Boosie Badazz, Touch Down 2 Cause Hell © Atlantic

Boosie BadAzz Keeps It Real on ‘Touch Down 2 Cause Hell’ (Review)

Boosie Badazz, Touch Down 2 Cause Hell © Atlantic Boosie BadAzz • Touch Down 2 Cause Hell • Atlantic • US Release Date: May 26, 2015

“Minor setback for a major comeback.”   Those are the words Boosie speaks before spitting like a mad man on “Intro – Get Em Boosie.” Though it only lasts little more than a minute, the intro foreshadows what’s to come on Touch Down 2 Cause Hell. A lengthy album Touch Down 2 Cause Hell ends up being, it is a sound and authentic effort where Boosie Badazz (formerly Lil Boosie) keeps it real.

“Window of My Eyes” follows the intro sporting hard, malicious production and an honest account of how much prison sucks. Boosie puts it best when he spits, “This ain’t living, I would wish this sh*t on my worst enemy.” The real effects of imprisonment rear their ugly head when Boosie mentions how hard it is to not be a part of his kids lives (“On the phone, son crying, and I wanna wipe his tears / change his diapers, clean his ears…”).

“Mercy on My Soul” maintains the drama of “Window of My Eyes,” featuring Jeezy and Akelee. Boosie is thankful for “another chance,” and asks for forgiveness for his sins. Jeezy delivers a K.O. punch with lines “Heard it’s hot in hell so I’m packing linen / and lately my conscience be shaking me, waking me right up out my sleep.”

The machismo and toughness that characterizes Touch Down 2 Cause Hell continues virtuously on “Like a Man” featuring Rich Homie Quan, where most of the vulnerability of “Mercy on My Soul” has been erased. Still, Boosie allows for the listener to connect to his situation, continuing to share bits and pieces of his life: “Since 15 been takin’ care of my mama manly / never say the word ‘why’ when it’s time to do for my family.”

“On Deck” keeps it street, featuring Young Thug. Unlike the preceding cuts, “On Deck” is less founded upon imprisonment and his family. Still, his gritty persona shines, even if this is a less relatable joint. The edge remains firmly planted on the brief “Retaliation,” which reeks of violence in the name of payback, evidenced from the opening rhymes: “N***a just killed TyeTye / caught him slipping in a drive-by / we so surprised his mama in tears / somebody gon’ die now.”

“No Juice” plays up the old adage of rappers who lack the goods – aka fake as… Throughout the course of “No Juice,” Boosie cites numerous examples of the fakeness, whether it’s the fact that “they aint never slung that yak / they aint’ ever laid in that rack” or “they exaggerating for these women, hoping they look at em different.” Two tracks later, “Hip Hop Hooray,” featuring Webbie, takes a similar perspective: “Hip hop hooray, too many rappers lying today” Taking a break from both streets and criticism, “On That Level” (also featuring Webbie) is all about strippers. Misogynistic? – Yep, to the nth degree. Make what you will of it.

On “Mr. Miyagi,” Boosie takes on the persona of the Karate Kid character. The application is obviously different: “I trained 20 n***as, to bust 20 Uzis / I taught ‘em how to sell, how to stack they mail.” One more referencing his stint in prison, Boosie spits, “I took care of n***as, if I was sliding, they was sliding with me / wonder why a n***a couldn’t sit and testify on me (keep it real).” Those snitches – tell you what!

“Black Heaven” beautifully reminisces about all of the black people who have passed on. Boosie references Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X among others. Keyshia Cole delivers a gorgeous, soulful hook, while J. Cole piggybacks on Boosie’s rhymes applying his own ‘walk’ in life.

“She Don’t Love Me” provides another contrast on Touch Down 2 Cause Hell. If stripper anthem “On That Level” is the most closely related joint, “She Don’t Love Me” is opposite. Commitment is the M.O. here, as opposed to temporary pleasure. Chris Brown handles the memorable hook. From searching for a “ride or die chick,” Boosie asserts the “money above everything else” mentality on “All I Know,” assisted by PJ. PJ sums it up best: “Wake up everyday and hustle my n***a that’s all I know.”

“Drop Top Music” featuring Rick Ross is enjoyable without ‘reinventing the wheel’ or representing the crème de la crème of Touch Down 2 Cause Hell. “Spoil You” follows, featuring the ‘King of the South,’ T.I. It plays exactly as you’d envision – Boosie is willing to do anything for his boo – anything. “I know you got wants, I know you got needs / I know you got plans, and I know you got dreams…girl let me spoil you, let me spoil you.” As far as T.I.’s verse, well, he gets nasty detailing the “do” if you catch the drift.

“How She Got Her Name” is captivating, as Boosie crafts the narrative of the ‘bad girl,’ hence explaining, “how she got her name.” “Kicking Clouds” is both literal and metaphorical. While Boosie literally “kicks clouds” by smoking weed, the metaphorical reference is he could care less about his haters, hence the “Middle finger to your world, if you ain’t my kind.” Penultimate record “Hands Up” centers around the famous (or infamous) police command, referencing Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri. Boosie becomes the latest rapper to mention police injustice towards blacks. “I’m Sorry” concludes Touch Down 2 Cause Hell and needs no explanation: it’s Boosie’s apology for screwing up.

Overall, Touch Down 2 Cause Hell is a well-rounded affair. The biggest quibble is the length, which is exhaustive and uncharacteristic clocking in at 19 tracks shy of 75 minutes. Still, the good outweighs the mediocre by a mile and Boosie is honest throughout the effort, which allows for listeners to connect to him. All in all, it’s all good.

Favorites: “Window of My Eyes,” “Mercy on My Soul,” “Like a Man,” “No Juice,” “Black Heaven,” “She Don’t Love Me,” “How She Got Her Name”  


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” 


Big K.R.I.T., Cadillactica © Def Jam

Review: Big K.R.I.T. Delivers A Gem On Cadillactica

Big K.R.I.T., Cadillactica © Def Jam

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…”).

i EMBODY the SOUTH… The swang… the grain …the trunk with tha bang .. The gold in dey mouth

A photo posted by Big K.R.I.T. (@youngkrizzle) on

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.

All I can say is I'm excited to do this run …. BIG KRIT Pay Attention tour starting tomm in Charlotte! See dates below – Oct 2nd – Charlotte, NC [Amos’ Southend] Oct 3rd – Washington, DC [Howard Theatre] Oct 6th – Philadelphia, PA [TLA] Oct 7th – New York, NY [Highline Ballroom] Oct 8th – Cambridge, MA [The Middle East] Oct 9th – Montreal, QC [Le Cinq] Oct 10th – Toronto, ON [Tattoo Queen West] Oct 11th – Cleveland Heights, OH [Grog Shop] Oct 12th – Ann Arbor, MI [Blind Pig] Oct 14th – Indianapolis, IN [Emerson Theatre] Oct 15th – St.Louis, MO [The Ready Room] Oct 16th – Minneapolis, MN [Fine Line Music Cafe] Oct 17th – Chicago, IL [Bottom Lounge] Oct 18th – Iowa City, IA [Blue Moose Tap House] Oct 19th – Lawrence, KS [Granada Theatre] Oct 21st – Denver, CO [Cervantis/Other Side] Oct 24th – Portland, OR [Alhambra Theatre] Oct 25th – Victoria, BC [Club9One9] Oct 26th – Vancouver, BC [The Venue] Oct 27th – Seattle, WA [The Showbox ] Oct 29th – San Francisco, CA [Slim’s] Oct 30th – Santa Cruz, CA [The Catalyst] Oct 31st – Los Angeles, CA [Echoplex] Nov 2nd – Mesa, AZ [Club Red] Nov 4th – Durham, NC-[NC Central University w/ YG] Nov 5th – Oklahoma City, OK [Farmers Market] Nov 6th – Austin, TX [Scoot Inn] Nov 7th – Dallas, TX [Southside Music Hall] Nov 8th – San Antonio, TX [The White Rabbit] Nov 9th – Houston, TX [Warehouse] Nov 11th – New Orleans, LA [House of Blues] Nov 13th – Birmingham, AL [Zydeco] Nov 14th – Nashville, TN [Anthem] Nov 15th – Atlanta, GA [Masquerade]

A photo posted by Big K.R.I.T. (@youngkrizzle) on

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” 


Photo Credits: © Def Jam, instagram / youngkrizzle (Big K.R.I.T.)

Review [Highlights]: Future, ‘Honest’


Future’s second album proves to be much better than expected 

Future • Honest • Epic • US Release Date: April 22, 2014

Future2-20131113-55I’ll give credit where credit is due – Atlanta MC Future has stepped up his game on his second major label LP, Honest. That doesn’t mean that the content is the deepest ever (it’s not), but arguably better than Pluto, Future establishes his artistic niche. Still a divisive MC at best (or contemporary R&B artist or however you wish to classify him), at least on Honest you know where Ciara’s fiancé stands. After recently finishing penning a review of Honest elsewhere, I’ll briefly rundown three highlights.

Move That Dope” was definitely a favorite, even though its theme of selling drugs definitely lacks substance – well emotionally connecting substance that is. Still, it’s hard to deny that Future and a posse including Pusha T, Pharrell Williams (rapping mind you), and Casino are on autopilot. Future initiates the high-flying cut on verse one spitting “…Movin’ them squares and them bales, servin’ the rawest of the yayo / beating that china like Kunta Kinte / whippin’ it, whippin’ that fish and Parkay / drinkin’ on syrup, I’m rolling up good”. Pusha T, known for his rhymes referencing dope is right at home (“Woo! Fishscale in the two-door that I fish-tails…”) while Pharrell manages to drop a references to ‘doubling up’ (“If you got two hos, you need to let one go / two Lambos, you need to let one go). Casino isn’t outdone either, glorifying the drug-game. Add Mike Will Made It’s sick production, and “Move That Dope” golden.

Previously, I reviewed single “I Won”, featuring Kanye West (sub-titled “Future Continues Relying on Autotune on Latest Single “I Won). I summed up the single as follows:

Ultimately, it isn’t all/that bad considering who Future is artistically, but it certainly doesn’t supplant edgier rap that eschews the effect, nor does it supplant a good ole contemporary R&B joint. Still, to each his own is the best way to deliver the verdict about “I Won”. Some will like it, while others will proclaim “That’s that sh*t I don’t like” (“I Don’t Like”, Chief Keef). Personally, my opinion is somewhere in the middle. 

Future-20131113-56Essentially, I rated “I Won” as good, though not necessarily great. Contextually within Honest, the single has grown on me. While it is still quite abrupt for Future to go from calling his boo “a trophy” to “Get to f*ckin’ on the dresser just to make that p*ssy wetter”, the song is enjoyable. Kanye Wests references to “Bound 2” (“My trophy on that Bound bike, I gave you only pipe”), one of the best tracks from Yeezus, adds an extra cleverness. Maybe one wishes to barf a bit given his dedication to Kim Kardashian on his guest verse, but that’s his prerogative and his woman/baby mama when it’s all said and done. “I Won” may have won me over, or at least earned another full or half-star, LOL.

The final top-echelon highlight from Honest features an MC even crazier than Future – André 3000. “Benz Friendz (Whatchutola)” is nothing short of a trip. The hook is self-explanatory ultimately: “I told that b*tch I don’t give a f*ck about Benz, b*tch…and I don’t want no b*tch who need to have that kind of friendship / I told that b*tch I don’t give a f*ck about a Lamb, ho… and I don’t want no b*tch who need that kind of n***a, scram ho.” If for some reason André 3000 didn’t break it down enough for you on the explicit but compelling hook, him and his buddy Future don’t want a gold digger. And to use Kanye West’s former number one hit “Gold Digger” (even though he “ain’t saying she a gold digger…”), “…She ain’t messing with no broke n***as…” Well produced and electrifying to listen to ultimately, “Benz Friendz” is definitely at the top of Future’s work to this point.

Other tracks appeal as well including “T-Shirt” (“Strippers, money, weed, young Future I promote it…”), “Never Satisfied” featuring Drake (“Time after time after time / money’s all I get and there’s still money on my mind / but I ain’t never satisfied…”), and on the deluxe version, “Karate Chop (Remix)”, featuring Lil Wayne’s controversial Emmett Till reference. There are no gargantuan deal breakers, even though “Special” (featuring Young Scooter) runs long. Don’t call it a masterpiece, but Honest is definitely stronger than expected.


“T-Shirt”; “Move That Dope” ft. Pusha T, Pharrell Williams & Casino; “I Won” ft. Kanye West; “Benz Friendz (Whatchutola)” ft. André 3000; “Karate Chop (Remix)” ft. Lil Wayne

Verdict: ★★★½

Young Money, Rise of an Empire © Cash Money

Review: Young Money, ‘Rise Of An Empire’

Young Money, Rise of an Empire © Cash Money

Young Money’s Rise Of An Empire is a fail… an ‘epic’ one if you will 

Young Money • Rise of An Empire • Cash Money / Motown • US Release Date: March 11, 2014

Lil Wayne-20140317-70It is incredibly difficult to be unbiased towards compilation efforts prior to listening.  Honestly though, the compilation often incurs issues that the studio album/ solo studio album seems to avoid.  There’s just something about random tracks with no rhyme or reason that hurt the overall cohesiveness that many sound and exceptional albums possess.  Sigh* Young Money, following a five year hiatus, return to release their second compilation album, Rise of an Empire. Young Money, their previous album, actually had some fine moments, including the raunchy “Every Girl”, “Bedrock”, and “Roger That”.  Rise of an Empire isn’t as ‘wonderfully made’ you might say – it has some…umm…yeah, just read on!

We Alright”, featuring Euro, Birdman, and Lil Wayne, opens Rise of An Empire, umm interestingly.  On the first verse, Euro raps “They said I’d never do it, now I’m looking like, ‘N***a, what’s never?’ / and now they run from us when they see us, boy, that money’s pressure.”  Umm yeah…on the hook, the rapper confirms the message: “Long as my n***as right then we alright / long as the women right then we alright / long as the drinks on ice then we alright / long as these private flights…” – yeah you get the idea.  Birdman dumbs it down on his second verse, opening with a reference to money (“Yeah, it’s money over everything”).  Lil Wayne has the most interesting rhymes, most notably “You just a crocodile, I drink a full cup of his tears / can’t recognize you n***a, like Santa cut off his beard.”   Don’t call it a hit… please don’t, I’m begging you!

Drake-20140317-36Trophies” follows “We Alright”, led by the honorable Drake.  If nothing more, the pounding beat rocks.  “Trophies” is driven by rappers other favorite topic (besides money and sex) – the ‘come-up’.  The off-beat hook says it all: “…I’m just tryna stay alive and take care of my people / and they don’t have no award for that, trophies, trophies…” Overall, “Trophies” isn’t a bad track, but don’t call it Drizzy’s best either.  All said and done, “Trophies” won’t be awarded in trophies over much of the material from Nothing Was The Same when it’s all said and done.  Contextually, it is better than the opener.  But really, isn’t this another “Started From The Bottom”, sort of?

Bang” comes courtesy of Sonny Digital who is always good for a malicious production job.  Lil Twist, Euro, and Corey Gunz handle the rhymes here.  Lil Twist spends a portion of his verse referencing pro ballers, before bragging about his cliché threesome.  Euro drops references to being like the four ‘Michaels’ at the beginning of his verse: Michael Jordan, Michael Tyson, Michael Phelps, and Michael Jackson.  Besides being awesome, he references shooting, sexing, and of course money.  Corey Gunz drops lines like “War paint like a baboon and my b**ch got a red a$$ on” as well as referencing shooting, money and drugs.  True to its sound, “Bang” couldn’t be characterized as a ‘warm’ track.

Nicki Minaj9-20131105-2Senile” features the talents of Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Tyga.  Tyga kick starts thing with an agile verse over the slinky, minimalist production work.  In addition to delivering nastiness on the opening verse, Tyga delivers the simple, but addictive hook: “Can you see now? Are you senile? / Can you see now? You could see now…” Nicki Minaj does her normal thing on the second verse, fitting right in with the guys – shocker! Lil Wayne takes the final verse, closing it out classically: “I’m in this mother f**ker gettin’ money ‘til I’m senile, Tunechi!” Compared to “Bang”, “Senile” is more creative. Don’t call it a masterpiece, but it definitely gets the club poppin’… or something like that.

Euro gets his third moment to shine on his solo track, “Induction Speech”.  Think of it as more “trophies”: “I think I’m getting wasted tonight / I realized that I made it tonight /you gotta hear just how I made it tonight / ‘cause it’s crazy how I made it / and tonight is the night…I know what it takes to get here, and I’m glad that you could make it tonight.”  So essentially, Euro is now successful and he is going to live it up.  Fair enough.  Yet another ‘I came up’ tale – Is what it is.  Could’ve been shortened – brevity ain’t a bad thing.

One Time” features quite the crew: Lil Twist and Tyga once more, with the addition of YG.  What is common between the three? Well all three get raw – nasty if you will.  Unsurprisingly both the production and hook set the tone: “I’mma mack, on this ho, one time…If you a pimp, break a b**ch…” Lil Twist’s is confident (“You know the life? B**ch, I’m living that / now do that 100 yard dash and run that money back…”), Tyga’s cocky/misogynistic (“My n***a told me bout ya, had to see what you was worth / that p***y come a dime a dozen, you’ll be mine, you know it…”), and YG is the worst (“Too much money, I’ll never f**k a fat lady / now that’s a fact baby, sit on my lap baby”). “One Time” is enjoyable if you enjoy the objectification of women and like low IQ tracks.  Otherwise, one just sort of shakes your head at the shamefulness/shamelessness that pours out through the speakers.

Here’s the moment all have been waiting for – the controversial Nicki Minaj feature, “Lookin A**”, which opens with the ‘electrifying’ introduction “Look at y’all n***as…”. Can you sense the sarcasm? Honestly, examining the lyrics and listening, I sort of want to see how many times Nicki Minaj uses the word n***a because that’s what the whole song sound like – how many times can Nicki use the ‘n-word’. There’s nothing wrong with an edgy, aggressive Nicki Minaj (I loved the raunchy-fest of “Beez in The Trap” as much as anybody else), but a bit more substance would’ve been nice.  Judge for yourself – that’s my advice!

Fresher Than Ever” enlists the duties of Birdman, Gudda Gudda, Flow, Jae Millz, and Mack Maine.  Guess what the MCs spit about – $$$.  Yep, that’s hella fresh… Gudda Gudda offers the most ‘original’ lyrics of the album: “Yea, man we came from the bottom / Stunna told me get these n***as so I got ‘em!”  Please – how tried-and-true/tired is this! Birdman’s immense rhyming skills shine throughout a series of interludes…NOT: “Yeah, number one in that field…Stacks on top of stacks / b**ches, whips, floss, gettin’ in puttin’ it in…” After multiple references to material, Jae Millz does make a clever Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers center) reference, even it is still “for the love of money”: “Money stand tall as Roy Hibbert, hater forget it”.  Mack Maine chooses Captain Phillips as his cool reference (“Young Mack my driver but I’m Captain Phillips n***as”).  Fresher than ever really – Nope, not by any means whatsoever!  I call it recycling…maybe garbage…LOL.

Tyga2-20140221-51Back It Up” leaves little to the imagination, but honestly, would you expect any more from Lil Twist & Tyga? That is rhetorical times a million – literally. What’s the point of analyzing the rhymes if the content and theme is clearly laid out without explanation?  Don’t Twist and Tyga know there is more to life than the strip club? That’s a rhetorical question too by the way – SMH!

Moment” gives Tunechi a ‘moment’ literally – LOL.  Before he even gets into it, he’s high (“I’m so high I feel weightless) and like Rick Ross, he’s got shooters (“All my shooters courageous”).  On the hook, which precedes the verses, Weezy wishes to “Have my cake and eat it too, I want a bakery…” while later stating “I’m gon’ shoot it if I wave it, shoot it if I wave it / do yourself a favor, save yourself cause I can’t save ya.” “Moment” isn’t Lil Wayne’s best track ever, but the classic cues are in play, particularly references to weed, guns, money, and sex (see the final line of verse three).

Lil Wayne2-20140317-71You Already Know” has at least one bright spot – featuring up-and-coming R&B singer PJ Morton.  Additionally, Mack Maine, Gudda Gudda, and Jae Millz handle the rhymes.  Listening through the standard edition closer though, it’s not anything to write home about.  Where memorability is concerned, “You Already Know” has little of it.

So the verdict is in…drum roll please! The verdict is that Rise Of An Empire is not a great title for this album.  Perhaps “fall of an empire” would be more appropriate.  Rise has a few moments worthy of a second listen – namely “Trophies”, “Senile”, and perhaps even “Moment” – but otherwise, it falls into the normal pitfalls of the compilation.  Compared to the first album Young Money, Rise leaves more to be desired… My advice to Young Money is to ‘step out of the box’ or maybe in some cases, out of the booth.


“Trophies”; “Senile”; “Moment”

Verdict: ★★

Rick Ross, Mastermind © Def Jam

Review: Rick Ross, ‘Mastermind’

Rick Ross performs at IndigO2 in London London 10/07/2013 © Awais,

Rick Ross keeps a good thing going strong on LP number six 

Rick Ross • Mastermind • Def Jam • US Release Date: March 3, 2014

Six albums in, the best way to describe Rick Ross is that he ‘is what he is’.  Ross’ high watermark artistically was his fourth LP, 2010 masterpiece Teflon Don.  Up until Teflon Don, it seemed that Ross was just trying to find his artistic identity – his niche if you will.  After finally finding himself, Ross spent fifth LP God Forgives, I Don’t ‘flexing’, something he carries over into Mastermind.

Mastermind ultimately is another sound, enjoyable Rick Ross album, even if it lacks some of the excellent, luxurious rap of Teflon Don or even the exceptionalness of the best moments of God Forgives.  Quibbles and nitpicks aside, Mastermind is another welcome addition to Rozay’s discography.

Rick Ross performing in concert at the James L. Knight International Center Miami 11/24/2013 © WENN

Intro (Rick Ross/Mastermind)” opens familiarly with the “Maybach Music” intro – surprise, surprise.  The intro as a whole references being a ‘mastermind’, hence setting the tone for the album. Sure, a brief interlude doesn’t equate Mastermind with epitomizing or embodying its title, but it does foreshadow Ross’ point… sort of.  Apparently, Rick Ross’ idea of being a ‘mastermind’ is not synonymous with being an intellectual.

This is confirmed on first full-length joint, “Rich Is Gangsta”. As to what that even means ultimately, who knows.  Regardless, on the hook-less number, Rick Ross is “all about the Benjamins.”  “I just upped my stock, f*ck them cops,” he brags on the first verse. “If you love hip-hop, bust them shots.”  Later, he even manages to brag about his success as a rapper: “Cocaine worth much more than gold, n***a / so what’s your goals n***a? / All my sh*t when gold, n***a.”  Sure, Ross is overconfident with his bravado, but he does tell the truth… all his sh*t did go gold.

Agenda Las Vegas 2014 Spring Fashion Expo - Day 2 Sands Expo Convention Center  Las Vegas, NV, USA 02/18/2014 © Santiago Interiano /

While “Rich Is Gangsta” sported exceptional, lush production work, sophomore cut “Drug Dealers Dream” features the MC more on ‘autopilot.’  He continues to count his stacks, evidenced by the intro (“Your checking account available balance is $92, 153,183.28”).  Even though Rick is rich, the means is questionable by all means, yet Ross rides it for all its worth: “Murder, a motherf*ckin’ murder / no you didn’t see it but I know you b*tches heard it / blood on the corner, damn I miss my dawg / I’m just thinkin’ ‘bout his daughter, in another life he ballin.”  One relates to the sympathy that Ross has for his fallen comrade, which could be any person stripped of their life, yet on the other hand, the game of drug dealing, violence, and “I get shooters on clearance…” is just ugly.

Unsurprisingly, interlude “Shots Fired” proceeds, with Rick Ross being alluded to (“We’re being told by people here on the scenes, specifically the manager that a famous rapper was riding in that car when someone opened fire shooting at the car…” Dark stuff – quality though.

“Nobody” didn’t appeal to me personally the first time I heard it, but it grows on you.  French Montana continues to appear on every one’s track and here is no different as he delivers the hook: “Mama’s tryna save me / but she don’t know I’m tryna save her / man, them n***as tried to play me / man, ‘til I get this paper / you’re nobody ‘til somebody kills you.”

Essentially, the theme of doing wrong and dangerous things to achieve riches continues on this track.  The tone is aggressive, not merely because of Diddy’s pointed interludes, but also thanks to Ross’ unapologetic rhymes, including “The mortician, the morgue fillin’ with more snitches / we kill ‘em and taking their b*tches, R.I.P.” Ultimately, “Nobody” eventually reveals it’s magic if it isn’t apparent the first listen.  Don’t let the Notorious B.I.G. sample (“You’re Nobody (‘Til Somebody Kills You)”) dissuade you.

The Devil Is A Lie” benefits from sampling, maybe more so than “Nobody” did (“Don’t Let Your Love Fade Away”).  Don’t call “The Devil Is a Lie” a song of praise… there plenty of blasphemy.  “Big guns and big whips / rich n***a talkin’ big sh*t,” raps Ross on the hook, “…Bow your head cuz it’s time to pay tithes / opposition want me dead or alive / motherf**ker but the devil is a lie / the devil is a lie, b*tch I’m the truth…”

If that’s not enough, Jay-Z’s religious beliefs are, well, unique: “Is it true or it’s fiction / Is Hov atheist? I never f*ck with True Religion / am I down with the devil cuz my roof came up missin’ / is that Lucifer juice in that two cup he sippin’…” Well, regardless of where either MC stands spiritually, both acknowledge, “the devil is a lie.” It is up for debate whether that makes Rick Ross “the truth” though…

Rick Ross at Vanity Nightclub in Las Vegas Vanity Nightclub Las Vegas, NV, USA 12/30/2013 © Santiago Interiano /

Mafia Music III” keeps the momentum top-notch.  Sporting unexpected reggae production, “Mafia Music III” seems to really fuel Rick Ross into some inspired rhymes. Not only that, Ross references Kenneth Williams (gang member), Bill Belichick, and Farrakhan – go figure.  Mavado’s hook contributes to the overall success of the track as well, solidifying the tropical vibe.

Keeping it G, “War Ready” brings in Jeezy for the assist, who seems to have dropped the ‘Young’ as a of late.  Obsessed with ‘shooters’, Rick Ross continues to reference them for the millionth time as of late: “War ready / you got shooters, I’ve got shooters / we’ve got money / let’s do what them other n***as can’t do…” Mike Will Made It gives Ross and Jeezy magnificent, relaxed, yet malicious production work to do work over, which both do.  Surprisingly, it is Jeezy who references the ‘Box Chevy’ (“Box Chevy hit the block, run the whole 50 shots / you just poppin’ ‘til you know you can’t pop ‘em no more…”) “War Ready” keeps things 100 and consistent.

