Full Clip: August’s Hip Hop Albums Reviewed By Gary Suarez

When you’re one of the only rappers Kanye West fucks with anymore, people pay attention. The rather unceremonious jettisoning of Kid Cudi from the GOOD Music imprint shortly before Indicud dropped likely struck fear in the hearts of CyHi The Prynce, Teyana Taylor and others on Yeezus’ roster. Big Sean, his track record replete with Gold and Platinum plaques much like his former labelmate Scott Mescudi, might’ve felt some considerable chills running up his spine in the run-up to his ostentatiously titled Hall Of Fame.

There had to be some sleepless nights when none of his four pre-release singles connected at radio or matched the RIAA milestones achieved by the three hits off debut Finally Famous. (Two of the four performed so poorly that, astoundingly, they were reassigned as bonus tracks.) While Hall Of Fame may lack crowd-pleasers that’ll resonate like ‘Marvin & Chardonnay’, Big Sean hasn’t quite succumbed to the sophomore slump even while blowing his sophomoric load. From the warmly warped vocal hook of ‘Nothing Is Stopping You’ to the chip-tuned balladry of ‘All Figured Out’, it’s clear he’s grown a few inches.

With his success he’s developed a greater predilection for asparagus, both a swag metaphor and a personal totemic symbol of wealth on ‘You Don’t Know’ and ‘First Chain’, the latter of these featuring verses from Nas and, impressively, the emancipated Cudi. Da Internz, the Chi-town production duo behind the MC Hammer-referencing ‘Dance (A$$)’, lay the foundation to two of the album’s biggest, raunchiest butt bangers. Employing the sort of clever wordplay that made his ‘Mercy’ verse stand out, ‘Mona Lisa’ stomps into the club hollering for threesomes. Subsequently, the bassy ‘MILF’ hilariously muffdives into classic 2 Live Crew territory, taunting and teasing so viciously that Sean manages to keep Nicki Minaj and even the formidable pervert Juicy J at bay.

The misses, unfortunately, smart like after you run into a telephone pole or a brick wall. You’d think he’d learned from recent lyrical gaffes from J. Cole (autism) and Mr. West (Parkinson’s), but on ’10 2 10′ he resorts to slurring Mexicans, Haitians, and Jamaicans for cheap Family Guy yuks. Elsewhere, it’s hard to take him seriously, bemoaning the economic plight of his native Detroit one minute and then bragging about all his cool expensive stuff the next. ‘Sierra Leone’ might be the most offensive of the lot, reducing blood diamond travesties to make a shallow point about some kept woman for a barely seriocomic hook. Nobody expects a comedian like Big Sean to turn social crusader, so perhaps he should stick to the punchlines lest he become one.

Goodie Mob: Age Against The Machine

It must’ve seemed like a good idea at the time, getting the old gang back together for another go-round. Unfortunately, Cee-Lo Green, more popular now than back when Goodie Mob was a thing, sold his erstwhile pals Big Gipp, Khujo, and T-Mo a bill of goods. More compilation than collaboration, Age Against The Machine sidelines its neediest participants about as often as it showcases them. Cee-Lo’s evidently treated this reunion record like a stinking landfill, tossing out toxic trash productions so obviously left over from his last solo session. Several tracks (‘Nexperiance’, ‘Power’) don’t even feature the rest of the mobsters, and two more brazenly flaunt and spotlight his latest protege. Where in the hell is Organized Noize, or anyone from the Dungeon Family for that matter?

Homeboy Sandman: All That I Hold Dear

Once such an unabashed self-promoter that’d illicitly leave promotional photocopies on New York City subway trains, this Queens emcee has enjoyed extensive support from the good folks at Stones Throw. Yet after a cluster of EPs and last year’s full-length First Of A Living Breed, Homeboy Sandman remains very much a man outside of his time. During the Def Jux days, this deft lyricist would likely have been showered with backpacks. Instead, he just sounds so alone and misunderstood on ‘Musician’, but maybe that’s the point. A couple of quirky cuts revolve around his nephew (‘In A Daze’, ‘Runts’), which strangely make Sandman seem both mature and stunted simultaneously. I’m still rooting for him. The Nashville-or-is-it-Dallas-based producer M. Slago provides all the beats, weird and bright but grounded.

JJ Doom: Keys To The Kuffs (Butter Edition)

Last year, the combined Cuisinarts of MF Doom and Jneiro Jarel gave leftfield hip-hop heads something succulent to chow down on. Why, then, did they choose to follow that tasty treat with these reheated leftovers? Appending eight cuts — mostly unwanted remixes from folks like Beck, Dave Sitek, and Thom Yorke — to the original LP, this opportunistic reboot of the mesmeric Keys To The Kuffs amounts to another lousy ploy to separate men from their money. It’s the sort of gimmicky trickery we’ve come to loathe from the majors, so when a beloved indie like Lex pulls this crap it behooves us to call them out on it. I’m grateful for ‘Bookhead’ though, a creeping new track laden with paranoiac daydreams, as well as the gasping glitch of ‘Pause Tape’, but c’mon, man.

Earl Sweatshirt: Doris

At last, Odd Future’s macabre mope drops his highly anticipated major label record. Not surprisingly, it’s a dense hodgepodge of linguistic fibres that will immediately delight the lemmings of lyricism. Unlike the conceptual skate-punk theatre of Tyler’s Wolf, deep thoughts dominate the impressive Doris, though thankfully Earl’s gotten some of that junior high bloodlust junk out of his system. Now that he’s not trying to shock us it’s even more apparent how talented a spitter he is. ‘Burgundy’ takes everyone’s expectations and demands of him head on, while the introspective ‘Chum’ all but shuts the world out as he muses on his absentee father. Beatwise it’s largely a subdued affair not too dissimilar from the original Tical, with about half the tracks co-produced by Earl himself. Not as classic as it ought have been.

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