Song Review-Figure It Out by Wiz Khalifa produced by Sledgren & Cookin’ Soul
I love Wiz Khalifa’s first album Show and Prove released in 2006. He was a 19 year old kid spitting fire and I loved his bars. It was not always an easy process watching him become this generations Snoop. By Kush and OJ I’d figured it out like everyone else but I still miss hungry Pittsburgh Sound Khalifa.
It might be weird to write about him now, a lot of important critics have probably pronounced his latest album Laugh Now, Fly Later another Khalifa album to ignore. I like it. It is the first post-monoculture Khalifa album. Laugh Now, Fly Later accepts that the spotlight he was trying to get back isn’t even there anymore. At this point he just needs to do what Curren$y does and focus on keeping his fans laced; the rest is what it is.
Songs like Stay Focused and City of Steel are back in any fans comfort zone. My favorite of all is Figure It Out. I am a documented Cookin’ Soul nut (don’t sleep on Sledgren either). This beat feels like a Caribbean beach. Not only is Wiz in Rolling Papers form when singing the chorus, but it’s about something. The chorus is
“Sometimes things ain’t gon work out
How you think you want it to go
Sometimes you gotta keep going
When you think you can’t no more
Sometimes you can’t depend on
Who you think you can no more
Sometimes you gotta try, gotta try and
Figure it out”
He masters the tone of determined faith and energy while maintaining a meditative level of chill. You can hear him getting mad at people trying to derail him and letting go of that anger. Lyrically you can see it in the end of the second verse. “Goals, set em, achieve em/ Joints smoke em and leave em/ Ten toes, no matter the season/ Hot tub with my feet in/ Living comfortably cheesing.” Figure It Out is the Wiz we need. Every generation needs it’s Snoop; someone to buck the traditional RA-RA chest beating cadence and give you something to ride the speed limit to. For Wiz he’s at his best when he can give you the mood and some verses that mean something to him. I hope he’s building to that place and he can give us his own variation on Blue Carpet Treatment.
Mixtape Review-The Motivational Speech by Curren$y & Lex Luger
Simple story: 2 critically important figures in the history of hip hop link up and prove to the world why they had the power to change it in the first place. If you roll back through Luger’s best beats none of them are timestamped or outdated. Luger changed how trunks rattled forever he redefined loud for a generation and he’ll never lose that touch. From the opening song of The Motivational Speech (Get to It) the bass comes like a tsunami and the 808’s dance over top of the waves.
In six songs Curren$y manages to add an important paragraph to his legacy. When his brilliant Pilot Talk series was reissued in one set we all had to reassess Spitta’s place in history. Back when he was dropping projects fast and furious the rep was that he was a rap machine who could drop an EP every week. The Motivational Speech highlights a very different aspect of the New Orleans legend (sorry, all time great MC). As underground and independent as he is Curren$y has smash hit songs that stick in your head and form a titanic playlist. From 2010’s Michael Knight to 2012’s Armoire to 2015’s Bottom of The Bottle to 2017’s Pressure or In The Lot. So many songs here are hooky melodic and sing a long worthy but each has the same lyrically unique perspective that draws you in. On Michael Knight Spitta said “I got high’d up so I could autograph the sky.” It set him apart in that he could bring tension hostility and danger to his verses but he also knew how to release it and marvel at the world.
He’s utilized that durability time and time again working with every important producer: Alchemist, Harry Fraud, TM88, Ski Beatz, Cool & Dre, Cookin’ Soul & on & on. He is always his own “so offbeat I’m back onbeat” self but the textures are different. Luger brings out the teeth, paranoia, and deep determination he first committed to history on the most beautiful album about asserting independence (Pilot Talk). I love The Motivational Speech and I would love more collaboration between Luger and Spitta but I love just about every major project he releases. If he wants to make a more polished radio friendly Canal Street Confidential or talk fly @$$ ISH like Legend of Harvard Blue I’m too deep into appreciating to send requests. I love all directions of Spitta.
It is magic to hear an elite MC slay a Luger beat again. Luger proves to be the southern Just Blaze. Let The Motivational Speech teach you how to Just Enjoy This life.
Stream or download The Motivational Speech below:
Song Review-Heard Dat by Smoke Dza produced by Harry Fraud
When a sound is described as “nostalgic” no part of that is complimentary. They are inferring that it spins its wheels by replicating an old sound that we all miss and want back without moving at all into the future. It gets tossed around far too much by hip hop hipsters who write for notable tastemaking websites to describe just about anything that doesn’t fit the narrative they have tried to create. Smoke Dza has already gotten that review for his new 9 song project with Harry Fraud He Has Risen and will definitely find it written again. I am likely much more up in arms about it than either of them.
He Has Risen is not the celebrated sound of the day. It is not muddy, depressed, hedonistic, or weird for its own sake. The funny thing: Smoke Dza was considered an oddity at the outset of his career being a Harlem rapper with a very southern delivery and running with Curren$y. Rap has gotten so much weirder that on this album he’s being framed like Joey Bad@$$…as a golden age throwback.
Harry Fraud is a genius. The sharp jazzy influence on Heard Dat never waters down the thickness of the Fraud sound it just swims overtop of it. Amidst the gooey chunks of bass Dza stamps down on every word declared. Dza doesn’t fit into the conscious rapping genius or trap groupings but he snarls and moves the crowd. He’s better on this than on Dream Zone Achieve. Together they give you a nine song bridge leading from Ghostface to Wiz Khalifa, from the era hip hop heads grew up on to the one Kendrick is setting the pace for. The last time these two sounded this good was on 2012’s Rugby Thompson, which for my ears is an off-the-grid classic.
Maybe this sound is underground… if that’s true you should really ask yourself if the difference between underground and the other option is simply having any appreciation for the history of the art. Is any hint of jazz or soul going to push that nostalgia button? Is cold, dead isolation the new popular sound? If that’s the case long live the underground.
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Tagged Curren$y, Dream Zone Achieve, Harry Fraud, He Has Risen, Joey Bada$$, New York Hip Hop, Nostalgia, NY Hip Hop, Rugby Thompson, Smoke Dza, Song Review
Mixtape Review-The Owners Manual by Curren$y
It has not been easy to review mixtapes lately. While a lot of people are pleased as punch to see the upcoming on datpiff become available a lot of it sounds the same. Putting together daily playlists of new mixtapes I have more often than ever had to double check who I’m listening to. Which guy is this again?
I know why it’s happened; money tightened up industry-wide and that means a lot of artists are peaking at the smart kids test for help. Lot of people sound like Gucci or Waka or Drake; at some point the knock offs hurt the value of the original. I would love to be more excited for the new Future mixtape but everyone is doing Future. I can’t get away from his sound.
The Owners Manual is a great example of what I love about Curren$y, the richness and difference of his perspective and the uncompromising oddity of his flow and song structure. He makes references other people wouldn’t think about. On his last album 2015’s Canal Street Confidential (fantastic album) he’s flirting with a woman and says in his head “She looks like Lisa Lisa, I’ma take her home.” Where most rappers would have jammed in an Aaliyah reference Spitta has a whole different thought pattern.
The Owners Manual is a perfect follow up to his classic Pilot Talk album. While that collection of music was an articulation of the drive it takes to be a successful independent artist, this mixtape is the guide on how to handle being there. All throughout Spitta shares the everyday struggles of his happily ever after. Rain Stunts is a great example where he swings back and forth from saluting his progress to mumbling about how he didn’t change THEY did. “When you see me in it, know why I did it to show you you can get it if you stay committed. No country for quitters you’ll be eaten my N_” he mourns not being able to pass the weed to friends who passed away, that no money can bring them back. None of it ever feels overreaching or guilty of gooey sentiment, this is Curren$y so it’s just sparklingly conversational.
As blissfully soulful as the Cool & Dre production is, as gorgeously spun into the beat as these samples are…The Owners Manual has a lot of emotional shifting for six songs. Song five (Forecast) is blistering not just in the force of Spitta’s commitment to succeed but the paranoia. He worries “the police is on the internet downloading mixtapes tryin’ to get tips” and threatens ominously “Don’t try nothin’ funny crash test dummy or you’ll see your dealing with more than me.” That song pivots right into the last song (Mallory Knox) which is the most finger snapping Zapp & Roger soulful we get on the project. It’s rich and gratifying and a purely proper end for the project.
Curren$y has a musical intelligence that is hard to even estimate. Consider all the incredible producers he’s worked with: Ski Beatz, Alchemist, Cookin’ Soul, Cool & Dre somehow he always gets their best work. Is it something about him that makes them give up the good beats? Does he just have a great ear and won’t let wack beats in? Either way he’s a mixtape hall of famer and the only rapper who put out a mixtape in 2016 (so far) with a serious Batman reference “Umbrella in the door jammed, back just like Batman (Forecast).” Sometimes I think he’s so consistent that we are missing how brilliant each step is. Either way, he has been unique in an engaging way and so unique that he’s incredibly difficult to copy; tip the hat for that.
Download or Stream The Owners Manual below:
Free Album Review-Pilot Talk 3 by Curren$y
On the Opening Credits (the first track) of Pilot Talk 3 Curren$y references his lost relationship to savagely independent hip hop mogul Dame Dash “then I tried to start a business with Damon…charge that to the game, learned some things…” he implies the money wasn’t right. My initial thought was a wish that it worked out. I like the idea of a loud business dude standing in front of the world shouting about how talented Curren$y Is, because he needs that. He’s so low key and easy going that he can seem unimpressive when he’s making magic. While stylistically muted his gift of imagery is in a special class, listen to how he starts Audio Dope 5 “Bunsen Burners, laboratory beakers pour it in the speakers…” the way his mind works is one of the true draws for Pilot talk 3.
The other draw is the production. Ski Beatz is masterful as ever crafting corridors of tough sonic minimalistic golden age East Coast grime on Audio Dope 5 or warm Bossanova hip hop on Search Party but he’s not the only one doing great work. As rich and soulful and hard-hitting as Ski is, Cool & Dre are able to take that feeling and kick it up ten or fifteen miles an hour. Pot Jar hums and knocks and moves at a pace that pushes Jadakiss (another famously great guest verse) and Curren$y to move out of that summer beach music space into a zone where they can see banger from where they stand. Ski Beatz produces seven songs, Cool & Dre are behind five and the mixture is perfect. The consistency is so thickly layered that other producers like Joey Fatts and Jahlil Beats fit in. Maybe the most profoundly eye opening first listen of a beat is Froze by Harry Fraud. It doesn’t really matter how you feel about Riff Raff, this beat is so damn ugly/attractive full of that lumpy bassy sludge that Fraud traffics so well. It’s exactly what the tape needs, a song that stands way the heck out from the rest.
While you can bang Froze in the car or work out to Pot Jar most of Pilot Talk 3 is meant to be played with your feet up and your head gently nodding or laughing with people at a barbeque. Even his bragging tracks like All I Know are stated so matter of factly that it doesn’t feel like bragging.
This was released last week but I didn’t want to review it at that time. I wanted to listen again and again and again until every inch was a space I knew and loved. You have to give Curren$y that kind of listen to really gauge the staying power of the music. It has so many lines that catch you after they pass like when he writes a million dollar verse on a napkin while waiting for his Baked Alaska (see Get Down). It’s all seamless, fifteen songs with no rough edges. The track sequencing makes it feel like ten and when it finishes you have to do it again. I gave someone Pilot Talk 3 to listen to and they responded back part way through the first song “wow” the only response I had was “It’s good to have this Curren$y back.” If you know what I mean, you know what I mean.
Stream or Download Pilot Talk 3 below:
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Tagged 2015 mixtapes, baseshare, Bossanova, Cool & Dre, Curren$y, Harry Fraud, Jadakiss, Jahlil Beats, Joey Fatts, Mixtapes, Pilot Talk 3, Riff Raff, Ski Beatz
Mixtape Review-Prohibition by Berner & B-Real
Mixtapes give upcoming artists a chance to put together something that purely reflects them; not vetted by record executives and plotted for the radio. It also gives the major and middle class artists a chance to drop something cool out of nowhere. Prohibition falls into the second category. Far from a tear-soaked confessional Berner and B-Real come together for a merry celebration of legalized marijuana (in Colorado and other places).
If you need proof this is an A-list event just look at the track listing. Features include Devin The Dude, Snoop Dogg, and multiple stuck in your head hooks from Wiz Khalifa (not to mention a production credit from Harry Fraud).
Berner has been a commodity for a while. His flow moves at a trudge but he knows what good rap sounds like (evidenced here by co-production credit on Faded). His slower assured flow finds a perfect fit in front of B-Real’s pinched voice and faster pace on Prohibitions first song Shatter. Berner is one of those perfectly self sufficient dudes who makes a great musical accomplice. Not only is he used to doing it all himself but his sound is big enough to welcome just about anyone comfortably in it. On Faded (which samples my favorite Jay-Z beat) Berner ends the first verse with a cool tip of the hat to B-Real “sh#t I burned my first joint to…Cypress Hill” acknowledging that you will likely listen to this for B-Real and he’s fine with that. He is the Arn Anderson to B-Real’s Ric Flair (#prowrestlingreference).
