#Bandcampgold-Malik Ruff by Quadry
Malik Ruff is an album I really like. I don’t have it numerically placed on my list of year end albums yet (it just came out November 2nd) but I really like it. The project washes over you. It balances a distinct ambiance that soaks your sonic pace and tempo with a real balanced perspective. Quadry gives us the joy of New Orleans bounce (he’s from Baton Rouge) on Louis and Pirelli. Both songs gives us permission to rock back and throw our head bop into high gear. Louis relies on the fun of yelling out “2!” which is very fun but Pirelli provides a distorted vocal bridge and lyrics upon lyrics. The song is a real talent showcase. Hot Headed is even better lyrically tackling political mayhem and how it causes our depression. The ambiance I referenced is like a mixture of Organized Noize and Tribe Called Quest. A lot of these songs don’t trample forward but thump at a beautiful pace. 1:04 PM is a great example, produced by Steve Lacy of The Internet, it is a tight song rich with guitar and a great chorus. His smoking and drinking and having fun takes place alongside his rumination about life and depression.
Malik Ruff does me the great service of never demanding I skip a song. Everything is perfectly placed and while I don’t recognize any of the guests featured (BoyBoy, Tev’n ,Anjelihs, Ida’ye, Black Party, Teo Halm) none of them bring weed carrier energy to the project. Everyone is here for a reason. It has snarling attack-the-night music (24/7) and very personal thoughtful material (Wesley ‘For My Son’). I bought this album halfway through the first listen. I just need it with me on days when I don’t feel hype or savage or maudlin or reflective but twenty five percent of each. Dudes like this don’t break enormous. They become Big K.R.I.T., a respected cult leader of music that just sounds different, a hushed name thrown out in response to “Who could possibly be as good as (insert pop rap superstar)!? ”
Stream or purchase Malik Ruff below:
Song of The Year-Recognize by Bun-B featuring TI & Big K.R.I.T. produced by Big K.R.I.T.
I’ve made the argument that the pop sphere is larger than it has ever been due to the ability to find anything. The gatekeeper role of radio and upper level music executives isn’t anywhere near as important…but I’m willing to make the opposite argument now. I think it is possible that due to trending patterns on social media we have less pop music than we ever have before. What happens is a new album drops (maybe its Eminem maybe its Nicki Minaj) it is just the largest name that week and that album gets blogged about and all caps shouted at by the whole world. So that giant internet information space turns out to be a giant garage with one car parked in it.
So while people were coming up to me saying “What do you think about this Eminem?!” I was shrugging and asking them if they had heard Bun-B’s new album Return of The Trill to blank stares. Firstly, I thought all the hip kids were pro-UGK now…shouldn’t we be supporting? Second, all the criticisms of Eminem’s Kamikaze are resolved within Return of The Trill. Bun asserts himself without discounting the younger generation.
Production wise Bun linked with his greatest musical partner post-Pimp, Big K.R.I.T. The Mississippi mastermind produces half of the fourteen songs on Return of The Trill. In movies, TV, books whenever the South is portrayed it is either an authentic take or reeks of artificiality. You can tell when you press play if no one involved in making it actually knows or cares about the South. K.R.I.T. makes beats that are deeply southern with gospel flair (see Traphandz) and the same kind of speaker shaking movement peak UGK brought to the speaker.
These beats fit Bun like the perfect coat. On his best lyrical performance (Recognize) he steps up to the microphone and says “My wordplay is intricate influence significant motherf**kin’ magnificence and my influence is integral charismatic and sensual f**king up your centrifugal. With trill pumping all through my ventricles gladiators and sentinals peep you through the peripherals. I see you p**sy n___as out the optical catch yo ass when its optimal…” The song is one of the year’s best moments and while the album might get a firm friendly handshake critically it won’t get to be POP and you can justify that in lots of ways. You could say that pop music should be this or that and Bun doesn’t fit those parameters. Whatever. Return of The Trill isn’t the best album of the year but it’s better than the junk we spend so much time yapping about.
After you watch the video up top check out Bun breaking down the bars
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Tagged Big K.R.I.T., Bun-B, Eminem, hip hop, Kamikaze, Nicki Minaj, pop music, Return of The Trill, Texas hip hop, TI, trending, UGK, underground hip hop
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