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)
20 years later, Us3 still got it
Us3⎪The Third Way (Hand on the Torch, Vol. II)⎪Us3.com ⎪⎪ US Release Date: October 14, 2013
Of latest album The Third Way, Us3 co-founder and bandleader Geoff Wilkinson calls it “the follow up album I never made at the time [of Hand on the Torch]. Throughout The Third Way, Us3 keep the hooks simple and the grooves infectious. The formula is patterned after the band’s platinum-certified debut, once more drawing jazz classics as it’s basis (interpolations). The results? A fine jazz-rap sequel to the original, arriving 20 years after the first. KCB, Tukka, and Akil Dasan rule the rhyming roost here, definitely doing the game justice.
“Never Go Back” (featuring KCB & Tukka) opens The Third Way exceptionally, lifting from Dizzy Gillespie’s classic “Manteca” as its backdrop. Old-school but incredibly hip, “Never Go Back” takes you back to Us3’s “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)” days, sigh. Solid production and a fantastic, simplistic hook make the opener a winner. The dusty-sounding beat anchors the rhythmic pianist hits perfectly on “Be Bop Thing”. The rhymes are agile and continue to embrace that ‘throwback’ vibe. Why should the enjoyable, swinging “Be Bop” have it any other way? “Gotta Get My Hustle On” definitely ‘gets its shine on’, with its infectious Latin groove and Tukka’s reggae-rhymed contributions. Akil Dasan’s none too shabby here himself, providing a welcome contrast to his colleague.
On “I Want One Of Those” (featuring Akil Dasan), the prominence of a the walking bass line truly shapes the overall production. That’s not the sole highlight mind you; Akil Dasan continues to allure lyrically. “Keep Your Head Right (Keep Your Fist Tight)” is undeniably delicious, thanks to its ‘funkifized’ soul-jazz groove while “The Out Crowd” is really ‘in’ considering it just happens to sample notable jazz cut “The In Crowd” (Ramsey Lewis). “Wha’ G’wan” allows for Tukka to flex his reggae muscles once more, painting his rhymes over replayed elements of Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder”. Pretty awesome if you ask me.
“Beautiful” is certainly more chivalrous than most rap of 2013, eschewing the overindulgent sexual references that characterize the more hardcore extreme of the genre. Old school is well at work here, though the synthesized bass line is very much relevant for 2013. “Dance With Me” gives the effort another Latin-jazz based number, incredibly suited given the title and theme of the number. “What Would You Do?” definitely stands out not only because of the superb, thoughtful production, but also because of how superbly the MC’s deliver their respective verses. KCB, Tukka, and Akil Dasan are truly electrifying here, perhaps more so than other performances from The Third Way.
Horace Silver provides the perfect inspiration on “Are You Nuts” with elements of his classic “Nutville” working full force. Maybe KCB speaks of aloofness (“you’re out of touch / what are you nuts?”), but there’s nothing “nuts” here, just excellence. “If You’ve Got It Flaunt It” is a bit less satisfying in my eyes. It’s interesting, but I’m not sure that the Duke Ellington lifting cut (“It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)”) is as consistent as the rest. The nonsensical portions from the original may just be slightly too corny. “I’m Goin’ (Come Along)” is certainly an interesting penultimate cut, certainly feeling much more modern in sound than the majority. It still has its ‘foot in the door’, but it also has ‘swag’. “You’ll Never Come Close” (featuring KCB) closes The Third Way on a ‘high note’ – or rather a head-nodding groove and some sick-sounding horns.
Ultimately, The Third Way is an album that should definitely be receiving more attention. Sure once more attaining the success of that an experimental effort from the 1990s attained is a tall task (and highly unlikely), but what isn’t too tall or unattainable is critical praise and success. Personally, I find Us3’s jazz-rap endeavors to still be incredible captivating, 20 years later.
Favorites: “Never Go Back”; “Be Bop Thing”; “Keep Your Head Right (Keep Your Fist Tight)”; “What Would You Do?”; “You’ll Never Come Close”
Danny Brown delivers one of the year’s most intriguing rap albums
Danny Brown⎪ Old ⎪ Fool’s Gold ⎪⎪ US Release Date: October 8, 2013
How does one describe Old, the new album release courtesy from one of rap’s brightest up-and- comers, Danny Brown? My ideal adjective for Old would be intriguing. Just how ‘intriguing’? Brown easily delivers one of the year’s MOST intriguing rap albums, hands down. That’s amazing considering the number of superb hip-hop releases that have graced the music industry this year. With the absence of that Kendrick Lamar-sized effort to woo us, the Detroit oddball rapper definitely directs his own pathway on this effort, which is infused with personal narrative, drugs, and of course sex. “Get ready, get ready, get ready!”
“Side A (Old)” kicks off Old both capably and boldly: “They want that old Danny Brown / to bag up and sell a whole pound / might have to go and get my braids back / matter of fact bring them AK’s back.” If the hook doesn’t bite ferociously enough, nasty lines like “…whore want it hardcore, squirt it…” should be enough to shut up haters. “The Return” is even stronger, with Brown once more alluding to his previous (“old”) self on lines like “This rap shit don’t work then its back to selling krills…” He gets the assist from Freddie Gibbs, who isn’t exactly reserved himself: “Eastside n***as keep roaches in the ashtray / twenty thousand out the public housing on a bad day…” It’s not charming stuff, but it’s real talk.
‘Shit gets realer’ on “25 Bucks” (featuring Purity Ring), where the production exemplifies the ‘hardcore’ rap sound as does Brown. While the delivery eschews sugarcoating things, the sympathetic listener can’t help but be moved by the message, regardless of its brash approach. “Arthritis in her fingers carpal tunnel in her wrists / ‘bout to feed her kids at night sleep between her leg and twists…” The dark, unhappy portrait continues to be painted exceptionally. As good as “25 Bucks” is, “Wonderbread” is and deniable standout, despite its disturbing message. While Brown’s rhymes about an unfortunate drug-related incident are hard to decipher without the aid of lyrics, his idiosyncratic approach and overall effect more than atone for a few quick-paced rhymes.
“Gremlins” continues consistency, dropping references to trendy clothing for young adults (Aeropostale and Hollister) as well as 2 Chainz. “Dope Fiend Rental” proceeds, brings in another hot MC to watch, Schoolboy Q. The cut definitely stands out above the rest, though its subject matter isn’t for the faint of heart. Brown touches on topics such as preparing drugs for sale (“Trail of blood on that baggie / I done scraped myself with that razor…”), brothels (“getting…in that trick house and I snuck out without paying her…), and pleasure. Q isn’t exactly refined either, certainly justifying the ‘misogynistic’ labels with lines like “Her mouth can be as wide as…” (we’ll stop right there) and “Hell no I don’t love that b**ch / hell yeah I’m gon’ enjoy that b**ch…” Contextually, “Dope Fiend Rental” is a winner.
“Torture” continues on honestly with a truly dark edge about it. Among the best, Brown continues to shock yet allure with his twisted tales. As good as it is, “Torture” definitely shouldn’t be played as a way to improve your mood; its content truly is torturous. “Lonely” is a ‘torture’ in its own right, as Brown holds things down without anybody’s help (“I don’t need your help homie / cause don’t nobody really know me…”) The best line could only come from a modern day hipster: “See that’s going on a limb / and I used to sell trees, and I used to rock Timbs / Radiohead shit, fiends with The Bends…” Alt-rock fans should be in awe. Brown finishes Side A brilliantly with “Clean Up” (“The thoughts all cloudy / in the marijuana sky, but it started raining molly”) and “Red 2 Go” (“codeine in my cereal / always behind a smokey / I’m sorta like a miracle, you rappers are venereal…”). Geez Louise.
“Side B (Dope Song)” is indeed ‘dope’, brilliantly playing with double meanings of the word. Of course a dope Danny Brown is also an incredibly offensive one, who continues to raise eyebrows with his rhymes. Moving on, “Dubstep” is cool because it not only utilizes cues of the sub-genre but also uses the word itself (“I had them dubs on the step…”). Not that Brown needed any help, Scrufizzer guests on the third verse, “…tryna get Maybach money / I’m a Mac Miller, spittin’ ASAP rookie…” Okay then.
“Dip” has so many one-liners that an entire essay could be written examining each and everyone. The premise of the song? Well Danny Brown is pretty wasted, period. The Forrest Gump reference definitely captures attention early on (“Like Lieutenant Dan, I’m rolling back to back / I keep on smoking…”). My favorite moment involves you guessed it, ‘molly’: “Now all these rappers talking ‘bout that molly / bet a million dollars these n***as ain’t dipping / pure MDMA, put it in a shot we talking ‘bout crystals / been thizzin’ hard up all day, rest in peace to Mac Dre…” And if you thought Brown had stopped ‘dipping’ among other things, “Smokin’ & Drinkin’” proves otherwise. “Drop a deuce in that soda / tell your h** to come over / coming straight out the Motor / sipping oil never sober…” Have I mentioned Danny’s not family friendly?
“Break It (Go)” just keeps on trucking with its colorful, oversexed rhymes that are nothing short of grimy. If you were looking for chivalry, it won’t come by way of Brown, particularly on the obligatory p-popping anthem “Handstand” which may ring in as one of 2013’s most explicit and dirty songs. I won’t share the embarrassingly freaky lyrics, but usually when the word “piranha” is used in a rap song, it’s not really talking about a fish. Mentioning a ‘handy cam’ probably doesn’t scream G-rated either.
“Way Up Here” sports some of the strongest production work of Old, definitely yielding some sick ear candy. Irresponsibility doesn’t end, with Brown making a ‘killer’ reference to art (“Run a mic like Michelangelo draw, too / while I turn this b**ch into Saw II”) or guest Ab-Soul’s agenda (“Puffing pop on a mountaintop / dipping in that bag / white girl on my countertop…”). Penultimate cut “Kush Coma” is just what it says it is… Brown is faded as a mudda mudda. It’s no surprise though as “Nuggets the size of Rakim rings / got my head looking like a fatality screen…” The best cut of the trio is the closer “Float On” featuring Charli XCX. Brown takes a subtler approach here but doesn’t lose any of the magic. Maybe “Kush Coma” found Brown his most to’e up, but “Float On” has a superb stoner sound about it that makes it bang.
So the question isn’t whether Old is good or bad but rather just how good is Old? The answer is exceptional. Sure Danny Brown’s idiosyncratic approach and his freaky potty mouth won’t appeal to the masses, but to trill hip-hop fans and the open-minded folks who love a humongous personality with some definite skill, Old is the perfect addition to your collection. I’m onboard… well, with the quality, not all the excesses.
Favorites: “The Return”; “Wonderbread”; “Dope Fiend Rental”; “Torture”; “Clean Up”; “Dip”; “Float On”
It’s hard enough to make a blockbuster album the first time. What’s even more arduous is following up a blockbuster and trying to achieve a similar level of commercial and critical success. Something that artists have done that surprises me personally is to opt for their follow-up album to be a ‘sequel’. I mean why take that considerable amount of pressure to live up to the original? As we all know in films, sequels tend to suck compared to the original. While the effects aren’t always as drastic for the sequel album, sometimes they are.
Many musical sequels have graced us including numerous in recent times. Some of them are strong enough, such as Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor II or even Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3 which may not have superseded the original, but did yield one Jay-Z’s most memorable hits, “Empire State of Mind”. Still, other sequels are purely wack as f… I’ve chosen three that I personally don’t quite match the glory of the original. One of these three in particularly isn’t too shabby of an album, but its still an ugly stepsister to a much better juggernaut.
The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2
Sequel to The 20/20 Experience (2013)
One could argue that Timberlake’s second album of 2013 is much more experimental and surprising than the first. When I first sat down to listen to the opener “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)”, I was quite surprised and not necessarily positively. From my perspective, ultimately, I find The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 to lack cohesion, be overproduced, and trend a tad bit too left of center compared to its older sibling. It has it’s moments, perhaps most notably moderate hit “Take Back The Night”, but it also leaves you wanting more.
Mary J. Blige
My Life II: The Journey Continues, Act I
Sequel to My Life (1994)
Honestly y’all, this one sort of hurts me, but I believe my rationale is sound… Following up a 90s R&B classic is a tall task; it ain’t no joke! If any diva was up to successfully accomplishing this, it would be the queen of hip-hop soul, Mary J. Blige. Her sequel to My Life (My Life II: The Journey Continues, Act I) oddly arrived 17 years after the original to less triumphant results. It was by no means a bad album, but following the heels of not only one of Blige’s most important albums as well as her recent resurgence (The Breakthrough (2005)), My Life II:The Journey Continues, Act I just doesn’t stack up against Mary’s best, whether she wants love “25/8” or not. I mean she sounds awesome, but the material is not among her best.
I Am Not A Human Being II
Sequel to I Am Not A Human Being (2010)
When Lil Wayne finally admitted and apologized to what we fans already knew in regards to a “lackluster” 2013, it seemed pretty ‘tired’, much like the sequel to I Am Not A Human Being was. For starters, Weezy’s first album was by no means the ‘cream of the crop’ of his discography, but it did have some bright spots including “Right Above It“. Personally, I like “Right Above It” because he made an awesome reference to my favorite college basketball team, the Kentucky Wildcats (had to throw that out there). As for his second installment, Tunechi’s reliance on all things oversexed is a major turn off. I can’t speak for his female fans’ opinion, but I’d certainly object to the MC’s misogynistic approach here. “Love Me” gets a pass barely, but otherwise, Weezy sounds like he’s just going through the motions. Whether “Sex Never Felt Better” or not (shout out TGT), perhaps toning it down and providing some thoughtful rhymes would’ve worked out much better for you Weezy.
- Must-Listen: Hear Mary J. Blige’s ‘This Christmas’ (essence.com)
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)
Juicy J Benefits from Being True to Himself… Even if That’s Irresponsible…
Juicy J⎪Stay Trippy⎪ Columbia⎪⎪ US Release Date: August 27, 2013
“I make money all day, then I ball with the profits / n***as hate on me, I tell em hatin’ n***as stop it…” It’s not the most endearing or intelligible lyric I’ve ever heard, but I’ll give it to Juicy J, you know exactly where he stands. Best known for his work with Three Six Mafia and famously (or infamously) winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song (“It’s Hard Out Here For Pimp”), Juicy is making his biggest solo splash ever, thanks to a little joint called “Bandz A Make Her Dance”. Stay Trippy, the parent album, delivers multiple cuts keying in upon the success of the incredibly shallow, undeniably satisfying number. The album is by no means deep, and while that should be a turn off, Stay Trippy actually is a solid album that finds Juicy J doing what he and Three-6-Mafia does best…playing on irresponsible, if appealing clichés of southern, hardcore rap.
“Stop It”, the opener of which the aforementioned lyric was excerpted from, sets the tone for Stay Trippy. The cut is slickly produced and Juicy J is definitely a straight shooter: “Backstage, naked ladies / poppin’ pills and swallowing babies / bad b*****s ain’t come to play…” Not necessarily a highlighting number, “Stop It” is solid. “Smokin’ Rollin’” is even better, sampling The Weeknd’s “High For This”. At a brief 2:35, “Smokin’ Rollin’” packs a mighty punch, including a guest verse from the late Pimp C. Juicy J has his way, which is based around drugs: “Codeine in my system, man this life outstanding / feel like I’m on another planet, I don’t plan on landing…” No it’s not centered around more meaningful things like romance, world piece, or socioeconomic issues, but at least we know how much Juicy J likes to smoke and partake of ‘drank’.
On “No Heart No Love”, Juicy J grows violent: “I tell you one time, don’t play with my bread / n***a, you do, they gon’ find yo a$$ dead / body in trunk, hands tied to yo legs / tape on yo mouth, a hole in yo head…” Project Pat is no more forgiving on the third verse: “Fifty shots clear this b**ch out like a tornado / two choppas who identical – call ‘em Cain and Abel…” Don’t mess with Juicy, particularly as he counts his money on the predictable, though consistent “So Much Money” (“Thumbin’ through so much money, that I need three hands to count it…”). An obligatory reference to ‘molly’ occurs (“I got your b**ch on a Molly, she ride me like a Ducati” as well as an allusion to himself (“I told ‘em “Bandz A Make Her Dance”, I turn my head, that sh*t charted”). Again, it’s pretty simple-minded stuff, but it is what it is.
“Bounce It” continues the trend, this time giving Juicy J a ‘booty’ track with the assist from Trey Songz and Wale. Juicy J had previously assisted Wale on his own ‘cellulite anthem’ “Clappers”, but he’s a bit more raunchy here with lines like “Then it’s back to my room, she come out her dress / slob on my knob, think you know the rest…” Definitely Juicy, definitely. On the fine “Wax”, Juicy is “wasted like a white boy, you know I got the best grass…” and ultimately “…come up with a hit and put it on wax / my homie high as sh*t, I put him on wax…” Sure, Juicy’s trippy lyrics are a huge factor in the success of the cut, but so is the thoughtful Freda Payne sample of “I Get High (On Your Memory)”.
After putting it on wax, Juicy J goes violent once more on “Gun Plus A Mask”: “A gun plus a mask, you do the math / all my goons know that equals cash / a gun plus a mask, that equals cash/ so if you’re f**ked up down to your last / a gun and a mask gon’ get you cash…” He gets a lift from Yelawolf on the second verse, who contrasts J’s vocal timbre with his own distinct sound (“Yelawolf I am a loose cannon, ask David Banner how deep / I was born and raised in this sh*t, momma I got manners bout me / but I’ll get dirty if I gotta get dirty and dead a motherf**kin’ pirahna up in an Alabama Creek…”). Of course on “Smoke A N***a”, Juicy J and his homie Wiz Khalifa are ‘lifted’, with Juicy J sporting “Calie weed in a dutch, purple lean in my cup…” while Wiz is “smokin’ on this potent, feelin’ like I’m floatin’…” Decent, nothing innovative or ‘brand new’ as they say.
“Show Out” is rather one dimensional, but it does 1D effectively you might say, propelled by a simple, repetitive hook courtesy of Young Jeezy (“Everytime I go out, you know I gotta show out…”). Jeezy lends a hand on the third verse as well, with Big Sean adding some ‘addictiveness’ to the second verse (“She’s a fan, that’s fantastic / poppin’ xany’s, that’s xantastic…”). The Timbaland produced “The Woods” featuring Justin Timberlake is among the best of Stay Trippy, offering a change of pace, sound, and better songwriting overall. Justin Timberlake’s hook has great appeal (“When we go walking in the woods / nobody can hear us / and you could be as freaky as you should / I love you at your weirdest / unleash the animal, hear my mating call / I want you to be fearless / when we go walking in the woods / a natural experience / go ahead…”), but he doesn’t necessarily outshine Juicy. Among Juicy’s juiciest lines? “She got her own, she independent / we at the lake, she skinny dipping / in the hotel we wake the neighbors / they knocking like Jehovah’s Witness…” That’s hard to beat, right?
The energy dies down a tad following the clever sexual writing prowess of “The Woods”. “Money A Do It” continues to go stupid, but has its moments including the chopped and screwed third verse. On “Talkin’ ‘Bout”, Juicy is joined by Chris Brown and Wiz Khalifa once more for a decent, though not an incredible collaboration. This cut is one that just lacks the appeal of others. Maybe it’s Chris Brown’s rap on the third verse: “Got bad b*****s from overseas but I need a big a$$ from the south…” Geez Louis Breezy! “All I Blow Is Loud” doesn’t quite atone, but Lex Luger’s production skill can’t be scrutinized in the least. And if you’re into the whole molly movement in rap, Juicy J manages to mention her again in all her glory: “Smokin’ gas in a rental / she givin’ me mental / countin’ faces (countin’ faces) / while she poppin’ molly like mentos…” SMH.
“Bandz A Make Her Dance” arrives in the nick of time to regain momentum. “Bandz a make her dance, bandz a make her dance / all these chicks poppin’…I’m just poppin’ bandz”, Juicy raps on one of the more ubiquitous rap hooks of 2013. He doesn’t stop on the hook either. “…Start twerking when she hear her song, stripper pole her income…” or “She put that @$$ up in my hands, I remote control it…”, Juicy raps on the first verse. Lil Wayne adds his normal sexually-driven ‘Weezyness’ on verse 2 (“…bands a maker her dance, Tunechi make her *** / hit it form the side like a motherf**king bass drum…”) as does 2 Chainz on the third verse (“…Let me see that a$$ clap, standing ovation / if yo girl don’t swallow kids, man that h** basic…”) Basically, “Bandz…” is nasty, tasteless, probably misogynistic, but we just can’t get enough of it, whether that is a good or a bad thing.
Penultimate cut “Scholarship” sports an interesting concept, even if there is still plenty of ‘ghetto-ness’ about it. “You a college chick, you a college chick / keep twerking baby, might earn you a scholarship”, J raps on the hook. Guesting A$AP Rocky has one of the best moments for sure: “Well f**k her master, she got her bachelor / so she only f**king rappers, she tired of cappers…” Well now… “If I Ain’t” closes the hour-long affair, again throwing references to excess: “Everday I turn up, burnin’ green and sippin’ lean / codeine and promethazine / my money longer than a limousine…” Yep, that sums of Still Trippy.
Is Still Trippy a classic? No, not by any means. That said, Juicy J is true to himself (a lover of weed, lean, women, etc.) and he delivers an irresponsible album that is enjoyably irresponsible. I’m not sure if that’s really good, but Stay Trippy is definitely a lot better than I would’ve envisioned originally.
“Smokin’ Rollin’”; “Bounce”; “Wax”; “Gun Plus A Mask”; “The Woods”; “Bandz A Make Her Dance”
No Sophomore Slump for Big Sean
Big Sean⎪ Hall of Fame ⎪ Def Jam⎪⎪ US Release Date: August 27, 2013
Big Sean has one of the better rap voices in the game. That isn’t saying his lyrics necessarily rank among the top (he go stupid y’all), but if there were an ideal voice, Sean Anderson definitely possesses it. As a fan of his first album, Finally Famous (2011), I was interested to see if the sophomore effect would undo Sean, who has been one of the hotter collaborative artists in recent times. The answer is a resounding no, as it is arguable that at least portions of Hall of Fame are even more intriguing that the rapper’s debut, which was stacked with hits like “I Do It”, “My Last”, “Dance (A$$)”, 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.
Favorites: “Nothing Is Stopping You”; “Fire”; “10 2 10”; “Beware”; “First Chain”; “Ashley”
Tech N9ne is Truly Something Else, In a Good Way…
Tech N9ne⎪ Something Else⎪ Strange Music⎪⎪ US Release Date: July 30, 2013
Who says you can’t rock out when you’re independent, shoo! Underrated MC Tech N9ne seems to be doing just fine without major label backing. After all, bigger isn’t always better, right? Something Else is a consistent and enjoyable effort that definitely gives some of Tech’s major label colleagues a run for their money – now that’s real talk homie! Mixing edgy darkness, real talk, and even a lil something for the club, Tech does his thang.
Something Else is divided into three unequal parts – fire, water, and earth. Fire begins following “News With Mark Alford 1”, the first of three skits occurring throughout the album. “Straight Out The Gate” sets the tone, beginning with a unique ‘pledge’ by children that segues from the previous skit (“together we are a powerful force, as one mind, body, and soul…”) Additionally, guests Serj Tankian (System of a Down) and Krizz Kaliko provide a lift on the hook (“We are the darkness, but we’re leaving / we are the gods that are deceiving / we are the painters of blind faith…”). Here, Tech N9ne doesn’t take too kindly to ‘fraudulent’ folk: “All of you fraudulents feeling I’m falling offending the father / I place you in the deepest darkest part of the abyss / nobody but you without any food and no agua…” Dark yet epic, “Straight Out The Gate” thrives from its blackness.
“B.*.*.C.H.” concedes nothing, bringing in an auto tune T-Pain at his best on the hook: “Man it must suck to be you n***a / cause it don’t suck to be this rich / if you not f**kin with me brethren / you can suck upon this d**k…” Charming. Tech N9ne is definitely not overshadowed by T-Pain’s brash hook as he delivers some killer lines like “You disc jockers never played me, you said my sh*t stopped ya / 2001, I mixed opera now every cliques’ got the…” (verse one) or “my people missin’ me like Diana Ross / no this ain’t MMG, but I’m a boss / Although I’m wicked see, I’m fly and I floss / so why am I lost, like my jam is off…” (verse two) Can you say FIRE?!?!
“With The BS” again features collaborators, this time Big Scoob (hook), Trae Tha Truth (verse two) and Red Cafe (verse three). The hook sums up the sentiment of the track: “I’m with the bullsh*t, tonight / if they tripping I ain’t tryna do right…” And none of the MCs do, especially Red Cafe: “Cocaine on my mind, my table I’m out of line / I’m doin’ lines open wide n***a suicide…” The tone changes on “Love 2 Dislike Me”, which is sort of a rap-metal cut, enhanced by Tyler Lyon’s manic scream-singing. Liz Suwandi’s contributions can’t be overlooked either, providing a ‘softer’ contrast to Lyon and of course Tech N9ne. “Fortune Force Field” continues utmost consistency. A favorite lyric? “V told the people I got Satan to save me / that’s why radio be hating to play me…” There it is.
