Category Archives: Reviews

Welcome to violence: Madlib, “Medicine Show No. 1″

This essay on Madlib’s first installment in his Medicine Music Show series was published in the January 27 issue of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Welcome to violence Madlib, now in his hardcore phase, hands out sonic pamphlets like a … Continue reading

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On TV: “Straight Outta L.A.”

“Stop giving juice to the Raiders, ’cause Al Davis never paid us.” In his clumsily assembled documentary Straight Outta L.A., Ice Cube tells the viewer that he rapped these words because he had fallen out of love with the Los … Continue reading

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Ninjasonik, “Art School Girls”

Ninjasonik, Art School Girls Green Owl/Chief Records This full-length from a trio of Brooklyn smart-asses is a puzzling conceit of hipster in-jokes. Ninjasonik is undoubtedly the Art School Girls in the title, flipping through cool indie styles like a wardrobe … Continue reading

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Masta Killa, “Live”

Masta Killa, Live Gold Dust Media Masta Killa has quietly carved out a fine solo career independent of his Wu-Tang Clan brothers, issuing modest gems like 2004’s No Said Date. On Live, the New York rapper “keeps it classical like … Continue reading

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Inspectah Deck, “Manifesto”

Inspectah Deck, Manifesto Traffic Entertainment Inspectah Deck has dropped many classic verses and hooks for his Wu-Tang team, from “C.R.E.A.M.” to “Hollow Bones.” But unlike Ghostface Killah and Method Man, he never evolved into a compelling solo artist. Inspectah Deck’s … Continue reading

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Marco Polo & Ruste Juxx, “The eXXecution”

Marco Polo & Ruste Juxx, The eXXecution Duck Down Records Canadian producer Marco Polo knows how to cajole strong performances out of recalcitrant thug rappers. For Ruste Juxx, the star of The eXXecution, he lays down a template of grimy … Continue reading

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Flobots, “Survival Story”

Flobots, Survival Story Universal Republic If you’re looking for another “Handlebars,” the insanely catchy anti-imperialist anthem that put Denver, Colo. rap band Flobots on the map, then you won’t find it here. If anything from Survival Story emerges as a … Continue reading

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Dessa, “A Badly Broken Code”

Dessa, A Badly Broken Code Doomtree Like many spoken-word artists turned rappers, Dessa makes music that can’t be easily pegged as hip hop. Instead, A Badly Broken Code has a wintry, quiet tone reminiscent of mid-90s trip-hop, and she spends … Continue reading

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Get ready for more short cuts

Starting today, I’ll post some of my Rhapsody reviews on Plug One. I’m a little wary of doing this because these reviews tend to be more “service-friendly” than my usual work. At best, however, they cut to the chase and … Continue reading

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B. Dolan, “Fallen House, Sunken City”

B. Dolan, Fallen House, Sunken City Strange Famous Records “I braced against the railing and looked into the sun like I was waiting for someone to burn a picture in my mind,” B. Dolan intones on “Leaving New York.” Having … Continue reading

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Enter: The Plug One 2000s

This is an introduction to a failed project that will, over the next few months, provide a measure of redemption. The Plug One 2000s was originally conceived to document some of the changes that took place in hip hop culture … Continue reading

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The Plug One 50 2009: Top 30 Tracks

While the Plug One 50’s top 20 albums list is designed to be authoritative (or at least highly opinionated), the top 30 tracks list tends to be a mishmash of random favorites. These are a few songs that caught my … Continue reading

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The Plug One 50 2009: Top 20 Albums

This year’s crop of hip hop albums was an improvement over last year. But it didn’t come from the artists expected to dominate. Around this time in 2008, everyone was buzzing about the “new school” of blog-hyped rappers. They injected … Continue reading

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Review: Mos Def, “The Ecstatic”

(Note: This review was originally posted on Vibe.com before the company was liquidated and sold to new owners. It is no longer available on the website, so I decided to re-post it here.) Mos Def, The Ecstatic Downtown Records What’s … Continue reading

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Review: Asher Roth, “Asleep In The Bread Aisle”

(Note: This review was originally posted on Vibe.com before the company was liquidated and sold to new owners. It is no longer available on the website, so I decided to re-post it here.) Asher Roth, Asleep in the Bread Aisle … Continue reading

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Review: K’naan, “Troubadour”

(Note: This review was originally posted on Vibe.com before the company was liquidated and sold to new owners. It is no longer available on the website, so I decided to re-post it here.) K’naan, Troubadour A&M/Octone “I hope you’ve got … Continue reading

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Review: Mike Slott, “Lucky 9Teen”

Mike Slott, Lucky 9Teen (LuckyMe) With Lucky 9Teen, Mike Slott, who until now has been overshadowed by his onetime Heralds of Change partner Hudson Mohawke, emerges as the pensive theorist to HudMo’s zippy, happy-go-lucky prankster. His tracks click and sweep … Continue reading

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Vinyl & Stuff: J-Boogie’s “Alive”

J-Boogie’s Dubtronic Science Alive (OM Hip Hop, no catalog number) I haven’t posted a 12-inch review (or any review, for that matter) in quite some time. But a package of goodies from SF producer J-Boogie prompted me to end the … Continue reading

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On TV: “New Muslim Cool”

Last night, New Muslim Cool premiered on the PBS documentary series “POV.” Directed by Jennifer Maytorena Taylor and co-produced by Taylor and Kauthar Umar, the 90-minute piece focuses on Jason “Hamza” Perez, a Puerto Rican rapper and social worker who … Continue reading

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New Music: Dälek

Dälek Gutter Tactics (Ipecac, IPC109) Many years ago in the pages of Musician magazine, Bill Flanagan classified punk bands under two categories: the ambition Clash-types who expanded the genre’s inspired primitivism, and the Ramones-style bands that played variations of the … Continue reading

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