I’ll admit that during the month of October I missed out on a couple of albums (Pearl Jam, Scotty McCreery, Korn, Paul McCartney, etc.). Alas, that is the life of a music journalist and music critic – you can’t listen to ‘em all. Despite this, from the albums I did partake of, I’ve assembled a list of ‘gems’ to start out November 2013 just right!
Panic! At the Disco, “Nicotine”
Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die
(Fueled by Ramen)
Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die is filled with standouts. Rather than revolve towards “This Is Gospel”, “Miss Jackson”, or “Girls/ Girls/ Boys”, I selected “Nicotine”. Excerpted from my review of the album, I wrote this of “Nicotine”:
“Nicotine” is nowhere near “f*cking drag” Urie speaks of throughout the song referencing addictive alkaloid […] “Cross my heart and hope to die / burn my lungs and curse my eyes”, Urie poetically sings on the first verse. “I’ve lost control and I don’t want it back / I’m going numb, I’ve been hijacked.” The allusion of love and smoke is flawlessly executed, best evidenced during the refrain: “I taste your lips and I can’t rid of you / so I say damn your kiss and the awful things you do / you’re worse than nicotine.” Ultimately, “Nicotine” proves to be as addictive a listen as it is the “f*cking drag…I need it so bad” which the frontman conveys.
Katy Perry featuring Juicy J, “Dark Horse”
“Dark Horse” provides a spark to Perry’s PRISM once it appears. Juicy J is a perfect fit on this hip-hop oriented pop cut which sports one sick beat. The chorus definitely latches: “So you wanna play with magic? / boy, you should know what you’re falling for / baby, do you dare to do this? / cause I’m coming at you like a dark horse…” Second verse vocal harmonizations make the deal sweeter while Juicy J’s lines such as “Uh, she’s a beast / I call her Karma / she eat your heart out / like Jeffrey Dahmer…” seal the deal. “Dark Horse” ‘roars’ equally if not more so than the ubiquitous “Roar” itself.
Danny Brown, ”Dip”
From my Playlist: Bangers That Get It Poppin’ At The Club… (Part 2) I commentated on “Dip”:
“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’
Arcade Fire, “Reflektor”
Excerpted from my Review: Arcade Fire, ‘Reflektor’:
“Reflektor” initiates things shockingly given its percussive, danceable groove. Thankfully, this cut does danceability conservatively and tastefully, eschewing today’s EDM bass drops and pointed synths in favor of something that sounds both neo-disco and Arcade Fire-like simultaneously. The songwriting is accessible, well perhaps save for Régine’ Chassagne’s pre-chorus French, LOL (“Entre la nuit, la nuit et l’aurore / entre le royaume des vivants es des morts”). The chorus is incredibly catchy and simple though: “I thought I found a way to enter / it’s just a reflector…”
Pusha T featuring Kendrick Lamar, “Nosetalgia”
My Name is My Name
On “Nosetalgia”, rap IQ goes off the charts, between Pusha T and guest collaborator Kendrick Lamar. Among Pusha’s best lines is his proclamation that he was the “Black Ferris Bueller, cutting school with his jewels on…what I sell for pain in the hood, I’m a doctor…” while Kendrick Lamar’s slaughtering verse is capped off with “Go figure motherf*cker, every verse is a brick.” Rap musicianship at his best, two of the best in the game rock it out here, no questions asked.
Miley Cyrus featuring Nelly, “4X4″
I still ask myself why do I like the song “4X4” from Bangerz. I was in the same sort of situation back in early October when I penned a review for the album:
“4X4” would normally be the sort of cut I would tar and feather because of its stupidity. And it is really dumb, mind you. But, the country-pop-rap cut is sort of hypnotizing. Maybe it’s because of Pharrell Williams’s odd-ball production or even Nelly’s midwest touting rap, but for whatever reason, it sticks with you. Still, I’m not to keen on Cyrus’s line about “driving so fast ‘bout to piss on myself…” Please girl! Have some dignity!
I guess things ain’t changed. I’m still listening to it and Miley still seems about ready to piss on herself. SMH.
Mary J. Blige featuring Barbra Streisand & Chris Botti, “When You Wish Upon A Star”
A Mary Christmas
“When You Wish Upon A Star” finds Mary J. Blige and Barbra Streisand duetting beautifully with Chris Botti accentuating things with his warm, lush trumpet sound. “When You Wish Upon A Star” really isn’t a Christmas song, originally serving as the main theme from Disney’s 1940 animated feature Pinocchio, but it definitely fits the vibe of A Mary Christmas. Additionally, “When You Wish Upon A Star” has been transformed several times; it’s quite a flexible song you might say.
Eminem, “Rap God”
The Marshall Mathers LP 2
An excerpt from my upcoming The Marshall Mathers LP 2:
“Rap God” is freaking epic. The hook varies slightly, but the beginning’s the same: “I’m beginning to feel like a rap god, rap god / all my people from the front to the back nod, back nod…” Across three verses Eminem ‘schools’ us. On verse one he touts his flow (“Made a living and a killing off it / ever since Bill Clinton was still in office / With Monica Lewinsky feeling on his nut-sack / I’m an MC still as honest / but as rude and as indecent as all hell”) while on verse two he talks influences and disses sucky MC’s (“Everybody want the key and the secret to rap immortality like I have got / well, to be truthful the blueprint’s simply rage and youthful exuberance … hit the earth like an asteroid, did nothing but shoot for the moon since”). On verse three, he goes “H*A*M*”, ripping critics, skeptics, and some fans (“Innovative and I’m made of rubber / so that anything you say is ricocheting off of me and it’ll glue to you / I’m devastating, more than ever demonstrating / how to give a motherf**kin’ audience a feeling like it’s levitating)”. Lady Gaga said it best… “Eh, there’s nothing else I can say.”
See my previous post How Eminem Devastates the Competition on “Rap God” for full, in depth analysis. You can literally write a book about this one song!
Arcade Fire, “Porno”
So yeah, I included a second song from the same album… but this one deserves to be here, it’s definitely interesting!
Excerpted from my Review: Arcade Fire, ‘Reflektor’:
“Porno” definitely had my attention given the title. The song itself is no disappointment with it’s dark, sort creepy vibe. The ultimate take away seems to be that young guys are selfish when it comes to sexual desires and how they expect their girlfriends to fulfill their selfishness. “Yeah, something’s wrong / little boys with their porno / and boys they learn / some selfish sh*t / until the girl / won’t put up with it…”
There it is!
Kelly Clarkson, ”Every Christmas”
Wrapped in Red
The horn-filled six-eight balladry of “Every Christmas” serves as yet another instance of confirmation of Clarkson’s artistry and prowess on Wrapped in Red. Having organ and a backing gospel choir doesn’t hurt her cause either.
DJ Khaled featuring 2 Chainz, Ace Hood, Big Sean, French Montana, Meek Mill, Rick Ross & Timbaland, “You Don’t Want These Problems”
Suffering from Success
Excerpted from Playlist: Bangers That Get It Poppin’ At The Club… (Part 1)
“You Don’t Want No Problems” is one of the shining moments from DJ Khaled’s recent album, Suffering From Success. On this juggernaut, Khaled is assisted by Big Sean, Rick Ross, French Montana, 2 Chainz, Meek Mill, Ace Hood, and Timbaland. Highlights include memorable lyrical moments from Rick Ross (“On the phone at the light, Kelly Rowland’s a friend / Catfish in the Benz, Manti Teo’s a sucker…”), 2 Chainz (“They slept on me, I stopped sellin’ work and started sellin’ coffee…”), and Ace Hood (“My sanctuary’s that cemetery / my choppa, named it obituary…”). I mean, I kinda enjoy the “problems” personally…
Robert Glasper Experiment featuring Jill Scott, “Calls”
Black Radio 2
“Calls” is nothing short of a stunner. Jill Scott is at her best as is Robert Glasper and company. Lush, sensual, and jazz, “Calls” epitomizes the urban sound at its best. The chorus, though simplistic it is, is a perfect representation of jazz and soul styles: “You always answer my calls / when I call, you come…” The best moment is the bridge, where Jill Scott gets in done in a big way. “Calls” is ‘big time’ for sure.
- Playlist: Bangers That Get It Poppin’ At The Club… (Part 1) (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Playlist: Bangers That Get It Poppin’ At The Club… (Part 2) (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: Danny Brown, ‘Old’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
Some artists constantly change up their formula, while others are content. There is nothing wrong with being content, but sometimes it puts your artistry into serious questioning. There are many artists I could characterize as ‘one dimensional’, but I chose five who truly epitomize this description. And yes, some of these are artists I highly respect and listen to. I’m a meanie, I know.
I really do respect and enjoy India. Arie’s music, but I feel that she hasn’t truly ‘spread’ her wings for a couple of albums. I’m all about “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but still… “Video” will always be a classic, but can the same be said of “Cocoa Butter” from 2013’s quietly released SongVersation? Arie is one of those artists who’s so ‘chill’ that she sometimes comes off a bit boring and blasé. She remains prudent mind you, but I wouldn’t mind if she shook things up just a wee bit.
Another artist I really respect and enjoy listening to is John Mayer. However, since his best album Continuum (with all the blues and soulfulness), he’s not had that same spark. Battle Studies had its moments (“Who Says” and “Half of My Heart” among them), while both Born and Raised and Paradise Valley were enjoyable but lacked the spark of his earlier efforts. Or maybe they just lack the ‘commercial’, pop appeal. I mean he doesn’t have to relive “Waiting on the World to Change” but still…
I don’t know about everyone else, but frankly I’m pretty tired of hearing about Wiz smoking weed. Because of this lack of range (or artistry), Wiz’s sophomore album O.N.I.F.C. was incredibly forgettable. As I’ve referenced earlier, his song “It’s Nothin’” featuring 2 Chainz truly was ‘nothing’. Of course, the lack of another banger like “Black & Yellow” would hurt anybody. Still, no pass Wiz!
One Direction (and various other teen-pop bands/artists)
Before I get stoned, this doesn’t merely apply to One Direction. Why are they highlighted? Well they are easily the most popular boy-band / teen pop artist(s) not named Justin Bieber. Basically, the formula for the teen pop band is what makes the majority of them one dimensional. The format is so tried and true that in many respects, it hurts the artistry. We’ve come to expect extraordinarily good-looking girls/guys and corn-ball/schmaltzy songs slated somewhere between pop, R&B and rock. Sure, One Direction’s Take Me Home was a good album contextually considering its fan base, but other than teen girls, who’s really listing them as their favorite ‘artist’? Exactly.
Last year I wouldn’t have listed The Weeknd on this list, but Kiss Land had a hand in this change of heart. I enjoy listening to The Weeknd… on Trilogy. As for Kiss Land, he boxes himself into the same thing he did on his mixtapes only he does it much less satisfyingly. The voice is still incredible, but how many more times do you sing about weed consumption, being oversexed, so on and so forth? I’d say the same about The-Dream, whose IV Play was clumsy as albeit and lacked the fun of the artists previous efforts.
Isn’t this one obvious? This man goes dumber than fudge… replace ‘fudge’ with another word. I’m not gonna lie, I own both of his albums and was even onboard during his “Duffle Bag Boy” days when he was Tity Boi in Playaz Circle, but that doesn’t mean I don’t consider him ‘one dimensional’. That said, can anyone really imagine ole boy being truly serious? Nope, didn’t think so.
- Playlist: September 2013 Jams To Lead Into October (brentmusicreviews.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)
2 Chainz Does Dumb Surprisingly Well on B.O.A.T.S. II
2 Chainz⎪ B.O.A.T.S. II: #Me Time⎪Def Jam⎪⎪US Release Date: September 10
Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go… 2 Chainz is crazy! Like totally cray cray. Honestly, B.O.A.T.S. II: #Me Time should be a disaster (add a profanity of choice in front of ‘disaster’). Somehow though, through all of Tauheed Epps’ stupidity, he puts together a dumb, but fun rap album. Yeah, maybe there isn’t one single cut that supplants the brilliantly, naughty “Birthday Song” which I still jam out to on my iPod, but there is plenty of songs that lack substance that give the listener, um, a guilty pleasure. 2 CHAINZ!
The fun starts with “Fork”, in which 2 Chainz “…had a dream that rap wouldn’t work / woke up on the block, had to hit it with the fork / skrrr, skrrr, skrrr, skrrr, skrrr: hit it with the fork… rap don’t work, records ain’t bein’ sold…so much money on me, it won’t even fold….” Yeah something like that. What is he talking about? Good question! Well, sounds like drugs, rap albums not selling, and having more money than he’ll ever need. If that’s not enough, he elaborates on his excesses, maybe best epitomized by a lyric like “I drink red b**ches, I don’t drink Red Bulls…” Alrighty then, heck of a way to start 2 Chainz by hitting it with the fork.
On “36”, the king of dumb educates us listeners on the hook: “36 / that’s how many ounces in a brick / 36, 36, 36, 36…” So if you had no idea about the wait of drug paraphernalia, 2 Chainz has schooled you over the course of one minute and a half. Feel lifted? Then after all the drugs, the “Feds Watching”, featuring and produced by Pharrell Williams. 2 Chainz begins his first verse with bragging about material things (“Dreads hang on designer everything…”), then goes on to the strip club (“This that category 5 when I walk up in the strip club…”), and throws in some drugs for good measure (“Backing soda marketing , I’m getting it ain’t I? Obviously…”). He caps all of his higher level thinking with a simple, summative hook: “I’mma be fresh as hell if the Feds watching….” So basically, even if 2 Chainz gets caught, he’s going to be ‘fresh to death’ I’m assuming? I don’t know about all that, but the track is killer.
“Where U Been” keeps things consistently ‘materialistic’, featuring the assist from Cap.1. Simply, 2 Chainz has been balling “getting money, where the f**k you been?”. Oh and to add a little more oomph to his brashness, he throws in the ‘tasteful’ punch “bought a new crib just to f**k you in.” Seems extreme to me, but he is 2 Chainz. Oh an as for Cap.1’s contributions, perhaps the lyric “My b**ch she’s so pretty that’s my Pocahontas…” takes the cake. Next, my boy brings in Drake and Lil Wayne for the superstar collaboration “I Do It”. Simplicity remains key, particularly given 2 Chainz’s opening ‘salvo’: “Hang up on a b**ch, call it crucified”. Still, he has his moments. Drake may have the best line, when he alludes to Lil Wayne near the end of the second verse: “Man I just hear this sh*t and think about what Tunechi will tell you / he might call up Patricia, she ‘bout to call up Melissa…” Oh and in case you’re wondering, yes Lil Wayne talks about sex on his verse… shocker. The Outro is a nice contrast though.
“Used 2” keeps the absurdity alive and well, evidenced by the ridiculous hook which seems to reference recording the naughty and uploading it to youtube as looking for a baby mama… SMH. Repetition is 2 Chainz’s best friend here, or his worst enemy with the clumsy lines he chooses to repeat. He ‘redeems’ himself on the it’s-so-ridiculously-stupid-it’s-good “Netflix” which pairs him with Fergie… what a combo, phew! Where do you even start? 2 Chainz references weed, sex tapes, the paparazzi, high end fashion, and uninspired rappers all in the matter of his first verse. On her verse, Fergie lifts from “Birthday Song” (“When I die, bury me inside the liquor store…”), as well as dropping the obligatory weed reference, blowing wads of money, and “b**ches copying” her. And then there’s that hook… “I know you had the time of your life…you know I’m gettin’ money, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, Ill be countin’ this sh*t all night…” Geez Louise!
“Extra” is one that annoys me. Yeah, yeah, I know 2 Chainz is no Nas, but 2 Chainz’s pop-rap here is a bit questionable, even for him. The most shameful line from Chainz? “I just had a threesome for three weeks in a row / Last name Chainz, first name Two…” WTF? Rich Homie Quan guests on the third verse. On “U Da Realest”, Chainz states “I’m like a quarterback, hand it off / drop the work in the pot, watch it cannonball / I done seen ‘em ball, I done seen ‘em fall / rest in peace to my n***a, you da realest, dawg…” Somewhere in there there seems to be some substance… well besides what’s in that pot he references. But of course, he ruins a good moment too, like “Rest in my piece to all my n***as, they died while they was servin’ / rest in peace to all the soldiers that died in the service / I died in her…” I. Have. No. Words…that I’m going to publish here…
Then comes “Beautiful Pain”, which features Lloyd and Mase. 2 Chainz doesn’t take himself seriously, but Lloyd refines things on a fine hook (“Oh I feel so fly / came so far, but I still wanna fly…see what this beautiful pain, provide / baby look into my eyes…”) And of course, Mase keeps things classy. Overall, “Beautiful Pain” stands out. T-Pain joins the boatload of collaborators on “So We Can Live”, drenched in autotune as always. 2 Chainz has plenty of ‘interesting’ moments, whether it’s his illegal activities (“Mama don’t work, heater don’t work / Police pulled me over and said he seen weed on my shirt / I pray to the lord and ask for forgiveness / If he popped my trunk I can get a life sentence…”), playing copycat (“Simon says, monkey see money do / I wore the shirt, you wore the same shirt too…”) or being the sh*t (“appetite for destruction, and I don’t need a menu / so far ahead of y’all n***as, I can see you in my rearview…”) . There it is, I suppose.
He’s hella clumsy on “Mainstream Ratchet”, but isn’t that understandable? Proceed with caution folks! I mean, anything with the word ratchet in it… “And that’s ratchet huh? Her a$$ so big it look like she trying to walk backwards bruh…” “Black Unicorn” contrasts, opening with an lovely spoken word performance by Sunni Patterson. Chrisette Michele handles the hook as classy and nuanced as always. And as for Chainz, he’s not too shabby himself. Ol’ boy gets himself together on “Outroduction”, presenting himself much more thoughtfully and candidly. There are “two sides to a book” after all.
Classic or total bust? Neither, but B.O.A.T.S. II: #Me Time is actually a much better album than I envisioned it to be. It’s hard to call an effort with so many references to sex, drugs, and irresponsibility a masterpiece, but I’ll give it to 2 Chainz, he certainly has some highlights here. If you’re a fan of more intellectual rap though, this is not your cup of tea. But if you don’t mind going ‘stupid’ like a lot, well then, this album is your new jam.
Favorites: “36”; “Feds Watching”; “I Do It”; “Netflix”; “Beautiful Pain”
- 2 Chainz, Career Revisionist (brentmusicreviews.com)
- An Artist of Narrow Contrast: A Review of 2 Chainz, Me Time (popjones.wordpress.com)
- Writing On The Wall: 2 Chainz Upset With Def Jam Over “B.O.A.T.S II” (djsdoingwork.com)
- For the Haters: 2 Chainz ‘Where U Been’ Video (atlantablackstar.com)
- 2 Chainz Pleads ‘I Don’t Do Anything Illegal’ After Arrest The rapper says he showed police his guns during the Oklahoma snafu, saying ‘I probably let my guard down.’ (teebreezzy.wordpress.com)
- Review of 2 Chainz’s B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time (examiner.com)
- 2 Chainz: I’m Pissed At Def Jam For Undershipping My Album, Appears In New Fabolous Video (allhiphop.com)
- 2 Chainz Publishes Cookbook With Deluxe Edition Of ‘B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time’ (contactmusic.com)
- (MUSIC) 2 Chainz ~ Netflix ft Fergie (muzicupdate.wordpress.com)
- 2 Chainz – “B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time” – ALBUM REVIEW (jakobsalbumreviews.wordpress.com)
Chart Rewind (Highlights), September 04, 2013
Avenged Sevenfold found themselves in a familiar place, no. 1, with 159,000 copies sold of Hail To The King. Hip hop had another showing, but definitely not comparable to the summer trifecta of Kanye West, J. Cole, and Mac Miller. Big Sean debuted at no. 3 with 72,000 copies of Hall of Fame while Juicy J landed right behind him at no. 4 with 64,000 copies of Stay Trippy.
By the way, what about those acts that got no love? Franz Ferdinand debuted at no. 24 with Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action. Mandisa’s latest Overcomer landed at no. 29. Goodie Mob’s comeback effort (Age Against The Machine) truly received nada, debuting at no. 30. I suppose you win some and you lose some.
Grande Leads The Charge
Ariana Grande debuts atop the Billboard Albums Chart with 138,000 copies of Yours Truly sold. For most of the week, it seemed that Grande would be dueling with a reintroduced Tamar Braxton for the number one spot. In the end, the young Mariah Carey-favoring singer/actress takes her rightful crown. Tamar Braxton debuts at no. 2 with Love & War selling 114,000 copies. For an adult contemporary R&B album, that ain’t bad at all folks. Honestly, I’m shocked that Braxton moved six figures… you just never know.
Nine Inch Nails debuts expectedly at no. 3 with 107,000 copies of Hesitation Marks sold. Unfortunately, the 107,000 copies is a far cry from Nine Inch Nails’ previous major label efforts. Still, six figures in this day and age is respectable. Maybe these new kiddos just don’t know about Trent Reznor. Sigh.
John Legend lands at no. 4 with with Love in the Future. Love in the Future sold only 68,000 copies, down from the 133,000 copies that graced his last solo effort, Evolver (2008). That said, Love in the Future did sell more than Legend’s collaborative album with The Roots, Wake Up! According to Billboard.com. For an artist with such soul and talent, it is sad that 68,000 copies was the ceiling. Better than the 55,000 copies prognosticated originally.
Jaheim doesn’t have his greatest sales week either, as Appreciation Day received little appreciation ultimately moving only 58,000 copies good for a no. 6 bow. Jaheim has never moved gargantuan numbers, but in 2006, Ghetto Classics did debut atop the Billboard 200 with 152,000 copies sold. 2007 effort The Makings of a Man just missed the top ten (it was a December release), but sold a career best 176,000 copies. Even 2010 effort Another Round had little to hold it’s head down about; it sold 112,000 copies good for a no. 3 bow. But 58,000 copies? That ain’t going nowhere.
Katy Perry Roars On
Really, what else is their to say… Katy Perry already told you we’d hear her roar. And she’s roaring at no. 1 a second week. Case closed.
Who’s Got Next?
Several new efforts materialized on Tuesday, September 10. This includes Keith Urban’s Fuse, 2 Chainz’s B.O.A.T.S. II, Janelle Monáe’s The Electric Lady, The Weeknd’s Kiss Land, Sheryl Crow’s Feels Like Home, Goldfrapp’s Tales of Us, Trombone Shorty’s Say That To Say This, Sean Kingston’s Back 2 Life, Kaskade’s Atmosphere, Earth Wind & Fire’s Now, Then & Forever, Gloria Estefan’s The Standards, and Arctic Monkey’s AM. Ones to watch? Keith Urban, 2 Chainz, Sheryl Crow, and possibly The Weeknd. Curious to see how the sales come out for these albums.
- Chart report: Ariana Grande’s ‘Yours Truly’ debuts at No. 1, Tamar Braxton and Nine Inch Nails take the silver and bronze (music-mix.ew.com)
- Ariana Grande Album Debuts At Number One In U.s. (contactmusic.com)
- Will R&B Ever Recover From Sales Inconsistencies? (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Music: TV’s Ariana Grande ‘Truly’ Hits No. 1 (variety.com)
Justin Timberlake featuring Jay-Z, ”Suit & Tie”
One of the most anticipated music videos for sure, JT goes all classy and classic on us with the B&W video clip for “Suit & Tie”. Timberlake makes sure we know he is going blue-eyed soul, showing his studio musicians prominently (horns, bass, drums, etc.). As expected, Timberlake dances suavely, showing his swag has only increased since 2006′s Futuresex/Lovesound. Add in the some smoke to accentuate the ‘club’ vibe.
Lil Wayne featuring Drake & Future, “Love Me”
The highly anticipated video for “Love Me” arrives and it is interesting. There are clean/explicit versions. Regardless, you’ll get raunch in both, save for the clean version censors nearly every salacious, inappropriate reference that Lil Wayne makes. There are girls, obvious sexual kinkiness, alcohol, flooding water, devilish/evil images, a tub of blood… yeah its just over the top in every way. Did you expect anything less from one of the most controversial, bold MCs out there? If the song wasn’t already a raunch-fest, the video adds fuel to the conversation. You’ll have to watch it for yourself if you dare…you may have to repent afterwards…
Bruno Mars, “When I Was Your Man
Bruno Mars goes all vintage (60-70s) in the video clip for new single “When I Was Your Man”, playing the grand piano while singing. The classicism established by the video clip only enhances the superb stripped R&B number even more. The video gives off an excellent vibe.
Drake, “Started From The Bottom”
Easily less raunchy than the Lil Wayne video (There is some booty shaking of course), Drake releases his video for divisive single “Started From the Bottom”. The video dramatizes young Drake playing soccer, working at a store, and moving into his mansion. Of course at the mansion, Drake and his entourage live it up, celebrating success, etc. While some of the video is predictable, it definitely lifts “Started From The Bottom”.
Pusha T featuring Rick Ross, “Millions”
A cut as dark as new single “Millions” must be respected with an equally dark video clip, right? True to form, the video is dark and conveys the malice of which Pusha T raps of (guns, money, pedaling drugs, etc.). Rick Ross is smoking (big surprise) and the money is being flashed/counted. Probably a sensitive time to rap about “choppas”, let alone “hiding choppas in the closet”, but would any of us expect anything different from Pusha T? Few sensitive MCs out there.
Fall Out Boy, “My Songs What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)”
Another one of many returning acts, Fall Out Boy make sure the video clip for their first single is dark and has the “fire” that they sing about. Most interesting is that 2 Chainz has Fall Out Boy kidnapped in a van (you’ll notice at the end)… You’ll just have to watch it for yourself… Yes, 2 Chainz is in the video and is the one who “lights em up”. It’s a video (and song) that can be read into many different ways. Isn’t that always the way with Fall Out Boy though?
A$AP Rocky Bows At No. 1
Harlem MC A$AP Rocky debuts at no. 1 on the Billboard 200 Chart with his debut studio effort Long.Live.A$AP. Originally forecasted for a bow of around 130,000 copies, that forecast was amended to 140,000 copies. Ultimately, the Polo Grounds/RCA release sold a respectable 139,000 copies. Long.Live.A$AP has the benefit of Top 20 Hot 100 Hit “F**kin Problems” featuring 2 Chainz, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar supporting it, a solid showing for a rap cut.
How does Rocky’s numbers (which rappers are always rapping about if you’ve never noticed in their lyrics) stand compared to other rap bows as of late? Well Kendrick Lamar fared better despite debuting at no. 2 (241,000 copies) with good Kid m.A.A.d City. Meek Mill also fared better bowing at no. 2 with 165,000 copies. 2 Chainz debuted at no. 1 with Based on a T.R.U. Story (147,000 copies) while underrated Mississippi MC Big K.R.I.T. bowed at no. 5 (41,000 copies). For January 2013, 139,000 copies is sound, particularly when the no. 2 album sells much less than that.
Kidz Bop 23 bows at no. 2 with 78,000 copies which according to billboard.com is the franchise’s largest showing in years. Subtract 78K from 139K and what do you get? A 61K copy difference between albums no. 1 and no. 2. In other words, A$AP Rocky was a lock for no. 1.
Chris Plummets… Big (Really Big…Like 78% Big)
As for the rest of the top 10, well it’s relatively boring. Some folks we’ve heard from for sometime including Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, The Lumineers, One Direction, Mumford & Sons, and a return to the top 10 for Phillip Phillips. But one note, billboard.com reports that last week’s no. 1, Chris Tomlin‘s Burning Lights takes a steep fall from grace – no pun intended. How far does it fall? Oh a modest tumble from no. 1 to no. 22. Kind of like being ranked no. 1 at the beginning of the season and then becoming unranked… Worse is the 78% drop… so from 73,000 to about 17,000? Ewwww! as Lucy would say…
Big Release January Strategy (…It Sounded Cool)
Rarely does January do very much for music commercially. 2010 found newbie Ke$ha making the most of a bad release date (January 5th) and turning it around into a no. 1 album that eventually went platinum. Animal did have the help of a mega hit in “Tik Tok” in which the trashy-pop star rocked famous lyric “Wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy” and locked up the Billboard Hot 100. I say all those states to say that A$AP Rocky is in the same boat as Ke$ha, releasing an anticipated release in the cold, dark January in which everything is practically dead. It should pay off similarly, as Long.Live.A$AP anticipates a no. 1 debut with 130,000 copies sold. Not bad considering this week’s no. 1 album was by contemporary Christian artist Chris Tomlin (Burning Lights sold only 73,000, low for a no. 1 album).
The 24-year old Harlem MC doesn’t have “Tik Tok” to promote Long.Live.A$AP, but in urban circles, single “F**kin’ Problems” is a perfect promotional tool, featuring 2 Chainz, Drake & everyone’s favorite new MC Kendrick Lamar. RCA should also be satisfied should Rocky’s numbers come to pass considering it’s release date and that he’s a new MC (regardless of 2011 mixtape Live. Love A$AP). The real question will be how sustainable is his potential success? Too often labels seemed to concern themselves with week one but then the drop-off with successive weeks is ugly. I personally am a fan of singles “Goldie” and “F**kin’ Problems”, but neither are no. 1 hits potentially or in reality. Just a thought, not knocking A$AP as Long.Live A$AP is a solid debut.
Like Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky is not afraid to experiment and take his own approach. He doesn’t quite reach good Kid m.A.A.d City, but who expected that? (Rhetorical.)
“Long Live A$AP” naturally opens the effort, rather mysteriously. After thundering sound effects, a unique groove settles in and Rocky proceeds to go on ‘autopilot’ with such pointed lines including “…I ain’t kidding hid yo kittens, hit yo children with that Smith and…” or “My Santa Claus was missing, catch you slippin’ then it Christmas…” After presenting such ‘hard’ bravado, A$AP sings the hook of all things – go figure.
On early single “Goldie”, produced by Hit-Boy, Rocky embraces pitch-shift, lowering the sound of his voice. Two verses deep, Rocky’s flow is agile. Bragging on the hook, he raps as follows: “I said it must be cause a n**ga got dough / extraordinary swag and an mouth full of fold / ho*s at my shoes they be strippin’ off they clothes…” You get the idea – he’s hot stuff, according to him.
I’d love to call “PMW (All I Really Need)” profound with its T-Minus production, but when PMW stands for p***y, money, and weed, well A$AP is not aiming for profound, just essentials I suppose. He goes a bit deeper on “LVL” where he is unafraid to use his Glock (“Mister Pistol Popper – Flacko locked and loaded / life’s a b!tch and she p***y pop (know why) cause I got her open…”). See what I’m saying? He goes own to brag even more about his awesomeness: “Introduce you n**gas to my new swag / make you say a n**ga blew up too fast / f**k I’m ‘sposed to do with all this new @$$ / f**k I’m ‘sposed to do with all this new cash…” Let me translate. Since Rocky became big (“new swag”) and grew famous quickly (“blew up too fast”), he’s questioning what he should do with all the girls who want him and all the money he’s got now. Rappers these days, SMH.
On “Hell”, Santigold makes a guest stop. Rocky alludes to the past and present (“We used to wear rugged boots, now it’s all tailored suits…”) and of course makes religious references (“…Cuz heaven need a villain like Hell need a newer idol / you could be the crib and car, just renew the title…”) Santigold takes the hook as well as her own verse.
On “Pain”, Overdoz is featured (Kent & Tube). The hook is simple – “Lights, camera, action…” in repetitive form. Fame is on Rocky’s mind (“The future will be televised, haters getting genocide / 23 and 43, I’m talking my Margiela size…”) as well as Overdoz’s (“…almost f**ked fame, but she came with money…”) Yeah, yeah, yeah. Then we get to the real problem, which is the main attraction.
“F**kin’ Problems” has superstar written all over it. 2 Chainz takes the majority of the catchy, shameful,explicit hook (“I love bad b!tches, that’s my f**kin’ problem / and yeah I like to f**k, I’ve got a f**kin’ problem…”) A$AP Rocky takes the first verse (“…All these MF’s wanna dress like me / put the chrome to your dome, make you sweat like Keith…”), Drake takes the 2nd (“…ain’t heard my new album? Who you sleepin’ on? You should print the lyrics out and have a f**kin’ read along…”) and Kendrick Lamar on the final verse (“…She eying me like a nigga don’t exist / girl, I know you want this di–”) Yep, that’s how A$AP rolls – pretty explicitly.
“Wild For The Night” features contributions by EDM master Skrillex, which is shocking but quite an effective collaboration. Given it’s title, I’ll spare you of the lyrical quotations – you see how Rocky roll. It’s a great party cut for the clubs – apparent hip-hop or EDM. Hit-Boy puts his production touch on the 6:12 cut “1 Train” which features a star-studded cast of Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, and Big K.RI.T. Through seven verses, all the MC’s get some worthy punches in. If you haven’t heard Danny Brown specifically, well you might be shocked…
“Fashion Killa” is lighter fare than the more aggressive “1 Train” where he brags how hot some girl is: “Her pistol go, her pistol go / I said her pistol go / cause she a fashion killa and I’m a trendy n-” A$AP Rocky is obsessed with pistols, you notice? Anyways, Danger Mouse proves a perfect production match for Rocky on “Phoenix” in which Rocky speaks in street talk, which I’ll spare you (On verse 2 he says to the effect that he grew up with certain people but doesn’t talk to them anymore). On the closing cut of the standard edition, “Suddenly“, Rocky closes the effort fiery and inspired. One of his best lines? “Don’t view me as no conscious cat, this ain’t no conscious rap / f**k the conscious crap, my mac’ll push you conscience back…” Of course Rocky makes another gun reference…
There is a deluxe edition, featuring songs “Jodye”, “Ghetto Symphony”, “Angels” and “I Come Apart”. My favorite of those? Well my girl Florence Welch lends her soulful vocals on “I Come Apart”. Just imagine all that soul dripped in reverb. Sigh.
When reviewers review an album, we strive for ‘objectivity’. Rap music has its critics and honestly Long.Live A$AP seems the perfect album to be victim to these critics who would be quick to scrutinize the language, weed references, and particularly the gun references. While I mention this in passing, that won’t way into my impression of the music ultimately. As it is (controversies and all), Long. Live A$AP is a strong major label debut from A$AP Rocky. There are more triumphs than flaws and no overt throwaways. His flow is solid and his experiments with the pitch of his voice is a highlight as he plays into it more than many of his contemporaries. Does he need to be as trash-talking in my opinion? Probably not, but remember Eminem‘s claim to fame folks? He scandalized everybody. No telling what Tipper Gore thought when he came out… (Parental Advisory censorship reference to Prince)
So every year a new breed of MCs debut the next hottest thing. 2012 yielded a whole crop of new rappers – some promising and some ‘whacker’ than others. I’m assigning a grade to each new MC and justifying why I believe they deserve to be praised or scrutinized.
