February 28, 2021

Coolbone - Brass-Hop (1997) ☠

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop, Brass Band
Style: Jazz Rap
Label Number: HR-62066-2
☠: Selected by Sentinel
© 1997 Hollywood Records
Perhaps it's not surprising that a New Orleans musical collective would latch onto the idea of fusing a brass band with hip-hop, but Coolbone's debut album Brass-Hop is startling nevertheless. Using gritty New Orleans R&B, jazz and funk as a foundation, the group works elements of urban soul and hip-hop into their music, creating a truly eclectic and infectious album. Theoretically, such juxtapositions shouldn't work, and occasionally the group don't quite fulfill their ambitions, but at its best, Coolbone is utterly modern, creative and funky soul.

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tags: coolbone, cool bone, brass hop, 1997, flac,

Mysterme & DJ 20/20 - Let Me Explain (1994)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Hardcore Hip-Hop
Label Number: 162-444 062-2

© 1994 Gee Street Independent
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

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tags: mysterme and dj 20 20, let me explain, 1994, flac,

Rumpletilskinz - What Is a Rumpletilskin? (1993) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Hardcore Hip-Hop
Label Number: 07863 66143-2
☠: Selected by Sentinel
© 1993 RCA/BMG Records
You've got to wonder if the major labels that signed eccentric, unorthodox new-school rap groups like Rumpletilskinz did so as mere tax write-offs, without ever intending to promote them properly, because with a little publicity push, What Is a Rumpletilskin? could have captured many of the same imaginations as the artists who were a part of the Native Tongues diaspora, not to mention commercially successful crews from a couple years down the road like Roc-A-Fella and Busta Rhymes' Flipmode Squad, both of which sound, in retrospect, as if they had carefully cribbed notes from the foursome. As it is, the album vanished from circulation almost before anyone had an opportunity to answer the title question, and it turned out to be the only recording by the Skinz. It's a shame on both counts. Close associates of Leaders of the New School -- the group's three MCs were featured on "Sound of the Zeekers" from LONS' debut outing, A Future Without a Past... -- Rumpletilskinz were, in fact, very much in the same mold as that foursome, zestfully trading off verses like the restless, grown-up nephews of original rap crews like the Furious Five and Funky Four Plus One. They can be just as zany as LONS, too, as each MC brings his own distinctive flavor: the Remedy Man (aka Shanow), loquaciousness carried by a windy, high-pitched whine; Jeranimo and his manic, proto-Ritalin breathlessness, the obvious neurotic id of the group; and The Capital L.S., its raw-throated linchpin. But Rumpletilskinz also projected some of Onyx's menacing, in-your-face smart-mouthing, perfectly exemplified by the larynx-throttling verbal throw-down "Mad M.F.'s," not coincidentally helmed by Onyx producer Chyskills. And with other equally blistering songs like "Attitudes," the buggy "Mushroom Talk," and "Hi Volume," this album deserved much more than its strictly cult reputation.

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tags: rumpletilskinz, what is a rumpletilskin, 1993, flac,

Pudgee Tha Phat Bastard - Give 'Em The Finger (1993) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Hardcore Hip-Hop
Label Number: 9 24498-2
☠: Selected by Sentinel
© 1993 Giant Records
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

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tags: pudgee tha phat bastard, give em the finger, the, them, fat, 1993, flac,

February 27, 2021

Flatlinerz - U.S.A. (Under Satan's Authority) (1994) ⚓

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Horrorcore
Label Number: P2-23601

© 1994 Def Jam Records
By 1994, the runaway success of Death Row's bloody, violent brand of gangsta-rap led many in hip-hop to wonder what would be next. Accordingly, a small band of artists emerged with what they felt would be the logical conclusion: "horrorcore" rap, a mixture of underground hip-hop beats, brutally violent lyrics inspired by splatter horror movies, and gothic, sometimes even satanic, imagery. Def Jam's entry into this trend, the Flatlinerz, seemed a shoo-in for success, since lead rapper Redrum was the nephew of label head Russell Simmons. In retrospect, though, it's easy to see why the group never really caught on. For one thing, although the production is similar to that of other east coast groups of the era (most particularly the underground act Black Moon), it's rather sparse and unmelodic compared to the G-Funk favored by fans at the time. What's more, although Redrum is a skilled rapper, he seems content with being derivative. In fact, more often than not, he borrows styles and phrases from other rappers, especially Das Efx and Onyx. Worst of all, though, is that lyrically, Flatlinerz are even more monotonous than the most generic gangsta rapper. Since every song here is about murder, death, and mayhem (without even the occasional lapses into sex, drugs and crude humor that Death Row artists scattered on their records), the ultimate effect isn't so much shocking or terrifying as it is numbing. The net result is of a group that, while not without talent, is little more than the sum of their gimmicks. Only a couple of cuts, like the energetic "Sonic Boom," really stand out here. U.S.A. may serve as a fascinating look at a failed hip-hop trend, but apart from its context, there's really nothing here that hasn't been done before, and better, by other, far more talented artists.

