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Rest In Peace, Albert Johnson, aka Prodigy (1974-2017)

I was shocked and saddened to hear in the news recently that Prodigy passed away. I have read in the past that he suffered from sickle cell anemia all of his life. I can’t even begin to say how sad it was to hear about this. I also saw on social media that there was a picture with him hanging out with Ghostface Killah and others. What the caption said was that it was three days prior to his death and that he seemed healthy in that photo. All I can say is that nobody really knows when they will go. However, I will say that he will be missed.

Maybe in the near future I will critique Mobb Deep albums, along with Prodigy’s solo efforts. I can probably add in Havoc’s solo effort as well. Stay tuned for that.

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Compilation Review – Irv Gotti Presents: The Remixes

Year of Release: 2002

Label: Murder Inc Records/Murda Management

Here I am in my final review of the Murder Inc compilations. Okay, technically that is not true as I have the soundtrack to The Fast and The Furious to do, but I will do that for my Fast & Furious soundtrack marathon special when the eighth film comes out. But other than that, I had devoted this month to reviewing the compilations from The Inc. I may do some other stuff in the future like maybe try to review Ja Rule’s albums, maybe Ashanti’s albums and Lloyd’s albums as I am not opposed to doing reviews of R&B albums for this site. I also am considering finding a way to listen to the unreleased albums of Vita and Charli Baltimore, or at least some unreleased material that they put out. Until then, I am closing off this special with “Irv Gotti Presents: The Remixes.”

This album was released four months after “Irv Gotti Presents: The Inc,” which I can say that at the time the label was on fire (Until 50 Cent started making it a trend to hate on the label). While the second Murder Inc compilation was done to showcase what more the label had to offer during that time, this compilation was released to showcase, well, remixes, at least for the most part.

You would know if a song is a remix because on the back of the case it says “Remix,” but not all of the songs are remixes. Some of them are original tracks that feature some of the label’s talent, and I suppose that Gotti wanted to release them to help market them. Or maybe they didn’t make the cut for the previous compilation.

I first must talk about the remixes to Ashanti’s hit songs from that time. The main thing that I had noticed is that there are TWO remixes to “Baby,” one of which had Scarface and the other had Crooked I. The version with Scarface was similar to the original version and he did a couple of verses that went well with the song. I have a feeling that Face’s contribution to the song was probably because “Baby” had the exact same beat as his song called “Mary Jane” from his album, “Untouchable.” As for the version with Crooked I, he had a couple of verses, too, but there were some parts that I felt were a bit out of place when he rapped. No disrespect for Crooked I, but I didn’t exactly think much of that version. He had decent rhymes and is a good rapper, but his bit seemed out of place when he rapped about thuggin’ and stuff. Scarface, on the other hand, had some deep rhymes in that version. If anything, I think the Scarface version is better.

As for the “Happy” remix, while the original sampled the Gap Band’s “Outstanding” to some degree, this version had lifted the beat completely and it felt like a cover to that song. Ashanti even paid homage to that song in some parts, while Charli Baltimore, D.O. Cannon, and Young Merc added the raps to the song.

If you want to talk about a good remix on here, look no further than the remix to “The Pledge.” While Ashanti sang the chorus this song and the beat was the same, it felt like a different song from the original as there was more emphasis on Nas and Ja Rule rapping on this song. One thing that I noticed is that Ja took a few shots at DMX in this song (As they were beefing during that time) and he sort of bit 2Pac in some areas (Let’s not get into the closing parts of the song or the whole thing that escalated in his beef with 50 Cent), he did a good job in this song. Nas also did a good job in his part.

I could only think of one other remix to a song that was worth noting. The remix to “O.G.” from Black Child and Caddillac Tah actually improved on the original. However, the remix to “No One Does It Better” did not include Charli Baltimore at all as she was in the original. I didn’t mind it, but there could have been one verse from her when it was mainly Ja, Tah, and Black Child on it.

The rest of the album were original tracks that I wondered why they were there in the first place. One song in particular was “Me and My Boyfriend” from Toni Braxton, which Irv Gotti had produced. Now I don’t think it’s a bad song. Toni’s vocals are good as always she always impresses with her singing, but this song was more or less a knock-off or cover of 2Pac’s “Me and My Girlfriend,” but then again you also had “03 Bonnie and Clyde” from Jay-Z and Beyonce that came out around the same time. The rest of the original tracks felt like filler, with the exception of “Come-N-Go,” which was a standout.

For some reason, the album also included “Rainy Dayz” from Mary J. Blige and Ja Rule, and also “Unfoolish” from Ashanti and The Notorious B.I.G. I find this pointless considering how “Unfoolish” was already on Ashanti’s self-titled album and “Rainy Dayz” was on the 2002 re-release of “No More Drama.” In some ways I could understand the latter being on here, but in that case, there could have also been other remixes added to here like “I’m Real” and “Ain’t It Funny,” both of which had Jennifer Lopez. I am aware that they were released on different albums prior to this, but being that this was a remix album, why couldn’t they include those songs?

To Murder Inc’s credit, there were some decent tracks on here that stand out. Some of the other songs felt like filler. I am not really sure where I stand on this album, even though I very much prefer the other two compilations that they had put out. I know it’s a remix album, so it’s different, but at the same time there was some room for improvement in some areas. I would say that this album was just average at best.

3/5

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. The Pledge Remix
  2. Baby Remix (The one with Scarface)
  3. Come-N-Go
  4. I’m So Happy Remix
  5. O.G. Remix
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Compilation Review – Irv Gotti Presents: The Inc

Year of Release: 2002

Label: Murder Inc Records/Murda Management

Continuing with my special on Murder Inc compilations, the second one that The Inc had put out had seen the roster expanding a lot more than before. One could argue that the Murderers compilation had a lot more content considering there were more tracks on that one, but during the time this album had come out the roster had gotten new talent, and also had some selling albums in the process. Ja Rule had come out with “Pain is Love” the year prior, as well as “The Last Temptation” on the way later that year. Ashanti had come out with her self-titled debut album earlier that year, which had hit songs in “Foolish,” “Baby” and “Happy.” So The Inc had found its mark in the hip-hop and R&B industry at that point, which had the label put out another compilation album which showcased the talents and skills of the performers of that label.

While a few familiar faces had returned such as Ja, Vita, Ronnie Bumps, Black Child, 0-1, and Caddillac Tah (Formerly known as Tah Murdah), this compilation included the likes of new talent such as Chink Santana, Jody Mack, D.O. Cannon, and Young Merc (Pronounced “merce,” not “merk” like how it is often pronounced) as well as Ashanti, who had quite a presence up to the point of the release of this album, and Charli Baltimore, who was known before signing to The Inc and had an album that was shelved (I will try to hear “Cold as Ice” one day if I find a way). So she was a veteran in the game up to that point.

So with a lineup like this, it would seem that the best way to let the world hear what they are made of is through a compilation or mixtape. So did The Inc offer some good talent and songs to go with it? Well, let’s see.

Like the previous compilation before this, most of the songs were collaborations between different artists. However, unlike The Murderers album, there were less solo songs. In fact, there were only two this time around. In fact, the only solo tracks on here were from Black Child and Chink Santana. “O.G.” from Black Child has a laid-back beat to it but the content from the lyrics and the chorus left more to be desired than the beat. While “Hold On” from Chink Santana was actually a deeper track. He sang about struggles in the ghetto and also life in general. He also a good job in the production of this track.

When I said that there were a lot of collaborative songs on here, I meant that. Many of the songs have the subject matter of being thugs and gangsters and anything of that nature. Even the intro to this album was more of a song than an interlude with some of the rappers providing some verses here and there. “Gangstafied” is a definite example about living the gangster life with a good beat and chorus to go with it. The only part that seemed to be the one flaw of this song was Ronnie Bumps’s verse. It was not terrible, but it felt a little out of place. It was still a good song, though.

Every time I hear “Down 4 U,” it reminds me of the summer of 2002 because that song was everywhere during that time. People can say what they want about how Ja did a lot of R&B and love songs during that time, but there is no denying that he had a lot of hits that charted, including those lovey-dovey songs that he did. This was one of them, by the way. Ja had assistance from Vita, Ashanti, and Charli Baltimore in this song. Ashanti provided a good chorus with her vocals as well as a good verse. Vita and Charli Baltimore did a good job in their verses, too. Plus, the beat was nice, too. I have to hand it to 7 Aurelius for providing some influence in the production.

Speaking of 7 Aurelius, he also did some production for a couple of other songs on this compilation, which are “No One Does It Better” and “The Pledge.” The former is a collaboration between Charli Baltimore and Ashanti. It is really more Chuck’s track as she actually had verses while Ashanti mostly did the chorus of the song. Charli has a good flow and I have always thought that she was an underrated female rapper. While “The Pledge” is basically the closest to a solo Ashanti track on there. Bear this in mind, this is the original version as the more known version is the remix with Nas and Ja. Anyway, this song also had Caddillac Tah providing the rap on this song. I have always thought that this version was more underrated as it’s a good R&B track and it seems to be overshadowed by the remix. Ashanti did a good job on this song, with both the verses and the chorus, while Tah’s verse was actually pretty good.

Many of the other tracks are mostly songs with a lot of the then-new artists from the label showing the world what they have. Some of them stood out in some areas, others didn’t exactly measure up. One thing that I had noticed is that the song “Tha Nexx N****z” is a collaboration with a couple of Death Row artists from that time, Crooked I and Eastwood. I remember reading about how Death Row and Murder Inc were sort of collaborating at that point, which was the reason why there were appearances from those two. I am more familiar with Crooked I (This was way before Slaughterhouse, by the way) than I am with Eastwood, although I remember reading about him way back when. I think that this song is the only appearance from Dave Bing, who had a few more tracks on The Murderers compilation than he did here. Still a decent track, though.

One standout track in particular is the song “We Still Don’t Give A Fuck,” which is obviously a follow-up to “We Don’t Give A Fuck” from the previous compilation. One exception is that there is no sample of a Rocky song (Well, it’s actually Bill Conti’s score, but you probably would know what I mean) and that there are more people this time around. Also, Ja was not on this track at all, neither was Vita. However, it gave some of the other artists a chance to shine. This was song was also among the very few appearances of 0-1.

Although “Down 4 U” was the main single from this album, there was another song that was a single on this album, but it had existed before it came out. That song is “Ain’t It Funny,” the Murder Remix from Jennifer Lopez, Ja Rule, and Caddillac Tah. When I first heard this, I was a bit surprised to find it on here as J-Lo’s remix album had already been out before this one was released, but I guess because there was a Murder Inc influence to it that it was inevitable that it would be on this one. I am not complaining as it had a good beat, even though it was a direct sample of Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear.”

In the end, this album was not bad. It was decent, if good in some areas, but my main issue is that it felt like there was more focus on the newer artists on this. Also, being that Charli Baltimore was a seasoned veteran, there could have been a lot more songs that she could have rapped on. I have read that she even had an album on Murder Inc that was set to be released, but it didn’t happen. I wonder if there is a way to listen to it. Irv Gotti did a good job with the production. Of course, this compilation was mainly to give music fans a taste of what the label had to offer at the time.

3.5/5

Next Up: Irv Gotti Presents: The Remixes

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. Down 4 U
  2. Gangstafied
  3. We Still Don’t Give A Fuck
  4. The Pledge
  5. Hold On
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A List of Some Great Rap Love Songs

Hello, people. Here is a list of some 10 rap songs about love. They are in no real order.

P. Diddy feat. Usher and Loon – I Need A Girl Part 1

I never really thought that P. Diddy was a great rapper, but you can’t deny that this song was hot back in the day. Plus, Usher did a great job on the chorus.

P. Diddy feat. Mario Winans and Loon – I Need A Girl Part 2

Like the first one, this song was also hot. I liked the beat used for it and Mario Winans did a good job on the hook.

Method Man & Mary J. Blige – I’ll Be There For You/You’re All I Need To Get By (Puff Daddy Mix)

There are actually three versions. There was the original from the album, Tical. Also the Razor Sharp Mix and then of course this version. Out of those three, I prefer this version.

LL Cool J – I Need Love

One of the original hip-hop love songs and it still holds up to this day.

LL Cool J and Boyz II Men – Hey Lover

Another one from LL and he had Boyz II Men to provide the chorus. It is still a classic love jam.

Slick Rick – Teenage Love

A great song from Rick The Ruler himself.

Lost Boyz – Renee

I have always liked this song. Mr. Cheeks rapped about his late girlfriend. The beat really goes with the tragic feel of this song.

The Notorious B.I.G. – One More Chance (Remix)

I prefer this version over the original version.

Common feat. Mary J. Blige – Come Close

Ja Rule feat. Vita and Lil’ Mo – Put It On Me (The Radio version)

I am aware of the version on Rule 3:36 without Lil’ Mo, but I prefer this one because her vocals made the song better in my opinion.

Anyway, that is it for my list. I know that there are a lot of rap songs about love out there, but these are the ones that I like the most.

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Compilation Review – Irv Gotti Presents: The Murderers

Year of Release: 2000

Record Label: Murder Inc./Def Jam Records

It is now February and I have been planning on doing a series of album reviews related to Murder Inc. At the moment I mainly have the compilations of the label, like The Murderers, The Inc and The Remixes. I don’t have a lot of Ja Rule albums. I have Ashanti albums, although while I might do R&B albums in the future, I am not thinking about doing them for my special of The Inc. My mind may change. I also don’t have any of Lloyd’s albums, so that can’t be done soon either. The only other album that I have is the soundtrack to The Fast and The Furious but I am saving that for my marathon of the Fast & Furious soundtracks come March through April in honor of The Fate of The Furious and I will cop the soundtrack album of that and review it.

Anyway, compilations from record labels are a rather common thing in the hip-hop world. A lot of the time the labels put out these compilation albums in order to have a lot of their lineup shine, to show the world what some of these artists are made of. Sure, you can have albums from said artists from the label but it takes a lot of time and money to see if they are marketable enough to release them. Some get released, and some others don’t. Of course, a good example in the rap world that had an extensive lineup of artists and albums coming out almost every week is No Limit Records, but that is a subject for another day. I am going to talk about the first compilation album that Murder Inc. Records had released called “Irv Gotti Presents: The Murderers.”

According to a review from AllMusic.com, The Murderers (Or Murder Inc) was initially supposed to be a project regarding a supergroup consisting of Ja Rule, Jay-Z and DMX. Unfortunately there had been some issues along the way and the project never really got past its preliminary stages. In the end, what was released was a compilation of tracks put out by rappers on the Murder Inc. label, such as Ja Rule, Tah Murdah (Later known as Caddillac Tah), Black Child, Chris Black, 01, Vita, etc. That’s not a bad thing, however.

For the most of this compilation, it consists of tracks with multiple artists. There are a lot of collaborative songs on here, and very little solo songs to be found. When talking about the solo efforts, one song that stands out in different ways probably has to be “Vita, Vita, Vita” from, well, Vita. I had never doubted Vita’s efforts as a rapper as she has done a lot of good verses in many songs that she has been in. I also found it to be a shame that her solo debut, “La Dolce Vita” was shelved. Anyway, back to the song. Her verses on this track are actually solid, but what docks points from it were the repetitive chorus and the introductory hooks from Ja, Tah and Black Child that appeared prior to a verse. It was mostly average in my opinion. Then you also have a song from DMX on here called “Tales From The Darkside,” which I sort of wondered why because X was not a part of the label (Though he did collaborate with Ja at that point). Regarding the song itself, it actually feels like a lost entry in DMX’s “Damien” saga. The beat actually has a sinister vibe to it and X even did his “Damien” voice at some moments. Anyway, it’s an exceptional listen, so I can’t complain about a DMX track being on this compilation.

As far as other solo tracks go, Black Child had a couple of them, one of which had a laidback beat. Tah Murdah did a decent job in his song, “Get It Right.”

The last solo track that was featured on here happened to have been one of three songs that had appeared on soundtracks to movies that came out prior to this album’s release. “How Many Wanna Die” from Ja had appeared on the soundtrack to 1999’s Light It Up. The song has a rather gritty beat and Ja doing more singing-like rapping in this song. Not like how he did R&B/Pop-like songs like he did after this, but more in the style of how Bone Thugs did some songs.

The other two songs that had initially appeared on movie soundtrack albums were “Somebody’s Gonna Die Tonight” from Dave Bing and Lil’ Mo and “We Murderers Baby” from Ja and Vita, having appeared on the soundtracks to Romeo Must Die and Next Friday, respectively. “Somebody’s Gonna Die Tonight” is actually one of my favorite songs on here as Dave Bing provided some raw rhymes in the song, while Lil’ Mo did a good job singing the chorus. While “We Murderers Baby” is a decent duet from Ja and Vita.

The rest of the album consists of collaborative efforts. Some of the tracks are decent, but the best ones are probably “We Don’t Give a Fuck” and the “Holla Holla Remix.” The latter has a good lineup ranging from Ja to Busta Rhymes and Jay-Z, with each rapper giving it their all in the track. While “We Don’t Give a Fuck” used a sample from Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now,” as in the same song from the Rocky movies. The use of that sample can really get you pumped up, even if it is not the song it sampled.

Irv Gotti definitely had a lot of influence on this album, according to the liner notes. He had contributed a lot to the production of this album. I can’t complain about it because a lot of the beats were actually good. My least favorite song on here was “If You Were My Bitch,” mostly because of the chorus. I also must add that the beat wasn’t done by Gotti, but it was from Damizza. The song had a good beat, however.

One other thing I noticed is that while this album had a total of 25 tracks on here, some of the tracks included filler skits that really didn’t need to be on there. I usually don’t have a problem with skits on albums, but part of me believed that it was to fill up the whole disc.

I have to hand it to Murder Inc for putting out a decent compilation when the label was getting its start. Many of the songs involved the same people, but it seemed like it was a group effort for everyone to do their thing, making a little room for a few solo joints here and there. Also, Irv Gotti did a good job on the production. So this album gets a pass from me.

Next up: Irv Gotti Presents: The Inc.

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. We Don’t Give a Fuck
  2. Somebody’s Gonna Die Tonight
  3. Shit Gets Ugly
  4. Holla Holla Remix
  5. Tales From The Darkside
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Album Review: Snoop Dogg presents Christmas In Tha Dogghouse

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Year: 2008

Label: Doggystyle Records

Here I am in my final post for my holiday special, well, for this year, anyway. I had trouble finding another Christmas rap album to do, and then I bought this album because I was curious about it.

Up until sometime this year, I had no knowledge about this compilation. While I had planned on writing about Christmas on Death Row and High Fo’ Xmas for a long time, I had trouble finding something another Christmas hip-hop album. Initially I had thought about buying the Christmas Rap compilation, which also included the holiday classic, “Christmas in Hollis” from Run-DMC, but I didn’t get around to it. I realize that there are more Christmas albums done by rappers out there, so I could probably do those in the years to come. I wouldn’t mind throwing in a few Christmas albums from R&B artists.

Anyway, regarding this album, I will say that it’s kind of odd to listen to, especially during the holidays. I had said that “High Fo’ Xmas” is funny to listen to considering its content and how most of the songs had very little to talk about regarding Christmas, but this album actually took the cake in being an odd listen. For example, the song “A Gift that Keeps on Giving” from Damani felt like a song that belonged somewhere else. While holiday references were made, the flow sounded like he wanted to use that for a totally different song and the chorus repeated itself numerous times towards the end. It almost felt like it had skipped multiple times to the point where it felt like it wouldn’t end.

Also, “A Very Special Christmas” felt like the singer, Uncle Chucc, didn’t put a lot of effort into his vocal performance. It could have been better than it actually was.

In fact, many of the songs on this album left a lot more to be desired. I didn’t have a problem with the beats that were used in a few of the songs, as “My Mama Trippin on Christmas” had a nice beat to go with the holiday feel, but the subject matter in the lyrics didn’t go with the flow of the song. The flow of the rapping went with the beat better than the lyrics, however.

The parts that actually shined on this album were done by the veterans in Snoop, Kurupt, Daz, Lil 1/2 Dead and The Twinz. Nothing against the other artists, but I actually found more enjoyment in “This Christmas” from Tha Dogg Pound as well as “Just Like Xmas” from Lil 1/2 Dead and The Twinz. “Look Out” was another one that stood out as it included a few of the aforementioned veterans, as well as a good chorus from Nate Dogg (RIP). Snoop, Daz and Kurupt all had good verses in the song. “Xmas Trees” from Kurupt is actually a fun track to listen to, especially with a few references to weed. It lit up the album more, no pun intended.

The song “When Was Jesus Born?” from Lil Gee is a song I can give an A for effort, too, but it still could have been better. The vocals reminded me a little bit of T-Pain. The beat was decent, though, and I have to say that the subject matter really captured the Christmas spirit in the religious sense.

Back to when I talked about the songs from Damani, it was not his fault that the songs weren’t great. In fact I am curious about checking out more of his stuff in the future because he had shown promise as a rapper and I know he was also affiliated with Snoop. But the songs he did weren’t exactly great as he was not given decent content to work with.

In spite of a few good things that I said about this album, I really did not care for it. I don’t know if I will find myself jamming to this in the Christmases to come, at least not like Christmas on Death Row. I actually enjoyed that album and High Fo’ Xmas is something that I would put on if I am bored or something around the holiday season. I don’t recommend this album, but it’s a downloadable album so I would only recommend a handful of tracks. It really was not a good album in my opinion.

Top 5 Tracks:

  1. Look Out
  2. This Christmas
  3. Twas The Night Before Christmas
  4. Xmas Trees
  5. Just Like Xmas
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Other Christmas rap songs and Chronic commercials.

Hello, being that Christmas is near, and I mean NEAR, I decided to do a piece on a couple of Christmas rap songs that I like listening to around this time. I also want to touch on commercials for The Chronic, which came out in December of 1992. There are two songs that I will talk about, and they are “It’s The Holidaze” from Westside Connection and “Merry Muthaphuckkin’ Xmas” from Eazy-E, along with other Ruthless artists from that time. Now why on earth did I not do a review on the “Friday After Next” soundtrack instead, or even a review on Eazy’s EP, “5150: Home 4 Tha Sick”? Well I don’t own the “Friday After Next” soundtrack and if I get my hands on it, I will only do it around Christmas-time considering that film took place during the holidays. As for “5150,” I plan to do that one in the future. So without further ado, here are the songs.

NOTE: None of these videos are mine.

I have to say that the Eazy-E song is hilarious because it’s a total parody of Christmas songs with a bunch of violent, drug and sexual content added into the mix. One part that had always cracked me up was the spoof of “My Mom Kissing Santa Claus.” Same with Eazy’s bit when he spoofed “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Also, I later learned that a Will.i.am and Apl.De.App from Black Eyed Peas were once signed to Ruthless Records, but under different names. They were initially known as The Atban Klann and had recorded an unreleased album for Ruthless during that time. Unlike “High Fo’ Xmas,” this song is THE definition of a Christmas gangsta rap song. It is definitely not family-friendly, but it is good for a laugh, especially around the holiday season.

As for “It’s The Holidaze,” I remember watching this video many times throughout the years as it has become my own personal Christmas tradition to listen to it around this time of the year. I like how in the video with each verse, they all have the different color schemes that go with Christmas. Ice Cube’s verse has it all white, WC’s verse is all green and Mack 10’s verse is all red. Also, I noticed how the beats transitioned a bit to go with the flows of each rapper. My personal favorite verse of the song was WC’s.

Now here comes another part that is a little unrelated, but it goes with the holidays.

I know that Dr. Dre had released “The Chronic” during the holiday season of 1992, but what cracks me up about these ads is the Christmas tree looking like it was made entirely of hemp. Also, one of the ads had a female voice-over say “Dr. Dre’s got the chronic, so take a hit.” I really wonder where these ads were seen. I would only guess that they were mainly shown on The Box, MTV (When they still aired videos) and probably BET. Hey, at least Death Row knew what they were doing with their advertising during those days. It feels kind of dated now seeing album ads done that way, but it’s still fun to see.

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