Young Money’s Rise Of An Empire is a fail… an ‘epic’ one if you will
Young Money • Rise of An Empire • Cash Money / Motown • US Release Date: March 11, 2014
It is incredibly difficult to be unbiased towards compilation efforts prior to listening. Honestly though, the compilation often incurs issues that the studio album/ solo studio album seems to avoid. There’s just something about random tracks with no rhyme or reason that hurt the overall cohesiveness that many sound and exceptional albums possess. Sigh* Young Money, following a five year hiatus, return to release their second compilation album, Rise of an Empire. Young Money, their previous album, actually had some fine moments, including the raunchy “Every Girl”, “Bedrock”, and “Roger That”. Rise of an Empire isn’t as ‘wonderfully made’ you might say – it has some…umm…yeah, just read on!
“We Alright”, featuring Euro, Birdman, and Lil Wayne, opens Rise of An Empire, umm interestingly. On the first verse, Euro raps “They said I’d never do it, now I’m looking like, ‘N***a, what’s never?’ / and now they run from us when they see us, boy, that money’s pressure.” Umm yeah…on the hook, the rapper confirms the message: “Long as my n***as right then we alright / long as the women right then we alright / long as the drinks on ice then we alright / long as these private flights…” – yeah you get the idea. Birdman dumbs it down on his second verse, opening with a reference to money (“Yeah, it’s money over everything”). Lil Wayne has the most interesting rhymes, most notably “You just a crocodile, I drink a full cup of his tears / can’t recognize you n***a, like Santa cut off his beard.” Don’t call it a hit… please don’t, I’m begging you!
“Trophies” follows “We Alright”, led by the honorable Drake. If nothing more, the pounding beat rocks. “Trophies” is driven by rappers other favorite topic (besides money and sex) – the ‘come-up’. The off-beat hook says it all: “…I’m just tryna stay alive and take care of my people / and they don’t have no award for that, trophies, trophies…” Overall, “Trophies” isn’t a bad track, but don’t call it Drizzy’s best either. All said and done, “Trophies” won’t be awarded in trophies over much of the material from Nothing Was The Same when it’s all said and done. Contextually, it is better than the opener. But really, isn’t this another “Started From The Bottom”, sort of?
“Bang” comes courtesy of Sonny Digital who is always good for a malicious production job. Lil Twist, Euro, and Corey Gunz handle the rhymes here. Lil Twist spends a portion of his verse referencing pro ballers, before bragging about his cliché threesome. Euro drops references to being like the four ‘Michaels’ at the beginning of his verse: Michael Jordan, Michael Tyson, Michael Phelps, and Michael Jackson. Besides being awesome, he references shooting, sexing, and of course money. Corey Gunz drops lines like “War paint like a baboon and my b**ch got a red a$$ on” as well as referencing shooting, money and drugs. True to its sound, “Bang” couldn’t be characterized as a ‘warm’ track.
“Senile” features the talents of Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Tyga. Tyga kick starts thing with an agile verse over the slinky, minimalist production work. In addition to delivering nastiness on the opening verse, Tyga delivers the simple, but addictive hook: “Can you see now? Are you senile? / Can you see now? You could see now…” Nicki Minaj does her normal thing on the second verse, fitting right in with the guys – shocker! Lil Wayne takes the final verse, closing it out classically: “I’m in this mother f**ker gettin’ money ‘til I’m senile, Tunechi!” Compared to “Bang”, “Senile” is more creative. Don’t call it a masterpiece, but it definitely gets the club poppin’… or something like that.
Euro gets his third moment to shine on his solo track, “Induction Speech”. Think of it as more “trophies”: “I think I’m getting wasted tonight / I realized that I made it tonight /you gotta hear just how I made it tonight / ‘cause it’s crazy how I made it / and tonight is the night…I know what it takes to get here, and I’m glad that you could make it tonight.” So essentially, Euro is now successful and he is going to live it up. Fair enough. Yet another ‘I came up’ tale – Is what it is. Could’ve been shortened – brevity ain’t a bad thing.
“One Time” features quite the crew: Lil Twist and Tyga once more, with the addition of YG. What is common between the three? Well all three get raw – nasty if you will. Unsurprisingly both the production and hook set the tone: “I’mma mack, on this ho, one time…If you a pimp, break a b**ch…” Lil Twist’s is confident (“You know the life? B**ch, I’m living that / now do that 100 yard dash and run that money back…”), Tyga’s cocky/misogynistic (“My n***a told me bout ya, had to see what you was worth / that p***y come a dime a dozen, you’ll be mine, you know it…”), and YG is the worst (“Too much money, I’ll never f**k a fat lady / now that’s a fact baby, sit on my lap baby”). “One Time” is enjoyable if you enjoy the objectification of women and like low IQ tracks. Otherwise, one just sort of shakes your head at the shamefulness/shamelessness that pours out through the speakers.
Here’s the moment all have been waiting for – the controversial Nicki Minaj feature, “Lookin A**”, which opens with the ‘electrifying’ introduction “Look at y’all n***as…”. Can you sense the sarcasm? Honestly, examining the lyrics and listening, I sort of want to see how many times Nicki Minaj uses the word n***a because that’s what the whole song sound like – how many times can Nicki use the ‘n-word’. There’s nothing wrong with an edgy, aggressive Nicki Minaj (I loved the raunchy-fest of “Beez in The Trap” as much as anybody else), but a bit more substance would’ve been nice. Judge for yourself – that’s my advice!
“Fresher Than Ever” enlists the duties of Birdman, Gudda Gudda, Flow, Jae Millz, and Mack Maine. Guess what the MCs spit about – $$$. Yep, that’s hella fresh… Gudda Gudda offers the most ‘original’ lyrics of the album: “Yea, man we came from the bottom / Stunna told me get these n***as so I got ‘em!” Please – how tried-and-true/tired is this! Birdman’s immense rhyming skills shine throughout a series of interludes…NOT: “Yeah, number one in that field…Stacks on top of stacks / b**ches, whips, floss, gettin’ in puttin’ it in…” After multiple references to material, Jae Millz does make a clever Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers center) reference, even it is still “for the love of money”: “Money stand tall as Roy Hibbert, hater forget it”. Mack Maine chooses Captain Phillips as his cool reference (“Young Mack my driver but I’m Captain Phillips n***as”). Fresher than ever really – Nope, not by any means whatsoever! I call it recycling…maybe garbage…LOL.
“Back It Up” leaves little to the imagination, but honestly, would you expect any more from Lil Twist & Tyga? That is rhetorical times a million – literally. What’s the point of analyzing the rhymes if the content and theme is clearly laid out without explanation? Don’t Twist and Tyga know there is more to life than the strip club? That’s a rhetorical question too by the way – SMH!