On “I’m Not A Saint”, Tech N9ne admits to his issues, which is quite admiral whether it is a general apology (“I didn’t meant to hurt a soul here / but my inner demon has no fear / of making choices that’ll make you pour tears…”) or dating his best friend’s girl (“Brian Dennis was in love with her / I exchanged kisses and huggs with her…”). Unsettling yet quite alluring, “I’m Not A Saint” is superb. So is follow-up “Fragile”, a scrutinization of the critics from the artist’s perspective which features Kendall Morgan, Kendrick Lamar, and Mayday!. Tech N9ne remains atop his game, particularly with clever lines like “When a foe scribe a line but he has never been at a show…” while Kendrick Lamar continues to shine as the future of rap (“You seen my trigger finger, then I started shootin’ / that was nicotine, I’m bout to smoke ‘em all / and journalists involved should’ve know my music…” Makes me feel bad to be a critic… I’m digging this one though!
“Priorities” packs a mighty punch to be so brief. The talents of Tech N9ne, Game, and Angel Davenport pooled together yields nothing short of magic. Fire closes with “News With Mark Alford 2”. No mislabels here… fire is truly fiery.
Water is for the clubs. It’s enjoyable, but not necessarily as ‘biting’ as Fire was. “Dwamn” is, um, an exaggeration of damn with a “w” inserted. Like literally… the hook confirms this (“Now what’s damn with a wam on it / dwamn…” Cray cray right? “So Dope (They Wanna)” features Wrekonize (verse two), Twisted Insane (verse three), and Snow tha Product (vers four). All MC’s exhibit a lightning quick flow with plenty of sexual references. The production is sort of ‘shady’, particularly the organ which matches the nastiness spat throughout. The hook is pretty simple as it is pretty obvious what ‘they wanna’ do… “See Me” closes the club outing, with a hook courtesy of B.o.B (“I’m top dog, something like a CEO…prime time, something like a Super Bowl / but they don’t really see me though”) and a verse by Wiz Khalifa (“With contact lenses say he don’t smoke / I’m rolling up and let the contact get him…”). Yep, it’s that kinda bragging, I’m the [bleep] kinda joint.
Earth may be the most meaningful division of Something Else, even if Fire bites more. “My Haiku – Burn The World” is quite real as Tech N9ne tackles pedophilia (“…living in this crazy world / that’s gonna affect her way longer than the lightest life span…”) among alluding to other disgusting, real life happenings. Krizz Kaliko supports Tech N9ne superbly on the hook: “If there was a lighter in everybody’s hand / the world would seem brighter / the sky would be fire / we’d raise our hands and burn the world…” On “That’s My Kid”, the topic is deep as well, but in a happier way. Cee Lo sums up Tech, Big Krit, and Kutt Calhoun’s words best: “I proudly proclaim my love / the future’s born from my own flesh and blood…so my prayer is that the sun will always shine…”
“Meant To Happen” finds Tech N9ne in narrative mode, delivering his personal life hardships. In verse three, he sums up his reason for sharing his stories: “…so now I see, these stories in my life / I was meant to share my darkness within my light…” Following the final Mark Alford skit, “Believe” proves to be a showstopper as much for N9ne’s lyrical prowess (“Racism is passed down and gay gives them mad frowns… people should be free to be together…) as for uplifting hook (“They smell the fires burning / they hear us in the streets… so that’s why / we all / must stand / for what? / for what we all believe”). Tech pays tribute to the late Ray Manzarek (of The Doors) both in the form of a skit and final full length cut “Strange 2013” which samples the The Doors. “SMB” closes stating “Strange Music b***h!”
All in all, Something Else is a well put together. Fire has the most bite, Water is the least substantiative, while Earth is the most meaningful. All three parts work together and make for an entertaining listen. At 67 minutes Something Else is a bit long, but Tech N9ne gives the listener plenty to feast on regardless. I’m onboard.
Favorites: “Straight Out The Gate”; “B.*.*.C.H.”; “I’m Not A Saint”; “Fragile; “Meant To Happen”; “Believe”
- Tech N9ne – Something Else (Full Review) (musicfilledlives.com)
- Music Videos for John Legend’s “Made To Love” and Tech N9ne’s “Straight Out The Gate” (popinsomniacs.com)
- Tech N9ne – “Something Else” | Album Review (theredefined.com)
- New Releases: Robin Thicke, AlunaGeorge, Backstreet Boys, Tech N9ne (news.radio.com)
- Angela Yee interviews Tech N9ne at the “Something Else” Album Release Event in NYC [EME]: (hiphopondeck.com)
- Tech N9Ne on His Indie Rap Success and Why There’s No Time for Sex (mtvhive.com)
- Tech N9ne ft. Serj Tankian – “Straight Out The Gate” [VIDEO] (hiphopwired.com)
- Tech N9ne – Something Else (gearslutz.com)
Is ‘Rich Gang’ wealth without substance?
Rich Gang⎪ Rich Gang ⎪Cash Money⎪⎪ US Release Date: July 23, 2013
Featured artists include: Ace Hood; Birdman; Busta Rhymes; Chris Brown; Cory Gunz; Detail; Flo Rida; French Montana; Future; Gudda Gudda; Jae Millz; Lil Wayne; Limp Bizkit; Mack Maine; Mystikal; Nicki Minaj; R. Kelly; Rick Ross; Tyga
“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”, or better yet, something is rotten on this compilation effort from YMCMB (Young Money Cash Money Billionaires for those of you out of the know). Rich Gang should be a brilliant showcase of talent with few rubs. I mean, when “The Best Rapper Alive” is on your signed to your label (Lil Wayne), it should be ‘smooth sailing’. While this superstar affair has its moments, it also has plenty of flaws. As we all now, the compilation can be a friend or a foe. This one isn’t a complete throwaway, but nor is it the best rap I’ve heard in 2013.
“R.G.” is… well… the jury is still out. In a rather lackadaisical narration, the listener is expected to endure some of the silliest lines, like ever. “Look at life from a Goodyear blimp boy!” or “And money was the motivation / we took the trips and did the flips…” Please! To make things even more off-putting, Mystikal’s rap is one big WTF adrenaline rush. SMH. Making the start of Rich Gang even stranger is a second brief cut that’s sort of an interlude… sorta. Detail and Future make some kind of vocal processing team… that’s an understatement. To Future’s credit, he begins less reliant on the autotune, and then here it comes full throttle. It’d be better if he was still rapping about waking up in new Bugatti though.
After a so-so start, the first ‘full length’ track “Tapout” strikes gold, even if it lacks ‘taste’. Lil Wayne asserts his presence early on the first verse, managing to offend with his explicit sexual rhymes objectifying women (the usual). He does impress when he lifts a UGK line from “International Player’s Anthem”, but still it is bold. Birdman takes the second verse, counting his money (typical), while Nicki Minaj is Wayne’s female equal on her raunchy third verse. So it’s worthwhile, if you can get past the raunch. And it’s a lot of stank to get past…
Follow-up “We Been On” is simple. Money, money, money, bragging, bragging and more bragging. R. Kelly mentions cigars, luxury watches (Audemars), and foreign cars during hook. Birdman finishes it up by further bragging “…take a lifetime to spend money this long…”. Similarly, the verses adhere to the flaunting of great wealth, with Lil Wayne managing to acknowledge the ongoing ‘on-ness’ in his own way: “B***h, it’s Tunechi up in this b***h aka two rubbers / ain’t turning down for nothin’, it’s nothin”. It really should be a deal breaker, but it works and the production is superb.
“Dreams Come True” does bragging a bit more ‘humbly’ and is a slightly better track itself. Ace Hood brags about “…lying on a mil, that’s the truth / spent five thousand dollars on some shoes…” while Mack Maine is anticipating the “…Bentley truck ‘bout to drop, give me two…”. After the chains and the ‘Rollies’ have come an past, Birdman has “…a hundred G’s in a duffle bag stacked.” All he thinks about is money! But the rich continues to thrive on “50 Plates” where Rick Ross is archetypical Rick Ross. “Strip club is where we meet / big booty is how she eats…” Yeah, yeah, yeah, been there, done that. Rick’s had better tracks. “Bigger Than Life” continues on the lofty train, but manages to be more ‘down to earth’, at least as far as quality. Chris Brown is the star, lending his distinct pipes to the hook, a verse, as well as a bridge. Lil Wayne stands out for being a wordsmith: “White girl, black girl, I call that referee…” Geez Lou-weezy!
“100 Favors” definitely doesn’t keep it one hunna, if you catch my drift. I mean Birdman, do you do nothing more than count your money? Kendrick Lamar provides atonement on the third verse (“You was a college student abusing the credit union / the music was way too loud, the tuition was f**kin’ stupid / and me I was runnin’ wild hittin’ licks in my mother’s Buick…”). “Everyday” is just so-so, but definitely better than the biggest puzzle of the album, Detail’s feature, “Burn The House”. I’m still asking myself, why? Why? After burning the house and pretty much derailing the album’s momentum, “Panties on the Side” is good… for a stripper cut. And isn’t it appropriate that French Montana (Mr. “Pop That”) handles the hook. “Angel” isn’t bad, while “Sunshine” is a dud, no questions asked. Limp Bizkit and Flo Rida? That’s a combo that “I don’t like!” Shout out to Chief Keef.
So here’s the deal. Often when I review things I ask myself, will I remember this album a month or better yet a year from now? The answer for this particularly album is NO, NO, NO! Add an intensifier to that if you wish. I’m just keeping it one hunna, fo rizzle. I mean I like money too, but cash doesn’t rule my every rap, every song, or every album. Just sayin’.
Favorites: “Tapout”; “We Been On”; “Dreams Come True”; “Bigger Than Life”
- Album Review – Rich Gang – Too Much Of A Bad Thing (thepoetryquestion.com)
- Video: Rich Gang Album Release Party Ft. Birdman, Lil Wayne, Juvenile (getmybuzzup.com)
Ace Hood⎪ Trials & Tribulations ⎪ Cash Money (Republic) ⎪⎪ July 16, 2013
Executive producers: Khaled Khaled; Ronald “Slim Tha Don” Williams; Bryan “Baby Birdman” Williams; Dwayne “The President” Carter
“I woke up in a new Bugatti”. One of the more catchy, arguably ‘epic’ lyrics of 2013 you might say. Why? That I dunno, but it’s wishful thinking for those of us who won’t come anywhere close to a Bugatti in our lifetimes! “Bugatti” was one of the reasons I was drawn to buy Ace Hood’s latest, Trials & Tribulations. To be honest, I knew very little about Ace Hood. He’s released several albums, but has failed to latch on the way some of his contemporaries have. Hopefully “Bugatti” is enough to give Trials & Tribulations some commercial footing because it is actually an enjoyable, well conceived effort.
“Testimony”, the intro, sets the tone with it’s preachy, spiritually-driven skit. Opening track “Trials & Tribulations” shifts the idea of the ‘testimony’ from the church to real life and the streets, with the MC ultimately repeatedly emphasizing “I’m a walkin’ testimony”. It still won’t draw the approval of many pastors regardless of Hood’s “Okay, please forgive me all the sinning I done did..”, but Hood’s tribulations should draw mad respect from the listener. “Another Statistic” is another ‘respect earner’ in which Hood speaks on the plight of black men (“Rather see me crucified, police are the crucifiers / shoot us up and dig a ditch, this ain’t nothin’ new to us…). He does so by referencing a list of examples including past (Martin Luther King, Jr., Emmett Till) and recent (Trayvon Martin). Hardcore he may be, but Hood’s real talk appeals early on.
Ace goes a bit more ‘clubby’ on the excellent “Before The Rollie” featuring Meek Mill. Sure maybe he uses a material example with his watch (“rollie” translating to Rolex), but ultimately, Hood is still sharing his ‘trials and tribulations’, recalling once more “No A/C cause the sh*t don’t work / plus no radio to make sh*t worse…” or “boy my mom gon’ cuss me out / runnin’ her blood pressure so high / when that money comin’ slow…” Meek Mill packs a punch as usual on his verse, packing a punch at the end: “I still kill n***as like shame on me”. LEE ON THE BEATS provides a sick backdrop for Ace Hood and guest Lil Wayne on “We Outchea”, where Hood boasts “We outchea / ain’t no sleepin’ / cause we outchea…grindin’ all damn night, cause we outchea…” Maybe it’s not the profound juggernaut of “Trials & Tribulations” or “Another Statistic”, but it’s still ‘real’ regardless of the simple hook. “Tryna get my folk and them out that struggle,” Hood raps, “f*ck that nine to five, it don’t cut…”. Wayne goes along, well sorta: “I go dumber than Lamont Sanford / remember when mom couldn’t afford Pampers / now she trying to avoid cameras.” Come-up indeed.
“I’m screamin’ ‘f*ck them other n***as cause I’m down for my n***as’” proclaims Hood on the confident “We Them N***as”. If that opening salvo isn’t enough, the hook exudes even more self-assuredness: “Anybody seen a waitress? / tell her bring more liquor / all my dawgs in the building, and we smokin’ on that killer / anybody know a hater? / middle finger to the ceiling / feelin’ like John Gotti / can’t nobody f*ck with us…” Maybe confidence comes off a bit arrogant, but don’t we all love a rapper who knows he’s the hit? On “The Come Up” featuring a soulful Anthony Hamilton, Ace Hood continues to paint triumph through trials and tribulation: “This is the come up / where n***as hustle from night to sun up / the gutta where n***as run up and they get done up…” Hamilton further accentuates the sentiment throughout the bridge and outro: “This is the come up / so don’t you dare give up / keep your head above the clouds…” It’s solid, but not among the top echelon.
Hood switches gears on “Rider”, getting the assist from a gentlemanly Chris Brown (did I really just write that?). The sound of this cut is quite similar to Brown’s guest spot on Tyga’s “For The Road”, but the content is different. Rather than looking for physical pleasure per say, Hood and Brown are going for a ‘ride or die’ chick, eschewing the objectification of women often commonplace in urban music. On “Hope”, producer LEE ON THE BEATS does his thing once more. Hood meanwhile continues a message of ‘hope’ through struggle. Although it’s effective, follow-up “Pray For Me” is stronger, finding the MC petitioning for prayer, and it seems he needs it! “I think I’m going crazy, I think I lost my mind / feel like the feds watching / I think they tapped my line”, he rhymes on the first verse. An excerpt from the second is even more troubling: “I’m calling out to God, I hope he get the message / Just bought a brand new choppa / run up and you’ll regret it…” Violent but ‘real’, “Pray For Me” shines through its sins.
The comes that little number called “Bugatti”. Need I say more? Future, who is an ‘acquired taste’ as an MC truly shapes a juggernaut in all his autotuned glory. Rick Ross is a perfect fit on the third verse because this club track is all about money and ‘The Boss’ loves his bread. Ever heard his collaboration with Gucci Mane called “All About The Money”? 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…”
“How I’m Raised” has a difficult act to follow, but manages to do so solidly. If nothing else, we learn Hood “ain’t never snitched or told on my dawg / ain’t never copped a plea to get off / ain’t never testified on no stand / ain’t never point a hand at no man…” That’s big. “My Bible” samples Gladys McFadden & The Loving Sisters’ “Alone”, which gives the cut the gospel, churchy vibe Ace Hood is going for. It also allows for the obligatory references to ‘jesus pieces’ including “Holding on to my Jesus piece, no demons allowed” and “20 Jesus pieces on me like I can’t be touched…” On strong closing cut “Mama”, Hood touches. He gets a boost from the soulfully, riled up Betty Wright.
Ultimately, Trials and Tribulations is well done. Too often southern rap albums have fallen into the trap of being incredibly shallow overly focusing on money, cars, and women. Sure Ace Hood brags of a “waking up in a new Bugatti”, but the focal point of the album are the struggles that he had to overcome to earn his success. That makes for a better overall narrative from my personal perspective.