Friday, July 29, 2016

The Ill Relatives - Illustrations

The Ill Relatives is a group that hails from the eerie swamps of Baton Rouge, LA. It consists of Verge, Ryal, Drack Muse and Kool DJ Supamike. The collective was formed in the bustling halls of Southern University in South Baton Rouge. Two of the members are from the state of Illinois while the other two are from Louisiana. Hence the term "Ill," the "IL" is for Illinios and the other "L" is for Louisiana. The group is best known for emphasizing their deep and intellectual lyrics that are fused with some true and traditional Hip Hop style of beats. A type of style that is not a common practice in the state of Louisiana aside from the Psycho Ward and maybe even Bionik Brown (R.I.P.). Nevertheless, the group stayed humble and persistent and eventually released their full length debut album, Illustrations in 2001 on Nu Element Recordings. The production is managed by Gensu Dean and Drack Muse. Together, they team up to provide an eclectic composition of rhythms that are simply made but thoroughly engaging. A blend that is not only mellow but also very edgy and contemporary. The recipe for constructing the rhythms is of the olden days of Hip Hop and while it won't break any barriers musically, it still gives off a very refreshing vibe. Lyrically the album is also on point. The members are no slouch on the microphone and their verbal artistry is evident by their slick yet thought provoking rhymes. They take turns unleashing their various styles and their chemistry is certainly very commendable. Word play and technique are given the utmost attention so that the listener is immediately baited and hooked. The record closes out at a notable total of sixteen versatile tracks. Overall it's a very strong release by the group and one that can hold up against any premier release. Although this is another one of those hidden underground gems that are not easily located, it still has the power to challenge the mainstreams. In the end, it is up to the listener to discover the uncanny abilities of this solid work of art.

Deadly Verses

Album Notes
* The rhythm machine on the front cover is an Akai MPC2000.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Arrested Development - 3 Years, 5 Months And 2 Days in the Life Of...

Arrested Development is a collective that was founded in the sprawling city of Atlanta, GA. It consists of Speech, DJ Headliner, Baba Oje, JJ Boogie, Rasa Don, Za', Montsho Eshe, One Love, Aerle Taree and Dionne Farris. Speech formed the group in the late eighties, when he met DJ Headliner at the Art Institute Of Atlanta. Now, at the time of their meeting, Speech already had a group called the Disciples Of Lyrical Rebellion. Together, they gradually recruited a couple of vocalists as well as some musicians and renamed the group to Arrested Development. Each member brings their own distinct and provocative style to the table. For instance, Baba Oje is the spiritual elder of the group and provides valuable insight and guidance while Montosho Eshe is a vocalists, dancer and fashion coordinator. JJ Boogie and Za' are both guitarists while Rasa Don is a percussionist. 3 Years, 5 Months And 2 Days in the Life Of... is their debut album and it was released in 1992 on Chrysalis Records. Production is mainly handled by Speech and Headliner, whom then delegate and coordinate who and what to use on a given track. The record is full of live instrumentation and it is definitely a treat to listen to. The beats are all assembled from the ground up and extra attention is given to detail. A couple of tracks are inspired by samples but the rest are all original as can be. The end result is a very crisp and upbeat selection of rhythms that fit the group's style perfectly. The album is also quite strong lyrically. Speech and his fellow vocalists are far from anything ordinary. Their tones, delivery and styles are incorporated with intricate precision into their songs. Again, Speech handles the bulk of the duties on the microphone and displays his lyrical prowess on just about every track. The subject matter is what quickly sets this album apart from others. The group touches on various subjects such as religion, peace, race, unity and the ever lasting struggle for equality. All of this is embedded into their songs and delivered musically with a clear and positive message. The album rounds out at an impressive total of sixteen choice cuts that are all equally enjoyable. Upon release, the record was met with high praise and instantaneous success. This also led to the group winning two prestigious Grammy Awards. The success was short lived though, the group's follow up album was considered a failure while creative and financial disputes erupted within. This eventually led to the breakup in the year 1996 with most members going their separate ways. Speech would then explore the solo route for a few years before reuniting them in the year 2000. By that time it was a little too late and the collective would not experience the same level of success as they did back in 1992 because Southern Rap was headed in a whole new direction. In the end, the group was admired for their passion and originality. They ended up paving the way for many other socially conscious artists while also raising awareness of the situation at hand.

Deadly Verses
People Everyday

Deadly Video

Album Notes
* The album's title is the actual length of time it took the group to get a recording contract.
* DJ Headliner did not participate in the reunion.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


     PJ is a rapper that represents from the murky bayous of Houston, TX. This is his self titled debut and it was released in 2002 on Black Ink Records. PJ, along with producer DMD, put forth this effort in hopes of achieving some attention. Sadly, very little is known about the artist or the record label for that matter and any information regarding them would be greatly appreciated. Production is handled largely by DMD while assisted by J. Sanchez and PJ. The rhythms are quite bland to be honest and really don't have too much going for them. They seem to be electronically derived and are missing structural aspects and core fundamentals. There is no differentiation in tracks and each cut sounds strikingly similar to the next. The beats are also kept very simple which in return gives off a very mundane result. Lyrically, the album won't take home any awards and the basic approach used by the artist will also not help its' cause. PJ's rhyme pattern is quite plain and repetitive. Word play is non-existent and the subject matter stays pretty typical. While his tone and pitch are somewhat decent,  it still cannot capitalize on the lyrical flaws mentioned above. Featuring on the album is Khaliq and Issac. Also, the very odd and aberrant artwork was designed by, Stretch Work Graphics. The record spans over a total of sixteen tracks and unfortunately there are only a handful that are worth listening to. The end result is a very lackluster one and it can be easily neglected as a whole. It seems as if the album was recorded in one sitting inside someone's kitchen or basement. It deeply suffers from critical mixing and mastering issues. Now, granted this is an underground release and the quality criteria is often a bit relaxed related with those type of acts, it still cannot excuse the frivolous mistakes displayed on this record. The artist must come correct, especially when they are representing for the great state of Texas.

Album Notes
* PJ is not to be confused with PJ of the Boss Hogg Outlawz.
* DMD is not to be confused with DJ DMD of the Inner Soul Clique.