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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Album Review- Young Money- We Are Young Money

So here we go, finally the Young Money label/crew has completed the long delayed album, just in time for the last minute Christmas rush and itunes gift cards. A larger crew, Young Money is made up of Lil Cuckee, Young Twist (i guess), Tyga, Gudda Gudda, Mack Maine, Nicki Minaj, Drake, Jae Millz, and Shanelle, the token singer. The lead single, "Every Girl" came out before last year's spring break so it tells how long the label has been working to 'perfect' this release.

From the outset, the album starts off on an average note, with Jae Millz, Gudda (I think, or it could be Tyga), and Mack Maine's verses on "Gooder" with Wayne on the hook in his normal auto-tune. "Wife Beater" is the name of another song about sex only this one more explicit and street than "Every Girl". The beat is typical Southern fare and the lyrics have highlights and lowlights but nothing stands out. The chorus is again done by Wayne in one of the album's repeating themes in his pseudo-rock auto-tune singing.

One of the problems is that the group's second most recognizable artist (not counting Wayne) Nicki Minaj doesn't make an appearance on the album until the 8th track, "Fuck da Bullshit" which also has Birdman finding a reason to get paid a feature appearance fee for being on the album. On the actual song Gudda should have been replaced by the more capable Jae Millz as he is forced to hold his own with Wayne, Nicki and Drake. Of Course, "Bedrock" is also featured but the song is so average it isn't worth noting.

the David Banner produced "Streets is Watching" is held down mostly by Jae Millz who spits the best verse on the track which includes Wayne,Nicki, Gudda, and Mack Maine. He also shows his skill on the last track "Finale" where everyone gets their chance to showcase their skills. This would have been a better idea for the first track so you would be able to identify who each of the artists are through the rest of the album.

The biggest problem with the album is that there aren't any real highlights and there are too many instances of people who just don't have the personality to stand out as artists sort of like the Triple C's album. Only this is worse because this is supposed to be a label. Mack Maine, Gudda, and Tyga should all stop rapping immediately.

listen to "New Shit" which is boring and shows how overwhelmed they are by a track where they need to rely on their own lyrics to carry them. "Ms. parker" is another terrible track where Wayne feels the need to try and be T-Pain. "Pass the Dutch" with Shawt Dog is another example of a song where no one has anything to say, including Wayne, though Drake tries to save the song.

"Play in my Band" is the song for singer Shanelle and it suffers from wayne's idea that he should be combining rock and hip-hop. It isn't bad but it isn't anything great either. "Girl I Got You" with Chuckee and lil Twist (or is it Twizz?) is terribly out of place amongst the adult fare on the album. "She is gone" is lame and suffers from too many uses of the word bitch and "Roger That" is bland.

I am not a fan of most of the artists on Young Money though I still have held out hope for Nicki, Drake and Jae Millz. The album would have been better with more creative hooks that didn't rely on Lil Wayne's voice to be successful because it gets repetitive and annoying. The other person who gets old really fats is Nicki Minaj. It's one thing to use voice inflections and pitch to make your verses stand out in different ways, but using the same thing, every time makes it just look like a lame attempt to hide a lack of skill and originality in your bars. Third, the songs just don't say anything and Drake is on less songs than Wayne. At the end of the day this was an average album as expected but it could and should have been much better.

Rating: 2.5/5

Saturday, December 19, 2009

When the Money Goes...

Is there anything left in hip-hop other than the chase for money? I mean, I totally understand the fact that a lot of guys have struggled and come up from the projects on something less than glamorous and now have access to all that they dreamed. However, shouldn't there be more to your music than what you can do at the club and how much you floss?

The Bling-Bling era of rap started with the Hot Boys and Cash money records around 2000 and it seemed like it would play out fast. The age of consumption and excess didn't even end with the recession as rappers today flaunt their welath in the ears and faces of their listeners more than ever before. "Pop Champagne" in the club and you see guys who barely make their rent walking around with bottles of ciroc and glasses of Moscato. You have the few females in the game like Nicki Minaj and Trina whose entire repertoire consists of how many different ways they can tell you they are buying bags and new shoes. The name dropping of high fashion labels has gone into overdrive.

Is there anything else left though? Why aren't today's artists actually letting us into the emotional tragedies that led them to work/hustle/grind so hard to make something better for themselves? I understand the myriad of issues dealing with the male psyche and ego but even when they spit their "game" to females it's all about how they can buy them the latest gear and most expensive bottles of alcohol.

I hate the lack of balance because it is sending the wrong message to listeners. You cannot ignore the root of the problems and issues that drive you. It is misleading and ignores the core of why we want to hear rap in the first place: to relate to the overall experiences of our lives. Now some artists do make those attempts and come across as individuals with lives that are not caricatures but reflect the actual experiences of the people. But these tend to be the less successful artists as artists who rehash the same drug dealing experiences and mix them in with how rich these exploits made them "bosses" or "ballers" get all of the exposure.

It would be easy to blame the record labels and radio (and believe me I do, especially at the radio level) but we as consumers and listeners have our own share. How often will we say that a Talib Kweli is cool but he doesn't make "whip" music or that Common, Crooked I, or Little Brother don't make music that could fit into the club. We have to stop pigeon-holing ourselves by looking at certain artists and assuming that because one subset of the hip-hop listeners likes them and believes certain other things that aren't related to music, that we cannot like them as well. For example, you don't have to be a natural hair wearing neo-soul poet to actually listen to The Roots.

It's not that I don't want anyone to get money, but you shouldn't be rapping about it all of the time on all of your songs. It's like a rapper whose every verse is about how nice he is. At some point you have to switch it up and I'm just trying to find out if listeners actually care to hear about things other than money anymore.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Album Review- The Clipse- Till The Casket Drops

The Clipse are one of the "underrated" groups in hip-hop. They have a dedicated and loyal following, all-star production, have been on songs with the likes of Justin timberlake yet still have not been able to become The VA version of Outkast. In some respects it is fitting, they aren't likely to ever be on MTV's top ten or make it more than a week on 106th and park because of the style of their music. It isn't empty and meaningless bluster. I have to admit I'm not a fan. I never liked Grinidin, I thought the beat was lame and Pharrell was annoying, so I have never taken the time to deal with Malice and Pusha since then.

Til The Casket Drops aims early to change my perception at least with "Freedom" where Seand and LV provide a theatric backdrop for the duo's vivid imagery. This is the type of beat Fab should have had on his album as they pour out actual feelings on the track. "Door Man" is a song about the luxurious trappings of the dope game. "Champion" is about the success of making it out of their situation in life. Meanwhile, "Footsteps" is a warning to the youth who may be listening to the album to be wary of the street life, this isn't the only time this theme comes across.

"I'm Good" is the lead single with Pharrell, "There's Been a Murder" is a warning to the potential snitches. "Kinda Like a Big Deal" with Kanye West is about how being you must be a big deal if you're being talked about. Kanye delivers his best verse of the past two years on this song over DJ Khalil's beat. Cam'ron guests on "Popular Demand" but other than the one line, I couldn't tell you why it's co-titled "Popeyes" but the song is hot. "Counseling" is the token track directed at the ladies and it has a unique concept and single potential.

The last song is "Life Change" about the things that caused the duo to stop the hustling path and put their time into improving themselves and their communities. The two songs that prevent this from being perfect for me are "Eyes On Me" with Keri Hilson that seems and too much of a stretch from the feel of the rest of the album sonically. I can appreciate the try though. "Never Will It Stop" doesn't work for me either and a lot of that stems from the inclusion of Philly's Ab Liva (whom I remember from Major Figgas) who isn't in the same zip code as Malice and Pusha on the joint.

Overall, I feel like the Clipse might have never made an album before this one. This is like a new introduction and the subject matter though based in tales of dope selling has a serious message and warning along with the actual face value lyrics. This is definately Deeper than Rap on every level. The production handled mostly by DJ Khalil and The Neptunes is rock solid throughout with the one exception being the song with Keri Hilson. 2009 was rocky for the first 10 months but the last two have definately picked up steam with this album eclipsing Wale as my favorite so far. Great job.

Rating: 4.5/5

Monday, December 7, 2009

Album Review- Snoop Dogg- Malice in Wonderland

Snoop is to West Coast hip-hip what crust is to bread. They cannot exist without one another. Snoop is an artist who is able to talk about pimpin' bitches and murkin dudes in one verse and the next time you see him talk about coaching his kid's football team then go and roll up a blunt and you wouldn't question one bit of it. Over 25 years in the game, Snoop is back with Malice in Wonderland.

