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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lupe Should talk and never rap

I mean dude can rap a lot but he just loses me some times with his concepts and how he makes his music. But when dude speaks, he is motivating to me in a large degree. He can really relate and speak about how things are going and how a guy like me would reflect on a situation. He is way more honest than most of these other rappers out here, these so-called gangsta rappers and trappers and thugs who do this music thing to get out of that situation and they just perpetrate it. They don't have the guts to speak about it other than just trying to placate the main people who buy into their garbage music and support the negativity.

Here lupe is talking about Chief Keef and the particular culture he represents. There a couple of things I have on this myself. One, is that it seems interesting that in a lot of areas that have had a couple of more positive artists come out, it seems like there is quickly an influx of artists who are the opposite, meaning less progressive and more into the glorification of street life and violence. Look at the West Coast movement and how big the true gangster movement got just after NWA which was a mixture of the two ideals. It also happened in Atlanta after Outkast and Goodie Mob were the early pioneers of hip-hop from their area. It's not even that the opposite gets shown because there should definitely be a balance so that side should be represented, however, the positive gets completely over run and pushed to the side in favor of the thugged out music. Interesting to say the least.

The second is just literally listening to what Lupe says and it really is crazy that as far as we have come as a group and a people for those of us in the hip-hop community who are black (because it is not exclusive to race and yes we have come a long way), that those with these views are still out here and surviving. Simple, it's so visceral that so many of these kids out here look like him, and have his mentality. These are the faces on the news and then for him to be so young and to represent this and to have such staunch support of people who feel the same as him and support him without thinking about what it does to all of us, it's really something to be taken aback by.

While we start to get worked up in this election season, let us not lose focus that we still need to do for ourselves in our own communities and get rid of the areas that promote this lifestyle.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Album Review- Busta Rhymes- Year of the Dragon

Busta Rhymes has been through a lot. He has survived more labels than any other artist and is currently on some version of the Young Money/Cash money imprint. Now I have doubted whether or not this would be a beneficial move for one of the most iconic artists in hip-hop. Well things have come to fruition sort of with this full album release. However, you won't find it in stores or itunes, in a unique development, Year of The Dragon is available on Google Play as they attempt to build up their library of offerings. An interesting concept so it doesn't cost you anything, so go and sign up and then download it in case he is getting paid by the unit while I review Busta Rhyme's "Year of the Dragon".

The album starts off feeling like a throwback with "I'm Talking To You" which has the rock/rap fusion going with the drums and guitars before Busta takes you into the dungeons. It is followed up by what would have to be the 'single' which features Trey Songz and Rick Ross on "'Til we Die", where Busta breaks out his slowed down serious flow. This songs has a good balance on it. On "Do That Thing" you would swear Busta had channeled E.L.E. for the track which sounds like it was lifted from that album. "Make it Look Easy" features Gucci Mane and has busta rapping over a well used hip-hop sample though it s more annoying than anything, but Busta always has those songs.

Lil Wayne is the feature artist on "Pressure" which is about nothing but it just has that Busta feel to it. "Love-Hate" has Robin Thicke on the chorus while Busta talks about how he is love but he hates the woman he is with. It's cool, but not required listening. "Grind Real Slow" is right up in Bussa Buss' wheel house with a creative hook in the way it's put together even though subject wise it is very simple. Of course, by now you should have jeard "King Tut" with J. Doe and Reek da Villain.

Busta reaches out to Harlem and Killa Cam on "Sound Boy", while "Doing it Again" uses the 'Round and Round' samples and features Reek and Chanel, who handles the chorus duties. It's album filler and for the first real time, Busta goes to the islands with "Wine & Go Down" where he goes back and forth with Vybez Kartel. "Movie" is trash and happens to also feature J. Doe, but Busta makes up for it on "Crazy" the trunk rattling bully rap that Busta is great at. He ends the album strongly with a feature from Anthony Hamilton and Maino on "Bleed the Same Blood" which just has that dark flow and Maino brings his raw street style to the track and it just is one of those true grinding it out type of songs.

This was an unexpected drop for me and it is very solid. In fact, compared to a couple of the more high profile albums this album shines a little more. I wish it was a wide release and maybe out two years ago where it could have really had an impact but this album doesn't have Busta reaching too far out of his comfort zone to be something that he isn't. It truly is a throwback to E.L.E. or Genesis so if you like the dark brooding feel on those LP's you would probably like this. Busta isn't going to really get the young generation with an album like this, especially devoid of those big party bangers he always happens to have a knack for creating, but it is solid, vintage Busta Rhymes nonetheless.

Rating: 2.5/5

Monday, August 27, 2012

Album Review- Beanie Sigel- This Time

Beanie Sigel was seen as the pit bull of the Roc when he first burst upon the scene in the early 2000's and could have been the one to usher in a huge era for Philly rappers. Legal problems then the eventual dissolution of that iteration of Roc-a-fella records led to a fall from grace for the Philly rapper who last tried to make a come back a couple of years ago by going at former boss/mentor, Jay-z. The results from that were underwhelming and this time, Sigel is going to just try to make it with the music, and not the gimmicks.

The album starts out with a funk/r and b intro by Oliver Laing. It's actually kind of corny with the 'folk tale' that is inspired by Sigel. Had it been a normal song without the specific lyrics it could work. But the first actual song is "This Time" with Laing on the hook, it's a nice very polished song. You can tell the feel that Oliver brings to the track and thats whats most important on this song. Akon is another of the high-powered features on "All I Know" which actually sounds like it was released already. The track is nothing new neither is the hook as Sigel talks about remaining hood. On "Expensive Taste" which features Corey Latief Williams, Sigel tries to get his grown man on but it doesn't quite fit his style or personality.

"Kush Dreaming" is slightly more into Sigel's style but it still seems more forced. Now "Bang Bang Youth" with Junior Reid is the Beans we have come to know, love and expect while he talks about youth in the streets. JT Roach features on "Bad Boy Mack" which has a laid back track but it kind of leaves things open for Sigel to struggle a bit with putting something compelling on the beat. "No Hook" takes a bit of a dig at Jay when he uses the same phrasing as Jay did on his 'No Hook' song but Beans is back into the attack mode on this track.

The State Property gang comes together on "The Reunion" with Omilio Sparks, Freeway, Peedi Crakk, and Young Chris join beans on a track that does harken back to that hey day when they were popping, though none of them really has enough time to truly get on a roll and lay down some really serious bars. Another unknown, Sean Anthony Francis, co stars on the chorus for "Sigel is What They Call Me". His Anthony Allen style vocals aren't done very well and brings the song down a notch. The final track is "Dangerous" with Young Chris and The Game on a track that sounds like the bad use of an 80's sample and doesn't quite fit Beanie. In fact this song wouldn't have made any album dropped by the Roc back in the day.

Sigel isn't the same any more. He struggles to come up with those street smart darts that he used to have ready. I have to wonder if all of the legal troubles and lack of success haven't led him to neglect his skills. Looking at his Breakfast Club interview the other day, he seemed to be high and not into it. This album sounds just like that, a guy scrounging to get a couple of dollars the only way he knows how.

Rating: 1.5/5

Decoded - We need to break down Gunplay's verse?

So I am not going to say i hate Gunplay, aka Don Logan. In fact I would rather listen to him than a lot of popular rappers like Big Sean or Tyga cause they really suck. So I see  courtesy of world star, that they have a web series that I assume is based on the idea behind Jay-z's decoded book which broke down some of the stories behind his lyrics.

This particular one strikes me because it involves Gunplay talking about his verse on the Self Made Volume 2 compilation, on the song "Power Circle".

Now as I said before Gunplay actually has something to him but did we really need him to break down his verse? He didn't use any metaphors or similes. In fact, the words he used to break down the verse were the same ones he used to write it. In essence, there is nothing there to decode. This isn't a Wale verse or Lupe Fiasco. I can appreciate this attempt to explain hip-hop for those who are unaware but if we're going to do it, at least be able to show the poetry of it and anything that might be more difficult to understand.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Album Review- Slaughterhouse - Welcome to Our House

The quartet which forms Slaughterhouse was mostly, undervalued, mostly unloved artists who while talented had failed to make the major impact they were once seen destined to do. Upon the first song, and subsequent clamor for more, they realized there was indeed an audience which wanted to hear four hot lyrical emcees get together and rip tracks. Their combined power propelled them to get recognition by the mainstream and that reached a critical mass when last year, they signed with Eminem and Shady records. Since then everyone has been waiting to see if they could live up to the combined expectations that come with their new high profile. So with nothing further, let's get into he album review of the new Slaughterhouse album release, "Welcome to Our House".

The opening intro is definitely Eminem influenced, but isn't an actual song. The first song is "Our House" which features the 'boss' Eminem and Skylar Grey. The only one who takes a back seat on this is Joe Budden who handles a slight bridge in a song that amounts to everyone talking about how they want to be seen in hip-hop and/or where they fit in. Crooked I has the best verse by the way. Busta Rhymes pops up to handle the hook on "Coffin'" this is more of a shot at getting a pop single in the veins of Ante Up which didn't really start that way. "Throw That" reminds me of a D12 song in the way it sounds. Em is also featured on this ode to strippers. This is followed up by the original single, "Hammer Dance" which still has an infectious beat.

"Get Up" is about the personal come backs each of them has gone through to get back to the point they were long expected to be. "Flip a Bird" attempts to bring some more straight forward street credibility to the album and the sound is kind of weird. Joe Budden's verse about how his parents drug use affected him is well documented but stands out on this song. Swizz Beatz is on "Throw it Away" which is what they should probably have done when he came with the track and offer to do the hook. It's not the worst song in the world but it doesn't feel right. Skylar Grey also features on "Rescue Me" and of course there is the Cee-Lo feature "My Life"

"Frat House" seems like it was a good idea, but it doesn't get over. "Goodbye" is what Slaughterhouse is known for. Being able to be lyrical yet expose themselves with deep lyrics about the portions of their lives we somehow manage to not be privy to."Park it Sideways" is trying to be different about speaking on having money, in other words, swagger rap. "Die" is another visit back to the street territory where they go in about what's going to happen if they get pushed to the limits. The regular version of the album ends with "Our Way".

Bonus tracks are "Asylum" with Eminem which could have replaced something else on the regular track list though it isn't really a great song at least its different, "Walk of Shame" about the groupies after a night of fun should have definitely replaced the swizz beatz track, "The Other Side" is about dealing with the game and being famous, and "Place to Be", with B.O.B. , which isn't about anything really but should have been on the main listing as well.

This album is tough to look at because there is a lot of weight being put on these artists and they don't live up to it. There was too much time and too much label intervention or something because it is very overproduced and to sum it up, watered down. It sounds too much like the past releases that have come from the Shady records imprint where they force the need for massive sales on instead of letting the artist do what they do best which is normally how they got there. The production doesn't fit as much, the drums and bass lines don't hit quite right and have the same energy as on the self titled initial album.  Lyrically, Crooked I steps up more than the others this time but too much is a jumble of pieces that wasn't necessary.

Rating: 2.5/5

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Album Review - DJ Khaled- Kiss the Ring

What would a summer be without a release from DJ Khaled who took the genre started by DJ Clue, and has run it to new heights. He has once again put together a mix tape of the South's hottest artists and attempted to draw some singles out of the deal and make the legit money instead of releasing mix tapes like fellow counterpart DJ Drama. As usual, there isn't an overall theme but let's dive right into my review of DJ Khaled's Kiss the Ring. The album starts off with "Shout out to The Streets" with the new heavywweight in the game, Meek Mill, Khaled's own Ace Hood, and from nowhere, there is a return of Plies. The beat isn't bad and Mill drops a quick but energetic verse. Plies is wha you would expect as is Ace Hood. "Bitches and Bottles" features Wayne and TI, and unfortunately Future. TI has the best verse, Wayne does the normal and Future....let's just move on. Rick Ross and Kanye West hold down "I Wish You Would" where someone must have left the auto tune feature on when Kanye hit the booth. His verse is weird since he starts off with some street type of stuff that doesn't really fit his persona. Then there is the lead single, "Take it to the Head" with Chris Brown, Nicki Minaj, Ross and Lil Wayne.

In a track featuring the 'young stars' which could be one of the better ones on the album, even though it features J. Cole, is "They Ready" which also features Big K.r.i.t. and Kendrick Lamar. This is followed immediately by one of the worst, "I'm So Blessed" with T-pain handling hook duties and being teamed up with Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa, and Ace Hood. The hook is annoying and Big Sean and Wiz aren't ever worth listening to. Khaled tries to appeal to the underground more lyrical hip-hop fan with the DJ Premier produced "Hip-Hop" with Scarface and Nas and the tired concept of Hip-hop as a woman, though Nas' verse has some interesting wordplay. It's the idea i'm bored with. "I did it for my Dawgz" features Ross yet again, as well as Meek Mill, French Montana, and Jadakiss who is still struggling to hold on to relevance. 2 Chainz only shows up on "I Don't See Em" with Ace Hood and Birdman, which only serves to make Ace looks better. "Don't Pay 4 It" is about not paying for sex and features Wale, Tyga, Mack Maine and Kirko Bangz. Good for Wale I have to say. Then there is "Suicidal Thoughts" with Mavado before the album ends with an "outro" where Khaled spits and I wonder who wrote this verse for him. Ace Hood also gets another chance to shine and also has a solo bonus track as does Mavado.

I must say Khaled supports his artists since he makes sure that both Ace and Mavado get some starring roles, especially Ace who is on more songs than anyone else. However, these Khaled albums are getting worse every year. They are just a bunch of songs and when you put that together with the fact most of these other artists are dropping mix tapes and albums constantly, the novelty of these songs have all worn off. There isn't anything that stands out and the sounds are all the generic ones of today and end up running together. If you must buy everything that comes out, you might as well get this for some mind numbing music ont he way to the club, but you have better options. Rating: 2/5

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Album Review- 2 Chainz- Based on a Tru Story

So 2 Chainz, nee Tity Boi has gained an incredible buzz over the past year and a half. He has been grinding and releasing music underground for a couple of years and now he has laid the groundwork for his official feature debut, "Based on a Tru Story" which is also the name of a popular yet expensive brand of designer jeans. Using his impressive industry connections, he has been able to secure plenty of features and material, the question is, is any of it good.

Chainz starts off with a 'hook' if you can call it that from Lil' Wayne on "Yuck". He starts off strong with injury and what amounts to decent metaphors from him. The drums in the beat don't hurt the feeling either. "Dope Peddler" seems like it could be interesting, but immediately 2 Chainz' lack of ability on the mic is out in front. His flow is slow allowing you to take in each and every wack lyric. The little sample used to break up the song could have worked if there was a better artist on the song. The latest single "Birthday Song" features Kanye West and has the normal heavy bass trap beat. Ye does his thing so that is a plus. The lead single of course was "No Lie" featuring Drake on the hook and it's decent I guess.

One of the better tracks I would say is "Truly Blessed" featuring The Dream as they talk about a woman who has it going on in her life as well as physically. He follows that up with "I Luv Them Strippers" with Nicki Minaj and this will easily bang in every shake club on the East Coast. This set of songs was preceded by "I'm Different" which was a wasted chance for him to give his personality some depth. He reunites with old partner Dolla on "Stop Me Now" where he talks about coming up hustling. This isn't the worst song but its so elementary.

Chainz gets back to normal business on "Money Machine" where he goes back into getting money and killing some girl's weave. One of the more unusual appearances is by Cap 1 (if this is the same one that wa sout years ago) on "Wut We Doin" where he outshines 2 Chainz by having a different flow and style on the song though there isn't any substance there. "Ghetto Dreams" features Scarface and John Legend who seems like he will do a song with anyone to stay relevant. Mr. Face makes this song worth listening and could have taken over the other two verses truthfully. "In Town" which features Mike Posner has Mr. Tru Religion talking to a lady friend about how its going down since he is in the area. The normal version of the album ends with an average Chris Brown feature on "Countdown". The song is forgettable if only because it sounds like every other Chris Breezy feature track.

"Like Me", a deluxe bonus could have been a great track with some one else on it. The hook is a bit weird but it works. Chainz unfortunately drops gems like "Chink chink chicken talk flippin birds/ Fuck y'all ketchup mustard/ I take ya pills expert" (and I wanted to show there was no carryover metaphors on that one). "I Feel Good" is straight, and "Riot" is also included.

Overall, this is even worse than I was expecting and 2Chainz is awful. This is overexposure of the worst form because in small doses he can be tolerable. What happens here is he gets overexposed and the entire album sounds like one long song. I was even disappointed by several of the hooks and a lack of energy. Beyond the ultra repetitive lyrics of the 'hair weave killer' there isn't even much for fans who like swagger rap.

Rating: 1.5/5

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Serena and the C-walk

Just when I was wondering if any issues would really come up this week, Serena c-walked at the Olympics and a furor erupted. This is interesting to me for a couple of reasons, one of which is the obvious, how big of a deal is this overall, and the second issue is that of hip-hop's overall influence and integration into the mainstream.

First of all, Serena realized her mistake when she was asked about the dance during her press conference. So while she did it in her exuberance and it is something from Cali as she said when asked, she knew that it would be identified negatively with gang culture and it is better to deflect then try to explain how something so closely related to gangs could be turned into something benign never mind positive. It was cool to see her excitement and her sister Venus' excitement about the dance and the sort of 'inside joke' it was even amongst all of the spectators. Hell, all of black america chuckled at that but when the question was asked, cringed because we knew what kind of reactions the answer would trigger, even though it wasn't that big of a deal.

Should it have been though? Why are we so accepting of the way gang culture has integrated itself into our culture at the moment at the expense of more positive styles and ways of life. The way we wear our clothes and even talk are influenced by gang and prison life and we adopt it into our every day culture with little thought as to what we are really promoting. A real Crip will take you down for playing around and doing that dance in the neighborhood because you haven't earned the right to do that. You want to earn that right, you have to do some things that are most likely very illegal, dangerous, and destructive. There are fakers and posers and then there are real thugs who will take you out for trying to perpetrate their lifestyle.

Let's look at the other side of the coin though, for us as black people in America, we have had to take the negative and turn it into positives pretty much since we got on this side of the Atlantic. It makes sense that we take some aspects of our culture and transform them. For Serena, the C-walk wasn't a reflection of her gang or set, but a hip-hop or urban expression of her joy. We turn chitterlings into food, that some people actually eat, and are generally cultural leaders with our style of music, speech, and dress. For that dance to be seen as cool is taking the one aspect of the gang culture that can be applied without violence or danger while making yourself a part of something that most of your neighborhood, family, and friends may be a part of. I get it, but I don't necessarily agree with it because we're not trying to do the same with our lawyers and doctors.

At the end of the day it's not all negative because there are plenty of things that are transformed from a negative connotation to a positive one. However, as a person in the spotlight, you have to be careful and not be too soon to

Friday, August 3, 2012

Mix Tape Reviews - Lloyd Banks, YMCMB, Iggy Azalea

So every week there is a new set of mix tapes for us to check out and it's hard to pick through the crowd even sticking to names and known quantities.Llod Banks dropped V6 " The Gift", Iggy Azalea dropped an EP called "Glory", and the Young Money crew came out with "YMCMB" just two days ago.

I have had this Lloyd Banks sitting in the queue for about a week now and just got around to checking it out and promptly started to go to sleep while driving. See I was a Banks fan when he first dropped because he was a punchline heavy street rapper like Fabolous who was able to convey more emotion. However, for the past three or four years while his career has been on standstill, Banks has lost most of that along with his once trademark voice, which is the first thing I pick up since it's obviously been strained and the vocals are not mixed very well. "We Run The Town" with Vado isn't bad just because Banks has switched up his flow and it is much clearer than most of the songs. Same for "Can She Live" which has a simple track that allows his voice to be heard. The biggest problem however, is the lyrics which are boring and unimaginative. With as much time as he takes between projects, you would expect Lloyd to have some better bars overall.

Rating: 1.5/5

Now one thing I don't look forward to is more Young Money music because I expect it to be more of the same thing every single time. Just check the single "My Homies Still" with Lil Wayne and Big Sean. I will say that Wayne's verses aren't that bad but then again rapping next to Big Sean makes anyone sound better. The beat bangs for real though. One of the bigger surprises on this mix tape are the two Corey Gunz solos, "Foreign" and "Put a Drink in her Hand" which showcase Gunz slowing down and simplifying his rhyme patterns and style to be more radio friendly. The beats also work well with the change and it shows something good is coming from his Young Money signing. Mystikal drops a 'verse' on "Bullshit" and he goes in about his legal troubles and what he considers those problems. Ace Hood out raps Bow wow on "I Got that sack" and mercifully there are few instances of Birdman rapping.

Also they limit Tyga to one track which is a blessing but Drake only shows up once as does Busta Rhymes who you might think they would have showcased slightly more since he can rap for hours. There are also a lot of guys you haven't really heard of before with what I have to assume is a chance to see if they can generate a buzz as well as stand-bys Jae Millz and Gudda Gudda. Lil Chuckee's "wop" is missing surprisingly and Lil Twist actually appears again. At the end this is more of a mix tape than most because it is a mash of songs and some of them are really just trite. Most of the unknown guys I skipped after only a couple of bars because they had obvious lines and the regular concepts wayne already uses so there was no point to listen further.

Rating: 2.5/5

Now everyone is waiting to see what T.I. does with Iggy Azalea. She has the exotic white girl looks, a different sounding voice, and had a buzz because of her sexuality. I listened to last years mix tape, "Ignorant Art" and she had some solid songs on there, her newest single "Murda Business" has been out for a few months and it's ok, but it mimics the sound and style of TI too much. It's important for her to develop her own sound if she is to be more than a gimmick. She features Pusha T on "Runaway" which is about getting away from the people who question or detract from you and what your doing. "Me, Myself, My Money" is another song that could be coming out of Tip's mouth. Mike Posner is found for "flash" Iggy's sexual track. "Millionaire Misfits" with B.O.B. isn't a bad track and could see bump in some whips. "Glory" is Iggy's attempt to drop some knowledge and spit some bars about who she is for anyone who doesn't really have a clue about her. It's ok, a nice little sample designed to not really screw up any ideas you might have about her while being a calculated attempt to gain some fans and prep for something more official.

Rating: 3/5


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