The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Tape Adapter

Full Clip: October's Hip-Hop Albums Reviewed by Gary Suarez
Gary Suarez , October 31st, 2014 09:18

He's got juice like a president. He's making rappers hesitant. Invite him to your home and he'll be chilling like a resident. Gary Suarez is back in your domicile with trigger warning-worthy reviews of current hip hop albums...

Young Chop should've been where DJ Mustard is now, parlaying a couple of breakout hits into total radio domination. Despite introducing drill to the world via two consecutive Chief Keef bangers ('Don't Like', 'Love Sosa'), the Chicago producer has been stunningly sidelined. Though he's steadily logged time on the mixtape circuit, radio doesn't even seem to know his name anymore. Heavily reliant on his own artist Johnny May Cash, last year's showcase Precious barely registered. Even with a co-writing credit on 'Guilt Trip' off Yeezus and a handful of tracks on Big Sean and French Montana's albums aside, 2013 was pretty much a bust. 2014 hasn't played out any better.

A good partnership is hard to come by, and whatever factors strained theirs has proven harmful to their respective careers. Keef's legal troubles and corresponding prison stints were damaging enough, but his string of rudderless mixtapes without Chop no doubt contributed to his apparent severance from Interscope. The industry value hits over everything, and even the best tracks on Almighty So or Bang 2 couldn't have gone over well with the A&R department.

It's rather fitting that Keef and Chop - two artists who never quite fit into the major label machine - would drop new collaborative material mere days after news of the Interscope drop emerged. From the opening title track reunion, Still quickly reaffirms the potency of Chop's sound. While the previously released 'Bang Like Chop' veers a bit too far into EDM, 'Still' and 'Valley' respectively best several of the dynamic drill duo's Finally Rich pairings. A celebration of Keef's purported relocation to California, 'Valley' in particular shines with piano pleasantness and West Coast synth wheeze.

Even on the tracks without Sosa, Chop excels. Awash in shimmering looped melodies and raw verses from Lil Dave, 'Tre 073' hits the sweet spot of aethereal trap better than ever. Lil Durk keeps it simple and threatening on the haunted 'Murder Team,' while the new wavey Ty Dolla $ign-led 'Ain't Fuckin With Her' feels positively bright and poppy. Whether or not this leads to a career resurgence for Chop, he's giving us his all now and it shows.

Apollo Brown and Ras Kass - Blasphemy

RZA could take a cue from last year's lowkey Ghostface reboot The Brown Tape and save the entire Wu Dynasty by recruiting Apollo Brown. Listening to Blasphemy, I'm confident if Bobby Digital simply swapped out every A Better Tomorrow beat with these instead he could undo all the 8 Diagrams damage. Setting that hashpipe dream aside, Brown and West Coast rap doyen Ras Kass might seem improbable collaborators, but there's no disputing how utterly dope as hell this record is. From 'Next Caller' through 'Bon Voyage,' these are some of the Detroit don's best beats ever, which is saying a hell of alot given who we're talking about. A self-proclaimed "Kendrick before Kendrick," Kass matches these splendid street soulscapes with stainless steel soliloquies. He makes short work of organized religion on 'Deliver Us From Evil' and 'How To Kill God' while assassinating Weezy, Yeezy, and Jay with sharp poison-tipped darts on 'Humble Pi.' Elsewhere, Kass adds levity and lechery ('Giraffe Pussy,' 'Please Don't Let Me').

Milo - A Toothpaste Suburb

Like an open mic poetry slam held in the back of an Internet cafe, the seemingly disconnected poetic punchlines and woozy SNES loops of brainbending album opener 'Salladhor Saan, Smuggler' lock in on the downright charming oddness of this Hellfyre Club treasurer-elect. Warped, wonderful and infectious, there's so much intellectual miserabilism to take in here so just frown and nod. Iglooghost and other out-there beatmakers aesthetically jibe with Milo's astute observations and rewind-worthy non sequiturs ('You Are Goood To Me'). The dude might actually be too aware, if the plentiful and varied references that dominate his verses reflect just how his brain operates. On 'Peanut Butter Sandwiches,' he sees right through the source code driving commercial rap's monopolistic monotony. To his credit, Milo rapped about BBWs months before Drake did. The most on-point crew of the year, Hellfyre represents with Busdriver ('Argyle Sox') and Open Mike Eagle ('Objectifying Rabbits'). Still, not even eHarmony could've paired him with a more suitable partner on 'In Gaol' than Kool A.D.

Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels 2

As with any Hollywood hit, the sequel engine started revving for this one prematurely even before the original dropped into inboxes. Benevolent mailing list managers El-P and Killer Mike return with a bold new color scheme. Considering how well their last one was received, these on brand b-boys play supa dupa safe, dropping riggity raw rhymes over bombastic Michael Bay beats for Okayplayin' Go-Bots. It's not hard to understand why aging backpackers and half-awake tastemakers continue to single Run The Jewels out for praise - they're taking it back to the old school because they're old fools who sold cool. On Akinyele tribute 'Love Again,' the duo indulge in exploitation, but tack Gangsta Boo on the end to deflect criticism.But amid the explosions and barrages of sound ('All Due Respect,' Oh My Darling Don't Cry'), the unfiltered aggression sounds like a grandiose put-on employed by the put upon. What reason do these successful urban marketers have to be angry, anyway?

Stalley - Ohio

The second-most capable lyricist in Rozay's crew effectively took Meek Mill's place on the schedule after the latter's incarceration. Finally given his chance on the court, the perennially benched spitter doesn't try to be anyone but himself. Extenuating circumstances notwithstanding, Ohio sounds like the record he wanted to make all along, personal and regionally true. From the Black Diamond trunk rattler 'System On Loud' to the expertly executed throwback 'Jackin Chevys,' you can tell Stalley actually owns the classic records he references, his cadence linking 80s explorers to millennial mainlanders. In control, he salvages a potential pop throwaway 'One More Time' and bends radio killer Ty Dolla $ign to his will on 'Always Into Something.' Producer Rashad Thomas handles all but four of the cuts, keeping things cohesive yet diverse enough. The sweetest of these, 'Chevelle' might be the most sincere automotive ode since 'Warm Leatherette.' All in all, it's hugely impressive that a major label would back something this pure from an unproven artist.

BONUS: One Hitters:

DJ Mustard - 10 Summers
Today's biggest hitmaker's inadequate production showcase inadvertantly reveals that not only does his sound have a sell-by date but also all that glitters isn't Gulden's.

Flying Lotus - You're Dead
By exploring death's groovy rapture, the figurehead turns godhead, eschewing the grounding of L.A.'s beat scene mortality for an ecstatically jazztastic enlightenment.

Andre Martel - His Majesty Obscured
Having shaken off the nerd rap shackles in the nick of time (#GamerGate), the ex-Shadowrunner goes borderline normcore on this diverting solo outing.

Vince Staples - Hell Can Wait
Def Jam's rookie of the year does more to capture Cali in just seven dynamic songs than Kendrick Lamar has done in his entire discography.

T.I. - Paperwork
When T.I. opens 'New National Anthem' saying "I know radio probably ain't gonna play this," he's more right than he thinks.