Album Reviews

Hip Hop Album Reviews, Week Ending Mar. 10, 2017

Want an eloquent rhymestress’s perspective on love and the everyday struggle? A saucy sauntering Brit’s flippant mockeries about anything and everything? Or maybe even a quote/unquote living legend’s exposition of the dangers found in the ghetto? Ill Camille, Jam Baxter and MURS have you covered. We’ve narrowed down the list of this week’s new releases, and the best are below.

Heirloom by Ill Camille (Illustrated Sounds/Frontroom Entertainment)

Los Angeles emcee Ill Camille spreads out more food for thought and invites everyone over on her third album, Heirloom. The author of LPs Illustrated (2011) and The Pre Write before it (2012) is back with her questioning reflective mind frame to share on love, sex, dreams, hopes and optimism in a sweet escape style format. Strong with wisdom and insight, the smooth Ill Camille learns from her hardworking, blue collar elders in “Spider’s Jam,” expresses disappointment that people let love (and the possibility of) fall by the wayside due to trivial fixable matters in “Slip Away,” and slowly sadly mourns the souls lost to gun violence in the streets on “Lighters.”

After her teaching job has been accomplished, Camille admits the major reason behind the album in “Few Days.” Because problems have been building up, she decides to just get away from them all for a bit, and the calm uninterrupted “Renewed” follows through with the plan, allowing Camille to get still more pests out of her psyche and cleanse. Heirloom is a little up in the clouds with its almost dream-state feel in the semi-soft music and Camille’s casual flows, not extremely rich or intricate in any one way, but through the soulfully extended slow burners and despite her knowing of all the foulness around us, Ill Camille is committed to grinding on in life.

3 out of 5 stars

 

Mansion 38 by Jam Baxter (High Focus Records)

London emcee of posses Contact Play and Dead Players, Jam Baxter, is on solo album number four and shows no signs of weariness or halt in his step. Out on High Focus Records (like each of his three previous LPs), Mansion 38 is yet another wild ride from the weirded out rapper, packed with bizarre lyrical revelries and a message or two here and there. The critique of manipulative marketing schemes and gullible consumer culture in “For A Limited Time Only” is right on but an exception in the album’s dreary malaise of hokeyness and horseplay.

Baxter purges his cluttered mind of all his pent up frustration, angst, irreverence and goofiness to tracks of dismal art-house music that is impossible to dance to but perfect for Jam to jam awkwardly to. For the most part, this is a showcase of Baxter describing abnormal far-out circumstances in involved left field wordplay and random wacky prepared freestyles.

Mansion 38 is perfectly content basking in strange wonderment, which is one reason why it lacks a great amount of useful messages. The young man Jam Baxter is only occasionally intriguing in an intellectual sense, and he comes across depressive and hopeless with his dark sometimes morbid humor, but his textured metaphorical rhyming deserves attention, some study even, and although the feel in and out is largely low and despondent, Baxter is dedicated to getting back up to rub uptight people the wrong way for his and our amusement.

3 out of 5 stars

 

Captain California by MURS (Strange Music, Inc.)

The MURS man himself is here again, two years after his breakout hit-album Have A Nice Life for Captain California, his tenth solo LP overall and second on Strange Music Inc. With his prominent, unmistakeable mic-presence, the “Maker of Underground Raw Sh*t” surely brings the raw topics, around fewer of great social responsibility, for a mostly standard project in the current hip-hop landscape, and not exactly underground anymore at that.

MURS has some significant things to say here no doubt; however, they are in just a few songs or looked at through dicey seedy tales from the hood. MURS playfully squabbling with rapper Curtiss King over a girl (which of course helps to give her all the power of choice in the dating arena, like it or not) in the opener “Lemon Juice” clears the lane for stories of tragic love, hustling, gang-banging, cheating and just people behaving badly all throughout the project, and the foulmouthed in-studio jibber jabber of final track “Wanna Be High” makes matters that much more unrefined and uncouth.

The glimmers of light exist in how MURS describes scenarios of urban violence in “GBKW” (though the Kanye-mention is misplaced and too much praise already for the super famous mogul), in the advancement of love and family-rearing in “1000 Suns,” and in how MURS shows the differences across socioeconomic lines in “G is for Gentrify.” Except for MURS’ fine storytelling, he hasn’t changed or challenged himself lyrically, and all the themes and tones follow mainstream establishment rules, rarely encouraging people to question, think deeply and get to the root causes of our madness. It’s decent but simply doesn’t dare decry the most major underlying evils in society, like wildly out of control, government-sponsored capitalism and the divisive, inhumane, materialistic media.

2 out of 5 stars

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