Saturday, February 26, 2011

Album Review: "Internal Affairs" - Pharoahe Monch (1999)


I don't even think it's debatable that Pharoahe Monch, a member of Organized Konfusion (the other member being Prince Poetry), is one of the most underrated and underappreciated rappers in history. He is, in my opinion, a top four lyricist to ever do it, with only Canibus, Chino XL, and Ras Kass measuring up to him in terms of raw lyrical ability. I guess the main reason why Monch does get overlooked is for the simple fact that he has only dropped two solo albums, and those albums were eight years apart.

After enjoying a critically acclaimed period with Organized Konfusion (which put out three albums as a duo), Pharoahe launched his solo career in 1999 when he released Internal Affairs, an album where the cover art alone would make one want to hear what in the world Monch had to say (well, as a solo artist, anyway). Then, one would look at the liner notes and see that Monch not only produced a bunch of tracks by himself, but also had help from renowned beatmakers such as The Alchemist, Diamond D, and DJ Scratch. At that point, you couldn't not want to listen to Internal Affairs.

Of course, Internal Affairs' biggest hit was "Simon Says," a hard-hitting cut that utilized the theme from Godzilla vs. Mothra. However, the album's biggest hit also turned out to be its biggest downfall, as due to the fact that Pharoahe Monch did not clear the sample on the song, Internal Affairs was pulled off the shelves and is now out of print.

Anyway, Pharoahe's debut album was looked upon very favorably by music critics, and it even sold a decent amount of copies (200,000) before being shut down. For this reason, I have never been able to understand why Pharoahe Monch does not get more love in the hip-hop world, as people obviously saw the talent and were willing to open up their wallets to support it.

Oh well.


1. Intro

Although the track is titled "Intro," this is actually a song. DJ Scratch lays down a horn-driven beat for Pharoahe Monch, and while Monch certainly spends this track introducing himself, he does it in rap form and establishes a niche for himself that he would continue for the rest of Internal Affairs in the process.

2. Behind Closed Doors
Pharoahe laces a dark beat for himself to spit over on this, and he effortlessly (and I italicized that word to emphasize it as much as possible) flows over it while laying down some incredible bars and a great hook, as well. And how sick is this line: "Even with doorknobs, you couldn't handle this." Great record.

3. Queens
Both Pharoahe and Lee Stone produced the beat for this cut, and I especially dig the dusty drums on it (the piano is nice, too). Once again, Monch demonstrates impeccable flow, so impeccable that it seems like he could rhyme over the instrumental endlessly. As per the title, Pharoahe talks about the harsh street life of Queens, New York on the record.

4. Rape
Let me say immediately to those who may be creeped out that the song's title is a metaphor, although Pharoahe Monch's "sodomize the bassline" line was a bit disturbing, and the female orgasm noises on the hook didn't help matters much, either. However, once again, this is a metaphor for how Monch has fully mastered the art of rap. His beat is pretty damn good, too.

5. Simon Says
Regardless of the fact that this was Internal Affairs' most popular song, I was never too fond of it, although that isn't to say that I don't enjoy listening to it every now and then. Pharoahe's beat aside, it is his deft lyricism on the track that brings me to bump this occasionally.

6. Official
This is probably my favorite song on the album. Lee Stone's beat is ill, and Pharoahe Monch sounds great over it. I mean, how many rappers do you know that would think to make obscure references to Raul Mondesi, Rey Ordonez, Chuck Knoblauch, and Buck Williams in a song? Probably none.

7. Hell
Pharoahe Monch and Canibus on the same track? It sounds like a match made in heaven, and it would be if the production was anything worth listening to, but it isn't, as Lee Stone's beat just sounds awful. However, Canibus manages to grab it by the throat and then tear it to shreds, killing Monch on his own track, and that is quite a feat.

8. No Mercy
If any track on Internal Affairs can challenge "Official" as being the album's best, "No Mercy" is it. The Alchemist gets his lone production credit on the project here, and he doesn't disappoint, laying down a banger of a beat for Pharoahe and M.O.P.. The hook on this cut is sick, too. If you're looking for a good pump-up song, "No Mercy" is definitely one way to go.

9. Right Here
DJ Scratch produces his second and final beat on the album on this record, but, unfortunately, I found "Right Here" to be fairly boring. That's all I've got.

10. The Next Shit
Pharoahe Monch samples Sid Bass' "Espani Cani," a song that is played at pretty much every sporting event you could possibly attend, on this track and manages to make it work. I know this cut is a lot of people's least favorite on Internal Affairs due to the "commercial tone" of it, but I dig it, and I really liked Busta Rhymes' contribution.

11. The Ass
It took 11 tracks to finally see a Diamond D production on the album, but here it is; the first of three Diamond D beats on Internal Affairs. He doesn't bring his A game this go around, though, as his reggae-ish instrumental just does not grab me at all. Not only that, but the subject matter on this song is especially cheesy, and it might seriously have the worst hook I've ever heard. Female rapper Apani B. Fly drops a guest verse, and, as I'm sure you already inferred from her name, she only knocks this record down a few pegs (if that was even possible). This crap is by far the worst song on the album.

12. The Light
Diamond D gets a chance to redeem himself on this cut, and he does, but let's face it; he could have recorded himself smacking his cheeks (the cheeks on his face, you sickos) and came up with a better instrumental than he did on "The Ass." That aside, this song is really good, as Pharoahe Monch goes from incredibly sleazy topical matter on the previous track to a legitimate love ballad on "The Light." Definitely one of the best cuts on Monch's debut.

13. God Send
Pharoahe's Organized Konfusion partner Prince Poetry joins him on this Lee Stone and Monch-produced track, and while both rappers do the song justice lyrically, the beat leaves much to be desired, making this one of the most boring records on Internal Affairs.

14. The Truth
Monch teams up with Common and Talib Kweli on this Diamond D-laced song, and while the lyrics are unsurprisingly top notch, the production isn't too engaging, and I also found the female voice on the hook to be a bit irritating. At first glance, "The Truth" looks like it has "best song on the album" written all over it, but that just isn't the case.

15. Simon Says (Remix)
The beat is the same as the original, but this remixed version contains verses from Lady Luck, Redman, Method Man, Shabaam Sahdeeq, and Busta Rhymes. I usually find myself skipping this one due to its sheer length (six minutes and fifteen seconds), but if you don't mind long songs, then by all means, check this one out.


Pharoahe Monch proves to the world that he is one of hip-hop's lyrical masterminds on Internal Affairs, as every track (there are even traces of it on "The Ass") contains vivid, outstanding lyrics and spectacular punchlines that can put any rapper to shame. Monch is one of the most talented rappers to ever pick up a mic, and that is made very clear on his debut record.

If there is a problem with Internal Affairs, it lies within the production, as some of the beats are very bland and failed to keep the me interested. That said, a very solid portion of the instrumentals on this album do bang, so it's not like poor production is a running theme throughout the project. Even if that were the case, Pharoahe's seemingly immaculate talent would still make Internal Affairs listenable.

It's certainly a shame that Monch took such a long hiatus, as his sophomore release, Desire (which wasn't even all that good), did not drop until 2007. Had he dropped an album or two in between, I'm sure he would have gained a lot more recognition in the industry and would be looked at by many as one of the best to ever do it. Fortunately, Pharoahe Monch's third album, W.A.R., is slated to drop in late March, so it still seems as if he has plenty of desire (no pun intended) left in the tank.

While Internal Affairs is a very, very good album, it is one of those records that I really need to be in the mood to listen to it all the way through. Don't get me wrong; I love a few of the songs on the project, but as a whole, I find myself zoning out at certain points when bumping it in its entirety, especially (with the exception of "The Light") toward the end of the album (never a good thing).

My conclusion? I think Pharoahe Monch can do a bit better than this; he just needs better production behind him. Let's hope he gets that on W.A.R., and if the album's first two singles ("Shine" and "Clap") are any indication, it looks like that may very well end up happening.


1. Official
2. No Mercy
3. The Next Shit
4. The Light
5. Rape


The Ass

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Album Review: "The Greatest Story Never Told" - Saigon (2011)


Saigon is like a better version of Papoose. The dude has been around forever and has been dominating the underground circuit for years, but due to numerous extenuating circumstances, he had been unable to drop a full-length album. The thing is, Saigon had essentially accomplished everything except finally drop an LP. He had dropped a ton of mixtapes, collaborated with countless big-name producers, been featured on a ridiculous amount of songs by other artists, and even made appearances on HBO's show, Entourage.

Due to all of that, you will generally not find a hip-hop fan who will deny that Saigon has ample talent. He has been the underground champ for what seems like centuries now, and his loyal followers had been salivating over the prospect of him actually, you know, releasing an album, for the same amount of time. At last, that time has come, as Saigon put out The Greatest Story Never Told in the second month of 2011.

Now, it's a common assumption that when an artist has his debut album delayed for this long, that the project will suck. However, Saigon did everything he could to avoid making such an assumption a reality on The Greatest Story Never Told, as 16 of the album's 18 songs were either fully produced or co-produced by the legendary Just Blaze. Also, one of the beats that wasn't made by Just Blaze was created by Kanye West, not to mention the fact that Buckwild co-produced one of the instrumentals with JB, appeasing even more rap fans worldwide.

So, given Saigon's pure rapping ability and the fact that he had one of the most renowned producers in the game behind him, The Greatest Story Never Told should ultimately be a success, right? Let's find out.


1. Station Identification (Intro)

Even though this "song" is two minutes and forty-three seconds long, it's nothing more than your typical run-of-the-mill album intro. Next.

2. The Invita Saigon
The first real song on the album contains the type of production that is tailor-made for Jay-Z, as Just Blaze drops a beat that sounds very similar to the one he made for Jay on "Public Service Announcement" off of The Black Album. What makes "The Invita Saigon" better, in my opinion, is the fact that Saigon is rapping over it instead of H.O.V. (not saying I hate Jay, but I just prefer Saigon by a significantly larger margin). Oh, and Q-Tip does the hook. Great way to kick things off.

3. C'mon Baby
Speaking of Jay-Z, he is featured on this cut, which, even though it was released all the way back in 2007, was actually the first single on The Greatest Story Never Told (I guess Saigon felt like he had to keep that Jay feature on there). The beat by Just Blaze is pretty damn effective, and Saigon kills it, actually managing to sound somewhat like H.O.V. (except, you know, better) in the process. Jay sounds pretty good over this, although it does seem like the instrumental drowns out his voice a bit. Swizz Beatz is present on this record, too, as he does his typical Swizzy thing on the hook. Good track.

4. War
This is just a skit.

5. Bring Me Down Pt. 2
Just Blaze and DJ Corbett team up to lace a real nice beat for Saigon on this song, but while the cut is solid for the most part, Saigon's attempt at utilizing the autotune on the hook really knocks this track down a couple of notches.

6. Enemies
This was, by far, the most boring song on the album. D. Allen and Just Blaze co-produced the beat, and I'm really hoping the former had a lot more to do with the actual production than JB, because the instrumental is just flat.

7. Friends
It's a real shame that this cut is under two minutes long, because everything about it, from Just Blaze's introspective beat to Saigon's heartfelt lyrics and perfect delivery, is just great.

8. The Greatest Story Never Told
The title track is definitely one of the best songs on the project. Just Blaze's beat bangs as Saigon explains what he raps for in a very precise and efficient manner. If you're not bobbing your head to this, then I don't know what to tell you.

9. Clap
"The Greatest Story Never Told" transitions into this cut very, very nicely, as the two songs are very similar in tone and actually sound somewhat alike (and that is to be expected when a single producer dominates most of the album). As much as I liked the prior track, though, I liked this one even more. The production is mind-numbing, and Saigon sounds incredibly comfortable over it. Faith Evans makes a guest appearance and adds a nice touch, as well. The only thing I didn't like about "Clap" is that while the actual rapping ends at the 3:10 mark, the beat continues for yet another three minutes with a bunch of adlibs from Faith and some preaching by a pastor over the last minute-and-a-half or so. I really hate it when the happens.

10. Preacher
Ah. Now I see why there was that little preaching interlude at the end of "Clap." That little nugget (if you can call it that) aside, this track sounds pretty damn good. Just Blaze utilizes a vocal sample that shouts "preacher" throughout the entire cut, and some pronounced drums provide a great backdrop for Saigon, who drops one of his catchier hooks on The Greatest Story Never Told on this.

11. It's Alright
This is the Kanye beat, and while I have never been a 'Ye fan (and I'm pretty sure I've made that known before, and if I haven't, well, now you know), he drops some heat for Saigon, who touches on various subjects, here. However, like "Clap," "It's Alright" runs much, much longer than it should have, as while the actual song finishes up at the 3:55 mark, it continues for another two minutes-plus with a hoard of adlibs from Saigon. I just find that whole concept stupid, and it occurs far too often on the album. Marsha Ambrosius is featured on this, by the way.

12. Believe It
"Believe It" was The Greatest Story Never Told's second single, and it is certainly one of its most commercial tracks, as it features more autotune from Saigon and a radio-friendly instrumental from Just Blaze. That said, the deep subject matter suits Saigon well, and the beat is engaging enough to keep me interested. Also, somehow, the autotune manages not to ruin this song.

13. Give It To Me
This is going to come as a complete shock to many, but this is my favorite song on the album. Yes, the lyrics are incredibly sleazy (it is a sex rap, in case you were wondering) and the beat (co-produced by Just Blaze and SC) is clearly built for the radio, but the overall product is just too damn good to diss. Also, Raheem DeVaughn drops what is easily the best hook on the project and, actually, one of the best hooks I've heard in a long while. Sick, sick track.

14. What The Lovers Do
It might not have been a very good idea to put two sex raps back-to-back, but here we are. In any case, "What The Lovers Do" is a bit "classier" than its predecessor (that's not to say it's devoid of crude content, though), and the Just Blaze and Red Spyda-laced production is much more subdued. Devin The Dude does the hook and sounds pretty effective in doing so.

15. Better Way
Just Blaze puts down one of those "full of meaning" beats for Saigon and guest artist Layzie Bone (of Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony) here, and both rappers oblige, as Saigon lays down some great bars and Layzie croons a very nice hook. This isn't one of my favorite songs on the album or anything, but it still works.

16. Oh Yeah (Our Babies)
I really, really dig this one. Saigon comes through with one of his most impressive lyrical forays in his illustrious career of lyrical mastery, and the Just Blaze and Buckwild-produced instrumental, particularly the vocal sample, something which I have always been a sucker for, is outstanding. This is certainly the track on The Greatest Story Never Told that I envision the good majority of hip-hop heads gravitating toward the most.

17. And The Winner Is
I found this record to be incredibly pointless, as it is merely a remix of "Enemies" (which I stated was, by far, the most boring song on the album) with a verse from Bun B (of UGK). Also, remember when I said that tracks carrying on for far too long was a running theme on this album? Well, it happens again here, as while the rapping stops at 3:05, the instrumental carries on for over three more minutes, and there aren't even any adlibs on it.

18. Too Long
DJ Corbett lays down a solid beat for Saigon and guest artist Black Thought on "Too Long," which, unsurprisingly, turned out to be a success, as both rappers capitalized on the nice production. Nice way to conclude the album.


Well, Saigon's long-awaited debut was a major success. The production is great, the choice of guest artists was mostly stellar, and the raps were on point, as expected. I wasn't sure whether or not Saigon knew how to construct a full-length project, as that has proved to be an issue for a lot of mixtape artists, but he clearly had no problems doing so on The Greatest Story Never Told.

Although 2011 looks like it could be a monster year in hip-hop if each scheduled release actually drops, I am fairly confident in saying that Saigon's debut will end up being a candidate for best album of the year; it's that good. There are very few weak points on the record, the most notable one being how Saigon lets a number of his songs run longer than they should, and that really isn't even that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.

I also think The Greatest Story Never Told will have a much larger impact on the hip-hop landscape than it appears to on the surface, as it may provide a formula for mixtape artists trying to figure out exactly how to make it in the industry (think Papoose, for one). That said, not many rappers out there possess the type of pure talent that Saigon has, but I'm sure there are numerous underground artists out there that can match the competence of Saigon's first LP.

The Greatest Story Never Told did nothing but confirm the fact that Saigon is one of the better rappers in the game, especially when he is sticking to a particular topic. Saigon is able to wholly apply his ability and paint vivid pictures for his listeners when it comes to rhyming about deep subject matter.

Not only that, but Saigon was also able to reach all audiences at different points on this album, hitting the commercial circuit with tracks like like "C'mon Baby" and "Believe It" and touching on countless societal issues on most of the other records on the project for his fans that simply enjoy his raw style, not to mention a couple of love/sex raps (which almost every album really has to have).

Anyway, in wrapping things up, I will say that The Greatest Story Never Told was a pretty big surprise to me, as I never expected Saigon to come this strong after enduring that many delays. To take it a step further, I wasn't even sure Saigon was ever going to actually release an album period. Thankfully, he proved me (and all of his cynics that thought along the same wavelength) wrong. Very wrong.


1. Give It To Me
2. Clap
3. The Greatest Story Never Told
4. Oh Yeah (Our Babies)
5. C'mon Baby


And The Winner Is

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Album Review: "Soul Food" - Goodie Mob (1995)


Because Goodie Mob
(a backronym for "the good die mostly over bullshit") is from the south and isn't Outkast, many hip-hop heads will not even think to include the group among rap's all-time great contributors. They neglect the fact that the foursome (Cee-Lo Green, Khujo, T-Mo, and Big Gipp) dropped two great albums in Soul Food and Still Standing and instead just focus on the notion that it wasn't part of the whole east coast/west coast barrage of the 90s.

Of course, longevity is considered to be a very important quality (except in the case of rappers such as The Notorious B.I.G., Big Punisher, and Big L, who, due to each of them passing on, did not get the opportunity to enjoy long careers), and outside of Goodie Mob's aforementioned first two albums, there isn't much to write home about. World Party, the group's third effort, was deemed a bust, and its fourth album, One Monkey Don't Stop The Show, was not even really a true Goodie Mob project because Cee-Lo left to pursue a solo career (he of course became part of the hit duo, Gnarls Barkley, who I think is absolutely awful).

Nevertheless, Goodie Mob was great at one point, paralleling Outkast (the two groups are part of the larger collective, Dungeon Family; also, Goodie Mob made its first appearance on Outkast's debut record, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik) in terms of its production but going beyond in terms of its subject matter, as the Mob tended to focus on more serious topics than its southern cousins.

Soul Food, which was certified gold by the RIAA, was produced entirely by Organized Noize and, therefore, maintains a consistent sound throughout.

Anyway, let's get to that review.


1. Thought Process

The scintillating guest verse from Andre 3000 aside, I actually found this track to be somewhat boring, as Organized Noize's beat is nothing extraordinary and it just runs far, far too long for its own good. God forgive me.

2. Dirty South
The drums on this are both subtle and dusty at the same time, and while it may seem strange it first, it grows on you after a while (it actually sounds like some old-school Boot Camp Clik, and I'm sure you all know how I feel about the Clik by now, so you know that that's a compliment). The second half of Outkast, Big Boi, makes a guest appearance here, as does Cool Breeze, a Dungeon Family artist. "Dirty South" was one of Soul Food's biggest hits and actually marked the first time that the term "dirty south" was ever used.

3. Cell Therapy
This one bangs. The instrumental is both intimidating and addictive at the same time, and all four Goodie Mob members rip it. "Cell Therapy" was the album's first single, and it was certainly a great choice.

4. Sesame Street
Ignore the song title and focus on how sick the actual track is overall. The production is nothing short of phenomenal, and Goodie Mob presents some very serious subject matter for its listeners to chew on. At this point, I'd also like to say that, in my opinion, even though most prefer Cee-Lo Green to the rest of the group members, I like Khujo's deep, gruff voice the best.

5. Guess Who
If there is one thing that keeps Soul Food from being on the same level as some of hip-hop's greatest albums, it is that the production does become a bit bland at points. That isn't to say the beats are bad, because they aren't and they suit Goodie Mob's style very well, but it just seems like they become too repetitive on occasion. Still, "Guess Who" is a pretty solid track either way.

6. Fighting
"Fighting" is the only cut on the album that wasn't solely produced by Organized Noize, as Mixzo co-produces the track with them. It also turns out to be one of Soul Food's best songs, as it simply knocks. The summer-night effects in the background (particularly the sound of the crickets) complement the drums very nicely, and Goodie Mob just sounds great over the instrumental. However, I think the fact that Cee-Lo's verse is essentially spoken word is pretty stupid and takes away from the song. Once again, Khujo comes across as the best member of the group on this track.

7. Live At The O.M.N.I.
I've gotta be honest: this track did nothing for me.

8. Goodie Bag
I really, really liked this one. The drums on this bang, and the surrounding instruments are appropriately subtle.

9. Soul Food
I love the almost surreal feel of Organized Noize's beat on this, and guest artist Sleepy Brown adds a nice element to the track on the hook. This was the second single on Soul Food.

10. I Didn't Ask To Come
This is the best song on the album; bar none. The production is sick (arguably one of the best beats ever), and Goodie Mob drops what is probably its most thought-provoking rhymes on Soul Food, as each member explains how they did not ask to be born into this world. I seriously can't even begin to describe how thoroughly awesome this cut is.

11. The Coming
You would think the greatness of "I Didn't Ask To Come" would just be setting up the remainder of the album for disappointment, but "The Coming" actually keeps the momentum going. It isn't as good as the preceding track (not by a long shot), but it's still a very nice cut. Guest artist Witchdoctor (of Dungeon Family) brings something great to the table, and Organized Noize's instrumental is solid enough to keep the attention of the listener throughout what is the longest record on the album.

12. The Day After
Soul Food ends on a good note, as "The Day After" is a very solid track. Some great drums carry the instrumental, and scattered piano hits and guitar strums add to Organized Noize's incredibly smooth production.


Although Goodie Mob is not exactly an extraordinarily well-known group, its diehard fans will generally place Soul Food among the top albums in hip-hop history. Although I do not necessarily agree with that sentiment, I do think that Soul Food is straddling the line between classic and great and, therefore, is a very, very impressive effort.

The consistency of Goodie Mob's debut album is certainly something to marvel at, as the group maintains that trademark southern sound throughout and stays on topic. Yes, Organized Noize's beats may seem a bit dull and monotonous at points, but what listeners (myself included) have to understand is that that is the style of the south. Just look at Outkast's earlier works; the duo's production was generally very subdued and mellow.

What I enjoy most about Goodie Mob is each member's emceeing ability. Clearly, all four of Cee-Lo Green, Khujo, T-Mo, and Big Gipp are very talented rappers (Khujo in particular) who were built to flow over Organized Noize's beats, making Soul Food a very cohesive project.

Is Soul Food one of my all-time favorite records? No, but I will not deny that it had a huge influence on the rap game, especially in the south, as Goodie Mob, along with Outkast, helped set a standard for what real southern rap should sound like, and although that precedent has since been marred by many of the garbage artists from the south today (and I don't think I need to name anyone specific), true hip-hop aficionados know what that sound is, thanks large in part to Goodie Mob.


1. I Didn't Ask To Come
2. Cell Therapy
3. Fighting
4. Goodie Bag
5. Sesame Street


Live At The O.M.N.I.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Album Review: "6 Feet Deep" - Gravediggaz (1994)


Due to the fact that RZA is a part of the group, many think that Gravediggaz branched off of the Wu-Tang Clan and that their debut album, 6 Feet Deep, was a Wu-Tang side project. Well, these people could not be more wrong, as RZA was merely a member of Gravediggaz and 6 Feet Deep was released before any of the Wu-Tang solo albums.

Along with RZA (who went by the name "Rzarector" in this group), Gravediggaz were composed of Prince Paul (known as "The Undertaker"), Frukwan ("The Gatekeeper"), and Too Poetic ("The Grym Reaper"). For those who may not know, Too Poetic died of colon cancer in 2001. R.I.P.

Gravediggaz helped pioneer the subgenre that is now known as "horrorcore rap," a branch of hip-hop that contains very violent and disturbing lyrical imagery. Fans of artists such as Eminem and Tech N9NE are very familiar with this category of rap, so Gravediggaz's style certainly appeals to significant legions of listeners.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of 6 Feet Deep is the fact that RZA only had a hand in producing three songs on the album (and only two of them solo; the other was with Prince Paul and RNS). Prince Paul, mostly known for his work with De La Soul, drops the majority of the rest of the beats.

Because I don't really have much more fluff to give you on the group or this album, I'll just get the ball rolling and start reviewing.


1. Constant Elevation

The first cut on 6 Feet Deep happens to be one of the album's best. Prince Paul's beat, consisting of a dark piano loop, sets a menacing tone for the project, and Too Poetic just goes in on it. You will also notice that Frukwan flows very, very similar to Ol' Dirty Bastard. As far as RZA goes, I have never been crazy about him as a rapper, but he sounds solid over this. Great, great way to open up the album.

2. Nowhere To Run, Nowhere To Hide
Even though RZA's
"ropin' up the devils, have 'em hangin' from my testicles" line in his first verse doesn't make much sense (seriously; what the hell does that mean?), this track is still pretty solid. Prince Paul's instrumental is relatively subdued, and all involved sound effective. This was 6 Feet Deep's second single.

3. Defective Trip (Trippin')
I have to admit that all of the choking at the beginning creeped me out a bit, but isn't that what horrorcore rap is supposed to do? Anyway, I love Prince Paul's production on this. This is a good track. I wish I had something else to add, but I don't.

4. 2 Cups Of Blood
This is a very short track, spanning one minute and twenty-seven seconds, and it's a shame, because it sounds fantastic. Prince Paul's beat is sick, and RZA is spitting like an animal. If only this record would have been longer...

5. Blood Brothers
"Blood Brothers" represents the first song on the album that wasn't produced by Prince Paul, as Frukwan gets the production credit here. He laces a nice instrumental, too, although the fact that the cut runs nearly five minutes in length detracts from its overall quality. I would also like to point out that by this point of the album, I can already tell that Too Poetic is the best emcee of the group.

6. 1-800 Suicide
You wanna talk about disturbing? "1-800 Suicide" is easily the most perturbing song on 6 Feet Deep, but it is not without humor, as Frukwan spits: "Maybe you're Sicilian with a tan, but you hate lasagna and the pizza man." Prince Paul's beat is also inappropriately relaxed given the subject matter, but no doubt it was meant to be that way.

7. Pass The Shovel
"Pass The Shovel" was only available on the European version of the album, and I've never understood why, because it is certainly one of the better cuts on here. The instrumental by Prince Paul is fairly fast-paced and contains some great drums, and everyone rips it.

8. Diary Of a Madman
This is the first beat on the album where RZA chips in, as he teams up with RNS and Prince Paul to create what is probably the project's most popular track (it was the lead single). Scientific Shabazz and Killah Priest lay down guest verses, and Priest in particular rips this cut to shreds (and that shouldn't come as much of a surprise). Overall, this is a good track, as the instrumental is engaging enough and the two guests plus RZA and Too Poetic oblige with some nice bars. I will say, though, that nothing on 6 Feet Deep is blowing me away up until now.

9. Mommy, What's a Gravedigga?
Like "2 Cups Of Blood," this track is very short, but unlike "2 Cups Of Blood," it isn't all that good. Next.

10. Bang Your Head
I really hate it when rappers try to incorporate elements of rock music into their songs, and that's what happens here. However, I do not hate this track. Instead, I was left with a feeling of indifference. The drums are good and RZA, Too Poetic, and Frukwan all do their thing, but the static in the background is just plain annoying, and Prince Paul's beat is all over the place on the hook. Also, I understand that hooks weren't too complicated back in this day, but the constant yelling of "bang your head!" on the hook of this cut grates on the eardrums.

11. Here Comes The Gravediggaz
This is the best song on 6 Feet Deep, and the funny thing is that it was produced by some dude named Mr. Sime (who?). The beat is nails, and the rapping is great and flows along with it perfectly. To add on, I actually really, really like the "Ahh! Here comes, the Grave...diggaz" bar on the hook, this even though I just bashed the hook of "Bang Your Head" for being a bit too simplistic. Funny how that happens, right?

12. Graveyard Chamber
I'm sure this is the song that Wu-Tang fans listened to first on 6 Feet Deep for the mere fact that it has the word "chamber" in its title. This is the first solo RZA production on the album, and it bangs. Scientific Shabazz and Killah Priest are featured once again (both rip it, too), and so is Dreddy Kruger, a rapper whom I've always liked (I've always wondered why he doesn't get more shine). The only thing I don't like about "Graveyard Chamber" is that RZA's voice sounds like it's overpowering the beat on his verse, but that little issue is negligible, as the overall product is just phenomenal and, without a doubt, one of the album's best.

13. Deathtrap
Prince Paul's instrumental on this sounds nothing like the rest of 6 Feet Deep, but nevertheless, it sounds really good, as "Deathtrap" turned out to be one of my favorite songs on the album. However, I have to say that I was a little disappointed to see Masta Ace on the tracklisting for this cut only to hear him speak the intro. Come on...can't we get a verse from one of rap's all-time greats?

14. 6 Feet Deep
RZA produced this cut, too, and it seriously crawls, and not in a good way. I can legitimately picture myself watching paint dry while listening to this (not that I'd actually ever do that). As I'm sure you can infer from the preceding sentence, I was not feeling this track. I'm not really understanding how RZA dropped the ball this badly on the title song when he only got two chances on the album to bring some heat (I'm not even including "Diary Of a Madman" because he had help from two other producers on that record), but even the best come up short sometimes.

15. Rest In Peace (Outro)
It's pretty damn unfortunate that the two best beats on 6 Feet Deep came during a one-and-a-half-minute "song" ("2 Cups Of Blood") and on the outro, but that's what happens. Prince Paul's instrumental on this knocks beyond belief, so why he and the rest of Gravediggaz decided to waste it on an outro is beyond me.


Let me be clear when I say this: contrary to what a rather significant number of listeners believe, I do not think that 6 Feet Deep is a classic. Is it a good album? Yes, but to me, the term "classic" implies that I am absolutely blown away by the project from start-to-finish and thoroughly love at least five tracks on it, and that is not the case here.

Don't misconstrue what I'm saying, though; 6 Feet Deep's status in the hip-hop world is not without merit. Prince Paul lays down some very nice beats on the album, and RZA, Frukwan, and Too Poetic (especially the latter) all bring it and remain consistently steady throughout the entire record, which is obviously very important.

The main beef I have with 6 Feet Deep is that nothing on it makes me think, "damn, that's good." I did really like a few songs on here, but in terms of the overall product, I was not wowed, and, proportionately, this album will not receive much burn on my iPod, although I can certainly see myself throwing it on every now and then.

I have now listened to 6 Feet Deep three times. The first instance, I did not like the album at all. By the time I gave it another chance a year later, it grew on me and I started to really like it. Then, when I then listened to it for a third time in order to write this review, I ended up somewhere in between how I felt after my first time through and how I felt following my second go-around with the record, as I focused more on looking at the album critically rather than for enjoyment.

I am not trying to deter you from giving 6 Feet Deep a spin, because it is a good effort by Gravediggaz, but what I will tell you is that there are better albums out there.


1. Here Comes The Gravediggaz
2. Constant Elevation
3. Graveyard Chamber
4. Defective Trip (Trippin')
5. Deathtrap


Mommy, What's a Gravedigga?
6 Feet Deep

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Album Review: "Death Of a Pop Star" - David Banner & 9th Wonder (2010)


David Banner and 9th Wonder certainly seems like a strange combination. You have the rapper that gave life to "Play," one of the most graphically disturbing sex raps ever made, and the producer who has created some of the most soulful and spine-tingling beats in hip-hop history. Nevertheless, the two are apparently very close friends, and, as a result, they collaborated to make the short, 10-track album, Death Of a Pop Star.

What's interesting about this hook-up is that David Banner and 9th Wonder had never recorded any material together before, and to most hip-hop fans, the fact that they had never collaborated prior to Death Of a Pop Star wouldn't have come as much of a surprise, as their two styles contrast one another gravely. 9th's instrumentals are, generally, smooth and expressive, and David Banner's gruff, hoarse voice would seemingly clash with such beats.

Anyway, I am not going to make any more judgments before I actually, you know, listen to the album, but I will say right off the bat that I am not expecting much, even if the album's second single, "Be With You," actually sounded pretty good. So, with that said, let's get to one of the stranger alliances I have seen over the past several years.


1. Diamonds On My Pinky

I'll give David Banner and 9th Wonder credit for not giving us an album intro (and they would have to be crazy to do so on an album that is only 10 songs long), but this track isn't any good. 9th's beat sounds lazy, and Banner's lyrics don't sound any different than they have on past projects. This is not a good sign.

2. No Denying (Channel 3)
Okay; David Banner sounds a lot better here. He actually sounds inspired on the mic. 9th's instrumental is very solid, containing a piano loop and a vocal sample backed by some nice drums. In stark contrast to the album's opening cut, this song is very listenable.

3. Mas 4
So, Death Of a Pop Star is only 10 tracks long, and the first three cuts are only a combined five minutes and fifty-two seconds in length? After the first two records that were just over two minutes in length, "Mas 4" clocks in at just one minute and twenty seconds and is merely Banner freestyling over a decent 9th beat. This could have been a bit better if it were longer, but I doubt it would have been anything to write home about even if it were.

4. The Light
Well, we finally get a song that is normal in length, as "The Light" is over four minutes long, but as I was listening to this, I found myself wishing that it was two minutes shorter. I appreciate the fact that David Banner was actually trying to rap about a serious topic and deliver a message, and where this track fails is actually not his fault; it's 9th Wonder's, because he didn't produce this. 9th allowed E. Jones to drop the instrumental here, and his beat does not sound like something he spent a lot of time crafting. Instead, it sounds like the garbage that is regurgitated on the radio ad nauseam.

5. Slow Down
This was Death Of a Pop Star's first single, and it was released nearly a year before the album came out. Anyway, 9th's beat, a fairly typical 9th number consisting of some pronounced kick and snare drums and a vocal sample, is decent, but Banner's rapping is awful and does not match the production at all. We're now halfway through this album, and so far, my initial feelings about what the quality of this collaboration would be like are on point.

6. Be With You
Alright; now this sounds pretty good. Really good, actually. 9th's beat has his fingerprints all over it (and even though I know it should because, well, he did produce it, I only say that because the good majority of this album does not have that trademark 9th Wonder sound), and David Banner and Ludacris, who is featured on this, both sound very good over the production, especially Luda. Unlike on "Slow Down," Banner allows his flow to match the instrumental stride-for-stride, making "Be With You" easily the best song on the album.

7. Stutter
It seems like David Banner was trying his hardest to be Ol' Dirty Bastard on this, and you know what? He sounds good, even if his subject matter is very archetypal. 9th's beat is solid, too. Also, Anthony Hamilton adds a great touch to this as he croons the hook. This album is certainly taking a turn for the better. Let's hope it stays that way.

8. Silly
Okay; does anyone else think 9th Wonder, who raps as "9thMatic" on this, sounds exactly like Ludacris here? I had to go back and check the tracklist to see if Luda was featured, but it turns out that that is 9th. Anyway, as for the song itself? Yeah; it isn't any good, as 9th's instrumental is stale.
Erykah Badu is on the track, but she adds nothing.

9. Something Is Wrong
This isn't bad, but it isn't great, either. 9th's beat is powered by the booming kicks and bass, but it's pretty ordinary. Again, Banner tries to deliver a good message, but I just couldn't get into this.

10. Strange
Much like "Something Is Wrong," I was pretty indifferent to this one, although I do feel it is better than the preceding track. Big Remo, who dropped his debut album in 2010, makes a guest appearance and comes through with a solid performance, but after a while, 9th Wonder's instrumental becomes too repetitive, failing to give "Strange" any kind of replay value, even if it isn't terrible.


Well, Death Of a Pop Star turned out almost exactly like I thought it would: not very good. However, the onus does not just fall on David Banner, but 9th Wonder, also, as this is not his best production work. The good majority of his beats on this album sound lazy and forced, and the fact that Banner is not the best rapper in the world doesn't help matters much.

There are some bright spots on this project, such as "Be With You," which is probably the only song off of Death Of a Pop Star that I will ever listen to again (although "No Denying [Channel 3]" and "Stutter" were both decent cuts), but overall, the record fails to be engaging, as David Banner was unable to shed his "Play" image, and 9th doesn't really do anything to aid him in trying to do so.

Once again, though, Banner is certainly not solely to blame for Death Of a Pop Star's incompetence as a whole. If you take a look at some of 9th Wonder's other collaborations (like the ones I reviewed on this blog with Murs and Kaze, for example, and Cloud 9: The 3 Day High with Skyzoo [coming soon]), his production is on point, giving the artists some breathing room and a rather large margin for error, as the listener can at least fall back on 9th's production if the rapping isn't too impressive. That wasn't the case here, as Banner did not have the luxury of using 9th's beats as a crutch.

Anyway, regardless of the fact that 9th Wonder, my third favorite beatmaker behind Hi-Tek and Khrysis, was on the boards for this album, I wasn't expecting too much of Death Of a Pop Star, so it really wasn't a disappointment to me at all. Here's to hoping 9th gets back in the studio with someone like Skyzoo or Kaze and records another gem, because this one was just forgettable.


1. Be With You
2. Stutter
3. No Denying (Channel 3)
4. Strange
5. Something Is Wrong


Everything not listed in the top five, and you might even want to skip "Something Is Wrong."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Album Review: "93 'Til Infinity" - Souls Of Mischief (1993)


Souls Of Mischief are a four-man group (A-Plus, Opio, Phesto, and Tajai) hailing from Oakland, California. Up until this date, the collective has released five albums, one of them attaining classic status: 93 'Til Infinity.

Souls Of Mischief branched off of the larger hip-hop collective, Hieroglyphics, a group that also includes Del Tha Funky Homosapien. They are very similar to The Pharcyde, and the two sets of rappers actually formed a group called "Almyghty Myghty Pythons," but the latter part of that statement is a story for another day. The point is, if you enjoy The Pharcyde's work, then you will probably be more than happy to indulge in the sounds of Souls Of Mischief.

Anyway, although Souls Of Mischief essentially faded into obscurity after dropping 93 'Til Infinity, they still stamped their name into the annals of hip-hop lore, as the group's debut record is widely considered to be one of the top 100 rap albums ever. Every track on the project is produced by a member of Hieroglyphics, whether it be Souls Of Mischief's own A-Plus or Del Tha Funkee Homosapien (among others).

