Tag Archives: Drake

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.

i-decided-score

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Review: Views

views coverViews (2016)

Drake

Rap / Hip-Hop / R&B

OVO Sound / Young Money / Cash Money / Boy Better Know / Republic


The 6 can finally rejoice!  Toronto’s very own is back with his heavily anticipated album Views.  Drake has been drumming up the release of the album for almost a year now, and the talk surrounding it only rose as we got closer to release.  Part of this is because of the long wait between albums.  His last album, Nothing Was the Same, came out three years ago.  The anticipation was also heightened thanks to Drake’s beef with Meek Mill, which was absurdly silly when you look back at it all.  (Drake got a Grammy for his diss track, so it worked out for him in the end I guess) Now that Views is finally on the streets, was the wait worth it?  Well…it’s the same Drake sound, so there’s that…

views 1
via The Fashionisto

Views is not a bad album by any means.  In fact, it is a solid release featuring some of the signature Drake sound that we have come to know and love over the years.  He’s almost his own genre at this point.  A Drake song has a unique sound that is distinguishable from the rest.  The problem with Views is that it runs a little long with tracks that just come off as lazy fillers.  There are some songs that are stereo killers, but then there are the lackadaisical R&B songs that should have just stayed at home.

The album gets off to a cold start with the intro track, “Keep the Family Close.”  It features some chilly production from OVO’s Maneesh and dives into Drake’s trust issues that have arisen as of late.  Right from the start, we hear the album play with the “seasons” motif.  We get a cold start that mimics Winter and then the album moves into a more upbeat and tropical sound that represents Summer.  Finally, the album takes us out with a switch back to the blustery cold sound that signifies the return of Winter.  It’s a cool idea that brings the album together, but it’s not an original concept.  If you remember, rapper Lupe Fiasco used the same “seasons” theme with his Tetsuo & Youth release last year.  In fact, I think Lupe’s album drove the “seasons” theme home with greater effect.

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via NME

After the intro we get the album’s only real homage to Toronto, entitled “9,” which signifies how he has turned the “6” (read Toronto) upside down.  It’s a good track that will get anyone from Toronto roused up with pride, but it didn’t have that same effect on me.  After this song we get some filler tracks with “U With Me?” and “Feel No Ways.”  They are both sluggish meanders through Drake’s inner psyche, something that we have seen time and time again from the rapper.  It’s not bad thing when an artist takes a reflective journey, but there was a little too much on Views.  When you have an album running at twenty tracks, it’s extremely hard to have twenty knock-outs.  If Views would have had a fourteen song track list instead, with the fillers out of the equation, my views on Views (yep, bad pun intended) would have been a different story.

It’s during the “Summer” portion of the album where Views shines.  “Controlla,” produced by Boi-1da, features the great Beenie Man, giving the song a distinct reggae sound.  The song is essentially the younger brother to “Work,” Drake’s collaboration with Rihanna.  Speaking of Rihanna, she appears on the track “Too Good,” a tropical song with a fun and rhythmic beat.  Finally, “One Dance,” featuring the lesser known Kyla and Wizkid, was released as a single and happens to be one of my favorite cuts from the album.  The song is an afro beat song with dancehall inflections and features some great work from Kyla and Wizkid.  Some other tracks that deserve attention are “Hype” and “Weston Road Flows,” which samples Mary J. Blige’s “Mary’s Joint,” harnessing some 90’s R&B.  These two tracks don’t really fit into the same equation as the previously mentioned three reggae-inspired tracks, but they are worth mentioning.

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via Hype Beast

“Views” is a five-minute closing track that brings the album to a close.  Sure, “Hotline Bling” is the last track on the album, but it was tacked on as a bonus offering.  “Views” mixes some gospel sounds over a track about loyalty and faith, something that we become familiar with over the course of the album.  It’s basically the roll-credits song to the whole album, an album that takes a deep look into the mind and emotions of the rapper.

