Mixtape Review: Swami Baracus – “The Recipe”

Album, Burban, Classic, Editorial, Hip Hop, Rap, RapReviews.com, UK, UK Asian

(This review was originally posted on RapReviews.com and written by Jesal himself. We are simply reposting it word for word, so be nice and please check out their website too).

 

Swami Baracus :: The Recipe :: SwamiBaracus.com
as reviewed by Jesal ‘Jay Soul’ Padania

[The Recipe] If ever there were a “RapReviews.com Sound” this would probably be it. “The Recipe” – a free mixtape by Swami Baracus – has been a long time coming (about two years, in fact). Now that it’s here and real, it soon becomes crystal clear that Baracus has delivered on the promise and emerged as an elite wordsmith. In some ways, he’s got that “old school mid-90’s flavour” on lockdown, but there are many more strings to the Baracus bow, as he fires his lyrical arrows at a variety of targets, with dizzyingly accurate wordplay somewhat reminiscent of Big Pun. It’s wonderful to witness the evolution of an artist over time – even as recently as three years ago, Swami Baracus had yet to release very much in terms of concrete output. After a few missteps, he seems to have doubled down and found his voice, style and a general narrative. There is no back-story here – just a genuine hip hop head with talent, lyrics to burn and the flow to match (incidentally, he’s also a very accomplished live performer). Perhaps this step up is down to one predominant factor – finding the right beats to both inspire and bring out the best in him. It’s still criminally underrated on the underground scene, where naïve MC’s frequently think/hope they can carry an entire album through their words alone, but the music matters. From the off, it’s clear that Baracus has sourced carefully selected production more or less throughout.

“Way of the Dragon” has got that head-nod shit on lock, with piano stabs and breakbeats combining to excellent effect, while Baracus spits for about two and a half minutes straight. It’s a great way to start the mixtape, as it proves from the get-go that you’ve got a rapper able to handle the mic with aplomb. An overlong intro follows with just a few too many snippets of radio DJ’s lauding the title track (two and a half minutes borders on self-indulgent), but it eventually leads into the blindingly brilliant song “The Recipe” (with stellar production from Zaheer). It serves as a mission statement for the album, and is pretty much the perfect concoction of choruses, rhymes and concepts.

Another Zaheer production follows, with “Let It Burn” displaying Swami’s social commentary skills, a song that addresses the youth, riots and clashes with police (Mystro and Lost Souljah provide valuable assists). The slow burner of “Believe In Me” is buoyed by a deceptively catchy hook from RKZ, and it’s clearly a very personal tale of the long road the “Baracuda” has faced to even release his tape. A short freestyle (“Swah-Mi”) finds the MC dovetailing perfectly with Sway (they really sound perfect together), and another highlight is hot on the heels. “Stop/Search” rallies against the cops and their questionable practices, such as racial profiling – bizarrely, Baracus probably has the bronze medal verse on the song (it is good, but Genesis Elijah and AC straight kill it). “See Me” recalls the dark menace of “Dig A Hole” – except this is vastly superior in every way. “Pull Me Down” is another joint that punches well above its weight – honestly, this sounds like a $250,000 Timbaland beat, with an alchemic chorus from Byron Gold.

Another subtle wonder finds Angela Tharma delivering a lush hook, and we find Baracus in an inspirational mood – “Shine” will stick in your head after a few spins, and refuse to leave quietly. The first questionable moment of the mixtape arrives next, with “Watchugot” possessing a decent beat, but the concept is about a decade out of date, with little replay value to add. Fortunately, a strong one-two is waiting in the wings, with “Stand Strong” acting as a love letter to Swami’s hometown, and “The Slipping Game” cleverly detailing an apparent groupie/succubus over a stunning beat (though listen very carefully). Unfortunately, the outstanding candidate for “how did that slip through the net?” is up next – Baracus may do a fine job on “Undefeated” but the beat isn’t quite there, and the chorus is just completely substandard (especially in comparison to the rest of the songs on offer). “This Long Road” is – as the title suggests – a dramatic/personal detailing of the struggle most rappers face, balancing their dreams with reality. It’s solid, but wasn’t entirely necessary if we are talking about strict quality control.

The last official song is the joyful “Salutations” – if you follow him on Twitter (@SwamiBaracus), you’d understand why that song title is so carefully chosen. It’s a pleasing and soulful way to end the mixtape, although there are still a couple of bonus cuts. Bizarrely, Baracus has chosen not to include the original version of “Hyper” – opting instead to provide the “Clique” remix. Vocally, it may be the most spellbinding delivery he’s ever managed (reminiscent of Busta Rhymes on “Look At Me Now”) so it’s perplexing as to why it’s not a centrepiece to “The Recipe.” Still, it works well and at least provides DJ’s with something to drop in a club set. “Ascension (Mellzo Remix)” is another interesting song, with SB switching up his flow, and again, you may wonder why this didn’t make the cut (and, conversely, why songs like “Undefeated” did). But in the end, you’re talking about a free mixtape that is only a couple of songs too long, possessing pretty much an hour’s worth of top quality music.

Swami Baracus is a beast on the mic. In fact, maybe “beast” is the wrong word. He’s more like a surgeon: deliberate, clearly putting thought into each and every line, and he’s got concepts/flows to burn. Plus he knows how to write a song from start to finish, and now he’s (more or less) got the right musical production as a bedrock. He applies that “hip hop head” ethos to modern tracks as well as more throwback ones. Aside from a couple of songs, there’s easily enough here that will impress the hell out of you, guaranteed. There are a million and one rappers out there, most of whom will bombard you with free albums, mixtapes, songs and videos. But which ones are truly worth your time? Well, usually that’s intrinsically linked to how much time the artist has put into their craft. That’s self-evident on “The Recipe” with an MC who has dedicated himself to improving, and now that he has finally released a mixtape, it’s exciting to see what happens next. Swami Baracus is attempting to earn your time, respect and ear – but he may well have earned himself an invitation to the upper echelon of rappers, and the production that accompanies it. Either way, this is an essential free download.

Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 9 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10

Originally posted: July 30th, 2013
source: www.RapReviews.com

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Kuly from RDB Passes Away

Bhangra, Editorial

RDB, a group who have contributed much over many years to the music industry, have lost one of their members today as news filters through that Kuly has passed away. Here’s part of the official statement put out by RDB themselves:

“The international music fraternity has faced a saddening loss with Kuly of music band RDB passing away on Monday 22nd May 2012 in Houston, Texas, USA. The popular music group member lost his battle with cancer at the young age of 35 years old. Kuly was diagnosed with a brain tumour in April 2011 and underwent radio & chemotherapy. He was receiving treatment at a specialised clinic in Houston at the time of his death.”

It’s a genuinely sad loss, and our thoughts go out to his family and friends. Rest in peace.

 

What’s Beef?

Diss, Editorial

Beef is a funny thing in hip hop. Take all the big ego’s, constant bragging, spirit of competition and a prerequisite need to feel that you’re the best, and clashes are inevitable. As long as informal rules are established, it can be an intriguing contest, a battle of wills, and maybe even let out the bad blood to boost careers.

That was before Twitter.

Twitter, that lightning quick character collector that distributes our innermost thoughts to people we’ve never even met. How to put this eloquently? Twitter fucked shit up. In the old days (about 3 years ago), when rappers had a problem, there was no immediate outlet to vent their frustrations, and no way to directly contact the other guy in full view of the public. Conversations were private, and both parties would have to take a series of steps to actively escalate a situation. Just like if an plane crashes, there are a number of things that must go wrong in order to get to that point.

Twitter, however, has made it possible to jump all of those steps and directly interact with another artist. This can lead to great things and collaborations, but it can also lead to problems, depending on the character types involved. Put simply, many of us shoot from the hip, speak our thoughts as we think them and care not for the consequences. But that can lead to trouble, and one should be prepared for it. And if the wrong (or right, depending on your viewpoint) two artists clash, it can create a situation out of nothing. After all, it’s a whole lot easier to back down and apologise in private, as opposed to in front of thousands of followers.

Which brings us onto the Sam Kay/Shizzio beef. Firstly, we’d like to send a big fuck you to the critics of our previous post on the subject. Rahul called it how he saw it, and as the editor, I back his right to an opinion. We love the other sites currently around, and there is room for everyone – SuperCritic has a place, and is not another content-only site, it delivers critical reviews assessing music to the very core, and occasionally gives unvetted opinions on items the writers deem worthy of commenting upon.

I’ve been asked for my take on the subject. Honestly? Blame Twitter. That’s not a diplomatic fence-sitting response. It’s just that from where I was sitting, watching things unfold, this all could have been avoided if people thought before they pressed the ‘Send’ button (literally the “Send” button, in this case).

Artists have a certain responsibility to their fans and to themselves to create great music. That’s the priority. As recent cases have shown, you can do pretty much anything and the public will forgive you if give them quality songs/albums. But at a more independent level, it helps to cooperate with one another. You might not always like each other, and will certainly disagree with the direction that a fellow artist takes. The Asian music scene is tiny, however, and you’re always going to bump into each other.

Don’t get it twisted – we are not talking about a couple of rappers that have broken the charts, or released classic albums, or sold gazillions of records. You’re talking about two big fish in a small pond. That’s the reality. And the reality is that you’d much rather hear both rappers on the same track, instead of going at each other.

Being a small pond, however, always sets up the possible trap of an even greater sense of ego. Shizzio tweets inadvisable things to Sam, Sam takes offense (with just cause). Sam should drop it, but doesn’t. Shizzio makes himself to look like the victim. Sam continues, and even throws an 8 bar jab on a new song. Words Ali tweets about Sam. Sam responds. People start to take sides. The game divides, less good music is released, and just like crabs in a bucket, they’ll stay there.

There is another way. It’s called thinking before you tweet. It’s called meeting up in person if you have a genuine issue, or even just talking to them properly on the phone. It’s called being consistent in your ideology and not using other people for self-promotion. If someone changes their name, let them. If someone private messages you about a possible collaboration, don’t hold it over them. If someone backs away, let it go.

Beef is a legitimate source of material, of conflict. But actual rap beef stems from actual problems. Twitter beef is thoughtless, disposable nonsense and 99 times out of a hundred, everyone comes off looking just a bit silly. Let’s see what happens next. The best outcome would be a couple of classic diss records, a reconciliation and an eventual collaboration after the misunderstanding. Does anyone really see that happening?

“A wise man told me don’t argue with fools, Cos people from a distance can’t tell who is who.”

(Posted by Jesal)

Rani (Guest Editorial)

Editorial

Rani, of Raine Records, pens a few choice words from her unique perspective…

New talent, new voices, new entertainment… This is what most music managers look for– someone with a voice/music that captures not only them, but listeners across the globe. That talent for me is Arjun. I met Arjun through MySpace almost 4 years ago: to this day, I am still not sure how I landed on his music page, however, I instantly fell in love with Arjun’s music.  I remember his audition in a tiny room with his guitar and was utterly mesmerised by his unique talent. The best thing about him: his modesty. He still remains humble even after hitting mainstream channels such as Kiss, Flava and AKA.

Discovering artists is easy, the industry is now saturated with them; however it’s hard trying to find real talent.  Wherever you look – Facebook, Twitter, Youtube – there are artists at various levels.  When I was looking for an artist, I not only wanted talent but someone with a personality, who would grow yet remain humble.

Although Arjun had been gigging at university for a while, our real musical journey began in 2008. The very first song we released under Raine Records was ‘Remember Tonight’ – that’s when Raine was born. As a manager, I never had experience in the music field – I was a singer-songwriter and somehow fell into managing – so starting my own record label was an amazing feeling, and also daunting.  With no funding and no business support, Raine has been built with pure musical love – which may sound cheesy but it’s true. There are already record labels in the Asian industry to compete with, although we have never looked at them as competition.  We have always kept an eye on our dreams and goals whilst watching other artists rising and making moves.

As a manager and working a 9-5 job, it’s been a tough journey so far, yet an enjoyable and memorable one.  It’s great to have an understanding artist, which means I have been able to also pursue one of my biggest dreams: being a singer-songwriter, which I had put on hold for many years.  Not only has Arjun believed in me as a manager but also an artist. ‘Play This Game’ (my debut single) is produced by him and I have other songs which I have been working on behind the scenes in preparation for 2012. Whilst I work on developing my own music, we’re also planning the next steps for Arjun’s music career. What I love the most about working with Arjun, is seeing his growth from day one and having the faith that he will continue rising. I want to see him in worldwide charts and I believe nothing is impossible if you put your heart and passion into something.

To sum up my musical journey as a manager and artist so far – nothing is unachievable when you have a great team, be that two of you or ten of you. It’s all about the dream, working at it together and regardless of the highs and lows you go through you make it work because that is what makes a great musical journey.

Rani

Wesey (Guest Editorial)

Editorial

Wesey reminds us precisely why Battling in rap is still relevant today…

The art of Hip-Hop has gone through some changes over the years, from hanging on the street corner in the mid 80’s with a boom box bigger than some go-karts, and break dancing that would make Michael Jackson jealous. Yes, New York was THE place to be if you were a dancer, artist, DJ and of course a Master of the Ceremony.

Yet one aspect of Hip-Hop seems to be shadowed by the now global fascination of the 16-bars and forever evolving art of the MC, and that is the era of the battle MC.

It was summer in the mid 80’s at the Apollo Theatre in New York City and history was about to take place with the first rap battle. Busy Bee, a comedy rapper who would take a bit of your rhyme and a bit of his rhyme and entertain the audience and Kool Moe Dee, a rapper’s rapper who stood for strong lyricism and not only defeat the opponent but to humiliate them. The birth of the track ‘Suicide’ was born and this is hailed as one of the greatest battles of all time but certainly not the last.

Battle rap has generated some of the strongest MC’s of our generation; KRS-One who famously defended the South Bronx in a highly anticipated beef with the Juice Crew. DMX who battled Nas previously, Notorious B.I.G, and one of the most prominent battlers, Eminem, whose role in the film ‘8 Mile’ showed the grittiness of the warzone.

I know what you’re thinking – yes it’s great for rappers to get on and be unified within this art which we have lost too many soldiers too. But when you have Lil Wayne and Jay-Z taking digs at each other indirectly, it saddens me that we can’t be treated to the lyrical power of ‘The Takeover’ or ‘Ether’ because let’s be blunt, controversy sells.

Yet there are still MC’s who take pride in being a battler MC specifically in the UK over the years, events like The Jump Off that has helped create superstars like Professor Green and build a platform for others has MC’s shredding each other to a packed out audience, it’s like feeding time for the lions at a circus. These are the roots of Hip-Hop that are forgotten: there’s more to this genre than fast cars, bitches and selling records. What about respect? You can’t put a price on that.

Wesey

RKZ (Guest Editorial)

Editorial

RKZ schools your ass on R&B, marketing, genres and attention spans with his guest editorial “The Age of an Era…”

You’ll hear time and time again that R&B isn’t what it used to be. Nothing can emulate the sounds of the 90s, and R&B doesn’t seem to have as much emphasis on vocal performance, soul or emotion. The steadily consistent implementation of Pop formula and branding has changed music, as we once knew it.

However, has this scepticism of new age, contemporary R&B risen because of the ever-decreasing attention span of the younger market? Or is it more so an argument of generational opinion and preference? I’ve always come across elders saying music isn’t what it used to be. After arguing against this various times, I seem to be finding myself equally as sceptical about the music of younger generation. I’m a 90s baby, and the sounds of artists including Jon B, New Edition, Joe, Baby Face, early Ginuwine, Aaliyah etc., is what I class as real R&B. Today we’re seeing a lot more Pop-orientated commercialism, to the point where if the artist isn’t packaged right, isn’t pretty, doesn’t have a story/angle, they’re better off sticking to a different day job. This, more so, I’ve found is the case with British R&B musicians, as opposed to American artists.

After the various shifting of styles since the term was coined in the 1940s, rhythm and blues has seemed to implement and embrace the change in its surroundings over the decades: from early Jazz, to Blues, to Rock N’ Roll, to Soul, to Pop. This correlation makes it apparent that R&B has always incorporated a sense of commercialism – room for adaptation – if you will. And it seems post ‘90s R&B is now seemingly incorporative of Pop. [This is where we need to distinguish Pop Music as a genre, and the phrase popular music.] Popular music of this day and age, is Pop; what was considered popular music in the mid 1950s, would be Rock N’ Roll, and so on.

Coming from an era of Soul-influenced R&B, the Pop-sounding R&B immediately disheartens me. Hence why artists that still incorporate that Soul element, bring a sense of nostalgia (Frank Ocean suddenly springs to mind). Boyz II Men recently released a version of their classics rerecorded, in their new album, Twenty. Those songs brought back a lot of memories, and showed me that R&B of the ‘90s could not be emulated again, not to that level, anyway. This realisation made me come to terms with the contemporary R&B of today.

It’s what is relevant now. Whether or not we like the way R&B is sounding more and more nowadays, that is what is selling. Part and parcel of being a musician is doing something you love, and being able to make a career out of it. A fully-fledged musician needs to make money, in addition to making music. And in order to do that, their music adapts to what the target audience wants; what the charts need; and what the increasingly powerless record labels can exploit. A perfect example of this is British R&B singer, Loick Essien. After getting attention from the record Idol, the vocalist released an amazing record in Love Drunk, which didn’t do well, at all. According to a few industry insiders, if his Pop record, How We Roll didn’t chart well as the follow up, he was pretty much going to get dropped by Sony – who signed him at the age of 14.

I refused to become that older guy that judges the music youngsters listen to. R&B isn’t the same as the ‘90s; but the ‘90s wasn’t the same as the ‘80s, and it continues. We’re so accustomed to what we grew up on, and as much as we complain that R&B isn’t the same, Hip Hop isn’t the same… It really is. The only thing that has changed is the environment. Adapt to survive.

RKZ

Swami Baracus (Guest Editorial)

Editorial

Swami Baracus boots up the de Lorean and transports you back to an era that time forgot in “Attack of the Rap…”

Like all children growing up watching Wac-A-Day, eating Snickers when it was called Marathon and whiling away our weekends searching for mushrooms on the NES… I loved and will continue to love the music of Michael Jackson. No single figure has ever monopolised my interest in music through an entire decade, but I, like many, was captivated and drawn towards anything and everything he released. It summed up the magic of the 80s.

Cue the beginning of the 90s, and the landscape was changing. It’s almost like life, music and culture had been administered a massive dose of anabolic steroids. Saturday morning shows were now in glossier hi-tech studios, the NES was now the SUPER NES and even Michael raised his (already high) standard of videomaking with Black Or White and Remember The Time. This period coincided with a sway towards a more rebellious, carefree lifestyle for the youth in general, reflecting the fashion, mood and angst of a generation. It also spawned my initial curiosity-based interest in rap…

Now during this period, if anyone had asked me who’s your favourite rapper, it would’ve been a ‘take your pick’ scenario between Kid N Play, MC Hammer and, of course, John Barnes on New Order’s World In Motion. It was a genre of music that was now becoming more prominent in the charts, albeit the more bubblegum pop variety. We look back with great distaste and quick to differentiate ourselves away from it, but there’s not many growing up during that era that can’t recite a few ‘bars’ from Ice Ice Baby. Once shows like Fresh Prince and A Different World entered our primetime TV slots, rap was becoming an integral factor of youth culture. It was around this period that I first picked up a pencil and scrap paper, and dabbled in some pathetic attempt at rapping… to be fair, it generated a little schoolground attention and I innocently felt a sense of accomplishment with my ‘work’.

The inevitable peer pressure environment of school means social acceptance becomes of upmost importance to any adolescent. But despite all attempts at integrating Bhangra into my cassette deck, it just wasn’t me. So I continued to champion the MJ cause and catch the occasional Top Of The Pops for a regular dose of new music to use as conversational material with my fellow students. However, one such chat alerted my attention instantly out of curiosity, intrigue, shock and bewilderment… ‘yo, have you heard those rap tunes where the guys are swearing??

Swearing? In rap?? That just wasn’t possible… How could I even envisage the Fat Boys ever mentioning the F-ing B-words? Looking back on it, I think I didn’t WANT to believe it, purely based on protecting my innocence. However, the prospect of hearing music with profane, controversial and misogynistic lyrics was like watching a psychological horror film… you almost didn’t want to do it, but the sheer intrigue gets the better of you despite any potential repercussions. I had to hear this for myself, so I persuasively asked one of my friends to make me a compilation of these tracks and awaited this with almost apprehensive anticipation. A short time later, I was handed a cassette with the label ‘Rap Attack’ on it. I’m not sure where or if this tape is still in my possession, but it changed my life musically and culturally for good.

From the offset, the initial track When The Sh** Goes Down by Cypress Hill set a precedent for the rest of the compilation. B-Real’s high-pitched nasal tone was almost hypnotically stapled to the deep Muggs production, and the lyrics, content and delivery were unlike anything I’d experienced before. Almost immediately that sense of enlightenment was combined with a slight regret that I hadn’t come across this material previously… but I assumed I’d have a lifetime to make up for it. Next up was Tribe’s Can I Kick It, followed by Naughty By Nature’s OPP, two classic tracks from different ends of the spectrum but both immediate head-nodders. B-Real returned for a guest verse on Funkdoobiest’s Wopbabalubop, a familiar sample given the Hip-Hop touch on a hard beat. One of the refreshing aspects of this compilation was the diversity in tracks. PM Dawn sat closely to House Of Pain, whilst Arrested Development’s Mr Wendal was succeeded quickly in order by Onyx’ Slam. This cassette was almost an initiation that covered all aspects of the Hip-Hop demographic, and unlike compilations now, was more appreciated as a whole rather than the sum of all parts.

Needless to say, this tape was rinsed more thoroughly then a Boston Party tea-towel. I was memorising Domino’s Ghetto Jam lyrics despite struggling to understand the lingo. I felt more connected to anything Guru from Gang Starr was referring to even though our lives drew absolutely no parallels. I’d obviously heard of Public Enemy, LL Cool J, De La Soul and Run DMC, however experiencing their music for the first time left me annoyed at what I’d been missing out on. Aside of Salt N’ Pepa, the only other track I’d actually heard before was Kriss Kross’ Jump, but even this was stamped with a Hip-Hop seal of approval, courtesy of a Pete Rock remix. Overall, the overriding emotion to stem from this compilation… was hunger. The need for more. Almost drug-like. I literally had to seek the next ‘hit’…

Its been a ridiculous amount of time since, and I’m still an addict today. Rehab’s not going to fix this illness, and why should it? A few years after first hearing the tape, I realised I couldn’t go on listening to the music without having a go myself. I still find it difficult to comprehend how Hip-Hop aficionados fail to do the same! However it set me on a path musically, that I’ve never looked back on and wouldn’t. I do wonder if MJ would’ve forgiven me for the abrupt sway in allegiances… though having sailed that ship himself with collaborations including Heavy D, Notorious BIG and umm, Shaq… I think we can call it quits.

Swami Baracus