French Montana makes his second appearance of Mastermind on “What A Shame”, a brief cut produced by Reefa and Stats.  The production is excellent though the track itself could stand more development and ‘meat’ you might say. Unsurprisingly, Ross once more references those shooters, and they aren’t shooting jump shots. Rick Ross at Vanity Nightclub in Las Vegas Vanity Nightclub Las Vegas, NV, USA 12/30/2013 © Santiago Interiano /


On “Supreme”, Rick switches from ‘magazines’ to “Clean Maybach, but it’s filthy as sh*t / they partitioning for the women, how busy we get…” So, you guessed it, with Keith Sweat lending his soulful new-jack pipes and Scott Storch infusing some soulful, swagger-laden production, “Supreme” is about the ‘fun’ things in life… I’ll leave it at that.

BLK & WHT” does have a play on race, but it’s not merely what you may think it is before listening.  Here, Ross talks about ‘slanging’: “Young n***a black, but he selling white…N***a crib so big, it’s a damn shame / n***a sellin’ white for a gold chain.”  If nothing else, “BLK & WHT” has a hypnotizing quality about it.

After the silly “Dope B**ch Skit”, The Weeknd  drops a joint featuring Rick Ross… or at least that is how “In Vein” comes over.  Sure it’s lush, and in the emo-alt R&B style that The Weeknd has come to be associated, but it doesn’t really show off Rick Ross himself.

That said, standout “Sanctified” is more of a team-effort from Betty Wright, Big Sean, Kanye West, and Ross, but the overall product is satisfactory.  Let’s face it – where would this track have been without Betty Wright’s soulful, un-credited vocals? No disrespect to Mr. West, but few of us need another “Yeezus” as he refers to during his verse – another My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, perhaps. Ross’ best line on his verse: “Soldiers all in gators, new Mercedes for cadets / Balmain uniform, you know Donda designed the vest…” Like “The Devil Is A Lie” though, I wouldn’t invest too much spiritually into this track, particularly with Big Sean’s hook (“All I wanted is 100 million dollars and a bad b*tch…”) At least he admits his sins.

Rick Ross makes his way through the LAX in Los Angeles Los Angeles 11/27/2013 © PacificCoastNews

Walkin’ On Air” has a difficult act to follow after the ‘sanctification’, but it’s definitely not a shabby penultimate track.  Again, the blasphemy can’t be good for Ross’ spiritual being: “Baptized by the dope boys, ordained by the assholes / my salvation is the cash flow / whoa, oh I’m walking on air.”  Even aside from misinformed spiritual allusions, lines like “She let me f*ck early so she trustworthy…” certainly has no relation to the church.  Meek Mill confirms this song is, um, sinful (“Make a call, call Papi for a brick / and papi call José, cause José got fish…”).

Thug Cry”, featuring Lil Wayne and produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League closes Mastermind soundly.  Don’t call the multi-sampling work a classic, but it definitely closes an overt album a gentler than it was throughout its course.

All in all, Mastermind turns out to be another well-rounded, enjoyable album from Rick Ross.  There is more than enough wealth to please more casual and hardcore Ross fans alike.  It won’t supersede the top two albums of Ross’ collection, but it definitely can hang.  Not sure why the banging “Box Chevy” was omitted, but it is what it is. Not perfect, but well played, well played.

Favorites:“Drug Dealers Dream,”“The Devil Is A Lie,”“Mafia Music III,”“War Ready,”“Sanctified”


Photo Credits: © Def Jam, © Awais,, © WENN, © Santiago Interiano /, © PacificCoastNews

Review: B.o.B., ‘Underground Luxury’



B.o.B. • Underground Luxury • Atlantic • US Release Date: December 17, 2013

B.o.B. delivers a so-so effort on third LP Underground Luxury

BoB-20130510-43B.o.B. had a hot start off to his rap career back in 2010 when The Adventures of Bobby Ray debuted at number one on the Billboard album charts, eventually being certified gold.  “Nothing On Youwas a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100.  Later, a huge record entitled “Airplanes” seemed to be just what B.o.B needed to establish a viable, lengthy rap career.  If only the magical fairytale had worked out that way for the ATL MC.  Second album Strange Clouds (2012), didn’t receive near the buzz or success of the first.  Now after a ‘bomb’, B.o.B is forced to pick up the pieces on third LP Underground Luxury.  Unfortunately, the many of the pieces seem to be bent or broken throughout this somewhat underwhelming effort by a relatively talented MC.

All I Want” isn’t the greatest opener ever.   Within the intro, the MC comes off a bit ‘shallow’, playing up hip-hop clichés: “Whether I can afford it or not, n***a / I want b*tches, I want cars, I don’t give a f**k, I want it all / that’s what the f**k we’re here for.” Really? B.o.B clarifies his attitude on the verses, softening his tone from the bravado: “I used to say I never cared about the money until I put food on my momma’s table / follow the trail / could’ve been in jail  / the way that I live / could have been fatal / must have had an angel…” While his ambitions are more relatable after details of his ‘come-up’, “All I Want” doesn’t have the effect it could’ve had.  Follow-up “One Day” doesn’t quite get it done convincingly either, even as B.o.B continues on a personal trek.  The opening duo just feels like it lacks ‘magic’.

BoB-ADB-029295Paper Route” isn’t perfect, but with the clapping drums and sharp-sounding synths, it sports more oomph than the previous tracks.   B.o.B strikes gold with quite the opening lyrical salvo: “You don’t know who you f**king with / ain’t no democrat, and by far I’m no republican / this the type of talk that’ll probably piss off my publicist / and I ain’t even started, the water ain’t even bubbling…” He doesn’t let up off the gas, with his most meaningful line coming courtesy of verse three: “Don’t let these f**kers rob us for our freedom and your rights.” OK…

Ready” proceeds, assisted by the ubiquitous Future, but doesn’t achieve the same level of quality as “Paper Route”.  Future’s hook may use his signature trick (autotune), but the wordiness hinders it from being catchy.  Luckily for Bobby Ray, “Throwback” is the banger Underground Luxury could’ve used earlier.  Sure it’s a ‘booty’ cut, but at least it good one.  As for Chris Brown’s guest rap on the second verse – he’s just plain nasty.  Feminists won’t be pleased, and they shouldn’t.

Playing a seesawing game, “Back Me Up” isn’t horrid, but it’s not great either.  Basically, B.o.B is stating he’s got support from everywhere: “East side gon’ back me up, gon’ back me up / West side gon’ back me up, gon’ back me up / South side gon’ back me up, gon’ back me up / North side gon’ back me up, yeah.”  It works, but don’t call it a hit.  “Coastline” leads a group of misses – just saying! “Wide Open” features Ester Dean who’s vocal role is as follows: “Bust it wide open, let you see what I’m workin’ with.” B.o.B. predictably talks about his plans to hook-up, making a comparison to a four by four.  Shameful!  “Fly Muthaf***a” is even worse.  It’s as if B.o.B wants to see how many f-bombs he can drop to sound cool.  “N***as don’t like it when you fly as f**k / but I’m fly as f**k.” Not on this track B.o.B!

