February 28, 2017

The Game - L.A.X. (Deluxe Edition) (2008)

*Contains a second disc with 4 bonus tracks.

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
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© 2008 Geffen Records
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
After two albums driven by his worship of legendary West Coast producer Dr. Dre plus feuds with fellow rappers like 50 Cent and the G-Unit crew, the Game's third official effort is his least important release to date and the strongest argument yet that it just might be time to move on. The cuts that truly matter on LAX aren't the ones where the rapper's hardcore, unswayable definition of loyalty comes into play but the ones that go outside the usual topics and explore both the profound (the African-American struggle) and, more surprisingly, the profane (rump shaking). Most rappers are allowed only one shoutout track every couple albums, but here the name-dropping initial single "Game's Pain" is only the tip of the iceberg. Common and Lil Wayne not only guest star, but get mentioned repeatedly on an album that replaces the heavy shadow of Dre by dropping names from all over the place (Kanye West, Erick Sermon, Rakim, LL Cool J, Luther Campbell, Kurt Cobain, just to name a few). It's nowhere near as compelling as his previous Dre obsession, and with the Game having avoided the sophomore slump while becoming commonly accepted as in it for the long haul, the "everyone is out to get me" lines all seem like leftovers. In this ponderous for ponderousness' sake atmosphere, the mention of Chili Cheese Fritos in "House of Pain" brings sweet relief, and when the rapper refers to his woman as "beautiful as an Eli Manning pass," it's just one of the reasons the feel-good "Touchdown" is a highlight. Excuse the vocoder and Lil Wayne's appearance on "My Life" is big time, but the bar is raised high on the closing "Letter to the King." Exploring how the legacy of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King affected his own life, the Game pulls out the "ghetto grammar" on the track and offers both moving words of reverence and unapologetic controversy ("I wonder why Jesse Jackson ain't catch 'em before his body drop/Would he give me that answer, probably not"). Add the "Jam on It" sample producer Nottz lays on "Ya Heard," the sultry backing track Scott Storch designed for "Let Us Live," and a superstar guest list that's a mile long, and this scattershot album is easy to recommend despite its flaws.

tags: the game, game, lax, deluxe edition, 2008, flac,

98° - Revelation (2000) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, R&B
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2000 Universal Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
It's hard not to feel a little sorry for 98°, since they're often overshadowed by their peers, the towering giants of male teen pop, Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync. They've had hits as big as either group, but when it came time to release Revelation in the fall of 2000, they didn't have the grudging critical respect of the Backstreets or the cultural cache of N'Sync, who had dolls hitting toy stores the same month Revelation was unleashed. They were simply a teen pop band, capable of amiable dance-pop numbers and tuneful ballads, both of which sounded quite nice coming out of the radio. Not surprisingly, they wanted a little bit more than simply being an effective singles band; they didn't just want to hold their own with the Backstreets and N'Sync, they wanted to escape their shadow. The title of Revelation (much like the title of the Sync's 2000 release No Strings Attached) is a tip-off to their goal: They want to provide doubters with a revelation that they can indeed deliver strong music. If Revelation doesn't actually hold any, well, revelations, that shouldn't be held against the band, since they do wind up turning out a perfectly acceptable mainstream dance-pop album. Apart from the infectious opening cut, "Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)," a song clearly influenced by Ricky Martin, and maybe "Dizzy," which adopts Cher-like vocoder tricks, they never stretch the boundaries of the music too much, preferring to just serve up straight dance-pop and sweet ballads. They lean a little heavily on the ballads, thereby aligning themselves with the Backstreet Boys' classy crooning rather than N'Sync's charged adolescent pop. That wouldn't be a problem if the songs were just a little better constructed, so that the melodies stand out prominently on the first listen, but ultimately, the album feels a little samey. Not bad, necessarily, but a little familiar, especially since the peppier songs have stronger hooks and attitude. The preponderance of ballads weighs down the album a bit, even if some of them hold up quite well on their own, and they make Revelations seem like it has more filler than it actually does. Ultimately, it's a good singles album, which may not be enough to make 98° hold their own with the Backstreets or Sync, but it is enough to make for a solid teen pop album.

tags: 98 degrees, revelation, 2000, flac,

98° - 98° & Rising (1998) ☠

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, R&B
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© 1998 Motown Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Really, 98° is a great idea for a teen-pop band: take an attractive boy band in the vein of Take That or N'Sync and have them sing Boyz II Men crossed with the Backstreet Boys. 98° followed this formula on their eponymous debut and were more or less successful. However, they've mastered the sound on their second record, 98° and Rising. Like any teen-pop with chart aspirations, 98° and Rising is far from a perfect album, as it alternates sure-fire hits with filler cut from the same mold, but that should be expected. What's nice is that songs like "The Hardest Thing" and "True to Your Heart" are well-crafted radio singles, with memorable hooks and excellent production. That same production -- which makes the ballads smoove and the dance-pop infectious -- carries weaker moments of the record, but at the end of the day, it's the singles that make 98° and Rising entertaining. And for many fans, that will be quite enough indeed.

 tags: 98 degrees, 98, degrees and rising, 1998, flac,

98° - 98° (1998 Reissue)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop, R&B
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© 1997-1998 Motown Records
AllMusic Review by Leo Stanley
98°' eponymous debut album is an appealing mixture of urban soul and pop-oriented hip-hop, all targeted at teens. It may lack a set of consistently engaging songs, but the best cuts suggest that the group is capable of some dynamic contemporary soul. [98°' debut album was reissued in the spring of 1998, with the Diane Warren composition "Was It Something I Didn't Say" added as a new track. The song was included after it received exposure in the film Fame L.A.]              

 tags: 98 degrees, 98, degrees album, 1997, reissue, flac,

Madonna - Bedtime Stories (1994)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Pop
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© 1994 Maverick Recordings
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Perhaps Madonna correctly guessed that the public overdosed on the raw carnality of her book Sex. Perhaps she wanted to offer a more optimistic take on sex than the distant Erotica. Either way, Bedtime Stories is a warm album, with deep, gently pulsating grooves; the album's title isn't totally tongue-in-cheek. The best songs on the album ("Secret," "Inside of Me," "Sanctuary," "Bedtime Story," "Take a Bow") slowly work their melodies into the subconscious as the bass pulses. In that sense, it does offer an antidote to Erotica, which was filled with deep but cold grooves. The entire production of Bedtime Stories suggests that she wants listeners to acknowledge that her music isn't one-dimensional. She has succeeded with that goal, since Bedtime Stories offers her most humane and open music; it's even seductive.

tags: madonna, bedtime stories, 1994, flac,

February 27, 2017

Mourn - Mourn (2007 Reissue) ☠

*Reissued and remastered in 2007 by Rise Above Records. Features the 1993 Demo recordings plus a track featured in the 1996 Dark Passages II compilation as bonus tracks. Contains 13 tracks total.
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Doom Metal
Style: Traditional Doom
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© 1995-2007 Rise Above Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Despite their extremely competent musicianship and solid songwriting skills, obscure doom metal outfit Mourn is perhaps best remembered for the presence of a female singer within their ranks, a true rarity in the doom metal field. Carried forth by singer Caroline Wilson's highly operatic style, the band's doleful anthems of woe acquire an even more dramatic quality, particularly reminiscent of early Candlemass. Powerful, but not all that flexible, her voice still manages to provide an interesting contrast for the group's ungodly de-tuned riffs, a combination which is best exemplified on the surging "Iron Sky" and the almost overwhelmingly heavy "Children of the Circle." Somewhat less inventive tracks like "Drowning" and "Through These Eyes" see the album taking a nose-dive, quality-wise halfway through, but Mourn manage to recover in time for a strong finale, delivered via the surprising acoustics of "After All" and yet another excellent riff-wielding behemoth called "Forever More." All in all, a pretty solid doom metal album for serious fans to seek out.

tags: mourn, mourn album, mourn band, 1995, 2007, reissue, remaster, flac,

Nas - The Lost Tapes (2002)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2002 Columbia, Ill Will Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
Leading up to the release of God's Son, the second new Nas album in less than a year, Ill Will dropped a collection of "lost recordings" -- basically, tracks recorded for I Am and Stillmatic that just didn't make it. Though the liners are stretching it in parts ("these songs are famous for never having been officially released"), they definitely got it right when they said, "No cameos. No hype. No bullsh*t." From a few listens, it's clear most of these weren't bumped because they were low-quality; "Doo Rags," "No Idea's Original," and "Black Zombie" stand up to anything Nas has recorded since the original Illmatic. In fact, they have more in common with his early recordings; there's more of a back-in-the-day, wasn't-it-all-so-simple-then sound to "Doo Rags" and "Poppa Was a Playa," two tracks that definitely wouldn't have fit on the raging Stillmatic. That's certainly no reason not to pick up this one, not just for Nas fans but for hip-hop fans who want to hear some great rhyming with no added features.

tags: nas, the lost tapes, 2002, flac,

February 26, 2017

Pentagram - Review Your Choices (2008 Reissue)

*Reissued in 2008 by Season of Mist. Contains 2 bonus tracks.

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Doom Metal
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© 1999-2008 Season of Mist
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Obviously disturbed by the unauthorized release Human Hurricane, which presented much of his band's long-lost, early-'70s material in positively sub-sonic bootleg condition, Pentagram main man Bobby Liebling called upon longtime collaborator (and sometime Raven drummer) Joey Hasselvander to aid him in setting the record straight. The result was 1999's aptly named Review Your Choices, containing newly recorded versions of many of the aforementioned lost classics by Liebling, and the multi-talented Hasselvander performing all instruments. Purists may therefore balk at these late-'90s renditions, but there's no denying their overall quality, nor the musicians' reasoning for doing them. Having said all that, it is nice to hear the unbelievably fierce "Burning Rays" finally given a proper studio version after nearly two decades in bootleg obscurity. Further resurrections of ancient favorites like the title track, "Downhill Slope," and "Forever My Queen" are no less potent for their updated guise. On a trivia note, old favorite "Living in a Ram's Head" is not the strange satanic reference some might imagine, but rather a light-hearted allusion to the D.C.-area venue which was one of the band's regular haunts back in the '70s. As for the newly minted material, "Megalania," with it's Sabbath-inspired dirge, and "Change of Heart," with its crushing afterthought of a riff, are probably the lone standouts.

2Pac - All Eyez On Me (1996)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap, G-Funk, Pop Rap
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© 1996 Death Row Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Maybe it was his time in prison, or maybe it was simply his signing with Suge Knight's Death Row label. Whatever the case, 2Pac re-emerged hardened and hungry with All Eyez on Me, the first double-disc album of original material in hip-hop history. With all the controversy surrounding him, 2Pac seemingly wanted to throw down a monumental epic whose sheer scope would make it an achievement of itself. But more than that, it's also an unabashed embrace of the gangsta lifestyle, backing off the sober self-recognition of Me Against the World. Sure, there are a few reflective numbers and dead-homiez tributes, but they're much more romanticized this time around. All Eyez on Me is 2Pac the thug icon in all his brazen excess, throwing off all self-control and letting it all hang out -- even if some of it would have been better kept to himself. In that sense, it's an accurate depiction of what made him such a volatile and compelling personality, despite some undeniable filler. On the plus side, this is easily the best production he's ever had on record, handled mostly by Johnny J (notably on the smash "How Do U Want It") and Dat Nigga Daz; Dr. Dre also contributes another surefire single in "California Love" (which, unfortunately, is present only as a remix, not the original hit version). Both hits are on the front-loaded first disc, which would be a gangsta classic in itself; other highlights include the anthemic Snoop Dogg duet "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted," "All About U" (with the required Nate Dogg-sung hook), and "I Ain't Mad at Cha," a tribute to old friends who've gotten off the streets. Despite some good moments, the second disc is slowed by filler and countless guest appearances, plus a few too many thug-lovin' divas crooning their loyalty. Erratic though it may be, All Eyez on Me is nonetheless carried off with the assurance of a legend in his own time, and it stands as 2Pac's magnum opus.

tags: 2pac, all eyez on me, eyes, 1996, flac,

2Pac + Outlawz - Still I Rise (1999)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR File.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
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© 1999 Death Row, Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
More than three years after his death, it's difficult to believe there's still unreleased 2Pac material out there, much less quality material. After no less than three posthumous albums built around what 2Pac produced when he was still alive (plus an assortment of bootlegs making the rounds), the well apparently still hasn't run dry, and Still I Rise is the inevitable result. As on the Notorious B.I.G. album released just weeks before though, there are some pretty wide gaps on Still I Rise between rhymes actually delivered by 2Pac. There's also an undeniable -- some would say obvious -- impression that this album just doesn't bear the mark of 2Pac himself. Making up the difference in both categories is Outlawz, a quartet of rappers keeping the flow going between 2Pac fragments. As with 2Pac's other posthumous releases, Still I Rise comes with four or five solid tracks that may have survived the cuts on a real 2Pac album. The title track and "Letter to the President" are obvious winners, still reliant on the syrupy G-funk that 2Pac made famous, and (thankfully) not influenced by the increasing late-'90s insurgence of muzaky hip-hop productions. And "Baby Don't Cry (Keep Ya Head Up II)" -- 2Pac's self-produced follow-up to 1993's "Keep Ya Head Up" -- is a surprisingly touching message track. For any of 2Pac's fans, it'll be so good to hear his voice again on new material that the cash-in nature of Still I Rise can easily be overlooked. It's just not the album 2Pac would have produced had he still been alive.

tas: 2pac + outlawz, 2pac and outlawz, still i rise, 1999, flac, outlawz,

Papa Roach - The Connection (Deluxe Edition) (2012)

*Contains 2 bonus tracks.

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Alternative Rock
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© 2012 Eleven Seven Music
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar
Papa Roach's seventh studio album, The Connection, finds the California band finally striking a balance between its early roots as a nu-metal/rap-rock outfit and its more recent interest in '80s-style Sunset Strip hard rock. Featuring production from Sixx: A.M. frontman James Michael as well as Goldfinger's John Feldmann, The Connection includes some creatively slick sounds that flow from buzzy, processed distortion to pulsating, atmospheric electronic flourishes. In some ways, The Connection is perhaps the band's most contemporary-sounding album, though it still remains reverent to the nu-metal sound of the late '90s when it comes down to the overall feel of each tune. In that sense, this disc fits well next to the works of similarly inclined nu-metal journeymen -- such as Incubus, Filter, and Linkin Park -- who've found ways to adapt their sound to an ever-changing pop landscape. Still centered around the high-energy yawp of vocalist Jacoby Shaddix, Papa Roach are never at a loss for something to shout about, and The Connection is no exception. Here, we get the anthemic statement of purpose "Still Swingin," which features Shaddix flexing his rap muscles, as well as the similarly defiant rocker "Give Me Back My Life." Elsewhere, Papa Roach delve into cinematic electronic balladry with the passionate "Before I Die" and the equally as yearning "Leader of the Broken Hearts." Of course, there are also plenty of straightforward electric guitar rock cuts here, and tracks like the fiery "Where Did the Angels Go," "Breathe You In," and "Not That Beautiful" should definitely appeal to the band's more belligerent, fist-pumping fan base.

Thug Life - Thug Life: Volume 1 (1994)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
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© 1994 Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
Socially conscious rappers Thug Life rap about inner-city happenings, but also address the problems which cause the hopeless feeling of many residents. Musically, they borrow aspects of G-funk and New York hip-hop. Though it's led by the rap hit "Cradle to the Grave," Volume 1 has more to offer, like the ghetto lament "Pour out a Little Liquor" and the intriguingly reflective "How Long Will They Mourn Me?" featuring Nate Dogg.

tags: thug life, volume 1, vol 1, 1994, flac,

2Pac - Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z... (1993)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Conscious Rap, Gangsta Rap
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© 1993 Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown
On 2Pac's debut album, 2Pacalypse Now, the rapper showed himself to be a supremely passionate man, brimming over with ideas and anger and ready to voice his political and social opinions, call things like he saw them. This same kind of energy and lyrical acumen is found on his sophomore release, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., a record that, while it begins exploring the MC's more gangsta side ("Last Wordz," for example, which features verses from Ice Cube and Ice-T), still includes the provocative, reflective lines on which he first made his name as a solo artist, and which he continued even as he became more and more popular (and, for some, more and more frightening). "Keep Ya Head Up," one of his biggest hits, and his tribute to black women, especially single mothers, is deeply thoughtful and poignant ("And since we all came from a woman, got our name from a woman, and our game from a woman/I wonder why we take from our women, why we rape our women, do we hate our women?"), expressing opinions that aren't often equated with hardcore rappers, while tracks like "I Get Around" brags about his sexual conquests. But this was what 2Pac was, anyway, a juxtaposition between tough and sensitive, social consciousness and misogynistic boasting, and Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. shows this. The angry protest songs calling out police and politicians, reminiscent of Public Enemy -- and with Bomb Squad-esque beats to boot (albeit a lesser version of) -- the screw-the-world mentality, the soft introspection, the preaching-but-not-proselytizing, and the party anthems are all here, and though the production sometimes suffers, especially in the middle of the album, where it's utterly forgettable, the record shows a continually developing MC, with increasingly complex lyrical themes, well on his way to becoming nearly unstoppable.

tags: 2pac, strictly 4 my niggaz, for, n.i.g.g.a.z., 1993, flac,

Papa Roach - Metamorphosis (2009)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Alternative Rock
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© 2009 DGC/Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
At the dawn of the decade, Papa Roach were one of many angst-ridden, tattooed alt-metal bands who mixed in rap with their grim guitars. At the close of the 2000s, the quartet has shed the rap and the angst, ditching all the alt-metal accoutrements to become a knowing update of an '80s Sunset Strip sleaze rock outfit. This is indeed the Metamorphosis hinted at in the title of their fifth album, and while it's possible to debate whether this transformation was inspired by creative or commercial motivations, there is no denying one key fact: Papa Roach may be all about parties now but they're still kind of grim. Maybe it's down to the decision to bring back producer Jay Baumgardner, who helmed their 2000 debut, Infest, but Metamorphosis has a dire determination to its purported good times, its riffs grinding instead of greasy, its rhythms clenched where they should be loose. While Papa Roach is a long long way from the depths of Hinder -- that decade of work does give the band a professional snap, plus it never quite seems that Jacoby Shaddix's heart is into slagging that "Hollywood Whore" he berates on the album's first single -- they miss the whole point of this kind of rock & roll raunch: it should be more fun to listen to than it is to take out on the road.

February 24, 2017

Redman - Malpractice (2001)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2001 Def Jam Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
During the three-year gap separating Redman's previous album, Doc's da Name 2000 (1998), from Malpractice, the crazed New Jersey rapper became a bona fide superstar thanks to his collaboration with the ubiquitous and ridiculously recognized Method Man. It now seems that the same sort of excessively brash attitude that somewhat burdens Method Man's superstar ego has become a staple of Redman's as well. That sort of lazy overconfidence often leads to effortless redundancy -- this is a problem that creeps into Malpractice. After nearly a decade, Redman's countless skits and his ever-wacky but still-the-same antics just don't seem as fresh and amusing as they once were. Furthermore, with his newfound Method Man-like arrogance, his old tricks seem even tougher to stomach. It'd be different if Redman took a Missy Elliott-like approach to Malpractice and made an effort to continually flip styles and keep things fresh with each album. That's not the case, though. Rather, he turns in a repeat performance of his last few solo albums. Erick Sermon again crafts a number of the beats, and Redman returns to many of the same lyrical motifs that fueled his past work. So, in a sense, you can commend Redman for his consistency; after all, his rhymes are always a grin and he even produces a good chunk of Malpractice. Unfortunately, if you've heard his previous albums, this is going to feel very familiar. It's guests like George Clinton and the aforementioned Missy Elliott who keep things fresh, and there's no shortage of guests here, but even they can't salvage the record's déjà vu feeling. It's not easy criticizing Malpractice, since it is a relatively strong album with some nice moments such as the lead single, "Let's Get Dirty." But being Redman's fifth solo album, you expect a little more growth; instead you get what feels like a repeat performance.

tags: redman, malpractice, 2001, flac,

2Pac - Me Against The World (1995) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap, G-Funk, Conscious Rap
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☠: Selected by Sentinel
© 1995 Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Recorded following his near-fatal shooting in New York, and released while he was in prison, Me Against the World is the point where 2Pac really became a legendary figure. Having stared death in the face and survived, he was a changed man on record, displaying a new confessional bent and a consistent emotional depth. By and large, this isn't the sort of material that made him a gangsta icon; this is 2Pac the soul-baring artist, the foundation of the immense respect he commanded in the hip-hop community. It's his most thematically consistent, least-self-contradicting work, full of genuine reflection about how he's gotten where he is -- and dread of the consequences. Even the more combative tracks ("Me Against the World," "Fuck the World") acknowledge the high-risk life he's living, and pause to wonder how things ever went this far. He battles occasional self-loathing, is haunted by the friends he's already lost to violence, and can't escape the desperate paranoia that his own death isn't far in the future. These tracks -- most notably "So Many Tears," "Lord Knows," and "Death Around the Corner" -- are all the more powerful in hindsight with the chilling knowledge that he was right. Even romance takes on a new meaning as an escape from the hellish pressure of everyday life ("Temptations," "Can U Get Away"), and when that's not available, getting high or drunk is almost a necessity. He longs for the innocence of childhood ("Young Niggaz," "Old School"), and remembers how quickly it disappeared, yet he still pays loving, clear-eyed tribute to his drug-addicted mother on the touching "Dear Mama." Overall, Me Against the World paints a bleak, nihilistic picture, but there's such an honest, self-revealing quality to it that it can't help conveying a certain hope simply through its humanity. It's the best place to go to understand why 2Pac is so revered; it may not be his definitive album, but it just might be his best.

tags: 2pac, me against the world, 1995, flac,

2Pac - 2Pacalypse Now (1991)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Conscious Rap, Gangsta Rap
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© 1991 Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown
When 2Pac's full-length debut, 2Pacalypse Now, came out in 1991, it didn't have the same immediate impact, didn't instantly throw him into the upper echelons of rap's elite, as Nas', Jay-Z's, or even his biggest rival, Notorious B.I.G.'s did, but the album certainly set him up for his illustrious and sadly short-lived career. Part of its initial problem, what held it back from extensive radio play, is that there's not an obvious single. The closest thing to it, and what ended up being the best-known track from 2Pacalypse Now, is "Brenda's Got a Baby," which discusses teenage pregnancy in true Pac fashion, sympathetically explaining a situation without condoning it, but it doesn't even have a hook, and most of the other pieces follow suit, more poetry than song. The album is significantly more political than the rapper's subsequent releases, showing an intelligent, talented, and angry young man (he was only 20 when it came out) who wanted desperately to express and reveal the problems in the urban black community, from racism to police brutality to the seemingly near impossibility of escaping from the ghetto. He pays tribute to artists like KRS-One, N.W.A, and Public Enemy, all of whom he also considered to be provoking discussion and reaction, but he also has cleanly carved out an image for himself: articulate and smart, not overtly boastful, and concerned about societal problems, both small and large (and though he discusses these less and less as career progresses, he never leaves them behind). Yes, the edges of 2Pacalypse Now can be a bit rough, yes the beats aren't always outstanding, and yes, the MC's flow can be a little choppy, even for him, but it's still a great look at what 2Pac could offer, and a must-have for any fan of his, or hip-hop in general.

tags: 2pac, 2pacalypse now, 1991, flac,

2Pac - The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (1996)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
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© 1996 Death Row Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Everything about The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory smacks of exploitation. Released only eight weeks after Tupac Shakur died from gunshot wounds, Death Row released this posthumous album under the name of Makaveli, a pseudonym derived from the Italian politician Niccolo Machiavelli, who faked his own death and reappeared seven days later to take revenge on his enemies. Naturally, the appearance of Don Killuminati so shortly after Tupac's death led many conspiracy theorists to surmise the rapper was still alive, but it was all part of a calculated marketing strategy by Death Row -- the label needed something to sustain interest in the album, since the music here is so shoddy. All Eyez on Me proved that Tupac was continuing to grow as a musician and a human being, but Don Killuminati erases that image by concentrating on nothing but tired G-funk beats and back-biting East Coast/West Coast rivalries. Tupac himself sounds uninterested in the music, which makes the conventional, unimaginative music all the more listless. If he had survived to complete Don Killuminati, it is possible that the record could have become something worthwhile, but the overall quality of the material suggests that the album would have been a disappointment no matter what circumstances it appeared under.

tags: 2pac, the don killuminati, the 7 day theory, 1996, flac,

Papa Roach - Getting Away With Murder (2006)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Alternative Rock, Alternative Metal
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© 2004 Geffen Records
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Howard Benson, Chris Lord-Alge, Papa Roach. It's gotten to the point where you can fill in the last name with another combo of mascara-eyed angry men jockeying for position in the bubbling ooze of the post-rap-rock (yes, that's a term) universe. Producer Benson and mixer Lord-Alge are professionals both, masters of compression and punching up the radio mix. This is what they offer Papa Roach -- a promise that the band's Getting Away with Murder will sound both raging and properly marketable. To that end, "Not Listening" rewrites the 2001 Roach hit "Last Resort" without the rap, while the big title-track single is built around a mechanistic Korn bass throb and a carnival funhouse lead guitar line. (The better to scare you with, see.) On the latter, Jacoby Shaddix (the name change still stands) incorporates the affected whisper, the vengeful yell, and the vague lyrical cocktail of depression and S&M ("I'm a glutton for your punishment/You're the master/And I'm waiting for disaster"). Fill in the bruised blanks. His railing against alcoholism in the bashing, amplified rocker "Be Free" (as well as throughout the album) does seem genuine. But still, it's off-putting how much Shaddix sounds like Trent Reznor. Seriously, where's Papa Roach inside Getting Away with Murder's production and brand positioning? "Scars" is a midtempo power ballad of sorts, again about the ills of drinking; with tweaking it would fit on a Good Charlotte album. Album opener "Blood" (Empty Promises)" does suggest the harder screeds of 2002's lovehatetragedy, but it doesn't go far enough, and that tense edge is dulled by repetitive glowering ("I lit my pain on fire/And watched it all burn down!") and muddled genre posturing once the album fully starts. With Getting Away with Murder, Papa Roach offer fans of this sound an appropriately hard (yet painstakingly layered -- thanks Howard and Chris!) punch in the face. But there's a hollow sound as the bones collapse, because all that's supporting it is expensive art direction and a big scaffold of clichés. If your scream sounds like everyone else's, does anyone really hear it?

tags: papa roach, getting away with murder, 2006, flac,

Pagan Altar - Lords of Hypocrisy (2002) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Doom Metal
Style: Traditional Doom
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© 2002 Oracle Records
Review by Adam for MetalReviews.com
The New Wave of British Heavy Metal forever changed the landscape of metal music. Its heyday in the late 70's and early 80's gave rise to some of the biggest names in metal history. Yet for every success story from this era, there is a band who faded into obscurity. For every Iron Maiden, there is a Satan. One of the bands who falls into the latter category of criminally unknown is Pagan Altar. Though they formed in 1978, their first release was 20 years later in Volume 1, a collection of widely bootlegged tracks from their early years. Since that time, their brand of traditional and bluesy doom had been building an underground fanbase. I cannot tell you why this band went unnoticed by the majority of the metal community for so long, but I can tell you that you would be hard pressed to find a traditional doom band in the vein of Black Sabbath that is as consistently kickass as Pagan Altar. If you, like many, are new to this band, their second full-length The Lords of Hypocrisy is as good a place to start as any.
Since inception, Pagan Altar has been the brainchild of founding relatives Terry and Alan Jones. Other members have come and gone (alot, in fact), but Terry's nasally vocals and Alan's wonderful array of riffs have always been the soul of the band. The title track on The Lords of Hypocrisy is prime evidence. After a cryptic organ intro, Alan swoops in with a breathtaking riff that will burrow its way into your head and stay there for days. Seriously, if this riff doesn't have you nodding your head, you have problems. The production is vintage sounding enough that if I told you this album was released in 1984 instead of 2004, you would have no reason to doubt me if you had no prior knowledge. As I said before, Terry's vocals are nasal sounding and unique if nothing else. I suspect this will be the main complaint for first time listeners. If you are one of these, give them some time. I was not crazy about the vocals the first time I heard them, but over time I have come to appreciate what they bring to the overall sound. They fit very well with the aura of this band, and while they don't stand out, they also don't detract from Alan's superb riffing, which should be the focal point anyway.
The Lords of Hypocrisy contains music composed in the earlier years of the band, and is said to be the completion of a long planned concept album lyrically dealing with mankind's inhumanity to itself. The band's official biography on their website contains the full story on the frustrating process of recording the album and is an interesting read for fans. Since these songs are not really new, anyone lucky enough to catch one of Pagan Altar's legendary live shows many moons ago will likely recognize many of the songs. I can only imagine witnessing firsthand the epic track Armageddon accompanied by the stage props and atmostphere used by the band (hooded monk robes, coffins, and altars to name a few). To date the longest track put to record by Pagan Altar, Armageddon contains many instances of wonderfully composed back and forth between Terry and Alan. Vocal passages are soon countered by a searing guitar lead from Alan's seemingly endless supply. Not many bands can claim the audible chemistry found on this album as a weapon in their arsenal, and it shines brightly here.
I do not intend to bore you with my prolonged gushing over the quality of the guitar work on this album, as I could go on for awhile. Every song, aside from the short and strange acoustic segue track The Devil Came Down to Brockley, has multiple memorable guitar lines. The last track I do want to highlight is The Masquerade. Building in crescendo-esque fashion off of an acoustic intro, Alan unleashes perhaps his best solo around the halfway point, setting the table for a second half which takes a heavier and more guitar oriented doom approach as the smooth guitar riffs weave in and out effortlessly.
Pagan Altar may have finally begun to get some much needed exposure in doom circles within the last decade, but there are still far too many in the metal community who know little or nothing of this band. If you can manage to find any of their albums for a relatively reasonable price, be sure to check them out, particularly if you are a fan of old Black Sabbath or Witchfinder General. Hopefully, the future will see Pagan Altar obtain the notoriety they deserved almost 30 years ago.

tags: pagan altar, lords of hypocrisy, 2002, flac,

Ice Cube - The Predator (1992)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
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© 1992 Priority Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
Released in the aftermath of the 1991 L.A. riots, The Predator radiates tension. Ice Cube infuses nearly every song, and certainly every interlude, with the hostile mood of the era. Even the album's most laid-back moment, "It Was a Good Day," emits a quiet sense of violent anxiety. Granted, Ice Cube's previous albums had been far from gentle, but they were filled with a different kind of rage. On both AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted (1990) and Death Certificate (1991), he took aim at society in general: women, whites, Koreans, even his former group members in N.W.A. Here, Ice Cube is more focused. He found a relevant episode to magnify with the riots, and he doesn't hold back, beginning with the absolutely crushing "When Will They Shoot?" The song's wall of stomping sound sets the dire tone of The Predator and is immediately followed by "I'm Scared," one of the many disturbing interludes comprised of news commentary related to the riots. It's only during the aforementioned "It Was a Good Day" that Ice Cube somewhat alleviates this album's smothering tension. It's a truly beautiful moment, a career highlight for sure. However, the next song, "We Had to Tear This Mothafucka Up," eclipses the relief with yet more calamity. By the time you get to the album-concluding "Say Hi to the Bad Guy" and its mockery of policeman, hopelessness prevails. The Predator is a grim album, for sure, more so than anything Ice Cube would ever again record. In fact, the darkness is so pervasive that the wit of previous albums is absolutely gone. Besides the halfhearted wit of "Gangsta's Fairytale, Pt. 2," you won't find any humor here, just tension. Given this, it's not one of Ice Cube's more accessible albums despite boasting a few of his biggest hits. It is his most serious album, though, as well as his last important album of the '90s.

tags: ice cube, the predator, 1992, flac,

Ice Cube - War & Peace: Vol. 2 (The Peace Disc) (2000)

*Canadian pressing. Contains 1 extra track.
Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
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© 2000 Virgin Music Canada/Priority Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
The second volume of Ice Cube's War & Peace album finds the multi-talented veteran MC evolving beyond a mere gangsta rap artist. Of course, Ice Cube doesn't admit his maturity, starting the album off with an excellent song titled "Hello" featuring MC Ren and Dr. Dre. The Dre-produced song has the ex-NWA members rapping "I started this gangsta ****/and this is the ************ thanks I get?" and reinstating their thug stance. Besides this opening song, Cube also is heard later on the album rapping to "keep in gangsta," yet for as much as Cube flexes about being hard, he has actually evolved into a wiser, more composed artist than the hate-fueled gangsta found on his early albums. Some of the songs on War & Peace, Vol. 2 such as "Record Company Pimpin'" reflect the deep insight he is easily capable of injecting into his lyrics. Unfortunately, for every contemplative moment on this album, there are also plenty of songs such as "Can You Bounce?" and "Hello" that reduce themselves to simple, lucid attempts at hit singles. These songs -- along with the slightly more thought-out, radio-friendly "Until We Rich" -- are wonderful songs, rich in hooks and full of strong beats, but they don't really fit in with the rest of the album. The fact that Ice Cube churned out two albums of content during his lengthy absence from the rap world in the late '90s makes the two volumes of War & Peace overly eclectic. What made albums such as Straight Outta Compton and AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted such strong albums were consistency; Dr. Dre and the Bomb Squad, respectively, were able to map out an overall musical feel for these albums with their signature styles and unique motifs. Instead of having a fully realized sound such as the aforementioned albums, the revolving door of production on War & Peace that includes Dr. Dre, Puff Daddy, and One Eye for One Eye among others makes this album sound very undeceive in terms of style. Cube's rapping sounds great with plenty of ideas that extend outside of simple gangsta motifs and slick rhymes full of wit; however, the constant changes in the album from hook-laden hits to denser, message-filled songs and from stark, minimal beats to up-tempo dance-rap make this a sometimes brilliant yet ultimately spotty, multi-dimensional album that needs more focus.

tags: ice cube, war and peace, vol 2, the peace disc, 2000, flac,

Gravediggaz - 6 Feet Deep (1994)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Horrorcore
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© 1994 Gee Street/Island Records
AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart
6 Feet Deep is a sick joke. A lethally great and a ghoulishly comical one, but a deranged and sadistic prank nonetheless. Eschatological, gruesome, paranoid, and obsessed with death (both imposing and experiencing it), the debut from eeeeevil supergroup Gravediggaz lands somewhere in the nexus at which the bizarro universe of legendary producer Prince Paul -- who oversees the whole project while wearing the mask and wielding the shovel of the Undertaker for the occasion -- crashes headlong into RZA's dingy, farcical New York City, a haunted, inverse Oz where graffiti meets science fiction meets splatter flick in an unholy alliance that finds Freddy Krueger fiendishly pursuing the turf gangs out of Walter Hill's The Warriors down 125th and Elm Streets. Throw in a few crazed variations on Medieval torture techniques, a few too many midnight kung-fu screenings, and a few fantasies of bodily damage so giddily, demonically cartoonish that they would make Wile E. Coyote lick his lips with mischievous envy, and you have this brilliantly strange, whimsically jagged horror film in song (critics unofficially dubbed the style horrorcore) with its maimed and gnawed tongue firmly planted in cheek. If you can stomach the buckets of lyrical blood spilled herein, there is no end to the gory highlights, from the running-in-place nightmare of "Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide" to the psychotically nauseous angel-dust high of "Defective Trip (Trippin')" to the willfully objectionable "1-800 Suicide" and self-destructive "Bang Your Head," all of them terribly catchy. As a bonus, 6 Feet Deep is sure to offend the sensibilities of all middle-aged family-values crusaders and conservative-type politicians -- vampires of a different sort -- who aren't in on the joke. Overseas, the album was titled Niggamortis. With its combined allusion to mortality and example of wicked wordplay, it would have been even more apropos. Whatever it goes by, though, the album can be resurrected again and again without losing any of its devilishly good potency.

tags: gravediggaz, 6 feet deep, 1994, flac,