Dropping the “Trust the Process Volume 1” album the same day Jay-Z released his 4:44 album was unplanned and a blessing,” conversed an enthusiastic Legend McCall as he sits with journalist Hector De La Rosa to discuss the behind the scenes of his latest opus.
The moment served ironic but, “special for me because Hov is my idol. I always aspired to be one of the greats like Jay-Z and Kanye West that make timeless music.” Crafting classic music serves the ultimate for the hip-hop artist. “I make music that speaks for young black males that gravitate towards rapping who never had guidance or [any form of] mentorship,” articulated the fervent emcee. He adds, “My music caters to those who do not have life’s roadmap laid out for them.”
Not only does the vigorous emcee make music for the misguided but music that represents home- Rockford, Illinois. “I developed tough skin while growing up in Rockford.” It is considered, “the tale of two cities where the city went from a community of love, peace, and joy to a [place of devastation and chaos]. It is a small city but statistically violent and impoverished.” He utters in disgust, “one can feel the terror that exists within Rockford.” Legend McCall shows concern as he pauses for a moment as if he were in deep thought. He continues, “There is no hope for people out there.” With this said, “I use my music as a vehicle for change for my city with anticipation of seeing better days.”
The city of Rockford is not only responsible for the development of his artistic endeavour Trust the Process Volume 1, but also a tweet from Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid inspired the title of the album. “It consists of spiritual themes and confident booster singles. I speak on subject matter ranging from basketball, hip-hop culture, relationships regarding my significant other, family, and close friends to politics.” For the lyricist, “It is all about feeling when it came to recording songs for the album. Each song has to describe what I was going through in that particular moment in my life.” What makes Legend McCall an interesting artist is his song selection process that makes the final cut. “I would repeatedly listen to songs after the recording session and sit on them for weeks. I go back to see if I still have that same feeling when I first recorded the songs. If so, they are definitely keepers.” He admits to being his, “own worst critic. However, I am truly satisfied with Trust the Process sonically.”
What serves important for an artist like Legend McCall is carving his own niche and not subject to the standards of the music industry. He lives by the artistic motto of, “being true to me. I do not seek approval from anyone when it comes to making music nor seek fame.” He wants to be able to express and, “relay my message trusting one person can get something out of my music.” He highlights, “I want to be remembered as an artist and person who took chances and reached the highest pinnacle life has to offer.”
Legend McCall continues his conversation with journalist Hector De La Rosa to discuss the behind the scenes of Trust the Process Volume 1 most noteworthy tracks.
I vibe out and get into a carefree zone when I hear that nostalgic ‘80s and ‘90s hip-hop. This song has that nostalgic feeling. The production to this song gave me the platform to display my skill of rap; projecting my flow, cadence, and delivery at the highest level.
This is a favorite- soulful, uplifting, and personal to me. The record lets my uncle know, who has been incarcerated, that the family and I have been holding it down for him and are with him in spirit. Also, the song cites how I hear God talking and guiding me in this journey of life. Sixth Ave produced the track. He was very excited how the song formed [to perfection] once I sent him the finished product.
Madness on the 8th
This song almost did not make the cut. It is creative but felt it did not fit the theme of the album. However, I gave in after listening to it more than once. I wanted the song to capture that sentiment and moment when Donald Trump was elected in office. I expressed how I felt when that event took place. I knew the outcome of the presidential elections beforehand. I am not surprised about the things that go on in America. I know how the system works. I rather focus on something different than dwell on the foolery and madness [that came with the elections].
This [particular single] helped me realized I recorded a great piece of art [Trust the Process]. I was honored that my friend Katrina Brown, a talented woman who grew up in the church, blessed the track with her soulful vocals. I was promoted in my place of employment at the time of recording this song. I felt everything was falling into place for me. It is a ‘momma I made it’ type record.
Consider this my second favorite joint off Trust the Process Volume 1 and the very first song I recorded for the album in 2015 before I took a two-year hiatus in music to develop myself as a person and artist. I am a huge Shaun Livingston fan. Growing up, my homie used to brag about Livingston from Peoria, Illinois and how he used to bring the terror to Rockford high school basketball. To see him early in his career playing for the Los Angeles Clippers and getting an injury only to come back in great formation demonstrates his strong resilience. It is that Midwest story I can relate. His story describes who I am as a person. This record captures Shaun Livingston’s outstanding achievements.
Hector De La Rosa
What do music fanatics get when they hear 1990s quality of artistry, 2000s R&B signature, with modern urban commercial appeal? Bryan Khedive is the freshman of elite musicians on his way to stardom. Proof is in his EP titled Don’t Mind Me– a catalogue of music that enact upon a collection of thoughts:love, regret, heartbreak, to the longing for passionate sex with the woman he wants to share the rest of his life with. These outlooks are often private but made public on record. These judgements often cloud Khedive; he is unable to reach a moment of clarity. Throughout this particular discography, he chronicles finding solace hoping to get to happy.
The album begins with “Half of Me”, a neo-soul radio friendly mid tempo that introduces him as a reserved educated brother and musician with knowledge and resilience. He tells the masses he only shows one side of him on social media straying away from the f**kery that comes with it: fakeness, hypocrisy, illusions, to a false sense of responsibility. Same time, Khedive challenges society to become more of leaders and trendsetters versus becoming followers and chasing trends. Don’t mind this crooner for being discreet.
It is stated that a person becomes those exact thoughts that come to his or her mind. With “Run”, Khedive forewarns his love to leave him behind this cold and heartless world because he has not been truthful to her. The crooner living in a realm of lies causes him to be heartbroken drowning in his own depression. “Sober” is the continuation as it picks up where “Run” left off in storyline. Here, Khedive tries to get over his love loss but becomes fixated on her as irrational thoughts creep into his mind unable to contain self-control. Being fixated leads him to despise the woman what seems to be gone forever. “Sober” is stunning in sound his voice seduces the tune giving the song a hallucinating, dreamy, and eerie feeling of being haunted.
The album ends with “Best Love”, an a la ‘on bended knee’ record that showcase Khedive’s readiness to do what it takes to win her love again going above and beyond in providing her needs sexually, being a accountable provider and husband, to being a protector of their love.
Does the musician achieve his goal of happiness? The EP left listeners with a cliffhanger. It is believe the next album will provide those details. Therefore, Don’t Mind Me is bold for a debut and a first for Bryan Khedive. It has, ‘take me as I am’ DNA on record. Don’t mind him speaking his art in truthful ways reflecting life. Artists like him are much needed.
-Hector De La Rosa
It is infrequent to find an emcee who is radiant in artistry where his or her showmanship rules, commanding the stage as the crowd inhales every inch of lyrics to his or her credible storytelling. Recherché is when hip-hop did not give a f**k about winning an award nor the number of followers, likes, and hits a song had all for ‘whore’s attention.’ It is this Midwest rising star that makes anyone still believe hip-hop as a genre and cultural force can still change the world. D2G(@2GMAKEAMOVE), a product of the forefathers of golden era hip-hop, flexes his mastery with a conceptual compendium. The composition Short Summers Long Winters (SSLW) is 360 in circumference where his whiz shines by splitting the album’s diameter into two metaphoric representations sharing one common perspective: Chicago.
D2G is beast for a unique and stylish attention grabbing album title that exactly illustrates Chicago’s off-balanced weather patterns and undistinguishable seasons. Short summers is metaphoric for the beauty of the city-known for its enamored architecture, die-hard sports fanatics, cultural diversity, entertainment scene, to having some of the best cooking (“Chi-City Summers”). Long winters is allegorically differingin detailing the disheartening inner city blues that plague the city regarding the shady politics, segregation, nefarious violence, to having thesurvival of the fittest mentality (“Winter’s Brew,” “A Call To Summer”).
SSLW sonically captures the very melting pot of the Chicago soundscape influences: blues, R&B, soul, jazz, neo-soul, flamboyant poetics, hip-hop with a stream of consciousness, to versatility in delivery. D2G snaps and spits fire in tongue Twista form on “Long Days”, provingthe city of Chicago has the best in talent in spite of Chicago being notorious for its violence (positive over negative). The trading of verses between D2G and A.P. Remedyare like two massive colliding warm and cold fronts that musically produce the most dangerous weather on record. D2G’s talent cleverly irradiates in the anthem “90s Flow”, a single that not only pays homage to the sacredness of hip-hop tradition but to the icons and legends that paved the way for artists like him.
While both “Long Days” and “90s Flow” have the long winters theme; hence song titles, cadence, and delivery of songs viewed as crystalline, hypothermic, frigid, and unending, D2G seamlessly balances the album with the short summer equilibria. “Hydroplanin’” is 2015’s summer jam that makes the emcee the life of the party. The textured crooning of soulful Isaiah Jones gives ears a steering of youthful sun-drenched tinge. “Reflections” is a song whose melody is often a reminder of the sound of damp summer rain pouring against the window pane that belongs to housing project. D2G brings out his inner ghetto child, soul-searching and questioning his existence.
It becomes Purge: Anarchy when two of the illest Chicago rhymeslayers come together on “Never Left”. D2G and AbstrakMind lyrically manslaughter rap opponents and anyone secretly despising their existence into butchered bits of cheap vinyl.
D2G, the resemblance of LL Cool J and Joe Budden in tone and delivery, passionately and cunningly illustrates the portrait of Chicago city life with fragrant lush. Short Summers Long Wintersis cooler by the lake with raps of class.
-Hector De La Rosa
Beautiful is defined as pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically. It is alsoconsideredof a very high standard, of excellent. Noise is a sound, especially one that is loud or unpleasant or that causes disturbance. Sareem Poems (founding member of LA Symphony) and Lansing, Michigan producer Ess Be formed as a hip-hop duo to create the high-volume and unrestrained handicraft Beautiful Noise(an album title whose two words contradict) as they make known publicly responsible adult contemporary hip-hop music fashioned to uplift, inform, educate, soul search, and see the beauty in the ugly realities of the world.
The album commences with the spatters in lyrical armamentssingle “We”. Sareem’s stanzas, comealive as he describes the reversals of humanity as, “two generations of non-thinkers, non-believers.”Poems analytics project what society will embody, what the masses stand for, and what will and will not be tolerated, “We brush shit off/ We stand tall/ We live to see another day…We touch/ We love…We been bamboozled and tricked.” The heartbeat in middle of song gives Sareem’s poetics a kick with militant emphasis.
The duo, an often reminder of The Lox and of Reflection Eternal, makes the masses climb to the highest in heights to the heavens of rap haven in “Higher” as the duo, “build from the ground up/ Check for the foundation/ Never trust a big butt or simile…Raise it up high/ Take it up high.” Ess Be, regarded as producer Hi-Tek of sorts for his electronic and futuristic production that pushes the envelope of bombarded trap music heard through Clear Channel airwaves, produces an ill design of Golden Era tribute in hip-hop assembly.
The West Coast sound reminiscent of DJ Quik fuels Sareem Poems to pour his entire existence in the autobiographical “Push It Along”. Sareem tears up, “No brother/ No sister/ Learned to be a man without the presence of a father…Can’t let them stop that forward motion…If you feel you are not going to make it/ Slow down and pray.” This single compliments the poet/rapper’s “Worthy” of life and existence embodying everything that makes him the man he is today, “I’m a sinner/ I’m a winner/ I’m a fighter/ I’m a lover/ I’m a loser.” What is respected about Sareem is his ability to show the human side of him without blame or being shamed labeling the good and bad side of him as supposed to being superficial like many in society.
The exquisite jazzy single “Show N Tell” is highlighted as the best throughout the album. The emcee embraces the GOD in him shining his light on the world, “The Godly parts of my life are so gorgeous/ I want to develop them and blow ‘em up enormous…by the grace of GOD I’m just a fly human being.” Profound!
Beautiful Noise serves fundamental to hip-hop blueprint of educating the masses as it challenges many to find self in a world consumed and obscurely separated by hatred, envy, and jealousy. While hip-hop artists are fixated on clamored materialism and the baddest chicks they bag, Sareem Poems and Ess Be are only concerned with connecting with Mother Earth and with salvaging lives through music. These two individuals are not the average hip-hop school teachers that talk the talk only to be disappointed that they do not live righteous. It is proof in their music the manner which the lyricism and passion spilled in rhymes indicate they are working on self and practicing a healthy lifestyle as they reflect on their inner. While conscious artists come off a bit preachy at listeners, Sareem Poems and Ess Be talk and fellowship with fanatics penning hip-hop compositions of diplomacy- of high regard.
-Hector De La Rosa
Ears bleed to the philosophical album’s lyrical spoken truth of a concept too familiar but fresh to the genre at a time when hip-hop music is centered mostly on dark themes with dense messages of misogyny, drug usage, to excessive gang banging. Universal Laws is regarded as Higher Truth measured on heightened awareness as hip-hop artist dFresh cleverly weaves old school boom bap production with creative songs titles to aid the masses tountapped their power or source of ‘BEING.’
The thought-provoking brilliance of emcee dFresh delivers with providing in-depth context of Universal Laws being a governing force that determines every aspect of creation including each event, condition, and circumstance experienced. Yet, one must align and harmonize with these unwavering principles to attract and acquire happiness and abundance to obtain a quality life. This notion is lyrically verbalized in the singles “Vibrate” and “The Strangest Secret”- singles that complement one another. “Vibrate” proposes individuals attract the very thing desired or put into existence and the universe will give what is put out. dFresh lyrically affirms in the secret song ‘The greatest one among men…preach every word I speak.’ He proclaims (vibrates) to be that secret that dwells in the darkest vaults of hip-hop- the Ghost Dog of the genre knows he has a purpose in music and is on his way to untainted artistic progression.
However, the album’s theme interestingly takes a turn from middle to end as it unravels to uncertainty and chaos. dFresh expresses to perfection in the most concrete and abstract manner how the universal laws do not produce the desired results if individuals are being taught throughout life that these same laws of nature seem to be irrational and illogical, which limits chances of ‘BEING’ and self-sabotages a person’s full potential. The lyric to “Retro” sums up this notion: “I don’t compete. No, I just create.” dFresh cleverly treats this lyric as oxymoron because his views of competing and creating conflict and sabotages his artistry because in order to be the best emcee he has to create art to compete against others to dominate who is the best lyrically and as an artist. Yet, he has to compete (remain the best) to create and cement a legacy in the fierce hip-hop world. Cunning!
The single “Start Even (Make A Living)” further illustrates the idea of self-sabotage and how one self-destructs by not becoming one with the universe. Here, dFresh seeks enlightment and righteousness but short hands himself as he overlooks the power of “Being” and exclusively depends on “Doing.” This “Doing” shapes the emcee’s physical world as it is perceived as chaotic with increased anxiety and fear. dFresh feels restricted because he is swimming against rather than with the ‘flow’ of life.
However, the album returns with rightful spectrum towards the end with “History”. dFresh becomes a man of mission as he becomes aligned with the universe now knowing his purpose in life is to create change and make history by establishing forward movement.
The murky production similar to Noah ‘40’ Shebib and The RZA with dFresh’s delivery similar to A$AP Rocky with raps of brainpower give Universal Laws mass appeal where everything imbalanced becomes balanced and where the masses learn their greatest discovery is knowing GOD and become one in accordance with the Creator. The album and vociferousness dictation will indulge many to manifest destiny of a life full of potential and of greatness.
-Hector De La Rosa
The hip-hop community should give big up thanks to the latest in collaborations ranging from Royce Da 5’9 and DJ Premier to GhostfaceKillah and Bad Bad Not Good, who are few that paved the way for underground artists such as emcee K Hill and Australian producer Debonair P. to form a union. This hip-hop marriage birthed a works of art creatively entitled Truck, Jewels, & Filter– an album that Trucks a livewire of authentic Jewels of hip-hop while Filters out the bulls**t raps.
“Whenever I Write” showcases the duo at their best. K. Hill, the Big L in flow and delivery, verbally assaults the pad with his vicious rhymes as he uses the blood of wack emcees to manuscript his thoughts. Havoc and pain is felt each time K.Hill verbalizes his poetics to an impressive and masterful production of Debonair P. not to mention the remixes proving the producer’s wicked genius. The jazzy ‘perpendicular of a “Clout War”’is lyrical butchery to any mainstream artist claiming their Clear Channel stance as real hip-hop. What once served perpendicular in hip-hop (the formation and shape of authenticity, skill, and the preservation of the five elements of hip-hop) is deteriorating to what Nas viewed in song as ‘parallel to hell.’
While the music industry can be very unappreciative of good music and the artists that create it, the duo expresses their sincere gratitude to loyal supporters and even the naysayers in the profound “Root For Me”. The album comes off strong with the album and song title “Trucks, Jewels, & Filters”, K. Hill proclaims his crown by addressing to never compare his rhymes as mediocre. Rather view them as bars of gold.
The powerhouse K. Hill and Debonair P. rhyme to reason. Truck, Jewels, & Filter makes everything impure with hip-hop music become of purity. The scratching technique at the end of songs are creatively dynamic it leads to listeners in assuming DJ Premier is the author behind it all. That’s how dope Debonair P is as a producer. As for K. Hill, we will treat him as already one of the pioneers with a cemented legacy reigning hip-hop sovereignty.
Hector De La Rosa
F**k Beyonce’s single “Flawless” and its half a** message of feminism. It serves derogatory specifically to girls and women referencing them as b**ches during the first minute or two of the song. Resentment surfaces as the entertainment world, media, and social mediacredit “Queen Bey” of birthing feminism perspectives without properly acknowledging those who historically contributed to such notion. The only thing Beyonce did was reexamined and redefined the concept.
Want an artist and album packaged with racial pride, renewed feminism, and one that celebrates self-expression? Signif’s(Signif) Friction is valued as artistically sophisticated, honoring black creativity, strength, and womanhood. Friction,by definition, is the resistance that one surface or object encounters when moving over another. It is also defined as conflict or animosity caused by clash of wills, temperaments, or opinions. Therefore, this Milwaukee born femcee and New York resident exercises her political correctness (code of conduct that challenges racist, sexist, and classist notions embedded in the American life) in opposing challenging forces both inside and outside of Black America.
Signif weighs significance to society foremost hip-hop culture proof in her latest artistic endeavor whose brilliance shines as she explores the theme of functional feminism (committed to ‘keeping it real’ with respect to the critique of interlocking and overlapping nature of sexism, racism, and capitalism in the lives of blacks). The album begins with “Keep It Funky”, a works of art where the rhymestress delivers her vocals over the sample to James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World.” Here, she allows her feminist space to penetrate and govern in a man’s space where entertainment predominately hip-hop is male dominate. This album’s spokesperson is committed to preserving the aesthetics of hip-hop: black consciousness raps (“The L Word (Like Lust Love)”), pro woman anthems (“Laugh Last” featuring Sadat X), clever battle raps over golden era boom bapand soul music (“The Connect”).
This offspring of Bahamadia, Rapsody, Missy Elliot, and Jean Grae takes music to heightened intellectuality. Signif tributes to the Renaissance era by name dropping the greats of jazz from Duke Ellington to Count Basie in the jazzed laced single “Late Night Jazz”. The song is potent to the ears just as the heroin in Sonny’s veins in James Baldwin’s character in “Sonny’s Blues.” The female Common and Lupe Fiasco abets the political stratosphere of Public Enemy’s Chuck D in the fight against societal ills in “Alright”. The toughness of Queen Latifah embodies female empowerment in “You’re Beautiful”, a single that demonstrates that black is beautiful and for women to know their self-worth.
We get the best of both worlds (man and woman, black man uplifts the black woman, old school meets new school) when Elzhi (Slum Village) collaborates with Signif in the soulful gem “Play 2 Win”. A diamond is formed under “Pressure”, a tale of a young girl whose life turns tragic while viewed by society as just another statistic. The hip-hop love sonnet “Eyes For You (Love)” sustains and reserve the element of black love between mother earth and her earth toned pharaoh, where society with its many forms of entertainment (films and music) tries to replace it with themes of misogyny, violence, and hatred.
Friction is durable, proud, intelligent foremost consistent and indispensable. If Signif is the new woman’s liberation in hip-hop culture then her brainchild Friction is the new dissertation of hip-hop feminism.
Hector De La Rosa
Remember the barbecues, rooftop parties, jams at the park where DJs and boom boxes as entertainment provided the sweet tunes of Eric B and Rakim, Run DMC, LL Cool J, AZ,to Nas? Can you rewind to that era when the powerful force of hip-hop bind people together to address seismic societal changes before a great divide? Have you recalled hip-hop having classics such as “The Bridge Is Over,” “Hey Young World,” “I Used To Love H.E.R,” “Mass Appeal” to “Can It Be All So Simple”? Reminisce when hip-hop stood for something before pimping and perversion took place? If you think those days of past are over, then you find yourself absurdly foolish. Though it seems like the good days are of old, it is the underground that keeps hip-hop’s most treasured moments in time capsule.
It is Chicago’s finest Phil G and Jay Illa that push‘80s and ‘90s hip-hop spectrum to the forefront. The lyric, “My swagger is ’95 in 2014” not only suggest sufficient evidence, but gives a glimpse to what this collaborative effort Phillanoise has to offer- the scholarship of lustrous raps, bedlam lyricism, earthy storytelling, microphone control with soul, and gritty talent.
“(Intro) Phillanoise” is three things in song. It is rebellious, uncensored, yet cocky. It best intimidates and bullies conformists and shitty cult nonlinguistic and stuttering rappers to a coma. Foremost, the song’s calls for a new takeover to take place- a second coming of the Golden Age. “Nothing We Can Do”, exemplifies this second coming with lyrics that combat, “My team is strong/My dreams are born/ My heart is pure/My art is war.” The song’s exclusivity stems from its braggadocious-up-in-your-face approach and the duo trading verses with such finesse.
Phillanoise is powerful for its production provided by the Golden Era ambassador Rashid Hadee, who not only leaves a dent on the album but unbearable collision to hip-hop. The soulfulness in sound plays with listeners’ emotions and recalls for great memories, transporting hip-hop heads through time. Artistry is mastered with immense grace in “Give It To Me (Give Up The Goods)”, a single that creatively pays homage to Mobb Deep similar in song title and concept to their 1995 Infamous album. “F.Y.M (F^^k You Mean)” the better half of the album, verbally assaults anyone who contest Phil G’s disposition as a loving father, devoted husband, and as an underground lyricist. Here, Phil G shines the brightest flexing his lyrical muscle with laid back flow and much command, “Power in my word/Power in my voice/I make them feel the noise (Phillanoise)/They don’t have a f^^king choice.”
The songs “Stressed Out” and “Still” complement each other. What is adored about the songs is their high power surge infused with God honest spirit. The soulful piano tune “Stressed Out” is soaked with perfect storytelling of a husband/father coping with baby mother drama. Phil G’s baritone voice and the sounds of rain in the beginning and end of song signify love’s struggles, pain, and sacrifice. With “Still,” Phil G channels his inner LL Cool J as he still is devoted to rekindling his love for her (an attribute replaced by mainstream hip-hop with misogyny) despite relationship’s many flaws. The song is powerful when directed from the heart. Who said hip-hop didn’t have a heart?
The duo carry the same spirits as their hip-hop forefathers who paved the way for hip-hop artists such as Jay Illa and Phil G as they do things out of “Love.” Indeed, it is proven they have love for the genre and for the art form by delivering a masterpiece despite having endured music industry politics.
Production to Phillanoise is the illest; penmanship on the album is Illwrite!Phil G and Jay Illa pullout body bags for hip-hop enormous body count.
-Hector De La Rosa
Want proof that hip-hop is not swallowed by the shadows of death? Want proof that the genre is refined and still strong in foundation? The underground is the affidavit of such testament and buried within its vaults is an emcee herald from Chicago with much artistic execution. R.O.E’s (Rising Over Envy) sophomore offering To Happiness is the exact calculation to sanctity’s euphoria not too often found in hip-hop: gloried storytelling, thoughtful lyricism, jagged in delivery with golden era nostalgia.
To Happiness is autobiographical. It is the becoming of a knighted R.O.E. whose life comes in many phases and cycles that prepares him to arrive to his final destination- the evolving into greatness. This notion is implied in the EP’s “Intro” as one hears a car’s ignition turned on and slowly taking off to explore the road less traveled. This suitably sets the tone for not only the rest of the album, but its first record “Long Way From Home.” What serves intricate about this single is its whispery monologue in its beginning that gradually builds momentum in the middle to end with its storytelling, perfectly capturing R.O.E. in a meditative state. His lyrics of self-discovery and of paying dues are like life that flashes before him.
To achieve contentment, R.O.E. must endure through the storms. The emcee who vocally resembles the respective hip-hop heavyweights of Q-Tip, Duck Down’s Buckshot, and Lupe Fiasco takes refuge in the cautionary tale “Beware”. He is the enemy of the state as he lyrically adduces, “I know these killers got a plot for me/ They thinkin’ of Tupac ’n me for all my intellectual property.” Aware of envy and jealousy that comes with fame, R.O.E. is quick to dismiss dream killers, blood sucking leeches, and Tony Montana cockroaches with territorial pissings.
Nevertheless, the EP interlocked with boom bap, heavy instrumentation, and funky alternative sounds with the freshness of Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool and The Root’s And Then You Shoot Your Cousin switches up mood with “Good Times”. This feel good record makes one lose self to the song’s rhythm and forget the problems that frequently plague one’s existence. R.O.E. caresses the clit to “Runaway” just as he romances the womb of his Nubian bride. It is a tale of falling in love with Mrs. Right- the key to fulfilling one’s happiness.
The EP concludes with the reflective “Wake Up The World”, a certified gem that samples Nas’ classic “The World Is Yours.” The song’s militant spirit strikes an emotional chord as the emcee aims for social progress. It easily stands out as the takeover- bursting through the walls of confinement, poverty, and of many social ills such as violence, police brutality, racism, and of rape culture. This commitment to social change is one step closer to an emcee’s indulgence of making the world a better place.
To Happiness is silent and subtle in production, a storehouse of organic substance and creativity, but loud in message. R.O.E plays it smart by shortening the album’s length, which is lead to believe that his story is a continuation as he is still outlining life’s chapters. Though, R.O.E. ends up soaring beyond the highest in heights he is still a works in progress. Call it a celebratory milestone!
-Hector De La Rosa
“The man who has no imagination has no wings,” mentions the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) of boxing Muhammad Ali, whose statement and spirit is reflected in the second coming of the album Beatdown II. Produced by a refined visualista and visionary Reg Young, whom does not stray far from being in the same ranks in Midwest production caliber of Tall Black Guy, Anton Genius, Thelonious Martin, and Rashid Hadee, sonically captures imaginings onto the boards with precision.
Beatdown II is archetypical for latticing nostalgia with modern production, equally complimenting one another. Though, the nostalgic reigns over the other because it chronicles a biopic through vintage instrumentals that flamboyantly scores Cassius Clay’s life perfectly to a film’s soundtrack. It is these imaginings that seize almost every aspect of a boxer’s personal life and career- a journey of ups and downs, a flight of triumphs and successes, love life, philosophies, and moments of monumental cockiness.
The super fly stylish “Heart”, the album’s intro, gangsta leans with thumping hard bass. It ultimately serves as the prelude to the main event. The disco infused “Down & Out” and the respective funk with power soul clap single “Blow Smoke” are HBO Boxing documentary scoring material only reserved for The Root’s front man Black Thought and Common to spill their cinematic dark lyricism over these knock out instrumentals. The monstrous “G-Shit” upper cuts like Ali’s power punches and Rope-A-Dope technique to an opponent in the ring. Its production is similar to the Dr. Dre days of Death Row whose instrumental is as wavy as the chronic smoke that comes out of Snoop Dogg’s nostrils.
The heart of the album is the mama-said-knock-you-out “Cold Winter”, a single that creates abrasion to a boxer’s knuckles after bittersweet candy cane blows to wack producers in the ring that craft unlawful music productions. The cinematic and celebratory “Loungin’” serves as an after party anthem when the arena lights dim and crowds dissipate. It is a single hip-hop artists Scarface and Bun B would sound nice trading verses to. The electrifying “Pinky Ring” is explosive as dynamite, having captured the Blaxploitation theme into one beautifully orchestrated sound.
Beatdown II is an oxymoron where it is opposite of prolix, yet instrumentally perceived as biographically witty and smart in lyrical verbiage. It revokes fight club card status from lesser heavyweight producers that bombard Soundcloud, Bandcamp, and Audio Mack with soundscape nothings that contributes deafness to ears. Where the first Beatdown installment serves as the preface, this sophomore effort proves no jinx as it outdoes the original. The artistic instrumentation on part II floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee.
Reg Young smells like the suede of an immaculate set of boxing gloves and sounds crisp as the fresh $100 dollar bills.
-Hector De La Rosa