Meek Mill’s Wins & Losses – A Warrior’s Revenge

When it comes to Meek Mill, please, please, please, for the life of me, don’t call it a comeback!! Meek will not let you. Phila-Illa-delphia native Meek Mill is coming off the heat of an undebatable loss in the hip-hop game, but with Wins & Losses he is coming out strong-arming and showing that he is not missing a beat. At all. Ever. I’m not even a long time Meek fan aside from singles and some mixtapes, but this album can definitely make believers out of haters and doubters.  Wins & Losses brings the aggressive rap energy that we’ve come to expect from Meek but is still heavy with the heartfelt sentimentality that we love from him and was actually his saving grace amidst the bashing following the fallout from his beef with Drake and others in the recent years.

First and foremost, let’s shout out Meek for the expanse of the album. He’s giving wide breadth of artistry with turnt up club bangers, R&B assisted cuts for the ladies, and contemplative rap tracks for the lyrically deep ears as well over a full 17 tracks.  He’s not holding back in the least in this album as he openly discusses the media drama over his relationship with Nicki Minaj on tracks like “1942 Flows” and the airs out any and all rumors about his prior beefs on the album’s title track and songs like “Issues” and “Never Lose”.  He’s not giving his rivals much ear attention aside from lines on “Wins & Losses” like “Wins and the losses, it come with being bosses / Shoot a pussy n**** in his head if he cross us” which could be a sneak shot at Drake, simply because he’s got the biggest rep in the rap game for being soft.  Meek is not feeding into the conflicts anymore, but instead using that energy as a trampoline point into shooting higher.  He is still militant as ever proving that he will continue to be nice with his raps regardless, win, lose, or draw.

Meek is still the lyrical assailant that you wouldn’t want to get in a scuffle with with, but this album shows more of a softened tone.  “We Ball”, which features Young Thug, is a surprisingly chill track given the title and feature that seems to accept any perceived losses in a sad to melancholy tone, but brushes it all off to say “Fuck it. We ball.”  In the wake of the beef most die hard Meek fans would recal videos of many of his radio freestyles as evidence of his heartfelt sentimentality as a true and serious lyricist.  “Heavy Heart” gives more of that openness of emotion in how he speaks on how his experiences with fame and the rap game have left him with a heavy heart. He knows that the heart of a warrior also makes him strong and when he closes the album with “Price” he knows that he has to pay the cost to be the boss and all the struggles are just “the price of being great”.

But forget the sadness. Meek still delivers fresh and feel good party jams like “Glow Up” and the Quavo assisted “Ball Player”.  He’s really bringing something for everyone with the classic Maybach Music heavy trap orchestral sound of “Connect The Dots”, which features Yo Gotti and MMG general Rick Ross, and the Lil Uzi Vert accompanied “Fuck That Check Up”.  The album sports R&B features from Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign on the Tony Toni Tone remake “Whatever you need”, but Meek still delivers solid romantic sentiments by himself on “Fall Thru”, which feels like his own shot at Drake’s song from Nothing Was The Same albumCome Thru”.  “Fall Thru” is a good song, but honestly it feels a bit like a Drake vibe and would be cool if it had a Drake verse on it.  It is strong heat, but we could’ve done without lines like “you were with me through my ups and downs like a camel”.

People are still going to talk and give their opinions on rap’s beef and battles.  Looking back it feels like Meek said the things he said about other artists because he felt that he had to to stay true to himself.  He is not apologetic in the least for his comments on things and we wouldn’t want him to be.  Drake did need to be exposed for using ghostwriters, especially when he was openly touting disses about people he had written for.  Meek has shown that through it all he has been and will continue to be an artist that will not be shut up nor overlooked. We have to respect him for that. But don’t take my word for it. The summer time heat on Wins & Losses will speak for itself. “Glow Up, Glow Up,” Meek!! We know you will show up!

I may have to do a video review on this one because its just that good!!

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The Underachievers’ Rhythmic Revolving Renaissance

“That’s the problem with today’s youth! No work ethic!” was the sentiment of Arnold’s grandfather in a memorable episode of Nickelodeon’s hit show Hey Arnold. You know you remember! Today’s youth often gets a bad rep for … well the many things that plague society as a whole get blamed on the youth as the scapegoat in many cultures. So to live casually in such a pressured time is revolutionary. The rap duo The Underachievers know all about living casually within the music.  They fluidly blend spectacular lyricism over dope flows and rhyme schemes effortlessly. Natives of New York’s historic Flatbush Avenue area rappers Issa Gold (@Issa_GOLD) and AK The Savior (@iunderachieve) are currently signed to Flying Lotus’ record label Brainfeeder and have been making major noise since their debut mixtape Indigoism dropped in early 2013.  They are forerunners of the Beastcore East coast Hip-Hop movement featuring themselves, Joey Bada$$, and the Undercheivers’ Indigo Clockwork supergroup collaborators the Flatbush Zombies.  Renaissance is their 6th studio release since 2013 and full of rhythms and rhymes to keep it hotter than a Brooklyn sidewalk in the summer.

