21 April 2015

SINGLE: Speedom (WWC2) - Tech N9ne ft. Krizz Kaliko & Eminem

IT'S HERE!!! Why am I excited? Because one of my all time faves, Tech N9ne, has released the newest single from his upcoming album, Special Effects, due in stores on May 5. The track, Speedom, has been in the works since late last year and there was concern that Eminem wouldn't finish his contribution in time, but he did and the result is phenomenal!

In case you're wondering what the WWC2 stands for in the article title, it's Worldwide Choppers 2, the first being a posse cut off of Tech N9ne's 2011 album, All 6's and 7's, which featured the likes of Twista, Busta Rhymes, Yelawolf and other international stars. I suggest you peep those choppers (read: incredibly fast rappers) first and then come peep this. Although that track features nine talented artists, Speedom only needs three: Tech N9ne, Strange Music collaborator Krizz Kaliko, and the Rap God himself, Eminem.

The track needs no intro, as it goes right into Tech spitting lines talking about how the track was set up by him and producer Seven. With no break, Krizz comes in and wrecks shop. If you're not familiar with Krizz Kaliko, get familiar. A hook later, Eminem comes in slowly stepping over the beat (well, slow by the song's standards) and then catches up with everyone else and, dare I say, surpassing them? I had to listen to the song a dozen times to truly catch the lyrics.

If you're looking for Slim Shady, you won't find him here. This is pure lyrical speed and tongue dexterity here. Tech N9ne states in the song that there won't be another WWC, so I suggest you peep this track and get your fix now!

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15 April 2015

SINGLE: Snoop Dogg - So Many Pros

I don't know if y'all ready for this one. This shit is so fonky I don't even feel like writing cuz I'm too busy jammin. Pharrell Williams, who has also produced Snoop's entire upcoming album Bush, has linked back up with the Doggfather for "So Many Pros." At this point it's probably safe to crown Snoop Dogg the King of comebacks as he is a master of reinventing himself. Granted, his source material is often a throwback to timeless funk music, it seems to work everytime and his approach is never the same. This video hearkens back to famous blaxploitation and James Bond movies of the 70s and cleverly uses an unfolded promo poster as the backdrop. It's one of the most creative videos I've seen in Hip-hop in awhile. There's also a cameo from The Wire alum Felicia "Snoop" Pearson as Snoop's Connection...lol.

Artists with a certain amount of tenure in the game often times have a certain producer they are linked to that they make absolute magic with. Eric B & Rakim, DJ Premier & Guru, Alchemist & Prodigy, Jay-Z & Just Blaze, Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek, Timbaland & Missy Elliott, T.I. & DJ Toomp, the list goes on and on. While Snoop and Pharrell may not be as linked at the hip as some of the aforementioned duos, they do have a notable track record of collaborating partially or fully on a couple of critically acclaimed albums from Paid tha Cost to Be da Boss in 2002, to R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta): The Masterpiece in 2004. Some of Snoop's most memorable post-Doggystyle era music has been with the i am OTHER founder. The new single "So Many Pros" falls right in line with their very best work, and surely has the potential to become one of, if not, their greatest collaboration ever. That is a huge co-sign, if you are familiar with their past work, but if you don't believe me, just listen below.
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06 April 2015

REVIEW: Ludacris - Ludaversal

Since putting the rap game on the back burner to focus on acting, Ludacris has seemed to have gotten the reputation of not being able to spit like he could when he dropped Back for the First Time or Word of Mouf, that is definitely not true. With what seemed like to be another Detox case, Ludacris dropped Ludaversal after almost 3 years of being placed on hiatus. Luda has not been subtle with this album or his style set upon it. He effortlessly flexes that he is still able to get with a lot of rappers lyrically and spit just as hard as before and this album is proof of that claim.

If you haven’t heard or seen the video to it, the “Ludaversal Into” is nothing but Luda’s fast, aggressive and gritty raps that makes you have to repeat it to see if you heard it correctly. Any Luda fans that missed his style won’t be cut short with just the Intro. “Call Ya Bluff” is another track with a visual that is straight bars. This track is more than just than that classic Luda. On top of lyrics and a sick beat produced by Syk Sense, there was a message to new school rappers (most likely Drake & Big Sean due to a past confrontation over a certain flow that all three rappers have used), when you see him be about your words and man up like you said it in the BOOF. Luda even had Drake impersonated within the first minute of the song that lets listeners know who he was taking a shot at. 

Much like the title of the album, this is Luda’s universe. There are two dynamics to the album: the first is a blast to the past with his lyrical skills and the second is where he is in life now and what he has gone through to get here. These two dynamics set the tone for the album to transition from upbeat to a more relaxed feel that correlates with his subject matter. 

One of the deeper and more emotional songs of the second half of the album is “Ocean Skies” featuring Monica, which is a song dedicated to his father. The day Luda won his second and third Grammys, was when his dad was in critical condition and died due to complications, not giving him the opportunity to say goodbye. His father had a drinking problem that  developed and got worse to the point where he put his hands on Luda’s mother. Throughout the track he expresses how much he misses his father and forgives him for everything that happened. Luda’s ultimate point he is trying to convey is to speak to your parents while you still have the chance because you only get the ones that birthed you.

For fans that have missed Ludacris like I have, this album will be a nice dosage of that early 2000’s Atlanta rapper that raised the competition in the game. Ludaversal is definitely not his best work but it is nice that he still has the capability to spit like his trademarked style. With that being said, not every track is as appealing as others. The momentum change of the album is so sudden that it takes away from the fast paced raps and jittery punchlines that would take you down memory lane. With production from the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Just Blaze, David Banner and more this is definitely a album worth listening to especially if you have been a Ludacris fan from the start.

Check out the video to the "Ludaversal Intro" below:

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03 April 2015

REVIEW: Action Bronson - Mr. Wonderful

"There's no hit records on the demo..."

Even though this album isn't a demo, that line sets the tone. Action Bronson is continuing the trend of artists who aren't conforming to industry standards for studio albums, but instead are just creating great music that appeals to a broad range of tastes in Hip-hop. It's about time Bronsolino took a crack at the majors. Not sacrificing any of the charm and individuality we've grown to love from him, Action Bronson hits us with a solid debut album in Mr. Wonderful. He has enlisted the help of several top-tier producers for this project including The Alchemist, Mark Ronson, 40, and Statik Selektah  that may have you thinking the album should sound like a boom-bap classic, but Bronson's crazy unique style and personality remains intact throughout. Best In The Mix head honcho The Niftian put it best, Action Bronson can do no wrong. He has a certain distinctness about his cadence, voice, and flow that allow him the freedom to spit on anything and it'll probably come across as hot...even though when you break down his lyrics, he is pretty much spitting pure nonsense, albeit clever as hell. Not many artists can get away with this, but because he reminds you so much of a certain Wu-Tang clan member, fans tend to give him a pass (even though most of us know Bronson's music sounds nothing like he-who-will-not-be-named-because-the-comparisons-are-played-out-in-2015).

The thing is, this only applies to when he is rapping. Throughout Mr. Wonderful, Bronson catches the Billy Joel bug and attempts to flex his vocals with mixed results.  Being that this is his first major label release, it's evident more time was taken in the production department and  in the variety of the overall sound. He takes a few risks in an attempt to hone in on who he is as an artist. Songs like the heavy drug-induced "City Boy Blues," which follows a truly horrible acapella skit beforehand, don't quite hit the mark at all, and will most likely get constant skips from long-time Bronson fans. Other songs like "A Light In The Addict" and the intro track "Brand New Car" hit that sweet spot where he just sings the hook and it works well. Luckily the risks are few and far between, with the essence of Bronson still taking center stage.

Standout tracks on the album include the anti-bitch anthem "Baby Blue" with an amazingly witty feature from Chance the Rapper, where he hits a girl with lines like "I hope you never get off Fridays, and you work at a Fridays that's always busy on Friday." The jazzy Alchemist-produced "Terry" is a track I find myself coming back to the most, as it's one of the more accessible tracks found on the album. The same goes for "Easy Rider," which may be the hottest song on the album despite being leaked months ago. Overall it doesn't take much to enjoy an Action Bronson project, and Mr. Wonderful is no exception.

Fans who have been around for awhile should not expect this to sound like another entry in the Blue Chips series, though. He's attempting to spread his wings and establish himself as an artist outside of his mixtapes. He hasn't quite discovered his fearless artistic side yet with this album, but it's nice to see him branching out and trying new things instead of remaining in his comfort zone. The problem is there are so many other great albums that have come out in 2015 that Mr. Wonderful runs the risk of being buried under the heap. They say timing is important in Hip-hop, but who could have predicted so many quality projects dropping only three months into the year? It's rare that those who are introduced to Bronson's music end up not liking him, but he definitely would have benefitted from releasing this album a little later on in the year. There are no over-arching themes or deep messages here, Mr. Wonderful is just easy listening. And for that fact alone, this album has the power to be your daily driver if your brain needs a rest from the likes of Kendrick Lamar's magnum opus or Lupe Fiasco's Tetsuo & Youth. It will be interesting to see the direction Action Bronson's career goes in after this album.
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02 April 2015

VIDEO: Styles P & Chris Rivers - Ghost Dance

From the COT DAMN files, here goes a freestyle from the vet and the rookie(ish). Styles P the Ghost enlists the young emcee Chris Rivers to spit over the instrumental to Slaughterhouse's Hammer Dance. The track was off of 2012's Welcome to: Our House and the duo shoulder the lyrical duties that took all four Slaughterhouse members to attack. There are not many times that Styles P is on a track and loses the spotlight. Especially not from a younger lyricist. But Chris delievers ANOTHER fuego verse that we can add to the "he beat the breaks off that instrumental" tracks. Not much more to say. Peep video below. De nada.

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REVIEW: Wale - The Album About Nothing

Members of the XXL freshmen classes have been consistently hitting home runs album after album. J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Ab-Soul, Nipsey Hussle and others have all dropped amazing projects within the past few months and the list just got longer. The Album About Nothing, was thought to be released in 2013 but we got The Gifted instead. A great album that was received and in competition for album of the year for hip-hop heads but it was nothing more than a teaser. It even had Jerry Seinfeld at the end stating he was ready to work on what he thought The Album About Nothing session. The fourth studio LP that continues the mixtape Seinfeld themed series arrived on the March 31st.

Wale has came a long way since his first studio album Attention Deficit. What was heavily anticipated was generally accepted well by listeners but didn’t look that well on the sales charts. Due to the birth of piracy and lack of interest of any mainstream hip-hop artist who didn’t go by the name of Lil Wayne or Jay Z, it became damn near impossible to release a album and get decent sales. This era placed Wale at a very pivotal point in his early career and got him dropped from Interscope records. Since then he has faced adversity and made a very strong reclaim to power with Maybach Music Group. Wale has worked for every fan and hater he has. Though he does not get the accolades he deserves, this album should boost his stocks in the ranks with J. Cole and Kendrick. 

While conceiving this album, Wale disclosed that he was dealing with depression and using pills to cope with his emotions. From ranting to Complex to being overlooked by Katy Perry’s security and her not knowing who he is, Wale is gunning for his respect. If you are knowledgeable about his sound within the series, The Album About Nothing ushers us back to our seats and reminds us why Wale is in the tier of his peers. 

Along with using clips from the sitcom Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld is featured on many of the tracks with comedic stand ups and sit-ins. Jerry’s dramatic monologue’s foreshadow what the actual track is about. “The White Shoes” is a great track that touches specifically on male youth and the importance in the culture of looking fly. Everyone wants to look good especially a young male who wants to impress a young woman that he interested in, but is it worth possibly losing your life to another male(s) that are too lazy to actually work and save to get the shoe(s) on their own? In today’s society, it is. Coming up in DC, girls weren’t checking for a guy without white shoes. And if you were lucky enough to get some fresh white shoes (or any fly shoes for that matter), you have to watch out for the jack boys, in which one kid wasn’t lucky enough to dodge when he was killed for wearing some foamposites, that Wale sold him. In the grand scheme of things, "The White Shoes" is symbolic for the vanity in our culture and how it is literally to die for. 

Now was it worth all that bling or the hurting sustained / at curtain call there’s one of two, they either boo or bouquet / or was it worth all your fam or worth all the fame / exchange your personal relationships for personal gain / I’m telling you balance a bitch cause who on yo back and who got yo back I promise the line is this thin / I’m telling you balance a bitch cause who on yo back and who got yo back sometimes that line don’t exist.” Those were bars from “The Glass Egg” which is discussing being in combat with your world and the tug-of-war battle with the people that are in it. What will you decide when the choice that is right for your career but detrimental to your personal life and maybe against your morals? How would you balance being there for your loved ones but not letting them take advantage of your success? 

The Album About Nothing is exactly what you would hope’d it would be. Wale completely revives the version of himself from the mixtapes that really gained him recognition to be considered as a front runner of the game. The sound of the album is something that his fans can truly appreciate. That soulful and harmonic tone is woven into every track. To match the soul, Folarin’s subject matter is just as potent his peers J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar, who are viewed as the top two in the game right now. Wale is pissed he’s been left out of the discussion of being one of the best and he is right for feeling that way. Wale is one of the few artists that responds to fans and tries to reflect on what they say while at the same time remain an artist and create his own music. To me, this trait is admirable, it lets you know that he cares and is trying to make music for the people. The Album About Nothing will turn heads to Wale even with the release of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, this album will not go un-noticed. You get out what you put in; and what is easily Wale’s best project, this will be his best selling and best received album.

Below is the visual for "The White Shoes." The video actually brings to life what it feels like to feel the pressure of suburban youth and how much looking fresh has an impact on their lives. Enjoy!  

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VIDEO: Kendrick Lamar - King Kunta

Kendrick Lamar finally added some visuals to his third single off of To Pimp a Butterfly. The single King Kunta gets a Nuthin But A G Thang vibe applied to it, with a block party and shots around residential areas in Compton. He starts off driving in what appears to be an 80ish Coupe de Ville to his home. Once there we see a throne in the driveway, in reference to title "King" Kunta. It could possibly also hint at his place in hip hop (as he is widely considered the king of his generations hip hop artists). Most of the video takes place around the now closed Compton Fashion Center (aka the Compton Swap Meet). This landmark is important to Kendrick since his childhood was spent there. He recalls buying his tapes, cds and Nikes from the Swap Meet. We see Kendrick around other staples like Julien's liqour store. But mostly we see him dancing inside and outside of residential neighborhoods.

The song itself takes musical elements from Michael Jackson, James Brown and Ahmad Lewis. Lyrically this single is not as intricate as other tracks on TPaB. But that was on purpose. Kendrick wanted the lyrics to be simplistic but still have a message within it. He is able to be boastful but still have integrity. The title was important to K Dot because like many minorities (mainly black men), he has dealt with and heard negative slurs used against him and his loved ones. He wanted to take something negative and turn it into a positive. Even though society might make you feel a certain way, Kendrick wanted to emphasize that you are a man (a king). The track shows the heart of what Kendrick is all about. 

Peep our own Twon Johnson's review of To Pimp a Butterfly.

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