Tag Archives: Migos

#BandcampGold-All The Beauty in This Whole Life by Brother Ali

#BandcampGold-All The Beauty in This Whole Life by Brother Ali

by Dan-O

The first Brother Ali album in five years is a lot to digest. It is the reunion of one of hip hop’s greatest partnerships. The underground forced Ali to record with Jake One because Jake brought out a different Ali in collaborations. Fans wanted a change but I didn’t. I love Jake One but the bond that Rhymesayers producer Ant and Ali have goes so much deeper than on-paper skills. They lived near each other and Ali would walk to his house where they collaborated on projects that literally changed and formed post 2k underground hip hop. You could feel the friendship as an intangible in the music. That chemistry is something that needs to be celebrated.

Ali being one of the wisest scholars of hip hop knows the importance of destroying the first track. Pen To Paper is only two minutes and thirty eight seconds but he goes back to battle rap mode and erupts triumphant bars over Ant’s horn and bass backdrop. This album is not for bangers, however. One of the takeaways from All The Beauty in This Whole Life is that hip hop needs more (less insulting) subgenres. No one should listen to the tragic and intelligent dissection of racism and police violence perpetrated on the black community (Dear Black Son) and have to compare it to Bad and Boujee. Nothing against Migos, Culture is a monster album. These are just musicians accomplishing different things. Ali’s pen presses so deeply that a one listen cheat review isn’t going to be enough. We need to think of these different dimensions within the culture as different kinds of clothing. You don’t get dressed in the morning and say “Pants are way better than shirts!” You need it all and appreciate that you have it.

All The Beauty in This Whole Life isn’t built around the anthemic stuff Ali is known for. Around the 2009 album US it seemed like Ali would transition into the pop rap world. That transition never happened and in 2017 his release has a B-side attitude that doesn’t sacrifice any space from its creative vision. It is that mid-tempo cohesion that glues all the songs together, you can go from Special Effects to Can’t Take That Away without ever feeling overwhelmed by the intense lyricism at hand. The beats still bang and Ali has a dynamic flow/consistency in his lyrical design that makes the tougher moments easier to take. As an example, We Got This sounds triumphant with the upbeat piano but Ali is not mincing words “If she asks me about it I got to be honest. Either they forgot about us or they got a target on us. My niece is shooting amateur porno, police shoot my nephews in the street like its normal but they been doing that a century or like four though. It’s horrible. Still pains me to my core though.”

Brother Ali is one of the few rappers I don’t know that my family feels like we do know. He has verses so vividly rendered that they get stamped on you. You feel his triumphs and sorrow. This album focuses on that. I’ll never forget the frustration of Uncle Usi Taught Me and its masterful airport story ending. Out of Here is a song about suicide that explores all the emotional reactions to the event, a thoughtful meditation that will leave you needing to recuperate. Before They Called You White is a fiery and probably controversial take on racial history but unlike political songs he’s done in the past this one is considerate to all parties involved and benefits from a three dimensional heart. You can’t listen to it and think Brother Ali is mad at white people.

I met him a few times. He came to a local record store and I waited in line, I declined the autograph (not my thing) but asked him very specifically about a review in a major publication that completely misread a concept song he did and slammed it. I asked him how he dealt with that so continually. Most rappers would have blustered a “F_ them” response but Ali really paused. He said it’s the hardest part of the whole deal, that you spend so much time pouring your heart into a project and the people criticizing it give it a mere passing glance and disregard it. They twist what they hear into something it isn’t and apply their own bias. That conversation is one of the reasons I wanted this blog. I wanted to write about music in a way that wasn’t intended to humiliate anyone but to stand in awe of work well done. Listen to the title track of All The Beauty in This Whole Life and get seduced by the fabulous hook and sincerity of the message or listen to the first verse or Tremble where Ali starts “I’m a man not a brand. Heart nose no barcode that can be scanned. Revealing what can’t be held up in the hand; bearer of the standard that you cram to understand,” over rippling bass. Even if you don’t get the MC Lyte reference at the end you comprehend how deeply he drops himself into a project and he never holds it against other rappers who don’t. He’s made a choice to exist in a specific place and be heard in a certain way. As one of his fans I just hope he continues to be happy there.

Stream and BUY All The Beauty in This Whole Life below:



Song of The Year-Like A Rockstar by Kodie Shane featuring Saucy Longwe produced by Matty P, Stonii Tha Melody God & D. Clax

Song of The Year-Like A Rockstar by Kodie Shane featuring Saucy Longwe produced by Matty P, Stonii Tha Melody God & D. Clax

by Dan-O

Kodie Shane’s new mixtape is called Big Trouble Little Jupiter and it is a great example of why Atlanta WINS.  Atlanta is the epicenter of weird (in my opinion the Bay Area is right up there as well). If Kodie Shane dropped a slamming anthem like this in NY the media would start debating whether it stacked up to old EPMD singles or whether this is even rap. What is real hip hop? Yuck.

