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Album review: One EP, Tensei

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Cover artwork for One EP

Tensei, the duo of Chicago producers Simple X and Midas Wells, is getting more and more exposure lately and recently signed to Plug Research, after being featured of an EP created by the label with their excellent remix of Bilal’s Robots. Despite the fact that they have worked on many remixes and may be largely known for those, they shine as bright when it comes to creating their own tracks and this lovely EP is only a confirmation of their talent. Presented as an introduction to their work and a prelude to an upcoming full-length album, One will rejoice fans and probably enrol many more among appreciators of instrumental music and open-minded music lovers. There are many reasons to love this EP and I will now share a few with you.

Whether you are familiar with Tensei’s music or not, this EP will serve as some kind of appetizer, a snippet of what they are capable of and of just how eclectic their music can get. With all the different moods, atmospheres and influences, from trip hop to soul, hip-hop, latin and afrobeat, electro, rock or jazz (just to name a few…), Simple X and Midas Wells offer a very comprehensive and encompassing project that allows the listeners to appreciate all the different things that inspire the producers and colour their music. Such a lively and rich palette could look a bit too overwhelming, but it works quite well and you can get a different picture with every track, as you would get a new story with every chapter in a collection of short stories. You can go from a spaced out electro track to a very chilled, soulful one, followed by another one that will be smooth and reggae/dub influenced but never get an impression of inappropriateness, as all those atmospheres you explore are just One after all. More

Album review: TEARS, Shade Cobain

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Cover artwork for Shade Cobain's TEARS

After DiViNe SeVeN’s INTROSPECT LP last week, I am catching up with another release I have been meaning to tell you about for ages. Shade Cobain, who is among my favourite producers, dropped his latest project TEARS on August 15th, in collaboration with JiLLz Worth’s Them Fighting Words and the album is, once again, a must-have. Big shout out to iNanz for yet another amazing artwork. Now, let me tell you why you need some “TEARS” in your life…

Shade Cobain describes his latest album as “the musical memoir of a 365 day grind” and once again puts a lot of himself into the music, creating a very personal, yet universal project. As he presents different steps and phases in this constant struggle that life is, including highs and lows, he touches upon an element that is still quite taboo in our society. Indeed, it is quite rare to hear people admit to crying or see them do it openly. Those tears may be due to anger, frustration, sadness or even joy and you can feel all of those emotions in the music, as the producer once more found the perfect samples and blending of instruments to reflect what was on his mind and heart. I guess this is me being too sensitive and emotional again, but I did cry when I first listened to the project.
As usual, a great importance is given to drums, which are hard-hitting and will most probably give you a serious head-nod but we can also find a wide variety of influences and genres, giving TEARS a more global reach and making it more than a hip-hop project. Another of Shade Cobain’s trademarks is present here, that is the relevance of the titles, which always emphasise the feeling expressed in the instrumental and make the music speak as words would.

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Album review: INTROSPECT, THE LP, DiViNe SeVeN


Cover artwork for DiViNe SeVeN's INTROSPECT, THE LP

As is sometimes (err.. often actually) the case, I got slightly side-tracked and overwhelmed by music in the past weeks and months, which created a delay in me writing this review. But this INTROSPECT LP is such a beautiful album that I had to tell you more about it. I hope DiViNe SeVeN and you won’t be too mad at me for taking so long and that it will be worth the wait. Now, let me tell you more about this excellent album…

One of the things I appreciate most about artists, on top of providing quality music, is their ability to evolve and explore different ways to express themselves, to touch upon new subjects or at least to approach them in a new way. As the title suggests, this INTROSPECT LP  is a journey into the heart and mind of DiViNe SeVeN, where he is extremely open about what’s going on in his life and what his various experiences taught him. This is not to say he was not already sharing personal thoughts and feelings on other projects, but this is the overall concept of the album and he goes a little further than previously. He is obviously not the only one to create such an album, which sounds like a diary, but it is precisely because it is his that it is so original and unique.

What struck me at first as I listened to the album was the production, which is a slight departure from what he is usually doing, with a great use of soul and jazz samples, giving the album a particular, somewhat nostalgic touch. Once again, this is nothing new and many artists are using this kind of samples, but I feel it fits perfectly here and helps convey the feelings expressed, while creating the appropriate atmosphere for the listeners to immerse themselves in. There is a very intimate, thoughtful element on this album and the different vocals sampled as well as the instruments (mainly horns and piano) make us travel back in time at the same time as we discover the world DiViNe SeVeN is depicting. While he is talking about his past and current life, the music makes us reminisce on our own history and remember the good and bad times. Something else that is quite new and a very welcome addition is collaboration with singers, who add another smooth soulful touch that blends perfectly with the overall feeling of introspection.

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Album review: All Flow Everything, e.d.g.e.

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Cover artwork for All Flow Everything

After much anticipation following the release of The 29th Year EP and many singles, e.d.g.e. finally uncovered his new album All Flow Everything on June 24th (in collaboration with I.G.O.D., DJ Koast & The 9 Elements). As usual I am fashionably late in telling you about it but I hope you will forgive me. I have been a fan of e.d.g.e. since I listened to his previous EP and I was quite eager to discover his first solo album. Let me tell you a bit more about how I felt about it…

If you have never heard of Canadian MC e.d.g.e. before, this album is probably one of the best ways for you to get acquainted. It gathers all the elements that make him as talented as he is, while it explores different sides of his personality and talent. The main focus on All Flow Everything though, is “penwork”. e.d.g.e. himself repeats the word many times over the album and this is clearly one of the most important and impressive aspects of his skills. Being a writer and lover of words, I am of course delighted when I listen to this display of lyrical and technical abilities. There is a sort of balance in the album, between purely technical tracks which loom on the side of ego-trip and deeper, more meaningful ones, even though the two sometimes blend and overlap, but what is constant is e.d.g.e.’s seamless flow and incredible way of using words as tools, or weapons at times. This is the kind of music you just can’t listen to in the background while doing something else. You can’t but but be caught up in the rhythm of the MC’s delivery and be amazed at his lyrical dexterity. Metaphors, alliterations, assonances are used perfectly and make words sound like little characters dancing around. e.d.g.e. is therefore the conductor and makes sure we enjoy the ride.

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Album review: Weather The Storm, D-Voo on OURshow

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This is just a quick post to let you know that my latest review is now featured on OURshow’s blog. Big shout out to Conshus for the opportunity and for putting me on D-Voo‘s music. You can now discover his new album Weather The Storm through my review.
Also, I need to say that OURshow is a dope radio show that every hip-hop appreciator should check out. Based in Orlando, Florida, they play some of the best hip-hop from the indie scene, including some “homegrown Ozone” (Ozone = Orlando), which is quite cool! You can check them out every Saturday between 5-7pm (local time) and catch up with the podcasts on the blog. Tune in on OURshow

To get an idea of what to expect with Weather The Storm, discover one of my favourite tracks on the album, On My Own. A few other tracks are available on D-Voo’s Bandcamp

Album review: I Should Have Kept My Mouth Shut, Kap Kallous


After discovering Kap Kallous’ universe with two previous projects, The TV EP and The She EP, that sounded like appetisers to my ears, I was quite impatient to hear his debut album, I Should Have Kept My Mouth Shut. I may have been overwhelmed at the time of the release and I have to admit I didn’t give it the time it deserved. But as soon as I listened to it I knew the wait was worth it. Why I took so long to write about it will remain a mystery but I hope you (and Kap Kallous) won’t be too mad at me for keeping “my mouth shut” for so long.

