Thursday, November 1, 2012

Trouble Sleeping?




"Trouble Sleeping?"


Meek Mill's Dreams and Nightmares


Another week in hip-hop history, and another major debut album is freed to the world. Philadelphia’s own Meek Mill drops his major label debut album under Rick Ross’ MMG. As a northeastern rapper, Meek’s sound is actually more southern sounding. The days of Philadelphia rhymesters Cassidy and Freeway are over. Meek Mill’s time is now, with the release of Dreams and Nightmares.

On the intro and title track “Dreams and Nightmares,” Meek introduces himself as he showcases his unique ability to dominate the often-changing instrumental. As the drum pattern switches up, so does his vivacious flow. It is easy to hear his anger and hunger as the song intensifies, which is where Mill is truly at his best.

Unfortunately, the album is a tad up and down in terms of consistency. The album’s second track “In God We Trust” sounds like a typical mix tape track. Tracks like this display Meek Mill’s ability to rap, but fall short in offering the hip-hop world something fresh and new from his work we haven’t already heard. The very next song “Young & Gettin’ It” is drowned out by the overuse of auto-tune. This is unfortunate, as the auto-tune function in 2012 doesn’t really serve a strong enough purpose on a debut, hardcore rap album.

Meek Mill snaps back to reality on “Traumatized,” snapping over a gritty, story-telling type beat. Songs like this one prove that Meek is capable of meaningful and lyrical substance. It is here, where he talks about the traumatic experience of his father’s murder. He spits, “when I find the ***** that killed my daddy know I’mma ride, hope you hear me, I’mma kill you *****.” His anger reaches its peak on this track, as he seeks revenge on his father’s killer.

“Believe It” is another mix tape track at best, in terms of complexity. The album reaches it’s highest note on “Maybach Curtains,” featuring John Legend, Nas and Rick Ross. This is a very honest and uplifting approach from Mill, as John Legend provides the perfect chorus. Nas uses his lyrical prowess to bulk up the track even further, as Rick Ross bodies the track like he does best. Moving onward, Meek finds help from Drake on the mainstream-appealing “Amen.” This radio-ready cut finds the perfect vibe for cruising around in the car on a lazy day.

The next track “Young Kings” discusses the new era of hip-hop artists, as they are making the way for the future of rap. “Lay Up” features Wale, Trey Songz and Rick Ross, and plays the role of the lady’s song on the album. Trey Songz sets the mood, while Wale provides the wisdom and Rick Ross provides the strength. On “Tony Story Pt. 2,” Meek returns to his rugged story-telling rap, once again capturing the mind and soul.

Mary J. Blige makes her presence felt on “Who Your Around,” as she lays down the perfect hook. Mill kicks some knowledge on this track, discussing how the company one chooses to keep can make or break him/her. He talks on how he’s had to leave some who were bringing him down behind. “Now when I ride by I breeze through, I don’t even stop, ain’t a need to.”

Right when the album is growing incredibly smart, another dud “Polo & Shell Tops” sounds as though it wouldn’t even make his mix tape. The albums’ last two joints “Rich & Famous” and “Real ***** Come First” aren’t anything special either. An unfortunate conclusion to a fairly solid debut album comes across as a disappointment.

The album’s inconsistency has ended up being Meek Mill’s scariest nightmare. He has, however, provided some dream-like hope on some extremely strong tracks. As his career develops, and he matures as an artist, he will likely find his greatest success when he tells his goriest tales from the street. His natural knack to story-tell and reveal the hood’s scariest truths is what draws real rap fans to him in the first place. Through the course of time, he must stick to his strengths in order to remain relevant in the ever-changing, competitive hip-hop scene. Far from perfect, Dreams and Nightmares shows hope for Meek Mill’s future as one of rap’s up-and-comers.

RRR Score: 6.75/10

Written by Seth Kaplan

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

good story, M.A.A.D. classic

"good story, M.A.A.D. classic"


good kid, M.A.A.D. city


The long awaited, major debut album, good kid,m.A.A.d. city has finally hit the shelves, and Kendrick Lamar does indeed deliver a classic. With Lamar's last project, section.80, we were able to get his perspective on his entire generation; however, this latest work of KDot's gives us his perspective of being an adolescent in Compton. Every track on the album sets up the track to come and foreshadows the future events in which young Kendrick is about to experience. 

It all starts with “Sherane A.K.A. Master Splinters’ Daughter,” setting a strong tone for the whole album, while acting as the perfect intro. Here, Kendrick uses detailed facts and story-telling tactics to discuss his conquests for past love interest, Sherane. As the track opens with him and his friends’ accepting Jesus Christ as the Lord, it follows by showcasing his sinful behavior. He cleverly raps, “I was in heat like a cactus, my tactics of being thirsty” as he sets the playing field for the following tracks.

A skit after the track illustrates his parents fighting, and their overall dependence on Kendrick himself. This is used to show how dysfunctional his family situation was. The track “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” is a play-on-words of something his father would have shouted at his mother in tough times. He tells how he played the role of mentoring his own parents, and never finding time for himself. In the chorus, he admits, “sometimes I need to be alone.” This track is highly relatable to anyone’s day-to-day tensions.

“Backstreet Freestyle” showcases his overall ability to rap, as he uses it as an example of a freestyle track he would have used when trying to make his name known in the streets. Here, we see an arrogant, practical, and seventeen year-old version of KDot displaying his confidence and lyrical combat. The raw and cocky approach is fresh and edgy, easily appealing to real rap-heads from all around.

He keeps his rugged approach on “The Art of Peer Pressure” as he explains his vulnerability to be pressured into bad decisions as an up-and-comer. Telling his story from a first-hand account, he shows how even the goodest of kids can still make the maddest of decisions when they’re “riding with the homies.” He shares his stories of crime and risking everything because his so-called friends were such negative influences on him.

Realizing his life was being captured by so many ills, he uses the track “Money Trees” to describe his realization that money could be the cure to all his problems. “Money trees is the perfect place for shade, and that’s just how I feel.” He begins to understand that working hard could help him make real money. The track marks the start of a new beginning for Kendrick.

The album takes a bit of a turn, and begins to really appeal to the ladies on “Poetic Justice.” He finds none better than Drake to help him discuss various aspects of the modern-day relationship between a man and woman. Janet Jackson’s “Any Time, Any Place” is sampled, providing a soulful and heartfelt medium. After just one listen, it is easy to pinpoint this joint as the album’s most mainstream-friendly cut on the album, even more so than the lead single “Swimming Pools (Drank).”

Shifting back to the street, “Good Kid” sets the ground for the rest of the album. The Pharrell-produced track features the more honest and modest Kendrick identifying himself as the good kid. At first, he seems a bit lazy and uninspired, but this method actually works in setting the stage for the very next track “M.A.A.D. City.”

It is here, where Kendrick truly portrays himself as a good kid lost in a mad city. He describes how he perceived Compton as being a place with himself, chaos, cops, and nothing else. His feeling of being trapped in his own city, with no clean way out, overwhelmed his existence itself. KDot defines his acronym for M.A.A.D. as “my angry adolescence divided” and explains how the double A stands for “angel on angel dust.” The hard-hitting, monumental anthem of a beat serves as the bold backdrop for Kendrick to attack aggressively, explaining street tales such as how the first time he smoked marijuana, it was laced with cocaine, and had him “foaming at the mouth.” By the song’s end, listeners will find themselves drooling at the mouth.

He elaborates on this mad city of his on the album’s lead single, “Swimming Pools (Drank).” Here, he remembers how the people around him, including his own family, tried dragging him down a path of alcohol abuse and overall unhealthy living. This cut clearly elaborates on the “misery loves company” prophecy, and is told from his own experience.

“Sing About Me” deals with Lamar’s obsession over death. He directly addresses people he had mentioned on prior mix-tapes such as section.80. Some of these people were apparently offended by how open Kendrick was in sharing the real stories of their personal lives. He tries to justify his usage of their stories, explaining they were being used to educate and inspire people who came from places like Compton. He asks, “am I worth it?” in a hopeful attempt that his efforts will be sung about when he is dead and gone.

The second part of this track “I’m Dying of Thirst” reverts back to the intro, where him and his friends accept Jesus Christ as the Lord, and they ask for forgiveness. He explains how “dying of thirst” really translates to “being in need of holy water.” This track is the true location where KDot firmly grasps the idea of carrying a positive moral compass.

At this point, Kendrick is able to see what is really important in life, and what really is not. On “Real,” he explains what life’s true values are, and ignores what may be deemed as “cool” in the hood. He stresses the importance of love, family, and friends, and informs listeners as to where their focuses really should be in life.

After Kendrick Lamar reaches his state of understanding, he brags how he finally made it on “Compton.” The Dr. Dre-assisted, Just Blaze-produced banger shows how after all his hard work and dedication, he finally made it big time. He lands his major record deal with Dr. Dre on Aftermath, and boasts on how he rose from the bottom to the top. This track serves as the ultimate conclusion to this true rags-to-riches story of an album.

Kendrick Lamar ultimately uses diversified deliveries, timeless bars, and a plethora of flows in order to achieve his accomplishment of telling a story that has never been heard in hip-hop until now. Rap listeners have heard about the gang-affiliated streets of Compton, but they have never heard of the violence that occurs on those same blocks from the voice of a good kid. Lamar diminishes any cliché that says you have to gang-bang your way to the top of a m.A.A.d. city. Thanks to the good kid, Kendrick Lamar, we finally see what it is like to be an innocent, vulnerable human being in the middle of a jungle surrounded by savages. KDot will definitely have a positive influence among the future of our nation seeing that he serves as living proof that children can survive the dangers of the hood, and still keep their dignity. The tale of good kid, m.A.A.d. city is an instant classic, and it is one for the ages. It is no secret that our generation has just been given a gem to be passed down to every generation to come until the end of time.

RRR Score: 10/10

Written by Seth Kaplan and James Norman

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Album With Nothing On the Cover




“The Album With Nothing On The Cover”


Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1


A year and a half after the release of Lasers, Lupe fires back with his new super-society-conscious album. F&L 2 kicks off with a big bang in “Strange Fruition”, where Lupe starts off ranting “Now I can’t pledge allegiance to your flag, cause I can’t find no reconciliation with your past, when there was nothing equal for my people in your math, you forced us in the ghetto and then you took our dads.” This foreshadows the rest of the album as being a back-and-forth societal-personal album.

As the album progresses, Lupe provides his singles “Around My Way”, “Bitch Bad”, and “Lamborghini Angels”, where he touches on everything from his frustration for the American way, to the misusage and misinterpretation of the word ‘bitch’, to child molestation. In the heart of the album, Lupe throws in some forgettable duds with “Put Em Up”, “Heart Donor” and “How Dare You”.  F&L 2 regains its energy with the Guy Sebastian-assisted “Battle Scars”, taking a more personal, relationship-inspired cut. This is where the album’s relatable level reaches its peak.

Lupe finishes strong with his last five tracks. “Brave Heart” serves as the ultimate beat-your-chest anthem, where he spews “Took the wood from the slave ships and furnished my abode, that boat is now my bed, desk, dressers and my drawers.” Once again, Lupe turns back toward a more historical, society-driven focus. “Form Follows Function” serves as the intellectual’s favorite lyrical brain-buster. “Cold War” serves as the most listenable, easiest-to-ride-to track on the album. He spits “In the studio writing these words, one after the other, in memorial of my brother, as you listen to the album with nothing on the cover.” “Unforgivable Youth” and “Hood Now” conclude the album, discussing the struggle and progress relevant to today’s urban world.

Returning to lyrical prowess and poetic intelligence, Lupe shows signs of the hip-hop genius his fans know him to be. Aside from the overly political undertone, redundant sounding beat selection and frequent contradictions, F&L 2 stands strong in the current rap climate. It lacks the focal point of Food & Liquor I, but manages to capture a similar essence. His flow is better than ever, but his head seems to be a bit all over the place. The presence is there, but the timelessness is not. Overall, as a solid and much-needed addition to Lupe’s catalogue, Food & Liquor II delivers, but maybe not to the extent the fans had hoped for.

RRR Score: 7.5/10

October 12, 2012