28 July 2013

RETRO REVIEW: J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T., Kendrick Lamar - They Ready

About a year ago, DJ Khaled released an album called "Kiss The Ring." I still do not understand Khaled's purpose on this Earth, but for some reason he likes to stamp his name across music that he played no real role in creating. The song "They Ready," featuring the crew I like to call the "Y.I.C.," is one of those tracks. The beat was crafted solely by J. Cole, and the other rappers who have verses on the song besides himself are Kendrick Lamar and Big K.R.I.T. So there's a clear reason why I left Khaled's name out of the title. They say artists would be nothing without DJ's, but it goes both ways. Even though the song sounds Khaled-esque, there's no real reason he should receive any credit for this song.
And that's where I will begin; this song is unbelievably average. When you see any combination of the likes of K.R.I.T., K. Dot, and Cole together on anything, expectations are naturally through the roof. In their young careers, these three have proven they have what it takes to consistently bring true music lovers high quality projects time and time again. It's a shame to see this song as part of their resume's. It's not terrible, but there's something about how the beat tries to mesh with each of their styles that is just a little off. In all honesty, it sounds like Cole, K.R.I.T., and Kendrick lowered their own standards to appeal to DJ Khaled's crowd. The result is a very forgettable record (hence the reason you've probably never heard of it until now).
Listen for yourself and let us know what you think.
J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T., Kendrick Lamar - They Ready
Twitter: @BestInTheMix @TwonJonson

19 July 2013

In Case You Missed It: ZEKE - 2090

OPM (Other People’s Money) is no stranger to Best In The Mix but this time it’s not Dom Kennedy. Lately the other artists are preparing for their own projects to be released under this camp (Niko G4 recently released his also). Recently Zeke of OPM dropped his “ZEKE – 2090” mixtape. Zeke is the singer of OPM, and I promise you will not be disappointed with his vocals. If you don’t remember or simply haven’t heard, he has featured on a few of Dom K and other fellow label mates like “Lately,” “A Real One,” “Talk about it,” and others.

This is a remotely short project, but the OPM template for success is quality over quantity. Considering the success of these artists’ fans, the template seems to be working.

Zeke isn't another high-pitched male R&B artist that is making music (no shots fired, just a statement), he has an actual male tone that is soft but far from feminine and guaranteed to get your lady(ies) in the mood. Zeke’s tracks have more of a jazz tone to it but at the same time sexual.  The tracks on this tape are very intimate, he makes it seems as if he is talking to one girl on every track.
There is one track on here that has a feature and that is from the captain, Dom Kennedy titled “Talk about It” that was featured on OPM’s All-stars mixtape "Young Nation” that was also reviewed by yours truly.

Personally, I love every track on here and think it’s an underground masterpiece, with it only being 33 minutes long. My personal favorites that I will play more than 5 times in a row are “Ponytail,” “Dime,” and “Around we go.” This was a great first project and I can’t wait to hear more music from Zeke. Fellas if you are looking to get a woman in the mood whether she is your lady or just a one-time thing, this is the tape that will do it .This is exactly what the R&B game has been missing.

Twitter: @_KJTheGreat
Email: Kjohnsonk14@gmail.com

16 July 2013

SINGLE: Rapsody - Dark Knights ft. Wale

Jamla's first lady has been a bit quiet since her LP debut, The Idea of Beautiful. But it seems that Rapsody is ready to come correct this summer with her fifth mixtape, She Got Game. Yesterday she dropped the single, Dark Knights. This Wale assisted track is straight fuego. It is definitely good to see Wale getting back to the emcee status we know he is capable of. His last release, The Gifted, proved that this young artist is still capable of catering to his new found fans as well as satisfying his lyric conscience followers who have been down with the DC emcee since Attention Deficit.  Rapsody's debut album was one of the best intros I have heard in recent memory. But it was her mixtape game that made me a believer. Thank H.E.R. Now is the pinnacle of true Hip-hop, easily my favorite tape of hers. So my expectations are high. 

Keep an eye out for her Gangsta Grillz mixtape at the end of August. And peep the single below!

04 July 2013

REVIEW: Jay-Z - Magna Carta Holy Grail

These days, Jay-Z tends to play the background by cutting back on annual album releases. The type of demand it generates could easily be compared to that of Jordan Sneakers or the unrealistically rare and severely overhyped Air Yeezy's. Jay-Z is the master of catching everyone's attention, and with MCHG I'm glad that donating my attention has been worth it. This album gets off to a rocky start with a couple questionable production choices like those found on "Tom Ford," but it starts to pick up around "Oceans," and peaks at "F.U.T.W.," one of the stronger tracks on the album. That trend continues throughout the majority of Magna Carta up until "BBC," where we see the God's Son, Nas, come out of nowhere to share a little bit of that light with Hov. The collab is a welcome surprise, as most people were only expecting features from Ross, JT, and Beyonce leading up to this album's release.

I almost wish the entire album sounded like "Somewhereinamerica" though. This track embodies everything we've been missing from Jay even though it clocks in at just under two and half minutes. "Crown" shows Jay adopting styles that are closer to what you'd find from the likes of 2 Chainz, but Jay adds just enough stank on it to keep it from being horrible like that nigga who repeats his own name more than he actually raps. The consistency throughout the middle of the album stays true with Heaven, and even with the Bonnie & Clyde sequel "Part II (On The Run)." Several potential singles will come from these songs that make up the meat of MCHG. That could be a good or bad thing depending on how much of a hater you are. Just know that Jay-Z is no stranger to the radio and is also one of the few artists from the "Golden Era," as we call it, that is also able to keep even non-radio heads bumpin his shit.

He has two questionable tracks on the album, which I feel were purposely crafted this way by Jay to make us want more. "Versus" and "Beach is Better" are both less than a minute long and both end abruptly just as you begin to start rocking to them. It pissed me off the first time it happened, but when it happened again two tracks later I was like "FUCK YOU HOV!!!" Nigga playin wit our emotions and shit. I don't appreciate it. Give us full 3-5 minute songs across the board!

All in all though, this is a very welcome addition to Jay-Z's inpenetrable arsenal in his discography. Calling albums "classics" these days is a term that is tossed around harder than Rihanna's loose monkey, so we won't even go there. It also may be too early to say the album is better than anything in his past, but there are glimpses of vintage Jay spread across the entire album mixed in with that current off-beat Jay we've come to accept and hate in recent years. With the mount rushmore of producers at his disposal, expectations for the beats are undoubtedly sky-high. For the most part they don't disappoint, but there aren't any true standouts nor is there any horrible electronica bullshit that has littered the entire genre lately. You won't find any Blueprint 3-esque risks on this album.

There was a time when the god emcee would bless us with a new project every summer without fail. In recent years though, he has switched his approach to every couple of years. It's almost like he holds out on us until he feels we are ready to receive his music, skyrocketing the demand through the roof. While the quality of his music has been up for heavy debate with his last couple of projects, there's no denying Jay-Z has a way of stealing the spotlight from everyone in the game, regardless of how much youngins and old heads alike claim that he's fallen off and can't rap anymore. You would be hard pressed to find another artist in the history of urban music that has the power to shut shit down the way Hov does when he releases a new album. A few days ago we were all talking about Wale. Before then we were shitting on Kanye Kardashian and praising J. Cole. But now for those who have Magna Carta Holy Grail in rotation, they see that Jay just snatched all that attention from the young artists, some of whom have probably eclipsed Jigga in terms of lyricism and cadence at this point. Jay-Z's motto, "I Will Not Lose," is ringing truer now more than ever.

Hit us up on twitter and let us know what you think about this review, or let us know if you have any future article suggestions. We appreciate everyone that has been rockin with us for the past couple of years as we continue to build our BITM brand into a powerhouse for urban online magazines.

Twitter: @BestInTheMix, @TwonJonson

REVIEW: Kanye West - Yeezus

This man needs no introduction.  Considered to be a skilled poet, a genius to others, and a crazy asshole to the rest, Kanye West is a lot of things but doesn't care about what you say about him or his music. His controversially-titled album “Yeezus” dropped on June 18th. The album has received a lot of praises and backlash from fans and bloggers worldwide.

This Lp is slightly similar to the sound of “808’s & Heartbreak,” but more techno and dub step is integrated into the tracks. A lot of the tracks have an eerie sound that might not appeal to most listeners. Kanye did add some nice base guitar sounds and hard knocking beats that may keep your attention if this is naturally not your cup of tea. Some of the beats are hot though. As far as with music, there seems as if there is no degree that limits Kanye’s creativity with his producing skills.

As far as the lyrical content of the album, it is more of a sequel to Kanye’s half of his joint album with Jay-Z, “Watch the Throne.” A lot of this album is either “luxury rap” or snappy and sarcastic punch-lines. There are tracks that have depth to them like “New Slaves,” which is by far the best track on the album from start to finish. “New Slaves” is pretty much Ye commenting on how people (especially black people) have succumb to material things, but the “new slaves” include anyone that has given way to the belief that they need these things. The message on this track can be easily overlooked because of the beat and darker-toned loops.

Overall, I was not impressed with Yeezus. I honestly would not consider this to be hip-hop/rap or even an alternative. This was a pop/go-go mix that failed at trying to crossover with hip-hop. The only tracks that deserved any play to me were “New Slaves” and “Bound 2.” There have been listeners who thought the project was amazing, but this was shunned by all of BITM. Album cameos include God, Chief Keef, King Louie, Kid Cudi, Charlie Wilson, Frank Ocean and Justin Vernon. This is definitely Kanye’s worst thing that he has ever put out, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion…

02 July 2013

MIXTAPE REVIEW: Joey Bada$$ - Summer Knights

Joey Bada$$ is set to drop his first studio LP B4.DA.$$ later this year. But until then the Pro Era front runner has blessed us with a mixtape for the summer, aptly titled Summer Knights. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately) this mixtape is not going to ingratiate the young emcee with many heavy radio rotations. Many rappers talk about taking their own lane, but few can walk the walk. Joey was rumored to have an opportunity to sign to major label but chose an indie label instead. This significant move gives a clear message: Joey Bada$$ and the Pro Era movement are not about making Hip-pop. Instead they have the freedom to make the music with little interference from outside interests. Production on this mixtape is varied with a good mix of producers, while still providing a consistent feel and sound from start to end.

Statik Selektah is one of the few big name producers that provides his talents for the track Word Is Bond. The title alone is a call back to a phrase that was prevalent throughout 80s and 90s Hip-hop. Statik provides a throwback instrumental with a simple piano and boom bap foundation. The 18 year old emcee seems most at home spitting on old-school type instrumentals. In between the scratches Joey is able to effortlessly flow from bar to bar. His metaphors and multiple entendres take a few listens to fully appreciate, but it is the only way to fully comprehend his intricate rhyme patterns. "Yo, I spray 9s or 4s, but if you pick 5 emcees/ 7 8 gon flow like me [dude] I'm 2 6/ I mean 2 sick.."

95 Til Infinity is either the first or second single I heard off of Summer Knights (this or Word Is Bond). Another title with a 90s influence. This time a play off of the Souls of Mischief album and title track 93 'til Infinity. I assume he choose 95 because he was born in 1995 (I know, that's insane, I guess he just has an old soul). This is another old school feeling track with a more melodic smooth beat. Joey Bada$$ lays down a more gritty/raspy vocal to juxtapose the tranquil instrumental. Again he seems to just play with flows and poetic structures with the greatest ease.

Of course I couldn't review this mixtape without touching on the Premier produced track Unorthodox. Speaking of effortless, DJ Premier yet again adds to his ridiculous classic instrumental catalog. The simple loop is complemented with a few snares and drums, and of course accompanied with Preem's legendary scratches. Once you catch up to Joey's figurative language you can then focus on the content. This kid raps as is if came up during the golden ear of Hip-hop, not born during it. The chorus sums up Joey and the Pro Era movement best: "Cause money aint a thing if I got it I won't spend/ All I got is my Pros I don't need no friends/ Feel like this glory road is coming to an end/ The only soul that won't sin/ No he won't give in/ Though this world is bone chillin/ Make mills in hell's kitchen with these dishes/ Properly delivered drop trees in my swisha/ Now bring that back to my property with ya."

Joey has sited a heavy Brooklyn influence (his birth place) as well NY Hip-hop in general. In an interview he commented that he wanted to bring the golden era back. This is a high bar to reach, not even taking into account that he was essentially born halfway through it. But I like it. Mr. Bada$$ seems to have the foundation and the God given talent to be at the forefront of an emcee movement. His "Progressive Era" crew has stated that their movement is literally about "Progressive, positive thinking, enlightenment." While this mixtape is not as good at 1999, (which in my opinion is close to a classic, well as classic as a mixtape can be) it still shows growth in the young emcees young career. The 90s influence is prevalent throughout this tape and is really a staple of Joey's style. But his lyrics seem to be from the future, the complexities and word manipulations are done in a way that they seem to come from someone who is light years older. Yet this is the beauty of Hip-hop, at a young age (before he could mumble his first words) young Joey was groomed by the best in the game. Joey recalls memorizing Biggie lyrics and writing poetry of his own years before his WorldStar video freestyle. It is my hope that these new hybrid emcees (that are rooted in the history of Hip-hop and provide a new perspective on the culture) will keep emerging and progressing.

Peep mixtape stream below!