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Full Clip: Latest Hip Hop Albums Reviewed By Gary Suarez
Gary Suarez , February 7th, 2014 06:49

New York gentleman Mr Gary Suarez returns with this month's Full Clip round-up of hip hop LP releases, feat. Angel Haze, Cities Aviv, Kid Ink, Prince Po & Oh No and Isaiah Rashad

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' veritable Grammy rap category sweep elicited both giggles and groans. Indie with priceless distribution, their ubiquitous The Heist singlehandedly ended the world's Velveeta shortage, and its series of wins shocked idiots everywhere. So long as senior citizens and detached music biz goons remain key voting blocs for the year's best rappers, high fructose corn syrup spitters will always have an unfair advantage. Platitudinous gilded gramophones aside, none of it should matter to anyone who can chew their own food without assistance.

Still, Macklemore's win of course conjures up racial queries, and perhaps it should. But to ascribe his album's wide acceptability simply to skin color overlooks far too many factors. Indeed, stranger artists have touched mainstream success. Uncompromisingly conscious, Evidence has earned multiple consecutive Billboard 200 charting albums with Dilated Peoples and a co-producer credit on Kanye's Grammy-winning The College Dropout, which for those keeping score turns 10 this year. A go-to beatmaker on those Dilated Peoples records responsible for such singles as 'The Platform' and 'Worst Comes To Worst', The Alchemist has further enhanced his profile in recent years working behind the boards for the likes of Action Bronson, Curren$y, and Prodigy. The reunion of these two thirtysomethings feels like a family affair, hence the suitability of their joint moniker as Step Brothers.

While Alchemist's slamming sound has no doubt improved with age, his beats on Lord Steppington fixate on hip-hop's boom bap byegone. You can practically hear DJ Premier breathing down his neck. 'More Wins' opens victoriously with soulful croons and a Big Daddy Kane sample before Evidence and Alchemist take to the mike. What, you didn't know Alchemist could rap? He's on double duty all over the album, just like El-P on last year's much ballyhooed Run The Jewels. While Lord Steppington suffers from the same overall affliction as that collaboration--a willful ceding to what came before--this case isn't quit so terminal.

The duo's respective flows both suit the time capsule nature of the record, with several songs knee deep in referential reverence. It can get a little ridiculous at times. 'Just Step' interjects British Knights sneakers, Jimmy 'Dyno-mite' Walker, and Busta Rhymes' classic 'Scenario' verse, the latter of these more familiar to millennials who've heard Nicki Minaj's better executed interpolation. Younger collaborators like Odd Futurian Domo Genesis and the aforementioned Bronsolino keep Lord Steppington from crusting over like old pudding on granddad's quivering chin. But nobody in their right mind comes to a record like this expecting youthful vigor.

Angel Haze - Dirty Gold

Incapable of letting her art speak for itself, Raykeea Angel Wilson interrupts her debut early and often with insufferable statements of purpose and dolphin-safe canned poetry, successfully accentuating the adolescent worldview billowing from her lyrics like so much glitter mistaken for gold. At least that explains the sort of tantrum tactics that led to her album's hasty digital release on the last possible date in 2013's fourth quarter. Despite being the product of a fierce rebel, much of Dirty Gold's alchemy comes in adequately mundane pop constructs ('Battle Cry,' 'Deep Sea Diver'). Though the bombastic major label production values repeatedly imply something massive enough for radio, the rapped verses and sung choruses generally lack footholds. When in full-on rap mode, Haze works to bring her constituency misfit motivationals ('A Tribe Called Red,' 'Black Dahlia'), but more often than not they sound like the earnest ramblings of a frazzled suicide prevention hotline second stringer working a double ('Angels & Airwaves'). Kids who don't fit in deserve better options than this.

Cities Aviv - Come To Life

Sporting beats even more outré than his contributions to Antwon's bizzaro supreme In Dark Denim, the techno-futurist Memphis rapper/producer's latest - notably, his third - vexes as much as it flexes. Hardcore gang shouts collide with mad arpeggios ('Head'), stuttering samples creak under the weight of syrup cases ('Perpetuate The Real'), and deep house thumps and grinds at the precipice of an analog abyss ('Don't Ever Look Back'). Yes, his record is totally weird, but endearingly so. Cities Aviv has some help here too. RPLD Ghosts, better represented here than on 2011's Digital Lows, gives him plenty of room to experiment vocally on cuts like the xylophonic 'Fool' and the ambient pad funk of 'Vibrations.' There's a perpetual light dusting of tape noise, accented by the artist's creative, oft-indulgent delivery, occasionally sounding as if recorded inside a well. Yet even without a discernable method to his madness, Cities Aviv compels as he comes to grips with what technology has done to his life, and thus, to ours.

Kid Ink - My Own Lane

When Robin S.' 'Show Me Love' was burning up the Billboard charts, Kid Ink was four years old. Sure, age ain't nothing but a number, but still it's doubtful that he and producer DJ Mustard have any substantive connection to the classic hook that buoys Gold-certified single 'Show Me' beyond the convenience of familiarity. Compensating for the Kid's stilted bro boilerplate, Chris Brown's PUA persuasions make the track shine. Breezy saves the day again with ratchet-ready raunch on 'Main Chick,' another Mustard beat as the foundation. Without this team in his corner, My Own Lane takes a beating. The Kid just barely holds his own in the ring with glassjaws like Tyga ('Iz U Down') and August Alsina ('We Just Came To Party'), but wooden bars like 'I got a piece, for all the drama / Walking around like I'm President Obama' leave him mismatched and helpless against Pusha T ('Murda'), admittedly bringing a victory lapping verse as unimpressive as Tyson post-incarceration. Setting the overwrought boxing metaphors aside, this one's a snooze.

Prince Po & Oh No - Animal Serum

Though he's not had as celebrated a solo career as his former Organized Konfusion compadre Pharaohe Monch - with whom he reteams here on the triumphalist 'Smash' Prince Po presses on. Your favorite underground producer's favorite rapper, the Queens native has previously paired up with folks like Danger Mouse, Large Professor, and Madlib. The latter beatmaker's actual brother, Oh No has been on a tear the past couple of years, and ostensensibly thematic Animal Serum lacks the thrills of his prior collaborative records like Vodka And Ayahuasca or the quirky Rudy Ray Moore tribute OhNoMite. Disinclined towards hooks, Po deserves at least part of the blame here, and the flaky metaphorical framework frequently falls short ('Bearz'). There's little to grab ahold of, and even lyrical snobs might find themselves clockwatching. Still, he's still got that passion bursting from his lungs ('Machine Rages'), and decent cuts like 'Toxic' and the synth buzz boogie of 'U' do keep the second half from sagging.

Isaiah Rashad - Cilvia Demo

For many, Isaiah Rashad left his first impression during the much discussed TDE cypher at last year's BET Awards. Situated in that murky space between mixtape and album, Cilvia Demo offers a lengthy portrait of the Chattanooga fledgling., one with frequent nods to Outkast's discography. His is a generation self-medicated, and while riding this chemical rollercoaster Rashad rushes from manic highs to downright depressive lows ('Heavenly Father'), the vibe impeccably, perpetually chill. 'Webbie Flow (U Like)' jumps off with Kendrick-esque phallic bluster and doesn't let up, dropping profane bars that belie his youth. His drug verses - on consuming, not dealing - vacillate between weed paeans ('R.I.P. Kevin Miller') and contemplative moments of clarity ('Banana'). Even through bleary eyes, Rashad sees. He's also got some daddy issues ('Hereditary', 'Soliloquy'), looking for answers not found at the bottom of the bottle or the bowl, and he's not comfortable with the unproven braggadocio common among his peers, best conveyed on the self-conscious 'Modest.'