Dragon Fli Empire Redefine

Calgary, AB rap duo Dragon Fli Empire redefine hip-hop by starting with the jazzy, true school vibe of the early- to mid-'90s as their jumping-off point. Teekay, the MC, keeps it primarily positive and upbeat (unless you're a wack MC holding hip-hop back) with braggadocio battle raps that emphasize the importance of individuality, creativity and hard work, as well as a few concepts, a love song or two and occasionally touching on a social issue along the way. But Teekay sounds best on the up-tempo tracks, such as the Cool J-inspired, cereal-centric opener "Fastbreak," which allows him more room to play — as the tempo decreases, so does the dynamic of his delivery. Cosm, the DJ and producer of the duo, drops Premier-esque cut-up choruses when he can but a lot of tracks feature singing on the hooks. His production offers everything from funky ("Ride On") to soulful ("Paradise" and "To The Sky," with hooks by Moka and Velben, respectively) to acid-jazz meets hip-house ("Floor to the Roof," with assistance from Metawon), while outside production comes from Dark Eyed Junco and the Gaff, both with funky throwbacks, Moka Only, with his lo-fi, dirty jazz, and Nato and Teekay, both of whom offer great organ-driven tracks. The perfect remedy for those nostalgic for the golden age of hip-hop, DFE offer it up with a fresh new spin on Redefine. (MakeBelieve)