The H.W. Bush/ Clinton Era
An album by Sleep
Review presented by Warren Peace
Listen to The H.W. Bush/ Clinton Era by Sleep
Sleep, a founding member of The Fraternity, was one of the first artists with an album featured by The Write Reviews and that album, Branded: The Damon Winton Story, was the first album given classic status on this site. Last month Sleep released an EP titled The Definition of Insanity, which was nearly given classic status as well. Out of nowhere, the Cincinnati hip hop artist dropped The H.W. Bush/ Clinton Era less than two weeks ago, giving fans two albums from Sleep in two months. Now The Write Reviews is putting The H.W. Bush/ Clinton Era under the microscope to see if Sleep can keep up his reputation as one of the best artists to grace The Write Reviews, or if we will witness him fall from the top-tier and crash before our very eyes.
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1- Intro (prod. by The Gonz)
The album begins with an instrumental from Gonz playing in the background as news clips from the 1990’s come through the speakers, speaking about a New World Order with quotes from George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton on the matter, the spread of crack being reported in the news, and a broadcast talking about the rise of crime and violence in Cincinnati. The drums pick up in the instrumental and Sleep spits his first verse of the album. Sleep’s lyrics favor the attitude of the kids growing up in the 90’s, really painting a picture of how things were in the streets during that decade. This is a great way of opening up the album, and the only reason the Intro is not listed under the Featured Tracks is because it is not really a song as much as it is a true introduction. Just as quick as Sleep comes onto the beat to deliver the direction this album will be going, the Intro is over and a clip from Tupac closes out the album’s opener. Sleep will gain attention from his audience with this song, which is exactly what he needed to do with his first track.
2- Broad Daylight feat. Junya Be and Young Powder (prod. by Wonder Breed)
The first true song of The H.W. Bush/ Clinton Era has Junya Be speaking with a Jamaican accent. A woman sings a few lines over a banging beat that is bound to make you bounce (presented by Wonder Breed) when Sleep begin spitting onto the track. The message here is clear: Even in Broad Daylight, no one is safe. Sleep delivers a flow that molds with the beat, painting a picture for us of taking someone out in the middle of the day. The bastard line is too good not to give it a mention. Sleep’s verse is pretty straightforward here. Junya Be is the voice of the hook, and his lines will get stuck in listener’s heads with ease. Young Powder has the second verse, pretty much picking up where Sleep left off as his bars bring images of taking people out without painting the picture Sleep did. Even still, Young Powder’s verse has a smooth flow and matches Sleep’s approach for the track. Junya Be’s chorus comes through again, leading into a sample of The Notorious B.I.G. rapping to bring the track to a close. Broad Daylight is easily a choice for the Featured Tracks on this album.
3- Freak A Black (prod. by Wonder Breed)
Trumpets begin playing, seeming to start building up the instrumental, but just as you would guess the beat would pick up steam, the music slows down and stopped. Then the real beat reveals with a slower, steady pace and a heavy rhythm. Sleep comes through the speakers right after the true instrumental, lyrically capturing several situations and popular items that kids from the 90’s dealt with growing up. I know I’ve freaked a black before, and had my friends help me hide stuff from my parents too. Everyone who grew up in that era will love this song. Sleep is the voice on the hook as well, and transforms lyrics about freaking a black into a catchy, easy to follow chorus (the phrase refers to dumping the tobacco contents out of a black and mild, removing the extra paper found within the leaf-like paper that holds the tobacco contents, then returning the tobacco to the confines of the leaf-like paper). Sleep manages to keep bringing old memories to mind on the second stanza of bars as he laces lyrics similar in style to the first verse. The more I hear this track, the more I like it, and the fact it brings childhood memories back for me was enough for me to already enjoy it to begin with. Due to the topic of the album and the way this track helps to revisit the era, Freak A Black definitely gets a spot with the Featured Tracks, although under other circumstances this song probably would not make the cut.
4- Watch This feat. Monty C. Benjamin, Oski Isaiah, Ianigma, and Santino Corleon (prod. by Wonder Breed)
I really enjoy the music on Watch This. It has intensity mixed with an aggressive mood that just beckons for emcees to spit syllables when they hear it. Sleeps speaks to kick everything off, letting the audience know he brought a couple of his hometown friends with him for this track to show Cincinnati does have some talented emcees within its ranks despite the popular belief as otherwise, apparently. Sleep continues right into the first verse, delivering bars that could be considered grimy and street orientated. Using wordplay and punch lines with effectiveness while throwing a few metaphors in the mix should be nothing short of entertaining for listeners. Monty C. Benjamin takes over for Sleep, letting loose a flow with his words that carries a presence on a level equal to Sleep. Also throwing punches while giving a street-influenced verse, Monty C. Benjamin has gained my interest in hearing more tracks from him by the time he passes the mic to the next emcee. Oski Isaiah runs with it once he gets behind the microphone, delivering a unique sound with his vocals while dropping his lyrics at a slightly quicker pace than the artists that came before him. Wordplay tied into punch lines of his own continue the lyrical content on a high note. Ianigma has a voice that stands out from the rest as well, which is a very good thing when listening to a track with this many emcees on it. Punch lines are still being swung in abundance, maintaining the all out attack on the track, and ends his bars with a wicked multi-syllable exchange that is enough to make you want to rewind the song so you can hear it again so you don’t miss anything. Santino Corleon enters the ring leading with some nice wordplay from the jump. With a rough edge to his voice, Santino Corleon fits among the others on Watch This by his delivery alone. The punches keep spilling out in his flow like the beverage table at a child’s birthday party gets knocked over. When he finishes handling his round of bars the track reaches the finish line with the instrumental playing for a little while longer before giving the audience another hip hop sample from the 90’s. Watch This has locked in a slot with these hot spits five artists knocked in the Featured Tracks top list.
5- Front Row Murder feat. Jus Ra and Xavier Medina (prod. by Wonder Breed)
Drums thump at a less than moderate pace for the first few seconds of Front Row Murder before nearly doubling in speed when the music is given other elements of sound. The rhythm is a sure bet to get heads nodding. Jus Ra is the emcee leading the way on this track, bringing a monster verse of stacked multiple syllable rhymes, integrated wordplay, and popping punch lines combined with a confident delivery behind a flow like water. Yes, it is that good. Jus Ra is on the hook as well, spitting an even more impressive multiple rhyme scheme that would have grabbed my attention if I had not already been focused on the track. Xavier Medina is the artist next in the line up and manages to hang with the bar Jus Ra raised. Wordplay connects with punch lines and a multi-syllable rhyme structure geared to captivate an audience. As the hook takes over once again, my first thought is that Sleep has his work cut out for him on this one. Taking the last spot after Jus Ra and Xavier Medina’s power packed verses, Sleep has some serious expectations to maintain…and he does. As he spits his first line, you can tell his confidence is not lacking whatsoever. Wordplay commences as he ties in names of some popular artists from the 90’s, followed by a haymaker of a punchline seemingly thrown toward the new front man behind the mic for Cash Money Records. One more time with the hook from Jus Ra then a fade into Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones pt. II”, another hip hop classic from the 90’s. This track ties with “One Saturday Morning”, which we will be getting to next, as my favorites of “The H.W. Bush/ Clinton Era”. Obviously Front Row Murder has added another notch on the Featured Tracks for the album.
6- One Saturday Morning (Interlude) feat. Sam Anderson (prod. by Pdizzy)
A smile spread across my face the second this song began playing, and I’m sure anyone who grew up during the 1990’s will do the same. Sam Anderson begins singing the chorus to the instrumental with a fairly slow tempo, creating a fun yet relaxed feeling. The lyrics for the hook are very well written, capturing the feeling of the beat perfectly while still on the main topic at hand. During the 90’s, Saturday morning was everything to a kid. We loved Saturdays, and while I might not have grown up in Cincinnati during that time, I did grow up in southern California during those years. I say that because Sleep’s verse details how it was being raised in Cincinnati during the 90’s, yet his words are definitely relatable for me and I grew up in south-western California during this time. Sleep performs very well for the audience once again and gets followings d by another round of the chorus from Sam Anderson. The interlude, which is more like a short song in my opinion, concludes with a few more lines sung by Sam Anderson. Although I wish this song was longer, it gets executed extremely well and added another layer from the 90’s that is sure to get appreciated by the generation who grew up in that decade. The Featured Tracks are nonstop thus far on “The H.W. Bush/ Clinton Era”.
7- B.Y.O.G. (prod. by Wonder Breed and The Gonz)
I believe everyone can figure out what B. Y. O. G. stands for, but if you can’t then you will know by the end of the track. Sleep informs the audience the state of Ohio has more going on than most people think before leading off with a pretty repetitive hook that is likely to pop into mind randomly after hearing the track. The beginning and ending of both verses have very similar lines, which is not a tactic from Sleep I have heard before, so I believe he purposely wanted to imprint those words into the listener’s mind. More or less, this song is more of a street anthem with a little lyrical flavor and wordplay included. Sleep decides to switch things up at this point in the album by breaking this track down into two parts over two different beats, which kind of gives me the feeling he was paying homage to the mix tapes of the 90’s because that is the time period when emcees regularly put popular beats back to back on a single track for promotional purposes. Anyhow, the second beat has more of a creep up on you and take your life, horror movie type of feel to it, where the first beat had much more bounce. Sleep must have gotten the same vibe because he doesn’t just continue with the street anthem approach, he also involves some gang-related lyrics with lines referring to jacking people and ending their existence. Between both segments provided here, anyone in the audience should be able to get hype or release some aggression as they listen to B. Y. O. G. Due to the 90’s hip hop culture being heavily influenced by and through street gangs, B. Y. O. G. is a great example and helps relay some of that side of the 90’s to the audience.
8- My Brother (prod. by Wonder Breed and The Gonz)
I can’t really speak for kids that have spent their years growing up in the new millennium, but I know for a fact everyone that had a brother in the 90’s would say “I’m a go and get my brother” any time they faced confrontation. Sleep took that phrase and expounded on it with this track by explaining situations where the phrase would be used, painting scenarios out with his words. Storytelling is one of Sleep’s strongest areas, if not the strongest, when it comes to his music and he does a great job of presenting this to the audience in patches throughout the album. Following in the pattern of the last track, Sleep splits “My Brother” between two beats. While the second section goes well with the overall mood/mind frame of the earlier track (both sections) as well as the first section of this track, I feel it does not really follow this segment of the album at the right time. Maybe if the sections on this track were reversed, it would not feel a little out-of-place to me. Regardless, this is another great track on the album, closing with a snippet from a Nas track.
9- Mama Said feat. Sam Anderson (prod. by Wonder Breed)
Another signature Sleep has in hip hop gets revealed to his audience with Mama Said. A few albums ago, Sleep developed a song and told a story from a female’s perspective, but added another element by having a woman spit the lyrics for the track and matched her flow next to his. That was the first time I had heard anything like it, and since then Sleep has done three more songs (this being the third) in this fashion. The story of a young woman growing up in the 90’s comes to life. The young woman is lead in the wrong direction by the teachings of her own mother. From hooking up with drug dealers to dropping out of school so she could work full-time and pay the bills like her mom, the young woman makes several choices that lead to her having a baby without being able to properly care for it. Sam Anderson comes in and nails the vocals for the chorus, bringing everything together and putting the song into perspective. The song wraps up with “Brenda’s Got A Baby” by Tupac, which is more than fitting. Mama Said gets included in the Featured Tracks, and you can see the video below!
10- Government Assitance feat. JOEISJOVA and Sherm (prod. by Wonder Breed)
Not only is this track relevant to the 90’s, but Government Assistance will reach out to the people living in this same situation today. A public speech puts everything in perspective before the audience gets to really dive into the song, and Sleep did a great job of picking the right section of the right speech to pull the curtain back for this one. The instrumental plays in the background, just a few notes here and there at a slow pace. Sleep jumps right onto the beat when it fully develops, giving listeners a verse full of emotional lyrics so they can feel the struggle and frustration. Sleep is able to push visuals into the minds of his audience with his words, causing more of an impact to those listening. JOEISJOVA delivers a great hook, sounding a lot like Lil Wayne with the auto tune, taking away some of the edge Sleep brought with his verse, but keeping the emotional frustration and sadness. Sherm has a voice that attracts attention, his flow is smooth and crisp over the music. Sherm speaks about how he would rather grind than to work hard as hell for $9.50 an hour to reach success and be a provider. Sherm doesn’t want to fall into the trap of living off of the system built by the government. His content showcases intelligence as he delivers words reflecting aggravation and frustration with the nearly unachievable “American Dream”. JOEISJOVA steps onto the beat with the chorus once again, summing the entire track up perfectly, before a snippet from a Master P song brings Government Assistance to a close. It would be a huge mistake to leave such a relatable, emotional, well delivered song off of the Featured Tracks list.
11- Cannibilazation (prod. by The Gonz)
Another clip of someone speaking, this time a news reporter, opens up Cannibalization. The story is about a gun fight in a community neighborhood, which stemmed from a different gun fight. Sleep leads into the track spitting how he had to worry about being jacked by gang members growing up. The melody of the music does not involve a lot of instruments or a quick rhythm, but instead the beat is the complete opposite. Even with a very serious topic where Sleep is releasing memories of the same nature, the emcee is still able to keep a lyrical edge within his timely delivery. The hook gets substituted, leaving out the rapping or singing with more presentations from news anchors bring sorrowful news of gang shootings. Sleep’s second verse elaborates on the first, referring to the gangs in the streets and the black on black violence. This verse is just as powerful as the first, if not more. Several different news anchors telling similar stories follows, all about violence and death. Sleep concludes the track speaking to his audience with reason and truth as the amount of news anchors reporting gang activity and crimes continues to rise. As I decide that Cannibalization is worthy of a spot with the Featured Tracks, the opening part of “My N*ggas” by D.M.X. plays in the background.
12- Whateva We Get (prod. by Inkomen)
The music for Whatever We Get has some bounce to it and a rhythm that is likely to get your head nodding. Sleep comes in through the speakers with a motivational and inspiration set of verses that aims to push people despite how rough the situation might be. The hook gets performed by Sleep as well, and not only does it also make you want to move with the beat, it brings the song full circle. It’s good to hear such a positive and uplifting track after the earlier songs dealt with a lot of adversity and negativity. Sleep has a microphone presence that never backs off and a flow that makes you want something to drink. Whatever We Get slides in with Featured Tracks as if it belonged there before the music started playing.
13- The Reminder (prod. by The Gonz & Cuts by Jake Case
Wow, Sleep gets relentless with his bars for four minutes to wrap up the album. Wordplay, punch lines, multiple syllable rhymes, and an in your face attitude will not stop on The Reminder. The beat has intensity and motivating drive behind it then switches up to something a slight more relaxed with the vibe, although Sleep isn’t slowing up with the bars anywhere. The album comes to an end with a snippet from a Jay-Z song, and another addition to the Featured Tracks.
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Broad Daylight, Freak A Black, Watch This, Front Row Murder, One Saturday Morning, Mama Said, Government Assistance, Cannibalization, Whateva We Get, and The Reminder.
The Write Up
With the title of the album being The H.W. Bush/ Clinton Era, several of the topics brought up during the course of the album were predictable while others were pleasant surprises. To be honest, between the creators of the instrumentals and the emcees, it is pretty amazing how well this all came together. From beginning to end, The H.W. Bush/ Clinton Era is interesting, appealing, engaging, and entertaining for listeners while being informative, creative, intelligent, and on point. I cannot say this album is better or even equal to Sleep’s Branded: The Damon Winton Story, simply because that album had a couple of tracks that were monumental and pushed the album from classic to epic, in my eyes. I do feel The H.W. Bush/ Clinton Era is better than The Definition of Insanity EP though. There is no arguing the depth and talent showcased within the tracks of this album, and while it is not equal to Branded, I cannot say this album is any less than a classic. Props to you, Sleep, for bringing the world another terrific album to let everyone know hip hop is not dead; it is VERY much alive!
(5 out of 5 stars)
Sleep was selected for the Artist of the Month!
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