D-Maub is everyone's favorite feature. He has truly been gifted with the ability to body every work that he steps up to. As far as I can recall, there hasn’t been a feature spot I’ve heard that I haven’t enjoyed from this Cincinnati native. When D gets on a track he is guaranteed to overwhelm listeners with his lyrical prowess. For the sake of “total beat dismantlement” one could refer to him as the Busta Rhymes of Christian Hip-Hop, but he’s truly in a league of his own.

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Careful. While music is, by definition ‘an expression of emotion’, we must not be so ignorant as to give such creative leeway to a Christian artist. And God forbid giving it to an entire GROUP of such musicians.

Enter stage left Sho Baraka, Swoope, Suzy Rock, J.R, collectively known as High Society. Their first album, Circa MMXI: The Collective’is as expansive as World Music or a Phil Collins record. In a genre that has pigeon-holed itself as extremely methodical and predictable, High Society has managed to build an album that can easily be listened to from beginning to end. In fact, it would be an injustice to oneself to skip even a single track on this album.
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Twenty-plus years ago, MC Ren and Dr. Dre posited that writing a successful hip hop song was a pretty simple formula: “You’re either talkin’ ‘bout the place to be, who you are, what you got, or about a sucker MC.” I’ve always been irritated by such a simplistic take on one of my favorite art forms. Hip hop is an extremely effective story telling medium, and I was reminded of this as I started digging into Theory Hazit’s latest release, Thr3e.
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Thi’sl is back with his third album, Beautiful Monster. The St. Louis native illuminates on this 16 track album that sin appears to be good but in the end destroys. Thi’sl creates an album that automatically remains on replay. I find myself constantly enjoying the sonic presentation and lyrical delivery.

Thi’sl begins the album with an introspective introduction. The soulful Swoope produced Beautiful Music starts out with “Life can be a monster, that’s why everyday I wake up it’s the one I’m trying to conquer.” Thi’sl goes hard with 3 minutes of verses with no hook over the live instrumentation. The verses set the tone for the project. The introduction is followed by the Geeda produced Let It Knock featuring PRo. The production begins with repeating synth based siren sounds followed by snapping snares and a knocking bass. This song instantly adds a dose of adrenaline to the listening experience. Thi’sl adds that, “they tried to leave me dead out on the block. But I’m here and now I’m about to turn this thing up and let it knock.” PRo contributes his amped styled flow to the song. The fireworks on the JR produced First 48 sets the stage for an amazing look into a real life story. Thi’sl brings a stop and go flow mixed with a raspy and deep vocal tone. His flow fits well with the spooky sounds, army marching feet, stutter snares and hard kicks. The song is a reality check for those that feel that they are immune to the streets.
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As a strong advocate of hip hop, I talk about it quite a bit. Whether I’m conferring with other hip hop heads, or those who are not particular fans, I like to think that my love of great production and strong lyricism is infectious. I like to point out that, at its best, hip hop is modern poetry, and every bit as viable as beat poets like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, or 20th century romantics like Dylan Thomas. If you’re looking for proof of this, look no further.

On their new album, Never Arrive, theBREAX, a hip hop crew/band based in southern California, deliver not only tight beats (featuring live instrumentation) and stirring lyricism, but also an aspect of honest, no-compromises spoken word poetry. Main group members, Ruslan, MicB and Beleaf are all spoken word poets whose work in that vein features in between several tracks on Never Arrive. If this doesn’t sound like your particular brand of soda, wait. In addition to being spoken word poets, they are also quality purveyors of hip hop.

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It is very safe to say that men do not have the position & influence in our culture they once had. When Beyonce declared that “girls run the world”, her statement was not met with a drop of opposition. All over the media men are emasculated, from sitcoms to talk shows. Other than ESPN, the voice of men in society has been reduced from a lion’s roar to a slight whisper. Even in hip-hop, the majority of topics that MCs divulge in (i.e.- sex, money, & prestige) are used to garner the attention of women.

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If you’ve listened to Christian hip hop for any length of time, chances are you remember, or at least have heard of, Uprok Records. For the uninitiated, Uprok was a hip hop based sub-imprint of Brandon Ebel’s Tooth and Nail records, and was responsible for releasing several landmark Christian hip hop albums, including Tunnel Vision by the Tunnel Rats. The Tunnel Rats were a huge crew, and some of their members had a tendency to get a little bit lost in the shuffle. Luckily, Uprok was good to the Tunnel Rats posse, and put out numerous solo albums from Tunnel Rats crew members. In 2002, one of those albums was Stop the Music by New Breed, a group consisting of brother and sister Macho and Elsie Ortega. Based on that album, and his contributions to Tunnel Vision, I knew that Macho Ortega was someone to watch.
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