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: 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: Gotta Go by MusicbyKO

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MusicbyKO is a hip hop artist/rapper from Oakland, California. He has been trailblazing the underground hip-hop scene which has resulted in two singles that have generated 170k listens on Soundcloud. He has shared the stage with many artists including J.I.D., Earthgang and many more. He tries to set himself apart from other hip-hop artists by striving to connect with his fans through lyrics they can relate to.

This track, Gotta Go, is a good example of that ideal and also highlights his skills as an emcee and lyricist. The foundation of the track is a slinky, simple-but-effective beat and a rubber band bassline, the relatively sparse musical backdrop allowing him to take centre stage.

Lyrically, it’s an honest depiction of dealing with life’s difficulties and struggles, as well as the transitory nature of modern life and the necessity for moving on despite our problems. This is captured succinctly in the very catchy chorus hook: “Gotta go, gotta go, gotta run…stuck in this loop of hell“. Aside from the profound depth of the lyrics, the rapid fire delivery and effortless flow mark him out as a serious contender in his genre.

Overall, this is a strong release from a hip-hop artist whose gifts for rap and rhyme can stand alongside the finest in his field. With a proven track record of being able to amass a huge amount of listener interest, this could be the track that catapults this rap artist to the next level.

 

VERDICT = 8.3 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: I Might by SNY

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https://www.sonnystoj.com/home/

SNY is a hip-hop artist hailing from the Gold Coast in Australia. He’s been making music from a young age, teaming up with music producer Jacob Rohde after high school and they have been now working for five years together. He considers his main influences to be Michael Jackson, Lil Wayne and Wiz Khalifa. He’s released several tracks including Livin’, Fountain, Drip Walk and Moncler as well as an EP, The Distance Between Dreams.

This track, I Might, has already amassed over 200,000 views on YouTube. It’s a laid back hip-hop track that begins with vibrant strings that recur throughout to excellent effect. Starting with vocal refrains and effects, SNY enters with an assured rapping style that suits the vibe of the music perfectly. The beat is intricate, constantly morphing and progressing with a fine detail to detail and the rhythm is augmented by deep dub bass, which means the track will kick in the clubs.

Lyrically, I Might is essentially an ode to the joys of a hedonistic lifestyle full of girls, money and enjoying certain substances which SNY portrays very entertainingly in a Wolf of Wall Street kind of way: “I want to f*** for no reason….”. The cut-up vocals between verses act as a very catchy hook and a nice contrast to the rapped verses.

Overall, this is a fine hip-hop track by an artist who has honed his style to perfection and knows exactly what he’s about. Its the perfect soundtrack to a party with its summery vibe and SNY proves he has the emcee skills to compete with the best in the business. This track has already been a major success, so the future is looking very bright for this young Australian rapper.

 

VERDICT = 8.5 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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E.P. REVIEW: Flowoasis by Jupiter Gray

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Jupiter Gray is a rapper, singer and hip hop/RnB artist who identifies as a trans woman and comes from Columbus, Ohio. She has been noted as an upcoming influence on the LGBT scene and has featured with fellow artists like Cakes da Killa, Azealia Banks, Mykki Blanco and Dai Burger, amongst others. She has performed at various musical festivals including Comfest, Pride Festivals and many more.

This EP, Flowoasis, is her debut and consists of six tracks. It begins with the powerful spoken word track I AM a Woman and many of the tracks deal with the issue of her gender identity. Next comes the title track, and it’s a superb piece of RnB infused hip hop where Jupiter showcases her skills as both a singer and rapper. Starting with the catchy vocal hook, she delivers the verses with a fluent lyrical style, full of inventive rhymes.

Queen Pinnin is equally good, a hard hitting hip hop track with an infectious groove. Jupiter’s rapping here is as good as any of her hip hop contemporaries, laying down clever, slick lines with effortless ease and seamless flow. Her lyrical style is aggressive yet always closely controlled, giving every track potency and intensity. High Note (ft. Kidd Misfit) is incendiary; Jupiter and Kidd Misfit trade verses and their styles complement each other perfectly. My personal favourite on the EP.

Trouble in Paradise (ft. Terrance Damien) is one of the more RnB influenced tracks, featuring a super catchy vocal refrain. Here, it’s the singing voices that complement each other rather than the rapping style. Final track Runaway is another fine, though shorter, RnB track with a languid beat and a compelling vocal performance from Jupiter, aided by some futuristic cutting-edge production.

Overall, this is a brilliant debut EP from a passionate and gifted artist, adept both at singing and rapping. Her background and gender identity make her an artist very relevant to the current cultural zeitgeist, but most importantly she has several killer tracks that will help make her mark on the hip hop scene. You might well be hearing the name of Jupiter Gray a lot in the future.

 

VERDICT: 8.8 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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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