Tag Archives: best albums of 2017

Song of The Year-Keep The Devil Off by Big K.R.I.T. produced by Big K.R.I.T.

Song of The Year-Keep The Devil Off by Big K.R.I.T. produced by Big K.R.I.T.

by Dan-O

Wherever I have worked, anything I have achieved has been on the strength of who I am to the people around me…not management. I’ve never been able to convince anyone in power that I fit but the co-workers, customers, those I really touch hold me up on the strength of what I can do. This could be one of the reasons I’ve been so deeply invested in Big K.R.I.T. since I heard K.R.I.T. Wuz Here in 2010. He’s the people’s champ. When his first official album (Live From The Underground) came out he had a song featuring B.B. King with a video directed by Spike Lee and STILL couldn’t get mentioned in the company of his peers (some of whom he outpaced). In 2013 when A$AP Rocky put KRIT on 1 Train with Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, Joey Bad@$$, and Kendrick KRIT beat everyone off the track. No surprise to me, but the internet chattered briefly and then ignored it. KRIT didn’t fit their narrative and still doesn’t.

His new double album 4 Eva is A Mighty Long Time is deep at over eighty four minutes of music and thick with trunk rattling propulsive production(a lot of it handled by KRIT) but it’s also a lot of verse to take in. It isn’t conscious rap (he loves to floss and take down his opposition loves proper UGK s— talk) but it isn’t high end Ross-like luxury rap(Ross doesn’t even make that anymore) . If you like Southern rap b/c of the bouncy Migos chorus and strip club friendly content this doesn’t perfectly fit.

It is a double album that anticipates you will understand once you have taken the journey from Big K.R.I.T. to Bury Me In Gold and those of us who know do very much understand. For us 4 Eva is A Mighty Long Time is one of the year’s best albums and now that he’s independent he doesn’t have to explain himself to people who don’t get it. He can just breathe fire from his heart. That is what makes Keep The Devil Off so unmatched. This week I set it as my morning alarm and popped out of the sheets when he shouted “LORD be my witness!!” If you don’t care about how heartfelt his discussions of police brutality, infidelity,  & black identity are, if you just want to jam…I have a song that will sell you.

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Song of The Year-Survivor by Mary J Blige

Song of The Year-Survivor by Mary J Blige

by Dan-O

Mary will always have a special place in my heart. When I was away from home for the first time (out of country) in the Army she had one of the three albums I needed in order to survive (D’Angelo-Voodoo, 2pac-Makaveli, Mary-My Life). That was back in 1999-2002 and in 2017 Mary J Blige has one of the best albums this year. Coming out of a bad relationship that left a lot of emotional scars she fully explores them on Strength of A Woman.

The two names that strengthen the project on the production end are DJ Camper and Brandon “B.A.M.” Hodge. Camper gives the thick, knocking, clean backdrop for the greatest Kanye West collaboration in years (his best verse in a long time) Love Yourself. He also orchestrates the lush piano sound behind her blisteringly confessional Set Me Free.  While Camper is credited with 5 of the 14 tracks B.A.M matches him (if you count co-credits).  B.A.M. maintains the almost Maybach Music level clean luxury sounds but really kicks up the bass to a satisfying level.

Mary’s songwriting is fearless. Several times you hear things that shock you but her voice keeps you on track. It is kind of amazing how good her voice is at this point in her career. Survivor is the best. On it she occupies this strange space of diva crafting an anthem and humble, grounded artist who feels like a member of your family. As glorious as the song sounds she still can’t take any of the credit and gives it all to God. I can’t tell you why listening to this song for the second time made me tear up. I certainly haven’t survived anything interesting. I would guess that just hearing her strength and knowing it was the same determination from Not Gon’ Cry and I’m Goin’ Down, that unchanged intensity and will to pick things up and move on was just too perfect for me.  I think we need to start talking about Mary like we do Jay and stop letting her doubt how important she’s been to all of us.

Album recommendation of the week-Lorraine Motel by Killa Kyleon

Album recommendation of the week-Lorraine Motel by Killa Kyleon

by Dan-O

Socially conscious rap music is filled with misinformation. First point-you don’t have to be a social scientist/genius to construct a meaningful album with a socially conscious message. Do not listen to anyone’s album for the answers on life; this is their art and perspective that is what is important. Second point-the songs don’t have to carry a single tone, they don’t have to be whispery emotional pleas over piano plinks or hard charging Public Enemy style anthems for resistance. This is an artist’s world and it can be constructed however they want it and if the rules they set up hold it works.

My favorite recent socially conscious album is Lorraine Motel by Killa Kyleon. The Lorraine Motel is where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated and he lined up the release to hit on the anniversary of that loss. He is a Houston rap warrior with songs in his discography featuring Bun B, Pimp C, and Lil Keke. Kyleon raps like an old traveling swordsman or gunfighter, the art of spitting is so easy at this point he is dead focused on his message. This time around he seems to have gotten much better with hooks that dig in while representing his point.  