Like I said before, this is a signature Drake album.  It features some mesmerizing slow-jam R&B tracks that take us on a walk through his inner-psyche.  It’s full of songs about relationships, his OVO team, and a whole range of other emotions.  Unfortunately, Views has a good bit of less-than-stellar tracks as well.  The reggae-inspired tracks are the best parts about the album.  Hype can be a blessing and a curse and in Drake’s case, the hype machine surrounding his album didn’t work in his favor.  Views is not a bad album by any means, it’s just an album that pales in comparison to his previous works, like Take Care and Nothing Was the Same.  If you’re a Drake aficionado, then you’re probably going to love this album.  If you’re not, well, then you’re going to enjoy the album but you’ll be confused as to why the album was hyped as much as it was.

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SoundCloud Go: Is It Really Worth It?

Great, just what we need.  Another music streaming service.

A streaming service from SoundCloud is something that we have been anticipating ever since they started getting in cahoots with some big name label companies. Some time has passed and now here we are, the launch day of SoundCloud Go, the newest streaming service from the music platform known for its B-sides remixes and user-uploaded content.  What makes this service different from more established services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal?  Well…almost nothing.

soundcloud go
via SoundCloud

First, let’s talk about the part that you care about; the price.  SoundCloud Go is on par with the other services, offering its services for $9.99 a month or $12.99 if you sign up on the iPhone app.  What does this mean?  It means you’ll want to sign up for the service on the website, regardless if you are going to be using the Android or iPhone app.  (iTunes’ three-dollar transaction fee is a real pain in the ass) Luckily, the service offers a 30-day free trial for anybody who is weary of signing up for another streaming service.  It’s during this time that you will quickly notice that SoundCloud Go might not be what it’s hyped up to be.

What do you get for the ten dollars a month?  Firstly, you get access to a premium library of content from well-known artists as well as some deeper-cuts.  SoundCloud has been working with record labels like UMG, Sony, Merlin, and Warner to give its premium users a larger library to choose from.  The service also promises its paying customers offline listening for individual tracks and playlists as well as an ad-free listening experience.  You know, your standard music streaming fare.  The only thing that sets SoundCloud apart from its not-so-surprising lack of music…which is a bad way to be different.

I decided to run some tests on the mobile app.  I did a search for Lupe Fiasco, which yielded these results:

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Search results for Lupe Fiasco…not bad.

As you can see, this provides an example of what the search results will look like for premium users.  Now take note of the number of tracks related to Lupe Fiasco.  151 isn’t a bad number.  The service seemed to have a good portion of Lupe’s library.

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I was impressed that SoundCloud Go had his latest, Tetsuo & Youth, on the service.

That was a good sign.  It’s when I started searching for other artists that I started to run into some problems.  Let’s take Adele for example:

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Again, not that bad…but could be better.

Once again, there was a good amount of Adele tracks, but there were some notable absences as well.  The service seems to have her albums 19 and 21 but her latest album, 25, is nowhere to be found.  The album’s key song, “Hello,” is the lone song available to users.  SoundCloud was boasting about having artists like Adele on their service…but if you’re going to boast about an artist you should probably have their library in its entirety.

What about Jay-Z?  Well…not too many marbles:

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Shout-out to that hot new track “When Is Someone Gonna Sue Jay-Z?” I heard its a banger.

This might have been a search destined to fail, considering the rap icon co-owns the streaming service Tidal, but his music can still be found on other services like Spotify.  Spotify has a robust Jay-Z library…which pulverizes SoundCloud Go’s current offerings…which isn’t much.  I did other searches for artists like Rihanna and Drake…and the lack of music was pretty consistent.

The service claims to have 125+ million tracks available to users on the platform.  However, what they don’t tell you is how this number breaks down.  Based on some reporting by The Verge, 110 million of those tracks are remixes of existing songs or user-uploaded content.  That leaves a measly 15 million tracks that are totally original.  This might seem like a large number, but it pales in comparison to its competitors.  SoundCloud has made it clear that they are working around the clock to bring more tracks to the service, but they have a lot of legwork to cover if they want to keep up with the other streaming giants.  These services are all about user-retention and SoundCloud isn’t going to keep too many of its paying customers with the library that they have now.