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tags: flatlinerz, flatliners, usa, under satans authority, 1994, flac,

February 26, 2021

A Tribe Called Quest - People's Instinctive Travels & The Paths of Rhythm (1990)

*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 14 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Conscious Rap
Label Number: 1331-2-J

© 1990 Jive Records
One year after De la Soul re-drew the map for alternative rap, fellow Native Tongues brothers A Tribe Called Quest released their debut, the quiet beginning of a revolution in non-commercial hip-hop. People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm floated a few familiar hooks, but it wasn't a sampladelic record. Rappers Q-Tip and Phife Dawg dropped a few clunky rhymes, but their lyrics were packed with ideas, while their flow and interplay were among the most original in hip-hop. From the beginning, Tribe focused on intelligent message tracks but rarely sounded over-serious about them. With "Pubic Enemy," they put a humorous spin on the touchy subject of venereal disease (including a special award for the most inventive use of the classic "scratchin'" sample), and moved right into a love rap, "Bonita Applebum," which alternated a sitar sample with the type of jazzy keys often heard on later Tribe tracks. "Description of a Fool" took to task those with violent tendencies, while "Youthful Expression" spoke wisely of the power yet growing responsibility of teenagers. Next to important message tracks with great productions, A Tribe Called Quest could also be deliciously playful (or frustratingly unserious, depending on your opinion). "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo" describes a vacation gone hilariously wrong, while "Ham 'n' Eggs" may be the oddest topic for a rap track ever heard up to that point ("I don't eat no ham and eggs, cuz they're high in cholesterol"). Contrary to the message in the track titles, the opener "Push It Along" and "Rhythm (Dedicated to the Art of Moving Butts)" were fusions of atmospheric samples with tough beats, special attention being paid to a pair of later Tribe sample favorites, jazz guitar and '70s fusion synth. Restless and ceaselessly imaginative, Tribe perhaps experimented too much on their debut, but they succeeded at much of it, certainly enough to show much promise as a new decade dawned.

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tags: a tribe called quest, peoples instinctive travels and the paths of rhythm, 1990, flac,

February 25, 2021

Blahzay Blahzay - Federal Reserve Notez (FRN'Z)/Gee Sums/Good For Ya Club: 3-Song Maxi-Single (1999)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
Label Number: GAM 2005-2

© 1999 Game Recordings
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

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tags: blahzay blahzay, federal reserve notez, notes, gee sums, good for ya club, your, 3 song maxi single, 1999, frnz, flac,

Boogiemonsters - God Sound (1997) ☠

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Conscious Rap
Label Number: E2 56045; 7243-8-56045-2-2
☠: Selected by Sentinel
© 1997 Pendelum Records/EMI America
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

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tags: boogiemonsters, boogie monsters, god sound, 1997, flac,

Boogie Down Productions - Criminal Minded (1997 Reissue)

*Reissued in 1997 by M.I.L. Multimedia
Contains 1 bonus and 11 tracks total.
A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: BB4787

