Britizen Kane – The Quality Of Life (Review)

Britizen Kane, Reviews

Bury MC Britizen Kane follows up his ‘Orson Welles’ EP with his second project of 2016. This release, entitled ‘The Quality Of Life’, is a seven track effort that features guest appearances from Genesis Elijah, Popcaan and Tim McIlrath amongst others, and showcases Kane’s relentless flow and compelling content.

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The EP gets underway with ‘The House Of Kane’, which features Rise Against vocalist Tim McIlrath, and the surprising guest appearance works brilliantly with the emotional, passionate performance from Britizen. The raw, honest content is eye-opening, and it’s personal, sincere approaches like this that are so important in a genre that hasn’t always been comfortable with speaking candidly about the more heart-rending side of life.

Genesis Elijah and Mark Waters appear on the trapped-out banger ‘Joe Pesci’, and the hard-hitting production and eclectic mix of MC’s makes this a standout. The percussive, aggressive delivery of all three spitters is perfect for the pounding bass and rattling snares, and the eclectic nature of ‘The Quality Of Life’ is definitely impressive. The crisp, slick ‘Back On My Rap’ is dope; the technical, intricate writing is packed with punchlines, wordplay and precisely executed flows making for an exhilarating lyrical tour-de-force from the Dcypha representative.

The penultimate track is ‘Wild Horses’, and the uplifting, piano-laced beat backs Britizen Kane as he delivers intense, charismatic verses over an instrumental that walks the thin line between having crossover potential whilst maintaining integrity and remaining authentic. The honesty and unfiltered emotion that Britizen injects into his lyricism is refreshing, and it’s important to respect his strength and to appreciate the importance of opening a dialogue about mental health.

Props to Kane for this one; musically its diverse and professional, and the subject matter is thought-provoking and executed with undeniable skill on the microphone. Britizen Kane gives us some straight up rap bangers alongside some material of substance, and it’s a balance that is much needed in today’s world.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@IAmBritizenKane

http://www.facebook.com/LYTEWORK

http://www.iambritizenkane.bandcamp.com

Apollo Brown & Skyzoo – The Easy Truth (Review)

Apollo Brown, Reviews, Skyzoo

When an album is released through Mello Music Group it’s pretty much a given that it’s going to be quality. The independent powerhouse has been churning out some of the best hip-hop music to come out of the states in recent history, and it’s roster is rapidly increasing, and they’ve not put a foot wrong yet. ‘The Easy Truth’ is the highly anticipated collaboration between Detroit’s Apollo brown and Brooklyn’s Skyzoo. Both of these guys are seasoned musicians with some heavy projects in their discography, and on paper it seems it’d be impossible for this to be a letdown.

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‘One In The Same’ opens the LP, and the mellow, classy sound is executed with flair and obvious skill; Skyzoo’s cutting lyricism is tight and precise, and Apollo Brown yet again proves why he’s one of the top producers pushing the boom bap sound in the modern era. Brown’s beats never sound stale, with genius sample-work and crisp, punchy drums providing an amazing backdrop for Sky’s sharp rhymes. The mature, intelligent hip-hop continues with the soulful ‘Jordans & A Gold Chain’, and New York veteran Joell Ortiz joins the show on the flawlessly executed ‘A Couple Dollars’. Throughout ‘The Easy Truth’ Skyzoo and Apollo Brown display hip-hop sensibilties that rival any of their more successful peers, and this LP is yet another example of modern rap music being healthier than ever, despite what some heads would have you believe.

Two of the most exciting prospects in recent years appear on ‘Basquiat On The Draw’; Conway and Westside Gunn both display individual, charismatic styles full of energy and raw-content, and Apollo’s gritty beat is a head-nodding banger. The track stands out from the more laidback, thoughtful cuts that have come before it, and this serves to keep ‘The Easy Truth’ an LP that remains interesting and memorable; Skyzoo and Apollo Brown’s partnership is never stale, in fact it’s the complete opposite. This eclectic mix of styles continues with ‘The Vibes’, and it’s dope to hear the boom bap aficionado’s try their hand at a current, more electronically driven sound, and once again it is executed confidently.

