April 28, 2016

Kylie Minogue - Rhythm of Love (1990)

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Pop
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© 1990 PWL Records
AllMusic Review by Chris True
Yes, it's still simple Stock-Aitken-Waterman dance-pop, but Rhythm of Love is leaps and bounds more mature than Kylie's first two releases. The songwriting is stronger, the production dynamic, and Kylie seems more confident vocally. And while Kylie and Enjoy Yourself were collections of songs to back up singles, this is a more complete album, with many of the tracks -- "Things Can Only Get Better" a prime example -- single worthy. Definitely her best work from the Stock-Aitken-Waterman era.

tags: kylie minogue, rhythm of love, flac, 1990,

April 27, 2016

Onyx - All We Got Iz Us (1995) ☠

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Hardcore Hip-Hop
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© 1995 Def Jam Records
AllMusic Review by M.F. DiBella
The second offering from Queens' Onyx is another fix of dark and psychotic microphone marauding. Unlike their debut album Bacdafucup, the trio's 1995 sophomore project contains no MTV-friendly cuts like "Slam." Rather, All We Got Iz Us is strictly the dark side, espousing basically one emotion: rage. This is a primal album of raucous wailing over sparse, rumbling beats. It is the sound of what slithers under the streets of New York. Sticky Fingaz asserts himself as the lyricist of the crew, sounding off like a powder keg ready to blow while Fredro Starr provides the solid but simplistic beats. Onyx cares little about solutions to the problems that have riled them up, they're simply reacting to them by letting out a guttural roar of anger and violence. Perhaps the forerunners of hardcore artists such as DMX, they in many ways authored the grimy, lowdown flow. In spite of their talents, without the benefit of airplay All We Got Iz Us fizzled. Regardless, Onyx maintained their "right to remain violent" and for what they do, they do it very well on this album. The standout cuts include: "Last Dayz," "Live Niguz," "Walk In New York," "Shout," and "Geto Mentalitee," featuring All City.

tags: onyx, all we got iz us, 1995, flac,

April 26, 2016

Eric B. & Rakim - Follow The Leader (1988) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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☠: Selected by Sentinel
© 1988 UNI Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Having already revolutionized hip-hop, Eric B. & Rakim came up with a second straight classic in their sophomore album, Follow the Leader, which basically follows the same blueprint for greatness, albeit with subtle refinements. Most noticeably, Eric B.'s production is already moving beyond the minimalism of Paid in Full. Follow the Leader finds him changing things up more often: dropping in more samples, adding instruments from musician Stevie Blass Griffin, and generally creating a fuller sound over his rock-solid beats. It's still relatively spare, but the extra sonic weight helps keep things fresh. For his part, Rakim wasn't crowned the greatest MC of all time for the variety of his lyrical content, and Follow the Leader is no different. Yet even if he rarely deviates from boasting about his microphone prowess (and frankly, he's entitled), he employs uncommonly vivid and elaborate metaphors in doing so. A case in point is "Microphone Fiend," which weaves references to substance addiction throughout in explaining why Rakim can't keep away from the mic. The album-opening title cut is one of his most agile, up-tempo lyrical showcases, demonstrating why he's such a poetic inspiration for so many MCs even today. "Lyrics of Fury" manages to top it in terms of sheer force, using the break from James Brown's "Funky Drummer" before it saturated the airwaves. And, of course, there are several more turntable features for Eric B. Follow the Leader may not have broken much new ground, but it captures one of the greatest pure hip-hop acts at the top of its form, and that's enough to make the album a classic.

tags: eric b and rakim, eric b & rakim, follow the leader, 1988, flac,

Eric B. & Rakim - Don't Sweat The Technique (1992) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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☠: Selected by Sentinel
© 1992 MCA Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Elias
Starting with their 1986 debut, Paid in Full, Eric B. and Rakim earned raves for Eric B.'s often flawless, judicious productions and Rakim's serious yet relentlessly rhythmic rhyming style. This 1992 album finds the duo picking up from where they left off of 1990's Let the Rhythm Hit 'Em. "What's on Your Mind" has Rakim with intents to woo under a bubbling track. That track aside, Don't Sweat the Technique has Rakim in bleak spirits as thoughts of combat, revenge, and unfortunate "accidents" are not far from his mind. "Casualties of War" has Rakim as an all-purpose psycho with the unsettling hook, "I get a rush when I see blood and dead bodies on the floor." Although it's supposed to be gripping, the thought of a war-ravaged Rakim with his pistols blazing after hearing a truck backfiring is hilarious. All of Don't Sweat the Technique would be more disturbing if it wasn't for the brilliant ear of Eric B. who can cut the tension and exact magic out of a going-nowhere track. Although the lyrics and premise of "What's Going On" aren't extremely sharp, the cracking snare drums and low bass riffs are a perfect compliment to Rakim's delivery. The title track is also jazz influenced, but not as potent as the Simon Law and Mr. Lee's Funky Ginger remixes that don't appear here. Like many albums of this type, Don't Sweat the Technique ends on tracks of little distinction but it is another strong effort from one of rap's most respected acts.

tags: eric b and rakim, eric b & rakim, dont sweat the technique, 1992, flac,

Eric B. & Rakim - Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em (1990)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1990 MCA Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Having already revolutionized hip-hop, Eric B. & Rakim came up with a second straight classic in their sophomore album, Follow the Leader, which basically follows the same blueprint for greatness, albeit with subtle refinements. Most noticeably, Eric B.'s production is already moving beyond the minimalism of Paid in Full. Follow the Leader finds him changing things up more often: dropping in more samples, adding instruments from musician Stevie Blass Griffin, and generally creating a fuller sound over his rock-solid beats. It's still relatively spare, but the extra sonic weight helps keep things fresh. For his part, Rakim wasn't crowned the greatest MC of all time for the variety of his lyrical content, and Follow the Leader is no different. Yet even if he rarely deviates from boasting about his microphone prowess (and frankly, he's entitled), he employs uncommonly vivid and elaborate metaphors in doing so. A case in point is "Microphone Fiend," which weaves references to substance addiction throughout in explaining why Rakim can't keep away from the mic. The album-opening title cut is one of his most agile, up-tempo lyrical showcases, demonstrating why he's such a poetic inspiration for so many MCs even today. "Lyrics of Fury" manages to top it in terms of sheer force, using the break from James Brown's "Funky Drummer" before it saturated the airwaves. And, of course, there are several more turntable features for Eric B. Follow the Leader may not have broken much new ground, but it captures one of the greatest pure hip-hop acts at the top of its form, and that's enough to make the album a classic.

tags: eric b and rakim, let the rhythm hit em, 1990, flac,

April 23, 2016

Black Moon - Diggin' In Dah Vaults (1996)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1996 Nervous Records
AllMusic Review by
With its first single, "Who Got the Props," Black Moon earned instant underground status. The cut eventually led to the equally outstanding Enta da Stage, which continued to mine the hazed-out jazzy vibe of "Props" as well as its street-savvy, quintessentially New York vocal style. It took longer than expected, however, for that album to appear. During the recording process, the trio produced a wealth of material that didn't make the album's final cut, and in the wake of the critical praise lavished on the debut as well as the fan demand created by it, Nervous Records decided to round up some of those unreleased tracks and couple them with remixes and previously uncollected single sides for the compilation Diggin' in dah Vaults. It is understandably not as consistent in sound as the group's debut, but Black Moon managed to turn that into an attribute. Specifically, the group split the album almost right down the middle and imbued each side with its own general tone and atmosphere. The first half is markedly unlike the mellow production values of the debut. The updated "Act Like U Want It," for instance, dispenses with the playful bassline and steady beat of the original album in favor of a funky piano figure and chaotic, siren-filled atmosphere. The other remixes go through more or less similar metamorphoses, while the new tracks follow in turn, ranging from the straight-up street corner exercise of "Buckshots Freestyle Joint" to the exuberant afternoon jam "F*ck It Up." The mood then shifts back to the viscous souled-out after-hours sound that characterized Enta Da Stage, as if following the trio through a city day and then on into the urban night, from a sweatier, more in-your-face feel -- all concrete and traffic and metallic sounds and swagger -- in the former half to cool, shadow-filled chill-out tracks in the latter. Both styles suit Black Moon -- and the listener -- just fine.

Black Moon - War Zone (1999)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1999 Duck Down Records/Priority Records/EMI Records
AllMusic Review by
Returning with their sophomore record almost six years after their debut, Black Moon recruited Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip, Cocoa Brovaz, and Da Beatminerz (for production). War Zone has a lush, old-school flavor (especially on the single "Two Turntables and a Mic") and giving one of the tracks ("Evil Dee Is on the Mix") makes War Zone better than the average rap album circa 1999.

April 13, 2016

Falconer - Falconer (2001)

Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Power Metal
Style: Folk
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© 2001 Metal Blade Records Inc.
Review by
Two of Falconer's three members are alumni of Swedish black/Viking metal outfit Mithotyn, but Falconer is a lot more than merely Mithotyn Mark 2. The self-titled debut boasts a more pronounced power metal slant and displaces the mother-band's dark Nordicisms in favor of touches of Celtic folk. At times this makes Falconer sound like Jethro Tull gone heavy metal, but when they let rip, their compact, thunderous attack, strong melodic sense, sense of drama, and Matthias Blad's distinctive vocals (pitched lower than you'd expect for a work in this genre) are a force of nature. Lyrically Falconer is about what you'd expect from an album which has a horseback rider straight out of Tolkien on its sleeve: dungeons and dragons and sword and sorcery. But then you don't listen to Falconer for their lyrics. When the Iron Maiden-gone-bonkers majesty of "Heresy in Disguise," "Mindtraveller," and "Entering Eternity" kicks in, Falconer can sound better than just about anyone else in their weight category.

Moka Only - Flood (Limited Edition) (2002)

Country: Canada
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2002 Underworld Inc.
* No professional reviews available

April 12, 2016

The High & Mighty Present: Eastern Conference All Stars (1998)


Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1998 Eastern Conference
Review by Steve ''Flash'' Juon for RapReviews.com

If you didn't already know who The High & Mighty are, allow us to introduce you to the rapper Mr. Eon and the producer DJ Mighty Mi. They released a well-received but commercially slept on album "Home Field Advantage" which features excellent musical production and Eon's own shall-we-say UNIQUE lyrical style. Mr. Eon is one of those underground rappers that really causes people to draw lines in the sand - you either like his style or totally hate it. Eon's got a raspy, slow-flowing rhyme scheme that often sounds like he's slobbering all over the mic - in fact in a spit-tacular sense he could give even Thirstin Howl and crew a run for the money. Did I mention money is white too? At this point, you're probably about ready to hang it up and say, "Fuck this kid I'm not interested." WHOA, hold up there. Eon's not so quickly dismissed. He has a darkly macabre style that is humerously ill - in fact similar to fellow underground white rapper Cage, who duets with Eon on two tracks and is part of their own supergroup called Smut Peddlers. Eon also has a tendency to flip nice punchlines, as you'll note from tracks like the Alchemist produced "E=MC^2" featuring Evidence:
"King Solomon to your Senate and Congress
Lyrical Tralfazz, turning thugs Amish
Quadruple, to your Uno, what you know?
Got weight like two sumos on Pluto!"

Now maybe you're ready to reconsider Mr. Eon as an MC? Then you probably want to check out the fact that his producer DJ Mighty Mi provides him some of the tightest beats in the industry. The sublime joy of this album is hearing the dark and thick sonic grooves of songs like "The Meaning" (previously released) or the original mix of "Hands On Experience Part 2" (previously unreleased). Since this is also the "All Stars" of Eastern Conference, The High &Amp; Mighty split the difference of twelve tracks and give five to people who appeared on their label. You'll hear Mad Skillz doing a humerous Danja Mowf produced remake of "Lick the Balls" (by Slick Rick, if you didn't know) as well as Smut Peddlers tracks like the ill "One on One" or hip-hop porn manifesto "The Hole Repertoire" with a slick little Jay-Z sample twisted into the song's hook. One of the illest tracks may be the EC All Stars group collaboration "All In Together" featuring Eon with Baby Black and Pauly Yams, slithering over some straight 70's disco funk. It's hard NOT to like this cut even if you still have issues with Eon's flow and delivery. As I said before though, Mr. Eon's style is a dividing line in the sand for underground heads - and I stand on the side that says "Damn, that kid's kinda nice yo!" The thing about Eon's voice being so distinctive is that it almost NEVER fails to get your attention on a track. Just peep his words on "Mind, Soul & Body":
"Fuckin with the Starbuck, don't even bother
You be flirtin with death, like playin Frogger
Now a beat ain't a beat without a kick like soccer
I keep a bag of chronic {*INSIDE MY LOCKER*}
[..] Now who's to say who's not, a real hip-hopper?
Two years ago I was a real floor mopper
I ain't from the Bronx like Benny Blanca
If she don't call me back, don't even jock her"

That's why this virtual "Pure Uncut Hits" compilation of tracks from his label, both with and without him, is a sure listener. Many of the tracks here are early versions or unremixed tracks that later appeared on "Home Field Advantage" so if you like what you hear here, be sure to check out their full-length on Rawkus. For both the beats and the humerous rhymestyle and punchlines of Mr. Eon, I give it two solid THUMBS UP.

April 11, 2016

Encore - Self Preservation (2000)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2000 75 Ark Records
Review by Noxie for RapReviews.com
My first exposure to Encore was "Waterworld" off of the Handsome Boy Modeling School project. Between the eerie Automator/Prince Paul beat and Encore's stellar performance, I figured there was no way I could possibly go wrong with an entire album from this guy. (To this day, "Waterworld" contains one of my favorite lines: "my scripts consist of H20/hip-hop and oxygen.") So next time I found myself at my local record spot, I couldn't help but cop it. "Self-Preservation" greatly dissapointed me when I first picked it up, but grew on me quickly.
I immediately got annoyed with Architect's first two beats. For some reason, the strings in the intro just grated on me, and the synth horns behind "For You" made me want to punch the wall. Because of the annoying beat, I slept on "For You" for a long time. The third track, "Esoteric (Exec Anthem)" brought a nice flow, but Encore's lyrics didn't really impress me, as the only line that caught my ears was "my shit is crack rock held over volcanos," and his delivery seemed too distant to hold my interest. The beat was atmospheric and interesting, so Architect did some good work, finally. However, yet another strike against Core is that his crew turns out to be named The Executive Lounge, and a really awful verse by someone who sounds like a very drunk Sir Menelink gave me my introduction to the kinds of guest spots I could expect on the rest of the album. The only thing I was happy about was the inclusion of Dr. Octagon's "Blue Flowers" video (Encore is on 75 Ark, the Automator's label), so I copied that onto my hard drive and prepared to sell.
Three songs into it, I felt like my purchase had been a big fat waste of cash. However, being a lazy, broke college student, I never really got a chance to get back up to Vintage Vinyl and I was determined to not have wasted fifteen bills. I put it on random and hoped that the streak of obnoxious beats, dissapointing lyrics and wack guest rappers would end. Track 4 showed up, "Love and Hate (The Mellow Drama)." I clenched my jaw, all ready for piercing horns or some other obnoxious to open the track, but, much to my surprise, I heard a very sweet piano loop and nice and minimalistic cuts. By bar four, when the beat switches up, Architect was my hero. Encore's flow still didn't particularly move me, but his delivery seemed to compliment the beat, and he did serve up a few gems, such as "so whether you clever or not/the emcee who rhyme tougher than leather plots/be blowing up the motherfucking spot." You really can't go wrong by saying you blow up the mufuckin spot. So, yes, we have a solid track, at long last.
The next track that came up was number 6, ".084." The beat was nothing special, but much less obnoxious than the first two, so I was content. As Encore told a story of drunk driving and redemption, I finally was feeling his lyrics. Core is much more interesting when he's actually saying something, I found out. Track 8, "E. T." brought another annoying Architect beat, but I gave it a chance. I'm not sure about the first verse, but I'm sure the second verse is, I would assume, another member of The Exec Lounge, who pretty much redeems the whole crew. His name is Holocaust and he has just enough of an El-P influence to keep his style interesting, but not enough to bite. "We can go vocal to vocal plus two vocals/so I can put two swords in your head like the Oakland Raiders logo/who's loco." Very nice. The last verse, from Encore, is the best yet, and I realize that he sounds like what I wish Rasco sounded like.
So, at this point, I am actually feeling the album, and I try going back to the beginning. "For You" turns out to be an absolute gem, as Core spits some lines about all the people he appreciates in the world. The beat actually begins to grow on me, and I find myself humming the piano line, which sneaks in later in the track, the rest of the day.
Granted, "Self-Preservation" still has its faults. The beats aren't all on point, especially "It's Going Down," produced by Joey Chavez. Architect goes wrong on "The Bio" (the introduction--I *still* can't even listen to that) and sometimes his beats are some simple and airy that too much relies on the vocals to keep it interesting. And Encore does not always keep it interesting. Also, Exec Lounge seems to overlap into Heiroglyphics, and one would think that this is a good thing, but Pep Love's guest spot on "The Situation" is really wack as all hell. I haven't heard his new single yet--I hope he redeems himself.
But this is a solid debut, reminding us of the strength of the west these days. If nothing else, pick up the "Love and Hate" 12", just for the instrumental.

The Outlawz - Ride Wit Us or Collide Wit Us (2000)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
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© 2000 Outlaw Recordz
Review by
About all anyone could say about the Outlawz when they dropped their debut album in late 2000 was that they used to be down with 2Pac. Of course, lots of people were down with 2Pac -- though the legend's career ultimately ended prematurely, he'd collaborated with much of the West Coast, particularly on All Eyez on Me, which featured nearly every significant West Coast rapper and producer. But more than any of 2Pac's collaborators, the Outlawz went out of their way to make a career out of their affiliation with 2Pac, even going so far as to feature his image on the cover of their debut album. And perhaps the Outlawz really can't be blamed. After all, excluding their affiliation with 2Pac, they really didn't have much going for them. In fact, it took nearly five years before they even so much as released their own album. It took that long for a reason, though: They aren't that impressive of a group, to be quite frank. And Ride Wit Us or Collide Wit Us makes that fairly evident. They managed to score producer Mike Dean of Geto Boys fame for some beats, but even that can't save this album. Ultimately, the Outlawz are little more than standard-at-best West Coast hardcore rappers. They act all gangsta like 2Pac and forever claim that they keep it real and that they're thugs and that you shouldn't f*ck with them and that they're keeping 2Pac's legacy going and so on and so on. In sum, they spout unending hyperbole and they don't particularly spout it well. But ardent 2Pac admirers who don't mind the fact that this is second-rate, if not third-rate, West Coast thug rap modeled largely after 2Pac's work should by all means give these guys a chance. Their intentions seem in place, at the least. They're loyal to 2Pac's legacy and go out of their way to keep things hard, even if they don't really offer anything overly enticing and are derivative at best.

Busta Rhymes - Anarchy (2000)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap
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© 2000 Flipmode, Elektra Records
Review by Steve Huey for Allmusic.com
Busta Rhymes is undoubtedly one of the best and most distinctive rappers of the '90s. He's also one of the most prolific; Anarchy, released in the summer of 2000, is his fourth album since 1996. Each one has been jammed full of material and also a little erratic, packed not only with great singles and tongue-twisting performances but also filler that gets by mostly on Busta's personality. Clocking in at around 78 minutes, Anarchy is no exception to the rule. Its best moments are as brilliant as ever, but there are also signs that Busta's winning formula is starting to show a little wear and tear. "C'Mon All My Niggaz, C'Mon All My Bitches" has the insanely rapid-fire delivery of E.L.E.'s "Gimme Some More," which sums up the difficulty of Anarchy in a nutshell: no matter how incredible it is, we've heard much of this from Busta before. Of course, the converse is also true: a lot of it is still incredible, no matter how familiar, and there are a few intriguing production touches. But, perhaps for the first time, Busta's singular yet now familiar style isn't quite enough to carry the weaker material, which often feels too tossed off. It doesn't help, either, that Anarchy follows the same sort of millennial-apocalypse concept that enlivened E.L.E. (and, to a certain extent, When Disaster Strikes); it's a little disappointing to hear such an inventive rapper retreading familiar territory. It seems almost impossible that Busta could produce a true failure, but by this point, a growing number of fans may not salivate over a new album nearly as much as the inevitable best-of collection.

tags: busta rhymes, anarchy, 2000, flac,