Tag Archives: RESPECT THE ARchitect

100 Best Albums & EPs Of 2014 (Part Three) – Blueprint / Essa / Timeless Truth etc.

Check Part One and Part Two.

Blueprint – “Respect The Architect” (Weightless Recordings) – Responsible for releasing a steady stream of quality music over the last decade-plus, Ohio producer-on-the-mic Blueprint channeled his life experiences, both good and bad, into this emotionally-charged body of work. Capturing a variety of moods and thoughts, Blueprint moved seamlessly throughout this album, from moments of powerful reflection to striking artistic defiance. Genuine soul music.

blueprint cover

Skanks – “The Shinigami Flowfessional” (Shinigamie Records) – Spreading love may well be the Brooklyn way as Biggie once said, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be delivered with a heavy dose of rawness, as evidenced by NY emcee Skanks’ impressive solo project. Backed by the rugged, thunder-clap production of France’s Kyo Itachi, the Bankai Fam member repped for both the streets of his Crooklyn stomping grounds and the culture of Hip-Hop with equal parts passion, aggression and determination. How about some hardcore?

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Wu-Tang Clan – “A Better Tomorrow” (Warner Brothers) – At one point it looked like “A Better Tomorrow” wasn’t likely to see the light of day, with there being discord within the Clan regarding RZA’s creative direction for the project. Yet, the brothers from the slums of Shaolin managed to find some musical middle ground. For the most part, this 20th anniversary album effectively balanced the Abbot’s grand ideas with traditional Wu-Tang slang, showcasing the still-impressive verbal skills of each member and also including some poignant rhymes for our troubled times.

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Dilated Peoples – “Directors Of Photography” (Rhymesayers Entertainment) – Viewing the world through a camera lens on their first group project since 2006, West Coast trio Evidence, Rakaa Iriscience and DJ Babu added more worthy sonic snapshots to their extensive musical photo album, which now spans almost two decades. With “Directors Of Photography”, the crew showcased their creative growth whilst remaining faithful to their underground Hip-Hop roots set in the 90s indie scene.

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Giallo Point & SmooVth – “Portrait Of A Pimp” (Crate Divizion) – SmooVth by name, smooth by nature, the Strong Island lyricist plundered UK producer Giallo Point’s beat stash for this sublime, low-key lesson in minimalist magic. Weaving subtle-yet-vivid rhymes around exquisite beats that ranged from cool-breeze loops to 70s soundtrack-style drama, SmooVth used his calm-but-deadly delivery to draw the listener into a cinematic world of fine women, fast living and slick street tales.

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Eff Yoo & Godilla – “They Came On Horseback” (Eff Yoo & Godilla) – Riding into town from the high plains of NYC and Pennsylvania respectively, mic-slingers Eff Yoo and Godilla stood as outlaws against Hip-Hop’s diluted mainstream, crafting an album for those who still appreciate genuine lyricism. Joined on their musical travels by the likes of Spit Gemz, Shabaam Sahdeeq and UG of the Cella Dwellas, this rough-and-ready posse made their way through the badlands of rap, inviting like-minded heads to ride alongside them. Saddle up!

eff yoo cover

Lord Finesse – “The SP1200 Project” (Slice-Of-Spice) – The Diggin’ In The Crates legend unleashed a mammoth selection of masterful, sample-based beats on this brilliant instrumental project. Capturing the timeless essence of classic golden-era Hip-Hop, Finesse demonstrated why his reputation as one of the game’s illest producers remains firmly intact to this day.

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Essa – “The Misadventures Of A Middle Man” (First Word Records) – London’s Essa (formerly known as Yungun) is the perfect example of an emcee who has really kept it real over the years in the truest sense of the term. Having displayed consistent artistic growth, integrity and honesty since debuting in the early-2000s, this long-awaited album found Essa delivering expertly-written verses over a varied selection of musical flavours, from futuristic soul and afro-beat to traditional, drum-heavy Hip-Hop. Capturing Essa’s thoughts on topics such as his mixed-race heritage, religion and family, “The Misadventures…” offered insight into the world of an artist with a sharp mind and an equally sharp lyrical ability.

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Diamond District – “March On Washington” (Mello Music Group) – Successfully achieving the delicate balancing act of pushing creative boundaries whilst still satisfying original fans, DMV trio Oddisee, yU and Uptown XO’s follow-up to their 2009 album “In The Ruff” demonstrated both musical growth and a deeper lyrical approach. Spring-boarding off of Oddisee’s ever-expanding production palette, the group crafted a now-school album with influences that could be traced back to 70s soul and 90s Hip-Hop.

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K-9 – “The Re-Education Of King 9” (Rotton Products) – This self-produced album from London emcee K-9 is what KRS-One would no doubt describe as ‘edutainment’. Proudly displaying a strong reggae influence rooted in old-school sound-system culture, K-9 also drew heavily on his West Indian ancestry as he linked the social plight faced by many inner-city British Black Black youth to the experiences of older generations arriving in England in the late-40s and after. Tackling racism, injustice and colonialism, “The Re-Education Of…” is as much a history lesson as it is a snapshot of present-day Britain. Intelligent, entertaining and engaging. Overstand!

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Golden Brown Sound – “The Great Man Theory” (GBS) – Claiming to be bringing ’88 back, “not the place and time, but the state of mind”, Boston duo NoDoz and DJ On & On succeeded in crafting an album that, like so many golden-era favourites of yesteryear, was recorded with the intention of being valued and embraced by the Hip-Hop Nation first and foremost. NoDoz’s passionate social commentary and life observations sat tightly over On & On’s pounding production, resulting  in “The Great Man Theory” being a combustible mix of mental stimulation, energy and true skills.

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Various Artists – “Jamla Is The Squad” (Jamla Records) – With Statik Selektah on the ones-and-twos, this mixtape-style compilation of Jamla artists and allies showcased just how much talent is affiliated with the 9th Wonder-helmed label. Featuring the likes of Big Remo, Rapsody and GQ delivering expert wordplay over the soul-drenched boom-bap of Khrysis, Eric G and 9th himself, this album proved, as Busta Rhymes mighty say,  that Jamla really is the squid-aud!

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Keith Science – “Hypothalamus” (Central Wax Records) – Following up 2012’s impressive “Vessels Of Thought Volume II”, New Jersey producer Keith Science unlocked his lab to present this collection of atmospheric instrumentals. Ranging from mesmerising, late-night-flavoured beats, to sparse, neck-snapping rhyme-ready tracks, with “Hypothalamus” Science proved himself to be a true master of the sampling arts.

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Ray Vendetta & Greater Good – “Effortless” (GreaterGoodBeats.BandCamp.Com) – A member of talented UK collective Triple Darkness, London emcee Ray Vendetta stepped outside of crew ranks to drop this dope solo project. Combining life memories, positive sentiments and raw imagery with the hazy, head-nodding production of Greater Good,  “Effortless” was a hypnotic, and at times haunting listening experience, which stayed with you long after the last track faded away.

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Sonnyjim & Leaf Dog – “How To Tame Lions” (EatGood Records) –  Collaborations between particular emcees and producers may look good on paper, but don’t always translate well once both parties are in the studio. When done right, however, the final results can be a match made in Hip-Hop heaven, like this EP from Birmingham emcee Sonnyjim and High Focus Records production wizard Leaf Dog. Meshing colourful wordplay and rewind-worthy punchlines with sublime beats, the pair displayed a natural chemistry throughout “How To Tame Lions” which, hopefully, will be heard again on future releases.

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Von Poe VII – “Only Godz Relate” (Organized Threat) – An ambitious project of epic proportions, this thirty-track double-album from West Coast emcee Von Poe found the skilled artist unleashing intricate verses laced with socially conscious sentiments, street knowledge and a strong sense of cultural pride. Linking with equally talented wordsmiths such as Planet Asia and the UK’s Melanin 9, Poe also demonstrated a sharp ear for quality production, with “Only Godz Relate” possessing a strong sonic identity thanks to the ominous, piano-laced soundscapes of Saheed Sha, Endure and Faces. Peace to the Godz!

only godz relate cover

Creestal – “Difference” (Munchie Records) – French producer Creestal’s instrumental project “Difference” (a dedication to the “dark and rugged” aspects of America) offered listeners a captivating sonic journey which conjured up images of New York City project buildings, late-night street-corner drama and lost record collections rediscovered in dusty basements. Meticulously pieced together from a variety of random sample material, “Difference” was as unpredictable as it was enjoyable.

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Timeless Truth – “Dominican Diner” (TimelessTruthNYC.Com) – Building on the strong foundations of their previous releases and continuing to carry on tradition, blood-related “Queens giants” Oprime39 and Superbad Solace repped proudly for their NY borough throughout “Dominican Diner”, accompanied by atmospheric production from the talented Fafu. Staying true to the golden-era codes and ethics of Rotten Apple Hip-Hop, Oprime and Solace respectfully paid homage to the NYC sound that raised them whilst making their own worthwhile contribution to the city’s rap legacy.

timeless truth cover

Supastition – “Honest Living” (Reform School Music) – Written during a period in when North Carolina-raised, ATL-based lyricist Supastition found himself unemployed and looking for a j-o-b in an unsteady US economy, “Honest Living” was working-class Hip-Hop capable of resonating with anyone struggling to make-ends-meet and provide for their family. Backed by the melodic boom-bap of German producer Croup, Supa provided the perfect soundtrack for everyone out there counting down to payday every month.

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Jazz Spastiks – “The Product” (JazzPlastik) – UK production duo Coconut Delight and Mr. Manayana delivered a flawless album with “The Product”, a thoroughly-satisfying, head-nodding extravaganza which found the pair supplying the likes of Yesh, Apani B. Fly and Count Bass D with their classic brand of jazz-infused beats. Smooth horn samples, huge basslines and dreamy keys were the order of the day here, resulting in a warm, timeless listening experience.

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Part Four coming soon. 

New Joint – Blueprint

Blueprint – “Perspective” (Weightless.Net / 2014)

Poignant social commentary from the Ohio producer-on-the-mic’s brilliant “Respect The Architect” album.

New Joint – Blueprint / Count Bass D / Midaz The Beast

Blueprint ft. Count Bass D & Midaz The Beast – “Once Again” (@Printmatic / 2014)

Taken from the Ohio producer-on-the-mic’s impressive new album “Respect The Architect”.

New Joint – Blueprint

Blueprint – “Silver Lining” (@WeightlessRec / 2014)

Intense, autobiographical rhymes from the Ohio lyricist’s new album “Respect The Architect”.

Album Review – Nick Wiz / Ran Reed

Nick Wiz Presents Ran Reed

“RESPECT THE ARchitect (1992 – 1998)”

(No Sleep Recordings)

Following a twelve month period that has included releases from Celph Titled & Buckwild, Nick Wiz and O.C., James DL’s No Sleep imprint keeps the momentum going with this latest installment of the “For Those That Slept” series, a 21-track overview of unreleased material from New Jersey emcee Ran Reed largely produced by the aforementioned Wiz.

Underground heads might remember Reed from a handful of single releases in the late-90s / early-2000s on the Bronx Science label. To most listeners, Reed would have appeared to be yet another East Coast punchline professional with a tight flow looking to ride the last wave of the 90s indie explosion. But what wasn’t widely known about this particular emcee at the time was that he’d already been putting in regular work at Nick Wiz’s infamous NJ studio The Cellar for a decade, sharpening his verbal techniques whilst Wiz was also producing for high-profile artists such as Cella Dwellas, Mad Skillz and Rakim.

The fact that Ran Reed didn’t release more product throughout the 90s was definitely due to circumstance rather than the quality of the music he was making. The majority of the tracks included on this collection have aged well, which is partly due to the quality of Nick Wiz’s boom-bap beats, but can also be attributed to the fact that Reed has clearly wanted to stay in his own lane since early on in his rhyming career. Considering how much Hip-Hop changed throughout the 90s, “RESPECT THE ARchitect” could easily have contained a selection of tracks showcasing the sound of an artist attempting to jump on every bandwagon from Das EFX-style tongue-twisting to Biggie-influenced champagne raps. Yet Ran remains consistent throughout this project, delivering visual verses in his own punchy, confident style.

Titles such as “Ran Reed Representing” and references to Tommy Hilfiger, Sega Genesis and Shaquille O’Neal definitely evoke a strong sense of 90s nostalgia, but the beats and rhymes heard here are definitely worthy of their present day exposure.

Typical subject matter such as testosterone-driven exploits (“The Sexologist”) gold-digging females (“Never Knew Me Then”) and microphone prowess (“The Pro”) sits here alongside more concept-based tracks. The cautionary drug tales of “Lost Souls” are delivered over the same smooth sample heard on Extra Prolific’s 1994 single “First Sermon”, whilst the earnest “Wack Tapes” finds Reed chastising those artists whose long-players didn’t live up to the hype generated by a dope lead single (“Another ten dollars wasted on a tape that was trash, First single was a smash, That’s how you got my cash…Should’ve knew the time when The Source only gave you two mics!”).

Elsewhere, the self-explanatory and sonically hypnotic “9To5” details Ran’s frustrations with having to hold down a day job as he pursues his rap dreams, whilst UG and Phantasm of the Cella Dwellas make the trip from Medina to New Jeru to join Reed on the previously-released standout “The Introduction”, dropping animated rhymes over a pounding soundscape (“I lick a cactus and spit the thorns in your back, kid”).

Aside from a couple of unneccesary tracks “RESPECT THE ARchitect” is a worthy addition to the No Sleep catalogue, allowing true heads the opportunity to finally fully appreciate one of the golden-era’s largely undiscovered talents.

Ryan Proctor

Ran Reed – “Wack Tapes” (No Sleep Recordings / 2012)