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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hip hop Hypebeasts

So I'm supposed to be eating but instead I see some tweets from Lupe and I'm reminded about something I thought about earlier. Hypebeasts in hip hop. Now what is called a hype beast currently is a dude or female who pumps up a pair of shoes on the market with no discretion, meaning, every brand new show is hot, it's a must- have and you have to line up for them. These are the people who encourage so many limited edition foamposites and retro jordan releases so they can say they got them, for the fourth time. I feel like hip-hop is becoming just like that let me explain.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Independent Spotlight

Going through the e-mails again and this week might be a good one.

First up I would say Mac Miller watch out because the Future Heroes are now here. These two white boys from Colorado are next up in the feel good and get high music segment. The first song I heard sampled Tevin Campbell's hit for group members Mars and Ken Deezy to just get it in with some songs about the party having fun and getting high. and while that all might not be this song, I went through several others and trust me, these two dudes know their weed.

I'm not a fan of the weed music myself but if Wiz and Currensy can have a career then these two guys with their varied sounds and solid, clean production have a future ahead of them assuredly. As far as lyrics go, it's hard when you don't have any directed topics or ideas other than sound good over the beat but it's not that they're wack or anything at all. Go and check "Bitch So Bad" on their soundclick.

So I felt like I might be tripping when I got the e-mail from Zee out of Florida. Another white emcee, this guy here is slightly different from the mellow vibe of the Future Heroes. This is decidedly "crunk" if that term applies, or rather new trap music with the heavy bass we get from the South these days. More strip club/selling dope type anthems (though without the drugs for the most part) I don't have any real complaints about this actually. It's generally well done even if lyrically it is unoriginal. It fits in to what is going as "hot" today. Get the mixtape from datpiff here.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Album review - Wale - The Gifted

I can admit this is the one album that I was waiting for this summer. Wale is one of hip-hops more gifted mc's and his affiliation with Rick Ross and his MMG imprint has raised his profile. Wale is one of those artists who blurs the line between street and poetic yet there are still people who aren't convinced that Wale is really an artist worth paying attention to. Maybe it's his flow, maybe it's his attitude, but for whatever reason Wale has a significant amount of hurdles to climb as he looks to cement himself as one of hip-hops elite with his third album, "The Gifted"

The album starts with "The Curse of the Gifted" which includes a little skit where some young dudes plotting to spray paint a statue of Wale. Then he goes into his verses which are about the stresses and pressures of the game and being near the top of it The track is somewhat simple, but it does echo the live instrumentation feel of DC's go-go scene. This leads us to "Lovehate Thing" with the chorus by Sam Dew. This song sounds like an update of a summer cookout song by Maze and Frankie Beverly musically. The song is talks about the dichotomy of being at the top of the game and how the people feel about you. The pre-chorus or bridge after the first verse is a bit too much for me at that point in the song, especially because he reprises it later. "Sunshine" continues the vibe as he raps about living life and shining.

"Vanity" is that typical Wale dud as he sings on the track and tries to be a trap rapping Atlanta artist when he isn't. However, the previous tack "Golden Salvation (Jesus Piece)" is very ill as Wale raps from the perspective of an iced out piece hanging from the chain of a rapper/baller. What makes it even better than an average personification track is the way Wale weaves in the different descriptions as a jeweler would while moving this story along. "Simple Man" is close to bringing back the 90's NY sound in the beat and Wale goes ahead and just raps on the track he wants "the money fuck the fame".

Meek Mill features on "Heaven's Afternoon" as he and Wale talk about the fact they have made it from being where they weren't supposed to have anything. "Gullible" featuring Cee-Lo has Wale probably rapping while thinking about his twitter feuds and the impact of people believing what they read, hear, or see on tv, radio and online. Wale brings Yo Gotti on "Bricks" where he talks about the dope game and why some people get into it while also admitting he wasn't built for it and the jealousy he felt as people he knew profited from it. Yo just there as Lyfe Jennings handles the chorus. Rihanna is of course on the "Bad" remix while the original with Tiara Thomas (which I prefer) makes the album as an extra basically. Juicy J gets trippy along with Nicki Minaj on "Clappers" the required strip club song. Wiz Khalifa and 2 Chainz both feature on "Rotation"

Ne-yo and Rick Ross feature on "Tired of Dreaming" as they join Wale to tell a lady love what they are tired of dreaming. The most irritating yet one of the flyest songs on the album is "88" as Wale describes himself as Jordan in 88 when he first rise to the top. its frustrating because the way the track is set up and with Wale's skill set he could have just murdered this beat. Instead he takes time out to sing a little and lets like an entire minute at the end of the song play out when he could have been showing us how gifted he really is. "Black Heroes" is the song that leads into an outro featuring Jerry Seinfeld. Don't sleep on Black Heroes though because Wale gives us some of the kind of bars he should have blessed us with on "88" talking about the current black heroes rappers, and what he brings to the table, or what they don't as opposed to what they portray.

