Song of The Year-Keep The Devil Off by Big K.R.I.T. produced by Big K.R.I.T.
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.
Mixtape Review-It’s Better This Way by Big K.R.I.T.
Would it be controversial if I said K.R.I.T. would already be a legend in his own time if he was white? Would it be outrageous for me to say that he would be standing next to Drake in sales if he was from New York? Would it strike you as strange to say he would be hotter than Future if he was from Atlanta? I hope not because I believe all of those statements to be true. His newest mixtape It’s Better This Way has more than enough evidence.
His southern accent is too southern for a lot of East Coast cats. His deeply soulful non-trap identity isn’t very Atlanta but the breadth of his abilities is staggering. As a producer he can create something bass driven but minimal, sparkling and striking like Party Tonight or flip a soul sample as adeptly as Kanye in his prime (see Piece On Chain). K.R.I.T. spent his last album Cadillactica rapping his brains out to convince people that his deep drawl didn’t prevent him from being a top MC (the public seems to like a little drawl but not a lot of drawl). While K.R.I.T. does make heartfelt music that at times can be cheesy, isn’t that the natural dark side of all heartfelt music? Hasn’t that been the same thing J. Cole has been wrestling with? The difference is K.R.I.T. has a better ear so his music, at its worst, is still totally bumpable.
It’s Better This Way has none of the Mt. Olympus mission statement of Cadillactica. It’s thick and soulful. Can’t Be Still carries that sad blues poignancy that travels back to Smokestack Lightning and how many 2015 rappers can you say that about? Not in a what-is-he-trying-for way but as a natural strength. The cool thing is this is only one of his strengths.
When K.R.I.T. wants to give you a banger he serves it up with intensity and vigor. During the course of listening to the song 86 you can’t help but move and he gives you the pace. He raps fast and shouts the chorus knowing exactly where he wants the speed to land. As big and booming as his grandest tracks are they still fit snugly into the Soulmaster mystique he’s earned over the course of a thousand dope mixtapes and a few really good albums (not to mention a collaboration with B.B. King!). Stylistically he connects the country rap tunes of UGK/8ball & MJG to Chess Records without appearing to work at it.
The parts of It’s Better This Way that really interest me are the off the beaten track songs that don’t fit into banger or soul jam categories. Vanilla Sky is just as captivatingly odd in content as construction. He talks about wanting to find the meaning of life in Africa and debating whether he should hire a driver when he buys his newest nice ride. The song has starved spaces in it pregnant with atmospheric content not usually present. In The Darkness is similarly odd, seeming like cloud rap but both of these songs are good. He’s adding new tricks while not throwing away the old ones which is the definition of progression. Even the strangest feature on the mixtape (Warren G on No Static) makes absolute sense once you hear the song. I always loved that Warren G didn’t put on airs or create a super-gangster persona and I think that actually hurt him in the era he existed in. America was addicted to super-gangsters at that time. Maybe the same is true of K.R.I.T. and that’s why No Static is the easiest, most listenable song on the mixtape. The collective confident ease of two artists who know how to make music fun just overwhelms you.
The title track puts to bed all the questions in my first paragraph. He states clearly “my takeover wasn’t overnight and to be honest it was a gift from god.” Maybe he does have the chips stacked against him but he’s celebrating the victories with a clearer head, knowing he earned them. Whether you like him or not he always has a plan and you can trust it to work out. It’s just better this way.
stream or download It’s Better This Way below:
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Tagged 2015 mixtapes, Ab-Soul, B.B. King, Big K.R.I.T., Cadillactica, It's Better This Way, J Cole, Mississippi, mixtape review, Southern Hip Hop, Warren G
Mixtape Review-Traffic Jamz by Scotty ATL
When Scotty ATL is about to go to sleep and he’s alone just gazing into the ceiling with his private thoughts, he has nothing to regret about how he has attained his success. He doesn’t have to wonder if his evolution into the spotlight is due to some powerhouse co-sign or novelty trick/gimmick. Scotty ATL is really special because he loves the fundamentals.
Over the course of his career he has done nothing but improve on his verses, chorus’s, song composition, and beat picking. All the while he maintains that southern slurry snarl that twists how every word sounds. In his hands it’s galvanizing and his content is right down the middle of the field running like Emmitt Smith. Stuck In Traffic has him leaving semen on ladies tonsils and striving to be the very best; while On The Road has a silky chorus about touring the lyrics are shots right from the hip “they might talk under they breath they respect ya, whether they hate or love it they checkin'” it ends with a spoken word call to stay consistent and work hard, no laughing no BS about how easy making hits is.
Traffic Jamz is superb riding music. Cloud IX Go Up is one of the very best songs of the year. This is the kind of DJ Toomp beat that makes you defend rap music to your elders: its soulful, bluesy, and begging to be turned all the way up. Scotty knocks the chorus out like a home run and shout sings “RIP to my lost ones on my heart and my T-shirt.” He’s never ever come off as one of those ATL weirdo characters that entertain you but you wouldn’t want to hang around. I would invite Scotty ATL in my home; introduce him to my kid, just based off the strength of character in this music.
The production is so impressive because he doesn’t need to lean on the immaculate DJ Burn One anymore (although the Keith Sweat beat he did on this tape made my jaw drop when I first heard it). Nine songs produced by at least 7 different producers means that the tightness of the tape, the way each songs feeds into the next and makes sense, is at least partially a credit to Scotty’s ear. MC’s don’t get nearly enough credit for having a great ear. They only get dinged when they don’t have it.
Can I tell you the coolest thing about Scotty that Traffic Jamz showcases? He is one of raps great collaborators. Last project he had several songs with Trinidad James and actually made me into a fan of Trinidad; they were so good. This time around he gets Big Krit, Spodee, and B.O.B. and each one of them sound perfect next to him. Spodee stunts ridiculous word play on The Hangover in a cadence all his own. Mr. ATL’s ability to work with others is the outcome of what I stated earlier, people just feel comfortable around this dude and Scotty for his part doesn’t seem to worry about the strength of the guest. You get the feeling Rasputin could come back from the dead, walk onto his studio with a verse and Scotty’d feel great about his 16.
stream or download Traffic Jamz below:
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Tagged 2015 mixtapes, Atlanta hip hop, B.O.B., Big K.R.I.T., Burn One Collective, Dj Burn One, DJ Toomp, livemixtapes, mixtape review, Rasputin, Scotty ATL, Spodee
Mixtape Review-The Iron Way by T-Pain
T-Pain is the Mozart of strip club music. No matter how many changes he has gone through I’ve never given up on him because I know that to be true. I know he is capable of stifling musical intelligence and flawless execution on very silly songs about strippers and butts, even if he does go into the more silly than genius realm on occasion. Just listen to the T-Pain produced Booty Butt Ass off of his new The Iron Way mixtape with DJ Drama; I just kept picturing Luther Campbell from 2 Live Crew with one single tear coming down his face like “that was beautiful.” He has more range with his autotune usage than anyone else in music (proof of this starts two minutes and fifty eight seconds in and goes till the end).
The most educated critic had to feel that roller coaster nervousness during the first listen of The Iron Way. The Jay-z song D.O.A. changed T-Pain in a big way. It wasn’t a diss to him at all, Jay clearly took to task people ripping him off, but T-Pain took the hit and became unfashionable. Part of this was that he was already over exposed; part of this is that he’s a goof. This is the dude who complimented Ray J’s dick size on live radio when the Kim K sex tape leaked. People were ready to turn their back before they did. So when the first track ,Kill These N_’s, started and fed into the blistering rap diss Trust Issues we didn’t know if this was all angry rap T-Pain. Little did we know the supremely zoned out and darn near tranquil Sun Goes Down(Audio Push are perfect guests on this one) and Need To Be Smokin were to come. Really every kind of song was to come; this mixtape is twenty songs long. If you like enormous rap anthems with rewindable bars you need to hear King where Bun B goes bananas and Big Krit sounds like Denzel looks in Man On Fire. If your into braggadocio reggae influenced finger snap hip hop then play Disa My Ting. He also drops the really sticky sweet club love song Heartbeat where he says “I can’t control it; it’s like your running electricity through me!”
As cheesy and novelty as Hashtag is the story of the relationships straining is very engaging and well-constructed. It’s a perfect example of what The Iron Way gives you. Its genius; well sung, super listenable and genuinely evocative but cheesy as all get out. You have to find a way to embrace both to enjoy it. Like forgetting while watching a genuinely brilliant Kung Fu movie that these are dudes fighting on strings. By the way Pain can rap too; his verse at the end of 15 is acrobatic and venomous.
T-Pain is not in a position to fade out because he can do too much. He’s a very good rapper, producer, and the king of autotune singing. Dude can construct incredible melodies that sticks in your head and this T-Pain ,the post-D.O.A. edition, has a bit of an edge. He understandably feels betrayed by an industry that shuns him while re-purposing his sound. That means the gushy booty music like Ever comes alongside fiery anti-industry anthems like Personal Business. The imbalance is a perfect balance.
stream or download The Iron Way below:
P.S. I wanted to give you my favorite silly lines from The Iron Way mixtape since T-Pain just can’t help himself.
“She make me bite my fist, I guarantee you ain’t seen a booty quite like this” Booty Butt Ass
“Put my face in her booty like a vanilla cake” Did It Anyway
Best line is “You actin’ like your style fell from the sky. The good news is…you got it from a hell of a guy.” Relax
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Tagged 2015 mixtapes, Audio Push, autotune, Big K.R.I.T., Booty Butt Ass, Bun-B, D.O.A., datpiff, Dj Drama, mixtape review, T-Pain, The Iron Way
Mixtape Review-Real Nigga Shit by Kolley
While it’s easier to be a Southern rapper than it ever has been, it really depends on how Southern you are considered. UGK and Outkast are deeply embedded in the public mind as architects of the south. If you ask the same hip hop elitist who reps these groups if he has the same affection for Eightball & MJG or Goodie Mobb you’d be surprised at the rebuff. Some artists are TOO Southern and still make the industry uncomfortable.
The cover of Kolley’s new mixtape Real Nigga Shit is about as uncomfortably in your face as possible. He’s flexing gold teeth with his chain in his mouth; inside his gold shades gifs of dancing lady butt and money fans dominate. This mixtape is not for the faint of heart and it’s also not for the tragedy chasers who need their Southern rappers to be ignorant lean sipping Kamikaze cases. Kolley is not rapping about how pointlessly off track his life is; it’s quite the opposite. This MC with a beasts voice from Bassfield, Mississippi (2000 Census said it had a population of 315 people) tells us right off the bat how special he is on Follow Me “Even though I am a sinner god saved me; took me from the mind state of crazy into the mind set of pay me.”
A mixtape consisting of sixteen tracks should feel perfect but this is a long journey. No inserts or interludes shorten the ride and it’s full of high energy growling tracks that burst with energy and wear you out. Hanna could cause a club riot. Seen Shit could have your head nodding so hard you forget that the Bobby Johnson beat just destroyed your car speakers.
I’m not sure how much buzz exists about Kolley outside of the music industry (partially cause I’m a music reviewer who avoids a lot of other music reviewers) but it’s evident that the South knows how dope he is; since this is a debut mixtape with a Big Krit feature and production credit not to mention other beats from trap generals Zaytoven, Metro Boomin, and TM88 of 808 Mafia.
Kolley will infuse you with his ferocity on Hanna and have you riding reflectively in the Krit assisted Poetry In Motion (is anyone better at rapping about driving cars or cars in general as Krit?). This mixtape has a full spread of emotion tackling love, pills, violence, money, success and all of it in the assured manner of an artist who has been doing this for years and years. If you think I’m talking about another knucklehead Lil John rip off listen to the first verse of Real Love and tell me this dude isn’t the truth. I file Real Nigga Shit in the “Who is this kid?!?!” category.
I wanted this mixtape to be terrible so I wouldn’t have to use the N word so much. The first listen turned into the third listen so quickly that I had to make up my mind quickly. My preferences don’t matter. Kolley has artistic presence on tracks that needs a full spotlight and it’s his title. It reflects an artist dictating realness in a different light and it works on every discernible level. Even though the journey feels long its not, it’s just big.
Stream or Download Real Nigga Shit below:
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Tagged 808 mafia, Bassfield Mississippi, Big K.R.I.T., Eightball & MJG, Goodie Mobb, Kolley, Metro Boomin, Mixtape, mixtape reviews, Real Nigga Shit, Southern Hip Hop, Zaytoven
Mixtape Review-Its Tha World 2 by Young Jeezy
If Its Tha World 2 was a vehicle it wouldn’t be a minivan. The eight track smash mouth Young Jeezy and company mixtape would be a muscle car riding at top speed along a dirt road, leaving trails of dust on the competition.
Young Jeezy might be the most frustrating artist of my time. His great verses are few and far between. The most famously interesting thing about him is the ad-lib (that everyone does a variation of now). Jeezy is the artist people most often turn to me and laud while I’m scratching my head. I’ve never been able to figure out why everyone is so interested in him while so many other great artists are out there. Its Tha World 2 provides my answer.