The MC/producer combo pay homage to the classic, influential Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito radio show on ‘On The Stretch & Bob Show’, and the dusty, drum-heavy track is a definite standout with Skyzoo displaying consistent flows and an encapsulating assurance on the microphone. The energy and intensity continues with the intricate, soulful ‘The Flyest Essence’, and it’s an appropriate track name as the content is delivered with a cool swagger which impresses from front to back with it’s subtle, stripped-back production from the Detroit beatsmith and wonderfully crated lyricism from the Brooklyn spitter. Apollo Brown’s ability to inject his beats with crunchy percussion, brilliant sample-flips and a knack for perfect emotive vocal samples makes his sonics exciting and instantly recognisable, and ‘Care Packages’ is another example of this. The penultimate track on ‘The Easy Truth’ is ‘Payout’, and this track features Maybach Music Group representative Stalley, and the inspired combination works an absolute treat.

This is a late contender for one of 2016s most impressive albums; ‘The Easy Truth’ exemplifies everything that people feel are lacking in modern rap music. Dope beats, clever lyricism and a chemistry between the MC and producer that stands up against the best of them. Apollo Brown works with some insanely talented artists on full length projects, and it’s a testament to his talents when considering the long list of veterans he’s partnered with. Ras Kass, Guilty Simpson and O.C are now joined by Brooklyn wordsmith Skyzoo, and this LP is every bit as impressive on the lyrical front as it is the production. I could keep singing it’s praises, but do yourself a favour and check this out.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@ApolloBrown

@Skyzoo

http://www.mellomusicgroup.com

Cheech & Pro P – Diá Des Muertos (Review)

Cheech, Reviews

Cheech is a Manchester based rapper who has built a cult following as part of the group The Bluntskins. He partners with fellow skinner Pro P for this LP entitled ‘Diá Des Muertos’, and it’s a unique, charismatic and diverse release with a variety of moods and topics across thirteen enjoyable tracks.

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The glitchy, synth-driven opener ‘Get The Fuck Up’ is a prime example of Cheech’s sharp writing, and Pro P displays his incredible versatility with a sinister, bouncy instrumental that backs silky flows and intricate rhymes. ‘Love Money’ is a highlight, and Cheech spits politically-infused bars with intelligence and dexterity. The track features Martin Connor on guest vocals, and the unique, soulful vocal is a great touch. In addition to this, following yesterday’s events in the States, any Donald Trump call-out is very welcome. ‘S’word Play’ is a crisp, smooth boom-bap banger and the traditional vibe puts both MC and producer in their comfort zone, and they excel with a raw, memorable head-nodder.

‘Session Dwellers’ again features Martin Connor, and the melodic performances of both Martin and Cheech are catchy, and well-executed; the mellow style is fresh and exciting, and it sets Cheech apart from his contemporaries with an instantly recognisable approach to nineties-influenced boom bap. The chilled direction continues with the dope ‘Time To Smoke’ which features a simple jazz-sample and subtle drums; Pro P has been delivering the goods the entire way through ‘Diá Des Muertos’. Pro P contributes another hard-hitting, gritty beat on the excellent ‘Fire’, as well as showing his versatility once more on the closing cut ‘Pass Away’.

‘Diá Des Muertos’ is thoroughly enjoyable, and Cheech and Pro P deliver a unique spin on the traditional boom bap style with this project. The chemistry between MC and producer is clear, and the successful execution of the tracks on here are a testament to how well suited they are to each other. Cheech might have undeservedly slipped under the radar with the wealth of talent coming out of Manchester, and if you are currently unfamiliar with his work this is a great place to get acquainted.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@OldManReefer

http://www.thebluntskins.bandcamp.com

Creatures Of Habit – Test Subjects (Review)

Creatures Of Habit, Eric The Red, Illinformed, Reviews, Sean Peng

Creatures Of Habit, comprised of MC’s Eric The Red and Sean Peng along with beatsmith Illinformed, release their full length studio album entitled ‘Test Subjects’ after anticipation for the LP had been growing with the release of some well received singles. Each member of the crew has been putting in the work in their own right, and coming together as a unit has huge potential to result in some certified head-nodding classics being delivered.

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The LP’s opener is ‘The Itch’, and Illinformed crisp drums and signature chopped samples is laced with energetic, charismatic lyricism from Eric The Red, followed by Sean Peng’s hard-hitting style. The combination of rappers is dynamic; Eric’s high-pitched tone and off-kilter flows and Sean’s more traditional approach is really effective and keeps the sound interesting and unpredictable. ‘Roll At Dawn’ is a heavy cypher featuring the Real Life Drama roster, and if you weren’t already familiar with the label (headed by Leaf Dog and BVA), you need to step out from underneath that rock. ‘Hacked Gack’ is a silkily executed jazzy number, and Illinformed works magic with the crisp drums and brass-riff that is an instant earworm.

‘Self Portrait’ is a mellow standout, performed with confidence and sophistication from the Creatures Of Habit representative; the writing is refreshing due to it’s vivid, imaginative and concept-driven content, and Illinformed’s production is absolutely flawless. The excellent run of tracks at the beginning of the ‘Test Subjects’ LP continues with ‘Mucky Mouth’, which features Gee Bag and Leaf Dog, and the raw, energetic cut is sure to be kept in heavy rotation. The upbeat, soulful ‘The Corrupt’ is punchy, decisive and relatable, and the following cut ‘Adventures Of Shroomlock & Dropsome’ is wildly entertaining. The eclectic mix of styles makes the album full of twists and turns; from animated, funky rhythms to slow-moving, smokey jazz-flavours such as the superb ‘Too Stoned’.

‘Test Subjects’ is an album full of charm; the combination of Eric The Red, Sean Peng and Illinformed is fantastic, and the authentic hip-hop is packed with likeable charisma from every member of the Creatures Of Habit crew. With labels such as Blah Records and High Focus going from strength to strength, it’s well-worth reminding yourself that there’s a host of other record labels producing top-draw music, and Real Life Drama have certainly delivered the goods with this one.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@EricTheRedRLD

@SeanPengRLD

@IllinformedProd

http://www.facebook.com/LYTEWORK

http://www.rldrecords.bandcamp.com

Black Josh -Ape Tape (Review)

Black Josh, Reviews

Blah Records haven’t stopped working this year; 2016 has been filled with an abundance of dope projects from the independent powerhouse, and Black Josh’s highly anticipated LP ‘Ape Tape’ continues the trend. The Mancunian MC has a diverse style, and has been building his buzz steadily through some successful projects such as the ‘Smoking Kills’ EP, as well his work with 0161 crew Levelz, and this is a concise release to close the year out.

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Josh kicks things off with ‘Yung Ratchet’, which is preceeded by a vocal intro from our evening’s host, Manchester legend Chimpo; the trapped out production and cocky vocals are executed with confidence and undeniable energy, and the incredibly simplistic ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah’ chant in the hook is guaranteed to nestle itself in your ears in the days after hearing it. Cult Mountain feature on ‘Gezuntight’, and it’s is an early highlight; with swegged out lyricism, wavey flows and a slow-moving, looming beat this is classic 616 material, and the kids are bound to be hooked on their unique sarcastic take on synthesized ignorance. Milkavelli, Lee Scott, Trellion and Black Josh all come correct on this cut, with far too many quotable lines to count.

