Friday, March 30, 2007

Red 1 - Beg For Nothing
Location: Vancouver, BC

As an hip-hop icon in the late nineties, I can't help but envision the transition to 2000 to be a struggle. Red 1, as a member of Rascalz, quickly came to rise as one of the premiere Canadian hip-hop groups by 1999. Back then, I remember chilling with their breakers, Zebroc and Dedos, talking Canadian hip-hop. As downloading has taken prominence and major labels continue to drop acts, the Rascalz are the latest victims. Now, their members are on the solo tip as DJ/beatmaker, Kemo, is steady on the grind and emcees Fit & Red 1 continue to keep busy.

'Beg for Nothing' unfortunately encompases the three main hip-hop stereotypes of drugs, guns and girls. I struggled to get beyond these played out themes, but knowing Red 1 is a veteran in the game, I gave it a chance. On 'Fantasy', he rescinded those previous played out themes, while exploring the illusions he's faced in this industry. 'Giving Up' is my favorite track, as Concise joins Red 1 in stating why they won't be "giving up" anytime soon! 'Shanty' also brings strength to Red 1's years of experience with a chorus that sticks in the mind. Kemo shows his muscle on the beats with one of my favorite party tracks of last summer, 'Dem No Worry We.' Overall, Red 1 has crafted numerous catchy hooks, especially on 'Red Lite' and 'She Rude.' Unfortunately his years of experience don't yield the well defined messages in his songs that I'd expect from a 15-year veteran.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Assen K aka Addaboe - Self Driven
Location: Ottawa, ON

Assen K's 'Self Driven' album has a scattered feel, as few of the 23 tracks eclipse the 3 minute mark. This appears to be a calculated move as Assen K's voice and message seem to fall to the background with tracks that are much longer. Or maybe I'm just too distracted and the lack of focus is on my end. I'm gonna go with the belief that it's up to the emcee to grab my attention.

That being said, this is a nice little album. His voice and flow on "No Life" had me scanning my brain of Atlantic Canada emcees. Finally a day later, I figured it out. His sound is eerily similar to Halifax's Jay Bizzy on this track. I was thrown off by the fact that on the following track, "See You Right There," Assen K had me seeing visions of Winnipeg's John Smith. "3 Strikes" is probably my favourite track, as the ridiculous beat had me reminiscing on Jay's "Sunshine," although the theme is flipped. The collaboration with Ottawa mainstay emcees S.T.A.Y and Bender on "Dyno Killas" also rang solid.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Side-FX - Creative Control
Location: Ottawa, ON

Two tracks stand out immediately: 'Close Your Eyes' and 'May 2008'. I really dig the story and concept on 'May 2008'. Nice plot twist. Any inspiration from Common's "Testify"? Overall, the album shows more wisdom, honesty and maturity than I would expect from a debut album. And there's some bangin beats on there.

Side-FX Response:
Yeah "Testify" is a sick track, but I only heard it after writing the album. It was somewhat inspired by Jay-z's track "Dope Man" and also "Coming Of Age". Another good one from Common is "Payback is a Grandmother"

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