It’s been a long time….I shouldn’t have left you….without some new nieces and nephews.
First and foremost, let me start this review by prefacing a bit of my musical background (by background I mean preferences, I don’t have musical talent, but I did help record/push two mixtapes….I’m digressing, my bad). Back in my High School days (a good 7-10 years ago), I was a stubborn teenager and one of those self-proclaimed “Hip Hop Heads” who would accept nothing less from rap than a lyric and metaphor laden song, the likes of which would make your English teacher quit teaching and have them go back to school for an alternative Masters in hopes of getting out of the teaching field because they’ll never come up with poetry as well constructed as said rapper.
I was very full of crap.
Over time, like most people, my tastes grew and I understood a little bit more about music, and particularly business, and particularly particularly radio business. I understood that all facets of rap/hip-hop are needed and for good reason, I won’t go into that now but I’m telling you this for a reason. The album I’m about to review is indeed of the “underground variety” if you would like to call it that. If I review an album on here (and pretty much bring back an old website just to do so) it will be for one of two reasons:
1) It is a major album release, good or bad, that should be looked into (and I’ve listened to it)
2) It’s a solid to great release by an artist I happen to follow/like
So don’t run away thinking this is going to be one of those pretentious “let me review this rap album while showing my music prowess and how much better I am than you for knowing about this before you”, this is going to be a straightforward review of an album from guys I truly respect. So let’s get on with it.
ALBUM REVIEW TIME!
“Ryan, what the hell is a ‘Hellfyre Club’ and why are they referencing two killers?” – I can answer one question and not the other, so deal with it. Hellfyre Club is a label created by Los Angeles-based rapper NoCanDo (James McCall), NoCan got his start in the battle rap circuit and long story short became affiliated with Project Blowed, another LA-based collective of emcees and hip hop enthusiasts who’ve been at it since the 90s. You’ve probably heard of Ahmad, who had a major hit in the 90s called “Back In The Day”, you might not recognize the name, but if you were to find it on youtube, you’d recognize the song.
Anyway, NoCanDo gathered a group of Emcees who have some degree of separation from the Project Blowed origin (and some of which are his dearest friends, or have become his friends over time) to form what is essentially an LA-underground miniature all-star team. The current HC roster consists of NoCan, Busdriver, KAIL, milo, Anderson. paak, Taurus Scott, Rheteric Ramirez, VerBS, The Kleenerz, KAIL and E.Super. The great thing about HellFyre club is that the collective features a wide-range of styles which can work very well for a label if things are done correctly! So think of this album as a West-Coast, underground and less well known version of a YMCMB album. The Dorner Vs. Tookie mixtape serves as nothing more than an introduction to what we can expect from the label for future releases.
The album itself is FREE (name your own price, I suggest you toss them at least a $1, it’s worth it, link below) put together pretty well, which can honestly be one of the most difficult parts of piecing an album together, it has to flow. DvT gives you 15 1/2 tracks for your listening pleasure, and when I say 15 1/2 I mean 15 1/2 actual SONGS, there are 17 total tracks with “Bouncin In The Trap” serving as an instrumental opening with Busdriver and Taurus Scott speaking at the end. The “1/2” track is a reference to “Apologies”, which I’m pretty much assuming is a nice prelude to one of the album’s highlight tracks “All Pastel Everything”.
The first actual track on the album is the titular “DvT” which should henceforth and forever be THE definition of how to do a posse-cut. Every Hellfyre Club regular (except milo) makes an appearance on this track, and despite the varying types of styles each member brings to the label, they’re all able to put their own unique spin on the track. Open Mike Eagle provides his general Art Rap flow, VerBS, KAIL and NoCanDo give it your standard rap flair (whatever the hell that is, don’t ask me), Busdriver brings his patented “what the hell are you talking about bro? That’s okay tho cause it’s dope” style, while Rhett Ramirez ties it all together at the end. What DvT does well is get you prepared for what you’re going to hear on the album itself, and what you can expect from each artist. If you don’t know any of these guys, this is a good place to start and a good album to form an idea.
Throughout the remaining tracks you get a nice mix of solo tracks and group efforts. Open Mike Eagle, Rhetteric Ramirez, milo, NoCanDo, KAIL and Busdriver all get their own chance to shine at least once on the album, Rhet and KAIL get left out of a few of the group efforts, but all is fine because the two seem to work better by themselves in my personal opinion. You can prepare to get a heavy dose of Open Mike Eagle while you’re at it, as the Chicago-bred rhymer gets his own exclusive cuts in “Qualifiers” and “Apologies” and is the heavy feature for “Degrassi School Picture Day”. He also appears on a few other tracks and delivers what are probably some of THE best verses on the cut.
I want to categorize the album by breaking it into three separate levels to give you an idea of how it breaks down. I’m not counting “Bouncing In The Trap” or “Apologies” on this list.
1) Levels of Amazing That I Can’t Even Begin To Describe
DvT – Open Mike, VerBS, NoCanDo, KAIL, Busdriver and Rheteric Ramirez
Degrassi Picture Day – Open Mike Eagle, Busdriver
Qualifiers – Open Mike Eagle
All Pastel Everything – Busdriver, Open Mike Eagle, milo
F*** A Nightstalker – Rheteric Ramirez
Barbs Over Breakfast Scones – Busdriver
Elephant In The Pressroom – Busdriver, Open Mike Eagle, Jeremiah Jae
As you can tell, this is a relatively extensive list, to me, 7 of the 15 available tracks are can’t miss. Depending on your mood you’ll feel something from these, whether it’s the all-around vibe “All Patel Everything” puts you in, to the creativity of “Degrassi Picture Day” (it’s a song about Picture Day, what sapped out soul doesn’t fondly remember Picture Day?). The harder appeals of DvT, Nightstalker, or Pressroom, or even the frantic feeling of Breakfast Scones are spectacular as well, but to me Qualifiers is among the absolute best (loved the “live version” and have been waiting an MP3 release since).
2) General Good Vibes
Fabian Cortez – Rheteric Ramirez & NoCanDo
Pet Alligators – Flash Bang Grenada (NoCanDo + Busdriver)
ecclesiastes – milo
Give A F*** – NoCanDo
Snake Lake Remix – milo f/ Busdriver
Manchester – milo, NoCanDo, Busdriver
These songs are the ones that I don’t feel guilty passing by from time to time but I’ll still give a listen everyone once in a while when the album is in my car and I’m not busy listening to the 7 above. I will outright state that I’m not a milo fan, BUT I do like the guy’s vibe and I can certainly see why he’s gained such a massive following as of late. He is talented without a doubt. NoCan’s Manchester verse is a little depressing though, divorces and whatnot, unless I heard that wrong.
3) You Missed Me
We On – KAIL
Big Business – The Kleenerz
I just. I can’t get with these. That’s me though, I’ve seen reviews where people loved it, but it just didn’t work for me and that’s no disrespect or shade to either artist whatsoever. Just me.
Overall this is an album that will hold your attention if you’re willing to give it a listen, and I’ll tell you outright that it’s worth the download. After all this is more of a tale of what is to come for this label, and you might just find an artist you love while searching through here, and if you’re just an all around music nut like myself, maybe that will give you the opportunity to discover a whole new discography!
My Overall Rating?
But my review doesn’t mean crap if you don’t check it out yourself: http://hellfyreclub.bandcamp.com/album/dorner-vs-tookie