Mixtape Review-California Livin by YG x Blanco x DB Tha General produced by Cookin’ Soul
The success of the movie Straight Outta Compton is not just due to the heroism bestowed on N.W.A or the nostalgia we all feel for that exciting time in rap. While the movie stays away from the serious problems (Dr. Dre’s violent history with women) the rough edges are always at least partially visible. The movie owns the objectification of women that N.W.A. trafficked in. It owns that moment where Eazy-E is confused because only homosexuals get AIDS. The uncomfortably incomplete relationship those young men had with gender and sexuality is always a part of the journey for better and for worse.
In saluting that period of West Coast Rap YG, Blanco and DB Tha General put all of these themes on display again. Right from the DJ Drama introduction you can place the beat on Doggystyle. It’s an experience of déjà vu you will have over and over again (we even get the return of renowned fictional radio station WBallz). Driving Like I’m Loco pulls from The Chronic and Cookin’ Soul , the Spanish production team who produce the whole project, know exactly what they are doing by keeping their fingers pressed on your nostalgia button.
The cool thing about this mixture of MC’s is that they all have really weird voices. DB Tha General sounds like a cartoon character losing his mind, he has one gear and it’s the verbal whirlwind of the Tazmanian Devil. YG finally gets to sound the least weird because he does have gears and on Block Party (for example) he sounds cool , confident and in control.
Every song has a line that makes you shake your head and on Block Party its Blanco saying “I’m the bomb; Islamic.” On Mansion Party the first words of the first verse are “Whattup sluts?!” and it’s a bit much. I guess that is part of the journey, these three don’t see the sharp line that divides clever and awful and don’t have much interest in searching for it. They are just seizing fun however they can.
The strength of California Livin’ is that it acts as a sampler plate for these artists. It’s only thirty four minutes total (thirteen tracks with 4 interludes and an intro). It also doesn’t hurt getting a Fiend feature to go along with this weird voice combo platter. The G Thang track he appears on is pulsing and smooth perfect for the International Jones character to resurface for the chorus. Nipsey Hussle gives one hundred percent on LA Confidential. A track as snarling as LA Confidential with gunshot booms and 2pac looped is a wonderful environment for Nipsey. When he says “We don’t never say nothing about that big s—t we did we just see each other and nod and you know what it is” that’s about as West Coast conceptually as possible. Even the fun bravado songs are full of silent signals reflecting god knows what. As joyful as California Livin is its full of subtext about violence, gender, relationships and the nature of our nostalgia; it carries more with it then its length or tone would let on. If you loved Straight Outta Compton, this might be your companion piece.
stream or download California Livin below:
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Tagged 2015 mixtapes, Blanco, California Livin, Cookin' Soul, DB tha General, Doggystyle, Eazy E, Fiend, gender, mixtape review, sexuality, Straight Outta Compton, The Chronic, west coast hip hop, YG
Mixtape Review-Capolavoro by Fiend
If someone asked me why I love Fiends music so much I would be forced to flip the question. How could you not? If you hate Southern rap because you can’t forage through the heavy drawl of artists like Big KRIT you don’t need to worry about that. Do you detest the over-constructed love of violence in rap? Fiend makes sunny catchy hip hop infused with serious heart. Look at the song Hope off of his new mixtape Capolavoro which starts “My homegirl just lost her Momma I don’t know what to tell her, funeral to pay and still get the rent together…” very few rappers can mix their champagne and first class flight reality with grounded personal stories and hood images like fence jumping and malt liquor as well as Fiend.
In most cases rappers are looking to provide you a before and after picture. The old me was stuck in the hood, the new me is a BAAALLLLEEERRR. Fiend seems to dice the entire thing and mix chunks of memory in random order; switching from trips to the Virgin Islands and naked female statues on Say Whatcha Say that hearken back to the secret agent International Jones of 2011 to rampage D-boy determination on Going Get It. He sums it up best on Good Look when he says “I write my tomorrow and yesterdays” Fiend never lets a listener feel any distance from either. The Fiend who grew up desperate for the money to have nice shoes is the same individual who begins the title track cruising the Atlantic with a beautiful woman at arms length.
Finding flaws in Capolavoro is tough. The production makes great use of cooing samples and tender instrumentation feeding into charging drum patterns. Of the eight tracks the only production team to appear twice is Drum Gang (Palm Trees and Show Sum Love). When you see a mixtape where every song is produced by someone different but the sound is this cohesive you have to tip your hat to the artist and his team. Fiend knows the proper mixture of each projects sonic recipe, from 2011 till now every listener has been able to count on that.