As soon as you read the title and see the album cover, you know you’re in for some raw, lyrically violent and brutally honest content, which is one of Kap Kallous’ trademarks. This is clearly not for the faint of heart, easily shocked or under-aged people, so if that’s your case you may as well stop reading now. What you may not expect, though, is a very eclectic and genre-crossing project, where the MC delivers lyrics providing food for thought over varied and original instrumentals. Apart from Nothings Free, which chorus sounds way too mainstream and unoriginal to my ears, I was very pleasantly surprised by the musical direction of the album, all the more so as I was not predicting such openness and variety. Thumbs up to Kap Kallous, then, for going beyond expectations and not being afraid to express himself by broadening his artistic horizons. With influences and elements borrowed to rock, electro or even dubstep, there is something for every one and your ears will probably enjoy this journey into different sonic dimensions. Whether you are an appreciator of those genres or not, there is a way for you to indulge in them as they are blended with others and sound more universal in this context that they may have otherwise. Despite this variety, a constant remains, that is the heaviness of the drums which will keep your head nodding hard to the rhythm of the beat.

Lyrically, there is no surprise. Kap Kallous is true to himself and the irony of the title will not be missed. It is quite clear the MC didn’t intend on keeping that mouth shut and I am quite sure people are grateful for this (well, those who appreciate his music that is – I guess some may be offended). His previous projects proved that he didn’t really care about what people may think and made it a point to say exactly what was on his mind. What I got to appreciate with the EPs, I can find once more on the album. More diverse than the EPs, which were very conceptual, the album allows Kap Kallous to express his thoughts and feelings on different subjects, from his personal life, struggles and love for music to more universal ideas on society, conspiracy theories or simply ego-tripping. Other tracks like Where Did She Go or Portrait Of An American Family are yet another occasion for him to showcase his excellent story-telling skills as well as his cynical but accurate visions on life and love. There is also a cinematographic dimension on several of the tracks, which is something I could already appreciate with his previous projects. All in all, I would say I Should Have Kept My Mouth Shut is the addition of the themes of TV/cinema/society we could find in The TV  EP and a bleak yet realistic take on love which was the central element of The She EP, with more general or personal tracks which all exude a great energy, sometimes bordering violence but always very cleverly expressed. This album sounds like an outlet for Kap Kallous and I guess many of us can relate to this need to let off some steam and anger, to simply express what we have inside and that needs to get out. I can’t but salute the MC’s courage to do so, as it is quite inspiring and salutary.

Now, to get an idea of what I talked about in the previous paragraphs, I will share two of the official videos for the album. First of all, the latest is the visual rendition for Hush, one of the most energetic and compelling tracks, which shouldn’t leave anyone unmoved. As stated in the disclaimer, this is for mature audiences ONLY. You’ve been warned…

Then, one of my favourite tracks and one of the most original ones is the mesmerising Like I Do, with beautiful vocals courtesy of S.K.I.P. I find the video very interesting and a great interpretation of the themes and lyrics of the song. Once again, not for the faint of heart.

If you like what you’ve heard, head to Kap Kallous’ Bandcamp to get the album, or simply click on the link below.

Find out more about Kap Kallous: FacebookTwitter

Album review: Let the Love Come, ArinMaya

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Cover artwork for Let The Love Come

I first heard the angelic voice of ArinMaya thanks to an article on Bama Love Soul, where they presented her previous project, the amazing Sound Of ArinMaya. I was immediately mesmerised by the lady’s voice but also deeply touched by the emotional and spiritual content of the EP. Since then, I have been playing this project regularly, while waiting for a new one and an occasion to listen to more of ArinMaya’s heavenly music. My wishes have been granted and I am fortunate enough to have been introduced to Let the Love Come, her new project in collaboration with Nick Cassarino, which will be released on June 14th.

While her debut EP was an eclectic collection of tracks showcasing her vocal skills over varied genres which allowed her to explore different sides of her personality/art, this acoustic album is more focused on folk and soul, with a very interesting concept, that of love. Probably the most universal and recurrent of subjects, love will never cease to inspire artists, offering them infinite possibilities to describe the way it affects people, uniting them or tearing them apart. Let the Love Come is therefore an exploration of all the different expressions of love, from the purest to the most harmful, from a spiritual point of view to an acknowledgement of its power. The title is an invitation, as ArinMaya and guitarist Nick Cassarino encourage you to open your ears and hearts, to surrender to the beauty and passion of love, to its addictive, dangerous but healing power. What you will feel, then, is pure emotion, thanks to the wonderful acoustic guitar which enhances the incredible vocals and lyrics. I mentioned several times how acoustic music is one of the most emotional and rawest ways to spread a message. This album is yet another confirmation of this statement for me. From the very first notes of Around to the last of Lemon Drops, I could feel chills down my spine, a smile on my face and a rush of tears to the edge of my eyes. I may be too sensitive for some but I don’t care. I feel blessed every time I can experience such beauty and it helps me keep the faith in humanity and the world.
As the guitar discreetly provides for an emotional musical pattern, it leaves all the space for ArinMaya and Nick Cassarino’s voices to shine. Because the melodies are stripped down, the focus here is on vocals and lyrics, with the slight touches of guitar underlining the beauty and power of the latter. I could go on for days about the extraordinary and heavenly voice of ArinMaya but I feel words wouldn’t even do it justice. There are some times when words can’t express such experience. You have to listen to her to understand what I mean. You have to discover this gift for yourself and be touched deeply by it to know what it is all about. It is clearly one of the strongest points of this album and the reason why I will never tire of listening to it. There is something addictive about it, this healing and soothing effect that it has will make you want more.
The lyrics all revolve around love and its various expressions. The three covers are a way for ArinMaya to pay homage to the creators of the songs, while putting some of herself in them and giving them a different twist. The different, more intimate dimension and slower or more lively pace allow the listener to really pay attention to the lyrics and feel the emotions they contain. Special mention for Nothing Even Matters, one of my favourite songs by Lauryn Hill, which becomes even more powerful and brought me to the verge of crying. The original songs explore all the nuances on the wide spectrum of feelings and emotions love can trigger off. From beautiful relationships made of trust to break-ups that leave lingering regrets, to self-love and a quest for spiritual meaning, the singers present a colourful and compelling range of interpretations of love, where you will most definitely find some pieces of yourself. One of the most inspiring and touching songs, Lemon Drops closes this project perfectly, spreading some very positive and inspiring messages, when ArinMaya states “I know the sun will shine” and declares that “love’s a key to heal humanity”. There is nothing much I could add to that.

Let the Love Come will be released on June 14th but you can already pre-order it on ArinMaya’s Bandcamp. You can also discover and download the beautiful Lemon Drops there, or simply by clicking on the link below. Open your ears and heart and let it come…

Find out more about ArinMaya on her website

Album review: For All It’s Worth, DiverSe


DiverSe is a young artist I discovered back in October thanks to Twist from Civil Mics and with his previous project, the Mind Of A Lyricist Vol. 3. In case you have never heard about him (which means you haven’t been following the blog, but it’s ok, I’m not mad at you), you can first get familiar with the talented MC through an interview we made before the mixtape was released and then discover my review for MOALV3. Now that you are up to speed, let me tell you about his latest project, For All It’s Worth EP. Just before I do that though, I will take some time to give a big shout out to Jam85 for the incredible artwork he created for the EP. This one is the the alternate cover (the official one is courtesy of Mina Kwon) and it really touches me and puts a smile on my face every time I look at it. This little girl strangely reminds me of myself as a child… But enough with the reminiscing, let’s discover DiverSe’s latest project and why it is a must-have. 

