Ashanti hosted her Braveheart album release party on March 7th at Prive Atlanta. She was joined by family, close friends, and celebrities such as Big Tigger, Lil Scrappy and actor/comedian Alex Thomas.
Braveheart is Ashanti’s fifth studio album. Her first album since The Declaration that was released in 2008. Ashanti has already released two singles off Braveheart, “I Got It” featuring Rick Ross and “Never Should Have”. Ashanti starts off the intro for the title track “Braveheart” the way a album should be started and she keeps your attention for the whole album. Ashanti haven’t missed a beat since her last album and she still has a voice and songs with memorable beats.
“Early in the Morning” featuring French Montana or “Love Games” featuring Jeremih in my opinion should be the next single Ashanti releases. French Montana is actually singing and using auto-tune on “Early in the Morning”. It’s definitely a song you can cruise to and it has a lot of bass in it if you like that. Beenie Man makes an appearance on “First Real Love” adding a touch of island music to the album. “3 Words”, “She Can’t”, and “Scars” are some of the other songs worth checking out on her album.
Overall, Braveheart is a album that should be added to your collection and an album that is good from start to finish. Like Ashanti says on “No Where”, “I ain’t going nowhere, you ain’t gotta worry.” She is still one of the best females in the R&B game and won’t be going anywhere for a while.
You can purchase Braveheart NOW in-stores and on iTunes!
Alfa Mist and Emmavie is a duo hailing from overseas. With that understood, it should be noted that the tag team have been putting in work. So much of the duo’s music has been listened to and posted over the last year that this EP has been long awaited. However, I never knew anything of Emmavie’s vocals or Alfa Mist’s production until now. Epoch is the culmination of those efforts that I knew nothing about prior.
Naming this EP, Epoch, is quite interesting since an epoch is “an event or a time marked by an event that begins a new period or development” or “an extended period of time usually characterized by a distinctive development or by a memorable series of events”. I guess, from the overflowing of sexy, yet subtle and somber selections, this EP centralizes around a time of lost love.
I could be wrong, though. Then again, if you heard this EP then the theme wouldn’t matter that much anyway. This is some good music.
Listening to this EP thoroughly, you can hear the troubled serenity within Emmavie’s delivery and vocal fluctuations. “Stay Here” gets into walking away from trying circumstances. With “Easily, I Forget”, Emmavie notes how she is losing the memory of a situation she once longed for. Meanwhile, “Fly Away” brings up the feeling of falling in love with someone. So, with all that is given, Emmavie works to bring delicate emotion to her work.
Likewise, Alfa Mist brings in production that easily matches the mood that Emmavie’s vocals set up. Take “Insomnia” for example. On there, there are mostly rhymes by Alfa with Emmavie on the chorus. However, the mood set by the production only enhances the feeling the lyrics bring. The same can be said for each and every track on the EP. Alfa Mist, with no doubt, concocted production that brought out a solemn feeling of love.
Bringing things to a close, this is a beautifully solemn album that will either cause people to love it or not want to deal with it. Some can feel it and rock with it; others will find it slightly depression due to its strong emotional aura. Regardless, the music is intricate. That intricacy makes for an encompassing listen. With that said, Alfa Mist and Emmavie won with an EP about a period of “losing”.
Dag Savage is the combination of Exile on the beats and Johaz on the rhymes. I named Exile first because it seems as if he has mastered the “one producer/one emcee” format. With a classic (Below the Heavens with Blu) and other exemplary albums (Blu’s GMFWICSST and Fashawn’s Boy Meets World) in his catalog, Exile has shown that he has what it takes to put out a great project. Now, we have to see if he can give Johaz what he needs to have a complete project.
Within a few listens of E&J, it can be said that Exile provides the proper backdrops for Johaz to flex over.
If one is paying attention, Johaz actually gives a lot of himself within the first few tracks. At the very beginning of the album, “The Beginning” allows him to express his thoughts on Trayvon Martin, religious beliefs, and his disbelief in the use of mollies as the drug of choice. The very next song, “For Oldtimes Sake”, gives him some room to touch on personal issues like being molested as a youngster, having relationship issues, and being arrested at 14 years old. Many artists don’t take the time to express WHO they are. With Johaz, however, he wanted to get that part out of the way.
That doesn’t mean that Johaz won’t flex his lyrical skills throughout the album. “Drugs” equates his lyrical prowess to crack rock, while the production is “that Coltrane”. In contrast, he shows how extra romantic he can be with “Wine and Cheese”. “Van Gogh” gets into his spiritual beliefs and idealistic views about life. It may not go over as swiftly as Exile’s previous rap partners, but Johaz has enough panache and skill to keep a listener’s attention.
Exile, being the producer that he is, actually flexes even more production muscle than usual. It is a good thing that he kept close to his roots with production like the extra soulful-yet-somber “Cali Dreamin”. Meanwhile, he gets extra funky-wormy with the heavy synths and cosmic slop of “Bad Trip”. Yet, Exile feels most at home when he uses the smooth soul samples and vocal wails that are highlighted on tracks like “Twilight” and “When It Rains”. Keeping things at home, yet diverse, allows Exile to provide the right backdrops for Johaz to rhyme over.
By the time “The Finish” comes to a close, we can see that Johaz and Exile put together a project that demonstrated their camaraderie over hip hop tracks. Johaz put a lot of himself, and his own personal beliefs, within all of the tracks offered. Exile kept things diverse enough so that the album doesn’t become totally mundane. It is hard to say whether or not people will laud this album years from now. Still, it can be easily said that E&J is an album that puts a lot of promise into fruition.
It is time for me to be honest: I had no idea that Beezy was taking producing seriously. Of course I understood/admired his access to all of the instrumentals that hip hop had to offer. I also thoroughly enjoyed his commentary about production and how they mesh with lyrics through his album reviews. But Beezy as a producer? This was not the expected direction of a man better known for calling A.S.A.P Rocky’s mixtape trash or recycle binning Mac Miller’s last retail album.
Plus, the main attraction over his beats was going to be Nova. I haven’t heard Nova since “W.E.E.D.” off of the Dead End Hip Hop mixtape.
So, what could really be made of Tangents & Distractions?
With thorough listens, it can be said that this was a project of dope rhymes, well-crafted production, and chemistry.
Impressively, Beezy’s production is both fresh and vintage at the same time. Just as easily as he will flip a sample inspired production, he will also use something that is actually more electronic and/or sample free. With gems like the soul stirring “Everything’s Change” matched with the sonic madness of “Armageddon”, there will be some diversity to the project. While Beezy’s production isn’t “fully developed”, it is far from “amateur sounding”. In summary, it is apparent that Beezy is acclimated to using different musical approaches.
As far as being an up and coming microphone master, Nova puts in much effort. Any man that flips lyrics about “soul being in flux capacitor”, “time travel/Delorean trips”, and “getting Doc to make him a beat” is someone that is working to make some connections with subsequent line and rhyme. On “Omelette/World Is Mine”, Nova takes note that “people turn to ashes for the money you earn (urn)” and if he “didn’t poop/would people be shit?/ Nope”. Although his style isn’t for everyone, it can be understood that the listener has to respect his exertion. In short, Nova puts in work and it shows.
To be honest, the only thing that I could say to detract from this project was its lack of a theme/focus and talent not fully realized. This project screams “people coming together to have fun in the studio”. With that, you have the variation of production from Beezy and Nova mainly ripping mics. Once Beezy really envelops himself into being a “full-fledged producer” and Nova concentrates his nimble lyrical expressions will we truly realize the possibilities of this duo. However, we haven’t truly seen what their potential can actually produce.
With Saire Music’s airy vocals being the only guest appearance on the tracks, Nova and Beezy crafted a project with some replay value. Even if they haven’t reached the zenith of their talents, they constructed a free album that eloquently expresses their labors to make good music. Tangents & Distractions can come off as atypical from the norm in hip hop. This is actually fine. Be forewarned: this is only the beginning for this due because there is more to come.
Oddly, it has been five whole years since Algebra Blessett has released an album. For many artists, that could be close to career suicide in this ADHD infused musical landscape. However, this hasn’t hampered Algebra. The buzz around her project is the same as ever. She has still maintained her fans all while she went through personal growth.
Taking time to note that personal growth, Algebra came with Recovery, an album that is both emotionally grounded and catchy enough for radio. And she even achieved the “catchy enough for radio” without sacrificing any sort of integrity. Imagine that. Maybe other artists should take note. But that is neither here nor there.
So, back to the review I shall go.
From the beginning, Algebra unleashes plenty of heartache, amorous desires, and just plain figuring it all out. Her main single, “Nobody But You”, is one of the more “upbeat” and “hopeful” songs. The majority of the tracks deal with either getting over the past love (“I’ll Be Okay”, “Mystery”, everything noted with the word “recovery”) or enduring the pain (“Paper Heart”, “Writers Block”, “Another Heartache”). Some might not get into it because of that. However, people can easily see the integrity and strength that it took to construct such an album.
With such a focus on the hardships that love (and a love life) can bring, the instrumentals keep the album varied while enhancing the feel of Algebra’s direction. “Danger Zone” gets funky with its Fender Rhodes flavored/guitar infused production. “Right Next to You”, with its synth heavy/piano production, lets her get into wanting her lover to be around. The slow tempo of “Better For Me” works with the message of moving on with life. It can be noted that the production served as the proper compliment, and inspiration, for the lyrics.
One listen to this album and you will have to understand Algebra’s approach. A few listens later and you will fall in love with her integrity and bravery. As a singer, Recovery is more than a working album title; it is also a personal goal. In life, people sometimes lose themselves in love. But when they regain who they are, then life becomes that much sweeter.
Algebra just helped regain herself (and assisted others) through a personable and musically intact album.
I have been hearing Paranoid so much on the radio that it is sickening. Yet, I couldn’t get enough of its infectious chorus and foolhardy lyrics. Easily, Ty Dolla $ign had a hit on his hands. Even with the inclusion of his mixtapes, it made me wonder what his full-fledged bar coded project would bring. Since Beach House concept was reduced to an EP, I wonder how it would sound as a complete project. To be honest, outside of including both versions of Paranoid, this EP actually works.
Is it classic music? I don’t know. Is it something that will keep the lovers of ratchet, auto-tune infused jams entertained? I must give an emphatic “hell to the yes”.
Ty Dolla $ign isn’t trying to bring overly intricacies to the game; he is trying to take what is being used and bang out from his own perspective. “Or Nah” makes the most of his repetitive refrains of “or nah” as he asks questions about a woman’s loyalty, sexual gratitude, and even making cheese eggs. “Never Be The Same” is that slower paced jam that actually laments a lot of the madness that is celebrated in other songs. Regardless of whatever it is being talked about, Ty Dolla $ign makes the most of the situation. In short, Ty makes the most of infusing the ratchet-nasty-madness of the hood and puts it all into contagious melodious form.
The production is pretty good due to its varied nuances and the qualities in the composition. Young Chop does his thing with the typical flare that he offers on “Familiar”. “Wood and Leather”, however, has violin and string instrument elements added to the synthesized production. Yet, it is the elongated “Work” that shines among the rest of the selections with its beat switch up toward the end of the song. Regardless of if a listener can’t get with the craziness of the lyrics, they can at least appreciate the production.
It seems what Ty Dolla $ign is doing is riding the auto-tuned wave that he has made for himself. What he may lack in lyrical dexterity he easily matches with catchy words and infectious melodies. Plus, he is easily tapping a market that has love for the carnal and foolish. With a mix of songs made for the car and the club, Ty Dolla $ign can keep winning as long as he stays “ratchet classy” with his music. Meanwhile, listeners should just pop this in and do all the foolishness that the music can help influence.
If you are in the know, then you would understand that Evidence and The Alchemist has some of the best emcee-producer chemistry there is to have. Anything that they have worked on together has been practically dope to even classic underground greatness. Many go back to their work together on the Dilated Peoples’ albums. However, their obvious harmony evolved into the demand for an album to complete the cypher of musical synergy they share. With that shared, they came together to form The Stepbrothers.
After releasing their first album Lord Steppington, it is easy to see that their work together is just two “brothers having fun in the studio”.
The production on this album veers toward the range of “good-pretty good-banging”. The hard hitting track on “Byron G” does nothing but accentuate the lyrics of Evidence, Domo Genesis, and The Whooliganz. Meanwhile, the subjective darkness on “See The Rich Man Play” only gives Roc Marciano and The Stepbrothers room to express what the production demands them to. Yet, the 3-beat-for-the-price-of-1 “Swimteam Rastas” allows them to rhyme with style and fluctuating subject matter and literary devices. Keeping things short and sweet, the production worked.
Lyrically, The Stepbrothers didn’t delve too far into any type of territory of justified meaning. To explain even further, they were in it to flex their skills and have fun over the beats. While there were different hints of truth, ideals, and beliefs, there were never any overwhelming messages being presented. Then again, having a lot of “messages” would have taken away from the fact that these guys are in the studio to have fun and bang out a synergetic album. Thus, the wordplay remains wordy with very few burdening messages.
With Lord Steppington, you get more no frills hip hop: banging beats, dope lyrics, and not too many controlling concepts. This is the perfect display of what The Stepbrothers need to offer. Instead of an Evidence album reflecting on life in reference to the weather, we get an album of two guys gelling together to make great music. So, I suggest taking that step into the realm of Lord Steppington.
Jamla is 9th Wonder’s label. The biggest issue is that many keep thinking that 9th is the work horse and not the label owner/mastermind. Yet, with the success of Rapsody at the helm, people are realizing his label has something to offer. With the addition of Add-2 to a roster that already contains The Soul Council, Act Proof, GQ, Heather Victoria, Big Remo, and Halo, it is prime time for people to recognize that this label is a serious movement. In short, Jamla is a squad.
Not only are they “a” squad, their album refers to them as “the” squad. Since Flipmode no longer exists (sorry, Busta), and their album title says the same thing, I would have to agree.
