E.P. REVIEW: Bodhi by Apollo Soul

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Apollo Soul is the artistic moniker of Taylor Doerfler, a singer/songwriter, rapper, mix engineer and producer from Buffalo, NY. Having previously collaborated with other artists and producers, he made the decision in 2018 to set out on his own path. Since that decision he has been very prolific, releasing Scattered Thoughts Vol. 1 then the albums Reborn, Apologies, Roses and 2019’s XCIV.

This EP, Bodhi, consists of four tracks. The EP opens with the hard hitting Xo, which starts with a delicate guitar figure before Apollo Soul’s compelling vocals and lyrical narrative grab your attention. He depicts someone in the throes of drug addiction with stark yet poetic imagery: “She got that ice in the mouth like a diamond veneer…“. From here the track develops into a cutting edge EDM track which showcases his skills as both singer and rapper, proving equally adept at both.

On My Grind is more upbeat, an anthemic EDM/rap track with an instantly memorable chorus: “I’ve been on my grind, trying to define this winding road inside my mind“. It features some incendiary fast flowing rapping on the verses that give the music an exhilarating feel and on this one in particular he sets out his stall as an extremely eloquent rapper with a breathtaking delivery. Combined with the poppy hook, it adds up to perfect material for a single.

Same Old You is again based on a recurring guitar line, a simple bedrock for Apollo to lay down some more rapid fire rhymes. It has another “reality check” vibe to the lyrics, as summed up succinctly by the title hook: “You got the same city with the same friends…you got the same problems as the old you“. Once again, with its radio friendly sound and catchy hook, it would make a good choice as a single.

Purple Rain is not a cover of the Prince classic but another entertaining ode to the hedonistic side of life: “Last night I woke up on the pavement“. This one is driven by crunchy, funky guitar which works with the infectious beat and the EDM sound of the rest of the track. Although the tone is decidedly upbeat once again, Apollo Soul doesn’t shy away from the dark side of excess: “What you hate most you come and do again“. A very fine way to finish.

Overall, this is a brilliant EP that maintains a high degree of lyrical and musical quality across the four tracks. Apollo Soul has honed his skills as singer, rapper, writer and producer to perfection and most importantly his music is completely fitting with the current zeitgeist. With material as good as this, I can see him being hailed as the next Mackelmore and hopefully he achieves similar success.

 

VERDICT= 9 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: Summer In Jersey by Various NJ Artists

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Summer In Jersey is a compilation album consisting of artists based in the New Jersey region. It was curated by The Garden State Hip Hop Hour’s Richard Scott and consists of twenty three tracks. It features an array of NJ hip hop artists including exclusive tracks by Chad B, Trophy Hitta Sadge, Grooveboyput And Doms. It also includes a three part skit by The Infinite Nudist.

The compilation begins with the first part of this skit and sets the playful tone and upbeat vibe for the rest of the album. Chad B’s exclusive Valentino then gets the music rolling, a laid back hip hop/RnB track with a fine vocal from Chad. The following Bad Girls Only by Melo V is based around a descending synth riff and lyrically captures the hedonistic, sensual feel that much of the compilation has: “You gonna have fun tonight, you gonna get drunk tonight...”. A great track.

Another exclusive, No Way by Trophy Hitta Sadge is even more hedonistic in its content and a little X-rated in places. It’s a super catchy RnB track with a swinging rhythm and an infectious memorable chorus hook. The vocals are slick and smooth as honey on this one, and a radio friendly version would make a great single.

Invited by Bumppro is a little different, starting with a crisp 70’s style disco beat before breaking down to a pulsing four to the floor beat on the verses. The vocals are strong and distinctive, with a title hook that you soon find yourself humming. A fine pop/EDM track about gatecrashing a party with plenty of commercial potential.

Sixth track Act Up by Rich Smiles takes things back to a languid tempo, this one a chilled dancehall track about chasing after the ladies. The title hook is incredibly simple and effective with an addictive quality and you can imagine this going down a storm in the clubs.

This style continues with Intentions by Ganja Killz ft. Favo X Melo which features bilingual lyrics, alternating between Spanish and English which gives it an exotic, multinational vibe. The track is produced to perfection and epitomises the summery vibes of the whole compilation. Answer by Zara proceeds at a similar tempo and stands out for a superb lead vocal performance with a seductive melody that draws you back for repeated listens.

