Thursday, July 28, 2005
Review: Sivion - Mood Enhancement

Review by Daniel C. Warshaw

Sivion's first solo album, Mood Enhancement, starts off appropriately with his Mood Intro - a short overture that sets the tone for the disc with light hearted pre-song conversation and lyrics that make plain his intentions to share his love of Jesus Christ. What follows is an album full of amazing rapping and straight-forward lyrics, punctuated occasionally by guests' descriptions about what "enhances their moods."

Even the casual listener will be taken aback by rapping that's distinctively Sivion. The intricate rhythms and rhyming patters are reminiscent of quality hip-hop poetry, while the lyrics themselves send out a hard-to-miss message about various aspects of his faith, notably on Flood Gates, The Name Game, Fly so High, and What is it?

There are a few surprises on the CD as well, not least of which are the guest spots from Deepspace 5 and Phonetic Composition. The most unexpected elements of the disc, however, are the songs featuring and about members of his family.A.N.D.R.E.O.N. features Sivion's five-year-old son both producing and rhyming, adding a typically unheard-of cuteness to a hip-hop release. Equally touching is the lyrically excellent tribute to his wife, S.H.A.N.N.A.N., on which Sivion expertly rhymes his way through the letters of his spouse's name.

Unfortunately, Mood Enhancement suffers in the beat department. With the exception of a few gems such as In the Know and What is it?, most of the tracks produced by Sivion sound a little amateur. While many listeners may expect this from a first effort, some of the tracks are more than simply unpolished; The Search contains a drum beat that sounds as if it was lifted straight from a Casio keyboard - including the descending tom fill. Out of the Blue is simply overcrowded; too many layers make it difficult to decipher which way the beat is moving.

Without a doubt Sivion created an album that highlights his outstanding rap skills. Even with beats that draw attention to Mood Enhancement's freshman status, listeners will be treated to songs that profess the hope of Christianity without feeling as if the lyrics are forced. If hip-hop fans are looking for unique new rapping talent, this is a disc to pick up.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Review: Playdough - Don't Drink The Water

Review by Daniel C. Warshaw

Playdough greets the listener at the opening of 2005’s Don’t Drink the Water both literally and musically on the track Up to Date. With lyrics that question the mainstream rap scene, the excellent beats keep heads bobbing all the way to the disc’s closer, Daisy Proof.

The verbal delivery on this CD is incredible, particularly evident on the short song, Huh!, with a simple track to accentuate Playdough’s mighty rapping. Continuing with perfectly syncopated rhythms that seem to throw forth the words, Dang!, Saddle Up, and the dramatic title track, Don’t Drink the Water leave nothing but satisfaction. Raps meet pleasant vocals on the Kevin Max collaboration, Sandal Sole, a fairly pop-friendly song that sill comes with a fantastic beat and verses.

The beats don’t come close to disappointing either with Don’t Drink the Water’s adventurous beat reminiscent of a classic movie sound track. Up to Date makes the hot list in this category as well with static-laced guitar sounds over delicious percussion. Beat Rabbi’s artful production work on Saddle Up blends natural drum sounds with an airy string sample.

While Don’t Drink the Water is mostly an audio delight, there are a few minor snags worth mentioning: The beat on Ghetto Blaster ends up sounding a bit boring and crowded; too many layered noises that repeat throughout the song start to sound grating after repeated listenings. Emergency Broadcast comes up a bit short as well with a cheesy hard-rock beat that sounds like it wants to be P-Diddy’s rock remix of All About the Benjamins.

Play-Doug-H delivers on Don’t Drink the Water with an album full of sweet tracks. Pointed lyrics, infectious beats, and fresh rap skills provide plenty of reasons to head out and grab this disc.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Review: Procussions - Up All Night

Review by Daniel C. Warshaw

Deviating from their previous release, The Procussions deliver more soul-infused jazz jams than hip-hop on their 2004 import, Up All Night. The first two thirds of the album, in fact, feature no rapping with the exception of Mr. J on Mr. J Warm Up.

Up All Night seems to be the all Stro show, as he provides most of the musical background, layering fantastic drum parts with equally enjoyable Fender Rhodes. He also covers the production on four of the five hip-hop flavored tracks, and vocals on some songs – be it spoken word or rapping. The rap tracks generally sound pretty tight with decent verses – particularly evident on We are Here. What listeners may find most surprising about this release, however, is the superb recording quality. All the instruments are clear with little to no distortion, line noise, or interference. The first ten tracks, mixed by The Sound Providers’ Jason Skills, are so clean, in fact, they sound like they’re playing in the next room.

Understanding that this album was created over an eight-hour period doesn’t make up for all of its missteps, though. The spoken word parts of The Cereal Chronicles, B Boy Alarm Clock and other tracks are pretty cheesy, distracting listeners from music that’s enjoyable on its own. While the verses on the last third of the album are pretty cool, the production isn’t as consistent, varying from We are Here’s energetic beat to the almost Casio-keyboard-demo sound of the Introducing...(What’s Your Name?) remix. Likely the most disappointing aspect of this album is its disjointedness. Had the fellas decided to make a complete disc of soul-jam tracks, this would have been a solid release. Instead they put together seemingly everything they worked on in those short eight hours.

Ultimately, the purchasing of this album will come down to what kind of fan reads this review. Those who want every Procussions release from 12” singles to imports like this CD will be happy to add this to a collection. The rest are likely to be disappointed by a recording that delivers only half-way.

Friday, July 08, 2005
Profile: DeepSpace5

Welcome to our first Profile/Resource. We will be doing this weekly for a group or artist. This week we're following up our review with some resources to hear more of DeepSpace5 and find out who they are.

Official Site: www.DeepSpace5.com
Once inside this site, You can find the navigation by rolling your mouse over the group name in the upper right hand corner. There are 2 exclusive tracks on the media page that can be downloaded. These were recorded at the same time Unique... was recorded. They are both production gems by Beat Rabbi. There is also news and tour information for all the artists in DeepSpace5

Beat Rabbi: You can go to www.illect.com and listen to a preview off of his upcoming album on Illect Recordings entitled DeepSpace5oul. The song is played on the illamp.

Dust: myspace page www.myspace.com/casmetah blackDust Blacksoil Project remix

Fred B: myspace page

Listener: www.forthelistener.com myspace page purevolume.com/listener

Manchild: myspace page

Playdough: www.playdoughmusic.com 7spinmusic.com

Sev Statik: www.sevstatik.com myspace page

Sintax The Terrific: www.sintaxtheterrific.com
Several tracks can be heard on the illamp at illect.com.

Sivion: www.sivion.net myspace page

Manwell?: DeepSpace 5 Bio Page
Manwell did the scratchs on Unique... . He also has done scratches on John Reuben's 3 early albums. Manwell may be puting out an album of his own soon...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Review: DeepSpace5 - Unique, Just Like Everyone Else

Review by Daniel C. Warshaw

Starting off strong with the crew track, Talk Music, DeepSpace5’s 2005 album, Unique, Like Everyone Else, bumps in your ears from the first verse to the last, and every verse in between. Seriously; There isn’t a single weak verse on the CD. If this album is anything, it’s a fitting demonstration of the skills and styles of each of DS5’s members.

The tracks are consistently tight as well, with the dominant flavor of acoustic drums and samples of real instruments rather than synth sounds. The majority of these are courtesy of Dust, standing out particularly on Embrace, Axe to Grind, and The Last One. His style blends seamlessly, however, with Beat Rabbi in the transition from Embrace to Mechanical Advantage, arguably one of the most intense tracks on the disc. Several of the tracks are graced by the turntable hijinx of Manwell?’s expert DJ style.

Now’s a good time to get the few gripes out of the way, and these are essentially tracks that wouldn’t be missed, had they been left off: Truth be Told leaves the listener wishing the track had been done over. The flapping-window-shade percussion sounds too much like Citizen King’s annoying Better Days from the late 90’s. The droning monotony of They Say detracts a bit too much from the otherwise sweet rhymes for someone to really enjoy it. Finally, One for the Road talks about the doldrums of touring and is so sleepy that nobody should listen to it while on the road themselves!

With the fake funk out of the way, here are some of the particulars that make this album worth the coin: Sivion. This guy’s fantastic, and probably the best emcee on the disc. His rhyme style is distinctive without trying too hard. His verses on The Last One and Last Ditch Effort are perfect examples of his lyrical, rhythmic, and rhyming skill, with quirky passages wrapped into intricate phrasing. Other verbal treats come from Playdough, Listener, and Manchild. Even with such standout rappers another of this album’s strengths is the equal space each emcee seems to get on most of the tracks while still forming songs with coherent themes.

Give this CD one listen and enjoy the freshness of a complete Hip-Hop album with strong musical tracks. Listen to it a few more times and experience the depth of talent privy to DeepSpace5 and few other crews.

Sunday, July 03, 2005
Welcome to The Beacon Hill Project

Our purpose is to offer an alternative to negative mainstream rap music by being a resource for positive quality hip-hop. Hopefully, this website will give people an opportunity to hear good quality hip-hop. During the next several months, we'll have CD reviews, interviews, news & post links to places where you can check out quality hip-hop. We're also interested in hearing what you think. Your feedback will definitely help us to grow. Please leave comments or hit us up at BeaconHill@newbornproducts.com.