Tag Archives: mixtapes

Review: The Stone Junction

the stone junction
via DJ Carisma

The Stone Junction (2016)

Audio Push

Rap / Hip-Hop

Interscope / Hits Since ’87

Oktane and Price of hip-hop outfit Audio Push have been around for a while now, a long while.  They’ve been making music since the days when MySpace was cool.  Time doesn’t always amount to major commercial success though.  Audio Push have been putting out mixtapes as their main source of music, with eleven free releases under their belt.  When your releasing free music, money usually isn’t at a premium.  After all these years, they have finally decided to change things up with their twelfth release, The Stone Junction, their first record that is being sold commercially.  It’s not necessarily an EP that is going to blow your socks off, but it’s a solid release that demonstrates the skill that the hip-hop duo have been showing off for years.

the stone junction 1
via Okay Player

The Stone Junction has a seven song track list featuring production from the likes of Slade Da Monsta, Rey Reel, Izze the Producer, and Ducko Mcfli.  You probably haven’t heard these names before but that’s okay, because they do a pretty good job with the production on the album.  Audio Push have tackled a diverse set of sounds over the years, ranging from bass-bouncing hip-hop to sensual R&B.  This might not be the most marketable trait to have as a rap group, but it shows off their impressive range.  This signature of range comes through once again on their first studio album.

The first cut off the project, “BBQ Spot,” has a nice beat to it, thanks to some Slade Da Monsta production, and features two great verses from both Oktane and Price.  The two have a flow that is characteristically rooted in a Californian sound.  There’s also “Servin,” the first single that was released off the record.  The song features BMac the Queen and contains feelings of urgency, touting their experience in the rap game while still rapping, “I feel like it’s me versus everybody.”  When you’ve been around for almost ten years but have no name recognition, things tend to feel this way.

the stone junction 2
via Non-Stop Hip-Hop News

Next on the list are “Vamanos” and “Hard,” arguably the two best tracks off the record.  “Vamanos” features Atlanta-based Mexican-American rapper Kap G and a trap influenced beat from Izze the Producer, who has some other credits on the album.  The song has a unique vibe with some great verses all around.  Then there’s “Hard,” which distinguishes itself from the rest due to its unique sound.  The song starts out with some…well, “hard” bass bumps and then transitions to some sweet-sounding piano melodies around the two-minute mark.  The song goes from bravado to emotional just like that.  It’s a little unexpected but it sounds great in the end.

Towards the end there are a couple of missteps.  “Vibed Up Shawty” contains a heavy use of 808s (which isn’t where the track falters) and hearkens back to their first major release, “Teach Me How to Jerk.”  Unfortunately, the song gets a little too repetitive and wears its welcome after only a minute in.  There’s also “Same,” featuring rapper Jace.  The song features some cool sounds from Ducko Mcfli, but the raps fell a little flat and sounded a little garbled at times.  It wasn’t a great way to end an album.

the stone junction 3
via Rap Wave

There’s still a lot to like about The Stone Junction.  They’re a wide array of sounds, which has become an Audio Push trademark over the years.  This is also their first official studio album, so perhaps this release will propel them into a brighter spotlight.  The record has some hiccups here and there and it’s not an album that necessarily can be considered mainstream, but Oktane and Price’s experience comes through tried and true.

the stone junction score


Review: Beauty Behind The Madness

beauty behind the madness coverBeauty Behind The Madness (2015)

The Weeknd

Pop / R&B

Label: XO, Republic

It’s been cool to watch the journey that Abel Tesfaye, more famously known as The Weeknd, has taken from his more obscure roots as an R&B croon to the mainstream star that he is today.  The Canadian artist first got his start putting out mixtapes and then proceeded to get noticed by record labels.  I guess it’s only ironic that the guy who relished being closed off from the world would go on to be noticed by more and more people.  Beauty Behind The Madness is Abel’s first foray into the mainstream and he takes the spotlight with grace.

via The Island Critic
via The Island Critic

I have to admit, I was pretty worried going in.  The tried and true tale of lesser known artists going mainstream and drastically changing their sounds is one we hear often.  I was worried the same would be true of The Weeknd.  His classic dark and atmospheric sound, fueled by his past, love, and drugs, was the sound that made me gravitate towards his unique brand of R&B.  It also doesn’t take a genius to recognize that this kind of sound doesn’t necessarily translate well to the top 40 airwaves.  (Just take The Weeknd’s first official album Kiss Land for example.  It was lauded well by critics but didn’t strike big among the general populace.)  Luckily for me, and probably everybody else, his doesn’t miss a step, taking his familiar sound to the mainstream spotlight while appealing to the masses.  Beauty Behind The Madness is simply the best case scenario for everybody.

Abel manages to fuse his addicting verses and melodies about troubled love and drugs with songs that are fit and ready to go on the radio.  Just take “Can’t Feel My Face,” for example.  The song manages to remain a “The Weeknd” song while at the same time providing us with one of the songs of the summer.  It’s also pretty easy to realize that Michael Jackson is a common influence through it all.  Literally, his influence rears its head on almost every note.  Other songs like “The Hills” and 50 Shades of Grey’s “Earned It” are great examples as well.

via All-Stars
via All-Stars

Don’t let the mainstream coating around the album scare you away if you were a fan of the old Weeknd though.  There is still a ton of material to keep you satisfied in between.  “Often,” which has been released in the past, makes another appearance on the album and continues to be one of my favorites.  Two songs towards the beginning of the album, “Real Life” and “Tell Your Friends,” act as good introductions to not only Abel’s music, but his life as well.  They go into his dark past and the decisions that he has made while going on and stating that he is not going to change his ways despite his new-found gust of fame.  He lays it out like it is.  Abel has been pretty open in the past, but the songs on Beauty Behind The Madness dive deeper into the shrouds that surround the intriguing crooner.

Another thing that makes the album pop is the amazing production that is interlaced through every single track.  The Weeknd handled a lot of the production on the album, but he also signed on the expertise of guys like Illangelo, Max Martin, Mike Dean, and even Kanye West for production duties.  Everything sounded very great, setting a mood and atmosphere that just kills.  On a side note, “Tell Your Friends,” produced in part by Kanye West, was in dire need of a Kanye verse.  Just saying…

via Okay Player
via Okay Player

The album is primarily a solo affair, which only makes sense for the kind of artist that Abel is.  The only features on the album are Che Pope, Ed Sheeran, and Lana Del Rey.  Aside from Che Pope, Sheeran and Del Rey are two artists that just go hand in hand with The Weeknd’s style.  The Weeknd and Sheeran’s “Dark Times” is a fantastic sounding song where the two feed off each other’s energy as the song goes on, culminating to a sweet sounding final duet.  “Prisoner,” featuring Lana Del Rey, presents us with the musical styles of both artists which ultimately goes together like peanut butter and jelly.  (Sorry, I had to use the PB&J analogy because it just makes sense.)

Beauty Behind The Madness is a textbook example by The Weeknd on handling new-found fame preceded by years of general obscurity.  A couple of songs lack the luster that the other’s bring to the table, but ultimately The Weeknd presents us with a final package that will please everyone in the end.  It’s a well put together album that will hopefully put The Weeknd on the map, if he hasn’t been put on there already.

beauty behind the madness score