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" Boxploitation EP review 8/10"

After his first official LP "Frostbite" dropped last year, seems that the self-proclaimed "funkiest high school math teacher in Canada" Hotbox has kept busy on the production tip. "Boxploitation" is a free 20-minute downloadable album that serves as a friendly reminder of his dopeness behind the boards, before he drops another LP later this year. The offering samples both dialogue and soundtracks from a variety of Blaxploitation films from the 70s, so from the gun you know its going to be a soulful platter. The producer doesn't disappoint, serving up another collection of delicious morsels that showcase mastery of sampling and collaboration, teasing us like a plate of chicken wings until a more proper main course can be consumed.

Things jump off with a joyous soul vocal loop and cascading drums, giving a good indication of the party on wax that will ensue. Like last year's "Frostbite," Hotbox once again constructs a uniformly solid mix of boom bap beats, and then brings in a stable of trusted MCs to do their thing. Radar starts it off by dropping facts on "Knowledge is Wealth" before coming back with Lee Fitz on the monster club banger "Yee Haw." Whereas last time out Hotbox excelled at classic mid-tempo hip hop but struggled with more dance-oriented fare (at least in this writer's humble opinion), here he shows marked improvement, with a track featuring a menacing organ and oppressive bassline (in the vein of DJ Toomp).

After another vocal sample—the likes of which act to further unify the product thematically, with descriptions of the drug game (crack game = rap game) both celebratory and cautionary—"Squeal Snaps" (a perfectly descriptive title) comes in with pure old school joy. Featuring a timelessly funky drum loop, an ecstatic horn sample and shameless braggadocio, the first half of the song recalls a time when records could feel purely good-timey without being corny or overly simplistic, while the song's last third flips the track into a more somber beat for Mischif to rapidly run game: "Join me on this Odyssey/ it's something that you gotta see/ my Mobb is Deep/ I cause Havoc and I'm a Prodigy."

The second half features more feel good upbeat numbers but also some plaintive material. The triumphant second half of "One Life to Live" is superb, while the last track features a late-night feel and film noir narrative that's less effective than the straight up shit talking and thoughtful insights found elsewhere, but interesting enough to be a worthy inclusion. Throughout the project, the half dozen MCs mix consciousness tempered with humor and a love of wordplay, feature assured and relentless flows, and aren't afraid to be both confessional and silly for the sake of a deep insight or clever rhyme. The occasionally stilted flows or hook refrains are overlooked in favor of majority mic mastery.

Despite the absence of straight instrumentals, this remains a producer's album, so in many instances the featured vocalists are given one hot verse. Appropriately, each one spits with the fierceness, rapidity and efficiency of an assassin, and the lack of breathing room is effectively offset by Hotbox's airy production flourishes. The beat constructor is successful in wringing out the potential of his chosen soul soundscapes, both their exultations and wringing sorrows, in the handful of tracks on offer. He remains first and foremost a master of boom bap drum loops that sound both classic and fresh out the box (no pun intended). So keep your Kanye and your Trackmasters, I'll take the soul-sampling Hotbox everytime. Being a free offering with an embarrassment of riches in its short 20 minute run time, I invite you to do the same.

Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10

Originally posted: July 8, 2008


" Boxploitation EP review"

Hotbox – Boxploitation (independent)
By: Thomas Quinlan

Ingeniously titled, this digital-only EP from Moncton, NB producer Hotbox is loosely fashioned around the sampled dialogue of blaxploitation films (and Ice Cube) although neither the music nor the lyrics really enter into this territory. However, the singing sample on opening track “Knowledge is Wealth” does come somewhat close, and the do-what-the-fuck-you-want sentiment of “One Life to Live” would probably appeal to the protagonists of those blaxploitation films. On the other hand, the sentiment of that song is unlikely to appeal to many parents of rebellious children. While working to finish his next full length, Hotbox released Boxploitation to tide over fans and to expose his production to emcees and labels looking for some new production talent. With everything from the boom-bap soul of “Knowledge is Wealth” to the bass-heavy synth of “Yee Haw,” from the old school sound of “Squeal Snaps,” with its horns and Soul Assassin squeals, to the jazzy noir of “Call of Duty,” Boxploitation will definitely get Hotbox more work, unfortunately leaving him less time to finish his own album. Boxploitation also happens to expose a handful of exceptional rappers you've probably never heard of before, with Radar, Sampson and Heartz giving you every reason to check for them in the future. Perhaps a little short, the Boxploitation EP is still a great sampler of Hotbox's production and the emcees with which he works. Plus you can download it for free from
- / Exclaim! magazine

"Hotbox :: Frostbite :: Classy Criminal Records"

