DJ Khaled Kanye West Lil Wayne Nas Rick Ross Scarface T.I.P.

DJ Khaled – Kiss the Ring album review

While the cover of Kiss the Ring finds DJ Khaled doing his best Drake impression while wearing a comically oversized ring, don’t believe for a second that he has stepped away from his shtick. Khaled drops his yearly albums mostly to remind listeners of how ingrained he is in mainstream Hip-Hop. He’s not the type that could revolutionize the genre if he wanted to, but he is still surprisingly relevant in 2012.

From up-and-comers like 2 chainz and Meek Mill to big names like Kanye West, Nas, and Rick Ross, there really is an incredible roster on Kiss the Ring. With this ridiculous amount of talent, it’s not surprising that the album is full of songs that will be all over the radio in the very near future.

The absolutely vicious “Bitches & Bottles” seems like the obvious choice for the next single off of Kiss the Ring. Future sings a hook that is destined to be hide in the nooks and crannies of your brain and show up unexpectedly. As the beat builds, getting darker and darker, he howls out at the top of his lungs giving the chorus a life of its own. T.I. shows up in full Urban Legend mode for a verse that is an incredible reminder of his effortless confidence and talent when he’s on. Wayne’s verse isn’t as powerful in comparison, but having the instruments drop out for his first few bars makes it much more dynamic.

“Hip Hop” starts off with Khaled claiming that “This shit’s special!” which transitions into a verse that only the legendary Scarface could pen. While the sentiment would seem trite coming from a rapper without his credentials, Face beautifully describes the tumultuous ride that has been his career and how the rap game has left him with a bitter taste in his mouth. Anthropomorphizing his livelihood opens up a rawness in Scarface’s bars that does wonders for the track.

Kiss the Ring isn’t going to make any Top 10 lists as an album, but a few tracks will stick around long enough to justify a 2013 release for Khaled. That’s probably all he was aiming for anyway.

DJ Khaled - Kiss the Ring album review

Eminem Joe Budden Reviews

Slaughterhouse – Welcome to: Our House album review

6 months ago the general public got its first taste of Welcome to: Our House when Funkmaster Flex played “Hammer Dance” on his radio show. Featuring a sample from Korn’s “Falling Away from Me” and production work from AraabMuzik, this song was a surprising single from Slaughterhouse.

Composed of Joe Budden, Royce da 5’9”, Joell Ortiz, and Crooked I, this group is a legitimate powerhouse in Hip-Hop. Each one of these MCs can hold their own and have a flow adaptable to almost any situation.

Almost being the operative word. Eminem is brought on to Executive Produce the album, which ends up hurting more than it helps. Welcome to: Our World shines on tracks that are far from Eminem’s trademark sound, and that allow the other rappers to play off of one another.

“Our House” embodies the issue perfectly. With a verse from Em and a hook from Skylar Grey, the song ends up being a bloated 6-minutes long because of 3 more verses from Slaughterhouse. The beat sounds like it was tailor-made for Recovery and is completely out of place.

That being said, there are plenty of great moments on this album that wisely get as far from the Eminem aesthetic as possible. “Get Up” finds the group rapping over drums that clip aggressively, and a keyboard line that keeps the momentum going. No I.D.’s clever sampling of “Ali in the Jungle” by The Hours does wonders for all of Slaughterhouse, but Royce Da 5’9” absolutely demolishes his verse.

Towards the end of the record is “Goodbye,” which finds Slaughterhouse being surprisingly poignant and emotional. A lot of rappers’ attempts at eulogizing their loved ones comes off heavy-handed, but this track does an incredible job of being honest while not being sappy. Ortiz’s verse stands out as it perfectly engulfs the listener in the whirlwind days before a funeral.

After numerous delays and a huge amount of hype, it’d be easy to dismiss Welcome to: Our House, but the pure talent and natural charisma between the 4 members cannot be played down. That is, when they’re fifth wheel isn’t demanding his presence be known.


La Coka Nostra – Masters of the Dark Arts album review

The problem with being in a “super group,” is that you’ll never exceed expectations. A group, band, or collective usually succeeds when it becomes greater than the sum of its parts, so when you take numerous MCs and a well-known DJ it’s difficult to become a cohesive unit.

To be fair, I probably would not have placed the super group label on La Coka Nostra, had Danny Boy himself not brought it up, “…same super group, homie, we’re the best in the game.” It’s hard to imagine a world where even he believes that.

DJ Lethal (Limp Bizkit/House of Pain), Slaine, and Ill Bill join the aforementioned Danny Boy (of House of Pain) on Masters of the Dark Arts, with minimal results.

When it comes to their flow, the three rappers are definitely talented and DJ Lethal’s technical talents behind the decks are incredible, but that’s where the fun ends. La Coka Nostra decide to spend their time about a decade in Hip Hop’s past and end up putting out tracks that are immediately dated.

Drug references will always be a part of the underground scene, but even Clipse (the kings of coke rap) moved away from the one-note ham-fistedness of mentioning guns, drugs, and violence every two seconds.

Bizarre musical choices on the beats and even weirder bars about everything from the illuminati to chemtrails don’t help the group sound relevant. “Letter to Ouisch” tries for the creepy, but ends up missing the mark completely by placing an utterly sleazy guitar line under an Ill Bill verse written from Charles Manson’s perspective that starts off “What up, kid!?” Something tells me that’s not how Manson begins his correspondence.

“Mind Your Business” is exactly what you expect it to be: hollow threats and misplaced bravado. La Coka Nostra make their best effort to make their takedown of critics and gossipers sound tough, but it mostly comes across as whiney and misguided. Claiming that you’ll slap a rival’s wife never makes you sound like a tough guy as Slaine exemplifies in his last verse.

Even the title of Masters of the Dark Arts tries to convince you of this super group’s musical prowess. Don’t be fooled.


The Alchemist – Russian Roulette album review

2012 is turning out to be a huge year for The Alchemist, as he’s gone into full overdrive mode. Producing all of OFWGKTA’s Domo Genesis’ No Idols, working on an album with Evidence under the Step Brothers moniker, and countless other records, it’s amazing that Alan Daniel Marman has had the time to put together the interesting think piece that is Russian Roulette. 

Showing just how extensive his record collection is, each track on Russian Roulette uses samples from Russian songs to create the beats. Marman takes it a step further and demonstrates how impressive his rolodex is by bringing in Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire, Action Bronson, Roc Marciano, Danny Brown, Schoolboy Q, and many others to lend a hand.

With a grand total of 30 tracks but a running time of only 45 minutes, the album ends up feeling incredibly schizophrenic and frantic because of the numerous samples. Just when the tempo speeds up and you think Alchemist has found a rhythm, he slams on the brakes and expects you to appreciate a slow jam (complete with saxophone solo) while a sample from Rocky IV plays and Ludmilla Drago laughs off accusations that Ivan was doping.

While disjointed, there are definitely brilliant moments to be found. The first single and obvious stand out track is “Flight Confirmation” featuring the always impressive Danny Brown and Schoolboy Q.  Marman does a great job of keeping the beat out of the way and keeping it simple as Brown dives in headfirst, slowly transforming his usual nasal flow into a threatening guttural rage.

“Oleg’s Flight” finds Fashawn taking on one of the best beats on Russian Roulette. As the horns build behind him, Fashawn proves to be up to the challenge as he stands his ground and complements the menacing bass and eerie choir. Heist movies everywhere would be lucky to have a song this outrageously cool-under-pressure play during the climax.

The Alchemist himself has said, “Russian Roulette is not an album,” and interpreting it as such will only lead to disappointment. Here, The Alchemist is flexing his musical muscles a little and letting you know that you should pay close attention.