Tag Archives: Compton

Review: untitled unmastered

untitled unmastered cover
via MCM

untitled unmastered (2016)

Kendrick Lamar

Rap / Hip-Hop

Top Dawg / Aftermath / Interscope

Here I am, late on a Thursday night (or early Friday morning) listening to a new Kendrick Lamar album.  Who would have thought?  Earlier today I didn’t have this intention but a couple of rumors here and a few tweets there and here we are with a new K-Dot album upon us.  This surprise followed the news that Top Dawg Entertainment was going to release new music from one of their artists, but none expected it to be from their magnum opus.

untitled unmastered 1
via HNGN

untitled unmastered, the simply titled fourth studio album from the Compton rapper is a different breed of album than what you would expect. Within the confines of the eight track project are a series of, like the title suggests, untitled tracks that have been released and performed over the past couple of years, more specifically from 2013-2016.  Some of these tracks might sound familiar, while others are most certainly deep cuts that we are not too familiar with.  A lot of them have been performed on Late Night shows like The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and The Colbert Report.  So…why release an album full of untitled tracks?  Well, if you’re a rapper like Kendrick, why not?  However, you can probably point to Lebron James, who tweeted this out following Kendrick’s Grammy performance:

After replying back to the tweet, CEO of TDE Tiffith got to work putting the project together.  What we have is a unique project that contains a lot of thought-provoking raps mixed with some top-notch production.  Don’t let the second part of the album’s title fool you, there seems to be a lot of “mastering” that has been done, putting a nice audible touch on the album.

In terms of content, Kendrick’s verses are similar fare to what you can find on the rapper’s widely acclaimed album To Pimp A Butterfly.  Everything from the broken government system to minorities are rapped about among the different tracks.  The third track on the album, which was performed on The Colbert Show is a thought-provoking tune dives into the pieces of advice that different minorities have given Kendrick, with the major twist being the “piece” that white people have taken from the rapper.  It’s an interesting perspective that lends itself to a pretty cool concept.

Osheaga Music And Arts Festival 2015
via Pitchfork

Some other highlights include track five, which features some guest verses from Ab-Soul and Jay Rock.  These two weren’t the only guests to appear on the album either.  Cee-Lo Green, Terrace Martin, Bilal, Thundercat, and Anna Wise all lent their talents to the project.  Since the album was sparse on its credits, I could be missing a few names as well.  Finally, the second to last song on the album is a three-part powerhouse, produced by Alicia Keys and Swizz Beats’ five-year-old son, Egypt.  The track was mesmerizing and was diverse in sound as well, which was surprising given the fact that it was produced by a five-year-old.  Like, what?!  I have to tip my hat to Kendrick for allowing such a young and talented mind to be part of the project.  It’s something you don’t really see today in rap.

The album has a raw vibe to it and that is what I appreciated the most about it.  untitled unmastered is a fresh and unique piece of work that contains a diverse set of sounds along with some intelligent and mind-bending lyrics.  What else would you expect from Kendrick?  I wouldn’t mark this project as being superior to To Pimp A Butterfly or good kid, m.A.A.d. city, but I still think it is an essentially addition to his discography.

Cruilla Festival 2015 - Day 1


2016 Grammy Predictions

It’s that time of year again.  The nominees for the 58th Grammys were announced this Monday, which opened up the discussion on which artist had the best album/song and why they should win in their respective categories.  At some point or another you begin to hear the case for every nominee, which makes speculation a lot of fun.  With that being said, I am going to add my two cents into the fray on who I think will take away the awards music’s biggest night.

2016 grammys kendrick
via Urban Islandz

The Grammy nominations were almost dominated by Kendrick Lamar, which was quite a surprise considering the years that other artists have had.  However, Kendrick Lamar more than deserves these awards and I actually think he will take home a good haul on Feb. 15.  The two other artists that gained a good number of nods are Taylor Swift and The Weeknd.  No surprise there.  One glaring omission is Adele but hey, that’s just a by-product of how the Grammys work.  Just wait till next year, where she will most likely top the nominations list and take home a car full of awards.

Let’s get into the four major fields…

*Predicted winners denoted with ‘(Winner)’

Record Of The Year

“Really Love” — D’Angelo And The Vanguard

“Uptown Funk” — Mark Ronson Featuring Bruno Mars (Winner)

“Thinking Out Loud” — Ed Sheeran

“Blank Space” — Taylor Swift

“Can’t Feel My Face” — The Weeknd

2016 grammys uptown funk
via MCM

There’s a lot of pretty great songs here, but “Uptown Funk” is almost a sure-fire lock.  It was the song that took the radio by storm and dominated the airwaves for most of the summer.  At this point it has been over played, but maybe there’s a reason for that?

