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.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Album Review- Pusha T - Darkest Before the Dawn: The Prelude

Pusha T has been on this odd trajectory during his career. While a member of the Clipse he was well respected by his peers and the underground but mainstream success was somewhat elusive. His perseverance paid off and after his brother took leave of the rap game pusha stepped up even more and built upon his following. Linking up with Kanye West only helped and now he is the President of Good Music and one of a few artists who has managed to build upon a solid core following while not flooding the market too much. As his profile has grown so has the anticipation for his next project, and while the official album is still being waited on, he has just dropped a street album or EP, King Push Darkest Before the Dawn: The Prelude.

The collection starts with the typical heavyweight sound for Pusha, just so you know he's not on some light hearted shit. He goes in with braggadocios bars about his skills both in rap and in the dope game. That leads into the underground single, "Untouchable" which uses a Biggie sample over a haunting string and drum track that's simple yet effective. The second verse is such a stand out and exemplifies what Pusha can do.

Kanye West, Asap Rocky and The Dream feature on "M.P.A." where the first verse is about the fellas and their motivations. money, pussy and alcohol. The second verse is directed to the women who are tired of getting used and Push lets them know to go out and go for theirs. Pusha evens coaxes Beanie Sigel out his exile for "Keep Dealin" where they rap over the idea of doing what it takes to keep moving on the streets. "Retribution" featuring r and b artist Kehlani is decent, it has a different sound and feel to it, a more accessible and friendly song with a booming bass line.

Now I know Pusha loves his dude Ab-Liva but as usual, the song on which he is featured is a weak link. The production is odd to say the least on "Got Em Covered". "F.I.F.A." is alright but really short. "Sunshine", with Jill Scott is a political song with a take from the Virginia Rapper on the events in the news affecting the black communities today.

"M.F.T.R." with The Dream is another banging aggressive song which is the best of Pusha's nature as he observes the world around him and pulls people's cards. Now, "Crutches, Crosses, Caskets" is a different track in the way it feels but Push brings the guns out as he goes off on the attack aiming shots at some of his favorite rap targets from Cash Money. He shows some of his great imagery and his delivery is on point.

Pusha T is a more than capable rapper. Much like I said with the Rick Ross review, he has the ability to paint a great image of his lifestyle for the listener. Unlike the Florida rapper, there is something extra in his delivery that brings an extra edge across when he raps. He also isn't a formulaic rapper, experimenting with different sounds and altering his delivery between and within tracks to bring something new to it. That said, his subject matter is of course limited at times and while this isn't a full album set of songs it could have used a little variety and hopefully when the next project drops it will be more well rounded to break up some of the street tales.

Rating: 3.5/5

Monday, December 14, 2015

Complex is the Ultimate Troll

Complex has been seen as one of the standard bearers for hip-hop and urban culture in the new media era. They stepped up and took over in a lot of areas when the Source and XXL kind of failed to move forward and urban men's magazines pretty much faded away due to blogs and internet forums. Enter Complex which was to me, an urban style and fashion magazine that occasionally dived into other things, like a hip-hop Maxim or Mens Journal. now it seems they have truly been taken over in a new hipster, hip-hop fashion with a strong foothold in sneaker culture, fashion, and music, specifically hip-hop.

Now one of the reasons I don't like Complex is to me they feel like Culture Vultures who jump onto any trends that is somewhat happening and take it over, purporting to be engrossed in it where they get the nuance to speak on it and look down their noses onto others. Recently, they dropped their top albums as well as top singles of the year and these lists speak to that.

Many of the times they seem to try to hard to show they are of the culture, yet not snobs because they are all inclusive, yet intelligent enough to elevate music that no one else would to cult status. Point blank, anyone who puts Rae Strummond in the top 10 albums of the year, behind Future's Dirty Sprite 2 and To Pimp a Butterfly are just being assholes. To pick the third or fourth 'best' song from Dirty Sprite as the highest rated song from the album (according to every other set of experts) is trolling in it's highest form.It's literally saying "we know you all love this, but we know better than you at this specifically".

