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Monday, September 30, 2013

Album Review- Nelly - M.O.

So Nelly is still around and making albums. The last time he dropped one it went under the radar for the most part but it wasn't bad. it wasn't great either, it just was. In fact I continue to wonder why Nelly doesn't treat rap like a robbery and get out now, but I guess he needs a reason to get out and tour. most people aren't really looking for him since he no longer has the huge promotional budgets and push he once had but Nelly has been grinding before and he is once again with his new album, "M.O." .

The first thing is that Nelly has pulled out some of the big guns with Pharrell and Nicki Minaj featuring on the single "Get Like Me" which actually had a video. It's not bad but feels like a slight rip-off of the Snoop hit, 'Drop it Like it's Hot'. With Nicki and Pharrell iit should have been more widespread then it was even if it's kind of annoying. Then Nelly gets back to the sing-song style he first popularized alongside Future on "Give U Dat" which is so run of the mill and boring it should be all over the radio right now. Then inexplicably Nelly decides to give away his age thinking a funk inspired joint called "Rick James" was a good idea. It's not, even if it does include T.I. Not that it's measurably worse than the previous tracks but it's a dated idea and concept.

"Heaven" with Daley is slightly better as it channels the spirit of the hit 'Ride with Me' but it isn't a great song either and some of the audio effects on Nelly's voice are overdone. I don't get why "Maryland, Massachusetts" is called that but the hook is catchy enough and the beat works. It's less overtly pop and isn't all that bad. Atlanta's 2 Chainz features on "100k" is in the same vein, aimed more at the hip-hop clubs but it becomes more and more evident that Nelly is completely reliant on some sort of gimmickry on every track even when it really isnt necessary.

Nelly does have a huge sounding pop song with "All Around the World" which features Trey Songz on the hook. If 'Roar' from Katy Perry can be all over then this song can definitely be a hit. Especially since Nelly leaves the singing to a singer. "I.D.G.A.F." with Pharrell and T.I. is another hit in waiting if it could see the light of day. This is one of the better songs on the album with an infectious set of drums and simple hook. Nelly holds down "U Know U Want To" by himself but it feels like a bad attempt at being Drake. Fabolous and Wiz Khalifa show up on "My Chick Better" where Nelly shows his struggle bars when he is actually trying to be witty. Continuing a trend of trying to do cross-genre mashups, "Walk Away" features Florida Georgia Line but is one of those annoying songs you don't really want to hear. Nelly Furtado surfaces on "Headphones" which is alright but another attempt at that 'big' song that doesn't quite make it, though it could I guess.

Overall, Nelly isn't a bad artist and he still has the knack for creating some songs that could be huge on the top 40 charts. The major problem is that in order to do that you have to sell people on the fact that you belong. Nelly is seen as old and a has been and his label isn't going to put forth the effort at this point to him and his music in the position where the public wants to consume it again. It's unfortunate because it isn't a bad album per se, especially for Nelly. He has some songs if given the chance they would pop but he doesn't make the music that engenders the die hard fans that could keep him relevant. Even features from TI and Nicki Minaj can't raise his profile. If you have a chance and like Drake's singles you might want to check out some of Nelly's songs. If you like Hip-pop you should definitely give it a listen but if you don't this wont make it past the download stage.

Rating: 2/5

Saturday, September 28, 2013

As is Hip Hop Awards - Independent Album of The Year

5. Talib Kweli - Prisoner of Concious

Kweli is very inconsistent, sometimes he can put out an album and have some real bangers and sometimes he might not. He however always has content and this album was a bit better than the previous, partially because he was able to bring in some decent features to supplement his talent. Miguel, Kendrick, Busta Rhymes, and Melanie Fiona all bring their talents to the table to support Talib in this effort.

4. Eve - Lip Lock

Eve might have had the most slept on album of the year from a mainstream standpoint. One reason might be her overseas focus that she has and the style of music she has to play over there. Songs with Missy and Snooop were actually decent and should have garnered some attention, and if those didn't work, then "Make it out this Town" was an uplifting anthem that deserved a better treatment if Katy Perry can be all over the radio.

3. Dead Prez - Information Age

Dead Prez have long been favorites of mine and now is no exception. This is one of the futuristic themed albums you can often find from underground artists talking about ills from the future in a past tense. the subject matter is typical DPG material but as usual they also prove the ability to make solid songs that would be catchy if ever allowed to hit the masses through radio.

2. Saigon - The Greatest Story Never Told 2: Bread and Circuses

The Greatest Story Never Told was so much anticipated and so long awaited that Saigon smartly moved quickly to drop a follow up that mixes his normal social lyrics and criticism of an industry that isn't behaving in a responsible manner. Now everything isn't a success on the album but he has enough content and song construction to make some of the more successful songs work on multiple levels.

1. Crooked I - Apex Predator

Crooked came more straight forward with lyricism than the last two entries. His solo effort is one designed to take hip-hop back to the streets keeping it real just like Saigon, but having more of the gangster edge Crooked possesses.  He manages to be slightly more socially conscious than say NWA, channeling his inner Cube to come with an effort that was surprising in its combined total effort and quality.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Independent Wednesday

Let's start off this week with an EP by artist Ash D from Cali. Cali has a thriving scene still after all of thes eyears of independent artists who are extremely active in promoting their music, more than just about any other area I would say.

This is an alright set of songs but it has that almost strict underground template of a slightly choppy flow and a focus on general lyrics and beats that aren't really melodic. Some of the hooks are clunky as well and the pacing could be better. I unfortunately tuned out several times because there wasn't enough to keep my attention. Thus I can't even evaluate how "nice" or not Ash is most of the time because I can't get into it. If you choose to preview above, leave your comments and let Ah know what you think. my favorite  cut is "Feel Better" personally.

Next up I got a single that is more geared toward the clubs and cars with a sound more like what you hear on the radio today from A. Layne featuring Stori, called "Rinse and Repeat". It's a decent little track that you can nod your head to but it isn't going to win any grammys. It is an example of the other spectrum when compared to Ash D.

The other thing about A. Layne is that he is like aiming for the Future/ Rich Homie Quan type of sound where he isn't really 'rapping' per se but making something thats a cross between r and b and rap.

Third this week, Jordan Looney reminds me of something straight from an underground mixtape from the mid-90's. He has the underground sound of mics with low bass and simple hooks. This isn't a bad song at all and brings me a lot of nostalgia. I consider this boombox music from the days of Rap City.

His new EP is called Dedication over Distance because Jordan worked with NY producer Wes Wax using today's new digital means. Jordan's other songs showcase a clear delivery which is witty and playful. The one thing is he needs some help with some of the more commercial aspects of music creation to lead himself away from some of the break beat styles he is using currently.

Let me know what you think about these artists this week.

Drakes not just Emotional on Record

He is a really emotional guy, but then again so are most rappers. So I can't just single out Drizzy for this. However, I did think he took things a bit too seriously on a personal level concerning Kendrick Lamar and the infamous verse from Control. Skip to 2:25 in the video below as Angie Martinez asks him about it.

This was odd, though I would like to see the animosity come out of Drake if it means he is going to come with fiercer bars than he did on the majority of "Nothing Was The Same", I think that him saying the verse Kendrick spit didn't mean much is bullshit. Point blank the kid said that the animosity is on wax, not in the streets, it's like Kevin Durant being friends with Lebron while still going at him for the title on the court. You don't have to carry these elements elsewhere, especially when you specifically state the circumstances in which you are coming with it.

Drake is showing his arrogance and that's fine to an extent as a rapper but his feeling that the verse had a limited impact I take is his way to downplay he didn't really have a really good response and multiple excuses for it. Such as saying he is waiting on someone else or a specific person he has assumed would bring the beef. Point blank dude copped a plea and fanned some flames if he got his britches in a bunch because of Control. Hopefully Kendrick files this away and pays attention on his next release.

Monday, September 23, 2013

My Life Through Hip-hop Part 1

HoSo thinking of something interesting to write and talking about a friend about my rap nemesis 2 Chainz and I still cannot fathom really why people are fans of this guy. But I digress because it made me want to examine my life through the music and times when I was affected by it. This is an ongoing series to just reflect on what I was hearing, when I was hearing it and what was going on at the time and the prism with which I took in the music and how I think I felt then and how I feel about it now. To start, the first cd I ever got I still have, Young M.C.'s "Stone Cold Rhymin'" .

Music wise, Young M.C. is a serious throwback to a simpler time when cowbells ruled and meant it was time to get hype. Young MC wasn't talking about anything serious, just having fun and that is definitely something that is missing in hip-hop these days. His two hit singles were "Principal's Office" and "Bust a Move" which seriously rocked. I just remember getting this cd and I'm not sure if it was for Christmas or not, nor do I remember listening to it straight through but it was cool. Still a decent listen if you get the chance, but this was a nice segue into hip-hop because it wasn't too raunchy or 'grown'.

Honestly those were the good days, when r and b was also into a funky state and it was danceable and words were literal poetry and not so straight forward as to take all of the mystery out of the music. What was your first cd and what do you remember about it?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Album Review- Drake- Nothing Was the Same

Well look here, a full two weeks early and 7 days before a normal leak, Drake's much anticipated album, "Nothing Was The Same" hit the webs shortly after one of the songs was released and created a firestorm of controversy. While already highly anticipated, the pressure got even greater after Kendrick Lamar's 'control' verse set the stage for what most are looking at as a battle of the new age of rap supremacy. The critics are perched to see if Drake can keep up and deliver the blend of hits and solid rap that has become his hallmark.