Album Of The Year

Sound & Color — Alabama Shakes

To Pimp A Butterfly — Kendrick Lamar

Traveller — Chris Stapleton

1989 — Taylor Swift (Winner)

Beauty Behind The Madness — The Weeknd

2016 grammys 1989

This is a tough category.  All of these albums are pretty great and have wide range in terms of style and sound.  My personal favorite album of the year is To Pimp A Butterfly but it’s hard to deny the kind of year that Taylor Swift has had.  Swift pretty much stole the summer with her massive 1989 tour and her album of the same name is just as great.  Her year is going to be topped off in the best way possible, a Grammy.

Song Of The Year

“Alright” — Kendrick Duckworth, Mark Anthony Spears & Pharrell Williams, songwriters (Kendrick Lamar)

“Blank Space” — Max Martin, Shellback & Taylor Swift, songwriters (Taylor Swift)

“Girl Crush” — Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna & Liz Rose, songwriters (Little Big Town)

“See You Again” — Andrew Cedar, Justin Franks, Charles Puth & Cameron Thomaz, songwriters (Wiz Khalifa Featuring Charlie Puth) (Winner)

“Thinking Out Loud” — Ed Sheeran & Amy Wadge, songwriters (Ed Sheeran)

2016 grammys see you again
via Billboard

Once again, this is another category that made me stop and really think.  “See You Again” serves as the theme song (of sorts) for Fast and Furious 7, paying homage to the late Paul Walker who died due to a fatal car accident.  Wiz Khalifa and the super talented Charlie Puth have given fans what they wanted and more.  You don’t even have to be a Fast and Furious fan to have an appreciation for their song.

Best New Artist

Courtney Barnett

James Bay

Sam Hunt

Tori Kelly

Meghan Trainor (Winner)

2016 grammys meghan trainor
via VIP Seats

The Best New Artist category is always a slightly entertaining category for me.  Because of the Grammys and their weird timing schedule, by the time the nominations are announced, the nominees for this award are not really “new” anymore.  When looking at these artists, Meghan Trainor stood out to me the most.  Title was a great debut album and she is generally just a likable person.  I think the voters will agree. However, Tori Kelly is a close second.

As for some of the other categories…

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

“Ship To Wreck” by Florence & The Machine

“Sugar” by Maroon 5

“Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson Featuring Bruno Mars (Winner)

“Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift Featuring Kendrick Lamar

“See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa Featuring Charlie Puth

Best Dance Recording

“We’re All We Need” by Above & Beyond Featuring Zoë Johnston

“Go” by the Chemical Brothers

“Never Catch Me” by Flying Lotus Featuring Kendrick Lamar

“Runaway (U & I)” by Galantis (Winner)

“Where Are Ü Now” by Skrillex And Diplo With Justin Bieber

Best Rock Performance

“Don’t Wanna Fight” by Alabama Shakes

“What Kind Of Man” by Florence & The Machine

“Something From Nothing” by Foo Fighters (Winner)

“Ex’s & Oh’s” by Elle King

“Moaning Lisa Smile” by Wolf Alice

Best Alternative Music Album

Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes (Winner)

Vulnicura by Björk

The Waterfall by My Morning Jacket

Currents by Tame Impala

Star Wars by Wilco

Best Rap Album

2014 Forest Hills Drive by J. Cole

Compton by Dr. Dre

If Youre Reading This Its Too Late by Drake

To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar (Winner)

The Pinkprint by Nicki Minaj

Best Urban Contemporary Album

Ego Death by the Internet

You Should Be Here by Kehlani

Blood by Lianne La Havas

Wildheart by Miguel

Beauty Behind The Madness by The Weeknd (Winner)

Best Country Album

Montevallo by Sam Hunt

Pain Killer by Little Big Town

The Blade by Ashley Monroe

Pageant Material by Kacey Musgraves

Traveller by Chris Stapleton (Winner)

The best part about making these kinds of predictions is that they will most likely be totally wrong and someone you would never have expected will win the awards.  There was a lot of tough categories this year so I could see some of them going either way.  (Yeah, looking at the Best Rap Album was a doozy)  It’s going to be a fun night and I am pretty confident in one prediction: there’s going to be a lot of happy fans and mad fans.

Review: Straight Outta Compton

via The Bull 101.7
via The Bull 101.7

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

R / 147 mins.

Biography / Drama / Music

Starring: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell

Director: F. Gary Gray

Hip-hop wouldn’t be where it is today without the heavy influence and trailblazing nature of the rap group N.W.A.  It’s a simple fact that’s hard to dispute, no matter how hard you try.  They gave a voice to the people, a voice that people from Compton (and all over the U.S.) could rally behind in the late 80’s.  The ragtag group, consisting of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, DJ Yella, and MC Ren, were just looking to make it big in the streets of Compton, but it was there unique message that propelled them into the country’s spotlight.

via Black FIlm
via Black FIlm

Straight Outta Compton is the story of N.W.A.’s rise to fame, directed by F. Gary Gray and produced by Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and widow Tomica Woods-Wright, wife to the late Eazy-E.  With that kind of pedigree off screen, the film already had a lot of things going for it.  This isn’t Gray’s first radio, having directed Friday with Ice Cube back in the day, and having Ice Cube and Dr. Dre producing the movie gave me full confidence that the story of the world’s most dangerous group was going to be handled with finesse and care.  The one big question when it comes to biopics is whether or not the story is worth telling.  It’s the story and the way that it’s told that can make or break a biopic.  N.W.A.’s story has been well documented and publicized up to this point, but Straight Outta Compton dives a little deeper and gives us a look not only at the group’s rise to fame, but their personal stories as well.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this movie is the top notch acting that came from a cast full of lesser-known actors.  Aside from Ice Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr., who plays his father in the movie and Paul Giamatti’s part as the group’s manager Jerry Heller, the rest of the cast is relatively new to the scene.  Let me break it down: Dr. Dre is played by Corey Hawkins, Eazy-E by Jason Mitchell, DJ Yella by Neil Brown Jr., and MC Ren by Aldis Hodge.  The cast might not be as well known, but they all did a fantastic job at embodying the legends that they were acting as.  Obviously they had mentors in Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, but there was an incredible amount of practice and studying that went into their characters.  Their mannerisms, personalities, and musical styles were all matched pretty realistically.  Two other rappers that garner some screen time are Snoop Dogg (Keith Stanfield) and Tupac (Marcc Rose), who looks eerily similar to his real life counterpart.  It could have just been Tupac’s hologram, I don’t really know.  (I do know I am excited for Tupac’s standalone movie, where Marcc Rose will reprise his role as Tupac)

via New Pittsburgh Courier Online
via New Pittsburgh Courier Online

Another thing that was sort of surprising is that the movie really wasn’t entirely focused on N.W.A.  The first act detailed the creation of the group and its rise to prominence.  We got to see some of the situations that the guys were coming from and how much this group meant to them.  The movie then began to focus on what happened when a group of street rappers from Compton got a ton of money and a big spotlight.  Ice Cube was in disagreement with his contractual situation and decided to branch of on his own.  Dr. Dre’s vision also propelled him to leave the group and pursue his own musical genius at Death Row Records.  We also got to see Eazy-E’s relationship with the scumbag manager that was Jerry Heller.  The guy was manipulative and started cheating the group of their own money.  The scenes involving Eazy-E and Jerry were fun to watch, but also kind of depressing considering you knew that there close relationship wasn’t going to last forever.  Anybody who knows N.W.A. knew there was a lot of internal conflict between the group’s members and Straight Outta Compton manages to capture their stories with near perfect execution.

This movie couldn’t have been coming out at a better time.  The country has been experiencing a lot of turmoil when it comes to blacks living in America and police brutality.  The movie captures angst and the feelings that guys like Ice Cube and Eazy-E had towards the authorities that were looking to bring them down.  We also start to see the government’s involvement in the group’s message.  It was a scary time for the government.  They were scared that this message, reality rap, could spark a revolution in the country that they wouldn’t be able to handle.  N.W.A.’s influence on the masses was undeniable and pretty large.

via Black Film
via Black Film

I was pleasantly surprised that the movie, which has a pretty long run time, went as far as to cover Eazy-E’s struggle with HIV and his imminent death.  Those last moments with Eazy-E on his death bed and guys like Ice Cube and Dr. Dre coming in to say their goodbyes were heartfelt and, at times, hard to watch.  Straight Outta Compton is a fantastic movie that will most likely take the torch as my favorite movie of the year so far.  It’s a gritty story full of hardship and triumph.  Dr. Dre and Ice Cube have coming a long way from their gangbanging days and their stories, along with the rest of N.W.A, are unresistingly intriguing and fun to watch.  You will probably appreciate this movie more if you are a fan of rap, but don’t let that be your barrier to entry.  Straight Outta Compton is a movie worth watching no matter where your musical tastes lie.

Straight Outta Compton

Review: Compton: The Soundtrack

via Rap God
via Rap God

Compton: The Soundtrack (2015)

Dr. Dre

Rap / Hip-Hop

Aftermath / Interscope

When’s the last time Dr. Dre released an album?  You’re telling me it’s been sixteen years?  It seems kind of crazy when you say it, but in fact it has been over sixteen years since the rapper/producer and former member of N.W.A. has released an official studio album.  His name has not been forgotten in that time, but musically he has been silent for a long time.  Now that his final album, Compton: The Soundtrack, has been released, the musical silence has officially come to an end.  You would think that Dre would be a little rusty on the hinges after all those years, but he delivers in every aspect, giving us what some have already been saying an “instant classic.”

What does a Dr. Dre album look like in the year 2015?  He’s come a long way since his rabble-rousing days roaming the streets of Compton with N.W.A.  He’s brought up some of the best names in hip-hop, most notably Eminem.  He has also produced a pretty honorable library of albums that hold a lot of regard critically.  Compton, the rapper’s grand finale showing, gives us a taste of old and new and aims to please everybody’s tastes.

via Hip-Hop n More
via Hip-Hop n More

Compton is like a personal ride through the city streets of Compton, with Dr. Dre rolling in the driver’s seat.  As you make your way through the city, which has gone through its fair share of triumphs and hardships, Dre earnestly tells a story full of recollections of past memories, reflective analyzations of the present, and glimpses of the opportunistic future.  Dre realizes the position that he stands in and the kind of influence that he has on the masses and he runs forward with eagerness and passion, without ever forgetting his humble and pain ridden beginnings.

The album, from beginning to end, contains almost no slip ups.  Dr. Dre is still sharp as ever and his classic flow comes back like a nostalgic knockout punch.  To my surprise, Dre leaves a lot of room for others on the album, both old and new, giving them room to breathe.  Former member of N.W.A. Ice Cube makes a loud appearance on “Issues,” a track that looks at the current state of rap and pretty much disses the entirety of it.  Dr. Dre puts it simply: “Man this industry to me, it feels like plastic.  I ain’t heard nothin’ that I’d consider a classic.”  Although it’s only a snippet, we also hear the voice of Eazy-E, one of the most iconic voices from N.W.A.   Snoop Dogg makes two appearances as well, providing lyrical back-up on songs like “One Shot, One Kill” and “Satisfiction,” a fitting look at the fake satisfaction that comes with the rap lifestyle.  Finally, “Loose Cannons” features the like of Cold 187um and Xzibit, who both give pompous performances on a track with an extremely dark ending. It was these features that really brought back the sound that we all came to know and love from back in the days.

via Softpedia News
via Softpedia News

There were also features from current hip-hop powerhouses like Eminem and Kendrick Lamar.  Lamar shares a lot in common with Dre, being that there both from the same hood, with his lyrics reflecting that.  “Darkside / Gone” and “Deep Water” are two tracks that the West Coast rapper appears on, but the most notable song is “Genocide.”  Dr. Dre, Lamar, Candice Pillay, and Marsha Ambrosius give a chilling, but real account of one of the biggest problems that the city of Compton faces; the murder rate.  Towards the end of the album, Dre and Eminem team up for probably one of the best tracks on the album; “Medicine Man.”  Dr. Dre gives us a great verse, but it’s Eminem that really takes the song by the reigns, delivering a fantastic verse that, in classic Shady fashion, covers a lot of ground in little time.  At this point, it’s almost like Eminem can do no wrong.  However, the song contains some alarming lyrics that made me frown.  Lines like “I even make the bitches I rape come” are not the kinds of lyrics that will go unnoticed.  There might be backlash, there might not be, but either way it still doesn’t bode well with most.

I have to give major props to some of the new talent that gets a lot of time on the album to shine.  Justus, Anderson .Paak, Marsha Ambrosius, and King Mez are all up-and-coming artists with a whole lot to prove.  Dre takes them under his wing and gives them a chance to take the spotlight on a number of songs on the album.  Songs like “Talk About It” and “It’s All on Me” are two of the tracks that really stick out.  Anderson .Paak truly makes a name for himself on “Animals,” a song that dives into the problems that black people face on a daily basis.  It’s well-trodden ground at this point, especially given the events that have transpired this year, but .Paak manages to demand your attention.

via Okay Player
via Okay Player

The journey through the city concludes with the finale, “Talking to My Diary.”  It’s a fitting end to our ride with Dre through his city of Compton.  As he flips through the pages of his work, he takes one final gaze at the road that he has travelled behind him and looks into the future with eagerness.  Compton shows that the rapper, although dormant for more than a decade, still has what it takes to grab listeners by neck and show them what real rap sounds like. I may not agree with his line about there being no classics out there today, especially given the amazing year of rap that we have had so far.  With that being said, I can agree that Dr. Dre has given us an epic final swan song, a masterpiece that has indeed earned classic status.

compton score

Review: Summertime ’06

via missinfo.tv
via missinfo.tv

Summertime ’06 (2015)

Vince Staples

Rap / Hip-Hop

ARTium Recordings / Def Jam Recordings

Tough is a good word to describe the early life of West Coast rapper Vince Staples.  During his childhood, his father was constantly in and out of prison and his mother was working all the time.  Because of this, he spent a lot of time with his grandparents in Compton.  When Staples was twelve, his grandfather died and shortly after, his friend Jabari Benton was murdered.  It was this culmination of events that caused him to get involved in the gang activity that littered Long Beach at the time.  This is the fuel for the fire that Vince Staples brings on his debut album Summertime ’06.

Vince Staples is a name in hip-hop that should garner more attention.  Most of his younger years saw him participating in the gangbang culture of Long Beach.  He slowly got away from that life and turned to music to get himself off the streets.  Up to this point, he has only put out EP’s and mixtapes, including the likes of Hell Can Wait and the Shyne Coldchain mixtape series.  Summertime ’06 might just be the album to finally propel him into the mainstream world of hip hop.

via In Flex We Trust
via In Flex We Trust

As far as rap albums go, this is probably one of the rawest pieces of work I have listened to in a while.  Everything that Staples raps about is real and comes from something that affected him in his gang days, more specifically the summer of 2006.  Explaining the title of the album, Staples said, “Summer of 2006, the beginning of the end of everything I thought I knew. Youth was stolen from my city that summer, and I’m left alone to tell the story. This might not make sense, but that’s because none of it does, we’re stuck. Love tore us all apart.

We get some cold dark undertones right from the get-go with “Ramona Park Legend Pt. 1,” a chilling instrumental interlaced with contrasting sounds of summer and the beach.  The beat leads right into “Lift Me Up,” which almost serves as an intro into the early life of Vince Staples and the sort of stuff he had to deal with.  Next up on the track list is the Clams Casino produced “Norf Norf” which is a prideful boast about the North Side of Long Beach, California where Vince Staples grew up.

via Genius
via Genius

Later down the line Staples raps about the vices that consumed and controlled him during his gangbanging days like sex and selling drugs.  “Birds & Bees” is a mix up of the classic children’s phrase with a twist and “Loca” is a song about the women that drive him crazy.  “Lemme Know,” featuring the talented Jhene Aiko, is another great sounding song that acts as the follow up to “Loca.”  The album’s primary producer is hip-hop legend No I.D., and he provides a fantastic beat for “Dopeman,” a song about Staple’s other vice; drugs.

The album’s first disc (out of two) ends with “Summertime,” an extremely stripped down track with a ton of emotion.  Staples doesn’t hold anything back on this one and you can almost feel the pain in his voice.  On it, he questions whether or not his love will want to stay with him past the summer.  It was a glistening highlight on the album.

via Pretty Much Amazing
via Pretty Much Amazing

The second part of the album focuses on life after the Summer of 2006, with a bigger focus on the gang culture in Long Beach.  “Ramona Park Legend Pt. 2” features Earl Sweatshirt on an eeire sounding beat, while “Might Be Wrong,” featuring Haneef Talib, explores the topic of gang culture and the injustices that surround the events of today.  It’s a track that runs chills down your spine.

The third and second to last songs on the album, “C.N.B.” and “Like It Is,” feature the deep flow of Staples with some great verses that demonstrate the raw talent that the rapper has.  They also serve as the conclusion to the story of Vince Staples and his gangbanging childhood.  “’06” gives us a cliffhanger that looks into the future and what is to come from the rapper.

via Pretty Much Amazing
via Pretty Much Amazing

It’s hard to tell whether all the things that Vince Staples raps about is true, but given the amount of emotion that he puts into almost every single track, it’s hard to deny where he’s coming from.  Summertime ’06 is a fantastic album that gives us some of the realest material the year has seen.  It might get off to a slow start in the beginning, but I’m confident that it’s going to turn Vince Staples into a household name.  The album will also make a case for top album of the year.

summertime 06 score