The album starts off on the right foot with "I wanna rock" the second single from the album. Is it any surprise that any song where Snoop's name is a part of the hook is a hot joint? "2 Minute Warning" has Snoop just spitting with a venomous attitude over the perfect beat for him to do that too. Classic. "That's The Homie" sounds a little tired in the hook department, verses are solid and the track is like a mix of classic Miami Bass, and some New Orleans club music. Different from everything you're hearing today for sure it's just odd though.

The rest of the songs have features "1800" with Lil' Jon (I thought Pitbull had exclusive rights to Lil Jon) is a dated sound but it is designed for the "jerk" crowd. "pronto" with Soulja Boi is a desperate grasp for Snoop at relevancy. It would have worked possibly if the hook by Soulja wasn't so lethargic, lazy, and cliched. Kokane features on "Secrets" a classic Funk inspired Snoop track thats nothing inspiring. On "Pimpin' Ain't EZ" (creative title Snoop) with R. Kelly, the top Dogg feels as tired as the name of that song.

"Special" with Brandy and Pharrell isn't anywhere as good as "Beautiful" was but that is what it is trying to be but it isn't a bad song by any means. The second song with the Dream "Luv Drunk" is a nice track but the set-up of the song is annoying with the repetition of each bar. "Different Languages" is like the rap version of the Charlie Wilson song that Snoop used as the theme to his show and features Jazmine Sullivan on the hook. It's a sweet love song. We cannot forget about "Gangsta Luv" the lead single featuring the Dream. "Upside Down" with Nipsey Hussle and Problem is one of my favorite songs on the album.

Overall it is a very solid album but not spectacular. Snoop is sort of treading water looking to be getting closer to LL Cool J territory where he can put out solid albums have singles that should get worked more than they do, move some units then sort of be looked over. On the album you can see that Snoop is reaching out to the younger generation with some of his beats and the inclusion of Soulja Boi, however, these attempts are not always successful and they could end up doing more harm than good. I like Snoop and some of Malice but not all.

Rating: 3/5

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Album Review- Gucci Mane- The State vs Radric Davis

Now I am not a Gucci fan although I believe he created the most buzz by himself for an artist in one of the more difficult ways just because he was incarcerated during a large period of time and on an independent label. Now he is also going to be in jail for the release of his first national release as well. Most Gucci fans are used to his mixtapes and the bevy of material he has put out over the past 18 months.

The album starts off with "Classical" an intro-lude type of track that serves to also introduce his main producer "Zaytoven" as well. There are only 4 songs where Gucci doesn't share the spotlight with another artist so we'll get to those first. "Heavy" is typical Gucci with a pounding beat and lyrics like "I pimp the white girl like a mothafucking hooker" . I'll pause while you digest that. "Worst Enemy" features some references to the deaths of heavyweights Biggie and Tupac and Gucci's penchant for getting himself arrested and apparently shot at. Jazze Pha produced "the Movie" which is the soundtrack for the movie which is Gucci's life. "Lemonade" is about how everything is yellow from his woman to his watch....

"Stupid Wyld" features Lil Wayne and Cam'ron in what seems like an overdue appearance on a southern album and he pulls off the better verse of the song. Rick Ross however gets honors for best verse of the album on "All About the Money" just based on the way his flow rolls over the beat. "Spotlight" with Usher is a terrible attempt at crossover success for both artists involved, and Soulja Boy along with Wacka Flocka Flame both guest on "Bingo". Bun-B makes his required appearance on "Kush in my cologne" alongside Devin the Dude and e-40. Keyshia Cole is on "Bad, Bad, bad" which sounds more like 2 songs that have crashed together and become one.

Nicki Minaj, Trina, and Bobby V show up on "Sex in Crazy Places" which isn't that bad. "I think I'm in Love" has Jason Caesar a newcomer, and OJ da Juiceman only appears once on "Gingerbread Man".

The State of Hip=hop needs to file charges against Gucci for this album. Now it's not that i don't like him but the album is way too long with no change in subject matter or sound. Gucci cannot maintain his charisma through what turns into a slog of 15 songs.

Rating: 2/5


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