For Those Who Can't Sleep On Hip Hop

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GHOST OF A FALLEN AGE-RUMORS OF THE SECRET WAR TRAGIC HERO RECORDS

 

Lynchburg Virginia’s Ghost of a Fallen Age is a product of two incredible bands; Winter Solstice and Everything Falls Together. After the split of Winter Solstice, some of those pieces and the pieces of EFT decided to forge a more prominent force to be reckoned with and in 2006 Ghost of a Fallen Age was born. Thus, the result is their powerful 2007 debut called “Rumors of the Secret War”. Albums that have no flaws such as this one are obviously easy to review. This enigmatic LP should be the staple in which other metal bands follow. There’s more to this album than just pure aggression. Each member plays an intricle part in the Ghost “sound” by adding depth and different dimensions to each song.

Although the CD shows 10 tracks, it’s actually 6 tracks with the remaining tracks being 1 to 2 minute interludes.  The first 2 tracks, “The Cold Open” and “It’s The Apathy That Calls Them Here” are segues to the first full track in “Irrefutable Evidence for a Skeptic (3:15 am)”. As potent as GOAFA’s instrumental musicianship on this song is, the group’s efforts are brought up another notch significantly by the vocal contributions of Matthew McMillan. His growls and high pitches shrieks are powerful. The lyrics easily match the supremacy of McMillan’s voice:

“This nightmare runs into reality, an affliction of hollow eyes, burnt into my mind, those whispered lies, burnt my mind. Manifestations of death and horror, illusions of grandeur, a hope to survive or the merits of suicide, a snake in the grass lying in wait.”

Next comes another stunning musical whirlwind in the track “The New 2007 Model Human” which could be a topic attributed to societies ills or, the ills in the music industry as well. I took it as the latter but you be the judge:

“I can see the human assembly lines, millions of heads are waiting for their bodies, and as they wait the manuscripts that make a man: are being pushed through their ears with frail mechanical fingers. The heads are filled to the maximum capacity with regurgitated rhetoric. The heads are fastened to their bodies. They’re now ready for the job market; they’re ready for the meat market. Whore yourself.”

Unfortunately, the music industry is a breeding ground for commercialized puppets (especially in the Hip Hop and Metal scene) where pure musicianship is substituted by clowns pushing their gimmicks. Ghost of a Fallen Age plan to end that!

As the brutality continues on tracks “Macabre Vow” and “The Cancer That Devours My Dreams”, we get to my favorite track “A Poorly Tailored Man-Suit”. This song will hit you like a nuclear bomb! The drummer Jonathan McMillan (brother of the vocalist), showcases some killer chops and the diverse musical arrangements of the guitar/bass tandem of Caleb Goins, Darren Via and Donnie Graham are infectious to say the least. This song sent chills down my spine!

Musically, “A Critical Proposal” fittingly ends this EP before giving way to the outro “The Face of Neglect”. “Rumors of the Secret War” is captivating and what this genre sorely needed. All the elements that make up a solid album are present in this EP. I definitely can’t wait to hear what this unit has in store for the future. Metal looks bright again!!! Support Ghost of a Fallen Age by visiting them @ http://www.ghostofafallenage.com/main.html or http://www.myspace.com/ghostofafallenage  Thanks CyPhEr777

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DANTE EVERGLADE-BLOWN TWEETERS EVOLVE MUSIC

 

Dante Everglade a.k.a. Negro Scoe hits us hard with a dope EP entitled “Blown Tweeters”. Dante has been on the scene since around 95, releasing independent joints here and there and released a fantastic EP called “Vegas Escapades” in 2004. Although a product of Kansas City, he has West Coast Connections also being a part of a dope Cali crew named the “Hip Hop Addicts”. So, Negro has paid his dues and is about to set this world ablaze with this newest effort.

 

Although only being 9 tracks long (including a hidden track), you still get an entertaining offering. The “Intro” sets the rest of the EP up by, detailing the difference between Hip-Hop and Rap. Even to this day, many are still confused about the difference of the two. The “Intro” pretty much sets the record straight on that subject matter. The title track “Blown Tweeters” hits us off with eerie echoes and an abstract drum pattern set to induce major head nodding. On this track Dante switches with an on-beat/off-beat flow that fits perfectly with the dark background he was given. He comes thru with tight lines like:

 “It’s Dante Everglade! The beat provokes my script.

  Eternally connected, verbally effected

  Verses selected, service makes others nervous.”

This track quickly will become one of your favorites!

 

Normally I skip over interludes but, the “Noise Complaint” skit is hard to pass up. This hilarious interlude has a Napoleon Dynamite type character (an officer) who’s responding to a noise pollution complaint. Even though it’s meant as comedy relief, it touches on the stereo types Hip Hop constantly faces. Next is the smooth vibed “Innovate Don’t Hate”. Dante slows down his flow to again match the tempo of the beat laid before him. This track show off his lyrical dexterity as well as the diversity of it’s beat makers in duo Acumen and Dusty Rhythms. Things get a little controversial in “Blind Obedience” where Negro touches on the recent mishaps of the Commander In Chief (Bush). Here he employs us to see thru the lies of our government and the media. You will also hear sound clips of Bush throughout the track.

 

Great things continue on the second half as they did on the first with, innovative topics. A relationship issue is the topic on “My Butterfly”. Again, Dante’s even keeled flow is what draws you in and keeps you interested. The beat while simple, is nice and bubbly and creates a beautiful environment for the emcee to spit to. “Verse Servin” is where Scoe plays with different braggadocio type flows and styles. It’s a fun track that’ll get multiple replays. Then we end all this greatness with “Sidewalk… Timmy”. This instrumental along with the hidden track that follows, showcase more of the skills that Acumen and Dusty bring to this EP. Blown Tweeters is a solid effort meaning, not one song is weak on here. The production is a perfect fit to what Dante Everglade wants to accomplish. The name Dante Everglade or Negro Scoe will speak for itself once his skills are acknowledged. What else can I say? Go and cop it! Please support by peeping these sites: www.danteeverglade.com/ or www.myspace.com/negroscoe Thanks CyPhEr777

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ICON THE MIC KING FEAT. CHUM- MIKE & THE FATMAN LP UPRISING RECORDS

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Being the mic king in many various battle contests, has allowed Icon to be well known in the Underground Hip Hop scene. Since his retirement from battling, he took his skills to another level by releasing 2 EP’s, a couple of singles and appearing as a cameo in many other projects. Basically, he’s shown that Icon the Mic King is not one-dimensional. On this effort, Mike & the Fatman, Icon teams up with a virtually unknown in Chum the Skrilla Guerilla who impressively handles the production on this LP.

The album opens with “Modus Operandi” which is a fast paced introduction to the characters Mike & the Fatman. This is just a glimpse to what the rest of this album will throw your way. Next is the smooth, laid back steez of “Speaks for Itself” where the drum programming is masterful, the sample is proper and Icon really carries the tune philosophizing about his superior skills. We then roll into “Born Alone, Die Alone” containing a dope Nas sample. The track is just as laid back as the track before it with a little more attitude. “Madman” returns to Mike’s vitriolic ways, verbally and aurally. You then find yourself passing over the interlude “All Points Bulletin” to get to the sick upbeat self titled track “Mike & The Fatman”. “Master of the Universe” though, is where everything comes together. This track has the lyrics and a simple but addictive soundscape. Here Icon gets open the most then on any of the 12 tracks on this LP. Fantastic wordplay!

The rest of the album starts to fade a little until you get to the song “Poverty” featuring Blue Raspberry and ends strong with “Law & Order” where both Icon & Killah Priest gives an impressive lyrical performance. Chum comes thru again with a sick track!

The combination of Icon and Chum, is impeccable and showcase that there still is creativity in hip hop. Icon proves that he is much more than just a battle emcee. For his partner Chum, this will be the album that catapults his career upward! Actually, this is one of those albums that might slip through your fingers if you don’t give it your full attention. Give it just that and you will see this album grow into a tantalizing entity. Please support Icon and Chum by hitting them up @ http://www.myspace.com/mikeandthefatman or http://www.iconthemicking.com/  Thanks CyPhEr777

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CIRCUIT SCARECROW- CIRCUIT SCARECROW- ETHOSPINE

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Approximately 3 years ago, Circuit Scarecrow released an EP entitled “Mechanical Laughter”. I was fortunate enough to review this ear-catching project.  Mechanical offered an element not attempted before in Hip Hop. That element is known as “Noise”. For those in the dark about this genre, noise music is a sub-genre of experimental music constructed from noise as opposed to recognizable sounds or pitches. Mix that with Hip Hop type tempos and add a lyricist and you have Circuit Scarecrow.

And now with their newest and official debut album, CS are about to make some serious noise in the industry! What I love about the LP is the punishing tempos and abrasiveness heard throughout this 9 track manifesto. Although being under 30 minutes long, this LP packs a powerful punch in such a short time. Some of the characteristics you will notice will be steel walls of white noise, non-linear pulses, arrhythmic beats, distorted sound loops, unintelligible dialogue and eerie sirens.

Tim Cosner is the man behind the boards and combines the brutal soundscapes for Mario Nieto to spit various poetics to. Tim has also structured noise elements into harmonious, rhythmic pieces that defy easy categorization. Combined, the duo has created a new aesthetic not only for Hip Hop but, for music as a whole. An outburst of emotion is the effect given by the performances of both Tim and Mario especially on tracks “Exit Caricature”, “Thought Ration” and “Carpentry for Children”. Circuit Scarecrow may not appeal to everyone but, should be given a chance. You’re maybe looking at the future of Hip Hop! To support Circuit Scarecrow visit http://www.ethospine.com/ , www.myspace.com/circuitscarecrow or www.deletememory.com . Thanks CyPheR777

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JOELL ORTIZ REBUILDS HIP-HOP ONE “BRICK” AT A TIME

By Khalid J. Strickland a.k.a. Dirty Angel

 

 Oh my God… a rapper who can actually (*gasp*) RAP!!

Nowadays, commercial rap is like Peter Pan… it doesn’t want to grow up. Fans of substantial lyrics and incredible wordplay may feel neglected when they turn on the radio. Nostalgia is not in fashion, but I’m old enough to remember a time when hip-hop music had variety; when a listener could turn on the radio and experience all types of poetry in motion.  Fast-forward to the present day. Rapper-of-the-millisecond Mims sums up the state of commercial hip-hop eloquently on his infectious hit, “This Is Why I’m Hot”, as he boasts with pride: “I can sell a mil saying nothing on a track”.  He can’t rhyme his way out of a paper bag, but I respect Mims for keeping it real.  True indeed, a lot of the junk food records in current rotation are catchy.  AIDS is catchy too, but that doesn’t mean I want it. 

That’s why when I first heard Brooklyn’s own Joell Ortiz spitting bars, I felt as if my prayers had been answered.  Joell Ortiz, the highly-skilled lyrical beast from Williamsburg, has been putting in work for years with numerous mixtapes, cameo verses and live performances.  Mr. Ortiz more than held his own on records with hip-hop icons Kool G. Rap and Big Daddy Kane.  With his precise, multi-syllabic flow and well-penned verses, Joell Ortiz has been likened by many to another talented Latino rapper, the irreplaceable Big Pun.  Ortiz’s relentless hustle garnered the attention of legend Dr. Dre, leading to Joell signing a deal with Dre’s Aftermath Records.  Joell’s Aftermath album is forthcoming, but on April 22nd the rapper will release his debut LP, “The Brick”, on Koch Records.  Joell had “The Brick” in the works long before his meeting with Dr. Dre, and the album is a certified banger from start to finish.  With guest appearances from lethal wordsmiths like Immortal Technique, Ras Kass, Big Daddy Kane, M.O.P., Maino, and Graph, “The Brick” is a lyric-lover’s delight.  Top-notch beats are supplied by Alchemist, Lil’ Fame (of M.O.P.), Showbiz and Moss, so heads are guaranteed to nod.  “The Brick” is a worthy prelude to Joell Ortiz’s forthcoming Aftermath album, and Mr. Ortiz has a promising future ahead of him. 

I had the opportunity to chop it up with Joell Ortiz and get the scoop on his meeting with Dr. Dre, what he expects from “The Brick” and what Williamsburg was like before yuppies and hipsters invaded it. 

Dirty Angel: What were some of the things you did to get your name to ring bells like it does? How’d you propel your buzz? 

Joell Ortiz: First off, I just did everything.  A lot of up and coming artists make the wrong turns.  You can’t pick and choose when you want to grind and you’re no one right now.  I did every interview.  I stood in front of radio stations giving out my singles.  I did every show.  I embraced the internet when a lot of people weren’t embracing the internet.  I wrote a journal that followed me weekly on the grind to try to get a record deal.  I just did basically anything anyone asked of me because there’s a million people they could be asking.  How many people are trying to do music? So when the opportunity presents itself, you do it.  And I just did it.  And I’m sitting here blessed. 

Angel: What can listeners expect to hear on “The Brick”? 

Ortiz: Aw man… they’re gonna hear a breath of fresh air, duke.   Hip-hop… you know, rhyming over beats, man.  That’s what I do, I rhyme over beats.  I don’t direct records.  I don’t say, “This one right here is my personal joint.  This one right here is my club record”.  I just do records.  Whatever happens, (it just) happens.  The records ya’all hear from Joell Ortiz that’ll be in the club will be the ones that the DJ decided to put in their bag, you feel me? That’s the angle I take.  We’re in a polluted game right now and I’m that fresh air, I’m the oxygen mask.  Inhale me and exhale it to somebody else. (Laughs) 

Angel: So what do you hope to accomplish? What are your hopes for “The Brick”? 

Ortiz: First of all, of course I want it to do well.  I want enough people to listen to it.  I want people to understand that I’m one of them; that I’m a fan first.  I could’ve easily (chose) another road.  I’ve done things I ain’t proud of before too.  I want them to understand that I’m gonna help chip away at that invisible wall that Latin rappers have.  That, “He’s nice for a Latin” (statement), you know what I mean? I’m just nice.  And I’ll tell you I’m Puerto Rican when you interview me.  I’m one of ya’all, dude; Latinos been around just as long as everybody else, dude.  And last but not least, I just want everybody to understand that Joell Ortiz is not a made-up guy.  Joell Ortiz is Joell Ortiz when the lights go on and when they go off.  That’s why I don’t have a stage name.  I just want my respect as an emcee.  I give emcees respect all the time.  I’m on the internet all the time, I’m a fan, dude.  So, I just want at the end of the day, (someone’s) last word (to be), “I can’t front, (Ortiz) is nice”. 

Angel: I’m from Fort Greene, Brooklyn, man.  I’d been there back in the day when it was ghetto.  They gentrified that s**t now.  For those who may get it twisted, talk about the
Williamsburg that you’re from, man; before they started moving people in and all of that stuff. 

Ortiz: Aw, man.  I’m from fifteen dudes lined up on the same block with different color bags, selling drugs.  I’m from old Spanish dudes running numbers that had nothing to do with New York Lottery (Laughs).  I’m from the ice-cream truck coming and parking for like, two hours without moving.  I’m from Johnny pumps open on every corner.  You feel me, dude? I’m just trying to paint a picture of where I come from.  I’m from shootouts with other projects almost every other day. You know what I mean?  My moms telling me don’t go across the street and go in that arcade, there’s more than video games in there.  I’m from that Williamsburg.  All these big buildings ain’t Williamsburg, dude.  I’m from Williamsburg.  This is something different.  But it’s all good, it’s all changing.  I’m glad my area came up.  I’m glad that the kids don’t have to see what I’ve seen, you know what I mean? I bought computers for my hood, dude; that was one of the first things I did.  I put computers in my community center so that when these young kids finish playing ball or whatever, their first thing ain’t to go to the back way and light up an L.  Maybe I could log on, ‘cause for so many years I lived in a fifteen block radius.  I didn’t know what was outside of it.  If I can get these young’uns to understand that there’s a world out there, the internet helps.  I put some computers in my community center.  I just love hip-hop and I love what’s going on.  I love the old Williamsburg and I love the new Williamsburg.  I just love Brooklyn. 

Angel: What was it like spittin’ on a track with Kool G. Rap? What went through your mind when that collaboration came about? 

Ortiz: (Laughs) G is my dude.  But I said to myself, “I can’t let that n***a bust my a**”.  (Laughs) ‘Cause you know G, man.  That n***a G is for real, dude.  Yo, that n***a is one of the (greatest); with the witty (rhymes) and that tongue-twistin’ and all that? C’mon, man, that n***a is a pioneer.  And I’m just like, “Damn, I’m on here with G, this s**t got to be (good)”.  You’ve got to bring it.  People gonna say, “Aw, G did it with him ‘cause that’s his man”.  But when they hear you rip it, they say, “Yo, him and G got a joint”.  So those were the things going through my mind.  Besides the fact that G was like, “Yo, dude, I already know what you’re gonna do to it”.  So he helped me; he coasted me through it too.  But uh… yeah it feels good to be co-signed by veterans because their co-sign is genuine.  They don’t have to do it, you feel me? They don’t have to say, “Yo, I ain’t gonna front, dude is nice” because the politic ain’t gonna apply to them, they’re already stitched, na’mean?  They’re in stone.  So when somebody like G be like, “Yo, dude, you the truth” or Big Daddy Kane tells me, like, “Yo, dude, you next.  You the truth”, that’s for real.  O.C. called me on stage at Lord Finesse’s birthday party before he performed and said, “Before I perform, I see somebody in the audience that got to get up here”.  That’s real.

  

 Angel: Speaking of legends, how do you feel about the Big Pun comparisons? 

Ortiz: I feel real good about them.  I mean, come on, dude was a legend like you said just now.  It feels good.  Those are big shoes to fill now, don’t get it twisted, because I’m a fan.  Dude was for real, rest in peace.  S**t, how can I complain about getting compared to an icon; an icon of mine? But I do want people to understand that Joell Ortiz is his own person.  He is his own entity.  He’s his own existence.  Like, he brings his own angle to the game too.  But s**t, if it takes people to say, “Man, they say he’s like Pun.  Let me listen to him”.  If it takes that for them to listen to (me), all’s good.  I’m cool. 

Angel: Well that tribute that you gave to (Big Pun), I was listening to it on MySpace.  That s**t is incredible, son, I got to tell you. You really know how to rhyme; you’re one of the nicest dudes I’ve heard in a while, man.  Do you feel that you’re the last of a dying breed, so to speak? 

Ortiz: Nah, I’m the first of a breed to come, brother.  I already see what’s going on, man, with dudes like Papoose and Saigon, you feel me? We’re coming again, baby. Hip-hop’s making that circle again.  It’s making that turn again.  And I don’t mean the turn I see dudes doing, buying rope chains and s**t like that (Laughs).  You can’t bring hip-hop back with an item, dude, it’s a feeling.  And I feel the feeling coming back.  We just got to update the feeling.  We can’t go back.  That was their era.  They was bodying the rope chains and the triple-fat gooses and s**t.  We got to body our era, man.  Yo, I’m just doing what I do.  I’m happy to be a part of this. 

Angel: So how’d you hook up with Aftermath? That’s an enviable position. 

Ortiz: Man, my management got (my) CD to Dr. Dre’s assistant over at Aftermath.  She called back like, “Dre really likes this kid.  He likes the music”.  We was like, all right, that’s cool.  ‘Cause you know, she’s friends with one of my managers.  She was like, “No, you don’t understand.  He wants to fly dude out like ASAP.”  I’m like, “Get the f**k outta here”.  So two days later I’m on the flight… now I’m in L.A. doing dinner with his staff.  He’s not there, ‘cause I’mma meet him the following day, you feel me? So, I guess it’s the kind of break it in, how’s everything, we like your stuff, blah blah… eating, having a couple of sips of Long Island ice-tea.  You know… socializing.  Next day comes, I go in the studio, Dre walks in.  He’s like, “What’s the deal?” I’m like, “Oh s**t! (It’s) Dre!” (Laughs) Everything changed, you feel me? (Laughs) Everything just kinda went out the window, all the cool s**t.  I was just like, “I’m chillin’, how you?” He was like “Yo, man, I love the records.”  I said, “Yo, man, I love the beats.”  That n***a just started laughing, he’s like, “I just wanted to make sure you’re not a knucklehead, ignorant kid running around out there beefin’.”  I said, “Nah, man.  I’m just an honest guy that just loves rhyming over beats.”  And he said, “With that said, welcome to Aftermath.” 

Angel: No doubt.  So when you have somebody like Dre, the greatest producer of all-time, as the exec for your s**t, do you feel any kind of pressure now? Do you feel any kind of way about that? 

Ortiz: Oh, of course, man.  I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t, dude.  It’s crazy.  I mean, come on, man, I’m the first Latin over there too.  It’s like big.  And you know, with all the success that has come about (for Aftermath), I start being like, “What if I’m the first non-success? What if I’m the bad investment?” And then I say to myself, “There’s no such thing, man.”  (Dre) hits homers every time.  And I’m just gonna be another one deep to left, you feel me? So, I’m doing what I do and I’m taking it in stride.  We’re having fun.  I finished the Koch record already; that drops April 24th.  I’m already working on an Aftermath (album).  We got some good stuff on there.  We’re vibing ill.  I went to Atlanta, did something with Jazzy Pha.  It’s crazy.  It’s gonna be a great album. 

Angel:  Cool.  Let me ask you one more thing.  There’s no doubt, from listening to you, that anybody who likes to rhyme or pick up a pen is gonna feel inspired when they hear your s**t.  Who are some of the people that inspired you and made you want to pick up your pen when you were on the come-up?  

Ortiz: I would say Nas.  I would definitely say Jay-Z.  I would say Biggie.  I would even say the early Lox, to be real.  When I started really getting into hip-hop, I would say like… late ’93, probably.  So you know, I just getting that early Nas, that early Jay, that early Big.  That’s what I come out of, that’s what I was listening to comparing my pen to.  ‘Cause I started writing in like ’91, coming out my building, seeing how much praise you get if you could spit, you feel me? So, that’s the era I come from.  Just about those dudes, they were inspiring. 

Angel: And one thing, man.  I’mma ask you this because you did put it out there.  I ain’t trying to start nothing up, but when I heard the Pun joint you did, you mentioned Nas.  You mentioned “inconsistency” with his name.  What did you mean by that?  

Ortiz: Oh nah, there was nothing towards that.  It was just that I knew he was hot, you feel me? I just wanted more of him, that’s it… as a fan.  Not that he couldn’t do it, I was just like, “Damn, he takes too long for someone who’s fiending”, you feel me? You know what I mean? You can’t get n****s hyped and then just chill for a second, dude.  That was just me, though.  If people felt like that; that was the way I felt.  I’m just like, I need something new from Nas, you feel me? 

Angel: Ai-ight, cool.  I just wanted to clear that up.  That’s good. 

Ortiz: Of course.  I could never… come on, man.  That doesn’t even make sense (Laughs) It don’t make sense.  You talking about a dude who praises dudes like that… but you know what I mean. 

Angel: I definitely know what you mean.  I just wanted to hear it from your mouth, man. 

Ortiz: That’s exactly what it is, man.

For more information on Joell Ortiz and “The Brick”, visit www.myspace.com/joellortiz.

For more stories and work by Khalid Strickland a.k.a. Dirty Angel visit www.myspace.com/blackpacino and www.supremearsenal.com.

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