Song review-Nipsey by Trae The Truth
I do not feel well. Generally, I am not a neurotic person. My mind is something I manage assertively but the beat on Trae The Truth’s song Nipsey sounds like the buzzing in my head ever since Nip passed. The light piano is the ever-present weeping of those of us that followed Hussle through his mixtape maturation. Everyone is shouting out Nipsey nowadays, at varying levels of stylishly being-in-the-know and authentically dealing. Figures that it would be Trae The Truth that broke me in half and brought me to tears on it.
It figures because this is the guy who punched Mike Jones and evolved into the man who organized the Relief Gang to save people during Hurricane Harvey. This is the kid of dude who only features with people that are known as legit people. You won’t see Trae featuring on a song with some purple haired episcopal white rapper named Ballbag. When the scariest voice in rap says “Damn, I never picture you leavin’ can’t stop the grievin'” it breaks me to pieces because it is perfectly the dark cloud over my head. Beyond prayer hand emoji’s whipped out for any loss of life… Nipsey was supposed to be old and wise and helping his whole coast!
This song is from Trae’s new album Exhale and the project is superb, maybe a little better than his awesome album last year, Hometown Hero. This isn’t the best song, to be honest, Even Tho Its Hard is entrancingly melodic heartfelt and tough. Trae is Scarfaces legacy pulled through Drakes melodic additions to the format. It is all very serious but it sounds beautiful.
I think that is why I trust him to break me in half and put me together every time I hear his dedication to his friend. The same way the kids at Woodbridge Forest Middle School were so relieved to jump into his truck and bail to safety during the hurricane. I rely on Trae (in a much more low stakes way!) to help me with grief in a way that keeps my head up with eyes on Hussle’s legacy and achievements. No guns, no needless tough talk.
Is it weird for me to get so emotional over someone I never met? Trae will understand. Trae and I share a belief that you must live with pain to see the other side of it and the songs we listen to, the people in our lives, the days that go right, are all pieces of the correct medicine. The “foundation of integrity” Nipsey speaks on in the ending audio clip is perfect for Exhale. A whole album where Trae flexes by doing what rappers can’t do anymore; step outside their brand. You see, Trae isn’t a brand. He’s a place. He’s Houston.
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Tagged best albums of 2019, Exhale, greiving, Hometown Hero, Houston, Hurricane Harvey, Nipsey, Nipsey Hussle, song reviews, Southern Rap, Trae Tha Truth, Trae The Truth
#Bandcampgold-That’s The World by Anti-Lilly and Phoniks
Being a philosophical person isn’t that fun. It’s thousands of persisting strands of concern intersecting and reproducing. This is part of the reason that dumb rappers tend to make albums that are more fun (depends on how you define fun). Fake deep hits the listeners sweet spot on the pop level. You get enough thought/detail to hold onto but not enough to bum you out. With the contorted soul landscape Phoniks has brought to life on their group project Anti-Lilly is completely free to haunt my brain with realizations about life that shake my own. At time on their new album, That’s The World, I have gotten genuinely emotional listening. Not because something went wrong… because the depth of what he points to in us that is wrong is historical present and terrifying.
Things you need to know
- Anti-Lilly whispers and if you can’t handle it I won’t hold it against you. Any rapper that chooses the subtle tones over the roar knows what they have signed up for. Not everyone’s cup of tea.
- You can call this a vibe. You could call it smooth. However you want to frame the sounds of this album they will not rock your car stereo, this isn’t built for your frat party. It doesn’t have a stand out BIG PIMPIN’ style single.
The rest of this review is dedicated to two songs. The features are up and down, the project is cohesive and rewarding upon relistens but I need to talk to you about these songs. I might never be able to listen to Father’s Day and hold myself together. This is because his story is so similar to mine. His struggle is one I am still going through. In the song he negotiates the anger he has with his father for treating his mother poorly, cheating on her “In my younger days I wanted to crack you for ever tear she had shed/ things you’ve done I could never forget.”, against the traits he sees in himself that his father gave him. “…Either way I’m blessed you brought us up/love is tough but because of you I never settled/learned my worth and got my work ethic from you.” When he says “Because of you to this day I’ve never cheated,” it shocked me. I’ve never cheated on anyone, even when we were casual, and I know it is because I experienced the way my father manipulated my mother in the later years of their marriage. Anti-Lilly, like me, has never been able to wrap his head around the ethics of it. The loyalty we all preach in male friendships yet the snaking around dudes do in heterosexual relationships. My biggest fear since I was eighteen years old is letting my people down. It’s because I watched a good man do it to everyone, that year. So that song is real good.
The Fall is even better. Phoniks balances the horns with the bass into a magical melody that feels utterly complete. Phoniks lives in Maine I live in Maine; I need to high five this dude outside of a Cumberland Farms one day. Anti-Lilly gives a heck of a first verse line after the hook. “The first time I got my @$$ whooped I was testin’ somebodies pride/ That N_ slid me ended up realigning mines/The second time I got my @$$ whooped tried to slam a N_ twice my size/ dressed in faith/That’s when I finally realized/ ain’t no ho up in my blood or in my eyes/ only pride.” As the beat resonates sounding like the hip hop version of the Jazz song that makes you think about your life, Anti-Lilly picks apart pride from different angles. In one bar he warns not “to let it get you F’d up/ to get in your way/don’t let it get overshadowed by voices saying you can’t.” He explains the negative side of pride clouding you as well as the confidence it can give you to drive forward(and overcome external or internal doubt) in a matter of seconds. Anti-Lilly thinks at a blinding speed which makes Phoniks so important. I need his hypnotizing soul music to manufacture that smooth ride because That’s The World is not a smooth ride for the heavily introspective attentive listener. It’s a lot but if you’re a philosophical thinker it’s such a relief to know your not worrying alone.
Stream or Download That’s The World below:
Song of The Year-I’ll Be Fine by Trae The Truth
More than any project before his new album Hometown Hero represents the uniqueness of Trae The Truth. His voice has always been raspy, stabbing, and relentless a fantastic guest feature flow to shake you from your comfort zone. Hometown Hero dresses itself to match. Thematically as honest as its narrator with features from people known for how real they keep it (TI, Boosie, Mozzy). Each song envelopes you in bass as he narrates harrowing stories that range from the stress of wearing awful clothes to the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. It is one of 2018’s best albums.
As great as the features are (particularly TI’s hook on Better Dayz) the song I’ll Be Fine is the absolute best. The hook stretches and relaxes as he explains the hurt and the strength/assurance he will use to move on. Trae wants to feel the pain of loss and not shut the emotions out but badly wants to control the pain. The verses carry that same conflict. He remembers the casket going into the ground in the first verse and wishes he could hug him one more time. As hard as Hometown Hero is it is still about caring deeply; for friends, family, about people who betray you, your own self-care, your city, state, world.
He swims along the deep bass and leaves any possibility of trunk rattling banger behind as he starts off with the verse, sung with both wistful distance and aged resilience. In Houston trunk rattling bass isn’t just for head banging anthems or turning up. Trae has always understood how valuable time is and he doesn’t waste verses. Hometown Hero is for us to understand that he has people he is talking to and if it seems too serious to you just listen to something else. When he shares stuff like “Time ain’t enough. Wish I could tell you how much it been rough. I had to face it. Everything through it was making me tough. My brother my friend everything bout me is still ABN loyal to death all till the day I’ma see you again.” It’s special because he has the fortitude to bleed in public emotionally without being at all manipulative. He’s not professionally sad instead he processes problems alongside blessings. Long live King Truth.
#Bandcampgold-MacGregor Park by Fat Tony
The bandcamp description says Fat Tony read a book on Houston hip hop and found out that the first rap single ever released in Houston was called MacGregor Park, which is where the title track and name of this album come from.
The resulting eight track project is one of my favorite finds of the year (as well as one of Bandcamp’s top 20 hip hop albums of 2017). Every beat slams in the way you would hope a Houston, Texas rap album would but in a really developed way. I love the wind instruments on Ride Home, the pounding bass on Swervin’ (a stupendous first track).
Tony is a no stress listen as master of ceremonies go. Even when he goes deep he never makes you grab the tissue box for a ham handed tearjerker. He nimbly and honestly discusses fights, food, weed and heavier topics with an earnest pitch in his voice and his pen “..swervin’ alone again back in the day, had no idea of who I really am back in the day made decisions I regretted then lie to your face, blame it all on another man I’m sorry ok…(Swervin’) ” Later when he says “you love me and my flaws I don’t even know why” he’s not sticking the landing of a backpacker line meant to signify how thoughtful he is, rather keeping his music representative of how he feels. While Taydex ,for the first 2 tracks, keeps the beats head nod centric.
I can’t tell you how much I love the Whataburger dedication Drive Thru. Part of this is that I lived in Killeen, TX for a year and now I live in Maine where the fast food options are to be pitied. I kind of miss 4 AM at Whataburger but the dedication Tony has to the song brings it back. Very few rappers are doubling their vocals to shout “Baked Potato!” God bless him for that. We should all shout baked potato more.
The other production force doing great work here is GLDN_EYE who produces the title track, Drive Thru, and Last Night. I don’t know if weird beats come to Tony or if Tony beckons them but GLDN_EYE gets it. Last Night sounds like old Nintendo theme music made into a reggae beat. The beat to Drive Thru sounds like the score for the movie Scarface done by Houston rap legend (my G.O.A.T.) Scarface.
What makes MacGregor Park so relistenable? It is expertly dexterous. The beats are so drastically different not just from what is on the radio but from one another that as an 8 song package it never gets boring to listen to. Tony is hooky melodic and utilizes his voice for as much singing as we are all comfortable with. He has fun, gets serious, gets scary (the park gets scary see the title track) but you always root for him to win. You get the impression that when he does really win he’ll still be eating Whataburger in first class.
Stream or purchase MacGregor Park below:
Six Degrees of Drake
The widespread success of Drake has caused the spread of a new sound. Does anyone remember when Ghostface Killah started doing sing heavy hooks and it was controversial? People were mad and questioning how hardcore his music was…now being able to sing or fake sing the chorus (sometimes several on one song) is mandatory. Thank Drizzy (and Kid Cudi) for that. The spread of this new sound has created a lane for like minded artists and some of them have put out some pretty great B-movie level mixtapes.
Gerald Walker-Yesterday You Said Tomorrow
I will be honest I used to listen to Gerald Walker and just laugh. He sounded just like Drake and stayed sing rapping about how dumb people were for thinking he sounded like Drake, over Drake beats. I downloaded every tape and actually looked forward to new projects just to be able to chuckle over the situation.
While I was chuckling Gerald Walker was making leaps and bounds. It doesn’t hurt that he can get a Cardo beat any time he wants (5 out of 11 on this project) or that he can switch into singing quite naturally. This is the most refined project in the history of Gerald Walker. He now has a cool detached bop to his flow that really suits him and the years in the game to justifiably teaching lessons on perseverance and patience on the hypnotically soulful Cant Have It All At Once “you don’t realize your worth nobody gotta give you sh__ if you want it go out and work. See I know N’s who got deals who was blessed to take the wheel and drive to they own success but they didn’t…shout out to Pill.”
All the funny things I looked for: the off-putting confessions, baffling missteps, and direct Drake lifts are gone. In place is a mixtape that glistens with professional polish from the balanced new school groove production feel to the perfect vocal mixing. I’ve listened to the song Nerves a thousand times and hummed it to myself in the supermarket. I used to suck my teeth when I saw Gerald Walker featuring on a track, shake my head when he sung his own name like it was the two most beautiful words he could think of. Now I’m singing along, so he wins.
Download or stream Yesterday You Said Tomorrow below:
Kirko Bangz-Progression IV
Kirko Bangz is NOT someone ripping off Drake. If he raps over every Drake beat for the rest of his career that’s something Drizzy OWES HIM. Kirko is actually from Houston. Remember Houston? That place Drake lifted his sound from.
Kirko turns the autotune most of the way up and belts out some straight up somebody-rockin-knockin-the-boots type music. They Don’t Know is perfect Houston 2014 booty music and the best part of Progression 4 is that Kirko is not nearly as emotionally cagey as Drizzy. Drizzy is half emotional half public relations expert for his emotions so every admission feels heavily vetted, Kirko just drops real live weirdness. Don’t Matter To Me is one of my favorite songs of 2014 so far. It starts like this “I heard about you baby but I ain’t worried bout you baby. I know some N’s had you fore I got you but it’s my time I got you baby. I head about the sh__ you did with Slim Thug. I heard Propain could have hit you at the club and I heard Doughbeezy had you on the southeast but let me tell you bout me. Girl I wouldn’t care if you was a prostitute and you hit up every rapper that I ever knew.” Only Kirko would make a catchy sexy jam about how many nasty things you can have done and still love him. Or make a song about how much he wants to bang Rihanna where he talks about her monkey in the first line (Love Rihanna). At one point in this mixtape he says he gets so much sex from lovely ladies he doesn’t have to do his chores. I don’t even understand that but I love it. Sometimes Kirko feels better than Drake not just cause he’s authentically Houston and brings B.A. Houston guests (Propain, Killa Kyleon) but because his music feels like what Drake would do if he lost his mind when he was drunk. Tell me you wouldn’t listen to that?
Stream or download Progression IV below:
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Tagged autotune, booty music, Cardo, Drake, Gerald Walker, Ghostface Killah, Houston, Houston hip hop, Killa Kyleon, Kirko Bangz, mixtape reviews, Progression IV, Rihanna, Six Degrees of Drake, Slim Thug, Yesterday You Said Tomorrow
Song Review-Fathers Day by Propain produced by Donnie Houston
For those not emotionally in touch with the subject matter this song deals with it may seem emotionally extreme. The loss of your father from your life (not due to death but knucklehead events) builds a savage hostility within that child that rather than subsiding…grows and grows with age.
This song is off the impressive Ridin Slab mixtape Propain recently released. The drawback on Propain is easy to explain, he’s rarely on beat. If you’re a technical snob you can glom onto that but the passion and intelligence that runs through Ridin Slab keeps it engaging when the flow fails.
Fathers Day showcases great storytelling, I love the moment fifty seconds into the song when he’s talking to the waiter about food and stops dead. It’s the glimpse of his father entering the restaurant that freezes him, that’s solid authorship.
The beat is twinkly piano keys and ooing, something warm and cute that might be behind a Boyz II Men song, it’s in perfect opposition to the confessional yelling that commences over top.
Ridin Slab has great beats, fun jams, impressive bars, and a vibrant soul. At the center of its beating heart is the sound of that heart monitor machine going flat and the pain doubling over into itself. This song is NOT representative of how Ridin Slab sounds, its got super fun tracks with Texas stars like Kirko Bangz, Slim Thug, Z-Ro and Doughbeezy. Amidst all the fun is a song that taps you on the shoulder and reminds you that we all earn the fun times with horrible events that leave scars. Ridin Slab gives you the fun only after you’ve earned it.