Look I know a lot of people will go run to their site because it gives fuel to the barbershop arguments and gives something to talk about and argue over, but I can't truthfully put forth much effort when I don't feel the effort or opinion is genuine. I look at the majority of their lists and can't believe that they truly go along with the lists and posts that are made that run so far concurrent yet manage to create some way to run counter to conventional wisdom. If you're a hipster, or one of those guys who believes in Complex magazine, god bless you.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Album Review - G-Eazy - When It's Dark Out

So I have seen pictures of G-Eazy before and heard of his albums through the internet and his nomination at one of the season's past award shows, but I had never taken the time to listen to his music. Now I have his first album but have never played it, but this one I decided to go ahead and give a spin. So here is my assessment of the new album release by G-Eazy, "When It's Dark Out".

The album gives me something I wasn't expecting, because I was thinking he would have a more soulful, or underground basement sound. Instead I get something that is more energetic and upbeat that reminds me of Big Sean in some respects on "Random" which is actually a decent cut. Speaking of Big Sean, he is the first of the big name features that Eazy has on this album on "One of Them" and it's alright when G raps but Sean takes the song and just ruins it with his run on flow. The song isn't about anything really but the lust for new things and more of them. Now it was somewhat obvious he was a West Coast MC, but the addition of Too Short as a feature shows me G is a Bay Area native who respects the culture and history, and not a 'culture vulture'.

Speaking of that, G-Eazy kind of brings up the issue of his credibility in a small way among a lot of other things he goes over on "What If" which features Gizzle on the hook, along with auto tune. "You Got Me" reminds me of a Drake song with a mean bass driven beat and lyrics that match the patterns of the drums with their start and stop pattern. 'Don't let me Go" featuring Grace is a good song with a slightly distorted affect on the rap vocals contrasted with the powerful clarity of the hook. "Calm Down" is a short Bay area Hyphy track.

"Think About You" with Quin is the quintessential reminiscence track with a soft beat and Quin's voice making it kind of a lullaby. "Everything Will Be Ok" is another song about the lost relationship's with people when success and drive starts to get in the way. This song features singer Kehlani on the hook. "Some Kind of Drug" is about the addiction that comes from a sexual relationship. Marc E, Bassey handles the chorus duties. "Drifiting" features Chris Brown and Torey Lanez.

"Me, Myself and I" is about G-Eazy standing up to make it on his own. It features Beba rexha. "Sad Boy" is a jazzy tune about the personal struggle dealing with touring, life, and making music. "For this" features an artist called IAMNOBODI and the album finishes with "Nothing to Me" which features Keyshia Cole and E-40. This is a track where he talks about his desire to get more when others would be satisfied.

To say I was a bit surprised would be an understatement in a way. There is a lot of soft stuff on this like I was expecting at one point about halfway through the album and that took away all of the momentum. It became monotone and somewhat depressing when a song with a different kind of melody or production style would have helped everything stand out. He also doesn't have the best voice so he needs to do something different at times. the large number of sung choruses also hurts in my opinion because they are all done the same way, as if hoping one catches fire instead of them standing up and out as different compositions. All in all, it's solid but not spectacular.

Rating : 2.5/5

Album Review - Rick Ross - Black Market

Ricky Rozay, or Renzel as he is apparently calling himself now is already with a follow up to the album he dropped late last year, just like clockwork. While the Boss of MMG has been dealing with a lot of issues, whether it be house arrest, lawsuits and potential trials, or his label signees having issues with associates from around the industry and themselves, he still found the time to record last week's Renzel Remixes mixtape (which is a similar take as the lil Wayne No Ceilings mixtape), a mixtape that dropped in the summer, and a new album. While it has been a lot of music, it hasn't had a lot of staying power because something else is always around the corner. With all that said, let's talk about the new album from Rick Ross , "Black Market".

One thing you can never take away from Ross is his ability to have an infallible flow and the album starts in his normal way with the cinematic sound of the production on "Free Enterprise" which features John Legend on the hook. Ross paints great pictures of luxury and an opulent lifestyle and it fits on the idea of the title of this track. Mariah Carey features on "Can't Let Go" which also samples her hit "Can't Let Go" and actually is a pretty standout track which has a slightly different feel with the sample usage.

the Mary J. Blige assisted "Very Best" is Ross' forte, swagger rap about what a huge level he is on compared to other guys in the game and in life who 'hate' on him. For me, it's alright but nothing great although I think this is what Rozay fans are looking for and will consider evidence of his greatness. The second single was the Chris Brown feature "Sorry" where Ross talks about changing his ways to be with one woman. This coincides well with his recent engagement to vixen Lira Galore. "Everything Dope" has a catchy bass line and there are definite Future fans who will love this song in the club, strip or regular, and whenever the turn up is occurring. My feelings about Future and auto tune are well known so I'll leave it at that.

I'm not a fan of the DJ Premiere produced "Black Opium". The song isn't really about anything, the beat seems a bit awkward to me and the scratches weren't too great to me. "Crocodile Python" is alright, vintage Ross. Now "Color Money" has been getting a lot of publicity because of the bars directed at Drake and Baby. The track is a throwback to Miami bass music in a way, it isn't as layered and cinematic as what is on the rest of the album and I don't care for most of it honestly. "Silk Road" is a head nodder. Nas is the guest feature on "One of Us" and it's cool but the song I expect to have more depth than just the description of being another rap/street character cliche. "Smile Mama, Smile" with Cee-Lo is just what you would think by the total. Ross tells his mother not to worry and to smile because he has made it. The deluxe version has 3 more tracks one of which was the street single, "Foreclosures". It also features "Carol City" and "Money Dance" with The Dream.

Look, Ross is never one who puts out something bad, he is too good and consistent to do so, but my problem is nothing ever stands out either. The music all sounds the same, the flow is the same, the voice and inflections the same. I get it, you find a formula and want to stick to it, but you have to take some risk and show some sort of growth in either sounds or concepts. Ross always raps money and extravagance. His metaphors and descriptions are decent and especially strong in the latter writing criteria, but they are still a step removed from a real emotional connection that I get from an artist like Pusha T. Some of it can be the mixing, but it's just too perfect, too monotone and the same. It's like his persona as the boss has been taken too literally. If there were more moments like "Color Money" where he seemed to step outside of that a little bit it would be better but I'm not sure if he can allow himself that opportunity especially since his fans will find this good enough. For me he needs to do something to make an album stand out and be necessary to have and not just fit in line with the rest of his work.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Creative Interpretation of BIG

So in perusing the internet this week I came upon this concept project that combines samples from the music of the star wars movies with seminal Notorious BIG songs and I can't really believe how cool this is in a lot of ways with some of these iconic sounds mixed with these iconic Biggie songs. The true amount of geekdom in this is hard to calculate but I enjoy this and listening to it brought a smile to my face. I suggest that you all go and check this out.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Where's Buffy?

If you follow me on twitter one of the podcasts I have been vocal about promoting and talking about is The Where's Buffy podcast. Where's Buffy is a men's lifestyle podcast that goes over Hip-Hop, some of the latest topics, sports and the like. I had the opportunity to go on with them and take part in this week's conversation. It was a cool experience. Dale and Earl, aka Fat Boy Dizz and Ill Fam 79 were prepared and ready to work as usual with strong opinions. If you haven't done it yet, go check them out at their website Wheresbuffy.com .

Too Much Material

As the music industry has changed, and distribution been totally turned over on its head, the lines have become blurred between official releases, street albums and mixtapes. Truthfully the difference doesn't matter as much as the fact that artists no longer need labels and large amounts of money to mass produce a bunch of cd's and buy marketing in the hip hop publications before you drop something. The big artists have all followed the true independents and when they decide to drop, do little more than go to twitter and instagram and announce when a project is coming out. Then it's available for download and that's not to mention the random singles that drop every day. Point blank the game is flooded.

Let's look at this past week, Fabolous and Lil Wayne both had mix tapes that they "scheduled" for Thanksgiving. So that's already two full length projects to go grab and find the time to listen to, if you want. This is also following the previous week which saw Jadakiss drop an official album, which was one week after Young Jeezy dropped. Now, in addition to the expected, Erykah Badu, who while not a rapper has a huge following within the hip-hop community dropped a mix tape as well, which while it got some publicity, could be considered upstaged by the joint Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole release on Black Friday.  hell, Trey Songz, Chris Brown and Rick Ross have all put out projects in the past four days, and they are all for free.

