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ItsYaBoiH2, Pair-a-lesions

21 Apr, 2016 Charles Sweet

itsyaboih2“Preachin’” is the opener for Pair-a-lesions and a great choice for it. The song is deep, surprisingly so for the first cut, and fulfilling as well because it showcases not only that H2 has bars, but also that he can conceptualize a thought-provoking song heavy on both meaning and thump. The song’s optimistic and I felt as though it was more a conversation with an old friend more than anything. The strings combine well with the core elements of the song and provide a subtle nuance that makes a huge difference.

“My Basement” is the antithesis of “Preachin’” as he talks about the issues that have befallen him. What gets me about the track is how adept he is at being situational; so many other rappers tend to mix braggadocios lines in with their supposed woes in ways that ultimately just feel unbelievable. H2 has a way of articulating his rhymes in a real, honest manner, and “My Basement” is a perfect example of this. The melody is one that creeps into your soul after a listen or two and it will definitely be one that I remember for quite a while.

“New in Town” gets props for being ambitious and stepping outside the tired box of representing whatever city you were born in as he talks about moving around, and, if you’ve ever done it before, you can definitely feel what he’s saying here. I absolutely dug the muddy bass and succinct wordplay; YaBoi is on it lyrically, and as I’ve progressed through the album the picture of the kind of MC he is has begun to surface.

In large part the production of Pair-a-lesions is full of samples. From Nina Simone to Led Zepplin, there are dynamic odes to the classics through this medium and YaBoi knows exactly who he is on each song. Amazing, really, is that even though the instrumentals at time are huge, H2 never gets lost on them and his command of his flow is something definitely to behold. “Lay It on the Line” is the finale here, and a fitting one at that; you can almost feel the way he feels, a sense of completeness and victory pours through the speakers and this is probably my most favorite track on the album because of it.

Overall, Pair-a-lesions is a solid, full and worthy body of work that showcases the southern MC in a light that may not be fully appreciated right now but in time will definitely be called seminal to his growth as an artist. I look forward to more from ItsYaBoiH2 because I know that this is merely the beginning of a long and fruitful career.

Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Written by: Charles Sweet

Ryan Carter, The Exaggerated tales of…

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“Blood Pressure” is Ryan Carter’s take on Kanye West’s “Blessed” and it’s no stretch to say that Ryan saw something completely different than Ye as he rhymes about everything from food to ‘beating his meat’. Hilarious as that may look in print, the audio is even better; you can tell he’s having fun with the instrumental but furthermore lyrically doing back flips over this beat.

Dude can rhyme, plain and simple. “Eating Chicken in the Bucket” has a jumping bass line, claps and tambourine that allows Ryan Carter to harmonize right along with it. Once the horn section goes, the joint ratchets up a notch. The second verse by Ryan is a rapid-fire staccato flow that fits the mode and makes this one of the most complete songs on the project by far.

“Netflix My Desire” is a throwback croon where, over slow production, Ryan sings his love of the streaming service and even as over-the-top as it is, the song is well produced and I couldn’t help but laugh as I too, have a burning desire for Netflix. “Grown Ups (Skit)” rings true as I thought the exact same thing as a kid and seeing adulthood slowly creep up on you is something crazy.

“Hurl at My Life” sounds like something Too Short and E-40 would feel right at home on; the funky beat swings back and forth and Ryan rides the track expertly. What I like the most about this one is how well Ryan does his thing; there’s no pretense here, he is going for his without pause. “Ever Since I” roasts Drake’s “Hotline Bling”, acting as a serenade to women across the globe explaining how indeed it goes down in the DM.

“Kinda Famous” goes in on Big Sean’s “Play No Games” and his off-key singing adds a unique spin on the cut as he deftly weaves through the Aaron Hall sample. I liked how he was able to tell a story within the song—him being harassed by police—and keep everything congruent.

Overall, The Exaggerated tales of… is a parody album of the first order and the thought that went into it is impressive. The main theme present here is sex and oddities and for those looking for a composition lighter than the norm, definitely give this one a go.

Review by: Charles Sweet
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)

CST (Christ Saved Terry), “Lost 2 Found”

04 Dec, 2014 Charles Sweet

 

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Detroit, better known for both music and the automotive industry, has been in decline for some time although that doesn’t stop the inhabitants from keeping a positive outlook. CST, a hip hop gospel artist has taken his love for music and Christ and combined the two to create “Lost 2 Found”, a song that highlights the trouble a young person may encounter in his life. The first thing that I noticed was the instrumentation: the guitar and piano brings the track to task and provides a positive-yet-real approach from the onset. It’s difficult to put into words the honesty that seeps through the song but to sum it up as best I can the song feels well thought out and executed well.

“Lost 2 Found” showcases CST’s firm command of his style and this is evident through being able to switch styles two to three times in the course of the song. He feels confident in his ability to bring forth a strong, clear message of hope throughout adversity and as I listened to him rhyme over the punchy drums and reverberating background instruments I felt like I was right there with him, immersed in the hopeful optimism that CST was going in with. The sequencing pulls you in with straight-ahead accuracy and there wasn’t any time during the track that I felt that the groove—or missive—felt forced.

