Mixtape Review-Meekend Music by Meek Mill
The notion that your diss song is better so you kill your opponent’s careers is as real as Santa. Santa is grounded in a real factual dude from who cares how long ago who did stuff for his neighborhood but that dude is gone. The notion that Drake made a good song out of his response to Meek’s angry twitter feed and now Meek is over… is hilarious. That is probably how it worked for Busy Bee and Kool Moe Dee but let’s not pretend this hip hop is that hip hop. In this hip hop world what happened to Meek was great.
My proof is Meekend Music, the three song EP he dropped with two guests (A$AP Ferg & Young Thug). It showcases perfectly the two rules in any great Meek Mill release.
- The production needs to be weird. It’s not that Meek gets bored if the production is boring, normal Meek is good but just listen to the first song Lay. Honorable C-Note gives a trap beat pumped up by horns, with a marching band feeling and Meek delivers the best bars he has in years. The weirder the beat is (the more forward momentum it carries) the more snarling Meek gets and snarling is exactly who he really is. This is why it makes sense for A$AP Ferg to pop in; Ferg owns his gross tough guy chic and in order for Meek to achieve his best possible outcome he will need to do similar. The difference between the two is that Meek is great at fast flowing over beats that race against him. He loves to be pushed. Backboard puts him next to Young Thug and it makes more sense than most would think because while Meek has Philly tough as nails rap roots he’s also secretly weird and it is a key part of what makes him special.
- Too much Meek Mill is not good. If I had my way all his projects would be ten songs or less. On Meekend Music he doesn’t yell nearly as much as he has in the past(the beef and break up with Nicki seem to have focused him in on lyricism) but he has been guilty of yelling in place of real content before. Instead we get Left Hollywood where he reaffirms his identity and every emphasized second counts. Even when he isn’t shouting Meek has a tough time with album transitions and showcasing different dimensions on the journey of the listener. He needs to blast off and leave you wide eyed wanting more which is what Meekend Music is all about.
I hope he gets meaner and closer to his real on court personality. In basketball terms he is an Isiah Thomas, a smiling prince who is meaner than his competition. He cannot look to his left or right and cheat off his peers for answers. He is not in Drake’s lane he is in Raekwon’s lane. He has all the components to do great things and all this beefing did was stoke the drive. Now he just needs the right setting.
Stream or download Meekend Music below:
Song of The Year-Like A Rockstar by Kodie Shane featuring Saucy Longwe produced by Matty P, Stonii Tha Melody God & D. Clax
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
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)
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged 88, A Seat At The Table (+1), AZ, J Col, J Cole, lyricism, Migos, mixtape review, Mumble rap, Nick Grant, Return of The Cool, Trap Rap
Mixtape Review-1017 Vs. The World by Gucci Mane & Lil Uzi Vert
Gucci Mane is the Hunter S Thompson of hip hop. While I love Hunter I have never done drugs so I have very few people I can actually share that love with. People get swept up in the drugs and the Ice Cream Cone and forget about Gucci’s craft. Ever since Gucci was released the end of May, he has been laser sharp and out to prove a point. It’s a credit to Lil Uzi Vert that he is able to reach the bar Gucci sets on 1017 Vs. The World.
You know that no one is sleepwalking from the first song. Changed My Phone is audacious and loud and brash. Lil Uzi handles the chorus with intent for you to sing along while Gucci threatens to bury Nas at the bottom of the ocean with the manatees. C Note is the man behind the first two songs and they fit the classically melodic follow the bouncing ball flow but at least they are snarling and bass driven enough to be fun. Too much trap ends up a depressed drug stupor.
The reason I had a hard time getting into Lil Uzi Vert’s career ascension was that his melodic flow is so natural I missed the fact that he was still spitting with impressive technique. While Gucci drops the most rewindable verse of the mixtape on Blonde Brigitte featuring “My ex keep going down memory lane like Minnie Rip-er-ton ho!” Uzi throws down two minutes and twenty seconds in. His confidence level and sensational ability to make everything singable give him a rightful place wherever he wants. I am by no means framing this as a passing-the-torch thing Uzi is not the next Gucci but he very well could be the next Young Scooter.
The knock on 1017 Vs The World is the same on all top tier trap related mixtapes. While a top tier rapper can take risks when he gets enough power (see Kanye West, Kendrick, etc) top tier trap rappers are beholden to the same stable of producers. The same way I can’t eat nothing but pizza or I’ll die I can’t listen to toxic levels of Zaytoven(good thing this project is only 7 songs 2 by Zaytoven).Threesome is a paint by numbers Zaytoven beat. This is the kind of minimal off-key stuff he has gigabytes of hanging around. I yearn for something to change (this is probably why Mike Will Made It is doing more pop stuff to challenge himself).
The best beat is In ’04 by DP Beatz which drops out and charges back in to accentuate Vert’s best performance. Now that Gucci is out he has a rumored album with everyone but Kanye is the one I want for Gucci. I want this, semi-cleaned up, wild eyed wordsmith over the lavish sonic tapestry of Ye’s universe. Listen to 1017 Vs. The World and I think you’ll agree.
Stream or download 1017 Vs. The World below:
Mixtape Review-AD & Sorry Jaynari-By The Way
Energy creates energy.
No matter how popular the grim and gritty brooding album is (for showing the wounded humanity of its narrator) to a fan base desperate to connect with dark secrets; it lives that way in contrast to energy projects and it will always need energy to contrast against.
AD is that dude. The first song on his mixtape By The Way has the perfect title-Boom. Boom is exactly what happens when AD jumps onto a song(see E-40’s new AD assisted single On One for more evidence), we are talking about Petey Pablo level energy but laced with determined frustration “…knew that I was destined, knew I wouldn’t be stressin’, knew I was that n_ studio nights at the Westin. N_ slept on me for years but I took that sh_ as a blessing, no weapon shall form against me, my dreams now manifestin’.(Boom)” None of his verses are fluff in any way shape or form.
The production is handled by Sorry Jaynari of League of Starz. League of Starz are really the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League of ratchet, keeping the excitement (finger snaps, mean bass lines) but it’s cleaner and more polished than anyone else can make it. Sorry Jaynari carries that tradition forward; no beat has a millisecond that doesn’t make sense.
G Perico, YG, E-40, Nef The Pharoah, OT Genasis, Freddie Gibbs, Mozzy, Ty Dolla Sign, IamSu, and K. Camp all show up and feel perfectly welcome amongst the clean exclamation point west coast thump. My favorite song is up for grabs, it could be Strapped which features a classic West Coast hook and old time Dj Quik groove that G Perico sounds perfect on. AD swings into the track with more swagger than shouting and it all fits perfectly. Tap In could be the best because E-40 lays a MONSTROUS hall of fame guest verse and Nef The Pharoah oozes all over the song with his exceptional crazy talk.
If you were never into the West Coast sound this project is not going to change your mind. The great thing about By The Way is that if you ever did love that sound, you’ll recognize it here but you’ll also recognize that it has changed. These aren’t hyphy songs overloaded to the point of madness; if you listen to the title track you’ll hear…the song is actually pretty sparse for something this hype. It surges forward because AD is a master of ceremony in the entertainer sense; he whips the song into a frenzy while Sorry Jaynari keeps the ship steady so it doesn’t exhaust you as a listener. The combination of unique talents working to highlight opposing strengths gives the project a real identity and listenability; By The Way is another example of the strength and depth of the West right now. AD could have an amazing future but so could any number of the guests on the project who are young lions with their own dope projects out (Ty Dolla Sign, Nef The Pharoah, Mozzy, G Perico) and that is just a sliver of all the talent bubbling.
Energy creates energy.
Stream or Download By The Way now:
Mixtape Review-All or Nothing: Live It Up by Lloyd Banks
Hillary Clinton and Lloyd Banks are more similar than you might think. In the same way the public looked at Hillary confused for staying with Bill after all the cheating, expecting her to explode in front of us, Lloyd was called out publicly over and over again by his mentor 50 Cent for being lazy and not promoting himself and said nothing publicly. Banks believes in loyalty with no regard for outsiders.
On his new mixtape All or Nothing: Live It Up the first song (Pledge of Allegiance) states repeatedly “Trust nobody that ain’t family, they’ll switch up on you fast.” It’s what separates him from Game, both have virtually the same skill level but Game is an epic self-promoter willing to do whatever it takes to trend. So while 50 Cent might see Banks as lazy, and the average fan will wonder where he goes in between mixtapes (not a promotional tour) on All or Nothing he articulates himself as someone who wants to focus on art the way Hilary just wants to focus on policy. Neither campaign for themselves particularly well.
She is great at the work of government and he’s a great lyricist but neither wants to win the homecoming king/queen of public opinion. Familiar producer names for Banks fans are present here as Tha Jerm gets two songs, Doe Pesci gets three. Even new names sound familiar; everyone just wants to give Banks something that will bring him back to that Born Alone, Die Alone state of being. After all the waiting, the long hiatus, how much rap has changed…Banks steps back into his old sound like he never left.
When he works with guests he is never outshined. Prodigy and Vado get loose over the haunting violin of Mr. Authentic’s Seniorities beat but Banks is better. Joe Budden throws bar after bar at the warped boom bap of Doe Pesci’s Transitions beat and Banks doesn’t bother tacking on extra verses on the back to not get shown up. He’s confident in what he’s doing.
The best songs on All or Nothing: Live It Up are Banks by himself. As the cymbals crash on Bags of Gold (produced by Quis Star) he wraps his words around money and paranoia in a unique rhyme pattern that is amazing to listen to. My favorite song is Miserable; he raps the first verse to a loved one and pledges that his word is all he has, being authentic and reliable means a lot to Banks but not in the way we understand it.
He wants to achieve his personal artistic goals and live up to the high bar of New York hip hop lyricism without being touched by the oily tentacles of industry politics. That’s why he doesn’t opt into big marketing; he just drops it and knows that whoever listens will get more than what they paid for. As he weaves words together at a fiery pace on Holy Water(2nd favorite song) you start to realize that he is driven but its personal and long term . Makes for a great listen.
Stream or download All or Nothing: Live It Up below:
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged All or Nothing Live It Up, Doe Pesci, G-Unit, Hillary Clinton, hip hop, Joe Budden, Lloyd Banks, mixtape review, Mr. Authentic, New York Hip Hop, NY Hip Hop, Prodigy, Quis Star, Tha Jerm, Vado
LATE PASS Mixtape Review-Imperial by Denzel Curry
Everyone should like Denzel Curry. If you’re a hip hop purist than you hate biters, people who can easily be traced into others. Success breeds copying so you can find a lot of rappers in New York who sound like Jay and a lot of yelling Atlanta dudes who sound like Waka (lotta Drakes out there). I dare anyone to look into the history of Florida (Curry is from Florida) hip hop and put Curry under one branch of someone’s tree. He’s totally unique in delivery with a flow that can tighten up to a speed bag pace or loosen up without losing any diction.
Imperial is ten songs with no filler. The hooks are all catchy and usually meaningful (example: This Life). The topics aren’t always what you expect and go in interesting directions while following a clearly understandable perspective. Narcotics sounds like the glint of cold steel and (produced by the Suicide Boys) feels like a trap anthem but it’s about the assumption that he deals with from the police. It’s menacing as hell and begging you to connect it in your mind to a song about hardcore dealing…but that’s just perception. Another icy banger is Knotty Head featuring Rick Ross produced (like most of the songs) by Ronny J & FNZ. This one is official bluster; twisting weed, not giving an F, doing whatever you want to do…perfect for a Ross feature. Curry also has the line “My pockets on Andy Milonakis” which I can’t get enough of.
Just like Knotty Head fits Ross and creates a great Carroll City connection, Zenith is ideal for Joey Badass. It’s the species of warped boom bap beauty (from Ronny J x FNZ x Freebase) that any lyricist lives for. The elements are simple enough to give the rapper a clear stage but it knocks hard enough to make a gorgeous song. Joey continues the Method Man-like characteristic of sounding way more dialed in on other people’s songs. I love that he is a feature killer, it keeps us from forgetting how utterly dope he is.
If you are looking for trademark Denzel Curry moments, this project is full of them. Sick and Tired is dark, frustrated, and paranoid. People are looking at him like a target because he is doing well so he has to protect himself as well as his family from that, not to mention duck the confines of the law. My favorite song on the mixtape is Story No Title where he launches violent disagreement with his peers “How the F_ the rap game become a beauty pageant? Candy @$$ rappers tryin’ to sound like Atlanta b/c they got no identity. I’m off the top like O-Ren Ishii v. Uma Thurman…” It’s a statement to his audience outlining the difference between Denzel Curry and other listening experiences. It’s a story with no title because the title will come later or not, the point is the story and the story is unique. A great title without a good story is a letdown. Curry vows not to be that. Pure Enough also builds on this conversation.
If Tomorrow’s Not Here is a perfect way to end the album. It reminds me of the last song on Goodie Mob-Soul Food (The Day After); thickly soulful, chunky and thoughtful. By track ten (Tomorrow’s Not Here) Denzel Curry is perfectly defined along with all of his fears. Even those of us who are hearing him for the first time on Imperial know exactly who he is and that’s such a brilliant relief.
Stream or download Imperial below: