Tag Archives: Def Jam

Review: I Decided.

i-decided-cover
via Henncredibly Dope

I Decided. (2017)

Big Sean

Rap / Hip-Hop

GOOD Music / Def Jam


When you stack up Big Sean’s I Decided. against his previous albums like Hall of Fame and his debut Finally Famous, it is quite clear that the Detroit-based rapper has taken a more introspective turn in his career.  Songs like “Dance (A$$)” and “Guap” are a thing of the past compared to his more recent offerings.  Dark Sky Paradise was a good indication of this change, mixing fun and more lighthearted party rap with deeper, reflective tracks.  I Decided., Big Sean’s fourth studio album, is not unlike what other rappers have been doing lately, but it still is Big Sean’s best work yet.

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via Dancehall Hip-Hop

Things get rolling, theme-wised, in the album’s intro track.  Big Sean’s older self, voiced by actor J.R. Starr gets hit by a car and dies.  He is then reincarnated as his present self in another life.  The whole album serves as a reflection on Sean’s life, with his older self is giving him advice and wisdom every step of the way.  It is a cool theme, but one that is underused.  The intro track came and went but I was only reminded of the theme later in the album on “Halfway Off the Balcony.”  I Decided. has a clear and consistent message throughout, but I would have liked the bits with J.R. Starr to be sprinkled a little more throughout.

“Bounce Back,” the most popular song from the album, also happens to be one of the highlights from the project.  It is an upbeat banger about bouncing back after taking an “L”.  Big Sean has some great flow on the track, similar in style to the flow found on Drake’s song “6 Man.”  Next on the track list is “No Favors,” a controversial collaboration with everyone’s favorite rabble-rouser Eminem.  Produced by WondaGurl, the song marks the first time Eminem has appeared on a Big Sean’s album.  Big Sean’s verse is great, but the biggest take-away is Eminem’s verse, where he makes a bunch of verbal jabs, including a threat against Ann Coulter.  Whether he meant it or not (he probably did not), people are still taking some offense.  This is not the first time Eminem has said something controversial.  He is the king of controversy of course.  It should not be a surprise to anyone.

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via Saint Heron

These are not the only bangers that appear on the album.  “Voices in My Head/Stick to the Plan,” produced by Metro Boomin, is another great track with a double-edged sound.  In the song, Big Sean tells himself and his listeners to stay true to himself and to heed the advice of your elders.  Then things heat up and quicken as Metro steers the beat in a new direction with the second part, where Sean convinces himself to stay focused amid the endless distractions of drugs, money, and sex.  One of the more personal tracks, “Sunday Morning Jetpack,” is a song full of nostalgia and the struggles and how they made him the person he is today.  The song features The Dream, who gives a great hook over a breezy beat.  The song almost acts as an alternative “One Man Can Change the World,” one of the strongest offerings from Dark Sky Paradise.

Not every track is a slam dunk.  “Same Time Pt. 1,” featuring Big Sean’s lady friend Jhene Aiko, is an underwhelming ballad that features a less-than-stellar verse from Aiko.  I was expecting a little more from the TWENTY88 duo.  There is also “Inspire Me,” which is a cliché and sappy tribute to Sean’s mother and the role she has played in the rapper’s life.  It is sweet in concept but does not bring anything fresh to the table when compared to similar tracks from other rappers.

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via Stupid Dope

I Decided. is capped with “Bigger Than Me,” a booming track featuring Starrah and the Flint Chozen Choir.  Big Sean wraps up the album, going off about how he has made it to the top but still needs to improve as a person.  There are some great moments with the choir and a nice verse from Starrah.  The track ends with a phone call with Big Sean’s grandma, just like his previous albums.  A lot of I Decided. is predictable, but it is the culmination of Big Sean’s career in a good way.  Big Sean has matured as a rapper and a person and that is prevalent in almost every corner of his latest project.  There are bangers galore and reflection aplenty.  Big Sean fans will rejoice.

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Review: Bobby Tarantino

bobby tarantino cover
via DDOTMEN

Bobby Tarantino (2016)

Logic

Rap / Hip-Hop

Def Jam / Visionary Music Group


“This motherf***er made a number one album!  Made a mixtape after…and then he’s making another concept album…like his first s*** didn’t already go Number 1?!  This motherf***er’s like butter, he’s on a roll motherf***er!”  Perhaps there’s no better way to put it than these lines from Logic’s newest mixtape, Bobby Tarantino.  This dude is quite literally on a roll.  Fresh off the release of The Incredible True Story, the Maryland-based rapper has put out a new collection of songs, a fun little side project if you will, devoid of any deep or substantive material.  There’s some thoughtful material on the mixtape, but in the end Bobby Tarantino is meant to be a diversion in between his flagship releases and it succeeds on this front.

Logic Performs At Stubb's
via Pitchfork

Minus the rather unnecessary intro track “illuminatro,” a song that acts as a special message if played backward, we immediately are thrown some bangers that not only demonstrate Logic’s undeniable flow, but his killer ambition as well.  “Flexicution,” a single that was dropped prior to the mixtape’s arrival, is a heavy beat hip-hop track laced with an extra dosage of braggadocio.  “The Jam” is…a jam.  On a song that goes hard, Logic goes on about how he’s eventually going to be bigger than Kanye West, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z.  Those are some lofty claims…but hey, there’s potential.  Logic’s got a lot more work to do though.  Besides this point, this is a pretty great track.  It would have been flawless if it weren’t for the overzealous use of auto-tune though.

Continuing the fun, we get a very humorous interlude track called “A Word from Our Sponsor,” which sees the return of the recurring character Marty Randolph.  Longer than most interludes, the track takes the form of a phone conversation between Marty and Logic’s record label that puts Marty on hold for a ridiculous amount of time.  There’s some perspective to be gained from the track, but it’s relevance and worth are largely questionable.  However, it will probably make you laugh a lot more than you thought you would laugh listening to a Logic mixtape.

bobby tarantino 2
via Follow News

The mixtape’s sole feature goes to Pusha T, on the collaborative track, “Wrist.”  The song tells the fictional story of a Colombian drug lord who decides to take an introspective walk through his inner being.  It’s a reflective track that displays some good storytelling work from Logic.  Pusha T was alright but it’s not like the track gained anything from his presence.  It’s probably safe to say that the track might have been better if Pusha T stayed on the sideline.

I think the best track off the mixtape is “44 Bars,” a well written and heavy introspective.  Over the course of the track, Logic delivers a 44-bar verse that dives into the pains and motivations that drive him to be the person that he is.  It’s a thoughtful track that cements the fact that Logic has some rapping chops…but I don’t think I have to convince you of his talent.  It might not be the most original or innovative track out there, but it’s a substantive track that stands out from most of the lighthearted fare on the project.

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via Rap Wave

There’s some blemishes over the course of the tape that are worth mentioning.  The sister tracks “Slave” and “Slave II” didn’t really grab me.  Aside from being redundant, they don’t really offer anything new.  The notion of “being a slave to the rap game” is an idea that has been battered over and over again over the course of rap’s history.  These tracks don’t bring anything new to the table.  They sound good, but that’s about it.  Then there’s “Studio Ambience at Night,” a chaotic track that should have been relegated to the chopping block.  It doesn’t serve that much of a purpose, other than to give a preview of what’s next for Logic.  However, good luck trying to parse what that means over the humble and bumble of the track’s noise, which mimics the sounds from a late night studio session.

At the end of the day, Logic has put forth another solid project worthy of a listen.  This dude has been hard at work creating music and his hard work and dedication shows.  Bobby Tarantino is successful by giving you something to chew and digest on while the rapper grinds out his next full conceptual release.  There’s a good bit of gems amid some duller rocks, but hey, this is a solid piece of work that honestly could serve as a full-on release if it wanted to.

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On a side note, it’s kind of tough to get the album for yourself.  As of right now, I’m pretty sure it’s only available to stream on services like Apple Music, Google Play, Soundcloud, and YouTube.  I don’t think you can actually purchase it for yourself, but I’m sure that will change soon.  Personally, he should have probably just released the mixtape on the usual services…but this is a mixtape so everything’s different.

Record Rewind: Sir Lucious Left Foot… The Son of Chico Dusty

sir lucious left foot cover
via Hip-Hop n’ More

Sir Lucious Left Foot… The Son of Chico Dusty (2010)

Big Boi

Rap / Hip-Hop

Purple Ribbon / Def Jam


The name Big Boi is a name that some might not be too familiar with.  He’s one half of the famous rap duo Outkast, where he played second fiddle behind the perhaps more popular Andre 3000.  Andre 3000 took the spotlight while Big Boi was the quiet one; the more unappreciated one.  Eventually he decided to go solo, with Sir Lucious Left Foot… The Son of Chico Dusty serving as his solo debut.  The album essentially acts as the formal introduction to Mr. Daddy Fat Sax Sir Lucious Left Foot Soul Funk Crusader.  Yes, that is the plethora of nicknames that Big Boi has accumulated over the years and no, people don’t call him that…at least not the full name.

Sir Lucious Left Foot is a masterpiece.  I’m going to say that right off the bat.  When the album initially reloaded back in 2010, the critics raved about it and it accumulated quite a bit of praise.  Big Boi breaks through and makes a statement.  He wasn’t just the shadow behind Andre 3000.  He’s just as talented…if not better.  There is not a song on the album that I didn’t like, each of them bringing something special to the table.  Usually albums tend to have little blemishes in the form of filler songs here and there but there is no filler on the album.  Sir Lucious Left Foot is a complete package that has that certified and authentic Atlanta sound, thanks in part to the Atlanta-based producers and collaborators that had their hand on the record.sir lucious left foot 1

The project was executively produced by LA Reid with other production at the hands of guys like Organized Noize, Andre 3000, Lil Jon, Cutmaster Swift, Knightheed, and more.  The album was recorded primarily at Stankonia Studios in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia.  Organized Noize have produced a lot of hits since they have been around and this project is no different.  There is a layered quality to each song that gives them a complex sound that is different and unique from what you heard around the time.  In fact, it’s still different than most of what you heard today.  Songs like “You Ain’t No DJ,” featuring the up-and-comer (at the time) Yelawolf, even talks about the state of radio DJs and the state of music back in 2010.  Sir Lucious Left Foot mixes heavy bass with sounds of 80’s synth-funk that works very well.  There’s a mix of instrumentals and samples that come together in the most idiosyncratic ways that gives the album one of the coolest sounds you will hear.

If you’re not familiar with the record already, you might be familiar with “Shutterbugg,” the main single from the album.  The song, which is a directed commentary on the paparazzi, has an old school feel to it thanks to producer Scott Storch.  This song marked the comeback of Storch, who was going through recovery at the time due to a strong cocaine addiction that cost him a lot of money.  This track, which has a unique sound to it, was the producer’s first song after coming back from his recovery, which makes it even more fascinating.  This is a lot of people’s favorite song from the album, or at least the one that got the most traction and radio play (including overseas), but in my opinion this isn’t even the strongest cut off the album.  There’s a multitude of tracks that are just as deserving of people’s attention, which says a lot about the quality of the album.

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My favorite songs on the album have to be “Daddy Fat Sax,” “General Patton,” and “Fo’ Yo Sorrows.”  “Daddy Fat Sax” acts as the true introduction to the album that goes into Big Boi’s early days, politics, Cadillacs, and the state of rap, all over a beat that just simply bumps.  The “rawest” song on the album, “General Patton,” is a song of triumph, or at least that’s how it sounds.  Big Boi compares himself to the famed General Patton of World War II over a beat full of blaring trumpet melodies and angelic choirs.  The latter song, “Fo’ Yo Sorrows,” features George Clinton, Too $hort, and Sam Chris.  Sam Chris delivers a really catchy hook while Big Boi and Too $hort deliver with the raps.  As it turns out, this was the song that Big Boi played for producer LA Reid to convince him to let him move from his old record label LaFace Records to Def Jam.  All it takes is a single listen and you’ll get why the showcase worked.

When talking about other notable tracks off the record, “Tangerine” is another that comes to mind.  The song is a collaboration with Atlanta rapper T.I. that rolls with a beat that just moves.  “Tangerine” is the type of song that I can see someone blaring out the speakers as they drive down the road.  It’s a good song to roll to.  Another favorite, “The Train Part 2,” comes later on.  Produced by Organized Noize, the song is the follow up the original song of Outkast’s Idlewild.  The song, once again, features a snazzy and addicting chorus from Sam Chris over brilliantly layered production.  The funk comes out on this song and the fact that this is the second to last song brings me to my only criticism of the record.  If it were my choice, I would have put this song as the conclusion instead of “Back Up Plan,” the album’s final track.  The two are great songs, but “The Train Part 2” would have felt a lot better as the wrap up to a brilliant piece of work.

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One thing that says constant over the fourteen song track list is the complexity of Big Boi’s voice.  If you followed Outkast this probably isn’t a surprise, but Big Boi really shines with his iconic flow.  At one moment he will have a steady cadence with his lyrics and then he will speed it up, only to slow it down again to a nice slow groove.  He keeps you on your toes and never lets up.  I don’t think I’m crazy when I say that Big Boi might have one of the best voices in rap, period.  The way he pieces his words together in a way that rolls right off the tongue is a marvel.

When you take a look back at 2010, the only other rap album that might rival Big Boi’s solo debut would be Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.  It was Big Boi and Kanye that pretty much dominated the conversation at the time with two solid albums.  As for which one stands as the best from the year, I would probably point towards Kanye’s release but Sir Lucious Left Foot… The Son of Chico Dusty is a super close second.  People had high expectations for Big Boi’s solo debut, but he exceeded expectations in every single way.  Sir Lucious Left Foot might not be album that comes to mind when talking about the best rap albums of all time, but it should at least be mentioned.  It’s an important record and one that is worth a listen.

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Review: The Life of Pablo

tlop cover
via rap.de

The Life of Pablo (2016)

Kanye West

Rap / Hip-Hop

GOOD Music / Def Jam


How about this Kanye West guy, huh?  What a character.  Over the past couple of months my opinion of Kanye West has changed…and not for the better.  Before the rapper’s media cycle for his latest work The Life of Pablo, I generally had a neutral opinion of the artist.  He didn’t have the best personality, but his music sure was great.  After a couple of album name changes, celebrity feuds, and social media rants, I have started to get more negative with my feelings for Kanye.  He still makes fantastic music, but boy is his personality garbage.  The release of The Life of Pablo, the rapper’s seventh studio album, was miles from perfect.  In fact, it was a flaming garbage pile of a mess.  However, when you strip back Kanye’s personality and the release of the album, TLOP is actually a well-produced and unique collection of songs.

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via showlove

Within the confines of the eighteen song track-list is a smorgasbord of concepts, sounds, and ideas.  Some have said that the scattershot nature of the album serves as a portrait of Kanye’s mindset during the course of the album’s production.  All you had to do was follow the rapper on Twitter to get an idea of what I mean.  The wide range of concepts featured on the album isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  An album doesn’t have to have a singular cohesive theme for it to be good.  Unfortunately, the variety of tracks was sometimes a source of headache.

At this point, I might as well get my other negative out of the way, and that is the nature of some of Kanye’s lyrics.  Again, I normally don’t really care about the intensity or morality of lyrics in music.  I mean, I listen to rap, which is full of questionable lyrics.  On TLOP, I found myself cringing a lot more than normal, which usually isn’t a good sign.  Perhaps the biggest inducer was “Famous,” a track, featuring Rihanna, full of braggadocio.  The song has received a lot of word of mouth due to the line about Taylor Swift, where he goes ahead and proclaims that, “he made that bitch famous.”  First off, the line is not true and second…it just seems a little weird, especially considering he goes on to say he could still have sex with her today.  Where was Kim Kardashian during this song’s production?  Did she give Kanye the okay?  Was she like, “yes honey, I think these lyrics sound great.”  It raises a lot of questions.  There’s other songs like this one as well, including “Highlights” and “Freestyle 4.”  (Side note: Highlights would have been a great track if it wasn’t for Young Thug.  I don’t get the rapper’s appeal.  He just seems to muddle everything he works on.)

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via MCM

Now, let’s move on to a more positive note, because that’s what Kanye would want, right?  Don’t let my negativity in the beginning give you the wrong idea, TLOP isn’t Kanye’s best work, but it is still full of great stuff.  The album’s first track, “Ultralight Beam,” featuring the likes of The-Dream, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin, and Chance the Rapper, is an angelic and soulful offering that feels like it was ripped straight from a Sunday morning sermon.  There’s good production all over the song and Chance spits a great verse, further proving himself as one of today’s most underrated rappers.  There’s also “No More Parties in LA,” featuring A-list rapper Kendrick Lamar.  The two swap stories about the fakeness of Hollywood culture and their frustrations with the rich “elite.”  The song marks the rappers’ first collaboration and it shines brightly on the project.

“Wolves”, one of the more bizarre tracks on the album, features Caroline Shaw and Frank Ocean.  The song goes through a multitude of different emotions like love, fear, and hope, and features a lot of different ideas all smacked into one.  The crazy thing about the song is that Kanye was still working on the song, even after the full album released. Thanks to the age of the internet, I guess things like this are now possible.  A song that almost didn’t make the cut was “Waves.”  The song was basically on the cutting room floor until Chance the Rapper suggested the song to be included.  After some last minute fixes, the song made it back onto the album, and it’s a wonderful thing because I really enjoyed the offering.  Lastly, “I Love Kanye,” an interlude of sorts, is a self-aware and humorous track that breaks down some of the criticisms he has received and has a little fun with it.  At least he’s a little self-aware of the kind of person he is, right?

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via News Oxy

It’s not often that we get an album like this.  The Life of Pablo can be incoherent and scattershot at times, but it is a fantastically produced collection of great songs from arguably one of the best rappers in the game.  Say what you want about his personality, but you can’t deny the amount of things that Kanye is doing for music today.  Unfortunately, the album is only accessible through Jay-Z’s streaming service Tidal, so it might be a little tough for you to give it a listen.  The decision to not release the album outside of the, well, crappy streaming service is a little head-scratching.  Hopefully you don’t want a physical release of the album either, because Kanye has kissed the physical CD goodbye forever.  We’ll see how long these promises last, but given the rapper’s stubbornness, it seems likely they will.  TLOP’s release was botched, to say the least, but the final product is an intriguing look into one of the loudest and most eclectic minds in rap.

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Review: Anti

anti cover
via D4 Premiere

Anti (2016)

Rihanna

R&B

Westbury Road / Roc Nation


It was late last Wednesday night when I somehow ended up with Rihanna’s newest album for free.  Anti, the singer’s eighth studio album, was released for free through Jay Z’s streaming service Tidal.  I was just clicking around on Twitter and a few links later, her entire album was downloading to my computer.  I was already excited for Rihanna’s new project…but this put the cherry on top.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised anymore, since the idea of a “surprise album release” is now commonplace in a music industry that is changing every day.  Rihanna always strives to be different from everybody else and in true Rihanna fashion, Anti is supremely different from her previous work.

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via Wiki Starz

Gone are the high-octane hip-hop beats and fiery pop sound.  Anti is more of a slow-chopped R&B affair and it also happens to be one of Rihanna’s most personal records yet.  This creative freedom might be the result of RiRi’s label change, moving from Def Jam to Roc Nation.  The album consists of songs of reflection on relationships of the past.  In fact, most of the album gets personal about her love life, including her highly public (and probably abusive) relationship with Chris Brown.

The album opens up with “Consideration,” featuring singer SZA.  The song is about Rihanna’s music career and how there should be a bigger emphasis on being an artist rather than an entertainer.  Rihanna has writing credits on the song, as well as all the other songs that appear on the album, which is a big deal for her.  This is one of her first forays into songwriting and it pays off in big ways.  To give context, Rihanna’s album Loud featured zero writing credits from the artist.  She’s come a long way in terms of being an artist, which is what the song is all about.  It’s a strong opening for an album.

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via News AU

Anti then continues to get deeper and deeper.  The desperate “Kiss It Better” dives into the emotions of someone who just got out of a relationship but want’s their lover back, laced with some nice guitar riffs in the background.  “Work,” the lone single from the album featuring, teams up with Drake to deliver a lust-filled narrative of two lovers.  There’s an exotic reggae beat that goes along with the track that gives it it’s laid-back quality.  The album is incredibly diverse in terms of sound, dipping it’s toes into genres like dancehall and soul.

Taking a break from the moody offerings on the album, “Desperado” is an energized and powerful track about being in a relationship with someone “on the run.”  There’s also “Woo,” a collaboration with rapper Travis Scott, Rihanna’s first track with her esteemed lover.  It’s a pointed track that delves into Rihanna’s feelings about an old flame.  However, the best track on the album is not even Rihanna’s.  “Same Ol’ Mistakes” is a cover of Tame Impala’s “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.”  The song is essentially about her work towards not releasing songs that are “burnt out.”  It’s a smooth track that is top-notch.

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via Pigeons and Planes

There is some first-rate writing on the album thanks to Rihanna, making Anti an experiential experience.  This experience is complemented with some great sound production and engineering.  In order to achieve the moody sounds that Rihanna wanted on the album, she teamed up with producers like Hit-Boy, DJ Mustard, Brian Kennedy, Timbaland, and No I.D., among others.  Anti is a far cry from the EDM club and dance projects of Rihanna’s past, but this album’s distinct sounds is one of her best.

If songs like “FourFiveSeconds” and “American Oxygen” were any indication, Rihanna has seemingly changed her musical course of direction and delivers an album in Anti that stands strong on its own.  Rihanna opens up with a collection of moody and love-infused tracks that will have you feeling all sorts of emotions.  Although I loved the Rihanna of the past, I applaud her for the changes that she has made in order to deliver this fine product of her creativity.

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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.

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Review: Big Sean’s Dark Sky Paradise

via Hip Hop DX
via Hip Hop DX

Dark Sky Paradise (2015)

Big Sean

Rap / Hip-Hop

Label: G.O.O.D. Music & Def Jam


Let’s take a moment and look at what has been happening in rapper Big Sean’s life the past couple of years.  His sophomore album Hall of Fame proved to be a sophomore flop, he had a pretty public break-up with now ex-girlfriend Naya Rivera, found a new (and even more public) girlfriend in Ariana Grande, and he recently signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation label.  That’s a lot of fuel for a big fire.  With Dark Sky Paradise, Big Sean’s third studio album, he manages to kindle those flames to produce his best album yet.

If you want a summary of the things Big Sean reflects on his introspective album, all you have to do is refer to the opening track “Dark Sky (Skyscrapers).”  Big Sean keeps it raw and goes into the sorts of themes that are scattered all over the album, including the girls he has been with, the successes he has had, and some of the mistakes and struggles he has had to deal with along the way.

via juice.de
via juice.de

With a title like Dark Sky Paradise, you would think that Big Sean would follow the apparent progression from his struggles of his past to the paradise that he’s a part of now, but this is not the case necessarily.  It seems like a missed opportunity to me, but it’s hard to argue with how an artist decides to order their tracks.

The album has a really strong start with some pretty heavy beats.  “Blessings” and “All Your Fault”, which feature Drake and Kanye West respectively, go into the successes that Big Sean has had, and how he is literally “blessed” to be at his level.  Both Big Sean and Kanye West go bar for bar on the last verse of “All Your Fault”, which was probably one of my favorite moments on the album.

via xclusiveszone.net
via xclusiveszone.net

These songs then lead to the massive commercial hit “I Don’t Fuck With You”; a song that can be possibly linked to Sean’s relationship with Naya Rivera.  At the surface level, there doesn’t seem to be too much depth to the song.  However, E-40 lends a great verse with his signature style and Big Sean once again gets introspective with the last verse, which he later revealed that he wrote with Naya Rivera on his mind.  The song also contains some good production from DJ Mustard which makes it a heavy-hitting banger.

It was at this point that the album started to trail off a bit for me.  “Play No Games”, featuring Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign, and “Paradise” both were average songs that didn’t really do it for me.  However, I can’t deny that the sound of “Paradise” was probably one of the best sounds on the album.  “Win Some, Lose Some”, the first duet with Jhene Aiko, and “Stay Down” were not that special either.

via themostrequested.tv
via themostrequested.tv

It was Big Sean’s second duet with Jhene Aiko, “I Know”, that was one of the highlights on the album.  The two trade verses on a track about the struggles that someone in a rough relationship is going through.  The two both offer their support in a sexy and soulful duet.  “One Man Can Change the World” was another soulful track that dived into the subject of Big Sean’s grandmother, who recently passed away.  She was the “father figure” of sorts during his childhood, and he owed a lot too her, which he talks about on the track.  Sean also brings on Kanye West and John Legend, who were both fitting features on the track of tribute to Sean’s grandmother.

Although there were a couple of missteps along the way, Big Sean hit hard with Dark Sky Paradise.  It’s a cool experience to see the rapper go through his life and the problems he has had to put up with, and then reflect on how they have impacted his life.  There’s some moments on the album where he talks about what it would be like to “lose it all.”  It’s a good reflective question to ask yourself once in a while, but with an album like this, it’s hard to see Big Sean really “losing it all.”  He has picked himself back up from the disaster that was Hall of Fame and has moved on to his Dark Sky Paradise.

dark sky paradise score

Review: Burning Bridges

burning bridges coverBurning Bridges (2014)

Ludacris

Rap / Hip-Hop

Def Jam


It’s been a long time since Ludacris has graced the rap scene with his presence.  If you can remember, last year Ludacris released his mixtape #IDGAF, but it was 2010 when he released his last studio album Battle of the Sexes.  So yeah, it’s been a long time…but that doesn’t mean that Ludacris has been vacationing in the Bahamas either.  He’s been hard at work with the Fast and Furious films, as well as his next studio album Ludaversal, which is scheduled to come out next March.

Then, out of the blue, we get an announcement of a small little EP titled Burning Bridges that was going to be released in anticipation of Ludaversal.  It was announced to be coming out in December, and now the mini album is finally here, all six tracks in all.  It’s a feature heavy project, but it still gives us a nice little dose of Ludacris.  It’s also only a Google Play exclusive, so it’s not going to be filling a lot of ears either.

Gabrielle's Angel Foundation Hosts Angel Ball 2014 - Inside

 

The main theme that can be found on the album is Ludacris’ attitude towards the critics and the people that have been giving him a lot of flack lately.  It’s completely made known in the album that he could frankly care less about what the people say.  It’s songs like “Problem” featuring Cee-Lo and “In My Life” featuring John Legend that show he is going to keep doing what he does best, and he’s going to continue to stay relevant in the music industry, given the time he has taken off.

My two favorite songs of the EP were “Money”, which featured Rick Ross and “Burning Bridges”, which featured the interesting collaboration of Jason Aldean.  “Money” is a track about the evils that come along with money and wealth, which I found ironic considering the song was coming from the guy who put out “Money Maker.”  Nonetheless, it was a great song that showed of Luda’s signature flow.  “Burning Bridges” was partly interesting because of the collaboration that came from Jason Aldean.  He was the last person I would expect to be on the album, but his country sound actually made the song quite fantastic.

burning bridges 1

The last track on the album, “Good Lovin” which features Miguel, was the only song to be released before the EP’s release.  It’s a sobering little tale about the relationship struggles that both Ludacris and Miguel have to go through.  It’s a deeper song, which is a welcoming sign.

Burning Bridges seems like it is the definition of an “underground release”, but it is still worth a listen.  Ludacris is back, and he is just as good as he was before.  The EP did succeed in it’s purpose, which was to get me excited for what Luda has in store with his upcoming project Ludaverse.  In the meantime, this should hold you over.

(It’s also free on Google Play right now, so there is really no excuse for you to not pick it up…just saying)

 

Review: Hood Billionaire

hood billionaire album coverHood Billionaire (2014)

Rick Ross

Rap / Hip-Hop

Maybach / Def Jam / Slip-n-Slide


Two full-size albums in one year?  Some might consider that crazy, especially considering the amount of work that goes into putting a studio album together.  Other’s might think it doesn’t make sense.  It’s the principle of supply and demand.  You don’t want people to burn out on your music, you want to release a little bit here and there to keep them longing for more.

So why did Rick Ross release Hood Billionaire during the same year that Mastermind came out?  Well, it’s what being a boss is about.  Boss’ put in a lot of work, right?  Well Rick Ross had that same state of mind when working on his second album of the year.  He goes on to describe the album, saying, “it’s just that feel good record. A lot of 808s, real bass heavy. And it’s gon’ feel different to you. So, it’s gonna feel like a full year from the boss.”

Okay, so Rozay wants us to feel good while listening to the record.  He is right about the base and the 808’s.  Hood Billionaire is a technically good sounding album.  Rick Ross entrusted the likes of Beat Billionaire, Big K.R.I.T., Lex Luger, and Timbaland to produce the album.  Almost all of the tracks sound really good, but do they really offer up anything new?

hood billionaire 1

Let me go back to that example that I made earlier about music burning out.  The sound that you heard on Mastermind is extremely similiar, if not the same, as Hood Billionaire.  Ross does a poor job of bringing something new to the table, which is pretty understandable given the nature of the two albums.  Mastermind and Hood Billionaire were released in the same year, which means that Rick Ross had to have been working on both albums at the same time, thus the lack of difference between the two.

I couldn’t help but think what would have happened if Rick Ross released both of these albums as a two disc album.  It probably would have made more sense.  But instead, we got Mastermind which was alright on its own and then Hood Billionaire, which seems like an awkward continuation of the latter.

There are some standout tracks that made the listening experience a little enjoyable though.  Some of my favorite cuts from the album include “Hood Billionaire”, “Heavyweight”, “Coke Like the 80s”, and “Elvis Presley Blvd”.  If you look at the track listing, these were all in the beginning of the album as well.  The album just went on after that, offering nothing that caught my attention.  You would think “Moving Bass”, Rick Ross’s collaboration with Jay Z would have been a standout, but instead it was a major buzz-kill.  Jay Z did little to offer the track any oomph.  It just fell flat, which is a shame considering how great “The Devil is a Lie” was on Rick Ross’ previous album.  There are also appearances by R Kelly, Big K.R.I.T., and Snoop Dogg, but none of them really offered anything exciting.

You can tell that Rick Ross was trying to tell a story on the album, considering the amount of skits and voice overs that were featured.  In the opening intro to the album, we hear Rick Ross and a friend digging up some bags of money, each with eight million apiece.  However, it’s a story we have all heard before.  Rags to riches.  Rick Ross is a boss, we know.  He’s told us many times before, and he continues the tired narrative on this album.

I think it’s the perfect time for Rick Ross to just sit back for a while and start thinking about where he is as an artist and where he can go from there.  It’s doubtful that he is going to release new music any time soon, so its a good time for him to get back to the drawing board.  He has the money and he is the boss.  But what is going to make him stand out above the rest?  How is he going to be remembered?  He is this stage of his career where he needs to take a step back in order to take two steps forward.