As you saw from the screenshots above, the mobile interface remains relatively unchanged, which is a good thing.  You don’t want too much change all at once.  One of the more frustrating aspects of the service hasn’t changed however and that is the organization.  Unlike other services, SoundCloud presents its song in an unorganized fashion.  For example, searching for Adele’s album 19 gave me this:

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Tis a barren wasteland of obscurity…

Nothing.  The service doesn’t organize its music by albums.  Your straight out of luck if you want to listen to an artist’s full album uninterrupted.  You have to go to each track individually and play them that way, which becomes super tedious and annoying.  Sure, you could get around this by creating a playlist by adding each song from an album individually…but who has time for that?  Album organization seems like a no-brainer…but you’ll just have to settle.

The Now Playing screen should look familiar to anybody who has used the SoundCloud app before:

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Standard stuff…nothing major in terms of options.

You can’t see it in this screenshot, but most tracks will have a download button that allows you to download the track for listening later, similar to most mobile streaming apps.  You can also start track stations that play similar sounds and you can add tracks to playlists.  You can then download these playlists for later listening.  This stuff seems to work pretty well…but that’s the least surprising thing about the whole experience.  If you have used another streaming service, then you should feel right at home.

SoundCloud Go still has a long road ahead of itself if it wants to catch up with its bigger and badder competitors. I always liked SoundCloud for it’s deep-cut remixes and tracks from up-and-coming artist and DJs.  Initial tests make it seem like this can all be done for free.  What you’re paying for is the bigger libraries from more well-established artists.  Unfortunately, the content availability is slim-pickings at this point, but more content should be coming in the future.  Enough to rival its competitors like Spotify and Apple Music?  Probably not.  If you primarily use SoundCloud to catch up with newer and more underground artists, then paying for premium features is probably not necessary.  As of now, SoundCloud Go isn’t worth your ten dollars a month.  Maybe the future will prove otherwise…but I don’t have good feelings for the service moving forward.

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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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: GO:OD AM

via Music Times
via Music Times

GO:OD AM (2015)

Mac Miller

Rap / Hip-Hop

Warner Bros. Records / REMember Music


When an artist releases their third studio album, usually it isn’t that big of a deal.  Their freshman album is their first foray into the field while their sophomore album determines if they can withstand and keep the intensity.  The third album is when an artist settles into things.  It’s different with Mac Miller.  GO:OD AM, the Pittsburgh rapper’s third album, feels a little different…a little more special.  A new multimillion dollar record deal with a new label will do that.  GO:OD AM is the rapper’s third album, but it’s his first album since signing to Warner Bros Records for ten million dollars.  Mac isn’t your favorite underground rapper anymore.  He’s primetime.

via NPR
via NPR

A new record deal raises the bar when it comes down to the production of an album.  Mac has been pretty vocal about the amount of work that he has put into his latest offering, and it shows.  According to his tweets, he developed nine full albums before settling with the final product.  Mac was meticulous with every little detail.  The album had to be perfect in his eyes; a new standard had to be set. Did the work pay off?  Hell yeah it did.  GO:OD AM is probably the most complex and dynamic album coming from the Pittsburgh kid.  If I had to describe it with one word, well…it’s joyous.  I mean, it’s easy to be happy when you’re reaping the benefits of a new record deal and mainstream fame.

GO:OD AM seemingly leaves behind the trippy, dreary, and often depressing moods that emanated from Watching Movies With the Sound Off and goes back to his old style featured on Blue Slide Park.  There are still some elements from WMWTSO that seep into his latest project, as well as some from Faces, but for the most part GO:OD AM showcases a much happier Mac who’s more laid back and just happy to be where he’s at.  Its songs like the smooth and melodic Tyler, the Creator produced “Doors” and the happy go lucky “Brand Name” that demonstrate that pretty well.

via Life Is Tremendez
via Life Is Tremendez

Mac also gets nostalgic at points, reminiscing on the past and how far he has come from his Easy Mac days.  “100 Grandkids,” the album’s first released single, is probably one of the strongest songs on the album.  Mac raps over a beat, one that would feel right at home on a Drake album, about the time he cashed his first 100 grand.  There’s also “Perfect Circle/God Speed” that features an epic second half that goes into the good old days of “Most Dope.”

With the kind of work that Mac has put into his precious album, it only makes sense that the album sounds great.  WMWTSO brought us a lot of cool sounds, but GO:OD AM gives us a ton of complex beats that are super diverse.  ID Labs, long time collaborators with Mac, have once again signed on to do a majority of the production duties for the album.  Songs like the silky smooth “ROS”, hard and fast “When In Rome,” and the loud and pompous “The Festival” demonstrate the wide variety of different sounds that the album showcases.  Mac has outdone himself once again.

via Respect Mag
via Respect Mag

Perhaps the only downside of the album is its underwhelming features.  Mac and Ab-Soul team up again on the sequel to WMWTSO’s “Matches,” with “Two Matches.”  The song was alright, but it could have been better.  There is also “Cut the Check,” featuring Chief Keef.  Although you can actually understand what Sosa is rapping about this time around, the track wasn’t really special.  I’m not really a Chief Keef fan in the first place, but the song really didn’t match up to the albums other great offerings.  Maybe the biggest surprise was Lil B’s addition to “Time Flies.”  Although Mac carries the majority of the weight on the cut, the Based God gives us some contemplative spoken word interludes that get a little philosophical.  It’s not much but it was interesting to say the least.

I can’t help but feel happy for Mac Miller.  He’s really put his name out there and made something of himself.  With a new record deal, I can only see Mac’s trajectory getting higher and higher as time goes on.  GO:OD AM is going to be the first of many great albums from the rapper.  The album has a mesmerizing sound and it just makes you happy when you listen to it.  Plain and simple.  GO:OD AM is a…wait for it…pretty GO:OD album.  (I had to do it, I’m sorry)

good am score

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

Sorry 4 The Wait 2 Impressions

via LIFE Records Entertaiment
via LIFE Records Entertaiment

Lil Wayne has been riding the struggle bus recently.  There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the YMCMB name.  Wayne has been trying to distance himself from the Cash Money label, as well as some other rappers.  He’s also trying to put in work on his next album The Carter V, but the album has been pushed back due to some recent complications with Birdman and some others.  Wayne’s literally in a position that he can’t get himself out of, as seen on the cover of his latest mixtape, Sorry 4 The Wait 2.

There’s three messages that resonate from the project: Lil Wayne’s sorry about the delay on his album, the situation he’s in sucks, and he’s going to still be on top of his game through it all.  The first track on the mixtape, “Coco”, gets right to the point and sets the stage for the rest of the album.

via Slate
via Slate

What we have in Sorry 4 The Wait 2 is a Wayne that is on top of his game.  His famed wordplay still breaks through every song, and his lyrical flow runs deeper than ever.  His auto-tune is a little heavy and overused, but it doesn’t put too much of a blemish on the project.

As we have seen with previous Weezy mixtapes, there’s a lot of remixes and covers.  We have remixes and samples from the likes of Future, Migos, Troy Ave, I Love Makonnen, Meek Mill, Rae Sremmurd, and more.  They all sound familiar, but Wayne puts his own style on the tracks that make them a product of his own.  Some standout remixes include “Dreams and Nightmares”, “Trap House”, and “Hot N***a”.

via In Flex We Trust
via In Flex We Trust

Drake, Mack Maine, and 2 Chainz offered some verses as well.  Wayne’s “Used To” featuring Drake was by far one of the better tracks on the mixtape.  It’s also notable given the situation with YMCMB.  It’s obvious here that Drake sides with Lil Wayne and his situation.  It was also surprising how much “Birdman diss” Lil Wayne put in the tape.  (Yeah, I’m looking at you “S**t”)

Christina Milian, rumored to be Lil Wayne’s hubby, also lends some help with the remix of Beyonce’s hit “Drunk In Love.”  Their version of the tune is a lot more raunchy and sensual, with Christina Milian stealing the show.  Her version of the hook is on par with Beyonce’s in terms of brilliance, and she takes it and runs with it.  It was one of my favorites, if not the best, song on the mixtape.

via Hot New Hip Hop
via Hot New Hip Hop

I also have to mention “Alphabet”, one of his most fun songs on the mixtape.  Lil Wayne walks us through the alphabet, and for each letter he gives a little description of the women that he has been with.  There’s a lot of humor in this one and it was unique enough that I had to mention it on its own.

Sorry 4 The Wait 2 is a pretty solid piece of work as a whole.  Some of the songs don’t quite hit the mark as much as others (e.g. “You Guessed It” and “No Haters”), but the overall package is something that most fans of Lil Wayne can appreciate.  Wayne makes it crystal clear that he is extremely sorry for the delayed album, with the message appearing in every song.  I think fans will understand.  This mixtape is the appetizer for his fans, and now we wait as Lil Wayne cooks up the main course that is The Carter V.

Review: The Pinkprint

the pinkprint coverThe Pinkprint (2014)

Nicki Minaj

Rap / Hip-Hop

Young Money / Cash Money / Republic Records


A lot of people have been proclaiming Nicki Minaj as one of the “queens” of the rap and pop industry.  It’s hard to deny the fact, given the amount of successes she has had this year.  She’s hosted award shows, released one of the songs of the summer, and continues to do more and more.  The Pinkprint, her third studio album, is going to be her closer for the year, her “pinkprint” on the year, per say.

the pinkprint 2

One of the things I enjoy most about the album is her trip back to her mixtape roots as a primarily rap artist.  Before she was known for her “dance-pop” sound, she was an up-and-coming rapper from the Young Money label.  On The Prinkprint, she leaves that “dance-pop” sound from Pink Friday and brings back her older sounds.

The album starts off with a pretty emotional track from Nicki, which is not to characteristic of the singer.  “All Things Go” is an open door to her love life, her family, as well as her abortion that she had to go through.  The song is then followed with “I Lied” and “The Crying Game”, which both showcase the vocal talent of Nicki as well as her emotional side.  At this point, I thought I was listening to a deep and emotional R&B album…until the next songs started to ramp up the energy.

“Get On Your Knees” featuring Ariana Grande was energetic, but nothing really special.  The song was then followed by “Feeling Myself”, which was actually one of my favorite songs from the album.  It features verses from both Nicki and Beyonce, who both come off as cocky, which is no surprise given the position they have in pop culture as of late.

2014 iHeartRadio Music Festival - Night 1 - Show

Other stand-out songs include “Only”, which was the banger featuring verses from Drake and Lil Wayne, and a hook by Chris Brown.  The thing that makes this song stand out is the things that the Young Money founders set straight on the track.  We also have “Trini Dem Girls”, which features a little help from Lunchmoney Lewis.  The song is probably one of the cooler sounding songs on the album, giving tribute to Nicki’s Trinidadian roots.

“The Night Is Still Young” is a pop-infused song which provides a lot of vivacity to the album.  “Pills N Potions”, one of the first singles that was released from the album, is another one of my favorites.  It’s a soft-spoken, yet powerful song that features a mesmerizing hook.

Your probably wondering why I’ve made it this far talking about The Pinkprint without mentioning “Anaconda”, arguably her most popular song of the album.  Even though it is her most popular song, doesn’t mean it’s her best.  In fact, it’s probably far from her best.  The overtly sexual nature of the song will probably put most off, and the song gets pretty old when you listen to it a couple of times.  The Sir-Mix-A-Lot sample was probably the coolest part about the song, and that’s about it.

the pinkprint 3

The album closes with the deeply emotional “Grand Piano”, where Nicki delves into a man who has lied to her, “playing her heart like a grand piano.”  It’s a fitting end to an album that begun in a similar way; a deep venture into her once private situations that she was dealing with.  She doesn’t have anything to hide anymore.

The Pinkprint remarkably shows off the vocal variety that Nicki Minaj has when it comes to her music.  The album features a mix of emotional ballads, lyrical rap prowess, club bangers, and “poppy” radio hits.  It’s all there in Nicki’s arsenal.  There is still part of me that wishes she would just pick one style and run with it though.

This album was probably my favorite Nicki Minaj album.  However, this might not be the same for everybody.  She got popular with her dance-pop sound and not too much of that sound is present on the album.  If you are wondering whether you should get the album, it probably just depends on what type of Nicki you are into.  Although, there is a bit of everything on the album.

 

2015 Grammy Awards Predictions

The lists are out and the nominees have been announced!  There looks to be a lot of tough races in some of the categories.  It’s going to be interesting once it all goes down on February 8th.  Now, it’s time for me to make my semi-educational guesses as to who will take home the big awards…

RECORD OF THE YEARgrammy 2014 1

-“Fancy” by Iggy Azalea feat. Charlie XCX

-“Chandelier” by Sia

-“Stay With Me” (Darkchild Version) by Sam Smith

-“Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift (WINNER)

-“All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor

This was one of the tougher categories to choose.  The favorites are probably “Fancy”, “Shake It Off”, and “All About That Bass”.  However, I think Taylor Swift will be the lucky lady that takes home the award.

ALBUM OF THE YEARgrammy 2014 2

Morning Phase by Beck

Beyonce by Beyonce

by Ed Sheeran

In The Lonely Hour by Sam Smith  (WINNER)

Girl by Pharrell Williams

This was probably the toughest category for me to choose.  All of the albums that were nominated have an extremely likely chance of getting the award, however I thought that Sam Smith had a hell of a year and his album might sit well with the board of judges.   I guess we will have to wait and see.

SONG OF THE YEAR

-“All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor

-“Chandelier” by Sia

-“Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift  (WINNER)

-“Stay With Me” (Darkchild Version) by Sam Smith

-“Take Me To Church” by Hozier

“Shake It Off” was the song that got in your head every time you listened to it, no matter if you liked Taylor Swift or not.  It’s a catchy tune that served as one of the standout tracks on her album 1989.  I am going to go ahead and say that the award will be in Taylor Swift’s hands by the end of the night.

BEST NEW ARTISTgrammy 2014 3

-Iggy Azalea  (WINNER)

-Bastille

-Brandy Clark

-Haim

-Sam Smith

Iggy Azalea has had a busy year.  She’s been on many hit singles and she has put out a hit album as well.  She also has come under a ton of fire from some of her hip-hop superiors.  Don’t forget about her night at the American Music Awards as well, where she took home all the awards for the hip-hop category.  She has handled herself really well through all of this, and that is why I think she is the best new artist of the year.  However, Sam Smith would make a good choice as well.

And now for some of the other categories that interest me…

BEST POP VOCAL ALBUMgrammy 2014 4

Ghost Stories by Coldplay

Bangerz by Miley Cyrus

My Everything by Ariana Grande

Prism by Katy Perry  (WINNER)

by Ed Sheeran

In The Lonely Hour by Sam Smith

BEST DANCE/ELECTRONIC ALBUMgrammy 2014 5

Syro by Aphex Twin

While (1>2) by Deadmau5  (WINNER)

Nabuma Rubberband by Little Dragon

Do It Again by Royksopp & Robyn

Damage Control by Mat Zo

BEST R&B PERFORMANCEgrammy 2014 6

-“Drunk In Love” by Beyonce feat. Jay Z  (WINNER)

-“New Flame” by Chris Brown feat. Usher & Rick Ross

-“It’s Your World” by Jennifer Hudson feat. R. Kelly

-“Like This” by Ledisi

-“Good Kisser” by Usher

BEST URBAN CONTEMPORARY ALBUMgrammy 2014 7

Sail Out by Jhene Aiko

Beyonce by Beyonce  (WINNER)

X by Chris Brown

Mali Is… by Mali Music

Girl by Pharrell Williams

BEST RAP SONGgrammy 2014 8

-“Anaconda” by Nicki Minaj

-“Bound 2” by Kanye West

-“I” by Kendrick Lamar  (WINNER)

-“We Dem Boyz” by Wiz Khalifa

-“0 to 100/The Catch Up” by Drake

BEST RAP ALBUM??????????????????????????????????

The New Classic by Iggy Azalea

Because The Internet by Childish Gambino

-Nobody’s Smiling by Common

The Marshall Mathers LP2 by Eminem  (WINNER)

Oxymoron by Schoolboy Q

Blacc Hollywood by Wiz Khalifa

*Side Note: This category should be interesting given all of the controversy and words that have been exchanged between Iggy and Eminem.

With that, my predictions have been made for the big categories as well as the categories that interest me the most.  Now we will have to wait till February 8th to see whether or not I was right about these choices, or a complete idiot.  Probably the latter, but I like to think that I am better than that.