This hook is fantastic, the beat pounds and leads into a guitar solo. Big Trouble Little Jupiter has 10 songs and they are all experiments. Your Side ventures into that 90’s R &B sound, Be With or Without is a lush break up song over a tough as jerky trap beat. Big Trouble Little Jupiter will look right at your preconceptions and shout WHO CARES. It is rap, it is singing, it is gorgeous, it is ugly.

If you read The Fader article about her it will not surprise you to hear that Shane is aligned with Yachty and the manager of The Migos. Those are all smart oddballs and it is quite apparent listening to Like A Rockstar that Kodie knows how to throw her voice where it is best needed. In this case it is tense and brazen in other places it is smooth and goes down like hot cocoa on a sore throat (how is this my reference? I am so old. So very old.).  It is refreshing that we live in a hip hop culture that nurtures an artist like Kodie Shane because I shudder to think how many my generation left behind keeping the sound “pure”.

stream or download Big Trouble Little Jupiter:


Nick Grant and The Hip Hop Cultural Divide

Nick Grant and The Hip Hop Cultural Divide

by Dan-O

A lot of hip hop’s most important cultural “beefs” are forced onto it from the audience and not actually a problem the artists have. The west coast/east coast beef comes to mind as an example. What is happening right now is the great splitting of the world of hip hop into two schools: mumble & trap rap vs. emcees that stand by their lyricism. Back when I was young we would have seen a rapper like Schoolboy Q and a rapper like J. Cole as oppositional; one representing the grim and grit of street life and the other middle class suburbia now they are on the same side and on the other you get Fetty Wap, Lil Yachty and the like.

Fans of each feel insulted by the presence of the other. Media outlets are split in a very odd way. All kinds of people are referred to as “throwback” artists just because they are focusing on rapping and don’t have a strong southern accent. The problem with throwing all lyricists on one side is that Nick Grant bears no resemblance to Cole or Kendrick. He isn’t necessarily lacing you with save the world lyrics, his album Return of The Cool is just that.  On the title track he says “Cool N_ I’m here to break the monotony,” which is a perfect summation.  He’s great at rapping and picking beats, doesn’t do a lot of singing his own hooks or finger snap turn up.  This isn’t to say he is your classic low energy lyricist. Just listen to Get Up featuring WatchTheDuck and enjoy the classic James Brown sample brought into new light and his energy matches it. It is a fun song and the album is my favorite of 2017.

He released some pretty great mixtapes. A Seat At The Table (+1)  took four songs from Solange’s album and rendered them limb from limb. Over the gorgeous minimal landscapes he burst forth reminding me of Do or Die AZ.  That project and his mixtape 88 were all about establishing the level at which he spits and getting us as an audience comfortable with that.

The mind numbing part of the Nick Grant experience for me is that I’m reading reviews that this type of lyricism is boring, that I should be listening to Migos instead. Leave it to hip hop to demand of me that I only listen to one kind of music all the time. Hearing someone with confidence in their delivery and great ear for beats never gets boring. Nick Grant is exciting, so are Migos. I will listen to both and don’t let yourself be steered one way or another. Take every artist as they come.  We should be excited by the choices we have and not pit them against each other.

Here is your Nick Grant start up kit:



If you like what you hear there, seek out Return of The Cool (buy or stream)


Mixtape Review-Good Day in The Ghetto by ST 2 Lettaz


Mixtape Review-Good Day in The Ghetto by ST 2 Lettaz

by Dan-O

This project is different. It isn’t just that it features an all-star guest line up (Migos, Stalley, Mic Strange). On Good Day he rhymes “banging my old lady buck nekkid on top of them polo sheets” with “four more weeks til my n_ free” then he thinks about drugs then he thinks about how his friend had a kid and he has no time to visit. The imagery is much more potent and assertive than it ever has been.

My mind kept conjuring images of ST as the old NBA superstar who would not be vanquished. The years turned him into Hakeem Olajuwon circa 1994, 95 and David Robinson wasn’t going to stand in the way. Block Beattaz has a lot to do with this feeling as well; the beats are sweeping and cinematic. Skwad is the second best song out of the nine and it manages to navigate between desperate and confident. The insular me against the world-ness comes together with the gunshots and the screaming to create the most violently militant moment in recent G-Side history. By contrast, the best song is Lazy Afternoon which has the Cindy Crawford of bass lines (gorgeous) and a muted repeating soul sample that’s positively hypnotic. ST takes you through it, riding and smoking while expounding on music as therapy, death as an eventuality and a reality. The whole time I’m just thankful none of those big name guests jumped on this. Lazy Afternoon is a beat only a handful of MC’s could have properly managed and ST is one of them(and yes this song culminates in an interlude about ass licking but this is rap music kids get used to it).

None of these songs feature ST looking up at the upper tier of rap and asking why he isn’t there. Songs like Quit Ramblin’ or Richard Pryor are smash mouth beats that ST just throws bar after bar at. Not rapping like a man who wants the spotlight but as a man who has it. Nightmare on 9th Street is all claustrophobic street venom “…double bagging that dope, tryin’ to kill the smell. Ain’t nobody crossed me…and lived to tell.” Is this a new direction? I don’t think rap has many new directions for someone whose done as much and been around as long as 2 Lettaz.

What’s new is the determination in his voice; the echoing reverberation of each powerful stomped word accentuation. Everyone used to write G-Side reviews saying “these guys are good but these beats are great”. He’s at the point where he steps in the booth and knows that he’s going to outrap everyone. As great as the Migos feature is, as snarling as Mic Strange is, and as surprisingly plugged in as Stalley sounds…none of these cats are rapping like 2 Lettaz. Its nine songs and every single one is ferocious. It could have been double this size and still wouldn’t have any fat on it. That’s just how it is when ST touches the ball these days. He’s all net.

Stream or download Good Day in The Ghetto below:


Song of The Year-Other Guys by ILoveMakonnen

Song of The Year-Other Guys by ILoveMakonnen

by Dan-O

I’m probably addicted to ILoveMakonnen but I’m not alone. His new mixtape Drink More Water 5 starts with a freestyle under the same name that is a train wreck. It’s more clear than ever from his new output that Makonnen is that weird character in the fighting game that no one wants to play as (because he’s hard to figure out) or go against (cause his unorthodox style is hard to beat).  If you try and fit him into the typical structure of a rap song he won’t. The 10 tracks after that first one never come back to it; they represent his herky jerky, croaking heartfelt mumble. The beat on Other Guys rides a steady drum wave while jangling like janitor keys are in the background.

Try getting this out of your head. The satisfied mmm’s, the high note attempts, the creepy “I’m not a stalker” stalker bits like how she’s changed her name trying to get away. The internet says he produced this and you can feel how much he loves this kind of oddness but it’s not even close to the limits of what he can do. He sounds great alongside Migos and Rich The Kid on the Whip It remix. He can do triumphant drug talk or heartbreak it’s all available to him.

I’m glad he’s aligned with OVO because I’m sure 40 and Drake can’t wait to flush out all the directions ILoveMakonnen is capable of going. Songs like this are a complete pallet cleanser for the unconvincing posturing bad rappers do. Other Guys is raw and a step off of sane and purposely so.  Those two (40 and Drake) are too smart to ask the golden goose to go silver.

stream or download Drink More Water 5 below:


Song Review-300 Spartans by Sy Ari Da Kid produced by Big Fruit, Will A Fool, Y.I.B. Bobby Kritical & Sy Ari Da Kid featuring D Dash, Translee, K Camp, Scotty ATL, Bo Deal, Verse Simmonds, Stuey Rock, Tha Jocker, Migos, Zuse, Kidd Kidd, John John Da Don, Issa, Doe Boy, Dae Dae, Bambino Gold, Chaz Gotti, Jose Guapo, Que, Nyemiah Supreme, Jacquees, Retro Jace(Two9) and Fort Knox

Song Review-300 Spartans by Sy Ari Da Kid produced by Big Fruit, Will A Fool, Y.I.B. Bobby Kritical & Sy Ari Da Kid featuring D Dash, Translee, K Camp, Scotty ATL, Bo Deal, Verse Simmonds, Stuey Rock, Tha Jocker, Migos, Zuse, Kidd Kidd, John John Da Don, Issa, Doe Boy, Dae Dae, Bambino Gold, Chaz Gotti, Jose Guapo, Que, Nyemiah Supreme, Jacquees, Retro Jace(Two9) and Fort Knox

by Dan-O

If rap music was the Muppet Babies, working out relationships as they go on misadventures together, Sy Ari Da Kid would be sitting in the corner as that anti-social force that builds his own group of back of the bus kids. He’s a lyricist completely unafraid to share personal stories, sensitive subject matter, or political opinions and even less afraid to buck trends. Sy is one of the first people I think of when I use the phrase protective over your sound.

All those ingredients are what make massive steamroller posse cuts like this possible. Look at the criminally slept on ingredients in this song: D Dash, Translee, K Camp, Scotty ATL is so good right now I still feel bad for not liking his music in the past, Dae Dae is a savage on the mic, and Bo Deal pours himself into songs whether they be angry or meditative.

I don’t even think this is the best song off of Sy’s mixtape Ultrasound 2: The Birth (I go with the fiery personal Forgiven which has an amazing final verse) but how many other people could put together a little army like this? Sy Ari Da Kid can because he doesn’t start beefs for no reason he just grinds all day and for all the other artists in the same frame of mind it makes perfect sense. A little army of hungry intelligent overlooked Southern Rappers killing a track that might not even circulate for the love of the art.