Muzik Reviewz Part V: John Kreese vs. Apollo Creed



ELEVEN CENTURIES OF TRADITIONAL MUSIC OF CHINA (Columbia Legacy, 1994)
Unlike the other traditional Chinese recording I reviewed, ELEVEN CENTURIES is authentic, without modern or Western influence. Unfortunately, it’s also less interesting. The main drawback, ACCORDING TO MY TASTES, is that most of the pieces are totally solo. There’s nothing wrong with that but there are a lot of traditional Chinese arrangements for ensembles. This album should have been titled ELEVEN CENTURIES OF TRADITIONAL SOLO MUSIC OF CHINA. The melodies are all nice but the solo arrangements are a bit boring and straightfoward. Good for an academic listen but maybe not for pleasure. Grade: B-


DALEK – NEGRO NECRO NEKROS (Spokenwerds Music, 1998)
I know what you’re thinking but no, this is not an album by Ryan’s friend in England. I think her name is Dulax. Dalek is some MC from NJ I don’t think I’ve ever heard mentioned at all in the hip-hop world. The only reason I’m familiar with him at all is because his last three albums were released on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label. I haven’t heard those albums but I impulsively bought this particular “EP” at some used muzik dive. Long, boring story. Dalek is kind of a boring MC with little presence. In fact, I don’t think I remember a single line from any of the songs. The production, provided by Dalek and some asshole named The Octopus, takes center stage in the arrangements and in the mix. I have very, very mixed feelings on the production. I always complain about the lack of in-song variety in hip-hop beats and this CD addresses that complaint. The beats change a lot in a variety of ways – samples drop in and out, EQ is changed mid-song, effects are implemented, etc. Unfortunately, everything just sounds calculated. None of the beats are ever catchy, melodic, or clever. There’s no real feeling and the whole soundscape is sterile. Dalek and The Octopus are just too smart for their own good. Still, I’m interested in checking out their latest work and even this EP could be one of those releases that I just don’t GET right away, but for now . . . Grade: C


SADAT X – WILD COWBOYS (Loud, 1996)
Despite what some people say, this album is not a classic unless “old and out of print” automatically = classic. Sadat X has a voice that I find very easy to listen to and he can never be mistaken for anyone else. That said, he doesn’t always use his distinctive voice in the best way, often sounding flat/uninterested and rhyming about stupid topics like the Nation of Gods and Earths religion (I’ll write more about that later). The beats, many provided by sometimes-awesome Diamond D, range from decent to pretty decent – nothing spectacular but nothing weak. Ennio Morricone’s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” theme is sampled but seems kind of wasted. Presumably, this sample was used to tie in to the ‘Wild Cowboys’ title but the whole theme is barely present, save for a few lines and the cover photo. It’s not a bad album at all but it’s just a bit boring. Sorry! Grade: B- (solid but unspectacular)


LADY SOVEREIGN – PUBLIC WARNING (Def Jam, 2006)
This is a really strange release for Def Jam. Ignore the fact that the Lady is white, female and British, her sound is just much wilder than the crap Def Jam has been dumping for the last decade. In truth, PUBLIC WARNING actually sounds like a bit of an update on mid-80z Def Jam, with sparse beats (mostly provided by some asshole named Medasyn) that still manage to be loud and heavy with charismatic, in-your-face rhyming. In other words, it’s the same formula found on the Def Jam classics LICENSED TO ILL (Beastie Boys) and RADIO (LL Cool J). Perhaps Lady Sovereign is a novelty that I will grow to hate in the future but for now I appreciate just how different she is from most MCs, everything from her voice, her accent, her strange/halting flow, to her penchant for making goofy noises. Grade: B+


GUILTY SIMPSON – ODE TO THE GHETTO (Stones Throw, 2008)
Stones Throw is developing a strange habit of digging up underground MCs, some old and some new, featuring them on an album with the ‘Stones Throw sound’, and then spitting them out. Stones Throw is not a money-obsessed, mercenary label by any means so I’m not sure what causes this. Except for Madlib’s goofy Quasimoto alter ego, I can’t think of an MC that has released two solo albums on the label. So, you might think of this as the latest in the Stones Throw Solo MC Series. Guilty Simpson hails from Detroit, a place that he seems to like based on the lyrics. While the album still has that Stones Throw sound with beats by stalwarts Madlib, Oh No, there are several beats by Detroit natives Mr. Porter and J Dilla protege Black Milk, giving us a Detroit meets Stones Throw feel. Overall, Guilty is more abrasive than most Stones Throw MCs and the beats are a bit more thuggish than expected. This is all quite welcome and even though are no less than eight producers the album is surprisingly cohesive. One complaint I have has to do with the mix: many of the beats have mysterious, cinematic qualities but kind of sit in the background while Simpson’s vocals are right up front, mixed really dryly. Some more effects, reverb, vocal overdubs, etc. might have increased the haunting element of the album’s sound. Still, pretty decent! Grade: B+

 

kicknz

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