REVIEW: UJ Empire Sampler

UJ Empire Sampler

Artist: Various

Album: UJ Empire Sampler

Label: UJ Empire

Rating: 8 / 10

Reviewer: A to the L

Let me give you a little bit of background history here. I come home from spinning at my Saturday night gig. Its around 2am in the morning. I crack a beer, flick through the channels on the TV, and having decided that I ain’t ready to order an Ab-Toner, a 16-piece crockery set, or a real leather-hide punchbag from the home shopping channels, I wander upstairs, sit down at the computer and start checking my emails. While I’m doing this I log into AIM and my main homeslice Timid is online. After exchanging pleasantries (“Cunt”… “Bastard”) he hits me with a link to a radio stream from Florida State University, where 2 cats (DJ Dirty Digits and Nore 74) are cutting up a storm on the wheels as part of their weekly “Underground Railroad” show. Timid meanwhile being the skirt-wearing bitch that he is, was answering phones like a good little secretary and taking requests both on the blower, and through email.

So anyway, fast forward a few months and I find myself in picturesque Tallahassee at the home of the Ol’ Dirty Breather himself, and we decide to roll up to the radio station so I can hit my fellow DJs off with the spare Task Force 12’s I brought over with me especially. (You know Tallahassee is rocking ‘Fugz R Us’ right?) While I’m there Posdnous look-a-like Conshus comes through, and we get to chatting about the differences between US and UK Hiphop, what artists we’re both feeling etc etc… So he hits me off with this sampler for the UJ Empire organisation he reps, and asks me to check it out and give him some feedback.

And so, after sitting on this for like 3 months, (major apologies)… the feedback is here…

Basically this cd is a taster for the upcoming full length releases from each UJ Empire artist, with Tzarizm being first up to bat on here, and also first to drop an album (“Dirty Work.”) His two cuts are OFF THE FUCKING CHAIN, extremely high calibre joints. The opener ‘AHAHAHA!’ is just disgusting, with a bouncy organ sample dominating proceedings as a crazy bugged sample of Redman laughing manically (hence the title) buzzes round your eardrums. Don’t think for a second though that Tza is overshadowed by the hot beat – his aggressive spit skills more than match the ominous feel of the track, with quickfire threats against wack emcees being flung left, right and centre. This is followed up by the more laidback ‘Sheema’ where Tza tells a tale of his crazy lady going into full on bunny-boiling mode as their relationship sours. The idea of featuring two vastly different styles of track on here works perfectly, because it shows that not only does Tzarizm have the ill battle skills, he can also tell a nice little story Slick Rick stylee.

Next up, Da Strangaz, with one of the craziest tracks on the whole cd. ‘The Rip Show’ is straight up clown shit – and that ain’t a diss. The core of the track is some insane sample of what sounds like a circus clown theme tune, rattling along at 100 miles an hour. It sounds like it’ll never work, but I have to admit that I quite liked how bouncy this shit was. ‘Fairy Tales’ meanwhile returns things to a more level-headed pace, with a nice mid-tempo organ-based beat chugging along as Da Strangaz do their thing. This track, although a head nodder, ain’t really standing out too much though – especially when it has to go up against the previous crazy track, and the two Tza tracks beforehand.

Xodus’ first cut ‘X Marks The Spot’ begins with a little-too-long cartoon intro which eventually merges into a barrage of aggressive rhymes from the man himself (who’s drank-a-bucket-of-gravel-tinged voice sounds remarkably like Nine) over some heavy bass and plucky banjo-sounding loops. I have to admit though that the return of that frigging cartoon sample on the chorus, pissed me off, and detracted from my overall enjoyment of the track. ‘Bounce & Move’ is the closest you’re gonna get to a “commercial” joint on here… and really, its still a mile away from EVER getting radio airplay. Xodus sounds superb here, urging listeners to bounce and um…. move over an over big band rhumba break. This cat’s album is scheduled to drop in September of this year, and on this evidence is also gonna be worth looking for.

Rounding things off comes the Scrollmen. Christ knows why they started a cut called ‘Scrolling With A 5th Of Skill’ with a 40-second sample of Miami Sound Machine’s ‘Bad Boys’. There’s no reason for it to be here, and it bears no relevance to the actual track itself. Its appearance at the end is equally baffling. Unfortunately its also the most memorable part of the track – the rhyming from the Scrollmen over a fairly bland, stuttering keyboard loop, is uninspiring and forgettable. Judging from the bonkers name of the next track these guys have been on a high-sugar diet or something – ‘Khalil You’re Ill, But Scroll Misses The Luke Line’ gets megaprops for the title alone, although the simple boom-boom-snap bass / snare combination is a little dull. However its a definite improvement over ol’ Gloria Estefan on the previous track. These cats get a third track too – ‘Therapy’ is the best of the trio… a dark, broody beat with a haunting female hook supports the Scrollmen as they put a little more “oomph” into their delivery here.

I told y’all I’d get there in the end. Conclusion? Some real nice highlights, especially from Tzarizm and Da Strangaz make this worth some of your time. As a sampler, its worked perfectly because I’ll now be picking up that Tza album next month when I head back into Tally. If you’re interested in checking out the local scene there, you could do worse than hit up or email my man Conshus. Hell, give em a bell (1-877-823-4496) and tell em that crazy Irish kid sent you – maybe they’ll give you a discount.

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