Razor Tongue Media

Mello Music Group Pledges The Code With Bushido Compilation

Mello Music Group has been a staple of the independent Hip Hop music scene for the past decade. The label is responsible for helping launch the careers of some of hip hop’s favorite introspective and thought-provoking artists including Open Mike Eagle, Apollo Brown and Oddisee, to name a handful. Now, the Arizona-based label is releasing Bushido, their first compilation tape since 2015’s Persona. On their Bandcamp page, MMG explains that Bushido aims to be “a vision of what hip-hop can be. A meticulously assembled arsenal of past, present, and future.” With the title, MMG compares its rappers to Samurai warriors, explaining:

“In feudal Japan, the Bushido Code defined the way of the Samurai, it was a blueprint to conduct warfare with honor: a system built upon the qualities of rectitude and courage, honor and loyalty. In the modern world, these historical tenets may seem antiquated or sometimes even obsolete. But the power of tradition is resolute and unyielding. The art of the rugged drum and the razor-tongued rap are timeless.”

If you weren’t sold on the samurai metaphor, the compilation tape also has some label affiliated star power behind it. Legendary producer The Alchemist, and MC’s like B-Real, Joelle Ortiz, and Murs all contribute amongst many others.

Bushido opens with The Alchemist produced track “Iron Steel Samurai” and the listener will quickly be able to surmise that MMG is comfortable making music that runs against the grain of radio rap. The scorching guitar that runs through the whole track is so blaring and crunchy that you can hardly pick out the drums in the mix. This non-traditional approach to beat crafting allows rapper Quelle Chris to work in a flow that is off-kilter and unpredictable but always controlled and articulate.

If you’re looking for something a little more party-friendly, the third track “One of the Last” will fit the bill. It was my favorite song on my first listen through the project, and it’s probably still in my top 5 but new details strike me and different songs grow on me with each subsequent listen.

One such song that has grown on me with every re-listen is the Posse cut “Black Rock.” The beat is minimal and spacey but has enough bounce in it that it’s hard to not rock your head. Then Joell Ortiz, Namir Blade, Stalley, and Solemn Brigham take turns riding the instrumental with speedy and engaging flows. Solemn Brigham in particular delivers some deeply catchy melodies in his verse and puts the whole final leg of the song into high gear.

“Turnt Garveyite” with Murs is a thought-provoking cut. Murs and Georgia Anne Muldrow take turns going back and forth, delivering bars of rap and spoken word quotes. The celebrities quoted in the song hail from all different manners of pop culture, from Mace Windu and Mike Tyson to Marcus Garvey and Kendrick Lamar. The instrumental is also a winner for me, you can hear a lug nut drill mixed in with a bright, shrill lead line. I felt a little clipping vibes on this one, and if you’ve seen our review of their latest project you’ll know I mean that as a compliment.

The project closes with “Banners” an anthemic calling card that invites all who share MMG’s view on what hip hop is, to “raise their banners up.” As a classical music fanatic, I appreciate and admire how well the cello sample is recorded and how well it fits in with the beat as a whole.

Overall this is a really solid project, a very strong showing from the MMG roster. Very excited to see what the label and its artists have in store for the future. 

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