Friday 28 July 2023

Album Review: Cold Hard Steel 2 by Crease


Cold Hard Steel 2




Cold Hard Steel 2 is the follow up to the 2021 original and continues Crease’s instrumental look into the lifestyle of the underground graffiti writer. Crease has featured on the blog a couple of times, the last being back in October 2022 with the single Fake Friends / Hip Hop Saved My Life alongside Holly Flo (Click the link for that review).

As part of the legendary Outkastz Crew (O.K.S.T), Crease literally has spray paint and ink running through his veins, as a producer and DJ the music also runs through his body fuelling the inspiration to emblazon the walls with the freshest pieces and tags. When you bring both the love of music and the lifelong graff interest to together what happens? Well, if you are familiar with the original Cold Hard Steel, then you will have some idea, if not, then why not join me on a trip passing the pieces, tags on the walls and down into the tunnels as we watch the trains pass by…


The sound of vinyl record crackle accompanies what appears to be an early eighties information soundtrack about graffiti. Detailing some of the history and the progression of graffiti at the time, it is all underpinned by an often-funky musical vibe for the opening track, Caves, which obviously makes you realise that humans have been writing and putting art on walls since cave art, is that any different from now?

From the caves we move from the sounds of the city streets to Under The City, where the sound of tribal drums and piano accompanies sound bites from Style Wars. When the beat fully kicks in you get this sense of the darkness of the subway tunnels and the desire of the graff writers to create something from the drab canvases of the walls and subway train cars. You also feel that the creations of these graff writers, bombers, and artists, was a way to brighten the days and nights of a cold harsh inner-city life. The obvious drawback of being a writer is that getting your work up on the walls and subway cars was met with one thing, That’s A Crime. The atmospheric strings, over the heavy drums creates this air of the conflict between the writers and the authorities. The authorities wishing to control and assert that authority over the writers who, with no other outlet for their creativity, only seek to go bigger and better, all the while developing their style and becoming more creative with their craft. During the eighties, the time of Style Wars, it was mayor Giuliani of New York who would spearhead the drive against graffiti in the city. Toy Giuliani is a short skit that takes a comedic look at the fight against graffiti.  

Subway Symphony is this a look at who witing is truly for, and that’s the writers. The heavy drums and symphonic strings mixed with additional sonic vibes and a dash of scratches really makes you feel the belief and dedication of the writers; there is also that sense of kicking back and watching the trains go by, looking for your own artwork among the many that pass by and feeling that emotion as you see you hard work displayed for all to see. The sonic vibes of Fuk Tony looks at when the infamous skater Tony Hawk took tried to make graffiti look bad. As a famous name, and many have done this over the years, Hawk was someone youngsters would look up to and if he said it was ‘not cool’ then kids would stop. From one of the ways they tried to stop graffiti we move to More, a full on Hip Hop, head nod banger that looks at how 1989 was celebrated as the year the MTA purged graffiti from the New York subway system but, by 2018 it was back and it’s all about how much you can get up. As Cap said about being a bomber, it’s not the “biggest or the beautifulest but, more.” The John Isaacs Theme is another short little skit with a comedic edge that looks at how writers, back in the day, would get their paint by ‘racking’ aka stealing from automotive stores. They were from the poor inner-city areas and so had only one option when it came to getting paint so they could ‘get up.’

The sounds of the subway bring us into another heavy Hip Hop banger, Run Da Subway. This one looks at the difference between a writer and a graffiti artist. The main point here is that you are only a writer, a true writer, if you have hit up the subway cars. Because that’s where the name comes from, a time where it was all about writing your name on the subway cars, stations, and tunnels. When the writers ran the subway system, there was a War going on. This was pitted the writers against the buff; buffing was the acid wash that the subway cars were put through to remove the graffiti. The drums and bass here really give you that hectic energy that those writers must have had, constantly full of adrenaline as they took on the authorities in order to get their names up before they were caught, or their work was buffed. The album ends with Fallen Soldiers an emotive guitar heavy sound that seems dedicated to those writers who are no longer with us but, have inspired us over the years such as Dez, Kase 2, Dondi, Rammellzee, Iz The Wiz and Phase 2 to just a small few.


Cold Hard Steel 2 is firmly rooted in the Hip Hop sound but, just like the artform it reflects, it is not exclusively Hip Hop. It has been said many times that graffiti is Hip Hop but, not exclusively, you don’t have to be Hip Hop to write, and this album reflects that in bringing you a sound that draws you into the world of the writer which grew out of the same streets as the foundations of Hip Hop culture.