One thing that stands out when listening to “Lost 2 Found” is that CST understands the nuances of walking the tight rope of faith-based musicianship: The chorus is direct without being preachy and; I loved that if I threw this song into a playlist of songs that might contain secular music the song’s production quality would be on par with anything on mainstream radio. Well written lyrics, witty delivery and a deep love of the craft all aid in making CST’s “Lost 2 Found” a top notch listen. Overall, CST has a winner in this song and I look forward to seeing what’s to come around the corner.
Review by: Charles Sweet
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)

Céran, Live, And Let Love

24 Sep, 2014 Charles Sweet

Live, and Let LoveLive, And Let Love begins with “An Ode to Life and Love”, an introduction that sets the tone with a clear and purposeful understanding of it being just a teaser to what Céran has to offer: The pad and bass driven song—although only about a minute in length—caught my ear due to the complex melody that was able to be displayed in such a short amount of time. “Break Free” is progressive in that it isn’t the standard fare for R&B. The song is not hollowed out or over-calculated; it is full-bodied, professional and on track the whole way through. I enjoyed how deep Céran is able to go (especially in verse two) and bring the listener with him.

“Noble Fool” features Samara who does a wonderful job of adding a compliment to Céran’s sound. They work in tandem to create an atmospheric groove that is basic yet explorative and ultimately a ying and yang completion. This is easily my favorite song on the album because there is so much to hear and in turn, experience, due to both singers’ ability to elevate both the song and their performances by playing off each other.

If “I’ll Make You Feel Like (A Natural Woman)” works—it isn’t because the song could be considered a cover of Aretha Franklin’s classic—it’s because Céran is able to take the raw materials and make room for himself to express himself the way he wanted to. In my eyes, he’s succeeded in doing just that; the gentle caress of his voice over the airy piano work separates this from anything before and being that he did so gracefully shows much to his promise. Well done, well done indeed.

“Feelin’ Lucky” is a dramatic accomplishment as many artists have trouble managing ballads and up tempo songs. This song breathes a vigorous life back into you after having slowed down from the song before. The aim is so accurate, so true, that you know exactly what he came to do with this song. To me, songs like “Feelin’ Lucky”, “Risk It All” and “Love Is Found” encapsulate Céran at his best; full of emotion and the ability to carry out his intentions to the letter.

“Live, and Let Love” is the final track on Live, And Let Love and brings a resounding conclusion to what has been a fine collection of songs. Serving as a proper farewell, the production is broad and allows Céran to give the absolute best performance he can to the listener in an extremely memorable song. Overall, Live, And Let Love is adventurous and ranges from dramatic to heartfelt to rejoicing to soothing without ever feeling phoned in. Céran is talented, and by and large this album is a testament to a grand dream, realized.

Review by: Charles Sweet
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)

 

Sol Ace, The Sol Ace EP: Passion Hunger Sacrifice

30 Jul, 2014 Charles Sweet

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Ordinarily I wouldn’t put a spotlight on an album’s intro song but “Sacrifice” is something special and worthy of mention. When I first heard the sample drop I felt a chill; this is the epitome of quality hip hop at its core and that Sol Ace DELIVERS with the bars from jump helped me understand that the anticipation I had very well was worth it. “But ‘Hov taught me something, you can run with some of the greatest!” was as profound a punctuation in a song as I’ve ever heard and if the album had 15 more cuts just like this the only obstacle I’d feel he had was time because his persistent care is all over this track.

“Love & Hip Hop” features that classic break beat that you undoubtedly know but probably can’t place. The instrumental changes a couple times and Sol has no problem keeping up with it as it switches on a whim. This is that 60 Minutes of Funk off-the-cuff freestyle vibe and I found it clever how he was able to sew the different pop references into a cohesive web that rocked heavily. “Tales of a Thug” features E Pope and the track is as gritty as the words, wrapped in dilapidation with a violent edge but optimistic; I really felt included in this one as the two set the scene and the song reminded of “Coming of Age” by Jay-Z and Memphis Bleek.

“My Lil’ Man” touched me because of the genuinely vulnerable nature of the song (my man even broke out in off-key song at one point) and that it, as a concept, is often overlooked—fatherhood—and the ramifications of a father being there. That he mentioned how his son was picking up cues from his life of rhyme shows just how influential his son has been in his life. The beat was smooth, precise and enjoyable. Bump this in the whip and reminisce.

There isn’t much to speak negatively of here—Sol Ace has long since proven himself capable of carrying a track to an impressive conclusion—but what there is, it is criticism that must be made because of how it affects the grand scope. More specifically, it’s his want to step outside of what he knows works and adventure through more mainstream aspects. “Swag Like Me” is unnecessarily included as a bonus track and everything about this song says ‘no’; he’s far too lyrical to dumb himself down for a pseudo-club song. The song doesn’t fit the feel of the project, he sounds completely out of place and if I were there in the studio with him I would’ve asked him to keep that one off Passion Hunger Sacrifice entirely. The only other thing I couldn’t rock with is the series of freestyles present: either they’re an attempt to lengthen the album or a misguided attempt at showing his prowess over alternative styles of beats. Either way, they’re

Overall, Sol Ace doesn’t disappoint with this album; it is a solid piece of work with an understanding of what it is supposed to be and a no-frills attitude. At the end of the day it’s still very much as Phonte of Little Brother fame put it, “Good beats, good rhymes, what more do y’all want?”

Review by: Charles Sweet
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)