Tag Archive | Def Jam

Review: YG, ‘My Krazy Life’


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Overall, YG delivers a compelling debut with My Krazy Life

YG • My Krazy Life • Def Jam • US Release Date: March 18, 2014

YG-KSR-015031YG is the latest rapper on a long list of hopefuls to release his major label debut, searching for his ‘come-up’. Judging by its title (My Krazy Life) as well as the content enclosed, Y.G. has good reason to eye stardom and the hope for a ‘better’ life. Throughout this dark 14-track set (18 tracks on deluxe editions), YG tells the story of his life, in all its explicit details – sometimes its even TMI. Overall, YG ends up delivering a compelling effort, though it’s not perfect. While the MC has a sensational flow, he’s not as quite alluring (yet) as the very best in the game. Still, for his first album, this west coast effort is more thrilling than not and shows tremendous potential.

Momma Speech Intro” definitely foreshadows and establishes the tone: “…I hope you ain’t outside hanging with them gangbangers / you gon’ end up in mother f**king jail, like your damn daddy.” A heavy way to kick things off, it’s truly just a facet, a piece of YG’s Krazy Life. The following “BPT” is brief, and continues to find YG sort of introducing him self and the way he has/does live. “I’m from BPT (West side)…400 Bruce Street”, he raps on the hook. On the verses, he delivers incredibly agile rhymes with a rough and tumble sentiment: “That 40 Glock snap like Insta, ain’t no need for a caption / I got put on by four n***as, wasn’t need for no bandage…” “BPT” ends abruptly, sort of like a cliffhanger – you must keep on listening to discover what’s to come essentially. “BPT” sort of confuses early on taken out of context, but it makes perfect sense later on.

I Just Wanna Party” can be considered to be the first full-length cut. Here, YG, assisted by Schoolboy Q and Jay Rock, spits “But I just wanna party, I don’t wanna hurt nobody”, but also states “I’ll beat the f**k out of a n***a.” YG definitely talks some trash, but if you can get past the street savvy, he’s also being trill, particularly rapping “All these hoes f**kin’, but they don’t wanna seem like a ho / so you gotta hit ‘em on the low…” Schoolboy Q handles the second verse, boldly bragging he “could sell a key to God”, referencing drugs, specifically kilos. Jay Rock, who takes the third verse is all gangster: “I ain’t got a stunt double / you ain’t got no hands so you might let the gun touch you…” “I Just Wanna Party” is certain edgy, but also the first standout from My Krazy Life.

Left, Right” (featuring DJ Mustard) ends up being an exceptionally produced club banger with booty on the mind. YG is definitely in full-on salacious mode, leaving few elements of sex to the imagination. “…She can divide her legs on this d**k like a fraction,” he naughtily spits on the first verse, “right, right, left, hit ‘em with that right, left”. Of course, “Left, Right” is nothing more than physical as YG could care less about his partner: “… if you cheated on me, I won’t care, right?” He follows up his emotionless hook-up with the eye-catching “Bicken Back Being Bool”. Why such an odd title? Apparently, the Bloods, a prominent gang in California, avoid the use of the letter “C” or words using “C”. This would be because of the rivalry with the Crips. So, if you can rewrite the title of the song, it’s likely “Kickin’ Back Being Cool” (“K” would have the same sound as “C” and wouldn’t be in true Blood style likely). Another enjoyable cut, among my favorite lyrics were “Wifey don’t like SEGA, I don’t play that b**ch.”

YG-KSR-015028Meet The Flockers” seems like a titular play on the Ben Stiller movie Meet The Fockers, but more relevantly, it’s a joint about robbers (“flockers”). If normal people think of “flocks” referring to geese, YG is using “flockers” as slang for robbing in groups. “Meet the mother f**king flockers / make some noise if you ever stole something in your life…make some noise if you ever stole a dollar out your mama’s purse,” YG spits on the hook, “When she wasn’t lookin while y’all was in church.” He gets an assist on the second verse by Tee Cee. “My N***a” ends up being one of the album’s highlights, despite its overuse of the controversial African-American reference to “homie” or “bro”. A Slickly produced skeletal cut impacted by punches of 808, “My N***a” really says very little, but it doesn’t need to say much to be successful. Jeezy and Rich Homie Quan come along for the ride contributing verses, with Rich also handling the hook (“I said that I’mma ride for my mother f**kin’ n***as…”).

Sex becomes the focus of the next two cuts, “Do It To Ya” (featuring Teeflii) and “Me & My B**ch” (featuring Tory Lanez). “Do It To You” isn’t a love song given its physical nature, but it sounds like one from YG’s perspective. A standout it is, the obligatory “Face down, a$$ up / that’s the way we likes to…” definitely is nowhere in the gentleman’s handbook and eschews chivalry. “Me & My B**ch” also fails to be the traditional love song, but deeper examination makes one relate to YG’s sentiment. Tory Lanez’s sung hook explains part of YG’s lot: “Used to have a girlfriend / now all I got is hoes / just looking for a down girl / but she was f**kin’ on the low.” Basically, YG’s “ride or die” wasn’t being faithful (“…Damn she was with him last weekend”), despite how much he cared and invested in her (“I was claiming her when we was … wasn’t using condoms no nothing…”). In the end, YG’s chick tries to use possible paternity to get him back because he’s rich now. It’s a twisted tale, but a compelling one.

Who Do You Love?” brings in Drake, who definitely steals the show – no disrespect to YG, who also has some sound lyrical moments (“I’m that n***a on the block / police pull up, I’m tryna stash the Glock”). “I’m the general, just makin’ sure my soldiers straight,” raps Drake on verse two, “Had to leave my n***a, homie got an open case / But I’m big in the south / so we gon’ pay some people off, we gon’ figure it out.”

“Who Do You Love” is followed by arguably the album’s best cut, “Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin)”, featuring Kendrick Lamar. Not one for subtlety, YG speaks his mind without a filter from the onset: “I woke up this morning, I had a boner / I went to sleep last night with no b**ch…I was a loner.” While YG keys in on ‘not getting any’, ultimately the MC is actually referencing the stress of various things on his mind, and smoking and drinking help to alleviate that stress. As for KL, well he goes H.A.M. as usual: “I swear this industry sh*t, to me is one big a$$ lick / I walk inside of a buildin’, tell the A&R n***a strip / Tell ‘em I need all of my chips, my life been on Section 8 / I’ve been a welfare case, AFDC pump fake.”

YG-20140307-1471AM” has a difficult act to follow, but handles the pressure well. Another autobiographically driven number, YG references the lack of discipline he received in his youth, specifically from his mother. Hence, such irresponsible actions including unprotected sex and empty relationships make perfect sense. “Thank God (Interlude)” features singing from Big TC (verse one) and rapping from RJ (verse two). RJ’s rapping alludes to jail time/making bail for Y.G., going back to his ‘flocking’. On sincere closer “Sorry Momma”, where YG is assisted by Ty Dolla $ign, Y.G. takes responsibility for his own actions and apologizes to her. Ty Dolla $ign conveys this superbly via the hook: “I’m sorry Momma / let me take some weight off your shoulders / I’m singing to momma / you ain’t gotta worry now, them days is over.” The production for the closing cut is lush and simply beautiful.

My Krazy Life isn’t quite comparable to the epic nature of big-time debuts like Kanye West’s The College Dropout, Drake’s Thank Me Later, or Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid M.A.A.D. City, but YG definitely has a compelling story to tell. The fact that My Krazy Life can be examined so analytically beyond the overt nature of its rhymes is a testament to the potential of YG There are truly no misses to be found as every track has a relevant role to the larger narrative. Perhaps it’s not the next rap classic, but it’s definitely one of the best rap albums of the year as of yet.

Favorites:

“I Just Wanna Party”; “My N***a”; “Do It To Ya”; “Who Do You Love?”; “Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin)”

Verdict: ★★★★

Review: Pusha T, ‘My Name Is My Name’


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Pusha T captures a darker portrait of life exceptionally on his ‘official’ solo debut

Pusha T⎪ My Name Is My Name ⎪Def Jam ⎪⎪ US Release Date: October 8, 2013

1240590_638300102870016_1677547831_nTo call ‘street life’ captivating would probably be an incredibly irresponsible statement to make.  What isn’t an irresponsible description is that Pusha T delivers and captures a darker portrait of life exceptionally on his official solo debut, My Name Is My Name.  Sure, the ‘dope game’ is nothing to glorify by any means, but something about Pusha T’s honest and authentic stories of a checkered past proves to be an interesting listen across these 12 excellent tracks.  If nothing more, one definitely knows where half of rap duo Clipse stands.

King Push” initiates with dark-tilted production work, driven by a marching band-like snare drum.  From the jump, Pusha T is confident and hardcore about his intentions.  This is evidenced by the hook: “I’m king Push, still King Push / I rap n***a ‘bout trap n***as / I don’t sing hooks.” Indeed Pusha T avoids sung hooks throughout My Name Is My Name and definitely sugarcoats nothing.  The unapologetic nature of “Numbers On The Board” is welcome, with Pusha T kicking off things in electrifying fashion: “I’m so bossy, b**ch, get off me / it’s a different jingle when you hear these car keys…” Adhering to the 2013 rap trend of ‘god status’, Pusha seems to have more oomph than many of his contemporaries as he spits “It’s only one God, and it’s only one crow / so it’s only one king that can stand on this mound / King Push, kingpin, overlord…” There it is.

1378225_645429358823757_1721314808_nSweet Serenade” isn’t true to it’s title, continuing to sound mysterious and dark.  Chris Brown’s usually enthusiastic pipes are subdued in effect to make the ‘sweet serenade’ a bit more ‘realistic’ you might say.  “Come on let’s toast the champagne, this one’s for the life / did everything you could do to be here for the night / man it feels good, everything feels right / energy is strong enough to bright city lights / my whole team winning, no vision on quitting…I risk my life to try everyday to go and get it…” The track wins and apparently the “team [is] winning”, so why so scary? Well it is Pusha T.  “Look, my ouija board don’t never lie to me / the best rapper living, I know who’s alive to me / yeah the competition’s all but died to me / Raah, I make these motherf**kers hide from me…” Maybe that’s why!

Hold On” brings in Rick Ross, a perfect collaborator for Pusha T.  Pusha never falls short lyrically, always delivering a compelling performance. Again, it is the brutal honesty that lifts Pusha, moments like “I sold more dope than I sold records / you n***as sold records never so dope/ So I ain’t hearing non of that street sh*t / cause in my mind, you motherf**kers sold soap…”.  Pusha T is also equally effective on socially-conscious lines like “They tipping the scale for this crackers to win / no reading, no writhing, made us savage of men…”, seeming a reference to the ‘lot’ of the black man.  Rick Ross balances the street and money on his guest spot: “Over night I seen a n***a go get a Carrera / two weeks later I had to be that boy pall bearer / young king bury me inside a glass casket / windex wipe  me down for the life after.”  Well we know one thing, Rozay has a thing about how he’s treated after death (see “Bury Me A G”).  Brilliant by all means.

Suicide” continues the enthrall and consistency, with Ab-Liva guesting on the third verse (“My future is bright hot, you never can last here / I’m top five, listen, who hot in the past year?”).  Naturally given its title, Pusha T is in it for ‘blood’, but he still manages to deliver the street with some eloquence you might say: “You n***as clique-ing up with my rivals / like the bible don’t burn like these bullets don’t spiral / like I can’t see the scene that you mirror in your idol / but a pawn’s only purpose is completely suicidal…”  On “40 Acres”, The-Dream lends his beautiful pipes to the hook of this reflective, autobiographical cut.  One of the more notable moments from Pusha references his mother’s broken marriage: “Unpolished, unapologetic / might have broke a heart or two but gave an honest effort / my nonchalant attitude is always ‘eff it’ / 35 years of marriage and my momma left it…” Consistency continues.

No Regrets” features Kevin Cossom singing the hook and Young Jeezy given his two cents on second verse.  Ultimately, “No Regrets” is nearly enjoyable if not as enjoyable as everything else, but it also seems a bit overproduced.   Still given the attitude conveyed here, the abundance of production and dynamically-loud moments doesn’t seem that far-fetched.  “Let Me Love You” softens the mood, something that feels right at this point on My Name Is My NameKelly Rowland is the perfect R&B diva to deliver sexiness vocally, singing “Boy you got that six in the morning / you got that thing that’ll make a girl feel high… boy let me love you.” Pusha T isn’t exactly thinking ‘chivalrously’ though: “Hey mama come f**k with the shotta / with the Givenchy toppa, shoe Balenciaga / if you act right, I can match you up proper / if it’s about a dolla thing, big like Poppa.” Can’t go wrong with a Notorious B.I.G allusion, right?

Who I Am” is nothing short of fire, no questions asked.  Sure Pusha T didn’t select the most ‘intellectual’ crop of MC’s to guest with 2 Chainz and Big Sean, but it works out superbly.  But honestly it should since all Pusha T really wants to do is “…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, here rapping “Entrepreneur, strip club connoisseur / hot fudge sundae, pour it on you hallelujah…” – need I go further? Big Sean also keeps it simple and 100 at the same time, rapping “Pretty girls is my reputation / one on my arm, that’s decoration…” We all enjoy a good club track about excess though, so I give this one a pass…a highly recommended one at that.

1380240_642433222456704_1148407337_nNosetalgia” is a perfect follow-up, only made more perfect by featuring Kendrick Lamar.  The rap IQ here is off the charts, with “Nosetalgia” ranking among the top echelon, and that’s saying something considering how well put together this effort is.  One of Pusha’s best lines is his proclamation he was “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**ker, every verse is a brick.”  “Pain” is a solid penultimate cut, still very ‘heavy’ in content and in its overall sound.  Standout closing cut “S.N.I.T.C.H.” succeeds not only because of it’s production or Pharrell’s distinctive voice performing the hook, but because it continues to keep things real. The evidence lies lyrically: “Nowadays n***as don’t need shovels to bury you / pointing fingers like pallbearers how they carry you / so much for death before dishonor / might as well have a robe and a gavel like your honor…”

Now the burning question is just how great is My Name Is My Name? I’d say pretty great; one of the best rap albums of 2013.  Pusha T is quite underrated, but he is definitely one of the better MCs in the game.  Sure rap about dope may not be for everybody by itself, but Pusha T’s authenticity and honesty easily atone for any reservations.

Favorites: “Numbers On The Boards”; “Sweet Serenade”; “Hold On”; “Who I Am”; “Nosetalgia”; “S.N.I.T.C.H.”

Verdict: ✰✰✰✰½

 

Review: 2 Chainz, ‘B.O.A.T.S. II: #Me Time’


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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

2 Chainz-ZNV-000958Let’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.

2 Chainz-ZNV-001216On “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.

2 Chainz-RWP-011385Used 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…

2 Chainz-RWP-011380Then 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 PattersonChrisette 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” 

Verdict: ✰✰✰✰

Chrisette Michele Maintains Classicism in R&B


Chrisette Michele

In a previous post (Kelly Rowland: More Risqué Than Beyoncé (and Others)), I discussed how Kelly Rowland was pushing the boundaries for

Sharon Jones is one of R&B’s staunch traditionalists.

women in R&B with her play on innuendo and the sensual.  Chrisette Michele‘s agenda is different.  Michele seeks to keep the traditional, classic elements of R&B alive – something that she has been doing from day one.  Personally, I feel it is important that traditional R&B is maintained and doesn’t completely fade.  That doesn’t mean everyone has to be like Raphael Saadiq or Bilal (both huge proponents of neo-soul) or even more strict like Sharon Jones, but it does mean that the underlying idea of “rhythm and blues” is kept alive.

On new single “Couple of Forevers” (Released February 05, 2012) , Michele manages to make an
classic sounding, traditional R&B single that doesn’t sound like an anachronism.  The production is lush, the songwriting genuine, and Michele’s distinct, soulful and jazz-infused vocals intact.  Honestly, I don’t know if it’s the fact that Michele has never sounded more nuanced or that it’s just been too long since 2010′s underrated Let Freedom Ring (released via Def Jam).  “Couple of Forevers” is drenched in classic soul sensibility, further accentuated by warm backing vocals.  The track epitomizes true love at its peak – finding that one, true soul mate.

It is rare that a song in 2013 can truly convey such emotion, particularly in the “new” R&B that has likened “love” to “sex” or made the two fallaciously interchangeable. Too many artists have played into the overtness of the times as opposed to ‘pulling back’ and striking a deeper punch with better balance.  Michele manages to portray genuineness in a time where the emotional seems to be second to the physical.  But when you have an eclectic instrument like that of Michele’s voice, shouldn’t she perform refined material that truly shows it off? (Rhetorical).

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