Friday, October 18, 2013

God > King


Rap God




“Why be a king when you could be a God?” For real though, right? When Slim Shady’s latest single “Rap God” begins, fans are thinking, “uh oh, not this Eminem again!” By song’s end, they are quickly bowing down at the feet of the newly self-proclaimed God of rap. Eminem literally brings just about every single possible flow to the table with this six-minute, essentially hook-less lyrical destruction. His technical excellence matches his lyrical intelligence on this one, as it appears he was truly motivated when it came to penning this one. With Marshall Mathers LP 2 rapidly on the way, is it safe to say that Eminem is back? I believe it is safer to say that this new approach from Eminem is once again different than before, but quite possibly the best we have gotten from him since MMLP (1).

What are your thoughts on the new GOD of hip-hop?

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Marshall Mathers LP 2


The Expectations...




So, what are we to expect from MMLP2? Here’s a look at the track list:

1. Bad Guy
2. Parking Lot (Skit)
3. Rhyme Or Reason
4. So Much Better
6. Legacy
7. Asshole Ft. Skylar Grey
9. Rap God
10. Brainless
11. Stronger Than I Was
12. The Monster Ft. Rihanna
13. So Far…
14. Love Game Ft. Kendrick Lamar
15. Headlights Ft. Nate Ruess
16. Evil Twin

We know that, based on this set of 16 tracks, there is lots of potential here for Eminem to work with. He links up for the second time with Rihanna and for the first time with Kendrick Lamar. There does not seem to be a shortage of tracks on this project here either. We also know that Rick Rubin and Dr. Dre have teamed up as co-executive producers on MMLP2, which would lead us to believe that is a very positive thing. However, Dr. Dre WAS the executive producer on Eminem’s critically terribly received Relapse. We still have not been informed as to who is actually providing the instrumental backdrops for each song, track for track. Will Mr. Mathers employ all superstar, big name producers or will he try to rekindle the energy he once had with lesser-known Detroit-native producers he had worked with on projects such as The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP (1).

Additionally, what flows will Em spew out this go around? Shall he come with the Recovery in-your-face-stacked-vocals-all-over-the-place-chaotic approach or will he deliver the smooth-witty-not-stacked-clear-funny-demonic approach he blew up off of from his early days in the rap game? There are many questions still left to be answered before we can fully know what to expect from MMLP2 this November 5th.

Comment on what you feel we could/should expect from Eminem's upcoming MMLP2...




Tuesday, October 8, 2013

MNIMN: Modern Classic?


Pusha T's My Name Is My Name



I cannot remember the last time hip-hop actually felt and sounded like what it did when I was copping CDs every Tuesday back in high school. Pusha T’s My Name Is My Name has restored the feeling, as one of hip-hop’s OGs finally releases his solo debut. Pusha T dominated the early 2000s with his brother No Malice, where the legendary duo was dubbed The Clipse. When Kanye West first re-introduced Pusha T on the smash single “Runaway,” rap fans quickly grew eager to see what Push could bring to the table on his own. Mr. West did not hesitate to sign Pusha T to G.O.O.D. Music, and now, after multiple delays, My Name Is My Name has arrived.

Originally, Joaquin Phoenix was credited as the producer for the opening track “King Push,” but he claims that it was actually the son of one of his close friends who truly made the beat. The way this instrumental hits in the car, it makes you wonder who the Hell this “son” of Phoenix’ friend actually is. After just the first listen, it is clear that King Push is going after Drake with the hook boasting, “I’m King Push, this king push, I rap n**** ‘bout trap n****s, I don’t sing hooks.” This track serves as the perfect intro to Pusha T’s MNIMN.

As the first track ends, the mood abruptly shifts as the street single “Numbers On The Boards” plays loudly. This song provided Pusha T with the dominating soundtrack to the summer, as people could hear it thumping out of cars’ sound systems on street corners nation-wide. Here, King Push brags with lines like “Givenchy fittin’ like it’s gym clothes, we really gym stars, I’m like D. Rose, no D-League, I’m like these clothes, ’88 Jordan, leaping from the free throw.”

On track number three, Pusha T receives some guest assistance from fellow Virginia native, Chris Brown. At first glance, Chris Brown does not seem like the right fit for a MNIMN feature. Surprisingly, Mr. Brown provides a grimacing harmony on the chorus, as Pusha T pulverizes the gritty production courtesy of none other than the likes of Swizz Beatz and Mr. West. “Sweet Serenade” features perseverance-inspired lines like “came from the bottom, no one said it would be fair, now I’m on this money, lounging like it’s a beach chair.” By track’s end, fans instantly realize they are in for one heck of an experience, brought to you by King Push.

