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Chapter & The Verse – Great Western Street (CD) (1991) (FLAC + 320 kbps)

Chapter & the Verse - Great Western Street

Manchester’s (UK) Chapter & The Verse was the brainchild of Anif Cousins and Colin Thorpe, initially releasing records on Liverpool’s Rham! records (also home to A Guy Called Gerald’s ‘Voodoo Ray’), they gained praise for their 1991 Great Western Street LP from which the club hit ‘Black Whip” was taken, influenced by Soul, Funk, Jazz, Hip Hop & House, a melting pot of styles which gave birth to the Acid Jazz scene in the early 1990s thanks to the resurgence of Raregroove & House in the late 80s.

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YoungBloodZ – Ev’rybody Know Me (CD) (2005) (FLAC + 320 kbps)

Drankin’ Patnaz, the 2002 YoungBloodZ album, arrived right in the midst of the initial crunk uprising, and it helped push that style into mass public consciousness in a major way, with the Lil Jon-produced “Damn!” breaking into the Top Five of Billboard’s Hot 100 — a noteworthy milestone at the time. But three years later, in 2005, “crunk” had become the new “bling-bling” — a trendy rap style that proliferated at lightning speed, to the point where its sudden omnipresence reached the point of parody, and indeed, snarkier pop culture commentators were quick to lampoon it just as they had “bling-bling.” Ev’rybody Know Me arrived around this time, in December 2005, and it pales in comparison to its predecessor. What a difference three years make! YoungBloodZ haven’t changed much in those three years. They’re still the same rambunctious Atlanta duo they were before — witty, grimacing Dirty South rappers with a taste for cush and candy-paint cars, white Ts and white wheels, drank and stank. But while they sounded cutting edge in 2002, they sound middle of the pack in 2005, and that’s despite working with many of the same producers as last time. Of course, there’s a mammoth Lil Jon production here that stands head and shoulders above every other song on Ev’rybody Know Me: “Presidential.” From the opening synth stab, it’s obvious that this is straight from the lab of the King of Crunk. There’s a lot that’s amazing about this song, from how YoungBloodZ make “George Bush” seem like a dope name to drop (“What we smokin’?/That cush/Presidential sh*t/George Bush”) to how Lil Jon’s endlessly recycled production style remains powerful. But there are 15 other songs here, and none of them comes close to matching the appeal of “Presidential.” Not even A-list producers such as Scott Storch, Jazze Pha, Mannie Fresh, or Mr. Collipark can conjure up a fresh song idea. Rather, each of these well-paid producers turns in a third-rate retread: Collipark’s “It’s Good” sounds like a “Wait (The Whisper Song)” remix, Fresh’s “What tha Biz (If I)” sounds like a “And Then What” remix, and so on. The exception would be Storch’s “Chop Chop,” which does sound fairly unique; it just doesn’t quite work as well as it should. Anyhow, there’s not a lot of use in overexamining why Ev’rybody Know Me feels disappointing. In sum, it’s a run-of-the-mill crunk album with a killer single, an album that doesn’t come close to matching its relatively superb and much fresher predecessor.

Props to Stephen King!

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YoungBloodZ – Drankin’ Patnaz (CD) (2003) (FLAC + 320 kbps)

Drankin' Patnaz

YoungBloodZ debuted impressively in 1999 with Against da Grain, but no one — not even their biggest fans — would have predicted how much of a stride forward they’d make with their long-delayed follow-up, Drankin’ Patnaz. Of course, the ATL duo had hooked up with So So Def Records between albums, and the move was a momentous one for YoungBloodZ. Not only did the promising partnership guarantee the duo mass-market distribution and marketing (via So So Def’s corporate parent, Arista), but it also gave them the time and budget they needed to make a great breakthrough album. And that they certainly did with Drankin’ Patnaz, the most glaring evidence being “Damn!,” the album opener. Damn! indeed. The Lil Jon production is a rabble-rousing, ‘bow-throwing club-banger of monstrous proportions. It’s on a par with any of the King of Crunk’s innumerable other club-banging productions — from “Bia’ Bia'” to “Get Low” — and it’s no doubt one of the rowdiest songs to ever break into the Top Five of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Consider for a moment the song’s unedited hook: a looped chant of “If you don’t give a damn, we don’t give a f*ck (hey!)” followed by Lil Jon’s belligerent response of “Don’t start no sh*t and there won’t be no sh*t (what! what! what! what!…).” Of course, it’s not easy to follow such an audacious album-opener, yet YoungBloodZ somehow follow through, first with another hard-hitting, floor-shaking bass anthem (“Whatchu Lookin’ At”) and then with a solid run of top-shelf Dirty South tracks helmed by their talented stable of producers, most notably Mark Twayne, the Track Boyz, and R.O.B. Furthermore, there’s also a laid-back Jazzy Pha track hidden toward the album’s close, “Money on My Mind,” that’s yet another highlight. There’s more to Drankin’ Patnaz than huge bass beats, however. J Bo and Sean Paul are excellent rappers, plain and simple. Their flows are quick and liquid, and they trade off rhymes with ease. This is how duos are supposed to rap — as a duo rather than as a pair of solo artists. From so many different perspectives, Drankin’ Patnaz is a far above average Dirty South release and a crowning achievement for YoungBloodZ, whom So So Def was keen to pick up and develop.

Props to Stephen King!

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YoungBloodZ – Against Da Grain (CD) (1999) (FLAC + 320 kbps)

Against da Grain is a collection of dance club-ready anthems packed with familiar ghetto boasts and party grooves. The Atlanta, GA-based duo YoungBloodZ employs guitar-driven tracks layered with pulsing bass rhythms and laid-back beats to complement their easily plied Southern-drawl rap attacks. The production crew on this release includes worthy contributions from the Attic and the Dungeon Family, conglomerates of local rappers and producers providing beats and backing rhymes. While this makes for a homegrown project certain to please fans of the Southern bounce sound, it also creates an abundance of sound-alike tracks, making this debut relatively indistinguishable from other recordings out of the same region.

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Abstract Rude – Rejuvination (CD) (2009) (FLAC + 320 kbps)

Prolific indie-rap veteran Abstract Rude presents 15 tracks of wordy, heartfelt hip-hop on his Rhymesayers debut, REJUVENATION. Featuring breezy, soul-based production from Seattle beatsmith Vitamin D, REJUVENATION sees Ab flipping vintage television references galore on “TV Show” and putting a hip-hop spin on ANNIE (much different from Jay-Z’s) on “Tomorry.” Abbey’s Haiku D’tat partners Aceyalone and Mika 9 appear on “Thynk Eye Can.”

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Abstract Rude, Prevail & Moka Only – Code Name: Scorpion (CD) (2001) (FLAC + 320 kbps)

With two of the West Coast’s and Canadian’s most underrated emcees joining forces, Code Name: Scorpion represents a lyrical colloquium of the highest order. While Abstract Rude of the Los Angeles Project Blowed sect lends his traditional baritone insight and calculated delivery, Prevail of Swollen Members and Moka Only present nothing but fresh perspectives from their own locale of Vancouver, British Columbia. With the majority of the production duties handled by Rob the Viking, tracks such as “Jam Packed,” “She’s Always Right,” and “Smokin in Here” express the synergistic effect of such a solid rhyming trio. Solo tracks by Abstract Rude, including “Stop Biting” and “Screwed on Tight,” also excel in their efforts to be both dynamic and succinct at the same time. Yet the best song on the album may very well be “Pillow Fulla Scrilla,” which features Moka Only getting completely unfastened from his own synthesized beat. Concocted by rebels who’ve been known for breaking the rules Code Name: Scorpion is a worthy album for those who appreciate a heap of honesty and a touch of quirkiness in rap.

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