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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Album Review - Hopsin- Knock Madness

Hopsin is one of the new generation of rappers I was referring to a couple of weeks back when I wrote about black rappers breaking the mold and going in different directions. Known for hating everyone and colorful contacts, Hopsin is another version of Tyler the Creator to older hip-hop listeners like myself. His attention seeking moments are a major turn off especially when they seem to be erratic with no real solid reasoning behind them. With that said, I know he can rap a bit so the release of his first major album was as good a chance as any for me to introduce myself to him. Here is my review of Hopsin's new album "Knock Madness".

The opener is pretty much a true title track in a lot of ways and it is a throwback to an older time with album structure in a way. "The Fiends are Knocking" is a good introduction to Hopsin's mind state, going over where he came from then a 'discussion' between Hopsin and an 'imaginary' fan of his. "Hop is Back" is the attempt to have shock rap and Hop tries to talk some trash about Kanye and Kendrick Lamar amongst others and trying to establish the idea he doesn't care. However, some of his bars are so plain and stagnant I felt like it was straight out of a 1993 record. "Who's There" with Jarren benton and Dizzy Wright with Jarren dropping the hottest verse in the song.

Hopsin tries to get out his frustration of dealing with the industry and his life and relationships in "Tears To Snow". It's a good song and you can tell he has true passions and demons in his life. This is why he does so much of the other stuff for attention. "Nollie Trey Flip" is one of those songs for the young folks who get on the skateboard and hit the streets. The beat kind of knocks and sounds like some pseudo 90's production. "Gimmie That Money" is about the hangers on who want to be around Hopsin for what he has in his pockets.

"I need Help" is uptempo but it's pretty decent. I like it. He also has a song with Tech 9yne , "Rip Your Heart Out" which is a hybrid mix of thugged out rap, horrorcore and shock rap with a slight rock sound to it. All of that might turn people off but it isn't a bad song."Good Guys Get Left Behind" is about Hop getting treated wrong by a young lady and he mixes in brash words with a kind of naivete that you kind of expect from him. "Old Friend" is about moving on from the way you used to behave and the people you used to know. In this case it's due to using drugs and becoming burned out.

"Hip-Hop Sinister" is another attempt to be shocking as Hopsin yells over a faux rock track. The "Bad Manners Freestyle" is just rapping over a beat and "Still Got Love For You" is another song where Hopsin talks about someone who had a chance to stick with him and be a party on his rise but whom didn't. the "lunch Time Cypher" with Passionate MC and G Mo Skee is straight forward battle rap. "Jungle Bash" features SwizZz (not beats) has a simple decent beat and they spit some decent bars. Hopsin goes back to talking to his 'perfect lady' in "Dream Forever" because he doesn't see her as a reality. He also shows his political side on "What's My Purpose" as he talks about finding a deeper meaning. It's a solid song. The album ends with "Caught in the Rain" which is about getting cauht in the system, trying to get success and handle it and really find out who he is.

This album is different than what I thought it would be. Hopsin is a lot more grounded than I would have expected. A lot of his subjects are really simple to understand and time honored. The thing that he does is throw in some expletives and weird cadences to make himself seem more shocking. The other thing is this album has a vintage feel to it. From the top the hooks are kind of generic, sort of like album filler tracks from the late 90's. It's not really bad, but they don't stand out a lot either and there are times when his lyrics are really really simple. The sequencing also suffers a bit because it's no progression of the album, just 18 songs between the beginning and ending tracks which work where they are. The album could have been culled down to 13 or 14 and been a bit tighter because by the end there is a little bit of fatigue. If you thought you knew what Hopsin stood for but had never really heard him, you might want to give him another shot, the album is a bit too long but he actually has more decent content than most rappers out now and with a little more work on song building the overall tightness would step up a bit.

Rating: 2.5/5

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Album Review- B.O.B. - Underground Luxury

I have been slacking major on the album reviews lately I know, but one of the few remaining joints I was waiting for this year is just dropping, and no, not no damn Beyonce. Bob is often over looked when talking about the shining stars of this new generation of rap artists, but he is easily the most versatile and talented. I definitely prefer his style over that of Drake but there was a little concern that this Undergrounf Luxury album wouldn't be what he normally gives us and it kind of scared people off, but I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Here is my review of the new B.O.B. album, "Underground Luxury".

