On the hip hop list, Zeph & Azeem ‘Rise Up,’ came in at Number 4 right behind Blu, Pharoahe Monch and Talib Kweli.
4. Perhaps Zeph & Azeem’s Rise Up could be chalked up as a series of “If only’s.” If only SoCalled’s Ghettoblaster LP didn’t have that awesome cover of the little girl sipping juice (or music) through a straw from a boom box. Otherwise, Rise Up might’ve snagged top album art honors depicting Zeph (the deejay) and Azeem (the emcee) as a revolutionary version of the Blues Brothers. If only I could get radio stations in my area to play something from this album, maybe a few more people could experience how good these songs are. If only Rise Up had been a little longer, with a few more tracks to match the ones here, the duo would’ve been jockeying for a spot in my top three.
Still, they couldn’t have done it much better, and what remains is a treat, a lavish LP with a wide range of influences. You get reggae, Latin rhythms, R&B hooks, and a sample to rival Jay-Z’s Oprah Annie refrain in “Hard Knock Life” (“Play the Drum”). In addition to clever verses, Azeem puts his slam poetry talents to use with a couple of spoken word pieces. Zeph and Azeem are experienced players in the rap game, which translates into layered, sophisticated music to augment detailed and descriptive rhymes. “I’m a young Yoda,” Azeem rhymes, “Yo, my tongue does yoga.” Indeed.
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