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:
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: