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: Bk by BIG KIDD

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BIG KIDD is a rapper/hip hop artist hailing from Western Australia. Despite being currently unsigned, his music has already made a strong impact and drawn a considerable fanbase online. He has co-produced and released several tracks, collaborating with studio owner Rob Shaker and engineer Uncle Sam, as well as rapper COMPLETE. So far, he has released original material including T.W.N.M.H (They Were Never My Homies) and Smash N Dash, along with versions of tracks by 50 Cent and Eminem.

This track, Bk, shows an influence of the latter but BIG KIDD is certainly no pale imitation of Eminem. In fact, the sheer incendiary intensity of his delivery makes Eminem look like Ned Flanders. He has the two most important factors necessary for a great rapper, a strong facility for words and rhymes but, just as important, a good command of rhythm. BIG KIDD has these qualities in spades.

Across its two minute duration he gives an explosive performance of unrelenting rapid-fire rapping that showcases his skills to great effect, though it must be said that the lyrical content of Bk is graphic and not for the easily offended. On the addictive chorus hook he spits, “How I get this money? That’s none of your f***** business…” with such force that you can’t imagine anyone daring to ever ask that question.

Aside from his scene stealing performance and lyrical dexterity, credit should also go to the first rate production which can stand alongside anything that has emerged from the Dr. Dre or Jay-Z hip hop empires.

Overall, this is a short, sharp shock to the system from a hip hop artist who is clearly 100% real and means every word he says. This kind of authenticity in the music industry is rare, and in this era of increasingly Orwellian political correctness, his brutal honesty and anti-PC polarizing content has a part to play. With further releases of this quality, BIG KIDD will find himself being touted as Australia’s answer to Eminem.

 

VERDICT = 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: Need It Too by AMAAL

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AMAAL is an 18 year old pop singer/songwriter haling from Washington, D.C. He’s been studying and performing music since the tender age of four and began singing lessons at fourteen. He gravitated towards pop and counts artists like Prince, David Bowie, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Jay Z, amongst others. He has battled with chronic pain and depression for years, and has found solace through music.

This song, Need It Too, is his debut single. It was written by himself and produced by Thomas Mansur. It is a pop ballad in the vein of modern Justin Bieber, and AMAAL’s voice is well suited to the material. It starts with simple piano chords, allowing the focus on the vocals and words.

Lyrically, it is honest and emotional deeper than most pop music, as you can tell from its opening lines: “Your breath reeks of whisky, used to say you missed me…”. It’s about a relationship where each others needs aren’t being met, with hedonism seen as a means of emotional escape. The vocal melody is memorable and catchy, with insistent rhythmic hooks keeping the listener gripped to the end.

Overall, this is a fine debut single for an artist with an emotional maturity beyond his years. His voice and music are perfectly in sync with what’s happening in the current pop scene, and the way his lyrics dig deep and capture his emotive rawness will win him many fans. With further material of this quality, there’s no reason why he won’t break into pop’s major league.

VERDICT: 8.3 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: This Will All Be A Memory by Earl The Monarch

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Earl The Monarch is a hip hop artist who was born in Dallas, Texas but moved to Port Arthur at an early age. He began writing music while young, growing up listening to DMX, Jay Z, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. His experiences with depression as he got older were also a factor in his artistic development, and he cites music as the reason he got through it.

He released his first mixtape in 2012 under the moniker ‘O.E.’, Insomnia: The Life & Times. He released the sequel in 2013, Insomnia: Dreamin’ of Nightmares. This became a proper album release in 2015 and he switched his moniker from O.E. to Earl The Monarch, putting out his first album under this name in 2017, Pain On The Rocks.

This album, This Will All Be A Memory, contains twelve tracks (and a bonus track) and it’s clear that Earl isn’t interested in the bravado act of the stereotypical hip hop artist. Opening track One Day (Memories) ft. Elan Noelle makes this apparent, with a laid back groove and an upbeat vibe combined with serious lyrics: “Rapping’s all I ever had, please don’t take it as a game….”.

Hold Ya Head ft. Elan Noelle, released as a single, is also refreshing. Earl expresses compassion and understanding towards a woman in a bad relationship, with a lyrical depth that most rappers can’t compete with. Faded (ft. DC of 2TM, Kontagious and Xavier The Great) is another emotionally deep track, the hook running “I’m faded, I’m lost on this road and I’m praying that I make it back home…“. The verses tell of his struggle to make a living from his music.

BloodHound Interlude addresses the problem of violence and how it’s glamorized in the hip hop world: “Murder in cold blood, all he needed was help….you take a damn father from his son…“. A short but very powerful track. Tank on E ft. Thurnis Vick is an excellent cut that showcases the lyrical fluency and rapid-fire delivery of Earl in full flow, as good as his rapping heroes.

The official closing track Reminisce/Outro is a fine way to finish, as he reflects on getting through hard times. The outro delivers his central positive message: “I just wanna be there for anybody…if I can brighten somebody’s day or help somebody out just with music, I’ll do everything in my power…”.

Overall, this is a first rate piece of performance and production from an artist who has a more spiritual approach to hip hop than most of his contemporaries, while still very much keeping it real. He combines hard hitting lyrics with well crafted melodic hooks, which should mean his important positive message reaches a lot of people. Hopefully, Earl The Monarch will be helping people with his music for a long time to come.

VERDICT: 9 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

ALBUM REVIEW: Tales Of An Appalachian King by Teacher Preacher

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Teacher Preacher is a hip hop artist hailing from Georgia and describes himself as a ‘seasoned underground veteran’, having been in the music industry for a decade. In that time, he has amassed 500 performances including MTV’s Spring Break and has been opening act for Peaty Pablo and Club La Vela in Florida. He has also featured on numerous mix tapes including Trapboy Music, Coast2Coast, Legend of Doom and Hood Hard, whilst also working with a range of artists from around the world.

This album, Tales Of An Appalachian King, consists of sixteen tracks of hip hop with elements of RnB, pop and even country. First track The Boss starts with a monologue from boxer Mike Tyson which sets an intense mood. Teacher Preacher then lays down some equally intense verses over a skittish beat and angular piano melody, with a bassline so deep it’s almost subterranean. He has a distinctive and free flowing rapping style, with a wide ranging lexicon and adept capacity for rhythm and rhyme.

He also invites fellow rappers and guest vocalists along for the party, which adds variety. A good example is second track Ken Folks ft. D Thrash, which melds hip hop with a country vibe to great effect and features an addictive chorus. Dixie Boy Pride is Teacher expressing his love and pride of his Southern roots to a funky hip hop backing. He sounds menacing as he warns ‘If you want, come and tussle with a Georgia boy…’.

Other highlights for me were Taking Backroads which features a great hook sung by Black Betties, whilst Hustling For Nothing ft. Boondock Kings is a brutally honest depiction of gangster life. The self-explanatory In Love With Chevrolet ft. Dez is a catchy track based around a swirling harpsichord melody and Back Together Again ft. Focus shows his more romantic side. Streets Remix is a smooth piece of RnB whilst the controversial closing track They Watching deals with government surveillance and corruption: ‘They cure HIV, they got a cure for cancer, they using frequencies, but they tell us there’s no answer…’.

Overall this is a very fine album that is essentially old school hip hop but incorporates many styles and sounds across the course of the sixteen tracks, and the large supporting cast of emcees and vocalists further add to the variety. There is also contrast formed by the subject matter, varying from visceral and political to thoughtful and romantic, with a few tracks showing the lighter sides to life too. Teacher Preacher already has a large fan base, so this album will be preaching to the converted, but he will be earn plenty of new fans with this release.

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 8.7 out of 10