Mexsicko Bity by Killer Kherk Cobain is a distinct contrast with an upbeat calypso rhythm that is guaranteed to get people on the dance floor. The rapping is assured and entertaining with a gleefully hedonistic content to the lyrics. Things are broken up nicely by The Infinite Nudist’s second amusing skit.

Next comes Jersey Anthem, the second track by Grooveboyput with a coterie of guest artists coming to the party. It’s a potent piece of hip hop about New Jersey with the differing rapping styles giving the track a real vitality and variety. For The Low by Super Drugs ft. Threat Digga is harder hitting with an aggressive beat and delivered with great conviction. The title hook is immediately infectious and the ‘bad boy’ vibe to the lyrics gives the track a real edge.

All Summer by Dollar Sign Malc is more innocent fare, a chilled out RnB track with a lilting, toe-tapping beat and an understated but effective title hook: “We outside all summer, top down when we ride all summer, we getting fly all summer, the sun won’t  be the only thing that shines all summer…”.

Fourteenth track, Najir’s Can I Call You, is a masterclass in dexterous, super fluent rapping set to a gorgeous acoustic guitar motif that recurs through the track, providing a real highlight. There’s some more fine guitar work on Maria by Smooch, about a desirable Spanish girl. The classical style Spanish guitar gives this slinky track a decidedly exotic vibe.

This continues with Te Fallo, a track in partly in Spanish by Lilskrt4k ft. Chris Cruz. It’s another sensual and seductive reggae-tinged dancehall track that is currently all the rage. We Jus by Bulletproof Belv is another high quality RnB track with a dirty dub bassline that will sound great in the clubs. Again, it’s lyrically x-rated but that adds to the spice.

Sorry Not Sorry is the third exclusive track from Grooveboyput (ft. Smooth The Rapper) and it maintains the same high standard with an instantly memorable chorus that you soon find yourself humming along to. See This by Dom’s is one of the more understated tracks here with a laid back, almost drowsy feel and a deep dub bassline that grooves the whole thing along.

To The 6IX by A-Money$ features one of the best rapping performances on the compilation with some tongue tripping rhymes delivered with panache and style, the content typically about having a good time with various substances! Can’t Be by Honey is one of the only female sung tracks and it’s a good one; Honey has a fine Rihanna style voice, though the lyrics are rather more graphic than you’ll hear on the radio. Her distinctive and strong voice points to a future with big commercial potential.

Black Pool Party by Clicquot Geno is a super mellow hip hop track with some slick production effects including vocoder vocals and a smart filter sweep towards the end, depicting going underwater. An understated gem. The compilation finishes with the final skit by The Infinite Nudist, completing this highly entertaining compilation in the same lighthearted way it began.

Overall, this is a superb collection of hip hop and dancehall tracks curated by Richard Scott. Featuring several exclusive tracks and a slew of potential hits, this is the most summery and sexy album you’re likely to hear during this year. Highly recommended.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: Imperfect Art(ist) by Showtime Shegz

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Showtime Shegz is a hip hop/rap artist originally from Lagos, Nigeria but who grew up in South East London. He has released two albums prior to this, Caution! Before the Show there was Rage! in 2012 and last year’s seven track album Apologies For The Delay. He is a product of London’s strong urban scene though incorporates some elements of world music into his art, which helps to give him a unique sound.

This album, Imperfect Art(ist), is somewhat of an epic and consists of nineteen tracks, written and produced by him (he also did the album artwork). It begins powerfully with Important Poem, a spoken word monologue that addresses the issues the youth face today growing up in the rough areas of London, which is becoming increasingly violent and blighted by crime.

Shegz immediately grabs you with an arresting, distinctive rapping style, delivering an inspiring poem that acknowledges the difficulty of the situation with realism but points towards a better way: “You have been fooled to think you’re wasting your time in school, you’ve been conned to think it’s cool to be a con….but the truth is there is no limit, not even the sky…..your journey might be tougher but that will make you stronger”. It’s a strong opening statement to the album and a vital message for today’s troubled youth.

Second track Furi! is more representative of Shegz’s signature style. Over a bed of sparse, pulsing percussion Shegz delivers a masterclass in rapping, packed with entertaining rhymes that contain no lack of pugilistic braggadocio and his own brand of unique humour: “I have a way with the words, young Mike Tyson…I have a way with the birds, I always stay strapped when I stick my stick in…”. This catchy track has been released as a single and understandably so.

Everything Good is also single material, another infectious track with some killer lines (“I’ve been fly since Marty McFly”) and perhaps the most instant chorus hook on the album. “Everything good, I look good, I feel good, I smell good, I taste good, everything good…”. The production is first rate, with intricate percussive touches over a slinky, toe-tapping hip hop beat.

Wham Wham is much more sparse with a clever, slow building arrangement while Matrix is an unexpected detour, a haunting ‘a capella’ track with a spiritual feel and quite powerful despite its brevity.

This is contrasted by the following KO which shows the more aggressive side to his artistic persona. Built on a blistering beat, Shegz gives an incendiary performance laying down rhymes thick and fast with customary flair (“When I explode, the Richter scale can’t measure”...). The addictive title hook grabs you on first listen and won’t let go: “Knock him out the ring, knock him out the box...”.

Ketchup is a little light relief, one of his more laid back playful tracks featuring some amusing lines (“I’ve got more sauce than the condiment aisle”). The title hook is again naggingly catchy and this could be a further future single. Stone is another minute long track that captures his Nigerian roots and leaves a strong impression with the line, “Home is where the heart is but I have no home….”.

Collect The Bag stands out due to the superb rhythmic complexity of the beat and how Shegz weaves an intricate rap over the top, perfectly in sync. Inventive and highly skilful. Night School is relatively much simpler with a reggae feel to the vocal melody and lyrically it is an entertaining, none too subtle metaphor for Shegz’s love of bedroom antics.

Catfish is another showcase for his rhythmic genius, angular syncopated rhythms creating a potent musical tension. Lyrically, it feels very current, with Shegz depicting the perils of online dating with characteristic humour, especially the spoken word monologue in the middle. A Drowning Man’s Warning (Ripples) couldn’t be more different, another a capella track with only sounds of lapping waves behind his haunting vocal performance. These constant contrasts are a real strength of the album.

I Luvem is a hilarious ode to Shegz’s love of the ladies, featuring some gloriously politically incorrect lines that might have him in trouble with radical feminists. 419 is a reggae-tinged track full of exotic rhythms and sounds and with a noticeably more romantic vibe than the previous track: “If I have you baby, I’m the richest….”.

Emotion Ocean is another soul searching song where Shegz wears his heart on his sleeve: “I’m drowning in the emotion ocean, I’m struggling not coping….”. The following God Flexn is devoted one particularly fine lady and the sung chorus hook soon latches in the memory: “God must have been flexin’ when he made you…”.

Pagan is one his arresting, hyper-aggressive tracks that packs a considerable punch into its two minutes. Built around a demonic descending riff, the urgent hook of “Put the pagan on the pavement” is highly effective. By now, the album’s sharp contrasts are expected but it’s still remarkable how he can veer from this to the tenderness and bleakness of Spiralling, again consisting of just his voice which depicts his emotional isolation and depression.

The album finishes with Dear Group Chat, an eight minute track that’s an epic in itself. It charts his life with a poetic poignancy: “Been partying with angels but inside I’ve been going through hell…”. It’s another strength of his artistry that behind the fighting talk, he reveals himself to be a sensitive soul who struggles with life’s problems as most of us do. The final verses express his need to make things better through his art. It’s an apposite way to end an album that feels like an emotional journey being completed.

Overall, this is a superb alternative hip hop album that takes the listener through almost every emotion in the human condition, Shegz portraying his problems with searing honesty and hard earned wisdom. The music is constantly inventive, full of eclectic twists and turns from track to track and his rapping is consistently electrifying. Showtime Shegz has made a major artistic statement with this album and deserves to be recognized for it.

 

VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

 

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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

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: DLW1 by Urban Fu$e

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https://urban-fuse.com/

Urban Fu$e are a multi-national musical collective from various parts of the world and originally the musical brainchild of songwriter and producer Suzanna Lam. They consist of eight members hailing from diverse places as Lagos, Nigeria; Nassau, Bahamas, Nashville, Tennessee; San Francisco Bay Area, California and London.

Their music is equally diverse, traversing the genres of dancehall, hip hop/rap, V-pop and Latin though always united by a strong dance beat. They have previously released a number of singles including Can’t Steal My Deal, Urban Spice , Xu, Till The End and Splurge amongst others.

The album starts off with the perfect pop/RnB of Runaway, which has already been released as a single to great acclaim. It features a superb, very sensitive male lead vocal performance, a singer blessed with a voice that could almost be described as angelic. The song depicts someone feeling heartbroken over the ending of a relationship and wanting to escape to convalesce.

The succinct verse driven by a pulsing RnB beat soon leads to the excellent chorus that sticks in the memory upon the first listen. The lyrics are decidedly modern with references to Instagram and texting, which will help teenagers relate. The gentle male vocals are nice contrasted by the female rapper in the third verse, whose direct style acts as the ideal counterpoint and adds even more modern edge. A fantastic start to the album.

The second track Freedom shows the multi-cultural and multi-national aspect of Urban Fu$e. It’s based around an intricate hip hop beat with rapid fire kicks which lays the platform for some slick rapping in French on the early verses. It leads to another memorable chorus hook sung in English, with a distinct reggae/dancehall vibe: “I am the dragon in the kingdom, I am the lion in the dungeon, I know that music is my freedom…”. Later on, we hear a slickly delivered verse from an American rapper which adds even more international flavour. This track has also been released as a single and rightly so.

Third track BIG (International Mix) is another hip hop/RnB meld that blends rap with another killer sung chorus. This title hook is how the track begins, an infectious melody that you soon find yourself humming. It’s about overcoming struggles and chasing after success: “Make it big, go big or go home….”.

The first verse cleverly alternates between singing and rapping, the first lines depicting a tough childhood: “My mama wasn’t there nobody to hold me….nobody to patrol me”. The rapping is once again in different languages, firstly in American (the same rapper as on Freedom) before switching to a Vietnamese rapper after the second chorus. Another excellent track with worldwide appeal.

Retire In Peace (RIP) maintains the same tempo and hybridized genre fusion and musical style, focusing on the struggle of making money and playing the financial game. It features just one American rapper who delivers with conviction in a manner not dissimilar to Eminem, with an equally adept capacity for lyrical dexterity and flow. This is once again counterpointed by a sung title hook that works effectively.

The other three tracks on the album include an English and Vietnamese mix version of the track BIG, which sticks to one rapper in their respective languages. This makes sense for releasing the track in different international territories. The other track is a clean version of Runaway, removing the cuss word in the chorus. This makes it more radio friendly and palatable to a universal audience, similar to what Cee Lo Green did with his smash hit Forget You.

Overall, this is an eclectic and truly modern album that balances accessible pop hooks with cutting edge hip hop, RnB and dancehall. Bringing people together from different cultures and uniting them is what music should be all about and Urban Fu$e have the potential to become the leading light in musical multiculturalism. With several standout tracks that have already found success, I see a big future for Urban Fu$e and the many gifted artists involved.

 

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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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

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: Awakeness by Luckydabo$$

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https://luckydaboss.com/

Luckydabo$$ is a rap/ hip hop artist currently residing in Oklahoma City but originally from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. As a child he showed a strong interest in music and when he migrated to Brooklyn in New York he began making music tracks with friends. He has now developed into a bilingual artist, rapping in both English and French and he released his first project The Me$$age last year to great acclaim from both critics and fans.

This track, Awakeness, is taken from The Me$$age and it’s a perfect introduction to his unique style and sound. After a powerful vocal-heavy introduction, a slick, laid back hip-hop groove kicks in which provides the platform for Luckydabo$$ to lay down his free-flowing rhymes. His rapping style and delivery is highly distinctive, alternating between English and French which gives a universal feel to his music. His fluency and ease on the mic is faultless in either language.

Lyrically, Awakeness is an example of the fundamental spiritual message behind his music. Essentially, he promotes the idea of uniting people from all over the world to help improve the living conditions of those who face hardship, such as those living in his native home, Africa. One of the track’s most memorable hooks is the powerful rallying cry: “Gotta get some food on the table, gotta get you fed….”

Overall, this is a refreshingly different hip hop track by a unique artist with a clear and powerful artistic vision. Music is perhaps the most inspiring and effective way to bring together people from all walks of life and Luckydabo$$ is using his considerable talents to preach love and peace, rather than the aggression and violence that features in so much contemporary hip hop. With a large fan base garnered already, I hope his music and influence spreads far and wide. The excellent Awakeness should be another strong step forward towards that goal.

 

VERDICT = 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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