Hotbox :: Frostbite :: Classy Criminal Records
as reviewed by Jordan Selbo

For as long as Hip Hop has been a recorded medium, producers and DJs have tried to wrestle the spotlight away from their once-subservient counterparts (the MCs, jocko), but overall have failed to take back what was once rightfully theirs. From Grandmaster Flash (recently inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame, natch), to Terminator X and his valley of Jeep beats, to recent cats like RJD2 and J Dilla, production-centered releases have left us with the good, bad and mostly ugly. There's a reason MCs took over when records became center stage: the full-length joint requires a star with charisma and a point-of-view, two aspects damn near impossible for a beatmaker to convey through sonics alone. Yet now in 2007, with the relevance of full-length albums in jeopardy, a beat-centered release may act less like a unified product and more like a sampler used to entice both the buying (i.e. downloading) public as well as MCs interested in spitting over something correct. Enter Hotbox: a producer from Newfoundland who has assembled on "Frostbite" a collection of tracks that have no particular sequencing attributes and are ultimately unified only by their dopeness. Hell, he even lists his e-mail address and myspace page on the back cover so heads can holla for beats. In this new era, then, the CD may be less of a product in itself than a tool of promotion. At the same time, Hotbox harkens back to platters like Marley Marl's classic "In Control, Vol.1" by pulling together a group of MCs (mostly fellow "Newfies") that share a loose but unified outlook. So despite my extreme love of the full-length and distain for downloading, if this new trend is bolstered by an awareness and respect for previous DJ effects while helping bring the man behind the boards some much-deserved love, I guess I can dig it too.

Proceedings start slowly because of a corny intro skit, but the beat that follows it more than makes up for the attempt at humor. For all you haters out there, savor that moment of wackness: it is only one of four notable missteps I found on the whole disc (and the least transgressive). Hotbox shows plenty of versatility right out the gate, mixing a love and reverence for past sounds (both within Hip Hop and older genres such as soul) with a willingness to experiment and develop with own unique formula. This specifically involves a ton of uplifting and soulful melodies, drums that march up and down the track with a momentum and energy, and a unique flurry or two that really makes the songs both banging and innovative. Highlights of this sound include the bad ass guitar riff and infectious hand claps on "Non-Stop," the funky old click-clack boom bap drums on "Narcolepsy," and ill looping of Curtis Mayfield's sugary falsetto around a spastic beat on "Best Friend" (the last of which happens to also achieve a rare honor vocally: a truthful ode to H.E.R. that avoids corniness). The man behind the boards never tries to overwhelm us with his talent, so he's more of a MC's producer rather than a producer's producer (got that?). He recalls the best work of Premo and RJD2 by throwing in a pinch of, say piano, or a dash of scratching, working with the vocalists to make for a complete product rather than trying to steal the show.

Vocally he is only helped by the chosen guests, most of which are, I'm guessing, much like Hotbox himself: twenty-something cats, products of a quarter century of the poor getting poorer, rising tuition, shrinking job markets, political cynicism and (most importantly) Hip Hop; ultimately, they are well aware of all the shit the world serves people with passion, but are still able to hold out hope for better days (or at least able to hold out a big middle finger to the establishment). This background means that the rappers here have plenty of candor and knowledge to go with talent and expertise in the studio, creating songs that are genuinely interesting and entertaining for multiple spins. When one MC spits an ill verse about needing but not having a cup of milk for the last box of Mac'N'Cheese, it marks an interesting moment in rap (we've come a long way from "I Got it Made"), and essentially renders all the bling-bling bullshit null and void (at least in my book). But don't worry, it's not all Slug-like bleeding-hearts, as these cats get plenty clever too, with punchlines and craftsmanship. Plus, the biting, royal and razor sharp MC Lyte stomp "The Wonder Years Remix" is worth the price alone. Seriously, if you ever wondered why Lyte is considered the greatest female MC, peep this and get schooled to twenty years worth of game.

And about those aforementioned blunders: "Got It Locked" is a jarring and ineffective stab at crunk that is both sonically and lyrically unpalatable (chorus intro: "MCs got it locked/ drug dealers got it locked…"), especially coming after six wonderful beginning tracks; the empty braggadocio on "Make ‘em Holla" sounds empty and irrelevant after such genuine expression on the rest of "Frostbite" (and could be satirical if it weren't so straight-faced); finally, the last track "Markit Places" is wholly forgettable and thus an unjust way to end the album. But overall, by almost single-handedly putting Newfoundland on the map (or at least my map), Hotbox and his posse of "Newfies" have created a product that has many positive attributes, its most significant being Quality. So good looking out Flash, but if you keep sending me such great material to review I'ma just get thirstier for my Haterade…and the next wack joint through the pipeline is gonna get mashed unfairly!

Music Vibes: 8.5 of 10
Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10

"Exclaim! Magazine: Hotbox Frostbite"

By Thomas Quinlan

While talk around this compilation of work by New Brunswick (by way of Newfoundland) producer Hotbox is likely to focus on the guest appearance of Sean Price, alongside Jay Bizzy, for the mellow “Best Friend,” my excitement revolves around the licensed remix of MC Lyte’s “The Wonder Years,” which was originally produced by Premier. If Hotbox’s horn-heavy ode to the golden age of rap is any indication of how their rumoured upcoming collaborations might turn out, Lyte will have at least a few tight tracks on her new album. The rest of the compilation is made up of the new generation of Maritimes artists, aside from a welcome return from Haltown pioneer Bonshah, alongside Expedyte, on “Make ’em Holla,” a contemporary, sped-up soul sample song that’s not one of the album's most innovative tracks. But for innovation you have Miracle’s swagger on the ’70s blaxploitation of “Warning Shot,” Jofo and Mick D. getting hyphy on “Got It Locked,” as well as Markit on the mellow, atmospheric “Markit Places,” and Bush, Shiest and Nayles on the guitar-heavy posse cut “Non-Stop.” It won’t be long until Hotbox backs your current faves, so save yourself the time backtracking by checking him out now and maybe discover a few new, talented emcees in the process. (Audio Research) -

"Scope Magazine: Hotbox Frostbite"

A high school math teacher by trade, Lee Pearce, also known as Hotbox says making hip-hop beats has been an obsession for almost ten years now. And back in the day he used to have a show on the MUN campus station CHMR, which he says was possibly the first show to play hip hop regularly in town.

Late last year, in december of 2006, he released Frostbite, an album of his beats featuring rappers from across the east coast, and a lot of them are from Newfoundland – Local rappers Johnny Hardcore , Lee Fitz, Radar, and Shiest are on there, which makes it, as far as I know, the closest thing the province has ever seen to a local hip hop compilation.

"Got Beats?"

Every good story needs an angle, and Hotbox's hip-hop story has just that. While the majority of underground hip-hop artists struggle to get by with their craft, music is Hotbox's sideline. While MC's boast about "dropping science", Hotbox brings impressive math skills. In his Peter Parker-like alter-ego, Hotbox teaches advanced math and calculus in the Moncton area. While being a math teacher may not bring street cred, . . .

. . .Frostbite has been seen charting on regional college radio stations and has sold several hundred copies in its first few weeks of release. . .

Taken from here magazine, Moncton
Feb. 22-28, 2007, p.14 - Here Magazine (Moncton)


Classy Criminal Records


By Brad Stone

“The only solution is to step into the hotbox.” I gladly will.

According to Hotbox’s MySpace page, he is a high-school math teacher by day and a beat master by night who provides East Coast MCs with a variety of solid hip-hop beats that, for the most part, stack up to the mainstream hip-hop elite today.

Frostbite acts as a mix tape full of East Coast rap artists’ flow backed by some of his best beats. Artists included on this mix are Johnny Hardcore, MC Lyte, and Radar, among others.

With a great mix of Newfoundland cultural references, pop culture and social issues, these tracks are both clever and intelligent and presented with great flow and poise.

This release is far from gangster rap and should definitely appeal to any underground hip-hop fan. It also has some mainstream appeal sprinkled throughout. If there is intelligence in East Coast hip-hop, Frostbite captures the cream of the crop and is definitely no insult to the intellectual hip-hop audience of the East Coast music scene.

The collaborations on the disc are all pulled off with mainstream flair. “Spit That Murder” is probably the best example – the rappers bounce flow off of each other as they seamlessly go from one topic to another.

“Political Science” might be of particular interest to student activists as it discusses high tuition fees, along with a slew of other important social issues.

Newfoundland is represented in the tongue-in-cheek “Them Newfie Boyz,” a track that is definitely worth mentioning as it represents our province with a certain pride that should make every Newfoundland rap fan want to start wearing their Newfoundland flag as a doo-rag.

Legendary Brooklyn-born rapper MC Lyte also has a track on here. The remix of her song “Wonder Years” is especially worth a listen as it showcases Hotbox’s talent and his natural ear for producing out-of-hand beats.

Frostbite is definitely worth checking out as a great scope of homegrown hip hop and as a great collaboration between some of the East Coast’s best rappers, all held together by its premier beat producer. - Muse Magazine :


Cross Country 2005
Frostbite 2007
Boxploitation EP 2008
Knowledge Is Wealth late 2008



Originally from St. John’s, Newfoundland, this Moncton, NB resident (and daytime high school math teacher) has produced tracks for numerous east coast hip-hop artists, such as ECMA nominees J-Bru, Pimp T, and Spesh K. Last year, Hotbox took home the ECMA award for "Hip-Hop Single Track Of The Year". In 2007, Hotbox produced 2 of the 5 songs nominated for ECMA Hip-Hop Single Track Of The Year, including his first ECMA nomination as an artist for his single "Make 'Em Holla".

Since a week before Christmas 2006, when "Frostbite" hit the salt-stained winter pavements of the Maritimes, Hotbox has been kept busy with a number of outside productions. Last summer, he released the "Boxploitation" EP to much fanfare from the underground Maratime hip-hop community. As well, the release garnered very positive reviews from several major hip-hop sites such as and

Over the past five years, Hotbox has released several compilations and has won several remix contests, most noticably one at Heiroglyphics Imporium (for Tajai from Souls of Mischief). In 2004, he released the first and only ever hip-hop compilation in his home province called “Welcome To Newfoundland”. Over 300 copies of that CD spread throughout the city of St. John's, and brought some outside attention to the Newfie hip-hop scene.

Hotbox is currently preparing to release a 7" inch vinyl single called "Knowledge Is Wealth" in early December and a full-length record titled "Number Theory" in the summer of 2009.