CD Reviews

Occasion, Radioactive and Friend of the People

Carefree Party Rap

Kidz in the Hall Occasion Duck Down

Ivy leaguers Naledge and Double O have been the darlings of the underground hip-hop scene but have yet to truly break through to the mainstream. Their latest release, Occasion, is another attempt to appeal to a wider audience, but it falls short because the effort is a little too transparent. By now, fans of Kidz in the Hall are familiar with Naledge’s solid rhymes and Double O’s varied production, and Occasion’s special guests include Bun B and Marsha Ambrosius. But Occasion stumbles when focusing on having fun rather than doing anything of substance. The album gives off the vibe of a night at the club that has gone on a few hours too long. The resulting hangover makes you wonder, “Why did we do this again?” The title track is a feeble attempt at sounding like what’s on the radio while “Break It Down” is a messy rap/rock mashup that should have been aborted. Sure, the Bun B and David Banner assisted “Pour It Up” is perfect for this occasion but the rest of the album is too unoriginal to call a success. ★☆☆☆☆

Southern Hip Hop

Yelawolf Radioactive Shady Records

Upon signing to Shady Records, Yelawolf was caught in a catch-22 of being the “other” white rapper signed to Eminem’s label. Comparisons to Eminem were sure to be raining down, but upon closer inspection, Yelawolf is his own man. Radioactive is Yela’s attempt to dispel the Eminem comparisons while carving his own fan base outside of his built-in Internet following. For the most part it works; Yelawolf’s rapid-fire rhymes drenched in his Alabama Southern drawl cut through the guitar plucks of “Everything I Love Most” like a Ginsu knife. He holds his own next to Eminem on “Throw It Up” and simply menaces “Animal.” The lingering issue with Radioactive is direction, and this album lacks a clear one. Whether it be “Write Your Name,” which sounds far too much like Rick Ross’ “Aston Martin Music,” or the cheesy “Good Girl,” you can never quite figure out where Yela is going with the album. However, his skill is undeniable and he should be around for a long time. ★★★☆☆

Super Lyrical Hip-Hop

Lupe Fiasco Friend of the People Self-Released

After the commercial reach of Lasers, Lupe Fiasco sets out to make amends with fans who disliked the direction of that album with this free mixtape. Rhyming over new production and instrumentals from the likes of M83, Justice and Glitch Mob, I will likely appease his jaded base thanks to wicked lyricism that has long defined Lupe’s career. The menacing “SLR” finds Lupe on his ‘A’ game as he flips lyrical linguistics that would make Mary Lou Retton jealous, while “Life, Death & Love From San Francisco” is an awesome exercise in spoken word over jazz production. But the looming dubstep influence on songs such as “SNDCLSH in Vegas” may present an issue for fans. While some may enjoy the genre, others will likely turn their nose up to the subgenre of electronic dance music. Regardless, fans will be pleased by this impressive and, above all, free project. ★★★★☆

Suggested Next Read

J. Edgar

Movie Review

J. Edgar

By Tribune Media Services

Director Clint Eastwood’s film, featuring a valiant performance from Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar), is a subtle and muted portrayal of the mysterious figure. Molded by his smothering mother (Judi Dench), Hoover ran the FBI from 1935 until his death in 1972. The film is very much interested in Hoover’s intimate relationship with right-hand man (Armie Hammer), perhaps an unacknowledged love affair. Between Eastwood’s objective stance and DiCaprio’s bold acting, you’re in capable hands.