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 If you roll back through Luger’s best beats none of them are timestamped or outdated.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-Jugg King by Young Scooter
From afar I like Young Scooter. When I think about how much trap has changed and how much Scooter’s new mixtape Jugg King is right in the pocket of F.B.G. The Movie mixtape from 2013 my overactive mind wanders. Does Scooter see these new happier trappers and see them as a disservice? Does he look down on them appropriating dealer culture while clearly not having the experience in it (by their own admission)? Is Scooter going to see my review and respond to me on twitter? The answer to all these questions is no, a firm no.
Scooter came into rap with beautiful hooks and a hypnotizing flow dedicating every word to dealing and being independent and he is the same today. If you listen to the title track this isn’t one of those rappers who had a fire in his belly when he started and has become jaded. Jugg King’s hook declares it “I do what I want, you do what you can.” How could he be jaded? He never fell underneath Gucci or Future’s wing, never took a spot on a deep roster of MC’s clamoring for number one. He just forged good relationships and maintained them which is why you still see Metro Boomin and Zaytoven on the production list after all these years. This is why you haven’t heard from him in a while and he drops a mixtape featuring Young Thug, Meek Mill, Young Dolph, and Future.
You can listen to Jugg King front to back a few times without picking out favorite songs. Nothing throws Scooter off his spot, every verse is dope money and deceivers eating his dust. You can just press play and drive. Even surprising turns fade into comfort; Cassius Jay takes Gin and Juice and flips it into a trap beat for Young Scooter who makes OG Snoop an absolutely weird joy. On Cook Up Young Thug’s purposely distorted voice clicks into synergy with Scooter’s cocksure Juvenile sense of melody, that is the group album that should grow out of Jugg King.
Scooter is great with guests but does not need them. Streets on Fire is a straightforward hi hat first beat produced by Stack Boy Twaun and Scooter deals like it is life’s greatest joy “Jugghouse on a one way, I got four in a row I sold more pounds than Boston George, motherfuck Diego I just stuffed a thousand pounds in a Winnebago” I tip my hat to anyone who can bow out of Jugg King on moral implications. If you don’t want drug dealing to be glorified and Jugg King is too much of an advertisement for the wrong message I get it. Scooter is just too much of a snake charmer for me to let go. He knows how to sway with his tone in subtle softer ways like on Life which gets somber and mixes in anger, pride, shame, and parental joy.
His grand sense of DIY means I don’t even have to ponder his next move. He’s signed to his own label (Black Migo Gang). He’s the Xzibit of trap music. The same way X could jump on Snoop’s album, get Dre to produce for his album and never have to sign to any of them is how Scooter navigates between Freebandz (Future) and 1017 Brick Squad (Gucci) while never losing anyone’s respect. It’s impossible to even watch him sweat under the lights. He’s still smiling.
Stream or download below:
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Tagged 1017 Brick Squad, best mixtapes of 2017, Black Migo Gang, Cassius Jay, Freeband Gang, future, Gucci Mane, Jugg King, Meek Mill, Metro Boomin, mixtape review, Snoop Dogg, Stack Boy Twaun, Xzibit, young scooter, Young Thug, Zaytoven
Mixtape Review-In Tune We Trust by Lil Wayne
Looking back on what Wayne accomplished is shocking, even if you start at 2007. By the end of 2008 he had sold 2.88 million copies of Carter III and changed how pop rap albums sound forever. He created the pop mixtape market with his Dedication series that started in 2005. Wayne didn’t fall out of touch he savagely experimented and when he was wrong he was so committed to that wrong that it was unbearable (see Rebirth).
The lessons Wayne teaches are all present on In Tune We Trust which is likely a collection of loosies he had hanging around. Loyalty kicks off the mixtape with a brilliant first verse from Gudda Gudda. The key here is the beat by ChefBoy’RT is simple but filled with kinetic energy that drives at Weezy speed. Wayne taught us all what energy is. Whenever you hear Kendrick get into his take-over-the-world flow you know that comes from Weezy. In an interview Isaiah Rashad called Wayne the Michael Jordan of rap! You can debate the comparison but even on the low stakes freestyle Magnolia you marvel at how easy the art is for him.
The best song is Fireworks produced by Mike Will Made It. Jeezy kicks off the track with a great verse that puts Wayne into his perfect zone. While Jeezy has a pinpoint verse about success and drug dealing, Weezy wanders and jokes (“whip it like a big booty b__ like a cup of coffee with a spoon in it”) with the flow of a master and the mentality of a thirty four year old perverted Dennis The Menace. The difference in the two approaches makes the song work stand out.
The four song length of In Tune We Trust sets expectations low but it is a reminder that while you may think of Weezy as last era’s guy he is the same age as Future. He has just been professionally rapping before he could legally buy cigarettes. I am dead sure that when he does get his label situation right his next album will be a monster.
Stream or download In Tune We Trust below:
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Tagged 2017 mixtapes, Carter III, Dedication, future, Gudda Gudda, In Tune We Trust, Jeezy, Lil Wayne, mike will made it, mixtape review, Southern Hip Hop, Weezy
Mixtape Review-Red Corolla by Domo Genesis
Odd Future turned out to be a pretty awesome buffet of talent you could pick and choose from. I chose Domo Genesis from the very beginning, a no nonsense rappers rapper with an endless appetite to spit. When Domo put his debut album out last year he was in his Sunday best bringing buttery R & B singers in to hit the hooks, high profile guest verses, and jazzy production with horns or piano or both. Genesis is fine but it doesn’t play to his strengths like this year’s project Red Corolla.
It is ten tight tracks and none of them are long; none of them are overly conceptual. The production is short stabbing sounds over big drums. Evidence and Hi-Tek fit perfectly in the mix. Only two guest features pop in and both are fantastic. King Chip leads the way in the standout collaboration Honestly, Just Wanna Have A Good Time and Styles P drops another dope guest verse (for his guest verse hall of fame portfolio) on Overthinking.
The production is better because it provides tension that pushes Domo forward. The gentle plink of piano keys doesn’t feed the adrenaline in the same way these beats do, they push him to push harder. Even a song like Vintage Doms that you can think of as a straight up exercise in rapping is full of gems: “With a swag meaner than a broke bitch,” “Since Bishop fell up off the roof the juice I got it now.” He still brings melody in when he feels like it, on What It Means he kicks things off catchy with a splendidly sung hook but clears room for bar after bar afterward.
All the decisions he makes fit the concept of the red corolla, the cheap car that grounds his experiences. On the title track he explains it on the first verse.
“No longer focused on my broken ways
All I know’s the only way is to get loaded paid
But funny how the changes turn page when the dough exchange
Got me trying to float away
Back to red Corolla days”
It is a clear concept but one with enough room to breathe as a writer. The decisions just have to fit the personality of the man who once drove that vehicle. Red Corolla might be my favorite mixtape of the year and I don’t know if it has to do with the pure lack of rapping rappers we have now. Not taking any shots but guys like Domo who fearlessly lace rhymes are a rare breed at this point. It has made me a better listener and more appreciative. Mixtape Domo doesn’t have any concern about what will fit on the radio or jump up to first single level importance he just does the work and it all fits together perfectly.
I’m not saying album Domo isn’t valuable; I just want a bridge built between the two so we can arrive at a sonic compromise that makes everyone happy.
Stream or Download Red Corrolla below:
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)
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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