Tag Archives: Kendrick Lamar

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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Peeling The Layers of Damn

Peeling The Layers of Damn

by Dan-O

The rewarding part of Kendrick Lamar’s album Damn is how many layers it has while not demanding anything of you. If you just want to enjoy it you can do that. I got together with my cohort Lewis Richards and we analyzed the religious themes present in the album. They are not overwhelming but each window in gives you a view of something really different. It was a lot of fun digging into it.

Stream or download the podcast below:

http://overlyexaminedlife.libsyn.com/kendrick-lamars-damn-and-his-relationship-with-god

Kendrick to Ice Cube: Damn is the Death Certificate of his catalog

Kendrick to Ice Cube: Damn is the Death Certificate of his catalog

by Dan-O

It is very well established that To Pimp A Butterfly has a direct connection to Tupac’s Me Against The World.  If you don’t believe it go to https://freemusicempire.com/2016/06/09/nihilism-in-rap-music-2pac-shakur-me-against-the-world/ and do the full podcast run. I think Kendrick has a different base point this time that accomplishes a very different thing.

Before Death Certificate Ice Cube was definitely respected, his first solo album Amerikkka’s Most Wanted is one of the best rap albums ever released with wonderful production from the bomb squad but his follow up is more in every way. In 1991 we didn’t have a real understanding of the concept album in hip hop. Death Certificate gives a template that you can still follow.

First step: Start with scorched earth

Both Damn and Death Certificate start with a brief intro into a scorched earth don’t F_ with me song.  The scorched earth first song gives the emcee absolute command and leaves the audience wide eyed and patiently awaiting more. Some of the old classical composers used to write massive swells into their symphony’s to wake up anyone in the audience sleeping. This method is very similar. Cube starts by yelling “GOD DAMN! It’s a brand new payback!” He shouts half of the first verse to make sure you are dialed in.

Mike Will Made It laces a world rattling bassline and Kendrick is off to the races daring us to catch up. With a minute and seven seconds left in DNA we hear Geraldo spewing his evil nonsense and then Kendrick is back spitting in response while the sample scratches. This switch is to let you know that while Kendrick lives in a very confusing world where he is used as a political football, etc he will never be drowned out by it. Same reason Ice Cube called his first song The Wrong Nigga to Fuck Wit.

Ice Cube-Wrong Nigga To Fuck Wit

Kendrick Lamar-DNA

Second Step: Takedown

Ice Cube tried to be nice on Amerikkka’s Most Wanted.  He didn’t spend a second on N.W.A.  After Niggaz4Life (where N.W.A. feverishly threw shots left, right and center) Cube had no choice and took command of the music industry for the next five years with the most unforgiving diss premise of all time. On No Vaseline he is saying you are being raped without lubricant and I am not.

If Kendrick had a No Vaseline moment it was probably that Control verse. He did bring that back in the lead up to this album, The Heart Part 4 with the second verse “My fans can’t wait for me to son ya punk ass and crush ya whole lil shit. I’ll Big Pun ya punk-ass, you scared lil’ bitch. Tiptoein’ around my name, nigga, you lame and when I get at you, homie. Don’t you just tell me you was just playin'” Kendrick doesn’t think of the rap world as full of people individually important enough to diss. He has his reasons.

Ice Cube-No Vaseline

Kendrick Lamar-The Heart Part 4

Kendrick Lamar-Control

Third Step: Vision

Ice Cube was consumed with correcting the perception of blackness. His second verse on True To The Game is absolutely the father of a lot of discussion on DAMN.

“When you first start rhyming It started off slow and then you start climbing But it wasn’t fast enough I guess So you gave your other style a test You was hardcore hip-hop Now look at yourself, boy you done flip-flopped Giving our music away to the mainstream Don’t you know they ain’t down with the team They just sent they boss over Put a bug in your ear and now you crossed over On MTV but they don’t care They’ll have a new nigga next year You out in the cold No more white fans and no more soul And you might have a heart attack When you find out the black folks don’t want you back And you know what’s worse? You was just like the nigga in the first verse Stop selling out your race And wipe that stupid-ass smile off your face Niggas always gotta show they teeth Now I’m a be brief Be true to the game”

1991 Ice Cube wanted to be in control of every aspect of his presentation and was very frustrated by people who just didn’t have the determination to shoulder that responsibility. Kendrick talks about this on verse 2 of Feel “I feel like debating on who the greatest can stop it. I am legend, I feel like all of y’all is peasants. I feel like all of y’all is desperate.” The lesson to learn from DAMN is the one rap learned from Cube in 1991. The best rapper is not that because of pure mic skill. The best rapper in the world has command and vision. The best rapper gives you vulnerable personal experiences like Cube on Doing Dumb Shit and Kendrick on Duckworth.  Political messages might be overt or laced inside the songs but the total concept and vision will be challenging even if it offends you sometimes. The best rapper brings his own sound to the table (Sir Jinx for Cube, Sounwave for Kendrick).

Ice Cube-True To The Game

Kendrick Lamar-Feel

Song of The Year-Holy Key by DJ Khaled featuring Kendrick Lamar & Big Sean

Song of The Year-Holy Key by DJ Khaled featuring Kendrick Lamar & Big Sean

by Dan-O

A lot of people consider Khaled any number of things: hilarious, vicious self-promotor, someone who flips on his friends in favor of newer, hotter names. His new album Major Key is absolutely the hip hop light show it set out to be. As talented as he is as a DJ, producer and organizer of the music, I consider Khaled a big game hunter of sorts. He bought a house near Jay-z to get a verse (I Got The Keys) and then texted him in all caps that he wasn’t going anywhere. He leveraged his relationship with Future to get Bryson Tiller on Ima Be Alright.

On Holy Key you can absolutely hear Khaled through text and phone conversations revving these two artists up. Pumping  them with the adrenal fluid of the imagined impact a game changing verse can have on their career; Letting them know that as respected as they are…we really don’t know what their capable of, none of us.  Khaled always has the same pitch: dig deeper and show these MFers who you are.

It works because it’s kind of true.  While Kendrick is known as intelligent with an unearthly flow, people are constantly forgetting 2 things: how weird he is and how mean he is. Big Sean brings the mean right out of him (see Control).  For his part Big Sean is a masterful lyricist who has literally changed the way rappers rap (his biggest problem: worst mustache in the game). On Holy Key (classic Cool & Dre high octane Fast & Furious beat ) Sean is unbelievable, lacing his rhymes tight and furious but always keeping it Big Sean. You won’t find a more head knocking positive rap verse than his opener on Holy Key.

And yes, Kendrick destroys the song again. As focused as Sean sounds Kendrick sits him down with “I ain’t scared of losses no more, I see life in that. I don’t resonate with the concept of love and hate cause your perspective is less effective and rather fake.” He says “F_  mother earth” and he absolutely loves it. Some people don’t just embrace the villain, they have a sliver of them that really draws power from it. That Ty Cobb part of Kendrick is utterly shocking.

You can’t give enough credit to the legendary Betty Wright for this enormous hook. It’s the incredible Hulk of anthems because it’s not just big but lyrical. Hip hop thrives when the biggest names can open up and prove they deserve their spot; blackout on a track and reinforce their stamp.

Concluding thought: if anyone won Major Key it was Big Sean. Yes, he got bested by Kendrick again but that’s not exactly the worst thing that can happen. Being so close to Kendrick on Holy Key speaks incredibly well of him. His lilting sing song absolutely makes Work For It smooth. He puts a tempo in place that is pleasant and then drops BARS so that by the time 2 Chainz and Gucci Mane come in, the song is already a great situation.

I think there are maybe 7 or 8 people in rap who work as hard as Big Sean.

 

Song of The Year-The Season/Carry Me by Anderson Paak

Song of The Year-The Season/Carry Me by Anderson Paak

by Dan-O

When Drake first exploded onto the scene some interesting comparisons were made between him and Lebron James. The same way purist’s frothed venom as Lebron chomped on his fingernails on the sidelines; Drake felt like the cloying hip hop version. So much talent but in complete refusal to use it the way we all agreed you were supposed to use it.

In this way, Kendrick Lamar is very much the Steph Curry of modern hip hop. He’s created a quick passing well-oiled machine of deadly three point shooting in Golden State. TDE has put the accent on a real depth of verse, not in some sort of scientific way(a la GZA researching a verse for three weeks), but a real message. Not simply sharp imagery for its own sake or discordant thoughts and ideas dropped to fill the time, but concepts that unfold through authorship. That lane has been extraordinarily fruitful for a lot of artists who were already moving in that direction and now have ears checking for them. Ears taught by Kendrick and the gang.

Anderson Paak has been making very unique music for a while. Dr. Dre showcased him on the Compton album and now he has followed by signing to Dre and putting out Malibu. The Season/Carry Me is a strong bridge between rap and soul, not to mention a perfect example of what Paak can bring to the table. It snaps and snarls with sharp attitude and power, sonically and lyrically, “Ain’t sh#t changed but the bank statements, spent the summer in the rave with the beach babies, threw your jeweler in the buggy with the top down up PCH.” A strong sense of 2016 braggadocio shifts into a warm piano where he turns the steering wheel into mournful, reflective soul. The Kendrick effect allows for the content to cover so much more ground and expect the audience to keep the pace. Death, addiction, and fear all swim throughout the song (and album) in a subtle mix with the determination and prodigious abilities of Paak. The words are all important and challenging but the soul keeps you warm and taken care of.

Malibu is not laborious for the listener. It still goes down smooth as he transitions from first love to dead parent, this is how life is. We suffer, we win, we lose and not on some mastered train of thought. Instead, we navigate the great body of water that is everything.  Holding up the heft of intellectual content and sharp confessional imagery is always the relief and beauty of soul done perfectly right. This is as much Frankie Beverly and Harold Melvin’s album as it is Kendrick’s.  Everyone involved in producing the album was smart enough to know that the audience shouldn’t have to figure this out to enjoy it. This is why it’s my favorite album of the year; its dope no matter how much attention you pay it.

 

Song Review-Fuckemx3 by OG Maco

Song Review-Fuckemx3 by OG Maco produced by Ducko McFli

By Dan-O

If I gave a yearly award for best yelling in rap music (I WOULD DO THE WRITE UP IN ALL CAPS!) OG Maco would win 2014. His fantastic self titled ep is fifteen tracks of weird wonderful screaming. The only normalized moment might be the 2 Chainz verse on U Guessed and it’s still pretty odd.

Anti-hater music is at its pure best the less specific it is. The more it becomes a dynamic emotional chant (see Kendrick Lamar The Spiteful Chant) the deeper it seems to cut. His voice is an instrument perfect for crafting this kind of yell-ody. This chorus might hit me harder than you if you don’t share my love of swearing. This is some real good swearing; listen to the opening line “Musty p#ssy maggot b#tches tryin’ lick my sack for riches mmm hmmm yeah yeah…” That’ll wake you up in the morning.

Ducko McFli revolves everything around a deeply striking repetitive tone. It’s so minimal and serene that its not trap or drill it’s just kind of gorgeous in its simplicity. The extreme contrast between Maco’s forest fire delivery and McFli’s first winter day of falling snow beat is enough to make this one of the year’s most fascinating listens. Maco’s next project should be called And Now For Something Completely Different. The only comparable artist in my eyes would be IloveMakonnen for how purely left field and great his contribution to music in 2014 has been.

How audiomack links taught me to relax and embrace Dom Kennedy p.3

The Yellow Album
—————————————————————————————————————————————

by Dan-O

For proof positive that you are listening to an artist with the potential for pop rap stardom not just hip hop notoriety press play; The Yellow Album sounds like a platinum seller that should be in every Target you step in. An easy to way to judge this is to listen closely at the two highest profile guests: Kendrick Lamar on We Ball and Rick Ross on Gold Alpinas. We Ball is produced by the marvelous Chase N Cashe and sounds exactly like the kind of minimalist piano driven banger TDE generates (this makes sense because a lot of the TDE production team crosses over with Dom’s). Kendrick calmly leads us into his bubbling flow and sizzling bravado. Ross sounds so giddy to be a part of the DrewByrd produced Gold Alpinas that you can almost hear him debating if he’s going to put the song on his next album. The Aaliyah sample leads the song but the drums destroy it.

The Yellow Album would sound great if no one spoke a word on it. DJ Dahi and THC from the TDE camp do a lot of great work crafting beats that grow from a central element feeling instantly resonant. The masterstroke of production is resisting the bad instinct to either overstuff the beat or starve it. It takes a sharp musical mind to know when something is done. Just listen to the swirling hypnotism of 50 Conversations. Put that on and drive somewhere; see if the universe doesn’t fold into itself for six minutes or so.

Lyrically Dom has his chest out more than ever. This is a natural part of dropping successful project after successful project while others flounder. That being said he’s still a goof who says things like “Play this while you sleep so you never have to sleep alone (50 Conversations).” When I say goofy I mean that in a positive way, he always seems earnest especially on lines like “If you happy being you I F$%& with you on the strength (1 25).” He doesn’t have tough songs for the male fans and candles in the moonlight songs for the ladies; it’s all a jumble of what’s in his mind. Even as he raps alongside the Darth Vader of modern gangsta rap , Freddie Gibbs, his thoughts are scattered: from tracing his hip hop lineage from Melle Mel to modern day, to women on cocaine, and people in jail. Gibbs comes on the track like a shark with a laser attached; focused and mean. All the greatest lyricists rap alongside Dom cause 1. he isn’t afraid to talk about something straight up true but often unmentioned or goofy 2. he will never play the trying to kill you on the song game where he adds supplemental verses to dwarf yours. This is a dude who ends his biggest most pop friendly album with a track called P H (meaning peace and happiness) where he chuckles while saying “I be counting all this cash I get….shout out to my baby mama…cause she be paying half the rent!”

None of the old laws of hip hop seem to apply to Dom Kennedy. The thing I like is that he’s always smart enough to obey the old ones that make sense for him.

I can’t find the flippin’ audiomack link I found before so BOOM!
http://www.djbooth.net/index/mixtapes/entry/dom-kennedy-yellow-album
stream or download The Yellow Album via DJ BOOTH