Kid Cudi’s surprise fourth LP is both ‘creative’ and ‘off-putting’
Kid Cudi • Satellite Flight: Journey to Mother Moon • Republic • US Release Date: February 25, 2014
Describing Kid Cudi as merely “one of a kind” might be the biggest understatement ever…change that – it is the biggest understatement ever. Album release by album release, the left-field/alternative rapper (or singer or both) continues to deliver music that is, well, completely different from everybody and everything else out there. Kid Cudi’s surprise fourth album, Satellite Flight: Journey to Mother Moon, is no different from previous Cudi albums in regards to the fact that the artist is in his own world, beating to his own drum. Satellite Flight is different than previous Cudi albums in regards to the fact that it is only ten tracks long and of those, four are instrumental. Non-standard and unconventional, Satellite Flight is a true-fans type of album that is more mixtape than studio album worthy. Hardcore fans will ‘eat it up’ while the more casual listener will find it off-putting.
“Destination: Mother Moon” initiates the effort, opening unsurprisingly mysterious with ‘Cudi-ness’ written all over it. One of four instrumentals (40% of the album), it is exhilarating and interesting to listen to. 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. So is its follow-up, “Satellite Flight”, an equally alluring, oddball offering that is as cosmic as the title. “Satellite Flight” is all about ‘vibe’: “Com on don’t be shy / let your guard down and work it.”
“Copernicus Landing” continues with the ‘vibe’ and all things cosmic. It is the second instrumental of the effort. Ultimately, a few minutes gives you the idea while the totality of the cut may overwhelm you with its minimalism. From a classical or electronic music perspective, the techniques are legit. For a mainstream album, maybe this isn’t what you’d expect. Atonement arrives with “Balmain Jeans”, which is by far the freakiest track of the album. Face it, it’s all about the three-letter word, with the confirmation coming on the clever, but salacious “Can I come inside your vortex…” Vortex? I’ll leave that one alone, but I’m sure it’s being used as a substitute for another word… But even subtler, having Raphael Saadiq guesting confirms that the Cudi isn’t that extraterrestrial… he’s still a man who enjoys the things men enjoy… yeah…
“Too Bad I Have To Destroy You Now” is even better, even if it Cudi sets aside pleasure in favor of more direct rap. Kid Cudi is a rapper, but he’s definitely not a gangster. “Too Bad I Have To Destroy You Now” doesn’t change his lot, but it does find him spitting with a mad, agile flow. The hook hooks, and he has some memorable verse lyrics to match, including “All hail King Wizard in the f**kin’ house / been chill for a minute quiet as a mouse / now I got the juice, call me Bishop when you see me round / I be showin’ love / showin’ love baby…” The evolution and pacing of “Too Bad I Have To Destroy You Now” contributes to its success. Unfortunately, “Internal Bleeding” which proceeds isn’t quite the triumph. It’s not bad, but it is definitely more a B than an A grade cut. Still, lyrics like “Cut me down / slice me deep / I dare you / burn my crown / spit on my grave…I’ll haunt you…” makes it worthwhile.
“In My Dreams 2015” is a variation on Cudi’s track from Man On The Moon: End of Day. Lasting under two minutes, it’s a pleasant instrumental. The proceeding instrumental and penultimate cut, “Return Of The Moon Man” (Original Score) should’ve been a drag, particularly at over five minutes, but it is actually an enthralling listen. The best of the four instrumental cuts, “Return of the Moon Man” sports jagged, rhythmic lines and thrives off its minimalism. Very much in the Cudi style, “Return Of The Moon Man” doesn’t feel out of place in the least; it fits the album’s off-putting narrative. Concluding cut “Troubled Boy” is appropriately placed, particularly given vibe, but don’t call it a classic. It fits, but it doesn’t rival the top echelon juggernauts.
So, how does Satellite Flight: Journey to Mother Moon stack up? It is a solid, but ultimately off-putting album. Give its incredibly ambitious, yet easily forgettable title (I continually must check the title on my iPod), the contents work perfect contextually. Title aside and accessibility considered, well, Satellite Flight is all-over-the-place. Cudi’s albums are ‘all-over-the-place’ naturally, so in that regard, he’s still “In-di-cud”. But perhaps where a standard, accessible effort is concerned, Satellite Flight is more jumbled. Again, this album will appeal most to hardcore fans while those who want a ‘cohesive’ taste of Kid Cudi’s work may be better served with his earlier efforts, particularly the Man on The Moon series. I’m onboard for the most part though, but I’m not hailing it the ‘second coming’.
“Going To The Ceremony”; “Satellite Flight”; “Balmain Jeans”; “Too Bad I Have To Destroy You Now”; “Return Of The Moon Man (Original Score)”
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”
Schoolboy Q • Oxymoron • Top Dawg/Interscope • US Release Date: February 25, 2014
Schoolboy Q keeps things 100 on Oxymoron – he keeps it real “from the jump” (catch the Drake reference?). In fact, the MC keeps things so ‘real’ that at times Oxymoron is a truly difficult (polarizing) to listen to. Sure, the old saying “honesty is the best policy” applies here and the candidness and frankness of Schoolboy Q is appreciated, but Oxymoron isn’t exactly the most endearing rap effort because it is so grimy and raw. Schoolboy Q’s intentions seem to be emphasis on his machismo, his demons, and a trying, difficult life. As always, the rap album (his third) serves as the ultimate ‘come-up’, with the rapper’s daughter playing a central role in his life-changing experience, judging by numerous references throughout. Ultimately, Oxymoron, an album that is confounding yet impressive, ends up showing the range of abilities of the rapper. It’s not perfection realized, but there are plenty of exceptional moments working toward that goal.
Schoolboy Q is a “G” from the get-go, as his daughter asserts on the intro of “Gangsta”: “Hello…hello? F**k rap, my daddy a gangster.” If the idea of being a ‘gangsta’ wasn’t firmly planted, Schoolboy Q ensures on the hook he repeats it a million times so that you know his status. While merely stating a description of himself wouldn’t make him a ‘G’, Q backs up things with brash rhymes that he spits over incredible production work. He also asserts he’s a pimp…he gets it in, easily.
As much as a bang “Gangsta” is, “Los Awesome” is better, sporting more agile rhymes and sick production courtesy of none other than one ubiquitous Pharrell Williams. The hook slays from a first listen: “I’m a groove type n****a, rather two-step with you / pants sagging, rag dragging, rather gangbang with you / triggers squeeze, throw a palette, throw them thing-things with you / hot degrees, anti-freeze, chilling cool-cool with you…” Q doesn’t stop on the hook as he also spits ether throughout his verses: “Looking like a reaper in your driveway / strays through your living room / liable to drive-by on a summer day / July 4th will be in June…” He also gets the assist from Jay Rock, who complements the violent tilt: “N***as that’ll murder ya, steal you like a burglar / seemed the soul was long gone before I got them / he was dead before I shot him, it’s the reaper.”
“Collard Greens” proceeds in top-notch form, retaining its greatness since being released as a single back in 2013. From the opening groove by the drums, to the gimmicky, infectious hook, “Collard Greens” is quite distinct. “Oh, oh luxury / chidi-chidi-ching could buy anything, cop that / oh, oh, collard greens / three degrees low, make it hot for me drop that”, Schoolboy Q raps on the hook. Schoolboy Q is on autopilot, rapping “Kush be my fragrance, we love marijuana / function on fire, burn the roof of this mother f**ker”. Kendrick Lamar captivates on the second verse, providing a little bit of everything including Spanish and his signature gun sound effects. Among Lamar’s best lines is when he proclaims, “I’m more than a man, I’m a God, b**ch, touché, en garde.” Stoners and non-stoners alike can indulge in the greatness of “Collard Greens” – the song itself that is!
Anytime 2 Chainz is featured on the track, well, you know there is probably an element of perversion and stupidity about it. “What They Want” doesn’t go too dumb, but it is also sort of what you would expect – driven by sex. The hook sums up Q’s intentions: “This the sh*t that they want / this the sh*t that they need / tell me where are you from / drop you pants to your knees, girl I’m capital G…” Even so, Q has his moments, like the clever “Might cop the Phantom, get ghost…” He ruins it with a line about his… and what he plans to do to her… but it is what it is! As for 2 Chainz, he goes the blasphemous route: “Oh Lord, she in Christians, all gold on my Adventist / pull it down and she kiss it, all gold where my wrists is.”
“Hoover Street” is one of those difficult moments to listen to as Q expresses his ‘story’. It is insightful, but certainly is an experienced that not everyone will relate to. “I got that work, f**k Labor Day, just bought a gun / f**k punching in, throwing rocks, no hopscotch / Bet my 9 milli hit the right spot…,” he spits on the intro. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the narrative of “Hoover Street” comes on verse two, in which Q spits “Gangbanging was a ritual and grandma would help / should’ve never left her gun on the shelf.” After “Hoover Street”, Q switches gears for a bedroom-joint, “Studio”, featuring the vocals of BJ The Chicago Kid. Rather than focusing on shooting someone or violence, Q thinks with his pants (“See I’ve been in the studio just trying to get to you, baby / all night laying verses though I’d rather lay with you baby…”). Ultimately, it works, providing a nice change of pace from the violence and darkness of “Hoover Street”.
“Prescription/Oxymoron” proves to be an exceptional two-part track. The first part, “Prescription” is all about being on drugs. Throughout, Q alludes to addiction, epitomized by rhymes “Prescription drugs, I feel in love / my little secret, she gon’ kill a thug / my body numb, she like to give me hugs / I love her touch, I get a rush.” While the line doubles as a sexual reference cleverly, Q is clearly under the influence of drugs, not love. “Oxymoron”, the titular track, is truly an oxymoron as Q spits “I just stopped selling crack today…O-X-Y, a moron…” So he’s been addicted to drugs as well as sold drugs, which he was addicted to? That seems to be the sentiment of one of the better tracks of Oxymoron. Not sure that it is compliment worthy given the danger of drugs and demons in general…
“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? Mother f**ker this is war.” Schoolboy Q plays right on 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.
“Blind Threats” proceeds, but lacks the oomph that “The Purge” possessed. Sure, having Raekwon guest on any track raises it up a notch, but as a whole, “Blind Threats” is a tad less enthralling than the best. Still, “Aim that, shoot that, pledge allegiance / kill mine, kill yours, make it even / soul need saving, Mr. Preacher…” is a pretty awesome lyric. “Hell of A Night” is more ‘down to earth’ compared to edgier cuts like “Hoover Street” or “The Purge”, which makes it feel ‘looser’. It isn’t that Schoolboy Q is giving up on his street savvy, but he’s more about having some fun, popping some bottles, and “making it do” as opposed to shooting someone or selling drugs.
On penultimate cut “Break The Bank”, Q keeps things ‘street-smart’, claiming its “My time to show out, finally the illest Crip / and I guarantee, I spit harder than concrete.” He does spit pretty hard, so Schoolboy Q seems to be honest. “Man of the Year” concludes the album superbly, coming over more accessible than some of the edgiest cuts. Still, he’s not forgotten where he came from. “Fast forward getting real tell me now / every dog need a cat to meow, every once in a while,” he raps on the second verse. “I see hands in the crowds / see whites, blacks blazing a pound, jumping around…” Hey, he’s the ‘man of the year’, and by having a unified fan base coming out to see his shows, he’s really came up.
All in all, Oxymoron is a fine introduction of Schoolboy Q to many. He shares what life has been like for him before becoming an up-and-coming MC in the rap game. He’s honest, and seems to adhere to a no BS approach, which is something not all major label MCs can attest to. Still, there’s a lot of grime and brutal honesty to sort through at times, which might be something Schoolboy Q may want to better balance out on his fourth studio LP. Still, Oxymoron is well played.
“Los Awesome”; “Collard Greens”; “Prescription/Oxymoron”; “The Purge”; “Man of the Year”
The College Dropout sounds as fresh as ever, ten years later.
Kanye West • The College Dropout • Roc-A-Fella • US Release Date: February 10, 2004
“Sometimes I feel no one in this world understands us / but we don’t care what people say.” True that, true that. The aforementioned quote from “We Don’t Care” is a fitting characterization of Kanye West. Over the course of his career as a rapper, Kanye West has been one of the music’s most polarizing, idiosyncratic characters. Incredibly creative yet also incredibly complex and likely misunderstood, West has often found himself in trouble for being loud-mouthed and extremely opinionated. That creativity and frankness has served Mr. West’s music well, even when it’s personally hurt perceptions of him as a person. But as West would tell anybody, he “gives no f***s”. Charming. He certainly gives none on The College Dropout, his tour de force that is the ripe old age of ten. As difficult as it is to believe, it was ten years ago that The College Dropout changed the rap game forever. Listening to it ten years later in 2014, the album remains superb losing none of its edge.
The College Dropout initiates with a silly, though funny “Intro” performed from the by West’s ‘college professor’. “Me and the other faculty members was wonderin’ could you do a lil some…/ somethin’ beautiful, somethin’ that the kids is gon’ love when they hear it,” The professor states. “… somethin’ for the kids for graduation to sing?” The intro serves as the perfect precursor to full-length opening joint, “We Don’t Care”, West’s answer to his professor’s request (“Oh yeah, I’ve got the perfect song for the kids to sing”).
On the real-talk, rebellious “We Don’t Care”, the hook sums up the sentiment of its title: “Drug dealin’ just to get by / stack ya money ‘til you get sky high (Kids sing, kids sing!) / We wasn’t supposed to make it past 25 / joke’s on you, we still alive / throw your hands up in the sky and yell: We don’t care what people say.” Kids, indeed literally sing the hook, fitting in line with the highly structure narrative/concept of the album. In addition to the memorable, ‘f**k you’ mentality of the hook, West gives specific examples throughout the verses of the ‘hard-knock’ life and black culture. Filled with notable lyrics, among my favorite lines is from verse two, as West raps that “The drug game bulimic, it’s hard to get weight / a n***a’s money is homo, it’s hart to get straight / but we gon’ keep bakin’ til the day we get cake / and ‘we don’t care what people say’”. Unapologetic, West begins the game ferociously.
Unsurprisingly, the professor is unhappy with West’s song choice, opening interlude “Graduation Day” with “What in the f**k was that Kanye!” The professor goes off on a rant that is as comical as it is offensive. A then little known John Legend concludes the interlude, referencing different ambitions compared to what others might have. Even though it is Legend who performs this interlude, he is essentially speaking from West’s perspective. West, a college dropout, chose a different path (music) as opposed to staying in school (the traditional route).
Popular single “All Falls Down” proceeds, featuring Syleena Johnson channeling her inner Lauryn Hill (Hill’s “Mystery of Iniquity” is interpolated here). The hook is incredibly simple, yet was one of the most memorable of 2004, being mindful the original appeared in 2002. “Oh when it all, it all falls down / I’m telling you all, it all falls down,” sings a soulful, raspy Johnson. West is on autopilot, delivering honest and hilarious rhymes. Among the best of those is from the first verse: “But she won’t drop out, her parents will look at her funny / now, tell me that ain’t insecure / the concept of school seems so secure / sophomore, three years, ain’t picked a career / she like, f**k it, I’ll just stay down here and do hair.” The acoustic guitar-driven production and brilliant conception makes “All Falls Down” just another vital reason why The College Dropout is one of music’s modern masterpieces.
Following an interlude entitled “Fly Away” (literally the church tune “I’ll Fly Away”), the brilliant “Spaceship” takes off. “I’ve been workin’ this graveshift and I ain’t made sh*t / I wish I could buy me a spaceship and fly past the sky,” West sings on the memorable hook. A song much like “We Don’t Care” depicting the hardships of, “Spaceship” finds West getting the assist from Consequence and GLC. All three MCs paint a gloomy, though honest picture that’s as vivid as a book. Over a thoughtful sample of Marvin Gaye’s “Distant Lover”, “Spaceship” was as consistent as the singles from The College Dropout, despite receiving less buzz. Even though “Spaceship” is pessimistic, Kanye West definitely feels entitled to his newfound success: “Lock yourself in a room doing five beats a day for three summers…I deserve to do these numbers”. Indeed Mr. West, indeed.
The crowning achievement for The College Dropout was one of the most unique records of 2004, “Jesus Walks”. Thoughtful, yet not quite ‘sanctified’ in a religious sense, “Jesus Walks” was a pivotal part of West’s career. The fact that West associated Jesus and rap – two unlike things – was shocking. Still, Wests makes numerous relevant points throughout, some of which could easily be supported biblically – well with modern interpretation that is. West’s most memorable series of rhymes reside in his second verse: “We rappers is role models; we rap, we don’t think / I ain’t here to argue about his facial features / or here to convert atheists into believers / I’m just trying to say the way school need teachers / the way Kathie Lee needed Regis that’s the way I need Jesus.” Amen…I think. Still, I don’t think too many clergymen will take too kindly the line “we eat pieces of sh*t like you for breakfast…” Just saying!
More ‘important’ songs overshadow “Never Let Me Down”, but it’s still high quality work. This is an early collaboration where West works with his ‘big brother’ Jay-Z, as well as poet J. Ivy. Continuing the practice of sampling (Michael Bolton’s “The Power of Love”), “Never Let Me Down” rolls right along with little to quibble about. Similarly, “Get Em High” is another solid track overshadowed by better ones. Notable aside from guests in Talib Kweli and Common is the fact that sampling isn’t employed… shocker. As always, West’s rhymes are entertaining, though West raps about his ambitions on the first verse: “My teacher said I’s a loser, I told her why don’t you kill me / I give a f**k if you fail me, I’m gonna follow / my heart, and if you follow charts / or the plaques or the stacks / you ain’t gotta guess who’s back, you see.” There it is. Oh and in regards to the hook, West can’t resist the opportunity to play the double meanings game (i.e. high on weed, hands in the air). Remember, he don’t care!
After “passing the dro” on “Get Em High”, “The New Workout Plan” was a later single released from The College Dropout. “The New Workout Plan” definitely has little to do with exercise… it’s all about sex. West’s hook says it all: “It’s been a week without me / and she feel week without me / she wanna talk it out but / ain’t nothing to talk about / unless she’s talking about freaking out / then maybe we can work it out.” Of course, even before that, the first verse states West’s intentions: “one and two and three and four get them sit ups right and / tuck your tummy tight and do your crunches like this / give head, stop breathe, get up, check your weave / don’t drop the blunt and disrespect the weed…” I guess West is allotted one track with less depth.
Keeping with he sensual vibes, “Slow Jamz” – a former number one hit – remains as great as it was ten years ago. “Slow Jamz” is reprised on The College Dropout; it originally appeared on Twista’s Kamikaze. Jamie Foxx’s hook is as effective and memorable as ever: “She said she want some Marvin Gaye / some Luther Vandross / a little Anita / Will definitely set this party off right.” Hearing Twista at his artistic peak on the third verse – sigh – “Those were the days!”
Ludacris comes along for the ride on “Breathe in Breathe Out”, delivering the catchy hook over a killer loop. “Yeah, breathe in, breathe out / if ya iced up, pulla ya sleeves out / push a big truck, pull ya keys out / girls go wild and pull ya deez out…” The hook is typical Ludacris for sure. While “Breathe in Breathe Out” is as consistent as anything else, I prefer “School Spirit” and its Aretha Franklin sample “Spirit in the Dark” (from 1970 album of the same title). As soulful as “School Spirit” is with the sample itself, Tony Williams’ backing vocals add even more sweetness. A skit both precedes and follows “School Spirit”.
“Two Words” follows the final skit of the effort, “Lil Jimmy Skit”. Like many of the non-singles, “Two Words” could actually go ‘toe to toe’ with the most notable, hyped cuts. It doesn’t hurt having help from the likes of Mos Def and Freeway, not to mention The Harlem Boys Choir. Each MC begins their respective verse with the titular lyric, which is a nice unifying touch. The Harlem Boys Choir truly enhances the hook, offering a legato passage (“Throw your hands up high / ‘til they reach the sky”) underneath West’s brasher rhymes (“Now throw ya hands up hustlers / busters, boosters, hoes / everybody, f**k that / still nowhere to go, still nowhere to go…”).
“Through The Wire”, perhaps West’s most personal single, still sounds as relevant ten years later as it did in 2004. The intro sums it up best: “…They can’t stop me from rapping, can they… I spit it through the wire…” The story behind the song was West’s horrific auto accident, which he was fortunate to recover from. Fittingly, “Through The Wire” samples Chaka Khan’s classic, “Through the Fire”. “Family Business” is nothing flashy, but is both sound and soulful. A track like “Family Business” will always register near the bottom of the hierarchy, but still epitomizes West’s total artistry. Juggernaut “Last Call” receives appropriate placement, given its length and how it sums up the album and West himself. “Last Call” details West’s ascent and ‘come-up’. It’s a cut that the listener is less likely to spin, but it does give insight into West.
Ten years later, The College Dropout remains a rap masterpiece. Scratch that – it’s a masterpiece. The College Dropout is one of those pivotally important albums of recent times. Sure, it is hard to find certified classics in the new millennium, but this particular effort is definitely a candidate. Consistent, creative, and certainly a contrast to other hip-hop albums out at the time, The College Dropout and Kanye West were trailblazers, ushering in the new movement of hip-hop. Even now, it’s remarkable how exceptionally well this album is assembled.
“All Falls Down”; “Jesus Walks”; “Spaceship”; “Slow Jamz”; “Two Words”; “Through The Wire”
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”
Pusha T captures a darker portrait of life exceptionally on his ‘official’ solo debut
Pusha T⎪ My Name Is My Name ⎪Def Jam ⎪⎪ US Release Date: October 8, 2013
To call ‘street life’ captivating would probably be an incredibly irresponsible statement to make. What isn’t an irresponsible description is that Pusha T delivers and captures a darker portrait of life exceptionally on his official solo debut, My Name Is My Name. Sure, the ‘dope game’ is nothing to glorify by any means, but something about Pusha T’s honest and authentic stories of a checkered past proves to be an interesting listen across these 12 excellent tracks. If nothing more, one definitely knows where half of rap duo Clipse stands.
“King Push” initiates with dark-tilted production work, driven by a marching band-like snare drum. From the jump, Pusha T is confident and hardcore about his intentions. This is evidenced by the hook: “I’m king Push, still King Push / I rap n***a ‘bout trap n***as / I don’t sing hooks.” Indeed Pusha T avoids sung hooks throughout My Name Is My Name and definitely sugarcoats nothing. The unapologetic nature of “Numbers On The Board” is welcome, with Pusha T kicking off things in electrifying fashion: “I’m so bossy, b**ch, get off me / it’s a different jingle when you hear these car keys…” Adhering to the 2013 rap trend of ‘god status’, Pusha seems to have more oomph than many of his contemporaries as he spits “It’s only one God, and it’s only one crow / so it’s only one king that can stand on this mound / King Push, kingpin, overlord…” There it is.
“Sweet Serenade” isn’t true to it’s title, continuing to sound mysterious and dark. Chris Brown’s usually enthusiastic pipes are subdued in effect to make the ‘sweet serenade’ a bit more ‘realistic’ you might say. “Come on let’s toast the champagne, this one’s for the life / did everything you could do to be here for the night / man it feels good, everything feels right / energy is strong enough to bright city lights / my whole team winning, no vision on quitting…I risk my life to try everyday to go and get it…” The track wins and apparently the “team [is] winning”, so why so scary? Well it is Pusha T. “Look, my ouija board don’t never lie to me / the best rapper living, I know who’s alive to me / yeah the competition’s all but died to me / Raah, I make these motherf**kers hide from me…” Maybe that’s why!
“Hold On” brings in Rick Ross, a perfect collaborator for Pusha T. Pusha never falls short lyrically, always delivering a compelling performance. Again, it is the brutal honesty that lifts Pusha, moments like “I sold more dope than I sold records / you n***as sold records never so dope/ So I ain’t hearing non of that street sh*t / cause in my mind, you motherf**kers sold soap…”. Pusha T is also equally effective on socially-conscious lines like “They tipping the scale for this crackers to win / no reading, no writhing, made us savage of men…”, seeming a reference to the ‘lot’ of the black man. Rick Ross balances the street and money on his guest spot: “Over night I seen a n***a go get a Carrera / two weeks later I had to be that boy pall bearer / young king bury me inside a glass casket / windex wipe me down for the life after.” Well we know one thing, Rozay has a thing about how he’s treated after death (see “Bury Me A G”). Brilliant by all means.
“Suicide” continues the enthrall and consistency, with Ab-Liva guesting on the third verse (“My future is bright hot, you never can last here / I’m top five, listen, who hot in the past year?”). Naturally given its title, Pusha T is in it for ‘blood’, but he still manages to deliver the street with some eloquence you might say: “You n***as clique-ing up with my rivals / like the bible don’t burn like these bullets don’t spiral / like I can’t see the scene that you mirror in your idol / but a pawn’s only purpose is completely suicidal…” On “40 Acres”, The-Dream lends his beautiful pipes to the hook of this reflective, autobiographical cut. One of the more notable moments from Pusha references his mother’s broken marriage: “Unpolished, unapologetic / might have broke a heart or two but gave an honest effort / my nonchalant attitude is always ‘eff it’ / 35 years of marriage and my momma left it…” Consistency continues.
“No Regrets” features Kevin Cossom singing the hook and Young Jeezy given his two cents on second verse. Ultimately, “No Regrets” is nearly enjoyable if not as enjoyable as everything else, but it also seems a bit overproduced. Still given the attitude conveyed here, the abundance of production and dynamically-loud moments doesn’t seem that far-fetched. “Let Me Love You” softens the mood, something that feels right at this point on My Name Is My Name. Kelly Rowland is the perfect R&B diva to deliver sexiness vocally, singing “Boy you got that six in the morning / you got that thing that’ll make a girl feel high… boy let me love you.” Pusha T isn’t exactly thinking ‘chivalrously’ though: “Hey mama come f**k with the shotta / with the Givenchy toppa, shoe Balenciaga / if you act right, I can match you up proper / if it’s about a dolla thing, big like Poppa.” Can’t go wrong with a Notorious B.I.G allusion, right?
“Who I Am” is nothing short of fire, no questions asked. Sure Pusha T didn’t select the most ‘intellectual’ crop of MC’s to guest with 2 Chainz and Big Sean, but it works out superbly. But honestly it should since all Pusha T really wants to do is “…buy another Rollie” and “…pop another band / I just wanna sell dope forever / Just wanna be who I am.” 2 Chainz does simple ambitions well, here rapping “Entrepreneur, strip club connoisseur / hot fudge sundae, pour it on you hallelujah…” – need I go further? Big Sean also keeps it simple and 100 at the same time, rapping “Pretty girls is my reputation / one on my arm, that’s decoration…” We all enjoy a good club track about excess though, so I give this one a pass…a highly recommended one at that.
“Nosetalgia” is a perfect follow-up, only made more perfect by featuring Kendrick Lamar. The rap IQ here is off the charts, with “Nosetalgia” ranking among the top echelon, and that’s saying something considering how well put together this effort is. One of Pusha’s best lines is his proclamation he was “Black Ferris Bueller, cutting school with his jewels on…what I sell for pain in the hood, I’m a doctor…” while Kendrick Lamar’s slaughtering verse is capped off with “Go figure motherf**ker, every verse is a brick.” “Pain” is a solid penultimate cut, still very ‘heavy’ in content and in its overall sound. Standout closing cut “S.N.I.T.C.H.” succeeds not only because of it’s production or Pharrell’s distinctive voice performing the hook, but because it continues to keep things real. The evidence lies lyrically: “Nowadays n***as don’t need shovels to bury you / pointing fingers like pallbearers how they carry you / so much for death before dishonor / might as well have a robe and a gavel like your honor…”
Now the burning question is just how great is My Name Is My Name? I’d say pretty great; one of the best rap albums of 2013. Pusha T is quite underrated, but he is definitely one of the better MCs in the game. Sure rap about dope may not be for everybody by itself, but Pusha T’s authenticity and honesty easily atone for any reservations.
Favorites: “Numbers On The Boards”; “Sweet Serenade”; “Hold On”; “Who I Am”; “Nosetalgia”; “S.N.I.T.C.H.”
- Pusha T reclaims his name (audiomob.wordpress.com)
- Pusha T- My Name Is My Name: a review (samxgillard.wordpress.com)
- Pusha T:The Underground Champion***messymandella*** (messymandella.com)
- Pusha T Says Popular Rap Has Become More About Fashion Than It is About Talent (subzinfo.wordpress.com)
- Pusha T – My Name Is My Name (recordhoarder.wordpress.com)
- Pusha T (ebaker4.wordpress.com)
- MNIMN album review (markweininger.wordpress.com)
- Album Review: Pusha T “My Name Is My Name” (theopnation.com)
A ‘household name’ he’s not, but Deca has plenty to offer
Deca⎪The Ocean ⎪⎪ US Release Date: September 24, 2013
Deca is certainly no household name – that is a fact. Regardless, the Denver, Colorado born MC definitely has skills. While he hasn’t ascended to commercial relevance as of yet, Deca has invested his services in the game, both collaboratively and as a soloist. After three solo albums (Top of the Line Bottom Feeder, The Hedonist, and The Veil), Deca returns triumphantly with 2013 effort The Ocean. The Ocean is an incredibly smart album, truly highlighting Deca’s cerebral nature as an MC. His own reasoning for the title is higher level thinking: “The ocean is one of the most familiar symbols of the unconscious mind.” Impressively produced with soulful backdrops inciting Deca, the often dusty beats match the prudence of which the rappers spits in his rhymes.
“Night’s Preparation” serves as the first of several interludes, all of which are unscripted. It precedes the fine “Gabriel Ratchet”, which finds Deca’s flow easygoing, matching chill, soulful production. Follow-up “Salome” is even more alluring, characterized by it’s lushness and perhaps most notably, the reference to the biblical figure. “I saw the light that day / like we don’t ever have to live our life that way / Salome lead me down the the right pathway / take my head, watch the light cascade…” If you’re unfamiliar with Salome, you should do some research…really, whether you’re a believer or non-believer. :-/
“The Ocean (Interlude)” separates “Salome” from the next biblically-referencing delight, “Edenville”, which alludes to The Garden of Eden. “One day, one became two / I sat beneath an apple tree with you / one day, I welcome change when I see him…”, Deca poetically delivers on the hook. A cut with a return to the good, easier times before paradise was lost and innocence was stripped, “Edenville” is quite intriguing. “Big Time” continues Deca’s introduction to many, though it doesn’t quite achieve the illustrious nature of “Salome” or “Edenville”. “Pretty Things” (featuring King Foe) makes up for any loss of momentum, where Deca suggests that life is filled with ups and downs (“and I know how it goes, I get high, I get low… but that’s life…”).
“Dreamscapes (Interlude)” continues to deliver an intellectually driven sound, regardless of being an interlude. “Angel Butter” builds upon that braininess solidly, buttressing the poetic lyrics with hard drums. Regardless of how solid “Angel Butter” is contextually, “Breadcrumbs” is the show stopper, no questions asked. “Everything’s sunny, everything’s lovely, put me on a pedestal, hold n one above me / everything’s pleasant and good, eating breadcrumbs like the little peasant that could / fuel for the furnace combust, learn to adjust, you view the world on the surface with a certain disgust / but everything ‘s sunny, everything’s lovely, put me on a pedestal, hold no one above me…” What is there to say to that? The lyrics are touching, honest, and incredibly artistic. Oh and my homeboy’s love of all things biblical just makes it that much better (“Catch a stone cast at your dome by a / self righteous sinner that would send Gestapo to tap your phone…).
I’d never call myself a big interlude fan, but “Tariq Abdul Hamid (Interlude)” definitely brings something to the table, specifically the spoken words of prudence: “Don’t get hung up in that game man… stay away from that dope, stay way from dissipating yourself…what frees you is awareness.” The reference to “paradise lost” shows up once more in “Sailboats and Trains”. The theme is weighty, but the results worthwhile for sure.
Ultimately, Deca more than proves he has plenty to offer The Ocean. Sure its a brief 29 minutes of music, but the MC packs a punch, and goes ‘smarter’ than many would dare. In an age where the next ‘dumb’ rap track seems to be the trend, Deca goes against the grain to deliver something truly meaningful and deserving of wider recognition. He gets my approval, easily.
Favorites: “Gabriel Ratchet”; “Salome”; “Edenville”; “Pretty Things”; “Breadcrumbs”
- Deca dives in the subconscious:’I think the whole universe is inside of us’ (platform8470.com)
- Personally Speaking: Deca’s Leaving A Trail of Breadcrumbs, Baby! (grungecake.com)
- Deca – “Breadcrumbs” (boingboing.net)
Goodie Mob stretch the definition of the standard rap album
Goodie Mob⎪Right Records⎪Age Against The Machine⎪⎪ US Release Date: August 27, 2013
Goodie Mob’s first new album since 1999 is nothing short of a fascinating listen. Face it, the minute it begins, it’s obvious who took the reins… one idiosyncratic, unique genre-bending artist named Cee Lo Green. Because it is such a unique affair, it is both forward-thinking yet at times unaccessible. Unlike any other rap album from 2013, Age Against The Machine ‘paves its on way’ as they say, with top-notch results overall…and some confusion.
Where do you start on such an ambitious, unorthodox affair? “State of the Art (Radio Killa)” sorta sets the tone with a maniacal nature accentuated by its expressive rhymes and ripping strings. Think of it as fitting for a soundtrack. Then there’s the captivating “I’m Set” with its jungle drums, jazzed-up horn riffs, and enthusiastic raps. Cee-Lo that steals the show, most notably on the dramatic hook. I think you’d find Cee-Lo’s picture under the word dramatic in the dictionary. Who’d have it any other way?
Then later there’s “Pinstripes”, which sounds like more standard southern rap fare compared to the aforementioned. Sure Goodie Mob may not be in their prime, but a more contemporarily produced number such as “Pinstripes” certain amps up their swag…if that was necessary. If you want something incredible odd yet strangely compelling, look no further than “Kolors”. Then there’s also the Janelle Monáe collab “Special Education” which is a clever play on what is normally associated with special education. ”Amy” stands out too, perhaps most pronounced by chorus lyric “My very first white girl…” It’s certainly interesting!
All in all, Age Against The Machine is an album that most seemed to sleep on for various reasons. Should they have passed it up? Nah bro! This is not your standard rap album and because it ain’t, it actually a welcome ‘departure’ of sorts. If you’re looking for deep rhymes, Age Against The Machine won’t be your first choice, but if need something from left-field out of the box, this album has all that and more.
Favorites: “State of the Art (Radio Killa)”; “I’m Set”; “Pinstripes”; “Kolors”; “Special Education”; “Amy”
- Goodie Mob reunites, and its still about the (CeeLo) Green (sfltimes.com)
- Goodie Mob: Building New Leaders From The Elders (wnyc.org)
- Goodie Mob, ‘Age Against the Machine’: Album review (nydailynews.com)
- Goodie Mob: Age Against the Machine (Review) (popmatters.com)
- The Rundown: Goodie Mob, Age Against the Machine (bet.com)
- Goodie Mob: Age Against The Machine (jwstraighttalk.wordpress.com)
2 Chainz Does Dumb Surprisingly Well on B.O.A.T.S. II
2 Chainz⎪ B.O.A.T.S. II: #Me Time⎪Def Jam⎪⎪US Release Date: September 10
Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go… 2 Chainz is crazy! Like totally cray cray. Honestly, B.O.A.T.S. II: #Me Time should be a disaster (add a profanity of choice in front of ‘disaster’). Somehow though, through all of Tauheed Epps’ stupidity, he puts together a dumb, but fun rap album. Yeah, maybe there isn’t one single cut that supplants the brilliantly, naughty “Birthday Song” which I still jam out to on my iPod, but there is plenty of songs that lack substance that give the listener, um, a guilty pleasure. 2 CHAINZ!
The fun starts with “Fork”, in which 2 Chainz “…had a dream that rap wouldn’t work / woke up on the block, had to hit it with the fork / skrrr, skrrr, skrrr, skrrr, skrrr: hit it with the fork… rap don’t work, records ain’t bein’ sold…so much money on me, it won’t even fold….” Yeah something like that. What is he talking about? Good question! Well, sounds like drugs, rap albums not selling, and having more money than he’ll ever need. If that’s not enough, he elaborates on his excesses, maybe best epitomized by a lyric like “I drink red b**ches, I don’t drink Red Bulls…” Alrighty then, heck of a way to start 2 Chainz by hitting it with the fork.
On “36”, the king of dumb educates us listeners on the hook: “36 / that’s how many ounces in a brick / 36, 36, 36, 36…” So if you had no idea about the wait of drug paraphernalia, 2 Chainz has schooled you over the course of one minute and a half. Feel lifted? Then after all the drugs, the “Feds Watching”, featuring and produced by Pharrell Williams. 2 Chainz begins his first verse with bragging about material things (“Dreads hang on designer everything…”), then goes on to the strip club (“This that category 5 when I walk up in the strip club…”), and throws in some drugs for good measure (“Backing soda marketing , I’m getting it ain’t I? Obviously…”). He caps all of his higher level thinking with a simple, summative hook: “I’mma be fresh as hell if the Feds watching….” So basically, even if 2 Chainz gets caught, he’s going to be ‘fresh to death’ I’m assuming? I don’t know about all that, but the track is killer.
“Where U Been” keeps things consistently ‘materialistic’, featuring the assist from Cap.1. Simply, 2 Chainz has been balling “getting money, where the f**k you been?”. Oh and to add a little more oomph to his brashness, he throws in the ‘tasteful’ punch “bought a new crib just to f**k you in.” Seems extreme to me, but he is 2 Chainz. Oh an as for Cap.1’s contributions, perhaps the lyric “My b**ch she’s so pretty that’s my Pocahontas…” takes the cake. Next, my boy brings in Drake and Lil Wayne for the superstar collaboration “I Do It”. Simplicity remains key, particularly given 2 Chainz’s opening ‘salvo’: “Hang up on a b**ch, call it crucified”. Still, he has his moments. Drake may have the best line, when he alludes to Lil Wayne near the end of the second verse: “Man I just hear this sh*t and think about what Tunechi will tell you / he might call up Patricia, she ‘bout to call up Melissa…” Oh and in case you’re wondering, yes Lil Wayne talks about sex on his verse… shocker. The Outro is a nice contrast though.
“Used 2” keeps the absurdity alive and well, evidenced by the ridiculous hook which seems to reference recording the naughty and uploading it to youtube as looking for a baby mama… SMH. Repetition is 2 Chainz’s best friend here, or his worst enemy with the clumsy lines he chooses to repeat. He ‘redeems’ himself on the it’s-so-ridiculously-stupid-it’s-good “Netflix” which pairs him with Fergie… what a combo, phew! Where do you even start? 2 Chainz references weed, sex tapes, the paparazzi, high end fashion, and uninspired rappers all in the matter of his first verse. On her verse, Fergie lifts from “Birthday Song” (“When I die, bury me inside the liquor store…”), as well as dropping the obligatory weed reference, blowing wads of money, and “b**ches copying” her. And then there’s that hook… “I know you had the time of your life…you know I’m gettin’ money, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, Ill be countin’ this sh*t all night…” Geez Louise!
“Extra” is one that annoys me. Yeah, yeah, I know 2 Chainz is no Nas, but 2 Chainz’s pop-rap here is a bit questionable, even for him. The most shameful line from Chainz? “I just had a threesome for three weeks in a row / Last name Chainz, first name Two…” WTF? Rich Homie Quan guests on the third verse. On “U Da Realest”, Chainz states “I’m like a quarterback, hand it off / drop the work in the pot, watch it cannonball / I done seen ‘em ball, I done seen ‘em fall / rest in peace to my n***a, you da realest, dawg…” Somewhere in there there seems to be some substance… well besides what’s in that pot he references. But of course, he ruins a good moment too, like “Rest in my piece to all my n***as, they died while they was servin’ / rest in peace to all the soldiers that died in the service / I died in her…” I. Have. No. Words…that I’m going to publish here…
Then comes “Beautiful Pain”, which features Lloyd and Mase. 2 Chainz doesn’t take himself seriously, but Lloyd refines things on a fine hook (“Oh I feel so fly / came so far, but I still wanna fly…see what this beautiful pain, provide / baby look into my eyes…”) And of course, Mase keeps things classy. Overall, “Beautiful Pain” stands out. T-Pain joins the boatload of collaborators on “So We Can Live”, drenched in autotune as always. 2 Chainz has plenty of ‘interesting’ moments, whether it’s his illegal activities (“Mama don’t work, heater don’t work / Police pulled me over and said he seen weed on my shirt / I pray to the lord and ask for forgiveness / If he popped my trunk I can get a life sentence…”), playing copycat (“Simon says, monkey see money do / I wore the shirt, you wore the same shirt too…”) or being the sh*t (“appetite for destruction, and I don’t need a menu / so far ahead of y’all n***as, I can see you in my rearview…”) . There it is, I suppose.
He’s hella clumsy on “Mainstream Ratchet”, but isn’t that understandable? Proceed with caution folks! I mean, anything with the word ratchet in it… “And that’s ratchet huh? Her a$$ so big it look like she trying to walk backwards bruh…” “Black Unicorn” contrasts, opening with an lovely spoken word performance by Sunni Patterson. Chrisette Michele handles the hook as classy and nuanced as always. And as for Chainz, he’s not too shabby himself. Ol’ boy gets himself together on “Outroduction”, presenting himself much more thoughtfully and candidly. There are “two sides to a book” after all.
Classic or total bust? Neither, but B.O.A.T.S. II: #Me Time is actually a much better album than I envisioned it to be. It’s hard to call an effort with so many references to sex, drugs, and irresponsibility a masterpiece, but I’ll give it to 2 Chainz, he certainly has some highlights here. If you’re a fan of more intellectual rap though, this is not your cup of tea. But if you don’t mind going ‘stupid’ like a lot, well then, this album is your new jam.
Favorites: “36”; “Feds Watching”; “I Do It”; “Netflix”; “Beautiful Pain”
- 2 Chainz, Career Revisionist (brentmusicreviews.com)
- An Artist of Narrow Contrast: A Review of 2 Chainz, Me Time (popjones.wordpress.com)
- Writing On The Wall: 2 Chainz Upset With Def Jam Over “B.O.A.T.S II” (djsdoingwork.com)
- For the Haters: 2 Chainz ‘Where U Been’ Video (atlantablackstar.com)
- 2 Chainz Pleads ‘I Don’t Do Anything Illegal’ After Arrest The rapper says he showed police his guns during the Oklahoma snafu, saying ‘I probably let my guard down.’ (teebreezzy.wordpress.com)
- Review of 2 Chainz’s B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time (examiner.com)
- 2 Chainz: I’m Pissed At Def Jam For Undershipping My Album, Appears In New Fabolous Video (allhiphop.com)
- 2 Chainz Publishes Cookbook With Deluxe Edition Of ‘B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time’ (contactmusic.com)
- (MUSIC) 2 Chainz ~ Netflix ft Fergie (muzicupdate.wordpress.com)
- 2 Chainz – “B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time” – ALBUM REVIEW (jakobsalbumreviews.wordpress.com)
No Sophomore Slump for Big Sean
Big Sean⎪ Hall of Fame ⎪ Def Jam⎪⎪ US Release Date: August 27, 2013
Big Sean has one of the better rap voices in the game. That isn’t saying his lyrics necessarily rank among the top (he go stupid y’all), but if there were an ideal voice, Sean Anderson definitely possesses it. As a fan of his first album, Finally Famous (2011), I was interested to see if the sophomore effect would undo Sean, who has been one of the hotter collaborative artists in recent times. The answer is a resounding no, as it is arguable that at least portions of Hall of Fame are even more intriguing that the rapper’s debut, which was stacked with hits like “I Do It”, “My Last”, “Dance (A$$)”, and personal favorite “Marvin and Chardonnay”. Sure some of the more sexually-driven material lacks depth, but more often than not, Hall of Fame is quite alluring.
On opener “Nothing Is Stopping”, Sean reflects on the growth of his career, whether it was rapping for Kanye West or just the scope of his come-up financially (“Just to think, last night I was in Venice hugging b*****s / thanking God almighty, condoms was invented…”) Yeah better stop there, but basically, Sean has became ‘something’ from ‘nothing’. After the hookless, though brilliant opener, Sean keeps on truckin’ with “Fire” which sho’ nuff is fiery. Big Sean isn’t always the most prolific MC, but he delivers the goods here, particularly clever lyrics “Coming from Detroit where everybody say ‘whaddup though’? Horror movie sh*t, cause everybody there cut throat / watch who you hustle with you might not get a cut though / even though you deserved a commission plus mo’” Can you say fire? Furthermore the production work – amazingness!
“10 2 10” doesn’t let up, even if Sean infuses some dumbness, even if he is being serious. “I woke up working like I’m Mexican / that mean I work from 10 to 10 / then 10 to 10, then 10 again / Nightmares of losing everything boost my adrenaline…” There it is. Filled with better than expected punch lines, Sean ‘rocks out’ over NO I.D.’s superb production. Then comes “Toyota Music”, where Sean is clever, simple, and sort of oddball-ish. “I got money coming through / drugs and women coming too / got my family living comfortable / got me thinking I’m doing what I’m supposed to do…”, he offers on the second verse. At times spacey, “Toyota Music” matches the numerous drugs/references to drugs which Sean speaks of. On “You Don’t Know”, an uncredited Ellie Goulding provides vocals, serving as an interesting collaborative pairing. Sean continues to do his thing, though “You Don’t Know” isn’t necessary the ‘elite’ of Hall of Fame.
“Beware” continues to shine, being a promo single for the set. The main rub with “Beware” is it lacks the commercial punch that Sean’s previous hits have had. That doesn’t make it a dud as it is the opposite; it’s a good song overall. “When you said it was over, you shot right through my heart / why you let these hoes tear what we had right apart / ooh I was so mad, I should’ve seen this coming right from the start / you should beware, beware, beware of a woman with a broken heart.” Real talk on the hook right? Jhené Aiko assists on the hook while Lil Wayne brings some ‘Weeziness’ onto the third verse.
“First Chain” may be a bit indulgent as the trend of rapping about Jesus pieces and excessive jewelry has been overdone, but with some of the effort’s strongest production and generally solid rhymes from Sean, Nas, and Kid Cudi (who also provides his signature humming), “First Chain” is a personal favorite. Yeah maybe the hook is nothing innovative, but you can’t deny the memorability of Sean’s third verse: “I don’t remember my first love or my first time prayin’ / but remember my first a$$ and the first time she…it almost felt as good as when I got my first chain…”
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**k her…” Well, at least Sean makes it clear he’s into hooking up, not a real relationship. “Freaky” is an interlude, and definitely not for the more conservative crowd. Then again, neither is the electrifying “MILF”, which is what it is. As raw as Big Sean goes, factor in Nicki Minaj who leaves little to the imagination and of course the trippy Juicy J (“Yo mama a great head doctor, with no PhD…”). Again, it is what it is and with a title like “MILF”, you know what you are getting yourself into.
“Sierra Leone” sports lush production work and some more erotic lines from Sean, which I’ll leave to your imagination. It’s enjoyable, not the best. “It’s Time” (featuring Jeezy and Payroll) and “World Ablaze” (featuring James Fauntleroy) are similarly consistent and enjoyable, without being ‘first round draft picks’ per se. Penultimate gem “Ashley” is awesome, featuring a soulful vocal hook courtesy of lover man extraordinaire Miguel, and honest rhymes from the MC about his mistakes towards his ex (“Sorry when you put your faith in me I was unfaithful, disgraceful, distasteful / yeah I know you’re not supposed to have cake and eat too…”). Ultimately, Sean conveys that he truly screwed up a great thing. He closes with “All Figured Out”, but compared to “Ashley”, Sean’s just going through the motions.
All-in-all, Hall of Fame is easily one of 2013’s better rap efforts. It’s not perfect, and some of the end cuts lack the same punch as the elite earlier cuts, but for the most part, Sean does his thang. Sure he could tone down his inner freak (like a lot), but Big Sean suffers no drop off from album one.