Azeem Air Cartoons

For his third solo album, Oakland, CA MC Azeem switches up his steez to bold braggadocio with a fun collection of battle raps. But, as an MC who got his start on the spoken word circuit, his abstract brags are bigger, badder and "have double meanings like hermaphrodites.” His recurring themes of time travel, godhood and lyrical beat downs are perfectly matched by a backdrop of industrial, tripped-out, futuristic funk-hop, which usually pairs heavy, muddy drum beats with DJ scratches, synth sounds, sirens, glitchy effects and other unusual samples. While lighter than previous albums, Azeem also presents a message, hitting on substantial subjects throughout his battle raps, but also devoting time to noteworthy topics like the deep history of Oakland ("Going Dumb vs. Going to Brazil,” which also attacks artists jumping on the hyphy bandwagon), conspiracy theories and secret societies ("What If,” as well as other sections of songs), the corruption within government and society ("Open ’Em Up”) and the all-consuming quest for cash ("Triple 6s”). On aggressive battle track "Road Scholar,” Azeem raps, "Is it what I say? Or the beat that I say it on?” But of course it’s the equal contribution of both that makes Air Cartoons a must-have album for fans of creative, meaningful rap music. (Oaklyn)