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EZ-Q Universe: Bringing The Realness

His debut EP has that 90s sound you’re going to love!

South Bronx-raised EZ-Q Universe wears many hats: producer, rapper, songwriter, and even entertainment lawyer. Currently living in England, he’s prepping his debut EP, Soul Volution — a project that he claims will make no compromise in quality or 90s aesthetic.

Falling in love with the genre in the late-eighties, he was first introduced by a friend whose mother was dating a member of the critically acclaimed Ultramagnetic MC’s (the group which birthed Kool Keith). Coming of age during the golden era — in the birthplace of hip-hop itself — his music carries that same sensibility, with a soulful sound reminiscent of the Native Tongues collective.

The (upcoming) seven-song project, which he previewed via SoundCloud, is laced with enough golden-era New York swag to move even the most jaded listener. From the Camp-Lo-esque rhyme patterns of “Gettin’ Hot” and the empowering message behind “Black Exodus to the endearing Neo-Soul vibe of “Dear Mama” — a thank you to his mother — there’s more than enough quality to get you hyped for the full listen.

The project will be everywhere May 18; for now, give the preview a spin.

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Butta Beats Riding The Revolution On His New LP

ButtaBeats has 18-years in the game, and lyrically it shows. What’s dope about him is his consistency. He is quick…

ButtaBeats has 18-years in the game, and lyrically it shows. What’s dope about him is his consistency. He is quick to point out that topics that swirl around inequality, social injustice, and black power have been present in his music since the mid-2000s; America being America today, his messages now seem to have not just a place, but a particular potency that makes them all the more powerful. The Revenge of Charles Martin is an enjoyable listen. Blending social commentary with gritty first-person accounts of street life, he delivers a lyrically consistent — though sonically varied — body of work.

“My family, the people that are just like me, have been going through this shit forever,” Butta notes on the intro. He concludes the thought by biting that as an eighties baby, he felt as though perhaps he had “arrived,” and that the troublesome race relations of the past were somehow behind him (them). That isn’t the case, and it’s a theme he gravitates to off the jump. The title-track is bars on bars (on bars) of incredibly self-aware pro-blackness mixed with streetwise knowledge-of-self and industry jadedness.

“This is revolution, man, drink that shit responsibly,” he raps.

He keeps this energy throughout, but his beat selection takes some twists and turns. The trap vibe of “Live Stream,” the reggae splash of “Champion Sound,” the soulful piano on “Right Away,” and the straight-up West Coast knock of the “The K Weeze Session,” make for an ecclectic journey.

There were some standouts, the piano-driven “Climate Change” has — in my opinion — his best schemes on the project. “I move through these smoke-filled rooms, 16s lift you out of the tomb, pull these young dudes out of the womb … feed them knowledge from right out of the spoon, cause you are exactly what you consume or listen to,” he raps. Flame emojis galore.

“Dead Already,” which explores the realness of street life — and how fake rappers can be — and “Diaspora” with its theme of misplaced love and betrayal also really shine with the beat selection and bars.

“They Know” is the odd man out; the album outro is dope, but came out of nowhere.

The industry is built to keep this kind of wokeness out of the mix. With acts like Tekashi69 pushing a brand of normalized self-destruction and gang culture into the forefront, the game lacks the type of balance that Butta Beats provides. I mean, the sheer fact that he replaced all the ‘N’ words with Ninja says something about where his head is at.

The Revenge of Charles Martin is lyrically dense, and worth a spin or two. Press play.

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unsigned hype

The Russian Hack Job Delivers With Hazy New Single

Missouri super-group The Russian Hack Job have spent a considerable amount of time producing and writing music for others, but…

Missouri super-group The Russian Hack Job have spent a considerable amount of time producing and writing music for others, but now — for the first time — are concentrating on their own music. Their self-titled EP is in the works, and their first drop from the project, “James Harden (Riding Rockets),” is an exciting look (and listen) at what’s to come.