If you are a fan this could be the golden season or a new golden era where anything you want to hear is available to you. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who seem to feel the need to try and listen to as many of these as they can and that can turn it to be daunting because no one wants to miss anything. The other downside is nothing sticks with you, it's all in one ear and out of the other and you don't get the time to sit and live with anything beyond the first few moments when it comes out. If a project doesn't grab you immediately, then how much time will you give it and how many chances will you take to actually see if it's worth listening to if the next day someone is telling you that you have to hear the latest Yo Gotti, or Boosie, or whomever is dropping at that moment?

This is part of the reason that albums don't mean anything to people anymore and end up being so disappointing. A flood on the market which waters everything down for the most part and the few artists who do take the time to make something of an above average quality either get slurped so hard that some lose respect for them, or they get washed aside in the vast amount of superficial and easily digestible content. These are things that we will have to continue to struggle against in order to find some sense of balance. I think this is bad for the industry, lowering value both artistically and monetarily. It also makes the average fan way more critical from the jump as they rush to try and consume as much content as possible instead of consuming the best content. What do you think about the amount of music that is coming out on a regular basis?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Album Review- Jadakiss - Top 5 Dead or Alive

Jadakiss to me is a highly polarizing rapper. I cannot deny that he has some skills and there are some who would put him top 10 or even top 5. That seems to have gone to his head if you look at the title of his latest solo project. For me, Kiss isn't full or consistent enough for me to consider him to be an artist of that caliber. As a member of the Lox he has both been around for a long time and put out quality songs but there is nothing about him that makes me clamor for him to drop records. The question is can this new album change my mind?

The album starts with a quintessential NY rap sound on "First 48" where Kiss starts talking in his normal way to give love to the streets before going into a long verse that is designed to show off his skills and there are some good couplets but also some that are just filler and on a track like this with the pedigree that he has and is trying to reinforce there should have been more wordplay that's intricate. "You Don't Eat" fits in with the Jada narrative as he raps about how to survive or make it in the streets, how to get it or 'eat' as it may be. I like the production on the track. The thing is that Kiss is so monotone and face it, boring at times he makes songs like "Man in The Mirror" which has a terrible corny hook and uninspired bars like "You can do the math on that and do the science too".

Now it wouldn't be a kiss album if he didn't have a track where he goes back and forth with Styles P, which occurs on "Synergy" and it's just old. I mean the lyrics are simplified so much to make the back and forth seamless and easy to mix and the attempt to have an epic beat falls a bit flat. I do like "Ain't Nothing New" however, which features Ne-Yo and Nipsey Hussle and a track that seems to be balanced well and also reminds me of 70's black exploitation flicks with its bass line. "Kill" with Lil Wayne reminds me a little bit of the Rick Ross and Wayne song "John" and I don't like the lame hook again and Wayne is alright.

Swizz comes through on "Jason" and he tries to mix in some of the political phrases of the past year, yet talks about having a gun on him. I guess it's supposed to be a juxtaposition or something they consider artistic but it's just trying to cash in on what's going on and if Jada had said something political maybe this would have made some sense. "youthful Offenders" had potential but Kiss is extra lazy with superficial descriptions of young guys in the hood who end up in the system and doesn't get into anything deeper than that. The hook is generic Akon as well.

"You Can See" with Future, and "So High" are just filler to appeal to the southern and smoker demographics really. I didn't like "Critical" with Jeezy. It just didn't feel right to me. "Cutlass" actually works better for that required southern joint. The beat is infectious as is the hook. "Realest in the Game" with Young buck and Styles has too much going on for me. "Rain" is average and "One More Mile to Go" isn't bad.

Listening to Jadakiss is very trying for me. His voice while once  cool because it is so unique has become a bit grating because he doesn't do anything to break things up, no new flow patterns, inflections, or unique song constructions to help it out. Topically I don't expect much, and didn't get much from Jada. It is somewhat disappointing that nothing has really changed or improved in all of this time. The numerous skits on the album were annoying because they were neither funny, nor added any atmosphere and his trademark ad lib is overused ridiculously. For Kiss, to really seem to believe he is a top 5 rapper dead or alive is a sign of both is confidence, yet a large amount of hubris as well. There is no way reasonably a guy who cannot string together more than 2 quality verses on a song can be considered top 5. I know there was some buzz and a lot of hardcore hip-hop fans just love Kiss but this record won't get more than three spins max before it gets moved to the back of the bin. Give me an old Lox album over this any day.

Rating: 2/5