Cozmo and Maxwell Smart keep things moving with big screen production that pulses and pounds like a speaker avalanche. All the hooks are super catchy and everyone knows what Prohibition is supposed to achieve. Fun. Beyond the excitement of big names and sweet hooks over car rattling beats its great to have B-Real back.
It was Method Man who said once when you are dope your always dope you don’t lose that. I don’t agree. If you don’t move, your muscles turn to mush and if you don’t spit dope verses….you lose your place in the process of creating them. It takes time to get it back and a lot of veterans don’t ever get it back. Over the last few years B-Real has been WORKING. His guest verse on the Curren$y track ET was remarkable when compared to low points on Stoned Raiders. I don’t think new school artists like Khalifa, Curren$y, and Berner are propping the old dog up. It’s the opposite. B-Real is determined to be dope. He sounds right at home on the Taylor Gang pimptastic anthem Breeze. He can still rip through a hardcore beat but he doesn’t need too. He’s adept enough to adapt without sounding corny. This is still the B-Real that spit smoker verses from your old boom box into the smoke clouds of your cold garage. For proof listen to him on 1 Hit “I got a dab on the nail…inhale. Got the flavors flowing outta my lungs when I exhale. Man I’m riding on a cloud hovering over the crowd…” that could have been from the Friday soundtrack. All that Prohibition achieves it does in only 8 tracks with the title track being a skit. It’s a concise love letter to not only weed but the weed song and all the surreal lushness of its landscape. I’ve never smoked marijuana in my life but man do I love a weed song. The high points of Prohibition are enough to cause a contact high.
Stream of download Prohibition below:
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Tagged B-Real, Berner, Curren$y, Cypress Hill, Devin The Dude, Friday soundtrack, Harry Fraud, Method Man, mixtape review, Prohibition, Snoop Dogg, Stoned Raiders, Taylor Gang, weed songs, west coast hip hop, Wiz Khalifa
Mixtape Review-Route the Ruler by Young Roddy
Rappers always want to join prestigious crews but imagine the reality of it. You run with the Jet Life crew underneath the guidance of Curren$y who has been making music so long he was signed to Moses (and dope back then). Meanwhile Smoke Dza is snarling and snowballing confident slam dunk smash mouth tracks over the best production in NY. Did I mention that Fiend is dropping at least one mixtape a year where he switches between Barry White singing and No Limit era Fiend bar destruction…what’s so special about you? That’s the problem Young Roddy faces down on his new mixtape Route the Ruler. His proximity to these larger figures has made him seem smaller, his reviews always address him in diminishing terms as Spitta’s mini-me or sidekick.
Route the Ruler is ice cold, confident, riding music with no off putting features or beats that don’t fit. It is perfectly within itself and centered on the polished production of Blair Norf (who produces six out of the twelve tracks) and the religious determination of our narrator to succeed. “..and I hope this high don’t never come down. When I had sh#* them hoes ain’t never come around. A true D-boy don’t ya’ll ever cut me down. A prince turned king when you see me you should bow (Charge It To The Game).” Young Roddy builds his thesis song after song that the desire for him to have money is not horrifyingly materialistic or gaudy it’s the American dream. A dream of professional success, proud family, and prosperity that carries for generations. How is his desire for success any different or less honorable than any other aspiring businessman? This is laid back success music for those that have succeeded or feel they haven’t yet but must today.
While moving forward and getting money he reflects with a chuckle that he understands why he’s not on the radio and with seriousness when he talks about how birthdays were the worst while in poverty (Chain Smoke). This isn’t one of those mixtapes where the rapper espouses a lifestyle that doesn’t seem realistic or how an adult would live. The content is forcefully mature. A product of an overwhelming desire that starts with the Intro.
Over the sensible thirteen track project it’s hard to find anything that stands far above anything else (maybe Baby which is pretty darn triumphant) but it all fits and suits its purpose. Absolutely nothing goes wrong. The only features are Smoke Dza, Fiend, and Curren$y all doing exactly what you’d want them to do. The sampled soulful moan on Money behind Roddy’s insistent chorus, earnest two minute relationship tribute on Loyalty and infinitely listenable lesson in flow on Ridin all become glue tracks. A team of scrappy underestimated veterans that know exactly what the mission is; if this mixtape was an NBA championship team it would be the 2004 Detroit Pistons; deeply slept on with Rip Hamilton moving off the ball slipping three pointers in as his defender swears under his breath, media people scratching their head looking for the superstar…the narrative. The only people not in shock as the trophy gets raised are the team on the platform. Young Roddy would tell you that’s exactly how it feels to Route the Ruler.
Stream or Download Route The Ruler below: