Song of The Year-College Girls by P-Lo featuring Skizzy Mars
People who love fun hip pop music were a little let down by Lil Yachty’s debut album Teenage Emotions which turned out to be oppressively long and confusingly muddled with several elements that don’t serve Yachty well. If you are looking for the album to fill what Yachty was supposed to achieve P-Lo has done it with his new album More Than Anything.
It’s not fair to compare Yachty to P-Lo because the latter is a veteran who has worked closely with IAMSU for years and helped build the ratchet sound. P-Lo produces his own music as well as handing out bangers to other people. He knows exactly what works about his sound and builds on it without straying from it.
College Girls is the best example of P-Lo cracking the code on an earwig hit. The autotune isn’t overwhelming; the content is playfully sexual but not insulting. The baseline is amazing. Neither Yachty nor P-Lo are the world’s best MC but both have the ability to give the listener what they want, I vote for More Than Anything not just because it is six songs shorter but it is a tight shot group of the fun P-Lo knows I want to have. All the guests are in the right places. He’s been around too long to worry about proving anything. For P-Lo every song needs to win and as a listener I appreciate that.
Mixtape Review-Biggie Smalls EP by IAMSU & AkaFrank
The first lie of art is that you should always work harder on your weakness than your strength. Sounds good for a teacher to tell a kid but it’s not reasonable for a grown up at all. Why would you spend most of your energy on something that will never be your strength? Why not work hardest at what you do best to reach new levels of doing that well? In a year where every artist is exploring their dark side (Future, Big Sean, etc) Biggie Smalls EP finds IAMSU taking what he does best and turning it way up to levels of fun that touch his last true masterpiece, the 2012 mixtape Kilt.
Some of the fun is how much IAMSU likes working with other MC’s (in this case Northern California’s AkaFrank) and producers (in this case HIMTB production team). Instead of finding some sort of think piece ready despair and inner pain subject matter, we jump in with the first song What The Bay Like and it feels like 78 degrees with palm trees. AkaFrank is cool but not stiff and Su provides one of his most chantable hooks. Out of eight songs this is the projects second best (and the best is last).
IAMSU is at his very best when he has crafted the melody and production just right so that the music has an indestructible digestibility to it. Hi Def of HIMTB produces not only the fantastic What The Bay Like but Backwoods & Back Rubs which is classic mid-tempo ratchet (and mid-tempo ratchet needs Kool John). AkaFrank also gets production credit for Lane Switching which manages to be both haunting and rambunctious. Su gives an autotune soaked gem of a chorus but if you haven’t heard of AkaFrank before this project you may want to hit the search engines. The more listens you get the more capable and strategic his word placement is, the smarter his decisions are.
It might seem unique that both vocal stars produced songs (IAMSU produced the last two: Show You What’s Real and Whatever) but it goes back to the spirit of collaboration. These guys love working together and tweaking everything to the height of its spaciousness.
I know Biggie Smalls EP doesn’t cover any serious topics and its digestibility is its calling card but let me put this a different way. Dr. Dre put out Compton, his first album since 2001 and it sounds glorious it sounds like California feels…but not as much as Biggie Smalls does. Biggie Smalls through production; melody and personality makes you feel the sunshine and the creepy night driving. The best song is a bonus song left over from 2008 called Whatever that shimmers and warbles gloriously and without a malicious bone in its body. Both of these dudes just want dope shoes, attractive sexual partners and a great day to go along with it. That’s the heart of the bay sound. My fingers are still crossed for an IAMSU E-40 collaborative album that would play in my headphones forever.
Stream or Download Biggie Smalls EP below:
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Tagged 2015 mixtapes, AkaFrank, bay area hip hop, Compton, Dr. Dre, E-40, Hi Def, HIMTB, IAMSU!, Kilt, Kool John, livemixtapes, mid tempo ratchet, rachet, west coast hip hop
Mixtape Review-HBK Gang-Gang Forever
I can think of a lot of things the HBK Gang compilation isn’t. It’s not a taut concept record, something that feels like an album given for free. At the same time it’s certainly not a lazy collection of freestyles. The only thing I can think to compare it too is an outrageous musical house party with yelling and red cups and hook ups all over the place. Just like a packed house party it’s hard to keep track of who is in the room. At any given time you could be hearing CJ, P-Lo, Kool John, IAMSU!, Skipper, Sage The Gemini, Rossi, Jay Ant, Kehlani, Dave Steezy, Mike Dash-E and guess what…they are all rapping about the same thing. Almost every verse contained within Gang Forever relates to hooking up and who you plan to hook up with.
Most label compilations are trying to showcase the diversity and talent of the roster. This is not the case with rapping on Gang Forever. Since everyone is talking about the same thing and only one (IAMSU) has a transcendent flow the rest become a somewhat indistinguishable posse. Gang Forever showcases a brilliant diversity of production however. P-Lo does a remarkable job taking the legendary Message beat from Grandmaster Flash and filling it with hand claps and moving it into the ratchet genre on Can’t Hold Me Down. Jay Ant kicks off the speaker destruction with the beat for Go Crazy and SU jumps all over the beat. Not only does SU do the best rapping on Gang Forever but he contributes multiple slapping backdrops. She Ready is an example of his excellent production, it burbles and kicks into another wonderful IAMSU hook. Don’t let anyone tell you that ratchet production begins and ends with DJ Mustard. As talented as he is Rick Rock, Jay Ant, IAMSU, League of Starz, and a gang of others are just as good.
Every single song on the seventeen track mixtape feels like the smash lead single. It’s just as impressive as it is tiring. If you want to call it one note you are accurate but it’s proudly and admirably so. If HBK songs all sound the same they at least sound like one fantastically fun song.
I was certainly worried about playing this collection in the car with my wife. Any collection of music that includes the line “I’m up in your girl like mixed emotions” might not appeal to female listeners. My strategy was to skip right to the song Anita Baker and start from there. While it is true that Anita Baker does include the line “I’m a slide in it no I can’t swim but I dive in it. She got them thick thighs I’m dividing them.” The beat from HBK Joe is so gently soulful and the chorus is integrated with the sample so seamlessly that the experience of listening to it is like passing a painting at an art gallery and feeling your feet freeze you in front of it. Some things are just spellbinding. My wife felt similarly.
Having listened to SOOO much HBK music over the past two years I feel confident giving an “After IAMSU who is the next to blow?” power rankings
1.CJ-very good rapper and beat picker
2.P-Lo-great producer getting better as a rapper
3.Skipper-flow is very slow, slow sex jokes are creepy
I’m not including Kool John. Kool John is a whole other organism. A write up for a different time.
Stream or Download Gang Forever below:
Jay Ant-Blue Money Mixtape Review
Blue Money is the coolest mixtape I’ve heard in a long time, cooler than the new curren$y mixtape(New Jet City) and that’s hard to do. Its all due to Jay Ant who exercises complete control whether its singing a half laughed version of R. Kelly’s You Remind Me of My Jeep, producing almost all of the 16 track mixtape (with help from The Invasion IAMSU! and others), or maintaining that stone cold, leveled off flow. The cumulative effect is that feeling you get when you go to buy a new air conditioner and feel the change from your hot musty domain to the perfectly engineered chill air of the department store.
The obvious negative point to make with Blue Money would be a lack of lyrical heavy lifting. In response I would just turn up the beat to Online and listen to it crash like dinosaurs late for the tip off of a playoff game. Blue Money is the best produced mixtape so far this year, hands down. While Jay Ant isn’t dropping Can-I-Bus level complexity he has a durable flow and manages to always play to his strengths. He pushes his voice to sing when it helps but doesn’t push it too far. The things he does say all abide by a Lebowski-like code “I’ma tell you what it is, never what it was ho (World Level Three),” a lot of these tracks are about girls, being in the moment and having fun.
The sonic world of rap seems currently torn between Trap and Ratchet. Pressure seems to drive everyone to jump into one camp or the other. Wiz went Ratchet for Cabin Fever 2, Juelz Santana and Pusha T clearly moved towards Trap on their latest efforts. Jay Ant has always been a fantastic producer but this time he found a free space in hip hop away from all these sounds that no one was using. It’s more up-tempo than Sounwave or Tae Beast(the TDE crew) but not anywhere near the sharp breakneck slap of the work Problem or IAMSU! do with the League of Starz.
Being a great MC is about creating an environment for great music, so you get credit for the great beat, because you picked it (or in this case helped make most of them). You get credit for the catchy chorus and for not screwing up the pace of the song with your flow. Even if you make the case that Blue Money is about style, it’s got more style than I could have ever imagined.
In a hip hop landscape full of yelling and jarring ad-libs the kind of complete calm authority Jay Ant exercises over tracks like Smoothe where the finger snaps lay casually over the synthetic undulation of a beat is more than commendable; Its great art. I have to consciously stop myself from over-listening to Blue Money because I could easily play it all the way through over and over until my wife stages an intervention. It’s addicting mood music. I love that Jay Ant figured out how to do something completely different. The samples don’t stick out with jagged edges they are woven into a tapestry. The determination to steer his music in the right direction is still there in the chorus to the last track Dreams_Promises and almost every verse before that. It’s about not letting anyone get you off track, not letting anyone pull away your focus and certainly about having fun in the process. When he says “Cool N’s do Cool things” on Cool Things he’s dead serious. It becomes a mantra, not just for him, see if your day doesn’t run smoother when listening to Blue Money…that’s not a coincidence.
Stream or download Blue Money below:
Problem & IAMSU! –Million Dollar Afro mixtape review
One of the truly awesome things about having your own site is that you can dictate when, where, and why you do things. No deadlines. When the two young leaders of the California ratchet movement (Problem and IAMSU!) teamed up and dropped a mixtape I wanted to write about it but wasn’t sure what to say. So I waited…listened some more and now I do know.
Problem dominated 2012 from guest spots eating Wiz Khalifa’s Cabin Fever 2 mixtape like hors d’oeuvre and showing up just about anywhere else screaming his “WHAAAT” ad lib. No matter how you felt about his goof ball out of control sex jokes you had to respect two things; the flow and the work ethic.
IAMSU! drops mixtapes left, right, and center building his reputation by creating so much fun party music he’s impossible to dislike. They have worked together before and tend to bring the best out in one another, IAMSU is such a nice guy that Problem says the word twat less when he’s on a track (good for everyone) and both live for the competitive boost of spitting their verse after a dope one.
Once word of their collaborative mixtape Million Dollar Afro got out the impression that everyone familiar with the two got was that this thing would be the party project to end all. The expectations-finger snapping, flow changes, uncomfortable sexual references and beats that make you want to flail wildly in your cubicle. When it dropped it stumped me because it turned out to be exactly that. In hip hop getting what you expected is the most unexpected thing.
Not one song among the eighteen is a soft dedication to someone important in their lives. Every song could drive a strip club or a house party wild. The punch lines are out of control “I get in her stomach like some Metamucil (IAMSU on I need it),” and immensely satisfying if you can get yourself into the bay mentality. On Some More Ones Problem says “Want me in your grass please mow the lawn first.” This is the kind of sex joke you find all throughout. Its sexist but lets be honest there are levels of sexism and Million Dollar Afro is sexist on the level of two boys at recess exchanging disgusting jokes and laughing. They grew up rapped their asses off, made great beats and still make each other chuckle with talk of ninja turtles and vagina. Nothing said should be that disgusting because of the tone it’s presented in.
Some songs are not the stadium rocking post-hyphy you want them to be. I could do without Gas and Hunnits which don’t seem to go anywhere but who cares. Over half probably more like 70% of this tape is what I wanted it to be or better. Complaining about that would be dumb, complaining that this tape isn’t thoughtful enough would be just as dumb. When Whodini made the Freaks Come out at Night that was a party record and we still love it. It will be tough to push Million Dollar Afro out of my top mixtapes because of how relentlessly fun it is. How do you justify deleting something this fun from your mp3 player?
Stream or download Million Dollar Afro below:
There are a lot of factors that should be taken into account when discussing why artists destroy the sound they worked hard to build and replace it with something new and unsatisfying. Look at Mac Miller, for example; he came up making fun, silly music and is now trying on different introspection suits that just don’t fit (read: Macadelic). Sometimes it’s the voices of important critics; other times labels, or even the artist’s fans. In the current climate, a lot of artists aren’t changing because they are evolving, but changing because they feel they have too.
I mention this because while listening to IAMSU!’s mixtape Kilt these questions came to mind and were so easily answered. All the incredibly fun hooks and dance-in-your-seat beats (8 of the 18 songs were produced by IAMSU!) were accompanied by personable rhymes that paint the picture of an artist perfectly self-aware. For a half second I wondered if the spotlight would change him then I remembered he’s from the bay area. The bay area in California is like Houston, Texas in hip hop terms. Both fall in and out of favor with the mainstream, but in spite of this, move at their own pace. This comes from so many years of never having a real spotlight. The art of going gold in your neighborhood was perfected in these two areas and remains to this day. This isn’t to say artists like IAMSU! and E-40 don’t care about fans outside of the bay…they just don’t NEED them. This makes the audience for their music very tangible, not the cross armed disapproving Mac Miller critic who wants him to become KRS-ONE right now. Because this is a bay area release it needs to slap your speakers, it needs to bang. By meeting those criteria it’s a success.
While “Raven Simone” is a good opening track, the project doesn’t become dance-in-the-passenger-seat great until “Mainey”. It’s not just a credit to IAMSU! That he produces a lot of Kilt but he has the best beats on it, “Mainey” is distorted and bumping, with high pitched vocal interjections in the background. His flow fits snugly over it. On “Mainey” he raps at the fast pace of the track and then follows it with a smooth croon on “Over”. He knows how the track should feel and raps accordingly, even when his raps don’t blow your mind, they don’t disappoint. On the same track he raps “I’m in a position to be heard, I mean every word. Every noun, every verb say the truth make it hurt.” It’s about repping for his city, being heard as an artist, partying and generally having fun.
You may want to define Kilt by what it’s not. It’s not offensive. It’s not misogynistic or violent, but it is fun. While the “Fly High Interlude” could have been left on the cutting room floor, I can’t think of a song on Kilt that shouldn’t be there. Musical cohesion is so vital, and this has it. The stand out tracks like “Click Finna Blow”, “Get It In”, and “Slow Down(remix)” are all made more important by the softer, more unassuming songs. Tracks like “Wake Up 2 Milli” and the drank in my cup crooning “Cancelled Plans” are important tension releases. You can only handle so much high end Hyphy style booming head banging before it becomes tiresome. “Clothes, Shows and Afros” with its finger snapping shuffle, moves along at the pace of a bay area moderate and in a way it’s these tracks I admire most. The truly exciting tracks, the perfect hooks, like on “Click Finna Blow” seem to be so easy for IAMSU!; it’s all the different shades of his sound that define why I can’t stop listening. Kilt is crawling up my top mixtape list every time I try to listen to something else and then come back to it. Being hooked is so much fun.
You can download Kilt at the link below.