Jamall Bufford – Victim of a Modern Age (album)

Jamall Bufford - Victim of a Modern Age

I just recently caught the Ann Arbor rapper at a show at the Blind Pig here in my (and his) hometown.  With a lineup of other personal favorites such as Clear Soul Forces, 14KT, Magestik Legend, and Obie Iyoha, it was quite the show.  There was even a set from the ever-elusive Black Opera crew.  One of the best shows I’ve been to honestly, Jamall really knew how to rock the crowd.  The rest of the acts held it down as well, from the raw energy of Clear Soul Forces all the way to the unique DJ stylings of 14KT.  Even got the chance to meet the homie Apollo Brown.  This lineup gave a taste of what the Detroit Hip-Hop scene and Mello Music Group has to offer, and boy was it impressive.

jamall bufford blind pig show

Later I found out that the show was the release party for Jamall Bufford’s most recent album, Victim of a Modern Age.  Naturally, I had to check out the new project.  What stuck out to me right away was the intensely intricate lyricism mixed throughout.  His transitions between rhyme schemes are fluid, starting and ending trains of thought with rhymes that build upon each other.  I’ve always been a big fan of lyricism like this, as its a staple in many of my favorite underground rappers’ arsenals.  Jamall is a perfect representation of the classic thought that underground rappers tend to put more thought and complexity into their lyrics and subject matter.

The only thing that detracts from it are the shaky selection of beats.  Some stand out from the others as really soulful and moving, such as “Travel Light”, and some also stand out as being trunk-knockers like “Silencers” and the title track “Victim of a Modern Age”.  However, some of the other beats are the singular things that hold back songs on the album from being great.  Tracks such as “Higher”, “Walk on Clouds”, and “Oh My God, Forever” are one dope beat away from being true classics.  I actually heard him perform “Oh My God, Forever” at the show,  and he really held it down.  Goes to show you that some tracks sound much better live, when presented with the necessary energy and vibe.

Either way, Jamall is a class act, giving the Ann Arbor Hip-Hop scene a great direction as it moves forward.  Reppin’ the deuce the right way.  Go cop the album if you’re a fan of dope underground Hip-Hop.

-Ronzo

Sunday G-Funk #6: The Game – The Documentary

The Game - The Documentary

 

While Dr. Dre has backed a fair share of artists that did not achieve expected expectations, it’s hard to say that the guy does not have a tendency to understand where talent comes from.  Especially when it comes to talent from his own town, Compton.

After recovering from a brutal shooting in 2001, The Game began to work towards a rap career.  His first mixtape was created after his participation in a freestyle session hosted by Russell Simmons.  After gaining buzz in the streets, his mixtape eventually made it to Dr. Dre, who immediately signed him to Aftermath through G-Unit Records.

Game began working with another Dre signee, 50 Cent and his G-Unit crew shortly after.  Aftermath’s initial plan was to advertise him in a package deal with 50 Cent, in order to get his name out quick and easy.  Through many appearances in various ad campaigns and high-profile G-Unit songs, The Game began to build a name for himself.

dr. dre the game

 

G-Unit Involvement

50 Cent has a large presence on The Documentary, appearing on 3 songs.  What’s even more significant are that all 3 songs ended up being arguably the biggest singles from the album.  “Hate it or Love it”, one of the aforementioned tracks, is a fantastic victory lap for the arrival of The Game’s rap career.  Even though 50 steals much of the shine with a strong verse, Game more than holds his own. This effort, and the later track that featured Eminem, showed that he was ready to go toe-to-toe with any rapper in the game (I think he does just fine on “We Ain’t”, even if he constantly talks about how Eminem bodied him).

The relationship with G-Unit did not last as long as expected, as the two artists had disagreements that built tension between the group.  This ended up being a smart move for The Game, as his solo career allowed him to blossom freely.  Staying with G-Unit would have limited him, as he was also in line with Young Buck and Lloyd Banks.

 

Production, Production, Production

There is almost nothing more important in the Hip-Hop industry than good production.  The best production can make even the worst rapper you’ve ever heard sound like a god-send.  At the same time, there have been many a consistently dope lyricist to meet his end of relevancy due to lackluster production (ask Nas, I’m sure he regrets his production choice on I Am…).

One of the things that make The Documentary stand out from so many other projects are the fantastic line of producers brought on board.  Kanye West, Just Blaze, Havoc, Timbaland, and Buckwild are all prime examples of the top-notch production on the album.  Dr. Dre, of course, also adds to the project with mixing and original production of his own.

Good production and quality features have always been a major positive for The Game.  Whether it’s because of Dr. Dre or Game’s own hustle, the music is always memorable regardless.

 

Boy, Do I Love This Song

 

Now, Remember…

While The Game is not exactly what you would consider classic G-Funk sound, there are many elements that harken back to the good old days of high synths and funky basslines.  “Where I’m From” takes you back to the late 90s, even featuring the “King of Hooks”, Nate Dogg.

If there’s anyone that represents the Golden Age of West Coast Hip-Hop G-Funk sound, it’s The Game.  

-Ronzo

Sunday G-Funk #7: Jay Rock – Follow Me Home

Jay Rock - Follow Me Home

 

While being lost in the middle of the wave of football that is the beginning of fall, here’s another way you can spend your Sunday; with some laid-back G-Funk sound (especially if you had a bad Fantasy Football week like I did).

This week, I bring to you one of the torchbearers of West Coast Hip-Hop, Jay Rock (of recent “Money Tree” feature verse fame).  While he may not be the biggest name in the Black Hippy crew, he does have a claim as being one of the first members of Top Dawg, as well as a major influence for Kendrick, Q, Soul, and himself to form their group.  His album Follow Me Home, released with the help of Strange Music, featured everything you could want from a classic West Coast album.  Big feature names are littered throughout, including Tech N9ne, Rick Ross, Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, and more.  Plus, the production has a new-age traditional feel, with beats from top notch producers such as, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, and Tha Bizness.  

Black Hippy Involvement

The most impressive aspect of the album has to do with the unity of the Black Hippy crew.  In a time where the other members were still in a rising phase with no major releases, this project served as a stepping stone for the group’s advancement as a whole.

Not only do all the members step into the booth for the posse cut (and one of very few Black Hippy tracks), “Say Wassup”, each artist’s adlib vocals are scattered throughout the album.  Kendrick’s hook on “They Be On It”, Schoolboy Q providing one line on “Bout That”, Ab-Soul on “No Joke”, the list goes on and on.  The cohesiveness is highly apparent, and Follow Me Home is the closest thing to a Black Hippy album released as of yet.

(Similar methods are used on the more recent “The Heart Pt. 3”, by Kendrick Lamar, with features from Jay Rock and Ab-Soul)

The Singles

While Jay Rock himself declared that the album is “strictly for the ghetto”, it still has its share of catchy radio-worthy singles.  Songs like “No Joke” and “Westside ft. Chris Brown” have infectious hooks, while “Hood Gone Love It ft. Kendrick Lamar” hosts the most impressive feature verse of the whole album.

Follow Me Home serves as an incredible start for Jay Rock, and the buzz will only continue to grow as Black Hippy increases in popularity.  Here’s to the leaders of the new generation.

-Ronzo

Sunday G-Funk #8: Funkdoobiest – Brothas Doobie

funkdoobiest brothas doobie

 

While Funkdoobiest may not be a huge or widely recognized Hip-Hop artists associated with the classic G-Funk movement, their styles and flows were new and different.  Their relaxed and easy-going personalities penetrated the underground and brought a different perspective to how the West Coast sound should be interpreted.  In fact, their song “Rock On” is one of my favorite tracks (shouts to the homie Moses Manuel), and a previous Monday Grooves pick.

Their sound mainly resembles another classic West Coast Hip-Hop group, Cypress Hill.  This is understandable of course, as the great DJ Muggs served as one of the innovators and mentors to the group.  His production covers this entire album, as well as their first project, Which Doobie U B?

Funkdoobiest

 

Long live Son Doobie and his quirky raps about how he “likes his sex X-rated like he likes his funk”, or his interlude telling a bartender he’s “dummin” because the drinks are too pricey.  Funkdoobiest, with their  humor and easy-going styles, should always be remembered for creating their own niche in Hip-Hop history.

-Ronzo

Sunday G-Funk #10: Dru Down – Can You Feel Me

Dru Down - Can You Feel Me

Today I introduce a new segment, called Sunday G-Funk.  Over the next couple months, Ronzo’s Word will be showing you our 10 favorite G-Funk records.  Join us as we dig through a number of classic records, representing the dominance of this influential West Coast style of Hip-Hop throughout the late 80’s and 90’s.

Starting off at number 10, we have an Oakland native by the name of Dru Down.  Besides the title track from his highly enjoyable Can You Feel Me album, his biggest claim to fame may be his appearance on 2Pac’s “All About You”.  In the rap game, that is.  He has also made a couple film appearances, such as his portrayal of “Kayo” in the movie Original Gangstas.

Being a huge fan of Luniz  (who are frequent collaborators with Dru Down as well as fellow Oakland rappers), I was surprised at how little I knew of the rapper.  His classic West Coast stylings are surprisingly vintage for an album made in 1996, mostly due to the late G-Funk golden age-sounding beats scattered throughout the project.

The production is handled by 10+ producers, with mostly lesser-known names receiving credit.  Among the more recognizable names are Battlecat (concert DJ for Snoop Dogg) and Soopafly (member of DPGC).  The album’s production remains incredibly cohesive throughout, even with the myriad of names involved.

Dru Down

Dru Down’s topics mainly revolve around the life of a pimp, and the various women he deals with.  “Playa Fo Real” is my personal favorite off the album, featuring the classic high synth synonymous with the G-Funk Era.

With classic material like this, it’s hard for me to understand why Oakland Hip-Hop has never truly evolved beyond underground acts.  Besides the classic Bay artists such as E-40 and Mac Dre, the subgenre has mainly been more of a local phenomenon.

If you’re a fan of classic Hip-Hop, and want a great album to smoke during, or bump in the car, Can You Feel Me is the perfect project for you.  Be sure to play it on a nice day to get the full effect.

-Ronzo

Rashad & Confidence: Bringing Lyricism Back

The Element of Surprise

What do you get when you a mix talented beatsmith from Ill Adrenaline Records and combine it with a lyrically savage rapper? Dare I say it, a classic album.  The Element of Surprise is a fantastically cohesive project that will remain a treasure in any Hip-Hop head’s collection.

Long gone are the days of competitive East Coast lyricism.  Piecing together varying flows and crafty rhymes has been overtaken by the value of how catchy a song can be.  The heavy lyricism, in general, stays in the underground (although there are some mainstream Hip-Hop artists who can work syllables just right).

Proving this idea of underground lyricism is the duo of Rashad & Confidence.  The vibe is something straight from the raw essence of the Hip-Hop culture.  Weaving through classic tales of his childhood and the city he grew up in, Rashad explains the travels of his every day life in a gritty world (Illmatic anyone?).  The album feels like it was preserved from a previous time, with clear influences from producers like DJ Premier and Large Professor, and MC’s such as Rakim.

Although this album dropped around two years ago, it stands by itself among very few as one of the best underground Hip-Hop albums of the current decade.  Hip-Hop has a bright future, and the underground is in good hands.

-Ronzo

ALSO: Check out this cool in-store performance at UGHH from 2011:

Wale – The Gifted (Review)

The Gifted

For as much hate as Wale gets in the Hip-Hop industry, he really got it right this time. His most recent project The Gifted brings us exactly what makes Wale so great: his ability to bounce bars about various societal subject matter over groovy beats that sound like live instrumentation. Songs like “LoveHate Thing ft. Sam Dew”, for example, really bring out the best in Wale’s style; His “carefree jazzy swagger flow” (as I like to call it) fits in with elegant horns and dusty drums (which is truly unique). This is his best work since his majorly underrated album Attention Deficit.

Come on, why hate this guy?

Come on, why hate this guy?

When he originally signed with Maybach Music Group, the direction he was about to go was very unknown. Ambition came out reasonably soon after (about half a year), boasting a different Wale that was previously unheard. “Lotus Flower Bomb” and “That Way” featured a lady-killer side that many considered quite sleazy. “Chain Music” and “Ambition” were both catchy tracks, but still boasted the same braggadocious lyrical efforts we’re used to hearing daily on the radio. While Ambition was a highly successful album, it also introduced us to a watered-down version of the talented lyricist we weren’t used to hearing; But that’s what makes The Gifted so great. It’s the perfect mix between the two worlds.

“Gullible” and “Clappers” both manage to stay radio-friendly, while tracks like “88” and “Golden Salvation (Jesus Piece)” could satisfy any decent Hip-Hop head. As far as features go, we get a very impressive back-and-forth effort involving Meek Mill on the song “Heaven’s Afternoon”. Meek Mill’s constantly energetic flow fits perfectly with the exciting string overture sampled in the background. Wiz Khalifa and 2 Chainz both fit in perfectly with the heavily herbed out beat on “Rotation”.

Wale has done a very good job staying relevant in the race for Summer Album Supremacy. In fact, he scored the “#1 Album in the Country” title.  As for me, I know The Gifted will stay in my playlist for quite some time.

-Ronzo