No reason to start things off on a bad note, right? Kendrick Lamar was the year’s MVP, delivering one of the best rap debut albums in modern times. A disc not lacking in hits in addition to superb single “Swimming Pools (Drank)”, good Kid m.A.A.d city proved a rarity. He’s different and easily distinguishes himself lyrically from others, something not true about every new MC. He sings, he raps, he changes vocal inflections – all of it. He debuted at no. 2, only held back by one milli selling Taylor Swift‘s Red. His numbers? 241,000 copies! He also graced many best of the year lists. Grade = A+
He’s not really new, but he was made over as 2 Chainz from Tity Boi of southern rap duo Playaz Circle, known most for their hit single “Duffle Bag Boy” with Lil Wayne. That alone earns Tauheed Epps some points. Add to that that after a ubiquitous number of guest spots, his effort Based On A T.R.U. Story bowed at no. 1 with a respectable 147,000 copies. It spawned hits in “No Lie” featuring Drake and my personal favorite “Birthday Song” featuring Kanye West. Are his rhymes intelligible? Nope, not always, but you can’t deny they make you shake your head or chuckle whether it be the ludicrous hook of “Birthday Song” (“They ask me what I do and who I do it for / and how I come up with this sh*t up in the studio / all I want for my birthday is a big booty h*…”) or his ‘Similac’ line from the Lil Wayne assisted “Yuck”. Oh, and he’s nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Album. Grade = A
Meek Mill sort of disappointed me to some extent. His album Dreams & Nightmares wasn’t bad but received less buzz than I expected and what was ultimately anticipated. It trailed Rick Ross‘s God Forgives, I Don’t as well as the MMG compilation Self Made 2 ever so slightly. Boding in Meek Mill’s favor is the fact that he has a great ability to deliver a narrative in his rhymes and definitely has the skill to provide detail. He does get too loud, but chalk that up to his passion. A bit predictable, Meek Mill I think has a higher ceiling than what he showed us on his debut. Grade = B
MGK (Machine Gun Kelly)
The main quibble with MGK is promotion. He’s a capable enough rhymer, but Lace Up was under promoted, even selling a somewhat respectable 50,000 copies and a no. 4 bow. White MC’s don’t have the easiest time, but MGK seems to be the MVP of the group, representing for an underrepresented midwest wing of rap (he’s from Cleveland). I enjoyed Lace Up and saw the potential, given the right promotion. That said, is Bad Boy the best fit for MGK to truly give him the career boost he needs? Bad Boy in recent times hasn’t been the most successful label no matter who was signed. Grade = C+
I feel as if the Mississippi MC got the short end of the stick in 2012, but partially based upon his own style. Big K.R.I.T. is a throwback MC, and his reputation and promotional campaign was built on his “old school” appeal. The problem is that his old school appeal didn’t really bring in the fans it should’ve, particularly for Live From The Underground being a solid, but generally forgotten debut album from 2012. It debuted at no. 5 with 41,000 copies, but never picked up ‘steam.’ Not that 41,000 copies would suddenly double within proceeding weeks, but there was little traction after it’s initial debut. I wouldn’t call Big K.R.I.T. a favorite from 2012, but I also think much like his old-school debut, he was highly underrated by everyone. Grade = C
Future is an MC I’ve been torn about throughout. Debut album Pluto to its credit was different from every other rap album released in 2012. Future’s approach is half-and-half; he half-raps and half-sings (autotune of course). Sometimes it’s enjoyable and other times it’s annoying. I was not a big fan of Pluto, but more of it has grown on me as the year progressed. Highlights included “Parachute” with R. Kelly, “Turn On The Lights“, and personal favorite “Same Damn Time” which is exactly what it says it is (“I wear Gucci, I wear Bally at the same damn time / on the phone, cooking dope at the same damn time…”). Profound, nope, not by any means. Another top 10 debuting artist, he even rereleased Pluto in a re-uped Pluto 3D edition to drum up more business. I’m not sold, but I would be interested to see ole boy’s sophomore album. Grade = C-
I can’t deny that “Bring It Back” and “Ayy Ladies” were catchy and well dumb. You can’t deny that Travis Porter makes good party music for the club (and that’s about it). I mean, “Make It Rain” won’t be remember for being ‘profound’ by any means – unless you are shaking your booty to it and actually ‘making it rain’. But Travis Porter’s major label debut album From Day 1 didn’t drum up much chart success, debuting at no. 16. Also as MC’s, Travis Porter couldn’t be described as eloquent by any means. A second major label album seems, questionable? Grade = D
Let me just say, he’s an MC “I Don’t Like” - or to be kinder, one I’m not sold on as of yet. Finally Rich was a rehashing of almost everything that turns off many from rap music. His rhymes were repetitive, inept, and in bad taste. Arrogant, Chief Keef is a horrible influence on “Hate Bein’ Sober”, which is exactly what it suggests it is – an ode to drugs. At 17, that’s a bit of a hard pill to swallow. And while he may rap about ‘adult’ things, the 17-year old sounds his age given his blasé, repetitive rhymes. Bowing during a busy week at no. 29 is deceptively worse than it sounds as 50,000 copies is respectable enough for the relative unknown aside from his simplistic, hit single. Grade = F
Now that 2012 is over, the question is, who will blow up in 2013? Will there be another Kendrick Lamar who made an album transcendent of the genre? Will there be more stupidity with no hope of having a lasting legacy? Will A$AP Rocky be a breakout star? What about MMG‘s crew – will there be a new promising debut album? 2013 will tell.