“Moment” gives Tunechi a ‘moment’ literally – LOL. Before he even gets into it, he’s high (“I’m so high I feel weightless) and like Rick Ross, he’s got shooters (“All my shooters courageous”). On the hook, which precedes the verses, Weezy wishes to “Have my cake and eat it too, I want a bakery…” while later stating “I’m gon’ shoot it if I wave it, shoot it if I wave it / do yourself a favor, save yourself cause I can’t save ya.” “Moment” isn’t Lil Wayne’s best track ever, but the classic cues are in play, particularly references to weed, guns, money, and sex (see the final line of verse three).
“You Already Know” has at least one bright spot – featuring up-and-coming R&B singer PJ Morton. Additionally, Mack Maine, Gudda Gudda, and Jae Millz handle the rhymes. Listening through the standard edition closer though, it’s not anything to write home about. Where memorability is concerned, “You Already Know” has little of it.
So the verdict is in…drum roll please! The verdict is that Rise Of An Empire is not a great title for this album. Perhaps “fall of an empire” would be more appropriate. Rise has a few moments worthy of a second listen – namely “Trophies”, “Senile”, and perhaps even “Moment” – but otherwise, it falls into the normal pitfalls of the compilation. Compared to the first album Young Money, Rise leaves more to be desired… My advice to Young Money is to ‘step out of the box’ or maybe in some cases, out of the booth.
“Trophies”; “Senile”; “Moment”
Rick Ross keeps a good thing going strong on LP number six
Rick Ross • Mastermind • Def Jam • US Release Date: March 3, 2014
Six albums in, the best way to describe Rick Ross is that he ‘is what he is’. Ross’ high watermark artistically was his fourth LP, 2010 masterpiece Teflon Don. Up until Teflon Don, it seemed that Ross was just trying to find his artistic identity – his niche if you will. After finally finding himself, Ross spent fifth LP God Forgives, I Don’t ‘flexing’, something he carries over into Mastermind. Mastermind ultimately is another sound, enjoyable Rick Ross album, even if it lacks some of the excellent, luxurious rap of Teflon Don or even the exceptionalness of the best moments of God Forgives. Quibbles and nitpicks aside, Mastermind is another welcome addition to Rozay’s discography.
“Intro (Rick Ross/Mastermind)” opens familiarly with the “Maybach Music” intro – surprise, surprise. The intro as a whole references being a ‘mastermind’, hence setting the tone for the album. Sure, a brief interlude doesn’t equate Mastermind with epitomizing or embodying its title, but it does foreshadow Ross’ point… sort of. Apparently, Rick Ross’ idea of being a ‘mastermind’ is not synonymous with being an intellectual. This is confirmed on first full-length joint, “Rich Is Gangsta”. As to what that even means ultimately, who knows. Regardless, on the hook-less number, Rick Ross is “all about the Benjamins.” “I just upped my stock, f**k them cops,” he brags on the first verse. “If you love hip-hop, bust them shots.” Later, he even manages to brag about his success as a rapper: “Cocaine worth much more than gold, n***a / so what’s your goals n***a? / All my sh*t when gold, n***a.” Sure, Ross is overconfident with his bravado, but he does tell the truth… all his sh*t did go gold.
While “Rich Is Gangsta” sported exceptional, lush production work, sophomore cut “Drug Dealers Dream” features the MC more on ‘autopilot.’ He continues to count his stacks, evidenced by the intro (“Your checking account available balance is $92, 153,183.28”). Even though Rick is rich, the means is questionable by all means, yet Ross rides it for all its worth: “Murder, a mother f**kin’ murder / no you didn’t see it but I know you b**ches heard it / blood on the corner, damn I miss my dawg / I’m just thinkin’ ‘bout his daughter, in another life he ballin.” One relates to the sympathy that Ross has for his fallen comrade, which could be any person stripped of their life, yet on the other hand, the game of drug dealing, violence, and “I get shooters on clearance…” is just ugly. Unsurprisingly, interlude “Shots Fired” proceeds, with Rick Ross being alluded to (“We’re being told by people here on the scenes, specifically the manager that a famous rapper was riding in that car when someone opened fire shooting at the car…” Dark stuff – quality though.
“Nobody” didn’t appeal to me personally the first time I heard it, but it grows on you. French Montana continues to appear on every one’s track and here is no different as he delivers the hook: “Mama’s tryna save me / but she don’t know I’m tryna save her / man, them n***as tried to play me / man, ‘til I get this paper / you’re nobody ‘til somebody kills you.” Essentially, the theme of doing wrong and dangerous things to achieve riches continues on this track. The tone is aggressive, not merely because of Diddy’s pointed interludes, but also thanks to Ross’ unapologetic rhymes, including “The mortician, the morgue fillin’ with more snitches / we kill ‘em and taking their b**ches, R.I.P.” Ultimately, “Nobody” eventually reveals it’s magic if it isn’t apparent the first listen. Don’t let the Notorious B.I.G. sample (“You’re Nobody (‘Til Somebody Kills You)”) dissuade you.
“The Devil Is A Lie” benefits from sampling, maybe more so than “Nobody” did (“Don’t Let Your Love Fade Away”). Don’t call “The Devil Is a Lie” a song of praise… there plenty of blasphemy. “Big guns and big whips / rich n***a talkin’ big sh*t,” raps Ross on the hook, “…Bow your head cuz it’s time to pay tithes / opposition want me dead or alive / motherf**ker but the devil is a lie / the devil is a lie, b**ch I’m the truth…” If that’s not enough, Jay-Z’s religious beliefs are, well, unique: “Is it true or it’s fiction / Is Hov atheist? I never f**k with True Religion / am I down with the devil cuz my roof came up missin’ / is that Lucifer juice in that two cup he sippin’…” Well, regardless of where either MC stands spiritually, both acknowledge, “the devil is a lie.” It is up for debate whether that makes Rick Ross “the truth” though…
“Mafia Music III” keeps the momentum top-notch. Sporting unexpected reggae production, “Mafia Music III” seems to really fuel Rick Ross into some inspired rhymes. Not only that, Ross references Kenneth Williams (gang member), Bill Belichick, and Farrakhan – go figure. Mavado’s hook contributes to the overall success of the track as well, solidifying the tropical vibe. Keeping it G, “War Ready” brings in Jeezy for the assist, who seems to have dropped the ‘Young’ as a of late. Obsessed with ‘shooters’, Rick Ross continues to reference them for the millionth time as of late: “War ready / you got shooters, I’ve got shooters / we’ve got money / let’s do what them other n***as can’t do…” Mike Will Made It gives Ross and Jeezy magnificent, relaxed, yet malicious production work to do work over, which both do. Surprisingly, it is Jeezy who references the ‘Box Chevy’ (“Box Chevy hit the block, run the whole 50 shots / you just poppin’ ‘til you know you can’t pop ‘em no more…”) “War Ready” keeps things 100 and consistent.
