Tag Archives: Jadakiss

The case for Schoolboy Q as a top 3 lyricist in 2018

The case for Schoolboy Q as a top 3 lyricist in 2018

by Dan-O

I’m not doing the “he’s no Kool Moe Dee” all time argument with you Fuzzy Kangol Truthers. Save his place in history for later down the line right now we are talking about right now. The other thing to get out of the way is influence is not a factor. I don’t care that Trump did Hotline Bling on Saturday Night Live it doesn’t have anything to do with the power of the pen. Additionally, numbers don’t lie (they absolutely do) but they don’t have any bearing on this argument. That means this is subjective, right? Yes, not impossible.

Qualifying Criteria:

Consistency-People drive me nuts about this. Some MC’s are chasing the big moment and they always end up releasing terrible material eventually. Last year hip hop radio(looking at you Charlemagne) tried pushing the notion that Big Sean is one of the best MC’s in the game. Big Sean has two fabulous albums and two horrible ones. He is all over the place and I listen to everything he does. I like him but consistency matters, forethought matters. How many times you do you get to serve me a full bowl of wack and still be in the conversation?

Schoolboy Q is the opposite. Of his four albums he doesn’t have a disappointing one. All of them have different production identities, themes, and important lead singles that reflect Q at that stage of his career. As nasty and ready to turn on artists as Pitchfork is the last 3 albums scores Q has: 8.3, 7.8, and 8.4. If you are an album guy he consistently has got your back. If you don’t care about albums and just want the hits he feeds you Man of The Year, Studio, That Part, etc.

The four albums that are the core of TDE as an identity are probably: Kendrick- GKMC, Jay Rock-Follow Me Home, Schoolboy-Setbacks, Ab-Soul-Control System. Of those four artists Schoolboy is the only one who has kept pace with Kendrick in terms of albums you need to hear. Consistency isn’t about always working it’s about relentless careful smart work.

Content-John Muir(from Blank Face) has the most sumptuous neo-soul hook packed in against drug dealing at 14, close friends dying, danger closing in from all sides. The song is named after his high school and lasers in on that period. Meaningful content does not have to mean the smartest references or layered wordplay. The reason rappers always refer to their new album or song as a movie is because they want you , as the audience, to follow them through arc of the songs meaning. To the next one. Even  though Schoolboy knows people won’t pay that much attention the juxtaposition of the relaxing chorus and the ever present danger of verses is exactly the dichotomy of palm trees at 77 degrees and shocking violence that West Coast Gangsta Rap was built on. All of this to talk about and that is just one song. Schoolboy has a catalog that as you listen more each song gets deeper and gains meaningf. Q has struggled with addiction and let us hear it and now that he is beyond it (fingers crossed) we get even sharper bars. He builds every song on such a strong foundation he can add levels to it.

Durability-If you are a Schoolboy Q fan play this game with me. What is your favorite song? Pull it up on the tracklist of the album it is on. Is it the full throttle anthemic hip hop takeover Man Of The Year? If you are listening to the deluxe edition what is the next song? It’s the slow jangly mutilated but smooth (thanks to a brilliant hook performance by SZA) His & Her Fiend.  Schoolboy creates Juxtaposition everywhere. He places the crushingly personal John Muir before the bouncy West Coast celebration Big Body. His smoothest song Grooveline (with Dom Kennedy & Curren$y vibing out) comes right before his fire breathing dragon roar of a vocal performance on Gangsta in Designer (No Concept).  The juxtaposition creates tension yes but also dimension and he’s able to create that because he has tapped into the different facets of himself. Not to get too nerdy about this but if you go back to his 2009 mixtape Gangsta & Soul (You know my need to research forced my hand) his flow is totally different it is like listening to pre-Dre Eminem. He built this style and I appreciate his motor in refining it. His best album is his last album Blank Face.  Let’s talk more about this flow though…

Above & Beyond Attributes:

Tyson Flow-A knockout puncher has to make every connect count. Jabs just move the opponent to the right spot, Tyson was not even thinking about points on the scorecard. He was planting his victim in the right place for the right shot.That is how Schoolboy spits and always has. If you listen to the way his voice flings distasteful threats on the first verse of Dope Dealer from his 2016 album Blank Face  it is the same force he exerts on every line of Figg Get Da Money from 2011’s Setbacks.  Schoolboy says every word like a punk rock lead singer hitting their most jagged chorus.

Throw down mentality-The features on a Schoolboy Q album can get pretty interesting. Oxymoron Deluxe Edition(the only edition you should own) has Kendrick, 2 Chainz, Raekwon, Kurupt,SZA, Suga Free, Jay Rock, BJ The Chicago Kid, Tyler The Creator all along for the ride. Name another album that has 2 Chainz, Raekwon, and Suga Free spitting? The fearlessness in his flow has paid off to the point that Schoolboy fears none. This is where we say things like “being part of the best crew has given him the opportunity to be better as a lyricist,” I reject this. Ask Jae Millz how great his career growth has been behind Wayne, Dreezel Stillskin and the rest. It is HARD standing next to the dude who is considered the gold standard for bars. Q’s been doing it for ten years and gunning to a draw at the very least (I think he took Kendrick on Collard Greens) but he will throw bars with anyone and has. On Groovy Tony Jadakiss scorched the track so hard that Q added a whole other song behind the verse. He cares about the standard he has employed which is way more important than winning the song.

My conclusion is simple. I am not writing this because he has a new album coming and that could vault him into the “best in the game conversation” I hoped that this rant will prove he’s already there and this album will just be another leg of that journey.

 

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Mixtape Review-Drunk Uncle by N.O.R.E.

Mixtape Review-Drunk Uncle by N.O.R.E.

by Dan-O

I am a pretty passionate hip hop head. I hate pet peeve artists I’ve never met worse than family or friends that have slighted me, but I’ve never really had an opinion on N.O.R.E. Never been able to call him wack because he swings in on tracks and destroys his guest verse (example: What U Rep on Prodigy’s H.N.I.C. album) but N.O.R.E. is too funny to be hardcore and too hardcore to be backpacker. Not living in New York, I never found a way to care much about him either way; one thing was for certain: all the best rappers love this dude.  If you need clarity on why just listen to the first episode of his new podcast Drink Champs where he is hilarious and intuitive while pushing his guests for the juiciest stories. This is a dude you’d want to hang out with whether you are Nas or me.

That is not enough to survive in hip hop as long as N.O.R.E. has. He’s stayed profitable since 1997. Imagine how many great lyricists have fallen completely off in that time. His new mixtape, Drunk Uncle, showcases all of the reasons why he’s still here and valuable. N.O.R.E. has a hall of famers ear for beats. He knew that beat Butchrock gave for the song Queens needed Kool G Rap on it the same way he knew the DJ Mustard beat We Don’t needed Rick Ross & Ty Dolla Sign. The purpose of the mixtape is to draw a line in the sand between the old heads spending all their time complaining about what rap is and the thirsty new kids who don’t care about the history. N.O.R.E. stands right between the two sides calling on old friends like Swizz Beatz, Dame Grease and SPK for production (Jadakiss, Fat Joe and Nature on verses) but also reaching out to new schoolers like A$AP Ferg, Dave East, Rick Ross, and Ty Dolla Sign. He still has that club hit skill set, a song like Buckets (with French Montana & Manolo Rose) screams night club with glasses in the air.

N.O.R.E. fits everywhere. He grinds out a face scrunching hardcore gem, handling all verses, on Get Money even over that simple hard-nosed beat he throws in some left field humor that grabs your attention “Don’t play with me I’ll get you popped on your hover board, throw you in the river with the manatee’s…”  somehow he sounds like he fits over Mustard standing next to Ross.  I was shocked  that after hearing his collaboration with Killer Mike & Sleepy Brown I wanted a group to form. Mike and N.O.R.E. share a rollicking don’t give a F__ attitude.  Sleepy Brown is absolutely dope, still the southern Nate Dogg without a doubt.

My hope is that this is a sampler plate and he has more surprises to come. The mixtapes best moment, the song Moments,  illustrates how maturity and old age might give us a more interesting spread of content from N.O.R.E. while we all loved his jovial songs about oral sex in 1998, at this point it’s great to hear him build introspection without falling into high handed backpacker talk.  He lists moments in his life that are important; bid in jail, wedding, convo w/ Jay and one of them is “the birth of every one of my kids”, he says the line originally was “the birth of my first kid” but he changed it (he said this on his legendary Rap Radar podcast interview). I love that he changed it; that his team pushed him to change it. That means he doesn’t have a team of yes men, he has people keeping him fresh and it means he’s really considering what everything means and how it can be taken.  I hope Drunk Uncle really does get a buzz going because I’d love to hear what N.O.R.E. could do to rap now.

stream or download Drunk Uncle:

http://www.datpiff.com/NORE-Drunk-Uncle-mixtape.771328.html

 

Mixtape Review-MMM by Diddy

Mixtape Review-MMM by Diddy

by Dan-O

Diddy is a human tapeworm. His musical career is characterized by the systematic withdrawal of artistic vitality from those he worked with; G. Dep, Black Rob, Shyne, Loon, Craig Mack and on and on. The distaste I have for Diddy is both cavernous and voluminous in ways that should not be expanded upon. No matter how hostile your relationship to him is no one can deny how good he is as a musical strategist and his new mixtape MMM which stands for Money Makin’ Mitch is absolute proof of that.

How could 2015 music from Diddy not seem dated? He’s richer than god from selling liquor and clothes and doesn’t write his own verses. His label’s biggest star is a poor recalibration of Yelawolf (not sorry Machine Gun Kelly). One key ingredient is that Puff really performs these verses and doesn’t pay for wack ones.  On the first real song of the mixtape, Harlem, he takes the first two minutes and forty seconds of the three minutes and thirty six seconds to dominate the song alone(then Grizzle comes in). He clearly doesn’t need to do this but he really invests himself in it. His opening verse on the fantastic collaboration Auction (with King Los, Styles P, and Lil Kim) is airtight and damn near steals the song. The production is genius throughout borrowing just enough from Trap music to feel modern but maintaining the personality of that Harlem World swagger. The Hitmen produce but Hit Boy does 2 beats, Young Chop does 2 as well (Auction is one), TM88, Mike Will Made It and Harry Fraud are also in the mix. 

Diddy also knows when enough is enough so he limits the mixtape to thirteen tracks with a few interludes. The theme of the project is conceptualized on the intro,Facts, this mixtape is a fictionalization story of a magical hustler who doesn’t take a hard fall at the end like every  real hustler. Money Makin’ Mitch goes happily ever after. This opens the door to endless swagger and guest verses from Travis Scott, Big Sean, Ty Dolla Sign sounds fantastic on You Could Be My Lover, and Future comes through for the title track.

The problem a lot of us are having with MMM is it comes off as a label showcase, a reclaiming of the narrative for Bad Boy as a label….but who is on Bad Boy? French Montana is all over MMM but not in an exciting way he’s the same old French, great hooks and ad libs but not saying much. All the biggest stars on MMM are imports like Ty Dolla Sign, Future, Styles P, and Jadakiss. King Los isn’t on Bad Boy anymore but he definitely shows up, thing is if you didn’t know who Los was before this isn’t going to get you into him. If this is a set up for Puff’s album then it works but what happened to Puff going after talent? Remember when he grabbed hardened street lyricists and polished them into finished stars (Shyne, Biggie, Craig Mack, Black Rob)? I have a list in my head of who would really fit on Bad Boy (1. ASAP ROCKY 2. Action Bronson 3. Troy Ave) but Diddy is throwing energy down the French Montana, Machine Gun Kelly sink hole and that’s his business. I remember when he used to do things we didn’t expect and if he still cares as much as this mixtape makes it seem…he should think about changing directions.

Stream or download MMM below:

http://www.datpiff.com/Puff-Daddy-MMM-mixtape.744958.html

Song review-See a Key(Ki’) by Skyzoo featuring Jadakiss produced by Thelonius Martin

Song review-See a Key(Ki’) by Skyzoo featuring Jadakiss produced by Thelonius Martin

by Dan-O

The narrative that NY hip hop is dead has been bolstered by the poor sales of Troy Ave’s album Major Without A Deal (which you won’t catch me writing about, I don’t kick people when they are down), but it’s still false. This year has seen a slew of important NY releases: Ka, Action Bronson, Raekwon, and Ghostface. These albums did more than “keep up the tradition” they were sonically unique and took the sound you were used too in a different direction. So why does that narrative persist? NY started EVERYTHING. Of course it’s not what it once was since it used to be EVERYTHING. We now have hip hop in London, Cleveland, Huntsville, etc and that’s great. We still have a rich buffet of NY hip hop but we have other options as well.

So Skyzoo has a new album Music For My Friends which showcases everything you love about him(and the traditional hip hop that is supposed to have passed). His lyrics have a Jeet Kune Do (#knowBruceLee) adaptability, dense and light at the same time. Always intensely thoughtful but able to chuckle and joke at the same time. Loose and dangerous is how Sky works best, at his worst he’s lost in his mind and at his best he’s lost in the music. Music For My Friends has the sonic template he loves, very specifically the boom bap Primo trafficked in; powerful drums and bass all conducted with a jazz ear. All the other sounds set off and ripple like a stone skipped on water; just the way Coltrane’s Naima feels. That’s what makes the album so good; if you just want a banger here you go. Jadakiss is sharp as ever (“when you don’t recognize your blessings you send them away” DAMN!) and if you want this song to be more about drugs than dreaming you can hear it that way. The cool thing is it’s not. For lyrics heads we can read Sky’s lyrics and find triple meanings among the Jazzmatazz of it all. That complexity of lyricism tracks back to New York and it still lives there.

Free Album Review-Pilot Talk 3 by Curren$y

Free Album Review-Pilot Talk 3 by Curren$y

by Dan-O

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:

http://baseshare.com/DJFaze/mixtapes/Curren$y-Pilot-Talk-3/369/

Mixtape Review-Beast Mode by Future x Zaytoven

Mixtape Review-Beast Mode by Future x Zaytoven

by Dan-O

I’m incorrect but I always think of Future as an amazing raw talent. The way basketball writers must have looked at Wilt Chamberlain. He’s not raw at all. The music always feels that way because of how he attacks it. A new project roll out for Future never encompasses a new direction with a different look and feel. He attacks what he does whether it’s about selling dope or buying cars or achieving love; always with no fear of seeming cheesy or emotional and always with the autotune at its highest setting.

When his album Pluto smashed rap music I called him king of the hookers, able to nail the chorus so precisely that you needed the song in your rotation. Not just his hooks but guest hooks. Beast Mode proves that the boundless energy it takes to throttle every opportunity is not just something Future brings to the hook, he brings it everywhere.

The whole project is nine songs long and entirely produced by Zaytoven, who has a great understanding of the push and pull needed in a good trap-ish beat. Zaytoven has been trending weird and minimalist at the same time, finding a way to make every beat sound signature and different at the same time. Listen to the sparse, strange Peacoat and you’ll understand. For Futures part he rarely relies on his R&B sensibilities on Beast Mode instead making his growls and verses catchy on Oooooh and even when his voice pulls into appealing croon it’s for the classic get-wealthy-with-me anthem No Basic which carries a heap of adrenaline pumped muscle.

As amped as No Basic can get you Where I Came From is a thousand times more subdued and doesn’t feel too far away from any other song on the project. Zaytoven weaves piano into his baseline better than 90% of producers and that sound fits Future like a glove. In a hushed melodic mumble Future talks about the feds coming to get them, selling out of his grandmother’s house, and lots of stark shocking images you may not catch if you get wrapped up in the melody. Maybe that’s the joke of it all. East Coast cats hear the melody and dismiss him but people that know how to listen to Southern rap can tell you that not only can Future sing and rap he does both about real situations. Even Real Sisters which is supposed to be about having a three-way with ladies and not caring if they are real sisters has a lot of penitentiary and trap talk.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t beg you to listen to Beast Mode in order to catch another fantastic Juvenile feature. They remake the structure of his Ha hit into Aintchu and Juvi is damn solid. He’s like the southern Jadakiss; wherever his solo album content may be (fantastic or forgettable) he still kills every feature in front of him and is almost on your top rapper list.

Watching Future make everything work on Beast Mode is like watching Wilt pull 40 rebounds and score 50 points over sweaty slow white guys and shaking your head like “man, the game is changing…” remember when we all thought he was just the new T-Pain? Feels like a long time ago.

Stream or Download Beast Mode below:

http://www.djbooth.net/index/albums/review/future-beast-mode

Mixtape Review-CMG presents Chapter One by Young Gotti & CMG

Mixtape Review-CMG presents Chapter One by Young Gotti & CMG

by Dan-O

One of the sticky notes slapped on the surface of Southern Hip Hop is the stars that shine brightest rocket upward only to fall into obscurity once the prevailing tide changes or the hit gets old. It’s impossible to make this argument work for Yo Gotti who refuses to be charted on any kind of line graph with dips or hilly progressions. Gotti is a rock solid commodity who does what he does and nothing else.

CMG: Chapter One is a showcase for what makes the crew unique. If you are looking to ride the wave of hits you can enjoy the Yayo remix with French Montana, Jadakiss, YG, and Fabolous which is just as big and awesome as it sounds. K Camp uses his command of the chorus to make Made Me feel even bigger and sillier and more satisfying than feels realistic (although it is produced by Big Fruit and he is Mariano in the 9th clutch).

The players here make a convincing case for deeper consideration. Zed Zilla seems to invent all sorts of sneaky turns of phrase while staying true to the ravenous flow that serves him so well. While Gotti will slow down and stamp down on a word or phrase so you feel the pain or pride in it Zilla just moves. I’m not convinced he’s worried about whether or not you catch his words.

Compilations like this always have pieces that don’t fit. While No Kissing certainly suits that description and runs a blatant repetitious juvenile counter to the thoughtful pain filled trap determination of the project; it’s the only real misstep. CMG: Chapter One is a showcase of engaging hip hop personalities. Wave Chapelle can bubble and pop on a low key track (Like Me) while making Sailor Moon references or sail into the stratosphere on the fake afro and big glasses pimpishly alluring Wavy Baby. Snootie Wild carves out his own great moments like the nutty Future meets Swedish Chef voice on Stackin & Flippin It.

The connective tissue, the spine, the beating heart of this compilation is the earnest mumble rapping of its star Yo Gotti. His stunting always seems to connect to the dead, imprisoned, sick or impoverished. On the opener Talk 2 Em he showcases the snarling paranoid underappreciated rap star, that’s part of who he is, but the other part is a lot like my grandmother. That’s the Yo Gotti on Been Thru It All: world weary, disgusted with poverty and its repercussions, grateful for the love of others, and sad to see so many go. If you want to call him a Trap Star he’s a thousand year old Godfather III Michael Corleone rapping things like “I been through it all Grandma died mama crying had to hold my hurt inside. Ma I had to be there for you! I been through it all. Got signed unsigned got signed waste of time what the F#$% they gon’ do (Been Thru It All)?” This is not just a group of people bound by a stable and engaging leader it’s a stable of MC’s with real chemistry together. They don’t feel like draft picks, more like a real crew with a lot to say and the skills to keep it interesting.

Stream or download CMG: Chapter One below:
http://www.datpiff.com/Yo-Gotti-CMG-Chapter-One-mixtape.614109.html