Part 2 for hip-hop, although I’m not sure if I’m going to continue to organize by genre. Not every album fits as nicely into one specific category. Regardless of how I post them, more reviews will be up in the coming days, and of course more updates to archives.
Black Milk- Album of the Year (2/4)
There has been a lot of hype surrounding Black Milk’s latest. Some have compared it to the work of the late J. Dilla, and while such praise is more than a little excessive, Black Milk’s production skills are undoubtedly great. His beats are lively and occasionally even beautiful, while similar in style to J. Dilla and Madlib. However, Album of the Year is held back by Black Milk’s below average skills as an emcee. He doesn’t have anything interesting to say, and his pop culture metaphors get tiring quickly. He also likes to name drop his influences and friends in the industry, and of course there’s a fair amount of bragging. Again, nothing he says is particularly interesting or original, and his flow is as generic as can be. A quality emcee could really do something with these beats, but Black Milk and his guests (including a disappointing Royce da 5’9”) prevent Album of the Year from coming anywhere closing to living up to its name.
Rhyme Asylum- Solitary Confinement (3.5/4)
Solitary Confinement is an album made for fans of hardcore hip-hop by fans of hardcore hip-hop. There is no deep meaning or relevancy to most of the lyrics, and it doesn’t really shock or offend in the way that hardcore emcees like Vinnie Paz or Ill Bill (who is featured on the album) can. Instead, Rhyme Asylum have created an album that is hardcore purely for the sake of being hardcore, and it succeeds because it sticks with that mentality to the end. This is niche hip-hop, ripe with senselessly violent one-liners, and again this is exactly what this kind of rap is about. Few hardcore hip-hop albums are as entertaining as this one, and if you’re into violent rap with raw beats and lyrics you should give Solitary Confinement a listen.
Diabolic- Liar & A Thief (3/4)
Diabolic was first introduced to hip-hop fans through battling in the New York underground and appearing as a guest on Immortal Technique’s Revolutionary, Vol. 1. It’s been nine years since that album, and Diabolic’s debut is now here. There are few surprises, but Liar & a Thief is a solid hardcore rap album, heavy on both violent and political lyrics. Diabolic’s braggadocios rhymes are appropriately violent and profane, as one would expect from hardcore hip-hop, and the tracks where he focuses his lyrics more towards that nature are far more entertaining than the political songs. The aforementioned Immortal Technique (who also guests on the outstanding “Frontlines”) has been doing this kind of political rap for years, so it’s unfortunate that Diabolic’s political lyrics are far too similar to what Tech has been releasing for some time now. There’s really nothing new or particularly insightful here, and as such the politically charged moments are mostly boring. Regardless, Diabolic is a solid emcee who knows how to battle, and that comes through on Liar & A Thief. If you like hardcore hip-hop, chances are you’ll enjoy this one.
B.o.B.- The Adventures of Bobby Ray (1.5/4)
It’s hard to say exactly what The Adventures of Bobby Ray is. At times, it tries to be lyrical and intellectual, while it just as often completely discards any attempt at intelligence in favor of pop rap club bangers. On the surface this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, both extremes are an integral part of hip-hop. The problem is that B.o.B. switches between the two at the most inopportune times. He attempts conscious lyrics only to abandon his craft before coming up with anything new or interesting, and he switches back to his pseudo-intellectual rap before the beats really get going. It doesn’t help that B.o.B. has a pretty limited flow, and his voice often gets in the way of the generally decent beats on the record. The Adventures of Bobby Ray is not a good album, even ignoring its inconsistencies. B.o.B. simply doesn’t show enough skills on the mic to warrant a full album, and his debuts suffers as a result.
Killah Priest- The 3 Day Theory (3/4)
After releasing what seems like an endless amount of poor mixtapes and albums over the last few years, it would be easy to write off Killah Priest. This Wu-Tang affiliate showed incredible potential on GZA’s classic Liquid Swords, but that was back in 1995. Since then, Priest has been more miss than hit, especially when it comes to choosing producers. That makes it all the more surprising that The 3 Day Theory is actually worthwhile. The beats are interesting for a change, the guests are varied and plentiful, and Killah Priest actually sounds interested in what he spits. The lyrics are much more personal than anything Priest has done in some time, as he reflects on his past and his love of hip-hop, and his voice is lit with the passion of veteran artist finding love for his craft again. The 3 Day Theory is a very solid album as a whole, and while not every verse hits the mark there’s a lot more good than bad. This is one of the better hip-hop albums of 2010, as well as one of the year’s biggest surprises.