DX Album Review Bits - Vakill, Illus, Shabazz Palaces & Cold Heat

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DX talks Chi-Town's Vakill along with Illus' opus and Cold Heat. Plus Ish ("Butterfly" from Digable Planets) reincarnates as Palaceer Lazaro in Shabazz Palaces.

Armor Of God by Vakill

Listening to Vakill go bar for bar with some of rap’s most reputable battle emcees on “Beast Ballad” makes you wonder why the Chicago-native hasn’t gotten his just due. Alas, five years between releases will do that, yet he shows no signs of lyrical relapse as Armor Of God marks a stellar return for the Molemen-affiliate. From his extra-raw demeanor on “Mean Mug Muzik” and “Proof” to his personal potent descriptions of the past on “Wild Wild” and “You Don’t Know,” Vakill’s vivid narratives over bruising production punctuates the significance of hardcore Hip Hop that is seldom heard on the radio. Peep “Bi-Polar,” a telling record that perfectly epitomizes the love-hate relationship within today’s scene.

For Adam by Illus

In an attempt to curb overt cynicism in Hip Hop for records that carry positivity, Illus offers up the Adam Walsh-inspired (look him up) For Adam. Easily accessible tracks like “Brighter Day” and “Free” give the listener hope for a better future, while the Eternia-assisted “Sons & Daughters” touches on the appreciation for parents who give their children a positive outlook on life. Though creative, the various celebrated novel references littered throughout “R.I.F.” fail to depict a clear direction. Then on “Better,” Illus’ execution of requesting “more peace less war, we can make it better / never say never man, get up and make it better” sounds amateurish at best. At 33 minutes, For Adam is a novelty release lacking substantial content, though the message is one that can be appreciated.

Black Up by Shabazz Palaces

In 1993 Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler was rapping over the Grammy-winning jazz-rap fusion record “Rebirth Of Slick (Cool Like That)” with Digable Planets. In 2011? He’s now rapping under the moniker Palaceer Lazaro alongside Shabazz Palaces, a non-descript group that likewise masks their full-length debut Black Up with obscure transitions and haunting vibes that castrate the listener from anything reminiscently contemporary. Lazaro’s cold delivery meshes well with this new conceptual style, with tracks like “free press and curl” and “Are you…Can you…Were you? (Felt)” reveling in the experimentation of audible senses. No track is constructed with a beginning-to-end scenario, and Black Up could best be personified by “Recollections of the wraith” where Lazaro advises, “Clear some space out, so we can space out.” This is definitely music to zone out to.

Raising The Bar by Cold Heat

Cold Heat’s album Raising The Bar is not what you’d expect from a rap duo representing Queens, New York. Made up of emcee Jak Danielz and producer Johnny Walker, Cold Heat trade in East Coast boom bap for smooth, relatable cuts that sound more Atmosphere than Rakim. Whether it’s the melancholic grooves on “When You Coming Home” and “Looking For You” or the stream of consciousness found on “Thinking Out Loud,” Jak Danielz shows a knack for delivering rhymes with purpose. At times the production sounds rough around the edges, such as the weak trumpet synth on “Place Near You” or the hollow melody on “Spanish Guitars.” Overall though Raising The Bar is a nice break from the norm and a reason to give Cold Heat a future look.

14 Comments

  • bullshitback

    Wait a second, who DID write a review of Vakill?

  • Alex

    "The fuck is this? DX doesn't see the irony about bringing up Vakill's lack of recognition while NOT WRITING A FULL REVIEW FOR HIS ALBUM? Fuck that!" WORD! Stupid shit by DX, Vakill deserved a full review! Shabazz as well.

  • C-Bo

    I have to agree with everyone, it's kind of amazing that you didn't give Black Up a full review when several other publications and peers consider one of the best albums of the year. Gotta get your priorities right.

  • Yolanda Diaz

    "Lacking substantial content"? Not sure how you can say that about the new Illus album. I personally think it is dope and has more substance than any record out at the moment. This is an incredibly passionate album. It may just be that you don't personally appreciate positive HIPHOP with meaning. That Vakill is also dope.

  • furious stiles

    Very troubling that Dom Kennedy got a full review but Vakill did not. That being said, it's not his best album... but still. Can the veterans get some love? I see DX looked out for Blaq Poet. Why not Vakill? I'd love an answer.

  • Vocab

    Very disappointed that Vakill didnt get a full review....but thanks for mentioning him at all I guess.

  • Kang Munir

    Please stop disrespecting artists by not giving them full reviews and ratings. If you are to do so please publicize the criteria which makes an artist worthy of a full review.

  • ps

    They review Beyonce and pitbull LP's and dont have attention for maybe best HIPHOP LP from shabazz....What the hell is wrong with that world... if you see another professional review shabazz as Hyped as hell and yes I agree with this hype, Butler has more talent and do better music then 99.9% hiphop scene "You think I'm selfish, exist only to wish on stars", alongside with oneiroly and hail mary mallon best music this year..... and yes vakill is also pretty dope convencial hip hop but great

  • Salaam

    The fuck is this? DX doesn't see the irony about bringing up Vakill's lack of recognition while NOT WRITING A FULL REVIEW FOR HIS ALBUM? Fuck that!

  • Anonymous

    Vakill's album also deserves a proper one. You guys are bigging him up on this site, post a lot of shitty reviews that haven't do much with Hip Hop, everybody wants real Hip Hop to come back, then this dude comes back after 5 years, still rapping better than 99% of the game and gets this few sentences. That's sad.

  • Anonymous

    Thirded on Shabazz Palaces deserving a stand-alone review. One of the best albums of the year so far

  • bloody bastard

    Yo I agree.... GTFOH for not giving that Shabazz album a review.... 2 Dope EP's and a great full length from a vet artist doing new things in music. If you have time to review Beyonce and like that, give the man some burn. If you have an open mind about what hiphop CAN sound like in 2011, do yourself a favor and check this album out!!

  • ps

    5/5 to BLACK UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!that LP deserve a single review