SINGLE REVIEW: The Weekend by IAmOaks

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http://www.iamoaks.com

IAmOaks is a hip hop/RnB artist hailing from New York City. His previous releases include the singles Boom, Undaunted, Kickin It and Trap Goals (feat. Kridakal). His music is essentially a laid back form of hip hop with RnB elements, vocally delivered with his own unique style that lies halfway between rapping and singing.

This track, The Weekend, is a chilled hip hop track featuring the vocals of Tamara Nekola. It starts out with a brief spoken word intro before a languid but infectious hip hop beat kicks in. IAmOaks delivers the verse in an assured and relaxed style, with a natural talent for eloquent and free flowing rhymes.

His strong self belief shines through in the lyrics: “Confident…took my ego and polished it”. However he cleverly undercuts this with the instantly memorable sung chorus: “These times that I feel so good, only on the weekend, only for the weekend….”.

It’s a sentiment that most people will be able to relate to and will connect with quickly. The second verse maintains the high lyrical quality of the first, with some entertaining lines: “I’m like a diamond in the rough or you can call me Nemo…”. Besides the slinky beat, the track is nicely grooves along by the subtle but effective bassline and given a nice sonic shimmer by the synths in the background.

Overall, this is a fine hip hop/RnB track by a charismatic artist with his own natural style. The Weekend has that killer combination of a great hook with a relatable message and the summery vibe to the sound means it’s the perfect time of year to release it. I expect this track to exponentially expand the fan base for IAmOaks and bring him to a deservedly wider audience.

 

VERDICT = 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

 

Listen here:

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: Which Way To Go by Troy Remedy

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troyremedy.net

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, City Lights and Steal My Soul (which I reviewed very favourably, read here) from his upcoming debut album My Own Worst Enemy.

This track, Which Way To Go, starts out with an evocative intro consisting of spaced out guitar and synths then Troy interjects with an assured and direct rapping style. Bolstered by a laid back but punchy hip hop beat, his honest and soul searching lyrics take centre stage with this track depicting his struggle to find his path in life: “Gotta ask myself, what it is I’m pursuing….”.

The first verses are a marvel of rapid fire delivery and eloquent lyrical flow that describe the various problems he’s faced with, summed up succinctly by the title hook: “Even though I’m still not knowing…not knowing which way to go.”

After the first chorus we hear an unexpected but very refreshing bluesy guitar solo, and these guitar licks recur through the second verse.  The lyrics here are even more visceral: “Seen a massacre in broad day, watching as the crowd scatters through life’s maze…..most would say they have nothing to live for, no inner peace, nothing to strive for”. This sense of desperation is reiterated by the final refrains of the title hook.

Overall, this is another compelling and unrelentingly honest hip hop track from Troy. He has found his own artistic niche blending hard hitting lyrics with underlying spiritual themes of redemption and hope, which gives his music a real emotional depth and power.  Musically, this track effectively blends hip hop with a melancholy blues-rock guitar sound to great effect. For people looking for hip hop that is 100% “real” and from the heart, look no further than Troy Remedy.

 

VERDICT = 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

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SINGLE REVIEW: California Dream Girl by Ant.

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Ant. is a hip hop artist/rapper hailing from Denver, Colorado. He’s a new artist in the hip hop world and this single, California Dream Girl, is his first release and was recorded in Los Angeles, California. With no formal background in music, he has nevertheless taught himself the skills necessary to create the music he wants to make. This particular track was written in a state of deep depression following the tragic death of his father in an ocean accident.

Despite the difficult circumstances in which the music was composed, it is in fact a laid back hip-hop track with a summery sound and vibe. It starts out with a slinky, toe-tapping beat and the instantly memorable female-sung title refrain, which works in perfect contrast to the rapped verses delivered by Ant. His rapping style is distinctive with an assured delivery style on the mic.

The first verse displays his natural gift for rapping with a smooth and effortless lyrical flow, though his low state of mind at the time is evident from the opening lines: “Yeah, my heart’s broken, at times overly focused, stressin’ bout the next mission, focus, relapsin’, copin’,  got a dope mind spinning Einstein level emotions…”.

The second verse is somewhat lighter in tone with a woman, along with California, providing some emotional solace: “She sittin’ kissin’ and blushin’, same time the celly is buzzin’…they miss me up in the city but Cali, it’s way too pretty…”. Some fine female vocal extemporizations augment Ant.’s to great effect.The way the rapped and sung sections complement each other dynamically shows Ant. has studied the previous greats of hip-hop and knows exactly how to make a track work.

Overall, this is an excellent first single from an up and coming hip-hop artist who has his already developed his own unique style and makes music that will appeal to hip-hop fans across the board. California Dream Girl has all the makings of a big hit with a memorable chorus hook combined with first rate rapping and lyricism provided by Ant. Provided his further material is of this high standard he will surely become a major player in the hip-hop world over time.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10           

Alex Faulkner

 

Listen here:

 

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:

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