The weather just doesn’t seem to stop bombarding this eastern part of the world with bad weather in the form of hurricanes and bad weather. Lots of Caribbean islands have been slammed and people are unable to get the help they so desperately need simply because of red tape. It’s the actual moment that makes people shake their heads, mine included. Puerto Rico is my favorite place to visit, the vacation spot that holds a dear place in my heart. To see the loss that everyone’s suffered it horrendous. The island is like a home away from home. When leaving New York, going there is sheer familiarity but surrounded by beaches. I’m trying to do my own part and I hope more people are doing theirs. Texas and Florida were hit as well but I have faith in people. Sometimes I think that’s my downfall, setting the bar much too high but we have to keep doing that if we don’t then everything we get is just subpar. But again, we have music and sometimes that’s all we need to get us through things.
Now Torii Wolf’s latest release falls under a different side of the spectrum here. Her new album Flow Riiot is almost completely produced by DJ Premier with a few other producers scattered on the 15 tracks compiled here (araabMUZIK, King Of Chill, Mike Zombie.) While most artists tend to stick with genres they’re most familiar with, both Premier and Wolf seem to have taken a risk here that’s paid off in dividends here. Purists will probably scoff at the notion of Premier’s collaboration here but his base in Hip-Hop isn’t forsaken here, he simply expands on it. But this is a Torii Wolf release, and she makes every track her own. Flow Riiot opens with Everlasting Peace and sets the tone of the album. It’s filled with samples, keyboards, and scratches, layered alongside Wolf’s breathy and sexy vocal delivery without needing to be overtly sexual. You can’t help but view Torii Wolf as the catalyst to the missing ingredients that DJ Premier brings. “Meant To Do” has a silkiness you won’t be able to get enough of, with a simple beat on top of repetitive keys that are suited to Wolf’s voice. It’s when the needle drops on “Big Big Trouble” that things get really serious. Those strings over the beat Premiere brings in compliment Wolf’s addictive voice that never struggles to get above more than a wispy howl. The songs on the album seem to fly right by but the only factor there is because the tracks themselves run the gamut from gut-wrenching beauty to twisting into eloquent bangers! And then the beat of “Shadows Crawl” begins. Hints of nostalgia permeate through the track and if Wolf’s luscious voice wasn’t found here, I’d expect to hear Guru’s. “Nobody Around” follows right after and the bassline is like the dope in the needle that makes my head nod. Wolf’s cooing vocals are simply hypnotic. Musically, the track is sparse but it works in her favor. Aside from DJ Premier, there’s only one other guest appearance in the form of that Seattle rapper Macklemore on “Free,” where he breaks those chains of direct pop music. On this track, he rips through with his words with abandon, and it works well against Premiere’s scratches and Wolf’s delivery. Comparisons are cheap, I know this, but the movements from track to track can’t help me stop thinking Torii Wolf’s Flow Riiot would be the love child of Portishead and Gang Starr if it were at all humanly possible. But that’s just my take on it. Wolf and Premier have changed up the game with this album. (To The Top)
Hoodie Allen, is a rapper of a different ilk. The Hype is the Long Island rapper’s third album but it’s my introduction to him. Before hitting that play button I wasn’t sure if I should listen with tongue-in-cheek expectations but considering his stage name is actually derived by simply changing a consonant and a couple of vowels in his first name. Now, the music put together isn’t something that may win over a lot of people but what Allen does here, he does pretty fucking well. And that’s the point here, isn’t it? From the opening “Believe,” it starts with a piano line and a beat that’s there to reel you in and I can’t help but think of TK The Architect, another Long Island rapper whose compositions are filled with live instruments, pop hooks, and witty raps. But on The Hype, Allen seems to move into multiple facets of Hip-Hop and other genres. “Know It All” seems to find him singing the blues here on this somber track before he starts rapping before moving along into the bouncy “All For Me (feat. Scott Hoying)” and it’s back to business here with those pop sensibilities he has. Hoying sings that chorus and it’s one of the more attractive parts of the track. Then Allen seems to fall prey to an identity crisis with “Fakin’.” This is the point where you’re not sure if he’s a rapper with pop jams or if he’s down with rap in its current state, filled with vocal effects, hoes in the hot tub, poppin’ bottles and making it rain. Using that vocal autotune will give you an idea of where he’s going on this track, that is until he gets to the next track. “Play The Field,” “Sushi,” and “Ain’t Ready” again, have those popping hooks that makes him appealing to middle American moms, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When Hoodie Allen sticks to what he’s good at on The Hype, it works. If you’re going to do something, just stick to what you do best. (Self-Release)
While talks of a new Wu-Tang Clan album has been reported for an October release date, Masta Killa is back with Loyalty Is Royalty. Known is as one of the least boisterous members of the Clan who takes his work seriously, this is only Killa’s fourth solo release and his first album in five years. There’s no playing games on The Return Of.. as he opens the album with an instrumental piece circling around strings and woodwind instruments. It’s beautifully relaxing right before the needle drops with “Return Of The Masta Kill,” which features Young Dudes and fellow clansman Cappadonna. The beat is grimy but unrelenting, and it has an appeal that would bring in Hip-Hop fans from all walks of life. Killa’s flow has always been pretty laid back, and not as frenetic as his cohorts but it’s his appeal there. Cappo’s brings that heat as does Young Dudes. Some may think it’s nothing more than braggadocio but Masta Killa’s name speaks for itself. Could it get any better than that? There’s always room for improvement but as they let the beat ride out to end the track, fans will surely wonder about what’s to follow. The album is rife with guest spots but there isn’t any space given to include any tracks just as filler. Rappers AB & JR guest on the title track, which serves as a love song which caters to the R&B lovers and is a throwback to classic jams to make your body move. Masta Killa taps friends and cohorts throughout the album like on “Therapy” featuring that classic combination of Method & Red Man. Both try to play up to Killa’s vibe but it seems Red Man steals the show here. He hasn’t missed a step, ripping into the mic as if it’s the first time he ever spits. Red Man still has that fire in his belly. There are other tracks I’m sure fans are going to be hungry to listen to. Sean Price guests on “Down With Me,” where he gets rough and rugged. Price has always been that rapper that commands attention and is sorely missed. Another rapper that’s transitioned who we find here is Prodigy, along with KXNG Crooked on “Real People.” It brings back the imagery of gunplay, respect, NYC and how all three are always intertwined with one another. There’s no way to avoid “Tiger And The Mantice” that unites Masta Killa with the GZA and Inspectah Deck. Filled with darkness and malevolence, the track stings and walks through urban decay, irrelevant to most but home to some. The RZA, the former head of the clan, appears on the album as well on “Wise Words By The RZA.” Here he breaks down the what Loyalty is and why it’s held up to such high standards. All that behind a backdrop of a lone piano…the wise man speaks. But some of the best moments are when he’s rapping solo like on “Flex With Me (feat. Chanel Sosa).” His words are piercing on this love jam for gangsters. “Noodles Pt. 1” and “Noodles Pt. 2” is the same, alone with no distractions you get more of Masta Killa which I can appreciate. When the album ends, I’m left disappointed. Not because Loyalty Is Royalty is a poor-quality album, but because I wanted more of it. Masta Killa is back, and we’re all the better for it. (Nature Sounds)