Fat Joe - Me, Myself & I

The Real Joe

Long ago he emerged from the shadows of the late Christopher Rios. For a while it was Big Pun and that other fat dude but Joey has since created an identity all his own. This is his seventh album and the way it sounds, his best yet. I doubt it will be his best selling (for lack of commercial appeal) but he’s commercially stable so let’s see what the Bronx Bomber has to offer.

How many times have I said it? The intro is that first fix that makes you want to try some more. And on Me, Myself & I, Pendemic makes a statement of what’s to come. Not only did Streetrunner represent, the evolution of Joey continues with his lyrically progression. When I first heard No Drama, I was thinking that the song was hot but I swear I heard it before. It sounded like a Ross remix. Excuse me while I rant. I listen to Where My Money from the Rick Ross album. Which reminds me…I listen to Money on My Mind from the Lil’ Wayne album. This reminds me…so I listen to Hustlin’ from the Rick Ross album. Apparently The Runners are in a scam selling the same beats to multiple MCs. Get money, I guess. Anyway…back to Joe. Make it Rain features Lil Wayne (for the second time on the album) on a Scott Storch production. Fat Joe gets back with Streetrunner on Bendicion Mami. The baseline hits beautifully with the sample and sets the mood just right for The Don to talk about his mama.

The new Fat Joe is really good, but he flies dangerously below the radar nowadays. Lately, I haven’t seen him jumping in swimming pools draped in baby blue minks or licking the bottom of a fresh pair of footwear. A good thing. Nor have I heard the leader of the TS BS’n with R&B i.e. Ashanti, R. Kelly and J.Lo. Also a good thing. The album is lyrically surprising and the percussion is superior. Never have I been so indifferent about an album’s release yet so impressed about the outcome. It’s currently in contention to be one of the best rap albums of the year. Me, Myself & I gets away from the glitz and glam and gets back to rap and that’s what we fans like to see.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 matches

Hot Trax: Pendemic, The Profit, Make It Rain, Bendicion Mami


The Game - Doctor's Advocate

The Doctor is Out

He’s not your typical West Coaster. His music made it out of the hood. And onto the radio…and the television. And (gasp)…to the East Coast. There was something about the young man from Compton that appealed to the entire hip hop community. No marks, no busters, no jheri curl juice. He wasn’t just your ordinary Los Angeles lyricist.

In January 2005, The Game dropped a near classic with his first release, The Documentary, under Dr. Dre and Aftermath. Laced with an all star cast of producers and a 50 affiliation, failure was not an option. The West Coast Hope had a bright future ahead of him…or so we thought. Since that release, he’s fallen out with 50 and Dr. Dre left no fingerprints on his new album (yeah I dusted). Without the Doctor, what does the Advocate have to say?

Doctor’s Advocate like The Documentary employs the talents of critically and commercially acclaimed producers. It’s comprised of a dream list that any rapper would love to have half of his album. It’s Okay, however, is not one of those names but brings the hammer all the same. Scott Storch and The Game collaborate on Let’s Ride to create…a G-Unit track? Doctor’s Advocate is definitely the best track on the album and possibly the best track I’ve heard from The Game…ever. Busta Rhymes lends a voice and Jonathan Rotem completes it. The Game then goes back to his roots with the clever Ol’ English.

So what The Game lost 50 and Dre? No one cared, but everyone wondered. Can he stand on his own two? Can he make music without two obvious contributors to his success? I wanted to listen to Doctor’s Advocate and I wanted it to be better than The Documentary however difficult a task that may seem. It wasn’t. And it wasn’t even close.

The name dropping was gimmicky the first time. It was his thing, his shtick, if you will. Now it’s just in the way. Now it’s Dre every other bar and it’s ancient. We know you have the utmost respect for the man who jumpstarted your career, but this is YOUR album. Perhaps The Game is making up for him not being on the record at all. I guess we know what he is without a Dr. Dre track.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 matches

Hot Trax: It’s Okay, One Night, Doctor’s Advocate, Why You Hate the Game


P. Diddy - Press Play

P. Diddy – Please Press Eject

Raise your hand if you believe right now, in 2006, that you view Diddy as a rapper. Hopefully everyone kept their hands neatly folded in their laps. Now can someone tell me what the hell he’s doing putting out solo albums?

He had it all in the late 90s. On his Bad Boy roster, he had arguably the greatest rapper of all time, a trio of Yonkers MCs who’s albums are still highly anticipated, a Harlem pretty boy at the top of his game and a four man crooning crew that kept the ladies going and still maintained respect from the fellas. To the victor go the spoils. I’m not talking about the platinum plaques and all the dough he raked in by jerking his artists (allegedly). I’m talking about that ability to kick back and chill somewhere. The comfort zone. The feeling of sitting down at the dinner table and saying “I’m full”.

That’s where we stand today. No Way Out was a great album. It was Diddy’s first but he was hardly the main attraction. The W. of this rap shit. He was the figure head in charge but the supporting cast was really running the show. Then there was Forever. He went from seven times platinum to just platinum. As did The Saga Continues… as did We Invented the Remix Vol. 1 (latter album doesn’t really count). Four years later Mr. Combs releases Press Play which will probably go platinum as well. Perhaps he felt that he wasn’t getting enough attention and his solution: drop a CD. Because last I heard, he hasn’t been making good music… or good bands for that matter.

Diddy kicks off the album with a weak flow over a weaker piano beat in Testimonial. On I Am, Puff declares “If Jay coming back then the world need Puff.” Yeah…I’m just gonna let that ride. Twista and Shawnna lend their rapid fire flow on P Diddy Rock, but not even Timbo could save this track. Everything I Love is the most tolerable track on the album. The production bangs, Nas is being Nas and Cee-lo’s raspy voice gives the song that extra sound it needs. Diddy then proceeds to wrap up the album with corny love songs over even cornier 80s sounding music.

It’s hard to take him seriously because if I remember correctly, he doesn’t care if he writes rhymes he writes checks. So now the question is whose album is this anyway? If you have to put this disc in, you could do other things besides listen; like try to figure out who wrote each verse. Like all of his other albums, many of the songs have features, proving that he can’t do this by himself. But unlike the other albums, none of features salvage the product. Press Play doesn’t have much to offer to the world of hip hop. Thanks Diddy. Thanks for the contribution, but maybe you should hang up the mic. Stick to dancing, stick to throwing parties, stick to making money and stick to making bands. Try not to stick your nose into solo albums anymore. Let’s leave that to the artists.

Rating: 0.5 out of 5 matches

Hot Track: Everything I Love


Hi Tek - Hi Teknology 2: The Chip

Hi-Tek goes Low Brow

Cincinnati isn’t known as a hot-bed of hip hop. But when you think of the city and the music together, Hi-Tek’s name will arise, guaranteed. Hi-Tek, the super producer, has a long litany of work with formidable MCs, but seems to keep a low profile during the era of forced face-time and overexposure. Hi-Teknology 2: The Chip is his third release and the second in which he employs a compilation of very talented artists in the game today.

Josephine is the first track that jumps out as Ghostface and Pretty Ugly tell the tale of a good girl turned drug addict. Hi-Tek’s Where it Started At is yet another installment in the series of songs that insist that NYC is where it’s at. In an alteration of style (not necessarily a good one) Tek channels the unmistakable sounds of West Coast rap in 1-800-HOMICIDE featuring The Game. So Tired is a journey to the south where Bun B and Devin the Dude join Pretty Ugly on slow and melodic production.

It’s usually not fair game to critique a compilation album released by a producer. Actually it’s never fair; there are just too many variables. You have the producer who puts his/her heart and soul into his beats (Hi-Tek in this case). Then you have a rapper who has 50/50 chance of laying down a wack verse. Then there is the audience (me in this case) who despite his efforts can’t get past the wack rap. Hi-Tek wasn’t able to avoid this classification even with artists such as Nas, Talib Kweli, Ghostface Killah, Busta…I think you get the point. Tek’s beats are eclectic. He even dabbles with sounds from different regions of the country but in the end, they don’t stand strong enough alone. Hi-Teknology 2: The Chip is yet another mediocre album in an era of mediocrity.

Rating: 3 out of 5 matches

Hot Trax: Josephine, March, Where it Started At, So Tired


Lupe Fiasco - Food and Liquor


The leak. For a rapper, it’s one of the most frustrating things that can happen when releasing an album. For an artist, it is also one of the most flattering things that can occur, especially for a debut. The people couldn’t wait and the album was leaked long before it was supposed to. Lupe Fiasco witnessed this contrast first hand.

Many of the hip hop faithful couldn’t wait to get their hands on Food and Liquor. You know why? It’s because he’s a different dude. Lupe Fiasco. He wears frames on the regular…with lenses that don’t block the sun rays. He writes about skateboardin’ and cartoons, among other things and the wordplay mixed with the flow is next level. On top of all that, he’s Muslim…for real. He might be the breath that hip hop needs blown into its dying lungs. The respirators are failing. Lupe to the rescue.

If you heard the intro from the “leaked” album you will be disappointed with this one, so let’s move on. On Just Might Be OK, Lupe spits on a Just Blaze sounding track in a range-y lyrical exercise. Lupe speaks from the perspective of a mother and son longing for an absent father on He Say She Say. Daydreamin’ employs the vocals of Jill Scott. While the hook sounds like a Broadway musical, Lupe gets loose on the ills of the streets and television. In an album with seemingly no filler, Hurt Me Soul emerges as one of the hottest tracks.

Food and Liquor stands to be one of the few albums of the year that garners a complete listen every time you put it in the deck. Lupe has dropped what I like to call a five tooler. The album has lyrics, flow, creativity, production and the intangible (aka X-factor). These are the very elements that keep the hip hop fiend wanting more. And when you’re able to fit all five into one project something special is bound to happen.

Now I’m not saying he is hip hop’s savior. It’s going to take a lot more than one man to restore the feeling (there are some albums coming this fall that could do the trick). I’m just saying that he is another big step in the right direction.

Sadly, I have a strong feeling that he won’t get the burn he deserves. In this hip hop universe, bling is king and Lupe ain’t where it’s at. But soon the masses will realize that he is, in fact, “a good addition to the rap ambiance”. He’s gotten pretty good exposure with the two videos that he’s put out but I’m not sure his numbers will match his talent. I predict he’ll be seen through the same eyes that crowned AZ one of the best. Regardless…Touché Lupe, touché.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 matches

Hot Trax: Too many to list.


Outkast - Idlewild

OutKast: Married to the Game?

Yep. Big Boi was right. Everyone is wondering, “are you and Andre still making songs”? Well it appears not, but they do still make albums together. Idlewild is the 6th installment of the OutKast catalog and the second that allowed the artists to do their own thing. Only two songs on the whole album feature both artists, but no complaints on the polarization of OutKast. Although I would like to hear them together welding their two different sounds on a track, this album didn’t disappoint.

Andre 3000 and Big Boi have never been afraid to challenge the status quo of hip hop. Since 1994 they’ve traveled the unbeaten path and 2006 is no different. But the music isn’t crazy different just to be peerless. It’s actually very good. They’re riding in the same candy paint Impala with Kanye West when it comes to making musically driven hip hop. And it’s a nice and very well needed hiccup in the game.

Idlewild kicks off with an intro satirizing actors who believe that rappers and musicians are taking the jobs of the trained professionals (ala Samuel L. Jackson). Humorous and apropos seeing how this is a soundtrack for a movie starring a rapping duo. The first track, Mighty O, features both Andre and Big Boi and is one of the best tracks (if not the best) on the album. It gives us a glimpse of the tandem that we got used to before they started their solo careers…on the low. Morris Brown uses music from the Morris Brown College marching band, recorded in 2002. Using a marching band in production has been done before, but not quite like this. Lil’ Wayne and Snoop lend a hand in Hollywood Divorce, a tale about how Hollywood takes everything popular, uses it and throws it out like it’s yesterday’s news. Mutron Angel is one of those musical masterpieces that OutKast is always good for, but I’m sure this is way more Andre than Antwan.

O to the Kizzay continues to live their namesake in their musical style. We’ve always thought Andre was a little weird with his ski boots and grass skirts. Apparently he’s made the jump from MC to full fledged R&B crooner. We seldom hear a rapping verse from him on this album. Big Boi stays closer to the mainstream middle than Andre but still so far away. He employs his staccato steez and uses a Georgia drawl to deliver his run on sentences. But OutKast drops classics and classic this is not.

Idlewild is a half album. Half record, half soundtrack. Half 3000, half Big Boi. It is pretty much half of what we can expect from the super group. I miss the contrast. I miss the chemistry. I miss OutKast. They dropped a so called album parallel to a full length feature film by the same name. It’s a great way to maximize profits and double the exposure, but it fails for the true fan. Hollywood Divorce eh? Looks like ya’ll just got married.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 matches

Hot Trax: Mighty O, Chronomentrophobia, Hollywood Divorce, Mutron Angel


Obie Trice - Second Round's on Me

Obie Trice: Where We Going to for Breakfast?

Obie Trice. Real name, no gimmicks. Nothing truer has ever been said. He’s following no trends nor is he jumping on a regional bandwagon for success. He dropped Cheers at a time when Eminem was the man and still got some shine. He held his own and established himself as an artist despite being backed by the blonde, pointy-nosed, white kid. Second Round’s on Me is his sophomore effort. He didn’t exactly hit the wall.

I’ve always said a good album sets the tone with the intro. Obie dodged the first bullet. A skit rides into Wake Up, a ballad about his struggle. Wanna Know is a guitar laced track produced by Emile that blends Obie’s gritty Michigan with Van Halen. O rips it apart on Cry Now accompanied by a screaming sample and a beat to match. Trice then showcases his flow dexterity on the self-titled, Eminem-produced, Obie Trice. The track listing is solid and the album was well put together but as for quality…

Why don’t we see that Obie is the greatest thing out of Aftermath since Eminem? He’s that guy on your team (any team it doesn’t matter). Everyone close to him swears he’s the greatest talent out of the whole group. The whole group agrees, but the outsiders can’t imagine it. “If he’s so nice, let him show me!” Yeah that guy. He’s almost a breath of fresh air. Almost. Not too heavy on the gun play, not too much weight on the cocaine slinging.

I applaud Obie for daring to be something different. He has the ability to turn the corner too...except for one thing. I hate to say it but Shady/Aftermath, the same entity that birthed him as an artist, might be the same parent that won’t cut the umbilical cord. An overwhelming amount of Eminem beats don’t do him justice. If Shady wasn’t Shady you’d never hear any of his beats on anything. I’d be willing to bet my Record Review Degree on that. Along with Eminem’s sound there’s a pinch of G-Unit sprinkled throughout. The Shady/Aftermath method is so unmistakable that it’s played out, especially since Em has left the stable.

Give this man credit. He is a talented artist. The flow switches up plus he’s clever and creative. Finding this combination in today’s rap game is like finding a job in Detroit. Although this album isn’t the undeniable instant classic that I expect from every hip hop record (explanation for my ruthlessness on reviews) it’s a respectable release. How is it that this album, a decent one, is flown so far under the radar while more sub par efforts get play? The bar’s closed Obie. Where we going to for breakfast?

Hot Trax: Wanna Know, Snitch, Ghetto, Cry Now