100 Keep It Recordings
100 Keep It Recordings

Harlem has always been a place that illustriously births rap talent. From Kool Moe Dee to Big L to Cam'ron and many in between, Harlem breeds a unique kind of rapper that is as representative of their surroundings as they are flossy. Bodega Bamz falls right into that bunch but with a Latin twist, as he hails from the small but spirited neighborhood of Spanish Harlem.

Bamz’s music fits that traditional Harlem hip-hop mold in terms of bold punchlines, bravado like none other and good old rhyming. His past mixtapes like Strictly 4 My P.A.P.I.Z, songs "Don Francisco" and even his 2015 album, Sidewalk Exec, have struck an even balance between arrogant slick talk and coy self-awareness. This time around however, on his fifth mixtape, All Eyez Off Me, Bamz is more defiant, going for the competition's jugular with a no holds barred attitude.

Clearly inspired by Tupac’s fourth album and certified classic, All Eyez On Me, Bamz crafts his most aggressive and brash project to date. Just from an audible standpoint, Bamz has put the boom-baps on ice and decided to let the heavy, distorted synths reign supreme. “Hell Iz Real” opens up the tape with a strong conviction -- just the title alone lets you know where Bamz is at creatively and mentally. Lines like, “I united all killers, come see 'em at shows now” are met with Streetrunner and Rugah Rahj’s violent production. Spanish-speaking listeners also get a dose of intensity with backing vocals chanting “Levantaron el diablo por ahora,” which translates to something along the lines of “they woke up the devil for now." It’s a pretty dark opener from an MC that used to rap “Colorado got a lot of white girls/Aspen, good vibe, relaxing” only a few projects ago.

It’s not like Bamz hasn’t flexed his religiously threatening banter in the past but on this tape, it seems to encompass mostly all of the subject matter. Talk of “coffin clones and burying foes” stand out more than normal -- with the exception of a couple tracks. “Actual Love” featuring Lil Tune is basically the tape’s only smoother moment. Tune’s lush vocals and Bamz’s more laid-back verse give listeners a chance to mellow out in a brief feeling of intimacy and love before its back to “real Latin trap with coco.” In fact, “real Latin trap” is the perfect way to classify Bamz’s newly enhanced style.

Tall Ted’s hoppy xylophone beat on “Can’t Stop” is the most off brand the production gets throughout all 10 tracks. The remaining nine keep that similar boldness in full effect, which is impressive seeing as each track has a different producer. For Bamz to really lock in with each individual producer, carefully making sure that the tape’s sounds are cohesive enough to match his fixated subject matter is impressive. Though, what’s even more impressively puzzling are the quick glimpses of humility. On “Wak Rapper Die Broke,” he spits the line “I ain't tryna be the king of New York/By the way, my operation getting bigger though,” which can easily get lost in the egotistical “me and Spanish Harlem vs. everybody else” narrative.

As concentrated as this tape is, there are some stumbles along the way. At times, Bamz’s bars get overshadowed by his own tone and delivery. Bars like “It's more than the talk or the walk, just prove it/Everybody making decisions so choose one, I'm using my religion/Some choices I made really wasn't bright for my future/I gotta think through it better, I’m all about the progression” on "Disney World on Acid" feel like a rushed ramble rather than a tight rhyme. It sounds like Bamz is getting caught up in the conviction of what he’s saying instead of the way he is saying it.

By the end of All Eyez Off Me, listeners can expect to feel like they just got off a wild roller coaster ride through Spanish Harlem. Bamz’s attack-mode style will bode well for fans but for those looking to get a better-rounded feel of his catalog, this tape is more of an acquired taste. Much like Tupac, Bamz's confidence in himself, as heard on "Can't Stop," proves he's gunning for the top even if all eyes aren't pointed in his direction: "Legend in the makin', matter fact, already made it/I don't wanna hear complainin', tell the Lord he could save ya."

See 50 Fire Hip-Hop Albums You Need to Listen to This Summer