While MOALV3 was all about DiverSe’s lyrical skills and focused more on the technical side than on the content, For All It’s Worth is much more personal, it is a way for the young MC to share more about him and express deeper thoughts and feelings. What is obvious when you consider both projects is the evolution DiverSe went through, which is simply called growing-up. The transition from childhood to adulthood can be very swift and painful sometimes but it is a necessary step we all go through. What is quite remarkable in DiverSe’s case is that this process was quite thorough and is reflected in the themes he touches upon, as well as the way he is opening up, sharing very personal experiences. Dealing mostly with love and relationships, For All It’s Worth presents a rather mature and insightful perspective, which is the result of experiences with love and life but more importantly the ability to analyse those and look back on the mistakes he may have made in the process. While a couple of tracks may be slightly weaker than the rest, the overall impression is that of a cohesive project which sounds like a diary and allows DiverSe to take his talent to the next level, as he is putting his heart and soul into his music and enabling the listener to relate to his feelings. Lyrically, the MC is obviously still on point and provides us with some very enjoyable wordplay and inspiring messages.
When it comes to the music, I need to underline the different producers’ talent and ability to provide the perfect canvas to DiverSe’s flow and lyrics. I have to admit JMB and Soy Is REAL are slightly above the others and I was enchanted by their soulful, emotional beats. Mostly chilled, going from feel-good music to darker, more introspective instrumentals, the sonic pattern of the EP really matches the MC’s story and creates an excellent atmosphere for this journey into his mind and heart. DiverSe managed to surround himself with talented people who share his vision, including singers and fellow MC, long-time friend and collaborator Major. While some of the hooks sounded a bit annoying and repetitive, the collaborations with Sleepy Head (I Fall In Love), 21 (Bad Habit) and the lovely Nena (Where Does Time Go) work quite well and add a very nice touch to the tracks.

For All It’s Worth… Well, I believe the different tracks on this EP are worth quite a lot and really capture DiverSe’s feelings and his vision of life and love. He may be young, but he has been through some experiences that made him grow and learn from his mistakes. Many of the tracks sound like open letters to girls who shared moments of his life, for better or for worse. Starting with a rather angry statement, I’ve Had Enough, which is very honest and heartfelt, DiverSe makes it quite clear that the line between love and hate is always quite thin and easy to cross, as he expresses how he reached the point of no return in a relationship, this moment when all the lying and cheating is just too much to bear. The oppressive sensation created by the beat really matches the lyrics and makes it easy to relate to the feelings expressed. Slightly less angry and more resigned to the situation, DiverSe explains how this girl is a Bad Habit that he just can’t kick. On a brighter note, he goes back in time, where it all started and when he declares I Fall In Love, accompanied by Sleepy Head, all you want to do is indulge in this beautiful feeling yourself. The excellent production by Exile, once you get used to not hearing Blu rapping on it, is really fitting and provides this feel-good element you need to immerse yourself in the early stages of this love story. Another element of DiverSe’s story is the constant going back and forth between love and music and how girls sometimes don’t have enough patience or understanding to leave him enough space and time to live his passion. While the great, soulful production courtesy of Soy makes it a very nice track, the hook on Leaving Me Alone slightly spoils the mood, as it is too repetitive and annoying. This is the only thing that would have needed improvement on the EP and it would have made the track one of my favourites, as there is definitely some feel-good element and interesting lyrics here. Love My Music, on the other hand, is clearly one of the best for me, with its beautiful piano and DiverSe explaining how his love for music is never an option for compromise. As he says, ‘Music can never cheat on me’, which is something girls in his life don’t seem to live up to. While I Don’t Have Time  and Where Does Time Go provide a more general reflection on life and inspiring lyrics about the need to make the most of the time you are granted on this earth (‘Live each day before they fly away’), Inside My Mind and the incredible Dripping Soul offer a very personal journey into DiverSe’s heart and soul, and are a way for him to share some of his most personal lyrics. The last track is clearly my favourite and is a perfect way to close the project, with the wonderful, soulful and emotional beat courtesy of JBM and DiverSe’s extremely heartfelt recounting of what seems to have been a very painful experience. I need to salute the MC for this beautiful and emotional EP, which is yet another proof of his talent, as well as a new step in his constant growth and evolution as a man and as an artist.

Now that you know more about For All It’s Worth, you can enter DiverSe’s heart and mind by heading to his Bandcamp page or simply by clicking on the link below. Enjoy the journey and spread the word.

Find out more about DiverSe on Facebook and Twitter

Album review: Cobainish Theory, Shade Cobain

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As promised in the previous post, I will now tell you a bit more about Shade Cobain’s latest project. In case you missed it and if you need to get familiar with the ‘man of many theories’, have a look a my latest interview with the talented Pittsburgh-based producer. Now, without further delay, here are my thoughts on Cobainish Theory…

I have to admit I had rarely been that impatient to hear an album as I have been with Shade Cobain’s Cobainish Theory. After listening to the incredible Anti-Love Theory, I was really wondering what Shade would come up with on this new project. I had high expectations and those were not only met but clearly exceeded. The amazing producer seems to always grow and improve his craft and I can say this project is not only my favourite by him but probably his best so far. Also, it sounds like a mixture of his previous releases, but on a higher level. As he explained in the interview, “Cobainish Theory is a project that brings all of my other projects together. It’s a little bit of Cassette Theory, a dab of Anti Love Theory.” Shade Cobain is a very versatile producer who always loves to experiment and explore different sounds and this latest project brings all his influences and inspirations together, not only in terms of music but also when it comes to the feelings and themes he is touching upon. While Anti-Love Theory was dealing with love and some personal experiences, it still had a universal appeal and didn’t dig too deep into the producer’s own story. With Cobainish Theory, it seems like he went further and opened up a bit more, telling some of his story, presenting you his own ‘theory’. Also, his other project Cassette Theory was an ode to hip-hop, clearly focused on the culture and paying homage to the ‘golden era’. This spirit of hip-hop is obviously infused in the beats here but there is much more than that. Shade Cobain is not a hip-hop producer, he is making music, period. And that means he is weaving his music with many different sounds and genres, making it universal and original at the same time. Cobainish Theory is therefore a slice of Shade Cobain’s life, a way to get into his brain and heart, experience his feelings and relate to his thoughts.

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Album review: Life Doesn’t Frighten Me, Malcolm and Martin on FlyDef

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Cover artwork for Life Doesn't Frighten Me

    This is just a quick post to let you know that my latest album review is now featured on FlyDefinition. After Grey Matter’s self-titled debut and IMAKEMADBEATS’ double EP Daylight/Nightlight, I am now sharing my thoughts on Martin and Malcolm’s debut album, entitled Life Doesn’t Frighten Me. I had never heard of the group before and it was a very interesting discovery.

    EDIT: It looks like the original post with my review was deleted, so here it is, for your listening pleasure…

    Every now and again, you will start listening to an album not knowing what to expect at all and be simply blown away, wanting to say “Wow!” at each track or even each word. Life Doesn’t Frighten Me had that effect on me. I had never heard of Martin & Malcolm before but their name only told me I would most probably like the content of their debut album. Comprised of DJ Revolution, Styliztik Jones and KB Imean, the group provides us with “a progressive throwback.” In the words of DJ Revolution, “It’s Hip-Hop music for the intelligent listener. Something you’ve never heard before, that feels like something you have loved your whole life.” This mixture of classic hip-hop productions with a twist and educational, thought-provoking content is the reason why I appreciated the album that much. Nowadays, it’s quite difficult to find some hip-hop albums that stay true to the original spirit and make your head nod while encouraging you to stop and take some time to reflect on the lyrics.
    What was obvious from the very first seconds of Welcome to the movement was how DJ Revolution was highly inspired by old-school productions that blend scratches, jazz or soul samples and head-nodding rhythms. All the tracks have this throwback element while giving you something more, an extra twist that make them sound fresh and relevant. To complement those amazing instrumentals, Styliztik Jones and KB Imean showcase their excellent writing skills and clever rhymes, as well as impressive, seamless flows that seem to ride on the different and varied beats effortlessly. The addition of DJ Revolution’s talent as a producer and DJ and the MC’s lyrical ability makes it quite impossible not to get caught up in every single track and be infected by their incredible energy. Staying faithful to hip-hop means being inspired by many other genres and Life Doesn’t Frighten Me clearly draws influences from jazz, soul, funk and African music, turning it into a sonic journey through time and space. The different beats make you travel in your head, back to the past, not only musically but also historically, socially and culturally.

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