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.
Hailing from Oakland, California, Adrian Marcel is being touted as “another great voice for R&B”. Growing up with great parenting in the city known for hyphy, sideshows, and Too $hort, Adrian kept himself immerse in his artistic capabilities. Through it all, music won his heart. Being supported by Raphael Saddiq and Yancey Richardson of El Seven Recordings, Adrian groomed his sound. Thus far, he has offered the world is “premiere introduction” in 7 Days Of Weak.
What this mixtape dabbles in deals with debauchery, carnal desires, love, street grinding, and life. Yet, what must be known is that Adrian Marcel can craft some great music.
On a commercial level, he can make songs as good as your average R&B artist. “Killa”, riding a sample of “5 On It”, breaks down the situation of having love that would have any woman addicted. Meanwhile, “Dope Dealer” doubles back with an addictive female and a Rick Ross feature. “Don’t Disturb This Groove (Remix)” lifts the “Super High” production with nice results. With your “run of the mill” song constructions, he can shine like none other.
Still, he knows how to throw down on more contemporary R&B with old school values. “My Life” breaks down with some soothing grooves that can make anyone feel at ease. “Waiting” has him in croon mood over a love lost. “Wrapped” is that song that has him catering to the woman that he love. In contrast to the vibe he set at the beginning, he can make “regular ole R&B”.
Adrian Marcel has what it takes, but he has to make the most of his gift. He can ride a groove like none other. He can waver between the commercial and the contemporary. What he has to do know is construct an album that is refreshing, honest, engaging, and modern all at once. Still, 7 Days Of Weak is a great way to get started.
The sophomore slump is one of the biggest fears that artists have. Some artist have suffered through it (Raekwon and Jay-Z had second albums we all worked to erase from memory). Other artists (Ghostface Killah, ATCQ, The Fugees) made some of their best work the second time around. Thus, there is much to deliberate for the likes of J. Cole. His first barcoded piece, Cole World: The Sideline Story was considered a disappointment. With a refreshed energy in light of a depression period, Born Sinner eradicates any worries of secondary failure.
The album starts off charged on Villuminati with a chorus that chants “sometimes I brag like Hov”. After a shady reverend enchanted interlude with “Kerney Sermon”, J. keeps running the line with Outkast tinged “Land of Snakes”. Once he spits about dollars on the “Mo Money” interlude, he unleashes more personal paragraphs of mislead situations with “Trouble”. Many try to ease listeners into the experience. J. Cole, however, goes hard from the beginning of the album.
What speaks volume about this album is that it doesn’t let up. The Mike Epp’s sampled “Runaway” unleashes on plenty of sinning. Meanwhile, “She Knows” gets into the debate of being committed vs. getting with other women. The heavily descriptive “Rich Niggaz” keeps it moving for the A Tribe Called Quest influenced “Forbidden Fruit”. Heavily based on the fairer sex, J. Cole keeps things striking with nostalgia and comedic flair.
Yet, it almost as if he saved the best for last. After the cool, but seemingly out of place “Ain’t That Some Shit”, we get some of his deft material on the album. The TLC featured “Crooked Smile” has J. Cole uplifting women that don’t appreciate their own beauty. “Let Nas Down” goes within J. Cole’s psyche as he laments disappointing Nas over a No ID telephone conversation. Thus, many will notice that Jermaine wanted to end his album on a strong note.
When the last chord is struck on the James Fauntleroy featured “Born Sinner”, we have an even better understanding of who J. Cole is. Born Sinner reflects on J. Cole being just that: a born sinner. You have a man that works to live righteously while shaking the tribulations of everyday vices. Many will question whether he was hit with the “sophomore slump”. However, listeners will conclusively understand that J. Cole could never slump when he has so much to gain and maintain in his career.
Ok, I’m late. But, it doesn’t matter because this mixtape is a classic. It will be on the minds of many listeners for quite some time.
Adrian Marcel, the Grammy award winning/Bay area singer, is the newest cat to gain buzz in the R&B music game. His latest mixtape 7 Days of Weak is filled with original songs (with minor sampling) that showcases his ability to keep it hip hop, cool, sensual, and eclectic …all at the same damn time. Backed by the legendary Raphael Saadiq, Adrian has that style reminiscent of the Tony! Toni! Tone’! singer and flavor that sounds like the after-party to Lucy Pearl’s classic CD. Adrian is mixed (not sure of what ethnicities), but stands out from any Miguel comparisons. His sound is what is missing. The production choices are contains the right mixture of hip hop, jazz, and classic R&B, that with Adrian’s vocals, captivate the ears quickly.
In case you hadn’t heard this brother before, give him a chance. The mixtape is well worth the listen.
To stay updated on Adrian Marcel, check out his website at www.adrianmarcel.com.
Travis Scott has worked his way to the proverbial top. Adding on the right cosigns, he is now in the thralls of actually becoming a man of musical prominence. From the features on “Cruel Summer” to the signing to Grand Hustle, it is now Travis Scott’s time to actually make his shot an “And-1” situation. With Owl Pharaoh, Travis makes sure that people understand ALL of his influences and musical desires.
If people don’t take Travis Scott for what he is, then they can be thrown off by his mixture of that which is both eclectic and hood. For example, “Dance To The Moon” is a cut filled with a dance track and Thelophilius London. However, it also features a fully invigorated Paul Wall. Another example is the songs like “Quintana”, “Blocka La Flame”, and “Bandz”. Those three songs could easily be treated as fodder for ratchet club usage and parking lot pimping. Thus, the average listener could give a mixed review of this project off of the mixture of music.
Yet, what many will curse him for can also be considered his gift. If one listened to “Bad Mood/Shit On You”, they would understand WHAT Travis is going for. A moody track that transforms into something darker and more sinister at the end, it shows the double sides of this project. From what I understand, he wanted this to be an artistic conceptuality of hood madness and excess. Understanding this, the tracks and lyrics make perfect sense.
Ones answer to “Is this album any good?” will all depend on what you like and expect. Some are going to say “absolutely”. Others are going to say “Naw” because they were thrown off. Beyond anything, Travis Scott is a musician that wants you to get with his vibe. Overtly amazing lyricism isn’t his schtick. Making music that plays hopscotch on the line between experimental and hood is what he does. If that satisfies the listener, then they will enjoy this project.
Point blank and period.
It seems that J. Cole is trying to build a squad around him. The inclusion of Bas (pronounced Base or Bass) is his way of solidifying his efforts. I must add that I know nothing of this guy. I do know that I did enjoy his track “Lit” which features J. Cole. Thus, I wanted to see if J.Cole knew what he was doing with Bas.
With a few listens, I can give an emphatic “yes”.
Taking some notes from J. Cole (or from himself), Bas relates everything together from the perspective of a “regular person”. With a track like “Amazonian Queen”, he unleashes lyrics like “…vines in the ravine/swing down from ya throne/and bow down to ya king”. On “Dying Fast”, he laments the hood foolishness and over indulgence with “…I give niggas a shovel/tell ‘em get to diggin’/you ain’t finished ‘til that hole is big enough for you to fit in…”. On “Pinball”, he makes sure that people understand he is “the future like Pluto” and all his chicks “got culo”. With a few listens, you can catch many of the references and comparisons made throughout.
The production on here, for the most part, is attractive and worthy of being heard. The guitar wahs wahs and moog sounds on “Attica” helps Bas’s lyrics paint a picture with his words. Lifting one of my favorite Clams Casino instrumentals, “Black and Blue” rides the waves of both emotion and serenity to make itself work. The keyboard riffs and zone out instrumentals on “Stronger” makes it a song to ride to. Seemingly, the production on here works well with the lyrics.
So, what can be truly said about Bas? Well, for one, he is pretty dope on the lyrical stand of things. Another thing is that he has an ear for production. What I DO hope happens is that he doesn’t wrestle in J. Cole’s overcast. He has to establish his own career and his own fans. Then, and only then, will his career progress whether he is Dreamville or not.
Laura Mvula is an artist that I have no familiarity with. In fact, I know about her from the Facebook ads that I kept seeing. From what I have read, she is from the United Kingdom with Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill, and Erykah Badu as her musical influence. Being that this is her first album, it made me ponder some things. With Sing To The Moon, I wondered if she would be original or a mash up of her influences.
After giving this album a thorough listen over the past few months, I must say that she is an original.
With a commanding voice and angelic tone, Laura can easily enchant ears with her singing. Listen to “Green Garden” and one would be grooving right along with her swaying lyrics. Also, giving “Father, Father” a listen only adds to her ability to captivate ears with her vocal abilities. The relationship strengthening “Unbelievable Dream” is so impressive due to the conviction of her voice. With a style like no other, Laura makes use of her gifts to catch the attention of her audience.
To assist the uniqueness of her vocal approach, producer Steve Brown created soundscapes that are both enthralling and enchanting. Each and every track, from the auditory delight that is “Jump Right Out” to the piano driven “Diamonds” bring music that encapsulates the ears. More than anything, the sound of that Steve Brown created is made for an orchestra and a big arena. To put it bluntly, this production is made to be heard live in person.
With an album like Sing To The Moon, Laura Mvula is winning. Her voice and vocal arrangements only make the listener concentrate. The music by producer Steve Brown beguiles the ears to take note even more. As of right now, she isn’t known stateside. However, with given time and promotion, Laura Mvula can become respected and adored.
When I kept seeing Chance The Rapper’s name around the internet, I always wondered “What the hell is supposed to be so good about this guy”. I never truly gave him an honest listen. Yet, there has been a clamor over the release of Acid Rap. So, being the inquisitive reviewer I am, I decided to download his music and give him an honest spin. I am happy to say that this is the most surprisingly dope music I have heard this year.
Keyword: surprisingly. I wasn’t expecting anything.
It is hard to pinpoint Chance The Rapper as an emcee. He is serious, ad-lib heavy, and nonsensical in one fell swoop. This is the same young emcee that will make inspirational jams like “Interlude (That’s Love)” and then come with something as irreverently foolish as the Action Bronson assisted “NaNa”. Showing great appreciation for hip hop, he brings the Slum Village sampled “Everybody’s Something”. Even the overtly serious “Acid Rap” works within the mixture of this album. Quizzically, Chance The Rapper brings a miscellaneous mixture of ideas, tracks, inspirations, and approaches to make a gumbo of an album.
The production on this album tends to work with whatever Chance The Rapper is feeling like at the time. For example, Ceej of Two-9 brought up some old school R&B sampled for the madness that Chance got to relay on “Pusha Man”. Another example is when Nate Fox brings classical Jamaican riddims on “Favorite Song”. Even further is the moody boom bap that Jake One brings on “Acid Rap”. It is safe to say that “monotony” won’t be used in reference to the production on this mixtape.
Chance The Rapper has made himself seem distinguished on Acid Rap. Although many won’t take to his rhyme style or ad-libs, there is a chance that they will respect his charisma and lyrical ability. He also has an ear for diversity in the production he selects. Just making it out of high school, Chance The Rapper looks to be in a prime position to make hip hop a lifelong career move. As long as he keeps making music from the heart, he will be just fine.
Spree Wilson is both inspired and inspirational. Being the Atlanta-by-way-of-Nashville artsy musician (of sorts), he has strong roots in the Atlanta sound. Yet, it took a precise time partying in LA for him to be inspired to make a modernized version of the same Atlanta Bass music that he grew up on. Inspirationally, he completed an EP to give the world a proper taste. Life In Technicolor Vol. 1 is the proper appetizer for people to understand part of what inspires Spree to be musically stimulating.
Instead of coming off as a half-cocked mockery of a time long gone, Life In Technicolor Vol. 1 is actually a new take on music that should be still made. Playing like a DJ Jelly hosted WATN, the party starts with “Right One, Wrong Time” with its ode to meeting something under shaky circumstances. With that same WATN radio hosting, the EP drifts into the slow dance worthy “My Boo” sampled “All I Need”. Finishing off the EP is the Big K.R.I.T. assisted “All Night Long” and “Starships”. As short as the EP is, Spree covers a lot of musical bases.
What is even more intriguing is the fact that the production would work in 2013 and back in 1995-1996. The slow grind inducing “All I Need” would manipulate anybody to hit the dance floor for a slow dance. In contrast, “All Night Long” would get the skaters moving at the Cascade. “Right One, Wrong Time” would make the house party jump. It can be easily said that The Flush made sure to cover their source material with an updated twist.
Spree Wilson took a great risk with concocting such a “retro-future” album in Life In Technicolor Vol. 1. What he offered in knowledge and effort more than doubled in execution. The rhymes on here are both dense and digestible. The production by The Flush is easily ATL party worthy. Spree Wilson, along with his production cohorts, have easily crafted an EP that can fit into any summertime play list.
Ghostface Killah is always good for putting out some music. The only problem is that his last albums either wasn’t up to snuff or were ignored. However, liking up with Adrian Younge is part of Ghostface’s efforts to keep making greatness. With that comes 12 Reasons To Die, his concept album. Following a gangster that is murdered and resurrected to raise hell on his enemies, listeners find Ghostface doing what he does best: make great music.
On this particular project, Ghostface turns down his highly abstract lyricism to tell a story of hood lore. “Rise Of The Black Suits” brings light to the main character’s rise into prominence. But, the DeLucas wasn’t trying to have that, which leads to tracks like “I Declare War” and “Enemies All Around Me”. Eventually, he is set up to be killed on “An Unexpected Call (The Set Up)” just to be resurrected on “Rise of the Ghostface Killah”. By the time the album makes it to the title track, listeners know why there are “12 Reasons to Die”.
What is even more compelling than the story is the production provided by Adrian Younge. The clever breakdown on “The Sure Shot (Part 1 and 2)” allows the drum rhythm to morph into something more sinister once the drums drag out and slow down. Meanwhile, the production on songs like “Blood On The Cobblestones” gets freaked by scratches, a drum break, and great sampling. Adrian made sure that the songs had ample production filled with breaks, live instrumentation, and nicely laced vocal samples. This is even more evident on tracks like “Center of Attention” and the resurrection based “The Rise of the Ghostface Killah”. Thus, it is easy to hear that Adrian Younge brought his “A” game in production.
In the end, 12 Reasons to Die is a crafty possession for any fan of Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge. Instead of the regular stream of conscious flow, Ghostface tells a consistent tome about a drug dealer getting revenge for his double cross. Seemingly, Adrian Younge comes with a soundtrack that only adds to the story and constructs musical environments. Many were excited to hear that they both were responsible. Nevertheless, Ghostface and Adrian did what they set out to do: create a completely cohesive unit of music that could easily serve as a movie within itself.
Add-2 is tired of wack rappers. Trust me, I know: we have had numerous Facebook conversations about this particular subject. So, instead of continuously talking about it, he decided to do something about it. He plans on putting out music that people SHOULD gravitate to. Call it a healthy alternative or call it “making real music”. However, More Missed Calls is pretty immaculate in its own right.
If anything, Add-2 is such an impressive and immaculate lyricist. For example, on “Almighty Add-2”, he notes “If It ain’t a run on sentence, your period ain’t late”. On “Reset”, he notes that “When you acting like a pussy, your regrets will always eat ya”. In addition, the track “Eulogy” allows him to say things like “Run in different directions like Trinidad James’ teeth”. In short, Add-2 has lyrics to marinate over.
Don’t be fooled by the lyrical gymnastics that Add-2 is good for: he has some conceptual tracks that make More Missed Calls an even more solidified composition. “Paper” provides a personification of money and how it goes through some transactions in the hood. “Couples Therapy” looks at issues of loves from both sides of the relationship. The aforementioned “Reset” deals with people wanting to seriously change their lives. So, there is plenty of learning experiences to go along with the rewind-worth lyrics.
With interludes sewing it all together, More Missed Calls is another top notch mix tape for Add-2. The lyrics are memorable, relevant, and meaningful. Yet, he can make a concept track with the best of them. Time will tell if he comes with a retail album that will support his movement. Until that day comes, this new mixtape is a welcome addition to this year’s best releases.
Verbal Kent is a mainstay in the Chicago underground hip hop scene. From formulating a freestyle group to even coming close to death (neck slashing) in 2003, Verbal Kent has his fair share of stories. Remaining a productive emcee in Chicago is no easy feat. Yet, he has been putting out music for the past decade. Now, he has linked up with MelloMusicGroup. His first release, Deer Guts, is a sampling platter of what the man known as Dan Weiss has to offer.
This short composition of music never finds a chance to become verbally boring. “Joe Shmoses” allows Verbal Kent to be the “one man Rambo” while he watch peeps “do the Lambeau Leap” with a regular and double time rhyme pattern. Meanwhile, the scratched in chorus of “Run The Gamut” lets him, Lance Ambu, and Alltruisms get loose over the track. “Deer Guts” and “Blink Then It’s Over” lets Verbal Kent get loose with more rhymes and declarations of his dopeness. Thus, you get nothing but practical battle rhymes and presentations from Verbal Kent on this EP.
Production wise, Verbal Kent is batting 1.000 with the production he selected. “Blink Then Its Over” has Illmind! providing some bleeps, boom bap, and hard bass lines for Verbal to do his thing over. “Deer Guts” is another head banger provided by Apollo Brown, while the Khrysis produced “Joe Shmoses”, you get even more of that boom bap that was previously mentioned. With “Run The Gamut”, the best production on the entire EP shines through the speakers with a soul vocal sample and matching bass lines and scratched chorus. If anything, the production works great with the lyrics.
If anything, this EP serves as a feature presentation demonstrating that Verbal Kent can rhyme. He doesn’t get into any true concepts. He is basically showing that he can rhyme. Thus, whether someone will enjoy this depends on if they want to hear a man spit self-consuming declarations of one’s greatness. Regardless, Deer Guts is another solid addition to Verbal Kent’s catalog.
I can rest assured that Sound FX will make music that I’m trying to hear. The Riverside, California duo has been at it for a few years now. When they started out, they seemed so mature in their musical process. Instead of focusing on shallow subjects, they remained steadfast in their song of complexity over simple-yet-effective rhythms. Thus, after releasing quite a few freebie singles, Empathy is just another chapter in the life of two musicians trying to live the dream.
Lyrically, the Sound FX duo remains potent albeit monotone. There aren’t any rapid fire flows and usage of extreme verbiage. Instead, their lyrics induce a mellow vibe that allows one to meditate their minds into the music. In songs like the “all’s well that ends well” repeating “Apathy”, the Sade sampled “Dying to Survive”, and the ambient sounds of “Golden” follow the soothing atmosphere that is consistently carried throughout. Thus, the lyrics remain truthful to life and easy on the ears.
The production on the album, being the eternal highlight of the album, rarely disappoints. Not taking anything away from the lyrics; those remained pretty effective. However, with tracks like “Eternal” (which is nearly an instrumental all in itself), “Last Chapter”, and “Now and Forever”, the sound doesn’t waver from being mellow and, at times, warped and synthesized instrumentals for Dupree and Maddy McFly’s to paint pictures over. This sound isn’t for those trying to beat down subwoofers through the hood. This sound is for consummate riding while thinking and relaxing.
Outside of a few misplaced sampled choruses on “Road Less Traveled” and “Slumber Party”, Empathy is pretty good for the type of music that it is. Sound FX relies on lyrics that are meant for listening and production that enhances those words. The words are effective enough without being overly nimble. The production is engaging and consistent. From here, Sound FX can hopefully garner enough attention to carve a niche in the rap game.
So, many of you considered Live From The Underground a flop. I disagree. However, let me explain where the issue lies.
Big K.R.I.T., like too many of these artists nowadays, allow their mixtapes to promote their best work. It has happened with Wiz Khalifa. It happens on a regular with Big Sean. Hell, it even happened with Yelawolf. Yet, many of us never it would EVER happen with Big Krizzle. We just KNEW his album would be a glossier form of his mixtapes.
Still, when Live From The Underground dropped, we noticed that his best material was given to us for free. Don’t get me wrong: his major label album was pretty dope. Yet, it wasn’t as fulfilling as his other material. Plus, his album was much more condensed and lacked to balance that his mixtapes mastered at august levels. In the end, Live From The Underground led many to be disappointed.
Now, we have a response to all that was his first major album: another mixtape by the name of King Remembered In Time. With many listens within a time period that equals less than 24 hours, it must be said that Krizzle hasn’t lost a step.
If one expects Big K.R.I.T. to lose his lyrical diversity, do know that he has been pushing his pen over his pad. On “King Without A Crown”, he lets us know that he “makes his own beats, writes his own rhymes, grit his on grind, grip his own grain”. The realness continues on tracks like “REM”, “Meditate”, “Banana Clip Theory”, “Life Is A Gamble”, and the open mic influenced “WTF”. Yet, tracks like “How You Love That”, “My Trunk”, “Good 2getha”, and “Only One” allow him to pop his collar and grip grain through the streets as his trunk rattles the foundation. This mixtape, unlike his major album, demonstrates that balance between the carnal and the spiritual that K.R.I.T. had established.
The production seemed to have done nothing but improved. Although he included 9th Wonder to produce the beautifully sampled “Life is a Gamble”, all the other tracks are produced by K.R.I.T. exclusively. What we are served with is his version of countrified funk with hip hop samples and jazz influences. The live guitar and 808 bass on “My Trunk” was made to be loud. In contrast, “Banana Clip Theory” is pure jazz that harkens to days of Ramsey Lewis. Equally, Big K.R.I.T. made sure his production engulfed his lyrics to bring about different auras and ambiances.
By the time the mixtape ends with “Multi Til the Sun Die”, any listener will rest assured that Justin Scott is still musically on point. He has reclaimed his throne as the southern gentleman that will feed his community while he shines in his old school Cadillac. Never mind the misstep that was considered his first major album. What matters is the “here and now”. Within that “here and now”, listeners need to understand that Big K.R.I.T. will be remembered as a musical king from this era.
Everybody has been raving about Harry Fraud on the production. Producing for the likes of Rick Ross, French Montana, and even underground/independent stalwarts like Action Bronson and Curren$y has helped him build a name for himself. His production runs the gamut from trunk rattlers to heavily sampled joints reminiscent to 1995. Such a diverse catalog has kept him in demand. Unequivocally, Mr. “La Musica de Harry Fraud” has made a name for himself by being dope.
But, Harry Fraud doesn’t come alone. In fact, he has been affiliated with a crew (SRF SCHL) that includes the every lyrical Eddie B. Eddie B, not someone new on the underground scene, had a previous released an EP called The Lucky 7. Chocked filled with features, dope rhymes and production, it would have seemed that Eddie B was going to make bigger waves. Yet, many haven’t caught on. With Horsepower, Eddie B plans on changing all of this.
Masterfully, Eddie B knows how to ride the wave of any rhythm that he lyrically surfs on top of. With “Courage” (on the original and remix), he gives a mixture of slow flow and rapid fire wordplay. In contrast, “Peer Pressure” allows him to flex harder than the slow flow that “Courage” mainly exhibited. “Dope Spoons” allows him to go on cruise control with a straight-to-the-jugular flow. Eddie B easily switches styles depending on the production that Harry Fraud brings to the table.
Meanwhile, Harry Fraud brings his A game to the table. If a listener wants something slow to ride to, they always have “Courage”. Meanwhile, if the desire is for something more ethereal and soothing, then listeners can always press play on “Beach Patrol” and “Palm Trees”. For some old school R&B flavor, “Marvelous” exists. In summary, Harry Fraud doesn’t bring any throwaway tracks; instead, he comes with memorable palettes for the ear canal to devour.
Horsepower demonstrates a highly above average rapper over great production. After this, however, needs to be a higher plane of existence. Eddie B needs to find a way to raise his level of presentation and overall buzz. He is much too agile of an emcee to remain a secondary footnote in a great producer’s career. This time around, people need to be singing his praises. Only then will Harry Fraud’s crew truly shine.
ANTHM is one of the bigger anomalies in hip hop. Unapologetically human, yet spiritual, ANTHM always makes music that connects with listeners. However, his approach can confuse many. His last EP, Joy & Pain, was clearly lyrically supple. Yet, it was sonically dance friendly. It threw so many off that they didn’t truly understand what his purpose was.
Then, I realized his goal all along: to make “music”. Nothing more, nothing less.
Now, we have Handful of Dust. This EP matches him with the production of Blu (under GODleeBarnes). What we end up with is an EP that quickly makes those that missed the efforts of Joy & Pain become fans.
ANTHM will always make music with meaning. From the beginning with “Freefall” to the sing songy chorus of “Low Class”, there will always be jewels given to the listener. “Low Class notes the struggle of poverty and racial considerations while “Freefall” allows him to “play safe”. Even the lovely “Debbie”, dedicated to his little sister, stays infused with lessons learned. ANTHM can easily be considered a scribe of life.
What is just as enchanting is the production brought to the table by Blu. GODleeBarnes makes the most use of dusty samples, breaks, and smooth grooves. Take “Imagine Nation” for example. On the track, the samples he uses only make the lyrics even more mystic and meaningful. The same can be said for the lovely sounding “Nina” and even the album’s epilogue “Outro (Still Dreaming)”. Concisely, Blu found the perfect lyrical compatriot for his jazzy production.
With Handful of Dust, ANTHM adds another uncompromising and lyrically astounding project to his catalog. Instead of going for the dance rhythms of Joy & Pain, he opts for GODleeBarnes sampled grooves. What comes about is a great EP with plenty of promise. Now all we need is a full project with a full theme to demonstrate ANTHM’s complete capabilities. Until then, Handful of Dust serves as a nice sampling of sampled goodness.
Yelawolf was on the verge of lyricist superstardom. He had already built such a following around his Trunk Muzik series. People were prematurely crowning him another great after Eminem. Then, out of pure irony, Eminem signs him to Shady/Aftermath. We all knew that Yelawolf was going to explode into stardom. Catfish Billy was going to become a household name representing the seedier side of Caucasian life.
Then the unexpected happen: his premier Shady/Aftermath album, Radioactive, virtually flopped. Too much filler and not enough killer. Now, it seems he has taken it personally. So, after much touring, side projects, and reflecting, we have Trunk Muzik Returns. From the gate, I must say that Yelawolf is back if he ever left at all.
Because of its short playlist, there is very little room for error. Luckily, Yelawolf keeps it lyrically dynamic and entertaining throughout. Take “F.A.S.T Ride”, for example. Catfish takes it to the asphalt with the chorus and flips on that rapid fire flow with intertwined bars about Steve Urkel, being perforated by the rings like Mead, and making mummies jealous. It is safe to assume that Yelawolf wanted people to remember that he can still spit with the best of them.
The rest of this album doesn’t let up too much. “Gangsta”, as “run of the mill” as the beat evolved, still came off pretty hard. “Rhyme Room” features Raekwon doing his thing and Killer Mike showing why he is the South’s most slept on. Yela even adds another chapter to the Box Chevy series (number 4) for good measure. Thus, this album simultaneously keeps things fresh and habitual in one fell swoop.
Is Trunk Muzik Returns a classic? Not in my eyes (at least). It is dope to listen to? Absolutely. Does it have replay value? Way more replay value than Radioactive (and I liked Radioactive). Yelawolf recognized his mistakes and is working to make up for them. I wish other artists would do what he did: realized their failures and worked to make up for them.
Some artists make music to entertain, while others make music to reflect on life. Usually, we appreciate those that do a mixture of both. Many listeners want their emotions to be moved and bodies grooved. In other instances, we want the music to just match our emotions or take us to another place. Yet, there are those albums that do whatever the artist wants regardless of what listeners are looking for.
I would put Swerve and SYG in the “making music for them” category. The best part about it is that Cold Winters and Warm Whiskey 2 is some of the best hip hop to come out this year.
I think what makes the music compelling is that both of these emcees rap about being regular guys in a realm where most try to come off as superhuman. “Don’t Judge” allows both of them to do what they do best: wax poetic about who they are and their wins/losses. It continues with tracks like the sing songy chorus of “Paradise”, the staccato flow infused “Gotta Be More Than”, and the mellow-yet-intense “LifeGoes(Cycles)”.
Hell, even their intermissions (like the playfully groovy-yet-serious “(i)nEquality”) are great to listen to.
What deserves equal attention is that, with a sound that stays jazzy and consistent, this project involves a multitude of producers. There are over 10 producers involved in the 20 tracks comprised of this album. Nonetheless, whether it is the Grant P produced “Know It All” to the Gloam produced “Above The Water”, everything sounds sonically complimentary. Even with familiars and unfamiliar names like D-Rock, Insightful, DJ Mitsu, ODP, Rav. P, DJ Mentos, Roku, Heikki Hoo, Rise Sovereign, and Evolve One, everything works. Thus, much applause is necessary for what all these producers achieved: to help create a sonically cohesive album.
With all “jazzy killer and no filler”, Cold Weather and Warm Whiskey 2 makes the use of human emotion and experience over impressive production from a bevy of producers. Swerve and SYG do what they do best with the rhymes. The producers do what they do best with their musical concoctions. What we have is something both familiar yet attractively inspired. In the end, an album that references frigid climates and lukewarm libations may be the sleeper hit of 2013.