CD Reviews

Strange Clouds, Saturday the 14th, Trophies

Hip-Hop With Crossover Appeal

B.o.B. Strange Clouds (Atlantic)

If “Nothin’ on You” made B.o.B. a hip-hop star with mainstream appeal, his sophomore album Strange Clouds will make the 23-year-old a mainstream star with superstar appeal. The Atlanta rapper takes his craft to the next level with a unique stew of mixtape rap, radio-friendly singles and crossover collaborations. What makes Bobby Ray different than say, a Nicki Minaj, is that he does everything effortlessly and nothing he does sounds out of his comfort zone. “So Hard to Breath” could easily be heard on any pop station with Bobby’s cool vocals cruising along his guitar strumming. He and fellow crossover sensation Minaj dig deep into their rhyming roots and rhyme their faces off on “Out of My Mind.” Sure, the Taylor Swift collaboration “Both of Us” does come off corny, but when B.o.B. takes his internal struggles of being a hard-core rapper or a guitar-strumming rock star on the brilliant “Where Are You,” all is forgiven. He’s just that good. ★★★★☆

Offbeat Hip-Hop

Trade Voorhees Saturday the 14th (self-released)

“Let me start this motherfucker with a ‘guess who’s back,’ and if you’ve never heard of me, then where the fuck have you been, jack?” That’s how Las Vegas MC Trade Voorhees kicks off his mixtape, Saturday the 14th. That self-confidence and braggadocio makes Voorhees captivating during a schizophrenic trek through two-minute songs with interesting titles (“Asian Girls With Fat Asses,” for instance). He talks trash over popular instrumentals and new beats—more of a tap on the shoulder than a full-fledged introduction—which works out well as he gives you a glimpse into his offbeat personality. Whether it be “Niburu Collision” or “What the Fuck,” you’ll realize that Voorhees may have a few screws loose. That could be a gift or curse in the long run; some may have difficulty getting accustomed to his randomness. It’ll be interesting to see if Voorhees can transition his small doses of snark persona into a larger project. But he certainly has our attention. ★★★☆☆

Old-School Meets New-School Hip-Hop

Apollo Brown & O.C. Trophies (Mello Music Group)

Old-school meets new-school when former member of the legendary Diggin’ in the Crates crew O.C. joins forces with producer Apollo Brown for Trophies. What the duo concoct is an album of no-frills hip-hop that merges the grit and grime of ’90s New York rap with today’s generation of hip-hop artists who were influenced by the likes of O.C. If you’re looking for radio-friendly singles that inspire you to shake your rump at the club, look elsewhere. O.C. flexes lyrical muscle over rugged beats, and the result takes you back to when hip-hop didn’t care about being pop. The menacing thump of “Nautica,” head-snapping drums of “Disclaimer” and street narrative of “The First 48” will make a hard-core fan shed a tear. If you were born in the ’90s, this album will likely have you digging through O.C.’s old catalog to see what you missed. As for those in the know, you’ll be happy that Brown gives the Brooklyn MC the type of production over which he sounds comfortable.  ★★★☆☆

Suggested Next Read

Open letter  to Mitt: Embrace Donny & Marie


Open letter to Mitt: Embrace Donny & Marie

By Steve Bornfeld

Yo, Mitt—over here. Acting as your (apolitical) adviser, may I suggest a campaign stop? Our bastion of fulsome wholesomeness: Flamingo’s Donny & Marie show. Why: The M Word. Rightly or wrongly, the Mormonism of Mitt is in play. (Politically indifferent readers, we’re addressing the Mittster, a.k.a. Mr. Romney, presumptive Republican presidential nominee.) Portrayed as so colorless you’d lose a personality contest to a coatrack, you’ve made some voters and pundits uneasy as the enigmatic face of a religion many don’t understand and some fear.