Young Money’s Rise Of An Empire is a fail… an ‘epic’ one if you will
Young Money • Rise of An Empire • Cash Money / Motown • US Release Date: March 11, 2014
It is incredibly difficult to be unbiased towards compilation efforts prior to listening. Honestly though, the compilation often incurs issues that the studio album/ solo studio album seems to avoid. There’s just something about random tracks with no rhyme or reason that hurt the overall cohesiveness that many sound and exceptional albums possess. Sigh* Young Money, following a five year hiatus, return to release their second compilation album, Rise of an Empire. Young Money, their previous album, actually had some fine moments, including the raunchy “Every Girl”, “Bedrock”, and “Roger That”. Rise of an Empire isn’t as ‘wonderfully made’ you might say – it has some…umm…yeah, just read on!
“We Alright”, featuring Euro, Birdman, and Lil Wayne, opens Rise of An Empire, umm interestingly. On the first verse, Euro raps “They said I’d never do it, now I’m looking like, ‘N***a, what’s never?’ / and now they run from us when they see us, boy, that money’s pressure.” Umm yeah…on the hook, the rapper confirms the message: “Long as my n***as right then we alright / long as the women right then we alright / long as the drinks on ice then we alright / long as these private flights…” – yeah you get the idea. Birdman dumbs it down on his second verse, opening with a reference to money (“Yeah, it’s money over everything”). Lil Wayne has the most interesting rhymes, most notably “You just a crocodile, I drink a full cup of his tears / can’t recognize you n***a, like Santa cut off his beard.” Don’t call it a hit… please don’t, I’m begging you!
“Trophies” follows “We Alright”, led by the honorable Drake. If nothing more, the pounding beat rocks. “Trophies” is driven by rappers other favorite topic (besides money and sex) – the ‘come-up’. The off-beat hook says it all: “…I’m just tryna stay alive and take care of my people / and they don’t have no award for that, trophies, trophies…” Overall, “Trophies” isn’t a bad track, but don’t call it Drizzy’s best either. All said and done, “Trophies” won’t be awarded in trophies over much of the material from Nothing Was The Same when it’s all said and done. Contextually, it is better than the opener. But really, isn’t this another “Started From The Bottom”, sort of?
“Bang” comes courtesy of Sonny Digital who is always good for a malicious production job. Lil Twist, Euro, and Corey Gunz handle the rhymes here. Lil Twist spends a portion of his verse referencing pro ballers, before bragging about his cliché threesome. Euro drops references to being like the four ‘Michaels’ at the beginning of his verse: Michael Jordan, Michael Tyson, Michael Phelps, and Michael Jackson. Besides being awesome, he references shooting, sexing, and of course money. Corey Gunz drops lines like “War paint like a baboon and my b**ch got a red a$$ on” as well as referencing shooting, money and drugs. True to its sound, “Bang” couldn’t be characterized as a ‘warm’ track.
“Senile” features the talents of Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Tyga. Tyga kick starts thing with an agile verse over the slinky, minimalist production work. In addition to delivering nastiness on the opening verse, Tyga delivers the simple, but addictive hook: “Can you see now? Are you senile? / Can you see now? You could see now…” Nicki Minaj does her normal thing on the second verse, fitting right in with the guys – shocker! Lil Wayne takes the final verse, closing it out classically: “I’m in this mother f**ker gettin’ money ‘til I’m senile, Tunechi!” Compared to “Bang”, “Senile” is more creative. Don’t call it a masterpiece, but it definitely gets the club poppin’… or something like that.
Euro gets his third moment to shine on his solo track, “Induction Speech”. Think of it as more “trophies”: “I think I’m getting wasted tonight / I realized that I made it tonight /you gotta hear just how I made it tonight / ‘cause it’s crazy how I made it / and tonight is the night…I know what it takes to get here, and I’m glad that you could make it tonight.” So essentially, Euro is now successful and he is going to live it up. Fair enough. Yet another ‘I came up’ tale – Is what it is. Could’ve been shortened – brevity ain’t a bad thing.
“One Time” features quite the crew: Lil Twist and Tyga once more, with the addition of YG. What is common between the three? Well all three get raw – nasty if you will. Unsurprisingly both the production and hook set the tone: “I’mma mack, on this ho, one time…If you a pimp, break a b**ch…” Lil Twist’s is confident (“You know the life? B**ch, I’m living that / now do that 100 yard dash and run that money back…”), Tyga’s cocky/misogynistic (“My n***a told me bout ya, had to see what you was worth / that p***y come a dime a dozen, you’ll be mine, you know it…”), and YG is the worst (“Too much money, I’ll never f**k a fat lady / now that’s a fact baby, sit on my lap baby”). “One Time” is enjoyable if you enjoy the objectification of women and like low IQ tracks. Otherwise, one just sort of shakes your head at the shamefulness/shamelessness that pours out through the speakers.
Here’s the moment all have been waiting for – the controversial Nicki Minaj feature, “Lookin A**”, which opens with the ‘electrifying’ introduction “Look at y’all n***as…”. Can you sense the sarcasm? Honestly, examining the lyrics and listening, I sort of want to see how many times Nicki Minaj uses the word n***a because that’s what the whole song sound like – how many times can Nicki use the ‘n-word’. There’s nothing wrong with an edgy, aggressive Nicki Minaj (I loved the raunchy-fest of “Beez in The Trap” as much as anybody else), but a bit more substance would’ve been nice. Judge for yourself – that’s my advice!
“Fresher Than Ever” enlists the duties of Birdman, Gudda Gudda, Flow, Jae Millz, and Mack Maine. Guess what the MCs spit about – $$$. Yep, that’s hella fresh… Gudda Gudda offers the most ‘original’ lyrics of the album: “Yea, man we came from the bottom / Stunna told me get these n***as so I got ‘em!” Please – how tried-and-true/tired is this! Birdman’s immense rhyming skills shine throughout a series of interludes…NOT: “Yeah, number one in that field…Stacks on top of stacks / b**ches, whips, floss, gettin’ in puttin’ it in…” After multiple references to material, Jae Millz does make a clever Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers center) reference, even it is still “for the love of money”: “Money stand tall as Roy Hibbert, hater forget it”. Mack Maine chooses Captain Phillips as his cool reference (“Young Mack my driver but I’m Captain Phillips n***as”). Fresher than ever really – Nope, not by any means whatsoever! I call it recycling…maybe garbage…LOL.
“Back It Up” leaves little to the imagination, but honestly, would you expect any more from Lil Twist & Tyga? That is rhetorical times a million – literally. What’s the point of analyzing the rhymes if the content and theme is clearly laid out without explanation? Don’t Twist and Tyga know there is more to life than the strip club? That’s a rhetorical question too by the way – SMH!
“Moment” gives Tunechi a ‘moment’ literally – LOL. Before he even gets into it, he’s high (“I’m so high I feel weightless) and like Rick Ross, he’s got shooters (“All my shooters courageous”). On the hook, which precedes the verses, Weezy wishes to “Have my cake and eat it too, I want a bakery…” while later stating “I’m gon’ shoot it if I wave it, shoot it if I wave it / do yourself a favor, save yourself cause I can’t save ya.” “Moment” isn’t Lil Wayne’s best track ever, but the classic cues are in play, particularly references to weed, guns, money, and sex (see the final line of verse three).
“You Already Know” has at least one bright spot – featuring up-and-coming R&B singer PJ Morton. Additionally, Mack Maine, Gudda Gudda, and Jae Millz handle the rhymes. Listening through the standard edition closer though, it’s not anything to write home about. Where memorability is concerned, “You Already Know” has little of it.
So the verdict is in…drum roll please! The verdict is that Rise Of An Empire is not a great title for this album. Perhaps “fall of an empire” would be more appropriate. Rise has a few moments worthy of a second listen – namely “Trophies”, “Senile”, and perhaps even “Moment” – but otherwise, it falls into the normal pitfalls of the compilation. Compared to the first album Young Money, Rise leaves more to be desired… My advice to Young Money is to ‘step out of the box’ or maybe in some cases, out of the booth.
“Trophies”; “Senile”; “Moment”
Rick Ross keeps a good thing going strong on LP number six
Rick Ross • Mastermind • Def Jam • US Release Date: March 3, 2014
Six albums in, the best way to describe Rick Ross is that he ‘is what he is’. Ross’ high watermark artistically was his fourth LP, 2010 masterpiece Teflon Don. Up until Teflon Don, it seemed that Ross was just trying to find his artistic identity – his niche if you will. After finally finding himself, Ross spent fifth LP God Forgives, I Don’t ‘flexing’, something he carries over into Mastermind. Mastermind ultimately is another sound, enjoyable Rick Ross album, even if it lacks some of the excellent, luxurious rap of Teflon Don or even the exceptionalness of the best moments of God Forgives. Quibbles and nitpicks aside, Mastermind is another welcome addition to Rozay’s discography.
“Intro (Rick Ross/Mastermind)” opens familiarly with the “Maybach Music” intro – surprise, surprise. The intro as a whole references being a ‘mastermind’, hence setting the tone for the album. Sure, a brief interlude doesn’t equate Mastermind with epitomizing or embodying its title, but it does foreshadow Ross’ point… sort of. Apparently, Rick Ross’ idea of being a ‘mastermind’ is not synonymous with being an intellectual. This is confirmed on first full-length joint, “Rich Is Gangsta”. As to what that even means ultimately, who knows. Regardless, on the hook-less number, Rick Ross is “all about the Benjamins.” “I just upped my stock, f**k them cops,” he brags on the first verse. “If you love hip-hop, bust them shots.” Later, he even manages to brag about his success as a rapper: “Cocaine worth much more than gold, n***a / so what’s your goals n***a? / All my sh*t when gold, n***a.” Sure, Ross is overconfident with his bravado, but he does tell the truth… all his sh*t did go gold.
While “Rich Is Gangsta” sported exceptional, lush production work, sophomore cut “Drug Dealers Dream” features the MC more on ‘autopilot.’ He continues to count his stacks, evidenced by the intro (“Your checking account available balance is $92, 153,183.28”). Even though Rick is rich, the means is questionable by all means, yet Ross rides it for all its worth: “Murder, a mother f**kin’ murder / no you didn’t see it but I know you b**ches heard it / blood on the corner, damn I miss my dawg / I’m just thinkin’ ‘bout his daughter, in another life he ballin.” One relates to the sympathy that Ross has for his fallen comrade, which could be any person stripped of their life, yet on the other hand, the game of drug dealing, violence, and “I get shooters on clearance…” is just ugly. Unsurprisingly, interlude “Shots Fired” proceeds, with Rick Ross being alluded to (“We’re being told by people here on the scenes, specifically the manager that a famous rapper was riding in that car when someone opened fire shooting at the car…” Dark stuff – quality though.
“Nobody” didn’t appeal to me personally the first time I heard it, but it grows on you. French Montana continues to appear on every one’s track and here is no different as he delivers the hook: “Mama’s tryna save me / but she don’t know I’m tryna save her / man, them n***as tried to play me / man, ‘til I get this paper / you’re nobody ‘til somebody kills you.” Essentially, the theme of doing wrong and dangerous things to achieve riches continues on this track. The tone is aggressive, not merely because of Diddy’s pointed interludes, but also thanks to Ross’ unapologetic rhymes, including “The mortician, the morgue fillin’ with more snitches / we kill ‘em and taking their b**ches, R.I.P.” Ultimately, “Nobody” eventually reveals it’s magic if it isn’t apparent the first listen. Don’t let the Notorious B.I.G. sample (“You’re Nobody (‘Til Somebody Kills You)”) dissuade you.
“The Devil Is A Lie” benefits from sampling, maybe more so than “Nobody” did (“Don’t Let Your Love Fade Away”). Don’t call “The Devil Is a Lie” a song of praise… there plenty of blasphemy. “Big guns and big whips / rich n***a talkin’ big sh*t,” raps Ross on the hook, “…Bow your head cuz it’s time to pay tithes / opposition want me dead or alive / motherf**ker but the devil is a lie / the devil is a lie, b**ch I’m the truth…” If that’s not enough, Jay-Z’s religious beliefs are, well, unique: “Is it true or it’s fiction / Is Hov atheist? I never f**k with True Religion / am I down with the devil cuz my roof came up missin’ / is that Lucifer juice in that two cup he sippin’…” Well, regardless of where either MC stands spiritually, both acknowledge, “the devil is a lie.” It is up for debate whether that makes Rick Ross “the truth” though…
“Mafia Music III” keeps the momentum top-notch. Sporting unexpected reggae production, “Mafia Music III” seems to really fuel Rick Ross into some inspired rhymes. Not only that, Ross references Kenneth Williams (gang member), Bill Belichick, and Farrakhan – go figure. Mavado’s hook contributes to the overall success of the track as well, solidifying the tropical vibe. Keeping it G, “War Ready” brings in Jeezy for the assist, who seems to have dropped the ‘Young’ as a of late. Obsessed with ‘shooters’, Rick Ross continues to reference them for the millionth time as of late: “War ready / you got shooters, I’ve got shooters / we’ve got money / let’s do what them other n***as can’t do…” Mike Will Made It gives Ross and Jeezy magnificent, relaxed, yet malicious production work to do work over, which both do. Surprisingly, it is Jeezy who references the ‘Box Chevy’ (“Box Chevy hit the block, run the whole 50 shots / you just poppin’ ‘til you know you can’t pop ‘em no more…”) “War Ready” keeps things 100 and consistent.
French Montana makes his second appearance of Mastermind on “What A Shame”, a brief cut produced by Reefa and Stats. The production is excellent though the track itself could stand more development and ‘meat’ you might say. Unsurprisingly, Ross once more references those shooters, and they aren’t shooting jump shots. On “Supreme”, Rick switches from ‘magazines’ to “Clean Maybach, but it’s filthy as sh*t / they partitioning for the women, how busy we get…” So, you guessed it, with Keith Sweat lending his soulful new-jack pipes and Scott Storch infusing some soulful, swagger-laden production, “Supreme” is about the ‘fun’ things in life… I’ll leave it at that. “BLK & WHT” does have a play on race, but it’s not merely what you may think it is before listening. Here, Ross talks about ‘slanging’: “Young n***a black, but he selling white…N***a crib so big, it’s a damn shame / n***a sellin’ white for a gold chain.” If nothing else, “BLK & WHT” has a hypnotizing quality about it.
After the silly “Dope B**ch Skit”, The Weeknd drops a joint featuring Rick Ross… or at least that is how “In Vein” comes over. Sure it’s lush, and in the emo-alt R&B style that The Weeknd has come to be associated, but it doesn’t really show off Rick Ross himself. That said, standout “Sanctified” is more of a team-effort from Betty Wright, Big Sean, Kanye West, and Ross, but the overall product is satisfactory. Let’s face it – where would this track have been without Betty Wright’s soulful, un-credited vocals? No disrespect to Mr. West, but few of us need another “Yeezus” as he refers to during his verse – another My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, perhaps. Ross’ best line on his verse: “Soldiers all in gators, new Mercedes for cadets / Balmain uniform, you know Donda designed the vest…” Like “The Devil Is A Lie” though, I wouldn’t invest too much spiritually into this track, particularly with Big Sean’s hook (“All I wanted is 100 million dollars and a bad b**ch…”) At least he admits his sins.
“Walkin’ On Air” has a difficult act to follow after the ‘sanctification’, but it’s definitely not a shabby penultimate track. Again, the blasphemy can’t be good for Ross’ spiritual being: “Baptized by the dope boys, ordained by the a**holes / my salvation is the cash flow / whoa, oh I’m walking on air.” Even aside from misinformed spiritual allusions, lines like “She let me f**k early so she trustworthy…” certainly has no relation to the church. Meek Mill confirms this song is, um, sinful (“Make a call, call Papi for a brick / and papi call José, cause José got fish…”). “Thug Cry”, featuring Lil Wayne and produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League closes Mastermind soundly. Don’t call the multi-sampling work a classic, but it definitely closes an overt album a gentler than it was throughout its course.
All in all, Mastermind turns out to be another well-rounded, enjoyable album from Rick Ross. There is more than enough wealth to please more casual and hardcore Ross fans alike. It won’t supersede the top two albums of Ross’ collection, but it definitely can hang. Not sure why the banging “Box Chevy” was omitted, but it is what it is. Not perfect, but well played, well played.
“Drug Dealers Dream”; “The Devil Is A Lie”; “Mafia Music III”; “War Ready”; “Sanctified”
B.o.B. • Underground Luxury • Atlantic • US Release Date: December 17, 2013
B.o.B. delivers a so-so effort on third LP Underground Luxury
B.o.B. had a hot start off to his rap career back in 2010 when The Adventures of Bobby Ray debuted at number one on the Billboard album charts, eventually being certified gold. “Nothing On You” was a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Later, a huge record entitled “Airplanes” seemed to be just what B.o.B needed to establish a viable, lengthy rap career. If only the magical fairytale had worked out that way for the ATL MC. Second album Strange Clouds (2012), didn’t receive near the buzz or success of the first. Now after a ‘bomb’, B.o.B is forced to pick up the pieces on third LP Underground Luxury. Unfortunately, the many of the pieces seem to be bent or broken throughout this somewhat underwhelming effort by a relatively talented MC.
“All I Want” isn’t the greatest opener ever. Within the intro, the MC comes off a bit ‘shallow’, playing up hip-hop clichés: “Whether I can afford it or not, n***a / I want b*tches, I want cars, I don’t give a f**k, I want it all / that’s what the f**k we’re here for.” Really? B.o.B clarifies his attitude on the verses, softening his tone from the bravado: “I used to say I never cared about the money until I put food on my momma’s table / follow the trail / could’ve been in jail / the way that I live / could have been fatal / must have had an angel…” While his ambitions are more relatable after details of his ‘come-up’, “All I Want” doesn’t have the effect it could’ve had. Follow-up “One Day” doesn’t quite get it done convincingly either, even as B.o.B continues on a personal trek. The opening duo just feels like it lacks ‘magic’.
“Paper Route” isn’t perfect, but with the clapping drums and sharp-sounding synths, it sports more oomph than the previous tracks. B.o.B strikes gold with quite the opening lyrical salvo: “You don’t know who you f**king with / ain’t no democrat, and by far I’m no republican / this the type of talk that’ll probably piss off my publicist / and I ain’t even started, the water ain’t even bubbling…” He doesn’t let up off the gas, with his most meaningful line coming courtesy of verse three: “Don’t let these f**kers rob us for our freedom and your rights.” OK…
“Ready” proceeds, assisted by the ubiquitous Future, but doesn’t achieve the same level of quality as “Paper Route”. Future’s hook may use his signature trick (autotune), but the wordiness hinders it from being catchy. Luckily for Bobby Ray, “Throwback” is the banger Underground Luxury could’ve used earlier. Sure it’s a ‘booty’ cut, but at least it good one. As for Chris Brown’s guest rap on the second verse – he’s just plain nasty. Feminists won’t be pleased, and they shouldn’t.
Playing a seesawing game, “Back Me Up” isn’t horrid, but it’s not great either. Basically, B.o.B is stating he’s got support from everywhere: “East side gon’ back me up, gon’ back me up / West side gon’ back me up, gon’ back me up / South side gon’ back me up, gon’ back me up / North side gon’ back me up, yeah.” It works, but don’t call it a hit. “Coastline” leads a group of misses – just saying! “Wide Open” features Ester Dean who’s vocal role is as follows: “Bust it wide open, let you see what I’m workin’ with.” B.o.B. predictably talks about his plans to hook-up, making a comparison to a four by four. Shameful! “Fly Muthaf***a” is even worse. It’s as if B.o.B wants to see how many f-bombs he can drop to sound cool. “N***as don’t like it when you fly as f**k / but I’m fly as f**k.” Not on this track B.o.B!
“Headband”, another ‘booty’ anthem (featuring 2 Chainz) atones for the numerous improprieties of a horrid outgoing stretch. Of course it lacks depth and really isn’t respectable, but it’s the energy Underground Luxury needed at this juncture in the album. Still, B.o.B bragging about his favorite strand of weed and his sexual desires is by no means meaningful or truly enhancing. As for 2 Chainz, he’s just as bad if not worse: “Her a$$ would knock your a$$ out, you better stick and move / chain hang to my…” SMH! “John Doe” keeps momentum flowing, serving as a stark contrast to “Headband”. Priscilla handles a superb hook while B.o.B matches the song’s tone with more meaningful lyrics – he eschews another ‘cellulite’ ode.
After “John Doe”, things grow mediocre once more. “Cranberry Moonwalk” is a bore save for some stinging one-liners including “Killin’ through the presidents / that’s assassination…” (verse one) and “I got my own lane but I ain’t got no genre / I’m sh*ttin’ on n***as, you might need a plunger…” “Nobody Told Me” is an inspirational-style rap cut, but lacks memorability. “Forever”, similarly, doesn’t feel distinctive. Single “We Still In This B*tch”, featuring T.I. and Juicy J, closes the effort with a knockout punch. Even so, this anthem isn’t enough to ‘save’ Underground Luxury, which has plenty of flaws.
The verdict? Underground Luxury is B.o.B’s weakest album to date – no question about it. That may sound harsh, but Bobby Ray isn’t always on his ‘A’ game here. Even the good tracks don’t stack up with his best from his biggest claim to fame, The Adventures of Bobby Ray. Clubby anthems do help to close the gap between abysmal and say mediocre/average, but it’s not enough to alter the judgment of the album as a whole. Two and half stars out of five might be being generous.
“Paper Route”; “Throwback”; “Headband”; “Jane Doe”; “We Still in This B*tch”
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”
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.
Favorites: “Trials & Tribulations”; “Another Statistic”; “Before The Rollie”; “We Them N***as”; “Pray For Me”; “Bugatti”
T.I. (Clifford Harris, Jr.), has definitely had his share of issues with the law; this is definitely an understatement. His 2010 effort No Mercy was essentially promoted by numerous singles being released prior to the effort as T.I. had been sentenced prior to its December 7 release to an additional 11 months in prison. No Mercy managed to be certified gold, though showed a marked decrease in first week sales for the ATL rapper – a stark difference from the 568,000 for 2008’s Paper Trail with 159,000 copies moved and a no. 4 bow as opposed to no. 1. Critically, the album wasn’t lauded like two of T.I.’s best efforts, 2006’s valedictory King (my personal favorite) or 2008’s Paper Trail. Essentially then, No Mercy left room for concern for T.I.’s lucrativeness in the future.
Rather than set his troubles aside from prison and an underwhelming seventh album, T.I. embraces his checkered past on his 8th studio effort, 2012’s Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head. T.I. had much more free reign and mobility on the promotion of this effort, but the approach has been much like No Mercy with a multitude of singles released to iTunes prior to the official release. The effect of the iTunes promotional campaign has turned some singles into bonus cuts on the deluxe version (“Love This Life” and “Like That”). On the bright side, Trouble Man is on pace to sell about the same amount as No Mercy did or possibly more (150,000 to 170,000 copies is projected). Additionally, T.I. has some solid cuts here, sounding much more convincing than his previous effort. It’s may not be the ‘second coming’ of album King, but the bright spots outshine the less notable ones.
Unfortunately for myself, I am not a resident from “The A” aka ATL aka Atlanta, GA. But, I have had the fun experience of heading down further south (beyond my home state of Kentucky) to Atlanta and I can say I had a fabulous time. Big Boi‘s track from his just released Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors “In The A” brings the ATL’s best MC’s together for one exceptional hip-hop ride. The production bangs, and all three MCs are electrifying on arguably Vicious Lies’s best cut. Bask in the glory of being “In The A, in the A, in the A, in the A…”