Category Archives: Reviews

Ready To Die 20th Anniversary – Stories & Reflections

Mister Cee, DJ Enuff, and Funk Flex tell their personal stories of working with B.I.G. and reflect upon the classic album 20 years after its release. Additional commentary from Miss Info who reviewed the album for ‘The Source’ at the time.

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About Detroit Swindle

DS2012

The house scene has remerged and has caused a stir amongst the club scene for a hot minute now. The recurring deep sounds of household names, no pun intended, Julio Bashmore, Jamie Jones and Maceo Plex have kept lovers of house cutting the most elite shapes for most part of over a year or so.

In the UK recently deep house music has regained its mainstream popularity through the emergence of Disclosure, a duo consisting of brothers Guy and Howards Lawrence. Most of their released tracks have surged up the charts, thus attracting new fans of the deep house sound.

Similar to the sound of Disclosure however is the underground grooves of Dutch duo Detroit Swindle. Lars Dales and Maarten Smeets, may not have the public credentials of Disclosure but they do know a thing or two about producing house music.

Their style influenced by Motown-soul, funk, jazz and hip hop allows them to differentiate themselves from your more original house sounds thus solidifying themselves as one of the most distinctive deep house acts on the underground scene.

Reece Ravalier (@ReeceRav)

Christopher ‘Cr Blacks’ Ross – Reality Through My Words

Reality Through My Words

Having already brought you Cr Blacks’s videos for ‘Hustle’ and ‘My Thoughts’, Trentsetters now have a link to the whole mixtape. The North London rapper has released his long-awaited debut mixtape ‘Reality Through My Words’ which dropped yesterday as a free download exclusively on SB.TV. Reality Through My Words sees CR draw assistance from vocalists Jamilah and Haych, over production from the likes of Bruvahood Beats, Ragz Originale, Elz and DA.

Looking at the track list for Reality Through My Words there are some titles that can be misleading; ‘Hustle’, ‘I Want It All’, ‘Soul Survivor’. Without the cliché connotations of an Ace Hood or Meek Mill rap song, these are more emotive accounts of the hurdles Cr Blacks has had to overcome in his own life. It’s clear that Cr Blacks has drawn influences from some of US and UK hip hop’s biggest names such as Kendrick Lamar and Wretch 32. Like Wretch it is hard to pigeonhole CR to just one style of music. As the UK music industry keeps downsizing, as we’ve seen this week with HMV possibly going into administration, having this ability to adapt is vital skill-set.

Whilst touching on a range of personal themes from the strains of being a university student to relationship woes, he brings you along his journey and provides an experience which documents struggles that are relatable and inclusive of everyone. The self-proclaimed “new Che Guevara”, as Cr Blacks refers to himself on numerous occasions on the tape, is intent on becoming the voice of an often lost generation. It confirms his justifiable discontent of the moral decay in todays society, and while social issues such as the riots may seem impossible to comprehend or even condone, the fact that Mr. Blacks attempts to address them underlines his undeniable value for his generation.

It is the work of producers Footsteps and HighFrequency that breed the two standout tracks for me; ‘Suede Jones Flow’ and ‘The Life’, respectively. These are both tracks that I hope to see visuals released for in the near future. With contributions from ItsNate on the latter, we see a versatility from Cr Blacks that we rarely get from urban UK acts. With this versatility we see him experiment with a range different rap patterns over contrasting beat sounds throughout the course of the 13 tracks.

Instantly the flow on ‘Suede Jones Flow’ over producer Footsteps distorted synths catch my ear, then as it switches to a more mellifluous sound at the bridge CR slows down to match. This was one of the more uptempo tracks on the tape, one which I can see having a big impact at live performances.

The smooth instrumental of ‘The Life’, the chilled hook, the feature from ItsNate. It all fits together. HighFrequency threw everything at the duo and together they created a monster of a song. The idea of this song is based around “the thoughts of my generation”. All the focal points of everyday life for our generation “clouded by sex and money getting”.

This much-anticipated mixtape has finally been released and we hope that 2013 can be the breakout year that sees the start of a long, prosperous career for Cr Blacks.

Click here for the download

Twitter: @cr_blacks
Soundcloud: ‪http://www.soundcloud.com/cr_black
For more information contact: blackstarmusic@hotmail.co.uk

Lakeem Greaves (@iamLAKZ)

Game – Jesus Piece & T.I. – Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head

Game - Jesus Piece

2012’s music calendar has given us a lot of exciting release dates for debuts and comebacks alike. We’ve already had Rick Ross, Nas, 2 Chainz, Kendrick Lamar and Meek Mill release solid albums this year but it’s two late album releases that I have highly anticipated to cap off the year.

Although we’re approaching the final days of 2012, there is still so much more to offer in the form of albums and even mixtapes. Wiz Khalifa released his sophomore attempt O.N.I.F.C. that reached number two on the Billboard charts, selling 148,000 copies in the first week and Chief Keef’s debut Finally Rich is still to come. Closing off the year with a bang, Game and T.I. have mouths salivating for their December releases – Jesus Piece and Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head, respectively. Both rappers have etched their names in Hip-Hop history each for different reasons but no one can deny that Game and T.I. deserve a spot in your top 10. Lyricism, energy and consistency has provided these two such longevity in what can often be a cruel industry.

In my opinion, each of Game‘s previous four albums have all been successes so I didn’t expect much less from this latest release but it could be his standout work yet. Game has been persistently promoting Jesus Piece of recent, whether it be interviews, social media or the purchase of oversized jewellery.

Game, who has never been shy of critics and has often been outspoken on many topics other rappers would usually shy away from, was the topic of much scrutiny when he released images of what was to be his deluxe album cover. The image featured a depiction of a black Jesus Christ with a Piru Blood gang bandana and a chain with a jesus piece hanging from it. Despite backlash from church representatives of blasphemy, this only gave the rapper an even better platform allowing him the room to promote to a much wider audience.

Game released a string of throwaway tracks for free download on his ‘jesuspiece’ Soundcloud in which he titled #SundayService. Seven tracks were released, a Bone Thugs-n-Harmony reunion on the Celebration remix – which is in fact a refix of their old school classic ‘1st of tha Month’ – was one of them. He released six others with features from the likes of Scarface, Wale and Master P. These songs were good enough quality to be on the best of albums leading me to believe this album was due to be a treat.

Game wasn’t ever tight with his label budget, spending millions on recording mixtapes he only releases as a free download. Jesus Piece has a star-studded tracklist with 21 features on just 13 tracks. The title track reminds me of Late Registration’s ‘Crack Music’ where the roles were reversed as Kanye West features on the hook this time and Common delivers one of his most accomplished feature verses yet, where he even utters the adlib “uhh” – much more subtly than Ricky Rozay would. It’s surprising that with such a plethora of artists featured – the calibre of the likes of J. Cole, Lil’ Wayne and Kendrick Lamar – the Compton rapper’s voice never gets drowned out.

Game has never been the one to preach in the past but by the sounds of it he could join Pastor Ma$e on the pulpits. By Game stepping out of his comfort zone – of rapping on gangster issues – he makes Jesus Piece the jewel it is. This album has a more conscious feel to it as Game touches on topics I wouldn’t have necessarily expected from him. His 21 features don’t even feel clustered as he overpowers them all. Jesus Piece is well structured, sticking to the plan of creating a church of Rap and Game has created the bible.

T.I. - Trouble Man

During his ‘trouble man’ period T.I. has had highly publicised run-ins with the law, doing prison bids twice. Such distractions often end rappers career’s as they struggle to pick up the pace they had prior. I haven’t had much interest in T.I.‘s career since his 2008 album ‘Paper Trail’ but there has been a distinctive consistency about T.I.‘s music in 2012 and I have to admit that I’ve been impressed. It was when I heard his promotional singles ‘Love This Life’ and ‘Go Get It’ that I knew I would love this album. I can’t speak for others but personally this is the return to form I have been waiting for from T.I..

As I would have expected, Atlanta’s oft-overlooked hero the self-proclaimed King, T.I. introduces his Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head album to a sample of Marvin Gaye’s song of the same title ‘Trouble Man’. Unlike Game, T.I. only enlists the services of eight features on this 16 track LP. The blend of new and old T.I. is perfect with features from former Grand Hustle labelmate Meek Mill and production from Pharrell Williams – who produced his first ever single ‘I’m Serious’ in 2001 with Beenie Man – on the track ‘Hello’ that features Cee-Lo Green.

With such a catalogue of music, something you’d expect from T.I.‘s eighth album is confidence – which I must say is at an all time high with more trash talk than an NBA game. One thing it seems from his raps though is that T.I. will never learn. You could argue that it’s just music but it can get very confusing when rappers act bi-polar. From his calm television persona in ‘Family Hustle’ to his gangster, trapstar songs like ‘Trap Back Jumpin’, sometimes I just don’t know where I stand with T.I..

The standout track on the album for me has to be ‘Sorry’ which features the sought-after André 3000, the beat and lyrics fit together superbly. These are two Atlanta greats going back to back, Hip-Hop legends in their own right. Never the less, André 3000 comes out triumphant this time with a memorable verse addressing issues over Outkast’s hiatus as a group. Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head balances the sound of vintage TIP perfectly, cohesively mixing it with the more mainstream sound of his biggest hit to date ‘Whatever You Like’.

