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.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Album Review - Iggy Azalea - The New Classic

Wow, what a long journey to this point for Iggy Azalea, and that's just the part that the public knows about. I mean I first heard Iggy at least 3 years ago with the raunchy single "Pussy" and that really started her buzz and upward trajectory. She signed with Grand Hustle in some capacity and yet even with the endorsement of TI who at the time was one of the hottest, Iggy couldn't actually get the album finished and released. Thanks to her looks, (I mean she is white, yet still exotic as an aussie), tenacity, and I cannot forget her creativity and some creative management, she has been able to stay visible and relevant throughout all of the turmoil and finally, her album, "The New Classic" is finally going to see the light of day.

Let's start with the songs that have been out but still made the cut for the album, like "change Your Life" which features T.I. himself. Song isn't about anything new or great but it's a decent cut. One thing that happens on plenty of her songs, is that they aim for pop and club play with a dance break down somewhere within the track. This song is more known for Iggy's sheer top in the video. Then there is "Work" where Iggy talks about her journey as a 16 year old from Australia moving to the US to pursue her dream. This song carried Iggy through most of last year. The latest of these singles is "Fancy" which features Charli XCX who reminds me of Gwen Stefani. In fact this song reminds me a lot of 'Hollaback Girl' from a few years back."Bounce also was released too and is a straight up club track.

"New Bitch" was also released but it didn't bubble like a new single. This is about being the new woman and her relationship with the exes, in the adversarial nature though. It's a song I guess some women will like. it's cat fight-like sort of like what you might hear on one of the Mona Scott shows. "Walk the Line" which starts the album is Iggy's trials and dealing with rumors and doubters. Her speedy flow on this one reminds me a lot of mentor T.I. . "Don't Need Y'all" is more of the same about doing things solo. The flow when she tries to slow it down and make it catchy sounds a little weird and some of that is because of her tone and accent. "Goddess" is a pretty generic and uninspired song but it isn't bad. It just exists. Wat it might do, is bump in top 40 clubs and be a good performance vehicle for Iggy. "Impossible is Nothing" is supposed to be an uplifting song about achievement and dream chasing. Seems formulaic.

"100" featuring Watch the Duck , ehhh, it is what it is I guess. Rita Ora is the guest on "Black Widow" on one of those female empowerment tracks. It has a really big sounding hook then goes into a simple track when Iggy's verses come on. "Lady Patra" features Mavado as Iggy aims to get some burn during reggae playlist portions of the nightlife. The hook is absolutely ridiculous though. "Fuck Love" is a generic song about getting money over love cause she doesn't need it. This is all club aimed right here. "Rolex" is a more downbeat song as she talks about wasting a time lost on a relationship. The album ends with "Just askin" which is just another track.

At the end of the day, "The New Classic" isn't a classic. It's a decent debut but it suffers because it is considered a hip-hop or rap release but it's more of a dance-hop album. Many of the songs have been aimed at play in the club and there are quite a few songs that are old and have been out for a long time. It's not all of her fault if the album has been done and being shopped but maybe some new material should have been added and something else removed. The beats are all the same and are pretty simple during her verses. I would have liked to hear something heavier to break up the tone. I still like "Work" and there are times she sounds too much like T.I. for my liking. The one thing is that this isn't an overly 'female' album in my opinion, and by that I mean explicit sexual female lyrics that turn male listeners away, but along with that this is indeed a pop album so men won't be riding around bumping anything from this in general. In fact more hardcore female rap fans won't be buying this either most likely. It's a shame because it seems like they took the aim of the white female top 40 listener and said forget everything else unless it's incidental, and from her first single Iggy kind of proved that she was capable of making a song that could relate to that audience. She will suffer from the same doubt and lack of credibility if she gets another album shot because it wasn't kind of addressed this time out.

