A blog about hip-hop, rap music, its trends, and an overall thought about the music an culture, without indulging in gossip. A real set of opinions and discussions, not based on the popular sentiment, but examining and challenging it.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Album Review- Wale- The Album About Nothing

So while I felt like last year was a terrible one for hip hop musically, 2015 has seemed to start strong and get better almost weekly in some respects and we are still anticipating releases from Meek Mill and Kanye West. This year the Best album categories at the award shows should be varied. With that said, here comes Wale with the long awaited "Album About Nothing". The long time Seinfeld aficianado comes with the titular comedian and uses clips from the classic show as this album progresses and hopefully gives fans the Wale they have been looking for.

The album intro starts with Wale kind of giving you a true overview of what the album is going to be and while he says fans don't care about albums, let's give them one about nothing, the truth couldn't be farther from that. This song has some mean live band sounds which he is known for with his DC and Go Go music background. it's a fulfilling and righteous sound that seems to be somewhat hopeful, if the lyrics are more grounded in reality. Speaking of his fans, Wale describes his relationship with them on "The Helium Balloon" and the Seinfeld portion where he describes kids and helium balloons is the way to just let you know what is up with this song straight away if you don't get the metaphor he places through lyrics.

"The Glass Egg" is similar in topic and uses the familiar refrain from 'Walk On By' as Wale raps about staying the same and not changing who he is even while the people around him are affected by his success and lifestyle. Wale does more of the pseudo singing he did on the last album on this one but it fits. "The One Time in Houston" is another joint I really like with a really slow beat Wale gets on his best 'Drake shit' talking about time spent in the strip club in H-town. "The White Shoes" is my take on Wale's strong statement song on the album where he raps about the consumerism, being fly, and kind of talks about the shoe game which he is known for. At the end he spins the positive message that we love the shoes so much at times we die or kill for them. Actually, I just simplified it, but Wale goes deeper into the judgement and the importance on being fly in the hood.

Politically he spits about racial relations and violence on" The Pessimist" which has a hook done by J. Cole. He like many of the new generation of artists adding some consciousness to their music speaks on our self inflicted violence and the reaction to it vs the noticeable police violence. "The Need To Know" featuring SZA flips the hook of the Musiq Soulchild song 'Just Friends' from another angle and the Seinfeld clips on this song are from the iconic episode where Jerry and Elaine attempt to become friends with benefits.

For Wale the 'singles' on the album come at the end with "The Bloom" another track dedicated to the ladies, and "The Body" the actual single which has been out for a while and features Jeremih. Usher also makes an appearance on "The Matrimony". The one song I wasn't feeling was "The Middle Finger".

For Wale, this album is another departure from his previous sound quite a bit and he carries the album by himself with no features from his MMG counterparts. It further pushes the idea that he is a loner and doesn't really fit anywhere. To me, he is like the new generations version of Common. He is supremely talented but there are people who don't like his flow, or song style, or production at times so he might not ever be truly appreciated as widely as he would like. This album though is overly dark and depressing in a way. It's a very emotional album but in a gloomy way and needed something to brighten it up and provide a bit of contrast at some point during the album. After multiple listens, that is definitely my take away, you have to provide some balance and I know artists are doing more personal projects these days but you have to give the listener some contrast.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Album Review - Ludacris- Ludaversal

Ludacris has had a huge career and while he can spit and everyone acknowledges this, he has been long slept on as an overall artist. After a nice long hiatus where he shot movies, worked with charities and otherwise just enjoyed the fruits of his previous labors, Luda is dropping an album ahead of what is sure to be one of the biggest movie releases of the year which he stars in. Pretty much life is good so why even drop an album? Luda actually takes a stab at answering that his his new album release, Ludaversal.

To start off Luda goes in on the album intro in a manner thats extra fresh if you haven't listened to the myriad of freestyles and EP/mixtape he put out leading up to the album. Luda does his normal rap thing over the perfect beat set up for him to go off on. Now the thing I don't care for is when Ludacris goes off on his pseudo 'I'm not a tough guy but I am' routine like on "Call Ya Bluff" even though his verses are fine. He still uses some slightly dated punchlines in referencing Antoine Dodson for instance but he is mostly solid.

