From Hand’Solo Records comes The Raw by Ultra Magnus and DJ Slam! But with the highly anticipated new Backburner posse album due up soon via the label, does this album serve as an warm up act or raise the bar?
As both vocalist and producer take equal standing on the cover, you realise why very early on. This is an album that brings both the lyrics and clever production techniques to the fore to form a musical symbiosis. What does it all mean? Exhibit A: The intro title track is musically fun, bouncy and quickly demonstrates the accomplished delivery of Ultra Magnus as a vocalist, whilst DJ SLAM! adds smart samples that punctuate the lyrics. The clever interplay between rapper and beatsmith is a recurring feature of this hefty fifteen track release and exhibits the high level of planning, practice and patience it must have taken to blend samples and cuts so seamlessly into the lyrics and rhyme schemes.
At times there’s a subtle dark comedy to Ultra Magnus’ contribution as he passes commentary on society, whilst at other times things get a little sillier (Exhibit B: Yogi Bear ft Wordburglar). At all times though carefully laid out syllables hit in all the right places. As a rapper his repertoire is technically impressive, from the gentle flow of Bill Clinton to the frenetic pace of Damage Magnus maintains his style but refines his delivery for each track by introducing a hint of dub here or a smattering of rawness there.
The bulk of the production comes from DJ SLAM! with the exception of the aforementioned Damage (production by Digs) and Microphone Thrillah (Attributes to Sean One). Musically there’s a diversity that spans the album in terms of style and samples. Importantly though, the flow and core of the release is maintained throughout forming an album that is fluid to listen to.
There’s a substance to The Raw. You’ll find pop culture references alongside nods to classic hip-hop. Former politicians as the subject matter in one song whilst a cartoon bear takes centre stage in another. It’s hard to get bored with so much diversity in the lyrics and with an equal amount to enjoy from the slick production. So it’s all good? Pretty much. At times Ultra Magnus falls foul of some typical rap cliches in his lyrics and comparisons. I believe he’s capable of being a little smarter, but it’s a petty criticism at most.
If you like a balance between rugged and fun hip-hop? If you’re partial to the sound emanating from Toronto rap scene? If you like prominent cuts and smooth samples? If you like all of this and more? You should be checking out The Raw.
The Raw from Ultra Magnus and DJ SLAM! is available for digital download and in physical format from the Hand’Solo Records bandcamp page now.