BoB-RWP-010126Headband”, another ‘booty’ anthem (featuring 2 Chainz) atones for the numerous improprieties of a horrid outgoing stretch.  Of course it lacks depth and really isn’t respectable, but it’s the energy Underground Luxury needed at this juncture in the album.  Still, B.o.B bragging about his favorite strand of weed and his sexual desires is by no means meaningful or truly enhancing. As for 2 Chainz, he’s just as bad if not worse: “Her a$$ would knock your a$$ out, you better stick and move / chain hang to my…” SMH! “John Doe” keeps momentum flowing, serving as a stark contrast to “Headband”.  Priscilla handles a superb hook while B.o.B matches the song’s tone with more meaningful lyrics – he eschews another ‘cellulite’ ode.

BOB-ZNV-001741After “John Doe”, things grow mediocre once more.  “Cranberry Moonwalk” is a bore save for some stinging one-liners including “Killin’ through the presidents / that’s assassination…” (verse one) and “I got my own lane but  I ain’t got no genre / I’m sh*ttin’ on n***as, you might need a plunger…” “Nobody Told Me” is an inspirational-style rap cut, but lacks memorability.  “Forever”, similarly, doesn’t feel distinctive.  Single “We Still In This B*tch”, featuring T.I. and Juicy J, closes the effort with a knockout punch.  Even so, this anthem isn’t enough to ‘save’ Underground Luxury, which has plenty of flaws.

The verdict? Underground Luxury is B.o.B’s weakest album to date – no question about it.  That may sound harsh, but Bobby Ray isn’t always on his ‘A’ game here.  Even the good tracks don’t stack up with his best from his biggest claim to fame, The Adventures of Bobby Ray.  Clubby anthems do help to close the gap between abysmal and say mediocre/average, but it’s not enough to alter the judgment of the album as a whole.  Two and half stars out of five might be being generous.


“Paper Route”; “Throwback”; “Headband”; “Jane Doe”; “We Still in This B*tch”

Verdict: ★★½

3 Album Sequels That Didn’t Live Up To The Original


It’s hard enough to make a blockbuster album the first time.  What’s even more arduous is following up a blockbuster and trying to achieve a similar level of commercial and critical success. Something that artists have done that surprises me Mary J Blige-20121104-17personally is to opt for their follow-up album to be a ‘sequel’.  I mean why take that considerable amount of pressure to live up to the original? As we all know in films, sequels tend to suck compared to the original.  While the effects aren’t always as drastic for the sequel album, sometimes they are.

Many musical sequels have graced us including numerous in recent times.  Some of them are strong enough, such as Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor II or even Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3 which may not have superseded the original, but did yield one Jay-Z’s most memorable hits, “Empire State of Mind”. Still, other sequels are purely wack as f… I’ve chosen three that I personally don’t quite match the glory of the original.  One of these three in particularly isn’t too shabby of an album, but its still an ugly stepsister to a much better juggernaut.


Justin Timberlake

The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2


Sequel to The 20/20 Experience (2013)

Justin Timberlake-JTM-064976One could argue that Timberlake’s second album of 2013 is much more experimental and surprising than the first. When I first sat down to listen to the opener “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)”, I was quite surprised and not necessarily positively.  From my perspective, ultimately, I find The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 to lack cohesion, be overproduced, and trend a tad bit too left of center compared to its older sibling. It has it’s moments, perhaps most notably moderate hit “Take Back The Night”, but it also leaves you wanting more.


Mary J. Blige

My Life II: The Journey Continues, Act I


Sequel to My Life (1994) 

51fuV-u-ZhL._SL500_AA280_Honestly y’all, this one sort of hurts me, but I believe my rationale is sound… Following up a 90s R&B classic is a tall task; it ain’t no joke! If any diva was up to successfully accomplishing this, it would be the queen of hip-hop soul, Mary J. Blige.  Her sequel to My Life (My Life II: The Journey Continues, Act I) oddly arrived 17 years after the original to less triumphant results.  It was by no means a bad album, but following the heels of not only one of Blige’s most important albums as well as her recent resurgence (The Breakthrough (2005)),  My Life II:The Journey Continues, Act I just doesn’t stack up against Mary’s best, whether she wants love “25/8” or not.  I mean she sounds awesome, but the material is not among her best.


Lil Wayne

I Am Not A Human Being II


Sequel to I Am Not A Human Being (2010)

31CtR6kKfBL._SL500_AA280_When Lil Wayne finally admitted and apologized to what we fans already knew in regards to a “lackluster” 2013, it seemed pretty ‘tired’, much like the sequel to I Am Not A Human Being was. For starters, Weezy’s first album was by no means the ‘cream of the crop’ of his discography, but it did have some bright spots including “Right Above It“.  Personally, I like “Right Above It” because he made an awesome reference to my favorite college basketball team, the Kentucky Wildcats (had to throw that out there).  As for his second installment, Tunechi’s reliance on all things oversexed is a major turn off.  I can’t speak for his female fans’ opinion, but I’d certainly object to the MC’s misogynistic approach here. “Love Me” gets a pass barely, but otherwise, Weezy sounds like he’s just going through the motions.  Whether “Sex Never Felt Better” or not (shout out TGT), perhaps toning it down and providing some thoughtful rhymes would’ve worked out much better for you Weezy.


Review: 2 Chainz, ‘B.O.A.T.S. II: #Me Time’


2 Chainz Does Dumb Surprisingly Well on B.O.A.T.S. II

2 Chainz⎪ B.O.A.T.S. II: #Me Time⎪Def Jam⎪⎪US Release Date: September 10

2 Chainz-ZNV-000958Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go… 2 Chainz is crazy! Like totally cray cray.  Honestly, B.O.A.T.S. II: #Me Time should be a disaster (add a profanity of choice in front of ‘disaster’). Somehow though, through all of Tauheed Epps’ stupidity, he puts together a dumb, but fun rap album.  Yeah, maybe there isn’t one single cut that supplants the brilliantly, naughty “Birthday Song” which I still jam out to on my iPod, but there is plenty of songs that lack substance that give the listener, um, a guilty pleasure.  2 CHAINZ!

The fun starts with “Fork”, in which 2 Chainz “…had a dream that rap wouldn’t work / woke up on the block, had to hit it with the fork / skrrr, skrrr, skrrr, skrrr, skrrr: hit it with the fork… rap don’t work, records ain’t bein’ sold…so much money on me, it won’t even fold….” Yeah something like that. What is he talking about? Good question! Well, sounds like drugs, rap albums not selling, and having more money than he’ll ever need.  If that’s not enough, he elaborates on his excesses, maybe best epitomized by a lyric like “I drink red b**ches, I don’t drink Red Bulls…” Alrighty then, heck of a way to start 2 Chainz by hitting it with the fork.

2 Chainz-ZNV-001216On “36”, the king of dumb educates us listeners on the hook: “36 / that’s how many ounces in a brick / 36, 36, 36, 36…” So if you had no idea about the wait of drug paraphernalia, 2 Chainz has schooled you over the course of one minute and a half.  Feel lifted?  Then after all the drugs, the “Feds Watching”, featuring and produced by Pharrell Williams.  2 Chainz begins his first verse with bragging about material things (“Dreads hang on designer everything…”), then goes on to the strip club (“This that category 5 when I walk up in the strip club…”), and throws in some drugs for good measure (“Backing soda marketing , I’m getting it ain’t I? Obviously…”). He caps all of his higher level thinking with a simple, summative hook: “I’mma be fresh as hell if the Feds watching….” So basically, even if 2 Chainz gets caught, he’s going to be ‘fresh to death’ I’m assuming? I don’t know about all that, but the track is killer.

Where U Been” keeps things consistently ‘materialistic’, featuring the assist from Cap.1.  Simply, 2 Chainz has been balling “getting money, where the f**k you been?”.  Oh and to add a little more oomph to his brashness, he throws in the ‘tasteful’ punch “bought a new crib just to f**k you in.”  Seems extreme to me, but he is 2 Chainz. Oh an as for Cap.1’s contributions, perhaps the lyric “My b**ch she’s so pretty that’s my Pocahontas…” takes the cake.  Next, my boy brings in Drake and Lil Wayne for the superstar collaboration “I Do It”.  Simplicity remains key, particularly given 2 Chainz’s opening ‘salvo’: “Hang up on a b**ch, call it crucified”.  Still, he has his moments.  Drake may have the best line, when he alludes to Lil Wayne near the end of the second verse: “Man I just hear this sh*t and think about what Tunechi will tell you / he might call up Patricia, she ‘bout to call up Melissa…” Oh and in case you’re wondering, yes Lil Wayne talks about sex on his verse… shocker.  The Outro is a nice contrast though.

2 Chainz-RWP-011385Used 2” keeps the absurdity alive and well, evidenced by the ridiculous hook which seems to reference recording the naughty and uploading it to youtube as looking for a baby mama… SMH.  Repetition is 2 Chainz’s best friend here, or his worst enemy with the clumsy lines he chooses to repeat.  He ‘redeems’ himself on the it’s-so-ridiculously-stupid-it’s-good “Netflix” which pairs him with Fergie… what a combo, phew! Where do you even start? 2 Chainz references weed, sex tapes, the paparazzi, high end fashion, and uninspired rappers all in the matter of his first verse.  On her verse, Fergie lifts from “Birthday Song” (“When I die, bury me inside the liquor store…”), as well as dropping the obligatory weed reference, blowing wads of money, and “b**ches copying” her.  And then there’s that hook… “I know you had the time of your life…you know I’m gettin’ money, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, Ill be countin’ this sh*t all night…” Geez Louise!

Extra” is one that annoys me.  Yeah, yeah, I know 2 Chainz is no Nas, but 2 Chainz’s pop-rap here is a bit questionable, even for him.  The most shameful line from Chainz? “I just had a threesome for three weeks in a row / Last name Chainz, first name Two…” WTF? Rich Homie Quan guests on the third verse.  On “U Da Realest”, Chainz states “I’m like a quarterback, hand it off / drop the work in the pot, watch it cannonball / I done seen ‘em ball, I done seen ‘em fall / rest in peace to my n***a, you da realest, dawg…”  Somewhere in there there seems to be some substance… well besides what’s in that pot he references.   But of course, he ruins a good moment too, like “Rest in my piece to all my n***as, they died while they was servin’ / rest in peace to all the soldiers that died in the service / I died in her…” I. Have. No. Words…that I’m going to publish here…

2 Chainz-RWP-011380Then comes “Beautiful Pain”, which features Lloyd and Mase.  2 Chainz doesn’t take himself seriously, but Lloyd refines things on a fine hook (“Oh I feel so fly / came so far, but I still wanna fly…see what this beautiful pain, provide / baby look into my eyes…”) And of course, Mase keeps things classy.  Overall, “Beautiful Pain” stands out.  T-Pain joins the boatload of collaborators on “So We Can Live”, drenched in autotune as always.  2 Chainz has plenty of ‘interesting’ moments, whether it’s his illegal activities (“Mama don’t work, heater don’t work / Police pulled me over and said he seen weed on my shirt / I pray to the lord and ask for forgiveness / If he popped my trunk I can get a life sentence…”), playing copycat (“Simon says, monkey see money do / I wore the shirt, you wore the same shirt too…”) or being the sh*t (“appetite for destruction, and I don’t need a menu / so far ahead of y’all n***as, I can see you in my rearview…”) . There it is, I suppose.

He’s hella clumsy on “Mainstream Ratchet”, but isn’t that understandable? Proceed with caution folks! I mean, anything with the word ratchet in it…  “And that’s ratchet huh? Her a$$ so big it look like she trying to walk backwards bruh…”  “Black Unicorn” contrasts, opening with an lovely spoken word performance by Sunni PattersonChrisette Michele handles the hook as classy and nuanced as always.  And as for Chainz, he’s not too shabby himself.  Ol’ boy gets himself together on “Outroduction”, presenting himself much more thoughtfully and candidly.  There are “two sides to a book” after all.

Classic or total bust? Neither, but B.O.A.T.S. II: #Me Time is actually a much better album than I envisioned it to be.  It’s hard to call an effort with so many references to sex, drugs, and irresponsibility a masterpiece, but I’ll give it to 2 Chainz, he certainly has some highlights here.  If you’re a fan of more intellectual rap though, this is not your cup of tea. But if you don’t mind going ‘stupid’ like a lot, well then, this album is your new jam.

Favorites: “36”; “Feds Watching”; “I Do It”; “Netflix”; “Beautiful Pain”

Verdict: ✰✰✰✰

Review: Juicy J, ‘Stay Trippy’


Juicy J Benefits from Being True to Himself… Even if That’s Irresponsible… 

Juicy J⎪Stay Trippy⎪ Columbia⎪⎪ US Release Date: August 27, 2013

Three-6-Mafia-tt04“I make money all day, then I ball with the profits / n***as hate on me, I tell em hatin’ n***as stop it…” It’s not the most endearing or intelligible lyric I’ve ever heard, but I’ll give it to Juicy J, you know exactly where he stands.  Best known for his work with Three Six Mafia and famously (or infamously) winning the Academy Award for Best Original Song (“It’s Hard Out Here For Pimp), Juicy is making his biggest solo splash ever, thanks to a little joint called “Bandz A Make Her Dance”.  Stay Trippy, the parent album, delivers multiple cuts keying in upon the success of the incredibly shallow, undeniably satisfying number.  The album is by no means deep, and while that should be a turn off, Stay Trippy actually is a solid album that finds Juicy J doing what he and Three-6-Mafia does best…playing on irresponsible, if appealing clichés of southern, hardcore rap.

Stop It”, the opener of which the aforementioned lyric was excerpted from, sets the tone for Stay Trippy. The cut is slickly produced and Juicy J is definitely a straight shooter: “Backstage, naked ladies / poppin’ pills and swallowing babies / bad b*****s ain’t come to play…” Not necessarily a highlighting number, “Stop It” is solid.  “Smokin’ Rollin’” is even better, sampling The Weeknd’s “High For This”.  At a brief 2:35, “Smokin’ Rollin’” packs a mighty punch, including a guest verse from the late Pimp C. Juicy J has his way, which is based around drugs: “Codeine in my system, man this life outstanding / feel like I’m on another planet, I don’t plan on landing…” No it’s not centered around more meaningful things like romance, world piece, or socioeconomic issues, but at least we know how much Juicy J likes to smoke and partake of ‘drank’.

Juicy J-WBU-019355On “No Heart No Love”, Juicy J grows violent: “I tell you one time, don’t play with my bread / n***a, you do, they gon’ find yo a$$ dead / body in trunk, hands tied to yo legs / tape on yo mouth, a hole in yo head…” Project Pat is no more forgiving on the third verse: “Fifty shots clear this b**ch out like a tornado / two choppas who identical – call ‘em Cain and Abel…” Don’t mess with Juicy, particularly as he counts his money on the predictable, though consistent “So Much Money” (“Thumbin’ through so much money, that I need three hands to count it…”).  An obligatory reference to ‘molly’ occurs (“I got your b**ch on a Molly, she ride me like a Ducati” as well as an allusion to himself (“I told ‘em “Bandz A Make Her Dance”, I turn my head, that sh*t charted”).  Again, it’s pretty simple-minded stuff, but it is what it is.

Bounce It” continues the trend, this time giving Juicy J a ‘booty’ track with the assist from Trey Songz and Wale.  Juicy J had previously assisted Wale on his own ‘cellulite anthem’ “Clappers”, but he’s a bit more raunchy here with lines like “Then it’s back to my room, she come out her dress / slob on my knob, think you know the rest…” Definitely Juicy, definitely.  On the fine “Wax”, Juicy is “wasted like a white boy, you know I got the best grass…” and ultimately “…come up with a hit and put it on wax / my homie high as sh*t, I put him on wax…”  Sure, Juicy’s trippy lyrics are a huge factor in the success of the cut, but so is the thoughtful Freda Payne sample of “I Get High (On Your Memory)”.

Juicy J-WBU-019410After putting it on wax,  Juicy J goes violent once more on “Gun Plus A Mask”: “A gun plus a mask, you do the math / all my goons know that equals cash / a gun plus a mask, that equals cash/ so if you’re f**ked up down to your last / a gun and a mask gon’ get you cash…” He gets a lift from Yelawolf on the second verse, who contrasts J’s vocal timbre with his own distinct sound (“Yelawolf I am a loose cannon, ask David Banner how deep / I was born and raised in this sh*t, momma I got manners bout me / but I’ll get dirty if I gotta get dirty and dead a motherf**kin’ pirahna up in an Alabama Creek…”).  Of course on “Smoke A N***a”, Juicy J and his homie Wiz Khalifa are ‘lifted’, with Juicy J sporting “Calie weed in a dutch, purple lean in my cup…” while Wiz is “smokin’ on this potent, feelin’ like I’m floatin’…” Decent, nothing innovative or ‘brand new’ as they say.

Show Out” is rather one dimensional, but it does 1D effectively you might say, propelled by a simple, repetitive hook courtesy of Young Jeezy (“Everytime I go out, you know I gotta show out…”).  Jeezy lends a hand on the third verse as well, with Big Sean adding some ‘addictiveness’ to the second verse (“She’s a fan, that’s fantastic / poppin’ xany’s, that’s xantastic…”).  The Timbaland produced “The Woods” featuring Justin Timberlake is among the best of Stay Trippy, offering a change of pace, sound, and better songwriting overall.  Justin Timberlake’s hook has great appeal (“When we go walking in the woods / nobody can hear us / and you could be as freaky as you should / I love you at your weirdest / unleash the animal, hear my mating call / I want you to be fearless / when we go walking in the woods / a natural experience / go ahead…”), but he doesn’t necessarily outshine Juicy.  Among Juicy’s juiciest lines? “She got her own, she independent / we at the lake, she skinny dipping / in the hotel we wake the neighbors / they knocking like Jehovah’s Witness…” That’s hard to beat, right?

Juicy J-WBU-019420The energy dies down a tad following the clever sexual writing prowess of  “The Woods”.  “Money A Do It” continues to go stupid, but has its moments including the chopped and screwed third verse.  On “Talkin’ ‘Bout”, Juicy is joined by Chris Brown and Wiz Khalifa once more for a decent, though not an incredible collaboration.  This cut is one that just lacks the appeal of others. Maybe it’s Chris Brown’s rap on the third verse: “Got bad b*****s from overseas but I need a big a$$ from the south…” Geez Louis Breezy! “All I Blow Is Loud” doesn’t quite atone, but Lex Luger’s production skill can’t be scrutinized in the least.  And if you’re into the whole molly movement in rap,  Juicy J manages to mention her again in all her glory: “Smokin’ gas in a rental / she givin’ me mental / countin’ faces (countin’ faces) / while she poppin’ molly like mentos…” SMH.

Bandz A Make Her Dance” arrives in the nick of time to regain momentum.  “Bandz a make her dance, bandz a make her dance / all these chicks poppin’…I’m just poppin’ bandz”, Juicy raps on one of the more ubiquitous rap hooks of 2013.  He doesn’t stop on the hook either.  “…Start twerking when she hear her song, stripper pole her income…” or “She put that @$$ up in my hands, I remote control it…”, Juicy raps on the first verse.  Lil Wayne adds his normal sexually-driven ‘Weezyness’ on verse 2 (“…bands a maker her dance, Tunechi make her *** / hit it form the side like a motherf**king bass drum…”) as does 2 Chainz on the third verse (“…Let me see that a$$ clap, standing ovation / if yo girl don’t swallow kids, man that h** basic…”) Basically, “Bandz…” is nasty, tasteless, probably misogynistic, but we just can’t get enough of it, whether that is a good or a bad thing.

Penultimate cut “Scholarship” sports an interesting concept, even if there is still plenty Juicy J-20130715-107of ‘ghetto-ness’ about it.  “You a college chick, you a college chick / keep twerking baby, might earn you a scholarship”, J raps on the hook.  Guesting A$AP Rocky has one of the best moments for sure: “Well f**k her master, she got her bachelor / so she only f**king rappers, she tired of cappers…” Well now… “If I Ain’t” closes the hour-long affair, again throwing references to excess: “Everday I turn up, burnin’ green and sippin’ lean / codeine and promethazine / my money longer than a limousine…” Yep, that sums of Still Trippy.

Is Still Trippy a classic? No, not by any means.  That said, Juicy J is true to himself (a lover of weed, lean, women, etc.) and he delivers an irresponsible album that is enjoyably irresponsible.  I’m not sure if that’s really good, but Stay Trippy is definitely a lot better than I would’ve envisioned originally.

“Smokin’ Rollin’”; “Bounce”; “Wax”; “Gun Plus A Mask”; “The Woods”; “Bandz A Make Her Dance”

Verdict: ✰✰✰½