"Beast Mode" is cool and the two main verses on "Come and See Me" with Big KRIT are solid as well but I dislike the refrain at the end of the short third verses and the "Viagra" skit and "Get Lit" are typical trite Luda songs that should be skipped. "Grass is Greener" is a simple concept about opposites but it works for what it is, something that isn't too difficult to wrap your head around.

At first I wasn't too fond of the more emotional parts of the album which kind of start with the Miguel assisted "Good Lovin" about lost love. His lyrics don't always translate in being able to make verses on songs like that more descriptive. "Not Long" with Usher is another good song but the emotional high on the record is "Ocean Skies" which features Monica and is about the death of Ludacris' father to alcoholism. Meanwhile he talks about the difficulties of stardom on "Charge it to the Game" and "Money" which also features Rick Ross and he discusses some his recent paternity woes.

While there aren't any must hear iconic songs overall Ludacris came back with another solid addition to his portfolia with this new album. He isn't known as the most emotional or political type of rapper and is seen as just a somewhat humorous guy but he did show a more serious side in a better manner than usual on this album as it is indeed an attempt to show his versatility and overall life. He can rap, but he is never going to be known as a lyricist because his wordplay is often to surface level without any extra levels to it and that knocks him down a notch. The album is a decent bit of entertainment and not everything has to be complicated to be good.

Rating: 3/5

Monday, March 23, 2015

Album Review- Kendrick Lamar- To Pimp a Butterfly

So Kendrick Lamar at the very least has the hype he earned based off of his last release and track record of bars and songs. It isn't without controversy from his recent interviews that discuss politics and the situation of the black man in America, to last year and his raps on various tracks. "To Pimp a Butterfly" is one of the most hotly anticipated releases of the past few years and few people outside of Kanye and Jay-z can garner this kind of interest for a project.

To put it plainly, if Good Kid MAAD City was somewhat experimental at times and pushed the envelope mildly, this new album from Kendrick goes farther to do the same thing. Song construction, style, and production are all more varied than before and make an emotional statement. "Wesley's Theory" which opens the album fetaures George Clinton and Thundercat, West Coast hip-hop staples as Kendrick brings in some of the funk early on that wasn't as prominent on his previous release. Just to further show how different he's going, the next track is an interlude where Kendrick speaks over a jazz riff like he is at an open mic for poetry with the pimp's mindset where it fits the title "For Free?".

Then take "u" which has an aggressive Kendrick to start the song before a changeup and then a more introspective, crying Kendrick raps and he is addressing his cohorts from the hood, where earlier he gets at the 'black' leadership. Point blank it's complicated. On "Momma" he has some good verses but I didn't like where he raps one of the verses he dropped on Sway in the morning where most of the bars begin with 'I know everything'. It was annoying and his rap style was all over the place. Also when the beat switches at the end to a more jazzy tune I wasn't feeling it.

"Hood Politics" is way back more conventional in a lot of ways but this seems to be more of what I was expecting at least and it is a necessary song amongst all of the more wildly different ways of expression that are used on the record. "How Much a Dollar Cost" with James Fauntleroy and Ron Isley continues the 'expected' introspection from Kendrick as he puts his spin on a tale told many different ways about the idea of giving. "Blacker the Berry" has been well discussed and I still like it. "You ain't gotta lie" is about those pretending to be hard for credibility and being followed by the self-love anthem "I" is a good statement, especially since it is a love recording in which Kendrick is interrupted by a skirmish in the audience.

"King Kunta" is alright, and "Institutionalized" features Bilal, Anna Wise, and Snoop. The album ends with "Mortal Man" which is a song and an 'interview' between Kendrick and Tupac, taken from excerpts of something Pac did years ago that Kendrick brings out to apply to life today even more.

Honestly, this isn't what you would consider "Easy Listening". There are complex themes and production methods that aren't going to go well with everyone. It is indeed polarizing and there are people who consider the album a classic already. I'm not one of them, I mean I like some of it and understand what he's doing but some of the sounds and production methods I am not fond of. I'm not into some of the jazz sounds that seem to clash against the rap style at times and I am a bit over this trend of split songs on tracks. That's just me and my personal preference. It's a good album, but it's also an art project and if you are not necessarily 'artistic' you might not enjoy it as much as some others. I can respect it, but I really like the last 5 or 6 songs while the first half of the album wouldn't be the stuff I choose to hear most of the time although I think that's what makes the album overall, the chances that are taken.

