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Friday, December 23, 2011

Album Review- The Roots- Undun

I'll say this, i like the Roots, don't necessarily love them though I have seen them in person because as a band they're just ill. Though they recently had some slight controversy on their regular gig on the Jimmy Fallon show, they still found the time to release a concept album called "Undun", and here is the album review.

So Undun overall is the story of a fictional person named Redford Stephens. While conceptually it sounds like a good idea, the bulk of what makes this a true experience has to be the companion items that are available on itunes, but musically, there is less there. Now, starting out, "Sleep" about the young Mr. Stephens realizing he is dead is a solid Roots effort. Black Thought does good to begin to create a picture of the person he is portraying. "Make My" with Big K.R.I.T. and Dice Raw is about that moment when Redford meets his end. Dice is also on "One Time" about making it and getting that lucky break I assume, at least that's what i took from it.

"Kool On" is about Redford getting money, having his shine on and the feel of him being a success. This features verses from Greg Porn and Truck North. Porn is also on "The Other Side" which is a really nice song and has Bilal on the hook. This is about that time before Redford makes it and what he plans to do when he gets there. "Stomp" is about the early violence required of and up and coming hustler. Greg Porn is also on this one. I also like "Lighthouse" probably because of the hook, where Black Thought and Dice Raw describe the life growing up with no real direction and the changes that happen.

"I Remember" is just reminiscing on those early days, people and situations, in general though, that Redford went through. Meanwhile "Tip the Scales" is about how the character is going to work and grind to move up in his life even with the risks, and it also features Dice Raw. The album ends with four musical compositions that move in the pattern of the life story of Redford, "Redford", "Possibility", "Will to Power", and "Finality" all provide a different, though much more brief manner of story-telling.

Look as far as concept albums go, this one doesn't really do it for me. It's no more of a concept than Jay-z's American Gangster album was "inspired" and not just another rehashing of the same old things. I don't ever get the personal feeling of Redford as much as the same general tale of the game. The songs are all pretty solid and fit together, but it is missing the extra panache that would take it to the next level. No little twists or just added insights.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Radio better listen up- Going on on WERQ 92Q FM

This quick video tells the truth right here about what goes on in the radio industry, especially in Baltimore, MD. I took the station off of my dial a long time ago, but I dropped all of the urban stations because I don't want to hear the same thing several times a day anyway. She's right Future does suck, and to get on Baltimore radio, you have to let the station DJ's be your manager or main producer or else you're not getting anything popping.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Album Review- Japiro-Conspirocy

For the first time I will take the pleasure of doing a review of one of my people's albums. I'll let you know from the jump I will be slightly biased with this because this is a dude I've know for damn near 15 years, and I'm proud to say that he didn't just give me some garbage to listen to and co-sign. Japiro- an independent artist from Baltimore, has given me the best and most complete album of his career to date. So for my independent music lovers, here is my album review of Japiro's new album, Conspirocy.

Japiro always starts off his albums with a personal salvo about where he has gotten to in his life and a new perspective over the first joint and this one is one of the best, production is tight as is the story and flow. "I Hustle" has a smooth seventies vibe to it though it isn't the most unique concept obviously. Piro aggressively courts a woman on "I Wanna" but a better relationship is the thematic "A Different World" which is a pleasant walk in the park where he also uses the hit show from the 90's metaphorically.

"Hard Times" featuring Eddie Numbers is about persevering and has a jazzy flow that is like a less aggressive cut from the American Gangster album of a couple of years ago. "Trouble Seemed So Far Away" channels the late 80's with a good sample usage about how quick things could change up. A simple beat backs "The High Life" and the production on "No Love in Sight" is about reflecting on the potential of having a child and the timing of a pregnancy.

On "Marlon Brando" Panama and Ray Vic help hold down the most aggressive track on the album in what is just a straight forward lyrical joint over a beat full of crashing pianos and violins. "Cold Worlds" featuring LW with a poem at the end isn't one of my must plays but some people will find a place for it. "Say Goodbye" is a throwback to the more arrogant Japiro with a classic rap hook.

Overall I was impressed with the production and quality of the music on this independent release. Everything went together nicely though something more uptempo would have been nice to break up the sometimes dour mood of the album. Bonus track "Planking on a Million" serves some of that but is still slightly heavy as is much of the album. Many independent artists could take lessons from Japiro when it comes to putting an album together however, and he still has skills. It has been interesting to watch his progression and the addition of true depth to his music but I would still like to see more of a concept and original direction instead of songs like "I Hustle", but in the end this is undoubtedly a success. For more about Japiro and the album- click here

Album Review- Yelawolf- Radioactive

I may be behind but hear is one release that many people seem to be waiting on before stepping out to cop, the newest Shady Records release from the 'other white guy' Yelawolf. Heralded as someone bringing something new to the game, the Alabama native has been featured on a lot of Southern albums and grinding for the past few years before Marshall Mathers snatched him up. The first of the releases from Shady 2.0, my album review of Yelawolf's album "Radioactive" is as follows:

the "Radioactive Introduction" is an awkward demonstration of Yelawolf's off-beat style and will definately throw some people off as he gets started with an off-and on-again flow. The lead single features Kid Rock and is called "Let's Roll". A non-offensive hip-hop soft country rock mix it was made directly to hit the pop markets heavily. The Lil Jon produced and featured "Hard White" is a hard edged club banger with Yela attempting to show a lyrical yet harder side following the previous pop mash-up. "Growin' Up in the Gutter" featuring Rittz has a dark brooding track but Yela's vocals are hard to understand both with his flow and volume and the song fails to deliver the angst it's rock chorus would have you to believe.

"Radio" is a solid joint just about music in general and the landscape from artists to outlets. Shawty Fatt and Mystikal are featured guests on "Get Away" about escaping from life. "Made in the U.S.A." is a typical 'where I come from' track but it isn't bad. The hook features Priscilla Renae while the 'chick track "Good Girl" features Poo Bear. Same thing with "The Hardest Love Song in the World" which is a little better and has the modern hipster guitar tones holding it down. "Write Your Name" with Mona Muua is a throwaway unfortunately. Eminem is only featured on one song, which also has Gangsta Boo and is called "Throw It Up". The Eminem verse is worth hearing but it isn't going to be on his best of tape unless you just want to hear the part where he mocks the "swag" style of rap.

Pop sensation Fefe Dobson is on "Animal" which isn't about much of anything and her part is better than Yelawolfs. "Slumerican Shitizen" featuring Killer Mike is about the oft-ignored citizens of the dredges of society, aka the hoods and slums of America. Well trod territory but it is one of the better songs on the album. "Everything I Love the Most" is supposed to be about how the things he loves the most harm him but I didn't follow the verses too much. Meanwhile "The Last Song" is the most poignant song on the album as wolf dedicates one to those who doubted him or spoke to him or left him wrongly.

He has three bonus tracks but i'm not sold on anyone needing to hear any of those. Overall the album is more of an acquired taste. While I'm pretty sure he has some lyrics, between his flow and the varied sounds and feels of the songs, it can be hard to follow unless you dedicate yourself to doing just that. He has some standard concepts but the biggest failing i think is the mash-up of a slight rock feel with hip-hop. Nothing ever really stands out and the numerous features while needed for their purposes lack the real star power to help drive some of the cuts. Unfortunately the album becomes too easy to tune out even with Yelawolf's odd voice and delivery.

Rating: 2/5

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Album Review- Common- The Dreamer the Believer

Common is a slept on artist in a lot of respects. You rarely hear people clamoring for a new release from one of the most timeless mc's in the game, however, upon the announcement of an album, it's lapped up like hot soup for orphans. Upon hearing "Blue Sky" I was more than ready for some real all-around good hip-hop. Without further adieu, here is my album review for Common's The Dreamer, The Believer.

This joint starts out with some classic Common music on "The Dreamer" which features a poem from Maya Angelou at its conclusion. This song is about belief and realizing he has accomplished so much and has that ability to show others how to dream for greatness. On "Ghetto Dreams" however, Common takes it more to the gutter as he describes a ghetto niggas dreams about a certain type of 'bitch'. Nas follows up with a verse to close out the song. The lead single from the album is "Blue Sky" a big inspirational track that is in heavy rotation.

"Gold" is a soulful song that is like gives off the good vibes of the classic seventies music that serves as Common's way of bragging hip-hop without being so obvious about it. It is a metaphor about him being a chosen top rapper. "Lovin I Lost" isn't a new topic, it's about losing a love but Common puts a solid effort together over some soul production. "Cloth" is a much better relationship song about what's inside instead of the surface. But don't think Comm is soft, just listen to "Sweet" where Common is at his angriest since he went at the Westside Connection back in the day when he addresses 'soft' rappers.

