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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Jhene Aiko’s Trip – Your Sister’s Journey Into Healing

Originality- 5

Vocals/Flow – 5

Lyrics – 5

Production – 5

Jhene Aiko has been a heavy hitter on the R&B and Hip-Hop charts for something over a half a decade now. Though she has many successful single and feature credits as well as memorable mixtape moments under her belt, her latest release, Trip is only her 2nd major record label release on producer No I.D.’s record label ARTium. Released with little prior promotion on Septempter 22, 2017,Trip boasts an extensive length of 22 tracks and was released with a 23-minute autobiographical film of the same title released on Sept 21st which was co-directed by Aiko herself. Jhene has been busy with her grinding, but is still keeping it smooth as electric velvet with her vocals. Don’t buckle your seatbelt this is the kind of trip you want to be relaxed for.

An R&B romantic at heart Jhene Aiko was sure to pack some feel good love songs for us with the Big Sean assisted “Moments” and “OLLA (Only Lovers Left Alive)” and Trip’s lead single “While We’re Young”.  Aiko, who could sound pleasant speaking, let alone singing, a phonebook also takes care to take us to the darker side of emotion with the loneliness on “Nobody” and  quandaries of emptiness and the necessity of sadness on “Oblivion”.  “Oblivion” also features spiritual wisdom brought to us by Dr. Chill a mellow speaking soothsayer, but is just one of the theatrical transitions of the album as the LP is structured to tell an experience of doing LSD or some other drug and the highs and lows of such an experience.  “Psilocybin (Love In Full Effect)” closes with more of Dr. Chill speaking with smooth jazz saxophone accompaniment over a gentle tribal groove and is even something of Jhene’s moment of calming you down as if you were the one experiencing the panic moment from the “Bad Trip (interlude)”.  The freestyle tracks on the album have their own vibes, but are somewhat ambience to lull us between the solid songwriting on later songs like the mother daughter duet “Sing To Me”, which features Jhene’s daughter Namiko Love, the peace binding chantra-mantra “Frequency”, and the tender “Ascension” which features the 90s R&B legend Brandy. “Ascension” falls in line as a hymn to the universe that you could imagine being chanted by your local hippy chick, but Jhene and Brandy’s vocals compliment each other well to create harmonic synergy reminiscent to 90s R&B girl groups. A passing of the R&B torch moment? Someone make a toast.

Jhene Aiko is a lit little maniac woman. She goes wild for a while, but she’s always been her to give a good time. Issa-vibe with Jhene and we are always a little happier hearing her voice on hip-hop club bangers and the like, but she always brings her own brand of sonic relaxation. She’s known that we’ve need a vacation since her collaboration on Big Sean’s previous album and forTrip she digs deep to take us far. If you aint got your ticket then you really are tripping. Get with the program and evolve.

The Killers’ Wonderful Wonderful – Gold On Both Sides

When you’ve been a successful rock/pop group for 13 years what is left for you? How do you continue to reinvent art and self to continue to stay refreshing to not only your audience, but yourself? It seems that The Killers answer these questions by continuing to go bigger.  Their latest album Wonderful Wonderful is a sonic adventure into spacey grooves and feel good drive.  With pronounced gentle euphoric spiritual vibes this album is aimed at taking you to the heavens and higher so in the words of Kanye West “Can we get much higher?”

Growth comes with time.  The Killers know this to be true as they elevated their lyrical repertoire to focus on complex ideas and questions on Wonderful Wonderful. On songs like “Have All The Songs Been Written?” lead vocalist Brandon Flowers asks existential questions about life such as:

Have every ship gone sailing?

Have all the hearts gone blue?

Have all the songs been written?

I just need one to get through to you..

I can’t take back the things that I’ve done wrong, but I just need one more.

The Killers deliver this song over a dreamy tapestry of keyboards and drums with expressive melodic guitar lines.  Wonderful Wonderful takes us to expansive thoughts over echoey instrumentation asking “Don’t give up on me / Cause I’m just in a rut” on friendship motivational songs like “Rut”, but don’t miss out on the celebratory fashion catwalk strut songs like “The Man” and “Money On Straight”. This album touches highs and lows for a varied experience of music and themes.

Lyrically the album is youthful in sound and thought.  There are repeated references in the album, iconically the title track, to being in one’s childhood and with or without a mother. The album seems to draw a comparison between the life of a child with a mother and that of a child without and say “may they both be wonderful either way”.  “The Man” comes in at the second track following “motherless” chants so it could be interpreted that you have to be “USDA Certified Lean!” fresh from birth. And I say, “As it should be dammit!”  What one is to do after being The Man is for the journey to teach us.  The album does have some feeder for your inner revolutionary with songs like “Run For Cover” as the band sings in dance tempo “I saw Sonny Liston on the street last night, black fisted and strong singing ‘redemption song’. He motioned me to the sky, I heard heaven and the thunder cry. Run for cover!” “Run For Cover” exudes the sentiment of community and universal struggle that is an apparent theme throughout the majority of the album.

There is good there and good here. There is good about regardless. Wonderful Wonderful wants us to know and feel.  The Killers want us to know it is okay to want to fight back.  They here still fighting with you. If they’ll keep fighting then we’ll keep on listening.

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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