The following track, “Hold On,” features Kanye West production at its best plus a stellar guest appearance from Ricky Ross. Here, Kanye provides Pusha T with a stage-setting, heartfelt backdrop for Push and Officer Ricky to absolutely crush. This track presents us with an incredibly honest duo of rappers rhyming together words like “got rich selling hope to the hopeless, but I’m a thinker, methodic in my motives” and “water colors on my neck, f*** rhyming when you blinding n****s, we ain’t the same color clarity of diamond, n****.”

“Suicide” featuring Ab-Liva brings the feeling of late ‘90s and early 2000s rap back to the forefront. Pharrell must have been saving this gem for Pusha T for quite some time, as it sounds like Pusha T in his Clipse days. “I’m still a snow mover, blow harder than tuba, designated shooters, turn weed to woolers, condo in Atlanta, money counters like the NASDAQ, in that glass back, the motor is the ass crack.”

In my humble opinion, the next track, “40 Acres” featuring The-Dream, is the standout track on the entire album. As a matter of fact, it may be the standout rap song from the past couple years. Here, fans will hear the most honest Pusha T ever, in the truest form. The-Dream’s hook harmonizes, “trouble world, trouble child, trouble times destroyed my smile, no change of heart, no change of mind, you can take what’s yours but you gon’ leave what’s mine, I’d rather die, than go home.” Pusha T comes on the track with heat, spitting “unpolished, unapologetic, this cocaine cowboy pushed it to the limit, you thought Tony in that cell would’ve made us timid, we found his old cell, bitch, we searchin’ through the digits.” This track discusses his childhood fears and the nightmares he was actually living, including what pushed him into dealing drugs in the first place. “I was a goner, punished by karma, called him tar baby, now he’s transcending genres.”

“No Regrets” featuring Jeezy and Kevin Cossom serves as an anthem-sounding heavy hitter of a track for MNIMN. He and his fellow coke-dealing rapper/friend rap with no regrets on this song, spewing out lines such as “if I leave today, throw the keys away, but I’mma live today, I wanna see tomorrow, I wanna lead the way.”

The next track, “Let Me Love You” featuring Kelly Rowland, may be the closest thing to a misstep on Pusha T’s album. For some reason though, it really is not a bad track in any way, shape or form. Pusha lets loose his old-school Mase flow on this song, allowing Ms. Rowland to shine on the highly energetic chorus. The-Dream takes credit for the production on this song, and he too captures the essence of the late ‘90s with his nostalgia-provoking instrumental. Here, Pusha provides us with his take on his commitment in romantic relationships or lack there of, rapping “let’s get past the nonsense and be honest, all the ones I sponsored clear my conscience, can’t commit the crime without accomplice, we both to blame, let’s push the shame behind us.”

On the single, “Who I Am” featuring 2 Chainz and label-mate Big Sean, Kanye West again provides nothing short of awesome production. Fans will hear the Ric Flair-inspired Pusha T go in on this track with confident lines such as “always knew I could rule the world, let’s define what my world is, knee deep in this dope money, damn near where my world ends… they said be all you can be!” 2 Chainz and Big Sean both unfortunately accompany the track with less-than-exceptional guest appearances.

The next track seems to be the rap fans’ favorite Pusha T song to date, as “Nosetalgia” features Kendrick Lamar and tells the story of the coke game from two different perspectives. Here, Pusha T explains his come-up in the cocaine business from a seller’s mindset. Kendrick, on the other hand, tells his story as a good kid from the mad city of Compton, California as he watched members of his own family ruin their lives from cocaine addictions. Generationally, the young Kendrick Lamar truly serves as the perfect feature for this MNIMN track. King Push opens up with the lines “20 plus years of selling Johnson & Johnson, I started out as a baby face monster, no wonder there’s diaper rash on my conscience, my teething ring was numbed by the nonsense.” Then, Kendrick pounces on the track with “my daddy dumped a quarter piece to a four and a half, took a L, started selling soap fiends bubble bath, broke his nails misusing his pinky to treat his nose, shirt buttoned open, taco meat land on his gold.” Nosetalgia is a very clever title too, wouldn’t you say?

The next track features the year-old single “Pain” featuring Future, with a reproduced instrumental provided by Kanye West once again. When Kanye went back in on this beat, he clearly approached it with the mindset of totally recreating the entire feeling. As a result, Mr. West was successful. Pusha T discusses the all-too-familiar feelings of pain he has endured over the course of his life with lines like “in the kitchen with a cape on, apron, tre-eight on, coulda been Trayvon, but instead I chose Avon.”

On the final track, produced by none other than Pharrell, “S.N.I.T.C.H.” serves as the perfect outro to an already stellar MNIMN. Additionally, Pharrell provides his vocals on the hook, and reveals that the SNITCH acronym actually stands for “sorry n**** I’m tryna come home.” This track features King Push taking on the perspective of being in prison and snitching on old partners, friends and cellmates to shorten one’s prison sentence and come home early. This track comes off almost as a classic, as it is a uniquely original concept to discuss through rap lyrics. Pusha’s fierce delivery features lines such as “nowadays n****s don’t need shovels to bury you, pointing fingers like pallbearers how they carry you, so much for death before dishonor, I just sit and wonder, play it by the numbers, when you ride like lightning then you crash like thunder.”

Through and through, Pusha T’s twelve track, solo debut effort on MNIMN may just be the best rap album of the year to date. Everything from production to delivery to content connects with hip-hop fans in a large way. Since the album is relatively short, less than 50 minutes in total length, it leaves you wanting even more from King Push in the future. Until next time however, we will have My Name Is My Name to carry us through the fall and winter seasons in a major, major way.

Written by Seth Kaplan


RRR Score: 9/10

Monday, August 19, 2013

President Carter: MCHG


President Carter: Magna Carta Holy Grail




He just wants a Picasso. Magna Carta Holy Grail proves that Jay Z may still want a little more than that from the so-called rap game. Sean Carter shows his continually growing hunger on this album, which is filled with high highs and low lows.  With the helpful creative influences from superstar producers Rick Rubin, Timbaland, Swizz Beatz and Pharrell Williams, Jay Z slices back into the rap scene in effortless fashion. MCHG starts off hot with the Justin Timberlake-assisted single Holy Grail. On this intro cut, Jay discusses his struggles and his love-hate relationship with fame. “I can’t even take my daughter for a walk…”

The next track on the album, Picasso Baby, features Mr. Carter rapping about how he is the modern day Pablo Picasso. Hidden behind metaphors, Jay reveals how all the things success has brought him really has not changed his life at all. He talks about how having that Picasso painting one has always dreamed of having cannot make some unhappy individual suddenly happy. His ten-minute, super artistic video for the song has recently brought a strong visual component to the track.

Track 3, Tom Ford, features an aggressive Jay Z spitting bars over a hypnotizing Timbaland-produced instrumental. Lines like “I don’t pop Molly, I rock Tom Ford” display his effort to promote hard work and getting things done as opposed to dabbling with drug usage and essentially going nowhere in life. Track 4, FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt, features Jay and Rick Ross going back and forth boasting and bragging over Boi-1da production. As the first four tracks of the album are extremely high-energy, from here the album’s whole vibe suddenly shifts…

The Frank Ocean-featured Oceans showcases a very lyrical Sean Carter rapping and rhyming slavery-related metaphors. Frank Ocean’s emotional hook provides the Pharrell-laced backdrop with an incredibly smooth fullness. From here, F.U.T.W. features Jay inspiring people who came from similar backgrounds to really make an impact in this world. Some powerful bars can be found on this cut such as “America tries to emasculate the greats, murdered Malcolm gave Cassius the shakes.”

SomewhereInAmerica, produced by Hit-Boy, showcases a nifty Jay Z dissing the Internet, and blames our technological advances for the evident, diminishing human intellect. On Crown, Jay Z reminds his fans he is still the King of hip-hop.

Heaven places Mr. Carter questioning religion and a higher power, along with other various theories and mythologies. “Question religion, question it all…” The King of hip-hop’s wife, Queen Beyonce Knowles, finally makes an appearance on Part II (On The Run). This ‘sort of’ sequel to Bonnie & Clyde ’03 features a harmonizing Beyonce, an RnB-style instrumental and an old-school flowing Sean Carter through 3 verses. Next, on BBC, Jay Z finds help from Nas, Justin Timberlake and Pharrell over the lush, jazzy Neptunes-produced vibes.

Jay Z finally delivers his ode to his daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, on Jay-Z Blue. He takes on the role of a man who divorces his wife, but actually wants to be there for his child as he calls himself ‘Daddy Dearest.’ Here, Sean battles with not wanting to be like his dad while being afraid of the responsibilities brought on by fatherhood. The last 2 tracks on the album, La Familia and Nickels & Dimes feature a traditional Jay Z flow over classic hip-hop production.

MCHG find Jay Z in an innovative mindset as he tries to blend classical art, modernism and hip-hop. He tries to mix the current rap trends with clever, more traditional hip-hop tones. Some of the songs are instant classics and others are instantly forgettable. That being said, Magna Carta Holy Grail proves Jay still has it and that there is plenty left in Mr. Carter’s tank. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Will Nothing Be The Same?


Will Nothing Be The Same?



The once-upon-of-time sitcom actor Aubrey Graham, more popularly known as Drake, is readying for the release of his third studio album Nothing Was The Same. Every anxious fan of rap and hip-hop is lost in the current wonderment surrounding what the heck is going to come from this highly anticipated release. In a year where Kanye West dropped Yeezus and Jay Z came through with Magna Carta Holy Grail, not to mention the soon-to-be-released efforts from Big Sean, 2 Chainz and Pusha T, some still think Drake’s new album will be rap record of the year. What must Mr. Graham do to bring his fans what they want out of this upcoming blockbuster album?

Drake’s latest single offering from his upcoming Nothing Was The Same, “Hold On We’re Going Home” sounds non-ambiguously R&B. It can honestly be mistaken as a smooth, groovy triumphant cut from the ’80s. Will this approach be the main focus of his upcoming LP or will Drake primarily dedicate this record to the hardcore hip-hop fans. Maybe Drake’s commonly used technique of cleverly balancing rap and R&B will surface once again on Nothing Was The Same.

So, what does Nothing Was The Same actually mean? Is Drake referring to what his life has transformed into since his early days or is he talking about something else all together? Perhaps this whole album will be a concept or theme album based on some story creatively illustrated by Aubrey Graham himself. He has continually proven time and time again that he has an overachieving artistic mind relatable to a widespread demographic.

Whether you are a Drake lover or a Drake hater, hip-hop fans all over will be listening to what is to be offered from his upcoming Nothing Was The Same.  Drake has already proven to be on hip-hop’s short list of current all-stars, but is this his time to maybe solidify his place in hip-hop’s legendary class. Is Drake really Mr. Right or is he merely Mr. Right Now? Only time will tell if he truly leaves the sport of hip-hop in a state where nothing will ever be the same.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sinner to Winner


J. Cole’s Born Sinner



Sinner to Winner



J. Cole, the self-acclaimed born sinner (opposite of a winner) has finally dropped his highly anticipated sophomore album, Born Sinner. After receiving mixed reviews on his debut album, Cole World:The Sideline Story, Jermaine knew what time it was when recording this new album.

On the opening track, Villuminati, Cole spits rapidly over hard-hitting 808s and a powerful bass line. Starting off with the line “sometimes I brag like Hov,” he delivers the track from a rise-to-fame perspective. The song shows clear dedication to Cole dominating a track and approaching it with a vengeance. Although it does not strike as one of the more appealing tracks to the ear, it serves its purpose as a meaningful introduction.

Land of the Snakes transitions into a more traditional, soothing approach from Jermaine. There is an instant sense of comfortableness on this track, as Cole starts to address his take on the album’s title. “She said you ‘bout to miss church while she riding me, I like my Sundays with a cherry on top.” Here, Jermaine starts to address his personal battle between good and evil.

Next, on his lead single, Power Trip featuring Miguel, J.  Cole discusses achieving fame after many years of hard work. He also finds a way of blending his success story with a love song, as he hits on all levels of personal growth. This song serves as the perfect track for radio play, and has already propelled much attention to the album as a whole.

On Trouble, Cole literally addresses his consistently finding trouble along the path to success. Here, Jermaine comes off as witty, and drops clever punch lines like “everybody sweat her like Catholic school.” Although the hook on this song grows repetitive and a bit obnoxious over time, he delivers the verses eloquently over the self-produced cut.

Runaway discusses J. Cole not being ready to truly satisfy a good woman’s needs at this point in his life. He talks about his inability to be trusted by others in addition to his inability to trust himself. This cynical approach features lines such as “in this life ain’t no happy endings/ only pure beginnings followed by years of sinning and fake repentance.” He also addresses how a good man should act with wishful lines like “when you’re no longer Superman, at least you know you got Lois Lane.”

The next track, She Knows featuring Amber Coffman, addresses a woman being able to tell when an already-taken man approaches her. Cole’s using deep and dark piano keys make this song enchanting and powerful from the start. Immediately, the melody grabs you in and does not let you go at any point throughout the cut.

On Rich N****z, J. Cole discusses his hatred and jealousy toward the wealthy that he had felt along his struggle of a journey to success. This is one of the albums’ standouts in terms of lyrical content, as it comes from the perspective of an angrier, less mature Jermaine. His honesty outweighs his animosity though, and the track is quite appealing and extremely listenable.

The song, Forbidden Fruit featuring Kendrick Lamar, showcases Jermaine rapping around an “Adam and Eve” metaphor. On the track, Cole discusses temptation and the difficulties in saying ‘no’ at times. “Me and my bitch, took a little trip, down to the garden, took a little dip, apple juice falling from her lips, took a little sip.”

Chaining Day plays on the metaphor between slavery and buying jewelry. It also addresses the cliché rapper’s need to place gold around his neck as soon as he makes it in the hip-hop world. “Ice on this white Jesus seem a little unholy, the real strange things about this iced out Rolly.”

The second single from the album, Crooked Smile featuring TLC, features Cole giving his take on TLC’s smash hit from way back in the day, Unpretty. This traditional sounding hip-hop anthem has Jermaine speaking on his crooked teeth and thick eyebrows, explaining that you can still be beautiful without being perfect. The song literally attacks the more cliché Hollywood approach of looking like the ideal celebrity.

On the real rap fan’s likely favorite from the album, Let Nas Down, Cole speaks on how he actually did let Nas down with his debut album. Hip-hop legend, Nas, had spoken openly in the past about his distaste for Jermaine’s Cole World album. This was after Nas had initially said he was a fan of J. Cole. Cole tries to redeem himself with this track, and I feel that it is safe to say that he does.

The final track on the album receives the album title itself, Born Sinner. James Fauntelroy provides the melodic R&B styled hook, and the track serves as a nice conclusion to the album. It successfully wraps up the album’s content and overall message. Cole spills out his heart for the final time, and does so with utmost honesty and shamelessness.

At the end of the listen, J. Cole’s Born Sinner album delivers as a well-developed sophomore approach. Although it may not be the classic that rap fans have been waiting for from Jermaine, it definitely shows his progress in the game. He has grown with both maturity and skill, and has been able to project his image meaningfully over much of his own production. I would hope that Cole looks to work with a wider variety of producers in the future though, in an effort to expand his overall sound even further. It will be interesting to see where J. Cole goes from here, but as of now he seems to be going nowhere but up.

RRR Score: 8/10




Thursday, June 6, 2013

YEEZUS



YEEZUS

Kanye West never fails at being different, revolutionary and over-the-top bold. His notorious antics are not new to anyone, but regardless of how one may feel about Mr. West, it is important to note his genius. As his new album is ready for a June 18th release, his marketing strategy behind this one has been truly one of a kind.

First off, the album title is Yeezus. This album title will either excite you for the music that is to be featured, scare you away because of the music that may be featured, piss you off because you find it sacrilegious or instill you with profound levels of curiosity. Whichever the case, he has gotten every music fan talking about this album title.

It is June 6th, and we still do not have a CDQ single from the album or an official track list. In more traditional alum marketing, singles are unveiled months prior to the album’s release date in an effort to excite people and promote an artist’s upcoming work. Perhaps, Kanye is actually drawing more attention by giving out nothing in terms of what the album will sound like. Also unconventional, he has had full building projections of a video that features a track titled ‘New Slaves.’ He has had these projections appear on buildings internationally over the past few weeks, promoting what is assumed to be a song from the upcoming album. In certain projection screenings across the world, cops have come and shut them down. Once again, whether you like it or not, Kanye is indeed drawing lots of attention for his album. (As stated earlier, a CDQ version of the single has not yet been released.)

On the ‘Saturday Night Live’ season finale, Mr. West also performed a song titled ‘Black Skinhead.’ Although a live version is all we have for that track, it too will likely be featured on Yeezus.

What has been released is the album artwork. Well, technically there really is no album artwork. That is right, NO ALBUM ART!! Instead, on June 18th when fans rush the stores to buy Yeezus, the CD will be in a clear case sealed shut by a small piece of red tape on the right side. That is it. No paper, no pamphlet and no song list will be featured when people buy the album. Kanye insists what he just wants people to listen to and actually hear the music. If nothing else brought interest to West’s upcoming album, this certainly must.

Yeezus will be the first of its kind. It is likely that Kanye will be starting a new trend with this album’s marketing and promotion. We shall see later this month if this “less is more” strategy pays off for Kanye West.

Written by Seth Kaplan.