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”
After a year filled with numerous albums and even more songs, choosing 100 of the best is an incredibly difficult task. Like with the best albums of 2013, there will be surprises as well as snubs. Sometimes the snubs are oversights while at other items there are just so many notable songs that some just get lost in the mix. Regardless, here are 100 songs I found to be notable in 2013.
“I Luv This Sh*t”
August Alsina featuring Trinidad James
From album: Downtown: Life Under the Gun
August Alsina has one foul mouth on him, but his real talk mixed with the slower, horn-accentuated production is a match made in heaven, if a blasphemous one (see the hook).
From album: She
According to highly underrated alt-R&B musician Alice Smith, Hollywood isn’t very kind: “I see no reason for chasing / in Hollywood, got to lose my patience / want this life to be a cabaret…” Hollywood may not be for the ‘faint of heart’, but “Cabaret” it self is brilliant.
“Every Man Should Know”
Harry Connick, Jr.
From album: Every Man Should Know
Sometimes the simplest, and most important life lessons to become a gentleman are best conveyed through song, preferably a mix between traditional pop, jazz, and country.
From album: Ciara
Judging by this track, Ciara is far from being a ‘freshman’… definitely. “I ain’t no amateur / baby I know how to handle ya / If you ready for this ride, get your saddle up / I need a boy with some stamina…”
“Golden Salvation (Jesus Piece)”
From album: The Gifted
We expect nothing less than Wale’s clever wordplay between “piece” and “peace”, particularly on an album titled The Gifted. Specifically, Wale informs us that too many people don’t want to hear about Jesus or his ‘peaceful’, Christian approach; they’re more concerned about the bling-bling (aka Jesus piece).
Jay-Z featuring Justin Timberlake
From album: Magna Carta…Holy Grail
Magna Carta…Holy Grail certainly left plenty to be desired, but few can deny that Jay-Z is one of the kings – all hail, “Holy Grail”!
From album: Indicud
Basically, Cudi is saying you can’t mess with him… he’s unbreakable… or something like that.
“Let Us Move On”
Dido featuring Kendrick Lamar
From album: Girl Who Got Away
Even English singer/songwriter Dido had to get Kendrick Lamar on the track… can’t blame her. “Let Us Move On” is arguably the best moment from an underrated album nobody bought. Well, I bought it to be fair.
From album: Contrast
The video is a trip…‘course the song is too. Conor may still have some ‘schmaltz’ about him, but he also has some swag. Swag on brother – swag on!
“Pusher Lover Girl”
From album: The 20/20 Experience
Love and sex have been compared and likened to everything at this point (thanks R. Kelly). JT decides to make his lady like a drug dealer, only she deals love instead of say cocaine. What’s shocking is that this album opener works triumphantly.
Wale featuring Juicy J & Nicki Minaj
From album: The Gifted
What does one learn from the ‘cellulite anthem’ “Clappers”? That “Shawty got a big ole butt…OH YEAHHHHHH!!!”
From album: Demi
I’m not going to front, I’ve been listening to Demi put her “defenses up” all summer… I don’t think she could really survive the number of heart attacks she’d receive at the hands of my playlist on repeat though…
“The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here”
Alice In Chains
From album: The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
While the Bible doesn’t mention dinosaurs (at least that I can remember off the top of my head), I’m not so sure Satan created them… Regardless, this title track from Alice In Chains’ most recent album was among the best hard rock performances of the year, potential misconceptions and all.
“While I’m Alive”
From album: Miracle Mile
While I’m Alive” sports an irresistible, danceable groove; Electronic cues further sweeten things while the soulful guitar is the ‘cherry on top’. Well written, the theme of “While I’m Alive” is getting past the past, broken relationships, and living ‘while I’m alive.’
“Bandz A Make Her Dance”
Juicy J featuring 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne
From album: Stay Trippy
Everyone needs a good stripper anthem in his (or her) lives, right? On the raunchy “Bandz A Make Her Dance”, Juicy J spits: “Bands a make her dance, bands a maker her dance / All these chicks poppin’ p***y, I’m just poppin’ bands…”
From album: Ciara
Just when ‘the art of making love’ was getting boring… Ciara’s here to spice things up!
“Her Favorite Song”
From album: Where Does This Door Go
Yeah, the accompanying music video is weird, even if the ‘dogs’ are meant to represent guys that are dogs (in theory), but the song is brilliant. “But when she gets home, she puts her headphones on / she plays her favorite song and fades away…” I do the same thing… well not quite in the same context though…
From album: The Blessed Unrest
Here’s the gist of the song: STAND UP AND BE A MAN!!! $%^!
From album: When It Was Now
I promise this song is not about a popular brand of condoms or making love… really: “Take a picture you could never recreate / write a song / make a note / for the lump that sits inside your throat…” I promise!
J. Cole featuring Kendrick Lamar
From album: Born Sinner
I know, I know – I somehow missed this gem on my “50 Best Rap Songs”, but the atonement is on this broader list. The one-two punch of J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar is nothing short of fire, period.
Lil Wayne featuring Future & Drake
From Album: I Am Not A Human Being II
“Love Me” may have been a shallow as everything else was on I Am Not A Human Being II, but at least it was enjoyably shallow. “Long as my b*****s love me / I can give a f**k ‘bout no hater…”
From album: Delta Machine
Sure, this track is titled “Angel”, but it surely must be representing a dark angel… Mysterious, chilling, and ‘bothered’, “Angel” finds Depeche Mode doing what they do best.
Pusha T featuring Kendrick Lamar
From album: My Name Is My Name
The rap IQ on “Nosetalgia” is off the charts, particularly with Kendrick Lamar collaborating with Pusha. Pusha T proclaims himself 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 mother f**ker, every verse is a brick.” True.
“Ain’t It Fun”
From album: Paramore
Ain’t It Fun” may be Paramore’s best track EVER. Driven by a funky groove, the band goes ‘big’ with a gargantuan bass line, full-force punk-laden guitars, and gospel vocals. ‘ain’t it fun’? – Definitely!
French Montana featuring Rick Ross, Drake & Lil Wayne
From album: Excuse My French
The raunchiest track from French Montana’s debut album is the best. It’s all about popping… and I’ll leave it at that!
Be sure to check out the next three parts with songs #75-51, #50 – 26, and #25 – 1.
Journals steps in the right direction stylistically for Bieber, but isn’t without flaws.
Justin Bieber • Journals • Island • US Release Date: December 23, 2013
For a brief time via iTunes (beginning December 23), Justin Bieber has compiled his Music Mondays releases into one digital album, Journals. Over the past two months, I’ve reviewed the previously issued singles from Journals and have added the newly added five to the arsenal. Overall, I’ve found Journals as an album to be a mixed bag. There are some surprisingly bright spots, but there are also some equally unimpressive ones. Here’s a song-by-song examination of Bieber’s Journals… barf – err… yeah.
Here goes nothing…
Throughout 2013, I’ve had the opportunity to review lots of albums. Some were extremely special (Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City among ‘em), while others were D-I-S-A-P-P-O-I-N-T-I-N-G. Not to be a negative noodle or kill anyone’s happy vibe, but sometimes artists lay an egg… a really rotten one. Not every album here is just awful, but contextually, they didn’t quite live up to the hype. Some were rotten eggs though!
Keeping it short and sweet, Britney Spears at times lacked fierceness on Britney Jean. “Work B*tch” was great and “Perfume” successful as well, but other moments found the pop singer only so-so. Among those so-so moments is a questionable duet with sister Jamie Lynn (“Chillin’ With You”) and the boring closer “Don’t Cry” which sits but never catches fire. Throw in the chart numbers and Britney Spears seems like she’s in “bomb city bay-bayyyy!” (*speaks in a Dick Vitale voice).
The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2
Justin Timberlake has the bestselling album of the year with The 20/20 Experience. However, his second installment, The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2, felt incredibly underwhelming both commercially and critically. Sure, no one expected the sequel to match the 968,000 copies JT put up for his first, but the 350,000 copies it bowed with is just slightly more than one third of what the first album sold. As far as the material itself, it is overproduced, overwrought in length, and less memorable than the first. Maybe less was expected from this set, but still, it’s disappointing.
I Am Not A Human Being II
Lil Wayne finally admitted to the fact that he had a “lackluster” year. He really didn’t have to say it… it was written all over the shameful – better yet shameless – I Am Not A Human Being II. “Love Me” built some momentum for the ubiquitous southern rap star, but things went downhill from there. Lil Wayne has never been reserved when it comes to sex in his rhymes, but perhaps he should’ve tried here.
I’m just gonna come right out and say it: The Weeknd wasted a golden opportunity on Kiss Land. It’s clunky, boring, and one-dimensional. Sure, Abel Tesfaye may be truly showcasing ‘himself’ here, but isn’t there more to life than weed and sex? You wouldn’t think so after listening to Kiss Land. “You Belong To The World” is a bright spot, even if it is about a stripper… Not being a hater, but after highly anticipating this album, my iPod tends to skip past it…
The-Dream would’ve actually sat ahead of The Weekend had Kiss Land not been more anticipated. However, IV Play is by far The-Dream’s worst album. Before R. Kelly turned and Oreo into something freaky (“Cookie”), The-Dream shamelessly released the extremely explicit IV Play, including a song named “P***y” which leaves nothing to the imagination. “IV Play” doesn’t either, as The-Dream goes for the kill early stating “I can give a f*ck about the foreplay / I want it now…” Judging by the sales and reviews, people DGAF about this album. Ooh, burn!
(Rich Gang, Maybach Music, Now)
Music compilations are a necessary evil, but they’re just that – evil. Usually Maybach Music have their stuff together, or at least they did on the fine Self Made 2 (I still bump “Bury Me A G”). This time, the crew didn’t seem to care as Self Made 3 was just al’ight. Rich Gang took their name to heart on their horrid self-titled album, which relied way too much on being wealthy. As for the previously issue music Now series, the timing of included songs continued to plague. So over it.
Excuse My French
Excuse My French wasn’t a bad album, but it also wasn’t a special one. Even after listening through the entire effort, “Pop That” remained the main attraction. There were some other cuts that were worthy of continual spins, but not to the degree of the raunchy banger.
I’m going to say what everyone has been thinking – B.o.B. has had a swag reduction since B.o.B. Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray. Strange Clouds was respectable if forgettable, but Underground Luxury is just uninspired. Sure, homeboy tries to infuse his personal side into his rhymes, but there is still a disconnection he can’t seem to shake. That disconnection is lackadaisical material my friends… whew!
Falling in Reverse
Sometimes you go out looking for new music and you come back with a total mess on your hands. Fashionably Late is that total mess. Rap and rock don’t always work together, and Falling in Reverse create the perfect script of ‘what not to do’.
When I listened to this album, I didn’t even know what a paracosm was. That should’ve been the first bad sign. The main problem with Paracosm is that it is too mellow. I mean, I like to chill, but not all the time…
P.S. Somehow I didn’t even mention just how horrible that Justin Bieber album, Believe Acoustic was! SMH!
- Britney Spears’ ‘Britney Jean’: What the critics are saying (cnn.com)
- Did Britney Spears Kiss Ryan Gosling? (rollingstone.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!
Wale featuring Juicy J & Nicki Minaj
Much of Wale’s recent LP The Gifted is more intellectual than not – really. “Clappers” is the ‘not’ as Wale proclaims with the upmost enthusiasm “Shawty got a big ol‘ butt, oh yeah!” Maybe he was influenced by his brash company including the ever trippy Juicy J (“Make that a** clap, I don’t care about cellulite”) and Nicki Minaj (“Shout out to that cellulite…”). I dunno what happened to ole boy, but “Clappers” is a banger for sure. #BootyRockinEverywhere
French Montana featuring Drake, Lil Wayne & Rick Ross
(Excuse My French)
“Pop That” is nasty, but at least it’s electrifyingly nasty. Montana and his boys (Rick Ross, Drake, and Lil Wayne) rock out on this salacious anthem. French Montana plays up both ‘molly’ and money (“…We pop a molly, she buss it open / she seen the ‘gatti [Bugatti that is], that p***y soaking…”) while Rick Ross loves “…big booty b**ches, my life a Godfather picture / Local club in my city, I fell in love with a stripper…” Drake goes poetic on verse three while Tunechi (aka Lil Wayne) definitely highlights S-E-X. #PPoppinAnthem
Juicy J featuring Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz
“Bandz A Make Her Dance”
“Bandz A Make Her Dance” is Juicy J at his juiciest. “Bandz a make her dance, bandz a make her dance / all these chicks poppin’ pussies, I’m just poppin’ bandz”, he raps on one of year’s most memorable hooks. He keeps on trucking into the first verse (“She put that a** up in my hands, I remote control it (yeah ho)”). Lil Wayne promotes ‘copulation’ on his guest verse (“…bands a maker her dance, Tunechi make her c** / hit it form the side like a motherf**king bass drum…”) as does the ‘ever bright’ 2 Chainz (“…Let me see that a** clap, standing ovation / if yo girl don’t swallow kids, man that ho basic…”) Nasty, tasteless, and misogynistic, it’s irresistibly so. #StayinTrippy
DJ Khaled featuring 2 Chainz, Ace Hood, Big Sean, French Montana, Meek Mill, Rick Ross & Timberland
“You Don’t Want These Problems”
(Suffering From Success)
“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…
Lil Wayne featuring Future & Drake
(I Am Not A Human Being II)
“Love Me” was one of the few bright spots about Lil Wayne’s underwhelming I Am Not A Human Being II. Mike Will Made It seems to be the new ‘beast’ of production work, delivering some sick inspiration for Wayne and guests Future and Drake to ride. Future’s auto tune hook is perfect (“I’m on that good kush and alcohol / I got some down b**ches I can call…”) while Drake adds more muscle (“Long as my b**ches love me / I can give a f*ck ‘bout no hater / long as my b**ches love me…”). Lil Wayne doesn’t step up his game her per se, but he does enough to remind us of his ‘Weezyness’.
Ace Hood featuring Future & Rick Ross
(Trials and Tribulations)
Future is definitely an ‘acquired taste’ as an MC, but he’s put to good use on the hook of the superb “Bugatti”. Rick Ross also works exceptionally here since he loves money and this track is all about money. As for the featured MC? Ace Hood’s rhymes are aggressive and potent as well, as he brags “smoke me a pound of the loudest / whippin some sh*t with no mileage / diamonds cost me a fortune / them horses all in them Porsches…” Cocky and confident, right?
A$AP Ferg featuring A$AP Rocky, French Montana, Schoolboy Q & Trinidad James
“Work (Remix)” is superbly produced and nothing short of a superstar rap collaboration; a juggernaut remix . “I gotta close the window before I record / cause New York don’t know how to be quiet”, A$AP Ferg proclaims on the intro, before diving into the first verse. “Coogi down to the socks like I’m biggie poppa / Keep your girl head in my Tommy boxers…”, he proclaims, alluding to The Notorious B.I.G. French Montana takes the second verse (“when they mask up, coming for your ice / when they barefaced, they coming for your life”) while the molly-poppin’ Trinidad James reps for Trinidad, citing “Jamaica, I’m your brother…” Schoolboy Q cites different ages to assert his swagger (“Pimpin’ like I’m 33, move keys like I’m 36 / ship O’s like I’m 28, Tacoma know I’m pushing weight…”). A$AP Rocky revisits violence on the final verse (“A lot of homies cried, due to crimes, homicide / drivin’ by poppin’ nines, Pakistan, Columbine / out of line, pistols barkin’ “ar ar” ride or die…”). There is more than enough goodness to compel for sure.
A$AP Rocky featuring 2 Chainz, Drake & Kendrick Lamar
(Long. Live. A$AP)
“F**kin’ Problems” has superstar written all over it. 2 Chainz takes the majority of the catchy, shameful, explicit hook (“I love bad b**ches, that’s my f**kin’ problem / and yeah I like to f*ck, I’ve got a f**kin’ problem…”) A$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 n***a don’t exist / girl, I know you want this di–”). Certified banger!
(Hall of Fame)
Then there’s “Mona Lisa”, which leads the ‘freak show’ portion of Hall of Fame. Among the most absurd yet notable lyrics? “I believe in God and rubbers / even if we sex / you are not my lover / hit you on the couch and not the covers / if you bring your friend then we got to f*ck her…” Well, at least Sean makes it clear he’s into hooking up, not a real relationship.
Need I say more? I mean, the hook says “Mona Lisa / Lisa moaning…”
2 Chainz featuring Fergie
“Netflix” really shouldn’t work. Ultimately, it’s an incredibly stupid song made dumber by the fact it is a collaboration between 2 Chainz and Fergie… whew. Yeah it goes dumb, but at least it does so in addictive fashion! 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…”), drops a weed reference, raps of wasting money, and being copied. And of course 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…” Oh shhhh!
- Review: DJ Khaled, ‘Suffering from Success’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
Khaled’s Not ‘Suffering from Success’, perhaps suffers from a lack of innovation…
DJ Khaled⎪ Suffering From Success⎪ Cash Money ⎪⎪ US Release Date: October 22, 2013
If there is one reservation I (and likely others) have with DJ Khaled’s albums, it is that generally they all seem ‘one-dimensional’. Maybe that is a harsh critique, or maybe it’s just actual reality. Of the Khaled albums that I have partaken of in recent times, they’re always good for some top-notch club bangers (“I’m On One”), but cohesively, the albums feel like somewhat detached compilations. Suffering From Success proves no different, ultimately yielding some pleasant, head-nodding moments, but eschewing the ‘second coming’.
After intro “Obama (Winning More Interlude)”, “Suffering From Success”, featuring Ace Hood and Future, kicks off the album of the same title. Ultimately, the production work (Young Chop) is dark, malicious, and characteristic of the hardcore rap idiom. Future delivers his first of many hooks, sounding his typical, auto-tuned self: “Got too many racks on me, I can’t even go to sleep / just to get ‘em out V.I.P., I’mma need to see I.D. (I don’t trust you) / I’m sufferin’ / I’m sufferin’ from success / I’m sufferin’…” Really, “suffering from success”? Please! The best part of the so-so title track may be Ace Hood’s aggressive rhymes.
“I Feel Like Pac / I Feel Like Biggie” is much stronger, sporting production from The Beat Bully. Ah the weight that synthesized brass and a hard underlying beat carry! The inspiration seems to be full-fledged here, whether that’s just the mere mention of rap royalty or a star-studded cast including Rick Ross, Meek Mill, T.I., Swizz Beatz, and Puff Daddy. Swizz Beatz’s hook is definitely ‘on point’ as they say, while Meek Mill kills it on his verse. The momentum is propelled even further on “You Don’t Want No Problems”, yet another juggernaut assisted by Big Sean (the hook), Rick Ross, French Montana, 2 Chainz, Meek Mill, Ace Hood, and Timbaland (who produces with Khaled). There are numerous highlights, including 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…”)
“Blackball” follows, again relying on the ubiquitous Future for a hook (“They tryna blackball me, they say I get too much money / they want my name from me because they know what it do…” etc.). Plies and Ace Hood handle the verses, though compared to the previous duo, “Blackball” is less triumphant. “No Motive” featuring Lil Wayne sort of falls into the same boat, sounding ‘solid’, but not exceptional. The hook definitely didn’t take much thought: “F**k all you b*****s… f**k all you hoes… one million, two million, three, four…” “I’m Still” is enjoyable enough, but I feel like I’ve heard this cut over and over again. Chris Brown excels at infusing some R&B into hip-hop, but at this point it’s not truly new or rousing. Wiz Khalifa joins the lengthy credit list, rapping unsurprisingly “So high don’t see no problems / b**ch I’m on them trees like Tarzan…” It works, but doesn’t excite. Personally, I’m sick of hearing about Wiz getting high.
“I Wanna Be With You” again brings in Future, but also sees another return from Rick Ross and a debut appearance from Nicki Minaj. Minaj remains at her best when she’s raunchy, if you can handle her un-lady rhymes. Even though Minaj is a “girl on fire”, Rick Ross has arguably the best line: “That ho chick gets you no play, all I talk is cocaine.” Hit “No New Friends” is a showstopper, again rekindling some magic between Khaled and Drake (“No new friends, no new friends…f**k all y’all n***as except my n***as…”). Rick Ross hops on board (“…All I hug is blood n***a, Khaled that’s my flesh though / all I want is love n***a, money bring that stress though…”) as does Lil Wayne (“…B**ch we good-fellas, boy all them n***as with you they just pall bearers…”). The production work is aligned with the ‘Drake’ sound as the track is produced by Boi-1da and Noah “40” Shebib. A standout? Of course!
The remainder of the album is so-so. “Give It All To Me” (Mavado featuring Nicki Minaj) sounds like it’s going to be a deal breaker initially, but it’s respectable enough. “Hell’s Kitchen” has its moments, thanks to the sound and solid rhymes from J Cole and Bas. Still, “Hell’s Kitchen” sits too long. Lengthy duration also hurts the super ambitious “Never Surrender”, which manages to utilize three R&B singers in John Legend, Anthony Hamilton, and Akon. Add raps from Scarface, Jadakiss, and Meek Mill to that mix and it’s quite ‘big’. “Murcielago (Doors Go Up)” is not only ‘tired’ in name, but the song itself is a ‘C’ at best – merely average and unmemorable. “Black Ghost”, credited to Vado is ok, but like “Murcielago”, it’s nothing to write home about.
Thoughts overall? Suffering From Success isn’t really suffering from success, but it may be suffering from a lack of innovative spirit. It’s good enough, not great If you’re looking for depth, avoid it. If you want to get it poppin’ at the club, this is for you.
Favorites: “I Feel Like Pac / I Feel Like Biggie” ; “You Don’t Want These Problems” ; “No New Friends”
Welcome all who dare to part deux of my Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013 for all who dare to enter the brentmusicreviews zone! Ha… If you missed the first part (Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013, Part 1), you should like totally check out my favorites from 2013, ‘cause there was some awesome albums. If you’re not one for positivity and optimism, maybe you’re just checking this out because some you enjoy skepticism, criticism, and the occasional, um, cynicism. Regardless, let me remind you how I started off my previous post:
As I look over my 2013 playlist from my iPod, I realize I have listened to numerous albums this year. In fact, the amount of music that my ears have consumed and my pen has analyzed is pretty scary…and I still missed lots of albums! SMH! Some were special, some made me cringe, and some fell somewhere in between the two extremes. As difficult as it was, as of October 7, 2013, I have compiled a list housing my favorites, least favorites, and honorable mentions. I’m almost certain I’ve slighted someone and I’m sure there will be continual revisions, but for now, here’s what you should’ve spun, what you should’ve avoided like the plague, and those that were strongly consideration for favorites. Enjoy!
Here it is!
Selena Gomez, Stars Dance
Neither of these were my cup of tea, period. will.i.am went way too stupid for my tastes while I never enjoyed the Rihanna-copycat “Come & Get It”, which drew buzz for Stars Dance. Avoid these…like the plague. Brent has spoken.
Andrea Bocelli, Passione
Let me first say that I love Andrea Bocelli and consider him to have a brilliant voice. Also, I don’t think Passione was nearly as bad as most of the albums categorized as my least favorites. BUT, it wasn’t as good as I expected nor my favorite. Sorry A.B.
Goo Goo Dolls, Magnetic
I’m going to keep this short and sweet – I think we/they are long past the/their “Iris” days… just saying.
Let me be positive for starters. I appreciated the dark nature of this particular effort… that was a bright spot, ironically. As for the material, um not so much. A perfect example is the shamefully childish “Staying Up” in which frontman Jesse Rutherford clumsily sings “Some part of me feels a little bit naked and empty / I’m stuck underneath a few dirty old blankets to comfort me”. Please!
The-Dream, IV Play
The Weeknd, Kiss Land
Let me be the first to say that I dearly love R&B. If she were are lady, I just might marry her… not in a creepy way though. I don’t even mind ti too much when the genre trends more risqué as both the emotional (romance) and physical (sex) are important facets of the content. However, both The-Dream and The Weeknd weren’t up to their usual artistry on their latest efforts and often went too left of center. The-Dream sounded uninspired and oversexed throughout IV Play while The Weeknd’s alt-R&B on the highly anticipated Kiss Land just didn’t live up to the buzz of 2012 compilation Trilogy. I found myself having to return to “Sweat It Out” (Love vs. Money) and “Wicked Games” (Trilogy).
Ron Isley, This Song Is For You
SMH. This one hurts me too. Let me first give accolades to Ron Isley and his enduring career in the music game. Him and the Isley Bros’ contributions to music are nothing short of exceptional. To this day, maybe with the exception of my boy Jaheim’s vocal runs on his recent song “Florida” (from Appreciation Day), perfectly emulating Isley’s voice is nearly impossible. While that signature voice is still afloat on This Song Is For You, the material doesn’t always do the legendary soul singer justice. Sure I’m on board for “This Song Is For You” and “Dinner and a Movie”, but otherwise the album doesn’t make me want to stop spinning classics like “Shout” or “Between The Sheets”.
Tyga, Hotel California
French Montana, Excuse My French
Rap music truly did have a good year. That said, that didn’t stop some underachievers from trying to ‘kill the vibe’. Lil Wayne was definitely not up to snuff on I Am Not A Human Being II, a poor excuse for a follow-up compared to the first installment. For Tyga, trying to recapture the success of his previous jam-packed album (featuring “Rack City” and “Faded among its hits) ended up only so-so as Hotel California was mediocre at best, even if Siri couldn’t seem to find “Molly”. As for French Montana, after the brilliantly salacious “Pop That”, you would’ve thought the MC’s debut would’ve been more notable. Wrong!
Snoop Lion, Reincarnated
Using my positivity once more, Reincarnated was a much better album than expected from Snoop Lion. That said, I would’ve much rather heard ‘Snoop Dogg’ on his West Coast swag rapping, not singing. Can I get another “Drop It Like It’s Hot” ‘Dogg’?
Lady Antebellum, Golden
Luke Bryan, Crash My Party
I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t been feeling country this year. That said, I have listened to a couple of albums that just disappointed me. Sure, I had issues with Luke Bryan’s booze fest on his earlier compilation effort Spring Break…Here To Party, but Crash My Party was just disappointing, particularly considering the exceptional numbers it posted. As for those critical darlings Lady Antebellum, personally I found Golden as exciting as watching ‘paint dry’. It wasn’t a bad album, but nor was it exciting or innovative. Hilary and Charles can still sing mind you, but still…
- Album Playlist: Favorites, Least Favorites, and Honorable Mentions of 2013, Part 1… (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: The Weeknd, ‘Kiss Land’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: Luke Bryan, ‘Crash My Party’ (brentmusicreviews.com)
- Review: Lil Wayne, I Am Not A Human Being II [Deluxe Edition] (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)
Alternative band MGMT recently released their third effort, MGMT rather dismal commercial fortunes. Three years prior, the buzz surrounding their sophomore effort Congratulations propelled that affair to an impressive number two bow with 76,000 copies on the Billboard albums charts. Despite a quick start particularly for an indie-group, there were many who cried ‘foul’ about the group’s sophomore effort because it was much more experimental than their first (Oracular Spectacular), which sported a more commercial sound. This not only caused the impressive Congratulations to become underrated, but also ultimately sort of doomed ‘the next album’. Sure MGMT was no promotional juggernaut, but even brief but punchy single’s experimental touch didn’t exactly suggest gargantuan numbers would be posted on the charts.
While the experimental release can broaden any artists boundaries, it often can isolate their core fan base as well. There have been numerous ‘experimental’ albums in recent years that have done more ‘harm’ to an artist’s bank account than say even confirmed or cemented their artistry. Kanye West is one of the most experimental musicians within his style, hip-hop. Most of his albums have yielded incredible success both commercially as well as critically. Yeezus definitely received its fair share of accolades from critics and even hardcore fans, but the sales haven’t reflected that West’s most shocking album was truly a success. An underwhelming start for West (327,000 copies) continued to wane, something the West camp is certainly not used to. While lax promotion played a role, the album itself is dark and lacks the commercial appeal of West’s past efforts.
Numerous other examples of the flaws of experimentation can be cited. Remember how shocking Panic! At The Disco’s sophomore effort Pretty. Odd was compared to the band’s debut? I liked it, but I understand the surprise that that was the direction the band went with. What about Lil Wayne’s horrid idea to release a rock album (Rebirth)? Kelly Clarkson wasn’t exactly going ‘experimental’ on My December in the traditional sense, but the rebellious rock-driven album certainly didn’t deliver a home run. Worth noting is the aforementioned albums all suffered commercially. While it could be a generalization to say that all of the sales erosion of the titles was due to contrast and experimentation, it is also quite feasible that experimentation played a role.
The question then must be addressed then, is how much experimentation is too much? From my perspective, it’s a balancing act. If you are an artist who is already established and your style is particularly popular with folks, why would you want to change it considerably? Sure, there is nothing wrong with tweaking or even taking some risks showing artistic license, but in a music industry that is quite unforgiving, why alienate the base that is supporting you? Sometimes experimentation is the risk that can undo the arduous work to build a career.