29 June 2013

REVIEW: Wale - The Gifted

Since signing to Maybach Music Group, a lot of fans say that Wale has dumbed his lyrics down and changed his style from poetic lyricism to trying to conform to hood verses and club bangers. I slightly agree with this statement, but that isn’t the case for this album. Four days ago the DC rapper dropped his third studio album “The Gifted.” I believe this album will rally the disappointed Wale fans back to his table.  A lot of fans wish Wale would return to his “More about Nothing” style instead of the faddish club banger Wale that he exploits so often. I believe this album will satisfy those fans.

“The Gifted” sounds as if Wale combined his clever lyrics and flows from his mixtapes with a new approach to crafting albums. Patience is written all over this album. What stands out among anything else is the production on the album. The tracks don’t sound like any of the previous two LP’s. The first half of the album is up-tempo and has a brighter setting, while the second half is slower and mellower and slightly melancholy.

Wale exudes inspirational and empowering lyrics through the majority of the album. He has not shied away from attempting to reach out to the black community and exploit major faults within modern urban society. The message behind the album is effortlessly delivered while remaining in his natural element, excluding a couple tracks that are for radio. There are quite a few features (most features have multiple artists on the one track) that consist of Sam Drew, Meek Mill, Yo Gotti, Lyfe Jennings, Nicki Minaj, Juicy J, Rihanna, Ne-Yo, Rick Ross, Wiz Khalifa, 2 Chainz, Tiara Thomas and Jerry Seinfeld.

Overall I think “The Gifted” is a solid cop. The production is solid as well as the lyrics and delivery to listeners. This album is definitely better than its predecessor “Ambition.” The album really helps him stand out among the other artists on MMG. Wale can be a rapper of great caliber and this Wale sounds like the one that originally attracted his fan base some years ago.

24 June 2013

Best Week Ever: J Cole

Is J Cole having the best week ever? He just dropped his 2nd Roc Nation album, Born Sinner, the same day as Yeesus. While Mr.West is getting polarizing reviews, Mr.Cole is not. Not even the sophomore slump could stick to the Hov mentee. Both production and lyrics show progression from his critically acclaimed Cole World: The Sideline Story.

A stand out track from Born Sinner is his very personal Let Nas Down. Where he documents Nas' reaction to the track Work Out, from his first LP. 


Over the weekend Mr.Jones himself released his response. Made Nas Proud.

17 June 2013

Magna Carta Holy Grail

A week or so ago our own Twon Johnson made a comment about a Jay-Z album coming soon on one of our daily email threads. Validation of this was shown worldwide at the end of the 2nd quarter of the NBA finals. Normally we don't juts "post news" without our own insight on the matter. But in the this case there isn't too much to be said. We know a Hov album is dropping on the 4th of July. We assume it'll involve Rick Rubin, Swizz Beatz, Timbaland and Pharrell. Peep the commercial. What are uall's expectations for Mr.Carter?

14 June 2013

REVIEW: Statik Selektah - Extended Play

In the last couple of years Statik Selektah has made collab albums with Saigon, Freeway, Action Bronson and of course Termanology. Extended Play is his 5th EP and essentially boasts a who's who of emcees. Statik has a way making beats that both rookies and vets can rap over. His old school Hip-hop and Soul influences are visible with the way he chops up and selects samples. For the most part he has a cooled out vibe to his instrumentals. If you're a true Statik fan, this album does not disappoint.

Normally I run through a few tracks and report back to uall. But this 18 track album has such an eclectic gumbo of emcees that I honestly wouldn't know where to start. This is a review of "Statik Selektah's" album, but it's hard to review him without taking into account the various artists that bless each track. To get an idea, here are some of the features: Action Bronson, Termanology, Joey Bada$$, Black Thought, Raekwon, Mac Miller, Prodigy, Styles P, Joell Ortiz, Blu, Posdnuos and Talib Kweli. See what I mean? Crazy. Lyrically, each emcee brings their own unique style and flow to each and every track.

And to review Statik on just beats alone? Fuego for days. The range from soulful tracks like Bird's Eye View to gritty raw tracks like 21 & Over show Statik's exceptional ear for music. He has also mastered the art of paring the right emcee to the right beat. With the list above you see that this album features legends, newcomers, underground and vets in the game. And many tracks mix and match these emcees with the greatest of ease and care. Statik has a clear vision for each track and the album as a whole. Each track seems tailored to each emcee, which makes each track seem as if they were taken from an LP of each emcee. Can't really think of what more to say. Cop this. It'll make your day, whether you lounging in the crib or driving around the block. Preview album below!

12 June 2013

REVIEW: Prodigy & Alchemist: Albert Einstein

It's been half a decade since we've heard a full length Prodigy and Alchemist project. Return of the Mac was a very slept on album in 07, easily one of my top 10 albums of that year. But both have been busy since then. Alchemist dropped collab albums with Curren$y and Action Bronson as well as his own albums Chemical Warfare and Russian Roulette. Prodigy left G-Unit, went to jail, dropped a few albums and even wrote a book: My Infamous Life: The Autobiography of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy. Thankfully both were able to re-link and give us another solid album, Albert Einstein.

Since his recent jail stint, Mobb Deep have appeared to be on the outs. Of course this is only our perception from the outside looking in (but direct dis Tweets and awkward images of them together seemed to be a clear sign of the duo caught in a rift). Both emcees have said that they're cool and if anything it was just some drama between brothers. If you listen to Hip-hop though, it seems the only way to have their friendship verified would be to have them do a track together. Enter R.I.P. It's been 20 years since Mobb Deep dropped Juvenile Hell, and we can hear that their styles have aged well. Alchemist delivers a classic Mobb Deep sound that we have come accustom to. Prodigy and Havoc dropped bars claiming their validation as rap legends and solidify the group as one that will be here another 20 years. And how would you wrap this up? Easy, bring in the ever busy Raekwon and give us another street odyssey.

Dough Pildin has been on the airwaves for a few weeks to set this album up. Not much to say here. Both Alchemist and Prodigy brought their A games to the table. The beat allows the chorus to be unobtrusive and drops hints of different instruments throughout. Prodigy uses this instrumental to, "Rap circle around [dudes]". Prodigy hasn't change his flow or cadence much in the last few decades, instead the content has evolved through his trials (pun intended) and tribulations.

Bible Paper is a track with many progressions with the Alchemist lending a few bars to his instrumental. This has become a rare occurrence in recent years, but Alchemist did his thing. A little over halfway through the track the beat switches up from an ominous melodic instrumental to a more complex arrangement. Prodigy flips his rhythm to compensate the change in beats just as he has been for so many years on an ALC track.

An up and coming emcee is featured on The One. Prodigy recruits the talents of Action Bronson for this track. It seems only right since Prodigy came through for a Queens collab on Saaab Stories. Prodigy further adds to his lyrical prowess as he claims, "I am more than a Hip-hop legend, I'm iconic/ My 16s strong as fuck, I'm bionic." Action Bronson is able to keep up lyrically, while making strong statements in his early career, "I felt certain I was born to be the best Earthing." Action Bronson's old school flow is a perfect pairing to an emcee whole actually came up from that golden era.

Alchemist and Prodigy have mastered their sound. It is as if they both continue to challenge each other with crazy new beats or solid flows and metaphors. Both are forever influenced by the old-school Hip-hop flavor but are able to maintain relevant through their hard work and dedication to the culture. Prodigy has found a way to present his life stories for such a long time that one wonders how it this even unique. The answer is that while his sound and flow stay the same, it is his life experiences that have evolved. Young rappers now a days rap about guns, drugs and women too, but you can hear the inexperience and immaturity in their bars. Prodigy is a grown ass man and is able to incorporate similar stories with different perspectives and personal insight. From a production standpoint the Alchemist is able to show growth but still making sure his beats are unequivocally an ALC track. When it comes to producer/emcee combos, you would have to put them among the best.

REVIEW: Action Bronson - Saaab Stories

Queens stand up. It's a relief to see an emcee come up lately that doesn't look/sound like he came from the "Fisher Price: I'm a Rapper" assembly line. Even though Action Bronson sounds like a Ghostface sibling, he actually sites Kool G Rap as one of his biggest influences. If you're acquainted with his body of work so far, (mostly mixtapes and a few independent tapes) then Saaab Stories couldn't come sooner. I was going to do a quick bio, but you can Google that anywhere. Do yourself a favor though, after you run through this album, catch up on his previous tapes.

Bronson starts his first major label LP with the track 72 Virgins. The appetizer is just that, a short 2:50 track where he raps for about a minute. He recalls meeting a friend of a friend, and linking up while he began his underworld activities. This newcomer was older than him, but once they started making money it was him who started snitching. Bronson has to deal with him and continues in this lifestyle but explains that the end game is to leave his family straight. The instrumental sets up a cop drama type canvas where Bronson is able to paint this gritty portrait. The flow and cadence are perfectly intertwined to pair with the track.

No Time is set to a straight mid 90s boom bap type instrumental. Lyrically I think this track is where the Ghostface cadence in unquestionable. My first impression of Bronson has always been that he has a hybrid style: yes he seems to set his lyrical foundation with a 90s influence, but he is able to incorporate a 2000 plus rhyme flow and melody. This is even more impressive considering he didn't come up like a Nas, Common or Ghostface, and didn't have the luxury of evolving over time. This track is not theme specific, instead it comes off as just cool spontaneous bars that he spit in a cipher stairwell.

This is easily the track that I most wanted to hear once I saw that track listing a few weeks back. Seven Series Triplets features Prodigy and Raekwon. This street epic instrumental sounds like if RZA scored the Scarface movie. Yeah, it's that kind of set up. Action Bronson flow is like a slow motion machine gun. The way he is able to make you visually picture his lyrics is reminiscent of some Raekwon ish. His fellow Queens-mate Prodigy takes the baton and doesn't miss a beat. And of course, you save the best for last. Raekwon finishes the leg of this track with his legendary street flow.

The previous line is definitely not meant as disrespect. Seven Series Triplets is by far my favorite track and bars from Saaab Stories. But even Bronson acknowledges the fact that while he is compared to Ghostface, (and Raekwon could be interchanged here) he is still essentially a rookie being compared to legends. But his lyrical skill is undeniable. Bronson has set a foundation that further raises the expectation from his future projects. He was able to keep his mixtape game up, but an LP (where decisions are made by a label) is another animal altogether. I won't say this is better than I expected, but I will say he meet the hype build-up to his debut release. Again, not a dis. Especially considering the buzz was very high. The production is off the charts thanks to Harry Fraud. In a short time these two artists have found a formula that most emcee/producers strive for their entire career. 

One issue I can see is that this only a 7 track album. Especially now, the Hip-hop community expects albums in the mid-teens. My issue is not with quantity over quality though. Paid in Full and Illmatic were both essentially 9 track albums. But every track off of Illmatic was a classic. Saaab Stories is not full of 7 classic tracks. Many are. And the rest are great tracks. It might seem like an unfair way to review this young (in the game) emcee, but this is only due to his amazing lyrical skills and to his elite potential. This is a DEF must cop for the lyric aficionado Hip-hop head.

07 June 2013

REVIEW: J. Cole - Born Sinner

Jermaine Lamarr Cole's young career has been riddled with trying to satisfy the insatiable hunger of hip-hop fiends who are quick to throw you to the wayside if you don't shower them consistently with new music. In an era where an artist can keep their name afloat simply by releasing a random track from their vault onto a popular hip-hop site, it puzzled many fans as to why J. Cole seemingly fell off after dropping his successful debut album "Cole World: The Sideline Story." Nearly two years later, the reason for his hiatus is apparent with his second studio album "Born Sinner."

If you pay attention to the themes of his early mixtapes, and EPs, you see that they are centered around his rise to fame. First he came up, then warmed up, and after the lights came on, finally decided he refused to be on the sideline anymore. With his unrivaled versatility with words coupled with his ability to craft beats and self-produce great music on his own, it's no surprise to see that J. Cole has cemented his spot in hip-hop. The question now is, what should an artist of his calibur do with the opportunity he has been given? Which direction should he take his music now that he has has the ears and the respect of an entire community?

These days the cliche'd conversation about a newer artist usually consists of whether or not they will stay true to their roots, or will they go "pop." It has become a mundane issue at this point, because in most cases it's obvious what road an artist is going down. But with nothing to hold fans over since "Cole World," die hard fans were definitely worried about the sophomore effort from Fayetnam's finest.

"Born Sinner" lays all doubts to rest from the very beginning. The sheer quality of this album as a whole more than explains why Cole has been off the radar. From production, to lyricism and storytelling, you can hear the mission that he has embarked on as an artist. There is an obvious shift in the tone and mood of "Born Sinner" when compared to not only his last album, but all of his mixtapes prior. It's much more ominous, and Cole makes sure the listener is aware of this from the intro track "Villuminati." The darker tone and mellow vibe from a production aspect make it easy to hone in on the depth of his subject matter.

Cole is attempting to shift the conversation. He is challenging listeners to expect more than the status quo from an artist, and themselves. He understands his position as a role model and after exposing his soul on the powerful "Let Nas Down" track, he makes it known that any radio hit he may have had in the past was simply to catch the ear of an audience outside of his core in order to bless them with something truly thought provoking on his actual album. Those same "mainstream" fans he gained with the chart-topping single "Work Out" from his first album will undoubtedly be in line for "Born Sinner" on June 18th; a perfect opportunity for him to play his part and begin inspiring a new generation to want more for themselves than what the radio has poisoned their minds with.

There are no "typical" radio singles or strip club bangers on this album, so don't expect any French Montana-esque collaborations. Cole has remained true to his craft, and in doing so, managed to put together, and self-produce the majority of what is nearly a classic album.

Standout Tracks: Runaway, Let Nas Down, Forbidden Fruit

Let the BITM crew know what y'all think of the album.

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01 June 2013

VIDEO: Pro Era (Capital STEEZ, Joey Bada$$, CJ Fly) - Like Water

Pro Era released their second video off of "Peep the aPROcalypse" yesterday for "Like Water." If you know about these cats or have an ear for the current hip-hop artists, you would know that Pro Era member Capital STEEZ passed away last Christmas Eve. STEEZ was of course not in the video but there was a tribute paid to him throughout the video (which was really dope because the graffiti visual was coherent to how old school hip-hop was viewed and expressed, and Pro Era stays true to that 90's Old school hip-hop sound). The video itself was pretty basic, reminds me of a lot of originating crews like A tribe called Quest and Wu-Tang clan did some of their videos with solely just their crew. If y'all haven't heard Pro Era's new mixtape (which Twon said was a "classic" album and possibly the dopest joint he heard out of 2012 in a previous email thread) go read my review "Peep the aPROcalypse." Of all the tracks on this mixtape this is probably my favorite one. Also, the "School High" video is posted beneath "Like Water" so check that one out as well.

Pro Era - School High

 Let us know what you think of the videos. R.I.P. Capital STEEZ!

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