“Following the events of “Bladesylvania“! Shyne Mosley is back, manifested & ready for war alongside his doppelganger “Dart Vader”. His path to becoming Red Kobrah won’t be an easy one.” –Ralphiie Reese
In recent years the rap crew known as The Dart Unit (TDU) have created quite a following with members across North America. Philly’s Ralphiie Reese (aka Dart Vader aka Kount Dartula) has taken no shorts during this pandemic to craft his 2020 album Shyne Mosley III. What really stands out on this latest release is Ralphiie’s acquired skills on the beats, as he shows some versatility in his samples and arrangements.
The “(Opening)” sets the record straight with words on how it’s about to go down. Taking a cruise through Philadelphia, we enter “Germantown & Chelten.” Ralphiie Reese provides a thumping loop as Kount Dartula slings bars on the night prowl down W Chelten Ave, rhyming:
“Targeting niggas it’s like a squad car on Lockhart with juice unknown they call me Quasar, comfy when I come under attack, special power to crash back, Kuwait you then I bomb on the track, cranials cracked in shacks, niggas die when I come through town, devastation for the win of my crown…”
The vocal and soulful samples are chopped exquisitely by Reese to the point they were on repeat before moving to the next dart. Ralphiie continues the chopped samples on “Who!?! (B.U.T Me)” followed by “Tha Mind, Body & Soul Tape” and “Spirituality.” Another audio delight comes from the undeniable influence the Wu-Tang Clan have in Hip Hop music from emcees/producers. It’s evident in today’s wave of artists, including Ralphiie Reese who doesn’t hide being a huge Wu fan (check the album cover artwork). “Butterfly Needlez VII” continues the Clan’s influence as the rhyme czar, Dart Vader lays waste, spitting:
“…Blade tossing, you don’t want me in an open space, you getting erased, obliterated to a billion, a million leg fractures…”
Butterfly Needlez VII is the only production not handled by the Philly producer/emcee. TDU’s own Professor950 aka Prod9 (reppin’ Newark, Delaware) marvelously executes the beat. Dart Unit member, Vic E. Fontaine is a staple on TDU projects with her defining words. Here she graces a few tracks with her recognizably soothing voice, perfect for radio with her signature statement, “Praise The Dart Unit” once again aptly placed. The straight talk, no non-sense words come courtesy of Dr. Umar on “Holy Water” as the only other guest feature.
Let it be known there is a reason the man of many aliases and personas creates wizardry on the boards while lyrically complimenting his own production. Given the anticipation of the album since announced, one listen will distinguish this as a carefully crafted release. Ralphiie Reese keeps his darts sharp and precise for heads throughout Shyne Mosley III. In the words of the man himself, “Judge Wisely, All Praises Due.”
On Young SmooVth 2, the Hempstead, Long Island emcee returns with another collection of vintage tracks showing his early days. Deeply Rooted Hiphop reconnected with one half of Tha Connection to gain some insight and hear a few stories from SmooVth’s formative years as an emcee. SmooVth breaks down some of the tracks from YS2 and shines some light on those moments in time.
SmooVth: “This was all during my younger days when me and Hus (Kingpin) were “Tha Connection” still. These were recorded between 2007 and 2013. The earliest one is Talk To Me, that’s 2007; Latest one is the one with Roze, that’s from 2013.”
The album opens with the calm vibe and r&b hook of “Hold me Back.” On “Wish,” like most youth, SmooVth simply yearns for more, yet he keeps it all in perspective, possessing a wisdom beyond his years. With “Natural Elements” SmooVth brings us back with a lighthearted, upbeat joint showing his relaxed, casual side. “Candy man” feat Rozewood is a dope creeper joint. The Arch Druids lace a sinister loop with haunting effects, setting a murderous scene. On “One Of Those Nights” a younger SmooVth contemplates the challenges he faces over an echoing guitar loop and slightly funky groove.
SmooVth: “At the time, I Still lived with my mom and she was on my case heavy. Found myself a little depressed actually, so I sat at the table drunk and wrote that. I was really having one of those nights, Felt like my mom didn’t believe in me, Which wasn’t the case. I was running around with the wrong crowd getting into a shit load of trouble. She just was on me hard. It forced me to make changes. I’ve always been into writing since school days so back in those days I turned my pain into inspiration.. During the little boy blue era, I’m reflecting on the birth of my son, using that for inspiration. My first born, he changed my life. Which is why my mom and even my lady were on me hard, to change my lifestyle; Stop smoking so much, etc.”
DRHH: How did the “So what’s the vibe” collab w/ BxRod happen? We don’t see much of that these days
SmooVth: “Yeah that joint is a dope one. BxRod, she’s a dope songstress from Cali. Producer made in m, he’s a dope producer from out in Spain. He hit me one day and was like yo, BxRod would love to have you on this record. So he linked us together. With tracks like that I wanted to show em that we’re versatile over here. We make music for women too. The women move the culture. If you can get women to like your shit then you’re going somewhere.”
DRHH: “Life” got that raw sound to it..
SmooVth: “Life is an old one too, that’s like 2007.. I got a shitload of old shit but stray away from using some because of the raw quality but that one came out good. In the early early days me and Hus recorded real dungeon like haha. Basement, no pop filter on the mic and the mic hanging over the door lol.”
DRHH: “Box a Chocolates” is obviously a play on the infamous Forrest Gump phrase.
SmooVth: “Box a Chocolates is about going through things in life, you just never know what you’re gonna get. Never know what you’re gonna face. But that’s one thing I always said because it’s true. You can look at a persons shoes and understand them. Whether they pay attention to detail etc. But the metaphor behind it: We all got our own journey. Our shoes can take us anywhere”
On “The Pleasures,” SmooVth pulls out a dope collab featuring Rozewood and Hus. The jazzy instrumental is perfect for the throwback banger. The album ends on the nostalgic and uplifting “Talk to me.”
SmooVth: “Yeah, “Talk to Me,” that’s a mean sample, dope mix, great concept. That’s an early joint. Before I fully knew what I was doing. My bars were still young but had to get that out. Talk to me is our story; Me Hus, and Hus cousin Ghost. Ghost made our beats. And that’s how we came in the game.”
With Young SmooVth 2, SmooVth gives us another time capsule showing his versatility as an emcee with some of his forgotten joints from the vault. SmooVth covers the range of vibes and emotions present at that pivotal in his life, yet the tracks still bang today the same as they did from the days of Young SmooVth.
Following his February release of The Omen, Niagara Falls emcee John Creasy returns with Leviticus. This time, Creasy links with UK producer Dark Arts for the 8 joint project. With a concept loosely based around the third book of the Old Testament, Creasy finds himself in familiar territory with sinister loops and dusty drums.
On the opening title track, it’s clear Creasy is out for blood with a fierce determination as he spits over a menacing piano. Dark Arts calms it down on “Tabernacle” as Creasy finds a nice pocket to fill with his cadence. Creasy drops a few pro athlete metaphors throughout, adding plenty of punchlines. Check out “Tabernacle” here:
Creasy brings out some heavy features on Leviticus, each voice bringing his own style. Iconic Philly emcee Vinnie Paz of Jedi Mind Tricks, delivers a typically ferocious verse on “Sacrifices.” On “Day of Atonement” feat Jay Nice, Dark Arts crafts an arrangement of booming drums and stirring piano loops alternating after a few bars.
Creasy spits: “I might be off again, fuck it, a 100 percent, bitch she came with the tips plus her gorgeous friend. See I couldn’t tell her myself. If I said how many she brought I would be tellin my wealth.”
This is a standout joint showcasing Dark Arts at his best, Creasy’s on-point lyrics and an elite verse from Imobillaire emcee Jay Nice who adds his fly touch. “Blasphemy” is Creasy’s denouncement of the fake, upholding the values he holds true. Asun Eastwood brings his booming vocals on “Purity,” over Dark Arts’ flip of the classic “Illusions” beat. Creasy spits over a slick 70’s caper on “Stoning Of Stephen” and closes the book over thundering piano notes on “BC (Before Christ).”
Lyrically, John Creasy never tries to complicate things. His straightforward rhymes leave some room for his personality and voice to shine through. Creasy keeps it simple yet entertaining with the sports references, adding his own humor and spin to the metaphors. Leviticus is full of dope bars and hard beats as Creasy delivers over solid Dark Arts production.
Michigan emcee Rudy Will employs the Mighty Hands of Zeus for a dope instrumental in his brand new video, “The Cleaner.” On the track, Rudy Will comes to clean up the game and everything fake. Big Ghost Ltd provides the wobbly organs for an eerie vibe, perfect for Rudy Will to deliver his laidback flow on. This is the first single off Rudy Will’s untitled project in the works.
Rochester’s MAV is at the top of his game right now. He’s one of the underground’s busiest emcees after just releasing a project with Rob Gates, fully produced by Big Ghost Ltd, only two weeks prior. UK’s Giallo Point has established himself as an elite producer, working with only the best emcees, ensuring specific control over his beat placements. Its no coincidence to find how discerning MAV is about his beat selection. Fitting then, that these two connect for a quality project. HOODLUM shows off both MAV and Giallo at their best.
Da Cloth is well represented on HOODLUM as Mooch jumps on the thumper “Prepaids and Plush Plannin.” Da Cloth comes through in top form here, connecting on 4 joints. On “Hand in Hand” MAV brings in heavies Ty Farris and Asun Eastwood. The three emcees detail events and caution any moves against the squad over a minimally subtle beat; a singular echoing guitar strum, continuous bass groove and hi hat. It all works well as Giallo has truly perfected pulling the darkness, tension and romance of those Italian and Spanish influences that are so heavy in his samples and production. On “Are you not entertained,” feat Rigz, MAV opens the track spitting:
“You worry bout the CD sales n physicals, I be on some other shit, n***a, I be livin life off of residuals.”
Rigz acts as co-star, complementary to MAV on three standout tracks on HOODLUM. Rigz proudly carries the chip on his shoulder, evident in his calm bravado. This plays well against MAV’s surgical precision on the mic. On “Protocols,” the two creep round the corner while the meandering slither of the cymbals and the sharp guitar note create a subtly unsettling tension. Bub Rock delivers a verse over spooky synths on “1st 2 Da 3rd. “Remember” feat Tekk 9 and Rigz harkens back to the come-up and the losses taken along the way, creating the persona for today.
MAV spins the dealer/hustler tales with specificity and a cold precision. You can hear his screw face as he spits rhymes with infrared focus. Giallo Point is known for his clean production and always maintaining a vibe or feel, keeping a project tight throughout. HOODLUM falls right in line with Giallo‘s other excellent works, continuing to solidify his status as one of the best. HOODLUM is prime MAV over Giallo’s head-nodding bangers. MAV stays in pocket, sharing what he’s absorbed of the criminal underbelly in all its darkness and glory.
Massachusetts emcee Lo Gun (1/3 of Main Aim) has returned with his latest video, “5th of Grime,” the first off his new album. The track, produced by Lo Gun himself sports a strings loop, piano chords and booming drums. His comeback album The Shogun Tape finds the Southbridge, MA rapper at his rawest. Lo Gun produced more than half the songs on this LP to show he has some skills on the boards. Check out “5th of Grime” here:
Josiah brings his emotive and passionate delivery on his latest LP, Iron Mic. The Gift brings an intensity on the mic showing his immense hunger to succeed. And on Iron Mic he really serves up a full plate to satisfy his needs.
Josiah: “I came in with the intention to get on everybody radar with this one. Felt like I’ve been one of the underrated ones for a while.”
Josiah comes out the gate swinging with the triumphant horns on the intro, courtesy of King David Beats. “Conquerer,” “Meet Satan” and “Exodus” all deliver with plenty of head-nodding appeal. Josiah really shines on the standout “This is Proof,” the doo wop sample-laden joint produced by Nautilus. Siah follows this with introspective bars over soulful and heartfelt vocal loops from producer The Roses on “Smell The Roses.” The nostalgia is heavy with “Sci Fi Channel,” bringing us back to Josiah’s youth, spitting on the hook:
“This before they had internet and wi fi. Dealers jumpin in the game headfirst, they sky dive. Ricky had the RK’s on Roger Zapp, time flies. Watching Kung fu movies and anime on Sci Fi.”
Deeply Rooted Hiphop talked with Josiah The Gift about the inspiration behind his big, new album brimming with appeal.
Josiah:”I actually got inspiration to make this a theme from Ficlopsis. A few songs going in were hard, but I didn’t know what to call what I was creating until I seen the cover. I was asking god for a sign at like 3-4 in the morning, and decided to look for some inspiration. First thing I seen when I went on IG was the cover for it, and the shit hit me. As far as the concept, and how it was put together, I tried to piece it up in a way where Mike’s voice was a representation of my mic. Almost like this is what my mic would say from the beginning of when I started using it, to present day. Also Mike Tyson has always been a inspiration for me since childhood. I’ve actually seen him when I was in Brooklyn around the time he had a charge in New York. Shit was crazy. Right on Nevins. Nigga shut the whole area down. His presence spreaded like wildfire. Somebody said “yo that’s Mike Tyson!” And the whole fucking block turned their heads to get a glimpse. All those memories..”
DRHH: I felt a heavy influence of Ghostface across the whole project, in the arrangements, and beat choice, and that was even before I heard “Starks.” Is the whole project an ode or homage to Ghostface?
