Dilated Peoples’ Fifth Full Length LP Is The First Great Rap Album Of 2014

Courtesy:  Rhymesayers Entertainment/Expansion Team

Courtesy: Rhymesayers Entertainment/Expansion Team

Seven years.  That is how long fans of hip-hop trio Dilated Peoples waited and wondered if the group would ever release a new album or if the group—DJ Babu, Evidence, and Rakaa—had called it a career after the release of its 2006 album 20/20.  Now after that long wait, Dilated Peoples has triumphantly returned with a record that is a viable candidate to be one of the top new rap and hip-hop albums of 2014 in Directors of Photography.  The album is aptly titled, especially considering the fact that this record is the first for the group with new label Rhymesayers Entertainment.  Before signing with Rhymesayers, Dilated Peoples’ had released its previous four albums through Capitol Records going all the way back to its major label debut the Platform (2000).  The significance of the album’s title is linked to the possibility that while signed with Capitol, Babu, Evidence, and Rakaa likely didn’t have the control that they would have liked over the sound and feel of their work.  So much like the Director of Photography has the final say in the look and feel of a movie, TV show or advertisement, so did the group have that same kind of control upon signing with the indie label Rhymesayers.  The end result is an album that was well worth the wait for any long-time Dilated Peoples fan and just as welcome a first listen for those that might be new to the L.A.-based trio’s music.

Director of Photography’s lead single ‘Good as Gone’ is a fitting opener, especially considering that fans waited for this album for seven years.  The song comes across as a defiant, self-assured piece that lets the critics know that the group is back just as strong as ever.  That argument can be made by looking at the song’s first verse in which Rakaa raps, “I was getting buried alive/Heard the dirt hit the coffin top/I barely survived/But I broke through my grave/Ripped the pine box seal apart/Head first yelling, “maggot brain,funkadelic art/Fear is a dark side/Fair-weather friends flock/Hitchcock/sam birds scatter when the end stop.”  He goes on to make note through so much negativity, he didn’t let those fake friends and other naysayers get him down.  As he notes, “took heavy fire/Survived the crash landing/Smiled to walk away from the wreckage/The last man standing.”  Evidence seems to echo that sentiment as he raps in the song’s second verse, “Devise a plan and I execute it/Till I’m undisputed/If the record never stated/I’ve been showing most improvement/At a time when my peers declined/I used it as a booster/Used the dedication as a plus/I ain’t used to losers.”  It comes across in the grand scheme of things as a defiant statement that shows that Dilated Peoples is anything but Good as Gone.  If anything, this first impression from the veteran hip-hop trio  gives fans hope that the group’s fifth full length album won’t be its last.

Babu, Rakaa, and Evidence followed up the success of ‘Good as Gone’ just recently with the release of the second single from Directors of Photography, ‘Show Me The Way (ft. Aloe Blacc).’  This seemingly introspective song presents yet another positive message to listeners as Evidence and Rakaa go back and forth in a sort of call and response late in the song.  Evidence starts the cycle, rapping, “It’s routine/By the beach I rise/First up/I hit the 8$&%/Then I bleach my eyes/then it’s to the drum machine to speak my mind/Tracks like fitted hats/pick a beat m y size.’  Rakaa responds “Energized/On the darkest streets I shine/Saw the light up on the mountain/To the peak I climb/Breathtaking new perspectives on the life I grind/First tear of joy fell/Looking like I’m crying/For just a moment.”  Evidence’s response to Rakaa’s line, “The feeling of being content/Not needing a dollar or a cent/Smile for my mama/Cause she proud/The studio/My headphones loud.”  Rakaa finishes the cycle, rapping, “Bridge builders will connect these crowds/Dedicated on my honor/You can check these vows/That’s purpose/Power to make the powerful nervous/Hard work ain’t easy/But usually ain’t worth it.”  Evidence and Rakaa work together here to make a song that is a very lyrically uplifting piece, and a piece that illustrates even more what makes Directors of Photography well worth the listen.

Directors of Photography serve is a record that any hip-hop and rap fan should hear.  The two singles that the album has spawned so far solidly back up that argument.  If only one more song could be chosen as an example of what makes this album the worthwhile listen that it is, it would have to be the album’s second track ‘Cut My Teeth.’  This song comes across as a no nonsense piece that pays homage to the days before Dilated Peoples broke through and became a household name.  The song’s very first verse makes that clear, as Evidence raps, “I remember how it all began/I used to switch graffiti tips on cans with both hands/No chance/I knew they couldn’t stop this rush/Our bus bench was a stop/And they ain’t stopping the bus.”  He goes on to rap about when he really got into rap and where it would eventually lead to today.  Rakaa follows suit noting the difficulties that he faced growing up and how he overcame them.  He writes in the verse’s closing lines, “Standing at the crossroads/I saw a different world was mine/It was with me all the time/Appreciative, never satisfied/Inspired to climb/Eyes wide/Mid city lit that fire inside.”  While the stories crafted by Evidence and Rakaa are obviously quite personal, it could be argued that the positive ending to each story could serve as inspiration to so many audiences; inspiration not necessarily that everyone will get into the rap game.  Rather, inspiration to overcome any of life’s difficult situations.  Their stories remind listeners that as difficult as things might be at any time in life, it is always possible to make life better.  Just keep that positive drive.  It is that message of inspiration that makes ‘Cut My Teeth’ one more solid example of what makes Directors of Photography well worth the listen and potentially one of the best new rap and hip-hop albums of the year.

Directors of Photography is available now in stores and online.  It can be downloaded direct from iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/directors-of-photography/id888406737.  Audiences can hear these songs and plenty more from the group live as it tours in support of its new album.  Dilated Peoples is scheduled to perform live this Saturday, September 13th at Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union on the campus of San Diego State University.  It will follow up that performance with another live show next Saturday, September 20th at Cervantes’ and The Other Side in Denver, Colorado.  Audiences can check out Dilated Peoples’ current tour schedule online now at http://rhymesayers.com/dilatedpeoples and http://www.facebook.com/dilatedpeoples.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Grieves’ Latest LP Has Plenty of “Bite”

Courtesy:  Rhymesayers Entertanment

Courtesy: Rhymesayers Entertanment

Hip-hop artist Grieves’ released his latest full length studio effort early this spring.  The album, Winter & The Wolves is just as good a listen for fans more familiar with Grieves’ sound as those that are less familiar with this music.  This latest release from the Seattle-based rapper is a moving and emotionally powerful work with its stories of broken relationships and a decidedly rough childhood among others.  While such themes make it easy to compare Grieves to the likes of perhaps Eminem, Grieves sets himself easily apart from Mr. Mathers stylistically throughout the course of the record’s dozen total tracks.  One example of that difference comes almost halfway through the album in ‘Breath of Air.’  Grieves writes of life’s difficult situations and their emotional impacts in this song.  Both his musical and lyrical approach to the song is largely genuine and will certainly see it become a fan favorite.  That genuine approach is evident in the album’s lead tracks ‘Rain Damage’ and ‘Whoa is Me,’ too.  These two tracks are the album’s most upbeat pieces despite their lyrical bite.  The mix of that bite and upbeat musical side make them the perfect introduction for this album.  They make the album’s title even more fitting, considering that sharpness of sorts about them.  And alongside the likes of ‘Breath of Air’ and the albums other songs, they prove to be part of a whole that fans new and old alike will appreciate with each listen.

Grieves has set himself apart from so many of his counterparts in the rap industry once again on his latest album.  While the songs themselves might be similar thematically speaking to works from other rap artists, his overall stylistic approach to his songs most definitely sets him apart.  One key example of that originality comes almost halfway through the album in the form of ‘Breath of Air.’  This deeply moving song comes across as Grieves writing about the emotional impact of life’s more difficult situations on himself.  He writes in this song, “As simple as I am/I got a puzzle for a heart/Laid it on the table in the living room/Rummaged through the parts/The child in me is runnin’ through the dark/But the man that I’m supposed to be/Is searchin’ for a breath in this cigar smoke chokin’/Dryin’ on my eyes/Like the desert wind/Drunk/Takin’ shots at the moon/With an empty pair…Go figure/Life’s been a freak show/Learn to hold a knife at a young age/And bleed so/Following the keystrokes/Leadin’ to my words/Is a trail most/Traveled by a part of me/That you would label disturbed/But it works/Living with the plague/Marching to the beat of my bones/getting thrown into the/Lake…If I could find a better way to make you see what I’ve been thinking/I’d probably just paint a stupid picture/They say it’s worth a thousand words.”  These are some pretty thought provoking passages.  And the use of the piano as the song’s main musical backing adds to the power of those words.  It’s so simple in the use of just a few chords.  Set that against the song’s solid beat and audiences quickly see just how original Grieves is as compared to so much of what fills the rap realm today.  It’s just one example of what makes this album well worth the listen by any rap fan, too.  The album’s lead tracks are just as great as this piece in exhibiting his creativity and originality.

Grieves offers audiences more emotional depth and substance into his latest release than can possibly be noted in a single review.  ‘Breath of Air’ is just one of the many deeply moving songs included in the album’s sequencing.  He exhibits just as much emotion in the album’s opener, ‘Rain Damange.’  This song shows its own emotion, but in a manner different from that of ‘Breath of Air.’  Grieves exhibits some more attitude in this song, writing, “The gap toothed rapper is back/With a bag full of dynamite strapped to my back/Rhymesayers/Put the logo on the back/If ever you were looking/Now you know where I’m at.”  He’s joined by collaborator Benjamin Lewis on this track, who introduces himself with just as much attitude, stating, “Name’s Benjamin/Same as I ever been/Sippin’ on a glass of ice cold Templeton/Cloud city/Rain water on the brim/Runnin’ with my back against the wind.”  The old school DJ work backing this re-introduction for Grieves adds all the necessary flavor to the song to make it an instant hit among audiences.  Things don’t stop here, either as audiences will hear on the album’s second song, ‘Whoa is Me.’

‘Whoa is Me’ is one more example of just how much Grieves has to offer his audiences on his new album. This song is perhaps stylistically the closest that Grieves comes to being anything like Eminem. The call and response of sorts used in this song is something that Eminem is known for using in his records. He writes in an almost tongue-in-cheek fashion here, “My dog died/When you were 6/Really/I guess I’ve never gotten over it/Dark cloud constantly hovering over me/I’ve been a bad seed ever since the ovaries/Momma looked at me/And told me what it was/Said boys got a shadow big enough to block the sun/But it’s all said and done/I’m comfortable and numb/To the fact that I’m constantly sweatin’ under the gun/But it’s worth it/Ain’t it/My friends think I’m famous/My manager wants to put his foot inside of my anus/Haven’t gotten a decent night’s sleep now in ages/And all I got to show is empty loose leaf pages/It piles up but that’s the life that I’m used to/Pressin’ up against the knife with a loose screw/Sing the blues and everybody assumes you could use a little old fashioned down home talking to.” The song’s lyrical side presents more of a frustrated feeling than the depressed emotion expressed in ‘Breath of Air.’ But at the same time, that little call and response of sorts that is also used in the song’s second verse hints at the subject trying to not let everything get him down. The whole of that call and response alongside the song’s musical side and lyrical bite exhibits such sensibility from Grieves. It also exhibits quite a bit of talent once again on the part of Grieves just as with the songs on his previous albums. Whether it be this song, those previously mentioned or those not mentioned, every song included in Winter & The Wolves is itself part of a whole that any hip-hop and rap fan will enjoy.

Winter & The Wolves is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered directly via Grieves’ Facebook page and via the Fifth Element store at http://www.facebook.com/Grievesmusic and http://fifthelementonline.com/collections/grieves/products/grieves-winter-the-wolves. Grieves is currently touring in support of his new album and will perform live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina next Monday, July 28th at Local 506. Tickets for the show can be purchased online at http://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/537299. Fans can keep up with Grieves’ latest tour updates, news and more online via his official Facebook page and his official website, http://www.grievesmusic.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Southsiders Is One Of 2014’s Top Rap And Hip-Hop Albums

Courtesy:  Rhymesayers Entertainment

Courtesy: Rhymesayers Entertainment

Underground hip-hop/rap duo Atmosphere—Anthony “Ant” Davis and Sean “Slug” Daley—released its latest full length album early last month. Southsiders, the duo’s seventh full length studio release, has been getting rave reviews since that time. And those positive reactions come with good reason as has already been shown through the first two singles from the album—‘Bitter’ and ‘Kanye West.’ The album’s second track, ‘Arthur’s Song’ is just as impressive an example of what makes Southsiders one of the year’s top rap albums. It’s also one more example of why despite being an underground act, Atmosphere continues to be just as good as the major name rap and hip-hop acts that dominate mainstream airwaves today.

Daley and Davis led off their latest album with the song ‘Bitter.’ The duo couldn’t have chosen a better first impression for its latest full length studio effort. While not necessarily a battle rap per se, it tackles the subject of a broken friendship, which is a common theme in rap and hip-hop. What sets this song apart from its mainstream counterparts is that Daley and Davis prove that a song with such a theme doesn’t have to involve foul-language and mentions of guns and drugs. The pair proves the subject can be tackled with a certain amount of class and still be infectious at the same time. As this critic pointed out previously about this single, what’s most interesting in the song is that Daley’s subject that is speaking isn’t even sure what has caused his former friend to become so hateful toward him.  He writes in the song’s lead verse, “Everything used to be so good then/Now it seems like you’re mad at my footprints/I’m only tryin’ to scribble in the book, man.”  There’s a lot of venom in this line.  But it’s justified venom.  Daley’s bite gets even sharper as that opening verse progresses. Case in point, Daley’s subject goes on to say to his former friend, “It’s not my fault you’re hurting/You must have a lot of free time/Otherwise, why you tryin’ to see mine/Strain ya neck/Let the blame project/Don’t give yourself the same respect/So independent but undependable/We’re all gettin’ old/So take a mental note/And  stop being so covetous/The crime is the punishment/Now run and get a sliver of dignity/You ain’t gotta be a figure of misery/You don’t want to be a victim to victory/Listenin’ to a bittersweet symphony.  His subject is telling that former friend, “Hey, We’re getting older.  Stop being this way.  You’re only hurting yourself! So grow up and stop being so immature!”  This is one hundred percent relatable for any listener.  Who out there hasn’t been in the situation of having a friend that turned on them and started hating them without any explanation whatsoever?  That ability of the song to relate to its listeners makes it an instant hit and one of the album’s key moments. It becomes much clearer why this was chosen as the album’s first single.

The album’s second single, ‘Kanye West’ was just as wise a choice as ‘Bitter’ to represent Southsiders. Much has been said of this single and how it is meant to represent the relationship between fellow rapper Kanye West and his relationship with Kim Kardashian. The song’s lyrics definitely leave one to wonder about that. Daley writes in the song’s opening verse, “She said she wanted somebody she could take care of/And right then is when we paired up/Pull a chair up and make a space for yourself/You should taste what I felt/It’s probable/That those on the bottom/Gonna hold you accountable/It’s lonely at the top/And it’s also hostile/Everybody got their own course full of obstacles/Don’t let your heart grow cold like a popsicle/She said she wanted someone to treat her as an equal/And right then we started speeding toward Reno/Burnin’ rubber in the burgundy Reagle/Fly like a dove/Then dive like an eagle/I’m a seventy-duce/That year was a classic/Buzz got loose/And we here tryin’ to catch it/She said she was unimpressed/That’s when I stood up and did the Kanye West.” Listeners and audiences in general can come to their own conclusions about the real meaning behind these words when they compare them to the song’s companion video, which can be viewed online now at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JrDVPsVbVA. Regardless of the song’s lyrical topic, listeners can all agree that it’s one more good representation of what can be expected from this album.

Both ‘Kanye West’ and ‘Bitter’ are impressive representations of what listeners can expect from Daley and Davis from Southsiders. ‘Arthur’s Song,’ the album’s second track is just as impressive as those songs, despite not being one of the album’s singles. Daley raps against an old school style beat here, “Sippin’ on that brown stuff/Got ya feelin’ like you found love/Or maybe it was just luck/Honestly it’s probably none of the above/Train tracks underneath the faceless moon/The payback’s gonna want a statement soon/Been a few years since the last cigarette/But if you put your finger inside/The flask’s still wet/Stick with the fool like s&*% to the wool/Gotta get some tools to try to fix these jewels/Cause we don’t need to hear you sing how spend your time as kingpin/Mad at everything, huh.” Daley keeps on this lyrical introspection through the rest of the song. Perhaps the most powerful statement of the song comes late in its near three and a half-minute run time as Daley writes, “We face pain with pain/Everybody’s the same/When you’re caught in the rain/I guess that’s why I write about it/It helps me wrap my head around it/No matter what the world’s trying to from you/No matter what the world’s trying to make you prove/No matter what the world’s trying to say to you/You gotta write your way through.” It’s a powerful statement. He’s expressing how writing has gotten him through some really tough times. Yet again, it’s not one of those mainstream songs loaded down with foul language. There’s no talk of guns, drugs, etc. He even responds to those songs, saying, “We don’t need to hear you sing how you spend your time as kingpin/Mad at everything.” He’s saying he’s writing about reality but in doing so, it makes him stronger. He’s not writing just to write. It serves a real purpose. And that purpose makes it one more excellent example of why Southsiders is one of the best rap and hip-hop albums of the year. It also proves why Atmosphere continues to be just as good as any rap and hip-hop act dominating mainstream airwaves today.

Southsiders is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered and downloaded now at http://fifthelementonline.com/collections/atmosphere/products/atmosphere-southsiders and https://itunes.apple.com/album/southsiders-deluxe-version/id828734533. Atmosphere is currently touring in support of Southsiders. The duo is in Ottowa, Ontario today. It will be in Halifax, Nova Scotia this coming Wednesday, June 4th before starting the U.S. leg of its tour this coming Friday, June 6h in Portland, Maine. Audiences can check out Atmosphere’s latest tour schedule and keep up with the latest news from the duo online now at http://www.facebook.com/Atmosphere, http://rhymesayers.com/atmosphere, and http://twitter.com/atmosphere. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Atmosphere Impresses Again With Upcoming Album’s Second New Single

Courtesy:  Rhymesayers Entertainment

Courtesy: Rhymesayers Entertainment

Indie hip-hop duo Atmosphere—Sean “Slug” Daley and Anthony “Ant” Davis—recently released the second single from the group’s upcoming album Southsiders. The single, ‘Kanye West’ is a solid follow-up to the album’s lead single ‘Bitter.’ Daley writes in the song’s opening verse, “She said she wanted somebody she could take care of/And right then is when we paired up/Pull a chair up and make a space for yourself/You should taste what I felt/It’s probable/That those on the bottom/Gonna hold you accountable/It’s lonely at the top/And it’s also hostile/Everybody got their own course full of obstacles/Don’t let your heart grow cold like a popsicle/She said she wanted someone to treat her as an equal/And right then we started speeding toward Reno/Burnin’ rubber in the burgundy Reagle/Fly like a dove/Then dive like an eagle/I’m a seventy-duce/That year was a classic/Buzz got loose/And we here tryin’ to catch it/She said she was unimpressed/That’s when I stood up and did the Kanye West.”   The very first thing that listeners will notice in this song is the length of the verse. The song’s other verse is just as long. That’s not a bad thing, either. As a matter of fact, it’s a good thing. That’s because it’s so unlike most mainstream rap and hip-hop songs stylistically speaking. Instead of just writing a radio friendly rap song, Daley and Davis have crafted a piece in this song that paints a vivid musical story.

Speaking of writing a musical story, the video for ‘Kanye West’ can be viewed online now at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JrDVPsVbVA. The companion video, which presents an older Asian man and a younger black woman, is quite the effective companion to the song. The meaning behind the visuals has been hotly debated. Some have gone so far as to say that the elderly man is supposed to represent Kanye West and his waning relevance. Others have made reference to North West, the daughter of West and his wife. Regardless of whether there’s any credence to these theories, the video for the song brings the song full circle. Just as the song will keep audiences listening, so will the companion video. The two together make ‘Kanye West” one more contender from Atmosphere to be one of the year’s best new singles.

Atmosphere’s new album Southsiders will be available Tuesday, May 6th via Rhymesayers Entertainment. It can be pre-ordered now online at http://fifthelementonline.com/collections/atmosphere-southsiders-pre-order and https://itunes.apple.com/album/southsiders-deluxe-version/id828734533. More information on that album, the duo’s new single, its tour dates and general information is available online at http://www.facebook.com/Atmosphere and http://twitter.com/Atmosphere. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.