Mixtape Review-Drunk Uncle by N.O.R.E.
I am a pretty passionate hip hop head. I hate pet peeve artists I’ve never met worse than family or friends that have slighted me, but I’ve never really had an opinion on N.O.R.E. Never been able to call him wack because he swings in on tracks and destroys his guest verse (example: What U Rep on Prodigy’s H.N.I.C. album) but N.O.R.E. is too funny to be hardcore and too hardcore to be backpacker. Not living in New York, I never found a way to care much about him either way; one thing was for certain: all the best rappers love this dude. If you need clarity on why just listen to the first episode of his new podcast Drink Champs where he is hilarious and intuitive while pushing his guests for the juiciest stories. This is a dude you’d want to hang out with whether you are Nas or me.
That is not enough to survive in hip hop as long as N.O.R.E. has. He’s stayed profitable since 1997. Imagine how many great lyricists have fallen completely off in that time. His new mixtape, Drunk Uncle, showcases all of the reasons why he’s still here and valuable. N.O.R.E. has a hall of famers ear for beats. He knew that beat Butchrock gave for the song Queens needed Kool G Rap on it the same way he knew the DJ Mustard beat We Don’t needed Rick Ross & Ty Dolla Sign. The purpose of the mixtape is to draw a line in the sand between the old heads spending all their time complaining about what rap is and the thirsty new kids who don’t care about the history. N.O.R.E. stands right between the two sides calling on old friends like Swizz Beatz, Dame Grease and SPK for production (Jadakiss, Fat Joe and Nature on verses) but also reaching out to new schoolers like A$AP Ferg, Dave East, Rick Ross, and Ty Dolla Sign. He still has that club hit skill set, a song like Buckets (with French Montana & Manolo Rose) screams night club with glasses in the air.
N.O.R.E. fits everywhere. He grinds out a face scrunching hardcore gem, handling all verses, on Get Money even over that simple hard-nosed beat he throws in some left field humor that grabs your attention “Don’t play with me I’ll get you popped on your hover board, throw you in the river with the manatee’s…” somehow he sounds like he fits over Mustard standing next to Ross. I was shocked that after hearing his collaboration with Killer Mike & Sleepy Brown I wanted a group to form. Mike and N.O.R.E. share a rollicking don’t give a F__ attitude. Sleepy Brown is absolutely dope, still the southern Nate Dogg without a doubt.
My hope is that this is a sampler plate and he has more surprises to come. The mixtapes best moment, the song Moments, illustrates how maturity and old age might give us a more interesting spread of content from N.O.R.E. while we all loved his jovial songs about oral sex in 1998, at this point it’s great to hear him build introspection without falling into high handed backpacker talk. He lists moments in his life that are important; bid in jail, wedding, convo w/ Jay and one of them is “the birth of every one of my kids”, he says the line originally was “the birth of my first kid” but he changed it (he said this on his legendary Rap Radar podcast interview). I love that he changed it; that his team pushed him to change it. That means he doesn’t have a team of yes men, he has people keeping him fresh and it means he’s really considering what everything means and how it can be taken. I hope Drunk Uncle really does get a buzz going because I’d love to hear what N.O.R.E. could do to rap now.
stream or download Drunk Uncle:
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Tagged Butchrock, Dame Grease, DJ Mustard, Drink Champs podcast, Drunk Uncle, Jadakiss, Killer Mike, Kool G Rap, mixtape review, N.O.R.E., New York Hip Hop, Noreaga, NY Hip Hop, Rap Radar Podcast, Rick Ross, Sleepy Brown, Ty Dolla $ign
Song of The Year-The Imperial featuring Action Bronson, Royce Da 5’9 and Black Thought produced by Statik Selektah
The most popular DJ albums fall into one of two categories. The first is the super-producer putting the most popular artists together to line up as many radio hits as possible. If even one record breaks in a big way the DJ gets a new car. Not trying to run down this approach. I need great radio singles like everyone else.
The second kind is the massively well respected producer, underground or on the popular border, who uses his great beats to gather all the most interesting guests together. Statik Selektah and maybe Marco Polo fit into this category. Statik’s new album What Goes Around is absolutely fantastic in terms of track chemistry; Snoop Dogg raps with Ransom on a song, Noreaga, Reks and Termanology share the track Drunk and High. At first you might look at the tracklist and ask why Bun B and Jared Evan are on a song together but you can always trust in Statik Selektah.
Not only is this the kind of producer who never stops working (even to sleep) but his ear for MC talent is as good as his ear for song construction. He not only got Action, Black Thought and Royce together on a track, he got hungry top-of-his-game Black Thought. This is the Black Thought who ran side by side with Pun on Capital Punishment. Is it the catchiest song of the year? Does it have Jhene Aiko singing seductively? No and no but if you are walking around yapping about the lack of lyricism in rap this might sink your battleship. While this song is definitely on a higher level because of the collection of talent all the songs are formed with hard as nails wordsmiths and gritty, jazzy boom bap minimalism.
If the trashy rap makes you feel gross this is your hot shower.
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Tagged Action Bronson, Black Thought, Bun-B, DJ albums, Jared Evan, Marco Polo, Noreaga, Ransom, Reks, Royce Da 5'9, Snoop Dogg, song of the year, Statik Selektah, Termanology, The Imperial, What Goes Around
Mixtape Review-Zero Fucks Given by Emilio Rojas
The first song of every single Emilio Rojas project is absolute fire. He starts off things the way Ice Cube used too with that “EVERYBODY MAKE WAY I AM ABOUT TO DOMINATE” song. He does it yet again on his new mixtape Zero Fucks Given “Nobody help we did this on our Fing own. All these other cats that’s out just a bunch of Fing clones. They don’t even dress themselves a stylist pull they clothes, somebody making them fly they like a bunch of Fing drones (ZFG Intro).” The difference this time is that the rest of it holds that sense of urgency.
In the past his mixtapes lost steam and digressed into club songs about how girls can’t get enough of Emilio Rojas. I’ll give every mixtape allowance for at least one of these songs. The road must be a lonely place and songs about how delightful ladies find you can ensure companionship on those lonesome stops along the way. I don’t need 7 of them. On Zero Fucks Given those songs are replaced with laser focused intelligence. This is evident from the first track onward “167 baby I got the whole block with me! I’m where the poverty created an economy, everyone selling souls now the devil on a shopping spree (Trouble)!”
Rojas has a flow that craves the spotlight. It can speedbag and dazzle or stamp down on the right line so no one misses it. Even with Nore growling and spitting a great verse Rojas stands center stage on Trouble. I had hoped we would get more work like Zero Fucks Given when I heard he got signed to Maybach Music. MMG seems to be a label full of artists who are almost hitting their potential and this mixtape feels like Rojas as Popeye taking the spinach (does anyone even get that reference? I’m old.)
Zero Fucks Given is noticeably and stylistically darker than previous works. I’m thinking about the church bells and ghoul voice in the background repeating the song title 167. Or the interlude at the end where a car accident hits a woman and Rojas urgently requests no one move her. To his credit Emilio never pushes a tough guy angle. He presents himself as slick, intelligent, and unrelenting while admitting he didn’t have to sell drugs (rather than acting as if he did). The ferocious bars in the project seem to carry the weight of his hopes for his community without directly overstating them. He talks angrily about kids ignoring educational goals and girls not being raised to pursue sensible outcomes. The tone of his voice makes you believe none of his concerns are general, the names and faces are in his head as he spits (listen to track 8 Dead Presidents for an example). This is the lean (11 tracks) brazen Rojas I can wave like a flag in front of kids who are looking for something new and ill. The happy go lucky king of the club song has been replaced by the world weary smh of Bitch is Crazy (Joe Budden heard the song title and was like YES I WILL THROW A VERSE ON THAT) and clear headed confessional The Only One. He never loses track of himself or takes a detour or turns confession into self-pity; all the way to the warm celebratory last track (Dynasty) this is the Emilio Rojas I wanted. The one I talked about to anyone who listened; standing under the stars on my house phone saying “If only all the songs could be like the first one!” way too loud.
Stream or Download Zero Fucks Given below:
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Tagged datpiff, Dead Presidents, Emilio Rojas, hip hop, Ice Cube, Joe Budden, Joe Buden, Maybach Music, Mixtape, mixtape reviews, Noreaga, speedbag flow, Zero Fucks Given