The album starts off with "All I want" where Bobbie Ray talks about how he is out for the money, like every other rapper mind you but he says things like "I rather have an M/than an empty pocket" and gives the reasons on why he wants the money which adds just a touch of depth to an otherwise trite idea. He follows that with more of the song that we know from B.O.B., "One Day" which is an aspirational song to achievement and success in contrast to the straight forwardness presented on the first track. It's not ultra-original, but it's a well-done clean sounding song. On "Paper Route" Bob spits with more aggression and gets more political and asks if you know what's going on around you all the while staying focused about the paper.

"Back Me Up" is something for back home in Atlanta and it's alright in the sense it's like some simple 2 Chainz raps. Future features on "Ready" in more of what is hot right now. It's decent for what it is, but "Throwback" with Chris Brown is straight fire. "Coastline" is more of the pop vibe that Bob has used to his success as he talks about trying to find his way 'out of the desert in search of the shore' .

In the next section, things get more ratchet with Ester Dean on "Wide Open", 2 Chainz and the single "Head Bandz" and "FlyMuthafucka" which is the song which has the different touch BOB brings but it works against him and this song is really annoying. "John Doe" features a singer named Priscilla as she talks about wanting to get the guy she once knew back after he stops drinking, meanwhile BOB talks about that struggle with addiction. "Cranberry Moonwalk" is just an overall good song.

"Nobody Told Me" goes against the early theme of the album as BOB sings that "nobody told me money don't make you rich". "Forever" is engineered in an annoying manner because it is slightly auto tuned and repetitive. His rap verses are straight however. The album ends with the Juicy J and TI assisted "We Still in This Bitch" which still bangs off the meters.

Overall BOB is one of the more solid artists out today. He has such a wide range of talents that he manages to bring together in a way that doesn't seem forced or awkward and not many artists can do that. He covers an incredible amount of range over his songs and this album is no exception. There are a couple of songs that overall just irritate me personally but the majority of them are above average. "Throwback" is my favorite song that hasn't been released yet but I can see it getting the single treatment. Those who worry that BOB might be losing his way really have nothing to worry about as he is as good as ever.

Rating: 3.5/5

Friday, December 6, 2013

An Anniversary we Forgot about... Da Band

Looking through my music collection I went back to a conversation my wife and one of my friends had about MTV/ Bad Boy rap group Da Band. I decided to go back and listen to some songs and I realized that the album, "Too Hot For Tv" was ten years old. While not a classic by any means, I think Da Band was an important note in hip-hop history and it proved that image matters more than skills.

Da Band was made up of Young City aka Chopper, E. Ness, Babs Bunny, Dylan Dylinjah, Freddy P, and Sarah Stokes.
Watching Da Band was compelling because it was the first time someone tried to create a rap group. In fact it might be the thing that killed rap groups as we knew them. We got to watch as they battled to find chemistry and develop some kind of hierarchy and cohesion. Part of the problem was there were too many people and Puffy decided to add in an R and B singer- with a family, and a reggae artist. In fact the group was only missing a white or latina female rapper from hitting all the marks on the demographic. To me this was part of the group's downfall because all of these elements were forced together and did not naturally have the time to evolve that most other groups or collectives have had. I mean fights on TV are different than fights in the basement while recording that first demo and you have to protect your image in a certain way to be accepted in hip-hop. Then there was the constant pressure from Puff and the super producers he lined up to work with the group. Then there was this the walk for cheesecake that Puff did that marginalized them and made them look like chumps.

The song wasn't bad and it showed they had an ability to spit a little bit. With the exception of Chopper or Young City as he had to be called legally I would say. The album had about 5 or 6 decent songs which is about what you can say about an album today, but it never took off and soon after the members all went their separate ways. Babs now does Queen of the Ring rap battles, Ness has been around, and Young City might be the most worthless rapper not named Big Sean. Where Freddy, Dylan, and Sarah are, I have no idea. 

At the end of the day, this marked Puffs decline of musical relevance with Bad Boy unfortunately, but it did start to propel him into the television business. In fact, the Making the Band series pretty much served as a vehicle to market himself, because none of the bands are even around anymore. The biggest problem with this group was that it became hard for the viewing public to reconcile seeing people, some of which had true rough upbringings and issues, be treated like they were then to hear them and take them seriously. I remember when the show was on and talking to friends who had auditioned and when it came up about walking for the cheesecake, it seemed such an obvious choice to do it and whatever you had to to live that dream, yet it played out differently. More potential fans were turned off by how weak and powerless they were in the situation. That's on Puff for sure. At the end of the day, it was a very interesting time. I'll leave you with my favorite song from the album. P.S. I still want to hear some songs from Babs - she was the best one.


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