Tag Archives: Vince Staples

Review: Blank Face LP

via Rap God
via Rap God

Blank Face LP (2016)

ScHoolboy Q

Rap / Hip-Hop

Interscope / Top Dawg


When you glance at ScHoolboy Q’s album cover for his latest release Blank Face LP, it’s immediately apparent that this album might be a bit dark.  On what looks like a movie ticket, we see an image of branching tree limbs and fiery clouds.  In the bottom corner we see a mysterious looking man, presumably ScHoolboy Q himself, who has a mask covering his face.  I understand the fact that “Blank Face” has a deeper meaning, but calling the album Blank Face LP is perhaps doing this album a disservice.  This album is anything but blank, as ScHoolboy Q hones in on everything from his childhood to his current life.  With a smattering of psychedelically bizarre production, we get an album that’s honest and poignant, and perhaps Q’s best album yet.

via Rap Wave
via Rap Wave

Unlike his previous pieces of work, like Habits and Contradictions and Oxymoron which focused on his drug addictions, Blank Face LP is a broader canvas that covers a lot more than simply just his past drug addictions.  He has overcome those addictions and has moved on to a broader view of the world.  This might welcome criticism that the album isn’t focused and too broad, but Q manages to bring everything into a precise and focused picture.  There are some songs that don’t necessarily fit in the picture, but the vast majority of the album works well in harmony.  The song “TorcH,” which serves as the album’s intro, does a pretty good job at giving you a taste of what you’re going to get.

The album has a bigger focus on ScHoolboy Q’s gang banging lifestyle that he has been a part of in the past.  “JoHn Muir” is a song named after his former middle school in Los Angeles, which fits pretty well since middle school marked the time that Q began his gang lifestyle.  Other songs like the unnerving “Dope Dealer,” featuring E-40, and “Str8 Ballin” also go pretty in depth into his lifestyle.  He seems to want to move on however, as “Lord Have Mercy” is a darkish plea to God for mercy for his sinful lifestyle.  There’s a lot of earnest emotion here, laced over some seriously good production from Swizz Beatz.

via Booska
via Booska

Another thing I couldn’t help but notice is the similarities this album has to fellow label mate Kendrick Lamar’s last album To Pimp A Butterfly.  “Groovy Tony / Eddie Kane,” featuring Jadakiss, is a well-written song that has the type of storytelling that could be found on Kendrick’s album.  Kendrick, obviously, goes a little deeper and gets more metaphorical, but his influence on ScHoolboy Q is apparent.  Other songs like the erratic “Kno Ya Wrong” and the heavy cut “Ride Out” featuring Vince Staples have the type of flow and production that I could easily see on a To Pimp A Butterfly B-side.

Some other songs worth mentioning include “Neva Change” and “Black THoughts.”  “Neva Change” has some sweet and melodic production with a wonderful hook from R&B singer SZA while “Black THoughts” is a little darker.  The thing that these two songs have in common is their relevance, especially in the past couple of weeks with all the horrible violence that has been taking place in our country.  “Black THoughts” is a commentary on the current state of the black community and its culture, which has been facing a lot of hardships the past couple of weeks.  The sad part is, ScHoolboy Q acknowledges that he wrote these songs a year ago and they are still relevant and important today.  I guess things “Neva Change.”

via Okay Player
via Okay Player

As I mentioned before, ScHoolboy Q does a bang-up job at taking us through the many facets of his life, both past and present, through the majority of his songs.  Unfortunately, some songs don’t fit in with the bigger picture.  “Big Body,” a funky cut featuring Tha Dogg Pound and produced by Tyler the Creator, is a fun song that ultimately feels out of place compared with the dark and heavy beats that we have seen elsewhere on the album.  There’s also “Overtime,” a song that clearly panders to the label in hopes of getting some radio airplay.  It’s a radio ready song that loses it’s luster in an attempt to appeal to a broader audience.  The one redeeming quality of this song is Justine Skye’s smooth contribution to the track.

There’s some songs that I have failed to mention, like Q’s collaboration with Kanye West “THat Part,” the sequel to Habits and Contradictions’ interlude “Tookie Knows II,” and the T.I. “Whatever You Like” inspired electronic jam “WHatever You Want,” featuring Candice Pillay.  These are all good songs that deserve some attention.  The whole album deserves attention.  There’s some songs that could be cut and some tracks that could be made tighter, but the overall package is a brilliant snapshot of ScHoolboy Q’s life as well as his ability to put together raps.  As I mentioned with his previous release Oxymoron, Blank Face LP might not be for everyone, but it’s certainly ScHoolboy Q’s best piece of work to this day.  I think Kendrick Lamar has been a good influence on the guy.

2015 BET Experience - Ice Cube, Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock

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My Top 10 Albums of 2015

This year’s top ten album list was a little bit of a surprise to me.  If you don’t know already, I am a pretty big fan of rap music which means that most of the music I listen to during the year tends to be rap and hip-hop.  In turn, this leads to top ten lists that are mostly comprised of rap albums.  This year was a little different.  This year’s list, although still mostly rap, branched out a bit and brings some diversity to the table.  As usual, I should note that this list is my top ten albums that I listened to this year and is not indicative of the all the albums that came out in 2015.  The simple fact is there was a lot of music that came out this year and sometimes I didn’t have the time to listen all of it.  I can’t speak for albums that I haven’t listened to so I wouldn’t feel right putting them on my list, regardless of their critical reception.  With that out of the way, let’s get to the list…

Honorable Mentions: Mr. Wonderful – Action Bronson, Ludaversal – Ludacris, Everything Is 4 – Jason Derulo, Revenge of the Dreamers II – J. Cole and Dreamville Records


10. Title – Meghan Trainor

title cover
via Idolator

The world was introduced to Meghan Trainor in 2014 but we didn’t get her debut album until 2015.  Title is a strong debut for one of the more trending pop artists of 2015.  Not only does it include “All About That Bass,” the song that put her on the map, but it also includes lesser known tracks like the album’s intro “The Best Part” and the fun “Walkashame.”  Not to forget, the album also contains “Lips Are Movin” and “Dear Future Husband,” two of her other more popular songs.  The album has a diverse sound and there is a lot to like about it.


9. Dark Sky Paradise – Big Sean

dark sky paradise
via Idolator

For his third studio album, Big Sean reflects on his life and gets a little introspective.  It’s a change of pace when compared to the rapper’s previous albums and this change works really well.  Dark Sky Paradise was also largely produced by Kanye West, a.k.a. the album has a great sound as well.  You are already familiar with “I Don’t F*** With You,” one of the album’s premiere tracks, but the atmospheric and deep “Blessings” is another song that deserves a listen.  The album also has a strong introduction with “Dark Sky (Skyscrapers),” where he reflects on some of the past decisions that he has made in his life.  “One Man Can Change the World” proves that Big Sean opens up big time on his album, making it a necessary album on Sean’s discography.


8. GO:OD AM – Mac Miller

good am cover
via Idolator

Mac Miller’s career trajectory has been a little hard to predict.  He started off small with his release of Blue Slide Park and then moved to bigger and better (and profoundly different) things with Watching Movies with the Sound Off.  With his latest release, GO:OD AM, Mac seems to have dipped a little bit in terms of mainstream recognition, but certainly not in quality.  This also marks his first major label debut. GO:OD AM is a nice collection of tracks that mix some of the “trippy” Mac with his older sound.  “100 Grandkids” is the song that I point to because it is a good representation of what you are going to get with the album.  Other standouts include “Brand Name,” “Rush Hour,” and “Weekend” featuring R&B superstar Miguel.


7. At.Long.Last.A$AP – A$AP Rocky

at long last asap cover
via Idolator

2015 treated rapper A$AP Rocky pretty well…for the most part.  The death of Rocky’s good friend A$AP Yams was a punch to the gut, but he seems to be doing pretty well with a starring role in Dope and a great album with At.Long.Last.A$AP.  His sophomore album not only shows off the rapper’s talent, but it also acts as a dedication to his late friend Yams.  The album kicks off with the deeply meditative “Holy Ghost” but then moves on to the trip-fest that is “L$D.”  The album also contains “Everyday,” a collaboration between Rocky, Mark Ronson, Miguel, and Rod Stewart.  Yep, you heard that right.  A$AP Rocky was not afraid to experiment with different sounds and feels on the album, making it a unique experience.  Finally, the project wraps up with a touching tribute to A$AP Yams.  It wasn’t the best track on the album, but the energy was there.


6. Beauty Behind the Madness – The Weeknd

beauty behind the madness coverI will never stop being fascinated with The Weeknd’s voice.  It’s the single aspect that got me instantly hooked when I listened to his indie project Kiss Land.  For a time, The Weeknd was mostly underground, shying away from the mainstream light.  Beauty Behind the Madness is the artist’s first foray into the mainstream light, and he handles himself pretty well.  There’s a little bit of everything on the album to cater to a lot of tastes.  “Can’t Feel My Face” harnesses a strong Michael Jackson influence to cater to the masses while songs like “Often” and “The Hills” harken back to the artist’s previously dark sounds.  The album gave us the best of both worlds on top of some of the year’s best production.  All The Weeknd needs to do is just keep being himself and all will be good.


5. Tetsuo & Youth – Lupe Fiasco

tetsuo & youth cover
via Idolator

You’re probably looking at this album and probably wondering where the hell it came from.  I am going to go ahead and declare that Lupe Fiasco’s Tetsuo & Youth was the most underrated rap album of 2015.  I consider Tetsuo & Youth a smart man’s rap album.  There is everything from instrumental melodies to nine minute masterpieces.  Lupe also tackles topics like religion in tracks like “Madonna” and “Adoration of the Magi.”  The album’s best track is “Prisoner 1 & 2” which provides a unique perspective on incarceration and racial profiling.  These aren’t the only hot button issues that the album takes on either.  There is a lot to Tetsuo & Youth and it all comes together in a well-rounded package.  The album came out pretty early in the year and I knew the second after I finished listening to it that it was going to make it on this list.


4. Summertime ’06 – Vince Staples

summertime 06 cover
via Idolator

When I think about it, this might be the second most underrated album of 2015, although it gained wider mainstream acceptance due to word of mouth.  Vince Staples’ debut project is an interesting one because it is rooted in a story.  Over the course of the album, the rapper goes into the summer of 2006, a season that really changed him as a person.  Similar to some of the other albums on the list, Summertime ’06 is a reflective experience.  “Life Me Up” and “Birds & Bees” are great examples of the rapper opening up about his childhood and his life growing up on the North Side of Long Beach.  The double album has a cohesive theme that sticks the whole way through.  Summertime ’06 came out of nowhere for me and now I am looking forward to what is to come from Vince Staples.


3. Compton: The Soundtrack – Dr. Dre

compton cover
via Idolator

Who said the old man couldn’t hang out with the new guys?  Dr. Dre, who hasn’t released an album in almost sixteen years, proves with Compton that he hasn’t missed a beat.  Compton came out around the same time as the movie Straight Outta Compton, which really boosted the rapper’s resurgence in 2015.  The longtime producer was dormant for the longest time but he comes back with an energy uncontested by many.  Dre pays homage to his past with tracks like “Genocide” and “It’s All On Me” while at the same time looking where he has come since then in tracks like “Talking to my Diary.”  There is a lot of Dre on the album but there is also a bunch of guest features including the likes of King Mez, Justus, and Candice Pillay.  There is also a good bit of familiar voices like Eazy-E, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, and Snoop Dogg that lead to some great collaborations as well.  The album has the old school Dr. Dre sound with a modern feel.  This could be the rapper’s last album, but what a way to shut it down.


2. Our Own House – Misterwives

misterwives 2What!?  An indie pop album from a New York based band as my second best album of 2015?  This was exactly the way I felt when giving this album a comfy spot high on the list.  My fascination with Misterwives’ music started with a free download of their song “Our Own House,” which later led to my purchase of the entire album.  It’s a really fun and energetic album.  “Reflection” and “Best I Can Do” are great examples of the energy that I am talking about.  The album goes to some deep places as well with “Oceans” and “Coffins.”  The group is super talented, fusing the fantastic voice of lead singer Mandy Lee with a mix of different instruments, yielding a final product that is unlike anything else on this list.  The album really resonated with me, making it perhaps my biggest surprise discovery of 2015.  The album is also great for blasting on long drives.  Trust me, it has happened.


1. To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar

tpab cover
via Idolator

It’s almost like Kendrick Lamar can do no wrong, right?  Kendrick is probably one of rap’s hottest commodities, having himself one of the best years he has had in a while.  It wasn’t going to be easy to top his previous album good kid, m.A.A.d. city but he did it.  He topped that album with To Pimp a Butterfly.  What an album.  Kendrick Lamar is one of the best lyricists in the game right now with a deep talent for storytelling.  Almost every song on the album is phenomenal, with standouts like “King Kunta,” “Alright,” “How Much a Dollar Cost,” and “The Blacker the Berry.”  Kendrick also dives into a bunch of cultural and social issues that have taken hold of our current society, making it one of the most relevant albums of the year as well.  I’m pretty confident in saying that this relevance won’t just stay in 2015 either.  I’m not lying when I say that this is an album that is going to be talked about years from now as one of the greats.  Yeah, the album is that good.  You should probably listen to it.

Review: Summertime ’06

via missinfo.tv
via missinfo.tv

Summertime ’06 (2015)

Vince Staples

Rap / Hip-Hop

ARTium Recordings / Def Jam Recordings


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

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

via In Flex We Trust
via In Flex We Trust

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

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

via Genius
via Genius

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

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

via Pretty Much Amazing
via Pretty Much Amazing

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

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

via Pretty Much Amazing
via Pretty Much Amazing

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

summertime 06 score

Review: Earl Sweatshirt’s I Don’t Like S***, I Don’t Go Outside

via Barstool Beats
via Barstool Beats

I Don’t Like S***, I Don’t Go Outside (2015)

Earl Sweatshirt

Alternative Hip-Hop

Tan Cressida / Columbia Records


Surprise album releases have been so common these days in the music industry.  It is almost like these surprise albums are not even surprises anymore.  In Earl Sweatshirt’s case, his album I Don’t Like S***, I Don’t Go Outside was put up for pre order without prior announcement, and was then released a few weeks later.  Earl’s second studio album is what I like to call a little above average.  It is not bad, but it also is not a knockout either.

The first thing you may notice about the album is its title.  It is certainly unique, and kind of pessimistic and negative.  However, the name definitely works in this case, given the album’s largely dark and chilling sound.  The songs on the album include a lot of talk about his depression, addictions, and other negative stuff from his childhood.  It certainly is not your “let’s listen to music and get happy about life” kind of album.

via Konbini
via Konbini

I’ll start with the positives.  IDLSIDGO starts with “Huey,” which serves as the pre-intro to the album.  It has a nice sounding organ being played in the background, and sounds pretty similar to Earl’s “Sunday” from Doris.  The next song “Mantra,” which can be considered the actual intro to the album, is another dark sounding song with some chilling verses from Earl.  It goes into his experience with fame, as well as his ex-girlfriend.

Another downbeat and gloomy song comes in the form of “Inside,” where Earl opens up about how he missed out on going on tour with Odd Future.  He also talks about some of his drug addictions, and how it is easier to get drugs once you are famous.  Earl also opens up on songs like “Faucet” and “Grief.”

idlsidgo 3

Vince Staples and Da$h also join in on “Wool” and “Grown Ups” respectively.  In both of those songs, Earl, Vince, and Da$h go bar for bar, providing us with some pretty good sounding verses.  Wiki is the other feature on the album, but his song he does with Earl, “AM // Radio,” is lackluster compared to Vince and Da$h’s.

Some of my least favorite tracks from the project were “Off Top,” which was produced by Mellowhype’s Left Brain, and “DNA,” which features an alright verse from Nakel Smith.  Compared to the other songs on the album, they just do not stack up.  They fit in the same theme of darkness and pessimism, but they just were not doing anything for me.

via Rap Xclusive
via Rap Xclusive

Earl Sweatshirt has a lot of talent, and he largely flies under the radar when talking about rap.  When his mom sent him away to Samoa for a time, that hiatus must have done a lot for him as an artist.  It fueled a lot of this album, and probably more to come.  Earl Sweatshirt has had a tough going, and IDLSIDGO is here to prove it.  It is worth a listen, but you might need a bright and cheery pallet cleanser afterwards.

idlsidgo score