For whatever reason Wale was the slept on member of this month's upcoming releases. Between the Kanye and J. Cole madness and then Jay-z's surprise announcement, it has become more of  a struggle to get noticed for the DC area rapper. Luckily for him he puts forth a solid effort that stands up next to those that have just dropped. While it's not as outlandish as Yeezus, Wale manages to come with his own sound on this album that is more like his first release and allows you to feel his local roots. Lyrically, Wale has opportunities he doesn't take advantage of, at times over thinking construction and relying on some gimmicks that have worked for Drake in the past. It doesn't work the same for Wale because his delivery is so different. He set the bar so high with his initial album that it has been hard to get back to that level and maintain his new fans and sales and move along with the culture. Out of these last three albums to drop Wale's is the best but I wouldn't call it great, it's some small thing missing from a couple of songs that would have made them great but they end up being just very good.

Rating: 3.5/5

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Independent Spotlight

I know I've missed a couple of weeks but between lack of desire and injury I had to take a little break. However I am back and ready to get right into it.

First of all I was not looking forward to listening to Turny Spookatti because of the name. I mean that doesn't really inspire too much confidence, sorry. but I held my breath as I clicked onto the soundcloud link for "Letter to My Love" . The song actually isn't bad but it wasn't much in the way of actual lyrics, however the feel was right on point and the track was pretty good. I could see this getting real spin somewhere and the guitars were a nice touch. But the thing that inspired me was "Ready For War"  which i heard on the rest of his soundcloud. Now it's not that its the most original or best song, but it showed pretty solid competence which led me to believe that Letter to My Love wasn't a fluke. Now the hook could have used some work but it's all solid. Get more here :

Found something interesting by two artists called Jayda and Vinny Blaq called "The Only One" . This song is kind of formulaic in an attempt to be positive and uplifting. Those songs can be hard to create but this is interesting because Vinny is from Pittsburgh and Jayda is a German singer. The chorus is kind of floaty and not really mixed the best as it could be to be as tight as could be, and Vinny's second verse is a tad simple but it might be worth a quick listen. adding to the international flavor, the song's producer, J Browning is from Canada.

Now let me say this, I understand you want promotion but if you have an artist or are an artist who is raw, maybe you need to wait before you try to get press. 'Identity Withheld' sent me a few artists but had a specific e-mail for Tara Britt, who is described as a 17 year old poet/emcee. Now I get the poetry but emcee not so much. See young Tara may have potential to create songs and topics but she doesn't have a presence on the tracks I heard. She lacks rhythm and polish. The verses are incredibly uneven and are a detriment if she continues and shows some improvement. "What If" is very awkward to listen to and is trying to have a good message but unfortunately it doesn't work out because of the delivery and what you can hear is inexperience with recording.

As always take a listen to these songs and let me know what you think about them.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Album Review- Kanye West - Yeezus

Kanye West is beyond a lightning rod for criticism and attention/headlines. He is the center of all that is self conscious and controversial. From his high profile relationships and public blunders, to his run-ins with the papparazzi and bi-polar bouts with fame, his has become infamous in a number of ways. With all that said, if he didn't make such great music at times we wouldn't care about any of the above. From his album title, "Yeezus" to the premier of songs "Black Skinhead" and "New Slaves" Kanye has already set the world abuzz and aflame before the album is even released. Knowing his talent, the expectations are at an all time high and here is hoping that he can live up to the massive hype he has created with the release of his new album "Yeezus".

The album starts off questionably in my mind with "On Sight" which produced by Daft Punk (who are all over the album) has the duo's sound deeply embedded and while different, I found annoying. Look I'm not against genre mash-ups and mixing but when you're taking big risks swinging for the fences, there are bound to be misses while Ye brags about being a threatening black man, I guess as much as Wayne Brady is for instance. However, though he may not give a fuck, most artists want their art to be liked or at least understood, the lyrics on this song are an attempt to be ultra simple to make a statement but come off as a lazy way to make his points. Now "Black Skinhead" sounds way better mixed than it did live and on various youtube postings. It feels like a marching band and is one of the big hits with the risks within the album as he talks raps in a mocking way about the media and perceptions of himself and people like him (if there are any). The drums just draw you in to what is Kanye's war song.

Now "I am A God" has garnered more controversy, especially after naming the album 'Yeezus' but at the end of the day is it really any different than Jay-z calling himself Hova? Once again though it is a bit self-indulgent about what people perceive of him and how he is treated right now. In a way it is making fun and pointing a finger at his own arrogance and taking it to the extreme. If you feel he is that arrogant, then he's going to feed into it just to piss you off. I wrote about "New Slaves" last week so you can check that out to see how I feel about that particular song, though I will say the simple beat is a welcome change in the sequence of the album.

Now Chief Keef is on "Hold my Liquor" but I don't mess with Ye when he starts to go all 808's and overdo it on the auto tune. "I'm in It" starts off with Kanye on his ultra sexual shit before reggae artist Assassin goes ham on the track before a Travis Scott hook. The beat has heavy bass and a simple tic for the most part and is a good fit. Once again, Kanye shows he can bring totally different elements together and make them work in conjunction. However "Blood on the Leaves" brings out the weird Kanye again with the bass line from 'Down From My Niggas' as Kanye croons about Amber Rose(?) then he starts going in on random females trying to get their claws into a rich man. Once again, way too much auto tune.

"Guilt Trip" I'm sure will have fans as he samples himself but it's another one of those weird joints that I would skip the vast majority of the time. "Send it up" features King L who shouldn't be blessed to waste space on a Ye album with that verse. Meanwhile Kanye came back with his simple lyrics and a song that just seems bland until it continues and just gets odd. Then the album ends totally odd, just because it's so normal (and it features Charlie Wilson) as he talks about how himself and not being a bad guy overall.

Look Kanye always gets a strong response because everything he puts out has the potential for greatness. The problem is he often gets ahead of himself and pushes the boundaries in some odd ways when as a fan we would enjoy just something solid and maybe more conventional but well executed. Even still, some of his chances work out great and the album is better than I expected, though it falls well short of classic status. I'm sure some people will call it brilliant but I feel like sometimes people read more into something a guy like Kanye does and puts out than is actually evident. I've seen it called some words like impeccable and classic and I beg to differ. I also saw it referred to as a "white guilt" record but I'm pretty sure Kanye has a huge white fan base. It's different, it's controversial, in fact it's Kanye plain and simple. At the end of the day, "...Fantasy" was a more complete album even though that was somewhat scattered. This album is more unified but it's too simple at times and fails to push lyrically as much as it does with it's production. Topically, I'll let those who feel it's something ground breaking have their moment but I haven't forgotten real albums that made people uncomfortable like "Straight outta Compton" and "As Nasty as They Wanna Be"

Rating: 3/5

Friday, June 14, 2013

Album Review - Mac Miller - Watching Movies With the Sound Off

I can admit I like Mac Miller. He is entertaining can rap a little bit and stays in his lane, just having some fun and not really getting too carried away with being a rapper itself and getting out of himself. His first album was ok, not really great, but Blue Slide Park had it's moments. He was also riding a wave of momentum and had several videos and youtube, along with the recent success of similar rapper Wiz Khalifa to help propel him. This time, he is more on his own so let's see how Mac Miller's new album "Watching Movies with the Sound Off" is in this review.

Mac immediately gives you the vibe of the album, it's pretty mellow, with "The Star Room". It's a bit trippy and it starts and ends with some unique effects placed on his vocals. "Avian" is another slow track that just feels like syrup and sprite poured onto the record as Mac raps...and I'm assuming it's like he's high cause that's what I take from it. He sounds like a less erratic version of Eminem in a way. "S.D.S." has one of the most confusing tracks I've heard in a while I can't get with it.

"Bird Call" is Mac just talking greasy to a random chick he is about to bang. "Objects in the Mirror" is the good old fashioned I could take care of you type of song. The chicks who smoke weed with the guys from school as they party and pop mollies might be fans of this. Earl Sweatshirt of Odd Future and Vinny Radio are featured artists on "I'm Not Real" where Mac adds some bass to his voice and kind of raps like one of the Wolfgang, he isn't killing it but his bars don't 'suck' either. Ab Soul is with Mac on "Matches" which isn't about anything but at least the tempo on this song changes up slightly over the decidedly down feeling of the album. "Red Dot Music" features Action Bronson and "Gees" features Schoolboy Q.

What could be considered the title track "Watching Movies" sounds like it samples the music from one of the hundreds of thrillers that come out every year and once again, Mac isn't full of content but the beat is the best on the album. "Suplexes inside of Complexes and Duplexes" with Jay Electronica reminds me of some old Wu shit where it is live it or hate it. "Someone Like You" is Mac on his lover-boy best. "REMember" "Aquarium" and "Youforia" are pretty much all the same. More rap about nothing with ultra slow, mellow beats. Now if you opt for the bonus deluxe version you suddenly get a bunch of energy that is missing from the rest of the album with "Goosebumpz" and "O.K." which features Tyler the Creator in what would be the second best and third best songs on the album. You also get "Claymation".

Mac Miller is a guy I root for a little bit because I think his music is harmless fun but this album was thoroughly disappointing and underwhelming. The whole thing was so slow like it was made on syrup and weed. There are few of the fun moments that were on his first album. There is nothing topical and the randomness got annoying very early. One thing about being independent is that you don't have to do anything you don't want, one of the downsides however is that you lack the direction from someone at a label who would let you know they need some way to sell the album. If you're a hardcore Miller fan you will like it, but the rest of us will bypass this rather quickly.

Rating: 1.5/5

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Album Review - J.Cole - Born Sinner

J.cole has been one of those up and coming rappers for a few years now. His first album, the sideline story was decent but didn't legitimize some of the love and accolades he has received from a lot of people in my eyes. A capable rapper, something has seemed missing from his music. More recently, he has received promo for moving up his release date to coincide with that of Kanye West later this month. this is his chance to prove if he is worthy competition. Here is my album review of J.Cole's new album "Born Sinner".

The album starts off with "Villuminati" which features a hook with a biggie sample as Cole spits about his come up and some experiences including Beyonce telling him about a car he acknowledges is worth more than him. The single is the Miguel backed "Power Trip" about Cole being caught up in love. "Land of The Snales" has Cole rapping over the track which is basically Outkast's "Da Art of Storytelling" and it is just a bunch of rapping with no real point. The song "Trouble" has a Kanye type feel to it but it ever really describes any trouble that follows J.Cole so in the end it becomes a waste.

"Runaway" is about a man running away from his reality or avoiding sticking to his responsibility with his girl in the first verse and the third is actually pretty good as he goes on and talks about what he learned from a racist ex-manager that influenced him and what it made him think about historically. "She Knows" has a very catchy tune but his overall verses are uninspired and pointless luckily, it doesn't need anything else. "Rich Niggaz" has Cole talking about his animosity for his step-father and his jealousy about people with more money than him.

Kendrick Lamar shows up on "Forbidden Fruit" handling the hook and Cole drops his idea about coming out the same day as Kanye in one of his verses. "Chaining Day" is in the spirit of Kanye's "All Falls Down" as Jermaine mocks himself and talks about wasting money on iced out necklaces and Jesus pieces. TLC is the feature on "Crooked Smile" which is how Cole talks about keeping things real in his own way. One of the most creative songs is "Let Nas Down" where he talks about meeting Mr. Jones and finding out that he was disappointed by Nas' single and how he felt about finding out he had let his role model down. The album ends with "Born Sinner" which has James Fauntleroy on the chorus.

Number one, I hate when an artist puts out mixtapes or EP's better than their album and J.Cole did just that with the Truly Yours ep's though I wouldn't classify them as great. He has some production chops but this album is incredibly boring and when he can make a statement or really create some drama he fails to do so. The first album he whined about his father, this album it's all about the fact he's got money but not as much as a bunch of other people. The best song by far is "Let Nas Down" followed by "Power Trip. Too often his lyrics aren't cohesive and very simplistic in their subject matter. Too much talk of females overall. He has plenty of hardcore ardent fans, maybe this is what they like, but I don't see it. He demonstrates potential at times but doesn't fully deliver beyond a line here or there.

Rating: 2.5/5


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