As you listen to what Crease has crafted here, you can feel those diverse musical influences from the tribal drums to Hip Hop, electronic vibes and more, and Crease expertly brings it all together, with these sound bites from interviews and documentaries, to encapsulate the lived experiences of the graffiti writer. The fact that the sound seems to ebb between Hip Hop, Lo-Fi and electronic, just adds to the depth of the soundscape he has created.

For me, what makes this album what it is, in being a graffiti writer inspired piece of work, is those well used sound bites; take those away and crease could take you anywhere your mind wants to go but, the desire here is to take you into the world of the graffiti writer, in particular what could be called the golden age of writing between 1975-1985, the most pivotal years of graffiti coming to the forefront as a result of it’s growth on the New York City subway system.

This is a perfectly crafted musical journey from someone who truly knows what it is to be a writer. Someone who saw the work of these graffiti pioneers and was inspired to pick up a marker and a spray can, to put his own expressive, indelible mark on the world around him; where as those tags and piece’s may fade or be gone over, the musical expression and dedication to the culture can never fade and will always be there to help others cast their minds back or to reminisce on a time when the dirt and grime of the subway was brought alive by the creative expression and vibrant colours of the writers.

The awesome cover art comes courtesy of the legendary Bristol Graff writer CHEO.

Cold Hard Steel 2, produced by Crease is available now.

On That Note,

It's time to jump the third rail and be outta here,

See Ya,



Get your copy of Cold Hard Steel 2 Here:

Check out the original Cold Hard Steel Here:






Friday 21 July 2023

Single Review: Monkeypox by Kurious and Cut Beetlez




Kurious & Cut Beetlez


It’s always a pleasure to be asked to review a release by the Cut Beetlez, and their latest release alongside Kurious is no exception. This release is also the first release by fledgling record label Weaponize Records and comes from the forthcoming album ‘Monkeyman’.

Now if you are a regular reader to the blog, you will know that the Cut Beetlez have featured here a few times with the likes of What Beetlez? (2020), Gold Pyramids on Black Sand (2021 with Dopamine 189) and Jazz Spastiks vs Cut Beetlez (2022) and that’s just to name a few but, check the links to read those reviews too.

The legendary and elusive figure of Kurious has not yet featured here so here is just a little bit about him. Born of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent he first appeared on the album Dust To Dust by Pete Nice and DJ Richie Rich back in 1993 and was they who helped him to get his first record deal via the Bobbito and Nice’s Hoppoh imprint of Columbia Records. Kurious would them release his debut ‘Walk Like a Duck’ in 1992 and his debut album ‘A Constipated Monkey’, having then signed to Sony. He then withdrew from the scene, only making a couple of guest appearances, until he re-emerged in 1999 on the MF DOOM track ‘?’ from Operation:Doomsday. 2001 would then see him release the single ‘All Great’ and them making more guest appearances. His second album ‘II’ would be released in 2009. Kurious has been a regular contributor to KMD and MF DOOM projects over the years and has also worked with artists such as Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, MF Grimm, MC Search and Homeboy Sandman.

Let’s get into this single now…

As always Monkeypox has that experimental, funky jazz vibe that the Cut Beetlez are known for but, here the verses are all underpinned by this fusion of drums, keys, and bass, while the bridge between each verse brings in the horns and some furious cuts that spin you mind outta control. With all this in mind Kurious uses his slick and clever lyrical prowess to such good effect by delivering up-tempo flows of similes, metaphors and more, packed full of mind bending, witty lyricism that takes a few listens just to get a hold of. Now this might not be one of those tracks with hard-hitting story to get your mind working but, it is one of those tracks with the sort of lyrics and sound that just has a feel-good, get ya body moving, infectious vibe that gives you the sort of grin you just can’t hide. This is such a perfect slice of Jazz Hop fusion goodness that is perfect for keeping those summer parties rocking to the early hours.

The single also comes with a Monkeypox remix and I would love to say that the remix changes the whole vibe of the track while taking nothing away from the lyrics of Kurious, and maybe it does? But I can’t tell you that because that’s a secret right now, unless you we’re lucky enough to pre-order the single and you will already know how dope it is. Just another reason to grab a copy now before they are all gone…


I can see why this is the first single off the album, because if this is just a taster of what is to come on the album then, damn, Monkeyman is gonna be right up there as one of the standout albums of the year. What I really like about this is that you have one of Hip Hop’s enigmatic figures, in Kurious, teaming with one of Hip Hop’s most exciting DJ/producer duo’s, to show that not only is Hip Hop far from dead and buried but, with sounds like this coming from the underground scene, Hip Hop is building back to be a force to be reckoned with once again.

The Cut Beetlez keep pushing the boundaries of Hip Hop and Jazz fusion and here it just works so well with the lyrics Kurious delivers. The sound really creates this instant strong anticipation to see what the Monkyman LP will bring. This really does feel like on of those made in heaven Hip Hop collaborations.

That universal Hip Hop feel is here too; where Hip Hop shows how to unite us all, with Kurious from New York, USA and the Cut Beetlez from Finland, it shows that Hip Hop, and perhaps music in general, has the power to unite everyone the world over, you just have to be open to that notion and once you are, you can see the true power of the music we all enjoy so much.

The Monkeypox single is out now on Weaponize Records with a strictly limited run of fresh green 7” vinyl with cover artwork by the Cut Beetlez very own HP Lovescratch.

My huge thanks to DJ J-Man of the Cut Beetlez for sending this one my way.

On That Note,

See ya next time.



Get the single from Weaponize Records Bandcamp Here:

Kurious Links:

Cut Beetlez Links:

Weaponize Records Links:


Monkeypox Official Video





Friday 14 July 2023

EP Review: Learning Curves by Local Elements


Learning Curves


Local Elements


It’s been a little while since I have had a review from the other side of the world but, today’s review comes all the way from New Zealand. This means that this review marks two debuts, the first being my first review from an artist from New Zealand, and the second is that Learning Curves is the debut EP release from Christchurch based rapper/producer and audio engineer, Local Elements.

Learning Curves has been a year in the making and reflects Local Elements hard work, dedication, and his growth as an artist. He also displays his proficiency in beat production by producing, mixing and mastering three of the EP’s four tracks, entirely by himself.

So, join me now as I take you on ride through the Learning Curves EP…


The EP opens with No Complaints, a chilled head nod sound of drums and guitar vibes. The reflective air around this one comes not just from the beat but, also from Local Elements who delivers an emotive track that looks at the deeply personal events from his past that have strong impression on him; these are the experiences that have helped shape his path on life’s journey and are responsible for being a huge part of crafting him into the man and artist he is today. In using these personal experiences so well, it really does make this relatable to people from across the world, we can all reflect on the past and how it has shaped who we are.

A laid-back vibe of drums, keys, acoustic guitar, and bass, opens our mind up, casting them back to the School Daze. Keeping it head nod we find Local Elements casting his mind back to his teenage years and both the struggles and the fun times of being a part of the school system. Drawing on his personal experiences of ADHD, this track really draws you into that era of being far more carefree, before being caught up in the complex nature of adult life. The use of personal experiences makes this something we can all feel on the same level. I found it very relatable from my own school experiences, even though my own diagnosis of ADHD (ADD) did not come until my forties, there was a lot here that hit close to home.

Humble Beginnings is a percussion heavy sound that has a deep edge to it. The track is a collaboration with fellow Christchurch artist Roarz and see’s both artists relating their love of making music; all this despite what life has thrown at them. As much as this feels like a celebration, it also feels like an enduring epitaph, carved in stone from their words, to stand the test of time but, this is not a final reflection on what has been; it is just as much a reflection on what is to come. It is another marker to reflect on at a later time to see how far they have been when they next reflect.

The EP closes with Sayin’ Nothin’ which is a remix of the track Doves by Sahala and Altosounds. The pounding drum beat is backed by this sampled mixed up synth sound that grips your mind from the star and never let’s go; this helps the words really sink into your awareness. Local Elements pulls no punches on this track, drawing on personal experience, he looks at how mainstream Hip Hop has suffered due to the glorification of violence and drug use. In fact, he says more in two and a half minutes than some say in a whole EP! There really is a call for a return to the roots of Hip Hop of what Hip Hop culture is all about, something that I see more and more in the underground releases.

Learning Curves is stunning debut from Local Elements. It packs more emotion into, a little over ten minutes, that some release pack into three or four times that. It really shows the introspective nature of what he packs into his tracks, and drawing on those personal experiences really does give Learning Curves this air about it that is so easily relatable to anyone who choses to listen. It also displays a deep dedication to his art and to keeping the true authentic nature of Hip Hop alive.

