CD Reviews

From the West Side, With Love II, Section 80 and Way of a Wayfarer EP

Trunk-Rattling Cali Hip-Hop

Dom Kennedy From the West Side, With Love II (Self-Released)

Leimert Park’s Dom Kennedy has been knocking at the door of recognition for the past three years. His last release, The Original Dom Kennedy, nearly knocked the door off the hinges, so it’s only right that From the Westside, With Love II does just enough to finally get Kennedy in the house. Make no mistake about it; Dom Kennedy is no intellectual rapper. Instead, Dom would rather party, conquer women and make some money by telling you about it over synth and bass production. “The Ways” and “I Love Dom” are perfect examples of Dom riffing off about bedding sexy women. The subject matter can be stale at times, but Kennedy bounces back with the breezy “2 Mph” and the introspective “Dom’s Prayer.” Despite the lack of diversity, Kennedy’s latest is a fun ride that will pump out of vehicles for some time. ★★★☆☆

Tupac-Meets-Nas-in-the-New-Millennium Rap

Kendrick Lamar Section 80 (TopDog Entertainment)

Just a few years ago, Kendrick Lamar was trying to find his way into the rap game as another rapper from Compton, Calif. But after his O.(verly) D.(edicated) mixtape dropped last year, he’s become one of the staples in the resurgence of California’s hip-hop scene. Even though he’s busy working on Dr. Dre’s Detox, Kendrick finds time to bless his fans with Section 80. With influences from N.W.A., Nas and Tupac scattered into the 24-year-old’s rhymes, Section 80 further separates him from the glut of rappers jockeying for position in the digital era of hip-hop. The clever rhymes, socially conscious messages, excellent beat selection and an old-school approach to song-making place Section 80 as one of the best releases this year. The fist-raising rhymes of “HiiiPower,” the storytelling of “Keisha’s Song” and the brashness of “The Spiteful Chant” are proof that Kendrick gets it and is primed for stardom. He brings the Black Panther movement to the new millennium while still being cool enough to relate to corner boys and hustlers. They don’t build them like Kendrick anymore. ★★★★★

Futuristic Soul

Jesse Boykins III Way of a Wayfarer EP (Soul Culture/Street Ediquette)

As R&B music drifts further and further into techno-pop dance numbers while shunning the “Blues” part of rhythm and blues, soulster Jesse Boykins III has made it a point to keep the soul intact. After the wistful 2008 The Beauty Created LP, Boykins retreated to his cave to concoct his next outing. As we await his next full-length project Love Apparatus, Boykins releases a teaser project of sorts titled Way Of A Wayfarer. The EP’s opener “I Can’t Stay” is a snazzy up-tempo jam where Boykins and his soothing voice reflects on his numerous love interests before moving on to the next. The acoustic guitar strumming of “When You’re Ready” and the futuristic vibes of “Light to Dark” further stamp Boykins’ efforts to rekindle the soul element in music and further increase the buzz for Love Apparatus. Short, sweet and to the point, WOAW is a soul injection that will immediately remind listeners what soul music should sound like in 2011. ★★★☆☆

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Been an unusual week for the lowly Soundscraper. At the very last second, I caught wind of a downtown performance by Denmark’s Thisted Church Choir of Men and Boys on July 1. Apparently her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary sponsored this renowned singing group’s trip to the U.S. for a slate of concerts in California, with but one stop in Nevada—just a few blocks from my house at Christ Church Episcopal. It was awesome, as the set comprised everything from Benjamin Britten’s strange, angular Rejoice in the Lamb to Gabriel Fauré’s moody, ambient Cantique de Jean Racine.