REVIEW: Marco Polo & Ruste Juxx’s “The Exxecution”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic To say that this album is easily one of the most ruthless hip-hop albums in some time is definitely an understatement. The Exxecution (Duck Down) is definitely killing anything and everything that dares to call itself rap music in 201 when it isn’t, so what Marco Polo and Ruste Juxx are going are just putting them in line, and one by one putting them in a dark room so that they can be cut up by surprise. No means of escape,this music is meant to be pleasurable torture, music you wanted your grandma to fear, not something you’d find her dancing to at the club. This isn’t so much the “real” hip-hop that for naysayers might be a cliche, but it is very much quality hip-hop, just like mom used to make, bake, and seal in tight baggies.

The songs on here are incredible, with “Death Penalty” sounding like you’re going to war on the streets of war pre-Disney takeover, while Rock‘s verse on “Take Money” shows that unity in sound can be had and handled if you know how to do it well. Marco Polo’s beats range from the modern styles with a grimey feel, to the old heavy funk of the mid-90’s when obscure samples were a badge of pride. When Sean Price drops his genius in “Fuckin’ Wit A Gangsta”, he’s speaking for all hip-hop heads, the overly protective ones who simply want the good shit because they know what they speak of. When Rakim once said “no mistakes allowed”, he spoke about all aspects of life. The Exxecution is an album that takes value in its mistakes and flaws, this is that album that fans will take pride in because it’s music with power, style, and character.

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REVIEW: KRS-One & Buckshot’s “Survival Skills”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Ever wanted to hear an album created by hip-hop’s elder statesmen? Look no further than a new collabration between KRS-One and Buckshot, Survival Skills (Duck Down).

The “survival skills” in question are of course surviving in this game known as hip-hop, or at least the financial and commercial game. Both KRS and Buckshot talk about how you really need not only skills, but the knowledge on how to survive in a wicked marketplace, or you’ll end up in someone’s mental cut-out bin before you know it.

At first I wasn’t sure what to expect with this album. I’m a huge fan of both of these MC’s, but what I liked about it was that their input is equally balanced. I call them “elder statesmen” because that’s what they are, and you hear age and real life experiences in their voices, especially in tracks like “Clean Up Crew”, “Connection”, “Thing Of All The Things” (the latter featuring K’naan) and “Amazin'”. KRS is no longer the guy who had Scott La Rock next to him, but you hear someone who has the battle scars, seen the verbal and literal feuds, and isn’t afraid to attack even while he is preaching peace. Then you have Buckshot, whose days as a “Shorty” made him someone to watch and listen to in the mid-90’s. Today, his swagger and sly attitude is still heard in his lyrics, and he’s more confident in his singing that doesn’t go overboard nor is it destroyed by bad sound effects or filters. In fact, “Robot” is a middle finger to Auto-Tune and more specifically to artists who choose to show their lack of talent and skills over a messed up voice effect that had been done, and better, by the likes of Kraftwerk, Afrika Bambaataa, and Roger Troutman. These guys aren’t so much angry as they are pissed at how the music has been molded into something else. One may argue that newer audiences mean a new approach to the music, but these scholars are saying that artists and fans need to take it back to the essence, because not many people today have it or know what it is. When Slug of Atmosphere joints them in “We Made It”, one can only imagine Slug being approved as someone with substance and skills.

A few people on various online boards have said that the cover art is corny and should have never been approved. It might be that, but I also interpret it as two guys who are not afraid to brave the elements. They aren’t just guys who rhyme lazily just because it sounds good with funky beats. To say this is yet another return to the boom bap would be too easy, for fans who know and respect hip-hop will tell you that “the real” has always been amongst us. Yet it’s perhaps not a coincidence that this was released at a time of the music’s uncertainty. What this album becomes is a guidebook full of lessons and tips on how to keep the traditions alive and vibrant. The dawn is not here yet.