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

Listen here:

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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

Listen here:

ALBUM REVIEW: Spiritual by 4 Wheel City

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4 Wheel City are a hip-hop duo with a remarkable backstory. The two members are Namel “Tapwaterz” Norris and Ricardo “Rickfire” Velasquez, and they met in unique circumstances. As teenagers growing up in the Bronx, they were both injured by gun incidents and left wheelchair bound, one caught in the crossfire of a shootout, the other an accidental shooting.

They were brought together and found they shared musical interests as well as a desire to inspire others with disabilities, which led to the formation of the 4 Wheel City movement. They have already collaborated with Snoop Dog on Welcome 2 Reality G-mix, made the national news and pioneered a new brand of rehabilitation called “rap therapy”.

This mixtape, Spiritual, consists of sixteen tracks that combines hard hitting hip-hop with a positive, inspirational message. The soul/gospel influenced intro Angel (feat. Takiyah) sets the mood perfectly, immediately showing the emotional depth of their music. The following Saved By God then captures their unique lyrical approach and verbal dexterity: “Deeper than Jesus Christ resurrecting on Easter or a song with Louis Farrakhan on the feature…”.

Third track Bump That (Blunt Facts) is an even better showcase for both their emcee skills, taking turns delivering blistering rhymes with effortless flow. It also highlights their original style, with the spiritual message underlying their words a constant through the album. Musically, it’s just as slick; a simple but effective piano chord progression and speaker-rumbling rubberband bass set to a slinky beat.

Long Time Coming is another strong track, based around a lilting Lose Yourself-esque piano riff and featuring an anthemic chorus hook, which would make it a suitable single. Leaders Of The New World is one of the powerful tracks lyrically, setting out their anti-violence and anti-guns message, aided by moving sung vocals with lines like, “You die for your brothers, you don’t kill your brothers….”.

Sixth track Time To Wake Up is one of the more cutting edge productions, with some hip vocal effects on the title hook. Lyrically, its about racial unity: “White people, black people, time to wake up, we were all created equal from the same stuff….”. God Gives Blessings is the first of several longer tracks, with this one an expression of their deep-seated religious faith.

Noah is the epic of the album at six minutes long, starting with a spoken word intro, quoting from Genesis in the Bible. With a languid vibe and beat, the biblical allegory continues with a comparison to Noah, which I took to mean how they are starting a new spiritual era (“build this ark…”.) Ninth track My Day Ones is a nice contrast, based around a funky, low bassline and a playful tone that brought to mind the similarly spiritual De La Soul.

Music is another of the more modern sounding tracks, with an inventive arrangement and superb production. Full of restless, jittery and highly addictive rhythms with  syncopated bass, it features a memorable hook and a charismatic lead vocal from guest singer Tabitha Haly. Rickfire performs the rapping on this one, as well as the following track (he also performs the lead vocals on Saved by God, Leaders of the New World, My Day Ones, God Gives Blessings and Noah) .

I’m Only Human is actually very original, combining a gospel choir-style vocal hook with a breathless, rapid-fire rapping performance over an aggressive beat to create one of the most incendiary moments of the album. Twelth track Disabled Lives Matter is perhaps the most heartfelt message here, as the title implies. It’s another exhilarating, passionate performance about a subject close to their hearts.

Burning of The Tiki Torches is a real highlight, set against a musical backdrop of orchestral instruments and Beethoven-esque piano samples. Lyrically, it’s a rant against white nationalists who have used Tiki torches to light up their marches, bolstered by a powerful title hook. It shows how 4 Wheel City use their art to confront the deepest, most significant issues such as racism.

What Do You Believe continues the depth, a reflection on the big existential questions of life like believing in God. The Foundation starts with another Bible quotation, which underlines the importance of their faith once more, the cornerstone of their spiritual inspiration.

Final track Sometimes I Feel is a great way to finish the album. Over a toy piano sample and a crisp, funky hip-hop groove, they expound upon the various conflicts of belief and scientific theory with some real wisdom in the catchy chorus: “Sometimes I feel like I’m on something, I get these thoughts and my heart starts pumpin’, as a young boy I was told something, a man that knows anything knows he knows nothing….”.

Overall, this is a classic modern hip hop album from a very gifted duo whose struggles and experiences have forged their characters. With the lyrical potency of Public Enemy and the spiritual depth of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, 4 Wheel City deserve to be among the pantheon of great hip-hop artists. This album should help them reach a deservedly much bigger audience.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10  

Alex Faulkner

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Sun King Eternal Peace by The Sun King

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The Sun King is the artistic brainchild of Maxwell Page Fairchild (a.k.a. Malachi Navi Wahy). He is a singer/songwriter, rapper, performer and producer who grew up in Los Angeles, but now lives in New Jersey. He started singing and rapping from an early age, which developed into writing poetry. Having endured mental health and depression issues in High School, he found solace in making music. He describes The Sun King’s music as Psychedelic R&B, Experimental Chorale Music and alt. acoustic/a capella, all of which apply and more.

This album, Sun King Eternal Peace, is a musical odyssey that spans twenty seven tracks and shows the depth and range of his artistry. Opening track Post Falsehood is a good introduction to the inimitable style of the music, which defies simple genre classification. It’s fundamentally based around Fairchild’s remarkably adept vocals, which are richly layered in ‘call and response’ style a capella gospel-tinged harmonies, with world percussion and elements of R&B thrown into the mix.

The real roots of the music seem based in gospel spirituals, which traditionally conveyed a Christian message. Fairchild has developed his own unique spiritual philosophy, however, and The Sun King is but one of several musical personas he explores. His positive, spiritual side is what the music of The Sun King is about, named after the song on the Beatle’s classic album Abbey Road.

Although twenty seven tracks must sound daunting to a generation where the album as an art form is dwindling, many of the tracks are brief and succinct. They usually contain refrains that capture some life lesson learned, which can range from the poetic and profound (“Storms will pass and disintegrate, troubled winds aren’t meant to stay” from Post Falsehood) to the more quotidian and humorous (“Girls with tattoos are dangerous, they might rip your heart straight from your chest“).

This mixture of the sacred and profane, the serious and playful, is not easy to do convincingly, yet Fairchild gets the balance just right. Those looking for depth will find it; the whole project is full of alchemical symbolism and Jungian concepts, and he shares an obsession with the number three like many artists before him, going back to Dante. Indeed, the symbolism of the sun and the king is central to alchemy, which Jung saw as an allegory for spiritual transformation.

He also mixes the personal with the political; Divide and Conquer lays it out straight on our current political climate: “We are being manipulated every single day, my friends…”, contrasted with the following, “Just be the person that you are” from You Are-Be. His utopian message is made manifest in False Dichotomy: “You’re my sister, you’re my brother, there is no such thing as color...”.

His humour comes to the fore once more with What’s Pot? While some might perceive the mantra “You must experience the cannabis now…” as encouraging hedonism, to me it seems he is encouraging use of psychotropics as a means of experiencing the transcendent and it’s an apposite message now that cannabis is finally becoming legalized and accepted.

Lone Lee, NJ is a funny, poignant track that’s lyrically based on The Beach Boys’ classic California Girls, while the lovely Gentle Tiger, Beautiful Lioness is the closest thing to a traditional love song on the album. The imagery of Jesus Christ and the devil are used to powerful effect in the following Knowing of The Son and 6 O’ Clock & Never Late. The latter is a metaphor, the devil representing fear and being a slave to it.

Overcoming fear with love is central to The Sun King’s artistic vision, Isolated (ft. Jimmy Carter) being a good example. Jimmy Carter is another of Fairchild’s alter egos, this one the yang to the yin of The Sun King. This is the persona he uses when he wants to express something other than the positive messages of The Sun King, and he delivers a succinct, impressive rap in a flowing, eloquent style on this track.

Pussy Galore is a brutally honest confession about his former hedonism, and how he’s found his way through that to a purer path. Elevate From Fall is a touching track about vulnerability and having to put your heart on the line: “My dreams tell me to tell you how I feel, but I’m so resenting of the bridge, it burns in the case you don’t reciprocate…”.

The symbolism of ice and fire emerge on Freeze To Death II: The Ice Cracks and Feel The Burn, the former about emotional coldness with the latter about the consequences of letting fear overcome you: “My biggest fear had made its mark, I blew the light out and thus birthed the dark…”. The cleverly titled Run to No One, Run to Know 1 has the Sun King finding his other half: “And there I saw her in the corner of my eye, my Queen so high.…”.

Get It Darling is one of the simplest tracks lyrically, but its effervescent, irresistible positivity continues into Walking/baby Reprise: “Music is my medicine and Mother Nature’s got me so well….”. This inspiring, holistic ‘back to nature’ message is perfect for an era that is drowning in the excesses of materialism. Place This Hand shows how this music is partly rooted in the Gregorian chants of early church music, but updated for the modern age.

The final tracks Sun Prince and Sun King Opus x-xviii complete the spiritual journey, the first reminding us, “Be glad that you are free, free to change your mind….”, and the latter bringing us back to the hieros gamos, the sacred marriage at the heart of alchemy: “So I ask you, my Queen, do you have a voice to sing?“. It’s the perfect line to finish on, forging the masculine with the feminine through the redemptive power of music.

Overall, this is an absolute tour de force of an album that takes the listener on an emotional journey that runs the gamut of the human condition. It’s a work of artistic authenticity and integrity, honesty and vulnerability. The pay off is a piece of work that succeeds on several levels, whilst transforming traditional musical forms/styles and reinventing them in his own artistic vision. Essentially, this is art that’s a much needed spiritual salve for our troubled times, deserving not just critical recognition but a large, appreciative audience.

 

 

VERDICT: 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Listen to the album HERE

ALBUM REVIEW: Adventures Of The Sound by Alby Sound

ALBYhttps://albysoundoff.bandcamp.com/album/adventures-of-the-sound

 

Alby Sound is a rap/hip hop artist hailing from Rodeo, California. Previously known as Oktayne, he rose through the ranks of the indie hip hop charts and is now back with a new moniker. He cites Kanye West as a major influence and his talents have been described as a cross between Kendrick Lamar and Chance The Rapper.

This album, Adventures Of The Sound, consists of sixteen hip hop tracks that show his musical diversity. Opening track Origins of Alby acts as a good introduction to him as an artist, starting with a haunting piano intro then progressing into a mellow groove, with Alby delivering some fine verses about his past. His laid back rapping style helps you get into his lyrical flow.

WLGYL ft. Takticz is based around the super catchy hook of “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade….”, while Clap Your Hands is a real highlight featuring a superb sax break towards the end. Lyrically, he distances himself from the violence in the culture surrounding hip hop: “Keep them bullets away from us….”. The hook sticks in your memory instantly and this is a potential single.

Prison Of The Mind ft. Kareless MF’ah is another excellent track and full of lyrical wisdom (“Racism is a prison for the mind….) while Friends is a poignant track about not knowing who to trust, built around a powerful synth melody (“Got a knife in my back, and I might get stabbed…”)

Vibe N’ Ride is a more feel good track about the ladies which lightens the mood after a few ‘heavy’ tracks, lyrically speaking. Unlock Ft. El-Merow is another highlight with some slick vocoder vocals and a slinky, addictive beat. Situation is the super laid back epic of the album at five minutes, and shows Alby at his most explicit and amorous, shall we say. A track for an intimate evening, the ideal mood setter. The tight, rhythmic acoustic guitar really grooves this one along.

Grow Up is one of the most powerful tracks on the album, an inspirational message about staying positive and having high expectations for the future: “When I grow up, I wanna go far…when I grow up, I wanna reach the stars….”. Musically, its excellent too with piano and sax providing the perfect backdrop.

It’s aimed at his younger audience (“The children are the future… they always have been…staying in school is the motto to live by…”) and its nice to see a rapper putting out a good example when so many are led astray by the ‘bad boys’ of hip hop who glamorize violence and greed.

Final track Racing Division also has a powerful message, this one focussing on all that’s wrong in society: “All we talk about is race and religion…”. These are the things that divide us, along with greed: “Sell your soul for a motherf—– loan…”. Two great tracks with something important to say to finish a fine piece of work.

Overall, this album stands up to any hip hop out there currently being made. While Alby has his ‘good times’ tracks, he also has plenty to say about the big issues in life and suggests a positive, more spiritual approach which is refreshing. With several stand outs, this album should help Alby Sound make a name for himself.

 

Alex Faulkner

VERDICT: 8.5 out of 10

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

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Vaughn Solo 1st Edition by Boonie Mayfield

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Boonie Mayfield (a.k.a. Solomon Vaughn) is a composer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, rapper and producer hailing from Color ado, USA. Although his music could be loosely defined as hip-hop, his music encompasses many genres including funk, soul, jazz, blues and progressive rock, just to cover a few. He cites a huge range of musical influences though, overall, he is most similar to hip-hop artists like Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and Frank Ocean.

This fifteen-track release is the follow up to 2013’s Boonie Mayfield meets Solomon Vaughn and he has stated it is a mixtape rather than a proper album (I’ve always been a little hazy on the difference, but I’m sure there is one). It maintains the same qualities as its predecessor; acerbic, often hilarious lyrics delivered with panache over an eclectic range of musical styles, and some seriously catchy hooks.

It starts with The Beginning – over a gentle soul musical backing we hear a monologue from the martial arts film The Last Dragon, then No Handle Bars employs a Curtis Mayfield track to lay down some brutal (but funny) disses of other rappers: “Who knew I was a guru with the flow? What do you do? Talkin’ all that doo-doo, no commode, no tissue on the roll…”.

Good Girls (feat. Istayjammin) is also full of highly amusing (if politically incorrect!) lines, and a perfect example of Boonie’s effortless rhyming skills: “I can tell you’re trouble, cos you know you got a bubble that’s got niggas seein’ double when they’re looking from behind…”. The chorus hook “Maybe I just need to go to church….” is one of the most memorable on the album.

Pass The Offering discusses his dedication to his art (“came from the golden age of music to motivate ya……plug a mic to my Apogee and I will happily drop an album and sell it from the trunk of a raggedy car…”) and money issues over rich organ and a funky bassline, one of the punchiest and catchiest tracks on the album. Things mellow out for a little while with the laid-back beats of Remember When (feat. Jordan Craft) and That DOELEMITE! (feat. ill University) while seventh track, The Vaughan Solo Killer Bee-Itch! is entertainingly strange, with its humorous helium-style vocal hook.

After that, the mood turns more serious as he reflects on the issues of dealing with effects of fame and the music industry, with the brief but intense My Love For…., then the claustrophobic Elfman/Nobody Got Time; a riposte to haters and internet trolls. 8-18-14 (The Summer Breakdown ) is Boonie at his most bare and honest, describing his financial struggle even after becoming well known and influential.

No More Of This Shame hits an even lower point, a moving from-the-heart confessional about wanting to make his family proud and the futility of chasing fame delivered over sparse, melancholy piano: “Can’t tell if I’m going for broke or going insane…”. Personal Shit deals with a relationship changing through the effects of success, and not for the better.

After these emotionally heavyweight tracks, Ode To The Joy (feat. Blaque Plaque the Plague) provides light relief over a mellow groove, before the inspiring Dreams (“to reach the promised land you gotta go through the wreckage…”) takes the positive mood up still further. Final track The Ending is a good light note to end on, after the intense emotional drama of the album’s middle section.

Overall, this is a superb follow-up album/mixtape to Boonie Mayfield meets…..showing again his entertaining brand of hip-hop but also showing his serious artistic side, unafraid to explore and confront the darker sides to life and the human condition. This gives the album a huge emotional range and power that brings to mind Kendrick Lamar’s recent To Pimp A Butterfly. If he can maintain the quality of his last two albums, he is sure to find big success eventually.

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 8.8 out of 10