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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pusha T - Taking the 50 Cent approach?

I was never an initial fan of the Clipse. Lord Willing is considered a dope rap classic but I think for me the duo of Malice and Pusha-T were unrefined and the production by the Neptunes was a hindrance on their ability to just get into the verses and rap. I mean I thought that "Gringing" was one of the more annoying beats ever created. It might have been the change on the hook but I really hated this.

In the years since, styles have changed and the skills for Pusha have developed a bit. I loved the last Clipse album and his verses especially stood out as particularly poignant in their depictions of hustling along with the luxury lifestyle. Not to say this can't get old or boring, see Rick Ross as someone who does it so often that it gets tiresome, albeit well. Pusha does come across as slightly more realistic and cinematic than some of his contemporaries.

More recently, he has worked on solo projects as he is now signed to Kanye's Good Music imprint. Some of the music has been exceptional, just listen to "New God Flow" More recently, Pusha has seemed to take the rap staple of questioning other artists realness and become more specific, targeting the 'leader' of the newest movement, Young Money/ Cash Money and Lil Wayne. Look everyone knows Wayne isn't a real gangster, yet it has become acceptable to allow him to continue with his claims without question.

That is Exodus 23:1 the first shot fired by Pusha at the camp. He followed that up with a song with Alley Boy called "Favorite Rapper" where they talk about your favorite rapper being a liar. Rumors are that Alley is dissing T.I. throughout the song and is the current recipient of the diss from the song "Addresses" off of the Trouble Man album. Regardless, Jae Millz dropped a decent diss called "Hearing Voices" and it wasn't a bad shot, but it still wasn't Wayne, who did throw some weak shots back. The latest in this salvo is a Pusha-T and Ludacris song called "What They Mad For"

Point blank, 50 Cent laid the ground work for such a way to create a buzz so many years ago it seems when he went after Ja Rule, and while some of my readers insist that 50 had nothing to do with Ja's fall, it would seem too convenient that one ascension and one descent just happened to randomly happen at the same time. This seems to be the way Pusha is going to go about getting some publicity for himself and to a certain extent it is working. However, what he might be underestimating is that the new hip-hop climate does not take kindly to diss records or beef. So while in one of these videos he talks about the great heritage of subliminal disses and the pure act of spitting, the newer generation, of which the entire market of hip-hop music is basically dependent upon for revenue, does not care for it. They are more into Trinidad James and the image an artist can portray. A person being 'real' and calling out someone who fits their mental image of what they would prefer to see as the truth doesn't want to see that happen. In a time when the main thing is to present an image without necessarily becoming that thing, no one wants to expose the poster child for such behavior.

Overall, I think Pusha is putting out some good, if not very original or deep music that fits in with the time, however if you're not under one of the pre-eminent umbrellas right now, Maybach and Young Money, you can only benefit from the attention of their cults of fans by becoming the opposite, the enemy so that everyone has to pay attention to you. This is the same lesson 50 cent taught to Oprah in an interview. We see who was paying attention.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Album Review- Big Boi- Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors

Big Boi is the less heralded member of Outkast by far yet he is more active overall. He does more than a random appearance on three records a year and releases entire collections of music. Musically, his tastes have been almost as eclectic as Andre's with synthesizers interspersed with heavy bass and soul sounds. This doesn't portend to bode well with the younger audience, though older listeners may enjoy his funk inspired tunes. Consistency, of course is the ultimate question and can Big Boi deliver some buzz worthy songs on his latest album release, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors.

There is a short intro before the first song, "The Thickets" with Sleepy Brown where Big Boi raps over some classic soul production by Sleepy about himself and his time in the game. This serves to try and set the template for his album and what he's going to bring to the table. "Apple of My Eye" switches the entire flow up with a more uptempo beat that could be the backdrop for a single and video as he raps about women. The song is deeper than it appears on the surface which Big Boi tends to do on occasion. Phantogram appears for the first time of the album on "Objectum Sexuality"  in a song about sexing. Phantogram is also on "Lines" with ASAP Rocky which has an unorthodox nature but rocks off. "CPU" also features Phantogram but it represents one of Big Boi's propensities to mis-step.

"She Hates Me" with Kid Cudi has Big Boi talking about how he is trying to reunite with an old love. It's decent, but doesn't hold a candle to "In The A" which is a pseudo trap song and features TI and Ludacris. This has plenty of bass and will be the one song assured to rattle trunks in the South. Kelly Rowland lends her vocals to "Mama Told Me" which again sounds a bit dated with the synth sounds, though it is probably meant to mimic a cheesy 80's pop hit, it struggles to be that quirky song that manages to break through for Outkast. "Thom Pettie" with Little Dragon and Killer Mike is just plain weird, and totally Big Boi's style.

B.O.B. and Waves are the guests on "Shoes For Running" where Big Boi goes to his fast rapping over an unorthodox 'for rap' track. Mouche and Scar feature on "Raspberries" another Dungeon Family staple sounding track that some people will probably like on the low. "Tremendous Damage" with Bosko is more traditional about standing up to trials and tribulations but Big Boi is doing that kinda sorta singing thing. Little Dragon is also on "Descending" and "Higher Res", the latter of which also has an artist named Jai Paul. "Gossip" features UGK and Big Krit before ending on "She said Ok" with Tre Luce and Theophilus London on an attempt to do something explicit and sexy.

Big Boi has some of the best intentions to bring something different when he releases an album and I appreciate it. However, some of the songs are unorthodox for no real reason, they don't sound all that good and the concepts and lyrics aren't enough to cover up some of the lulls. The other issue is the enormous amount of features even if it is just hooks, there are too many names on this album that we don't know. They don't really add anything to the songs and the production is so all over the place. At the very least more thought could have gone into sequencing so that the album flowed more organically. Too bad the beginning couldn't carry through the entire album because things started out decently enough.

Rating: 2/5

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Album Review- T.I. - Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head

So the King is back for those who were doubting it. TI is one of the most influential Atlanta rappers ever. Even through all of his trials and tribulations he is still one of the most popular rappers to hit the scene. He has a huge catalog but since his release from his last prison stint there were questions. The music just wasn't there, then there was the fact that he has been spending so much of his time building his empire with other artists and doing the Family Hustle with his wife and kids. With the release of his new album, "Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head" TI is out to prove he can still deliver.

The album starts with a wonderful soul sample of Curtis Mayfield and mix of production on "The Introduction". This is the TI we seem to love though it isn't anything new lyrically, he controls the beat and brings you into the album the right way. "G Season" is trite however. The beat is ok but nothing too crazy and Meek Mill who is featured is getting exceptionally tiresome with his same as usual verses. TI is intent on letting you know that he isn't to be slept on no matter what you think of him and his past. This is especially evident on "Trap Back Jumpin" which is a new Trap anthem. I'm not a fan of rappers regressing to such well covered topics like selling dope when they have moved so far from that, however, this song is an exception.

"Wildside" starts with a skit about TI and some partners getting chased by police. The song features ASAP Rocky and while TI talks about how he has always walked on the more dangerous side of things and loves it, ASAP is more focused on some swag rap stuff. "Ball" with Lil Wayne is very forgettable though it is a throwback to older New Orleans sounds. "Sorry" with Andre 3000 is of course a standout track. While TI puts forth some above average verses, he makes due riding the beat and his style while once again 3 stacks manages to murder another track. R. Kelly teams up on "Can You Learn" which follows a reenactment of TIp's much publicized arrest before the BET awards. The song is about whether or not a lady can learn to love a guy who is always in trouble in some sort of way.

"Go get it" reminds me of 'Top Back' and "The Way We Ride" has a throwback southern-Houston type of feel to it. "Guns and Roses" with Pink is aimed square to the Top 40.  "Cruisin'" ia channeling the pseudo-singing of whatever you like. Some folks will like it, some will skip it. TI takes it back to the streets on "Addresses" letting you know he's about that action. "Hello" with Cee-Lo is more of the celebratory type of song but it isn't extra happy. "Who Want some" is a bit boring but "Wonderful Life" with Akon, has TI having fictional conversations with his father and his best friend Philant who was killed a few years back. "Hallelujah" is a summation of his life and his most recent troubles.

T.I. always makes solid albums but this one falls just short of greatness. Yeah, he has some classic trap music, but I'm bored with that. I want to hear more of the growth and push forward as well. This album is spent trying to show that the Family Hustle may be a show, but don't forget that TI is still from the streets. I get so bored by songs like G Season that are just normal, when at the very least he shows the ability to spin them like on "Can You Learn" and even "Wildside" though that isn't one of my favorites. At this point in a career, I hold certain artists to a standard based upon prior work. While this new album is listenable, I kind of doubt it's overall staying power. The one thing that did stand out was the lack of appearances by the rest of the Grand Hustle Roster, no Iggy Azalea, B.O.B, or Trae the Truth.

Rating: 3/5

Friday, December 7, 2012

Album Review- The Game- Jesus Piece

The Game has always been controversial since he first dropped. He has constantly made news, beefing with everyone from 50 Cent to 40 Cal, and recently throwing veiled threats at Shyne for his comments about Kendrick Lamarr. His Fifth studio album, Jesus Piece has had enough of interview promotion at this point so it on to determining whether or not Game still has what it takes to make good music. Here is my review of The Game's newest album, Jesus Piece.

First of all Game seems to have decided to forgo name dropping on this album by just having everyone on it. He only has two tracks without features. Meek Mill is the first on "Scared Now" which has a dark tone and piano riff where Game starts off spitting about fighting 40 Cal in the streets but then he goes back into talking about the fall out with 50 Cent. Meek spits about nothing at all. "Ali Bomaye" features 2 Chainz and Rick Ross. Chainz manages to sound halfway decent on this track which is unorthodox because there are sort of mixed verses that aren't just straight up 16's. The title track, "Jesus Piece" features Common and Kanye West which somehow manages to be underwhelming.

On "Pray" which features J. Cole and JMSN, Game does his best Cole impersonation as he has been known to do with certain features. His bars are a bit weak on this one and Cole spins some unbelievable tale about how some woman's life got ruined. Meanwhile Game is recycling concepts on "Church" with King Chip and Trey Songz. Recycling the idea is because he took Meek Mills' "Amen" and carries the same idea and feel on this song and brings on Trey instead of Drake to handle the chorus. The remake of D'angelo's "Lady" (with the same title) features Wayne, Big Sean, Fabolous, and Jeremih and his struggle singing.

Jayceon finally does one song by himself on "Heavenly Arms" but it isn't deep or anything, but he does his best spitting thus far on this song. Pusha T gets his feature on "Name Me King" where Game tries his best Clipse flow but can't do it like Pusha. One of the more intriguing features is singer Tank who you wouldn't expect. He joins Kendrick Lamarr with Game on "See No Evil" which is about the streets and lifestyle of Compton, yet again, but it's a good song if formulaic and expected. Meanwhile "Can't Get Right" with K. Roosevelt is Game going over his relationship with Dre again for the third time.

Continuing with the religious theme, Jamie Foxx is back singing on "Hallelujah". "Freedom" features Elijah Blake and is about going over his career with his name dropping as usual. "Celebration" reinterprets Bone's classic 'First of the Month' and includes Chris Brown, Tyga, Wiz Khalifa, and Lil Wayne as they talk about smoking and drinking. Young Jeezy appears on this album along with Future on "I Remember" where they rap about being able to remember how to go back to certain lifestyles. Future sucks and Game drops gems like "got an off-white porsche; cumstain". The game ends his album on his own with "Blood Diamonds" where he plays on his gang affiliation, his success, and what a Blood Diamond is. This is the strongest concept on the entire album.

Unfortunately for Game, this album is boring compared to the RED album. He has too many features and his attempts to play on the religious iconography he has set up is poor because most of the songs lack a real focus and progression on them. On at least three occasions he brings up his break up with Dre, which was three albums ago, we know and we get it, and we're tired of hearing about it. The 50 Cent references are not as frequent, but it seems a bit fortuitous that 50 would start to throw shots just before Game's album drops so that Game can respond. But back to the music, I just couldn't focus during large portions of it because there was nothing to grab me and drag me in. The beats are all ok though none are real bangers or different enough to make the ears perk up.

Rating: 2.5/5


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