Album Reviews, Soundtrack Albums

Christmas Special – Reviews of “Christmas Rap Music” and “Friday After Next” soundtrack

Hello, out there. I know that I haven’t been doing much for this site lately. But as usual, I try to keep with a tradition, at least during Christmas time. Rather than do two separate reviews, I decided to combine them. I didn’t get a chance to get other albums that were on my Amazon Wish List. But some of the time, I got to plan ahead for future years, especially during the Christmas season.

So I’m going to do two albums. I’m going to start with “Christmas Rap Music” from Crew X. Not to be confused with the Christmas Rap compilation, which I covered already. The other will be the Friday After Next soundtrack. Right now, onto “Christmas Rap Music.”

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Let me start off by saying that I came across this CD when I was looking on Amazon for the Christmas Rap compilation and then saw this on the suggestions list. I had no idea what this album was. From what I understand this was the sole album from a short-lived rap group called Crew X. It seems that little-to-no information is found on them. Hell, the insert for the CD is just the cover art. There was no information about the production of each track. The only thing that I found was information that this was released in 1992 and it appeared that this group was from Nashville, Tenn. because that city was listed on the back cover art. So this portion is not going to be long.

What I will tell you is that each of the songs on this album was a rap rendition of various classic Christmas carols like “The First Noel,” “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” etc. So in other words, this group did a rap spin on those traditional carols. I found it cute (and I never thought I would use this term to describe the beats) that beats had included some instrumentals with some rap beats combined with them. I couldn’t help but think it was kind of cute to hear a hip-hop beat of “The First Noel” or “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”

So what about the lyrics? The rapper did a good job at rapping out the verses for the songs. Some of them had original lyrics added in to provide some additional lyrical content for the tracks. In fact, I found his rapping on “Jingle Bells” to be pretty catchy.

It appeared that it was the same rapper on most of the tracks. One song that had multiple people rapping was on “12 Days of Christmas.” What’s interesting about that track was that each rapper was rapping out the exact lyrics for that carol. It’s got to be heard to be believed.

It appears that the only original track was the final track of the album. It was called “The Christmas Rap.” The rapper on that track talked about Santa Claus, the reindeer, the elves, etc. and also experiences on Christmas and such.

One thing that makes me wonder is that this album was released in 1992, but the songs sound like they were recorded a lot earlier than that. This whole album had the feel of the mid-1980s. Not a bad thing by any means. It was actually interesting to hear rap versions of those old Christmas carols. The producers, DJs, and rappers did a good job at what they did. While it would sound a bit ridiculous to some, there is no denying that the songs were catchy.

If only there was more information I can find on Crew X.

3.5/5

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. The First Noel
  2. Jingle Bells
  3. 12 Days of Christmas
  4. The Christmas Rap
  5. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

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Here was something that I told myself to cover a year ago when I wrote my review of the movie, but I didn’t get around to it. Better late than never, right? Anyway, onto the review.

The first thing that unlike the soundtracks to the previous two movies, this was released by Hollywood Records, not Priority. It also seemed that around the time of its release, there had been some ads implying that there was an explicit version with the Parental Advisory label on the cover art. Why am I telling you this? Because this album was edited. I will talk more about this in a bit, but in the meantime, let’s get to the songs.

This album kicked off with the soundtrack’s lead single, “It’s the Holidaze” performed by Westside Connection. So it wasn’t just Ice Cube providing a song for the soundtrack. He also got WC and Mack 10 involved. This whole track was produced by Dallas Austin, as in the same guy who had produced the likes of TLC and Monica back in the 1990s. What was cool about this song is that when you hear each of the verses from Cube, Dub, and Mack respectively, they all have different feels. Personally, my favorite verse out of all them was WC’s.

Another standout track was “High Times” from FT and Tha Eastsidaz, as FT, Tray Deee, and Goldie Loc did a good job on their verses, but the standout part about it was the production from Fredwreck.¬† Even “Just Chill” from Busta Rhymes and the Flipmode Squad was pretty dope, as Busta and Rah Digga provided some good verses. The same could be said about “Got All’at” from Nappy Roots (Remember them?).

Fredwreck also produced another song, which was a “Wonderful World” from Krayzie Bone, La Reece, and K-Mont. It was different, and had that “Whistle While You Work” sample, as well as some other 1950s/1960s vibe going for it, but not bad. It was pretty catchy.

50 Cent also appeared on this album, along with G-Unit. Lloyd Banks shined on his verse, as did 50, and Tony Yayo didn’t do a bad job on his verse. This was not long before he dropped “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” but from what I had read, this was recorded before that as it appeared on his mixtape, “50 Cent is the Future.” So this was before he blew up, even though he made his mark on the 8 Mile soundtrack.

What also could be said that the two tracks from Whateva and Roscoe stood out. Rockwilder presented this then up-and-coming rapper who showed a lot of promise on “Mardi Gras,” but I wonder what happened with him. Roscoe, as in Kurupt’s brother, showed a lot of promise on “Get Ready.” Mr. Kane (or Kokane, as he is better known) provided a good hook like he often does. However, out of these two, Roscoe would have a debut album coming out not long after that.

The last of the original tracks (or modern tracks) would come from R&B singer Calvin Richardson. The guy could sing and Jez Colin did a good job at the production. Being that this album came out in the early-2000s, this definitely has that vibe.

What about the rest of the album? Well, the rest of the album were old songs from Leon Haywood (RIP), Slave, Eartha Kitt (RIP), The Temptations, and Donny Hathaway (RIP). A few of them were Christmas songs, which I believed were played in the movie, and I am sure that the non-Christmas songs from these aforementioned artists were also in the movie. Not going to complain about their inclusions. If anything, they were welcome additions, as the soundtracks to the previous Friday movies had old songs on the soundtracks. The first Friday soundtrack had included the songs from Rick James, Rose Royce, and Roger, despite around the same time of its release, Priority Records had released an “Old School Friday” compilation which provided all the old tracks (plus original score tracks). The same thing happened when Next Friday came out, as there was an “old school” version of the soundtrack as well.

Quality-wise, I can’t complain about the songs on this album. I would rate it high, except for the fact that all of the songs are edited. This is what really got me. I could have sworn that back in those days, there were ads of this showing the Parental Advisory label. I even found pictures online about it. But when I got it, I found out that the soundtrack was edited. I am not sure what Hollywood Records was doing, because they didn’t do a good job at releasing any explicit versions. The songs were actually good, but it’s also distracting to hear the censors for it. Did Priority Records not want anything to do with this soundtrack? If Cube couldn’t get them to do it, he could have at least tried with New Line Records, as they released the soundtrack to All About the Benjamins. Then again, I remembered how Cube did that song “100 Dolla Bill Y’all” around that time and it was used for the promotion of the movie, but it wasn’t featured on the soundtrack to that. Maybe he didn’t submit it in time or there was an issue. I don’t know, but I do know that that song was on his greatest hits album which came out in 2001.

What’s puzzling is that I found a video of “It’s the Holidaze” and it has the explicit lyrics. Someone must have used the version played in the credits and put it in that video when uploading it on YouTube. Check it out:

But like I also said, I don’t have a problem with the soundtrack as the songs are exceptional, but what drops it were the edits on the songs. I could find the explicit versions of some of the songs on some mixtapes or albums (Like that Roscoe song appeared on his debut album).

3/5

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. It’s the Holidaze
  2. Get Ready
  3. High Times (Ride with Us)
  4. Just Chill
  5. Bad News
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Album Reviews

Review and History – Royce Da 5’9″ – Rock City

Year of Release: 2002

Record Label: Game Recordings/Columbia/Koch

There is a question that I have in mind about Royce’s debut album: With there being two versions, could it still be considered the same album or two different albums?

What I mean is this: “Rock City” was set to put Royce Da 5’9″ on the map, mainly due to his close association with Eminem as one-half of the duo, Bad Meets Evil. The two had done some songs together such as “Scary Movies” and “Nuttin’ To Do,” as well as “Bad Meets Evil” on Em’s debut album, “The Slim Shady LP.” To be perfectly frank, the two even did the title track for this album. However, this album was delayed over and over again from 2001 to 2002, that at some point Royce changed from Columbia/Sony to Koch Records. The album was originally supposed to be released in 2001, but then got delayed, and also heavily bootlegged. Not to mention that around that same time, Royce had done a song with a Britney Spears clone named Willa Ford. He did recover from that, despite not being that mainstream, as in subsequent albums, he remained true to his style.

One thing that I want to note is that while I consider myself a fan of Royce, I have not followed his catalog in years. I do want to change that, though I wonder where to start, whether it’s his actual albums or even his mixtapes. I have listened to “Hell: The Sequel,” as well as the first Slaughterhouse album, however.

Also, I am going to cover both versions. I must note that I bought the version that was released at Best Buy back in 2003 (That was called “Rock City: Version 2.0”), but the original pressing of the album I did not get until about a year ago when I found it on eBay. Also, there are some differences in the two versions, despite some songs appearing on both versions. Also, some songs on Version 2.0 probably made the album better than the original.

The original version suffered from a lot of songs that seemed to go with the mainstream during that time. One song in particular that seemed different from Royce’s style in subsequent albums is “Get’cha Paper.” While the beat from The Neptunes was actually pretty good, the subject matter that Royce rapped about just seemed a bit off. It was had a bunch braggadocios subject matter about getting money, ladies, and talking about being the King of Detroit. I didn’t mind how the chorus was somewhat reminiscent of “Strawberry Letter 23” from The Brothers Johnson.

One song that appeared on both versions that served as its lead single, and that was “You Can’t Touch Me,” which when listening to it now seems rather dated. It had a decent beat, but really it left a lot more to be desired in the lyrics.

Another thing that was noticeable in both versions was the inclusion of Tre Little in a lot of tracks, as well as that there was a song that included a group that Royce was helping to jumpstart at the time called D-Elite, which Tre seemed to be a part of. What’s funny is how on Version 1.0 had two tracks called “D-Elite,” which were split into two parts, the second of which had the full crew. However, Version 2.0 had only part one on it, which had Royce rapping, but the second part was devoted to showcasing the other members. It was also a part of a trend at the time when an established rapper has a crew and then wants to show the world what they’re made of. For example, Eminem had D12; Nelly had the St. Lunatics. You get the idea.

That is not to say that Version 1.0 did not have any song that had any meaning. A couple of songs in particular were “Life” and “Who Am I,” which actually used the beat to 2Pac’s “Pain” and it fit pretty well. “Life” actually had a somber type of feel and Amerie (Remember her?) provided a good chorus to it, and her vocals went with the overall feel of the song.

That is not to say that Version 2.0 did not have some songs that were not that good, however. Right after the title track came the mediocre “Off Parole,” which felt like it was this version’s “Get’cha Paper.” It even included Tre Little on the track. The only thing that song had going for it was the beat. I was also not too fond of “Mr. Baller,” which had a nice beat, but the rest of it just left a lot more to be desired.

So what are some positives that I can say about the two versions? I must note that one song that I did like on Version 1.0 was “We Live (Danger” and I could possibly be biased because I first heard that song in “Grand Theft Auto III” way back in the day (Who says you can’t find good music through video games?). Royce also did a good job in “Take His Life” from Version 2.0, which had a somber beat to go with it. It talked about some serious subject matter.

Also, both versions had “Boom,” which was one of his first singles. I didn’t know this until recently, but it released as a single when Game Recordings was still around, but was also released on the soundtrack to “Carmen: A Hip-Hopera” (Man, just thinking of THAT makes me feel old; I wonder if anyone even remembers that TV movie).

One thing that must be talked about is that the title track had two different beats on the two versions. If I were to pick which version out of the two that I liked more, I would probably go with the one from Version 1.0. If you want to compare and contrast, be my guest.

I have to say that I give Royce credit for his effort in this album (or these albums how ever you want to look it or them), but “Rock City” was really not all that special looking back. If you listened to this, and then “Death is Certain” and other ones after, you would see a major contrast in style. Now if you did the opposite and followed his career post-Rock City and then wanted to see what he did in his debut, one could probably see that it would not be the Royce he/she came to appreciate. I kept one of the versions for so long, but in a lot of ways I am glad that I held on to it. While the other one was done for collecting purposes. I would only recommend it for die-hard Royce fans and collectors, but for those who are interested in checking out where Royce started off, just start with either the early Bad Meets Evil stuff or just start with “Death is Certain.”

V1 – 2.5/5

V2 – 3/5

Top 5 Tracks from Version 1.0

  1. We Live (Danger)
  2. Boom
  3. Life
  4. Who Am I
  5. D-Elite Part 2

Top 5 Tracks from Version 2.0

  1. Life
  2. Soldier’s Story
  3. King of Kings
  4. Who Am I
  5. My Friend

Also, here was the original artwork for Version 1.0

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Album Reviews

Album Review – Ashanti Christmas albums.

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Years of Release: 2003 ; 2013/2014

Record Labels: The Inc Records (Ashanti’s Christmas); Written Entertainment/Entertainment One (A Wonderful Christmas With Ashanti)

Here I am doing something that I haven’t done before prior to this. Okay, maybe I have done something similar, as in the past I had done a double review for my college newspaper when I reviewed Grand Theft Auto V and Saints Row IV as a comparison review. However, this is the first time that I have done one on music albums and being that it’s Christmas time, I wanted to do something like this especially if these two albums are from the same artist. I have also noted in the past that I am not opposed to doing R&B albums for this website. I also must add that I am a fan of Ashanti and in some ways, one of these two albums could qualify for this site as Murder Inc was (or is, as it still sort of exists) a rap label. So R&B was never out of the question for me to review on this site.

I will go over these two albums chronologically, which means that I will talk about Ashanti’s Christmas first.

Before I critique the album, I remember that I had contemplated getting this for years but I mainly listened to some reviewers on Amazon, which had given this a low score. Some had compared it to Whitney Houston’s (RIP) Christmas album that came out around the same time as this one did, but you can’t really compare to the two, especially considering how different their vocal styles were. But sometime later I bought her second Christmas album, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to give the other one a go. I have to say that I went going with my own instincts and I came out actually enjoying it more than I thought I would, but there were some flaws on this album.

I won’t deny that she had limitations in her vocals, and her singing voice is rather high, but that doesn’t mean that she didn’t try her best. She did well in some songs like “Christmas Time Again” and “Hey Santa,” which I initially expected to be a cover of the Carnie and Wendy Wilson song of the same name. I also enjoyed her version “The Christmas Song,” as well as “This Christmas,” but then you had her versions of “Silent Night,” “Joy To The World,” and “Winter Wonderland,” all of which could have been a lot better than they actually were. Also, some of the production had some jazzy feel to it, but some of the other tracks could have better work done to the beats and instrumentals. One of other song that I liked, however, was “Time of Year.”

This wasn’t a terrible album by any means, but in some ways, it is a good to play during the holiday season, but some of the tracks could have been better. In fairness, it was during a busy time for her as this came out the same year as Chapter II, her second album, and I am sure that there was not a lot of time to try to perfect the songs. Still, it’s decent enough to play during Christmas time, as some of the good outweighs the bad slightly.

As for A Wonderful Christmas With Ashanti, it could be said that over time that things probably had improved vocally and the production was a little different this time around. I must note that I also bought this during the holiday season of 2014 at Target, which had a version that had two exclusive extra tracks. It was previously released in 2013 as an EP, before another version had come out with more tracks the following year.

What is noticeable is that this album does have the feel for the holidays, even with some songs having an R&B-lite beat for the background in some songs, like “Christmas Love” for example, as well as “It’s Christmas.” But what’s also noticeable is that even the uses of the bell sounds added to the beats to give it a Christmas-like feel. Her vocals had also matured over time. It HAD been a decade since her previous Christmas album.

I liked how the production was done for “Sleigh Ride” and “Let It Snow,” as they were rather upbeat for this album. The song, “Christmas is the Time,” was actually a re-worked version of “Time of Year” from the previous Xmas album. I liked both versions, but if you were to listen to both versions back-to-back, you can see the differences, as well as the comparisons. She also did a good job in other songs like “The First Noel” and “Santa Baby,” the latter of which I am not a huge fan of, but I’ll listen to her version (Along with Gwen Stefani’s version, as heard in her Christmas album).

The album closed off with “White Christmas,” and it was quite a family affair on this one, as her parents, her cousin, and her younger sister, Chi Chi, all sang on this one. Though the relatives were mainly backup singers in it, it was still a nice track to listen to and I have to give them all credit because it seemed that Ashanti wanted to do a song with her family and I can’t help but respect that.

Out of the two albums, I preferred A Wonderful Christmas With Ashanti more than Ashanti’s Christmas, but I really don’t think that her first Christmas album was as terrible as people said it was. She was rather big during the time that album had come out and haters did hate on her during that time (Not to mention that she collaborated with Ja Rule, who was the biggest laughingstock in the rap world in 2003). It could be said that she had improved within that time, as well as more time was put into the second Xmas album, so that is why it was the better album of the two. But I know I will play the first one during the holiday season as well in the future.

Ashanti’s Christmas – 3.5/5

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Time of Year
  2. Hey Santa
  3. Christmas Time Again
  4. Sharing Christmas
  5. The Christmas Song

A Wonderful Christmas With Ashanti – 4.5/5

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Christmas is the Time
  2. The First Noel
  3. Can’t Wait For Christmas
  4. Sleigh Ride
  5. White Christmas

 

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Album Reviews

Album Review: Jim Jones – A Dipset Xmas

Year of Release: 2006

Record Label: Diplomats/Koch Records

It seems that after having done my reviews of Christmas on Death Row, High Fo’ Xmas, and Christmas in Tha Dogghouse, I found that sometimes mixing the holiday spirit with hip-hop can sometimes be a good¬†and bad thing. Okay, maybe “bad” is pushing it, but sometimes you have the good, like the Death Row Christmas album (Believe it or not, it was actually good), then you have the ones that you can joke about like High Fo’ Xmas (Though the Eazy-E Christmas song isn’t far behind), and then you have the ones that left a lot more to be desired, like Christmas in Tha Dogghouse (Though there WERE some good tracks on it).

First off, I can’t say that I was ever a big fan of Jim Jones. I don’t dislike the guy, I just never really heard much of his stuff outside of “We Fly High,” and just thinking about that song took me back to 2006/2007 when that was all over the airwaves. Then again, I can’t say that I got into the Diplomats, either, though I don’t mind Cam’ron or Juelz Santana, as I do enjoy some of their material. The first time I found out about this album was when I read a review about Christmas on Death Row and this was mentioned in the first paragraph. I thought it was a joke until I looked it up on Amazon. I figured that this would be perfect for me to write a review on it.

The main thing that should be said is this album kind of falls in the middle depending on how you look at it. Before I get into the album, the album insert that had a photo of the Capo himself with a snowy backdrop and a quote that said “I wanted to make a Christmas album for kids in the hood and shit like that.” I can’t fault him for that, as the Christmas-related tracks did sort of capture the spirit of the holidays. For example, I liked how “Dipset Xmas Time” had its own spin on Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time.” I personally am not a fan that song, but “Dipset Christmas Time” was actually a decent track. Also, “Ballin’ on Xmas” was a good hip-hop song with a Christmas theme. It was also good to hear the beat to “Christmas in Hollis” from Run-DMC, whom sampled “Back Door Santa” from Clarence Carter. “Wish List” is actually standout track with mentions of how life in the ghetto was like in the holiday season.

However, the biggest problem that this album has is that only the first five tracks are related to Christmas as the other half isn’t. Hell, I got the Best Buy version in the mail with contained additional three songs and they weren’t related to Christmas. Not to say that those other cuts are bad, though some could have been better, but I wondered if Jim Jones wanted to have some songs that didn’t make the cut on Hustler’s P.O.M.E. (Product of My Environment), which came out a month prior to this one. Out of all of the tracks that weren’t related to Christmas, the only one that stood out was the remix to “We Fly High.”

This album isn’t terrible. At first, I thought that it would be kind of a joke Christmas hip-hop album, but the first five tracks are actually pretty good because it did follow the Christmas theme. But seriously, this album COULD be listened to outside of the holiday season, just as long as you don’t listen to the first five songs. Hell, it would be better if the other five (Or eight, depending on which version you have) was burned onto a separate CD so that you could listen to it during the other parts of the year, while the first five songs can be put onto its own disc (Or playlist depending on how people do it these days).

It’s a soft recommend from me.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Ballin’ On Xmas
  2. Dipset Xmas Time
  3. If Everyday Was Xmas
  4. Wish List
  5. Have a Happy Xmas

Honorable Mention: We Fly High (Remix)

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Album Reviews

Album Review: Gravediggaz – Nightmare in A-Minor

Year of Release: 2001/2002

Record Label: Empire Musicwerks/BMG Music

Here I am in my final Gravediggaz album review, which is of their third and final album, and also as part of my horrorcore special (That doesn’t I can’t do horrorcore album reviews outside of Halloween-time).

Before I get into the review of the album, it must be noted about the background of this album. By the time this album was already in production, the two main producers, RZA and Prince Paul, respectively known by their aliases “The RZArector” and “The Undertaker,” (I often wonder if there was copyright infringement on the name because it was shared with the well-known pro wrestler, despite the title being an actual profession) had left the group. It was even noted in the liner notes in the CD booklet that RZA had other obligations to attend to (During that time, he was likely working on his solo second album, “Digital Bullet,” along with the two Wu-Tang Clan albums, “The W” and “Iron Flag,” and likely also working on production on solo albums from Wu members).

Also, during the time this album was being produced, Too Poetic, also known as Grym Reaper, was suffering from cancer and in spite of it, he still gave it his all in his contribution to the album. He passed away not long before the release of this album. So it was fitting that this was released as a posthumous album. It also should be noted that with the absence of Prince Paul and RZA, this album was produced by Frukwan (Gatekeeper), Poetic, True Master (who had contributed to “The Pick, The Sickle and The Shovel”), Diamond J, and LG. So with or without RZA and Prince Paul, it had no effect on the quality of the album.

Anyway, how does this album compare to “6 Feet Deep” or “The Pick, The Sickle and The Shovel”? Well, credit is given where credit is due. Some of the instrumentals in some of the tracks were a little weaker than its predecessors, though the lyrical content is still really sharp. The instrumental used for the skit, “Last Man Standing,” was eerie, as it was not only produced by Frukwan and Poetic, but also True Master, Diamond J, and LG.

The first actual song on the album, “Bloodshed,” actually kicked the album off on a high note. Frukwan and Poetic delivered some great rhymes mixed in with a dope beat.

Also, it seemed that there were some appearances from Wu affiliates once again. “False Things Must Perish” had an appearance from Prodigal Sunn, of Sunz of Man, which is funny because Killah Priest and Shabazz appeared on the previous album. Yet, another member appeared on this one. There was also an appearance from Shogun The Assasson, of Killarmy, another group affiliated with Wu-Tang. He appeared on the song, “Man Only Fears.” Both rappers did a good job in their respective appearances.

I can’t think of a lot of negative things to say about this album, except for maybe a couple of tracks, which were “Running Game On Real” and “Wanna Break,” but their flaws were mainly the beats. The beats sounded rather messy and too bassy for my tastes.

Frukwan and Poetic did a great job in the lyrics in all of the songs, but I have to give a lot of credit to Poetic for even going so far as to rap about his illness in “Burn Baby Burn.”

Yo, pain builds my character
Deranged cancer cell begin to damage my shell
Tissues begin to swell
A human pin-cushion needles begin pushin’
Through my, melanin color, blood begins gushin’
Hunger, pain is, fed through my veins
Tryin’ to maintain body and brain under strain
Belly bein’ drained from my nose through a catheter
To maintain my stamina, game is high caliber
Flashback my dossier file before the hospital
Lots’ll pay a pile of cheddar to see me rock my style
Got lots of smiles from man woman and child
A grave digga here runnin’ wild like the Nile
Ghetto, X-File, the horoscope bringers
City morgue singers, new rap era beginners
Four years out of seven I remember tourin’
And this year I’m measurin’ my urine

I didn’t know this when I bought this album, but it appeared that there was an original version of this album. There was actually an original release that had come out a few months after Poetic’s death and according to a review on Amazon.com, it said that there were a couple of extra tracks on it. Also, what was noted was that there were different beats used on certain tracks, for example, “Bloodshed” had a different beat on the 2001 release. I am now curious about getting my hands on this version so that I can hear the differences, though I COULD listen to them on YouTube, but still.

Overall, issues with the production aside, being that it was slightly weak (But by no means bad), this album was actually a good swan song for this group. It is a shame what happened to Poetic because he had the skills and talent to really shine as a solo artist. Frukwan later released his own album after that, which I may check out down the road one day. I might even check out his work with Stetsasonic. This was actually a decent album.

3.5/5

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Bloodshed
  2. False Things Must Perish
  3. Burn Baby Burn
  4. Man Only Fears
  5. Nightmare in A-Minor
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Album Reviews

Album Review: Gravediggaz – The Pick, The Sickle and The Shovel

Year of Release: 1997

Record Label: Gee Street Records

Round 2 for my Gravediggaz marathon is now on. Here we go. This album was a total contrast to “6 Feet Deep” as it had more of a socially conscious sound to it with a lot of the content sounding more calm than before. However, that is not to say that there weren’t any horror elements to the tracks.

Another thing that differs from its predecessor was that Prince Paul was barely involved in this album, as RZA had more of a hand in the production this time around, as well as Wu-Tang producers, 4th Disciple and True Master. In fact, 4th Disciple and RZA both co-produced the album’s lead single, “Dangerous Mindz.” Not to mention that was one of the very few songs on the album that RZA rapped on. Too Poetic and Frukwan (or should I say Grym Reaper and Gatekeeper, their alternate names, respectively?) actually provided more of the lyrical content on this one. A couple of examples that had those two rapping on them were “Da Bomb” and “Unexplained.”

RZA shined on his lone solo track, “Twelve Jewelz.” While he may excel as a producer more than as a rapper, he has shown a lot of talent as a rapper himself and this song is proof. He has done some good solo work, too, but that is a topic for another day.

Now that I think about it, there is a little more Wu-Tang influence on this album as opposed to its predecessor. As mentioned before, there were tracks that RZA produced, along with the aforementioned producers, 4th Disciple and True Master, but then there were two tracks that were produced by Goldfinghaz and one from Darkim Be Allah. Let’s not forget that there were appearances by Killah Priest, Shabazz The Disciple and Hell Razah. So most of the Sunz of Man appeared on here. I am surprised that Prodigal Sunn and 60 Second Assassin didn’t appear. There could have been the whole group on there. Hell, I am surprised that some other Wu affiliates didn’t appear, or even the Wu-Tang Clan members. It would have been interesting to hear ODB, Meth, Rae, or Ghostface on this. Yes, I am aware that Gravediggaz was a side thing that RZA was involved in, but this album had the feel of a Wu-Tang album, whether it’s of the main group or even other members of the Wu empire. Either way, their involvement in the album did it justice. The three members of Sunz of Man did a good job on their appearances, especially in “Repentance Day.”

What about the horrorcore style on this album? As noted before, this album had a different feel in comparison to the first album, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t there. There were some songs that had somewhat of that feel. “Repentance Day,” “Pit of Snakes,” “Da Bomb,” and “Unexplained” were among the primary examples. Then you had the conscious songs. One of the standout tracks of that example was “The Night The Earth Cried.” There were such deep lyrics and a nice somber beat to go with it.

It seemed that this album was given average ratings when it came out. In my personal opinion, I really don’t think that this album is average, per se, and it’s definitely far from bad. While I won’t say that it’s as great as “6 Feet Deep,” it still stands on its own as an above-average album and it’s worthy of listening to. I wish that Prince Paul had more involvement in this one, though the production from RZA and his fellow Wu producers was still good.

4/5

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Dangerous Mindz
  2. The Night The Earth Cried
  3. Repentance Day
  4. Fairytalz
  5. Elimination Process
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Album Reviews

Album Review: Gravediggaz – 6 Feet Deep

Year of Release: 1994

Record Label: Gee Street Records

It must be said: Horrorcore rap may seem like something that is rarely heard of, but it is not as uncommon as one would think. While I may have covered some of the bases in my review of the Flatlinerz album, one must know that while that album may have been rather infamous for some subject matter, that one actually came out AFTER the debut album of the Gravediggaz.

The Gravediggaz was a horrorcore supergroup that consisted of RZA (As the Rzarector), Prince Paul (As The Undertaker, not to be confused of the professional wrestler of the same name), and two rappers named Frukwan and Too Poetic, who respectively went by the aliases of The Gatekeeper and The Grym Reaper. According to some sources, the album was initially supposed to be titled “N***amortis,” but was changed to help appeal to the American audience.

When you actually listen to the tracks of this album, the songs really had that horror vibe to them. Prince Paul had a hand at most of the production of this album, if not almost all of it. A lot of the beats sounded rather unsettling. The verses from each of the rappers who provided the vocals each did a good job with it. RZA’s verse from “1-800 Suicide” was REALLY unsettling. Shabazz The Disciple of the Sunz of Man, a group that is affiliated with Wu-Tang, provided a dope verse in “Diary of a Madman,” one of the album’s best tracks:

Bear witness, as I exercise my exorcism
The evil that lurks within the sin, the terrorism
Possessed by evil spirits, voices from the dead
I come forth with Gravediggaz in a head full of dread
I’ve been examined ever since I was semen
They took a sonogram and seen the image of a demon
At birth, nurses surrounded me with needles
and drugged me all up with the diseases of evil
Grew up in hell, now I dwell in an Islamic Temple
I’m fighting a holy war in the mental
Look deep into my eyes, you’ll see visions of death
Possessed by homicide is what I’m obsessed
Giving niggaz brain dimples
Dragging they asses on my hook by they temples
The cause of death is unknown to the cops
Cause when I kill them, I’m not leavin one element to autopse
First I’ll assassinate em
And them I’ll cremate them
and take all of his fucking ashes and evaporate em
Or creep through the graveyard and hunt down your tombstone
Dig up your skeleton and stomp all your fucking bones
You try to haunt me nigga, I ain’t trying to hear it
Buck Buck Buck, I’ll give your ass a holy spirit.

Speaking of that song, that was one of the few tracks on this album that RZA had his hand in the production, though Prince Paul had produced some of it, too. Not to mention that it was probably the only track that had some Wu affiliates on it, Shabazz and Killah Priest. Also, according to a review that I read about this album, RZA provided a sample of an unused Wu-Tang demo, and then you have a sample from a Johnny Mathis song that sounds like it came straight from an old horror film.

Every song on here had a vibe of rage. “Bang Your Head” is a great example, as well as “Graveyard Chamber.” Then you have some songs that just sound really creepy, like the title track. It wasn’t just the beats that gave an unsettling vibe, it was also the delivery of the verses, one example being “Nowhere To Run, Nowhere To Hide.”

It’s been 23 years since this album had come out and it still holds up. It may be a horrorcore album (Not that it’s a bad thing), but you can listen to it like any other hip-hop album and just try to look past the violent and hateful lyrics. It is top-to-bottom a great album, even the interludes are worth listening to.

One more thing, it appeared that the European release of this album had a song called “Pass The Shovel.” Why this didn’t appear on the Western release is beyond me. It is off da chain!

5/5

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Diary of a Madman
  2. Detective Trip (Trippin’)
  3. 1-800 Suicide
  4. Blood Brothers
  5. Graveyard Chamber
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