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.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Some quick thoughts

Number one how y'all doing? Good, now that that's out of the way, I have a big problem with the American Music Awards. You already know I don't really mess with award shows in the first place but this was completely bogus. The nominees to every urban award were Nicki Minaj and Lil' Wayne? Even Weezy fans don't mess with The Carter IV that tough so how is it nominated for anything? Award shows should show appreciation for a wide variety and help introduce things to the masses not cater to them to get them to watch.

Nicki Minaj is a better artist than I initially gave her credit for, I can admit that. Pink Friday wasn't bad but it was still a lot of empty music on there. With that said, when you come out and say you're a rapper, I need to hear you spit, not start crooning. If you're a rock artist you have better have some guitars and solid rock foundation to your shit, not come out with two turntables and a microphone. Same concept, just because your people are telling you you're ill, you have got to prove yourself. You're not too good to spit them bars just because you have a decent mix tape. (drake)

Vita is back and it's nice to see. She fell off with the whole Murder Inc. thing but she took the time off and is coming back and hopefully that time gave her something to say and bring some fire to the game.

I did like her other freestyle better though but let's see where this takes us. Other than that, i'm just waiting on something new to really dig my hands into. Probably listen to some new artists this week and make another post on it. What are you up to?

Edit: Just listened to this new common joint again and if you didn't know this dude is on his shit right now. He is about to show you how to spit and be conscious  and real at the same time. If his album is like it sounds it could be, this will be some real classic shit not that BS drake put out people putting on a pedestal.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Luda vs the Super Duper Flow

Finally someone has the balls to address some bullshit that gets put out by some of these new rappers that are out now.A new freestyle from his mix tape called "Bada Boom" is generating a lot of buzz as he is going directly at a lot of people from Shawn J of Field Mob to Big Sean and Drake. The main thing is how Luda goes in on the so-called "Super Duper Flow" and the idea that he has started it. So first let's get into the joint from Luda:

Luda throws some nice little shots at Big Sean who definately doesn't want any parts of Ludacris in the ideas of battle rapping and he really went hard. Drake could probably do it if he was actually going to rap and not start singing. As Luda references, I have been wanting him to get back to "Stomp" shit where he showed how he was lyrically superior to T.I. . He also is known for having the people you would rank ahead of him on a track and in general, showing his superiority.

Big Sean responded in an interview and basically tries to save face and defend himself while simultaneously contradicting himself. He admits now he didn't create this flow but yet claims to be bringing it out now- which doesn't really make sense. The other thing that irritates me is that he doesn't really know what it is he's doing, he calls it using one word to describe another- yeah it's a metaphor. Not that difficult to understand what it is you're doing.

Look when Big Sean first tried to "coin" this flow style I was confused because it sounds like an extension of what Cam'ron has been doing for a while now. It is also corny for the most part and very annoying. It creates choppy flow patterns and seems lazy to me because while Drake and Big Sean think they can pick out good ones and bad ones, there are way more bad ones than anything else just because the metaphors are so simple. Big Sean, being the author of most of the sorry ones because he is mediocre at best. He may have done this on a mix tape and people may have copied, but its like saying T-pain is the creator of auto tune. He isn't he just picked up something old and recycled it. That's fine but stop trying to take credit and then point out other people doing things.

Last point, I hate when these lame new artists try to clown someone for remembering some disrespect and saying "I didn't know it was that serious" or something of that nature. Look this is what happens when you talk, people have feelings about it, be ready for the consequences and stop trying to playing to cool or cocky for an altercation. Hopefully this leads to Luda really putting the fires to someone's feet because we need that right now.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It used to be Hard to Rap

After looking at my album review of Take Care by Drake and the bit of firestorm that this new release is causing I had to come back and make this post. The controversy for me surrounds whether or not Drake is actually a great rapper and if this is a great rap album (it's not). See some people think Drake is great just because he doesn't talk about the streets. He does have skill don't get me wrong but he isn't well rounded enough to be considered a great rapper.

Back in the day, LL Cool J was the best rapper on the planet but he still had to prove himself because after "I Need Love" people thought he was soft. Especially after the album 14 Shots to the Dome. He came back with Mama Said Knock You Out, and many critics were quieted because he proved he could battle you and wreck your career and make songs that got steady radio spins. He had to prove himself. One of the reasons why Jay-z is widely considered the best rapper ever is because he is "the master of all flows" songs and genres. He has smashed everything from movie soundtracks, to underground grimy bangers, to the pop arena. He is the most well-rounded rapper ever and that isn't an easy accomplishment. It was however, necessary for him to ascend to the position he has attained today.

The newest generation of rappers is more organized around a niche and has no desire to conquer the other 'sub-genres' of hip-hop today. Their main goal is to ride the wave of a particular style or sound until it becomes the leader of the mainstream hip-hop identity and then profit. Urban music stations are generally followers, whoever gets popping is the model and every artist needs to fit into that mold for a period of time to make it. For a while, only Roc-a-fella records and scattered Defjam artists were able to chart. This transitioned to a period of Murder Inc. domination and then a 50 Cent/Interscope records reign before the identity shifted to the South. There have been periods of Crunk, Snap, and one where Jeezy and similar artists took over. At no point however, did artists ever cross over and conquer multiple styles and sounds. Thus, it has become more profitable to wait for your turn in the cycle and hope that you don't miss it, rather than incorporate multiple sounds into your own format.

Look at Drake and J.Cole, two of the more hyped young artists of recent memory. Both of them have skills per se, however, there is a distinct lack of variety on albums put out by either one. Even the promotional mix tapes lack experimentation and attempts to expand their own boxes. They belong to the new emo-rap that is the trend at the moment in the mainstream. Different from that, but still holding down the niche of "street rap" you have stalwarts The Lox, Pusha T and Jeezy, while more recently 2 Chainz aka Tity Boi, has made waves by making and remaking the same trap rap songs. It is at the point now where literally you just remake a song and you have a career some kind of way.

I always say the Wu was lucky to have come out when they did because in today's climate they would never have become so revered, but actually they would probably have more success now because once they established themselves as underground artists they would be able to have a stable career without any expectations of growth. The artists who are popular today find one thing they're good at and stick with it, why rock the boat if you don't have to? Much of this I would attribute to the falling value of entertainment and easy access. Ten years ago, going to buy a record was an event and it had to be worth every penny of that 12.95/14.95 that Best Buy was advertising that first week because after that it would easily cost 19.95 and at that point it really had to be tough to justify spending 20 bucks. An artist truly had to put their best foot forward. Now albums debut as low as 7.95 and with all of the mix tapes and illegal downloads there is less of an incentive for the label and artist to put the top dollar effort into maximizing their efforts. If the album doesn't pop, just put out  a mix tape in two months and do some club shows. There is so much of an overload of content that it is much easier to stay recording and stay in the same mode and sound for as long as its working and get it while you can now.

You're not going to sell me on the idea that after listening to The Sideline Story, Finally Famous, or Take Care, that these are well rounded albums that give you a complete picture of any of the artists. Fabolous and Styles P. are two older artists who also fall into this category. Neither one has really broached subject matter that has let you know who they are as people and what has changed in their 10+ years of being career rappers. That's the difference between them and Jay-z or Eminem who you know intimately just by following their music and seeing where they have gone. From Reasonable Doubt to Knigdom Come and beyond, Jay has put out music that has changed and evolved while still dropping every year and incorporating his new experiences.

I don't know if we will ever see another Jay-z or Ludacris who proves that they can attack multiple sounds and song types with a different style to it because it isn't important anymore. In sports, you have to master different skills in order to be successful. A basketball player who can't shoot and pass isn't worth as much as one who can with the addition of being a good rebounder. It takes time to develop those skills and today, no one has that time. It used to be hard to be considered a top rapper or mc, today, just say it and the people will believe you.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Occupy All Streets- Fail

Jay-z tried to profit off of the Occupy Wall Street movement by snaking someone else out of the phrase "Occupy All Streets" and putting it on T-shirts and selling them. In one way, it is genius, talk about the movement while bringing attention to the fact that it's not just Wall Street that needs taking over. The neighborhoods could use all types of help if the people were to take them back and use them for the benefit of the masses. However, that's not what is really happening here. What you have is someone who represents the materialistic desires of the elite taking a shot at the movement, getting paid for it, and not doing anything to further it.

Honestly, if Jay wanted to get away with this, all he would have had to do would be to make sure he gave to the protests in varying cities and go out of his way to help people in his hood and those around the globe who look up to him. This is one of those things I regularly talk about on this blog as these artists want us to continue supporting them when they aren't actively giving back and making it known. Volunteerism could be a growing thing for the cool crowd to do but our biggest stars won't promote it. In fact our biggest stars don't promote anything but their own brands. Remember Puff saying Barack could do better yet all I see is him pimping out Ciroc to our youngsters, then you have this from Jay-z, and let's not talk Russell and his Rush Card. I gave 50 credit but Street Kings is also a way for him to sell an energy drink or some shit.

Fact is, Jay got the backlash he should have seen coming and pulled the shirts off the net within hours. You cannot represent the establishment then try to profit off of the movement without the consequences and repercussions. You and your peers need to do more for the people directly and stop just leeching off of them in the end.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Album Review- Pusha T- Fear of God II

Look I thought this was another mixtape so I didn't even look at the track list. This is the album version of the mix tape though and it shows that much of the street release was good enough to be turned into a studio album in your stores. There are minimal changes if you already have it, but it's only right to show Push some official love.

Push pulls out all of the stops, getting Diddy to bring in the album before he begins spitting on "Changing of the Guards" a soundtrack sounding song where Push does his normal picture painting of the kingpin lifestyle while making himself the new big dog on campus. Tyler the Creator features on "Trouble on My Mind" which is a classic east coast style banger. Tyler may seem wild but on his features he has done his thing being very descriptive and unique. "Amen" is a song designed for Pusha, Kanye, and Jeezy to brag about what they have before they 'pray'. Yeezy stands tall even though he is out of place between Pusha and Jeezy.

On "What Dream are Made of" Pusha tells how he is what the hustler's blueprint is designed to create. The same can be said of "So Obvious" where the hook is designed to show his intentions and the way he made his money. More drug dealer chic is spit on "Feeling Myself" which features Kevin Cossum on the hook. French Montana brings his unique voice and clumsy hook singing to "Everything that Glitters" which is about how just what you see isn't always what it may seem. "Body Work" doesn't fit Pusha and features Juicy J, a n odd verse from French, and Meek Mill is the only one who puts forth a decent performance on the track.

Pharrell handles hook duties on "Raid" which also has a guest verse from 50 Cent, but Pusha shines the most on this one. Rick Ross and frequent collaborator Ab Liva co-star on "I Still Wanna" as they rao about how hard it is to stop pushing weight in the game. "My God" features some of the toughest production of the year and is the type of song that Pusha shines on. Nothing different here but the beat mixed with his descriptive abilities and simple but effective hook are perfect. "Alone in Vegas" is an attempt to recreate the magic but falls slightly short.

Pusha isn't going to have a lot of depth and he also has trouble holding too many songs down solo. The more street aligned member of the Clipse, the album lacks the moral balance that Malice would normally bring. Too many of the songs are just the same unapologetic drug tales which however descriptive, are still attacked the same exact way. Two slight mistakes occur in the name of variety so they can be at least appreciated for that. While I could listen to My God all day the rest of the album grows weary over time.

Rating: 2.5/5

Album Review- Childish Gambino- Camp

So there are a lot of new young hipster type artists coming out and many are in more of the Kanye West non-thug model and thats a good thing to have something new and different. Childish Gambino is the alter ego of actor Donald Glover who stars on NBC's Community as Troy. The image of Troy is one thats odd when you listen to the album because Camp is much more serious than his TV character. After dropping a solid EP he is now releasing his official debut- Camp.

"Outside" is the first track on the album and it has an orchestral sound but Childish drops some seriously touching lyrics without sounding sappy, this is what J.Cole was trying to do as he recounts the details of his life as someone who was always slightly different from everyone else. Little details like "Playing with the land before time toys from Pizza Hut" are incredibly touching and easy to relate to. "Firefly" is a shot to those who doubted Donald but he doesn't leave it in the general sense like Big Sean, he tells because of his tendencies to seem more like a white kid compared to the general hood caricature. The track for "Bonfire" is extremely energetic and in the style of recent songs like "6'7" and he just goes in throwing out random bars.

Childish continues trying to explain himself on "All the Shine" where he talks about having fun and trying to be himself and explain the behavior he has now. He has a short interlude/song in "Letter Home" where he sings to a love he left back home. Meanwhile "Heartbeat" has a pop backdrop with heavy thumping bass which is about a relationship between Childish and a woman he used to be with but that isn't quite over, at least not sexually. The mood immediately changes as Glover takes on "Backpackers" because it seems he isn't really accepted in the normal underground circles.

His bread and butter for the album is about how he doesn't fit in with the general black community nor the white community because in the end he still is black, and he explains that further and in a slightly different twist on "Hold You Down". on "Kids (Keep Up)" He talks about how he would treat a woman different if he could go back in the past, and the hook juxtaposes with the verses nicely. "L.E.S." is bragging about the kind of chicks he can get now. "You See Me" is more of the same thing only a general bragging track that I could do without. "Sunrise" is about how he is on something new compared to other people out. The final song, "That Power" is a solid way to end the album.

Overall Donald Glover proves he is more than just a niche act with a superlative album that is better than most of the major label albums that were just released. J.Cole, Drake, Big Sean, and Kid Cudi could all take notes from this release in how to bring new topics, lyrics, and emotions to a track without overdoing one aspect. The album is solid and cohesive with strong production that is varied, yet doesn't throw you for huge loops by something odd happening. The only thing that might be a problem is the constant fish out of water rap, but he seemed to keep a decent variety of approaches to it by giving a different setting on each song. His singing is decent and the ending monologue is a work of art itself.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, November 7, 2011

Album Review- Drake- Take Care

So Drake's eagerly awaited follow-up album "Take Care" has leaked and if this is indeed the album, it might just be the best r and b album of the year. That's right, this isn't a hip-hop album in the strictest sense. His first one wasn't either but it's still surprising. So here is my album review of Take Care.

Of course he starts out with singing, though it isn't his on "Over My Dead Body" where he spits to those who doubt him and his skills and ability to make another hit album. It's cool and should show a sign of the Drizzy to come as a general warm-up but he immediately slows things down and starts crooning on "Shot For Me". this is yet another song from Drake about lost love due to fame and his own misdeeds. "Crew Love" featuring The Weekend, is an odd ode to his people as he talks about getting it in for his crew but the beginning 'singing' doesn't really fit with the idea of what the song actually is about. 'Underground Kings" is Drake's version of the story of his come up and in it he recycles Wayne lines like Jay-z has done for Biggie in the past.

Drake sings too much as he attempts to 'go in' on "We'll be Fine" and the monotone hook is annoying even though it is his standard fare. Birdman and Weezy also get on the track to talk shit at the end. Singles "Marvin's Room" and "Headlines" are what they are. The first is a decent hybrid song but it's more of a one-off type thing and not one where the formula should be repeated. I don't feel "Headlines" where he also tries to throw in some slick talk in his verses about bringing harm to people. "Take Care" the title track, features his crush Rihanna and has a strong pop bass drum in it but the subject matter is the same old relationship blues. Nicki Minaj once again gives Drake the Eminem Renegades treatment on "Make Me Proud" where she kills her verse next to him. On "Lord Knows" Rick Ross features and manages to have a better verse than Drake, as he talks about nothing different though at least he tries to use a metaphor to start his verse. Drake meanwhile says nothing of substance though he has a few punchlines here and there.

"Cameras" has a decent chopped and screwed beat but Drake doesn't do anything with it. His much talked about song with Stevie Wonder is "Doing it Wrong" where Drake gets his croon on. Andre 3000 is the guest on "The Real Her" along with Lil' Wayne who attacks the track in a general manner and doesn't bring any energy to it. Andre does a little better and Drake just gets his Keith Sweat on. "Look What You've Done" is a song about how his mother helped to raise him to be a success today and is cool as the first song of any real substance other than crying over a woman I have heard from Drake. "Hell Yeah Fucking Roght" features some extra audio bits from Lil' Wayne to assist the theme of the song as he talks about what he has learned from being famous which is another of Aubrey's regular topics. Meanwhile "Practice" is about how he is the best thing for his latest conquest and her previous boyfriends were practice for him. Arrogant and a good concept but once he starts singing I nodded off.

Look I'm going to come off as a Drizzy hater but there are some real reasons I can't get with the hype behind him or this album which manages to be much worse than the first. Number one, the entire album sounds the same from the tracks to the monotone singing he adds to every song and every other verse. If you want to be Andre 3k and drop a singing album you have to be different, this sounds like something from The Dream not a rapper. This is a hybrid of hip-hop and r and b but I need more aggression in my rap music. Even when Drake is trying to brag it comes off with a lack of authenticity. While he has the hit singles, he never develops an album and all of the whining about relationships gets old pretty fast especially since it's all in the same vein of song. I want to like Drake but music like this isn't convincing.

Rating: 2/5

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Album Review- Mac Miller- Blue Slide Park

So as the fourth quarter rolls along so do the album releases. The latest is from mac Miller the latest in a series of white rappers soon to be hitting the shelves and the most laid back of them. With the album, Mac is out to have more success than the similar Asher Roth who also just talks about partying and drinking and getting high.

The album starts with a mellow introduction called "English Lane" and sort of sets the album up as some sort of  gated community of music and fun. "Blue Slide Park" is more uptempo and it also sets up the hip-hop with a slight 94-96ish blend of slight jazz in it.  Case in point the next song "Party on Fifth Ave" has a short sample of DJ Kool's Let Me Clear My Throat in it which ties the song to something familiar and acceptable but not just straight ripping it off. Mac flows sufficiently but he doesn't have any content to speak of other than drinking and having fun. He attempts on "PA Nights" to somber up the picture but it doesn't come across as really being anything to consider. Good things is Mac doesn't seem to try and make himself seem like he has more depth like many of the rappers in his class this year.

"Frick Park Market" sounds more like a Wiz Khalifa song and the hook is almost the same as Mac's "Donald Trump". "Smilr Back" is Mac's aggressive song directed at those who don't feel him and while there isn't a bunch of proof that he can really spit, Mac brings something different to this song. "Under the Weather" is cool and about Mac (Ironically I realize, another M and M lol) tries to talk about people who lie to you and make you question yourself. That is making it more deep than it probably really is but the song is solid. "Up All Night" is all over the place and jumps too far from the feel and flow of the album.

"Of The Soul" is cool as is "My Team" but neither stand out while "Loitering" has the Cool Kid's unique signature all over it and Mac seems like he is perfectly at home on the track. "Diamonds and Gold" is about a female who wants to find a man for the money. It is a good song and shows more versatility for Miller. Meanwhile, "Missed Calls" is the 'new-school' track about getting famous while having a girl at home. All of these guys are doing these tracks and this one is just as boring as the rest. The song "Man in the Hat" is a statement song of his arrival and while it fits the high partying lifestyle Mac represents, it's not the hard rap song it should be to make a statement. "One Last Thing" is just a straight up rap song where Mac tries to just go off spitting and it's aight but that's all.

I didn't think that a full album of Mac Miller would be listenable but it is. While he isn't going to be as popular with the mainstream crowd as a Drake or Wale, he seems to be able to still have a part of the Wiz Khalifa party and have fun crowd and he manages to be a halfway decent rapper. While the album is overall too mellowed out in the same vein save for two tracks, he manages to provide slightly more variety and a more focused effort on most of the tracks.

Rating: 2.5/5