He starts out good enough with an intro that channels the recent decision of artists like Justin Timberlake and Jay-z to take one track and turn it into something else by it's end with "Tuscan Leather" which changes twice, starting with an incredibly annoying track and ending in a more melodic, typical Drake fashion. This leads to "Furthest Thing" which is more of Drake's pseudo love songs as he talks about not being perfect and still doing things he probably shouldn't.

Now the single, "Started From The Bottom" has been out forever and I can say I thought it was better than it is. The lyrics are extra basic and the beat and hook while catchy, don't make up for the basic rhymes I wouldn't expect from Drake. Meanwhile, "Wu-Tang Forever" caused a lot of hate on the net followed by defense because the title set up expectations that ended up not being anything near what we were thinking collectively. However, upon further examination, I see slight subtle jabs and hooks aimed at a former lover of Drake who has red hair and the ex of hers that engaged in a public feud and altercation with Drizzy. With that thought this song gets upgraded by a lot. Further evidence of this is when this song segues into "Own it"where he's kind of telling her to own what she does and he is going to "own that shit" if you get the sexual innuendo. He also throws a few more shots at dudes who talk more than women.

Now about the time I was thinking the album needed to pick the pace back up again, Drake comes with "Worst Behavior" where he attempts to channel the South and talk about how he's flexing and going to come back home partying and wilding but the song never really gains any steam and just seems like a really long and lazy interlude for a less talented artist. Now, "From Time" featuring an upcoming artist, Jhene Aiko, is actually a song that I like. It's that normal Drake stuff but I think the fact that he wasn't on the hook helped. Now, the hit right now all over pop radio is "Hold on, We're Going Home" and it's crazy how much the effects create this song. I mean Drake doesn't even sound like singing Drake, they have auto tune, multipliers, amplifiers and everything else on this technological marvel. It's kind of annoying yet not that bad but it seems to lack something and that's probably because they have it so cleaned up it seems unnatural.

"Connect" is more for the ladies again as he speaks about making that connection with a woman. "The Language" seems in the end to be the closest thing to a direct response to Kendrick Lamar, though that isn't particularly needed. But even as a general song this isn't as good as "HYFR" or "The Motto" because the hook is so awkward and awful. The verses are alright but not anything exciting. "305 to my City" is about getting 'it' and holding it down or something. This song featuring Detail is plain awful.

"Too Much" is Drake talking about the pressure and trying to keep his head on straight and not do too much. Sampha carries the hook and this is what I was expecting from Drake throughout the entire album. The regular version of the album ends with "Pound cake/ Paris Morton Music 2" featuring none other than Jay-z. Drake raps fine, but Jay takes the cake with a decent though not great verse but it's made better by the line directed at Beanie Sigel for "Being in his feelings".

Now I know I'm not the biggest Drake fan but this is extremely disappointing from a guy who is looked at to be the cream of the crop when it comes to this current generation of pop stars. He has been ultra successful and he is lacking the traditional hits he is known for. The bars are extremely lazy this go-round and the production is so slow and moody. This album isn't particularly strong on either front that you would expect. The one artist I expected to benefit from "Control" was Drake because he is talented enough and smart enough to focus on making solid songs but this album misses the mark. Much like Kanye and Jay-z get mulligans in their illustrious careers, I can only hope this album is a slight misstep and not a sign of things to come.

Rating: 2.5/5

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Independent Wednesday

This week I'm starting off with an artist from Florida named Jay Montra. Now unlike most Florida artists he isn't coming with some new trap rap and heavy bass lines. Self-described he is aiming to be more friendly to the radio and get the ladies to love him a la Cool James. Skepticism washed away immediately upon hearing the first song Boomerang. It's a solid track but I think I liked the second video, "Checklist" a little better as it fits a little bit with the bragging and boasting but not too arrogant nature that seems to be the sweet spot of mainstream success.

If you want to hear more from his recent LP, you can download or stream it over here at soundcloud. it's alright, but not as consistent as I would like to hear from Jay. 

American Fortune submitted new music from their artist Smart, "The Most Disrespected Woman in the World". In a way this is a teaser video, it shows the angle Smart is coming from with his music and it has a lot of depth to it. The lyrics are high quality and if this is like the actual song with music behind it, it's a gem. However, the other material they sent in was all a little hard to get through. One video was a spoken word? or rant and while the point was well meaning, i was prepared for more lyrics like this. I will be looking out for more from this artist though, he shows potential to be lyrical and charismatic.

Now from my home town I'm going to throw up something new from VIP Gutter called "Luv This Shit". The beat rocks and Gutter spits some decent bars. Now, I went to all Bmore hip-hop and there are a lot of responses to local artist Skarr Akbarr's shot or "Kendrick Lamarring" of the Baltimore rap industry. Not sure if this was directly to respond to that but this is a pretty solid set of verses.

Then my dude Japiro goes in over the "Somewhere in America" track with his own version , "Somewhere in Baltimore" and he does his thing. He speaks on what's really going on in front of his eyes and just flows. I'm feeling it. and you should know, 'Miley Cyrus is still twerking'.


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