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Brother Ali

Left in the Deck

(Rhymesayers)

Brother Ali
Left in the Deck


Brother Ali flew in low under the radar with one of this year’s most interesting rap projects. Billed as a set of demos, Left in the Deck is much more: a mini-concept album themed around the two sides of a cassette tape, featuring Ali in fighting form over sparse Jake One production. Ali showcases his talent for storytelling as always, but Left in the Deck also shows off a burgeoning technical prowess. What else is there to say when one rapper’s demo reel is worth more spins than most big-budget hip-hop albums put out this year? Adam Finley


 

The Stuyvesants
Refined


The Stuyvesants are a production duo based in New York—in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood to be exact. Allan Cole produces the tracks and Dorien Victor is the collector of the records that are sampled. This summer, they dropped Refined, an album of 25 soulful and mellow grooves that were perfect for a leisurely stroll through the streets, a long road trip, or just your run-of-the-mill social gathering. Standout tracks include the ultra-smooth “Portlyn” and the upbeat and bouncy “Sunshine”. Emanuel Wallace


 

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Talib Kweli

Prisoner of Conscious

(Javotti/EMI/Capitol)

Review [15.May.2013]
Talib Kweli
Prisoner of Conscious


Talib Kweli is not a “prisoner” of anything, least of all the expectations of being a so-called “conscious” rapper. According to him, “consciousness” is just a matter of being “awake”. Besides, no producer can make a beat that can hold him, as he again dominates this offering with his multisyllabic flow and customized similes. But it’s not just a protest against society’s various prisons—of politics and ideology, of thought, of physical incarceration—Prisoner of Conscious has a lot of love in it. There are songs about love and relationships, as well as Kweli’s genuine love for music. That vibe also comes from a cool cast of supporting artists. The collaborations allow Kweli to blend his style with singers like Miguel and Marsha Ambrosius, shift a little from his comfort zone with Curren$y and Kendrick Lamar, and update familiar territory with Busta Rhymes and Nelly. This is good stuff. The only thing better would be if Kweli and his old partner in rhyme could become prisoners of a new Black Star album. Quentin B. Huff


 

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Yancey Boys

Sunset Blvd

(Delicious Vinyl)

Yancey Boys
Sunset Blvd


Of all the posthumous releases since J Dilla’s death, this seems most in his spirit. His younger brother Illa J continues to evolve as a rapper, getting downright strange in an exciting way, and is joined by steadfast Frank Nitt and some true special guests. The beats from Dilla’s apparently huge leftover collection seem carefully chosen, consistently evoking classic Pharcyde. And then, hey, there’s Slim Kid Tre himself! A fun ride. Dave Heaton


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