Rating: 3.5/5

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Independent Wednesday

So looking at this video at first glance I was ready to trash this dude because he seemed like he was going to be too silly but I gave it a chance and I can say I was pleasantly surprised. Dylan Phillip has a nice flow and some decent lyrics. The flow is real smooth and a throwback. I took it to his website and the originality isn't always there as far as topics I mean "You Got Swag I Got Soul" is a typical attacking the 'popular' mainstream rap type of track but he overcomes some of that with solid rap skills and a cool beat. It does remind me of the late 90's and has some jazz to it.

"Brand New" is a decent album track and it's funny these days some things feel like they are meant to kind of fit the formula of the 90's where you have tracks for the ladies and songs that are outside of a core skill set but it really doesn't translate in this new market where online is where you're going to gain ground unless it is exceptional.

Okay so next up is Kato Dox. Kato is a Dallas rapper who isn't Southern or Trill in his style. From what I have heard he is alright. I mean I'm not going to kill myself when I hear him but I'm not going to fight you over his music myself. I know no rapper wants to hear they just don't stand out and exist but for me, that's where Kato falls into. There are times his flow isn't as smooth or unique as it could be, his voice isn't particularly standout and the lyrics I heard are just average. He has a decent resume of being in some good performance spots with other industry acts so he must work hard but musically, I'm not moved.

Third this week I'm going to drop something slightly different, as Maryann the "BaeGod" who is a rap/r&b hybrid female artist. Yet another person from Cali (the West Coast indie scene is still thriving people) she has some energetic songs and great production behind them as well as engineering. There are songs she has I could see gathering a sort of following that might possibly push her into the mainstream consciousness, but she has to be careful. I mean some of the hooks are solid but going back and forth rapping and singing can be tricky, especially when a lot of extra things are thrown into the mix like auto-tune and EDM songs. You kind of have to get a lane and work through it first so the audience doesn't get confused.

Now I think she can spit a bit. Not counting on her to drop a bunch of deepness but she is solid. I do not like the "BaeGod" though. It is way too trendy and won't last even as a little catch phrase. I also may be old though so there is that. She might ahve been the best new artist I just listened to so live it up.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Album Review- Nicki Minaj - The Pinkprint

So of course other than Drake, Nicki is one of the biggest things going in rap right now. Men love looking at her and women want to be her. Her single Anaconda wasn't the greatest but it did what it was supposed to do and brun up the airwaves. Pills and Potions as well. Sure her 'Barbs' will support anything at this point, but the one thing Nicki seeks is the validation from the hip-hop crowd she grew up idolizing in New York. Will this be the album that silences her critics for good? let's find out with my album review of "The Pinkprint".

The album starts off strong with "All Things Go" which is an introspective track over some strong drums and a minimal melody. This is the direction of the emotional Nicki we want to hear. She sort of continues on "I Lied" which is another simple backing beat and has the feel that today's young girls will automatically like as she starts to talk about her relationship issues.

Now if you don't like the heartbroken Nicki, she brings the sexual power she is known for with Ariana Grande on "Get On Your Knees" which for some women they will play as their empowerment anthem. I wonder if they will try to turn this into a single tough its a bit raunchy, the big hook and feature seem like it will get some sort of push. "Only" which has been blowing up urban radio features Drake and Lil Wayne as they take turns talking about sexual relations with Ms. Minaj. Chris Brown also handles the hook which might be the best part of the song. Jeremih, who produces a couple of joints, sings on "Favorite" which is an alright track but nothing spectacular.

Beyonce returns the favor Nicki bestowed upon her for the 'Flawless Remix' on "Feeling Myself" which is going to have the Beyhive and Barbies going crazy again with an unorthodox song (which has become one of Bey's trademarks as far as arrangements) and heavy 808 feel by Hit Boi. "Four Door Aventador" is decent and the most we get at an attempt to really have the east coast flair. "Want Some More" is her best 'Wayne' imitation and she has moments when she goes off spitting but the hook is a little lazy yet catchy. This one will be a club banger.

"Buy a Heart" features Meek Mill but it is aimed at the pop market which could be good for the Philly native. We know about "Anaconda" by now and "Pills N Potions". In another bid to ensure the Top 40 spins, "The Night is Still Young" exists just to cross over and is nothing special. "Bed of Lies" with Skylar Grey is aimed at Nicki's recent ex-boyfriend and is an above average song that will resonate with her fans. I'm not a fan of "Trni Dem Girls" or "Grand Piano" which ends the 'regular' edition of the album.

Bonus tracks include Meek Mill on a second feature on "Big Daddy" which has an atrocious and lazy hook that's trying to be clever but isn't. The bars aren't bad though. "Shanghai" which is the bastard child of Chiraq made just for Nicki. "Win Again" is cool but I don't like the Target exclusive 'Mona Lisa'. The other Target exclusive "Put You in a Room" also doesn't seem like a finished song, it should have been left in the unreleased folder. The final bonus track is "Truffle Butter" with Drake and Lil Wayne and the only problem is they are always on the same tempo with a lot of songs so they aren't interesting at all.

Knowing that Nicki went through a major break up this year gives clues to the direction of the overall album. It is very depressed and while the few songs that kind of touch on that feeling seem to work, the rest of them don't. I mean she has some success with the sexually aggressive records but she doesn't develop as a full person on an album where she had a real chance to expand upon who 'Nicki minaj' actually is. She instead just becomes a hurt young girl who doesn't believe herself when she is trying to brag and spit. Even her more introspective songs are just so simple they don't add depth to the feelings she must have had while trying to create this. The Nicki that was on "Champion" next to some of the best in the game isn't present on this album and that's a disappointment. Production is decent but there are no risks like before and everything just seems to be too over produced. This must be Nicki's mulligan of an album.

Rating: 2/5

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Album review - PRhyme

So Royceda 5'9 might be the king of highly anticipated collaborations for the lyrical underground fan. First was his unification with the other members of Slaughterhouse, then the reunification with Eminem which gave us Bad Meets evil and now he has partnered with the iconic DJ Premier for a 'full' length project or EP called PRhyme. A lot of hip-hop heads and aficionados were waiting eagerly for this and I have the feeling a lot of them are extra happy.

First thing let me say I admit Premier is one of the most important people to ever be part of hip hop. He has made so many classics it is impossible to say you're not a fan, yet for me I don't do back flips when his name is mentioned. I just don't get that caught up in what he is doing himself to really pinpoint anything other than he is known for the 'scratches' but that would be badly downplaying his skill and prowess.

With that said, the album starts with a title track where Royce spits with his usual vigor and aggressiveness to let everyone know where he is at mentally, one he is in his Prime and lyrically he goes in and proves it over a heavy beat talking about the critics and social media stalkers etc. "Dat Sound Good" has the 'signature' Primo sound which includes a comment from Joell Ortiz scratched as the hook.It also features Ab Soul who gets at weak rappers out there with some decent wordplay in what feels like a short verse before Mac Miller kind of does his version of an 'eminem' style verse. "Courtesy" is an alright track but the beat is a little old sounding honestly.

"Wishin" featuring Common is some straight up late 90's hip-hop funk from the mixtape circuit rap. Thats the only way to describe it. "To Me, To you" has Royce spitting some fire lyrics but it's dragged down by the over rated Jay electronica who features and doesn't do anything particularly memorable. "Underground Kings" with Schoolboy Q and Killer Mike is fire however. Schoolboy goes in over a riotous track."Microphone Pheen" with Slaughterhouse is one of the weaker contributions, a throwback snare and drum are cool but the melody is kind of weak and the lyrics are cool but can't overcome the blandness of the track.

"U Looz" is a chance for Primo to show off with his production skills but the highlight of this collection is "You Should Know" with Dwele. This track has some signatures from primo and some added production from Dwele with Royce going all in with some serious bars.

At the end this collection seems too short and Royce needed a couple of more songs and strong concepts to keep him on target with what his bars were about. Yes, Premier has good production chops but there are times it all seems like the same old thing, which i get it, some people want, but we need to stretch out a bit. With only 9 songs there needed to be something more hard and edgy definitely to balance some of the smoother moments. That's probably the biggest thing, it isn't long enough.