Throughout this wonderful piece of work, each emcee, guest emcee, and singer do what it takes to showcase WHY they deserve to either be on this label or a guest on the album. Being one of the compilation’s highlights, “No Competition” highlights why Talib Kweli, Elzhi, and Phonte are some of the best to ever do it. If it isn’t Rapsody giving a one verse soliloquy on “Betty Shabazz”, there is GQ wondering “where’s Rocky when Bullwinkle be bullshittin’” on “Rated Oakland”. Even Add-2 flexes plenty of muscle on “Iron Mic” and “Bomber & a Fly Chick”. Thus, there is nothing but notable moments on this album.
Yet, it is the production that truly shows that there is more to Jamla than 9th Wonder. The soulful bounce provided for BJ the Chicago Kid and Add-2 only notes how the track for “15 Minutes of Fame” was crafted especially for them. Meanwhile, the sped up sample on TP’s “Not sure” accentuates his off and on flow. The bouncy, subtle Wu influences come through on the bouncy “Pretty Bird”. The Soul Council, with results notably profound, constructed instrumentals as diverse and intricate as the emcees.
If there was any doubt about Jamla being “the” squad, then this compilation erases that. All emcees (signed or guests) bring their “A” game to the table. The production does nothing but grasp the ear and never lets go. Many want to associate 9th Wonder as the main thing happening at Jamla, which is understood. After listening to this compilation, however, we know that there may not be any “squad” greater than Jamla.
When I first caught wind of the signing of Isaiah Rashad to TDE, I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew very little of the emcee to begin with. Also, I wondered how he would fit into a league of extraordinary emcees (Black Hippy). Yet, I knew there was a qualified reason for adding him to the label. So, I had to await Isaiah Rashad’s proper introduction to the world.
He did have a few singles that dropped before Cilvia Demo came out. Those all made sense of the potential that Isaiah had to offer. But after listening to Cilvia Demo, it all makes sense now.
Isaiah Rashad is a natural addition to the TDE roster due to his unique take on urban angst, southern hospitality, and musicianship.
Throughout the album, Isaiah Rashad takes on different lyrical approaches to reach the masses. “Banana” brings a rapid fire flow that allows him to detail his life filled with familial drug dealing ties, living in the hood, and trying to make the most of his situations. On tracks like “RIP Kevin Miller”, “Webbie Flow (U Like)” and “Brad Jordan” notes his penchant for doing dedication songs with matching cadences, flows, and even subject matter. With a track like “Soliloquy”, you get a sense of his lyrical dexterity with lines like “smoking bouquet, cop it from my ni–as pushing daisies like a romance/push a ni–as buttons like a program”. So, Isaiah Rashad’s method depends on the song and the feel of the track.
The production on this composition matches the feel that Isaiah was going for: music to kick it and ingest with a thinking man’s mind and a listener’s ear. The tracks are rarely loud and extremely bass-heavy. They are mostly mellow, smooth, and jazzy. While this is something to be “expected” from a TDE release, it may “throw people off” due to Isaiah’s subject matter. But, it all works because everything flows together seamlessly.
Beautifully produced with a wordplay that always alters but never gets boring, Isaiah Rashad fits right into the TDE bottom line with Cilvia Demo. He is lyrical enough for the purists and hood enough for the street. Also, he is original enough to be appreciated as a whole. Although his album/mixtape may not be a classic, it is damn good. It is safe to say that TDE, and Isaiah Rashad himself, will only keep winning in 2014.
Kenyon Dixon is a case of the background trying to come to the forefront. His career has been spent either playing as a background singer (Usher, Kimbra, Kelly Rowland, Faith Evans) or writing tracks (Tyrese, TGT, Ann Nesby). Now, he is working to bring his own promise and production to the table. There is always the case that he should “stay behind the scenes”. However, many others will feel that he should give it a shot. One can never know how success can happen if the effort is not put in.
After listening to The Higher Ground EP, it can be said that Kenyon Dixon can make his own music for himself and others.
The main thing that I can appreciate about Kenyon Dixon is that he isn’t trying to replicate Top 40 hits that you hear on the radio. As much synthesized production and warped vocals you may here, he is, at least, trying to find his own lane. “F.I.L.A (Fall In Love Again)” has him crooning about the leap of love while “Next Time” speeds up the bpm’s and drums for a smooth mix of production and lyrics. “All The Way” does just that when it comes to the lady of his choice. With Kenyon, you get R&B.
While there is a lot of promise shown on this EP, there is a problem: it is an EP. This means that there is little room for error. What he has is impressive enough for listening and great late night sessions. However, when he comes with a full length album, he will need to come with sure fire “hit making” for a longer time period. As good as Higher Ground is, he would need to replicate, and even evolve, his effort for at least another 5-6 songs.
What we end up with is a good EP from a good artist. Not wanting to be a in the background has sparked Dixon’s desire to be on the forefront. He can become a well-rounded artist (he practically is already). Now, all he has to do is create that album that fans and detractors cannot deny as a comprehensive piece of tireless effort. Then, and only then, will he reap the full benefits of his actions.
I hope he keeps up the good work.
Fabolous has actually had a worthwhile, and slightly underachieving, career. He has had albums that have moved plenty of units and singles that received plenty of radio rotation. However, he hasn’t made any notable album releases in recent history. He can still drop the female dedicated single that gets plenty of love. Yet, the release of a powerful album has eluded him.
Then I realized why: he has been reserving his best work for his Soul Tape mixtape series. After giving Soul Tape 3 a thorough listen, the same can be said for it as well.
This mixtape starts off both soul-infused and engaging from the beginning. Within the first three songs (the Stacy Barthe featured “Everything Was The Same”, “Sacrifices”, and “Playa”), all you get is pure soulful realness from Fabolous. And it just continues with tracks like the “Dead Presidents” influenced “The Get Back”, the Young Jeezy featured “You Know”, and the hedonistically truthful “Cuffin’ Season”. Even the powerful feature by Jadakiss on “The Hope” doesn’t take away from the mood that Fabolous has captured on this mixtape. The thing about his mixtape, that his albums as of late haven’t captured, is easily noted in one word: consistency.
The first reason why this mixtape comes off so engaging is due to Fabolous’s lyrical display. “Sacrifices” begins with a full display of honesty and alliteration:
Seeing yo family scrambling, that’s sanity damaging
Gotta make a move, can’t just stand and be mimicking
Have a man who be managing, randomly standing in places he shouldn’t
Tryin to move that Pamela Anderson under…
Standing these hammers and grandma keep paddling
Cuz them niggas from the other side of fence will be vanishing
New day, new funeral, my grandma be panicking
But I gotta eat, she just handing me sandwiches
As you can see, he is giving us realness and literary devices in his rhymes. His lyrical displays of dominance only continue throughout the album. So, many listeners will not that his masterful use of words is pretty proficient.
Another reason his mixtape wins is, of course, the soulful production. “Young OG” bangs out with the same sample that Kanye used on “On Sight”. “Thim Slick”, one of his dedications to his preferential figures on his female acquaintances, is filled with notable boom-bap claps, R&B influenced instrumentals, and sampled vocal wails. Throughout the album, the production is consistently sounding like an old sampled ’45 record from your parents’ basement (or attic). In turn, the soulful production just contributes to why Soul Tape 3 is named what it is.
Outside of the nice but strangely placed “Foreigners” track, you can see why Soul Tape 3 wins. The production is on point. The lyrics are apparently appealing and worthwhile. And his guest list doesn’t outshine him on his own stuff. Now, if only his album could be made in the same form or fashion. Then, we will all know how things can be “fabolous”.
Phil Beaudreau is a man that came out of nowhere. At a certain point, in early 2013, he dropped his Dawaun Parker produced “Anyway”. Ever since then, he has released a string of singles to test the waters. With a growing response and adoration for his singing skills, he decided to release the full length labeled Ether. For a debut album, Ether is a strong representation of a man’s desire for musical greatness.
The album is filled with either slow or mid-tempo tracks; if you are looking for dance numbers, “Won’t Go Away” is the closest thing to that. However, what you will get is a lot of songs with meaning and emotion. “Buried Alive” is for those that consistently live in fear. “Take It High”, a previously released track, sounds wondrous while Phil revels in summertime daydreams and being with the one he loves. What this album lacks in dance-floor filling tracks, it more than makes up for with songs containing substance.
The beauty of this album is that it isn’t afraid to be what it truly is: a pure R&B album. There isn’t a whole lot of hip hop/rhythm and blues hybrid songs outside of the Dawaun Parker featured “This Is Why”. In fact, this album is much more traditional than most common “R&B” albums that you may here. And that traditionalism is what makes this album such a delight to listen to. Phil Beaudreau found his lane and didn’t work to retreat out of it.
What can be said is Phil Beaudreau wanted to make an album that fans of R&B could listen to. With tracks that are heavy on subject matter and substance and light on pop offerings, purists can enjoy what he does. Also, the production does have some modern nuances that the younger generation can get into. From here, Phil can just make sure that more people are aware of his skill. Still, he won’t have a hard time gathering a following with such engaging music on his resume.
B.O.B has seen what this industry has to offer. From the mixtape circuit to the major label backing and worldwide acclaim, Bobby Ray has made his mark in hip hop. Yet, he hasn’t become as big as he may want to be. Nor is he making the money he may desire. Oh, he is getting paid. However, there is always that desire for more. And that desire for more has led to the conception of his new album, Underground Luxury.
Let me get this out the way once and for all: this is a good album filled with a multitude of cuts serving different purposes. However, it isn’t as great as it could be. More on that later.
The motivation for his project starts right off the bat with “All I Want”, the song expressing all the material and carnal desires that he has. From there, we get into similar tracks like “Headband” and “Ready”. A lot of this album will have a sound that makes itself available for club and radio spins. Any listener can see that from the inclusion “We Still In This Bitch”. Even on slower tempo tracks like “Back Me Up”, the overall flow of the album is about “getting to the money and success”.
And to be honest, I can’t fault him for that.
Even throughout the money chasing, paper stacking, cheeba smoking, and booty slapping, there are those tracks that are based on his inner thoughts and observances. “One Day” reflects over his trial and tribulations that allowed him to focus on his goals and aspirations. “Nobody Told Me” allows Bobby Ray to go over the lessons that he learned from his musical pursuits. Even with “Forever”, he realized the mortality and his adversaries over some bombastic production. Let it be known that B.O.B does take time to recognize where he been and how he got there.
The drawback that many listeners will have for this album is that, through it all, many want B.O.B to “go in more”. Before he became a signed artist, B.O.B would demonstrate lyrical gymnastics and fluid melodies over tracks. The melodies are intact on this album. However, many will say that his lyrical dynamics have taken a backseat. In short, people will want to complain that he isn’t lyrically smashing the tracks like he used to.
At the end of the day, Underground Luxury is highly listenable and actually a good album. However, he still has a chance to make that “great” album. The one thing he can do is start going harder on the tracks lyrically. It is always the lyrical content over dope production that separates the top tier from the rest. Regardless, Underground Luxury will impress those that want to ride around with banging beats and lyrics about getting the luxury while in the underground.
To state the obvious, the internet has changed the world around us. It has changed how we access the news and media. It has also changed our ways and habits of communication. Even our relationships have evolved (or devolved). Much can be said about how we all live because of the internet. And it is a good thing that the internet is a central (yet non-consequential) figure piece to Childish Gambino’s album Because The Internet.
If this is any example of how we are and what we may have become, then there is no doubt that we all need to watch and observe our everyday actions.
Given a listen to this album, you will notice the direct and indirect references to the internet and modern communication as a whole. Even from the beginning of the album on “The Crawl”, he gets into sending out Evites to a get together. “World Star” gets into the desire of many to become “stars” through precarious and outrageous documentation of us at our best and worst. As the album evolves into its particular storylines, the internet still serves as either a slight basis of reference or a simple dependent variable. Such craftsmanship could only be done by someone with a simple purpose for their music.
Even bigger than the internet references, however, are the examples of how people function within society. “Sweatpants” makes reference to how rich people live by their own rules with little regard to outside opinion. “Flight of the Navigator” gets into the melancholy feelings of losing someone. “Pink Toes” references drug dealing and the effects the lifestyle may have. Within it all, Childish Gambino created something that touches on many things at once.
At the end of the day, Childish Gambino gave us an album that “directly/indirectly” tells a story about how modern day technological advances have forged their way into our everyday habits. Added with mixtures of side stories and premises of relationships, you get to see how many young people function. Many may not like the album because it, quite frankly, “isn’t their cup of tea”. However, those willing to deal with the nuances of the music and ride along with the messages will cherish this album. At the end of the day, Childish Gambino has secured his spot as one of the artists to stake their claim within the hip hop lexicon.
Representing Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mars Jackson has been doing his thing for the last couple of years. He first worked on developing his buzz when he released the lofty Loft Music in 2012. After that, he released Hype Chill. From there, many blogs have been paying attention to his movements. In need of keeping appetites wet, The Hiilight EP does just that: give temporary satisfaction.
Only three songs in length, Mars wastes no time keeping the bars coming over jazzy and astral-like production. The cosmic feel of “Feelin’ This Low” is directly matched with lyrics like “we like art/we got parties/we like shorties who act naughty…” and “that paper route/without a doubt/I told my niggas/fuck a drought/ I’m up next/man, fuck a clout/fuck opinions/this hip hop”. After that song comes the jazzy, piano laden “Enjoy It”. Ending off this EP is “Shine”, something Mars considers a “reintroduction to himself”. With just three songs, Mars Jackson has a way with words over dope production.
More than anything, this EP may be too short for many. However, if you want to peer into the potential of Mars Jackson for a quick second, The Hiilight EP will work for you. No, you won’t get into anything ultra personal. But, you will get a chance to see how he approaches the art of making music. From this point, the only limit there can be is the atmosphere above his head.
Sometimes, it is necessary for one to embark on the atypical and unusual. Within that journey, one should actually seek to see the worth in what they worked hard to not fully figure out. Without this, we do not “discover things for ourselves”. Also, we will eventually miss out on things we may otherwise enjoy. With that said, it is always good to try new things.
Trying new things is the spice of life. And with that spice of life, I took time to review an album that has been getting reviews from all over: Beyonce’.
Yeah, I said it: I finally gave Beyonce’ a listen. From what I heard on this album, I see why people either love her or loathe her. Beyond anything, Beyonce’ is an album that is highly listenable and worth the price of admission.
I understand that people loathe her due to her pretentiousness and wonderful ability to “toe the line”. For example, she can create the damn-near-masterful “Pretty Hurts” and “then double back with tracks like “Drunk In Love”, “Flawless”, and “Partition”. Many listeners can’t deal with Beyonce swinging on the pendulum as such. She can make a song liberating her soul and then turn around to make a track that puts her soul back into the shackles that she escaped. At the end of the day, a lot of listeners try not to deal with her music due to her musical hypocrisy.
Yet, so many people love Beyonce because she KNOWS how to craft music that is both touching and musical. As much as you want to hate her, songs like “Haunted”, “Superpower”, and “Jealous” will always be seen as highlights of an artist being personable. Even further, “Mine” is a duet that possibly delved into Beyonce’s mind as she and Drake repeats “I just wanna say you’re mine/ you’re mine/fuck what ya heard/you’re mine, you’re mine”. If you pay attention to “Flawless” and look beyond the hardcore message, it IS a song about empowerment. At the end of the day, Beyonce knows how to make a jam.
But beyond the swinging pendulum of musical aspirations, there is still an honest album filled with a track list that never gets boring. As much as people can show their chagrin for “Drunk In Love”, the song bangs. The same can be said for “Blow”, the sexual romp-turned-consequential-roller skate jam. Instead of having an album sounding the same, the tracks switch and change both their pace and production style. If anything, the naysayers can say that she works to keep the musical palette diverse.
Ending off the album with “Blue”, her dedication to her daughter, what we have is an album made by a woman that wanted to show all sides of her. Many will dislike the album for what it offers. However, there will be others that love it for that same offering. If this isn’t the album for you to get with, I understand. Still, Beyonce’ offers an unabashed look at the woman that creates the music.
Love it or hate it, you have to respect it.
What hasn’t already been said about Troy Ave that I can actually express? I’m not sure. We all know that he is helping to bring NY street music back to the prominence that many actually desire. Also, we know that he has no problems reflecting over his past lifestyle choices (see the nickname Harry Powder). Even more so, his New York City: The Album has made plenty of waves since its release. Now, in time for the holidays, he releases White Christmas 2 with DJ Drama.
If you want to say anything, though, please recognize that he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. His brand of street rap is going to make him more popular as time goes on.
If anything can be said about Troy Ave is that, even with plenty of features, he will always shine. Take the 2 Chainz featured “Lost Boyz“ for example. 2 Chainz (with a straight forward, improved flow) doesn’t even take away from the vocal presence or voracity of Troy Ave’s verse. The same can be said for other tracks like the Styles P featured “Do It” and the ever-great Lloyd Banks featured “Your Style”. In short, Troy Ave is going to get his regardless of who is around.
The same can be said for the production. You won’t hear any of those trap beats on this mixtape. What you WILL hear, however, is NY styled production that with modern touches. “Brooklyn Shit” has that ominous street sound with heavy bass lines. With sampled violins and speedier bpm’s, Teamwork Music’s “Go Getter” keeps it gutter. Even the Statik Selektah (as expected) “Glitter and Gold” keeps it serene and urbane at the same time. It is easy to keep it “NY” when the production stays in its lane.
“You can’t look down on a dealer and praise the users; it was never cool to be a drug addict. That’s not cool, nigga. Not at all. You got bitches with weaves talkin’ down on bitches with real hair!” noted Troy Ave on “Greetings and Salutations”. This quote is absolute truth. The game done became some backward foolishness. Troy Ave, however, plans on setting things straight. With the aforementioned New York City: The Album and White Christmas 2, NY has a knight that plans on being king. Take heed, all NY street rhymers. Take heed.
There are albums that actually know how to stick to the theme/storyline given. When this happens, we usually are blessed with music that can actually either reach many or can be known as one of those great moments. It has happened before. Recent albums by Kendrick Lamar (Good Kid, M.a.a.d City) to even Kool Keith and Dan the Automator’s classic (Dr. Octagon) reminds us of when this works wonders. Thus, having a theme, or storyline, that guides the entire album assists in the quality of the overall project.
Throughout the album (not that sorry E.P. mess), we have Add-2 synonymously spitting some of his most introspective rhymes and the toughest flows he could ever approach. If you take a good listen to “Runnin’”, he uses his mastery of breath-control and the English language to explain how people run away from their issues (until they catch up). “The Death of Chicago” allows Add-2 to delve into the “sweet smell of corruption” in a city that constantly “sleepin’ with Sleep’s cousin”. Even on “The Ugly Side of Beautiful”, he laments over his grandmother’s dementia, the death of his people, and finding beauty through it all. Throughout the entire album, Add-2 works to “show the stuff that they don’t show like a black light”.
It is the duality of his messages that attains the ears by exhibiting the best, and the worst, of the human condition.
The production, however, will probably get as much props as the rhymes on this effort. Khrysis shows us why 9th Wonder holds him to such high esteem. On “Club Heaven/Club Hell”, the beat changes between the “heavenly sounds” and “hedonistic rhythms” to show where Add-2’s story switches up. The ethereal beauty in Khrysis’s production can easily be heard during the end of “The Ugly Side of Beautiful” with its extended break. However, that doesn’t explain the simplicity of what makes the production such an audible treat. Khrysis uses the basis of soul samples and boom bap to craft a sound-bed for Add-2 to rhyme over. With this sound-bed, Add-2 can move minds, and sometimes bodies, with ease.
Being his second mixtape, and one of the better releases of 2013, makes Between Heaven & Hell necessary listening. Add-2 was recently added to the Jamla roster. This being his “coming out party” doesn’t make that much difference in the end result. The end result comes from the culmination of great rhymes and enthralling production. At the end of the day, Earth is between heaven and hell; it is the inhabitants of said planet that need to hear this EP.
Jhene Aiko has been by the sea for quite a while now. Sailing Souls, her premiere mixtape, made some noise for those seeking some good R&B in their lives. From there, it seemed as if nothing could disrupt her flow as she navigated herself into features with Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean, and Drake. Now, the tide has turned. Sailed Out, her premier EP with Def Jam Recordings, is showcasing just where she plans on planting her anchor in the treacherous musical waters.
The album rides the tides out within its moody zone from the start. “Vapors” gets into the infatuation with a lover. Right after that comes the ethereal and cuddle-inciting jam “Bed Peace” with features Childish Gambino with a calm flow. “Stay Ready [What A Life]” has Jhene going into the ebb and flow of relationships, going from pure sexual gratification to the hardships of relationships. From the first three songs, the EP knows how to ride the tides and give an introspective look at it all.
After that, however, the water currents are enhanced by the influence of altered states and reality crashes. “WTF” gets into the confusion and reconfirmation of feelings once one has “gotten way too high” to tell reality from facsimile. “The Worst” deals with a lover that makes all the wrong decisions and hurts her in the process. “3:16 a.m.” is a song that deals with Jhene in her darkest hour, with no “papers” to smoke with and no “fear of flying” either. Consequently, “Comfort Inn Freestyle” rounds out the EP that washed many bare feelings up on the shore.
With concepts of love, broken-hearts, infidelity, death, and suicidal thoughts, Sail Out delves into the possibilities of life and love. As short as the span is, it really didn’t need to be any longer than it is. The emotion and range is actually concentrated. Any more of it would cause contamination. Albeit somber and at times monotonous, Sail Out is highly consistent and realistic. My suggestion: just ride the tidal waves and sail on out.
Danny Brown is probably hip hop’s most enigmatic emcee. While he is quite the “hood cat”, he wears a Mohawk reminiscent to 80’s rock. He spits about drug abuse and urban madness. Yet, he can turn around and make music with aggressive EDM production. After seeing him wear a strange tiger jacket, listening to him switch flows, and demonstrating ability to entertaining the most conservative white person (Anderson Cooper would be one of them), an album like Old should be something that makes sense. And when you listen to it, it DOES make sense. It makes all the sense in the world.
Old is an album of Danny Brown’s evolution. Moreso, it shows both sides that exist of Danny Brown.
The album starts off with his more “serious” musical tastes. “The Return” (featuring the ever-gangster Freddie Gibbs) and the pairing of Danny with Purity Ring on “25 Bucks” have Danny making songs for hood understanding. “Wonderbread” allows Danny’s voice to be more hyper while spitting a story about “going to get Wonderbread”. More of the urban storytelling and ghetto graciousness is given on tracks like “Gremlins”, “Dope Fiend Rental”, and “Torture”, you really get to see what has led Danny to be the perplexing master of the microphone that he is. In short, the first side of this project has led to the second side of it.
When “Side B [Dope Song]” begins, we get the energetic, frenetic Danny Brown that entertains crowds with madness and fellatio tainted concerts. At this point, you get the pill popping madness and magnetic dubstep foolishness with songs like “Dubstep” and “Dip”. The madness continues when we go through tracks like “Drinkin’ and Smokin’”, “Hand Stand”, and “Kush Coma”. By the time he makes it to the last song “Float On”, Danny is back to being calm, reserved, and reminiscent. It seems as if the second half of the album allows Danny Brown to party and have a hangover filled with “remorse”.
With an album that is bi-polar as it is brilliant, Old just works. The production is fitting for both sides and the features (from Scrufizzer to the Ab-Soul and A$AP Rocky) only add to the madness to be found throughout. If there are any listeners confused as to WHY and HOW Danny functions, then Old provides the proper context. Listening to this album, Danny Brown will still remain to be seen as a weirdo. However, Old will serve as a great companion piece for those that always struggle to live with the duality of life.
Robert Glasper Experiment has witness a slight “meteoric rise” in popularity. Things became different once he released the sonically profound and rewind worthy album Black Radio. After that, it has been about nothing but collaborations (Terrace Martin and Bilal among them) and more music (Black Radio Remix EP). Yet and still, Robert Glasper and his crew of cohorts took time to make music that is as organic (all instrumentation was played lived and nothing was sampled) as it is compelling. Adding familiar faces with some surprise guests, Black Radio 2 is another supple addition to the catalog that has fans claiming Robert Glasper to be the “resuscitator of R&B music”.
Intriguingly enough, he is a jazz artist. And that part, right there, is what makes everything so entrancing when his music comes on.
The beauty of this album is that it reaches out to different artists to hone sounds that they are most familiar with. If you notice the production on the Brandy featured “What Are We Doing” is much more upbeat than the slow and melodically enriching “Calls” by Jill Scott. The Norah Jones featured “Let It Ride” actually takes a page from the drum –n- bass movement to come up with some impressive rhythms. While Dwele gets into a stepper’s groove with “Worries”, Marsha Ambrosius croons over a track that calls for heart mending, piano backdrops, and rain drops just to accentuate the mood. Evidently, Glasper kept things tight by focusing on each artist’s strengths and musical passions.
What I did find interesting was the bigger influx of emcees featured on this project. Featuring Lupe on the album is nothing new since he was present on the last long player. However, Glasper mixed things up by adding him with Luke James and Snoop Dogg on “Persevere”. Common and Patrick Stump made a proficiently uplifting anthem in “I Stand Alone”. Yet, it is the combination of Jean Grae and Macy Gray that comes as the biggest surprise. Both ladies come together to make “I Don’t Even Care”, ensuring that the album doesn’t become too predictable in its own greatness.
Robert Glasper Experiment wins by doing what was, and wasn’t expected. In true form, Glasper featured some of the best that R&B has to offer. What was not expected was the feature of names that many haven’t even looked toward musically (in recent years). Even further, the crew brought out some of hip hop’s most efficient to give the people something to feel. With all of this said, Robert Glasper Experiment wins again with their second serving of Black Radio.
Pusha T has been hyping this new album up since he appeared on Kanye’s track “Runaway”. Then again, that was the true emergence of Pusha T the solo artist and not ½ of The Clipse. He threw a test press of what he had to offer with his earlier mixtape Fear of God and Wrath of Caine. As cool as it was, it did not show his true potential to make undeniable music. Still, with previous releases of tracks like “Nosetalgia” and “Money On The Boards”, Pusha’s buzz was hard to eclipse.
After a few good thorough listens to My Name Is My Name, it can be easily said that Pusha T is going extremely hard.
What I like the most is that he reaches for his own lane. Instead of hearing production from Pharrell all over this album, you get a bevy of producers to give him a different sound. The throwback era sounding “Numbers On The Boards” is easily an audible treat due to ominous production. The Kanye West and Hudson Mohawke produced “Hold On” gains plenty of punch from the auto-tuned wailing and piano driven loop. When you actually get to hear Pharrell, you got either the off-beat sounding “Suicide” or the dry dopeness in “S.N.I.T.C.H.”. The biggest strength of the production is the detour off the beaten Pharrell path that Pusha T took.
Regardless of the diverse production, Pusha T still keeps his hands to the gravel (i.e. he continues to go hard). With tracks like “Nosetalgia” and “King Push”, there is no doubt about where the lyrics will be the majority of the time. With “King Push”, he has lyrics like “vultures to my culture/exploit the struggle/insult ya/they name droppin’about King coppin’/never been a foot soldier” booming through the ears. In comparison, “Nosetalgia” has him being extra flippant on the mic with “started off as a baby face monster/no wonder its diaper rash on my conscience/my teething ring was numbed by that nonsense”. Seeming no worse for wear, Pusha T still have the abrasively arrogant and agile lyrics that got him where he is today.
Pusha T achieved three main things on this album. For one, he proved that he could make a comprehensive project without all of his production coming from Pharrell. Another feat he achieved is holding on to his own personality and not conforming. Even bigger than the previous achievements is the fact that his album is purely dope. With all those things going for him, there is little doubt that listeners will have any problems with the name Pusha T.
Regardless of how things may go, John Legend is always liable to have some good music. It all started with Get Lifted, his introduction into R&B solo music. After that, he came with the soothingly melodic Once Again. Taking a different direction with Evolver, some considered it his least favorable album. With Love In The Future, many listeners are wondering where he will go with his music.
After listening to this album for over 2 weeks, it seems as if John Legend wanted to make great music on his own terms.
Regardless of the originality of the track, John Legend still unleashes his soul into the music. The Bobby Caldwell classic “Open Your Eyes” gets a reboot to ensure both R&B and hip hop lovers can nod their heads in unison. The track “Who Do You Think You Are” comes through with lush soul samples and an equitably nice Rick Ross verse to make it complete. Yet, it is the short but sweet “Angel”, featuring the angelic toned Stacy Barthe, which should have become a full length song. Even still, John Legend lets his inner sanctum shine over samples of familiarity.
The best thing about this album, however, is the simple-yet-effective song writing that becomes personal by the minute. “So Gone” plays like an anthem for those that want to live life for themselves while John reflects on how he had to “make it on his own”. “You And I” is the dedication to the love of his life. But, it is the observance of her beauty in his eyes in combination with his surroundings that make the song so endearing. It is these moments of self-expression that will win any John Legend fan over.
On Love In The Future, John Legend reaches in the past and the present to express where he wants to head. Many may miss out on the true meaning of this album. Others will make their own meaning of it. Either or, we all have to realize that John Legend is expressing himself through the language of love. That language will exist in the present, reach back to the past, or touch on future desires. With that said, it is easy to see that John Legend made an album full of great music for whatever time period is on anyone’s mind.
The marriage between Stalley and MMG has been a tricky one at best. Many people have been happy that he has a “bigger platform” for his music. However, others were worried about him losing the sound he established off of his first mixtape. Savage Journey to The American Dream, his second mixtape, was good. Yet, it didn’t totally stick with the sound he established. Now, we have Honest Cowboy with its first main single “Swangin’”. Still, there is much concern on whether Stalley will keep his “intelligent trunk music” title or try and be overly street.
After a few listens (and I do mean quite a few), Stalley fans have very little to worry about. What Honest Cowboy presents is a nearly perfect marriage between his intellectual-street savvy and MMG stature/influence.
From the beginning to the end, Stalley makes the use of his lyrical abilities. On “Spaceships and Woodgrain”, he vibes out with hood explanation:
I puff a mild listenin’ to Lab Cabin/California smoking rolling up filling up the cabin/Captain of the El Dorado ridin’ through swaggin’/Don’t really like that word but it’s fitting for this caption/Maxin’…
The descriptions continue from the aforementioned “Swangin’” to the storytelling “The Highest”. Many still don’t want to hear Stalley drop songs about “swangin’ and bangin’”. Still, he has the ability to bring it from an intellectual position.
Yet, it is when Stalley comes with full-fledged messages that he grasps the ears and makes true “hits”. “Cup Inside A Cup” allows Stalley to observe the hood and how his influences has positively, and negatively, affected it. “Raise Your Weapons”, the standout among standout tracks, lets loose with reckless abandon, revolutionary demands, and a beat change that switches up the atmosphere of the song. Even “Gettin’ By” refers to the hustle, rising above the dirt, and reminiscing on harder times. It seems that the bigger the message, the more harder/hypnotizing the track becomes.
Within all this balance of hood madness and educated realization comes a soundtrack heavy on 808’s and high quality instrumentation. “A Wax” is a hood tome of situations becoming drastic over sampled soul production. Soundtrakk, formerly of Lupe Fiasco fame, makes his presence known on “Long Way Down” with its guitar licks, vocal wails, and drum patterns. Meanwhile, Block Beataz makes the instrumentation on “Feel The Bass” heavy enough to make your chest thump once it is turned up too loud. Above anything, even if one doesn’t like Stalley they cannot doubt the production.
With all honesty, Honest Cowboy should have been a retail album. It has all the right components for a great album: dope beats, dope lyrics, and substance mixed with hints at radio accessibility. Many have wondered how Stalley would evolve at MMG. With this free album, it has shown that he can still be himself and evolve at the same time. It is only a matter of time until the rest of hip hop realizes he has enough for everyone to enjoy and support.
Joey Bada$$ has hit the scene with an immediate smash (safe to say). With the super luminous “Survival Tactics”, he took himself to the upper echelon of underground’s “next to blow”. Releasing mixtapes from himself (1999) and Pro Era (PEEP), things were on the up and up. That is until the untimely death of Capital Steez. After that, Joey had to mentally regroup. Still, he never stopped working.
Eventually, he promised a Summer Knights EP that actually evolved into an album. From a few listens of this album, it seems that Joey has evolved as a rhymer.
It seen that Joey Bada$$ has improved his overall cadences and vocal inflections. Taking a listen to “Satellite” and you can notice how his voice has adapted to fitting perfectly with the production. More of this can be heard on “’95 Til Infinity”, “Death to YOLO”, and “Sit N Prey”. Actually, it occurs on all of the songs. Just to make note, there has been some growth demonstrated by how he takes on each different piece of music on each track.
The production, this time around, is still that vintage NY boom bap sound coming from a bevy of producers. He still manages to gain tracks from the likes of Kirk Knight, Chuck Strangers, and Statik Selektah. But when he also includes tracks from Oddisee (“Sorry Bonita”), Alchemist (“Joey Bada Trap Door”), and DJ Premier (“Unorthodox”), he has increased his reach amongst the more well renowned producers out there. With this project, he does something many have failed to master. Joey Bada$$, with some time and trepidation, has managed to have a lot of producers to infuse a cohesive sound.
With a little care toward cutting down the tracklist or coming with a cohesive theme, Joey Bada$$ is on the verge of a classic. However, this piece of work is still great. Growing more dynamic in his rhyme forms and including different producers to make it work should never go ignored. Many wondered about him hitting a sophomore slump. With Summer Knights, many will just look forward to the gains from Junior that is ready for graduation.
Mr. MFN Xquire is quite the irregular artist. As much as he can be esoteric, he can be equally as raunchy and hood. Being such a conflicted being can be costly. Right after being signed with Universal, personal matters caused him even more issues. Much of his pain, sorrow, strength, and triumph are shown within Kismet, a piece of work that can be considered ignorant and intelligent in the same breath.
It must be known that the dichotomy that lives within Xquire starts off early on this album. As soon as “Cauldron” starts off, he drops lessons about understanding what life is about in the same breath as he notes receiving fellatio. A track like “Illest Niggaz Breathin’” can easily segue into a meaningful song referencing materialism, imprisonment, and the slave mentality (“Chain”). He even uses a posse track like “Tomorrow’s Gone” to drop gems like “don’t include me with New York” and “white man’s guilt is the black man’s poison”. It can be mentioned that he keeps it real with himself through his lyrics.
The thing about this album is that it is so insanely intelligent within its ignorance that it is hard to ignore its appeal. Take on the Adrian Marcel featured track “Hoes I Don’t Remember”, one of the oddest dedication songs ever recorded. As foolhardy as many would consider it, it is actually heartfelt. The same thing happened during tracks like “Cherry Raindrops” and “Orbz”. Within many of the tracks, the intelligence and ignorance are mixed together like a delectable dinner dish of gumbo.
The production, which is nice within its own right, wavers between soul stirring and minimalist “turn up music”. The sample flipping on “Paper Hearts” can easily give crate diggers something to smile about. Yet, a track like “…eXxx Studio” lets crunk samples and moody riffs take the ears over. He even flips a Curtis Mayfield sample on “Vanilla Rainbows” and notes that Mayfield produced it. Thus, the production easily matches, and at times encompasses, the lyrics.
Kismet may appear on many people’s end of the year lists and it is very deserving of that honor. It brings relentless originality, social commentary, and pure illness all packaged up together. However, that makes this album something of a niche listen. Some will be thrown off by the off-beat humor, sophomoric approaches, and carnal madness. Others will see him as a mad genius just getting started.
Last year could have been easily considered a great year for both El-P and Killer Mike alike. After the seminal release of R.A.P. Music and Cancer 4 Cure, nothing but endless acclaim and a great tour awaited the duo. Now, they have quickly concluded that their musical relationship is in tuned to continue. Formulating a duo, El and Killer Kill from Da Ville have formed the group Run The Jewels. Their self-titled premiere album serves as a helping of their greatness in one album.
On this album comes a barrage of songs with nothing but lyricism from both artists. If you paid attention to El-P’s verse on “Job Well Done”, you notice references to women soaked in ayahuasca, worker bees surrounding their queen to murder her, and his utter refusal to leave the womb “without a Yankee [hat] and some new kicks”. Right after that, Killer Mike got into story mode with full detail of a tryst turned drug addled madness on “No Come Down”. There are many more examples of these types of lyrical tirades. No need to go through them all; the words will work the ears over.
In complementary fashion, the production on this album is the typical expectation from El-P: b-boy energy channeled into schizophrenic collages of sounds and celestial moods. “DDFH” could be used as a prime example. With a bevy of heavy synths, hard hitting 808 drum patterns, and warped vocal samples, “DDFH” brings the noise. The same can be said for the entire album, however. El-P does bring some production to keep the lyrics moving all the way around.
Run the Jewels is a menacing, uncompromising, and eerie sounding juxtaposition of an album. The lyrics hit relentlessly hard. The production is moody and weird in one brush stroke. Then again, this was to be the expected product of this dynamic duo. In the future, one would hope that they just turn it up more notches so they can truly turn the rap game on its head.
Have you ever been in a situation where you knew you had to switch things up or go back to your previous approach to get things right? Well, Mac Miller sure knows about this. He gained notoriety as the fully hip hop-fun-loving-white-kid on “K.I.D.S.” and evolved to the part time party animal on “Best Day Ever”. Once he released “Blue Slide Park”, he was becoming type casted. For the sake of reality (and his career), Mac Miller knew he had to retrace his steps to get things back on track.
After he “got back on track”, he took the time to release Watching Movies With The Sound Off.
A good amount of this album is about Mac Miller getting loose on the mic. From the Earl Sweatshirt featured “I’m Not Real” to the Flying Lotus produced “S.D.S.”, plenty of the tracks allow Mac to spit lyrics with abandon. Even ensuing tracks like “Gees” and “Suplexes inside of Complexes and Duplexes” can be conceivable excuses for him to just spit freely. It seems that Mac hasn’t stopped having fun. Rather than make “fun party music”, he is having fun flexing his skill with lyrics.
Still, there are some songs that actually present plenty of maturity. “REMember” is Mac’s dedication a lost friend and confidant. “Someone Like You” takes in perspective the need of someone that can help him through the madness. A personal favorite comes in the form of “Youforia”. On this track, with no rapping involved and only singing, he finds a peace that he so longed for. For the sake of argument, Mac Miller has honestly grown up on this album.
Many people will take this in or not (depending on what they expected). Still, this is the approach that Mac felt he need to take. With a sea of success and subsequent criticism, there were things he had to do. Mac Miller proved that he can still rhyme, have fun, and make albums with at least a little substance. With that alone, Watching Movies With The Sound Off is an effective second full length go round.
On the underground, Statik Selektah is becoming more of a household name. Due to producing plenty of compilations and “one producer/one rhymer/group” offshoot projects, his name is ringing bells at the moment. Now, he is doing what he does as always: put out more music. This time, we get Extended Play. After a thorough listen, this is a compilation that is only for those that love/respect hip hop from 1993-1995.
Meaning: this is a no frills hip hop album filled with banging beats, lyricism of different kinds, and no shots at commercial appeal.
The album begins with that above thematic in mind. Pain In Da Ass creates the throwback atmosphere with his hilarious quips on “Reloaded”. Soon after, Action Bronson, Terminology, and Tony Touch go in on the rhymes like they always do. After that, every track follows suit. From the Black Thought show stealing verse on the Raekwon and Joey Bada$$ featured “Bird’s Eye View” to the equally enthralling Styles P, Bun B and Hit Boy featured “Funeral Season”, the music firmly stays hip hop. Thus, the entire album remains consistent in its refrain.
Yet, it is the production is the real reason why everything stays musically focused. Let’s have a qualifying example with the Joell Ortiz featured “Bring Up Dead”. Joell Ortiz hasn’t sound that good in a while (no diss). Another example, “Gz, Pimps, Hustlers” shows how much production is important to the ambiance being set by the lyrics. The smooth sampled production and scratches make things that much easier for Slaine and Wais P to do their thing. So, there is no doubt that Statik Selektah is as big as a contributor to the quality of this album as the rhymers are.
Conclusively, Statik Selektah has added another notch in his belt as far as production and compilations go. The lyricists worked to do what they do best. In collaboration, Statik beats that complimented the lyrical approach of each song. Extended Play may not have been the most hyped released of June 18, 2013. Yet, it may be one of the better offerings amongst the albums of hype.
Kanye is the habitual envelope pusher. No album that he has created sounds the same as the previous. One can go from College Dropout all the way down to “Dark Twisted Fantasy” album and see the differences. With that said, after releasing “performances” for “New Slaves” and “Black Skinhead”, we knew that his new album was going in a different direction. With the upcoming participatory buzz of Yeezus, many were wondering whether or not his album would be worth the wait.
I have news for you all: Yeezus is nothing more than a considerable artistic shamble. Most artsy hip hop listeners will give him some credit. Many regular listeners, however, will write this off as an expensive coaster.
Don’t get me wrong, I get the direction that Kanye was trying to go. Infusing sounds of industrial rock, “Black Skinhead” wins because it has a coherent feel and a worthwhile message. The same can be said for “New Slaves”. On this track, Kanye (ironically and hypocritically) speaks out against the materialism and profound shallowness of Black culture. Thus, I can understand his movement and where he was trying to go.
Yet, Kanye missed one thing about making music: it has to have cohesion and it has to sound good. At least half of this album misses the mark in those respects.
The biggest issue, which leads to the lack of cohesion and gratifying sound, is that many of the songs seem to serve no functional purpose. “Hold My Liquor” sounds like a bathroom recording of autotune and utter madness. “Send It Up” seems to send up absolutely nothing due to Kanye’s rambling and King L’s uninspired verse. “Guilt Trip” seems to linger on and on as if it was a Kid Cudi throw away. For all of the art that was made, Kanye didn’t give us much to appreciate.
By the time the sample-heavy heaven known as “Bound 2” is broken up by Charlie Wilson’s vocal arrangements, many listeners see what the issue is. As ambitious does with some of us, it leads many down a path of failure. Many don’t understand that ambition is best served in control and moderation. Kanye West took the time to bring in a new approach to hip hop. What he did not do was work to make an overall alluring experience.