hbk gang

East Bay Rapper Azure’s New Album, Leap Year, Has Been A Long Time Coming

SF Weekly


It’s 1 p.m. on a Wednesday, and Azure is in his L.A. apartment watching the new Spike Lee film, Chi-Raq. Although he’s lived here since September, the apartment has a sparseness to it that is less a reflection of Azure’s interior design aesthetic than an indicator of his busy schedule.

Since the fall, the 27-year-old rapper, born Justin Park in Pinole, Calif., has been on the road quite a bit, either touring with Bay Area rapper (and HBK Gang founder) Iamsu!, for whom he DJs, or driving back and forth between the Bay and L.A. to record music with his recently formed rap crew, Down 2 Earth. And though he enjoys staying occupied, all of the traveling has taken a toll. “It just eats up so much time,” says the MC, who has planned for the last year to drop his fourth album, Leap Year.

On the SoundCloud page for Leap Year, which was released on Jan. 12 (and was premiered worldwide by SF Weekly), Azure issued an apology to his fans. “2 my listeners from the early days, I know I took a few extra moments to deliver this project to your ears,” he wrote. “I didn’t want to give you something rushed so I took my sweet time widit.”

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Iamsu!’s debut album falls short


Hot New Hip Hop

It only took one day for Iamsu!’s debut album, Sincerely Yours, to reach iTunes’ top album charts, a feat which is, quite frankly, surprising. Though the album is not a flop, it’s not a work of artistic genius either. There is nothing about this album that differentiates it from his previous seven albums, and many of the songs on it sound alike. The Richmond rapper’s previous mixtapes, Kilt II and Million Dollar Afro (featuring Problem) easily outshine Sincerely Yours in both depth and ingenuity, and while there are some singles, like “Only That Real”, that are solid bangers, the album on the whole doesn’t leave much of an impression, unfortunately.

The production quality of the album is on point and the cover art is amusing, too. But if fans were expecting something new, or even inventive, from the HBK Gang member, they’re going to be sorely disappointed. Compared to his other works, this album lacks intensity and comes across as glib and hasty. The over-amped club bangers are monotonous and the lyrics do little to make the songs stand out. There are a few wildcard tracks that are sprinkled conveniently at the end of the album, but though the change of pace is refreshing, they don’t mesh cohesively with the rest of the work. (Click here to read more)