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”

OXYxMORON – The Woods | Music Video

This is a music video for a song that I’ve been listening to consistently since I’ve heard it. The Woods mixtape is an incredible musical effort  that easily is one of the most impressive releases of recent times.  Oxy creates this video to commemorate the year anniversary of that tape. Watch and enjoy:

And the rest of their music is fantastic as well. I’ve rarely heard this consistently high quality of music from any artist or group lately. Check out The Woods mixtape, and Sail Fast Live Slow by Omar Bunyan.

Omar Bunyan – Sail Fast Live Slow

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It’s part one of my August Anticipation series of releases. Sail Fast Live Slow is Omar’s solo debut, he belongs to a group that goes by the name of OXYxMORON. On their latest well-acclaimed mixtape, “The Woods”, dude showed up impressively, showing a strong amount of potential. This tape is a really smooth, jazzy, introspective look at Omar’s life and self-concept. Sail Fast Live Slow effectively describes the overall vibe of the tape. You guys get to download it for free at oxyxmoron’s bandcamp. Stream below:

Also, check out the lyrics to this joint on Rapgenius

Itzme Review: Alpoko Don – The Ol’ Soul EP

Been on a slight hiatus with schoolwork and sickness, but I’m back with a vengeance knowmsayin. We gon get things started with started off with a joint I been anticipating for a long time now, The Ol’ Soul EP from my man Don Dada, AKA Alpoko Don. This album represents him fully from his roots to his ideals, and is more or less a breath of fresh air in the current spectrum of hip-hop.

First of all, I gotta mention that nothing that comes out this man’s mouth isn’t catchy. You’ll find yourself humming his melodies when you’re at work…. at school doing a test…. washing your hands…. driving to the sto’…. all the time. And this is including both his lyrics and his scats and hums. The title truly identifies the sound of the music to a tee. These songs couldn’t be more soulful if they were Negro spirituals. The self-proclaimed “One-take Jake” has a definite vision on every song on this album and it really shows, which is something unique and commendable for a newer artist.

I appreciate the Don’s contrarian attitude towards music as far as using a semi-accapella style of music, only relying on his own voice, a pen and a board. However, I can’t help but feel this style is only limiting the potential of his music. I can only imagine with such song vision and rhythmic capabilities that this guy could orchestrate amazing instrumentals if he expands his tools. Though his beat talents are already impressive, they could only sound better with more tools. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not taking away from him using the pen and board because with them he has unrivaled dexterity and matched with his voice, he provides an excellent background for his rapping. As you listen through these selections you begin to feel a sense of familiarity with the “drum parts” of the beats that likely would be remedied with more instruments.

The Greenville spitter has a delivery that’s reminiscent of the legendary Scarface. He brings the appropriate energy to each song. Don also shows listeners that he’s extremely versatile with his varying flows and cadences. He has a go-to pattern generally, but still switches it up by doing things like going double to to finish of bars with aggressive punchlines. Despite his vocal similarity to Scarface, Don Dada has an iconic charisma exclusive to him. His unique persona shows through the songs and he walks a path with his subjects that few others have. In fact, I can only thing of Z-ro when it comes matching him up by subject matter. Alpoko Don also shows an array of lyrical talents, from his storytelling in “Gone Tomorrow” to his metaphoric symbolism in “Married to the Game”. He also shows advanced skills in similes in punchlines.

This EP is a successful introduction of what has potential to be a legendary career. Alpoko Don is a huge part of the southern wave that’s crashing down on the rap game soon. And as a people’s person, talented artist, and someone who has a good message I wish him da best in his pursuits, you feel me?

Album Grade: B

Southern Movement

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Another one of my predictions have appeared to me. From the recent trend of what’s going on with southern rap, southern rappers, and their music I have came to a conclusion. There’s going to be a huge southern movement in hip-hop soon. Like, they’re gonna take over the game again for a little bit. This situation resembles an earthquake that shook waaaayyyyy out at sea that only I know about and it’s sending a tidal wave coming full speed at the rap game, but its still offshore so people are just like whatever and not noticing it or whatever.

I’m serious though, the driving force behind this movement, I’d have to say is Big K.R.I.T. In 2010 and 2011 Big K.R.I.T. had a big buzz with his mixtapes, they were pretty much on everyone’s top 5 lists for those respective years; and to me “Return of 4eva” was one of, if not THE best mixtape I’ve ever heard. Fast forward a little bit and K.R.I.T. has a little less buzz than he’s had before, I mean people are still messing with him he certainly hasn’t fell off, but he’s not as much of a huge factor. I feel this is going to change soon, because I’m sure this southern emcee is aware of the criticism of his last album. I believe that this guy feels he has something to prove. Why? Well have you heard his verse on “1 Train”? (and check this out) Among other songs. K.R.I.T. has been everywhere lately, almost on a “rise of 2chainz” level with his features. And not only has he been everywhere, he’s been doing damage, killing the majority of the tracks and if not still having the song to be quite impressive and that’s just his rapping. Before now, K.R.I.T.’s premiere attraction was the fact that he was a great producer, but right now his rapping is top notch and I really can’t think of anyone who’s been crashing tracks as well as him since this year started.

Aside from that Mississippi emcee you also have another one, Tito Lopez, who hasn’t reeeaaally been getting much buzz, but I can see him going in that direction with a rising star award from HHDX and a relatively known feature track with K.R.I.T. and Joker. The other southern states making a statement is the Carolinas. Rapsody is coming off the momentum of a very good and well-acclaimed album, in my experience it didn’t really get noticed much (definitely not like it should’ve been noticed), but it’s enough to put her in people’s mouths. Along with her, you have the internet sensation Don Dada, or Alpoko Don coming out with his album tomorrow. I’m really excited about that, but at the same time blown because I’m broke. Anyway, his project has incredible potential. Looking at his videos, Don has incredible composing skills, can make a great hook, do a good verse with wordplay concepts good cadence and all of that; so if he even meets a majority of that potential then he’s going to make huge splashes in this game. Lastly, from SC we have this group called OXYxMORON who I’ve pretty much been listening to nonstop since I’ve heard of them; and pretty much feel like I’ve been living under a rock for not having heard of them. These guys not only have amazing talent I see taking them far even without their recent “cosign” from The Needle Drop owner, Anthony Fantano who has a relatively large following on the internet. On top of all that, it seems like amazing producer, 9th Wonder is getting real chummy with his region.

Besides that it’s really just a lot of little stuff going on. A-town rapper, Killer Mike should also have a lot of momentum from his last album which was pretty much in everyone’s top 3 for last year. K.R.I.T. has been networking a lot if you use his Instagram and recent features as a reference. A lot of other southern hip-hoppers are also networking. I’m very interested to see if my prediction comes true, because it’s surely justified.