The sonic world of this thing has no comparison. It starts off with a soul shattering Drumma Boy fist fight trap beat (Foul Play) which will make you want to upgrade the speakers in your vehicle and transitions into DJ Mustard ratchet. Except it doesn’t transition it digests the Mustard sound and snowballs. Jeezy makes everything trap by sheer force of persona. You can feel his twisted smile through every bar and he’s constantly hype, imploring the audience and the beat to get crazier and crazier. The strength and determination of the music go beyond the verses and make every chorus something you want spit out along with him (“Whip it right here in your face! Benihana.” –Benihana)
Jeezy has never been a star builder (hence the Freddie Gibbs problem) so don’t expect songs from YG(Left Right) or Doughboyz Cashout(I’m Dat N_) to blow you away. He needs a crew to fill in whatever spots on songs he’s not interested in filling but it doesn’t matter. Benihana is one of the more star studded songs (featuring 2 Chainz and Rocko) and it’s not even close to the best moment on the project. By the time you get to the super duper catchy In My Head you’ll be head nodding like someone under mind control. It’s Tha World 2 isn’t good or great its unbelievable. Every producer from Childish Major to Tony Rey to Drumma Boy and Mustard just hand over their best beats excited to see what will come out the other side.
My favorite lyrical image is on the song Birfday when Jeezy says “See I’m trying to get these units off then cop a flying saucer, come through w/ a Spanish B_#$ top down banging salsa.” The notion that on the other end of spending all this time in the kitchen and moving this weight is a smiling Jeezy with the top down riding somewhere with salsa music blaring from his car as he lets out a thirty second long YYYYEEEEEAAAAHHHHH is indelible.
For any fan of coke rap the coming together of Pusha T and Jeezy on Pure (with yet another of Big Krits amazing 2013 chorus assists) is the high point. The track (produced by Cam Wallace) whistles with D-boy Colombian flavor while hand claps propel it forward. As great as that song is the next one (Left Right) will have you jumping just as hard. After the second listen I decided that Its Tha World 2 is something I’m going to have to work hard at not listening too. My fingers will want to hit the play button on it everyday. All I can do is sit across from it and enjoy the mad voodoo of Jeezy somehow not being a part of any genre while cackling at the center of everything. Now I need to dig into his older stuff and see if it’s always been this good and my vision was obscured.
Download or stream Its Tha World 2 below:
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Tagged Big K.R.I.T., DJ Mustard, Doughboyz Cashout, Drumma Boy, Its Tha World 2, mixtape review, Pusha T, Southern Hip Hop, Trap Music, YG, Young Jeezy
Free EP Review- The Stage by Curren$y & Smoke Dza produced by Harry Fraud
As a supporter of the Jet Life movement I’ve always been realistic. Like most prolific artists Curren$y can sound listless at times; possibly a product of doing too much or the constant experimenting with different collaborators and producers. Sometimes the chemistry doesn’t have time to establish but when he needs to step up, he delivers.
As much of the spotlight as Curren$y got for his prolific output and Harry Fraud gets for mixing sticky sludge into the NY sound, Smoke Dza still doesn’t seem to be nearly as acclaimed as he should be. His delivery is one of the most emphatic in all of hip hop and his collaborators/peers know it. On the opening track (First Light) he seems to vengefully stab with every word and even though the Jet Life general leads off and lays down an impressive verse…the voice that rings in your mind is Dza.
No review of The Stage should go without focusing on the immaculate song 10 Bricks. If the narrative of this project is how focused the three primary components are then it makes sense on 10 Bricks that we get the most focused French Montana verse of the year and a dead serious pitch perfect Big K.R.I.T. chorus. Fraud composes richly orchestrated elements for the mid tempo funk of it. It’s the essence of the Jet Life experience; everyone vibes out and brings their best bars to the table.
The Stage is more than in-the-zone vibe out music. It’s a sampler meant to energize all the people that want another Pilot Talk or Rugby Thompson and in that regard it’s an unmitigated success. Every song has more than a few rewindable moments; like on Gifts where Smoke Dza says “Every boss once was the best student,” or in 10 Bricks where Curren$y recreates himself as Joe Namath in a fur coat. Not many people even know what the whole Jet Life term means. It’s an acronym meaning just enjoy this and that’s exactly what you should do.
Stream or download The Stage below:
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Tagged audiomack, Big K.R.I.T., Curren$y, ep reviews, French Montana, Harry Fraud, hip hop, Jet Life, mixtape reviews, Rugby Thompson, Smoke Dza, THe Stage EP, weed rap