Test Spin: Jadakiss

The Last Kiss, the third (and not last) solo album from Yonkers MC Jadakiss, packs a powerful punch with light, glittery synths, epic horns and rock hard drums. The ominous hiss of hi-hats and rattlesnaking tambourine jingles on “Come and Get Me” create the image of armed men lurking in the alleys.
Jada teams up with Nas on “What If,” which sounds like a hybrid of Jadakiss’s 2004 hit “Why” and Wyclef’s “Industry” from 2003. Kiss asks questions like “What if Peyton was fighting dogs instead of Mike Vick?” and “What if Manhattan was hit by Hurricane Katrina? / What if a black man was the one controlling FEMA?”

Test Spin: Bow Wow

Bow Wow’s sixth solo effort, New Jack City, Pt. II (his first to earn a Parental Advisory stamp), is filled with the same energy and Midwestern swag that fans have come to expect from the Columbus, Ohio rapper even since he came barking onto the scene as a 13-year-old pup. On his latest release, Bow Weezy kicks his flow into high gear, rapping above the speed limit on songs like the T.I.-assisted “Been Doin’ This.”
Another highlight, “Sunshine,” is the black sheep of the album, in that it has the gritty, colder sound of a song under East Coast influence. Bow Wow shows that he feels at home over likeably messy jingle bells in addition to the quick ticking hi-hats that rule Midwestern hip hop.

Test Spin: Jim Jones

The Juelz Santana-assisted “Girlfriends” is by far the best song on Pray IV Reign, the fourth album from Harlem hip-hopper Jim Jones. Beyond this track, though, the album lacks energy and originality. Even when I got over the discovery that “How to Be a Boss” only features Busta Rhymes on a version of the album I did not purchase, I was still disappointed with this latest effort from one of the co-founders of The Diplomats.

Test Spin: Ghostface Killah

Ghostface Killah, lyrical swordsman from the Wu-Tang Clan, combines old and new on his latest release GhostDeini the Great. The album adds some new tracks and remixes to a collection of Ghostface’s rawest beats and vocal efforts. Lil Wayne, Freeway, Ice Cube, and Malice of Clipse join the party on remixes of “Kilo” and “Be Easy” (originally from GFK’s Fishscale) and “Run” (originally from The Pretty Toney Album).

Nelly: Brass Knuckles

Nelly’s Brass Knuckles hits hard with that swagger and energy fans expect from the leader of the St. Lunatic family. Backing up his own vocals — and backing up his backup with shouts and chants — Nelly never lets the listener’s ears fall asleep.
Enlisting heavy hitters like LL Cool J, Chuck D and Snoop Dogg, Brass Knuckles runs the gamut of hip-hop history and geography. Nelly gives us the Midwest swang, along with songs like “LA” that sweats West Coast g-funk from the heat of Snoop and Nate Dogg, and “Chill” which sounds like it fell out of a G-Unit album.
Brass Knuckles could have packed a little more punch and a lot more originality. Energetic as he is, Nelly has basically had the same flow since he taught us the correct form of country grammar.

The Game's LAX

With a few questionable decisions from his latest effort in mind, I wonder whether The Game misses the days when he’d look behind the boards and see Dr. Dre or 50 Cent. Some of the instrumental choices, such as “Bulletproof Diaries” are less than stellar. The first 22 seconds of beatsmith Jellyroll’s production are as raw as anything before an irritating, misfit steel drum melody pokes at your ears for the rest of the song.

Test Spin: Atmosphere

One of the best things about the hip-hop duo Atmosphere is how articulate rapper Slug is. One of the worst things about When Life Gives You Lemons is how an army of overpowering instrumentals, led by louder-than-necessary snapping snare drums, negates whatever advantages clear vocals usually bring to an Atmosphere track.
With the music out in front of the vocals, otherwise noteworthy beats grow mundane, rarely changing, which further diminishes the listening experience. Adding to the monotony of the album, most songs carry a dark, ominous tone; songs simply mesh into each other. The album lacks strong distinction among the individual tracks.

Record Review: Jay-Z

At the start of American Gangster, Jay-Z doesn’t seem himself. After a bit of listening, though, I question whether this was the decline of a legend, or a conscious decision. Listeners get the Jigga Man they know and love, along with some flows and styles they’re not really accustomed to.

Record Review: Alex Kresovich '08

Executive producer Alex Kresovich ’08 takes listeners on an emotional roller coaster with diverse board work and an appealing mix of vocal talents on The Crowned Prince. The album has everything from S-Caliber’s raw “Gears of War” with drums that sound like marching feet, guns and explosions in one, to KOD’s party approved “Chillin In It.”
Hystwise shows his aptitude for metaphors on “My Autograph.” In the equally witty “Sneakers” he cleverly uses talk of footwear to refer to women — Hystwise claims “Some had to let ’em go/ They was on me too tight.”
Another highlight of the compilation is Estee Nack’s “El General.” Nack flows flawlessly over sluggish drums that will have heads nodding in extra slow motion.

Record Review: will.i.am

In his third solo effort, Songs About Girls, will.i.am gives us exactly what we have come to expect from the Black Eyed Peas front man. Unfortunately, that’s all he gives us.
As an individual entity, each funk infused and musically solid track is a treat for the ears. But after more than a dozen of these songs, listeners will find themselves searching for the light at the end of the tunnel.