Hey!Zeus : Holy Cow

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Obba Supa producer Hey!Zeus is back with another dope production on his new 7″ Holy Cow. Jehst and Kashmere spin a potent lyrical cocktail that measures equal parts eastern mysticism with UK slang, blessing a jangling beat that vapourizes wooden percussion and oriental flutes into a thick haze that lingers between the emcee’s esoteric bars. To celebrate this essential slice of psychedelic wax, the London-based beatmaker has organized a free show next Wednesday at The Silver Bullet. DJ sets come from Evil Ed, Boom Bap Professional’s Oliver Sudden, 7th Dan, Dusty Green Fuzz and Sonny Delight, while the line-up of emcee’s boasts both a Strange U and Kashmere solo set, TD’s Ray Vendetta and Tesla’s Ghost, and a spoken word set from Ma’ankha Bast. Holy Cow will get a digital and vinyl release in early October, with a video dropping soon.

More details on the event page here. 

Peace!

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Ray Vendetta & Greater Good : Effortless

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Triple Darkness MC Ray Vendetta expands his lyrical perspective on this latest collab with London producer Greater Good. Written in just five days, the EP features some of Ray’s finest work to date. Broken Ladders begins with calm beats for mentally cleansing listening, Ray’s steadfast flows offering honest reflection next to catchy hooks from Saab. Fly Symphony cruises through your ear canal like the subtle G tones of Roc Marc, while Pologomy sees Ray and K Zorro rhyming with force.

Mary J Affair shines through a haze of piff smoke as Tesla’s Ghost, Stinkin Slumrok and Joey Menza join Ray to write mellow dedications to the green over lean-up loops, then Greater Good steps his already stellar beat-game up to new heights on Give Thanks as subtle jazz samples form a smooth bedrock of sounds, cradling Black Chronical’s catchy chorus. Saab’s second feature comes more overtly melodic than her first, her prominent tones crafting Captured into a soulful listen, before Many Moons Ago finds Ray reminiscing over chilled piano notes

Seductive vocal samples swirl on Watching You, offering Vendetta an opportunity for calmer flows before his lines meditate on Chronos with Invisible Clocks, and manifest intricately on closing posse cut Rise & Fall. This switch-up in style shows further versatility from the London MC, and as the first of three upcoming projects set for 2014, the next direction Ray’s music might take is refreshingly hard to pin down.

Buy it here.

Peace.

Iron Braydz : Verbal Swardz

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Since he made waves with his lyrically athletic Devil May Cry mixtape, London MC and producer Iron Braydz has worked hard on his craft to become one of the capital’s most vital voices. Hang was rougher than cement shoes, with topics most rappers shy away from, and his collaboration with Melanin 9 on the Devils Death Day remix was a sweeping samurai saga with more esoteric lessons than the Library of Alexandria. His recent addition to the Triple Darkness crew’s collective of razor sharp MCs has seen him bless the powerful posse cuts  Reanimation and Knuckledustnow with a slew of solo projects set to drop throughout the year; Braydz begins his one-man auricular onslaught on 2014 with Verbal sWARdz.

As the intro’s medley of villainous cackles and shaolin finger jabs builds into Scorpion Sting‘s dissonant guitar loops; Kyza provides a heavy chorus between impassioned verses with more venom than a pit of vipers. Crowbar Head Topper comes through just as menacing as it did on Ray Vendetta’s last EP; with Braydz denouncing the ignorance of racism over a banger from Ringz Ov Saturn, before Solar Black steps in and unleashes lines like shurikens; leaving Vendetta’s steadfast bars to finish the track off strong. Organized Konfusion’s Prince Po decimates Daniel Taylor’s apocalyptic instrumental on Millenium. While Braydz spits nothing but rawness that hangs like a dark cloud, unmoved until melancholy string melodies pierce it’s grim shroud to shine a speck of light through the gloom; ‘The truth shall be told through the fruits of our labour, ignoring many signs of the return of our saviour, the skies turn black and the planets draw closer, divine law appears and he declares it’s all over’.

For Braydz to not rely on the established sound TD have cultivated and self-produce the majority of his music shows vision, and his unorthodox and exciting production style pushes boundaries no one else seem to be aware of. His distinct phonic fingerprint is most prevalent on Dredd; with old school heavy metal samples that tear through the track as solo licks and cascading guitar runs rise in waves. His use of rock riffs to structure unorthodox choruses is challenging at first, but becomes just another ill aspect of this heavy single once you acclimatize to it’s experimental methods.

Rambo bulldozes it’s way onto the EP and sees Braydz dropping aggressive bars laced with war-like tactics over a more straight forward beat. Kyza fits his rhyme schemes into inimitable patterns as he asserts his dominance on the mic once again, and his former TerraFirma team-mate Skriblah delivers lightning-fast lines to leave the track in tatters. Sean Price immediately makes his presence felt with a forceful flow on Firey Red, inspiring Braydz to pen one of the best choruses on the EP and adapt his flow, slowing his cadence to a quiet creep following Price’s imposing intonations; then raising his volume to unleash his verse at terminal velocity. Agor builds the barest of beats on Dobermans, stacking sparse snare rolls against sharp, laser-like jolts. Long-time Kiss Hip Hop show resident DJ Shortee Blitz adds some swift cuts for the chorus, and Detroit legend Phat Kat completes the track with a mean guest verse. Rambo Relapse gets some fresh stanzas from Black Cripton and TD member Solar Black, before the title track provides the EP’s apex as Braydz builds an epic boom bap beat to accommodate Cyrus Malachi’s striking stanzas, as the TD MC’s trade verses between another catchy hook that holds strength in it’s simplicity.

Verbal sWARdz is an exciting omen of what’s to come from the newest member of Triple Darkness. The features he obtained from some of the most respected names in the States along with his ability to form cohesive songs ensures whatever Braydz will accomplish next can only further his ascension. Despite a lack of sociological insight that was present on his earlier work, he still packs a formidable punch with a pen. If you’ve been playing Bacdafucup and The War Report wondering where that real Hip Hop went you can find it alive and well right here.

Verbal sWARdz comes out on Brayd’z Unorthostract label this Monday, April 14th.

Cop it here.

3/5

Peace.

Endemic : Terminal Illness Part 2

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The work Endemic has put in in the UK over the last few years has cemented his name as a synonym for quality, hard-hitting production with a keen ear for melody. His first instalment in the Terminal Illness series was a landmark for UK Hip Hop; receiving a rare overseas distribution deal from Money Maker/EMI Music that garnered him attention from internationally-renowned Hip Hop artists, and lead to his début featuring MC’s such as Sean Price, Planet Asia, Hell Razah and Killah Priest. In the years following his impressive initial release, he went on to establish No Cure Records, release a modern classic in Cyrus Malachi’s Ancient Future LP, collaborate with Ruste Juxx for their Adamantine release through label heavyweights Duck Down records and relocated to Brooklyn. With this sterling sequel to the album that made his name, the producer has now come full circle.

Once again his tracks have been blessed by some of the most talented names in underground Hip Hop, the list of features reads like a guided tour of intellectual rap talent that reaches from London to New York; all spittin’ that Knowledge, Wisdom and Understanding over the cinematic instrumentals Endemic manifests on Terminal Illness Part 2. Shabazz The Disciple, Killah Priest, Planet Asia, Roc Marciano, Afu Ra, Melanin 9, Tragedy Khadafi and more share their insight over 15 essential tracks, crowned by some fierce cuts from three-time DMC World Champion, DJ Switch. Switch slowly builds momentum with skribbles and orbits over a mid-paced yet menacing intro that culminates in an ominous sample before King’s Indian Attack begins the onslaught. Upon hearing Masta Killa’s opening greeting of ‘yes yes y’all‘ you know you’re in the right place; it’s straight up, head-nod Hip Hop at it’s best, the title’s chess reference befitting the meticulous approach Wu-Tang affiliates Masta Killa, Cappadonna and Bronze Nazareth bring to the energized track.

High Society is the british producer at his most polished, the beat demonstrating his progression as he steps away from the sound he had perfected previously to progress into full, multi-layered orchestration and a new-found scope that makes the dramatic element to his sound seem all the more urgent. Tragedy Khadafi’s verse is as deep and lyrically witty as anything he wrote back in the day as Intelligent Hoodlum; Ruste Juxx spits that stylish flow with so much hunger your stomach might start rumbling just listening to him, and Afu Ra holds his own on an LP replete with intellectual heavyweights despite his content remaining much the same. Brothers Kevlaar 7 and Bronze Nazareth reunite with their Wisemen counterpart Salute Da Kidd for Purple Heart’s slick string soliloquy, and the serving up of soul-samples that come as a staple of any producer’s palette are as fresh as they come.

Royal Flush has one of the best uses of sample I’ve heard in a chorus since Primo perfected the art form, DJ Switch’s scratches giving the song an incendiary start that’ll make you wana scream ‘bomb first‘ at whoever next steps into your line of sight. Planet Asia’s allusion to the supreme mathematics, fly rhymes full of self-assured style and tales of bar-fighting hillbillies are dope, and once again Juxx brings more than enough steez to make up for the knowledge his rhymes sometimes lack. 

Capos sees more solid bars from Kevlaar 7 and PR Terrorist get his first opportunity to flow, which he doesn’t waste, coming with a style thats loose and natural with some interesting ideas in his bars. The song’s highlight was always guna be Roc Marc; the melody accommodating Marciano’s liquid flow as it trickles over  plucked string arrangements with his trademark cool. Although it might seem that the classical-influenced, latin tones of the interlude might serve to calm things down; it’s real purpose is to act as a mental oasis before the oncoming lyrical storm lashes in the LP’s second half. Babylon Reload speaks upon the American in-Justice system through three of the underground’s most beloved sons. The original Sunz Of Man reunite and all bring the heat, unfortunately the track is too lightweight considering the calibre of the rappers. Killah Priest’s verse is the highlight; his words as cryptic and steeped in esoteric interpretations of ancient mythology and contemporary cabals as they were when he originally joined the clique in the 90’s, but ultimately a harder beat could have turned this overdue collaboration into a golden opportunity, rather than leaving the listener searching for a silver lining.

Political Criminals 2013 immediately sets the album back on it’s previously pristine path with one of the best beats on the album; from the deep intro from Jordan Maxwell to Cyrus Malachi’s verse that aptly ends the song with words too deep for any MC to follow, it’s a powerful track that defines the type of modern Hip Hop the original intent of the music has grown into. PR terrorist and Bugsy Da God have strong verses, but Malachi’s rhymes are unfuckwithable over a beat like this discussing the topics he knows best, his ‘Pouring white phosphorus over a dying populace’ line made me cringe and shake my head to simultaneously, admiring the skill and bitter truth contained within his words. It’s no coincidence that when considering the album’s lyrical highlights his dominant verse is only matched by his Triple Darkness contemporary Melanin 9. Staying within the UK’s most undeniably insightful camp on Circle MakersTD’s Ray Vendetta and Tesla’s Ghost collaborate to create a barrage of rhymes that coast over one of Endemic’s most grandiose beats to date. The song is beyond the capabilities of most, an unmeasurable amount of verbal  craftsmanship that exudes effortlessly from the combination the contemporaneous MC’s bring forth.

Calisthenics needs no psuedo-intellectual interpretation from me to clarify it’s bold, battering-ram approach. The beat slays, and the MC’s hold it down to the fullest, Bugsy Da God especially using his pen to pour prolifically over the page and spit a mean verse that holds it’s own next to Tragedy Khadafi’s titanic ability. The last interlude Elite is a smooth blend of loops and drum rolls complete with another sound-byte of Maxwell orating on the propaganda methods employed by the control system, adding further context to the album’s content.

Before I read the list of MC’s featured on Terminal Illness Part 2 and bought the album without hesitation; Cardinal had drawn my attention with it’s clever use of a few loops and simple drum patterns over groovy basslines that Darkim be Allah and Supreme spit heavy verses on. Both MC’s flow thick with 5% rhetoric and ill wordplay, and DJ Switch once again stays on point providing more tightly-knit chops on the ones and twos. The serious tone gets a lift on 20/20 Vision as Endemic’s production takes on a more major key and Tragedy Khadafi’s bars get an uplifting overhaul, the legend singing Sinead ‘O Connor and quoting Obama before referencing the 120. Skyzoo’s verse is as honest and solid as expected, the guy has been on his grind the last few years and built himself a deservedly large following through his work in BK’s underground, and both Kevlaar 7’s concise chorus and Salute Da Kidd’s smooth sixteen are two more reasons the song stands out.

Closing anti-masonic epic Diamond Knights is a holy war of it’s own as Sunz Of Man founder and cousin to the RZA Prodigal Sunn spits flames on another of Endemic’s street sagas. His verse is as impenetrable to the uninitiated as the bars from William Cooper and M9 are; all three men using this opportunity to speak on only the most thoughtful of topics, collectively covering Haille Sellasie, micro-chipping, the Knights Templar, Operation Trident and the souls of dead Pharoahs. Melanin 9’s verse is untouchable, and takes repeated listens to decipher based on overstanding the words he’s using alone; to spend time beginning to learn of the subject matter he’s so well versed in is more of an active decision to change your worldview and expand your consciousness than it is a casual effort to work out some bars. The album is brimming with brilliant vocal deliveries that breathe new life into the scene; every MC penning nothing but critical verses that belong in the memory banks of any serious head’s extensive back catalogue of bars. If you’re into this Hip Hop thing for more than simple entertainment or shallow distraction from your day to day, and prefer MC’s that drop knowledge not name-brands, Terminal Illness Part 2 album is a literal gift from the gods; and with his technically brilliant and viscerally exciting production on this essential sequel, Endemic deservedly takes his place amongst that pantheon.

Buy it straight from the man himself here, or get it at your regular digital vendors.

5/5.

Peace.