The song titles feel like messages you’ve heard before(the last song Freedom Ain’t Free is Joey Bada$$ lead single off his new album All-American Bada$$) but they’re not.  Strong Black Woman isn’t a whispery cute song meant to get him in the good graces of female fans. It is filled with hard slapping lyrics about the determination of the women he is dedicating the song too. First words spoken are “One more semester left she ain’t gotta trip.” The problem with dedications to women in rap is that a lot of times men construct these to be so general it boils down to a pat on the back for being sexy. Killa gives the women in his verses the determination he has to win (his mother especially) “You knew not to question God so you forgot to ask him, for help through hard times and struggle cause you knew you passed it. That’s what ambition get ya.”  Anyone who gets mad about hip hop being pro street violence anti-police violence needs to hear Lorraine Motel. My Skin is My Sin is my favorite song; it boils and bubbles with frustration about police brutality, Colin Kaepernick, the positives and negatives of President Obama, and the depression street violence creates in the psyche.

The music is tonal and moody but still very much the Houston rap that Drake (among many) borrowed from, it rattles and bangs in chunky measures. I haven’t been able to find a good production listing but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was familiar names from his previous projects. Lorraine Motel rings with the pure white hot anger of really caring about the situation. On Change Gone Come the last verse gets so far into police brutality that it left me haunted by the line “Dead to the wrong, them crackers still right. They playin’ God the way they steal life.” The second half of Lorraine Motel is a flummoxing experience, eight songs that just make you sit with the problems we have as a nation and FEEL them deeply enough to hurt again. That is what a great socially conscious rap album does, it connects you to the problem so you care when it is so much easier nowadays not to care about anything.

You can find Lorraine Motel on Spotify, Amazon music, and all the other streaming services.

Top 5 Takeaways from 2 Future Albums in 2 Weeks

Top 5 Takeaways from 2 Future Albums in 2 Weeks

by Dan-O

Future just released back to back #1 albums (Future and HNDRXX). I wanted to provide five things to think about as you digest this mass of content. Are these in order of importance?

Don’t be a nerd. No one cares.

  1. Who is Dre Moon?

Dre Moon is 3 for 3 on HNDRXX (Solo, Incredible, and Hallucinating) with some of my absolute favorite songs. I clicked on his Wikipedia page and it says he wrote Drunk In Love and produced a bunch of beloved Drake songs (off Nothing Was The Same). He also produced I Be U, I’ll Be Yours, and Side Effects off Future’s Honest album(which I think is underrated). I am very glad Future has a relationship with Dre Moon and apparently more people should. He provides a rich sound, a large musical world that never seems crowded.

2. Nothing Future Does is haphazard

Future puts out a lot of music. Even Young Thug told him he should slow down. At times, Future has released bad albums and tastemakers have pronounced his run over only to be embarrassed by the success that followed. Future is like Gucci Mane in that he will release a ton of content and 70% of it is great but that thirty percent is still a lot of bad music and in this fickle age it always seems like he is close to falling off.

3.You can be like Future but you cannot be Future

Future just released 34 songs in two weeks and both albums went number one. Be careful about going big picture and turning to your friends with a simple “this is how things are now,” explanation. This is not how things are for Kendrick or Wale etc etc. Future works better loose and in a zone. If you think it’s easy and your just going to autotune your voice and shout “Content! Content! Content!” you won’t be Future. Desiigner is promising but he is not Future. Future is not mumble rap. Future is really vividly articulating his emotional state of mind like a blockbuster movie. On HNDRXX especially you can hear every word he says.

4. Previously Future’s beef with Ciara has been ugly but now that ugly is terrifying

The Future mixtape Project E.T. made me unhappy.  As good as anything on there was that Juice song Future did about killing Ciara was no Bueno. This isn’t a double racial standard. I didn’t like it when Marshall Mathers did the killing my ex songs. HNDRXX takes the anguish Future feels about the relationship and takes it to new emotional heights. Testify never comes right out and declares her as subject matter but it’s mad creepy. As he sings “Anything we go through is a test of times. Can you be the one who loves me all the time?” my hairs stood up on end and then the song ends with him hauntingly repeating “confess your love for me…testify” as his voice fades out.  The scariest Ciara moment is CLEARLY My Collection. A superbly disturbing analysis of the mind state a man has after a broken relationship. If you’re looking for  TMI moments they are plentiful from crooning “this codeine ain’t got nothin’ to do with my little child!”   “She told me she was an angel, she F*&#ed two rappers and three sangers.” The hook is paralyzingly gross without any swearing “…even if I hit you once you part of my collection.” The diseased mind that holds these women in some sort of mental art museum is something Future consciously wanted to observe. It’s clear that part of this is in him and part of this is an artist analyzing the emotions that could happen if he doesn’t let go. The complexity of his anger is so marvelously rendered you can’t be mad. It’s terrifying but the beautiful kind.

5. Future is bigger than trap

Think of it the same way we do Mike Will Made It. When Trap was at its white hottest he was lacing Gucci Mane and giving the genre definition (Metro Boomin certainly took the baton and ran) and now you see his production credits in The Grammys Song of The Year category because he produced Beyoncé’s biggest hit off her new album Lemonade. Future still makes rough and tumble Trap, just listen to Scrape or Draco on the self-titled album, but he smashes pop songs as well.  Selfish is the duet with Rihanna which comes to mind first but Incredible is a friendly radio hit. Aside from pop songs  HNDRXX has one song with vocals from Mayer Hawthorne and production by Jake One (Lookin’ Exotic).  Anyone predict that collaboration? He works with DJ Mustard and Detail for that finger snapping ratchet movement and he knocks it all out of the park. This is what Mike Will taught us about the process. Just because Future started in Trap and elevated it, doesn’t mean that is his limitation. He’s incredibly durable and bubbling over creatively.