The group — made up of emcees AcidTone and Tripp, as well as producer Makarov — delivers a hazy high (as fuck) anthem that was a focal point of our 4:20 here at the office. “James Harden riding on a rocket … Martians driving in the cockpit,” Makarov chants in the chorus. AcidTone and Tripp have differing, yet complimentary cadences that play well off of each other.

 
Makarov, who has a healthy track record of crafting regional hits and working with some heavy hitting producers in the game like Trakstarz and Vassal Benford, comes through with a bassy banger with a spacey distorted vocal sample that is absolutely banging. It’s built for late night cruising with the windows down; the vibe is delicious.

There is no set release date for the full project just yet, but this first single is dripping with promise; get on board with this trio.

Early.

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unsigned hype

Tae Smooth Collects His Life Experiences On His Debut LP

Charlotte, North Carolina, rapper Tae Smooth likens himself a citizen of the world — having traveled every continent except Antarctica….

Charlotte, North Carolina, rapper Tae Smooth likens himself a citizen of the world — having traveled every continent except Antarctica. He’s also a veteran having served in Afghanistan. His globe-trotting has peppered his work with a unique worldwide flair. A humorous story is that he credits a trip to Thailand with the instilling in him the confidence to create music.

“A local shopkeeper asked me if I was a rap star,” he says with a laugh. Not one to shy away, Tae played along and laid down a quick 16 bars to a receptive crowd. That’s when he knew music was his calling.

His debut, Smooth Way Out, is an amalgamation of Tae’s life thus far — from the streets to the battlefields of Afghanistan. The LP’s message is distinct: the smooth way out of a [particular] situation may not be the easiest one; but, it’s an effective one. “There are two ways to get your voice heard, it’s about music and politics, and I’ve always stuck by that,” said Smooth. “Everything is art. Your expressions are your art, and mine happens to be my voice.”

Check out the latest visual for “Payback,” the project’s first single, below.

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Royce Ripken’s Long-Awaited Debut Delivers

After building a pretty notable buzz with his first four mixtape releases, emcee Royce Ripken, formerly Stretch Dinero—aka Supastaxx—has finally…

After building a pretty notable buzz with his first four mixtape releases, emcee Royce Ripken, formerly Stretch Dinero—aka Supastaxx—has finally released an official full-length debut, Home Run Ripken.

The 13-song affair is seemingly scattered regarding contextual content, but it is—after a few top to bottom listens—actually entirely cohesive, and packed with a balance of motivation, hype, and tunes for your girlfriend (see “Double Up”). Though the production credits aren’t front street, this man needs to buy his team a few beers, it sounds great.

Now, let’s break down the highs and lows; we’ll start with the standouts. “Flame Out” and “Run It Back” are his best attempts at generating an anthemic vibe on this LP. “Grand Slam” also deserves honorable mention. Lyrically on all three, he packs in as many smart punchlines as possible and then unleashes super catchy choruses. Sounds simple, but it isn’t. Earworms are an art.

Zac Alan’s chorus on “Run It Back,” with its grungy distortion in the high-end has an alternative vibe that feels top 40 radio ready.

If tasked with naming a top 2 on this album it would hands down be “They Want The Real. Pt. 2”—the most intimate point on the LP—and “Jiggle,” with it’s sped up Ellie Goulding sample. Throughout the project, he alluded to street life at a few points, but “They Want The Real. Pt. 2” is the first time that he seems to let you in, discussing his time in the streets, being locked up, and his daily struggle to stay on the right path as he explores his career in music. It’s more retrospective than descriptive.

“Jiggle” is way less profound, but garnered about 15 plays in a day on my phone. That beat is Fuego.

There are few actual low points on the project. He is an intelligent guy—lyrically—so “That Bag,” when compared to the (kind of) avant-garde thinking of “Catch These Fists,” seems pretty necessary.

Overall, though, it’s a respectable debut from Royce Ripken, and sure to set him on the right path!

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Donny DoomsDay Goes Against The Grain

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