Tag Archives: Mr Lif

New Joint – Tom Caruana / Mr. Lif

Tom Caruana ft. Mr. Lif – “Critical Status” (TomCaruana.BandCamp.Com / 2022)

Boston rhyme vet Lif blasts back to the future on this up-tempo body-rocker off UK producer Tom Caruana’s new album “Strange Planet”.

New Joint – Stu Bangas / Mr. Lif

Stu Bangas ft. Mr. Lif – “Candy From A Baby” (@Stu_Bangas / 2021)

Boston’s mighty Mr. Lif steps back to take a look at both his career and his passion for music on this quality cut off the forthcoming “Deathwish” album from ever consistent producer Stu Bangas.

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2020 (Part Three) – Mr. Lif & Stu Bangas / Skyzoo / Juga-Naut & Micall Parknsun

Check Part One & Part Two.

Mr. Lif & Stu Bangas – “Vangarde” (FBDistribution.BandCamp.Com) – A sonic response to the “new world adjustments” we were all dealing with throughout 2020, this album from Boston partnership Mr. Lif and Stu Bangas was sharp, urgent and intelligent. Covering topics such as the pandemic, police brutality, politics and social unrest, the duo delivered inspired commentary on the events of the year, providing a soundtrack to the struggles faced by many. Music to strive by.

Es x Pandamonium – “The Connected EP” (EsxPanda.BandCamp.Com) – It doesn’t seem that long ago that the idea of music being made via the internet by individuals on opposite sides of the globe was considered ground-breaking and revolutionary. Nowadays it’s standard practice. But that doesn’t make the results of such collaborations any less impressive. This EP found Canada’s ever-consistent Es building musical bridges with the UK’s DJ Pandamonium, resulting in a vibrant EP full of thoughtful lyricism and accomplished production.

J-Live – “Drawn Up” (RealJLive.BandCamp.Com) – Delivering quality Hip-Hop since 1995, this EP from underground favourite J-Live proved the past twenty-five years have only refined his musical talents, with this self-produced release featuring plenty of the punchy, insightful lyricism and true-school attitude that have become his trademark since those early indie releases.

Mark Ski – “Catch-REC” (FunkByFunk.BandCamp.Com) – UK producer Mark Ski called on a transatlantic team of talented emcees to help put together this debut album, with the likes of Blame One, Booda French and J57 all stepping up and delivering the lyrical goods, complimented by knocking drums, smartly-selected samples and deft cuts.

Skyzoo – “Milestones” (MelloMusicGroup.BandCamp.Com) – This brilliant concept-based EP found Brooklyn’s Skyzoo celebrating, analysing and embracing fatherhood, drawing inspiration from both the birth of his son Miles and memories of his own adolescence. The NY emcee’s talent for being able to communicate so much in just a couple of lines came into its own here, as Skyzoo joined the dots between his relationship with his own father and how that helped shape the person he is today. An inspired piece of work.

Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist – “Alfredo” (ALCRecords.Com) – Having already got two full-length albums with legendary producer Madlib under his belt, Gary, Indiana’s Hip-Hop champ Freddie Gibbs upped the ante on this latest project, joining forces with another studio giant, The Alchemist. Casually draping his street-orientated verses over the subtle, understated excellence of Al’s work behind-the-boards, Gibbs further secured his spot as one of the rap game’s go-to artists.

Aye Wun – “Gutta Wit Da Smoov” (AyeWun1.BandCamp.Com) – This project from Queens, NY’s Aye Wun definitely livesd up to its title, with the Rotten Apple rhymer blending raw wordplay with largely laidback, melodic production from the likes of Matt Kuartz, Milano Constantine and The Kurse.

Westside Gunn – “Pray For Paris” (WestsideGunn.Com) – 2020 was a big year for the Griselda camp, with multiple releases from the Buffalo-based crew landing with maximum impact. Of the three full-length efforts from WSG, “Pray For Paris” was the one that worked best for me as a cohesive body of work, with production from the likes of DJ Muggs, Daringer and Camouflage Monk setting a sonic tone for the project that fully complimented Gunn’s distinctive voice and unique delivery.

UFO Fev & Termanology – “From El Barrio, With Love” (UFOFev.BandCamp.Com) – The second of three brilliant 2020 releases from East Harlem’s UFO Fev, this seven-track EP found the NY artist calling on the production talents of Termanology, who came through with a quality batch of captivating musical gems. Rhyming with the attitude of an emcee fully aware of his own greatness who wasn’t prepared to wait for the rest of the world to catch up, Fev further proved himself to be an essential figure in the Rotten Apple underground.

Big Kahuna OG & Monday Night – “Thug Tear” (SchemeTeamAllStars.BandCamp.Com) – With production on this album split between Unlucky Bastards and Graymatter, Richmond rhymers Big Kahuna OG and Monday Night utilised the soulfully mellow tracks on offer here to wax lyrical about their daily operations in a pre-pandemic Virginia.

Juga-Naut & Micall Parknsun – “Twelve Bricks” (JugaNaut.BandCamp.Com) – Using their 2017 “Six Bricks” EP as the sturdy foundations for this full-length collaboration, Nottingham’s Juga-Naut and London’s Micall Parknsun once again proved themselves to be master builders of quality Hip-Hop. A brilliantly matched partnership, this album really felt like a genuine joint effort, with the end result ensuring there would definitely be an appetite from fans to hear the pair working together again in the future.

Sa-Roc – “The Sharecropper’s Daughter” (Sa-Roc.Com) – A lyrical force of nature, Washington DC-born, Atlanta-based artist Sa-Roc delivered arguably the best album of her career so far with this largely Sol Messiah-produced release. Packed full of verses that demanded to be listened to, studied, processed, then rewound and listened to again, “The Sharecropper’s Daughter” was a masterclass in emceeing. When Sa-Roc says on “Hand Of God”, “I’m tryna leave a Hip-Hop classic”, that was clearly a mission statement and not just an empty promise.

Blimes and Gab – “Talk About It” (BlimesAndGab.Com) – This thoroughly entertaining debut from San Francisco / Seattle duo Blimes Brixton and Gifted Gab was the sound of two experienced artists completely in control of their creativity coming together to make a bold statement through music. Drawing on an eclectic selection of sonic influences, the pair’s larger-than-life personalities ultimately held this album together, with their infectious blend of lyrical expertise, sassy wit and humour endearing them to listeners and making the pair feel like old friends.

The Cornel West Theory – “By The Time I Get To Minnesota” (TheCornelWestTheory.BandCamp.Com) – No strangers to making thought-provoking, outspoken Hip-Hop, Washington DC’s The Cornel West Theory responded to the events of 2020 with urgency on this release, confronting white supremacy, police brutality and political corruption throughout the EP in no uncertain terms.

Black Thought – “Streams Of Thought Vol. 3: Cane & Abel” (RepublicRecords.Com) – At this stage, Black Thought’s position as one of the greatest emcees of all-time should really be unquestionable. This was the opinion of many long before the infamous Funkmaster Flex freestyle, but that breath-taking performance definitely opened more eyes and ears to the Philly legend’s incredible talent, which has also coincided with an increase in Thought’s musical output. This third (largely Sean C-produced) volume of the “Streams Of Thought” series was another lyrical tour de force from one of Illadelph’s finest, bombarding listeners brain-cells with a barrage of powerful verses.

Agallah & Sadat X – “The Gods Have Arrived” (Agallah.BandCamp.Com) – Celebrating a friendship that began in the early-90s as well as a time in Hip-Hop when skills and reputation meant everything, Rotten Apple veterans Agallah and Sadat X decided it was time to build and put together this collaborative release, delivering Five Percent-inspired knowledge whilst handing out lyrical speed-knots to non-believers. New York straight talk in full effect.

Shaolin Drunk – “Raw Feeling” (HeavyDrums.BandCamp.Com) – Echoing horns, melodic vibes and dusty beats could be found in abundance on this release from Brazil-based producer Shaolin Drunk. Sounding like a lost collection of instrumentals off the best 90s underground singles you’ve never heard, Drunk not only captured the style of that period but also injected his music with feeling and soul, two qualities that can sometimes be missing when present day producers attempt to pay homage to the generation of golden-era music makers that influenced them.

Knowledge The Pirate – “Family Jewels” (TuffKongRecords.BandCamp.Com) – The illustrious Pirate set sail on his third full-length collection of street-related stories, all delivered in his trademark been-there-done-that-you-don’t-impress-me tone and matched with the subtle sonic drama of producers E.L.E.M.N.T and Cuns. A master of creating mood in his music, Knowledge’s latest was full of vivid, cinematic crime-side rhymes that turned your third-eye towards a shadowy world of risk and suspense.

Wish Master – “The BULL (The Best Underrated Living Legend” (WishMaster.BandCamp.Com) – The Bristol-based emcee approached his third release with “more than hunger” as he blessed beats from Ral Duke, Chimera and Van Dam with autobiographical, word-weary rhymes laced with life lessons. A captivating, accomplished collection of beats and rhymes.

Kadeem – “Passing Exchange” (ItsKadeem.BandCamp.Com) – Heavy-mental wordplay from the Boston lyricist could be found here, accompanied by smooth, understated production from No.Pulp, USeeIt, Jeff Alan Gore and more. This five-track EP may have been short in length, but Kadeem definitely put the time to good use, skilfully finding seats for listeners on his train of thought, piquing our interest and ensuring heads would be waiting to join him on his next musical journey.

Part Four coming soon.

New Joint – Vangarde (Mr. Lif & Stu Bangas)

Vangarde (Mr. Lif & Stu Bangas) – “The New Normal” (FBDistribution.BandCamp.Com / 2020)

The Boston duo mix present day pandemic reality with quality beats and rhymes in this video lifted from their brilliant self-titled album.

New Joint – Vangarde (Mr. Lif & Stu Bangas)

Vangarde (Mr. Lif & Stu Bangas) ft. Puma Ptah, Reef The Lost Cauze, Blueprint & Murs – “8:46” (@TheRealMrLif / @Stu_Bangas / 2020)

Potent social commentary addressing police brutality, political corruption, white privilege and racism off the forthcoming full-length Vangarde project.


New Joint – The Perceptionists / Paten Locke

perceptionists cover

The Perceptionists – “Bait” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2018)

Whilst remixing a handful of cuts from Boston duo Akrobatik and Mr Lif’s 2017 album “Resolution” for the pair’s forthcoming “Low Resolution” EP, producer Paten Locke joined forces with the two formidable microphone fiends to craft this crunchy, neck-snapping sureshot.

New Joint – The Perceptionists

The Perceptionists – “Dirty Drumz” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2017)

Speaker-pounding beats and heavy-mental rhymes from the recently-released Mr. Lif / Akrobatik album “Resolution”.

New Joint – The Perceptionists / Syne

The Perceptionists ft. Syne – “Free At Last” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2017)

Intelligent, thoughtful Hip-Hop for today’s troubled times from Mr. Lif and Akrobatik’s new album “Resolution”.

New Joint – The Perceptionists

perceptionists cover

The Perceptionists – “Out Of Control” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2017)

Mr. Lif and Akrobatik offer words of inspiration as we all attempt to make sense of the social madness occurring across the globe on a daily basis – taken from the pair’s new album “Resolution”.

New Joint – The Perceptionists

perceptionists cover

The Perceptionists – “Dirty Drumz” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2017)

Intelligent, hardcore Hip-Hop from Mr. Lif and Akrobatik off the Boston duo’s forthcoming album “Resolution”.

New Joint – The Perceptionists / Syne

The Perceptionists ft. Syne – “Hose Down” (@MelloMusicGroup / 2017)

Mr. Lif and Akrobatik join forces once again to drop some science on the subject of police brutality for this lead single off their forthcoming album “Resolution”.


New Joint – Mr. Lif / Blacastan

lif cover

Mr. Lif ft. Blacastan – “Whizdom” (@TheRealMrLif / 2016)

The Boston vet returns with a typically mind-expanding display of lyricism on this Edan-produced cut off his forthcoming album “Don’t Look Down”.

New Joint – Zion I / Mr. Lif / Sadat X etc.

Zion I ft. Mr. Lif, Kev Choice, Deuce Eclipse, Opio & Sadat X – “Get Urs” (@ZionI / 2014)

Upbeat Headnodic-produced posse cut from the Oakland duo’s “Libations” EP.

New Joint – Akrobatik / Mr. Lif

akrobatik cover

Akrobatik ft. Mr. Lif – “Where Am I?” (@AkrobatikMC / 2014)

The two Perceptionists emcees re-unite on this Teddy Roxpin-produced concept-driven track from Ak’s forthcoming album “Built To Last”.

Album Review – DJ Format

DJ Format

“Statement Of Intent”

(Project Blue Book Records)

It’s been nearly a decade since the release of UK vinyl junkie DJ Format’s 2003 debut album “Music For The Mature B-Boy” and seven years since its follow-up, 2005’s “If You Can’t Join ‘Em…Beat ‘Em”. Since then the Brighton-based producer’s presence on wax has been fairly limited, with Format becoming known more for his party-rocking live deejay sets and mixes than his own musical output. But, as its title suggests, with this third album the dedicated crate-digger returns to remind listeners of his capabilities behind the boards with what appears to be a renewed sense of vigour.

To these ears, “Statement Of Intent” showcases the work of a rejuvenated Format. It’s not that any of the tracks included here are a million miles away from the producer’s trademark mix of obscure samples, deft cuts and hand-picked underground lyricists, but there does seem to be a grittier, more aggressive feel to this project in places compared to Format’s past work, as if he really felt he had something to prove this time around (perhaps to himself more than others). If so, that sense of purpose and determination has definitely led to some positive results in the studio.

Having worked closely on previous releases with Canada’s Abdominal, this time around it’s Washington D.C.-raised Diggers With Gratitude emcee Sureshot La Rock who maintains a constant and welcome presence throughout “Statement Of Intent”. The opening title track finds the talented wordsmith giving props to some of the pair’s shared old-school influences, name-checking the likes of Melle Mel and Grandmaster Caz over expertly chopped beats and a variety of fast-moving samples. Whilst on the Levi 167-sampling “Dope Pusher”, La Rock peppers the track’s dense soundscape with cocky, larger-than-life boasts.

The relentless “Spaceship Earth” features Boston’s Edan travelling at magnificent speeds around the universe, dropping a rapid multi-syllable flow that would make Big Daddy Kane smile over rattling drums and whip-lashing psychedelic guitar (“Starting a colony deep in the galaxy must be the aim of astronomy, Crooked economy killing ecology”).

On the instrumental side, the dusty vibes, old-school chants and free-flowing funk of “Beyond Disco” (co-produced by The Simonsound) evokes the eclectic feel of mixes heard on Afrika Islam’s NY-based early-80s “Zulu Beat” radio show, whilst the brilliant “Battle Of The Planets” brings back memories of the electro era, with Format taking to the vocoder to issue dance-friendly instructions over rolling drums, melodic synths and space-age sound effects (“The whole galaxy is watching, This is a universal jam….Interplanetary b-boys I know you came to throw down”).

Another stand-out is the humorous “Remember…” which features Sureshot La Rock cleverly paying homage to the various females who’ve been immortalised on wax by the likes of Just-Ice, Stetsasonic and UTFO over dreamy chimes and mellow guitar (“The other day I took a stroll down memory lane, Erick and Parrish were makin’ dollars pimpin’ out Jane, You shoulda seen her kickin’ game, I tried not to stare but, It’s been twenty years with that Anita Baker haircut!”).

With further input from Mr. Lif, Phill Most Chill and The Nostalgia 77 Quintet, “Statement Of Intent” covers a lot of musical ground, from true-school breakbeat-driven anthems (“Live At The Place To Be”) to full-blown jazz (“The Long Goodbye”), but Format consistently hits the target regardless of where his musical inspiration is coming from.

In my opinion, “Statement Of Intent” contains DJ Format’s best work to date, mixing his experimental tendencies and love of Hip-Hop with a new sense of urgency and sonic vitality. As far as statements go, this particular one is hard to refute.

Ryan Proctor

DJ Format ft. Edan – “Spaceship Earth” (Project Blue Book Records / 2012)


Statement Of Intent Album Trailer – DJ Format

Trailer for UK producer DJ Format’s forthcoming album “Statement Of Intent” which features appearances from Mr. Lif, Phill Most Chill, Sureshot La Rock and more.

New Joint – Ape The Grim / Mr. Lif / Nabo Rawk

Ape The Grim ft. Mr. Life & Nabo Rawk – “Swipe Da Funk” (GSE Product / 2011)

Produced by DC The MIDI Alien with cuts by Statik Selektah.


Hip-Hop Kemp 2008 (Part 2) – EMC / Akrobatik / Mr. Lif / The Roots / Illa J

Live footage from this year’s Hip-Hop Kemp event.


Akrobatik & Mr. Lif

The Roots

Illa J

Hip-Hop Kemp 2008 (Part 1) – Mr. Lif / Illa J / Zion I / Kano

Various interviews from this year’s Hip-Hop Kemp event.

Mr. Lif

Illa J

Zion I


Akrobatik Interview (Originally Posted On HHNLive.Com Mar 17th 2008)


Ask most new artists today what they’re looking for from their music career and the chances are that longevity won’t be at the top of the list. In today’s industry climate of ringtone rappers, one-hit wonders and declining album sales, many new jacks are looking to get in and out of the business as quickly as they can whilst accumulating as much money as possible. Whereas back in the day the term ‘overnight sensation’ was viewed as somewhat of a derogatory label that suggested an artist hadn’t paid his or her dues or fully perfected their craft, cats today aspire to blow up with their first musical efforts, so they can squeeze the game for all it’s worth financially and fall back before the bubble bursts and their fifteen minutes of fame is over.

Underground champion Akrobatik, however, is someone whose career plan most definitely does stretch beyond only worrying about his next mix-CD placement. Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, the rapper with the commanding baritone flow first debuted back in 1998 with his rugged single “Ruff Enuff”. But it was Akro’s 2000 Rawkus release “Internet Mcs” that really caught people’s attention, with the Beantown lyricist’s sharp, satirical look at the then burgeoning online rap chatroom community raising both eyebrows and laughter. This was followed in 2003 by the release of Akrobatik’s critically-acclaimed debut album “Balance”, which saw Ak winning the International Songwriting Competition for the captivating single “Remind My Soul”. Shortly after, the dreadlocked mic wrecker joined forces with fellow Boston bomber Mr. Lif for the well-received Perceptionists project on the Def Jux imprint, an album that landed in Rolling Stone’s best-of 2005 list.

Having recently released a new solo set entitled “Absolute Value”, the down-to-earth rapper is hoping that his blend of socially-aware subject matter, competition-crushing battle rhymes and quality production will once again please existing fans whilst showing doubters that he really is here to stay.

Just before jumping on a plane to Florida, A-to-the-K set some time aside for HHNLive.Com to talk about collaborating with J-Dilla, working with his idols, and American politics.

You’ve been releasing product now for over ten years. How do you feel you’ve developed as an artist in that time?

Well, I think I’ve gotten more confident with my flow and just with my ability to hold down a song from beginning to end. I think I’m getting stronger as an artist and maturing overall as a person.

The independent rap game has changed a great deal since you first debuted. Is there anything in particular you feel you’ve had to do to evolve with the business?

I’ve had to learn as many ways as I can to make money. We all have to try to survive and create situations for ourselves to enable us to stay in the business. Like you said, I’ve been here for a long time now and that’s no easy feat to be around for over ten years. A lot of that has to do with me going out and finding opportunities for myself to supplement my income and maximize my potential as an artist. Whilst I think it’s very important for an artist to keep putting out good music, I think it’s just as important to keep your business tight.

You’ve become something of a radio celebrity in Boston thanks to your daily Sports Rap-Up. What exactly does that involve and how did you get the gig?

Basically, the Sports Rap-Up is something that I do every Monday through to Friday. I have a segment on the morning show on Boston’s JAM’N 94.5 that’s one minute long and it plays three times throughout the show. It’s basically a freestyle about the sports news from the previous night. It’s a fun thing to do as I get to talk about what’s going on in the world in real time every day and there are opportunities for me to incorporate things from outside of sports into the Rap-Up with punchlines and stuff like that. It’s definitely a cool way for me to stay in contact with the people in Boston. The station actually approached me to do it as I’ve been in the business so long now that a lot of people there were already familiar with my work. They approached me, I gave them a demo, and it worked out real well.

Akrobatik – “Sports Rap-Up 2007”

Do you ever get feedback from listeners who were unfamiliar with you as an artist, but then after hearing you on the radio have then started getting into your music?

Absolutely. I get emails every week from people saying they’ve been listening to me every morning on the radio and then maybe they went to check out my MySpace page or something like that. It’s definitely bringing me some new fans, for sure.

Your recent single “Put Ya Stamp On It” with Talib Kweli was produced by the late J-Dilla. How did that collaboration come about?

It was a label thing. Fat Beats hooked me up with the opportunity to rock over a Dilla track that they’d commissioned from him before be passed away. I was real fortunate to be able to do that.

Did you feel any pressure recording that track knowing that you were adding on to Dilla’s legacy and that any posthumous Dilla-related material could end up being critiqued harder than what was released when he was alive?

Yeah, I mean I totally understand how that all works and that people may be sensitive to the idea of an artist who didn’t actually know Dilla rhyming over one of his tracks. But the fact of that matter is, Talib Kweli and Dilla were good friends and Kweli and I have known each other for a long time. Although I only met Dilla once, I feel that we really did the track justice and a lot of people do really seem to like the song. I think it’s something that Dilla himself would’ve been into.

Akrobatik ft. Talib Kweli – “Put Ya Stamp On It” (Fat Beats / 2008)

You have features on “Absolute Value” from legendary artists such as Public Enemy’s Chuck D, B-Real from Cypress Hill and Bumpy Knuckles (a.k.a. Freddie Foxxx). How did it feel recording with such Hip-Hop icons?

It’s definitely an amazing thing to be affiliated with guys who I grew up listening to. It’s unbelievable to me to that Chuck D was down to get together and do a track because he was my idol when I was growing up. It’s been a beautiful thing, and if anything, this album will establish the fact that I have the respect of my peers and my contemporaries. If I’d have come up somewhere like LA, New York or Atlanta, perhaps people might’ve heard about me quicker and realized that I was for real. But being from somewhere like Boston, it’s a little bit harder for people to be convinced because there’s not a wave of popular artists from the region I’m from. So I think this situation might make people a little less reluctant to check me out, with me getting the co-sign from people like Chuck D, Freddie Foxxx, Talib Kweli and Da Beatminerz. But that said, I’ve worked very hard to get myself into a position where these people would even consider working with me.

The track you recorded with Chuck D, “Kindred”, has political overtones to it and politics is obviously a hot topic in America right now with the Obama / Clinton situation. Regardless of who actually gets into the White House, what changes would you like to see any new American government make?

A: Well, there are a few immediate things. Everyone talks about the war in Iraq and that’s something that’s really a life or death situation. I would love to see our guys get out of there. I think if John McCain is the President those guys aren’t going to go anywhere and will be dying over there for years. That scares me. I think Hilary Clinton would get those guys out somewhat faster, but I think Barack Obama would get them out much faster. But the Iraq situation is just one thing. We also have healthcare issues and George Bush has left us with a pretty big bill, so we’re going to have to figure out how to get out of that debt as the country’s pretty much in a recession right now. I have a lot of concerns and I’m not sure if the person who’s going to fix them is going to do it necessarily because of what political party they’re from. I think we just really have to figure out who the best person is for the job. I’m hoping that whatever happens between Hilary and Barack, whoever wins that goes on to be the President because I just couldn’t take another four years of a Republican warmonger being the President of the United States and I don’t think the rest of the world wants to see that either. Just for the country’s global image, I think we need to do something that shows people we know America needs to change and that we’re doing something about it. There might be some mistakes made along the way, but I’d rather see that than America making a ‘safe’ decision and thinking that because we’re at war we need to have another war President. I’d just like to see someone in the White House who’s not a lunatic.

Are we likely to see another Perceptionists album with Mr. Lif any time soon?

Yeah, absolutely. We’re writing songs and getting beats for that right now. We’re taking our time with it, but we’re all going to be together a lot this year touring, so the album will probably be formulated over the summer and hopefully we’ll have it out by the fall. But we’re definitely going to do it.

So what’s next for Akrobatik as a solo artist?

I’ve got a lot of things going on. I’m doing a lot of stuff in the sports world right now and am working on some endorsement deals here and there. I’m just really busy and I’m hoping that I can put together another cohesive group of songs so that I can put another album out next year. I think I’ve had my time being the best-kept secret, so now this is my time to shine and just enjoy being in my prime.

Ryan Proctor