One thing is for sure though, you can’t make your ‘Album Of The Year’ lists without giving these two Hip-Hop veterans a listen.

Lakeem Greaves (@iamLAKZ)

good kid, m.A.A.d city vs. Dreams & Nightmares

A good week for Hip-Hop saw Kendrick Lamar and Meek Mill’s debut studio albums released within just days of each other. Both artists had built up steady momentum leading up to the release dates through their healthy bodies of work. Although many would argue that Kendrick’s ‘Section.80’ was his debut album and Meek’s ‘Dreamchasers 2’ had the impact of a debut album, this was still a monumental moment in each of their careers. Both sets of fans had high hopes of their favourite artists debut but no one was quite sure which artist would prevail in producing the better product.

In recent years the music industry has been shook up by peer-to-peer music sharing via the internet which inevitably led artists to put less emphasis on drawing revenue off of album sales. Most artists seem to be making their money on the road touring but artists still aim for as high sales as possible. In today’s climate you don’t get the same first week sales you once would. First week sales of above 100k in Hip-Hop is rare but if you achieve it, it’s the equivalent of going Gold back in the ’90s.

The numbers and reviews on both projects have been released and Kendrick Lamar was triumphant, good kid, m.A.A.d city debuted at number two on the Billboard charts selling 242k, behind Taylor Swift’s Red which sold 1.208 million, and scoring an aggregate score of 90/100 on Metacritic. Meek Mill’s Dreams & Nightmares also secured a number two spot on his first week but only reached 167k with an aggregate rating of 68/100. I was shocked at the figures for both albums but not surprised by the critical acclaim.

Was it ever worth Mr. Philadelphia releasing his album around the same date as K. Dot’s?

In my opinion yes, this was similar to the head-to-head that 50 Cent and Kanye West shared back in 2007 and as it proved to be then, healthy competition. More than just competition it proves just how much of an influence Hip-Hop has on Pop culture. Although this wasn’t promoted in such a fashion, to me it had the same effect. Back then the media publicised that clash, this time it was the fans.

I was glad to see he used less features on his album but I would have loved to see some songs with B.J. The Chicago Kid and Jhené Aiko or even a Game verse on ‘Compton’. In an interview I read over the summer Kendrick Lamar said he would stick to solely in-house production. In the end he chose to enlist some more popular producers but managed to stick to the theme of the album.

What Kendrick did do though was bring back the art of story-telling, he constantly stated that good kid, m.A.A.d city was to be a conceptual album and it was exactly that. Every song was a scene from the story which matched the title. This album was reminiscent of the Golden Era of Hip-Hop almost Wu Tang-esq where the album was nothing short of a movie.

Aftermath, Dr. Dre’s record label, has had a history of classic artists and albums to be dropped. From Eminem to 50 Cent to The Game. With that calibre of artists preceding him, people are still arguing that good kid, m.A.A.d city could possibly be the best quality debut ever released on the label.

There was a clear division from the start between these two artists come up in the rap scene. Meek Mill is a street rapper coming up off of the battle scene. In comparison to good kid, m.A.A.d city, Dreams & Nightmares was more gritty. With stellar features from Mary J. Blige to even Nas and John Legend on the same track this was a solid effort.

This was very much an MMG (Maybach Music Group) album. It reminded me of Wale’s ‘Ambition’ where there was a good intro, labelmate features and 16 songs which included previous mixtape tracks. It lacked the standout anthem we have become accustomed to of Meek though, like an ‘I’m A Boss’ or ‘House Party’ but he did seem stick to the title’s theme.

Well, was he sticking to the album theme or was he just rapping about the same topics we were expecting to hear from him?

Meek Mill’s ‘Dreamchasers 2’ had three million downloads on the first day of release which led fans, and even Meek himself, to think anything was possible. In the midst of his own hype, Meek Mill let the lights blind him and believed that he could go Platinum selling one million copies of his album in the first week. Not even Drake did that. Yet, it was similar to Drake when he quoted “Thank Me Later first week I’m taking all bets, because a million copies isn’t really farfetched” on the song ‘Mo Milli’.

With Meek Mill’s Dreams & Nightmares he has solidified his place in the rap game as a strong contender but it just seems that Kendrick Lamar is taking it somewhere most rappers just can’t!

Lakeem Greaves (@iamLAKZ)

Fulham vs Man City: The Review

In years gone by a Manchester City visit to the Cottage was a game Fulham fans could be hopeful of securing 3 points from, Saturday the same optimism was not present!  After all this was a different City, this City are no longer a sleeping giant they have definitely awoke thanks to the influx of money from their sugar daddies.

A sell out of almost 26,000 welcomed the reigning champions from Manchester to South West London. The biggest visitors of a young season, Fulham were eager to test themselves against arguably the countries best.

Fulham took the lead early through a Mladen Petric penalty won on the 10th minute albeit in slightly controversial fashion by left back John Arne Riise who was adjudged to have been fouled by Pablo Zabaleta. This was Fulham’s third penalty of the season, one from each of the opening three fixtures of the campaign, each converted by different players.

Fulham buoyed by their early goal had the momentum for the majority of the first half and should have made this period count by getting a second goal, this would have seen a different game. As it turned out City managed to grab ahold of the game and were rewarded for their pressure by Sergio Aguero who dispatched after a messy penalty box scramble to smash home at the Hammersmith end after 43 minutes.

Whilst the first half was an even enough affair the same cannot be said of the balance of play in the second period, the City that appeared were nothing short of breathtaking. Zabaleta and Silva gave Riise a torrid time, with Zabaleta constantly over lapping and Silva at his imperious best Fulham were pinned back. Apart from the occasional break especially from Duff, who is enjoying an Indian summer of his illustrious career, Fulham did not stand a chance with a City winner always likely.

The Citizens eventually got a reward for their constant pressure, when Edin Dzeko was introduced the script was set for the former Wolfsburg man who with his first real touch hit the back of the net in the 87th minute to send City’s travelling ranks into hysteria.

The match illustrated to me that City will be champion’s again, their second half performance was simply outstanding the statistics illustrate this dominance, 71% possession Barcelona-esc. 403 attacking passes to Fulhams 81 and a total of 726 attempted passes, total dominance. I also found the fact City had a plan B changing style with the introduction of Dzeko interesting as this versatility allowed City to change the game something that will stand City in good stead.

This isn’t to say Fulham’s performance was terrible, far from it. Martin Jol’s men must be satisfied to have held City so long and with a touch more luck could have snatched something from a side with the resources to bring on 100 million pounds worth of talent compared to Fulham who introduced talent which cost the club not a single penny. The gulf in resources is incredible but that’s what makes football so great that these two teams can produce such an entertaining spectacle.

Players Of Note – Men Of The Match:

Yaya Toure – a power house, looked like men against boys, he really made city tick and managed to run the midfield up against centre back, midfield cover Chris Baird and workman Steve Sidwell. Toure take a bow, incredible!

Silva & Zabaleta – excellent on the right wing carved Fulham up time and time again.

Damien Duff – in an attacking sense rolling back the years with a number of lung busting runs.

Aidan Fulham (@AidanFulham)

Distant Relatives Concert

Nas & Damian Marley collaborated together to make the album Distant Relatives in 2010, in which they were over here to perform in front of a sold out crowd at Wembley Arena. This concert was supported by soulstress Erykah Badu and dancehall artist Spragga Benz, while DJ Semtex provided the hip-hop set followed by David Rodigan’s reggae set.

Spragga Benz opened up lively for the duo, performing songs from his latest release ‘Shotta Culture’ but was interrupted prematurely through his heart felt speech about the murder of his 17 year old son by the Jamaican police. When I caught up with the star after the show he expressed his disappointment at the manner in which the issue was handled. His performance was followed shortly by Erykah Badu. The audience started to pack out the stands as Erykah Badu performed some of her past classics mixed with some of her newer material.

The joint album, Distant Relatives, is heavily influenced by the theme of African ancestry and the eradication of world poverty. The artists and songs featured on the album verify its intention with Somali rapper K’Naan and iconic reggae artist Dennis Brown on the songs ‘Tribes At War’ and ‘Land Of Promise’, respectively. The album received high acclaim from music critics who labelled it purposeful, also stating that it had a fresh, righteous tone. Other notable critics said that Nas and Damian Marley worked well together bouncing off of each other on most songs.

As I anticipated finally seeing the hip hop legend, which I grew up listening to, he suddenly burst onto stage with Damian Marley to the bang of their anthem ‘As We Enter’. Shortly afterward, Nas performed many of his classic solo bangers accompanied by DJ Green Lantern’s scratches on the decks. Nas left out plenty hits from his long discography that goes back all the way to 1992, New York State of Mind, Get Down and Ether just to name a few. The feeling inside the venue was peaceful, everyone was mellow appreciating the empowering messages that the duo were feeding through the music.

After five enjoyable hours of performances, the show ended on a positive note with a special tribute to the slain British reggae artist Smiley Culture. Nas and Damian Marley ended the show by bringing Erykah Badu back on stage. She decided to change her outfit and was now wearing a fitting t-shirt which read ‘Hip-Hop Is Bigger Than Religion’. The great evening couldn’t be marred by a senseless fight that broke out in the standing section which was instantly broken up by security and people got back to enjoying the music. After calls for an encore Nas, Damian Marley and Spragga Benz returned to the stage together saluting their roaring audience.

Lakeem Greaves (@iamLAKZ)