"Raw" finds Common spitting about getting a woman but not with his normal smoothness, but showing his rugged side. "Celebrate" is just that about enjoying life with everyone home from wherever they may have been and having a good time. On "Window" Common tells a young lady to listen to her inner heart and not on outside influences. Common wraps up the theme of the album with the help of John Legend on "The Believer" on how he still thinks the next generation can come up if they are helped more and judged less. The literal ending of the album is once again a piece by his pops of spoken word.

Now I was anticipating this album a whole lot when Blue Sky dropped because that song is the truth. Sweet made me stand up like when D.O.A. first dropped because it was an example of the perfect blends of good music and masculinity within two singles. The album does let me down some with a single tone in production, although it is all of the best quality. Then there are odd moments like two instances where the term "bitch" is used in hooks on celebrate and Ghetto Dreams which seem out of place in the normal positive messages of Common. Occasionally he can be slightly convoluted and it takes this album down a couple of notches from gems like 'Be' and 'Finding Forever'. This album is just what you expect from Common and a much needed release in this era of hip-hop.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, December 16, 2011

Album Review-Young Jeezy- TM103 Hustlerz Ambition

So one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2011 has to be Young Jeezy and the return of his Thug Motivation with TM103. pushed back a couple of times, Jeezy may not have had the outward buzz that Defjam was looking for, but the streets have still been clamoring to see what the Snowman brings in his return. Here is my album review of Young Jeezy TM103: Hustlerz Ambition.

Thug Motivation starts off just how I would expect with "Waiting" and into/song that introduces the concept of what's going on and presents a theme for the album that brings things back to Jeezy's second album in a way. "What I Do" is a straight forward Bass filled joint that keeps it trill with daily life of a balling out dope boy. "Way To Gone" is the same thing with idea being that he's killing them by spending so much money. The song also features new Atlanta sensation Future. For the ladies, there is "All we Do" which is about how all Jeezy does with a chick is to fuck, spend money, and get high. Ne-yo handles the hook on "Leave You Alone" where Jeezy is talking to a chick who knows he is bad for her.

Nothing has a general bounce beat and a hook that has a political possibility that could have grown from the ground covered on The Recession, but the verses don't handle the expectation. Meanwhile "OJ" which features Fabolous and Jadakiss - who drops another dud of a verse filled with early obvious references to Orenthal James - is about how each of them "kills the white". Likewise "Superfreak" which features 2 Chainz also is repetitive and boring. In a pairing I wouldn't have expected, Jill Scott sings alongside the Snowman on "Trapped" which is song more in line with Jeezy's last release. Single "F.A.M.E." doesn't make much sense as an acronym but its directed at the haters and features king of the South T.I. as they talk about 'Fake Motherfuckers Envy'. The final track of the album "Never be the Same" is more filler.

That song is preceded by the summer-time banger "Lose My Mind" which featured everyone's favorite Goon Plies. "Ballin'" finds Jeezy sounding out of place alongside Lil' Wayne talking more about frivolous spending. Freddie Gibbs does his thing on ".38" though the song sounds too much like everything else on the album. "Higher Learning" is about weed and doesn't fit Jeezy's persona even though he smokes as much as it fits Snoop who spits a good verse and Devin the Dude. The much hyped "I Do" features Jay-z and Andre 3000 both talking about women that they say "I Do" to, in Jay's case, being a metaphor, yet with that firepower, the song manages to underwhelm with the stock 'soul' beat, to lame hook and trite attempt by Jay to spin the concept. Andre himself waits until the very end to pull his verse out and make it really more than average for him. My favorite song on the album is "This Ones For You" featuring my favorite Miami rapper, Trick Daddy, whose verse is about some other rappers he influenced.

The fact Jeezy has been gone for a couple of years helped to build the expectations for this album. The Recession was a good album for Jeezy and though it was uneven, it showed progress in both actual skill and topics for the snowman. Here, on TM103, Jeezy steps back and attempts to add some 'swag' rap to his hustler talk and the results are less than stellar. Too many of the beats are pretty much the same and the hooks are either just boring and unimaginative, or way too deep for the simplistic verses and that's the worst part. After all, no one is expecting Jeezy to suddenly become TI never mind turning into Nas but when I have to wonder if he or 2 Chainz is the worst on a song it doesn't bode very well.

Rating: 2/5

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Album Review- M.O.P. - Sparta

After a hiatus of a couple of years and a divorce from G-Unit, everyone's favorite street-hop artists from Brooklyn are back with another album full of street anthems. The Mash Out Posse may be best known for Ante Up which has become a de-facto breakdance/pop cultural icon  but the Posse still remains as hood as ever and Sparta just aims to bring that feel they are known for back for 2011. Here is my album review of Sparta, by M.O.P. .

