A$AP Rocky, AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP © RCA

Review: A$AP Rocky Aims Bigger on Sophomore Album ‘AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP’


A$AP Rocky, AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP © RCA A$AP Rocky • AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP • RCA • US Release Date: May 26, 2015 

After crashing onto the scene with a mixtape in 2011 and his major label debut in 2013, New York MC A$AP Rocky returns with his sophomore album, AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP. While A$AP Rocky isn’t necessarily the deepest MC in the game (particularly referencing girls), on his latest album, at times the thoughts are deeper, the music more eclectic, and A$AP more of an idiosyncrasy within the rap game.

“Holy Ghost” featuring Joe Fox kicks off the album in secular fashion – sacrilegious by all mean. Despite it’s title, A$AP Rocky denounces religion (“They ask me why I don’t go to church no more / cause church is the new club and wine is the new bub”), characterizing clergy and church officers as hypocrites essentially (“The pastor had a thing for designer glasses…the ushers keep skimmin’ the collection baskets”). Ultimately, Rocky is the latest MC to assert ‘god’ status.

“Canal St.” featuring Bones is named after the famed street in Manhattan that’s incredibly busy, noted for its shopping opportunities, with many bootleg products. Rocky interestingly likens promotion of himself in rap to hustling in the second verse: “Rap game like the crack game, swear it’s all the same, hustle / whippin’ soda through the pot, watch it bubble…sellin’ coca on the charts, watch it double.”

“Fine Whine” featuring Future, Joe Fox & M.I.A. is nothing short of ‘druggy.’ From the lethargic, enigmatic production for the majority, A$AP’s lower-pitched vocals, to a killer reference to British pop-soul musician Duffy (“Wasted money on syrup and honey, she think she Duffy”), “Fine Whine” is definitely captivating.

If the “Fine Whine” weren’t enough, Rocky tops it with “L$D,” a play on both the psychedelic drug and “Love, sex, dreams” which the acronym technically stands for. Rocky sings here, which adds to the spaced-out vibe that truly serves as a something of a ‘tone poem’ depiction of the effects of the drug of both LSD and being infatuated.

Rocky returns to spitting on “Excuse Me,” which brilliantly samples legendary R&B/doo-wop collective The Platters. Rocky rides the beat like a champ, easily delivering one of AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP’s gems. If “L$D” was too outside the box, “Excuse Me” combines its more nonlinear aspects with sharp rhymes. The brief, but malicious “JD” follows, finding Rocky putting himself on a pedestal. Keeping things short and sweet, A$AP Rocky still means business on “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2 (LPFJ2)”: “I’m a Lord motherf***er, better greet him if you see him.”

“Electric Body” is certainly shallow in regards to its content – strippers. One of the more troubling references comes from guest Schoolboy Q: “I could whip that b**ch like Ike…” “Jukebox Joints” is more impressive, thanks to stronger rhymes from A$AP Rocky, not to mention the soulful, sampled production. Kanye West, who produced the standout, appears at the tail end of the song, receiving the best portion of the backdrop. Was it a great verse? No, but don’t let West’s so-so performance ‘kill the vibe.’

“Max B” is chocked full of notable things. One is the cost and the hardship of the street life, whether it be incarceration, death, and/or the possibility of never receiving a ‘second chance’ because of poor actions. “Max B” takes its name after the rapper of the same name who is sentenced to 75 years in prison for a multitude of offenses. Interestingly, “Max B” seems to reference A$AP Rocky’s own transformation and references his late brother.

On the acidic “Pharysyde,” its no surprise after hearing it that A$AP Rocky drops a trippy line like “it’s the irony how LSD inspired me to reach the high in me / used to never give a damn now I don’t give a f**k entirely.” “Wavybone” features Juicy J and UGK – and yes by UGK that includes both Bun B and the late Pimp C. Juicy J handles the simple but infectious hit, not to mention his own, explicit verse, highlighted by lyrics like “Your girlfriend a groupie like Trident she wanna chew me.”

“West Side Highway” is synonymous with sex, while “Better Things” definitely amps up misogyny from the MC’s perspective as he talks some serious, un-gentlemanlike trash. “M’$” features some of the best production work of AT.LONG.LAST. A$AP. Rocky covers his bases here: hooking up, the late A$AP Yams, and arguably most of all the “M’$” or money. As the Wu-Tang Clan one rapped, “Cash rules everything around me.” Lil Wayne affirms the importance of money and sex: “Money talk and dogs bark” and later, “But girl I’mma treat you like cake til I get a sweet tooth toothache.”

Following interlude “Dreams,” Penultimate smash “Everyday” arrives in all its glory, featuring Rod Stewart, Miguel, and Mark Ronson. Produced by Ronson, a sampled Rod Stewart and a soulful Miguel decorate “Everyday” with a fantastic hook. Keeping things compelling, there is an unpredictability about “Everyday” exemplified by a switch up prior to A$AP Rocky’s second verse. “Back Home” concludes AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP, featuring A$AP Yams and Yasiin Bay.

All in all, AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP is another compelling album from A$AP Rocky. The effort is a lot to take in, but shows some versatility on A$AP Rocky’s part. This is an album that requires more than one listen to grasp everything, which may wear on some listener’s patience. Still, if you give it a chance, there are plenty of goods to takeaway from AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP 

Favorites: “Holy Ghost,” “L$D,” “Excuse Me,” “Jukebox Joints,” “Wavybone,” “M’$,” “Everyday” 

★★★★

Jhené Aiko, Sail Out

10 Memorable Tracks from November


Justin Bieber performs live in concert as part of his 'Believe Tour' at the Jos Miguel Agrelot Coliseum Carolina 10/20/2013 © WENN

Need ten jams to spin? Here’s my list of ten of November 2013’s hottest joints!

1)  Lady Gaga featuring R. Kelly, Do What U Want” (ARTPOP)

Lady Gaga seen leaving her hotel carrying a large seashell umbrella in London London 10/31/2013 © Palace Lee, PacificCoastNewsApplause” may have been a bust of sorts, but Gaga got herself together with the help of one of R&B’s most salacious presences, R. Kelly.  Playing on words, “Do What U Want” accomplishes Gaga’s love for double meanings.  If examined sexually, Gaga presents herself as, well easy.  But when examined less pervertedly, Gaga is suggesting she is more than her body and could care less how you scrutinize it, etc.

2) Bun B featuring Pimp C, Lil Boosie & Big KRIT, “Cake”  (Trill O.G.: The Epilogue)

 

Bun B probably isn’t most of the present generation’s ‘go to’ MC, but the veteran UGK MC is nothing short of a beast.  Here, his late, great partner Pimp C delivers a masterful hook, while Bun is joined by Lil Boosie and Mississippi underrated MC Big KRIT.  KRIT also handles the production work, which seems like the perfect match for the 42-year old Bun B. My favorite catch line, “Them thighs come with that shake / b**ch in yo mind, ho I got cake.”

3) Justin Bieber featuring R. Kelly, PYD

Justin Bieber, PYD

R. Kelly may just be R&B’s most popular commodity again as Justin Bieber taps him for arguably his best Music Mondays release to date, “PYD” (“Put You Down”).  Previously, the Biebz has been whining about heartbreak and Selena Gomez namely, but on “PYD” he wants to get… well, down. No more of the G- and PG-rated Bieber where “damn” is as far as he’ll step from his teen-pop roots… he’s ready to step it up a notch.  And if we didn’t understand his intentions, him and Kelly repeatedly iterate the acronym throughout (“P-Y-D, P-Y-D”)

4) Jhene Aiko featuring Vince Staples, Vapors”  (Sail Out – EP)

Jhené Aiko, Sail Out

From the first track “Vapors”, one knows that  Jhene Aiko’s EP Sail Out is something special.  Playing doubly as a weed-smoking joint as well as a yearning for an ex- who was good in bed, “Vapors” is both brilliant and highly representative of the newfound alternative R&B movement.  “Can you hit it again?” never sound more telling from Aiko’s cool, calm, and collected vocal perspective.

5) Celine Dion, Water And A Flame” (Loved Me Back To Life)

Celine Dion, Loved Me Back To Life

Celine Dion’s latest album has plenty of strong songs that tickled my fancy, with the Daniel Merriweather cover “Water And A Flame” amongst ‘em.  The original is little known as Merriweather isn’t a big name in the United States.  Regardless, if Merriweather never receives his deserved recognition, at least one of the greatest pop singers provides a stirring rendition here.

6) Eminem, “Rap God”, (The Marshall Mathers LP 2)

Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP2

What more is there to say, Eminem delivered the hottest rap track of the year this side of Kanye West’s “Blood On the Leaves” and Kendrick Lamar’s epic rap verse on Big Sean’s “Control”.  If I’d been Big Sean, I would’ve fought to have gotten “Control” on Hall of Fame, even if it meant delaying it (it’s sold abysmally anyways).  But this is Eminem’s moment and quite an electrifying moment it is indeed.

7)  Jake Miller, “Homeless” (Us Against Them)

Jake Miller, Us Against Them

Homeless” is among the cream of the crop from Jake Miller’s debut album Us Against Them.  Vocally, Miller sounds solid as he sings plaintively on the chorus: “Here I stand in the cold / I try to knock as you change the locks / now I’m all alone / where am I supposed to go / if you are where my home is, I guess that makes me homeless.”  The serious vibe of the sung vocals is matched by Miller’s more agile, rhythmic rapped vocals. While  it’s a ‘bummer’ as far as its overall tone, it is at least a standout ‘bummer’.

8) Mariah Carey, “The Art of Letting Go” 

Mariah Carey, Me. I Am Mariah...The Elusive Chanteuse

Mimi’s latest single, “The Art of Letting Go”, finds one of R&B’s preeminent divas doing what she does best, BALLADS.  Whether she’s singing in her lower register or ascending to her upper register with every bit of her emotion, Carey compels the listener and makes us think of our own moments when we’ve struggled to let go.  “The Art of Letting Go” is filled with exceptional, memorable, and prudent lyrical moments including “Evidently your words were merely lies / reverberating in my ears / and the echo won’t subside / there’s a deep deep loss of hope…” from verse two.  The bridge confirms that “Baby letting go, baby letting go / ain’t easy…”

9) Jake Bugg, “A Song About Love” (Shangri La)

Jake Bugg, Shangri La

Recently I reviewed Jake Bugg’s sophomore effort, Shangri La.  While I had mixed feelings, I certainly had rave reviews for one particular standout in “A Song About Love”:

“Is that all you wanted? Songs about love? / Is that want you hoped you would find / when it’s burning inside / but a song about love’s not enough.” Poetic by all means, “A Song About Love” seems to be the most complete performance of the album.  The metric shifting “A Song About Love” certainly offers the incredible nuance and an overall unique selection  Where many of Bugg’s songs seem quite simple, “A Song About Love” definitely steps up the game.

10) Lady Gaga, Dope” (ARTPOP)

Lady Gaga, ARTPOP

Another Lady Gaga track really? Yep.  “Dope” is completely different from “Do What U Want”.  Sure, it sounds as if it shouldn’t be a substantive track, but Gaga’s intents are quite notable, more so than some of ARTPOP’s ‘looser’ cuts. On the sole ballad from the album, Gaga opens herself up to vulnerability, suggesting that despite her past screw-ups with substances, she needs her man “more than dope”.  Sure she’s literal and dope doesn’t lend itself to the greatest heart-warming moment ever, but her personalized touch truly shines here.

Review: Bun B, ‘Trill O.G.: The Epilogue’


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Bun B closes his Trill series superbly 

Bun B ⎪Trill O.G.: The Epilogue ⎪Rap-A-Lot ⎪⎪ US Release Date: November 11, 2013

Bun B-PRK-033872“It’s over, it’s over!” Why you ask? “‘Cause the best is back… b**ch!” That’s right, veteran MC Bun B has released the fourth effort of his Trill series, Trill O.G.: The Epilogue, which follows Trill (2005),  II Trill (2008) and  Trill O.G. (2010).  The highest profiled effort of the series was Trill, which arrived at a time when there was a resurgence in Texas’s rap scene.  Bun B’s impact commercially as a solo artist was never huge, but B remains an important fixture in hip-hop history and as a collaborator in my eyes.  Trill O.G.: The Epilogue is by no means ‘the second coming’, but it is a a well conceived rap album by all means.

Opener “The Best is Back” lives up to its titular bravado as well as Bun B’s consistency as an MC. Initiating with incredible confidence on the intro (“Guess who’s back in the mother f*ckin’ house? / the King of the trill b**ch, you guessed it…”), vet Bun B easily back up his ‘trash talk’. He certainly ‘goes off’, including memorable moments such as “Ladies and gentlemen, you already know that it’s him again / lettin’ ‘em hang, non-feminine, crunk like I’m gone off Ritalin / chopped off top, there’s no middle and throwed on that load again…”  He confirms his rap royalty status on the hook: “Guess who’s back? Me / There’s no competition…shut ‘em down / hurt-hurtin’ boys / it’s over, it’s over / cause the best is back b**ch.” Unapologetic, further inspired by banging, malicious production work, Bun’s on autopilot.

Cake” doesn’t let up off the gas, featuring his late, great UGK partner Pimp C on the catchy, electrifying hook: “Boss get cash money, smokin’ the vapors / don’t chase the cake, chase the paper / them thighs come with that shake / b**ch in yo mind, ho I got cake…”.  In that old-school, lush and luxurious rap style (produced by Big K.R.I.T.), “Cake” is certainly a gem.  Bun B continues to flex his rap muscles – what else does he have to lose? “When I see you lickin’ your lips, you wanna blow my whistle / but I got that harmonica, you can play it like Stevie / they say that pimpin’ ain’t easy, man it is if you be me.” Now that’s O.G.  Throw in sound guest verses from Lil Boosie (“I get cash in duffle bags, I don’t chase the cake / let ‘em ride, get ‘em high as I pay for cake…”) and Big K.R.I.T. (“The type of dick that run a chick some sh*t that she could bill for … I break her off ‘cause she bring it back to daddy”), and “Cake” is among the album’s best.

Bun B-PRK-033873Fire” caps off an exceptional trio of cuts for Bun.  Serani covers the hook: “When the heat is on we burn hotter than fire / people will burn up on, we burn hotter than fire / turn my enemies to dust, burn them up with fire / whether life or death, guess we’re far from fire”.  Following a similar format to “Cake”, Bun B sets the tone on the first verse (“Mother f*cker beware ‘til I retire or expire / cyanide in them, know that we are coming with more fire…”), while Rick Ross and 2 Chainz lend their ‘expertise’ on the second and third verses.  The results? Top-notch, did you really expect anything less?

No Competition” continues consistency, featuring Raekwon and Kobe.  The sound cut doesn’t achieve the same grandeur as the opening trio, but it certainly gives up little quality.  Bun B excels as he compares himself to everybody and their brother: “…I am Mike Jordan, Mike Tyson, Mike Phelps / Michelangelo with the flow bro and the mic helps / Ha! The mic stealth, that’s for the mikes health…” As always, Raekwon is nothing short of a ‘beast’.  Pimp C once more plays a vital role, even if it is posthumously on “Don’t Play With Me”.  Solid, I prefer its follow-up “Gladiator” (featuring Truck Buck), which is dedicated to the late MC.  The truly gladiator-fueled lyric? “They thought it was over, they thought that I was done / they said I wouldn’t last, I’m the last one / I’m “Still Standing” like the Goodie to the Mo-B / In a black hoodie, it’s the O.G., you know me.”  Riled up, Bun B definitely lives up to his ‘gladiator’ status.

Bun B ‘don’t play’ with another all-star cast on “Stop Playin’”, which brings in Redman and Royce Da 5’9”.  Brash with no bullshit, the tail-end of the hook best sums up this number: “… it’s not the sh*t you say, it’s the sh*t you not saying / you know better, show better, step it up and stop playing / stop playing”.  Hard as ever, both Redman and Royce Da 5’9” accentuate the edgy MC.  Kirko Bangz adds some ‘R&B swag’ on “Triller”, though with plenty of bite as he proclaims to be a “mother f*cking killer / H-Tow in this b**ch / and you know it’s for real.”  As for Bun B he spits nothing but truth: “P***y n***as need to stay off in they lane / sitting sidlines, want to quarterback the game / backseat drivers get to taking too much / but now when I’m around, cause they know they get touched…” Well, at least we know who’s “triller”.

Bun B-PRK-033874What’s better than two bangers in a roll? Three! “Dippin’ & Swervin’” is arguably the strongest of the three, giving Bun B something even the younger generation can bump. I mean, what wrong with B “…dippin’ through the city, fresh fitted on my dome / comin’ down candy and I”m sittin’ on chrome…”?  Additionally, his “pockets stay swollen, money [he] be holdin’…” He follows up the freshness with the smooth “On One” (featuring Devin the Dude and Gator Main), which favors “Cake”.  It’s not as polished mind you, but it’s solid.  Penultimate cut “The Legendary DJ Screw” is more notable, featuring numerous guest MC’s and paying ode to DJ Screw.  The closer “Bye!” could’ve been scrapped, but I suppose Bun B wanted to make sure you know what it is and who makes it do… or something OG and illy like that.  LOL.

Ultimately, Trill O.G.: The Epilogue is a solid close to the Trill series as well as a close to a chapter of Bun B’s career.   Save for the questionably included final cut, …The Epilogue is incredibly enjoyable and consistent.  It may not woo or compel the new generation of hip-hop fans, but this effort should certainly please Bun B, UGK fans, and the old-school.

Favorites:

“The Best is Back”; “Cake”; “Fire”; “Gladiator”; “Dippin’ & Swervin’”

Verdict: ✰✰✰✰

MGK, Lace Up: Album Analysis


Introduction

Not being a ‘smart aleck,’ but every time that I hear the statement that “Bad Boy don’t

stop,” I chuckle a little. No disrespect to Diddy as I am a fan who actually purchased his most recent albums Press Play as well as Diddy-Dirty Money’s Last Train To Paris (quite underrated), but Bad Boy since its heyday has been incredibly unstable.  The label sparks a new run and then falls off once again.  I hope for talented newbie MGK and also French Montana that the label has some more ‘traction’ this time. MGK’s debut album Lace Up, like preceding EP Half Naked & Almost Famous is released via Bad Boy but distributed via

Bone Thugs N Harmony are pre-eminent midwest rap proponents hailing from Cleveland

Interscope, quite a stable label.

MGK (Machine Gun Kelly) holds his own with the best in a crop of new MCs, race regardless.  MGK’s agile, wordy flow epitomizes midwest rap, something that has been missing from rap.  Let’s face it, midwest rap has generally gotten less notoriety or attention. Bone Thug N Harmony had their peak, but don’t perform nearly as well commercially as they once did.  Like MGK, Bone Thug N Harmony hail from Cleveland, OH.

Lace Up turns out to be a solid album.  There are more than enough start studded guest

Lil Jon appears on “Lace Up,” the title track.

spots (Bun B, Lil Jon, Waka Flocka Flame and DMX among them) and the production is generally exceptional throughout (Drumma Boy, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Alex Da Kid, and Boi-1da amongst producers).  There are no overt misses, even when some songs are stronger than others.  Despite the guests artists, MGK is never over shone, which is the mark of a talented artist.  The  standard edition of the effort yields thirteen cuts, including the popular “Wild Boy” while the Deluxe yields 16 (and the iTunes version yields 17).

Continue reading “MGK, Lace Up: Album Analysis”