 

AK and Issa Gold are coming from the streets of New York and its apparent in their choice of aesthetics. They have classic soulful hip-hop beats and the lyric-heavy that one would expect from classic New York rappers like a Nas or old school Jay-Z. On wax they actually name drop comparisons to NY rappers like Jay-Z, LL Cool J, Jay Electronica, and even Tupac, but they are definitely in the modern era of rappers with their youthful and creative energy with twisting intricate flows over trap aggressive beats.  They represent the lyrical heritage of New York rap, but are as rhythmically aggressive with cadence similar to southern rappers such as Migos or Gucci Mane.  They have very rhythmic choruses and bridges but without much singing on the track.  Instead, The Underachievers tie their verses with hardcore rap hooks and anthems such as the chorus to their song “Cobra Clutch” that goes:

 

Hear you speaking but bro

What’s the thesis

Lately I’ve been dreaming ’bout these rappers

How I’m gon’ feast, right amount of seasoning

Tell ’em if we see ’em wouldn’t wanna be ’em

Tell ’em if we see ’em wouldn’t wanna be ’em

 

“Cobra Clutch” is one of their songs that hip-hop heads who enjoy rap diss tracks such as A Tribe Called Quest’s “Phony Rappers”.  “Cobra Clutch” can actually be taken as them explaining their style and their perspective of aggression. The song opens with an explanation of the cobra clutch wrestling move.  The Underachievers rap so effortlessly that their tight clutch grip rhymes come off as smooth.  This song feels like they’re secretly telling us “we’re not really gripping it that tight though”.

 

On cuts like “How We Roll”, “Kiss The Sky” and the ridiculously dope “Super Potent” the rap duo delivers rap discussions over vibe heavy trippy beats that would be perfect for your next smoke session.  Imagine the most vibrant nephews of Talib Kweli and Mos Def’s Black Star from the 90s aiming for their spot in the sky and saying “Fuck everyone else because I’m flying” and maybe you’ll be able to imagine their spacy tracks like “Final Destination” and “Crescendo”.  These guys are easily dropping some of the best bars from here to Main street and are earning their recognition to soon be in Greatest of All Time discussions with the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Drake.

Big Boi’s Boomiverse – All Hail Daddy Fatsacks!!

If this is your first Big Boi album that you’ve ever listened to then you are what’s wrong with Hip-Hop.  Since Outkast’s last studio album as a duo Idlewild, or its predecessor Speakerboxxx/The Love Below depending on technicalities, Big Boi has consistently kept work flowing forward.  Most rap heads still have Big’s other half from Outkast, Andre 3000, in their top 5 greatest rappers alive, but to this day Andre 3000 still does not have a solo album project whereas this is Big Boi’s third solo album, not to mention his Purple Ribbon-All Stars collection, his recent collaboration EP with the electronic indie duo Phantogram on their project entitled Big Grams, and the many artists such has heavyweights Janelle Monae and Killer Mike to our upper echelon of fame.  With Big Boi’s latest album Boomiverse continues to bring his usual gold standard quality of the Southernplayalistic flavor that you would expect from his ATLien and Dungeon Family heritage. If you’re still sleeping on Big Boi please stop. It is bad for your health and likely the reason why you’re always calling out of work.

Big Boi really is in his own lane.  This album shows that through all of the years he has not missed a beat with his raps and production selection.  Boomiverse has a lot of features, but it is an all-star cast of his long time collaborators, such as Killer Mike, Scar, Gucci Mane, Pimp C, and Kurupt, that help show off the vibe and brand that Big Boi has always carried.  Even the feature by Adam Levine of Maroon 5 isn’t their first time making music together. There is no dick riding of new school artists and definitely no mumble rap.  One thing that is cool about Big Boi is that he doesn’t lean on the new school rappers but on the Killer Mike and Jeezy assisted “Kill Jill” he and Killer Mike have a moment where they pay homage to the Migos’ style new school trap rap flow, but just briefly. It even feels expected and respected because the Migos definitely have a southern rap Atlanta vibe so it is really dope that he would show respect to them.

Lyrically Big’s swag and wittiness is still very apparent. He is still bringing the southern cadillac pimptastic flavor that you would expect given his 70s and 80s funk influenced heritage. The production features witty use of vocal ad-libs as well as intricate horns and jazzy bass and guitar syncopation amidst bass booming hip-hop beats. His cleverness at song concepts definitely shines through on songs like “Order of Operations”  and “Freakonomics”, both of which are sexy and fun songs without being negative to women.  He even has a moment where he speaks on the fact that he still writes his rhymes on paper and outright says that he doesn’t write on a phone. Paying homage to the craft of writing and its importance is a very sought after quality in today’s modern music market where people are more focused on making something for easy consumption.  The quality of Big’s writing is even apparent when he raps alongside a veteran such as Snoop who has been freestyling on many of his recent rap verses.

Big Boi has outworked Andre 3000 through the years, but even on this album as a long-time Outkast fan Andre’s vibe is still missed. Andre has been absent from even featuring on any of Big Boi’s solo albums for whatever reasons. We know that they are two separate artists and though they have many times given statements that there is no beef between the two of them at this point a true fan like myself is really wondering what is going on between the two of them.  Big Boi has always seemed like the more comical between the duo whereas Andre was the more calm, eccentric, and deep. This album is dope by all means but it would have been nice to hear Andre bring his grounding effect to the experience at least for one song for old times sakes.

Big Boi has been a pioneer lyricist and highly effective flavor maker in the hip-hop game since the 90s. His career has truly been a good example of how to age in the music business possibly even more so than the likes of Jay-Z.  Big Boi’s Boomiverse delivers the high quality dungeon family funk that we’ve come to know and love from the Outkast ATLien and is definitely worth the listen. Would “Chocolate” really work as a song for a stripper named “Chocolate” to collect tips to? At the very least it would be a unique groove that would win pocket folds off respect to the lineage alone. Somebody tell Daddy Fatsacks we are still #Outchea putting on for the real.

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Lana Del Rey’s Lust for Life: Whiskey, Romance, and other Drugs

Lana Del Rey’s long anticipated fifth studio album, Lust for Life, has finally come to us here in late July though we’ve been anxious for her new tunes and croons since the album’s first single “Love” dropped in February. Now that the album is finally here we all can’t wait to hear what our velvet songstress is bringing to us. And if that album cover isn’t a picture of some kind of paradise then I don’t know what is.  A long-time fan of Lana since “Blue Jeans” and “Video Games” from her debut album Born To Die this one is coming to you hot off the presses.

 

 

A Beauty By The Cover

 

For starters let’s talk about this album cover and title.  Del Rey has become known for her stark and dark album covers as they have often perfectly captured the haunting melancholy feel of her sound.  Yes, she has songs about paradise of course, but her smiling on this album cover is a pleasant surprise. She is a blues woman at heart which if you haven’t learned that from listening to her previous albums this album will definitely drive the point home. Lana flashing us a smile on this album cover feels very fitting knowing how vulgar and guttural her lyrics can be discussing topics such as love and romance, but also sex, drugs, and depression. This album cover creates an interesting juxtaposition because with as much as her previous works exude her sexuality and the gloom shrouding her artistic character, her gracing us with a pleasant smile with flowers in her hair is a refreshing touch.  She is presented as an american maiden, flowers in her hair and bulky pick-up truck right behind her which she could surely drive once she takes the keys out of her pocket. A lot of the themes of the album deal with observation of the state of America specifically, youth, freedom, and seeking to soothe pains of the world as a whole.  I also appreciate that the album is titled Lust for Life instead of The Lust for Life because as it stands with Lust for Life sounds like it could be a command phrase telling the listener to lust for life, an imperative command to go out and seek more life like you would yearn for love and lust the most indulgent.  May we find everything that she has laid out for us when we dive into this project.

Is you lusting or naw?

 

As the chorus of the title track, assisted by superstar The Weeknd, tells us “a lust for life keeps us alive”.  This title song does well to capsulate the motivational/inspirational spirit of the album.  The album as a whole seems void of sexual references that one might expect from the lust inspiring title.  Throughout the album Del Rey makes a point of speaking on topics of classic American and pastoral life with songs like  “Coachella- Woodstock on My Mind”, “Change”, and “Get Free”.  These songs really shine lyrically and the depth is appreciated, somewhat necessary due to the heavy melancholy tone of Del Rey’s honey coated vocals.  The lyricism makes one wonder if she had picked up lyric writing notes from her romantic partner, rapper A$AP Rocky, who delivers 2 feature verses on the album, but it is ironic that she is taking a stance to speak on issues whereas he outwardly spoke against audiences expecting him to be vocal on societal issue. I respect her taking the higher road. Her sentiments feel sincere and heartfelt.

 

Del Rey’s sultry vocals definitely need to make the cross over into doing more vocals for hip-hop songs.  On “Summer Bummer”, which features A$AP Rocky and Playboy Carti, Del Rey delivers a haunting texture to an aggressively Hip-Hop/ Trap Rap, beat.  This song, as with many of the songs on the album, lack a mainstream singable chorus that could help the songs catch on, but with Del Rey’s iconic and unique voice online djs and producers will likely flip the vocals into some good mixes for those who can’t handle the blues of the album.
Del Rey’s Lust for Life as a whole is absent of the ideas of lust that you might expect, this isn’t Prince from the 80s, but there is still much feels and depth to be had in this album.  Del Rey continues to be vocally and lyrically compelling here more so than in her earlier works.  Her tender bluesy nature is juiced by hip-hop beats and thoughts on American life and questions of who will care for the children and the future that we are walking into. “Is this the end of America?” is a good and necessary question for us to ponder in times like these, but you still may need some whiskey, brandy, or other drugs to get to the proper vibe for this one though.

 

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Haim’s Something to Tell You – Count Your Exes

Haim rocks. Undoubtedly. If you haven’t heard that yet you definitely need to. They rock so hard that when Jay-Z saw them live for his first time he was ecstatic even to the point of squealing like a little girl. Well, maybe he didn’t squeal, but he was so taken by their performance that he signed them to his Roc Nation label back in 2012.  In 2013 the Haim sister trio, Este (Bass), Danielle (Guitar and Lead Vocals), and Alana (Keyboard and Guitars), released their debut album Days Are Gone to great success in many countries including a #1 spot in UK, many “Best of” awards, and a Grammy Nomination for Best New Group.  Days Are Gone featured funky upbeat pop grooves with heavy rock stylings with contemplative lyrics about life and growth. Can they keep up the groove with their new album and beat the sophomore slump?…Find out next time on Dragon… Oh wait..

If you enjoyed Days Are Gone lyrically, then Something to Tell You will be more of the same. Many of the songs on Days Are Gone waxed poetically, and very rhythmically, about the push and pull of relationships; the letting go, or lack thereof, that we all go through. Something to Tell You continues with these kind of themes, but with a stronger feelings of nostalgia. The nostalgic touch is definitely driven home by songs like “Right Now”, “Ready For You”, and “Nothing’s Wrong” in how they are about wanting to reconnect to past love to try it get it right this time. “Ready For You” and “Want You Back” present an apologetic and refreshing point of view of a woman saying that she wasn’t ready for a love then but is ready for the love now.  This is refreshing because often times we hear males with the apologetic tone and more songs from female artists that bash their male lovers. Though the girls definitely lay down their share of darker tones with songs like “Night So Long”, “Walking Away” and “Kept Me Crying” the album seems to smooth over the bitterness with gentle chants and harmonies.

Nostalgia should probably be the 4th member of their group especially for this album.  You could probably count the exes, or even people who weren’t exes, that this album will make you think of. It sounds like they’ve been Drake-ing through relationship woes for lyrical content, which is fine though. Some of the musical lines on this album aren’t as instantaneously groovy as songs from their first album such as “Forever” and “Honey & I”, but smooth chill backdrops like “You Never Knew” give good stimulation by way of musical harmonization and sound audio production embellishment to weave it all together.  “You Never Knew” makes use of nostalgia in its use of the “Couldn’t take it” repeating melodic line, a melodic line that the girls usually used in the song “Go Slow” from their first album. They are usually drawing back to nostalgic memories but here they are actually connecting nostalgia to their one of their own albums.  At times it does feel like the bittersweet emotions of this album could be better divided where some songs like “Kept Me Crying” feel like they should be more sad.`

As a whole Something to Tell You is a good experience.  Its apparent that the girls worked hard on this project.  The songs aren’t as upbeat and aggressively funky as the previous album, but there are definitely some good vibes and perspectives to be had here. Something to Tell You sets a good expectation for their next album because it would seem that these 2 albums were getting out a lot of lingering feelings of from failed romances so their third album will likely break from their pasts to a more solidified standing as artists with their own voice. Who knows maybe they will get darker on the next album.  The girls have said in interviews that they have R&B roots so could we expect some seductive love songs? As long as these girls keep on rocking out we will be here for it foot taps head bobs and all. And Danielle, no more Bono for you.screenshot