Last Week’s Albums: The Sparks Foundation, Fenech-Soler & Kent Jones

The Sparks Foundation – Parts Unknown

Two of my biggest passions are hip-hop and wrestling, so when the two collide like they do on The Sparks Foundation‘s latest mixtape, Parts Unknown, to say I’m a little excited is an understatement. Following on from the duo of Emilio Sparks (Shade45) and John Sparkz‘s (SRFSCHL) Macho Man Randy Savage inspired Forever Madness tape of two years ago, Parts Unknown once again finds the two enlisting a host of rappers to drop bars over classic wrestling themes hijacked by an array of established producers. The tape even has the approval of actual wrestlers, with Big E, one half of the tag team champions, The New Day, involved in curating the mixtape.

Dedicated to the Ultimate Warrior who passed away two years ago, the first track, Warrior, flips the former World Heavyweight Champion’s electric guitar theme song into a rap-rock number featuring Downtown Dion, America Trappist and the UK’s Sas Eurogang. The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase‘s theme is sampled for Money Inc., with rhymes from New York trio Fred The Godson, Adrian Lau and Murda Mook, D-Generation X’s famous Break It Down entrance is sampled for the 90s sounding rock track of the same name, and Daytona, Trap Ciudad, Add-2 and Hatty Maines come together for the chopped, DDT, named after the move made famous by Jake The Snake Roberts.

As you’d expect from a collection of songs influenced by wrestling, there are a tonne of wrestlers referenced throughout, with everyone from Hulk Hogan, Eddie Guerrero and Bob Backlund getting a mention. Bodega Bamz‘s solo track, The Bad Guy, is on par with Scorpion Death Drop as the tapes best. Sampling Razor Ramon‘s icon entrance theme, Bamz raps about his love of wrestling by cleverly weaving wrestlers names and finishing moves throughout his rhymes. The aforementioned Scorpion Death Drop finds Harry Fraud sampling Sting‘s theme as Project Pat, A$AP Twelvyy, Smoke DZA and Trae The Truth drop bars about “breaking legs, ribs, hundred dollar bills” and the famed pay per view Summer Slam.

Hip-hop and wrestling have always had an interesting relationship over the years, and projects like Parts Unknown only fuel the fire of creativity between two of America’s biggest entertainment sectors. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this mixtape is worth investigating, if only for Bamz’s wonderful wordplay.

Verdict: One for the wrestling fans.

Fenech-Soler – Kaleidoscope 

Two years on since the release of their Glow EP, UK group Fenech-Soler are back with new EP Kaleidoscope, albeit with some line-up changes. Founding members Daniel Fenech-Soler and Andrew Lindsay left the band earlier this year, leaving brothers Ross and Ben Duffy to carry on the indie-dance outfit’s successful European career.

Anyone expecting big changes in Fenech-Soler’s sound will be sadly disappointed, as Kaleidoscope follows the blueprint the band set with their 2010 self-titled debut. The EP is four tracks of feel good indie electronica made for dancing. The title track is an infectious Phoenix-esque festival anthem that has all the hallmarks of the mid-to-late 00s indie scene. Night Time TV is less poppy and more transfixed with heavy synths and a riveting bass line, On Top has a 70s disco feel and final track, Haha, is another sparkling indie tune centred around a sexually charged bass line and Ben’s rousing vocals.

While they might be churning out music that’s not necessarily as popular as it was when they started as a band six years ago, Fenech-Soler’s brand of indie meets dance efforts are enjoyable on the ears. Kaleidoscope is an especially catchy tune, and if they can manage to create an album in that vein then there might be life left yet in this genre.

Verdict: Enjoyable but no longevity.

Kent Jones – Too Much Too Soon

DJ Khaled protege Kent Jones scored a surprise no. 1 hit on the US rap charts earlier this year with single, Don’t Mind, taken from his 2015 mixtape Tours. Looking to capitalise on his recent success, the Florida rapper has delivered his second tape, the overly long but compelling Too Much Too Soon.

With the backing of Khaled and his We The Best Music Group, Jones is bound to be a star, but he’ll need to cut the fat when it comes to releasing his debut album. Too Much Too Soon is way too long and contains a number of throwaway tunes and skits (Axel Foley, Rick Robinson Interlude, Til Next Time, Too Much Too Soon) that takeaway from the tapes high points, like the R&B flavoured Columbiana and the giddy old school feeling of Passport.

Jones’ raps vary between Meek Mill-like yelps on the 808s of Past Life to the silky smooth delivery of Passport. Not only does he rap, but Jones can sing, and not in an Eminem kind of way. He contributes the hooks on many of the tracks, with his crooning chorus on Pretty Eyes particularly enjoyable. Jones also produces and co-produces the majority of tracks on the release, demonstrating his skill as a studio all rounder much like his mentor Khaled. Speaking of big names, Jones keeps the guests to a minimum, but when he does get some help it pays off. Ty Dolla $ignLil Dickie and E-40 turn up on Sit Down, with Dickie the star, and vocalist Ellie provides a lush contrast to Jones on Four 4 Four. Ty pops up one more time on another of the tapes better tracks, Hello, that includes verses from Yo Gotti and K Camp.

Verdict: Promising release from someone you’ll be hearing more of in the future.

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