93 'Til Infinity's vibe parallels that of The Pharcyde's Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde, as its subject matter is generally very light and does not delve into many serious topics. Therefore, it is the production and the bouncy delivery by each member of Souls Of Mischief that makes 93 'Til Infinity the popular album that it is.


1. Let 'Em Know

I love the fact that Souls Of Mischief completely forego an album intro and jump right into the material. The first thing I noticed about this track is that Tajai, who raps second, sounds somewhat similar to my man Keith Murray, and that is a good thing. This song's jazzy, uptempo beat was produced by Hieroglyphics member Domino, and it's pretty solid (it actually sounds like something Eric B. would have produced for Rakim). All four members of Souls Of Mischief lay down some braggadocio raps, something you should get used to.

2. Live and Let Live
Domino is once again on the boards here, and he puts down a very smooth and relaxing piano-driven instrumental for Souls Of Mischief. I particularly like how the beat changes on the hook, as a trumpet enters the fray and, each time the hook leads into the next verse, the piano becomes more blatant. Nice cut.

3. That's When Ya Lost
This time, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien is the man behind the beat, and he laces a banger powered by some knocking drums. I really, really love A-Plus' verse on this, and Opio also impresses. That does not mean I'm dismissing Tajai and Phesto, though, as they both hold their own. Also, Hieroglyphics member Pep Love raps a rather simple hook. "That's When Ya Lost" is one of the best cuts on 93 'Til Infinity. Appropriately, it was the album's second single.

4. A Name I Call Myself
Del gets his second of three production credits on the album, putting down a solid beat for the Souls Of Mischief members who decide to engage in a sleazy sex rap. The instrumental kept me interested, but the raps were just too, um, distasteful, if you would, for me.

5. Disseshowedo
For those of you who may have a bit of trouble reading between the lines, the title of this song sounds out as "this is how we do." Anyway, Domino and Jay Biz, also of Hieroglyphics, co-produce this record which ends up sounding solid enough to earn some stripes. As I'm sure you can imagine based on the track's name, Souls Of Mischief come through with some more brags and boasts here. They do it incredibly well, though, so why should I criticize their style?

6. What a Way To Go Out
A-Plus puts down his first of four beats on 93 'Til Infinity on "What a Way To Go Out," and it's also the first of three productions in a row by him. He impresses, too, and I feel like I have to make note of Phesto's verse because of this line: "Pulled my shotty on the hottie and I blasted a bitch, wish I woulda known it was my little sis." Anyway, Opio comes through with a sleazy verse of his own that makes "A Name I Call Myself" look like tea-time.

7. Never No More
This was the album's third single, and it knocks. A-Plus produces a beat with some subtle piano keys backed by some dusty, Da Beatminerz-sounding drums, and being compared to Da Beatminerz is always a compliment.

8. 93 'Til Infinity
The album's title track (and first single) also happens to be its second best song, as A-Plus lays down an incredible instrumental for he and his buddies who just sound great over this. Everything about "93 'Til Infinity" is fantastic, from the beat's variety to the banging drums to each of the four members' verses (and each of them drop three apiece). Great, great record.

9. Limitations
Jay Biz produces the beat for this cut, and he does a great job, as "Limitations" sounds fairly unique from everything else on the album. Also, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien does the hook (although there isn't much to it at all) and Casual, another Hieroglyphics member, drops a nice verse. Another good song in an album full of them.

10. Anything Can Happen
A-Plus is back on the boards for "Anything Can Happen," and he creates a decent (and somewhat dark) beat for he and his Souls Of Mischief brethren to rap over. I didn't really remember anything particular about this track (other than Phesto talking about injecting people with HIV needles...), though; it was just alright.

11. Make Your Mind Up
This Del-produced track sounds pretty good, as it seems like he was channeling his inner DJ Premier (doesn't this sound like something that could have been on Jeru The Damaja's The Sun Rises In The East?). Opio sounded especially solid over the instrumental.

12. Batting Practice
Casual laces a banger here. This just sounds fantastic, and Souls Of Mischief match the aggressiveness of the beat by coming pretty correct themselves. This is, easily, one of the best songs on the album.

13. Tell Me Who Profits
This is the best song on 93 'Til Infinity; even better than the popular title track. Domino's drums knock, and the single, dull piano hit that surfaces throughout adds a very nice touch. I don't have anything else to say other than the fact that I love this cut.


93 'Til Infinity contains that classic sound that we have come to expect from early-to-mid 90s hip-hop albums. The drums on this record mostly bang, and while there are other instruments that accompany them on each of the tracks, it is the drums that make each beat go.

What I really like about Souls Of Mischief is the balance of the group, as each of the four members are on equal footing; no one individual seems superior to the rest. Also, the fact that the group is able to bring in numerous producers and have them all adhere to the same formula is very important, as it makes 93 'Til Infinity sound like an extremely cohesive project.

While many of the cuts on this album may be deemed "boring" in today's club banger-dominated industry, they still sound great to the ears of any true rap fan, as the beats and rhymes encompass what hip-hop was all about nearly two decades ago, and that is always a good thing. Do some of the tracks sound very similar to one another? Yes, but that is generally how it was back then, and it made albums sound like they had a theme as opposed to many projects today that are, by and large, all over the place.

Finally, I think what really separates 93 'Til Infinity from the pack and makes it such a classic record is the fact that it didn't sound anything like everything else that was coming out of the west at that point (other than The Pharcyde, of course). During a time when g-funk was ruling California (and hip-hop altogether), Souls Of Mischief put out a drum-heavy album that went against the west coast grain, actually sounding more like a New York record.


1. Tell Me Who Profits
2. 93 'Til Infinity
3. Batting Practice
4. That's When Ya Lost
5. Never No More