Rapsody’s Laila’s Wisdom – Hail The Rap Goddess!!

Originality – 4

Vocals/Flow -5

Lyrics – 5

Production -5

 

Public Service Announcement: It is the year 2017 more than three decades into the heritage that is Hip-Hop. “Good for a female rapper” is not fair play. Nowadays rappers are just wack regardless of gender. But Hip-Hop is still a statistically male dominated field and lyrical  artistry is still under-marketed and undervalued in today’s mainstream outlets.  So when legendary producer 9th Wonder discovered the lyrical phenomenon that is Rapsody he knew that he had found a gem among hard rocks and signed her to his Its A Wonderful World Music Group back in 2008.  Rapsody kept up her work at rhyming words and was signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label in 2016 but still continues to work closely with 9th Wonder under his Jamla Records, LLC. The rappin’ ass Rapsody has been a very busy woman lately with Laila’s Wisdom being her seventh release in 5 years.  Rapsody’s rhythm is only on the incline with no signs of slowing so what’s really good with the bars yung?!

Rapsody has got bars dun-son! They are definitely here and in attendance.  The woman has got witticisms, wordplay, raps, and rhythms galore. If you haven’t caught an earful of Rapsody’s molasses-smooth delivery then you’re late. She’s been doing features with everyone in Hip-Hop from Raekwon, Mac Miller, Ab-Soul, Freeway, Black Thought, and Kendrick Lamar. Her music wears the soulful Hip-Hop vibes one would expect from her 9th Wonder and North Carolina heritage and Laila’s Wisdom even features two features appearances by both R&B/Soul artists Anderson Paak and BJ The Chicago Kid.  Rapsody provides knowledge like that of a female Talib Kweli but keeps it spicy with more swag and bravado likely learned from Jay-Z who she mentions as an influence. She is definitely rapping about the gully street life, but it is refreshing that her tone of voice is more than the at times bass imitating stylings of that of Nicki Minaj.  Rapsody isn’t one for singing and leaves the serenades to her artistic counterparts and stays dropping lyrical knowledge on us ill raps and storytelling.

    Laila’s Wisdom does give more a teacherly perspective than some of Rapsody’s previous releases such as Crown or Beauty and The Beast. The newest release feels more like Rapsody is imparting lessons learned from the intense life of these previous incarnations. This is Rapsody’s latest in a series of releases, but these are not a teachings of a battle-tired comrade reminiscing on the good old days.  Laila is a lyrical queen and definitely has to bear bars bravely when sharing tracks with rap heavyweight artists like Kendrick Lamar, Black Thought, and Busta Rhymes. Rapsody clearly has got raps for days. With more female rappers on the rise as of late we hope that we can hear Rapsody claiming her space on the radio waves in the near future.    

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Open Mike Eagle’s Brick Body Kids Still Daydream – Songs For The Hardened

Open Mike Eagle’s Brick Body Kids Still Daydream – Songs For the Hardened

 

What is “Alternative” anyways? Creating a paper trail is a necessity for the life of a creative. Trust me. We know. American alternative Hip-Hop artist Open Mike Eagle is one who is no stranger to adventures into lyricism and the written word.  His 2017 LP Brick Body Kids Still Daydream is his fourth solo album release in the past 5 years and his third on current label Mello Music Group.  Long time surfer of radar waves beneath the mainstream, Michael w. Eagle has recently translated his successes with Hip-Hop, podcast, and television to his long running a stand-up and musical show with Baron Vaughn,The New Negroes, being signed for production with Comedy Central earlier this year. Long time rhymesayer does Brick Body Kids Still Daydream show youthful spirit or a tired soul? Let us dive into the world of art rap!

The one of the key benefits of being an independent artist is the freedom to make music that sounds like whatever you want. Brick Body Kids does not aim for the same musical textures nor textures as that of those of your typical champagne-pouring-party-dancefloor-ing radio hip-hop hits. Open Mike is a different kind of artist and creates unique cadences of hip-hop that keep you following him closely for his different experimentations. His artistic eye is often times crafting focused imagery of both inner city urban life and fantastical ideas of time travel and the surreal.  Though not as outwardly aggressive and animated as that of a Kendrick Lamar or J. Cole Open Mike still crafts rhythmically engaging flows that exude the roots of the truest elements of Hip-Hop.  The sentimental “(How Could Anybody) Feel at Home” is commentary of life and a calmer moment of aggressive introspect as Open Mike raps ”I done told / Some goofy shit that sounded like a poem/ I spun around in circles on the globe / So who the fuck could ever feel at home?”. Brick Body Kids also has theatrical moments on tracks like “No Selling (Uncle Butch Pretending It Don’t Hurt)” as Open Mike chants “I’m No Sell-in! No Sell-in!” like a mantra to keep away the evil voices that urge the independent artist to give in to the evils of consumerism and the ilk. Open Mike creates each track to be an expansive discourse on life’s ups and downs and his own attempts at managing self and uses well placed lyricism to color each tapestry with strong emotion.

Brick Body Kids Still Daydream is full of lyrics that could be written on subways and street boards as an FYI board for survival and staying strong in life. Which feels fitting with Michael Eagle’s background as a resident advisor. The album is slim on features though Sammus’ delivery on her feature verse on “Hymnal” is definitely worth your ears.  Open Mike Eagle is a trained and experienced craftsman in hip-hop and comedy we’re looking forward to more of his work behind any mic he can find himself behind.                                                

Bruno Major’s A Song For Every Moon – Moonlit Sentimentality

Bruno Major’s A Song For Every Moon – Moonlit Sentimentality

Originality: 4

Vocals/Flow:4

Lyrics:4

Production: 5

Good things take time and Rome wasn’t built in a day. Of course everyone knows these things, but us zealous artists could definitely use this knowledge to make better patience conscious decisions. London singer/ songwriter Bruno Major definitely took to note lessons of patience when it came to writing and recording his latest project A Song For Every Moon.  Instead of the usual pressured pace of rigorous grinding at the goal of writing a hit success song, this crooner from Northampton set a deadline for himself of writing one song for every full moon in a calendar year.  He speaks of the journey as a learning experience leading him to want to think and hesitate less in creating.  Some songs took weeks to construct whereas others took minutes to go from creative spark to recorded song ready for audio mastering.  Be it a writing session or preparing a meal for yourself or loved ones, A Song For Every Moon definitely has the tunes for your next moonlit occasion,

A multi-instrumentalist, Bruno Major played all of the instruments on the project aside from the drum samples added by producer Phairo. The artist blends pop songwriting with jazz  sensibilities to create songs with production that delves deeply into different aural texture palettes. Vocally, Bruno Major sings in the same vein as that of John Mayer or Robin Thicke, but with more close spoken whispery rasp reminiscent of Iron & Wine.  Major alternates between the prominent instruments and elements on the different songs, but the instrumentation is always well composed and constructed with effective melodic embellishments and even guitar solos on the more jazz influenced songs.  The sounds echoing here would go great with your favorite bottle of wine and/or the kiss of a lover.

“There’s little left to sing that’s not been sung / No new words to rest on this tongue / There’s little left to do that’s not been done / There’s little left to love, only one / But when it seems the world has lost it’s spin / There’s always your heart left to win” is just a sample of the kind of heartfelt sentimental lyrics from “There’s Little Left” that Bruno Major waxes poetically with frequently and easily.  A Song For Every Moon is a contemplative foray into thoughts about life, love, and longing.  If you’re feeling heartache at a lost love, or lack thereof, or pain at losing a job, Bruno has some musical medicine to help you not feel so alone in this world.

A Song For Every Moon is an example and testament of the power of quality over quantity. This album is expansive in emotion, but focused in presentation and capsulation of thought and emotion. Bruno Major is a refreshing voice and perspective to the modern music scene and will definitely give you the sultry mellow vibes that you need, but with an more organic tones brought on by authentic live instrumentations. Lush vibes are alive and well here. But A Song For Every Moon will give you more to think about in between the replays.

 

Princess Nokia’s 1992 – Your Favorite Ratchet Baby

Originality: 4

Vocals/Flow:3

Lyrics:3

Production: 4

 

We’ve all got voices and we’ve all got to use them.  It is a known fact that the voices of the oppressed and marginalized peoples and cultures have been historically underrepresented. Toronto artist Princess Nokia is one to know about the being culturally marginalized and underrepresented as she speaks from the background of many different heritages and uses her cultural diversity to empower her artistry. Destiny Frasqueri, a.k.a. Princess Nokia, openly identifies as a feminist, a bruja, a boricua, and a tomboy and uses her music and her podcast Smart Girl Club Radio to give discourse and dialog on the struggles of her day to day life.  Her third release in the past three years, 1992, is a bevy of brown girl life inspired cuts over New York Hip-Hop and Trap rap beats.  Princess Nokia is definitely coming with enough noise to be heard, but what’s the fuss about?

If there was anyone who is practiced at the art of flag waving it would definitely be Princess Nokia. This is not to mean just gang repping, but Princess Nokia reps the different parts of her identity to the fullest and waves her freak flag high. One of her most successful singles, “Tomboy”, is an anthem for the ladies of the itty-bitty-titty committee as she raps “with my little titties” in rhymes in both verses before and during the chorus chant of “who that is hoe? That girl is a tomboy”. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been wanting to hear a song championing for women with little breasts for sometime now so I’m definitely here to support hyping the happy bee stings whole-heartedly. It is refreshing to hear a woman exuding sexual bravado in such an aggressive way and Frasqueri solidly delivers intricate and gangsta lyrics without missing a beat. Songs like “Kitana” and “Brujas” are other singles from the project that have engagingly directed videos that are definitely worth checking out. “Brujas” is something of an anthem for every Lisa-Bonet-looking-light-skinned-girl and a bit past due.  Princess Nokia very outrightly takes stances for race, femininity, and queer communities in both her visuals and aggressive lyrics.  She presents an expansive view of urban life as she drops lines about fast food on party cut homages to hood footwear “Chinese Slippers”. Some of her references to Bart Simpson and video games actually do come off as a bit immature and short-sighted at times, but Princess Nokia’s passion is more than visible.  

Celebrating your little titties should definitely go as far as to flashing on your video for your little titty anthem.  Why not? Go for it, surely.  Princess Nokia has been building momentum from Toronto delivering positive motivational vibes as that of a true New York boricua. 1992 is an authentic experience showing promise with coming growth. 2017 has been a good year for female hip-hop/rap artists so who knows what other hardbody anthems Destiny Frasqueri will bring to us in the coming years. I could definitely hear a collaboration with the likes of Cardi B within the realm of aural possibilities, but Princess Nokia has been doing her own thing so well she will likely gain more popularity by continuing to hold down her own lane.       

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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