Sunday, September 26, 2010

Album Review: "Geography" by Dash Speaks

1. The World is Flat (N 29-¦ 31' 54.9116_ E 35-¦ 0' 21.9031_)
Eery-spacey start to a uniquely conceptualized album. All of the track titles have geographic coordinates tied to them (other than the last one) which I assume DO have some sort of significance, otherwise that’d be a bit sad. “Peter O’ Toole” line a little obscure and drawn out. Getting a vague “Drake” feel from the pace and delivery (monotone) of this track. This beat is haunting, I like. Nice use of vocabulary. “What being a man is as long as a butterfly’s wings are flappin/ cause and effect is subject to fact check.” Doesn’t make much sense to me but sounds good. I can tell this will be a very instrumental-heavy album, which I can appreciate. I’m hearing some light auto-tune, semi-fail.

2. Tonight (N 59-¦ 19' 56.0194_ E 18-¦ 2' 8.5412_)
This one starts right off with some throbbing bass-synth. Nice. Pretty good multi-syllabic rhymes. Tight sample on the beat. The lack of emotion can be irking. Third verse has some great imagery. “I sing too, we both got that hunger pain”. “At the bottom of the bag, but here’s a last taste”.

3. Fill Up the Void (N 47-¦ 48' 55.3212_ E 28-¦ 15' 55.5984_)
Proper progression album-wise. I was about ready for a club track. Very mainstream and poppy. Nice vocal effects pre-chorus. The chorus is by… Blue Man Group??? No, not really… Well, probably not. I’m not feeling the conviction behind the track. It feels like DS put this together more out of (the perception of) need rather than want. Def. not a fan of this track.

4. Tragic Kingdom (N 27-¦ 58' 48.072_ E 86-¦ 55' 17.5548_)
This is a little more like it. Back onto the spooky techno style. “Current/wire”, ok. “The ink I (Inca) drop like conquistadores”, tight!! “Box me in like Bento” to “pop like Prosecco” was an excellent example of how to fit 2 punchlines into one bar. It’s great when neither are very complex or incredibly original like these two, but when placed together, it works really well. Catchy chorus, could have been tweaked a little more though. The second verse starts off with what sounds like pure filler made to sound tight. Maybe I’m not catching something here. “What most of what you cop is just cut and copy”, ok. Gotta respect this man’s knowledge… He’s dropping Cold War references for guard sakes! Haha! Halfway through the second verse, the appeal starts to fade. “On top like halter”, ok.

5. Army of Me (N 34-¦ 3GǦ 30.05GǦ W 118-¦ 26GǦ 28.09GǦ)
I’ve fallen into an abyss of a cliché with this one. I am glazing over this track, not much is retaining after many plays. “Just cuz you reaching for the stars, don’t mean that they align”, pretty good. 3rd was stronger than the first two at least. Bland track.

6. Explorer's Anthem (N 10-¦ 18' 38.5805_ E 124-¦ 0' 54.7513_)
Cool start. Chorus is alright. Nice wordplay. “Magellen” line was nice. 2nd verse has some seemingly forced lines (where does corduroy fit into this?). Diggin’ the commitment to the exploring theme.

7. Before You Go (N 40-¦ 44' 9.298_ W 73-¦ 59' 14.788_)
So here’s an R&B track. Delivery draaaaaaaags on the second verse. Zzzzzzzz… “You see what I mean, cuz I see you and you see me, and we both see something don’t we?” HAHA!! Wow. That was bad. Ok, around 2:45 we’re heading into jingle territory. I can imagine some females liking this track (no offense). Definitely not up my alley or even near the block. It’s probably a good couple train stops (plus a shuttle bus) away.

8. Faultline (N 81-¦ 18GǦ 0GǦ W 110-¦ 48GǦ 0GǦ)
80s rock kinda vibe starting here. Very Journey. Beat is pretty tight. Singing on the chorus could be better. I like the concept though. This is pretty catchy actually. “The change in the climate has affected the tide”. Distorted-effect verse maybe a tad loud. I wish there was more substance to this song, because it has such a classic feel to it. I recommend a remix!

9. DubStep (N 48-¦ 51GǦ 10.8GǦ E 2-¦ 20GǦ 59.28GǦ)
More auto-tune? I am frowning deeply. Nice rhyme scheme. Chorus is ok. ADD imagery. “Semi and Mobile”? Obscure reference. “Marco Polo”, meh – does continue the explorer theme though. “My style is not the proto”, weak punchline. Sounds cool but could have been tweaked to make more sense. “Quasi-quasimoto”, tight. The whole medicine metaphor portion didn’t make much sense to me.

10. Martians Won (RA 05h 35m 14.29s _ Dec -05-¦ 23' 37.91_)
Second verse is kinda random. Dash went from talking about his uncle to Martians inquiring about his kicks within a couple bars. 3rd verse continues the wackiness.

11. Martians Too (Adrastea)
Auto-tune orgy here. And the real techno has begun as well. Oh, lordy. Interesting concept. Doesn’t get much poppier than this. Makes Justin Timberlake sound like Rakim.

+ Dope album concept put to good use.
+ Great use of vocabulary.
+ A few quotables here and there.
+ Great, cohesively laid, production.
+ Nice track variety.

- Some really weak lyrics at parts.
- Way too poppy!!! This is an underground *hip-hop* review blog, afterall.
- No emotion whatsoever.
- Very “Drake-esque” in his approach and delivery.

Compatibility Rating:
Underground: 15%
Mainstream: 85%

Favorite Song: Tragic Kingdom

Face Value: 7.3/10



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Album Review: "Inches" by 1221

1. Intro
Dope beat, monks singing. 1221’s voice vaguely reminds me of DMX’s. Emphatic speech with meaning. Explains the theme and name of the album, powerful.

2. More
Vocals are just a tad low, making it hard to make out some of the lyrics. Feeling his delivery. Nice use of vocabulary: “Survival of the fittest, livin’ frivolous, no lack of inhibition”. “Moralist/More or less”, nice wordplay. Pretty good chorus. Traversing through history in his content, I can dig it. Deep historical content.

3. By My Side
His steady-to-burst flow is well-tailored for this beat which is pretty tight in its own regard. This guy is a very positive-minded artist. I don’t think I’ve even heard a single curse yet, admirable. Good use of multi-syllabic rhymes.

4. Confessions of an MC
“Even my dutch calls me master”, tight. This beat’s got a steam-punk+funk (steam-funk/funk-steam?) vibe going on. Smooth chorus. 1221’s punch progression seem random and disconnected at times. Varied flow that changes up at proper times.

5. I Don’t Need Nobody
Hype chorus. First emcee was alright, good emotion. I dig the beat-boxing bridge. The second emcee sounds like the last person on Earth who should be dropping N-bombs… “Layin’ lines like a plumber”, eh. 1221 droppin’ a bit of knowledge on here. “A man is his own island at times… In every man there is a calling for a king, but whether you answer the call depends on the shoulders of ya’ll”. Just noticed the chorus starts with “blaze with an infamous team” when the song is about not needing anybody. Also, this is a collaboration track. Am I wrong to think that’s hypocritical?

6. Lockdown
Cool intro. The beat is spooky. Chorus is simple but the beat compensates with heavy church organs that enchant the listener. It just occurred to me that his flow strongly reminds me of Pac’s. Nice use of sound clips.

7. Dead or Alive
The beat and sang-chorus raise this song to an epic level. The burst portions of his flow can muffle the pronunciation sometimes. Ear-catching doubles and accompanying vocal effects.

8. Lovin
“I fucking hate you!!!” Compelling start to a love song. Trippy beatswitch on the bridge. Some of the imagery is cliché. “As I turned my head, she stood there with a piece of my heart”… “As our bodies pressed together, it was almost like I stole a piece of heaven”. 1221 definitely makes it a point to segue the end of his verses directly into the chorus such as is “Lockdown” and “Dead or Alive”.

10. Unknown Soldier
Dynamic beat. Airtight flow. Lyrics are sterile and very straightforward. The effort is there in production, mixing, delivery, and flow, but the rhymes themselves lack replayability and depth. Good use of vocabulary.

11. Set Me Free
Eclectic beat, a lot of different sounds working well together. First verse sets the positive tone of the track. Nice vocal effects and use of echoes in particular. Solid delivery and chorus.

12. We Want The World
This rock-infused beat sounds appealing. “One nation under a beat”. Interesting bit of talk on the bridge. “Left to die in the streets like pariahs and theifs”, nice. Some of the lyrics sound a little too straightforward and less poetic than they could be. Great message.

13. Dreams
The jazzy beat on this track is a welcomed change in instrumentation. 1221’s delivery on this one is too strong and forceful for the beat. The featured artist on the second verse sounds something like Ice-T. The feature on the second verse has a basic flow and elementary lyrics.

14. Shots
“I’m guessin he never knew that brothers of our color could be red-handed too”, tight. Funky beat. “Many men”? Really? Lyrics too similar to the 50 Cent song. Vocals on the verses sound a tad low.

15. Where Is The Love
Feelin’ the chorus, pretty catchy. 2nd verse is very focused content-wise. No standout lines though. I like the feature’s voice on the 3rd verse. “Think up a name for yourself”, very true.

16. Party Track
Not the most creative name for a song. The beat is definitely something for the club, and it’s TIGHT. This joint is live. The chorus is great, I love it... “GET FUCKED UP”! The track should have come earlier on in the album which for most of its entirety was somewhat monochrome. The British-accented feature added some lightheartedness to the track, wish there was more of him in there. The last verse was generic.

18. Jersey Bounce
Diggin’ this flow. “Insane is playing charade with Stephen Hawking”, hehe. The chorus is decent at best, annoying at worst. Random content. “I’m tryna live, man”, ok.

19. Wild Things
First artist is bland. Chorus is pretty good. 2nd artist is also bland. The features in this album so far have been very hit or miss. 1221 starts off really strong. “Some people deal with personal pain by little missiles equipped with criminal liquids and stick it in their vein”. Nice flow switches. One of his best verses in this album, if not THE best.

20. You Would Have Seen
“When you hold on too long, I guess a part of you dies”, nice line but I think more could have been done with it. Missed opportunity for a good metaphor or simile. I like the dramatic “but you left” before each chorus.

21. Stringaa
Dope beat, very epic, but overpowers the lyrics. The lyrics don’t flow concisely. Thoughts are extended through a bar too many with not much poetic pizzazz to carry it through.

+ Powerful delivery and standout voice.
+ Varied and hard-hitting flow.
+ Top-tier production throughout the album.
+ Positive subject matter and direction.

- Hit or miss featured artists.
- Lyrics were often bland and generic. It was somewhat of a challenge finding above-average lines.
- While his flow and delivery were excellent, they also sound VERY similar to Tupac.
- His voice sounds a lot like DMX, and the Bible-thumping didn’t help this distinction.
- The album was waaaaaaay too long. At nearly 1 hour and 30 minutes with little variety until the end, this project could have been much shorter.

Compatibility/Appeal Rating:
Underground: 35%
Mainstream: 65%

Favorite Song: Confessions of an MC

Face Value: 7.7/10