Sure the production is great and Fiend can still bring a Barry White turn-down-the-lights chorus whenever he wants to sing one but the features are fabulous. MC Melodee is great, Shaw Monsta and Trey Woods fit perfectly and we get the triumphant No Limit reunion of Mo. B Dick and Fiend (on Palm Trees)! It’s a song with rich horns, and a valuable chorus assist from Cydnie, that you’d want playing as you lay in the sun by a freshly cleaned pool. In the past that’s been the point; you could recline to the Sweetest Hangover but Capolavoro has much more to say about the struggle of people around him. The tears and tragedy that earn you that sweet spot near the palm trees. It’s right there in the chorus “…when you feel there’s no other way I hope this takes you to a better place,” Fiend knows you don’t live a life with the same exotic richness he does and he makes this kind of music to infuse the struggle and gorgeous success he feels into you. Even if it’s just for three minutes and fifty seven seconds; why would you want to miss out on that?
Stream or Download Capolavoro below:
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Tagged Barry White, Capolavoro, Cydnie, Fiend, International Jones, Jet Life, MC Melodee, mixtape review, Mixtape Review-Capolavoro, Mo B Dick, Shaw Monsta, Southern Hip Hop, The Sweetest Hangover
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:
Fiend-Lil Ghetto Boy mixtape review
When Fiend made his full on comeback by releasing 5 mixtapes in 2011 under his International Jones (rap game James Bond) character we here at FME were all in. The engaging parts of the comeback broke down like this a) a new flow out of nowhere that sounded fantastic b) multiple top level mixtapes in a year c) each mixtape had an unrecognizable level of coherent slickness to it. Sometimes Fiend would be singing or rapping or both and you weren’t sure if this even counted as rap. It seemed connected to something totally different.
When his new mixtape Lil Ghetto Boy dropped, all the major music critics took to twitter with resounding approval even going so far as to say this is the project that will bring Fiend to the next level. All I heard on the first listen was questionable mixing and a less coherent lengthier project with a lot of gems. The Fiend I fell hard for in 2011 is absolutely here on tracks like Lil Sumptin(with Mouse On The Track) or Just Groovin(with Devin the Dude) and that persona is still polished as ever “Low mileage roadster headlights alone make you think you need a chauffer, 500 horses in that motor, vocalist version of Humphrey Bogart (Lil Ghetto Boy),” in this same song he refers to himself as professor of his sexual interests pressure points. The No Limit Fiend pushes International Jones off the track from time to time and yells WHOMP WHOMP, launching the determined rasp flow. Both flows are fantastic but the combination is jarring.
After repeated listens it’s become apparent that this is the mixtape for people who weren’t aware of Fiends versatility. With project after project of smooth sailing people forgot how hard Fiend can go, which makes songs like Perm N Uzi and No Apologies special. A lot of folks might have pegged the latter collaboration with Styles P as another occasion for Pinero to murder someone on their own track but it does NOT work out like that. Fiend goes hard and the two run at a feverish, spit your words out pace. Its one of the b The production is as diverse as his flow mixture sometimes easy like Sunday morning and just as soulful, at other points almost trap but can you really call it that? Wasn’t Fiend doing trap before they called it trap?
It turns out that this is a coherent mixtape. The two divergent musical faces of fiend are saying the same thing. On Lil Ghetto Boy Anthem he talks about poverty and violence in his hard WHOMP WHOMP flow “When I roll up these leaves I find myself reminiscing, it was baseball caps and bats now its silencers on gats…” while on The Coolest he’s International Jones but sharing how symbolic new shoes are to him. It’s still Jones talking about the ghetto and America the way he grew up knowing it. I was so spoiled living in the Tennis Shoes and Tuxedos world of International Jones that I wasn’t ready for him to pull the curtain back. By the end of Lil Ghetto Boy its all explained “…allow mind travel even when the present conditions are so bleak(Violent Violins).” The whole International Jones personality is escape and Lil Ghetto Boy still gives you that but its not afraid to wake you up from it to give full pictures of survival through poverty.
Lil Ghetto Boy showcases all of Fiend, every lane he has to choose from. In a way all of them lead back to the lessons learned from street life, if you go back and listen to his old No Limit verses they always have.
You can stream or download Lil Ghetto Boy below: