SINGLE REVIEW: Soul City by GentleBeatz

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https://www.facebook.com/gentlebeatz

GentleBeatz is the artistic moniker of a hip hop/electronica composer and producer currently based in Mozambique. He describes his musical style as lo-fi hip hop/chill-hop. In fact, he incorporates and fuses many eclectic genres into his sound including jazz, reggae, soul, blues, EDM, R&B, folk, indie and world music. His work is mostly instrumental in form and he explains that creating music is partly therapeutic, as a way of dealing with life’s anxieties and difficulties.

This track, Soul City, is taken from the eight track album of the same name. It’s a mellow, mid-paced hip-hop instrumental that makes a strong impact despite its short duration, less than two and a half minutes. It starts with the sound of crackling vinyl, and a languid, dreamy guitar line that quickly latches in the listener’s mind. It has the authentic feel of funk music from the 70’s with its subtle but seductive bassline, yet also has the modern addition of a slinky hip-hop beat.

On top of this are brief bursts of electronica which further add to the modernity of the sound and these gradually become more recurrent as the track progresses. Around halfway through a female vocal refrain emerges that complements the guitar motif perfectly and towards the end the guitar switches to a low octave, giving the feeling of gradually coming down to earth after a flight. It’s this wealth of nuanced detail that marks out GentleBeatz’ music as superior.

Overall, this is a highly impressive fusion of hip-hop, R&B, funk and electronica that is, most importantly, very enjoyable to listen to. GentleBeatz takes the soulful sound of 70’s funk/R&B and brings it up to date with slick hip-hop beats and a modern, cutting edge production style. It is similar to what Mark Ronson was doing in the earlier part of his career, and I hope GentleBeatz gets a break in the industry as his music would bring pleasure to many.

VERDICT = 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Halo by Marc Illy

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Marc Illy is a hip-hop artist, pianist, rapper, vocalist, songwriter and producer originally born in Pittsburgh. He was raised all around the world and has lived in Cape Town, Los Angeles, Costa Mesa, San Diego and Boca Raton, Florida. He now resides in Los Angeles. In 2008, he was the opening act on Method Man’s “Still High” tour as well as touring around Taiwan for two and a half years. He creates music in order to inspire and encourage others, along with his work as an entrepreneur and social influencer.

This track, Halo, is a mid-paced hip-hop track that showcases Marc Illy’s skills as a songwriter, rapper and vocalist. Starting with a brooding bassline, the track breaks into a laid back groove that gets the toe tapping, augmented by tasteful bursts of light electric guitar and Rhodes. On the verse, Ally raps with an assured lyrical and rhythmic delivery and a distinctive style. Lyrically, it depicts the struggles of the creative process: “So many songs never made it to the outside, going through a crisis cos without music I’m feeling so lifeless…”.

But the main theme of the track is captured in the instantly memorable sung chorus, about channeling and appreciating the best parts of our nature as people: “Don’t let them try to steal your halo, don’t forget that you are an angel….”. In the second verse, he depicts how hard life can be in the city with blunt honesty and brutal effectiveness: “So many people don’t even have a f***** home…and you complain you don’t have a screen for Netflix shows….”.

Overall, this is an inspiring and uplifting hip-hop track that boasts both superb rapping about real life subject matter and a catchy vocal hook that reels you in fast. Marc Illy’s lyrics are raw and honest, giving an emotional depth to his music that adds to its power and artistic importance. His music has a more noble and spiritual message than you find in most hip-hop, which often glamorizes violence and material gain. It’s a vital, positive message conveyed by great music and deserves to be widely heard.

 

VERDICT: 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Ride With Me by Soup Black

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https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/s-o-o-p-started-out-of-poverty/1448159792

Soup Black is a hip-hop/rap artist hailing from Harlem, New York. He endured a difficult childhood, growing up in poverty with his father absent and a mother with addiction problems. He also faced bullying while in school. These negative formative experiences have been the source of his inspirational message about overcoming adversity and difficulties, which he has explored on his debut album S.O.O.P. (Started Out Of Poverty). Previously, he has released the singles Big Plans and Have It All.

This track, Ride With Me, is also taken from the S.O.O.P. album. It’s a mid-paced hip-hop track that allows Soup Black to fully demonstrate his considerable skills as an emcee and lyricist. It starts with a haunting piano refrain that has aspects of both jazz and classical, before a punchy hip hop beat enters, laying the platform for Soup Black to deliver. From just the opening lines, he displays a distinctive, clear rapping style that shows his emotional honesty and positive self-belief: “Dear life, you did send me through some ups and downs, but it’s made me what I am now, a role model…”.

After depicting some of the struggles he has faced along the way, the track builds up to an equally inspiring, anthemic chorus bolstered by uplifting synth strings. It’s a succinct message about overcoming your problems: “Throughout your struggles in life proceed to move on, don’t give up, hold your head, be strong....”. On the second verse Soup Black really displays his skills with some verbally dextrous rhymes delivered with consummate flair and style. With its well crafted, addictive chorus hook you will find yourself humming along by the end of the first listen.

Overall, this is an excellent single from a charismatic hip-hop artist who has fought back from his difficult start in life and forged an inspirational artistic persona. His life affirming, positive message will not only empower people from similar backgrounds but will help to uplift anyone going through hard times, from whatever walk of life. Aside from that, Ride With Me showcases his versatile talents as a lyricist and rapper, staking a strong claim to be the next big thing in hip-hop.

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Get Cha Hustle Up by Thuggizzle

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Thuggizzle is a freestyle rapper and hip-hop artist hailing from San Antonio, Texas. From an early age he has had the ability to come up with clever and inventive rhymes on the spot, known also as rhyming “off the dome”. His childhood was traumatic with himself and his three sisters in and out of foster care which led to getting in trouble.

He realized his gift for music could be his way out of his dire situation and put his experiences of street life into his lyrics. He cites Dr. Dre’s classic album The Chronic as a major influence and Thuggizzle has actually performed with one of the main contributors to that album, Snoop Dogg.

This track, Get Cha Hustle Up, is a great showcase for his rapping skills. Based around an infectious, skittish hip-hop beat and augmented by rhythmic, descending orchestral synth lines the vocals enter with the super catchy title refrain. You can hear the influence of Tupac, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent and Eminem in certain aspects of his lyrical delivery but it soon becomes clear that Thuggizzle has a unique style of his own.

The verses show his ability for fast and fluent rapping, showing real dexterity in his use of rhythm and meter. The rapid-fire, busy style of the verses is perfectly contrasted with the simplicity of the title refrain in the chorus. He shows his self belief with lines like, “When I start just flipping that beat, man, I start on any instrumental…slow it down, Thug, what’s up, are you ahead of your prime? Well I’m just speeding past my watch cos I’m ahead of this time….”.

Overall, this is an incredibly catchy and assured single by a freestyle rapper who has developed a strong artistic persona and an entertaining personal style. He has taken the experiences and adversity of his childhood and turned it into the fuel of his creative success. He should go on to become an inspirational figure to aspiring rappers who come from a similar background. Thuggizzle is a hip-hop artist who truly deserves the hype.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

 

Alex Faulkner

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SINGLE REVIEW: Mama Left Me by Pologang DB

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Pologang DB is an American hip-hop artist and one fifth of the acclaimed rap group PoloGang. This group is made up of multiple independent rappers, releasing music together under separate aliases. As a group they have already received great acclaim, featuring in a top ten list in famous music publication Complex, alongside Gucci Mane who has been one of DB’s major influences. Originally from Toledo, Ohio, DB’s debut music video for Get a Roll (ft. Nick Kane) got a lot of traction online. He cites influences such as Lil Wayne and Drake on his infectious, storytelling rapping style.

This track, Mama Left Me, is a perfect example of that style. It’s a searing, hugely  honest and poignant depiction of having to be raised by his father due to his mother’s drug related issues. Musically, it fuses soul/RnB with hip-hop, a mid-paced intricate beat providing the platform for DB to lay down his rhymes. His rapping style is distinctive, with an incredibly fluent and fast lyrical delivery.

On the first verse it depicts a moving story of his father working hard to support them, then DB finding out the harsh reality: “When I was a teen I found out the real…see my Mama chose crack instead of life with her kids….”. In the second verse, the poignancy ramps up another notch as he finds out he has a sister he didn’t know about: “I got a sister that I just met, for real…so Caitlyn you gotta forgive her but she never will….how many other siblings we got that never lived?“.

DB is also brutally honest about the emotional issues that his childhood has left him with: “Sometimes I think I ain’t able to love, I play some bitches cos I’m scared to let emotions out, cos if my Mama played me what is you capable of?“. There’s an understandable feeling of anger and bitterness to some of the final lines of the track: “Hey, when I make it don’t you call, cos you don’t deserve shit…I remember that you left me…”.

Overall, this is a highly emotive and powerful hip-hop track by a massively talented rapper who has the courage to wear his heart on his sleeve. His fiercely honest, ‘for real’ approach combined with finely honed skills as an emcee means that just one listen to Mama Left Me will make a big impact on anyone with an ounce of soul. Like the best rappers, his innate self-belief also shines through, and if there’s any justice in the music industry Pologang DB should be a dead cert for success. Mama Left Me should be a big stepping stone towards that.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: Steal My Soul by Troy Remedy ft. Mary Bragg

Troy Remedy is a hip hop artist and producer from Dallas, Texas. The latter part of his moniker was inspired by the healing effect of music itself and there is a strong spiritual vibe as well as the influence of soul in his hip hop. So far, he has performed in cities like Dallas/Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin and Houston. He has previously released the singles Underdog and City Lights from his upcoming debut album My Own Worst Enemy.

This track, Steal My Soul (ft. Mary Bragg) is a good showcase for his musical fusion of hip hop and soul. Starting with an intro of picked acoustic guitars and synths, the gorgeous vocals of Mary Bragg enter before the track breaks into a languid but muscular hip hop beat with deep dub bass. The track starts with the arresting title hook: “I just want you to know you can never steal my soul….”.

Troy then takes the spotlight with a captivating lyrical delivery, rapping about having to overcome adversity and encountering negative people in his life: “Those dark souls who try to steal your inner glow”. His abilities as an emcee can stand alongside the best in his field, with a fluent, assured style and verbal dexterity. The contrast between his rapped verses and the female vocals on the chorus work very effectively in tandem but it’s the moral depth to his words that really makes him stand out from the crowd with lines like, “Too many times I’ve seen the destruction of innocent lives….”.

Overall, this is an exceptional fusion of old school hip hop with elements of soul, similar in style to The Fugees but more akin to Chuck D of Public Enemy in terms of its hard hitting but spiritual lyrical content. Aided by first rate production values and the excellent vocals of Mary Bragg, Steal My Soul sounds like a major artist stamping his authority on the hip hop scene.

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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https://youtu.be/SWaKlXfz-oc

SINGLE REVIEW: Breaking News by K.A.I.D.

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K.A.I.D. is an American alternative hip-hop, Afro Punk artist. He co-founded the group Illektid Profits who he has released several developmental projects with and performed throughout the East coast. He is influenced by 90’s hip hop, graffiti culture, poetry and the performing arts with a penchant for wearing masks during performance. He is also known for his eccentric wordplay and could be compared with Kendrick Lamar and Chuck D from Public Enemy.

This track, Breaking News, is taken from his 2018 album Dissonant Serenity. It’s a lyrically hard hitting track about police violence against black people. It starts with a spoken word sample of a new report detailing a shooting of several black men, which quickly sets the serious tone of the track. K.A.I.D. makes a strong impression from the opening lines with an assured lyrical delivery, and how he portrays some black folks having to turn to crime to deal with their young families: “Ain’t no room for negotiations when that child support due….”.

The second verse depicts a mother having to turn to prostitution to feed her child and pay the bills, interspersed with statistics about shootings against unarmed black people. This dire situation is captured in brilliant, harrowing lines like, “If I’m feeling suicidal, I just ask for directions….” and “If I die today, I just wish I could have read more….”. As bleak as a picture this paints, K.A.I.D. does offer a glimmer of potential hope: “No delayin’, I’ve been prayin’, convert prisons into schools and by five damn minutes you might see us on the news…”.

Overall, this is a compelling and visceral hip hop track that deals head on with the subject of police brutality against black people. It highlights his skills as a rapper and lyricist, and like any good art makes you think seriously about the subject matter. K.A.I.D. deserves to be acknowledged as one of the finest rappers currently in hip hop and maybe Breaking News will be the track that gets him there.

 

VERDICT= 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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