Josiah: As soon as I heard the Starks beat, I had Supreme Clientele thoughts in my brain. I always admired how ghost flowed and delivered his lyrics, so I felt this was a perfect joint to pay homage, and see if I can make the slang as sharp as his. I think I did a good job. Not as well as him, but pretty good. “Starks” is one of the songs I can speak about because it came together crazy. I actually been sitting on the verse and the beat for a minute. I got it from Freemind a while back, but he also gave it to my man Jamil honesty first, and forgot, so I had to fall back on it for like a good year. Had my verse ready and everything, so that was the one time I was deeply hurt that I couldn’t use a beat. Fast forward a year or so later, and the beat pops up on my shit as I’m driving. As I’m listening I’m like naaa yo. I gotta hit these niggaz up, and see what’s going on with this joint. So I Hit Free and he like “See what ‘Mil doing with it,” so I hit Mil up praying he would let me get it. Him being the real nigga he is, he said “I ain’t even start moving on it yet. Eat!” And the rest is history. Shout out the bro Jamil honesty for that one man. That’s my nigga.”
“Starks” is producer FreeMind’s flip of Ghostface’s classic “Child’s Play” with cuts by DJ Jon Doe . Jamil Honesty makes an appearance on Iron Mic on the uptempo soulful joint “4 Walls” produced by Rob Deniro. On “3 Blows,” with cuts from Chuck Chan, produced by Pad Scientist, Josiah dissects his opponents with nods to Kung flicks yet again sprinkled throughout the track. This spills perfectly into the RZA-esque “Obese” produced by Frank Grimes. On “Dime,” Josiah puts his Umbrella crew on over futuristic rock synths and drum fills courtesy of Farmabeats. Snotty, Pro Dillinger and Mickey Diamond each lace the sinister beat stamping Umbrella on the track.
DRHH: talk about putting on for umbrella.
Josiah: Yea. Umbrella is the squad, and I’m trying to help create a lane for me and my brothers. We on the path to doing something crazy. As far as the spitters, Snotty been bombing, Pro (Dillinger) been eating since the year begun, Creasy been bombing, Mickey been bombing on the bars and production along with the other producers in the camp. Rob killin shit, Bishop about to kill shit even more, Mos making crazy shit at a young age, and will only get crazier, 80zz out here making his mark, Paddy out here being innovative, Mallory is a fucking beast, prxspect rippin shit up, and we got the artists ficlopsis who did the cover & my man fruitless making some of the flyest shit right now. We all making the best music & art to make the movement something to stand the test of time in hip hop.”
Josiah The Gift rounds out the album with the dragging drums and angelic loops of “Retain Ownership,” Courtesy of Hobgoblin, the smooth bass groove of “If You Only Knew,” (produced by Freemind) and the cinematic strings of “Cus D’Mato” from The Prxspect.
Josiah: In terms of favorite tracks, ima be honest, it switches up from day to day; one day it’s This is Proof, the next it’s Exodus, the following day it’s Flair, on Monday’s it’s Conquerer or the intro, & on sundays it’s Starks. I listen to it in its entirety to be honest. For me it’s best digested altogether.
Josiah prides himself on his patience and vision for putting together a quality project that can stand against other hip hop albums out. Iron Mic displays Josiah’s talents on a full spectrum of beats and topics. Just like the heavyweight Iron Mike, Iron Mic stamps Josiah as a legit belt contender.
The Diadora Don is back with a dope LP full of tight production and elite features. His commanding vocals and punchlines will leave fans satisfied during their stay in PIFF world. Jamal Gasol has definitely shown a drive to reach new heights with this release, over a year in the making. Mr.31 pulls in some big names on The World is PIFF vol 2 with his production choices also showing an elevated focus.
On the title track, Gasol eases into things over a playful piano loop and chopped vocal loops, courtesy of Nicholas Craven. DJ Big Mike introduces “Get Down or Lay Down” as producer Golgo 13 lays down a thumper. An early standout comes, unsurprisingly from the fly, grand production of Buckwild on “Supreme Dreams.”
“First n***a in my town wit a beat from buckwild.”
Jamal Gasol: “I drove all the way to Newark to link wit Buckwild to get a beat. I sent the bread in advance, but to conversate with Buckwild while he was making a beat for me, building and politicin; why not? It was affordable and worth my time. Those are real live instruments too, that’s normally how he works.. look at his resume and check the production sound.”
Jamal is pretty open about how he operates, networks and builds his album, pragmatically and with a focus.
Jamal: “ I invested in this whole project from the features to production respectively. I’m not a fan of handouts but I won’t deny opportunities to advance when it makes sense. I had this project done almost a year ago but wanted to make sure it was complete in my own way. I got some feedback in advance; some was good and some was bad. I didn’t get discouraged, only encouraged to step my shit up. This the only tape from me this year so far, that wasn’t recorded this year.”
