage of talented leftfield hip-hoppers Serengeti & Polyphonic seems like a match made in heaven. Geti’s stream-of-consciousness flow easily matches up with the best of the Anticon MCs, and, at its best, recalls the vocal acrobatics of true giants like DOOM. Polyphonic’s production is equally impressive—dude has more in common with Plaid and Boards of Canada than Timbaland. Yet all this talent doesn’t make Terradactyl a particularly compelling listen. Read more » 

Review: The Jacka Tear Gas

Label: SMC

Boasting enough 'hood credentials to make studio gangstas wear Depends, Jacka wields the Bay’s turf-rap torch stronger than anyone right now. Singles “Glamorous Lifestyles” and “All Over Me” are guilty pleasures for those of us who know better and soundtracks for those who don't. The big payoff isn't in Traxamillion's or Rob Lo’s slap-you-up tracks or collabos with Devin the Dude, Planet Asia, E-40, and Freeway, but in Jacka's inspired cadences and slightly slurred deliveries, which elevate his crime sagas to legendary status. Read more » 

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