Category Archives: Single Reviews

Universal Magnetic Column (Originally Posted On StreetCred.Com Nov 7th 2008)




Following in the large footsteps of a talented Hip-Hop sibling can be a daunting task for any upcoming artist. Just ask Warren G, Lil’ Daddy Shane and Jungle. So with that in mind, all eyes are on 21-year-old Detroit native Illa J, whose late, great older brother J Dilla is cemented in the consciousness of the global Hip-Hop community as one of the best producers of all-time. Having stamped his trademark sound on releases from the likes of The Pharcyde, A Tribe Called Quest, Common and Busta Rhymes, Dilla’s next-level studio techniques influenced a long line of impersonators and his passing in 2006 left a gaping hole in the music world, along with the sense that a true creative visionary had been lost. So, no pressure on the young Illa J then as he releases his debut album “Yancey Boys”, a project that finds the Motor City MC / producer rhyming over beats provided posthumously by Dilla himself.

The story behind the recording of “Yancey Boys” could easily sound like a clever marketing ploy to ease Illa J into the headphones of hypercritical Dilla fans were it not so filled with pure coincidence. Released on Delicious Vinyl, the label for which Jay Dee produced cuts on Pharcyde’s 1995 album “Labcabincalifornia”, the project came to life following Illa’s relocation to Los Angeles and a chance meeting with DV’s head-honcho Michael Ross, who courteously offered Yancey Jr access to the many unused beats Dilla had recorded for the label during the mid-to-late 90s. Upon immersing himself in his brother’s unheard material, Illa J knew exactly what he needed to do, and got to work on what would become “Yancey Boys”. But whilst the tale behind the tape (or in this case, the CD) is the stuff that Hip-Hop folklore is made of, the burning question is, has Illa J done justice to his older brother’s music and, ultimately, his legacy?

The first thing that strikes you about the album’s opening tandem of “Timeless” and “We Here” is the sense of energy and celebration, a feeling that comes not just from Dilla’s mastery behind the boards, but also from the way in which Illa J has approached the music, singing and rhyming his way through lyrics laced with positive vibes and genuine optimism. As Illa croons, “I spent so much time just thinking about nothing, Now it’s time to turn that nothing into something”, it’s clear that “Yancey Boys” is musical therapy for the upcoming talent, an opportunity to work through the emotional baggage of his brother’s untimely death and turn tragedy into personal triumph.

The instant neck-snapper “R U Listenin’?” features a typically swaggering verse from fellow Detroit resident Guilty Simpson, whilst the carefree b-boy breeze of “Showtime” blends airy jazz pianos with Illa’s likeably cocky rhymes and playful boasts.

The fact that the majority of beats contained on “Yancey Boys” still sound fresh and organic regardless of being approximately a decade old is a testament to just how ahead of his time Dilla was as a producer. Whilst the chime-laden groove of the girl-chasing “DFTF” sounds like the best cut A Tribe Called Quest never recorded for their 1998 swan-song “The Love Movement”, it still knocks hard in 2008. Similarly, the space-dust soul of “Sounds Like Love” finds Dilla combining Hip-Hop’s raw, basement ethics with subtle, spine-tingling melodies, resulting in a sound that is simultaneously retro and futuristic.

If “Yancey Boys” represents Illa J being publicly passed the musical torch from his elder brother, it’ll be interesting to see in which direction the youngster runs with it on his next proper solo outing.

Illa J ft. Debi Nova – “Sounds Like Love” ( Delicious Vinyl / 2008 )



All of you producer types out there might want to check out the recently released “King Of The Beats 2” DVD. Directed by UK-based Hip-Hop junkie Pritt Kalsi, the film features a variety of beat-heads taking up the KOTB challenge, which involves each producer being given a limited budget to go digging for records, which they then have to take back to their respective labs to sample, chop and mutate into a finished Hip-Hop track. All of which seems straightforward, until you realize that the entire process has to be completed within a 24-hour period. Nevertheless, as the old saying goes, pressure makes diamonds, and here you can witness crate-diggers such as DJ Pogo (UK), P Body (Australia) and DJ Priority (USA) each displaying how they approach the craft of producing.

“King Of The Beats 2” Trailer



“Changes Of Atmosphere” from Dela is an album that truly spans Planet Rock, with the project from the French producer featuring an impressive line-up of Stateside artists yet seeing a release on Japan’s Drink Water label. Obviously inspired by such studio greats as Pete Rock, Dilla and Large Professor, Dela’s sound revolves around a strong foundation of crisp drums, jazzy, soulful samples and intoxicating instrumentation.

J. Sands of Lone Catalysts fame offers poignant words of wisdom on the hypnotic “Live The Life”, whilst current subterranean favorite Termanology kicks some street knowledge over the soothing mid-90s style beats of “Stress”.

Dela puts a haunting horn sample to good use on the Talib Kweli-assisted “Long Life”, and North Carolina’s Supastition recounts the constant struggle faced by underground artists on the ethereal title cut.

With further appearances from respected lyricists such as J-Live, Surreal, Blu and Dynas, “Changes Of Atmosphere” is a thoroughly satisfying listening experience that contains substance in both its beats and rhymes.

Dela ft. Naledge of Kidz In The Hall – “It Is What It Is” ( Drink Water / 2008 )



Once considered the backbone of Hip-Hop, it’s no secret that in recent years the DJ has had to fight to remain relevant in an industry increasingly dominated by ego-crazy rappers and producers. Eager to do his part to support the turntablist movement is UK scratch assassin K-Delight, an individual whose many years behind the decks ensure his latest album “Audio Revolution” is a superbly crafted slice of sonic mayhem.

Aiming to encompass all four of the key elements of Hip-Hop culture, this long-player has something for true-school representatives everywhere. Graffiti heads are covered on the educational “Shake, Rattle N Throw”, which features LA-based female MC Shin-B offering a brief history of the artform’s origins, whilst b-boys are given some up rock theme music in the form of the old-school flavored “Wildstyle Dream”.

Elsewhere, the self-explanatory “Forever Hip-Hop” finds Stateside lyricists Skitz The Gemini and Shinobi Stalin paying homage to arguably the most influential cultural movement the modern world has ever seen, whilst “Scratch Club” is a posse cut with a twist, as the likes of NYC’s DJ JS-1, the UK’s DJ Woody and Scotland’s Krash Slaughta team-up with K Delight in a formidable display of deck-wrecking skills.

“Audio Revolution” Live Album Sampler



Chicago-based crew The Primeridian makes a welcome return to the underground rap scene with their sophomore album “Da Mornin’ Afta”, featuring the former duo of Simeon and Tree now being joined by talented wordsmith Race.

Coming out of the All Natural camp, the trio has a strong line in head-nodding, thought-provoking Hip-Hop, and “Da Mornin’ Afta” finds Primeridian matching their lyrical substance with beats provided solely by producers from Europe and the UK (including Netherlands maestro Nicolay of Foreign Exchange fame).

The opening “Change The Meridian (Hard Rock)” announces the group’s comeback in no uncertain terms, offering three-minutes of raw, breakbeat-driven braggadocio, whilst the blaxploitation boogie of “Bucktown (City Of Wind)” features Naledge of Kidz In The Hall addressing Chi-town’s social underbelly.

The pulsating bass and swirling synths heard on “Takuthere” (produced by France’s DJ Steady) provide a soothing musical backdrop for the social commentary of featured artists Iomos Marad and The Pharcyde’s Uncle Imani. My personal favorite here though has to be the beautifully understated “Melodic Healing”, a lush mix of live bluesy guitar, spine-tingling flutes and life-affirming lyricism. Music for the soul, indeed.

Primeridian Freestyle

Ryan Proctor

Hip-Hop Single Reviews (Originally Printed In IDJ / Mr Scruff Cover / October 2008)

Hip-Hop Single Reviews By Ryan Proctor

M9 – “Strange Fruit” ( Dark Matter / Kilamanjaro )

Fresh from the recent underground success of Triple Darkness’s ‘Anathema’ album, London word warrior M9 is striking out on his own with this potent example of powerful street reportage from his forthcoming solo offering ‘144,000’. The darkly hypnotic production from Jon Phonics is the perfect match for M9’s raw portrayal of inner-city life, as the gifted lyricist attempts to elevate the council estate of mind of those around him with dense metaphors and a passionate plea to stop the violence. 4 / 5

Skreintax ft. Graziella – “Breathe” ( Dented )

This is one of those tunes that puts a smile on your face and reaffirms your faith in the ability of artists to create truly heartfelt music in today’s stifled creative climate. The first single from Skrein and Dr. Syntax’s forthcoming collaborative long-player, ‘Breathe’ is a mellow head-nodder that delivers on all fronts. Over impeccable production, the pair touch on everything from environmental issues and teenage pregnancies to predictable radio playlists. If you’re not feeling this then you really need to question your sanity. 5 / 5

Million Dan – “Inner City Got Plenty Cases” ( Million Dappa / Hip-Hop Village )

Lifted from his critically-acclaimed album ‘Spektrum’, this latest single from the Dan man finds the former Demon Boyz member abandoning the club vibes of previous releases in favour of a more melodic sound. Utilizing a vintage soul sample, Million warns of the perils of ghetto living in a sincere tone without being overly preachy. Could be big on radio with the right push.  4 / 5

The P Brothers ft. Milano – “Digital B-Boy” ( Heavy Bronx )

As seasoned purveyors of uncut boom-bap bliss, Nottingham’s P Brothers can always be counted on to supply true-school die-hards with their hip-hop vitamins. This sparse collaboration with NYC’s Milano is yet another example of Paul S and DJ Ivory’s ability to create music that’s firmly rooted in rap’s early traditions without sounding dated or cliché. Knocking beats, crashing cymbals, twisted synths and colourfully inventive rhymes make this a certified new-school banger with an old-school twist. Essential.  5 / 5

The Alchemist ft. Evidence – “Calmly Smoke” ( ALC )

Taken from Al’s recent ‘Cutting Room Floor 2’ compilation, this moody tribute to blazing up bags of that sticky icky injects new life into its tried-and-tested subject matter thanks to both the Mobb Deep affiliate’s subtle production touches and some stoned-yet-skilful rhymes from Evidence of Dilated Peoples. Just remember, take two and pass. 3 / 5

The Lox ft. Bully – “Cocaine Music” ( White Label )

When it comes to hard-edged East Coast gangsta rap, few have been as consistent as NY’s Lox crew. Having always maintained a level of lyricism head-and-shoulders above many of their block-huggin’ peers, Jadakiss, Sheek Louch and Styles P might not necessarily be saying anything new, but they do say it with style and flair. ‘Cocaine Music’ continues that trend as the trio drop their usual street-related rhymes with a heavy dose of likeable arrogance over a tense, piano-led track. 3 / 5

Cubbiebear – “The Hulk” ( The Rape )

Sure to appeal to fans of underground acts such as Aesop Rock and El-P, this leftfield cut from rising Baltimore-based MC Cubbiebear is a scathing, sarcasm-packed critique of today’s hip-hop scene, with fake gangstas, unskilled rappers and record labels all taking some serious lyrical blows. The track’s disjointed, chaotic production doesn’t make for easy listening, but this is a definite grower. 3 / 5

Danny Spice – “Down & Out” ( Cog )

A nice jazzy bubbler produced by “the man with the golden sound” Lewis Parker, ‘Down & Out’ finds UK wordsmith Danny Spice encouraging listeners to “take the positive from every situation” as he offers words of wisdom to those caught up in the downward spiral of day-to-day life. Aided by an undeniably catchy hook, Spice’s latest offering shines thanks to its genuine feel-good factor. 3 / 5

Universal Magnetic Column (Originally Posted On StreetCred.Com Sept 17th 2008)

Welcome to the first of what will hopefully be a long running column here on focusing on those artists whose music exists in the same “dungeons of rap” Nas once mentioned on his classic “Illmatic” album.

Today, with the internet at our fingertips, the term “underground” has many different meanings. Being underground in 2008 doesn’t necessarily mean the same as it did to rappers like Ice-T and Big Daddy Kane twenty years ago when they were struggling to find acceptance in a music industry that barely knew Hip-Hop existed. Being underground in 2008 doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as it did when the likes of Mos Def and Talib Kweli were still able to sell vinyl singles on a label like Rawkus ten years ago. Hell, being underground in 2008 doesn’t even necessarily mean the same thing as it did just over five years ago when a pre-Interscope 50 Cent was selling his own mix-CDs on the streets of NYC. But whilst the rules and tools of the game might’ve changed, one thing remains the same – being underground still means your music isn’t on the radar of the masses and if it’s good then it deserves all the support it can get.

This is an underground column with a twist though. Aside from featuring Stateside artists, I’ll also be covering music from elsewhere on Planet Rock, whether that be a release from a talented producer in Japan, or a new joint from a gifted lyricist in England. As the great Rakim once put it, it ain’t where you’re from it’s where you’re at, and as long as the music is good, artists will definitely be getting props over here irrespective of where they call home.

I’ve often wondered about DJ Muggs – would his name be more widely mentioned in discussions about the best producers of all-time (next to his more underground counterparts such as Pete Rock and DJ Premier) if he hadn’t have sold millions of records with the likes of Cypress Hill and House Of Pain? The man’s talent behind the boards really can’t be questioned and, after having kick-started his career way back in 1988 as a member of 7A3, the fact that Muggs is still here some twenty years later churning out gritty, grimy Hip-Hop is a testament to his love of the music and culture, irrespective of how many platinum plaques might hang on his studio walls.

Acting as a timely reminder that Muggs still knows exactly how to make a rap junkie’s neck snap, “Pain Language”, his collaborative album with veteran West Coast lyricist Planet Asia, is arguably one of the best-produced Hip-Hop albums you’re likely to hear this year.

Boasting an impressive natural chemistry, Asia and Muggs come off like the dark, twisted cousins of Pete Rock & CL Smooth, with producer and MC complimenting each other’s talents to such an extent, it’s difficult to think of them ever needing to work with anyone else.

The kinetic “9MM” is all crashing cymbals, rolling drums and searing electric guitar, with Asia channeling the old-school in an “88 mind-state” as he taunts competitors hoping to challenge his lyrical tactics. Equally dope is the blazing “That’s What It Is”, as Muggs wraps rousing horns around hard beats, evoking images of Planet Asia in a Hip-Hop version of “300”, leading a legion of scowling b-boys to war with mainstream corporate goliaths. The stuttering soul loops and soothing keyboards of “Black Mask Men” switch the album’s mood for a moment, with the Cali wordsmith correctly describing the track as being “that midnight shit”, but the cut offers only a brief respite from the sonic onslaught. Case in point being the B-Real-assisted “Lions In The Forest”, which features a literally jaw-dropping performance from Asia, as he riddles the up-tempo track with his dense, multi-syllable, metaphor-heavy flow. This is hardcore Hip-Hop in the truest sense of the term.

DJ Muggs & Planet Asia – “9MM” ( Gold Dust Media / 2008 )

If, after Main Source’s 1991 album “Breaking Atoms”, NYC’s Large Professor had never recorded again, his place in rap’s history books would still have been secure after introducing a young Nas to the world on said album’s classic posse cut “Live At The Barbeque”. Thankfully, for those of us who love that dusty true-school sound, Extra P has continued to bless us with his sample-filled creations, although his production career has perhaps been a little less complicated than his own solo endeavors.

Having produced and remixed for the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Common and Styles P, failed label deals and industry politics have largely prevented Large Pro’s own career as a solo artist from reaching any kind of notable momentum. His mid-90s album “The LP” recorded for major label Geffen languished in unreleased hell until it was unofficially bootlegged some years later, with Extra P not releasing a follow-up until 2002’s “1st Class”. The self-proclaimed “live guy with glasses” has often attributed his lack of notoriety outside of diehard Hip-Hop circles to his desire to stick to making the brand of traditional New York rap he came up on back in the day.

With that in mind, Large Professor’s new project “Main Source” (taking its name, of course, from his original crew) doesn’t deviate in any way from the producer-on-the-mic’s previous sonic course. “Maica Livin’” boasts hypnotic keys and rattling drums, as Extra P is joined by Killa Sha and Guardian Leep to pay tribute to all those on the day-to-day grind trying to stack that cheddar. The chirpy “Pump Ya Fist” brings the Main Source legacy full circle, as LP rhymes alongside Queens icon Mikey D, the MC who replaced Large Professor on Main Source’s 1994 album “F*ck What You Think” after a fallout with the group’s remaining members K-Cut and Sir Scratch. Other standouts here include the mellow “In The Ghetto”, which finds Large Pro painting vivid pictures of inner-city living via a subdued rhyme style, and the self-explanatory “Hardcore Hip-Hop” (the only non-LP produced cut on the album) which features Canadian beatsmith Marco Polo crafting some crisp sounds that fit Extra P like a new pair of Air Force Ones. On the downside, “Rockin’ Hip-Hop” sounds cluttered with persistent computer-game noises, and “Large Pro Says” wastes a solid beat for what is effectively an extended call-and-response club routine. But that said, “Main Source” is a welcome return from one of the game’s true legends that’s takes the listener back to a time when Hip-Hop was about more than just drugs, money and murder.

Large Pro Speaks On “Main Source”

UK-based producer Jazz T has assembled a varied cast of supporting artists for his album “All City Kings”. As a former ITF battle deejay champion and member of multi-faceted crew Diversion Tactics, T already has a strong set of credentials within the British Hip-Hop scene. Delivering a concise collection of no-nonsense hip-hop, “All City Kings” features New York MC Hug dealing with some suspect legal issues on “Bullshit Charge”, Tim Dog of Ultramagnetic MCs fame spreading some transatlantic love on “BX To The UK”, and British lyricist Chubby delving into the history of UK Hip-Hop on “Back To London”. Jazz T also shows off his impressive turntable skills on the instrumental title cut.

DJ Jazz T Practice Session

In today’s times of synthesized production, downloading and eBay, it’s easy to forget the time and patience producers of yesteryear had to invest in their never-ending search for the perfect beat. Keen to remind us of the importance of keeping the art of digging for samples alive, DITC’s Showbiz recently dropped his “Rare Breaks – Stack One” mix-CD, a 45-minute collection of thirty anonymous loops which have been given just the right amount of thump for your listening pleasure. Having worked with the likes of Big L, Fat Joe and KRS-One, Bronx-bred producer Showbiz has consistently proved he has an ear for good music over the years and this CD doesn’t disappoint, ranging from moody jazz to sweet soul and everything in-between.

Showbiz In The Studio

Fresh from the recent underground success of Triple Darkness’s “Anathema” album, London word warrior M9 is striking out on his own with this potent example of powerful street reportage from his forthcoming solo offering “144,000”. The dark production from Jon Phonics is the perfect match for M9’s raw portrayal of ghetto life, as the gifted lyricist attempts to elevate the mind state of those around him with dense metaphors and a passionate plea to stop the gang-related youth violence currently gripping UK streets.

M9 Performing In New York

Ryan Proctor

Hip-Hop Single Reviews (Originally Printed In IDJ / Sasha Cover / September 2008)

Hip-Hop Single Reviews By Ryan Proctor

Butta Verses – “If I Die” ( Culture Kings / Domination Recordings )

Introduced to the world on De La Soul’s 2004 album ‘The Grind Date’, Bronx-born lyricist Butta Verses sets up his own forthcoming project ‘Reality BV’ with this head-nodding slice of heartfelt rap. Based around a sublime Marvin Gaye sample courtesy of producer V.I.C. (The Beatnuts, Artifacts etc), ‘If I Die’ finds Verses speaking openly about damaged relationships and personal demons with sincerity and compassion. Genuine real talk. 4 / 5

Sir Smurf Lil’ – “Candlelight” ( YNR )

Hackney resident Smurf is an MC you have to listen to carefully. With his distinctive voice and truly individual take on life, the London lyricist has carved out a nice niche for himself with his imaginative leftfield street rap. On this Apa-Tight-produced cut Lil’ offers more of his trademark off-kilter vibes. Accompanied by snappy drums and a persistent piano loop, Smurf veers from the humorous to the threatening, spraying colourful punchlines and metaphors in all directions. Pure poetry. 4 / 5

The Thunderclaps ft. Orifice Vulgatron, Ghetto & Shameless – “Judgement Day” ( Ejector Seat / All City )

Roaring out of the speakers like a hundred-mile-an-hour sonic cyclone, this debut single from the Thunderclaps production team is destined to become one of those tracks DJs pull out of their box when they want to officially shut the club down. Combining a hybrid Southern hip-hop / UK grime beat with epic samples and high-voltage performances from all three featured MCs, ‘Judgement Day’ can only really be described by one word – rowdy. 5 / 5

Jah-C ft. Cavalier – “Soul Banger” ( Coalmine )

Sounding like the theme song to a sun-splashed, multi-cultural b-boy-themed Harlem street parade, this cut from NYC’s Jah-C is perfect summertime music. Lifted from the forthcoming EP of the same name, ‘Soul Banger’ isn’t a million miles away from the sound of Fat Jon’s Five Deez crew. Good-natured rhymes, afro-beat rhythms, hip-hop flavour and a funky live horn solo gel together here to create a truly uplifting listening experience. 4 / 5

Alex Blood – “Little Dean” ( SA Productions)

This latest offering from Alex Blood finds the Derby artist once again sneering at hip-hop purists who would prefer to see UK rap remain in a neatly labelled box. Employing a Jimi Hendrix-style guitar riff courtesy of Brit punk band Fixit Kid’s front-man Mat Fixit, Blood tells the tale of a troubled inner-city teenager in his unique sing-song vocal style. Edgy but catchy. 3 / 5

LGP ft. Craig G – “Sick Day” ( DMB )

Tapping into that universal ‘Monday morning feeling’, Queensbridge rhyme vet Craig G gets to grips with the pressures of balancing a day job with dreams of a rap career on this engaging cut. Backed by the pounding production of the UK’s Lidget Green Project, the former Juice Crew Allstar displays his usual wit and lyrical flair on what is sure to become an anthem for struggling underground artists everywhere. 4 / 5

Skilf – “Slow Me Down” (Reztone)

With a talent for slick wordplay and an infectious enthusiasm on the microphone, Skilf definitely has the potential to standout from the UK rap crowd. On the Toni Toolz-produced ‘Slow Me Down’ the Brighton MC encourages fellow rappers to put as much energy into their music as they do their thugged-out posturing, admits that everyone thought he was “a nerd at college”, and promises to break the competition “like a poppadom”. Toolz’ shuffling, club-ready track provides a fittingly upbeat backdrop for Skilf’s cheeky verses. 3 / 5

Supastition – “Wrong” ( Reform School / Domination Recordings )

Lifted from his forthcoming ‘Leave Of Absence’ album, North Carolina’s Supastition creatively dismisses non-believers on this solid dose of boom-bap rap. Produced by Australia’s M-Phazes (whose beats here have a 9th Wonder appeal to them), this cut will definitely get some heavy rotation in the headphones of traditionalist hip-hop fans. 3 / 5

Hip-Hop Single Reviews (Originally Printed In IDJ / Dubfire Cover / August 2008)

Hip-Hop Single Reviews By Ryan Proctor

Hustle Simmons ft. Buff1 – “Over And Out” ( Break Bread Projects )

The humorously named Hustle Simmons is actually a duo comprised of New Jersey underground MC Dave Ghetto and Philadelphia-based producer Tha S Ence. Lifted from their self-titled album, this cut finds the pair seeking to bring back that real rap without falling into the trap of sounding stuck in the past. Assisted by Detroit’s Buff1 on mic duties, Ghetto delivers his usual high standard of well-crafted rhymes over S Ence’s persistent, snappy drums and chopped string samples. 4 / 5

Mick Luter – “How We Raised” ( Stay Humble Entertainment )

Having already achieved notoriety in his hometown of Chicago, Windy City lyricist Luter is now looking to catch the attention of rap fans outside of his Midwest stomping grounds. ML displays a nimble flow and thoughtful subject matter on the soulful ‘How We Raised’, weaving tales of inner-city angst with both depth and maturity. Definitely a name to lookout for. 4 / 5

Phashara – “Young World” ( Beatmonstas Entertainment )

With a nod to Slick Rick’s old-school classic ‘Hey Young World’, Chicago’s Phashara attempts to reach the minds of rap’s more impressionable listeners on this mellow, piano-laced head-nodder. Warning of the possible consequences of gangs, drugs and violence, Phashara draws on his own experiences to show his target audience they do have alternatives in life. Edutainment at its best. 4 / 5

Shabaam Sahdeeq ft. Torae & Supastition – “Keep Comin” ( Marvial Entertainment )

Having made his name in the underground rap renaissance of the mid-to-late 90s, New York’s Shabaam returns with this solid offering from his new album ‘Relentless’. Featuring guest spots from fellow NYC resident Torae and North Carolina’s Supastition, ‘Keep Comin’ is a witty sonic rebuttal to backstabbers everywhere, based around sliding synths and a unique female hook that you’ll be humming for days. 3 / 5

Pugs Atomz – “All Right” ( Gravel )

There must be something in the Chi-town water this month, as here’s yet another slice of attention-worthy music straight from the 312 area code. With producer Grant Parks supplying a smooth laidback funk track reminiscent of vintage DJ Quik, Atomz takes full advantage of the party vibes, getting his drink on, chasing the ladies and generally enjoying life. One for those hot and hazy summer evenings. 3 / 5

Saint ft. Verses – “Do You Remember?” ( Domination Recordings )

Whilst both Long Island’s Saint and guest MC Verses do a competent enough job here of proving their true-school credentials by lyrically attacking the current state of hip-hop, it’s the production on this cut which elevates it above the average mark. Swinging jazz samples collide with dense drums and slick scratches to create a lively, feel-good vibe. Check out Saint’s album ‘About Time’ for more of the same. 4 / 5

Baby J ft. Asher D & Nathan – “Lies” ( Abtract Urban )

Another genre-hopping banger from Baby J’s forthcoming ‘Baby Food’ album. Blending hip-hop, grime and R&B influences into three-minutes of smoothed-out listening pleasure, Baby J once again brings a unique sound to the table, complimented by Nathan’s classy crooning and former So Solid member Asher D’s woman-related woes. A great tune with serious crossover potential. 4 / 5

Young Chris – “Never Die” ( Roc-A-Fella)

Having floated around on the mix-CD circuit for awhile now, it appears this captivating cut from one-half of Philadelphia’s Young Gunz duo is now seeing an official release. Built around a beautifully melancholic soul sample, ‘Never Die’ finds Young Chris turning the tragedies of street life into compelling music, complete with moments of stirring self-reflection. Heart-wrenching stuff. 4 / 5

GTA ft. Jada Pearl – “The Way” ( Phoenix Down )

Oxford-based duo Chima and Ineffable are all about positive vibes on this upbeat, motivational cut from their forthcoming album of the same name. Forget keeping it real, this pair are “keeping it proper” as they attempt to civilise the uncivilised over rousing, horn-blasting production, accompanied by a passionate hook from female vocalist Jada Pearl. 3 / 5

Hip-Hop Single Reviews (Originally Printed In IDJ / Goldie Cover / July 2008)

Hip-Hop Single Reviews By Ryan Proctor

Count Bass D – “Can We Hang Out Tonight” ( 1320 Records )

Stateside underground favourite Count Bass D premiers his forthcoming album ‘L7’ with this hypnotic head-nodder. The cut’s robust, synth-led production works well with the Count’s breezy, sing-a-long vocals, with the rapper also dropping some deliberately deadpan lyrics in an attempt to catch the object of his desire’s attention. Another sure-shot straight out of leftfield for the Bass man.  4 / 5

Sincere ft. Natty – “Once Upon A Time” ( Young Entrepreneurs )

A big tune with plenty of crossover potential, North London’s Sincere strikes a fine balance here between commercial viability and lyrical poignancy. Backed by Firstman’s jazz / reggae fusion of rolling drums, skanking basslines and chirpy horns, the young MC addresses the constant battle between good and evil, touching on the tragic consequences of petty street beef as well as the need for unity in the black community. With vocalist Natty contributing an infectious hook that’s sure to become lodged in your head, ‘Once Upon A Time’ is likely to become one of the summer’s most popular tracks.  4 / 5

Common ft. Pharrell – “Universal Mind Control” ( Geffen )

Sure to evoke memories amongst die-hard Common fans of 2002’s much-criticised ‘Electric Circus’ album, this initial offering from the Chicagoan’s eighth long-player once again finds the rapper straying from the soulful boom-bap music he’s made his trademark. Old-school hip-hop fans will revel in this cut’s retro-electro ‘Planet Rock’ feel, but those who hold Common up as the poster-boy of bohemian backpack rap will no doubt be disappointed by the simplified party lyrics heard here. Personally, I kinda like it.  3 / 5

Various – “Two Syllables EP Vol. 3” ( First Word )

Another choice selection of homegrown cuts from the ever-reliable First Word imprint. Kicking things off is a brilliant Kidkanevil reworking of the Dirty Diggers’ ‘Don’t Know About That’, an accordion-driven mish-mash of scattered drums, dry lyrical humour and fidgety percussion. Mike L plays musical join-the-dots on the jazz-infused instrumental ‘Schrodinger’s Scat’, whilst Homecut’s ‘Night At The Fayre’ offers a refreshingly unpredictable jam session feel along with some well-delivered rhymes. A diverse but dope release.  4 / 5

Poems – “Love” ( Hip-Hop Is Music)

To most hip-hop fans, Long Beach, California brings to mind the likes of Snoop Dogg and a handful of other West Coast gangsta rappers. Aiming to show a different side to his gang-related locale, Poems brings a positive approach to his craft, lacing his verses with universally relatable themes and a well-balanced worldview. ‘Love’ has an almost Slum Village-ish sound to it, with soothing, jazzy vibes and hazy keys providing the backdrop for Poem’s sensitive-but-realistic rhymes about affairs of the heart.  4 / 5

Radix – “Right State Of Mind EP” ( Abstrak Recordings )

Longstanding figures on hip-hop’s underground landscape, Massachusetts duo Radix return with a solid EP that finds the pair once again ignoring any mainstream trends in favour of delivering sincere, heartfelt music. The melodic ’Keep On’ offers moments of personal reflection, whilst the head-nodding ‘Perspective’ features a welcome appearance from 90s favourite Edo.G. The guitar-led ‘Breaking Point is another standout, with NYC’s Q-Unique (of Arsonists fame) helping the crew deal with the pressures of life. Sturdy stuff.  3/5

Eliphino – “Seasons EP” ( First Word )

A great collection of instrumental mood music from the twenty-something Leeds-based producer. Truly gifted behind the boards, Eliphino keeps the quality level extremely high here. From the spacey ‘I Like It Yo’ to the sublimely atmospheric ‘Media’, the Northern maestro has a real knack for crafting cuts which stimulate emotions, taking the listener on a musical journey in the process. Whilst traces of greats such as Pete Rock and Dilla can be found in his sonic recipe, Eliphino definitely possesses his own artistic identity and is surely on the verge of big things.  4 / 5

Buff1- “Beat The Speakers Up” ( A-Side Worldwide )

A native of Detroit, Buff1’s rambunctious mix of industrial-strength beats and swaggering rhymes will definitely appeal to fans of other Motor City acts such as Guilty Simpson and Black Milk. Already the owner of an impressive back-catalogue (do your research, people), Buff1 is sure to raise his profile with this kinetic banger, which finds the forthright MC attacking short-sighted commercial radio programmers whilst asserting his dominance over the competition. Uncut b-boy music.  4 / 5