First Listen: Termanology x Ice Cube x The Game

First off, thanks to Maestro, Shake, Eskay, and everyone else who linked to my exclusive. Over 1,200 hits in a day is huge for me, so thanks a lot for the help.

Back to business, though.

Two of Michigan’s premier emcees, Elzhi (of Slum Village) and Buff1, both dropped albums this week (to hear their tracks, check out MichiganHipHop and search their names). The Preface and There’s Only One, respectively, are both Top 10 Albums of the Year candidates. So in honor, I’ve spent the entire week listening to exclusively Michigan Hip Hop: something that’s not difficult to do when you have the aforementioned artists, Black Milk, Royce Da 5’9″, Guilty Simpson, Big Sean, and tons of others. (MI is the new NY, you ain’t know?!)

Unfortunately, I got a hold of three albums I’ve been waiting on tonight: Game’s L.A.X. (a clean version, anyway) and Ice Cube’s Raw Footage both leaked, and I just got a streaming link (shoutout to Matt C.!) for Termanology’s upcoming album, Politics As Usual. Safe to say, my mitten streak is broken for time being. Take advantage of my procrastination before I get to these Famous Firm bios, and follow the jump for my initial reactions to all three albums.

Everybody knows Termanology can spit, but he’s really getting his Illmatic on here: beats by Primo (three), Large Professor, Easy Mo Bee (?!), Pete Rock, Alchemist, Hi-Tek and Havoc. Guest shots from notable cats too, but they don’t matter: this is Term’s show. I swear, this shit reminds me of why I fell in love with the east coast in the first place: meticulous, hard-nosed rhymes and layered boom bap. All of the producers live up to their legacies here, but a few surprises: two joints with Nottz here are surprisingly commercially viable, to the point where I can actually see them making a buzz with some new fans if radio gives ’em a chance. Plus, Hi-Tek’s beat on this > Hi-Teknology 3 as an album. Anyone who forgot how dope Havoc was as a producer, listen to “The Chosen” and get back to me. I wouldn’t call this another Illmatic (esp. after only one listen), but put it this way: when you can get an Easy Mo Bee beat and not even rap over it, you’ve got reason to be confident. P.S. Interview w/Term coming soon, via HipHopDX; dude was down to earth and funny as hell, so I’m glad we made it happen.

First off, I’ve gotta note that Cube’s last joint, Laugh Now Cry Later, was criminally slept on. Now that that’s out of the way…Off of one listen, this is dope as hell, too. As long as Cube keeps up his signature pyroclastic flow and spits that hot shit, I’m satisfied – and homie does that here. The socio-political rhymes range from shallow to dense, but it’s entertaining no matter what, and dude’s braggadocio and hardcore posturing is somehow just as convincing as it was more than a decade ago. I’m glad that he’s sticking with his simple, hard-hitting delivery, and I’m even happier that he’s got some up-to-date soundbeds to back ’em up: no-namer/newcomer (?) Da Beatsmith is surprisingly efficient, and Toomp killed that shit! ¬©Kanye … It’s so dope that he’s still such an advocate for the music that he helped pioneer, and it only helps his case that he can still contribute solid albums to it. P.S. Game’s verse on “Get Use To It” makes you honestly believe dude belongs alongside Cube and Dub C.

The hate surrounding this dude really annoys me; aside from his snarky attempts at starting beef with Jay-Z and his previously incessant 50 Cent disses, Game’s one of the best youngsters in the rap game today. LAX sees him doing more of what he’s best at: a passionate delivery, introspective rhymes, West Coast imagery, and name drops that convey his well-researched respect for his predecessors/peers. His songwriting has improved this time around, though: even though it was already dope before, Jayceon really knows how to work his way from the beginning to the end of a record. He’s got great production again, too, though more of the beatmakers this time around make multiple contributions: the incredibly-talented J.R. Rotem and Ervan “E.P.” Pope each do three songs, and Nottz and Cool & Dre each do a pair as well. Most surprising is the guest shots here, though; while he normally keeps the guest spots to a minimum, Game really brings out all of the homies for his supposed swan song LP: Ludacris, Lil Wayne, Common and Nas for verses, and everyone from Bilal to Chrisette Michelle on the hooks. It’s great to see Game’s still in the pocket; hopefully he doesn’t stick to his word and make this his last one, because his talent and his passion are def appreciated here.