Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Division East Records and Shape and Tame Reviews, Beyah!

Thank you to Pat Renton for the Division East Records Commercial, as seen below. I like it.

Review for Tame One's The Grudge and Shape's Raised Near the Powerlines of LAS Magazine (

Tame One has been around for just a bit more than a second now. Starting out with New Jerusalem's legendary Artifacts, the MC found himself on the Eastern Conference label in the late '90s, alongside the likes of High 'n' Mighty, Cage, and Camu Tao. He released two solo albums for the label, as well as the Leak Brothers project with Cage, entitled Waterworld. Last year, Tame joined The Dusted Don's to form Slow Suicide Stimulus. I'm not sure what the future holds for the venerable MC, but for now, we have The Grudge - Fuck the Industry mixtape (Division East). As is usually the case, tracks vary in production value and overall quality, but for all underground heads, this one should satisfy. "No Hook" is a standout here, as Tame declares "It's like Kurt Cobain's in here when Tame One's in here" at the outset of this banger. There's some weird shit too, like "Hip-Hop (Call N Response)", a Kool Keith-esque space beat providing the bedrock for Tame's assertion that the genre has been around since "1970-something" and that he "was on dust when Cypress Hill blew up." Fair enough. Definitely don't skip the last track, "A DJ Stretch Armstrong HOT97 Exclusive feat. Funk Doctor Spot 'n' Rah Digga." 'Nuff said.

Another Division East release this month arrives courtesy of the Jersey City MC, Shape. Raised Near the Powerlines is another unabashedly underground effort with this young MC's unique vision fully on display. After a slow, spacey instrumental, "Darkside of the Sillohuete [sic]" kicks the record off, which features a sample of Val Kilmer from the Bob Dylan movie, Masked and Anonymous. The pop culture doesn't stop there. The guitar-driven "Stereo Gun Unplugged" closes with some classic Arnold quotes, and the soulful "Superheroes" features a cameo from the late Bill Hicks. Is all this compensating for a lack of real talent? Not really, as Shape's rhymes and presence are unique and engaging. But it does feel, at times, like it's missing that essential boom-bap soul that would take Shape's shtick to that next level.

Yeah Boy! Here's one For Raised Near the Powerlines off

At first, Shape’s production appears to outpace his lyrical abilities, as he unleashes a furious set of borderline industrial-style hip-hop beats, boasting a griminess similar to the haunting and captivating concoctions of vintage Wu-Tang. With needle-on-the-record static behind keys, strings, and clever vocal samples, the soundscapes are immediately exciting, so much so that you might not notice this guy has a pretty sick flow and a flare for unusual but potent similes ("I feel a lot like a lottery ticket that won’t scratch off"). Then again, maybe Shape creates the speculation himself with lines like: “My rhyme style comes second to the ghost inside my beats”. In actuality, he’s solid on both accounts—as a rapper and as a producer—but his beatmaking experiments are, by nature, easier to interpret as “pushing for the next level”, whereas a stream of consciousness delivery seems disjointed, especially when delivered in a nasally monotone that sometimes sounds like a schoolchild calling out words when asked to read aloud. Mainly, this debut puts Shape’s skills on full display, from the dope posse cut “Gary Oldman” (yeah, like the dude who played Lee Harvey Oswald in Oliver Stone’s JFK) to the bump-friendly flavor of “Rock Like This” and the geopolitical-minded “Super Heroes”. While Shape can enhance his product by putting more thought into the statements he wishes to make, he certainly possesses the tools to do so when he’s ready.

So Go ahead and Buy both those albums from the shop or the online store at