The New Classics

January 2, 2009

Mixtape Review / Download: Termanology, If Heaven Was a Mile Away (A Tribute to J Dilla)


I was skeptical at first of the intentions of this mixtape. I am quite sure that Termanology & late producer J Dilla (who passed in 2006) have never previously collaborated. Neither of them share any song credits to my knowledge, and at first I was afraid that the relatively-new MC was somehow capitalizing on the trend of saluting Dilla, who has become more known in death than he was in life. In 2007, Busta Rhymes also released a free mixtape called Dilla-gence, providing new vocals over unreleased Dilla beats, but they had been frequent collaborators throughout their careers. How can someone give a tribute to another person who they’ve never even known? If heaven was a mile away, would J Dilla even know who Termanology was? Then I remembered how good an album Termanology’s Politics as Usual was this past year. And I remembered how Term is one of the nicest upcoming artists in the hip hop world, and how his raw, energetic style is remeniscent of early New York rap that we’ve been badly missing for years now. So I started looking at this mixtape in a different light. Term is simply just a fan.

Termanology, who in my opinion sounds best over DJ Premier beats, sounds very at home with Dilla providing the soundtrack. He matches the lighter, smoother tracks like ‘Spazz Out’ with a lighter, smoother flow. And when Dilla calls for harder, heavier vocals like on ‘Circulate (100 Bars)’, and ‘What Type of Money’, Term is right there with him, and you can tell he is having a good time with it all. ‘She Wants a SuperSTar’ is one of my favorite tracks musically on the album, with a cool upbeat sped-up sample, and retardedly named members (SuperSTah Snuk & Ea$y Money) of Termanology’s equally retardedly named ST. da Squad join him. But all three guys hold the track down really well, with an ode to starfuckers. Bonus track ‘Bars 4 the Stars’ features the criminally underrated Reks, and Skyzoo, who kicks one of the best lines on the album (what’s the furthest galaxy you can name? I’m aiming beyond that). The beat is probably my favorite on If Heaven; a nice head-nodder with DJ Statik Selektah cutting in a classic Notorious B.I.G. sample for the hook. Another standout cut is ‘Say It’, which features unneeded, but still welcome help from 5 outstanding MC’s: Sheek Louch, Joell Ortiz, Bun B, Saigon & Freeway. Termanology somehow manages to outshine ALL of them with a rapid-fire, Big Pun-like flow that hits like an onslaught:

I pledge allegiance to beatin’ the shit out of every beat that I’m greeted with immediately, me and Sheek and Joell might as well be Rakim, Kane and LL

He obviously respects the history of hip hop, and in this new world of ungrateful, ignorant young rappers, Termanology stands out positively. Musically, this album is extraordinary. Dilla’s leftover beats are better than 9 out of 10 beats you will hear anywhere else. But as good as Term compliments the music, this mixtape isn’t much of a “tribute” to Dilla, aside from just utilizing his beats. Sure, there a bunch of “RIP J Dilla”s thrown around, and a few other quick mentions of the late producer, but aside from ‘Pay Jay’, featuring Chaundon, Joe Scudda & Little Brother’s Rapper Big Pooh, none of these songs could really be considered tributes. Does that take away from the enjoying the music? Absolutely not. Like I already said, Termanology is one of the top up and coming emcee’s out right now, and if this is the kind of quality material is he putting out for free, you know this kid is good. J Dilla might not have known who Termanology was during his lifetime, but he obviously influenced Term in some way, which turned out this excellent mixtape album. If Heaven Was a Mile Away (A Tribute to J Dilla) is currently the best release of 2009, and even though we are only one day into the new year, I am certain that it will be at the top of my list for the next 12 months.

Album: If Heaven Was a Mile Away (A Tribute to J Dilla)
Artist: Termanology
Label: Showoff Records
Producers: J Dilla, Statik Selektah
Featured Artists: Bun B, Freeway, Joell Ortiz, Sheek Louch, Saigon, Rapper Big Pooh, Chaundon, Joe Scudda, Skyzoo, Reks, Smif N Wessun, & ST. da Squad
Highlights: ‘Say It’, ‘Spazz Out’, ‘Pay Jay’, ‘She Wants a SuperSTar’, ‘Bars 4 the Stars’
Rating: 8.0


1 Comment »

  1. […] Circulate (100 Bars) Artist: Termanology Album: If Heaven Was a Mile Away (A Tribute to J Dilla) (mixtape) Producer: J Dilla Analysis: Term doesn’t appear in this one, but it’s still a […]

    Pingback by Music Video Megapost: 29 Music Videos from February 2009 « The New Classics — March 1, 2009 @ 2:38 pm

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