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 If you roll back through Luger’s best beats none of them are timestamped or outdated.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:
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:
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:
Free EP Review- The Stage by Curren$y & Smoke Dza produced by Harry Fraud
As a supporter of the Jet Life movement I’ve always been realistic. Like most prolific artists Curren$y can sound listless at times; possibly a product of doing too much or the constant experimenting with different collaborators and producers. Sometimes the chemistry doesn’t have time to establish but when he needs to step up, he delivers.
As much of the spotlight as Curren$y got for his prolific output and Harry Fraud gets for mixing sticky sludge into the NY sound, Smoke Dza still doesn’t seem to be nearly as acclaimed as he should be. His delivery is one of the most emphatic in all of hip hop and his collaborators/peers know it. On the opening track (First Light) he seems to vengefully stab with every word and even though the Jet Life general leads off and lays down an impressive verse…the voice that rings in your mind is Dza.
No review of The Stage should go without focusing on the immaculate song 10 Bricks. If the narrative of this project is how focused the three primary components are then it makes sense on 10 Bricks that we get the most focused French Montana verse of the year and a dead serious pitch perfect Big K.R.I.T. chorus. Fraud composes richly orchestrated elements for the mid tempo funk of it. It’s the essence of the Jet Life experience; everyone vibes out and brings their best bars to the table.
The Stage is more than in-the-zone vibe out music. It’s a sampler meant to energize all the people that want another Pilot Talk or Rugby Thompson and in that regard it’s an unmitigated success. Every song has more than a few rewindable moments; like on Gifts where Smoke Dza says “Every boss once was the best student,” or in 10 Bricks where Curren$y recreates himself as Joe Namath in a fur coat. Not many people even know what the whole Jet Life term means. It’s an acronym meaning just enjoy this and that’s exactly what you should do.
Stream or download The Stage below:
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Tagged audiomack, Big K.R.I.T., Curren$y, ep reviews, French Montana, Harry Fraud, hip hop, Jet Life, mixtape reviews, Rugby Thompson, Smoke Dza, THe Stage EP, weed rap
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: