Slum Village – Evolution album review

What gives music its soul?

Slum Village is a rap group that has featured an ever-changing lineup, drawing upon a collective of Detroit MCs and producers since the early 00’s when hip hop deity Jay Dee aka J Dilla withdrew his full-time guidance from the group. Since then, the group has experienced several renaissances, and each incarnation of the group has pushed the music of Slum Village in new directions while retaining the essence of generations past. For the group’s latest release, the aptly titled Evolution, T3 is the only living member left from the group’s legendary founding trio; Dilla and Baatin have both passed on. Reverently carrying on their legacy are Dilla-sciple producer/MC Young RJ and Jay Dee’s brother Illa J. Together with T3, they are Slum Village for a new generation, and with Evolution they are proving that music has a soul of its own that outlives the illuminated individuals who give it life.

While Evolution benefits from a polished, contemporary sound and fresh flows, it still pays tribute to Slum Village roots from the Fan-tas-tic era by sticking to a tried-and true formula for boom-bap group rap. Effervescent loops are matched up with crunchy vintage drum breaks to create an intuitive backdrop for no-frills raps. However, the tone here is a little more brooding than classic Slum Village, owing to darker, more ethereal samples taking the place of more straightforward jazz and R&B sounds. The verses are more aggressive, and feature faster, grimier flows in contrast to the poetic delivery of the Slum Village of yesteryear. Even with these updates, a raw passion that has always been central to the group’s consciousness comes across on every track. Consequently, Evolution’s high points soar, for instance “Let it Go” which induces chills thanks to spine-tingling piano riffs, spitfire rhymes and a verse from Blu, who delivers one of the most interesting guest appearances on the album. The first single, “Forever” is a laid-back rhythm machine that rivals the clean, even production values of a contemporary De La or Blackalicious. In its entirety, Evolution is an extremely taut album, which bristles with the passion and professionalism exhibited throughout. This is music for music’s sake, and even listeners unfamiliar with the history and influence of Slum Village will appreciate this well-crafted album.

On Evolution, Slum Village remains a rap group with a clear sense of purpose, begotten by a musical ethic born in a by-gone era of hip hop. To hear Evolution is to realize the continuity of the soul of music itself. In philosophy, the properties of continuity are demonstrated through the story of a sailing ship. Over time, parts of the ship are replaced one-by-one when the ship returns to port, until finally none of the original parts remain. Even though the parts are new, it’s hard to argue that you’re not still talking about the same ship. There must be something more than the sum of the parts that gives Slum Village its soul. Despite numerous lineup changes and the death of two founding members, the sound and feeling originally forged by J Dilla, T3 and Baatin is a living entity that survives in and of itself. Evolution is nothing less than a fresh and thoroughly triumphant testament to the eternal spirit of Slum Village, a landmark hip hop group in every way.


Blu – York album review

Blu’s York sounds like a rap record that one would expect to hear in the year 2134. The album from start to finish just sounds futuristic, simultaneously mixing multi-layered tones with complex strings. York, originally to be titled, NoYork!, is Blu’s fourth solo studio album. York was originally to be released under Warner Bros Music, however, the record deal fell apart on the belief Blu had self-leaked NoYork! as a protest to the music industry elite. Blu first burst onto the scene in 2007 with his debut album, Below the Heavens, which drew major critical acclaim, especially in the crowded underground hip hop scene of Los Angeles. He was named by several blogs and magazines as an up and coming star in the rap game and somebody to watch. After declining several deals from major record companies, including Interscope, Blu chose to remain independent and release two critically acclaimed follow-up albums. In 2011, Blu released, “Jesus”, a song about Blu’s heavy personal influence of religion as a pastor’s son. The track seemed to be an underground answer to Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks”.

This album delivers Blu’s signature sound, complete with self-produced beats and meaningful raps. At times, the album’s beats do seem to drown out his voice, but that is rather common with a lot of his work. The album’s marquee song, “Spring Winter Summer Fall” delivers the best hook of York, sang by Jimetta Rose. “Spring Winter Summer Fall” also follows a noticeable theme of York, the four seasons of the year. York is covered in references to the different seasons and weather patterns. “My Sunshine”, another track on York, has a message about finding light through hard struggle. The weather incorporation almost has to be about Blu’s switching to a major record label, which is when a bulk of these anthems were recorded. The reference creates the sense that Blu’s consciences will not let him “sell out”. This is a significant reason why many, including myself, believe the rapper did leak the album, previously titled, NoYork!, in order to either protest his own decision or more practically kill the deal while it was in the closing stages with Warner Bros. The references of weather, however, could just mean his evolution as a rapper and as a man, as York does experiment with several beat combinations that provide its futuristic sound.

York brings a new sound to the LA underground scene. It will be interesting to see if the upbeat, loud album carries with its targeted audiences. The LA underground rap scene for years has been dominated by deep bass-driven beats, with slow sophisticated rhyming. There are times listening to York where your mind loses focus, are you supposed to be listening to the meaningful words or this beat from the year 2134 that your brain is hustling to interpret?

Press Releases Videos

Fashawn at Turntable Lab LA featuring Evidence, Exile, Blu, Planet Asia, Rakka of Dilated Peoples

Fashawn at Turntable Lab LA feat. Evidence, Exile, Blu, Planet Asia, Rakka of Dilated Peoples

Fashawn took over LA’s Turntable Lab on June 20th for a free show and listening party of his debut album, Boy Meets World, due in September on One Records. He brought along friends and collaborators Fashawn at Turntable Lab LA featuring Evidence, Exile, Blu, Planet Asia, Rakka of Dilated Peoples for a packed house of fans anxious to see him before he and Evidence took off on the Rock the Bells tour.

Fashawn’s newest single “Life as a Shorty” will hit digital stores on July 28th, and his first single “Freedom”/“Our Way” feat Evidence is in stores now with bonus track “The Outer City.”

Download and Share Fashawn “The Outer City

Press Releases

Debut Album Ridin High from Production Duo Keelay & Zaire Features Phonte, Blu, Supastition, and More

Debut Album Ridin High from Production Duo Keelay & Zaire Features Phonte, Blu, Supastition, and More

MYX Music to Release First Album in Ambitious 2009 Release Schedule

The bi-coastal production duo Keelay & Zaire will release their debut album Ridin High on March 10th via the newly imprinted MYX Music Label. Featuring a classic hip-hop and R&B production aesthetic and an all-star lineup of guest artists, the album brings a new breed of polished production to the forefront of hip-hop.

Featuring an impressive guest list of both established artists and newcomers, the album showcases Keelay & Zaire’s ability to fuse their production savvy with the subtleties and personality of the artists they work with. With guest stars ranging from Phonte of Little Brother to Blu to Supastition, the talent pool exhibited on the album allows Keelay & Zaire to display their refined versatility. The album’s lead single “The Times feat. Blu, Fortilive and Nino Moschella,” currently in rotation on MTV, BET, and MTVU, is a motivational call to arms that shows us the vibrancy of San Francisco with Keelay & Zaire’s signature soulful soundscape providing our musical backdrop.

With Keelay out west in the Bay Area, and Zaire currently residing in Newport News, VA, the innovative producers each worked on their own independent production projects before ever meeting. Keelay produced tracks for Cali Agents, Fortilive, and Saafir while Zaire flexed his prowess with Norfolk’s emcee/songwriter Khizman and Newport News’ bluesy singer/songwriter Jonathan Moore. Although living on opposite coasts, both Keelay & Zaire were frequent users of online production message boards and used them to share beats and ideas with other producers. After exchanging beats back and forth on the message board for about a month, it became clear that Keelay & Zaire needed to meet face to face. Zaire flew out to meet Keelay in the Bay and the duo found that their individual skills complemented each other. They decided to embark on a full-length project that eventually became Ridin High. Ridin High will be released on March 10th on newly formed MYX Music Label. Check out the album sampler mixed by DJ Mere for Ridin High to get a taste for what to expect

Keelay & Zaire also produced the intro track for the Wake Up Show, featuring Supastition and DJ Revolution

The Prelude to Drive EP is now available to download for FREE at the freshly launched

Please contact Michelle or Nora if interested in talking with Keelay & Zaire

About MYX Music:

MYX Music Label began in 2007 by industry veteran Karim Panni of the Boom Bap Project (Rhymesayers Entertainment). MYX Music Label is under the umbrella of MYX TV, which is the only music and lifestyle channel dedicated to the Asian American community. Distributed nationally, MYX TV showcases the hottest major label and independent content as well as dynamic original programming that fuses fashion, comedy, and culture. MYX Music Label integrates the newest technology while developing innovative digital distribution and promotion strategies to service their artists. The MYX Music Label was created for the sole purpose of using the MYX TV visual network platform to promote the finest independent hip-hop and urban music. MYX Music Label’s ambitious release schedule for 2009 includes groundbreaking works from production duo Keelay & Zaire, Jern Eye, Fortilive (producer Illmind’s hip-hop crew) and exclusive music from the best Asian MC’s, DJ’s and producers in the compilation 20 C Energizers. Also, adding to their versatility as a label, MYX Music Label DVD releases include The Nutshack, Built From Skratch, Str8 Laced and Slanted Comedy, which features today’s top Asian American comedians. For more information on MYX Music Label, please visit


Keelay & Zaire – Ridin High sampler by DJ Mere