French Montana makes his second appearance of Mastermind on “What A Shame”, a brief cut produced by Reefa and Stats. The production is excellent though the track itself could stand more development and ‘meat’ you might say. Unsurprisingly, Ross once more references those shooters, and they aren’t shooting jump shots. On “Supreme”, Rick switches from ‘magazines’ to “Clean Maybach, but it’s filthy as sh*t / they partitioning for the women, how busy we get…” So, you guessed it, with Keith Sweat lending his soulful new-jack pipes and Scott Storch infusing some soulful, swagger-laden production, “Supreme” is about the ‘fun’ things in life… I’ll leave it at that. “BLK & WHT” does have a play on race, but it’s not merely what you may think it is before listening. Here, Ross talks about ‘slanging’: “Young n***a black, but he selling white…N***a crib so big, it’s a damn shame / n***a sellin’ white for a gold chain.” If nothing else, “BLK & WHT” has a hypnotizing quality about it.
After the silly “Dope B**ch Skit”, The Weeknd drops a joint featuring Rick Ross… or at least that is how “In Vein” comes over. Sure it’s lush, and in the emo-alt R&B style that The Weeknd has come to be associated, but it doesn’t really show off Rick Ross himself. That said, standout “Sanctified” is more of a team-effort from Betty Wright, Big Sean, Kanye West, and Ross, but the overall product is satisfactory. Let’s face it – where would this track have been without Betty Wright’s soulful, un-credited vocals? No disrespect to Mr. West, but few of us need another “Yeezus” as he refers to during his verse – another My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, perhaps. Ross’ best line on his verse: “Soldiers all in gators, new Mercedes for cadets / Balmain uniform, you know Donda designed the vest…” Like “The Devil Is A Lie” though, I wouldn’t invest too much spiritually into this track, particularly with Big Sean’s hook (“All I wanted is 100 million dollars and a bad b**ch…”) At least he admits his sins.
“Walkin’ On Air” has a difficult act to follow after the ‘sanctification’, but it’s definitely not a shabby penultimate track. Again, the blasphemy can’t be good for Ross’ spiritual being: “Baptized by the dope boys, ordained by the a**holes / my salvation is the cash flow / whoa, oh I’m walking on air.” Even aside from misinformed spiritual allusions, lines like “She let me f**k early so she trustworthy…” certainly has no relation to the church. Meek Mill confirms this song is, um, sinful (“Make a call, call Papi for a brick / and papi call José, cause José got fish…”). “Thug Cry”, featuring Lil Wayne and produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League closes Mastermind soundly. Don’t call the multi-sampling work a classic, but it definitely closes an overt album a gentler than it was throughout its course.
All in all, Mastermind turns out to be another well-rounded, enjoyable album from Rick Ross. There is more than enough wealth to please more casual and hardcore Ross fans alike. It won’t supersede the top two albums of Ross’ collection, but it definitely can hang. Not sure why the banging “Box Chevy” was omitted, but it is what it is. Not perfect, but well played, well played.
“Drug Dealers Dream”; “The Devil Is A Lie”; “Mafia Music III”; “War Ready”; “Sanctified”
No other act received more criticism for their Grammy success then Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Ultimately, the rap community was pretty pissed off. After so many years of rap being under recognized by the Recording Academy, now an act grabs a victory in one of the coveted big four categories (Best New Artist) and the fans are not pleased. Why the wall of hatred for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis? Ultimately, it’s not so much about the Seattle MC or his producer pal; it’s more about the perception of rap by the Academy voters. With a golden opportunity before them to award the more representative MC of the genre, Kendrick Lamar, the voters decided to go the safe route and in the process further alienate both a genre and make many question the Academy’s credibility.
Face it folks, the Grammys have screwed up multiple times over the years – yes Milli Vanilli comes to mind. In recent times, since OutKast was somehow victorious for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, it seems that the rap album can’t get a break. Every time a gargantuan hip-hop album has presented itself worthy for recognition, the Grammys seem to avoid it like the plague, often only giving it recognition in rap categories. This year, if you were to ask rap purists who should’ve cleaned up the hip-hop categories, the answer definitely would’ve been Kendrick Lamar. Macklemore wouldn’t cross their minds… at least as a ‘traditional’ rap artist.
The Rap Slight – 2005 – Present…
2014 – Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid M.A.A.D. City (0 Grammys)
2011 – Eminem, Recovery
2009 – Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III
2008 – Kanye West, Graduation
2006 – Kanye West, Late Registration
2005 – Kanye West, The College Dropout
Yes, there is another elephant in the room – Macklemore is white and many of the serious rappers are black. Yep, and some folks might be quick to play the reverse racism card here. However, Eminem is highly respected and he’s Caucasian. While Eminem is the best example of a breakthrough Caucasian rapper, he’s not the only white rapper who has received respect from the hip-hop community. Paul Wall certainly had a run when the H-Town movement came-up in the mid 00s. Yelawolf, though not a commercial success, has also proven the legitimacy of his chops as what’s perceived to be traditional rap. Cleveland’s MGK definitely has mad skills, and certainly has little that is pop about him. But does Macklemore truly match the aforementioned rappers? No, he’s certainly different comparatively.
Personally, I thought The Heist was a solid album; I gave it a favorable view. That said, the only time I felt it would receive Grammy attention was when “Thrift Shop”, “Can’t Hold Us”, and “Same Love” blew up in pop circles. Still, the three songs don’t align with my idea of hip-hop; they all feel more pop. Generally, so does The Heist, even when the beats go a bit harder. Particularly compared to Kendrick Lamar’s good Kid M.A.A.D City, The Heist just didn’t feel like a perfect fit. Sure, it’s not as extreme as potentially nominating a Black Eyed Peas album in hip-hop categories, but it still seems a stretch. I think this, more than the say ‘race’ that some may point to, make the win more painful to rap enthusiasts.
There are two more reasons for the post-Grammy backlash. The biggest and saltiest rub is that rap’s newly proclaimed savior, Kendrick Lamar, was snubbed. Even Macklemore agrees, and it’s not even his fault! The backlash from the Recording Academy’s out of touch voting actually took away from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis celebrating – which they should. Macklemore doesn’t need to apologize to Kendrick Lamar for winning, even if he does feel guilty. He won… live it up, M. But the Academy ignored Kendrick, arguably the freshest breakout voice in rap in years. But unless one really studies and understands rap for what it is, then being out of touch seems the only option I suppose.
The more troublesome reason for the post-Grammy backlash is the future. Does this rather conservative voting in regards to such an overt, brash genre make it even more difficult for ‘pure’ rap artists and albums to receive their just due? Does pop now begin to invade hip-hop and cause it to have the identity issues that R&B has had in many regards as of late? If rappers are looking for recognition, do they begin to rely on a safer platform to succeed? Maybe this is completely too cerebral, but look over recent times and The Heist definitely seems a departure. I won’t even mention this is the first solo album (Yeezus) that Kanye West has been nominated for that didn’t win…
My personal opinion is that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis did deserve Grammys – I’m just unsure they deserved to sweep the rap category, particularly for Best rap album. At this point though, it’s a done deal and there is no reason for Mack to hang his head down. Still, It just doesn’t quite feel right.
2013 has been an exceptional year for rap album releases. Some were hot, while others were far from it – cold as Antarctica. Still overall, there were plenty of releases to be proud of, no questions asked. Below, you’ll find my ‘MIA’ list as well as my top 20 rap albums of 2013. This excludes mixtapes and previously released material FYI.
Missing in Action:
Had its moments, but didn’t feel nor sound like elite Jay-Z.
Lil Wayne, I Am Not A Human Being II
Tunechi wasn’t at his best.
Tyga, Hotel California
Felt completely uninspired compared to 2012 effort Carless World: Rise of the Last King
Lacked a strong musical personality; didn’t feel elite…
Rich Gang, Rich Gang
Sounds like all they think about is money and not quality.
Maybach Music Group, Self Made 3
A notch less satisfying than Self Made 2 was…
DJ Khaled, Suffering from Success
Plays like any number of DJ Khaled albums – that’s both a blessing and a curse…
B.o.B. • Underground Luxury • Atlantic • US Release Date: December 17, 2013
B.o.B. delivers a so-so effort on third LP Underground Luxury
B.o.B. had a hot start off to his rap career back in 2010 when The Adventures of Bobby Ray debuted at number one on the Billboard album charts, eventually being certified gold. “Nothing On You” was a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Later, a huge record entitled “Airplanes” seemed to be just what B.o.B needed to establish a viable, lengthy rap career. If only the magical fairytale had worked out that way for the ATL MC. Second album Strange Clouds (2012), didn’t receive near the buzz or success of the first. Now after a ‘bomb’, B.o.B is forced to pick up the pieces on third LP Underground Luxury. Unfortunately, the many of the pieces seem to be bent or broken throughout this somewhat underwhelming effort by a relatively talented MC.
“All I Want” isn’t the greatest opener ever. Within the intro, the MC comes off a bit ‘shallow’, playing up hip-hop clichés: “Whether I can afford it or not, n***a / I want b*tches, I want cars, I don’t give a f**k, I want it all / that’s what the f**k we’re here for.” Really? B.o.B clarifies his attitude on the verses, softening his tone from the bravado: “I used to say I never cared about the money until I put food on my momma’s table / follow the trail / could’ve been in jail / the way that I live / could have been fatal / must have had an angel…” While his ambitions are more relatable after details of his ‘come-up’, “All I Want” doesn’t have the effect it could’ve had. Follow-up “One Day” doesn’t quite get it done convincingly either, even as B.o.B continues on a personal trek. The opening duo just feels like it lacks ‘magic’.
“Paper Route” isn’t perfect, but with the clapping drums and sharp-sounding synths, it sports more oomph than the previous tracks. B.o.B strikes gold with quite the opening lyrical salvo: “You don’t know who you f**king with / ain’t no democrat, and by far I’m no republican / this the type of talk that’ll probably piss off my publicist / and I ain’t even started, the water ain’t even bubbling…” He doesn’t let up off the gas, with his most meaningful line coming courtesy of verse three: “Don’t let these f**kers rob us for our freedom and your rights.” OK…
“Ready” proceeds, assisted by the ubiquitous Future, but doesn’t achieve the same level of quality as “Paper Route”. Future’s hook may use his signature trick (autotune), but the wordiness hinders it from being catchy. Luckily for Bobby Ray, “Throwback” is the banger Underground Luxury could’ve used earlier. Sure it’s a ‘booty’ cut, but at least it good one. As for Chris Brown’s guest rap on the second verse – he’s just plain nasty. Feminists won’t be pleased, and they shouldn’t.
Playing a seesawing game, “Back Me Up” isn’t horrid, but it’s not great either. Basically, B.o.B is stating he’s got support from everywhere: “East side gon’ back me up, gon’ back me up / West side gon’ back me up, gon’ back me up / South side gon’ back me up, gon’ back me up / North side gon’ back me up, yeah.” It works, but don’t call it a hit. “Coastline” leads a group of misses – just saying! “Wide Open” features Ester Dean who’s vocal role is as follows: “Bust it wide open, let you see what I’m workin’ with.” B.o.B. predictably talks about his plans to hook-up, making a comparison to a four by four. Shameful! “Fly Muthaf***a” is even worse. It’s as if B.o.B wants to see how many f-bombs he can drop to sound cool. “N***as don’t like it when you fly as f**k / but I’m fly as f**k.” Not on this track B.o.B!
“Headband”, another ‘booty’ anthem (featuring 2 Chainz) atones for the numerous improprieties of a horrid outgoing stretch. Of course it lacks depth and really isn’t respectable, but it’s the energy Underground Luxury needed at this juncture in the album. Still, B.o.B bragging about his favorite strand of weed and his sexual desires is by no means meaningful or truly enhancing. As for 2 Chainz, he’s just as bad if not worse: “Her a$$ would knock your a$$ out, you better stick and move / chain hang to my…” SMH! “John Doe” keeps momentum flowing, serving as a stark contrast to “Headband”. Priscilla handles a superb hook while B.o.B matches the song’s tone with more meaningful lyrics – he eschews another ‘cellulite’ ode.
After “John Doe”, things grow mediocre once more. “Cranberry Moonwalk” is a bore save for some stinging one-liners including “Killin’ through the presidents / that’s assassination…” (verse one) and “I got my own lane but I ain’t got no genre / I’m sh*ttin’ on n***as, you might need a plunger…” “Nobody Told Me” is an inspirational-style rap cut, but lacks memorability. “Forever”, similarly, doesn’t feel distinctive. Single “We Still In This B*tch”, featuring T.I. and Juicy J, closes the effort with a knockout punch. Even so, this anthem isn’t enough to ‘save’ Underground Luxury, which has plenty of flaws.
The verdict? Underground Luxury is B.o.B’s weakest album to date – no question about it. That may sound harsh, but Bobby Ray isn’t always on his ‘A’ game here. Even the good tracks don’t stack up with his best from his biggest claim to fame, The Adventures of Bobby Ray. Clubby anthems do help to close the gap between abysmal and say mediocre/average, but it’s not enough to alter the judgment of the album as a whole. Two and half stars out of five might be being generous.
“Paper Route”; “Throwback”; “Headband”; “Jane Doe”; “We Still in This B*tch”
In a ‘down’ week for albums sales this week, unsurprisingly given a lack of star power bowing… no offense to those artists releasing albums mind you. Eminem finds himself in a familiar spot once more as The Marshall Mathers LP 2 ascends to no. 1 after spending a week at no. 2 behind Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP. Eminem managed to sell another 120,000 copies of TMMLP2, putting its three week totals at approximately 1,122,000 copies sold (792K + 210K + 120K). Yep, Em has yet another platinum album to his name and selling another 120,000 copies – six figures, is impressive in this day and age. As for his fine feathered friend Lady Gaga, she takes a massive tumble from the penthouse to no. 8 after selling a somewhat disappointing 258,000 copies last week. This week, she only moves 46,000 copies, making her overall totals stand at just 304,000 copies over two weeks. Could Gaga end up merely achieving a gold record with ARTPOP? Only time and most importantly sales will tell.
There were some debuts, though as alluded to, nothing extremely anticipated. Five Finger Death Punch release their second album of the year, The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Volume 2. The second volume arrives at no. 2 matching the peak of the first. What doesn’t match are the sales. Volume 1 moved 112,000 copies while this installment settles for a respectable, but lest robust 77,000 copies. As we know, if an artist releases two albums in one year with similar concept/theme, usually the second one receives less enthusiasm commercially. Justin Timberlake experienced this as his triumphant The 20/20 Experience sold 968,000 copies its first week while The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2 was met with much less enthusiasm selling on 350,000 copies. Both debuted at no. 1, but the numbers and the sustainability have been markedly different.
Other debuts? The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack debuts at no. 5 selling 55,000 copies. Daughtry underwhelms with his entry at no. 6 selling 55,000 as well. Those numbers are far off from Daughtry’s first two albums 2006’s Daughtry (304,000) and 2009’s Leave This Town (269,000). Yo Gotti debuts at no. 7 with I Am, selling a respectable 48,000 copies. Of the charts new debuts, Gotti has the most to be proud of. KTCZ’s Cities 97 Sampler, Live From Studio C: Vol. 25 bows at no. 10 with 40,000 copies. Holdovers for the week besides Lady Gaga and Eminem included Now 48 (no. 3), …A Robertson Family Christmas (no. 4), and Kelly Clarkson’s Wrapped in Red (no. 9).
On the Hot 100, Lorde’s “Royals” continues to be one of the year’s most unstoppable forces as the ‘little song that could’ spends its ninth consecutive week at no. 1. Even so, according to Billboard, Eminem’s hot joint “The Monster”, featuring Rihanna is looking for that no. 1 spot. As we know, Em and Ri-Ri have had some star power in the past with ‘monster’ single “Love The Way You Lie”. Watch out Lorde, you may not be ‘royal’ too much longer!
Who’s Got Next? No brainer, it’s One Direction. Mark my words, Midnight Memories, the quintet’s third album in two years will sell big. Besides 1D, the other new releases pack less of a punch. Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day) and Norah Jones release a remake of an album by The Everly Brothers entitled Foreverly (the remake is of Songs Our Daddy Taught Us from 1958), but it doesn’t seem to be a powerful commercial title. Pop/Vocal veteran Barbra Streisand can never be ignored as she releases Back to Brooklyn. Voice victor Danielle Bradbery releases her self-titled debut, but who knows if it will have match the numbers of previous victor in the country genre Cassidee Pope, who sold 43,000 copies of Frame by Frame. Regardless, the week will belong to One Direction.
- Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP Hits No. 1 (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 Debuts Big (brentmusicreviews.com)
- The 2013 Fourth Quarter Music Releases Underwhelm… (brentmusicreviews.com)
Bun B closes his Trill series superbly
Bun B ⎪Trill O.G.: The Epilogue ⎪Rap-A-Lot ⎪⎪ US Release Date: November 11, 2013
“It’s over, it’s over!” Why you ask? “‘Cause the best is back… b**ch!” That’s right, veteran MC Bun B has released the fourth effort of his Trill series, Trill O.G.: The Epilogue, which follows Trill (2005), II Trill (2008) and Trill O.G. (2010). The highest profiled effort of the series was Trill, which arrived at a time when there was a resurgence in Texas’s rap scene. Bun B’s impact commercially as a solo artist was never huge, but B remains an important fixture in hip-hop history and as a collaborator in my eyes. Trill O.G.: The Epilogue is by no means ‘the second coming’, but it is a a well conceived rap album by all means.
Opener “The Best is Back” lives up to its titular bravado as well as Bun B’s consistency as an MC. Initiating with incredible confidence on the intro (“Guess who’s back in the mother f*ckin’ house? / the King of the trill b**ch, you guessed it…”), vet Bun B easily back up his ‘trash talk’. He certainly ‘goes off’, including memorable moments such as “Ladies and gentlemen, you already know that it’s him again / lettin’ ‘em hang, non-feminine, crunk like I’m gone off Ritalin / chopped off top, there’s no middle and throwed on that load again…” He confirms his rap royalty status on the hook: “Guess who’s back? Me / There’s no competition…shut ‘em down / hurt-hurtin’ boys / it’s over, it’s over / cause the best is back b**ch.” Unapologetic, further inspired by banging, malicious production work, Bun’s on autopilot.
“Cake” doesn’t let up off the gas, featuring his late, great UGK partner Pimp C on the catchy, electrifying hook: “Boss get cash money, smokin’ the vapors / don’t chase the cake, chase the paper / them thighs come with that shake / b**ch in yo mind, ho I got cake…”. In that old-school, lush and luxurious rap style (produced by Big K.R.I.T.), “Cake” is certainly a gem. Bun B continues to flex his rap muscles – what else does he have to lose? “When I see you lickin’ your lips, you wanna blow my whistle / but I got that harmonica, you can play it like Stevie / they say that pimpin’ ain’t easy, man it is if you be me.” Now that’s O.G. Throw in sound guest verses from Lil Boosie (“I get cash in duffle bags, I don’t chase the cake / let ‘em ride, get ‘em high as I pay for cake…”) and Big K.R.I.T. (“The type of dick that run a chick some sh*t that she could bill for … I break her off ‘cause she bring it back to daddy”), and “Cake” is among the album’s best.
“Fire” caps off an exceptional trio of cuts for Bun. Serani covers the hook: “When the heat is on we burn hotter than fire / people will burn up on, we burn hotter than fire / turn my enemies to dust, burn them up with fire / whether life or death, guess we’re far from fire”. Following a similar format to “Cake”, Bun B sets the tone on the first verse (“Mother f*cker beware ‘til I retire or expire / cyanide in them, know that we are coming with more fire…”), while Rick Ross and 2 Chainz lend their ‘expertise’ on the second and third verses. The results? Top-notch, did you really expect anything less?
“No Competition” continues consistency, featuring Raekwon and Kobe. The sound cut doesn’t achieve the same grandeur as the opening trio, but it certainly gives up little quality. Bun B excels as he compares himself to everybody and their brother: “…I am Mike Jordan, Mike Tyson, Mike Phelps / Michelangelo with the flow bro and the mic helps / Ha! The mic stealth, that’s for the mikes health…” As always, Raekwon is nothing short of a ‘beast’. Pimp C once more plays a vital role, even if it is posthumously on “Don’t Play With Me”. Solid, I prefer its follow-up “Gladiator” (featuring Truck Buck), which is dedicated to the late MC. The truly gladiator-fueled lyric? “They thought it was over, they thought that I was done / they said I wouldn’t last, I’m the last one / I’m “Still Standing” like the Goodie to the Mo-B / In a black hoodie, it’s the O.G., you know me.” Riled up, Bun B definitely lives up to his ‘gladiator’ status.
Bun B ‘don’t play’ with another all-star cast on “Stop Playin’”, which brings in Redman and Royce Da 5’9”. Brash with no bullshit, the tail-end of the hook best sums up this number: “… it’s not the sh*t you say, it’s the sh*t you not saying / you know better, show better, step it up and stop playing / stop playing”. Hard as ever, both Redman and Royce Da 5’9” accentuate the edgy MC. Kirko Bangz adds some ‘R&B swag’ on “Triller”, though with plenty of bite as he proclaims to be a “mother f*cking killer / H-Tow in this b**ch / and you know it’s for real.” As for Bun B he spits nothing but truth: “P***y n***as need to stay off in they lane / sitting sidlines, want to quarterback the game / backseat drivers get to taking too much / but now when I’m around, cause they know they get touched…” Well, at least we know who’s “triller”.
What’s better than two bangers in a roll? Three! “Dippin’ & Swervin’” is arguably the strongest of the three, giving Bun B something even the younger generation can bump. I mean, what wrong with B “…dippin’ through the city, fresh fitted on my dome / comin’ down candy and I”m sittin’ on chrome…”? Additionally, his “pockets stay swollen, money [he] be holdin’…” He follows up the freshness with the smooth “On One” (featuring Devin the Dude and Gator Main), which favors “Cake”. It’s not as polished mind you, but it’s solid. Penultimate cut “The Legendary DJ Screw” is more notable, featuring numerous guest MC’s and paying ode to DJ Screw. The closer “Bye!” could’ve been scrapped, but I suppose Bun B wanted to make sure you know what it is and who makes it do… or something OG and illy like that. LOL.
Ultimately, Trill O.G.: The Epilogue is a solid close to the Trill series as well as a close to a chapter of Bun B’s career. Save for the questionably included final cut, …The Epilogue is incredibly enjoyable and consistent. It may not woo or compel the new generation of hip-hop fans, but this effort should certainly please Bun B, UGK fans, and the old-school.
“The Best is Back”; “Cake”; “Fire”; “Gladiator”; “Dippin’ & Swervin’”
- Bun B featuring Pimp C, Lil Boosie and Big K.R.I.T. – Cake (backtohiphop.com)
- Bun B Performs With Houston Symphony For “Concert Against Hate” [PHOTOS] (hiphopwired.com)
- Bun B – Triller (f. Kirko Bangz) [@bunbtrillog @kirkobangz] (dayandadream.com)
- Trill OG Bun B Speaks on his Views of Rap + Kicks a Freestyle on Sway in the Morning (getwritegossip.com)
Who says that a twenty seven year old trained musician with a masters degree in music theory/composition can’t throw down to a banger? Nobody, so don’t judge me! I have compiled a list of twenty club bangers (not BANGERZ) and have divided it into two parts. See you at the club snitches!
August Alsina featuring Trinidad James
“I Luv This Sh*t”
(Downtown: Life Under the Gun)
“I Luv This Sh*t” is definitely among the most unapologetic song titles of 2013. Featuring everyone’s favorite molly-poppin’ MC Trinidad James and despite it’s unforgiving title, “I Luv This Sh*t” is, well, lovable. Alsina has one foul mouth, but his mix of real talk with slower, horn-accentuated production is brilliant, if blasphemous (“God dammit I love it, I love it… So I’mma keep on smoking cause I love this sh*t / I’mma keep on grinding cause I love this sh*t / she tell me keep f**king cause I love this sh*t and I love it…”). Verdict? I love this sh*t!
Pusha T featuring 2 Chainz & Big Sean
“Who I Am”
(My Name Is My Name)
On “Who I Am”, Pusha T didn’t exactly select the most intelligible collaborators to guest with him (2 Chainz and Big Sean). Regardless, “Who I Am” epitomizes the ‘banger’. All Pusha T wants desires and aspires to is to “…buy another Rollie” and “…pop another band / I just wanna sell dope forever / Just wanna be who I am.” 2 Chainz does simple ambitions well, rapping “Entrepreneur, strip club connoisseur / hot fudge sundae, pour it on you hallelujah…” Big Sean ‘college’ in a kindergarten sort of way, rapping “Pretty girls is my reputation / one on my arm, that’s decoration…” There it is.
Tyga featuring Wiz Khalifa, Mally Mall & Cedric Gervais
Don’t get it twisted: I am NOT on board with ‘molly rap’ in the least. I’m onboard with what my homeboy Kendrick Lamar told y’all… BUT if I had to choose a highlight from Tyga’s ho-hum Hotel California as well as a bearable, catchy ‘molly rap’ song, it would be “Molly”. The production work is exceptional, and all MC’s provide solid performances (Tyga, Wiz Khalifa, and Mally Mall). No it’s not the second coming, but it is banger…
“Dip” has so many one-liners that an entire essay could be written examining each and everyone. The premise of the song? Well Danny Brown is pretty to’ up, period. The Forrest Gump reference definitely captures attention early on (“Like Lieutenant Dan, I’m rolling back to back / I keep on smoking…”). My favorite moment involves you guessed it, ‘molly’: “Now all these rappers talking ‘bout that molly / bet a million dollars these n***as ain’t dipping / pure MDMA, put it in a shot we talking ‘bout crystals / been thizzin’ hard up all day, rest in peace to Mac Dre…” Banger? Yes…also seems like Brown is way past the need for rehab… just sayin’!
Gunplay featuring Rick Ross, Trina & Yo Gotti
(Self Made Vol. 3)
Self Made Vol. 3 as a compilation was a disappointment for me, particularly following an excellent second Maybach Music compilation (Self Made 2). However, the brash, unapologetic “Gallardo” is a notable moment, giving Rick Ross and company yet another ‘goes hard’ banger. Credited to Gunplay, the cut also features Trina, Rick Ross and Yo Gotti. “I only f*ck with n***as in them Lambos (Gallardo) / I only f*ck with n***as in them Lambos (Murcielago)…,” Trina asserts on the explicit, ‘guilty-pleasure’ hook.
(Magna Carta…Holy Grail)
“Tom Ford” is cool if nothing more since it’s named after the fashion designer. Ford is honored with a solid hook that manages to once more reference one ubiquitous ‘molly’: “I don’t pop molly, I rock Tom Ford / International bring back the Concorde / Numbers don’t lie, check the scoreboard / Tom Ford, Tom Ford, Tom Ford.” It’s not prodigious perhaps, but it definitely stands out on Magna Carta…Holy Grail, one of Hov’s weakest and least distinctive offerings in years.
Rocko featuring Rick Ross & Future
(Gift of Gab 2)
Much of “U.O.E.N.O” was overshadowed by Rick Ross’ controversial allusion to date rape (“Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it…”), and rightfully so. BUT as a song itself ignoring Ross’ irresponsibility, it’s a good one. I mean, I’m not always crazy about Future, but he’s perfect on the hook here: “This a thousand dollar pair of shoes and U.O.E.N.O. It / this a thousand dollar cup of lean and U.O.E.N.O…” Yeah, you see where this banger is going.
“Don’t Drop That Thun Thun”
(Don’t Drop That Thun Thun – Single)
The first time I heard it and being the naïve human being I can be, I assumed that this was a raunchy, clubbing track. I mean, doesn’t ‘thun thun thun’ sound like a great reference for the booty? The good news is that “Don’t Drop That Thun Thun” is a cut for the clubs, particularly with lines like “Alright oh my goodness I’m turnt up / I got a bottle you got a cup / you hit the dougie / I 2 step…” (Verse two) but the actual thun thun thun is not referring to the butt. LOL.
According to goto slang source Urban Dictionary, “thun thun thun” is MDMA otherwise known as ecstasy. Yep, it’s another song about molly.
So, the cut ends up being really bad, but still is the perfect banger. I wouldn’t encourage it’s message of popping mollies (much like the earlier “Molly”), but it is catchy.
Ali Maejor featuring Juicy J & Justin Bieber
(Lolly – Single)
The “lollipop” is always a popular item for a club banger. Lil Wayne may have done it best on his Grammy-winning “Lollipop” from 2008 album Tha Carta III. That said, Ali Maejor, Juicy J, and Justin Bieber (of all people) seem to be onboard with this oral sex alluding number. This cut is tasteless (no pun intended), however the beat and overall production are undeniably delicious. Bieber even tries to tone it down on his rap verse, but it’s hard to tone down a slang word for a ‘pickle’, he he he!
“Started From the Bottom”
(Nothing Was The Same)
…“Started From The Bottom” was not heavy on my rotation when it bowed. It seemed a bit of a disappointment from the MC who rarely misses. Contextually and after having reservations, “Started From The Bottom” is solid and of course honest. Just as Drake says, he “…done kept it real from the jump…” Apparently the DJ Khaled song was real talk: “No new n***as, n***a we don’t feel that / f*ck a fake friend, where your friends at?” #NoNewFriends for Drake.
- Playlist: Bangers That Get It Poppin’ At The Club… (Part 1) (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: DJ Khaled, ‘Suffering from Success’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: Pusha T, ‘My Name Is My Name’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: MMG, ‘Self Made 3′ (brentmusicreviews.com)
It’s hard enough to make a blockbuster album the first time. What’s even more arduous is following up a blockbuster and trying to achieve a similar level of commercial and critical success. Something that artists have done that surprises me personally is to opt for their follow-up album to be a ‘sequel’. I mean why take that considerable amount of pressure to live up to the original? As we all know in films, sequels tend to suck compared to the original. While the effects aren’t always as drastic for the sequel album, sometimes they are.
Many musical sequels have graced us including numerous in recent times. Some of them are strong enough, such as Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor II or even Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3 which may not have superseded the original, but did yield one Jay-Z’s most memorable hits, “Empire State of Mind”. Still, other sequels are purely wack as f… I’ve chosen three that I personally don’t quite match the glory of the original. One of these three in particularly isn’t too shabby of an album, but its still an ugly stepsister to a much better juggernaut.
The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2
Sequel to The 20/20 Experience (2013)
One could argue that Timberlake’s second album of 2013 is much more experimental and surprising than the first. When I first sat down to listen to the opener “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)”, I was quite surprised and not necessarily positively. From my perspective, ultimately, I find The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 to lack cohesion, be overproduced, and trend a tad bit too left of center compared to its older sibling. It has it’s moments, perhaps most notably moderate hit “Take Back The Night”, but it also leaves you wanting more.
Mary J. Blige
My Life II: The Journey Continues, Act I
Sequel to My Life (1994)
Honestly y’all, this one sort of hurts me, but I believe my rationale is sound… Following up a 90s R&B classic is a tall task; it ain’t no joke! If any diva was up to successfully accomplishing this, it would be the queen of hip-hop soul, Mary J. Blige. Her sequel to My Life (My Life II: The Journey Continues, Act I) oddly arrived 17 years after the original to less triumphant results. It was by no means a bad album, but following the heels of not only one of Blige’s most important albums as well as her recent resurgence (The Breakthrough (2005)), My Life II:The Journey Continues, Act I just doesn’t stack up against Mary’s best, whether she wants love “25/8” or not. I mean she sounds awesome, but the material is not among her best.
I Am Not A Human Being II
Sequel to I Am Not A Human Being (2010)
When Lil Wayne finally admitted and apologized to what we fans already knew in regards to a “lackluster” 2013, it seemed pretty ‘tired’, much like the sequel to I Am Not A Human Being was. For starters, Weezy’s first album was by no means the ‘cream of the crop’ of his discography, but it did have some bright spots including “Right Above It“. Personally, I like “Right Above It” because he made an awesome reference to my favorite college basketball team, the Kentucky Wildcats (had to throw that out there). As for his second installment, Tunechi’s reliance on all things oversexed is a major turn off. I can’t speak for his female fans’ opinion, but I’d certainly object to the MC’s misogynistic approach here. “Love Me” gets a pass barely, but otherwise, Weezy sounds like he’s just going through the motions. Whether “Sex Never Felt Better” or not (shout out TGT), perhaps toning it down and providing some thoughtful rhymes would’ve worked out much better for you Weezy.
- Must-Listen: Hear Mary J. Blige’s ‘This Christmas’ (essence.com)
It’s that time… for me to list songs that made me :-) over the past month. 14 of ‘em baby, get ready!
You knew it would take some mega force to unseat Robin Thicke from the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 with the ubiquitous smash “Blurred Lines”. That force came via everyone’s favorite pop star Katy Perry, who shocked with her maturity on “Roar”. Sure, Ms. Perry had a lot of fun in her jungle music video to accompany her number one single, but she goes all inspirational on us as opposed to, um, risqué. I wasn’t one hundred percent onboard at first, but it certainly tickled my fancy after a while.
2 Chainz featuring Fergie, “Netflix”
I wouldn’t call 2 Chainz the most intellectually-stimulating rapper – he goes dumb (and sometimes dumb-er) with the best. Throw in the queen of silliness in Fergie and the resulting cut “Netflix” should be a total bust. Instead, it is one of 2 Chainz’s most triumphant moments from B.O.A.T.S.II:#METIME, which also turns out to be a much better album than it should be. The best line from my perspective? “Let’s make a sex tape and put it on Netflix”. SMH.
John Legend, “All Of Me”
Love In The Future
There may never be another John Legend number as touching as his acclaimed, stripped ballad “Ordinary People” was, but “All of Me” seems to be the closest Legend has came to that Grammy-winning classic. Simplistic sporting a certain innocence about it, part of the appeal of ballad is its sheltered, chivalrous genuineness.
Tamar Braxton, “Love and War”
Love and War
Yeah, I know, I know. “Love and War” has been out for a minute… but it is still arguably the best track on Braxton’s sophomore effort. Sure, the album was kinda so-so at best, but “Love and War” would easily rise to the top of most track lists. Soulful, old-school yet contemporary enough, it’s no surprise that the ‘battling through love’ track helped propel Braxton to number two on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart.
Miley Cyrus, “Wrecking Ball”
A Miley Cyrus song on a Brent Faulkner playlist? Something must be wrong! It’s not, if you can believe it. For as much controversy as Miley Cyrus has successfully stirred up around her hyper-sexual makeover for upcoming studio album BANGERZ, “Wrecking Ball” the song is actually pretty impressive. Honestly, I was onboard from the first time I saw the video, even if I found the video itself to be…um… yeah I can’t think of the word. As for the song and the concept of the song, I’ll give it to ole girl. I’m still no fan though…
Janelle Monáe featuring Prince, “Givin’ ‘Em What They Love”
The Electric Lady
“Q.U.E.E.N.” one killer jam by all means, but Monáe’s promo single has been receiving buzz for a minute. More surprising and equally alluring is her collaboration with Prince, who definitely doesn’t lend his pipes or skills to many… The results, specifically the vocal chemistry between two left-of-center artists is nothing short of brilliant – pretty fly from my perspective.
Drake featuring Detail, “305 To My City”
Nothing Was The Same
Is it just me, or is every Drake album stacked? Nothing Was The Same has a hard act to follow compared to either Thank Me Later or Take Care, but there is still plenty of notable numbers from rap’s softest heavyweight. “305 To My City” benefits from it moodiness, grinding tempo, and honestly its ‘Drake-isms’. Hard choice between this one, “Tuscan Leather”, “Wu-Tang Forever”, or contemporary R&B number “Hold On We’re Going Home”.
Ariana Grande featuring Nathan Sykes, “Almost Is Never Enough”
I’m not one who is into boyfriend/girlfriend duets nor big youthful pop/urban duets. However, every now and again, one comes around that works splendidly. Remember a little hit called “No Air”? Exactly. Sure there is no comparison of Ariana Grande’s fine duet with The Wanted boyfriend Nathan Sykes to the gargantuan Jordin Sparks/Chris Brown duet, but it is so much better than it sounds on paper. Vocally, the chemistry is undeniable, the maturity transcendent of both stars’ age, and the songwriting ‘tried-and-true’ yet relatable. Yeah, “The Way” and “Baby I” might garner more attention, but “Almost Is Never Enough” is a definite sleeper.
Raheem DeVaughn, “Complicated”
A Place Called Love Land
Love is a complicated thing. Just imagine how complicated and complex it is in the context of A Place Called Love Land, Raheem’s DeVaughn’s slept on, exceptional fourth studio album? Basically the premise of this soulful standout is that DeVaughn is in a relationship (or something like it), but doesn’t want to label it. Therefore even if ole boy is “…kinda single” but also in love, it truly is complicated. Nothing complicated or questionable about the strength of this number though.
Kings of Leon, “Wait For Me”
Mechanical Bull was a fine new effort from Kings of Leon overall. Sure, I was looking for another “Sex on Fire”, but maybe the lovin’ has leveled off. Regardless, “Wait For Me” is a brilliant showing offering multiple interpretations (though likely referencing Caleb Followill’s demons) while ultimately delivering a plea of ‘waiting’ for the ‘lost’ to clean up his act. It’s that sort of situation where one went on the wrong pathway and is now back on the straight and narrow.
On his underrated sixth album Appreciation Day, Jaheim spends a good chunk of time discussing the opposite sex, particularly on the incredibly sensual title track. However, he breaks away from the female anatomy on the brilliant, socially conscious “Florida”, which details the infamous Trayvon Martin case. One of the most ‘trill’ songs I have heard in sometime, “Florida” strikes a soulful, chilling chord from an initial listen.
Stalley, “Coupes & Roses”
Self Made 3
Maybach Music Group’s third compilation wasn’t exactly charm. Self Made 3 seemed to lack the same spark as the 2012 compilation which was loaded with the likes of “Power Circle” and “Bury Me A G”. Still, Stalley’s “Coupes & Roses” is a standout that blends luxurious sounds, old-school, and swagger a la 2013 into a winning formula. All bow to rap’s ‘next’.
The Weeknd, “Belong To The World”
I’ll be the first to criticize The Weeknd’s follow-up to mixtape compilation Trilogy. Kiss Land feels pretty blasé for the most part, but this overproduced number has its moments. Particularly, its lyrics are quite alluring: “Ooh girl, I know I should leave you / and learn to mistreat you / cause you belong to the world / and ooh girl, I want to embrace you / domesticate you / but you belong to the world.” Who would’ve thought a song alluding to a stripper Abel Tesfaye wants to ‘domesticate’ could be fascinating?
MGMT, “Alien Days”
You wouldn’t be making an generalization if you said that MGMT’s music is getting weirder and spacier. “Alien Days” is certainly and opener that requires more than one listen to truly digest and understand what’s going through the band’s head. Opening with a child’s voice that eventually is taken of very VanWynegarden’s trippy, nonchalant voice, MGMT is characteristic of the band while continue to stretch (perhaps overstretch) the boundaries. I think it is quite possible to get high of the cut without even smoking.
- Playlist: 5 Favorite September 2013 Albums (brentmusicreviews.com)