Logic • The Incredible True Story • Def Jam • Release Date: 11.13.2015
Duplicating the critical success of a particularly awesome album is difficult. In Maryland MC Logic’s case, his debut Under Pressure was nothing short of terrific, if commercially underrated. Considering the favorable ratings for Under Pressure, it is amazing that Logic delivers another superb effort with sophomore album, The Incredible True Story. Give Logic credit for putting together am ambitious, conceptual effort. Even if its concept itself doesn’t woo, it’s best material is sure to captivate.
Intro “Contact” establishes the concept, looking back upon Logic’s debut and looking forward to The Incredible True Story. The intro sets up standout “Fade Away,” where Logic spits, “Fade away, fade away / they gon’ know my name until it fade away…” Logic’s flow is crazy – fast-paced, motor-mouthed, and undeniably awesome. “I been there, I done that this rap sh*t I run that,” Logic boast upon the first verse, continuing, “motherf*cker this far from a comeback, if one of us fall then we run back.” “Fade Away” contains a skit at its conclusion, again connecting to the forthcoming track, “Upgrade” in this instance.
“Upgrade” unsurprisingly references Logic’s “come up,” a favorite subject for him and almost every other MC in the game. While it’s appealing, the real heat comes with the one-two punch of “Like Woah” and “Young Jesus” (featuring Big Lenbo), following scene“White People.” “Like Woah” is smooth – soulful and throwback in regards to its production work. It’s “all hail Logic” as he asserts himself to be “platinum in this b*tch…running the game” as well as being “back up in this motherf*cker livin’ like a goddamn king / tell me money ain’t a thing now.”
“Young Jesus” is arguably the best song from The Incredible True Story. Truly exemplifying Logic’s “take ‘em back to the 90s!” shout out, Logic is on fire, whether he’s referencing Dennis the Menace, avoiding early fatherhood or cannibals among other things. The way he and Big Lenbo trade bars – kick@$$.
Things certainly don’t fall off after “Young Jesus.” “Innermission” (featuring Lucy Rose) shows candid Logic, spitting at one point, “My situation at home was alcoholics and drugs / I never graduated but I made it to the summit / don’t get me wrong, so many times I thought I would plummet / felt like I didn’t have the heart and couldn’t seem to stomach.” “I Am The Greatest” has more bite – it’s as aggressive as a four-letter word: “Motherf*ckers get no love!” Explicit, unapologetic, and hard as albeit, “I Am The Greatest” ranks among the crème de la crème.
“Lord Willin’” continues to find Logic in his zone, while “City Of Stars” is a lushly produced, mostly sung song. According to a tweet by the MC, he is breaking up with the preconceived notions of what hip-hop should be. It’s not all singing though – by the end he’s a rapping machine once again. And if “City of Stars” doesn’t do it, “Stainless” (featuring Dria) should, where the biting, emotional rhymes never seem to fail, starting with the aggressive opening salvo, “Motherf*ckers wanna get famous / bust guns and get dangerous / Daddy graduated from Cambridge / money talks in every language.” Logic doesn’t stop there, referencing his own father at one point: “If you go do like my daddy then she gonna be single and alone…”
“Paradise” is divided into two parts, with part two arguably being most impressive with its strings, not to mention a sharp reference to Erykah Badu. “Never Been” is another sound cut with throwback written all over. “Run It” eclipses both with Logic once more embracing and asserting his badass persona: “Who else you know wanna come up, do it like I does it?” After the “Lucidity” scene, “The Incredible True Story” concludes in superb fashion. “Make music like there’s no Grammy / for the last line they might ban me / I don’t give a f*ck though / cause I am me…”
Ultimately, The Incredible True Story is rock solid from start to finish. Whether it gains Logic more sales is debatable, but the quality is indisputable. Logic is clearly among the better rappers in the rap game, period. The Incredible True Story confirms such.
Favorites: “Fade Away,” “Like Woah,” “Young Jesus” featuring Big Lenbo, “I Am The Greatest,” “Stainless,” and “Run It”
Tamia • Love Life • Def Jam • US Release Date: June 9, 2015
“We beat the odds together / didn’t care when they said we’d never last.” Honestly, when is the last time you heard lyrics like that on an R&B album? – Wait don’t answer that! As sad as it is, much of R&B has become oversexed and chivalrous love difficult to find. On Canadian R&B artist Tamia’s first album for a major label in 11 years, Love Life, she emphasizes the totality of the relationship. Love Life is a polished album that doesn’t necessarily rejuvenate the fading R&B genre itself, but it does re-prioritize in the wake of so much superficiality as of late.
“Love Falls Over Me” is an appropriate start to Love Life. Infatuation is definitely part of the deal, and Tamia paints that portrait with the opener. There is no doubt that love is a complete package. “Chaise Lounge” refers to a ‘chaise longue,’ which is a long, lounge chair. So what exactly is T getting at? Sex of course – “Boy take your clothes off.” Not much room for error on this soulful, sensual slow jam. Standout “Sandwich And A Soda” continues to keep it sexy: “If you wanna ride these curves… See I can make you feel good love / and when it’s all over / I’mma fluff your pillow baby / bring you a sandwich and a soda.” Ooh La la! But we know the sensual is directed towards hubby Grant Hill.
“Nowhere” smartly maintains a groove and is one of the more ‘contemporary’ sounding records of the album. “Red Lipstick” is tastefully seductive, never overreaching in regard to sensuality. Tamia is referencing sex once more, but hinting and the art of insinuation is both appreciated and refreshing. “Special” doesn’t even hint at the physical. No frills “Special” is sound and pleasant without percolating.
“Like You Do” is more impressive than “Special” – it has a bit more spice and edge. Like “Red Lipstick,” she cites sex, but it’s all monogamously derived. Sure it may not play as the M.O. for the twentysomething who enjoy the spontaneity of hook-ups, but for the adults, this is Sexiness 101. “Stuck With Me” maintains the dedication, with romance placed at the forefront, while “No Lie” blends emotional and physical.
Penultimate record “Day One” depicts the strength of marriage where true love is the guiding principle. “We’ve got a bond unbreakable,” Tamia sings as she delivers the touching song. On closing cover “Black Butterfly,” Tamia’s voice is filled with passion and power. Much of Love Life finds the singer showcasing poise, so to hear overtness to close the effort is a pro.
All said and done, Love Life has many pros. Throughout the effort, Tamia is rock solid and does a sound job of delivering R&B for the grown folks. The main rub, however, is that Love Life is too conservative. No, that doesn’t mean that Tamia needed to become this risqué, contemporary R&B singer suddenly, but a few more risks would’ve made Love Life more exciting. Still, given the intended audience, Love Life is a respectable effort.
Favorites: “Chaise Lounge,” “Sandwich And A Soda,” “Red Lipstick,” “Like You Do”
Mariah Carey • Infinity – Single • Release Date: April 27, 2015
2014 was not a good year in the least for Mariah Carey – that’s an understatement! They say that “when it rains it pours” and that would be the best way to describe Carey’s status. Me. I Am Mariah was a gargantuan flop, selling only 58,000 copies its first week out. Then came the end of her marriage with Nick Cannon. Then what about those painful high notes? Yep, it was “all bad” for Mimi, but surely things can only improve, right?
Mariah Carey is back at Epic Records, which is ultimately a fresh start considering how bad her short-lived stint on Def Jam went (an Elusive Chanteuse she was not). She’s not dropping a ‘brand new’ album, but rather releasing greatest hits set (#1 To Infinity) with some new songs. The first new Mariah Carey single from her forthcoming album is “Infinity,” which arrived April 27, 2015. How does “Infinity” stack up? It’s rock solid by all means.
Me. I Am Mariah had a solid single going for it with “#Beautiful,” but the problem was that “#Beautiful” had been out long, LONG before the album dropped. The single that ended up serving as a buzz single for the set, “You’re Mine (Eternal)” just didn’t have the oomph to propel the album to commercial success. “You’re Mine (Eternal)” was by no means bad, but when stacked against the many timeless classics that Carey has issued, not to mention even some contemporary gems, it just didn’t reach the same heights. “Infinity” on the other hand, sounds like more of a vintage Mariah Carey song.
Mariah Carey is assertive from the jump: “Why you mad? Talkin’ ‘bout you’re mad / could it be that you just lost the best you’ve ever had?” WHOA! Nick Cannon, bro – you’re totally in that doghouse! No she doesn’t explicitly reference her ex-husband, but doesn’t it seem strongly possible that he’s the subject or loosely the basis of this song? Of course – and we know M.C. knows how to throw that shade! No shade of course!
Carey sums up her emotions on the chorus singing, “Close the door, lose the key / leave my heart on the mat for me / I was yours eternally / there’s an end to infinity / to infinity.” Much like Jazmine Sullivan’s “Forever Don’t Last,” Mariah suggests that the love she thought would be enduring and everlasting isn’t. It’s by no means a new concept, but given Carey’s recent situations and the diminutive success, this type of song is well attuned to her at this juncture in her career.
The question becomes not how good “Infinity” is, but can it make people remember Carey’s prodigious vocal gifts? After all, those high notes on “All I Want For Christmas” were…yeah that horrid. Sure, a couple of questionable performances and a bad year don’t tarnish what Carey has built over the years, but since her sextuple platinum The Emancipation of Mimi and another platinum success with E=MC2, her career hasn’t been as triumphant. Sure, a greatest hits set in #1 to Infinity isn’t going to necessary reinvigorate her, but doesn’t it provide another opportunity, particularly if “Infinity” itself could catch some fire?
Rick Ross • Hood Billionaire • Def Jam • US Release Date: November 24, 2014
“Quarter key got me livin’ like I’m Don King / heavyweight, I’m in the ring n*gga ding ding…” Rick Ross may not be throwing any right hooks, but the elephantine rapper does release his second album of 2014, Hood Billionaire. Shallowly titled, Hood Billionaire additionally proves to be shallow thematically.
Aimed as a conceptual effort of sorts with Ross playing the coke dealer reaping the benefits from his hustling ways, Ross’ approach is an attempted contrast to his past work without being starkly different. While Ross attempts to change-up things, he’s only lukewarm in execution. Don’t get it twisted, Ross and Hood Billionaire have their moments, but it also has many a pitfall as well.
Following a blasé intro, Hood Billionaire kicks off with its dramatically produced title track. Lacking a pure hook, “Hood Billionaire” serves as a showcase of Ross’ rhyming skills. Ultimately, it works, with Ross flexing a mean braggadocio: “Double M empire, I know these n*ggas fear me / I’m already rich, I’m tired of bein’ famous / I done f*cked all these b*tches, I can’t even name ‘em…”
Ross ensures hustling gets its just due (“still got them quarters”), something that’s the forefront of “Coke Like The 80s,” where Ross provides his ever-reliable references to “shooters.” Being the ‘billionaire’ that he is Ross ensures his material excesses are mentioned (Jesus piece, Rolexes, etc.). Lyrically, Ross throws a slick, twisted punch spitting, “Catch you jackin’ your dick, now you f*cked in the game” – charming to say the least.
More of the same comes by way of “Heavyweight” featuring Whole Slab, where Ross memorably (if clumsily) spits “Diamonds on my pinky, women on my dizzle / bulletproof the Lincoln, there go Ricky Rizzle.” Ross does redeem himself with his references to the heavyweights, but more redemption comes by way of the sound “Neighborhood Drug Dealer,” where Ross claims to “still pay my child support, in all trap money.” He follows up with “Phone Tap,” where he states, they “wanna give me time for my old raps /indict me for my own raps.”
Following the luxurious, soulful “Trap Luv” (featuring Yo Gotti), Ross delivers one of Hood Billionaire’s best, “Elvis Presley Blvd,” the buzz single for the set. That said why does it seem wrong the way that Ross references Priscilla (“I got Priscilla, I got Priscilla / I got vanilla, boy, I got vanilla”)? ‘Priscilla’ of course isn’t really referencing Presley, but rather cocaine – his M.O.
Similarly, “Movin’ Bass” sadly isn’t about a bass line, but also cocaine. Among the oddest tracks on the album, its hyper rhythm is inescapable. Jay-Z delivers the hook: “See them plaques on a n*gga wall / we still movin’ bass / got them records jumpin’ off the store / we still movin’ bass.” Keeping things 100, “If They Knew” brings along K. Michelle, who delivers one of the most confounding lyrics of the album on the hook: “Sweet but sad / I don’t know how love ruins a relationship.” Throughout, Ross discusses the effects of a hustling lifestyle on a relationship, or a so-called relationship.
Sadly on “Quintessential,” guest Snoop Dogg’s ideas of quintessential things are shallow: “Titty one, titty two / see these are essentials speaking quintessentials.” Arguably, “Keep Doin’ That (Rich B*tch)” isn’t any more refined, but the production, not to mention R. Kelly’s vocals are definitely on point. Still, the play on the word ‘b*tch’ is in poor taste. But it’s no different than the majority of rap music these days.
“Nickel Rock” (featuring Boosie Badazz) is all about Ross hustling to pay the bills, something he referenced previously on “Neighborhood Drug Dealer.” On “Burn,” he rivals a Teflon Don number, “I Am Not A Star.” He couldn’t leave “Burn” without a jab at George Zimmerman (“George Zimmerman, when I see you, you gotta burn”). The standard edition of Hood Billionaire closes with two soulful cuts – “Family Ties” and the even better, more soulful Big K.R.I.T. assisted “Brimstone.”
Ultimately, Hood Billionaire pales in comparison to Ross’ best work. There are some great moments, but there’s also always the sentiment that Ross is running low on things to rap about. An entire album built upon hustling cocaine and reaping the benefits of sales is a bit over the top. While Ross’ ambitious is greatly appreciated, he ultimately falls short of the glory.
Favorites: “Hood Billionaire,” “Neighborhood Drug Dealer,” “Elvis Presley Blvd.,” “Keep Doin’ That (Rich B*tch)”
Big K.R.I.T. • Cadillactica • Def Jam • US Release Date: November 10, 2014
On his debut Live From The Underground, Meridian, Mississippi MC Big K.R.I.T. kept things old school – a good look for the rapper/producer. That said Live From The Underground didn’t exactly rack up the sales or RIAA certifications. Still, despite its modest chart performance, K.R.I.T.’s sophomore album Cadillactica is highly anticipated. That doesn’t mean it was expected to set the charts ablaze, but in a year lacking in the hip-hop department (until late), Cadillactica is kind of a big deal.
Cadillactica eclipses Live From The Underground, and that’s saying something. More conceptual, while the old school handprint hasn’t disappeared, K.R.I.T. gives his audience something more conceptual. This is obvious on the intro “Kreation,” where K.R.I.T. brilliantly references the Biblical creation (“And let us not pretend that we ain’t made in God’s image”) as well as sex (“These hands of mine can hold the weight of planets…of explosions and vibrant emotions that we know we could / explore the out most with no risks…”).
On “Life,” an inspired K.R.I.T. spits, “I found life, in the darkest of times / how can I describe what’s God’s design / with these faulty eyes that often lie.” K.R.I.T.’s lyrical depth is particularly noteworthy here, as the MC eschews shallowness in favor of the thought provoking. How many rappers are spitting about a new planet named Cadillactica? Only Big K.R.I.T.!
“My Sub, Pt. 3 (Big Bang)” is definitely the banger among the album, but what makes a somewhat shallower cut more clever is the way he’s tied it into the concept of the album. Just subtitling the cut “Big Bang” adds another dimension had K.R.I.T. just delivered the latest “My Sub” cut. The title track follows, appropriately, with K.R.I.T. opening the first verse with “Uh, what you think a real n***a rap for? / so I can roll around in a RAV4? Never that / Cadillac pimped out, fish bowl, true vogues / fifteens, but I had to go and get two more.” Yep, “Cadillactica” alright – “F*ck yo whip n***a!”
As good as “My Sub” and “Cadillactica” are, “Soul Food,” featuring Raphael Saadiq trumps them both. Drenched in southern soul, “Soul Food” sounds just as tasty as the real thing. The song obviously transcends literal food, exemplified by rhymes like “Thrown away half eaten as if their seeds never mattered / it ain’t ripe, it ain’t right / that’s why most people don’t make love no more / they just f*ck and fight.” K.R.I.T. definitely is gifted with words.
Rico Love sounds smooth on his guest spot on “Pay Attention,” the lead single from Cadillactica. Definitely the most ‘commercial’ track of the album, “Pay Attention” is sound through and through, if less exceptional than the more thought provoking numbers. “King Of The South” is the more dynamic cut, led by infectious lyric, “Grew up on the country side of town…king of the south, king of the south, king of the south.” A home run, by all means, K.R.I.T. is on autopilot – no doubt about it.
If his agility wasn’t already enough on “King Of The South,” Big K.R.I.T. remains on fire on “Mind Control,” which plays up the luxurious southern sound magnificently. Again laced with top-notch lyricism, the hook latches immediately: “Searching for a freak that’s geeked and bound to let me tweak her / mind, her mind, her mind, her mind, her mind.” K.R.I.T. gets the assist from E-40 and Wiz Khalifa.
Following the “Standby (Interlude),” K.R.I.T. is assisted by Mara Hruby on the lush “Do You Love Me,” which is all about love and sex. K.R.I.T. pulls the old car/girl comparison trick. It probably shouldn’t work (the car thing that is), but it does, particularly given the backing instrumental and Hruby’s seductive vocals. Keeping in step with romance, “Third Eye” maintains a sensitivity about it – it goes beyond the a puppy dog crush. Sure, K.R.I.T. excuses his ‘love at first sight’ (“Pardon if I fall in love too soon”), but his adoration does seem transcendent of lust.
“Mo Better Cool” enlists the services of an all-star cast that includes Devin The Dude, Big Sant & Bun B. If “Do You Love Me” and “Third Eye” had drifted from ‘old school’ sensibilities in a sense, “Mo Better Cool” reestablishes K.R.I.T.’s brand. “Angels” keeps the momentum strong, aided as much by K.R.I.T.’s flow as by the soulful production work. The classicism and how K.R.I.T. respects it is superb. The hook is a winner: “I think angels get high / cause I can’t describe all these clouds in the sky / I think God must have cried / Cause I can’t describe all this rain my life.”
Closing cuts “Saturdays = Celebration” (featuring Jamie N Commons) and “Lost Generation” (featuring Lupe Fiasco) conclude Cadillactica epically. Both cuts show that Big K.R.I.T. was extremely focused on making Cadillactica an album to remember. The thoughtfulness is appreciated and highly regarded by all means.
Ultimately, Cadillactica easily cements itself as one of the year’s triumphant rap albums. Like Logic on his superb Under Pressure, Big K.R.I.T. has constructed an album that goes above and beyond the expectations. Yes, Big K.R.I.T. has his shallower moments, but even those are delivered with care and seem to fit without a hitch. Cadillactica will likely be underrated, but it definitely shouldn’t be. Big K.R.I.T. is the real deal.
Favorites: “Life,” “Soul Food,” “King Of The South,” “Mind Control,” “Angels,” “Saturdays = Celebration”
September has come to a close boys and girls… sorry, thought I was still teaching my music classes. Got your attention, right? Well September is concluding, and there were some notable urban albums and songs that were unleashed upon the world. Sure, everyone is crying over their album sales, but at least there a good song or two to spin… Here are 10 Urban joints to close September!
1) Prince, “The Breakdown”
It’s been years since the Purple One has sounded this invested – squeals, vocal grit, and tenderness all packed in one sensation ballad.
2) Jennifer Hudson featuring R. Kelly, “It’s Your World”
Jennifer Hudson shows she can dance with the best of ‘em throughout her third studio album, JHUD. Her collaborative effort with R. Kelly is definitely one of the albums best moments.
3) Luke James featuring Rick Ross, “Options”
On this deeply personal, emotional cut, Luke James spills his heart with the help of the Boss.
4) Lenny Kravitz, “Ooo Baby Baby”
Who would’ve thought that Lenny Kravitz could cover Smokey Robinson so compellingly? He sure does know how to Strut.
5) Chris Brown featuring Usher & Rick Ross, “New Flame”
Brown is always best when he eschews his bad boy, but he doesn’t totally get that still on latest album X. Despite still trying to be ‘bad,’ “New Flame” is one of his most alluring songs, outshining everything else that graced that horrid thing called Fortune.
6) Jhené Aiko, “The Pressure”
Jhené Aiko’s album Souled Out is definitely a heady, deep affair, but still quite accessible. “The Pressure” finds Aiko dealing with numerous pressures within her life, including that of a music career.
7) Jennifer Hudson, “Dangerous”
The opener from JHUD, Hudson proves that she can slaughter a neo-disco track like none other. Sure, ole girl danced a little on I Remember Me, but like “It’s Your World,” “Dangerous” helps to makes stepping her M.O. for the majority of JHUD.
8) Luke James, “Make Love To Me”
Yeah, it’s been around since 2012, but “Make Love To Me” just gracing the deluxe version of Luke James is a travesty. Hands down, this sensual jam is one of the best, if not the best of James’ underrated debut.
9) Chris Brown, “Time for Love”
Again, Brown’s best moments from X arrive when he isn’t being naughty. “Time For Love” is another one of those where he doesn’t go the misogynistic or hedonistic route.
10) Prince, “Clouds”
While the urban flare of “Clouds” doesn’t supplant “The Breakdown,” it’s another slick, worthwhile jam for a resurgent Prince.
Who is Trinidad James, you ask? Well James rose to fame thanks to a popular, if irresponsible song called “All Gold Everything.” The main attraction of “All Gold Everything” was the line that seemingly reinvigorated the ‘molly’ craze within rap music: “Pop a molly I’m sweating.” If you are still lost, a molly is MDMA, or a form of ecstasy.
For James who hasn’t released an official album (Don’t Be S.A.F.E.is considered to be a mixtape), it is bad news. According to the tweet, James says something that rappers wouldn’t dare utter out of their cocky and confident mouths: he’s broke. A broke rapper – one who isn’t stacking and flexing – it just don’t seem right!
Personally, James’ boot from Def Jam is neither surprising nor disappointing. Sure, no one who has dreams and aspirations wants to have those dreams ripped away. But at the same time, did anyone really consider Trinidad James to have ‘next’?
Other than James’ role in one of the most irresponsible and dumbest rap trends in recent memories and a couple of guest spots (A$AP Ferg’s “Work” and August Alsina’s “I Luv This Sh-t”), what has Trinidad James done to sell himself or enhance hip-hop? Maybe this is being more subjective as opposed to objective, but James never impressed. Think of the great rappers and then examine Trinidad James; they just do not connect.
But being sympathetic, if it is James’ aspiration to be a rapper, hopefully he’ll work hard, step his game up, and prove the skeptics, haters, and label executives wrong. It seems doubtful, but never count anyone out.
May continues to eclipse the new album release output of April. The week of May 13 was filled with several highly decorated releases. The off-cycle release date of Monday May 19, 2014 is no different, with several notable releases at the top. The biggest release – likely Coldplay’s highly anticipated Ghost Stories, the band’s sixth studio album.
A new Coldplay album is always a big event. Ghost Stories should be no different, even if 2011 LP Mylo Xyloto felt underwhelming compared to monster, Grammy-winning LP Viva La Vida (2008). The problem I personally had with Mylo Xyloto is it felt less memorable and slightly less epic than previous LPs from the band. Sure, it had its moments (“Hurts Like Heaven” and “Paradise” among them) and wasn’t bad, but just lacked that extra special something. Hopefully, Ghost Stories find Coldplay in top-notch form.
Behind The Light
Behind The Light is the American Idol season 12 victor’s sophomore LP, following up his 2012 debut World From the Side of the Moon. World From the Side of the Moon had some triumphant moments (“Home”, “Man on the Moon”, and “Gone, Gone Gone” among them), but wasn’t a masterpiece by any means. Behind The Light doesn’t have a “Home” to drive sales, but hopefully Phillips is stronger and better rounded this second go-round.
…And Then You Shoot Your Cousin
The Roots aren’t nearly as popular as they once were sadly, but personally, I still get excited when they decide to drop an album. Face it, there’s just no one (or few to be fair) like The Roots in rap music: playing real instruments and having that ‘band’ format. I never partook of the band’s effort with Elvis Costello (Wise Up Ghost), but won’t miss out on their proper follow-up to conceptual LP Undun from 2011. …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin clocks in at a brief 33 ½ minutes.
Unplugged 1991/2001: The Complete Sessions (2CD)
With R.E.M. disbanded, nothing like classic material to make you remember the glorious days right? Rhino releases a “monster” two-disc, 33-track compilation of the band unplugged.
Upside Down Mountain
Sometimes he’s Bright Eyes and other times he’s just Conor Oberst – go figure! Regardless, Oberst follows up 2012 LP One of My Kind with 2014 effort Upside Down Mountain, released via Nonesuch. The artwork is very interesting by all means; according to Nonesuch’s journal, a friend of Oberst’s created it.
On Australian singer/guitarist Brody Dalle’s facebook page, it says she was “born to slay demons / write songs” – all righty then! Diploid Love is Dalle’s solo debut album, following her status in bands The Distillers and Spinnerette. BTW, Dalle is the wife of alternative musician Josh Homme, known for Queens of the Stone Age. Two song titles definitely capture the eyes: “Meet the Foetus/Oh the Joy” and “Parties For Prostitutes”.
Just As I Am
The 29-year old country singer from Georgia returns with his third album Just As I Am four years after Halfway To Heaven burst onto the Albums charts at number four.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd
The blues guitarist releases his first album in three years, Goin’ Home, which follows up his 2011 LP, How I Go. Wish I had more to offer, but “it is what it is” – LOL. KWS has been in the game for a minute (20 years)!
This week, it was announced that contemporary R&B/pop singer Rihanna has signed with Jay-Z’s RocNation label, leaving her stomping ground Def Jam – home to her first seven albums. Even so, it was also reported by billboard.com that Rihanna’s upcoming album would still be Def Jam distributed upon its release. This both closes and opens a chapter of the diva’s career. The news referencing Rihanna’s status as an artist, as opposed to her extracurricular activities beyond her music (i.e. that nude photo shoot on the roof and generally unpredictable behavior), made this dedicated fan (since Music of the Sun dropped bay-bay), choose one favorite single from each of her seven albums. Yes, I cheated and included two from Good Girl Gone Bad, which was re-released with bonus tracks of course!
“If It’s Lovin’ That You Want”
Music of the Sun
http://youtu.be/hD5MRBzY1uM “Pon de Replay” was the big hit – rightfully so – but it was “If It’s Lovin’ That You Want” that truly tickled my fancy. Sure, Music of the Sun is among my least favorite Rihanna albums (looking back), but this joint was one of the shining moments from a rising star.
A Girl Like Me
http://youtu.be/rp4UwPZfRis The original allure of Rihanna’s second album was “S.O.S.”, a superb joint that gave the artist her first number one. As good as it was, “Unfaithful” shows more maturity than Rihanna had shown previously. Her unique tone truly makes this ballad “shine bright like a diamond” (catch that “Diamonds” reference?).
Good Girl Gone Bad
http://youtu.be/CvBfHwUxHIk Rihanna’s best album was loaded with hit after hit. That said the main attraction “Umbrella” still stands tallest from my perspective. From Jay-Z’s brief but memorable rap (“No clouds in my storms”), to the irresistible gimmickry repetition of the chorus (“Under my umbrella, ella, ella, eh, eh, eh…”), and the sensational production, “Umbrella” is a contemporary R&B classic all by itself.
“Take A Bow”
Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded
http://youtu.be/J3UjJ4wKLkg Three additional tracks graced Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded: “Disturbia”, “Take a Bow”, and a remix of Maroon 5’s “If I Never See Your Face Again” that featured the singer. While all three were worthwhile, the balladry of “Take A Bow” once more showed Rihanna’s abilities beyond catchy dance-pop; it showed an extension of her artistry. Much like “Unfaithful” from A Girl Like Me, “Take A Bow” finds Rihanna’s unique voice delivering a truly beautiful, nuanced performance by all means.
http://youtu.be/ZQ2nCGawrSY Rihanna’s first album on the ‘dark side’, Rated R, is arguably my favorite; it marked a clear departure from family-friendly artist to one firmly ‘all grown up’. While the edginess of singles like “Hard” (featuring Young Jeezy) appealed hardcore, as did the catchiness of number one hit “Rude Boy”, first single “Russian Roulette” truly struck a chord. “Russian Roulette” wasn’t nearly as overt as “Hard”, but there is still a chilling nature about the track overall. The gunshot literally puts a ‘cap’ on it – or rather ‘in it’.
“Only Girl (In the World)” / “What’s My Name”
http://youtu.be/pa14VNsdSYM Something that shocked me about the album Loud was that it managed to be nominated for album of the year at the Grammys – Rihanna’s only AOTY nomination to date. Personally, this was one of her weaker albums in my book, and choosing a favorite that eclipses another solid track is basically like a crapshoot. So, I’ll go with a draw between “Only Girl (In the World)” and “What’s My Name”. Still, it could’ve been “Raining Men” (featuring Nicki Minaj) or “Cheers (Drink To That)”. http://youtu.be/U0CGsw6h60k
“You Da One”
Talk That Talk
http://youtu.be/b3HeLs8Yosw First, let me give an honorable shout out to “Birthday Cake”, which is nothing short of epic. Again going against the grain – yes that means not picking a sensational “We Found Love” – I chose opening track and single “You Da One”. The tempo was slower, yet not in the ballpark of her ballads by any means. Sure the Dr. Luke assisted joint has sex written all over it, but Rihanna sells the “you know” right out of it. The raunchy “Cockiness (Love It)” wasn’t far behind btw.
http://youtu.be/lWA2pjMjpBs Initially, with “Diamonds”, I had the Katy Perry “Roar” syndrome, in which I felt the single initially was too conservative for an artist who had grown as bold as Rihanna. But as I continued to listen and hear “Diamonds” blow up, well I was on the bandwagon too. Unapologetic as an album has plenty of boldness as the title and cover suggests, but to hear Rihanna sort of ‘take it back’, well, it’s a nice departure.
Overall, YG delivers a compelling debut with My Krazy Life
YG • My Krazy Life • Def Jam • US Release Date: March 18, 2014
YG is the latest rapper on a long list of hopefuls to release his major label debut, searching for his ‘come-up’. Judging by its title (My Krazy Life) as well as the content enclosed, Y.G. has good reason to eye stardom and the hope for a ‘better’ life. Throughout this dark 14-track set (18 tracks on deluxe editions), YG tells the story of his life, in all its explicit details – sometimes its even TMI.
Overall, YG ends up delivering a compelling effort, though it’s not perfect. While the MC has a sensational flow, he’s not as quite alluring (yet) as the very best in the game. Still, for his first album, this west coast effort is more thrilling than not and shows tremendous potential.
“Momma Speech Intro” definitely foreshadows and establishes the tone: “…I hope you ain’t outside hanging with them gangbangers / you gon’ end up in motherf*cking jail, like your damn daddy.” A heavy way to kick things off, it’s truly just a facet, a piece of YG’s Krazy Life.
The following “BPT” is brief, and continues to find YG sort of introducing him self and the way he has/does live. “I’m from BPT (West side)…400 Bruce Street”, he raps on the hook. On the verses, he delivers incredibly agile rhymes with a rough and tumble sentiment: “That 40 Glock snap like Insta, ain’t no need for a caption / I got put on by four n***as, wasn’t need for no bandage…” “BPT” ends abruptly, sort of like a cliffhanger – you must keep on listening to discover what’s to come essentially. “BPT” sort of confuses early on taken out of context, but it makes perfect sense later on.
“I Just Wanna Party” can be considered to be the first full-length cut. Here, YG, assisted by Schoolboy Q and Jay Rock, spits “But I just wanna party, I don’t wanna hurt nobody”, but also states “I’ll beat the f*ck out of a n***a.” YG definitely talks some trash, but if you can get past the street savvy, he’s also being trill, particularly rapping “All these hoes f*ckin’, but they don’t wanna seem like a ho / so you gotta hit ‘em on the low…”
Schoolboy Q handles the second verse, boldly bragging he “could sell a key to God”, referencing drugs, specifically kilos. Jay Rock, who takes the third verse is all gangster: “I ain’t got a stunt double / you ain’t got no hands so you might let the gun touch you…” “I Just Wanna Party” is certain edgy, but also the first standout from My Krazy Life.
“Left, Right” (featuring DJ Mustard) ends up being an exceptionally produced club banger with booty on the mind. YG is definitely in full-on salacious mode, leaving few elements of sex to the imagination. “…She can divide her legs on this dick like a fraction,” he naughtily spits on the first verse, “right, right, left, hit ‘em with that right, left”. Of course, “Left, Right” is nothing more than physical as YG could care less about his partner: “… if you cheated on me, I won’t care, right?”
He follows up his emotionless hook-up with the eye-catching “Bicken Back Being Bool”. Why such an odd title? Apparently, the Bloods, a prominent gang in California, avoid the use of the letter “C” or words using “C”. This would be because of the rivalry with the Crips. So, if you can rewrite the title of the song, it’s likely “Kickin’ Back Being Cool” (“K” would have the same sound as “C” and wouldn’t be in true Blood style likely). Another enjoyable cut, among my favorite lyrics were “Wifey don’t like SEGA, I don’t play that b*tch.”
“Meet The Flockers” seems like a titular play on the Ben Stiller movie Meet The Fockers, but more relevantly, it’s a joint about robbers (“flockers”). If normal people think of “flocks” referring to geese, YG is using “flockers” as slang for robbing in groups. “Meet the motherf*cking flockers / make some noise if you ever stole something in your life…make some noise if you ever stole a dollar out your mama’s purse,” YG spits on the hook, “When she wasn’t lookin while y’all was in church.” He gets an assist on the second verse by Tee Cee.
“My N***a” ends up being one of the album’s highlights, despite its overuse of the controversial African-American reference to “homie” or “bro”. A Slickly produced skeletal cut impacted by punches of 808, “My N***a” really says very little, but it doesn’t need to say much to be successful. Jeezy and Rich Homie Quan come along for the ride contributing verses, with Rich also handling the hook (“I said that I’mma ride for my motherf*ckin’ n***as…”).
Sex becomes the focus of the next two cuts, “Do It To Ya” (featuring Teeflii) and “Me & My B*tch” (featuring Tory Lanez). “Do It To You” isn’t a love song given its physical nature, but it sounds like one from YG’s perspective. A standout it is, the obligatory “Face down, ass up / that’s the way we likes to…” definitely is nowhere in the gentleman’s handbook and eschews chivalry.
“Me & My B*tch” also fails to be the traditional love song, but deeper examination makes one relate to YG’s sentiment. Tory Lanez’s sung hook explains part of YG’s lot: “Used to have a girlfriend / now all I got is hoes / just looking for a down girl / but she was f*ckin’ on the low.” Basically, YG’s “ride or die” wasn’t being faithful (“…Damn she was with him last weekend”), despite how much he cared and invested in her (“I was claiming her when we was … wasn’t using condoms no nothing…”). In the end, YG’s chick tries to use possible paternity to get him back because he’s rich now. It’s a twisted tale, but a compelling one.
“Who Do You Love?” brings in Drake, who definitely steals the show – no disrespect to YG, who also has some sound lyrical moments (“I’m that n***a on the block / police pull up, I’m tryna stash the Glock”). “I’m the general, just makin’ sure my soldiers straight,” raps Drake on verse two, “Had to leave my n***a, homie got an open case / But I’m big in the south / so we gon’ pay some people off, we gon’ figure it out.”
“Who Do You Love” is followed by arguably the album’s best cut, “Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin)”, featuring Kendrick Lamar. Not one for subtlety, YG speaks his mind without a filter from the onset: “I woke up this morning, I had a boner / I went to sleep last night with no b*tch…I was a loner.”
While YG keys in on ‘not getting any’, ultimately the MC is actually referencing the stress of various things on his mind, and smoking and drinking help to alleviate that stress. As for KL, well he goes H.A.M. as usual: “I swear this industry sh*t, to me is one big ass lick / I walk inside of a buildin’, tell the A&R n***a strip / Tell ‘em I need all of my chips, my life been on Section 8 / I’ve been a welfare case, AFDC pump fake.”
“1AM” has a difficult act to follow, but handles the pressure well. Another autobiographically driven number, YG references the lack of discipline he received in his youth, specifically from his mother. Hence, such irresponsible actions including unprotected sex and empty relationships make perfect sense. “Thank God (Interlude)” features singing from Big TC (verse one) and rapping from RJ (verse two). RJ’s rapping alludes to jail time/making bail for Y.G., going back to his ‘flocking’.
On sincere closer “Sorry Momma”, where YG is assisted by Ty Dolla $ign, Y.G. takes responsibility for his own actions and apologizes to her. Ty Dolla $ign conveys this superbly via the hook: “I’m sorry Momma / let me take some weight off your shoulders / I’m singing to momma / you ain’t gotta worry now, them days is over.” The production for the closing cut is lush and simply beautiful.
My Krazy Life isn’t quite comparable to the epic nature of big-time debuts like Kanye West’s The College Dropout, Drake’s Thank Me Later, or Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid M.A.A.D. City, but YG definitely has a compelling story to tell. The fact that My Krazy Life can be examined so analytically beyond the overt nature of its rhymes is a testament to the potential of YG There are truly no misses to be found as every track has a relevant role to the larger narrative. Perhaps it’s not the next rap classic, but it’s definitely one of the best rap albums of the year as of yet.
Favorites:“I Just Wanna Party,” “My N***a,” “Do It To Ya,” “Who Do You Love?,” “Really Be (Smokin N Drinkin)”