As Snoop Dogg once rapped in reference to his own trial, “Murder Was The Case” indeed for Vybz Kartel, a popular Jamaican dancehall artist. Kartel has been sentenced to life in prison after previously being convicted for the murder of Clive “Lizard” Williams according to the Associate Press. Apparently Williams’ murder was one of extreme cruelty – brutal – with the corpse never being recovered. While Kartel’s musical impact is more notable in Jamaica, Kartel has collaborated with highly regarded musicians in the U.S.A., including Missy Elliott (“Bad Man” from album The Cookbook), Rihanna (“You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No)” from album Music of the Sun), and Pitbull (“Descarada (Dance)” from album El Mariel).
Jail time typically doesn’t bode well for the artist. Usually upon release, the artist has become a has-been and washed-up. No matter the petitions and the excitement by the most loyal fans in support of the respective artist, regaining footing is perhaps more arduous than the jail time itself. Save for a few exceptions (T.I. and Lil Wayne coming to mind most notably), there seems to be little success after the pen – the penitentiary that is.
Kartel’s sentence without the eligibility of parole anytime soon (35 years into the sentence specifically), seems to end what has been described as a bright, though ‘controversial’ career. Being a musician personally, I truly hate to see the end of any artist’s career. That said, no matter whether you’re an artist or not, you must be/take responsibility for your actions. Unfortunately for Kartel, his actions – or involvement in those actions – have likely cost him his career. What a price to pay for controllable negligence.
March was a rich month for music releases. After listening and reviewing multiple albums, it is always fun to pick out one big time standout. Sometimes it is a difficult choice, while other times it’s the only choice (particularly on a sub-par album). After looking back through my late-February and March reviews, I’ve compiled a playlist of one favorite from each album.
From the album Morning Phase
Note: Morning Phase was a late February release that wasn’t reviewed until March.
Folks, Beck is the man. Morning Phase was yet another stacked album from the hipster with numerous top-notch songs. A personal favorite was the first full-length track, “Morning” of which I penned the following:
…Constructed with lush strings at its core, “Cycle” foreshadows the electrifying opener, “Morning”. Sure, “Morning” lacks tempo by all means, opting for balladry, but it’s extremely beautiful and perfectly suits Beck’s unique voice. Beck breaks enough with the ‘acoustic resolve’ here, with Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. adding some synthesizer color. The ‘color’ element is something found throughout Morning Phase, even if it is subtle. Lyrically, the entire song is thoughtfully penned, with the chorus standing out tremendously: “This morning / I let down my defenses / this morning / it was just you and me…” Clocking in at over five minutes, “Morning” is no drag by any means.
Schoolboy Q featuring Tyler, The Creator & Kurupt
From the album Oxymoron
Note: Oxymoron was a late February release that wasn’t reviewed until March.
Schoolboy Q exhibits grittiness about him throughout the course of Oxymoron, which ultimately proves to be a solid album. It’s not the most pleasant album to listen to in regards to its content mind you, but the quality is there. “The Purge” was among my favorites:
“The Purge” is a beast, produced by and featuring Tyler, The Creator. Again, Schoolboy Q’s daughter establishes the tone: “My daddy said drown, n***a.” The significance of the line seems to be “the purge” that Schoolboy Q references within the title and song. “Coming in for yours / n***as got them choppers and they knocking at your door,” Tyler, the Creator spits on the hook. “The sirens getting louder when the bodies hit the floor / why you look confused? Motherf**ker this is war.” Schoolboy Q plays right into the maliciousness, referencing kilos, drug money, and guns. Q’s most notable moment comes during a bridge between verses: “Bust my gun all by myself / rock cocaine all by myself / poured propane all on myself / go so hard might harm myself.” Oh, and did I mention Kurupt also guests on the third verse? “The Purge” goes hard.
“Going To The Ceremony”
From the album Satellite Flight: Journey to Mother Moon
Note: Satellite Flight was a late February release that wasn’t reviewed until March.
Kid Cudi is an oddball – as left field as they come. This nonconformity is what makes him shine, yet also hurts his overall accessibility to many Earth dwellers. A surprise fourth album in Satellite Flight proves to be as confounding as it is interesting. Still, “Going To The Ceremony” was a moment where the Kid was at his best/true to himself:
The real heat comes with “Going To The Ceremony”, the first vocal track of Satellite Flight. Opening uniquely itself with spoken word intro (“Now certainly we all recognize the extremely, extremely low probability / of life existing on the moon”), the track dives right into the rock-rap, left-of-center approach that Kid Cudi as well as WZRD has come to be known for. This includes the typical humming, the repetitive lyrics (“But I don’t know where I’m going / where I’m going, it’s all happening / I’m going, it’s all happening”), as well as the driving, minimalism. “Going To The Moon” is familiar fare for the artist.
From the album St. Vincent
Note: St. Vincent was a late February release that wasn’t reviewed until March.
From one oddball to another, it should be noted that St. Vincent once guested on a Kid Cudi album – Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager to be precise. On her own self-titled album, St. Vincent awes with her incredible songwriting abilities, with none usurping the brilliant “Digital Witness”:
“Digital Witness” is a definitely standout, with its soulful, groove-laden production work. St. Vincent definitely criticizes social media/networking, and how it’s affected traditional social relationships. “People turn the TV on, it looks like a window.” Basically, St. Vincent seems to suggest that real-life interaction has been supplanted with any number apps and social networking avenues. “Digital witnesses / what’s the point of even sleeping,” St. Vincent sings on the chorus. “If I can’t show it if you can’t see me / what’s the point of doing anything?” Does she overreact to the power of social media? Perhaps or perhaps not, but she makes one awesome song in the process.
The first four, second round, and third rounds of the NCAA Tournament are over my friends, and after numerous upsets and the birth of those Cinderella teams looking for another shot to slay the giant, the tournament marches on with the upcoming Sweet 16 and Elite 8. What better way to celebrate and prepare for these deep tournament runs with a playlist of 16 songs fit for the Sweet 16? Let’s go #TEAM!
“We Will Rock You”
Most spirited lyrics:
Buddy you’re a young man hard man / shouting in the street gonna take on the world some day / you got blood on your face, you big disgrace / waving your banner all over the place” (verse one)
“We will, we will rock you!” (Chorus)
Swag, swag, swag! The big boys are going to take down the little boys – the fakes are out! “We Will Rock You” isn’t ultimately about basketball, but the ‘fight’ within the lyrics of the song sounds much like the moxie and the mind-set required on the court. “We Will Rock You” is confident, much like a veteran, and experienced team that understands their roles should be. Nope, it’s not basketball specific, but there are more than enough parallels.
(From Lift Your Spirit)
“Well you can tell everybody / yeah you can tell everybody / go ahead and tell everybody / I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man”
Athletes and musicians have something in common, even if they come from completely different worlds – they have a swagger, a confidence, sometimes an arrogance. A lead singer, guitarist, or lead trumpeter can be likened to the star player on a basketball team (regardless of the position he plays be it guard, forward, or center) in the sense there is that fearlessness and confidence. On “The Man”, Blacc wants everybody to know that he’s “the man”.
Jeezy featuring Kanye West
(From The Recession)
Most spirited lyrics:
“I put on for my city, on, on for my city…put on (east side)…put on (south side)…put on (west side) / put on”
Sure, Jeezy didn’t even mention basketball or championships in his song about representing his city, but the sentiment can be transferred into college basketball. After all, don’t all college basketball players want to represent both college and hometown? Winning the national championship would definitely be away to do so!
Wale featuring Meek Mill & Rick Ross
“For my ambition / easy to dream a dream, though it’s harder to lie it / They gon’ love me for my ambition…Beautiful music, painting pictures that be my vision.”
There’s a number of ways one could interpret the “ambition” of which Wale speaks. One such way is just having dreams in general, taken contextually within the tournament, means winning the national championship. A more liberal interpretation is that Wale is referencing the Cinderella teams, which aren’t favored to win, but ultimately ‘shock the world’. Yes, the Dayton Flyers (defeated Ohio State 60-59 and Syracuse 55-53) and Mercer (defeated Duke 78-71) among others. Sigh… if the slipper fits!
Most spirited lyrics:
“I’m a balla (say what) high, roller baby (baby, baby) / shot caller (that’s right) aint nobody this crazy (like me) / you a hater (you a hater) why you tryin’ to play me (I don’t think he know) / Fake player (fake player) ain’t nobody killin’ (hey, I’m a balla for real)”
There’s really not a lot that needs to be explained here… Chingy is the point guard (“Shot caller”). We all know that besides the coach that the point guard is like the coach on court. And if the point guard doesn’t have a clue, the team is toast. Horrendous guard play definitely kills the vibe. Word.
“I am a fighter and I / I ain’t gonna stop / There is no turning back / I’ve had enough”
I know what you’re thinking – why the hell is a Christina Aguilera song about a broken relationship on a March Madness-related playlist? Well it’s the ‘sentiment’ of ‘fighting’ more so than the lyrical content. Aguilera is a “fighter” because she decided not to play the ‘victim’ card and has shown strength from a bad situation. College basketball players and teams face a different sort of fight – the fight to advance further in the tournament and to live up/meet expectations whether they are realistic or unrealistic. Blue blood schools in particular are expected to be competing for championships, not merely a sweet sixteen. That “fighter” mentality that Aguilera refers to apply to collegiate basketball after broken plays whether it’s poor transition defense, a bad foul, a missed shot, etc. “Fighter” mentality!
Drake featuring Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Eminem
“…I’m shutting down sh*t in the mall…I want this sh*t forever, man” (Hook)
“Forever” is the ultimate baller’s anthem. Sure, the song really has nothing to do with being on the court, but like many of the cuts on this playlist, there are parallels to having ‘swagger’ on the court. Drake’s opening rhymes from his verse exhibit the grit and confidence players must show: “Last name Ever, first name Greatest / Like a sprained ankle, boy I ain’t nothing to play with.” Kanye West’s swagger is even more pronounced on the second verse, in which he claims “I stuck my d**k inside this life until that b**ch came / and went hard, all fall like the ball teams.” Ignore the overt sexual references, and West is the MVP…he’s already claimed victory. For good measure, Lil Wayne references Space Jam while Eminem just goes H.A.M.
DJ Khaled featuring Ludacris, Rick Ross, Snoop Dogg & T-Pain
“All I Do Is Win”
Most spirited lyrics:
“All I do is win, win, win no matter what / Got money on my mind, I can never get enough / and every time I step up in the building / everybody hands go up / and they stay there, and they stay there…” (T-Pain, on the hook)
Confidence is essential to playing sound basketball – it’s part of the whole teamwork aspect. The best teams have the confidence knowing they will be playing deep into March. Teams that lack the resolve and the “winning” spirit exemplified by “All I Do Is Win” go home with their heads hung down. T-Pain sings it best on the hook – ‘nuff said.
Young Money’s Rise Of An Empire is a fail… an ‘epic’ one if you will
Young Money • Rise of An Empire • Cash Money / Motown • US Release Date: March 11, 2014
It is incredibly difficult to be unbiased towards compilation efforts prior to listening. Honestly though, the compilation often incurs issues that the studio album/ solo studio album seems to avoid. There’s just something about random tracks with no rhyme or reason that hurt the overall cohesiveness that many sound and exceptional albums possess. Sigh* Young Money, following a five year hiatus, return to release their second compilation album, Rise of an Empire. Young Money, their previous album, actually had some fine moments, including the raunchy “Every Girl”, “Bedrock”, and “Roger That”. Rise of an Empire isn’t as ‘wonderfully made’ you might say – it has some…umm…yeah, just read on!
“We Alright”, featuring Euro, Birdman, and Lil Wayne, opens Rise of An Empire, umm interestingly. On the first verse, Euro raps “They said I’d never do it, now I’m looking like, ‘N***a, what’s never?’ / and now they run from us when they see us, boy, that money’s pressure.” Umm yeah…on the hook, the rapper confirms the message: “Long as my n***as right then we alright / long as the women right then we alright / long as the drinks on ice then we alright / long as these private flights…” – yeah you get the idea. Birdman dumbs it down on his second verse, opening with a reference to money (“Yeah, it’s money over everything”). Lil Wayne has the most interesting rhymes, most notably “You just a crocodile, I drink a full cup of his tears / can’t recognize you n***a, like Santa cut off his beard.” Don’t call it a hit… please don’t, I’m begging you!
“Trophies” follows “We Alright”, led by the honorable Drake. If nothing more, the pounding beat rocks. “Trophies” is driven by rappers other favorite topic (besides money and sex) – the ‘come-up’. The off-beat hook says it all: “…I’m just tryna stay alive and take care of my people / and they don’t have no award for that, trophies, trophies…” Overall, “Trophies” isn’t a bad track, but don’t call it Drizzy’s best either. All said and done, “Trophies” won’t be awarded in trophies over much of the material from Nothing Was The Same when it’s all said and done. Contextually, it is better than the opener. But really, isn’t this another “Started From The Bottom”, sort of?
“Bang” comes courtesy of Sonny Digital who is always good for a malicious production job. Lil Twist, Euro, and Corey Gunz handle the rhymes here. Lil Twist spends a portion of his verse referencing pro ballers, before bragging about his cliché threesome. Euro drops references to being like the four ‘Michaels’ at the beginning of his verse: Michael Jordan, Michael Tyson, Michael Phelps, and Michael Jackson. Besides being awesome, he references shooting, sexing, and of course money. Corey Gunz drops lines like “War paint like a baboon and my b**ch got a red a$$ on” as well as referencing shooting, money and drugs. True to its sound, “Bang” couldn’t be characterized as a ‘warm’ track.
“Senile” features the talents of Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Tyga. Tyga kick starts thing with an agile verse over the slinky, minimalist production work. In addition to delivering nastiness on the opening verse, Tyga delivers the simple, but addictive hook: “Can you see now? Are you senile? / Can you see now? You could see now…” Nicki Minaj does her normal thing on the second verse, fitting right in with the guys – shocker! Lil Wayne takes the final verse, closing it out classically: “I’m in this mother f**ker gettin’ money ‘til I’m senile, Tunechi!” Compared to “Bang”, “Senile” is more creative. Don’t call it a masterpiece, but it definitely gets the club poppin’… or something like that.
Euro gets his third moment to shine on his solo track, “Induction Speech”. Think of it as more “trophies”: “I think I’m getting wasted tonight / I realized that I made it tonight /you gotta hear just how I made it tonight / ‘cause it’s crazy how I made it / and tonight is the night…I know what it takes to get here, and I’m glad that you could make it tonight.” So essentially, Euro is now successful and he is going to live it up. Fair enough. Yet another ‘I came up’ tale – Is what it is. Could’ve been shortened – brevity ain’t a bad thing.
“One Time” features quite the crew: Lil Twist and Tyga once more, with the addition of YG. What is common between the three? Well all three get raw – nasty if you will. Unsurprisingly both the production and hook set the tone: “I’mma mack, on this ho, one time…If you a pimp, break a b**ch…” Lil Twist’s is confident (“You know the life? B**ch, I’m living that / now do that 100 yard dash and run that money back…”), Tyga’s cocky/misogynistic (“My n***a told me bout ya, had to see what you was worth / that p***y come a dime a dozen, you’ll be mine, you know it…”), and YG is the worst (“Too much money, I’ll never f**k a fat lady / now that’s a fact baby, sit on my lap baby”). “One Time” is enjoyable if you enjoy the objectification of women and like low IQ tracks. Otherwise, one just sort of shakes your head at the shamefulness/shamelessness that pours out through the speakers.
Here’s the moment all have been waiting for – the controversial Nicki Minaj feature, “Lookin A**”, which opens with the ‘electrifying’ introduction “Look at y’all n***as…”. Can you sense the sarcasm? Honestly, examining the lyrics and listening, I sort of want to see how many times Nicki Minaj uses the word n***a because that’s what the whole song sound like – how many times can Nicki use the ‘n-word’. There’s nothing wrong with an edgy, aggressive Nicki Minaj (I loved the raunchy-fest of “Beez in The Trap” as much as anybody else), but a bit more substance would’ve been nice. Judge for yourself – that’s my advice!
“Fresher Than Ever” enlists the duties of Birdman, Gudda Gudda, Flow, Jae Millz, and Mack Maine. Guess what the MCs spit about – $$$. Yep, that’s hella fresh… Gudda Gudda offers the most ‘original’ lyrics of the album: “Yea, man we came from the bottom / Stunna told me get these n***as so I got ‘em!” Please – how tried-and-true/tired is this! Birdman’s immense rhyming skills shine throughout a series of interludes…NOT: “Yeah, number one in that field…Stacks on top of stacks / b**ches, whips, floss, gettin’ in puttin’ it in…” After multiple references to material, Jae Millz does make a clever Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers center) reference, even it is still “for the love of money”: “Money stand tall as Roy Hibbert, hater forget it”. Mack Maine chooses Captain Phillips as his cool reference (“Young Mack my driver but I’m Captain Phillips n***as”). Fresher than ever really – Nope, not by any means whatsoever! I call it recycling…maybe garbage…LOL.
“Back It Up” leaves little to the imagination, but honestly, would you expect any more from Lil Twist & Tyga? That is rhetorical times a million – literally. What’s the point of analyzing the rhymes if the content and theme is clearly laid out without explanation? Don’t Twist and Tyga know there is more to life than the strip club? That’s a rhetorical question too by the way – SMH!
“Moment” gives Tunechi a ‘moment’ literally – LOL. Before he even gets into it, he’s high (“I’m so high I feel weightless) and like Rick Ross, he’s got shooters (“All my shooters courageous”). On the hook, which precedes the verses, Weezy wishes to “Have my cake and eat it too, I want a bakery…” while later stating “I’m gon’ shoot it if I wave it, shoot it if I wave it / do yourself a favor, save yourself cause I can’t save ya.” “Moment” isn’t Lil Wayne’s best track ever, but the classic cues are in play, particularly references to weed, guns, money, and sex (see the final line of verse three).
“You Already Know” has at least one bright spot – featuring up-and-coming R&B singer PJ Morton. Additionally, Mack Maine, Gudda Gudda, and Jae Millz handle the rhymes. Listening through the standard edition closer though, it’s not anything to write home about. Where memorability is concerned, “You Already Know” has little of it.
So the verdict is in…drum roll please! The verdict is that Rise Of An Empire is not a great title for this album. Perhaps “fall of an empire” would be more appropriate. Rise has a few moments worthy of a second listen – namely “Trophies”, “Senile”, and perhaps even “Moment” – but otherwise, it falls into the normal pitfalls of the compilation. Compared to the first album Young Money, Rise leaves more to be desired… My advice to Young Money is to ‘step out of the box’ or maybe in some cases, out of the booth.
“Trophies”; “Senile”; “Moment”
Rick Ross keeps a good thing going strong on LP number six
Rick Ross • Mastermind • Def Jam • US Release Date: March 3, 2014
Six albums in, the best way to describe Rick Ross is that he ‘is what he is’. Ross’ high watermark artistically was his fourth LP, 2010 masterpiece Teflon Don. Up until Teflon Don, it seemed that Ross was just trying to find his artistic identity – his niche if you will. After finally finding himself, Ross spent fifth LP God Forgives, I Don’t ‘flexing’, something he carries over into Mastermind. Mastermind ultimately is another sound, enjoyable Rick Ross album, even if it lacks some of the excellent, luxurious rap of Teflon Don or even the exceptionalness of the best moments of God Forgives. Quibbles and nitpicks aside, Mastermind is another welcome addition to Rozay’s discography.
“Intro (Rick Ross/Mastermind)” opens familiarly with the “Maybach Music” intro – surprise, surprise. The intro as a whole references being a ‘mastermind’, hence setting the tone for the album. Sure, a brief interlude doesn’t equate Mastermind with epitomizing or embodying its title, but it does foreshadow Ross’ point… sort of. Apparently, Rick Ross’ idea of being a ‘mastermind’ is not synonymous with being an intellectual. This is confirmed on first full-length joint, “Rich Is Gangsta”. As to what that even means ultimately, who knows. Regardless, on the hook-less number, Rick Ross is “all about the Benjamins.” “I just upped my stock, f**k them cops,” he brags on the first verse. “If you love hip-hop, bust them shots.” Later, he even manages to brag about his success as a rapper: “Cocaine worth much more than gold, n***a / so what’s your goals n***a? / All my sh*t when gold, n***a.” Sure, Ross is overconfident with his bravado, but he does tell the truth… all his sh*t did go gold.
While “Rich Is Gangsta” sported exceptional, lush production work, sophomore cut “Drug Dealers Dream” features the MC more on ‘autopilot.’ He continues to count his stacks, evidenced by the intro (“Your checking account available balance is $92, 153,183.28”). Even though Rick is rich, the means is questionable by all means, yet Ross rides it for all its worth: “Murder, a mother f**kin’ murder / no you didn’t see it but I know you b**ches heard it / blood on the corner, damn I miss my dawg / I’m just thinkin’ ‘bout his daughter, in another life he ballin.” One relates to the sympathy that Ross has for his fallen comrade, which could be any person stripped of their life, yet on the other hand, the game of drug dealing, violence, and “I get shooters on clearance…” is just ugly. Unsurprisingly, interlude “Shots Fired” proceeds, with Rick Ross being alluded to (“We’re being told by people here on the scenes, specifically the manager that a famous rapper was riding in that car when someone opened fire shooting at the car…” Dark stuff – quality though.
“Nobody” didn’t appeal to me personally the first time I heard it, but it grows on you. French Montana continues to appear on every one’s track and here is no different as he delivers the hook: “Mama’s tryna save me / but she don’t know I’m tryna save her / man, them n***as tried to play me / man, ‘til I get this paper / you’re nobody ‘til somebody kills you.” Essentially, the theme of doing wrong and dangerous things to achieve riches continues on this track. The tone is aggressive, not merely because of Diddy’s pointed interludes, but also thanks to Ross’ unapologetic rhymes, including “The mortician, the morgue fillin’ with more snitches / we kill ‘em and taking their b**ches, R.I.P.” Ultimately, “Nobody” eventually reveals it’s magic if it isn’t apparent the first listen. Don’t let the Notorious B.I.G. sample (“You’re Nobody (‘Til Somebody Kills You)”) dissuade you.
“The Devil Is A Lie” benefits from sampling, maybe more so than “Nobody” did (“Don’t Let Your Love Fade Away”). Don’t call “The Devil Is a Lie” a song of praise… there plenty of blasphemy. “Big guns and big whips / rich n***a talkin’ big sh*t,” raps Ross on the hook, “…Bow your head cuz it’s time to pay tithes / opposition want me dead or alive / motherf**ker but the devil is a lie / the devil is a lie, b**ch I’m the truth…” If that’s not enough, Jay-Z’s religious beliefs are, well, unique: “Is it true or it’s fiction / Is Hov atheist? I never f**k with True Religion / am I down with the devil cuz my roof came up missin’ / is that Lucifer juice in that two cup he sippin’…” Well, regardless of where either MC stands spiritually, both acknowledge, “the devil is a lie.” It is up for debate whether that makes Rick Ross “the truth” though…
“Mafia Music III” keeps the momentum top-notch. Sporting unexpected reggae production, “Mafia Music III” seems to really fuel Rick Ross into some inspired rhymes. Not only that, Ross references Kenneth Williams (gang member), Bill Belichick, and Farrakhan – go figure. Mavado’s hook contributes to the overall success of the track as well, solidifying the tropical vibe. Keeping it G, “War Ready” brings in Jeezy for the assist, who seems to have dropped the ‘Young’ as a of late. Obsessed with ‘shooters’, Rick Ross continues to reference them for the millionth time as of late: “War ready / you got shooters, I’ve got shooters / we’ve got money / let’s do what them other n***as can’t do…” Mike Will Made It gives Ross and Jeezy magnificent, relaxed, yet malicious production work to do work over, which both do. Surprisingly, it is Jeezy who references the ‘Box Chevy’ (“Box Chevy hit the block, run the whole 50 shots / you just poppin’ ‘til you know you can’t pop ‘em no more…”) “War Ready” keeps things 100 and consistent.
French Montana makes his second appearance of Mastermind on “What A Shame”, a brief cut produced by Reefa and Stats. The production is excellent though the track itself could stand more development and ‘meat’ you might say. Unsurprisingly, Ross once more references those shooters, and they aren’t shooting jump shots. On “Supreme”, Rick switches from ‘magazines’ to “Clean Maybach, but it’s filthy as sh*t / they partitioning for the women, how busy we get…” So, you guessed it, with Keith Sweat lending his soulful new-jack pipes and Scott Storch infusing some soulful, swagger-laden production, “Supreme” is about the ‘fun’ things in life… I’ll leave it at that. “BLK & WHT” does have a play on race, but it’s not merely what you may think it is before listening. Here, Ross talks about ‘slanging’: “Young n***a black, but he selling white…N***a crib so big, it’s a damn shame / n***a sellin’ white for a gold chain.” If nothing else, “BLK & WHT” has a hypnotizing quality about it.
After the silly “Dope B**ch Skit”, The Weeknd drops a joint featuring Rick Ross… or at least that is how “In Vein” comes over. Sure it’s lush, and in the emo-alt R&B style that The Weeknd has come to be associated, but it doesn’t really show off Rick Ross himself. That said, standout “Sanctified” is more of a team-effort from Betty Wright, Big Sean, Kanye West, and Ross, but the overall product is satisfactory. Let’s face it – where would this track have been without Betty Wright’s soulful, un-credited vocals? No disrespect to Mr. West, but few of us need another “Yeezus” as he refers to during his verse – another My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, perhaps. Ross’ best line on his verse: “Soldiers all in gators, new Mercedes for cadets / Balmain uniform, you know Donda designed the vest…” Like “The Devil Is A Lie” though, I wouldn’t invest too much spiritually into this track, particularly with Big Sean’s hook (“All I wanted is 100 million dollars and a bad b**ch…”) At least he admits his sins.
“Walkin’ On Air” has a difficult act to follow after the ‘sanctification’, but it’s definitely not a shabby penultimate track. Again, the blasphemy can’t be good for Ross’ spiritual being: “Baptized by the dope boys, ordained by the a**holes / my salvation is the cash flow / whoa, oh I’m walking on air.” Even aside from misinformed spiritual allusions, lines like “She let me f**k early so she trustworthy…” certainly has no relation to the church. Meek Mill confirms this song is, um, sinful (“Make a call, call Papi for a brick / and papi call José, cause José got fish…”). “Thug Cry”, featuring Lil Wayne and produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League closes Mastermind soundly. Don’t call the multi-sampling work a classic, but it definitely closes an overt album a gentler than it was throughout its course.
All in all, Mastermind turns out to be another well-rounded, enjoyable album from Rick Ross. There is more than enough wealth to please more casual and hardcore Ross fans alike. It won’t supersede the top two albums of Ross’ collection, but it definitely can hang. Not sure why the banging “Box Chevy” was omitted, but it is what it is. Not perfect, but well played, well played.
“Drug Dealers Dream”; “The Devil Is A Lie”; “Mafia Music III”; “War Ready”; “Sanctified”
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)