Rating: 2.5/5

Monday, December 8, 2014

Album review - J.Cole - 2014 Forest Hills Drive

So it's been a long time since I last posted anything up here and truth is I am beyond jaded with this thing called hip-hop. I see the independent submissions and they can be good but a lot of the time it's not exciting enough to give me that need to write something. Now hip-hop is getting somewhat interesting right now between beefs and label strife but what brings me back is NC-17 who asked my feelings on the guy i'm calling the new Lupe, J. Cole. See much like Lupe, Cole has a ridiculous hardcore following who loves him and a bunch of other people who shrug at the mention of his name. This time Cole seems to be going back to underground type roots with his new album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive.

The album actually starts off pretty strong but let me speak on "Wet Dreamz" which is that first time for a teenage boy trying to get into some cheeks for the first time. It seems like the perfect kind of single for Cole much better than the joint he dropped with Trey off of the Sideline Story. "03 Adolesence" is kind of the same aiming to speak directly to a younger generation about what is going on and through their minds at that age. It gets into a deeper conversation about the street dude Cole was cool with letting a young Jermaine know that his future was the one they should all be striving for and not to fall victim to small quick money.

"Fire Squad" and "A Tale of Two Citiez" are actually throwbacks to the gritty NY feel of production and rap of the late 90's. The refrain in "Tale" is catchy and perfect for the whip and Fire Squad is the older school prove you can spit track. Now, the chorus is kind of wack though. This track is getting all of it's talk about the 'call out' of white rappers which is overblown like Kendrick's control verse being called a diss.

Now "No role Modelz" is to those chicks who are superficial and caught up in the image game. It's alright but not as good as some of the other tracks. "G.O.M.D." is also another generic misstep that is extra skippable for me. Some folks will like the smooth laid back "St. Tropez" but I'm not going to be searching for that one. "Hello" confuses me but I have a feeling the young hipsters will love it.

"Love Yourz" is about self love and is a message to the people to embrace what they have more than they do and find the beauty in it and not get caught up in trying to chase the newest and greatest thing. January 28th is a solid track with a soul backing as well.

Overall Cole has solidified himself as the new Lupe to me. He has talent and skills and the ability to come at things from a different perspective at times, but the most you're going to get from him is 3 really good songs and the others he is going to let his arrogance feed him and the music isn't going to be it's very best. The album  has a good sound, the production is straight but he is too in love with it at times and the song construction can sometimes limit what the potential of the song is like "Hello". The songs that are the best are the ones which include some sort of emotional component which is why anything about his teenage years works well but much like a CW show you can sort of feel that they are superficial on one hand, but truly real on the other. Much like anything from Cole, I end up overly bored at some point and I can't pinpoint what he could do to fix that.

Rating: 2.5/5

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Independent Wednesdays

This week starting off with a song I think is kind of simple in both the topic and the production but that is effective as
a song that lets people know that things happen. It's not extra aggressive but Scotty Flippen's "Get it Off Ya Chest" is an effective song that should be able to find a place on college radio somewhere. It's enough to intrigue but not to "sell" me on him Per se.

Now I'm not normally the type who wants to hear some New York dudes going in about their city cause I'm not from there and it annoying in a lot of ways. It's generally alienating for everyone else, but Req cartier, Wordsmiff, and Frank Ramz come through with a banger titled "New York".

Listening to Req's music, it's the type of lyrics and tracks that could actually bring the big apple back unlike Troy Ave. He has a good voice, flow and lyrical ability with a knack to pick successful tracks to go along with it. While he has a lot of ability and talent Req could use a little bit of direction to help manipulate and channel his potential star power.

Also from NY Cash Bilz is alright but not on the level of Req Cartier. He could develop some more lyricism and originality in lyrics, he's more straight forward but he isn't bad. He could use some better production overall some of his tracks lack energy and he doesn't attack them the way I would think would make them interesting. However, Other than his submission which was a 'No Flex Zone' freestyle, he has a joint called "Murder, Murder" which I like as well as "Back to Basics".

Overall he has some skills and is worth a listen or two. As usual if you hear something you like - drop a comment below so these artists can see what they're doing right.