Top Picks

Roving Jewel
The 38th Expansion
good good good half good

01. A New Era (instrumental)
02. Only A Few Make It Out - TEK
03. Nobody's Invincible - Kinetic 9 & El Conductor
04. Magnetic Equator - 9th Prince
05. Infiltration - Casual
06. Shine Light - C.O.N-Vers
07. Coming Out The Darkness - Planet Asia
08. On Everything - Substantial
09. Just Live II - The Shaaw Brothers
10. African Diamonds - 9th Prince
11. The Theme - Prodigal Sunn
12. Seven Seals - Zion I
13. The 38th Expansion - Killah Priest
14. Interstellar Travel (instrumental)

Listening to the latest, modern releases from Northern California rap scene I'm quite sure that the sound of what I was used to hear has definitely changed. The flow, the beats, the lyrics... everything is different. Truth is, my rap taste is stuck somewhere in the first decade of the new millennium and most of the contemporary music is simply indigestible to me. What is more, the older I get the more I reach for the 90's records. Unfortunately, its original, real, live production is somehow impossible to reproduce nowadays; or maybe just artists don't care about quality? Well, somewhere in the ocean of so-called rappers there are a few genuine artists who at least try to bring back the original classic rap / hip-hop tunes. So far I wasn't familiar with a Sacramento producer by the name of Roving Jewel, but after hearing "The 38th Expansion" I'm certainly going to follow his future releases.

The creator of the hereby project - Roving Jewel - brought the whole production and invited a bunch of emcees who delivered verses over his beats. The album is made of 12 songs, plus instrumental intro and outro. In general the music on "The 38th Expansion" is quite of a tribute to classic, old-school hip-hop with a clear East Coast flavor to it. The bass lines, the samples, the whole music itself sound more like it was a right coast project. Well, this shouldn't be a surprise as half of the tracks is made by New York rappers: Tek (of Smif-N-Wesson), Kinetic 9 and 9th Prince (of Killarmy), Prodigal Sunn and Killah Priest (of Sunz of Man). You'll also hear a few hip-hop representatives from California: Casual and Zion I (from Oakland) as well as Planet Asia (from Fresno). The remaining artists hail from Maryland, South Carolina and... London (UK). Every emcee on this project was probably selected very consciously as all of them fit the overall ambiance. Most of them are rather more mature, with deep, low timbre and slow, solid flow. Lyrics are also soaked with hip-hop features like metaphors, similes and more sophisticated topics. You'll hear about present day issues including race tensions, police brutality and George Floyd killing, the pandemic and more. I'm personally not the biggest fan of East Coast / hip-hop delivery (generally, it just sounds monotonous to me), but on "The 38th Expansion" all of the elements complement each other perfectly. The most valuable aspect of the album is in my opinion the production itself. It reminds me of a classic 90's hip-hop with distinct bass lines and heavy samples. Here you'll hear a lot of disturbing and murky melodies, with loads of live instruments (guitars, pianos, bells, scratches). Roving Jewel did the impossible, bringing a fresh breath of classic 90's hip-hop.

You can purchase the album online on BandCamp (digital, CD, vinyl) or iTunes (digital) and other e-spots.

Written by: lethaface
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