Local Elements, as an emcee, shows that he has taken his time to hone his craft. His lyricism is on point, regardless of the flow or the nature of the message being delivered, and that personal edge adds depth to every bar he delivers. There is also this air of confidence and a commanding nature about his delivery that comes from that unflinching dedication to his craft; that also permeates into his work as a producer and beyond. You just feel that everything comes from a deep desire to be true to the roots of Hip Hop and to show that to the world. The soundscapes he has crafted really reflect that with a sound that is unequivocally Hip Hop to the core.

This EP does not just reflect the learning curves of the artist but, it opens us to reflecting in on our own learning curves and, perhaps it just asks that we look at the what can be learned from looking at Hip Hop itself and how we can return to the root of real Hip Hop and bring that back to the forefront; displaying the true meaning of the culture to world and the music industry..?

Learning Curves by Local Elements is out now and is one that is worth you time to check out, without delay.

My thanks to Local Elements for getting in touch and sending this over to me.

On that note,

I’ll see ya next time.



Get Learning Curves via the Website Here:

Local Elements on Spotify Here:

Local Elements Social Media Links:

Local Elements YouTube Channel:


No Complaints


Friday 7 July 2023

Single Review: End Of Your Era by MNEA


End Of Your Era




End Of Your Era is the latest release on the awesome UK Hip Hop Label Live From The Groove. The Debut release comes from the artist collective know as MNEA, who are based across the UK and collaborate remotely to produce their own take on Hip Hop. Production comes from Conbel Evrence, with co-production, mixing and mastering from Dweller, Vocals by Dweller and Scrabbleshots, cuts by DL Simon C and Artwork from Tuff Draft Design. The flip side of this single release is a remix from dope producer Djar One, out of France.

So, I’m not gonna keep you waiting around, let’s get into this…


The first thing that hits you about End Of Your Era is how the beat, keys, bass, multi-layered sounds and cuts combine to bring this head nod vibe that immediately takes over your whole body. It just seems that your whole body assimilates the sound and vibe making you both one for the duration of the track. Once the beat has you hooked you are able to listen and feel the words that form the basis of the message within. The message comes across in the form of this emotive tale of looking back at life and how far we have come and realising that the innocent outlook we had on life as children never really prepare us for what’s to come on the journey of life. We progress thorough life understanding that the road in front of us never becomes clearer but, is littered with decisions to make and hurdles to be overcome that will help us walk forward and grow as individuals, constantly moving and pushing on until we reach the End of Your Era. The message here really seems to be that life is all about making the most of what inspires us and helps us to grow along the way, it’s not always an easy journey but, if we make the most of every opportunity, we will always that we have done our very best in live.

So, the flip side of the single is the remix from Djar One which keeps the vocal message and its emotive context but takes the sound scape to another level. Djar One keeps the reflective vibe of the original single while giving it a slightly more mellow, upbeat sound. With this remix, Djar One helps you to imagine yourself chilling on a warm summer’s eve in a group of friends, musing over life’s journey to date; the ups and downs, the challenges and the crossroads life has put in front of you, all the while speaking from the heart, realising just how far you’ve come and that you are still here, walking forward with purpose.

Sometimes its difficult to come up with words that express the overall feel of single, EP or album and that is exactly how I’m feeling now as I sit here, ready to sum up this single but, and I’ve said this before, this single and the remix are perfect representations of just how powerful music can be. Here we have a Hip Hop single, that puts in to music, how we can so often reflect back over our lives and how those trials, tribulations and inspirations, have shaped who we are in that moment and it comes across in such a way as to be relevant to any one of us; and because it is so relatable it can’t help but, stir those deep down emotions within you, regardless of your musical tastes.

What MNEA have here is a single of which you can play either side in the car, club, on the radio, at the BBQ and so on and it will get people moving and speaking on heir own experiences. For me, this is essential listening for the summer and beyond, it’s just never gonna get old.

Huge props to MNEA and Djar One for crafting such a great audible experience.

End Of Your Era is available on Live From The Groove today on strictly limited 7” vinyl and digital.

My Thanks to Dweller for sending this one my way.


On that note…

Yeah, I’m outta here,

See Ya.



Get your copy of the Vinyl from the LFTG Website Here:

Grab a copy from the LFTG Bandcamp Here:

Everything Live From The Groove Here: