CD Reviews

Watch the Throne, Success Is Certain and L.A. Riot

Super Epic Collaborative Rap

Jay-Z & Kanye West Watch the Throne (Roc Nation)

Just like when LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, the hype (and hate) for Jay-Z and Kanye West’s collaborative album Watch The Throne has reached surreal heights. Despite the talent, the Miami Heat fell short of expectations and a championship ring. That is the case with this album. Watch The Throne has some epic moments: “No Church In the Wild” and “New Day” are masterfully executed. However, several songs are only average, considering these two accomplished talents. “N*ggas In Paris” and “Gotta Have It” are nothing but amped-up luxury raps we’ve heard before. The album’s sequencing prevents it from a seamless playthrough. Nevertheless, when Kanye and Jay-Z get socially conscious and introspective with a brilliant narrative about black-on-black crime on “Murder To Excellence” or the career-reflective “Made in America,” you can see how close they are to a championship. Maybe next season, fellas. ★★★☆☆

Gritty Detroit Hip-Hop

Royce Da 5’9” Success Is Certain (Gracie Productions)

One thing is for certain, Royce Da 5’9” can rap his face off. The uncertainty lies in the inconsistency of his solo outings. With Success Is Certain, Royce looks to build off of his collaborative project with Eminem Hell: The Sequel. The Travis Barker-assisted “Legendary” blows the doors off the hinges with its electric guitars and crashing symbols. But with such an explosive start, Success Is Certain cools down drastically. Songs such as “Where My Money” and “ER” suffer from mundane production. Things pick back up with the Nottz-produced “On The Boulevard” and the Mr. Porter-crafted “Security.” The latter being a heartfelt ode to late Detroit MC Proof, a friend of Royce. But the problems with production continue to crop up on “My Own Planet” and “I’ve Been Up, I’ve Been Down” as the album draws to a close. Yes, Royce is a super MC. But the lack of quality production nearly forces the album to be renamed Mediocrity Is Certain. ★★☆☆☆

Socially Conscious Cali Rap

Thurz L.A. Riot (92 Crew)

As a member of California duo U-N-I, Thurz never had the opportunity to project his progressive mentality. No longer a prisoner of compromise, the Cali MC breaks free and drops powerful social commentary with the aptly titled L.A. Riot. Simply put, there is nothing like L.A. Riot out right now. It’s as if the city of Los Angeles told the story of the 1992 riots to Thurz for a musical memoir. Each moment during those years is captured with a tremendous amount of intensity to re-create the tense atmosphere. “Rodney King” finds Thurz taking on the role of King the day he was infamously beaten by police. The first-person perspective detailing the events surrounding March 3, 1991, is outstandingly colorful. The self-criticism of a community on “Niggas” and the gang violence diatribe “Two Clips” paint a portrait of a crucial period in American history. L.A. Riot is an innovative effort that must be heard to comprehend its brilliance. ★★★★☆

Suggested Next Read

Puppet Masters


Puppet Masters

Erik Ball teaches high school theater, plays King Arthur in Excalibur’s Tournament of Kings, has eight years experience in puppetry and a great love of Fraggle Rock. The varied experiences came in handy when Ball chose Little Shop of Horrors for his directorial debut with Signature Productions, a local family-oriented theater company created in 1989. The challenge, among many others, was making a man-eating plant named Audrey II magically come to life. Here’s how he did it: