itzme Review: Benjamin Starr – Free Lunch

In the wake of many racially charged occurrences in America, hip-hop (along with many other things) has been more vocal about overcoming racial barriers. The music has been used as a means to display pride and rich culture that’s impossible to hide. That being said, nothing is more topical than the album “Free Lunch”. Free Lunch expresses hunger, self-love, and a passion to fight injustice with the will of a warrior king. Benjamin Starr reveals his self, his passion, his mic skill, his pride, his culture, and his versatility in this project.
As indicated by the album, cover, Free Lunch is a montage of Afrocentrism. “Movies” is an elegantly-stated listing of people and incidents related to police brutality, civil rights, and black art. “Play me the truth, and let me groove with it”. Furthermore, Starr’s voice is just as potent and impacting as the activists that he borrows quotes from. He viciously rips oppressors with bars like “burn the confederate flags ‘til they feel me” and “I came explicitly to challenge history”. In the “Within, Him” spoken word interlude, his stanzas paint the picture of the history behind America’s brainwashed (or whitewashed) antiblackness; and mentions rich history and culture that instills pride in spite of that. Starr consistently and boldly delivers defiance towards prejudices and stereotypes throughout this album. This along with his everpresent reverence for his roots and culture gels the album together.
Free Lunch is as much about Starr himself as it is anything else, though. He expresses his faith on “Seventh” along with other songs throughout the album. In “Seventh” as well as “Tuxedos” he details his struggles to succeed and become greater. “Wonderful Love” is a celebration of a love through both hard and good times. Starr gives listeners himself going through many downs, but still withholds the personality of a man standing tall. Such gives him a charisma, and makes you feel close to him beyond being a “rap activist” in a manner of speaking.
Beyond being an activist and a person, Free Lunch shows Benjamin Starr to be an artist: a poet and technician, as well as one with a keen ear for instrumentals. In the aforementioned song, “Wonderful Love”, Starr’s bluntly stated chorus is “woman, you’re wonderful”. With the following sax notes jumping for joy, he plants the seed of profound admiration for this woman. “Grace” is reminiscent of a fashion of holy hip-hop tracks. The thumping bass, horns, and opera choir gives it the epic sound of going to war. That coupled with his aggressive delivery and cadence lights a fire in one’s soul. Of all the songs in the album, “Grace” displays his hunger the most (fitting, as the chorus uses eating a meal as a metaphor) his technical skills are off the charts in this joint (e.g. “Black angels in my chambers of commerce, concerts in my converse, rallying the converse(?), Yes God’s great…” Rapping in a 4-4, he spits two internals is the first quarter of a bar [angels, chambers], uses “commerce” as an end rhyme, then rhymes it twice more before the bar ends. Afterwards he continues the rhyme, and transitions mid-bar).
Starr’s lyrical prowess thrives in its variety as much as anything else. As stated before, he shows art in expression with his spoken word pieces, but he also displays a battle-rap reminiscent wit, impressive wordplay, and cinematic storytelling. The evidence is laid bare throughout the album, from the tales in “Mirrors” to the clothing-related wordplay in “Tuxedos”.
Starr’s quote on this album sums it up perfectly. It represents not only an evolved hip-hop artist, but an evolved black man. The versatility in sounds, subjects, and skill that this album shows along with the personality and passion make it a modern masterpiece. Free Lunch is an enjoyable and compelling album from front to back and it has a strong sense of purpose. Any fan of hip-hop should love this album.

Coldest Tracks: “Tuxedos”, “Grace”, “Seventh”, “Black Owned”, “Love, For You”

Eh Songs: “2 Faces”

Hip-Hop Is Full of Thugs

Ever since the murders of young men like Oscar Grant and Trayvon martin, a lot of awareness is being built up for America’s 400+ year relationship with “minorities”, particularly black people. Fast-forward to 2015, black pride is probably the strongest it has been in this whole generation. And hip-hop, one of the most dominant forces in our modern society has reflected this in a truly powerful way.

Rappers have stepped up to the political forefront as champions for the cause for equality. Killer Mike has appeared all over news channels, sharing his articulate insight on the current sociopolitical climate

As he has, very fervently, in his music

As he has, very fervently, in his music

Him doing so has created a powerful visibility for a number of things, namely the Run the Jewels brand and the movement. Needless to say, hip-hop is proud.

Another example of engaged rappers is Talib Kweli. The legend has been sharing wisdom all over his social networks, as well as appearing on CNN. Just follow him on social media to see this.

In fact, social media has been a pivotal point in this new movement, as we see many celebrities and artists share their thoughts and feelings in a way that has never been shown and shared before. Twitter posts by artists surrounding incidents around police brutality or screwy media quickly hit headlines. Anything you see on the internet quickly spurs huge conversations, for example, Azealia Banks’ fiascos.

Most profoundly of all, this has leaked into the music of many artists, underground and mainstream. The commentary presented in Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” video is powerful and potent.

Many have taken his last album to be a “pro-black” composition, although it’s moreso a story of Kendrick Lamar’s revelation after conquering his bouts of depression and simply brushing and bumping past the concept of “pro-black”. And his messages has transcended circles of hip-hop into mainstream media, albeit misconstrued. Big name artists team up to make posse tracks. Up and comers deliver powerful passion of these incidents hungrily. Benjamin Starr, for one, deserves a huge mention that’s packed with black pride and empowerment from front to back.

It’s refreshing to see that as much to see that things have evolved and changed, a lot has stayed the same. Hip-hop is still the voice for those who wouldn’t have had one otherwise.

Watch the lyric video for “Thuggin'” by Glasses Malone

Itzme Review: Diabolic – Fightin’ Words

Diabolic delivers what’s expected of his name. He’s a very aggressive and visceral emcee with a mass amount of shock value in his rhymes. Fighting Words is injected with harsh sarcasm and verbal assaults that add definition to his personality. On the other hand he contrasts with self-revealing subjects and conscious concepts. This duality along with his rhyming skills makes him a well-balanced emcee with an album reflecting that, but not in a way that’s particularly fresh or untreaded before.
The flow used is the primary example. Diabolical is able to put together strings of sick multisyllabic rhyme with just one specific immovable rhyme pattern of “AAAAAAA”. However, this style is delivered in a way that’s reminiscent of the Fighting Words feature artists, RA the Rugged Man; and known to be used by Hopsin. Ironically, he mentions in “Bad Dream” he mentions that a label panel says he reminds them of Eminem who is undeniably a pivotal influence to Hopsin’s music. Fighting Words makes it evident that that Diabolic represents the high shock value section of rap.

Swinging a rappers severed head by his spinal cord
― “Diabolical Sound” by Diabolic

What’s entirely unlike the aforementioned two is Diabolic’s heavy and tough bravado. He possesses ruggedness so extreme that when matched up with similar concrete-skinned MCs in “Game Time”, it turns into an extravagant back and forth elbowing for the top spot. “My supporters would slap the shit out Little Wayne fans” It’s like he is the very manifestation of hard itself with the ability to leak that attribute into listeners just by listening. Punch you out your socks like…

At the same time, such a quote represents his oft-used rhetoric of the “real hip-hop heads” who spam “F Lil Wayne” on every underground track posted on YouTube.

0PCP

Bolic unfortunately seems very comfortable with this clustered and overpopulated identity.
On a lighter note, Diabolic has a very powerful and passionate voice for morality. Throughout the album he mentions how much of a proud father he is and expresses the massive discontent he has with anyone coming in between that. He devotes whole tracks to those who suffer with “Feel Ya Pain” and “Victim’s Story”. In “A.M.E.R.I.C.A. (The Truth Part 3)” he says one of the most profound quotes I’ve ever heard on a track,

Teach your kids to think critically instead of memorise
― “A.M.E.R.I.C.A. (Truth Part 3)” by Diabolic

This part of Diabolic’s album is like the musical offspring of legends like Immortal Technique and Ice Cube.
Overall, in evaluation of the Fightin’ Words album, one’s favor feels that tug of war. On one side Diabolic is easily defined as a status quo member of that rugged underground shock-value spitter. On the opposing side, here’s a rapper with very expressed passions in his lyrics and a moderately impressive ability to just rhyme.
Pretty cold album here.
Favorites: “Game Time” “Here We Go”

Mick Jenkins – The Water[s]

Chicago’s own Mick Jenkins has something for you. An interesting concept album themed around the truth, represented as H2O-the essential chemical for all living beings. “The Water[s]” showcases Jenkins’ skill in syntactic manipulation, aggressive rapping, and underlying conscious messages.

Rickee Stylez – Prevail | Music Video

The “Prevail” music video is an eery introduction into the theme of the Houston artist’s upcoming release titled Nu Testament. The song, video, and ambiance it provides is as dark as the corruption it exposes.  Be enlightened.

J△hTrig – Cig△r △shes

You rarely find such depth and wisdom in music. JahTrig is one with an enlightened sense of poetry when he spits his rhymes. He’s a warrior for knowledge and greater consciousness. But even with that sense of wisdom he maintains an exquisite musicality with genius beat selection, a well-rounded mastery of rap skills, and a unique and synergistic take to tracks.

ILL Doots – Future Dia(NA)log

It’s the illmovement! Brand new release from the hypertalented band. The Doots camp is no stranger the social commentary and conscious subject matter, but this specific release is more focused on that. The vocals are accentuated to embolden the meaning and message of the songs. Wealth of mind, wealth of grind.