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.


Top Five Tracks:

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


Top Five Tracks:

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

Album Review: Flatlinerz – U.S.A. (Under Satan’s Authority)

Year of Release: 1994

Record Label: Def Jam Recordings

It has been three months since I have done anything for this site. I haven’t been up on my stuff lately. I even had plans not too long ago, and they are still on the table, too, but I have not gotten around to it. Also, I must note that I had planned on writing about this subject around this time last year, in honor of Halloween, even though I am sure that the sub-genre for this album has quite a catalog that it isn’t necessary (More on this later), but I still wanted to do it during this time of year.

Why would I have to do this album around this time, especially with horrorcore being a somewhat common sub-genre in rap? Well, the main reason is that I wanted to, and another is that this album sort of kicked off the genre to some degree. Yes, I know that there were other horrorcore rappers that existed before this album came out, like Brotha Lynch Hung (Sacramento represent!) and Esham, but it could be argued that this album was an attempt at making it mainstream. I will also note that I remember watching some special on MTV in 2001 (Yes, even in that time, there were still programs related to music, even though reality shows were also common on that channel then) about hip-hop and mentioned the genre of horrorcore rap and mention the Flatlinerz. Months later, I read a review of the Bones soundtrack and the writer made a reference to this album, as well as the Gravediggaz.

Years ago, I went and bought this album, and I have to say that it was a definitely worthy of my money. But why is another question. After listening to a lot of the tracks on this album, some of them reminded me of songs from Onyx. Truth be told, a lot of this album may have the feel of your basic hip-hop album, at least when hearing the beats. The lyrics, on the other hand, had more of horror-like feel. For example, when hearing “Good Day To Die,” “718,” and “Flatline,” the beat seemed reminiscent to some songs from Redman or EPMD. Then you had tracks like “Sonic Boom,” which sounded like an Onyx track with some of the background yelling. Funny notes on that song, I kind of liked the minor reference to the Number 12 song from Sesame Street and if you listen closely to the end of the song, you can hear a sample “Sonic Boom” from “Street Fighter II.” The producers did a good job on that bit.

For the most part, the album felt like a street-style rap album with the musical production, but the lyrical content had more of the horror elements to it, at least in some ways. There was some violent content in the lyrics, but it’s really not that much different than hearing some violent lyrics in gangsta rap. If you want to talk which songs had more of a horror-like vibe, look no further than the album’s three singles, “Satanic Verses,” “Live Evil,” and “Rivaz of Red.” Actually, it was more in the second half of the album when the horror-like elements as a whole started to really kick off. “Takin’ ‘Em Underground” is a good example of a horrorcore song. The rappers’ verses combined both lyrics related to the subject matter, along with the delivery to make it sound a little scary. The beat even sounded like it came from a horror film. The rest of the album had a similar feel, that is also including the interludes along the way.

Now that I think about it, being that this was released during the days when cassettes were still relevant, I wonder if the songs were split into halves to depict what to expect on one side and what to expect on the other side. Then again, I wonder about “Scary Us,” which was one of the first songs on this album. That one had a horror vibe, but it was also mixed with street-like hip-hop beats used for it.

I read in the liner notes for “Rivaz of Red” that the song had a sample of “Tonight’s Da Night” from Redman, as well as “Thriller” from Michael Jackson, but I swear that I hear the intro bit to “Don’t Be Cruel” from Bobby Brown in the sample. It sounds just like it that it has to be the bit in the intro to that album.

I read how that was some controversy about this album. Apparently, there was some speculation how these guys were Satan worshippers and it really put a damper in the sales for this album. It’s a shame, really, because this album kind of mixed styles of East Coast NY hip-hop with the horrorcore genre, when talking about some graphic violent depictions of murder, as well as some references to the occult. It really isn’t that much different from anything from the east coast at that time, and it was nice touch in adding horrorcore elements to it.

If you want to read the article on how this group and album was “misunderstood,” click here.

Before I close out this review, check out the music videos for the three singles. I also must note that the intro of the “Satanic Verses” video was the intro to “Live Evil.”

I highly recommend this album.


Top Five Tracks:

  1. Satanic Verses
  2. Live Evil
  3. Rivaz of Red
  4. Takin’ ‘Em Underground
  5. Good Day To Die

Honorable Mentions: “Scary-Us” and “Flatline.”


Rap Movie Reviews

Movie Review – All Eyez on Me

Year of Release: 2017

Production Company: Summit Entertainment/Morgan Creek Productions/Program Pictures/Codeblack Films

It must be said: there is no denying that Tupac Shakur has maintained his popularity throughout the years, even more than two decades after his untimely demise. His deep-in-though lyrics really touched the minds and hearts of not just hip-hop fans, but also other people who have struggled in the things that were related to his music. It was apparent that a biopic would be made about the fallen rap star.

“All Eyez on Me” is the third rap biopic to be released theatrically, following 2009’s “Notorious” and 2015’s “Straight Outta Compton.” With the cultural impact that Pac had on the masses, there was no doubt that a biopic should be released in theaters.

However, unlike SOC, it’s sad to say that AEOM doesn’t have the best production value or even storytelling that SOC had.

The first thing that must be noted is that Demetrius Shipp Jr not only has a strong resemblance to Pac, but I have to give him credit for trying in his debut role. But I still had some issues with the film.

WARNING: There may be spoilers ahead.

The thing that was distracting about the film is that there was no real flow to the storytelling. The movie in a nutshell was mainly that Pac was interviewed by a journalist who was covering his life story. It talked about how Pac was brought up by his mother, who was a black panther and how he ended up starting off as an actor before becoming a rapper. Also, it showed a bit of his friendship with Jada Pinkett. So it talked about how he was first discovered by Digital Underground. I have to hand it to the casting director for casting the guy who played Shock G, as he looked so much like him and even had some of his mannerisms. Anyway, then it showed sequences filming certain scenes from movies like “Juice” and “Above The Rim.” I really wonder what the point of those scenes were. Yes, everyone knows that Pac was an actor as well, but I didn’t find any of that to be crucial to the story. I will say that I didn’t mind that those bits were recreated with some people playing the actors whom he shared those scenes with. I wonder if some scenes in that when he filmed “Poetic Justice,” “Gridlock’d,” and “Gang Related” were done but just left on the cutting room floor. I wonder about the actors who played Janet Jackson, Tim Roth, and Jim Belushi respectively, because the guy who was supposed to be Omar Epps looked nothing like him. The same could be said about Leon, the guy who played Pac’s character’s brother in ATR.

Another thing that I noticed was that clips of some music videos were recreated in some sequences like the video to Digital Underground’s “Same Song,” as well as “I Get Around.” Not to mention certain interviews in which every single word and mannerism were done to recreate them. As well as certain pictures that were shot, like the one with him and Faith Evans, and the infamous snapshot of him with Suge Knight right before the shooting in Vegas.

Of course, the film touched on the sexual assault charge that Pac was jailed for, as well as what led to his beef with Biggie. Speaking of whom, I noticed that the guy who played Biggie in “Notorious” was the same actor who played him in this film. I didn’t mind it, as Jamal Woolard is a rapper himself and had to use his prowess for rapping in a scene.

Then came when Pac joined Death Row Records. I am well aware of a lot of terrible and shady stuff that happened within that label, but certain sequences really made the film take it to a different level. It almost felt like I was watching a different movie. For example, during a scene at a dinner, when Suge Knight was about to confront someone, all of a sudden some ominous music started playing and then showed that he, along with other guys, started to torture this guy. In a way, I get that it was to show that Suge was a scumbag and a dangerous man, but that part made me think that I was watching a gangster movie at that moment. Same with when Suge and some other guys took some guy into a room and jumped him.

Another thing that was distracting was the guy who played Snoop Dogg. I actually wondered if Snoop lent his voice to dub the actor who played him. It sounded just like him that it could have been a dub.

Anyway, also, at that point, it talked about his romance with Kidada Jones, whom Pac was engaged to around the time of his death. That part felt shoehorned in, same with the bit of Jada Pinkett confronting Pac, which led to an alleged falling out between the two (More on this later). Same with how it showed the falling out between Snoop and Pac, and then came Vegas, and you know the rest. Oh, and I noticed that the real security footage from the casino beat-down that took place that very night was used. So it didn’t seem like he had to reenact that bit.

End Spoilers.

As I had stated before, I had no problem with Shipp’s portrayal of Tupac, as I can see that he tried his hardest to play the role. I also have no problem with some inaccuracies as I had noticed some of them in SOC.¬†Around the time of its release, Jada Pinkett had noted on Twitter about how there was inaccuracy in the film, like how Pac read her a poem, or her having attended any of his shows. But the main problem I had is that it just jumped around from one sequence to another. It could be argued that it was because Pac was being interviewed and had stories to show and tell, but it still didn’t feel like what happened after was very consistent.

I really wonder if Lionsgate is going to put out an extended cut later on with a little more footage or at least have it edited better than what was shown in the final product. I can’t say that I liked or loved the film, but I am just curious because of so many things that I would like to see. I really wonder if there was some footage of reenactments of when he shot his other films and music videos.

Overall, I very much preferred “Straight Outta Compton.” It’s been years since I have seen “Notorious,” but I may need to revisit that one. I really can’t give this film a pass.



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.

Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – State Property 2: Blood On The Streets

Year of Release: 2005

Film Studio: Lionsgate Films/Dash Films

I never thought that I would say this, but this film is more watchable than its predecessor. There I said it. However, that still doesn’t mean that this film is without problems.

Okay, I think I am getting a little ahead of myself here. Let me start over.

If you read my review of the first film, you will see that I did not have a lot of nice things to say about that film. But because I had also planned on writing about the sequel, I told myself to suck it up and sit through it.

I had never seen any scenes from this movie prior to watching it, unlike the first film. All I can remember is seeing that the DVD artwork was the same as the cover artwork for Beanie Sigel’s “The B. Coming,” which was released around the same time as this film. I wouldn’t doubt if some of his songs from that album were even in this film.

Anyway, this film sort of picked up where the first film left off, although I will note that a lot of what was shown at the beginning didn’t make any sense because of how the first film ended. Of course, there had to be a way to explain how everything turned out in order to set up the story for this film. Basically after the prologue, it shows Beans in jail for all of what happened and he ends meeting a fellow criminal named El Pollo Loco, played by N.O.R.E., who is a gangster from Miami. The two eventually become business partners, until one screws the other and then all hell breaks loose. Not to mention that Dame gets involved in the mix, Beans’ rival in the first film.

This film is different from its predecessor in a lot of ways. One of the most noticeable differences is how this film is a lot more comical than the first one. The whole movie does not take itself seriously and a lot of scenes come off as humorous in some areas. Even with some of the predictability, the movie was still a little entertaining. But even though it was a little entertaining, that doesn’t mean that the film was good. However, a lot of the editing and camera work kind of helped with the comical nature that this film had.

One thing that I had noticed is that there were A LOT of cameos in this film. One of the parts that stood out to me was a montage of different Roc-A-Fella artists appearing, and they were addressed by their own stage names, as if they were playing themselves. But they were playing characters, that of drug dealers or gangsters who are running their own streets. Cam’ron even appeared twice as two different characters. It was also funny seeing Kanye West (This was earlier in his career, like in the days of “College Dropout” and “Late Registration”) playing a gangster. I have never seen him play a role like that ever. Even the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who was signed to Roc-A-Fella before his death, had a funny cameo as a fry cook. Even the Young Gunz (Man, just noting this REALLY DATES this movie; I wonder what happened to them) made appearances, except they actually had bigger roles than the other artists who made cameos.

I was a little surprised to see that I found myself enjoying a LOT more than its predecessor. I don’t think it’s a good film, but it felt more self-aware this time around than the first one did. The first one suffered from cheesy acting and writing, not to mention a lot of gratuitous stuff. This film still had some gratuitous stuff, but at least it had some entertainment value. It’s actually a movie that you can laugh with or at. Whatever works for you.

Rap Movie Reviews

Rap Movie Review – State Property

Year of Release: 2002

Film Studio: Lionsgate Films

*Sigh*¬† I know that I haven’t keeping up with this lately. On one hand, I have been contemplating writing about the rest of my Fast & Furious soundtracks. Another part of me wants to write about Death Row albums, particularly post-Tupac death and also when Dre and Snoop departed the label (Probably because I have been on a Death Row kick lately, especially having written the Death Row Records documentary). Then I have remembered that I also wanted to review the State Property films.

I know that there are plenty of rap movies out there to talk about. The State Property films fall into the same category as when I wrote about Thicker Than Water and Hot Boyz. For all the shit that I had talked about with those two, I think I have found a film that kind of blows them out of the water in terms of badness. I am sure that in some areas I still get a little nostalgic for Thicker Than Water and while I have spoken ill about Hot Boyz (Note to self: Watch other No Limit films), I think I may have found a film that I can put above it in terms of some of the worst rap movies that I have seen.

State Property is basically a movie that stars Beanie Sigel as a character named Beans who is trying to make a name for himself in the crime world. He wants to be feared and known by everyone and has a bunch of guys working for him. Of course, there are a bunch of gangster movie cliches of “one guy messing up and getting killed for it” or “someone pissed off the wrong guy, so he has to get tortured.” Not to mention drug deals gone wrong and women getting kidnapped, as well as random shootouts taking place. You get the picture.

Usually with these types of films, I don’t expect great acting from them. Also, the story has every cliche there is. It’s no secret that this film sucks. Although I will admit that there were moments when I laughed AT certain parts. But when these rappers on screen are only good at playing certain personas, that just showed how they needed to take acting lessons prior to it. It didn’t help that there was not a single likeable character in this film. Though Beans was the protagonist, there was nothing about to make me want to root for him.

It also was of no help how this film was loaded with misogyny. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like looking at scantily-clad women just as much as the next guy, but there was no purpose in some of the scenes with closeups of a woman’s body. Also, a minor spoiler, but in one scene when a deal took place, the camera turned and closed in on a couple of women sharing a rather gratuitous kiss. There was absolutely no reason for that part to even be in the movie other than fanservice.

While the poster said had Jay-Z billed, he was only in it for about five seconds max. The other Roc-A-Fella guys had bigger roles than Jigga himself. Damon Dash had a bigger role than Jay-Z, for crying out loud. Hell, I didn’t even expect to see Amil (Remember her? As in the woman in “Can I Get A…”?) in the film. It seemed like this was a film project for Roc-A-Fella.

I really don’t know what else to say about this film except that this was a bad film, though I think you may have already gotten the picture after reading all of this. I will admit that I remember flipping through channels and coming across it on HBO a long time ago and seeing how bad the acting was from the two minutes I saw of it. However, only one positive I can say about it was that it had a good soundtrack, which I may write about in the future.

Of course, I am aware of the sequel, which I will do next.