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Ceran, The Ultimate

30 Mar, 2016 Charles Sweet

 

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I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing Ceran’s work before, and his career is one worthy of anthology if ever I’ve seen one. From the first time I heard him I knew that he was a polished singer that was unafraid to take command of the song, pouring himself into the music completely. When The Ultimate crossed my desk, I immediately knew it was something worth celebrating, as it contains work spanning half a decade.

“The Occident” is the first song on the project and sets the precedent with a bouncy rhythm and synth track that allows Ceran to nimbly move back and forth on the track. What impresses me about Ceran’s ability is that he isn’t contained to one style of music; one moment he’s in the mood to party, the next he’s reflecting on times past. The chorus here is amazing because of its fullness and straightforward movement featuring chord stabs and pads that easily keep the pace.

“Noble Fool” features Samara in a duet that showcases probably the best thing about duets—two distinct styles meshing together in harmony to create a single experience—and both Ceran and Samara put on riveting performances. “The Wrong of Right” gives a more Reggae-like backdrop for Ceran to operate in, and the island sound really compliments him well here. He’s able to step outside the norm and that freedom shows magnificently. As dynamically different as these two tracks are, there’s a strong similarity in them showing just how far-reaching Ceran’s range truly is.

“All That You Want Me to Be” is a song that to me, even more strongly than most, connects Ceran to his sound due to him being emotionally open and honest on the song. The song has crossover appeal and has a sincere makeup of straightforward good vibes that is so important to the connectivity between Ceran and his fans. Both contemporary and traditional in nature, this is one song that can fit in a multitude of places.

“Live and Let Love” is strong and struts out, full of perseverance and a robust sense of self. The song moves at a surprisingly quick pace and is a highlight because in it, Ceran speaks of redemption through love and the very necessary understanding that we all gain through experience. It’s about this time in the album that I have to stop and think about just how many of these songs were on repeat: a lot. I believe the reason for that comes from Ceran’s knack for paring things down to the core essentials and providing exactly what the listener wants to hear—quality production, songwriting and artistry—and I’m grateful for it. Overall, Ceran’s The Ultimate is every bit the namesake and for an artist to have such an array of work in a short amount of time means he’s inspired and I’m inspired listening to him.

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)

Ryan Lucas, I Want Her Back

18 Feb, 2016 Charles Sweet

Ryan LucasI Want Her Back begins aptly with “My Girlfriend”; a bass and electric guitar laden throwback to the 90s which serves as both a qualified opener and ode to the women of our lives that mean the world to us. Ryan’s ability to web multi-syllabic rhyme patterns aren’t wasted here—what would’ve probably been a simplified try at an LL Cool J good vibes track for other emcees is a vibrant example of a well thought out and articulated approach by Ryan. Going further into the album, I’m not sure if this would be a hip hop version of relationship-themed concept albums Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear or more recently Robin Thicke’s Paula but if this song is any indication, this album may just reside on the other side of the spectrum.

“All I Want” features jerky production comprised of a stuttering flute sample, orchestral elements and synths that in idea couldn’t make sense but when you hear it, it does. Why? The drum track—reminiscent of something J.Dilla might come up with—ties everything together. Ryan’s performance is just as off-center yet fitting as he rhymes about what it is he’s looking for in a relationship. This song jams, family, on a real level, and is an early contender for my favorite of I Want Her Back.

“Boat Party” featuring Ardamus and Reel–probably the oddest inclusion to I Want Her Back—trades in the nostalgic 90s sound for one similar to that of The Neptunes during the first verse before jumping back to production you might expect of Jagged Edge or 112; I would’ve rather these been two separate songs because the two sides work independently of each other but together? I don’t know where you’d hear this one at.

I Want Her Back is well produced. I just wanted to throw that in there because ordinarily, when talking about independent artists, you’re either dealing with the lyricism taking center stage or the production being the main selling point. Ryan Lucas’ effort here is a perfect mesh because he seemingly took the time to architect the sound he wanted and picked the beats (in many times reminiscent of particular super producers styles) necessary to reach that goal handily. “Like My Style”, featuring Jett, hands down should be a radio single; the piano, synth and conga heavy groove would have no problem sitting high on the Top 40 charts and even though it’s not the most raw I’ve heard Ryan get, this is a more than adequate representation of what this body of work is.

Overall, Ryan Lucas’ I Want Her Back is a solid mix of classic and modern sounding production and well delivered intention. Whomever this woman is who inspired this project, I’d very much like her to remain his muse a while longer if possible—even if that means from afar—just so we can get more high quality music from the man. Selfish, I know, but I’ve enjoyed this collection of songs immensely.

Review by: Charles Sweet

Rating: 4 (Out of 5 Stars)

 

 

M Dot Pitts, Broken Hearts and Shattered Dreams

02 Nov, 2015 Charles Sweet

 

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The hustle is undeniable on the debut project from actor, rapper, lyricist, published writer and performer, M Dot Pitts: Broken Hearts and Shattered Dreams. Born in L.A. and raised in southern Florida, where he and his family survived Hurricane Andrew, M Dot Pitts has also called the DMV area of the East coast home. His music is a perfect confection of all the ingredients gathered on each stop along the way. Broken Hearts and Shattered Dreams is an amalgam of sounds, beats, lyrics and emotions that reads as a roadmap of the musician and entertainer’s life journey.

As an accomplished actor, who has appeared on stage and screen, M Dot Pitts is able to slip into character as easily on a beat as he is on a movie set. The opening track, “Hate”, which brings to mind an early 50 Cent vibe, sets the tone for a roller-coaster ride of rhythms, rhymes and beats that will leave the listener flustered, excited, and ready to flip back to track one and start all over again when it’s done, while the title track, “Broken Hearts and Shattered Dreams” is a down-to-earth and likable song that chronicles the rise of a man with unbreakable ties to his past, the ability to look beyond the present, and hope for the future.

Although influences from L.L., to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, to N.W.A. and Westside Connection, are present throughout, M Dot Pitts combines and completes the missing link by adding his own, unique brand of creativity and poetry reminiscent of the old griots, storytellers from as far back as the beginning of time. While “Follow My Directions” and “Not Like Me” fill the requirement for necessary club joints, “Tomorrow” starts off with a bluesy piano riff that sets the tone for the R&B nature of the EP to shine through.

“Freaky Freak” is exactly what you would expect, as implied by the title. Boyz II Men, it is not, but it gets the point across, minus the syrupy pretense. The appearance by Ms. Toi balances the testosterone with the perfect blend of raunchy female energy. “Love” is a much more gentle, romantic portrayal of the struggle to keep relationships alive and hold loved ones down in the worst of situations, while “Imagination” is probably the most solidly produced. The sound is full on, layered perfectly to please the ear.

In an age where “keepin’ it real” has most certainly gone wrong, Broken Hearts and Shattered Dreams is a welcome change. “Rich Dream$” is the most endearing and honest of all the songs on the EP. With lyrics that read: “But all reality is/I ain’t got sh-t/ a broke nigga out in section eight houses/all I got is my balls and my deal/ but I still gotta grind so my kids’ll get a meal…” Far from glorifying the often imaginary riches of the average rapper, “Rich Dream$” tells the true story of a real man, striving, trying and overcoming, the general theme of the entire EP.

That’s about as real as it gets.
Written by Charles Sweet
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5 stars)

 

Ryan Carter, Mind of the Court Jester

11 Jun, 2015 Charles Sweet

 

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“Enter the Mind of the Court Jester” serves as the introduction to the album and it’s a proper one at that. When I first heard the sample drop it felt majestic and ballooned into a thumping backdrop for Ryan to expel game. Easily the first thing I noticed was just how much fun he had to have recording the album; it shows in his style—Suga Free meets Mickey Avalon with a hilarious dash of Lil’ B—one he made uniquely his own, smooth, suave and debonair to be certain.

“Acquit” is Ryan Carter’s interpolation of Eminem’s “Under the Influence”; what separates this from Em’s is Ryan’s ability to ability to web a story into the bouncy track. It’s silly, funny and lyrically pretty sound. This is that kind of rap that we’re missing out on because of the unwritten rule that every rapper nowadays has to take themselves supremely serious; Ryan is having a ball lyrically and the listener is better for it. “About the Honeys” shows his affinity for the ladies and the beat rides as well as anything on the radio right now and even though the theme remains sophomoric, you can’t argue his ability to rapid-fire spit over the track.

“My Song’s Proper” touched me because of nod to Notorious B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa”. Rather than take the novel approach and try to out finesse Biggie, he approaches the song with a totally different concept. That he was able to incorporate everything from salami to nerd-savvy topics had me rolling. It was especially here that I really started getting an understanding of who Ryan Carter is as an artist: a talented MC who might do away with the ‘street cred’ that other rappers hold close to chest for the ability to lyrically be himself. Don’t sleep either; the guy has BARS.

Intentionally lofi, there isn’t much to speak negatively of here—Ryan Carter has stepped cleanly outside the box and deftly donned a new one (very similar to the way Metal Gear Solid’s Solid Snake might)—but if I must in the name of objectivity, I’d say due to the subject matter it’s difficult to see what Ryan would sound like touching on more down-to-earth topics and over more original production. “Lame Figga” slides through over the Bobby Shmurda cut “Hot Boy” and you might think that there’s no way he could go in over this track–It’s just too gutter. Just too raw—yet somehow he does and while donning a tougher persona lightly goes over social issues that impressed me greatly. Plainly said, I rocks with it heavy. Overall, Ryan Carter is bringing something far and away from the norm and I’m happy for it because it allows the listener to escape the harsher realities we face on the daily. It is a solid piece of work that was thoroughly enjoyable.

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