Rating: 2.5/5

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Album Review- Pharoahe Monch- PTSD

Pharoahe Monch is a unique artist in the fact that he has solid skills and concepts and could have probably built upon his commercial success years ago but instead has maintained an underground king status. Now There are people who have issues with his flow and voice at times but overall he should probably be on the radar of more people than he is. He is slightly more dense in content than Lupe Fiasco for my money with a better ability to convey those points and his stance without be adversarial. His last album built upon a post-apocalyptic war, though it's a more dark take on current life. This new album, PTSD, picks up more where that one left off in tone.

The album starts with "Time2" which has a simple drum track and brooding bass line as spits some generous wordplay off of the concept that we are living in an illusion. It helps that the opening skit plays off of the theme of the movie 'Total Recall'. The second verse has Pharoahe stuttering as if his brain is fighting against the programming of the 'recollection center'. The song described in that way is much more complicated than just listening to it. "Losing My Mind" is about dealing with reality and what goes on in a man's head. Monch talks about finding his own lane and feeling a bit lost. This is a really strong cut.

"Bad MF" is also strong with a tough backdrop of bass and guitar as he talks about what he is. He also takes time to take some digs at the general rap game. Now I don't feel "Scream" as much due to the track which sounds like a bunch of sounds dumped into a bucket but Pharoahe does a decent job of trying to save it lyrically. But it's more experimental a fusion style of track and it doesn't work for me. The same thing goes for "Damage" where he raps extremely slowly and awkwardly.

"The Jungle" is about life in the city and how rough and raw it is. But what might be my favorite song is one which the feature artist, Black Thought from the Roots destroys it, "Rapid Eye Movement". This isn't to say that Pharoahe gets slaughtered but Black Thought really gets busy on this track. "Broken Again" is about moving forward after difficulty. The Title track continues that theme as Pharaohe raps from the perspective of someone suffering who is right there at the edge literally. "D.R.E.A.M." with Talib Kweli is the positive aspect of what's going on. this character being portrayed throughout the album is now experiencing dreams of getting better and working toward those. It's the positive cherry on top of the cake of an album that can seem dark.

Overall this album I think is better than "W.A.R.". The production is slightly better and the concepts are a little bit more clear. While it could have ended up being dark and overwhelming negative and cynical, Pharoahe manages to find a balance between both sides of the coin. His flow can still be annoying and a couple of the more outside of the box songs just don't work but this album is very consistent. The one thing I have an issue with is that too often he seems bored, like I just can't see these songs being performed at any time. It is still solid because some albums are just really good through your home speakers or car or headphones.

Rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Album Review- Chuck Inglish- Convertibles

I haven't written an actual album review in a while and it's largely due to a lack of inspiration. It's tedious and tiresome to write reviews of boring and unimaginative hip-hop. I don't want it to become "work". However I took a minute to listen to the new album from One half of the Cool Kids, Chuck Inglish and I am very impressed. If you aren't familiar, Chuck and his partner Sir Michael Rocks are the Cool Kids a rpa duo known for witty rhymes about nothing (think Camp Lo) and hard hitting beats with plenty of 808. I wasn't feeling some of Sir Michael's releases but I gave Chuck a chance anyway and came away impressed. I will explain just why in my album review of Convertibles by Chuck Inglish.

The one thing The Cool Kids are known for is their production and this album is chocked full of it. It opens up with a sort of retro funk West Coast feel with "Elevators" which features Buddy and Polyester the Saint. One handles the hook and the other drops a verse. Nothing is extra outstanding but nothing is particularly wack and it's just a good damn song. "Swervin'" finds Polyester once again joining Chuck on a seriously hard beat with a mean throwback 808 and a synthesizer that bangs as they rap about how the day goes. Surprisingly "Legs" with Chromeo just rocks so seriously. It has a Pharell-esque sound and a mix of a funk/r and B/ pop beat. It's kind of different but you have no choice but to like it as you hear it and Chuck has some clever lyrics on what is just a simple party song.

Now "Ingles" might not be everyone's cup of tea. It's a straight up club/house song for the most part that could extend the cool Kid's brand to a new crowd. It's another song that you can rock off to without feeling bad about it. "Money Clip" is more of a classic posse track and it just suffers from having too many dudes who are pretty much the same on it with Vic Mensa, Chuck, Retch, Hassani Kwess and Sulamain all getting verses. It's underground hip-hop. "P.R.I.S.M." featuring Jade is alright but it does feel a bit like Chuck was reaching in too many directions at times.  "H.M.U." is a cool track I think the NY crowd clamoring for that feel will enjoy.

"Dreamy" is a cool classic Cool Kid's type of track with heavy bass and a little bells thrown in to set the deepness off even more. "Gametime" with Action Bronson is short but pretty much perfect. "Came Thru/Easily" has such a serious beat I was breaking my neck in the car as it played. Then Ab-Soul and Chuck spit yet Mac Miller destroys the track. BJ The Chicago Kid handles the hook on "Attitude" which has a beat that reminds me of some Wu-Tang It's Yourz style. It has that drum track and it's organized mean while Chuck spits game to a lady. "Shitty Lullaby" is another song that on the surface might be odd but fits right in. The album ends with Chance the Rapper and Macie Stewart on "Glam".

Overall this was one of the more impressive collections of songs I have heard in ages. Most of the songs sound different and it is sequenced so that most of what could be seen as repetitive content isn't back to back. The production I can't get enough of, sonically just about every song sounds different yet most sound as if they fit in and it is somehow very cohesive. If Chuck had more subject matter this would be an all time great base doff of the production. As it stands there isn't really anything to get from this album but it doesn't matter as much because it's just really good to listen to.

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Independent Wednesdays

This week I want to start off with a Brockton, Mass rapper named Kevlar Dollaz. Now I know a lot of rappers often come from street backgrounds but in Kevlar's short bio he mentions being locked up and recovering from being shot in a botched robbery. This was more than the normal 'coming up from the streets' biography. Something actually happened to change his life or perspective somewhat. He addresses this on this single "Black Jew".

I wasn't really a fan of the hook but I felt the verses. He also sent over the video for the single "Groupies".

Next up We're going to Toronto for some non-trap rap just that straight up hip-hop sound with K. Seize with "Diamond in the Rough".This is the first song off of his Carpe Diem mixtape which comes out on May 5th. It's not any new concept but rarely are there these days. The beat is tough in an up-tempo way and it's not forcing this illusion of being tough. Seize also can spit a bit.

To wrap up this week we will be coming down to Maryland and PG county for $$J Krypton who is one of the new artists who is more out there with his presentation. He will attempt to shock you at times but the songs I heard were mostly straight forward with a lot of heavy bass and southern influences. He isn't what I would call the best but he definitely has a lane he fits in and people who will love the type of music he makes. Check out "Neon Deion" for an example of what he brings. His link below is an entire stream of his mix tape so skip around if you like.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Independent Wednesday

Razook sent me this song I'm starting off with this week the day after Boosie was released from jail. This is ironic because the voice and song remind me exactly of the infamous rapper. The beat is produced by Cardiak who is well known and the hook and cadence are all what's hot right now. This song isn't great to me but if you're a fan of certain trap style rap music then this is right in your lane.

My next submission is from Chicago female emcee Henny B. and produced by King Mickey. At first listen I get the feel of a female Common. She has the poetic delivery but it's a solid one, not a struggling one that is all vocal art over being musical at the same time. In other words she fits in with the track which is laid back and jazzy. Some of her other songs aren't as smooth and an overwhelming amount of subject matter is in the Curren$y vein of getting high and drinking. They weren't really songs I was feeling but she should have a solid career if Tyga can be a success. Young Hipsters, should go to soundcloud and give her a spin.

Third this week is an artist called OCS who submitted a video from his "scene" series. This was a simple backdrop but it allowed OCS to get deep with his lyrics and really let his words shine as he told a story through his lyrics. This isn't the most polished song I have ever heard but it is extremely heartfelt so that trumps a lot of things. Some times it isn't about being the best with metaphors and similes if you can use your voice to convey true emotions.