June 15, 2018

My Gut Reaction: DJ Muggs & Meyhem Lauren - Frozen Angels (June 8, 2018)

Last fall, DJ Muggs, a producer who most hip hop heads still associate with his former (and now current again, I think: it’s hard to keep track) group Cypress Hill, made a surprising and triumphant return to his Soul Assassins roots, getting back to the gritty, blunted hip hop he made his name with after an interlude spent producing for South African rap art project Die Antwoord. Teaming up with Meyhem Lauren, a Queens-based rapper best known for both his street smarts and his higher-profile friends (primarily Action Bronson), Muggerud unleashed the newest entry in his DJ Muggs vs. series of album-length collaborations, Gems From The Equinox, which was well-received by most critics (even me! I know, right?) and sufficiently whetted appetites for whatever Muggs had coming up next, while constructing a higher profile for Lauren to loom over his peers with.

Even though Muggs threatened our chosen genre with KAOS, his album-length collaboration with Roc Marciano, the former Flipmode Squad member from Long Island who has rebranded himself as a street poet with an Ambien flow that leaves listeners concerned that he’s going to fall asleep mid-word (I’m still not a fan, folks: I read all of your rebuttals and I just don’t hear what you two claim to hear), his actual next project ended up being Frozen Angels, an eight-track EP consisting of leftover tracks recorded during the Gems From The Equinox sessions. Dropping this project in June of 2018 acts as effective counter-programming to the G.O.O.D. Music market flood that has so far brought us albums from Pusha T, Kanye West, Kids See Ghosts, and today, Nas, more or less on schedule (if not at the same time music has been released in the past, which is part of the reason why you’re not reading about Nasir Jones right now), even though its short length wasn’t intended as a response to Kanye’s seven-song efforts. Or maybe it was, I’m not DJ Muggs, I don’t know.

Frozen Angels consists of eight tracks that were considered to be too experimental or ill-fitting for Gems From The Equinox, which means that you two should not go into this expecting a cohesive project that flows well. This is essentially a b-sides compilation, which is fine, as it isn’t being marketed as anything else. Shit, Muggs and Meyhem are barely marketing this at all: aside from streaming platforms, Frozen Angels is a vinyl-only release, one that can only be purchased on Muggerud’s Soul Assassins website. Even though Muggs kinda-sorta mentioned this EP earlier in the year, its release was still a bit of a shock: I only knew about its existence when I saw a tweet from Meyhem Lauren the morning of, back when the world was wondering why Kanye West and Kid Cudi’s Kids See Ghosts hadn’t yet been officially released.

Before I move forward, I’d like to point out something from my Gems From The Equinox post:

Source: my own damn brain

Four of the eight songs on Frozen Angels are the bonus tracks Muggs included on various versions of the full-length, with the other half considered “other extra stuff”. So I’m kind of right. God damn, am I amazing.

Here are some more words.

I was prepared to write off “Ghetto Stockbroker” from the jump when Roc Marciano’s voice came out of my earbuds, but thankfully he isn’t really on this song: instead, Muggerud made the curious artistic choice to isolate unrelated individual lines from his contribution to Gems From The Equinox’s first single, “Street Religion”, in order to fashion a chorus. This was just bizarre, if only because Muggs inadvertently proves just how interchangeable Marcy’s bars can truly be. So strange. After I got over myself, though, I still found myself not really caring about this track: the instrumental meanders like that group of tourists walking directly in front of you when you’re downtown trying to take care of specific business, and Lauren, whose flow admittedly matches well with this tempo, sounds uninspired and lost. My best guess is that Muggs thought the titular phrase sounded cool as shit, and then convinced his collaborator to craft a song around it. Ah well.


I kind of dug the song title personally. Muggerud’s instrumental is slow-paced and dramatic as fuck, creeping through your speakers and into your nightmares. Meyhem Lauren is a bit of an afterthought on his own track, but he delivers two verses chock-full of the type of braggadocio only a rapper from the streets could authentically spit, and he flows well over the beat, so there’s that. “Staircase Money” wouldn’t have fit onto Gems From  The Equinox in any way, but the unnerving feeling DJ Muggs successfully conjures up for the listener renders this one a keeper. I do wish Lauren’s bars were a bit more memorable, but whatever.

If you’ll recall, “Frozen Angels” was the lone bonus track from the physical version of Gems From The Equinox that I couldn’t track down before I published my write-up. Well, I sure as hell have listened to it now, and it makes a lot of sense to me why Muggs and Lauren opened to name this EP after it: it slaps. Muggerud’s combination of harp strings with a weaker-than-expected-but-it-still-works-well-in-context drum loop, one that lends the track its rhythm without drawing much attention to itself, reminded me a bit of the similarly-constructed “Thug Muzik”, one of The Alchemist’s contributions to Mobb Deep’s Murda Muzik. Lauren attacks the beat with the same energy as Havoc and Prodigy, if not an equivalent flow, unleashing a fiery, confident verse coupled with an overly-wordy hook that still clicked for me. My only complaint about “Frozen Angels” is how there’s an empty section right in the middle of the song where Muggs lets the instrumental ride, but after a set number of measures Lauren’s hook reappears, so obviously there were plans to incorporate a guest cameo or at least a second verse from our host, but it never came to fruition for some reason. (The video for “Frozen Angels”, which dropped the same day as this surprise release, alleviates that problem by simply cutting the track short.) I didn’t mind the extra musical backing, as it does sound really good, but I was left wondering about the song’s potential for greatness, and I’m writing this even though I really fucking liked this track as is. But at least Muggs and Meyhem didn’t hoard “Frozen Angels” until that mythical perfect guest verse finally materialized.

Plays like a rap album intro, not for anything from Meyhem Lauren, but possibly for that Soul Assassins III project that has yet to materialize (Intermission doesn’t count), as it seems to promote Meyhem shouting out Muggs more than it does any Muggs and Meyhem Lauren album, which is in no way a slight against the material. Muggs provides a loop that is both celebratory and soulful, while our host gives the listener a one-verse wonder that incorporates his thoughts on police brutality (and his approval on a form of retaliation) into his typical boasts-n-bullshit fairly seamlessly. It flies by in no time at all, and its mere existence points to an early draft of Gems From The Equinox that wasn’t as dark and gritty as what we ultimately received last year. Not bad at all: I’m happy that Muggerud saw fit to let this one loose, even though one would think “Kick Rocks” would have at least been sequenced to open the EP.



Frozen Angels ends with a storytelling rap, as Meyhem Lauren finds himself having to fight his way out of the home of a woman he’s rather not be in a relationship with. Our host quickly sets the stage, lending his bars a level of detail not present on most of this EP, let alone its predecessor, which may be why, Jedi Mind Tricks-ian song title aside, “Permanent Disfigurement” failed to make the full-length’s final cut. The damage described in that title comes from his altercation with the woman’s brother: it’s really fucking sad that I have to write this in 2018, but kudos to Meyhem for never even thinking about considering attacking her. Muggs lays low and gives his collaborator a distortion-filled instrumental, the energy of the guitar matching our host’s desperation to leave the situation he created. Not bad at all, folks. *slow clap*

THE LAST WORD: As expected, Frozen Angels doesn’t have a consistent sound, even with Muggs behind the boards for every track, but one doesn’t look for coherence when it comes to a compilation. This is just merely a collection of shit Muggs had in his vault, combined with four previously-released-in-some-fashion tracks, and when you look at it in those terms, Muggerud and Meyhem Lauren did just fine. None of this shit would have fit into the regular program, but there’s enough heat here for your playlists (especially the title track and “Staircase Money”), and I left the project hoping for a proper sequel at some point in the near future, or perhaps maybe a joint effort with DJ Muggs’ previous album-length collaborators (GZA/Genius, Planet Asia, Sick Jacken, Ill Bill, and hell, let’s throw Cypress Hill into that motherfucker) all doing battle against the producer as if a snap of his fingers could destroy exactly half of our chosen genre or something. I’d buy that album, anyway. Frozen Angels is kind of on the expensive side, even for a vinyl-only release, but at least you know all of the money is going to the artists, so it’s your call whether you want to support them financially, but no matter what, fans of the New York grimy shit that hip hop has been lacking in the age of Lil’ Everyone, trap drums, and convicted child sex offenders somehow wandering the streets unencumbered will enjoy the hell out of this. And as for that last point: that motherfucker is representing New York now. You all should have taken care of him months ago, and hip hop should be ashamed of itself. Go stream the hell out of Frozen Angels now.


Still not a lot about Meyhem Lauren, but I have you covered when it comes to DJ Muggs.


  1. AnonymousJune 16, 2018

    God dammit where is Edo G & MastA ace Art & Entartainment or anything by Evidence I'm sic of these weak ass reviews bring bac da real hip hop

    1. AnonymousJune 16, 2018

      To the opening anonymous, fuck your feelings. Max, you’re absolutely on point with this post.

  2. convicted child sex offenders somehow wandering the streets unencumbered will enjoy the hell out of this. And as for that last point: that motherfucker is representing New York now. You all should have taken care of him months ago, and hip hop should be ashamed of itself.

    Say what? I'm missing this reference.

  3. I’ve said this before: Regardless of his musical side ventures, I feel that DJ Muggs is one of the most consistent producers the game has ever seen.

  4. AnonymousJune 20, 2018

    Roc Marciano > Meyhem Lauren. I think 90% of heads would agree. Then again, the majority is overrated. Max I want to write a guest review, are you still taking those? I'm halfway through one I started like 3 years ago, but I want to finish it. I'll listen to this now that Nasir was complete trash.