Reviews

Album Review: Hasan Salaam 'Life In Black & White'

Hasan Salaam Life In Black And White ArtworkWhen it comes to race it is a subject that people are afraid to discuss. It has been a topic that naturally draws lines between people and divides them. This causes many to decide to put issues involving race out of their minds for fear of saying the wrong thing and being viewed as a bigot especially in our judge-first culture. However, by not speaking about something there is no motive to push forward and grow. This creates a situation where philosophies and attitudes become stagnant as no one will take a chance. No one, that is, except Hasan Salaam.

Life in Black & White deals mostly with race. The album begins with a unique intro, “Definition” that has several different voices, offer definitions and connotations for the words black and white. This immediately sets the tone for the kind of societal questioning that is in store.

The next several songs delve more into this main idea including recent examples such as the descriptions of police shootings in the song, “Jericho”. The track that really strikes the listener is, “Half Breed”. Although it is just twenty-six seconds it perfectly illustrates an overlooked type of racism for people of a mixed race as they deal with prejudice from both blacks and whites. In addition, the track not only deals with the main concept it leads right into the next song, “Father’s Day” with the mention of the narrator’s family.

After, “Father’s Day”, the album begins to take on a new life. In the proceeding songs, societal problems are put on hold for a little while as Hasan just focuses on putting together line after line of lyrical excellence. “#OGJM” is a great example as he has a memorable chorus followed by verses of solid rhymes.

Once, “Like Silence” starts the album begins yet another phase. During this song, Hasan escapes the usual sound of the album with a different approach. This includes the strumming of a guitar and the terrific vocals of Kendal Good. It is a track that definitely stands out from the rest and one can only hope that these two collaborate again in the future as they complement each other well. Following this, Hasan goes right back to rapping about an array of problems he sees in the world. From, “Modern Warfare” showing the glorification of war to, “UnOrganized Religion” pointing out the hypocrisies in religion, it is all incredible. At the end, “Scars Over Scars” Hasan wraps up the album by saying that although there are problems in the world and his life he is grateful for everything he does have.

Overall, this album is enjoyable and thought provoking. The first five songs epitomized the title of Life in Black and White very well after that the central subject seemed to get lost at some points. It should be noted, though, that while Hasan was not talking about race he was discussing how war affects the nation as a whole or the unfair treatment of women in religion so it is not so much the lack of societal awareness, just the consistency of it. Even on the tracks that did not have the weight that others did they were still amazing listens. In the end, Hasan mixed rational discussion of sensitive issues with great raps and beats in only a way that he can achieve.



Album Review: Kushthegreat, 'Digital Romance'

Digital Romance Artwork

In an increasing technological world – computers, smartphones, and tablets have transformed the way people communicate. It is now possible to send a picture to a friend across the globe or for someone to post their thoughts on social media for anyone to see. This innovative tech hasn’t had only positive effects however. In some cases this means of conversation has quickly made the human interaction obsolete.

On Digital Romance, kushthegreat, explores a concept that many other hip-hop artists would be afraid to with an utmost humility that is uncommon in today’s rap scene. Starting on the opening track, “Days Round Here”, kushthegreat begins to express his feeling of isolation by explaining his difficulty in finding a long-lasting relationship. Then, on the next song, “Online Dating”, he delves into how technology has changed how people date. During this, he admits that although it’s nice to be able to interact with somebody not in a face-to-face manner there is something missing from the experience. Throughout the album kush sorts through these emotions, in addition to a couple side stories, on all thirteen tracks with some interesting beats on each. One that stands out is “Narcoticos” which begins with someone switching between Spanish radio stations before Latin music starts playing. Kush then comes on while singing in his own unique style about a girl who only used him for drugs. Later in the LP, “timewitit”, provides a three-part single with a different feel in each segment describing how fickle things truly can be in love and technology as well. By the end, the listener has gone through all of the highs and lows with kush before ending on what seems to be a low note with “iHatelove”. This shows how he still hasn’t figured everything out yet and is still learning about how he feels.

Overall, this album is refreshing in its delivery and message. The ingeniously designed cover art of a human holding a robot’s hand speaks to the LP’s originality. Also on the cover are the words “A Story Told By kushthegreat”. This perfectly sums up the album. Not many artists are able to tell a story over thirteen songs and keep the same level of emotion throughout. It’s a concept album in nature and draws comparisons to a Kendrick Lamar project in its thoroughness and ability to stick to a main idea. In the end, kushthegreat laid it all out for everyone to see and created a hip-hop album that evoked understanding from every listener.

Essential Tracks:

“All Out”

“Ihatelove”

“Narcotics”



Album Review: ADH, 'ADH Unplugged'

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ADH Unplugged is a 12-track acoustic album from a live performance in New Brunswick. ADH currently resides in New Jersey, but hails from Brooklyn, NY where he grew up listening to rappers like Jay-Z and the Notorious B.I.G.

From his cadence to his poetic nature over the electric instrumentation, it didn’t take long for me to grow fond of this introspective artist. ADH’s music is a mirror of his motto (and song) “2LV,” which stands for live, laugh, vibe. The high-energy project will make you feel like you’re a fan in the room watching ADH’s performance as he interacts candidly with the crowd.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is “The Difference,” where ADH talks about love, the struggles in a relationship, and deciding when to let go. I give kudos to any artist that has a band, singers, and can maintain strong audience interaction. I mean, who doesn’t like live music?

Artist like ADH provide experiences with their music and are typically the ones that see longevity in their careers. Though I can’t say ADH has been in the hip-hop scene for long, it appears he is on the right path and plans to be around for a while. ADH Unplugged is a perfect blend of sounds as ADH’s and guest vocals weave in and out of each song. This is definitely a unique release by this independent artist. ADH Unplugged is available on iTunes now.

Essential tracks:

“2LV”

“The Difference”

“Self Thoughts”



Album Review: Mista Encore, 'BARSsince 1986'

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2013 has been a significant year for Mista Encore. He gained national attention after appearing on the Sway in the Morning show in early January. The show introduced Encore to a new audience, while solidifying him as an authentic lyricist. “Bow to the throne when we running through your area/ I was born prince like coming to America.” Formerly known as Jay Encore, Mista Encore has majestic rhyming ability, yet he’s gone uncrowned within the hip-hop game.

BARSsince 1986 is the latest full-length composition by the Victory League Music rap artist. The album features 12 tracks, three in which were originally produced by Mista Encore himself. During the opening track, “Open Letter Freestyle”, listeners will hear the same lyrics that intrigued Sway Calloway and Heather B. Encore effortlessly distinguishes himself from the competition after rapping, “Rookie of the year, new games assassin/ running towards victory, trained and lapped them.”

In the tape’s next song, “Food For Thought”, he taps into his listener’s intellect. “You talkin’ money, but we ain’t thinkin’ same vault.” The track focuses on the power of knowledge and true comprehension. “Food For Thought” also illustrates Encore’s keen business philosophies. “You tryna stunt? Big chain, dough, and whips. My brain white Jew, I’m thinking ownership.”  The longtime independent MC shares aspirations that made Jay Z and Dr. Dre household names beyond the hip-hop microscope.

In 2012, Mista Encore captured the hearts of many female hip-hop fans with his YouTube smash, “Just Might Make It.” He attempts to capitalize on the song’s success with “Round the Way Girl.” “She can do high heels or the new J’s, get a new outfit like every two days. She could do hood, but still got class. Pay her own way cuz she make her own cash.” Compared to LL Cool J’s version, it is evident that any woman would appreciate Encore’s attempt to redefine the meaning of “round the way girl.”

Mista Encore transitions to braggadocio driven tracks like “Pound Cake Freestyle”, “Numbers on the Board Freestyle”, and “Pay Homage.” It is within these tracks where his self-ordained Guillotine rhyming style is on full display.

According to Mista Encore, BARSsince 1986 has been a work in progress his entire life. On, “Past the Roof” we realize the impact his grandmother had on his life and love for music. “Record players spinning, my mind is doing the same/ check my family tree, music running through my veins.” We hear his dark revelations about being abandoned by his father during the early stages of life along with brighter moments, such as receiving his first keyboard from an uncle.

The track fades from an impromptu version of the “new brown sugar,” and takes us to Cloud 9 on “A Night to Remember.” We are encouraged to allow our vices to oversee our better judgment. His charming microphone skills make it easier to let go for at least one night. In addition, the soulful beat loop heard on “A Night to Remember” and the Marvin Gaye sampled “Inner City Muse” compliment his vocals accordingly.

The artist revisits his desire to achieve his goals on “Any Means Necessary.” His words shoot straight to your soul like an excerpt from a Langston Hughes poem. As a listener, you do indeed believe he will get it by any means necessary.

 “I’m feeling like Michael in the fourth quarter.” BARSsince 1986 was worth the wait. Will Mista Encore game six the rap game with this new release? Or will his mission to be crowned king of hip-hop remain stagnant? Only time will tell.

Essential tracks:

“Open Letter Freestyle”

“Food For Thought”

“Luxury To Chill”



Album Review: Chad B, 'Good Karma'

Chad B Good Karma Cover
Chad B is poised for super stardom in the rap industry. Within three years, the Newark, New Jersey native has managed to achieve international status. His latest mixtape entitled, Good Karma foreshadows his growing presence within the hip-hop industry.

Many crossover rap artists are usually labeled as “sell-outs” when the majority of their music has more of a commercial appeal. In Good Karma’s opening track, Chad silences his critics with a brief acapella freestyle, displaying his lyrical prowess. After his manifestation of “bars,” Chad shifts the vibe of Good Karma to the nightclub. Deep bass kicks, tinny handclap sounds, and snare drums make songs like “Let Me See,” “Go Girl,” and “Face Down” featuring DJ Spinking and Ron Browz, all radio friendly jams. Good weed, bad bitches, and drunken nights with storybook endings are all components shaping Good Karma. The excitement of being young and successful is a steady theme on the project. “Cashmere N Cognac” contains a sample of Wreckx-N-Effect’s classic, “Rump Shaker,” and tells the story of a movie like night under the influence of alcohol.

Chad explores his guilty pleasures, while utilizing his versatility well. Throughout the mixtape, Chad constantly reminds listeners of his origins in Newark, NJ. He could not have made it any clearer on tracks like “Can’t Believe” and “Tell Em That.” “From the jects to the planes,” Chad started from the bottom, but celebrates his success on “Right Now” and “Let You Know” featuring Tek (Smif-N-Wessun) and fellow New Jersey lyricist David Rush.

Lyrically, Chad is extremely transparent about his struggles and shortcomings in life. On, “Pour It Up,” he raps, “my hustle so Russell/ something gotta give/ late night in my crib/ yo, stuck touching my ribs/ now these niggas bumpin’ my shit.” These revelations indicate why Good Karma has an enjoyable ambiance to it. Chad allows his listeners to participate in the celebration of his accomplishments thus far in the music industry. From the projects to booking tour dates in Dubai, Chad B’s Good Karma foreshadows his ability to achieve substantial success in the hip-hop industry.

Essential tracks:

“Good Karma”

“Can’t Believe”

“Cashmere N Cognac”

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