The album opens with "Sparta" and it does bring a certain drama to the album with the track which manages to add some feel to the normal MOP style that reminds me of a march from 300. Fame does spit some flame on this track. "Back At it" is just what it is, a throwback to what the Posse has been known for with a Rocky-esque melody laying the back drop for the track. Meanwhile "Get Yours" is the feeling of an older Busta Rhymes bringing out the elephants and just stomping on some dudes track but the energy from the first couple of tracks isn't evident. The trie "Blasphemy (Blast 4 Me)" is more annoying because of the title, the song isn't bad but it lacks any panache.

This is an album that is more about doing what you do best and songs like "Body on the Iron", "Hard Niggaz", and "Break Em" are just more of the same, an exercise in standard Mash Out fare with beats that feel big and large and straight forward lyrics that aren't very imaginative. "Opium" has a decent standard beat but once again  we already know M.O.P. isn't going to talk about anything but being true, real and holding down the streets.

If more artists could pick the general album filler tracks like M.O.P. then they would be better off. As it stands, M.O.P. is solid but nothing stands out with the strength and urgency of "Ante Up". If you're an MOP fan you've been waiting for this, but you could listen to any of their albums and get the exact same thing and damn near the same sound. The duo doesn't even use trendy punchlines to date their music so they could run their first album back out and get the same exact response. While they are much needed to counter the emo-scene, M.O.P. unfortunately doesn't have enough growth or things to talk about at this stage of their careers to really make a mark with this album.

Rating: 2/5

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Is 2 Chainz worth an argument?

So I got into a heated twitter war with @OMG_its_Justin because he didn't like my assessment that Toty Boi aka 2 Chainz sucks. Actually the homie @8plus9 asked me if I had heard the Tru Religion mix tape. Here is what I said:

yo son is one of the worst rappers ever...been that way since he was tity boi-so dont tell me son is hot you trendy bastard

I was then told that I have no opinion since I haven't listened to this mix tape. I'll tell you what I have heard, the single "Spend It" which has a catchy beat and hook, but the verses are absolutely atrocious and I've heard Flight 360- that Playaz Circle album from a couple of years back and that joint was horrible. Then I never thought there would be a wacker rap name than Tity boi but he somehow managed to find it.
I don't care how many labels this dude tries to put on he cannot conceal his wackness. I just listened to a Breakfast Club interview he did and was appalled to hear CthaGod cosigning this guy but then again, they are all industry folk. But he doesn't even know how to count

Now a lot of guys today are getting by on work ethic and there is nothing wrong with being a hard worker, but I'd rather see a hard worker who is going to work to tell his story, and make good compositions be a success than someone who just plain sucks. The other thing is that while I may be in the minority and not consumed by this idea of banging beats being the end all be all and loving a guy who makes the same song over and over (Wayne, Ross, Fabolous) when I say something, you better not come at me sideways without being able to support your own opinions. Attacking me isn't supporting you and at the end of the day, no one is going to tell me this guy is spitting Drake worthy punchlines. I'd rather listen to Jeezy or TI than this dude's garbage.

I've said this repeatedly being a good rapper is hard never mind a great one. People look at me and feel as though I'm an elitist when it comes to hip-hop. Not really, I can admit I liked Crime Mob, I fucks with Young Dro immensely but I'm never gonna pretend that they are top notch artists. Someone says they suck I'll likely agree and keep it moving and thats the difference, I don't pretend they're something they are not. I also uphold a standard because everyone doesn't deserve to be in this rap game. They don't let anyone who dominates the playground into the NBA, there is a barrier of entry which makes it an achievement to get there. Rap has become a free for all where people who have the talent to be well rounded aren't shown any love with the exception of the chosen one at any given time. Drake is a rare example but he's like a Tyler Perry movie, not representative of an entire class of people, yet, he is the only one thrown out there as this example of non-gangsterish hip-hop now.

Lastly on my rant let me say this, we as people in general pay way too much attention to negativity and the stuff we don't like. All of us, but as much as I try to put out and promote and always include a positive comment when I'm doing a review, it's only when I can tell you what I don't like and why that I get the attention. I'm not a person who advocates doing anything for the haters because if someone really hates you, they are never going to like you, success isn't making them madder, they were already that way. Fuel yourself on the love not the negative. Look at what I do like support and promote if you're going to be focused on what I dislike. My passions go the same in both directions.

In Honor of Tink:


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