© 1987-1997 B-Boy/
Criminal Minded is widely considered the foundation of hardcore rap, announcing its intentions with a cover photo of KRS-One and Scott La Rock (on his only album with Boogie Down Productions) posing with weapons -- an unheard-of gesture in 1987. BDP weren't the first to rap about inner-city violence and drugs, and there's no explicit mention of gangs on Criminal Minded, but it greatly expanded the range of subject matter that could be put on a rap record, and its grittiest moments are still unsettling today. Actually, that part of its reputation rests on just a handful of songs. Overall, the record made its impact through sheer force -- not only KRS-One's unvarnished depictions of his harsh urban environment, but also his booming delivery and La Rock's lean, hard backing tracks (which sound a little skeletal today, but were excellent for the time). It's important to note that KRS-One hadn't yet adopted his role as the Teacher, and while there are a few hints of an emerging social consciousness, Criminal Minded doesn't try to deliver messages, make judgments, or offer solutions. That's clear on "South Bronx" and "The Bridge Is Over," two of the most cutting -- even threatening -- dis records of the '80s, which were products of a beef with Queens-based MC Shan. They set the tone for the album, which reaches its apex on the influential, oft-sampled "9mm Goes Bang." It's startlingly violent, even if KRS-One's gunplay is all in self-defense, and it's made all the more unsettling by his singsong ragga delivery. Another seminal hardcore moment is "Remix for P Is Free," which details an encounter with a crack whore for perhaps the first time on record. Elsewhere, there are a few showcases for KRS-One's pure rhyming skill, most notably "Poetry" and the title track. Overall it's very consistent, so even if the meat of Criminal Minded is the material that lives up to the title, the raw talent on display is what cements the album's status as an all-time classic.

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tags: boogie down productions, criminal minded, 1987, 1997, bdp, reissue, flac,

February 24, 2021

Boogie Down Productions - Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip-Hop (1989)

*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 13 tracks total.
A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Conscious Rap
Label Number: J2-1187

© 1989 Jive Records
The second Boogie Down Productions album devoted mostly to consciousness raising, Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop finds KRS-One evolving into a fierce advocate for both his community and his chosen art form. He's particularly concerned about the direction of the latter: he's wary of hip-hop being co-opted by the pop mainstream, and the album's title comes from his conviction that real hip-hop is built on the vitality and rebelliousness of the streets. Accordingly, Ghetto Music contains a few more battle rhymes than usual, plus some showcases for pure MC technique, in keeping with the most basic elements of the music. The production, too, is still resolutely minimalist, and even if it's a little more fleshed-out than in the past, it consciously makes no concessions to pop or R&B accessibility. There are more reggae inflections in KRS-One's delivery than ever before, audible in about half the tracks here, and the production starts to echo dancehall more explicitly on a few. Meanwhile, as the Teacher, he's actually put together lesson plans for a couple tracks: "Why Is That?" and "You Must Learn" are basically lectures about biblical and African-American history, respectively. This is where KRS-One starts to fall prey to didacticism, but he has relevant points to make, and the rapping is surprisingly nimble given all the information he's trying to pack in. Elsewhere, "Who Protects Us from You?" is a bouncy anti-police-brutality rap, and KRS closes the album with the point that "World Peace" can only be achieved through a pragmatic, aggressive struggle for equality. Although Ghetto Music has a few signs that KRS is starting to take himself a little too seriously (he dubs himself a metaphysician in the liner notes), overall it's another excellent effort and the last truly great BDP album.

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tags: boogie down productions, bdp, ghetto music, the blueprint of hip hop, 1989, flac,

February 13, 2021

A+ - The Latch-Key Child (1996) ⚓

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: UD-53005

© 1996 Kedar/Universal Records
A little kid with a lot to say, A+ seems very mature for his age. He isn't exactly talking about school dances and his grades on this album, even if his name is A+. You'd think he was 25 if it wasn't for his voice and his photo on the cover of the album. Not the only one tooting his horn, industry veterans like Mobb Deep and Q-Tip show up for appearances, and -- particularly on the Mobb Deep track -- A+ delivers a few memorable verses to complement Prodigy's always present microphone dominance. Not the longest album in the world at just 13 tracks, it leaves you wondering why they didn't fill it up with a few more songs. But all in all, this is a good album; it will be interesting to see if A+ will truly develop into the prodigy he seems to be.

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tags: a+, a plus, the latch key child, 1996, flac,

A+ - Hempstead High (1998)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap
Label Number: UD 53221

© 1999 Universal Records
A+ exhibited enough potential on his debut album Latch Key Kid for many to consider him as being one of hip-hop's most promising future lyrical assassins. After all you do not hear many 14-year-old shorties rocking the mic as profusely as he did on his debut. However after a two-year layoff in between LP's, A+ has moved on to more adult topic matter and seems eager to present himself as hip-hop's version of Usher. But not only has A+ lost his innocence, he has also lost any sense of originality. One of A+'s major drawbacks is he tends to mimic the flow of whomever he is teamed up with, whether it be Canibus, or Psycho Drama. He waters down this recording with blatant crossover reaches like "Don't Make Me Wait" and "Price of Fame." "What Da Deal" f/ Cardan is especially disheartening, as both MCs trade woeful verses and Cardan sounds like a carbon copy of Mase or Cam'ron. The few gems on this album stick out like a sore thumb, since they're few and far between. A+ brings guaranteed action with cuts like the heavily mix-tape circulated "Boy II Men" featuring Lost Boyz & Canibus, and a surprisingly tight collaboration "Watcha Weigh Me" featuring MJG. When A+ sticks to simple, yet effective beats and rhymes, he reaps the benefits, as on "Parkside Garden." A+ desperately needs to find his own unique identity and style. "Hempstead High" is aptly titled as it is a high schoolish effort at best; hopefully, with his next LP A+ will mature mentally, instead of physically, and come into his own.

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tags: a+, a plus, hempstead high, 1998, flac,

Heltah Skeltah - Magnum Force (1998)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap, Pop Rap
Label Number: P2-53543

© 1998 Duck Down/Priority Records
Heltah Skeltah, the duo of Duck Down Records family members Rock and Ruck, released their second album, Magnum Force, a declaration of the prowess of their clique of the same name. The first song, "Worldwide" (produced by Self), sets the tone with a refrain that lets the listener know: "we gonna rock the world...if not mutherRuck the world!" The following selection, "Call of the Wild," is also produced by Self and again uses an altered string sample that makes the song feel threatening and dangerous. Featured on "Call of the Wild" are Starang Wondah (from O.G.C.), the Representativz, the young Hardcore, and Doc Holiday. Method Man joins Heltah Skeltah for a thug anthem, "Gunz 'N Ones," produced by S.M.O.K.E.. Starang Wondah comes back with Doc Holiday to spit lyrics with Rock and Ruck on the up-tempo "I Ain't Havin' That," which uses a Redman vocal sample plus the bassline and sounds from A Tribe Called Quest's "Hot Sex." More collaboration occurs on "Brownsville II Long Beach," where Tha Dogg Pound lend their West Coast lyrics and production (by Daz Dillinger) to make a respectable track. "Magnum Force," the album's title song, was produced by Grand Daddy I.U. and features the Representativz added rhymes and Ruste Juxx's vocals on the chorus. The theme of the album switches with "Hold Your Head Up," produced by Nod and featuring Anthony Hamilton's vocals. The uplifting message in this selection and optimistic plea for all those downtrodden to endure is an effective break in the violence and gun talk that predominates on this album. The album ends with one of its stronger selections, "Gang's All Here," which features the production of Smoke and nine minutes of lyrics from members of the "Magnum Force Crew" and Boot Camp Clik. (Buck Shot delivers the most notable lyrics in this song.) This album offers only one major sore point: for those who dislike poorly executed efforts to mix R&B and rap music, they will find "Chica Woo" a skippable song. The skits are mildly amusing and make it appear as though there are 19 songs on this album, while there are actually only 14 songs, and five skits or interludes. A strong album, but hardly more advanced than their last effort, Nocturnal.

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tags: heltah, skeltah, magnum force, 1998, flac,

Heltah Skeltah - Nocturnal (1996) ☠

*U.S. first pressing.
A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: P2 50532
☠: Selected by Sentinel
© 1996 Duck Down/Priority Records
Heltah Skeltah is comprised of MCs Ruck and Rock, two members of the loose-knit East Coast congregation Boot Camp Clik. The duo's debut establishes the crew as one of the most powerful members of the Clik, both in terms of technique and production. Most of Nocturnal is straight-ahead East Coast gangsta rap with layered soundscapes, and even if these soundscapes are seamlessly crafted, they are only there as a backdrop -- the main intent of the entire album is to showcase the talents of Ruck and Rock, and do they ever display their talents. Throughout the album, Ruck and Rock create a series of intertwining rhymes that are lyrical, hard, and insightful. Naturally, there are some moments that are little too predictable for comfort, but by and large, Nocturnal is first-rate mid-'90s hip-hop.

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tags: heltak skeltah, nocturnal, 1996, flac,