“Best smoke around” is, obviously the smokers track on PIFF Vol. 2 featuring fellow cannabis connoisseur and piffer, Vic Spencer. Jamal provides some introspection on “Fight and Fuck” as he details the challenges in relationships over poignant synth organs and stuttering hi-hats courtesy of KrazyFingers. The curent lyrical queen of hip hop, Che Noir lends her talents to Jamal, but in a different capacity here. The Buffalo emcee contributes her dope production on “Futch” feat Dark Lo.
Jamal: “Che the homie for real. The queen is to be protected at all times! I been a fan of hers for years. We worked before Jimmy jump. I know good artists when I see them, trust me. The production is a bonus for her. She already got the dope lyrics and natural style. Being wit Spesh who does it all too, it just wouldn’t make sense for her not to produce. Especially the fact that she can actually do it! Me and Lo prove on the album that she got a ear for production too.”
On “4:20 in L.A.,” Mr. 31 calls on the underground mysterio, Al Divino to conjure up one of his mystical beats. “Traffic” feat Planet Asia bangs hard with both emcees delivering smooth rhymes over chopped horn loops and thumping drums by producer Rain910. The Diadora Don dancing on Dirty Diggs loops has proven successful (see their 100 Blunts in Venice from April of 2020). “Blackout 2” continues that tradition with chopped piano and vocal loops. “3 Ms” featuring YMG shooter shows Jamal finding a different cadence while producer 7DaysAWeek lays a street banger with wailing vocal loops and modern drums.
It’s evident that taking the time to craft and curate a project to this extent creates a better, more focused and cohesive album. Jamal executes that well with The World is PIFF Vol 2, giving fans exactly what they expect; from the beats and rhymes, down to the artwork.
On Where The Sidewalk Ends Connecticut Emcee Marvalyss and Pennsylvania producer Alcapella combine on 15 tracks of well-rounded beats, and skilled bars. Both artists are in their respective zones here; Marv brings his honesty and sincere writing. Alcapella is out to capture it all perfectly. The concepts, loops, beats, and vibes all work well, blending into a thoughtfully put together album. On the title track, Marvalyss spits with some depth over poignant piano notes.
Marvalyss expresses his veteran’s presence on “A Long time,” as Alcapella provides stuttering guitar licks and a haunting vocal loop on the hook.
Marv: “A Long Time is one of my favorite joints I recorded because it perfectly describes how I’ve felt for a while dealing with music, but I feel like I’ve finally arrived.”
Alcapella: “A Long Time was the very first joint we recorded when Marv touched down in the studio. He recorded that entire song in one take without his phone in front of him for lyrics! As soon as he wrapped those verses up, I knew this project was gonna be crazy.”
Marv and Al bring in a couple heavies on “Fly Talk” with Recognize Ali and King Magnetic accompanied by some ill scratching from DJ Tray. Lyrical scientists come together over haunting organs on “Neighborhood Bullies” features A-F-R-O spilling his ever complex articulations. On “Midnight Marauder,” Alcapella brings it back with slightly funky riffs, jazzy flute loops with Marvalyss spitting little nods to Tribe throughout. Marv and his lyrical dexterity are on display on the uptempo “Runnin (Never Look Back).” Marvalyss shows some versatility in his writing as he weaves separate and compelling tales on “Three Stories (Long Story Short).” On “Till the Sun Come Up” feat Ralph Bryant and Suave Ski, Marv adds some harmonizing on the hook for the trio to body. “For Heaven’s Sake” shows Marv articulating his worries and explaining his prayers in rapid fire rhyme. Marvalyss illustrates the cautionary tales in the streets on “The Message Pt. 2(In a flash)” and then closes it out introspectively on the poignant yet hopeful “Life Begins.” Alcapella laces “The Graveyard(Outro), leaving heads almost disappointed that Marv didn’t bless that beat.
Al: “From my point of view, this album compares a lot to Lead Poison from eLZhi. Introspective on a lot of joints, but we slid some shit talk in the mix too”
It’s pretty clear that Marvalyss is having fun making music right now; his energy and enthusiasm is evident in his voice and pen game. Alcapella is making some quality beats, complementing Marvalyss’ style. Where The Sidewalk Ends is a compelling album full of thoughtful lyrics, creative storytelling, and finely crafted beats.
Marv: “I’m proud of this project; I wanted to evolve on the story telling side of things.”
Where The Sidewalk Ends drops 7/22, preorder here: