Nick Weaver, Prowler © Nick Weaver

Nick Weaver Brings The Heat On ‘Prowler’


Nick Weaver, Prowler © Nick Weaver
© Nick Weaver

Often, us as music lovers – and sometimes critics too – tend to flock to major-label or big-named indie artists are the first source for reviewing music. Why? It’s easy and these artists are well established or moderately established. Sometimes, however, the biggest “gems” come with burgeoning artists, many known or establishing themselves at the local level and gradually or consistently building their careers. That was a mouthful!

Okay enough of that – let’s just cut to the chase. Nick Weaver, a Seattle independent rapper rocks – well he raps, but he “rocks” because he has plenty to offer lyrically and artistically to the game. On his full-length album Prowler, Weaver shows both his continually growing potential and exceptionalness as an MC. Nick Weaver is one cool cat. Let’s dive into Prowler, shall we?

“Proceed” launches Prowler enthusiastically, possessing a ferocious edge. An exceptional salvo even clocking in just over two minutes, “Proceed” sets the tone for the album, with Weaver engaging his audience with assertive, assured rhymes. “Good Lord” follows up in satisfactory fashion, thriving off the momentum established by the opener. Weaver rides an infectious loop like a boss, spitting with poised-urgency. Huh – “What you talkin’ ‘bout Willis?” Basically, Weaver is chill, yet his mellow approach doesn’t lack fire. It takes skill to spit ether the way Weaver does.

“R.I.P.” is drenched in swag, with Weaver getting a strong assist from da Deputy. Da Deputy takes the reins initially, blessing a raucous anchoring loop with his gritty pipes. Weaver takes over the second half of the track, contrasting da Deputy magnificently with his cool approach, while still packing a KO punch with a dash of profanity…or two…or three.

“Forgot” like opener “Proceed” is brief, but continues to showcase an MC on autopilot. The best, most memorable line: “I’m Gus Van Sant with a dash of Rembrandt…” Get it Nick! On “Them” he comes out swinging, amplifying the aggression to the next level, passionately spitting, “Motherf*ckers like you / spent your whole damn life not knowing what you really had to do…and motherf*ckers like me / spent our whole damn lives figurin’ out who we really need to be…” Later, Weaver emphatically spits on the hook, “Let’s break ‘em off something, uh! Uh! / Let’s break ‘em off something cold…” If he were ever too subtle before, there’s no subtleness here as he gets down and dirty no questions asked.

“Aw f*ck!” What a way to jump right into “Slide,” which ranks among the crème de la crème of Prowler (“it’s irresistibly delicious”). Weaver definitely comes to play – jump shots going in – delivering thrilling rhyme after thrilling rhyme, whether he’s “too weird for drugs for real,” “spent my unemployment on Nikes…” or he just wants to “slide into your DMs.”

As hard as it is to follow up “Slide,” “Heat” handles the arduous task soundly. Of course it does – Nick Weaver’s been bringing the “Heat” since “Proceed” initiated Prowler. Next! “Modus Operandi” (featuring Grynch) revisits that ‘smooth operator’ electrifying means that found Weaver killing it from the jump. The M.O. unsurprisingly ends up being successful, as it does on solo track “Gospel” which has a bit more contemporary production finesse compared to much of Prowler. It’s slick and intense – indeed “the moment where I rock you” – or so Weaver asserts! Hey, the “Gospel” hits you right in the soul!

“Bleed” features Anthony Briscoe, who delivers nuanced, soulfully sung vocals during the second half of the song. His legato vocals directly contrasts Weaver’s rapping. Penultimate joint “Small Man” once more sports that “cool bite” making Weaver quite compelling, including a brilliant string of rhymes that eventually ends with titillating innuendo (“a tormented tongue / tornado right through your fishnets”). “Taste” concludes Prowler as soundly as it began, no questions asked. In other words, the “taste” is good.

All in all, Prowler is a terrific independent rap album without a doubt. Weaver first impressed with EP Yardwork, but Prowler finds the Seattle MC stepping up his game to the next level. Clever and witty, Weaver has a winner on his hands.

Favorites: “Good Lord,” “Them,” “Slide” and “Small Man”

★★★★

Nick Weaver • Prowler • Nick Weaver • Release Date: 2.17.16

Logic, The Incredible True Story © Def Jam

Logic Delivers (Once More) On Sophomore Album ‘The Incredible True Story’  


Logic, The Incredible True Story © Def Jam

 

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”  

★★★★

Spose, Why Am I So Happy? © Preposterously Dank Entertainment

Spose, ‘Why Am I So Happy?’ [Review]


Spose, Why Am I So Happy? © Preposterously Dank Entertainment

Spose Proves He’s ‘The King Of Maine’ On Why Am I So Happy?

Spose • Why Am I So Happy • Preposterously Dank Entertainment • US Release Date: July 10, 2015

Here’s a shocking fact – get ready for it! Did you know, that there is rapper doing his thing from Maine? No, of course you didn’t! Okay, okay, maybe you did if your hip-hop chops are all encompassing besides the mainstream, but in case you didn’t Spose is one MC you definitely shouldn’t be sleeping on! Sure, Maine isn’t exactly the hotbed of rap, but they’ve definitely got a “king” in Spose. Need proof Maine has its own monarchy (at least where music is concerned)? Take listen to Spose’s hot independent album Why Am I So Happy?

Spose is assertive from the start, opening “Happy Right Now” (featuring Renee Coolbrith) with the unapologetic lyric, “Let’s talk about the shit that we don’t talk about.” Well produced and energetic, it can safely be said Spose wastes no time. “Feel Alright” follows (featuring Kristina Kentigian), sporting a hard beat with honest rhymes to match. “Never got my degree but I can turn the heat up,” Spose sits on verse two, “It’s too much sun to let the whole world beat us.”

“Lies Song” (featuring Shane Reis & Wax) is an absolute hoot! While Spose rattles off a bunch of lies, he keeps himself honest by titling the song “Lies Song.” Pick and choose which lies you’d like to disprove, though most guys would be quick to jump onto the “I’ve never watch porn…” line within the hook. There’s nothing apologetic about “Greatest Sh*t Ever” – “Last night I got so drunk, the homies came over / and I woke up and didn’t have a hangover.” It gets better though: “And I turned on the TV and I caught a sound bite / it’s good news, Ray Rice and Chris Brown died.” Spose is cocky and confident, and it works out exceptionally for him. 

“Thanks Obama” does a fantastic job of capturing the ‘blame the president’ syndrome folks seem to have. Like “Lies Song” and “Greatest Sh*t Ever,” there’s sarcasm about the record that truly gives it personality. Pick which lyrics kill it more – there’s an abundance, like “ I’m always doing what I got to do / like last week, when I banged a prostitute / with no condom, now I’m in the hospital / the doctor says it’s gonorrhea / Thanks Obama.” Epic? Yes! 

If “Thanks Obama” doesn’t do it, then surely the exhilarating “Gesundheit” does, featuring some of the hottest production work of the album. The rhymes are agile and quick, as Spose delivers nothing short of a rousing narrative. It’s a lot to take in, but give the MC credit for his passionate delivery over killer production. “Little Different / Obituary” embraces a touch of rock, differentiating itself from the previous songs. It doesn’t supersede say “Thanks Obama” but keeps the momentum rolling.

“Kanye Go” is quite interesting. Spose raps about his past and coming up – not an uncommon tale in music circles. So, where does “Kanye” come into the picture? The infectious hook performed by Dave Gutter: “I got that sh*t that makes Rick Ross go (huh) / Make Jay-Z go (yup) / make Kanye go (haah?) / I know you’re at a loss for words / what could you say?” Does it work? Yep totally!

“Work In Progress” follows, once more featuring Shane Reis. The song features cliché, trendy hip-hop production work, and while conformity can make one indistinct; it’s not really a problem here. Is “Work In Progress” as accomplished as the crème de la crème? Nah, but it’s consistent without questions asked. The skeletal, edgy “The G.O.A.T.” incites the head nodding from the jump – a perfect “anti-club” record – he’s not really rapping about club relevant things after all! 

“Fearless (Interlude)” – a humorous, creative fake infomercial – precedes title track “Why Am I So Happy?” which brings back Renee Coolbrith covering the hook. Unsurprisingly, Spose goes hard on the title track, spitting about social and political issues, whether it’s religion, Iraq, or being a parent himself. On “Alternative Radio” Spose reminisces back to his childhood, growing up on the alternative music of the 90s. Fittingly, the song itself embraces rock-based production, hence the music matches the content. Clever? Definitely, particularly since “Alternative Radio” did seem to help Spose get through some hard times.

“Nobody” concludes Why Am I So Happy, featuring comedian and MC George Watsky, best known as Watsky. Ultimately, “Nobody” concludes the album on an uplifting note. “I was supposed to never be nothing but made it to something,” he raps on the pre-hook, eventually summing things up stating, “I’ll prove it, I just another human who was supposed to be.”

So how does Why Am I So Happy? Stack up? Well, all in all, it should make any listener happy. Spose has a great sense of humor, and he goes beyond the tried and true themes of contemporary rap music, which is refreshing. Does he put Maine on the map? Of course – he’s the “f**king King of Maine” to quote Watsky. 

Favorites: “Feel Alright,” “Lies Song,” “Greatest Shit Ever,” “Thanks Obama,” “Kanye Go,” “The G.O.A.T.”

★★★★

Tech N9ne, Special Effects © Strange Music

Review: Tech N9ne Delivers Epically Eclectic Effort with ‘Special Effects’


Tech N9ne, Special Effects © Strange Music

Tech N9ne • Special Effects • Strange Music • US Release Date: May 4, 2015

Tech N9ne is one of a kind. Yep, this is a cliché characterization that could be used to describe almost any musician, but in the case of Tech N9ne, it’s true. He ranks among the most eclectic rappers in the game, with most of his eclecticism coming from being an underground presence as opposed to a commercial figure. As of late, Tech N9ne has naturally built a more faithful commercial fan base, hence why many of his albums have consistent debuted in the top echelon of the Billboard 200. N9ne’s latest effort Special Effects is no different – it landed at a familiar spot – number four on the albums chart.

Special Effects is a big album – ambitious in scope and overextended in regards to duration. Even if its 80-minute run is overlabored, Tech N9ne offers an album that is strong from start to finish. Given his stylistic restlessness, Tech N9ne incorporates a little bit of everything on Special Effects and by everything that includes classical music as well!

On “Aw Yeah? (Intervention)” Tech N9ne ‘goes off,’ literally. He says it best himself: “I’mma yell while I’m walking through this hell cause I’m furious.” The sentiment of “Aw Yeah? (Intervention)” is anger, finding the rapper struggling with the loss of his mother. This is confirmed on the exceptional “Lacrimosa,” which like the Mozart requiem movement that fuels it, is a memorial of sorts (“Zoned out cause my mother is gone…my duty go if I’m moody yo, get up and get the song out…”).

The classical influence of “Lacrimosa” is completely worn off by the ‘Sunday Evening’ portion of Special Effects led by “On The Bible,” which is unquestionable hardcore, street-based rap. “Bible” is used as a source of morality within the title and contextually, but ultimately, there is little sanctified about “On The Bible.” “Shroud,” another winner (featuring Krizz Kaliko), is eerily dark, as N9ne raps, “This is darkness accumulated / over the years and heartless buffoons that made it.” Things grow their most disturbed on “Psycho B**ch III” featuring Hopsin. Honestly, no explanation is needed: “You’re just a shady b**ch, on the daily on some crazy s**t / you don’t f**k around with a lady, it’ll be a blaze where your Mercedes sit.”

“Wither” is nothing short of epic. Featuring Corey Taylor of Slipknot, has rap dude ever rocked out harder? This is one of the better metal/rap combinations you will ever here as both artists feed off of each other’s energy. “Wither” is the final full-length closing out ‘Sunday Evening’ before “Hood Go Crazy” dominates the ‘Monday’ portion of Special Effects. The production work of “Hood Go Crazy” allures and hypnotizes the listener before N9ne further ‘blesses’ the standout with his blunt rhymes. He gets some help from B.o.B. and 2 Chainz. How does N9ne follow it up? – With a joint featuring Lil Wayne, Yo Gotti, and Big Scoop (“Bass Ackward”).

‘Tuesday’ features just one song, “No K” featuring E-40 and mainstay Krizz Kaliko. Arguably Wednesday’s joints stand out more, including the Eminem guest spot on “Speedom (WWC2)” and the malicious, haunting groove of “Yates” featuring Marcus Yates. Of course N9ne eats up the production and the competition, proclaiming, “Lately I’ve been like f**k rap… cause all these tough cats really don’t have no nutsacks / trust that ‘nough scratch does back much wackness / flush that s**t…” On ‘Thursday,’ one of the more ‘pop-oriented’ records appears via “A Certain Comfort” featuring Kate Rose.

The remainder of Special Effects is consistent without outperforming the very best. For example, “Life Sentences” is another solid showing, but could never supplant “Psycho B**ch III.” Similarly, the classical touches of “Dyin’ Flyin” are stunning, but not quite enough to usurp the valedictory “Lacrimosa.” Still, that choir at the end though coupled with those strings – gorgeous and chilling!

Ultimately, Strange Effects is another superb album from Tech N9ne. Is it perfect? – No, but its pros (including ambition) easily outweigh its cons (mostly length). Yes it’s too long, but at least Tech N9ne knows how to do an album up right and keeps his audience engaged. Truly, there is something for everybody to spin over and over. For yours truly, its “Lacrimosa” and “Hood Go Crazy.”

Favorites: “Aw Yeah? (Intervention),” “Lacrimosa,” “Shroud,” “Psycho B**ch III,” “Wither,” “Hood Go Crazy,” “Yates,” “A Certain Comfort.”

★★★★

Yelawolf, Love Story © Interscope

Review: Yelawolf Delivers An Eclectic Effort With ‘Love Story’


Yelawolf, Love Story © Interscope

Yelawolf • Love Story • Interscope • US Release Date: April 21, 2015

It’s no shock that Alabaman rapper Yelawolf’s first major label tanked. If it wasn’t known, Yelawolf makes listeners aware: “One, my last record flopped / two, it wasn’t my time.” Whether 2015 is Yelawolf’s time, only time and sales will tell. Regardless, if Yelawolf was aiming for a commercial album, Love Story isn’t it. Instead, Love Story is an eclectic effort with some truly enticing moments. Arguably none of them seem prime candidates to ‘breakthrough,’ but with commercial aspirations set aside, Yelawolf has made an album that’s easily worthy of partaking.

Throughout its course, Yelawolf poses himself as something of a southern hip-hop cowboy, hence including elements of rock, singer/songwriter fare, and country. This characterization separates Yelawolf from the multitude, not to mention executive producer Eminem. “Outer Space” kicks things off with a bang, capturing the listener’s attention with its ample profanity and unique production. “Change” is equally alluring; as the majority of the record is sung before Yelawolf explodes with fiery rhymes. From the get-go, Yela is on another planet, and to quote Jack Nicholson via Mars Attacks, “Ain’t that ain’t bad!”

“American You” is a lovely record and like everything else, quite unexpected. Even though there’s little that’s hip-hop about this joint for the majority, within Love Story early on, it’s the most accessible, infectious song – it’s no surprise it’s a single.   If “American You” is too pop-centric, the rock-fueled production of “Whiskey In A Bottle” – not to mention aggressive, unapologetic rhymes by Yelawolf – will definitely tickle your fancy.

Following the soulful balladry of interlude “Ball And Chain,” “Till It’s Gone” benefits from driving, southern production and Yelawolf’s pointed, agile rhymes. As great as he spits the verses, he also sounds terrific singing the memorable hook, “Ain’t much I can do but I do what I can / But I’m not a fool, there’s no need to pretend / just because you got yourself in some s**t / it doesn’t mean I have to come deal with it.” “Devil in My Veins” comes off as an old school country/folk ballad, rivaling say “The House of The Rising Sun” for a comparison point. Should it work? Maybe not, but given Yelawolf’s strong ties with the south and a compelling singing voice, it does.

If “Devil” was too far left of center, the triumphant “Best Friend” atones for all improprieties. Yelawolf’s unique tone of voice is perfect for this introspective, spiritual song and adding a razor sharp Eminem only makes things better. Certainly a hard act to follow, “Empty Bottles” doesn’t do too shabby. However, “Heartbreak” one-ups, with its gospel-infused, soulful production and Yelawolf’s frank raps. “Heartbreak” has a similar vibe to “Whiskey In A Bottle” and “Best Friend” – it ranks among the best.

On “Tennessee Love,” Yelawolf shows his romantic side, hence contrasting the edgier, heart wrenching “Heartbreak.” “I’d never let someone straight up disrespect you / I’d never let someone call you out your name…” – in other words, Yelawolf is going to hold her – Fefe Dobson down. Need more proof – “Can I put this ring on your finger? Let you know that I’m serious, marry me now.” After falling in “Tennessee Love,” Yelawolf raps about his Chevy on “Box Chevy V” – it wouldn’t be the first time. Sure, it’s tried and true, but he makes it appealing.

“If God is my angel, the f**king devil’s the pistol / better put your face behind safety glass when I load up.” Wow! Yelawolf ‘goes hard’ on the title track, which is certainly unexpected given the song title. “Johnny Cash” is about his career as a rapper, ultimately aspiring to be as big as the celebrity that graces the song title. What’s more fitting than another song referencing the south/country? “Have A Flight” is another non-traditional, un-hip-hop number, but perhaps that’s what makes it stand out.

On “Sky’s The Limit,” Yelawolf criticizes ‘The American Dream,’ considering it ultimately to be flawed: “They say the sky is the limit / well I guess it depends on you / in your views / in this American dream.” His verses are incredibly realistic, painting the darker side of life. He follows up with the emotional penultimate track “Disappear,” which ranks among the heaviest of the album. Smartly, Yelawolf closes energetically on the country-rap amalgam, “Fiddle Me This.”

Ultimately, Love Story is a fine sophomore album from Yelawolf that is very different from his debut Radioactive. Regardless how one views his stylistic fluctuations, the material that Yelawolf presents and statements he makes are strong. The biggest rub is the length, which clocks in at a rare 75 minutes. Even so there are ample moments that make Love Story notable.

Favorites: “American You,” “Whiskey In A Bottle,” “Till It’s Gone,” “Best Friend” featuring Eminem, “Heartbreak” 

★★★½

Big Sean, Dark Sky Paradise © Def Jam

8 Takeaways from Big Sean’s ‘Dark Sky Paradise’ 


Big Sean, Dark Sky Paradise © Def Jam

“I Do it!” Recently, Detroit rapper Big Sean dropped his third studio album, Dark Sky Paradise. After lackadaisical sales for his sophomore effort Hall Of Fame, perhaps the old saying ‘third time’s charm’ gets it done for Big Sean this time. After listening and analyzing Dark Sky Paradise, here are eight takeaways from Sean’s latest LP.

1) His flow remains agile 

Big Sean continues to rap like a mad man at times on Dark Sky Paradise. Sometimes it’s too much, but give the dude credit for his electrifying pace. It begins on opening track “Dark Sky (Skyscrapers),” continuing on “Blessings” and throughout the course of the album. Whether his rhymes contain a lot of depth is another issue entirely, but the dude can spit, no questions asked.

2) He acknowledges his blessings

Big Sean spends an entire song (“Blessings”) dedicated to the ‘blessings’ he has been bestowed. He gets a little help from Drake as well, as he speaks of “Blessings on blessings on blessings.” He also mentions his blessings on the blunt “I Don’t F*ck With You,” when he spits, “I got a new chick that I gotta thank God for.” Amen? 

3) He gives a big ‘FU’ to past relationships

Five words: “I Don’t F*ck With You.” The song is a big FU to an ex where Big Sean doesn’t give a ‘flip’ about her in the least. “I don’t f*ck with you / you lil stupid a$$ b*tch, I ain’t f*ckin’ with you…” – charming! By the end of the song, he acknowledges how he has gotten over her, moved on, but still doesn’t give a you-know-what about his ex. 

4) He has ‘ambition’ 

Look no further than “Paradise,” where Big Sean shows ‘tremendous’ ambition. It’s all about excess mind you, but more importantly, it’s reaping the benefits of fame. Even if Sean’s idea of “paradise” is shallow, at least he owns it.

5) He’s made mistakes 

“Win Some, Lose Some” finds Big Sean talking about his triumphs and his fails. He doesn’t ever admit to perfection, as he knows he’s made some mistakes.

6) He likes vacations 

Big Sean’s idea of a ‘vacation’ isn’t necessarily a trip to Paris, Jamaica or Aruba. No, Big Sean – with the help of pal Jhené Aiko – wants to “get it on” if you catch the drift. On “I Know” the hook goes something like this: “The way you move it’s like you could use a vacation / drink in your hand and the harder you dance / I swear right now it look like you on a vacation / gotta get away, make it happen.” 

7) He adored his grandmother

Big Sean dedicates his profanity-free “One Man Can Change the World” to his deceased grandmother, whom he obviously thought the world of. Back to the lack of profanity, Big Sean even alters his lyric from Rick Ross“Sanctified” – “All I wanted was a hundred million dollars and a bad chick.” If Sean’s own positive lyrics weren’t enough, he enlists Kanye West and the soulful John Legend to provide a lift.

8) He Desires Respect in the Game

Big Sean has had his share of haters, and the feel of Dark Sky Paradise is that the MC wants the respect of others. Does he deserve that respect? Of course – he offers plenty of attributes as an MC and can legitimately rap. That doesn’t mean he’s the most lyrically profound rapper, but his flow and style are more pro than con easily.

Nick Weaver, Yardwork

Review: Nick Weaver Impresses on His Lyrical ‘Yardwork’ EP


Nick Weaver, Yardwork

Nick Weaver • Yardwork (EP) • Release Date: January 6, 2015

Contemporary hip-hop/rap music transcends race, gender, and any number of stereotypes. No longer is the genre based merely upon experiencing the hard-knock life of the streets or hustling – the scope of the music has evolved and grown considerably. That is what makes Seattle MC/producer Nick Weaver special and among a crop of a unique, newer school of rappers.

Young’s your regular guy who has always been passionate about the music, but definitely doesn’t pretend to be something he’s not. On his ‘debut’ EP Yardwork, he spits about his life and never sells out beyond his experiences – that’s the mark of authenticity and legitimate ‘trill-ness’. Ultimately, the dude who’s went through the ‘normal’ motions of life, delivers some excellent stuff without ever pretending he’s a ‘G.’

Title track “Yardwork” sets the tone with its bite, despite being delivered in a chill, cool approach. Maybe it’s the dash of profanity that adds the grittiness to Weaver’s laid-back, easygoing performance. Regardless, the listening experience is one in which the feeling is you quickly get on the ‘same page’ as Weaver. Most folks must complete the “yard work” of which the MC speaks, right?

“The Story” amplifies the groove with a soulful, old school feel. The enjoyable track isn’t without surprises. “The Story” features a folksy contrast that switches the meter and overall feeling, though only temporarily. Weaver’s flow continues to compel, with the rhymes flowing right off his tongue with agility and overall ease. There is soundness about Weaver, even with his more nonchalant approach compared to others. It’s a selling point.

“Triple 6” has a foreboding feel, as to be expected given its eerie song title. The production has a conservative nature about it, but the haunting nature of the restraint actually intensifies the creepy, enigmatic sound of the song. Unsurprisingly, Weaver references the devil within his passionate rhymes, both explicitly and figuratively. “Triple 6” is a worthwhile narrative that never cedes listeners’ attention as Weaver delivers the ultimate middle finger to a music exec, with a healthy helping of f-bombs. FEROCIOUS!

A splash of trumpet and piano appear on “Bang Bang,” not to mention the exuberance of its major key, a clear contrast to “Triple 6.” Even though the music is joyful (in an understated fashion), Weaver’s rhymes remain honest with life-experience. A nice touch by Weaver is the pacing – the allowance of space and for “Bang Bang” to extend for a longer duration beyond his raps.

“The Gap” follows, enlisting the help of Nige Hood and YC The Cynic. Production remains a selling point – never overproduced, but containing just enough ideas to keep things interesting and maintaining a flow. The horns on this hook-less joint fill in the gaps sensationally. Weaver and his companions do a sound job on their verses.

Closing cut “You’re Crazy” is incredibly respectable given the substance and depth of its message. Weaver’s adoration for his father is apparent here as the MC references cancer, further accentuated by the pop-driven backdrop. He spits eloquently and prudently. If nothing else, “You’re Crazy” is arguably the EP’s most touching moment.

Ultimately on Yardwork, Nick Weaver does ‘work’ – no pun intended. The producer/rapper captivates the listener with each successive listen, as there is something new to pick up each and every time. While Weaver doesn’t allure based upon pizzazz or ‘swag’ itself, he lets his rhymes and thoughtful production work carry him. Never overdone, Yardwork puts the weight into the lyrics, which makes it special and on another level compared to so much of hip-hop.

Favorites: “Yardwork,” “Triple 6” and “You’re Crazy”

★★★★

Logic, Under Pressure © Def Jam

Check Out Logic, ‘Under Pressure’ Review on Starpulse


Logic, Under Pressure © Def Jam

Please make sure you check out my full review of Logic‘s Under Pressure, written exclusively for starpulse.  The Link is below!

Logic Delivers Raps Biggest Triumph Of 2014 With Debut ‘Under Pressure’

G Eazy, These Things Happen © Blueprint / G-Eazy

Review: G-Eazy is Confident & Hungry on ‘These Things Happen’


G Eazy, These Things Happen © Blueprint / G-Eazy

G-Eazy • These Things Happen • Blueprint/G-Eazy • US Release Date: June 23, 2014

Throughout album These Things Happen, Bay-area rapper G-Eazy can be described as cocky and confident. From the onset, G-Eazy comes out swinging, establishing that he’s “the man.” Sure, he comes off arrogant at times given his swagger, but he also always conveys a passion, hunger, and drive for pursuing his dreams that’s respectable.

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While These Things Happen is filled with analyzable lyrics, the album itself is also easily summarized. Generally, These Things Happen encompasses money, fame, and hooking up. On title track “These Things Will Happen,” Eazy is quick to express his come-up: “Party in the penthouse, until I pass the f*ck out / reminiscing being broke and hoping and hoping I would luck out / nowadays I pull hos, swinging never struck out / reinvested everything just trying to get a buck out.”

The swagger about G-Eazy continues on “Far Alone (Remix),” featuring Jay Ant on the hook and E-40 guesting on the second verse. “From the BART train to a tour bus / still the same game except I’m pulling more sluts / more butts, more bucks, never giving more f*cks,” Eazy spits on verse three. Eazy has a moment of admiration, referencing growing up being a fan of E-40 (and Mac Dre), the same rapper now appearing on his track.

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On single “I Mean It,the sound is darker and Eazy’s tone filled with authority. “If I say sh*t then I mean it / she calls me, I screen it, I’m only f*ckin’ if it’s convenient / you lie on p***y, that’s weak sh*t / we pass p***y ‘round, that’s G-sh*t.” Throughout his ballsy rhymes, Eazy goes on to throw in the obligatory ‘doing your girlfriend’ line,  since he’s that awesome…

An interlude precedes “Opportunity Cost,a track where G-Eazy jumps right in: “Everything costs something bro / winning somewhere, somewhere else you just lost something though.” With a mellow, Drake-like vibe, “Opportunity Cost” stands out. The unbroken flow on this hook-less cut works soundly. That fearless confidence remains a fixture, as G-Eazy eats-it-up on rhymes like “…dreamed since I was just a baby / now I’m here it’s ‘f*ck you, pay me.’

The “lifestyle” has G-Eazy hooked on “Almost Famous,so much so he doesn’t plan to go back to his un-famous days. Like “Opportunity Cost,” he extends his tale of ‘coming up,’ not without a shallow reference or two.

“Lotta That” is among the best, in gangsta rap fashion. This joint finds Eazy and guests ASAP Ferg and Danny Seth going H.A.M. G-Eazy brags, “Yeah I got a lot of checks and yeah I have a lot of sex / and labels know I got up next / yeah she knows she got the best…” ASAP Ferg naturally tears it up (“Ah, I just sh*tted on you / probably licking your honey like Winnie the Pooh…”) while Danny Seth out threatens (“F*ck boy talking out of turn / my brothers leave you sleeping in an urn”).

#TheseThingsHappen 06.23.14 📷 @goodboyshady

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Skit “Factory Girl” foreshadows “Downtown Love, the first of a series of love/sex- oriented cuts. Essentially on “Downtown Love,” G-Eazy details a relationship that was based more on money (materialism), and sex than a dedicated, legitimate relationship. John Michael Rouchell delivers sensational vocals on the hook, singing, “Downtown love / don’t want none of your downtown love…just wonderin’ if you notice me.” A switch-up on the third verse is a thoughtful contrast.

“Complete” continues G-Eazy’s love tangent, though doesn’t quite achieve the level of quality of “Downtown Love.” The tone is more genuine than “Downtown Love,” as G-Eazy wants to ‘love’: “Soon as I get right I’mma take care of you / swear I’m so prepared to love you.”  Again, “Let’s Get Lost” confirms G-Eazy’s lustfulness. This translates through rhymes like “Moaning is how I wanna make you sound / can’t wait until I get you home / …I wanna take you now…” or “… I’m not looking for love, I’m just looking for sex.” It’s an interesting ‘back and forth’ with Eazy whether it’s about a genuine relationship or  meaningless, shallow pleasure.

For the millionth time, love crosses Eazy on “Shoot Me Down,finding the MC once more: “But that sh*t love can make you blind to a lot of sh*t.” After such ‘profundity,’ “Been On” breaks away from the exhaustion of love/sex, with G-Eazy trying to reclaim his cool and swagger. “Been On” isn’t bad, but being track 13, it feels as if Eazy has already, “been there, done that” previously.

“Remember You” once more revisits a relationship, incorporating the emotional and physical aspects of it. Ultimately, G-Eazy seems to come to the realization that it is the emotional commitment that is more important than merely hooking up. ‘Course the enjoyable, though silly “Tumblr Girls” writes off any maturing Eazy has done. But once more the MC redeems himself on closer “Just Believe,where Eazy is his ‘realest’ of the album.

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How does These Things Happen stack up? Ultimately, it is an enjoyable album with some great moments. That said, G-Eazy comes off a bit overconfident and oversexed at times. A stretch of songs near the end of the album prior to “Tumblr Girls” is definitely less riveting than some of the earliest ones. Still, there’s plenty to like about G-Eazy – there’s definitely plenty of potential there. He could stand to expand his lyrical and conceptual palette.

Favorites: “I Mean It,” “Opportunity Cost,” “Lotta That,” “Downtown Love,” “Tumblr Girls” & “Just Believe”

★★★½

Iggy Azalea, The New Classic © Def Jam

Review: Iggy Azalea, ‘The New Classic’


Iggy Azalea, The New Classic © Def Jam

Aussie newcomer Iggy Azalea shows potential on her debut rap LP 

Iggy Azalea • The New Classic • def Jam • US Release Date: April 22, 2014

“Oh what, a white girl with a flow ain’t been seen before?” Um, well, not really – at least not that much?  Fact – you can name how many Australian rappers are killing the game stateside – yeah, few NONE come to mind.  Newbie Iggy Azalea hopes to breakthrough in the US.

The barriers certainly lie in front of her as the white girl legit rapper from “down under”, but as she proves throughout her debut The New Classic, she ain’t never been scurred.  If she does nothing else on The New Classic, she asserts she is one bad muthaf – “Shut yo mouth!”  The New Classic isn’t perfect, but Azalea keeps it interesting and definitely has her moments.

Iggy Azalea Performing at Radio 1 Xtra at Liverpool Echo Arena Liverpool 10/09/2013 © WENN
Iggy Azalea Performing at Radio 1 Xtra at Liverpool Echo Arena Liverpool 10/09/2013 © WENN

 

Walk The Line” kicks off The New Classic soundly, possessing a surprising, unexpected maturity.  While very much an introductory track, the track sets the tone and gives the listener ‘food for thought’.  “Not where I wanna be but I’m far from home / just tryna’ make it on my own,” she sings on the hook. “And unless destiny calls, I don’t answer phones / this is the line and I walk alone.”  While Azalea could’ve rapped about shallower topics, she keys in on her personal journey (“I was wide awake and got slept on / I had everything and then lost it / worked my ass off, I’m exhausted”).

After “walking the line” all by herself, Azalea “Don’t Need Y’all” – really, she don’t.  “I remember when I wasn’t this big / and now y’all wanna act like y’all helped me get here,” she accusatorily spits on the hook.  Basically, Azalea drops the tried-and-true ‘fake friends’ theme. Throw in the Drake sentiment of “No New Friends” and you catch on to Azalea’s drift pretty quickly.

100”, like the clichéd sentiment of “no new friends” also plays on tried-and-true territory.  Sure, the cut is interesting thanks to production, Azalea’s quick-paced rhymes, and Watch the Duck’s expressive vocal hook (also produces), but it’s nothing particularly ‘brand new’.

Universal Music Groupspost Grammy party - Arrivals Los Angeles 01/26/2014 © WENN
Universal Music Groupspost Grammy party – Arrivals Los Angeles 01/26/2014 © WENN

 

Change Your Life” may not be a game changer to the audience’s lot in life, but it is definitely notable. Azalea initiates her verse with a bang: “You used to dealing with basic b*tches / basic sh*t, all the time / I’m a new classic, upgrade your status / from a standby, to a frequent flyer.”  Sure the hook keeps it simple (“I’mma change your life, I’mma change it…”), and maybe T.I.’s not quite as ‘electric’ as he once was, but ultimately, “Change Your Life” is a new classic – well a good song.

Fun single “Fancy” lives up to its title (or the antithesis rather) and Azalea doesn’t waste any time.  “First things first I’m the realest”, she fiercely spits on verse one. “Drop this and let the whole world feel it / and still I’m in the murda bizness / I could hold you down, like I’m givin’ lessons in physics.” Azalea doesn’t only ‘create her own shots’ – she brings in a burgeoning Charli XCX to assist.

The assist definitely makes “Fancy” click on all cylinders, winning the game easily – jump shots, dunks, etc.  Going back to the whole antithetical fancy notion, well Charli XCX’s definitely supports such an assertion: “Trash the hotel / let’s get drunk off the mini bar…chandelier swinging, we don’t give a f*ck.”  Yep, fancy all right.

New B*tch” is an incredibly proud check – whether it should be or not.  Keeping up with the notion that she’s “the new classic” exemplified, Azalea is just what the title asserts – “his new chick”.   As to why the track is censored on the explicit edition of the album is anybody’s guess, but perhaps Azalea was trying to be classy… After all, she does say, “Damn she is too bad, oh you mad?” It’s all part of being The New Classic.

Work” is definitely a standout from The New Classic. “Walk a mile in these Louboutins / but they don’t wear these sh*ts where I’m from,” Azalea spits assertively on the first verse. “I’m not hating, I’m just telling you / I’m tryna let you know what the f*ck that I’ve been through…”

The hook clarifies the title: “I’ve been up all night, tryna get that rich / I’ve been work, work, work, work, working on my sh*t / milked the whole game twice / gotta get it how I live / I’ve been work work, work, work, working on my sh*t / now get this work.” A solid track with quick-paced, agile rhymes, “Work” is definitely the valedictory showing from The New Classic.

Impossible Is Nothing” features an inspired message throughout, particularly on Azalea’s beautiful sung chorus (“Keep on livin’, keep on breathin’, even when you don’t believe it / keep on climbin’, keep on reachin’, even when this world can’t see it…impossible is nothing”).  Perhaps the optimism of the track is surprising, given the mysterious, darkness about the production.  Even so, the production work is stunning (The Invisible Men and The Arcade) and beautiful in spite of its minor key.

2014 MTV Movie Awards - Arrivals okia Theatre L.A. Live Los Angeles, CA, USA 04/13/2014 © Emiley Schweich / PR Photos
2014 MTV Movie Awards – Arrivals okia Theatre L.A. Live Los Angeles, CA, USA 04/13/2014 © Emiley Schweich / PR Photos

 

If “Impossible” possessed too much ‘redeeming’ substance, “Goddess” is a bit more ‘blasphemous’.  Azalea is definitely cocky and confident here, going so far to spit “While I make wine out of water, turn rappers into martyrs / set it off whenever I-G-G in the place” (verse two).  Of course, Azalea also makes reference to her non-stereotypical rap status (“Oh what, a white girl with a flow ain’t been seen before?”) Don’t call it the ‘second coming of Christ’.

Black Widow” brings in the up-and-coming Rita Ora.  Like much of The New Classic, the production stands out in tremendous fashion.  During Rita Ora’s hook, the rhythmic synths drive hard, matching the pop singers energy.  During Azalea’s verses, the production is slicker, anchored by cool beat and accentuated by swagger-laded synths (is there such a thing).

Lady Patra” is awesome, if for no other reason then its references to Frank Sinatra and Phantom of the Opera: “Classic, Sinatra, Bad, Phantom of the Opera / Shuffle the deck, I’ll be the queen in the pack / gotcha, Lady Patra”.  Yes, ole girl is certainly oozing with self-assuredness, but there’s nothing wrong with being confident – hey, that’s what Justin Bieber said at least:-/ Anyways, the swagger exhibited by “Lady Patra” in all facets (rapping, production, Mavado’s guest spot) makes it a winner.  Of course, it also doesn’t hurt when you’re Australian and can make reference to Shabba, LOL.

F**k Love” would definitely be right up Nicki Minaj’s alley; it’s brash and manic.  However, judging by Iggy’s overconfident, shallow lyrics, sounds like it’s going to be one lonely life for here: “F*ck love, give me diamonds / I’m already in love with myself / So in love with myself…” I’d love to say there is a greater realm of possibility where interpretation of the lyrical content is concerned, but ultimately, I highly doubt there is.  I can sympathize partially – at least with the “f*ck love” part.

BRIT Awards 2014 - Arrivals 02 Arena London, UK 02/19/2014 © Landmark / PR Photos
BRIT Awards 2014 – Arrivals 02 Arena London, UK 02/19/2014 © Landmark / PR Photos

The deluxe edition of The New Classic includes three bonus cuts: the danceable “Bounce”, the broken relationship joint “Rolex” (“Rolex’s don’t tick tock / but dammit baby my time costs / and dammit baby my time is money / so I need payback for all the time lost”), and its companion cut  “Just Askin’” (“…And are you still coolin’ with that lame girl?”).

If nothing else, The New Classic exhibits a massive amount of potential.  For a first album, Iggy Azalea pleases.  Even if Azalea views herself so highly as “the new classic”, the album itself isn’t quite on that level yet. In other words, Iggy isn’t quite on that autopilot swag just yet – LOL.  Still, in a drought of the female rap game, it is nice to hear a female MC – particularly an unlikely one by stereotypical standards – be poppin’…or nearly poppin’.  Overall, I’m onboard.

Favorites: “Walk the Line,”“Change Your Life,” “Fancy,”“Work,” “Lady Patra”

★★★½

Photo Credits: © Def Jam, © WENN,
© Emiley Schweich / PR Photos, © Landmark / PR Photos