‘Lo Fi’ has a clear traditional, nineties influence, and Josh recruits frequent collaborator and fellow Mancunian MC D’Lyfa Reilly for the smooth, laidback Clay-produced track. The raw, energetic follow-up ‘Henne Boize’ is a standout from ‘The Ape Tape’ with crisp drums, funky bassline and an infectious sample-loop; Black Josh’s ability to deliver witty lyricism and flow with precision (bars) over various styles of production is very refreshing, and this makes the project consistently entertaining, and keeps the listener on their toes. The more restrained approach continues on ‘Riches’, before the project closes out on the excellent ‘Late Night Walkin’

‘Ape Tape’ is an eclectic project; it’s polished and enjoyable from front to back, and Chimpo’s hosting is certainly entertaining. No matter your stylistic preference, this release is guaranteed to have something to your taste, and Black Josh’s skill is such that even the most traditionalist boom-bap aficionado will be bouncing to the sounds of tracks like ‘Gezuntight’. Shouts to Blah for delivering the goods once more; we’ve still got a few months left this year, can they fit any more product in before we welcome in 2017? We’ll have to cross our fingers and patiently wait for the Cult’s plans to become apparent.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@BlackJoshAPE

@BlahRecords

http://www.facebook.com/LYTEWORK

http://www.blahrecords.com

The NorthaZe – Dream Emulator (Review)

Reviews, The Northaze

Leeds duo The NorthaZe continue their productive 2016 with the release of the new five track EP entitled ‘Dream Emulator’. The project serves as a continuation of their silkily executed and uniquely crafted synthetic sound, which relies on bassy, electronic drums, glistening melodic lines and tongue-twisting flows.

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The ‘Dream Emulator’ EP opens with ‘Jed Eyes’, and the hypnotic, minimalistic production is an instant ear-catcher. Kosi and Swish bring their signature intricate, off-kilter lyricism with twisting, turning flows and clever wordplay scattered throughout their verses, which are laced with vivid imagery and delivered with an ever-growing conviction. The NorthaZe are steadily improving with each release, and the bouncy, glossy ‘Rise’ is a perfect example; they find pockets of the beat that no other duo would think to explore, and it’s this unique approach that allows them to stand out so easily.

The glitchy production on ‘Muddy Side’ is a treat, with the Leeds duo’s rocking over a somewhat aquatic beat; it’s not just the flows that make The NorthaZe one of the most exciting artists at the moment, the musicality found across their projects should definitely be credited too. With consistently memorable and entertaining beats and intelligent, developed writing showcased across the ‘Dream Emulators’ project, the WY crew are going from strength to strength at tremendous speed.

If you’re already on board the wave, this is a welcome addition to your growing collection of NorthaZe material. If you’re unaware of the moves these boys are making, well you’re severely missing out. With a diverse style that is performed with a distinct finesse, the West Yorkshire duo are one to keep keen eyes on over the next twelve months; this can only be a warm up for what they have planned in 2017.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@looknorthaze

http://www.facebook.com/LYTEWORK

Swindle – Funk & Grime (Review)

Reviews, Swindle

London producer Swindle brings us a superb, hyped-up EP with ‘Funk & Grime’. Swindle recruits some leading names in the grime scene to provide vocals for the bouncy, dynamic beats that make up this concise, entertaining project.

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UK veteran Ghetts appears on the rowdy, revved-up ‘Works Haffi Run’, and the textured, glitchy banger is grime in it’s purest form. The formula of hard-hitting synthesizers and frantic drum rhythms works fantastically, and Ghetts’ characteristic energy and intense personality shines through on this cut. Newham Generals representative and staple in the 140 BPM scene D Double E joins Swindle for ‘Lemon Trees’, and the witty lyricism describes Double’s experience mixing marijuana and liquor, and it’s delivered with finesse, humour and unrivalled vigour, with ferocious bars being laced over an intense, upbeat instrumental with loud, unflinching drums and intertwined melodies providing a perfect backdrop for the East London spitter.

Also contained in the ‘Funk & Grime’ EP are the instrumental mixes, as well as a Flava D remix of ‘Mad Ting’, and the genre-bending sound is exciting and entertaining throughout it’s five-track runtime. Any grime or hip-hop fan needs this one in their collection.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@Swindle

http://www.facebook.com/LYTEWORK

http://www.swindleuk.bandcamp.com

Bisk – Don’t Piss It Off (Review)

Bisk, Reviews

There’s no stopping Blah Records this year; the longstanding independent label continues its incredibly productive schedule with the release of ‘Don’t Piss It Off’, an LP from London MC Bisk with production handled by North London beatsmith Formz.

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The LP opens with ‘Slippin’, and the gloomy, slow-moving instrumental backs Bisk’s signature gritty, cocky lyricism and murky flows as he drops hard-hitting punchlines in creative bars laced with vivid imagery and drenched in swagger. ‘Big City’ features veteran Blah MC Lee Scott, and the crisp, jazzy drums and haunting piano lines are perfect for Bisk’s braggodious approach, and Lee’s witty verse is an absolute killer, and finds the Runcorn lyricist spitting quotables such as “lost in me own mind/The Higgs boson was in me pocket the whole time” and the genius closing bar “why? It’s just the letter after X”.

‘Cult De Sag’ is a banging posse cut; the track features Danny Lover, Salar and Sleazy F Baby and the four Blah heads go back to back cramming in short, energetic verses. The track lasts just over two minutes, but the concise format definitely works in it’s favour. Sheffield based MC Sniff appears on the lazy, ultra-chilled ‘Beazy’; Formz’s low-key production and the intoxicating vocals from both rappers make this track a highlight of the ‘Don’t Piss It Off’ LP. Closing out on the subtle piano based ‘Marooned’, the concise, cohesive project is yet another one to add to Blah Records ever-growing discography; the independent label is enjoying one of it’s most consistent and creative periods in it’s decade long history, and Bisk is one of several new additions to the roster that has been killing it for the past year or so.

With one of the most impressive work-rates in the game, Bisk is one to keep tabs on. ‘Don’t Piss It Off’ is the latest in a healthy run of projects for the London MC; with Formz at the helm of the beats, Bisk is free to let loose with his razor sharp pen-game, bringing a unique and distinctive outlook to the table, executed with flair and finesse across the album’s ten tracks (discounting the intro and outro). Something tells me it won’t be too long before we hear from the Blah MC again, but until then ‘Don’t Piss It Off’ is sure to remain in rotation for the foreseeable future.

Giggs – Landlord (Review)

Giggs, Reviews

Giggs is one of the UK rap scene’s most successful and respected lyricists; since his 2008 LP release ‘Walk In Da Park’, as well as a long string of heavy mixtapes helping build his momentum to an unrivalled point. With a style and aura that commands respect, Giggs brings us his fourth full length album entitled ‘Landlord’, which features a more refined, polished version of the Hollowman’s unique, hard-hitting formula than we’ve heard previously, as well as a feature list including Youngs Teflon, CasIsDead and Dubz.

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Bringing us up to date with his story on the LP’s ‘Intro’, which demonstrates Giggs’ under-rated storytelling abilities, the ‘Landlord’ experience gets properly underway with ‘The Blow Back. With a pounding trap beat and characteristically menacing delivery from Hollowman the track is vintage Giggs; man of the moment Stormzy also appears on the track with a heavy feature, as well as longstanding collaborator Dubz contributing a charismatic verse.

At this point you’ve surely already moshed out to ‘Whippin’ Excursion’, and the energy that Giggs brings on this track is unrivalled, and the emphatic reaction it receives in the clubs and in the crowd of a performance is a testament to the banging production and memorable, witty lyrics. ‘Just Swervin’ features a haunting, spacious instrumental and matter-of-fact bars delivered with precision and passion; ‘Landlord’ gets going with an intense and thoroughly entertaining run of tracks, with both production and lyricism being at a very high level.

‘The Best’ is appropriately titled; the traditional hip-hop production and killer combination of Giggs, Youngs Teflon and Liverpudlian MC Aystar makes for a definite standout. ‘Slippin’ is another prime example of hard-hitting beats (this time contributed by frequent collaborator Boom Productions) and energetic flows; the combination has served Giggs well in the past and it’s no different this time around. ‘501’ is also a highlight, and the partnership of Hollowman and rap boogieman CasIsDead is repeatedly successful; this is the first of two appearances from Cas on ‘Landlord’, and the duo’s 2015 collaboration ‘What’s My Name’ is still very much in rotation.

Fellow SN1 representative Kyze makes an appearance on the menacing cut ‘Savage’, which is followed by ‘Lyrical Combat’. This track features Dubz and CasIsDead, and with a line-up like that it’s no surprise that this one is an indisputable street banger. The LP closes out with the pounding ‘The New Shit’, and the braggadocios lyrics and hard-hitting production is a fitting finish for the ‘Landlord’ LP; it’s not been any different since the first cut, and Giggs excels on this project, bringing energy, confidence and swagger without a moment’s hesitation.

Exciting from the word go, ‘Landlord’ is one of the most impressive releases of the year, and with a successful run in the charts and some high profile live performances, Giggs is forcing those who have been fighting against him for the duration of his career to finally sit up and take notice. The Peckham MC has always done what he wants to do, how he wants to do it, and has refused to change for anybody. Perhaps now is the time that the powers that be start changing for him.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@officialgiggs

http://www.facebook.com/LYTEWORK

http://www.sn1giggs.com

Cee Major – 10,000 Hours (Review)

Cee Major, Reviews

Cee Major has been developing his brand and building his fanbase over the past few years, and ‘10,000 Hours’ is his latest release. With attitude, intelligence and lyrical finesse in equal measure the London rapper is hotly tipped as one to keep tabs on as his steady rise shows no sign of stopping, and this latest project serves as more evidence that this is a wise choice to bet on.

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The mixtape opens with ‘No Feature Film’ and the crisp mixing, the anthemic production and the precise, professional lyrical display from Cee results in a memorable opener, packed with intelligent writing and hard-hitting punchlines. The London MC describes his journey, achievements and the obstacles he’s experienced on the excellent track ‘It’s Over’; Major has a polished sound that puts him in an incredibly promising position, and with the quality of this mixtape I wouldn’t be surprised to see his buzz rise dramatically over the next twelve months.

‘Icon’ is an energetic, trapped out banger; Cee does a great job of keeping up with the sonic landscape of the rap game, keeping himself relevant and entertaining without sacrificing any of his skill or integrity. Across the ‘10,000 Hours’ project we are also treated to some great melodic performances; whether it’s a hook or used subtly on adlibs Cee is definitely a talented singer, and what an important aspect of your skill-set to excel at in today’s market.

The in your face, bouncy beat to ’27’ is aggressive and pounds from start to finish. Cee’s flow is invigorated and his delivery is wholly confident, and any MC making Jeremy Corbyn references gets a thumbs up from me. ‘Destination’ is on some smooth, chilled-out vibes, and the content gives us an open look into Cee’s life and outlook, and the project closes out on the excellent ‘Do It For The Man’.

‘10,000 Hours’ is another dope release to add to Cee’s impressive catalogue. This is his third project and he’s not disappointed once yet. The age-old preconception that battle rappers can’t make music is looking more and more incorrect; artists like Lunar C and Cee Major are showing that the transition is well and truly possible, although both aforementioned artists were making music before stepping foot in the lyrical arena (cringe). Any self-respecting hip-hop head should check this out, you’re bound to be impressed.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@CeeMajor

http://www.facebook.com/LYTEWORK

http://www.ceemajorofficial.bandcamp.com