Big Jus and Deezil Money
The Big Money Project
7 Figure Entertainment
One of the hardest workers in the Pittsburgh music scene has to be Kay Bey, a.k.a. Da Buttonpusha, a.k.a. Da Constant Grinder. When not in her "Slum Palace" Beltzhoover basement running her Just Pushing Buttons record label, she's all over PCTV 21, with three shows: Rockin' Live with Da Buttonpusha, Culture 'N' Me, and Ripple Effect. Then there's the monthly Hip Hop Buffet series she runs at the Shadow Lounge, in East Liberty.
Somewhere between all that, she managed to squeeze out her Da Buttonpusha - Who? mixtape, featuring a roster of up-and-coming lyricists including Kweilin, Maui, Spydah-Man, Kee-Mike and Latida.
Under Buttonpusha's simplistic but high-impact productions, these rappers sound like they're trying to form, find and refine their voices, and the sample-less tracks allow room for that. "Act Like U Know" is composed of piano-key trickles that tickle the wax in your ear loose, with drums behind them strong enough to actually shake the wax out. "Grow Up" beckons the minimalist dub sounds of early BDP, such as Ghetto Music: the Blueprint ... The songs aren't so serious, though, especially when Button P. toys with the high-hats, creating sonicscapes similar to early Hurby Luv Bug productions.
Almost halfway through the mixtape, the production makes a right on red. Making unique use of those 16 rubber pads on the MPC-2000, she slows down her grooves on "Questions," laid under seductively layered, Wendy & Lisa-sounding vocals that whisper in your ear more than they rap at your face.
Coming out of McKeesport is 7 Figure Entertainment's The Big Money Project mixtape, featuring their artists Big Jus and Deezil Money. They generally man their own production, with a number of tracks also produced by Blak Czer and King Litt. About a quarter of the 20 tracks were mixed down in I.D. Labs, and are top-notch studio quality. Take "I Kill'em," which sounds like Lucifer's and Gabriel's choirs were flown in to lay vocals for the backdrop. "I Don't Care Anymore" is just as merciless on the ears, with a vocal sample of ... who is that, Phil Collins?
Jus and Deezil share air time on most of the songs with the dual chemistry of EPMD or Mobb Deep. When they combine on the last track, "It's Over," with a bouncy, Derty South lyrical rhythm, it confirms these two should probably never part ways ... if they can help it.
Out of Hazelwood, via San Diego and back, comes Tee-Jay, the "Ghetto Will Smith." Since returning to 412 he's built a bunch of hype, and by the time you read this you may have already read about him in all the other papers. Tee-Jay's My Testimony mixtape is a foray into Christian gospel-rap ... but not as corny as you'd assume.
Many of Tee-Jay's songs are sordid tales of drug-selling and murder ... alluding to a lifestyle he confesses living before Jesus became his homeboy. If not closely listened to, songs like "Ride Out," "Hard 2 Tell" and "Half Time" could be mistaken for anything off a Dipset mixtape.
But if you ride 'til the end, eventually the gospel comes through in his raps, providing redemptive messages on how to turn one's life around and give God the praise all along. With no knock to the church, most religious rap is honestly crap, period ... mostly people with some good things to say, but no lyrical or b-boy skills to match, and it sounds like it. Tee-Jay is safely an exception, as he comfortably flows and spits over hard-hittin' sounds that will move the crowd if given the chance.