New Rap, Hip-Hop Albums Prove 2020 Was Not All Bad

Courtesy: Def Jam

Rap and hip-hop fans have had quite a bit to be happy about this year.  That is because over the course of the now fading year, a lot of notable entries have made their way to audiences within the genre.  They have come from independent and well-known acts alike, too.  From the familiar socio-politically charged content featured in Public Enemy’s new album What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down, to the lighter yet still engaging content featured in Aesop Rock’s new album Spirit World Field Guide, to the unique hybrid jazz/hip-hop instrumental offering from Analog Players Society, Soundtrack For A Nonexistent Film, and more, this year’s field of new rap and hip-hop records has proven quite diverse and entertaining.  Even Eminem released his own new album (albeit by surprise) in the form of Music to be Murdered By early this year.  Between that record and so many others, this year’s field of new albums was full of interesting, impressive new albums, both mainstream and independent.  Phil’s Picks has kept track of them once again this year and produced a list of the year’s best new product.

As with past years and each list, this collection features the Top 10 new titles in the category, as well as five honorable mentions, for a total of 15 titles.  Here for your consideration is the Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 new Rap & Hip-Hop Albums.


  1. Public Enemy – What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down?
  2. Run The Jewels – RTJ4
  3. RJD2 – The Fun Ones
  4. Common – A Beautiful Revolution Pt. 1
  5. Jamo Gang – Walking With Lions
  6. Aesop Rock – Spirit World Field Guide
  7. Eminem – Music to be Murdered By
  8. Analog Players Society – Soundtrack for a Nonexistent Film
  9. Atmosphere – The Day Before Halloween
  10. GNL Zamba – The Spear
  11. Denzel Curry – Unlocked
  12. Prof – Powderhorn Suites
  13. Busta Rhymes – Extinction Level Event 2
  14. Aesop Rock – Music From The Game Freedom Finger
  15. Black Eyed Peas – Translation

Next up from Phil’s Picks is a listing of the year’s top new jazz and blues albums.  Stay tuned for that.

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Black Eyed Peas’ Latest LP Is The Group’s Worst Record To Date

Courtesy: Epic Records/ music group

Black Eyed Peas released its latest album Translation Friday, and sadly, the news is not good.  The trio’s eighth full-length studio recording, it is the group’s lowest point to date.  That is due in large part to the record’s musical content.  This will be discussed shortly, as it is both good and bad.  The lyrical content (or relative lack thereof) plays into that, too.  The album’s sequencing rounds out the most important of its elements.  It is perhaps the only real positive of the whole presentation.  Of course even that is a bit of a stretch.  Each noted item is important in its own weird way to the whole of this album.  All things considered, they make this album the absolute lowest point for Black Eyed Peas.

Black Eyed Peas latest album Translation is the least memorable of any of its studio recordings to date.  Coming less than two years after the trio —,, and Taboo – released its seventh album Masters of the Sun Vol. 1, the 17-song record (this version came from Target with two remixes of the album’s song ‘Ritmo’), it is the group’s lowest point so far in its life.  That is due in large part to its musical arrangements.  Whereas the arrangements featured in Masters of the Sun Vol. 1 took the group back to its high points in its 1998 debut album Behind The Front and its 2000 follow-up Bridging The Gap, this record is more akin to the sounds produced in its more mainstream records Elephunk, Monkey Business and The E.N.D. and its follow-up The Beginning.  Even taking the sound featured in those records into consideration here, this record’s arrangements does bear some semblance to said works, but in the case of this record, the arrangements are even more poppy than ever.  Rather than actually having any real substance per se, this record’s arrangements are mostly just that, instrumentals that are more a fit for clubs than for radio.  The music from the group’s other mainstream pop records meanwhile at least gave those works something onto which Top 40 pop programmers could latch.  Music, such as that which is used in clubs does not necessarily require a lot of thought, but rather a steady beat and some keyboards and electronics.  It does not even require any real lyrical content.  This is another problem with this record.

Considering that Translation is composed largely of instrumentals that are more useful in the clubs than on the radio or even in people’s stereos (or computers, smartphones, what have you), it leaves little use for lyrical content.  Given, there is some lyrical content here, but it is limited.  Most of the record’s lyrical content is anything but impacting or even memorable.  Case in point is the presentation of ‘Mabuti.’  This song presents another infectious club groove, and its lyrical content goes right along with that arrangement.  It finds the group going on about seeing a woman dancing, going so far as to tell the woman, “I like the way you shake it/baby, if you hot/Why don’t you go ahead, get naked/Wiggle it/I like the way you jiggle.”  That is not exactly the most enlightening or engaging lyrical content.

While the record’s lyrical content is largely less than hard-hitting or even memorable, there is at least a small amount of content that does help the record.  The only truly notable lyrical moment in this LP comes in the standard album’s closer, ‘News Today.’  The light, guitar-driven song addresses everything going on in the world today, from the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak to the political issues caused by Donald Trump.  The song notes in its lead verse, “Did you watch the news today/Did you hear what they say/1,000 more people passed away/Ah, naw/Somebody tell me what’s going on/New York, New York/Big city of dreams/There’s a nightmare going down from the brox to Queens and everywhere in-between/We’re fighting something we can’t even see/There’s n invisible enemy/Just knocked out Italy/Keep the mask on/’Cause if you caught/They gonna look at you like you did a felony/And in theory can’t hug nobody/Not until we find a remedy/So we pray for Spain, France and the U.K./China and U.S.A./I pray we gonna be okay/Pray for the grandmas and grandpas/So they can live to see another day.”  From there, the song mentions people believing “the news is fake” and being told to “inject yourself with bleach.”  In other words, there is even mention of the damage that Donald Trump has done to the nation and world.  It is really the album’s only really thoughtful lyrical content.  To a point, one can compare this song to Buffalo Springfield’s timeless song, ‘For What It’s Worth’ both in terms of its musical arrangement and its lyrical content.  It’s only one of the rare moments that stands out in this record because of its lyrical content.  The only other rare moment that stands out because of its lyrics comes late in the record’s run in the form of ‘Todo Bueno.’ stresses in ‘Todo Bueno’ that “even when I’m going through some really hard changes/You gonna hear me explainin’/That the life’s amazing, oh yeah/So don’t stop me if I’m dreaming/’cause I’m just over here, living my dream/I’m gonna keep believin’/even if nobody believes me/Keep collaborating ‘till my life is supreme.”  This is really the only lyrical content in this record that can be considered impacting at all.  That is because it is positive and uplifting.  The other rare lyrical content is not exactly in-depth or thought provoking.  This is important to note because as with the group’s first two records and this record’s predecessor, the lyrics in said albums actually had substance.  They had a lot of social commentary and thoughtful insights in each case.  That just is not the case here.  Simply put, the lyrical content, or lack thereof here makes the record that much more of a step down for this once great act.  It’s like lyrically, the group has just completely phoned it in here, which is so disappointing.

For all of the negatives that weigh down Translation, it does have at least one positive – its sequencing.  From the beginning to the end of its 64-minute run time (again, this Target-bought copy is longer than the standard edition because it has two remixes), the record does manage to at least keep the energy flowing from one song to the next.  Every arrangement featured in this album is a mid-tempo, 2/4 time composition with its own keyboard-driven arrangement that rests on its own merits even despite the steady beat.  In other words, while the arrangements are stylistically similar from one to the next, the overall sound does change albeit slightly at best while the energy in each arrangement remains stable throughout.  The result is an overall album that will appeal to fans of club-style songs, but few others.  To that end, audiences in general will find this album worth at least maybe one listen, but sadly not much more than that.

Black Eyed Peas’ eighth full-length studio recording Translation is a troublesome release for a trio that so many years ago was such a notable group.  It is a work that shows how far the group has fallen from its early days when it was actually a noteworthy hip-hop group.  In place of the once memorable social commentaries of its first two albums are songs that lyrically are mostly simple, dumbed down works about dancing.  Yes, there is a tiny amount of more thoughtful material here, but that content is rare.  The record’s musical content is just as simple in comparison to the group’s earliest works and even the work that it produced in its other, more mainstream records.  These arrangements are, from one to the next, largely similar, steady 2/4 time works that bear little variance from one to the next.  The only positive here is the record’s sequencing, which keeps the energy in those simple dance-style arrangements stable from one to the next.  There just is not a lot here to make this record memorable or even notable.  To that end, it is the band’s lowest point so far and is worth hearing one time at the most.  The album is available now.  More information on Black Eyed Peas’ new album is available along with all of the group’s latest news at:










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Evidence “Beats” Out Everyone In Phil’s Picks’ 2018 Top 10 New Rap & Hip-Hop Albums List

Courtesy: Rhymesayers Entertainment

The old year is almost over, and the new year is nearly here, but before the clock turns midnight, turning 219 to 2019, there’s still some work for Phil’s Picks to do.  That work is some more year-ender list.  The year’s top EPs have been noted already.  Now, today it is on to the year’s top new Rap and Hip-Hop albums.

This has been an interesting year for the worlds of rap and hip-hop, with strong new offerings from the likes of Ice Cube, Evidence, Atmosphere and others.  There have also been some positive surprises from the likes of Mourning (A) BLKstar, Black Eyed Peas (yes, Black Eyed Peas — the group, now a trio again thank goodness, returned to its old school roots on its new album) and Dr. Octagon.

From one to the next, the albums that have been offered rap and hip-hop fans this year has largely been strong.  Keeping that in mind, forming this list was just as difficult as any before or after.

Topping this year’s list is Dilated Peoples emcee Evidence and his new album Weather or Not.  The album, from start to finish is everything that hip-hop and rap purists will appreciate, but musically and lyrically.  It is an old school presentation that is confident in both elements’ presentation.

Next up is fellow veteran emcee Eminem and his new album Kamikaze.  This record is, in this critic’s view, some of his best work to date, hands down.  The fire from his past albums is there, along with a certain maturity, too.  that balance makes for a solid work from start to finish.

Third place belongs, on this list, to Black Eyed Peas’ new album Masters of the Sun: Vol. 1.  As noted previously, this record takes the group, now a trio again, back to the sound that made it a hit during its underground days.  At the same time, the pop sensibility that made the group a hit in the mainstream is there, too.  Lyrically, the songs are their own stylistic rebirth for the group, too.

With 1st – 3rd noted, the rest of the list is fleshed out below.  As always, 15 titles are listed, with the Top 10 being the best while the next five are honorable mentions.  That is not to say that there is anything wrong with those albums.  They are just worth noting.  Now enough rambling.  without any further ado, here is Phil’s PIcks 2018 Top 10 New Rap & Hip-Hop albums.


  1. Evidence — Weather or Not
  2. Eminem — Kamikaze
  3. Black Eyed Peas: Masters of the SunVol. 1
  4. Ice Cube — Everythang’s Corrupt
  5. Atmosphere — Mi Vida Local
  6. Mourning [A] BLKstar — The Garner Poems
  7. Dr. Octagon — Moosebumps
  8. Denzel Curry– TA1300
  9. Del & Amp Live — Gate 13
  10. Camp Hope — Micheal
  11. Everlast — Whitey Ford’s House of Pain
  12. dem Atlas — Bad Actress
  13. Four Fists — 6666
  14. Brownout — Fear of a Brown Planet
  15. Cypress Hill — Elephants on Acid

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Bruce Lee Documentary Worth The Watch For Fans

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory released a little more than a year ago, a new documentary centered on martial arts legend Bruce Lee titled I Am Bruce Lee.  Lee’s career was not the longest of any star foreign or American.  But as audiences will see in this latest documentary, the short time that he spent on screen was only part of the reason that he was so revered.  He remains today one of the most influential figures in martial arts whether it be on television, in movies or in general.  That information shared through the course of the documentary’s ninety-four minute run time is one part of what makes the documentary well worth the watch for anyone that is a fan of martial arts in all of its avenues.  Also to be taken into consideration in this documentary is the editing.  Editor Tony Kent expertly assembled the different bits and pieces of the documentary in such fashion as to keep viewers completely engaged throughout the program.  The editing and information shared throughout the program are accompanied by additional footage that didn’t make the primary program.  That bonus footage of Lee’s “Backyard Training” and deeper discussions on Lee’s continued influence on the world make I Am Bruce Lee complete.  That bonus material partners with the primary program and its editing to once again make this documentary one that any of Bruce Lee’s legions of fans will appreciate.

I Am Bruce Lee is not the first documentary to focus on the legendary star of film and television.  Warner Home Video released Bruce LeeA Warrior’s Journey in 2001.  That documentary was followed up in 2009 with History Channel’s How Bruce Lee Changed The World in 2009.  The amount of time that has passed since each documentary was released means that chances are great that both are going to be very difficult to find.  That being the case, I Am Bruce Lee becomes an even more valuable piece for any martial arts enthusiast and fan of Bruce Lee.  That’s because so little time has passed since this documentary was released early last year.  The information shared throughout the course of the program is quite similar to that of both of the aforementioned documentaries. Audiences will appreciate learning that as much of a star as Lee became in his life, he apparently wasn’t always fond of his stardom.  His wife notes in her interview that he actually got to the point that he hated going out because he was followed so much.  On another note, audiences not so familiar with Lee’s life will find just as interesting how little stigma Lee and his wife experienced despite the views on inter-racial marriage at the time that they were wed.  Even more interesting to learn, is the contrast of Lee’s own view of his success versus its reality.  The comparison to Jimi Hendrix having to go to London to become famous is an excellent illustrator of what Lee ended up having to face, despite his early beliefs of how successful he would become in America.  This and so much more shared throughout the program makes for a solid foundation on which the documentary rests.

The information shared throughout the course of I Am Bruce Lee is the foundation for the success of this latest Bruce lee documentary.  Just as important to the program’s success is the editing.  Editor Tony Kent expertly and seamlessly assembled the entire feature.  The skill that Kent exhibited in this piece keeps viewers fully engaged from start to finish.  Most notable of his editing is his ability to use vintage clips from Lee’s movies to semi-playfully add to certain discussions. Such technique is not necessarily anything new for any documentary. But Kent uses the technique sparingly whereas other editors might have taken it over the top and overdone it. So for that, Kent is more than deserving of his due credit. Kent is also to be applauded for his seamless editing in terms of the discussions by the features celebrity guests on how Lee influenced them. The guests, which include some of the biggest names in MMA, acting, and even sports discuss what makes Lee so influential to this very day. They use very specific examples of what continues to make him the iconic figure that he remains today. Kent cuts directly to the vintage footage of Lee both from his film career and from personal interviews that he conducted to illustrate those discussions. His editing makes the discussion perfectly clear. Audiences will see that for themselves and more when they purchase the documentary for themselves.

The editing and overall content that collectively make up I Am Bruce Lee are both important factors in the overall success of the feature. The finishing touch to the whole thing is the additional material included as bonus features. The vintage footage of Lee’s “Backyard Training” is the best of the bonus features. It is the best of the bonus material because it completes the material shown in the main feature. Audiences get a glimpse into Lee’s own home training setup in the main feature. This bonus material expands on the glimpse given into that training. It is essentially material that likely ended up on the cutting room floor as it might have made the main feature too long in the eyes of those at the film’s helm.

The second feature, “Inspiration – Bruce Lee’s Global Impact,” is a bonus in that it expands on the snippets of the interviews used in the presentation’s main feature. As with the bonus “Backyard Training” featurette, odds are that these snippets were material that ended up on the cutting room floor for time’s sake. As audiences will see and hear for themselves in the expanded interview footage, Lee’s influence on the world today is as strong as it has ever been. It will be even stronger when audiences take in this material and everything else presented in I Am Brice Lee for themselves. Audiences will agree in watching everything included in this documentary that I Am Bruce Lee is a welcome addition to the home library of any martial arts enthusiast and Bruce Lee devotee.

I Am Bruce Lee is available in stores and online now. It can be ordered via Shout! Factory’s online store at More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at and To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at