Mixtape review-ILOVEMAKONNEN x Ronny J
Makonnen is so much better in an unorthodox state. Whenever he tries to fit the traditional role of rapper or R & B singer he ends up sounding very out of sorts. I think he is at the very cutting edge of making music that achieves bits of both but only without the pressure of expectations (this entire rundown applies to Lil Yachty as well). So it makes sense that when I listened to his new five song collection and thought he was back on track Makonnen himself stated this is not a tape just the two having fun. It proves my point. It has to be loose.
Makonnen has a voice that can be annoying or enchanting with a very thin line to separate. His commitment to it and use of audaciously emotional content matches up perfectly with off kilter bass burps and sharp sounds that Ronny J brings into the production. They keep it weird and stark and it works. Y U Leave is a song that takes over the landscape of your mind with far away vocal overdubs and a lurching melody.
Paper Chase is a little more celebratory and Ronny J really fuzzes up the foreground to produce a splendidly creepy trap beat to collect checks to. Lonely Thoughts features a superb guest appearance by Teddy, it’s exactly the kind of song I come to Makonnen for. Ronny J makes the strings cry over 808’s while Makonnen leverages an even more wounded delivery to his vocal performance. He’s not a stand out verse guy who is going to dazzle you with bars but if left to his own devices he can fill your music storage with something you only get from him. Something I wish I could describe better.
Kick It is the last song and high point of this song collection (which boasts some thoughtful shifts in tempo from loneliness to braggadocio to anger). He tells his mom to sit down while he goes out to hustle, “I wasn’t proud of what I did man I had F%*@in’ frowns, I lost so many F!*#in’ friends I buried them in the ground.” While it is a song about the potent emotional state of hustling he sounds so earnest which makes how catchy it is earned.
I definitely want him to do what Lil Uzi did and figure out his blueprint for the main stage. He has dropped off tapes and loosies but when he puts a debut together I’d like him to push for another level of what he’s best at. Maybe he needs to develop a plan for that, maybe plans are not best for him. He might just need pen pad food and Ronny J.
stream or download ILOVEMAKONNEN x Ronny J below:
Song of The Year-Other Guys by ILoveMakonnen
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 of The Year-Jungle by Drake produced by 40
Right as the anniversary of So Far Gone approached Drake was planning a mixtape that went retail and I was writing about how So Far Gone changed masculinity in hip hop. I wish I could tell you I planned it this way. Who knew when Drake dropped If You’re Reading This Its Too Late that it would be as transformative as it is; not nearly as clingy or insincere as he’s been in the past. It actually has the feeling of a dangerous industry entity on the attack.
I recently went back and watched an MTV special on the making of Drake’s first album called Better Than Good Enough where long time producer Noah “40” Shebib explains that Drake is dangerous because you can’t tell him no. 40 looks right into the lens and says “because between him and me we can give you a mastered copy of what he wants to do.” Think about that? If the label says no, he says yes…goes and makes it and maybe he leaks it? Maybe he leaks a song that hits so hard the label has to release it his way. In a lot of ways 40 is Drake’s secret weapon.
While the new project is dense and emotionally layered to the point of filling, it’s Jungle I can’t get away from. I’m addicted to it and impressed by the delicacy of Drake’s singing and the absence of cringe inducing imagery (#ridingequestrian). The light cooing tip toes out of the speakers on crashing waves of bass. Does it sound like 90’s R&B or does it sound like what we remember 90’s R&B having sounded like? It sounds like the spirit of 90’s sexually charged R&B but more advanced. This is the OVO sound and while everyone was busy saying Drake is no Jay-z or Tupac they were missing what was right in front of them. Isn’t Drake’s ceiling this generations Sade? No, he needs his emotions center stage. Isn’t Drake’s ceiling this generations Janet Jackson?! Linking his sexuality to his bravado and an emotional tapestry we can’t look away from; all the while staying strangely unexplainably relatable to his audience. Dudes talk about how ladies love Drake but we will hit a point where dudes freely admit they love him just as much.
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Tagged 90's R&B, Drake, drake mixtape review, If Your Reading This, Its Too Late, Janet Jackson, Jungle, Noah 40 Shebib, OVO, sade, So Far Gone, song of the year, YMCMB
EP Review-PNDCOLOURS by PARTYNEXTDOOR
It might be an understatement to call PARTYNEXTDOOR music seductive. His version of the OVO sound has the depth of an infinite space, pulling you deeper into it the more you listen. The bass is trampling and before you know it you’re so lost in the atmospheric splendor that you miss the clues as to his real intentions. From first line of the first song (Let’s Get Married) he’s saying crazy things about women “All I need is a woman who will want to agree with everything that I do. And get naked for me when I want her too…”
Enjoying PARTYNEXTDOOR music is like befriending someone you know is a terrible person because regardless they are funny, smart, and cool. As many showers as I’ve had to take after listening to PNDCOLOURS its one of the years (2014 ya’ll) best EP’s. Each song feels like a single you could build your album around. The vocal echo on Girl From Oakland melds with a pulverizing bass line and the projects best chorus to feel overwhelming while still maintaining its coolness. All of these songs are in first gear and use that laid back signature differently. Don’t Worry is a slow motion snarling brag. While Girl From Oakland is cool and seductive Juss Know is haunting as he repeats “I remember everything” in an accusatory tone while detailing a lost relationship and the bitter emotional residue laying atop blissful memories.
PNDCOLOURS is straight up mind control good. It doesn’t matter if you’ve liked PARTYNEXTDOOR in the past, once you’ve pressed play you won’t have a choice.
stream or download PNDCOLOURS below:
Nickelus F-Vices mixtape review
You can hear Nickelus F blow Drake off of his own tracks when Drake was focused on rapping (Room for Improvement era). For my ears it never translated to his music, he always had a masterful in your face flow but came off as a shock rapper. Having a bold flow like Busta Rhymes isn’t as much of a gift as people might think, the audience gets used to it then tired of it and stops listening to what you’re saying. All they can hear is how you say it.
I am absolutely baffled by his new mixtape Vices. The off putting cover says all the songs were produced by Nickelus F but other sites are saying at least one of the songs (Number 15) was produced by Jake One. Either he took his music into a different direction, taking the slow promethazine chopped not slopped Houston rider music and sucking it through a depression vortex or he has ghost producers doing great work. I am in no position to say which but if I could interview any rapper right now about their music it would be Nickelus F about Vices.
Emerging from the tense haze of a stretched sample on Beast of Burden he starts to give us what he’s known for “I smoke until I’m dead and come alive when I snort, I kill that F#$%ing B#%$ and take a ride with the corpse.” He talks about ghosts, goblins, groceries on lay away and establishes his depression aggressively with lines like “You got a skeleton, my closet holds a graveyard.” With tracks like Halfway Dead, Painkillerz, and Beast of Burden you might think the listening experience would be one dimensional, no danger of that here. Throughout Vices he does a masterful job of saying funny things, distasteful things, and somber things utilizing the same haymaker flow. The song My Convo provides a great example “She said my dick the bomb sh#t tell me something I don’t know…like what the f#ck is in hot dogs…”
He sings the chorus’s mindfully, taking a raspy voice and straightening it out in an honest attempt at singing. The tension makes songs like Halfway Dead work, of the fifteen tracks you’d be hard pressed to find one that is a throw away, half conceived “off the top” experiment. Everything is placed where it needs to be. Songs like The Boomerang Nunchucks and My 3rd Cuzzin’ are so serious that others like Tanqueray (with its lasso sound effect and deep bass line) or Jet Fuel (a laid back smoker sex song with a great blast of horns and the best chorus of the tape) are necessary to let off steam.
A lot of the press Vices gets is about the reuniting, artistically, of Drake and Nickelus F on the last song Number 15. It has to follow the classically unclassy sex song Petey’s Wingz where our narrator promises to snap his lover’s spine with sex impact and have her scream so hoarse she sounds like Jadakiss. He sings almost all of it adding a little R. Kelly “I believe I can Fly” that brings him closest to Old Dirty on Sweet Sugar Pie…but at the end the epic Drake voicemail comes and then the promise is fulfilled. Number 15 is not a single; it’s a strum of a backbeat with aggression and frustration stewing into overwhelming melancholy. It’s a good song but a lot of people that hear it as a single won’t listen to the full tape and feel the emotional voyage through great samples (Outkast sample on A Bird) and the most versatile lyrical project in the Nickelus F catalog. Drake is a great bookend to it but he’s not the full book. All in all Vices is one of a handful of really resonant projects this year. It’s well worth any time you give it.
check out Nickelus F’s mixtape and nose horns on the cover below: