by The Rap Music Plug, of The Rap Music Plug Podcast
A compilation cannot be examined through the same lens as a traditional album.
By design, traits that I would typically look for and appreciate in an album, such as cohesion, sequencing, and theme, cannot be achieved in the same manner in a compilation. Compilations, in this case specifically from a label, should be viewed through the following lens, which boils down a compilation’s primary purpose into four possible main objectives:
- highlighting the diversity in their particular group of artists;
- displaying their artists’ greatest hits; or
- displaying their artists’ work within a specific theme; or
- a straightforward talent showcase with no other qualifier.
With this appropriate lens in mind, I believe Mello Music Group (MMG) aimed to achieve that first possible objective with Bushido. MMG is arguably the most successful indie label in the genre of hip-hop, at least in the past decade with Forbes magazine crowning them as such in 2016. Boasting a cast of some of the underground’s finest rappers and producers in Open Mike Eagle, Oddisee, Apollo Brown, and Skyzoo to name a few, Mello has been a mainstay in hip-hop and a strong cultural force for many years.
On Bushido, I think their roster thrived in the compilation environment, due to the group being able to pull from a wide selection of different sounds and styles in both the production, and lyricists. Not only does MMG have traditional hip-hop producers and rappers on their team, but they also have artists that bring elements of jazz, soul, and funk to the forefront of their music.
That being said, the cast of MMG artists aren’t completely different entities living in siloed artistic worlds. Words like organic, soulful, and thoughtful all come to mind when describing any, and all of the artists on the MMG roster. Therefore, Bushido managed to flow very smoothly, while also providing the full scope of the MMG sound, since the compilation was consistently soulful and organic in feel.
Bushido’s consistency proved that there is no real weakness in the label, which starkly contrasts another compilation of notoriety in the past decade, G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Summer.
As a big fan of Kanye and Pusha T, the tracks featuring these two were often great hip-hop and pop rap tunes in my eyes. However, Cruel Summer showed that past Push, Kanye, and Cyhi… there was a dearth of lyricists on G.O.O.D. past them, along with a bunch of vocalists that lacked the IT factor, and faltered when not within the direct collaborative presence of a master orchestrator in Kanye.
On Bushido though, you never got the sense that there was any one artist that was carrying the majority of the weight. Just about all of the Mello artists held their own, which speaks to how complete their label is.
Despite the fact that only a handful of songs really wowed me, Bushido still successfully serves the purpose of displaying the label’s diversity and giving listeners a taste of the artists they should check out in more depth.
No artist made better use of their time, and showed off their defining characteristic better than Homeboy Sandman and Solemn Brigham. On this compilation, Homeboy showed off his trademark honesty that makes his music so impactful. Solemn (of Marlowe) shined on all of his performances, displaying a high level of lyrical dexterity and energy that made his verses really pop throughout Bushido.
Other highlights included Skyzoo and L’Orange’s “Ta-Nehesi the Vocals”, which featured a fantastic beat that Sky floated over beautifully. Fresh off of his showstopping Haram feature, Quelle Chris shined on all of his placements, as expected. The Alchemist produced opener was nice, but I liked the “Bane Brain” song even more, with Quelle’s expressive performance sounding great over a beat that had some really textured percussion.
The one artist, or artists in this case, that I didn’t particularly check for in the past, but will now after Bushido, is the Dueling Experts who destroyed their verses on “Outlast”. Them aside, I don’t think this project necessarily shifted how I view some of the lesser recognized artists on the label though, as the already-established heavyweights of the MMG crew were the ones primarily responsible for my standouts moments on this compilation.
There were also a couple of duds in the tracklist here and there, most notably “Gwan B Ok” that just sounded so awkward and messy. The beat by The Lasso was perfectly fine, but the vocals by Zackey Force Funk were not appetizing at all.
Overall, Bushido showcases the immense diversity of talent that MMG has at their disposal. This compilation is an enjoyable set of songs that validates why they deserve to be regarded as one of the most vital labels in helping creative and thoughtful hip-hop flourish. Bushido is a nice appetizer for what is hopefully another strong year for Mello Music Group in 2021.
P.S. from Dan-O
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