Song Review-Special by Gucci Mane featuring Anuel AA produced by Murda Beatz and Cubeatz
The reasons you should think of Gucci Mane as a genius lyricist are pretty straight forward: 1. Individuality-built his style on his own not a product of anyone or any other movement (in this way I think of him as the E-40 of Atlanta). 2. Bold experimentation-he’s always folding different talents into his universe and letting them inform it (Lil Uzi Vert, Rocko, Young Scooter, etc). 3-Depth-whether it is how he strings the rhyming together, the uniqueness of the words used or the observations… if you really listen Gucci is KILLING his bars.
Gucci Mane dropped a new album called Delusions of Grandeur which at 18 tracks long gives you all the different forms of Gucci on a polished ready-for-primetime level. Production wise he incorporates Kenny Beats, Tay Keith and J.White Did It into the fold with Southside, Zaytoven, and a bunch of recognizable names. Tay Keith did Sicko Mode, J. White Bodak Yellow, and Kenny Beats took Key! And Rico Nasty to the next level on separate projects. Gucci has always been an amazing talent scout and that continues here. Even Justin Bieber is perfectly placed singing the hook on Love Thru The Computer.
In regard to depth, a line on the song Special really blew my mind. He says “Like Cinderella they think I was born with chedda.” I flinched, and was struck by it…wait Cinderella was scrubbing the floor…we know that as the audience…what is he talking about it? As I thought about it the fog lifted. We know Cinderella’s story as the reader but picture the happily ever after of her life. Any person she meets post-“It’s your slipper!”is not going to know what we know. So she will smile keep her chin up, act stately, and live up to what they think she is. The truth is not even something she has the time to explain, nor does she have the faith they would understand. This mirrors his journey. When Delusions of Grandeur broke people were tweeting things like “GUCCI IS THE GOAT!!” “GUCCI NEVER MADE A BAD ALBUM!” I will tell you that when those mixtapes broke people were calling him disgraceful and dumb BEFORE he got an ice cream come tattooed on his face. I was dismissive of him partly because the wrong white hip hop fans wanted him for their new Flavor Flav. Serious people taught me to get serious about him but I was already suspicious based on killer guest features.
That’s what Delusions of Grandeur is about. Being the best at what you do, the last one standing from a generation with no one left that really remembers how hard it was to get there. No one to stop and say “How cool is it that in 2019 Gucci threw Anuel AA on this track to do a Spanish verse.” It’s a song about being special, not just how cool it is but how bizarre it feels.
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Tagged 1017 Brick Squad, Anuel AA, Atlanta hip hop, best albums of 2019, Cubeatz, Delusions of Grandeur, Gucci Mane, J.White Did It, Kenny Beats, Murda Beatz, song reviews, Southern Hip Hop, Tay Keith, Zaytoven
Song of The Year-Boys Will Be Boys by Stella Donnelly
The debut album by tiny lady Stella Donnelly from Perth Australia has dominated my listening for the last week plus. Album cover is definitely off putting and the subject matter is so tense in its exploration of patriarchal savagery (in both personal and political spheres) I feel her eyes as I listen. What I didn’t expect was the emotional durability and craft in the album.
Beware Of The Dogs could easily have been a precious thoughtful album with high review scores but too tough to listen to, instead, it mood matches marvelously. It jokes and laughs at the problems it presents grooving while taking them to task. The melodies are composed to be sweet and soft as your heart gets broken. Her voice is really special and has layers to it that she uses extraordinarily well for someone on their debut album.
Can I tell you what I love the most about Stella? The writing is the toughest most spellbinding in the world to me. In this song she sings in heartbroken tones “Your father told you you were innocent. Told you women rape themselves.” You cannot misunderstand her songs. Her lyrics are dedicated to clarity while remaining deeply important and thoughtful.
Boys Will Be Boys is a vital spotlight change in the consensual sex conversation. The spotlight always seems to be on the poor young man whose life and reputation are in jeopardy because he was accused of rape and this song helps push our vision to the women who were betrayed and dismissed. None of this album is preachy, none of it sits from a comfortable place expounding upon the right ways to live.
Beware Of The Dogs is dedicated to the real damage patriarchy causes. The damage we always seem to ignore. It is my favorite album of this year because the narrator walked me through it all with kindness and humor while NEVER pulling punches. Stella believed in my ears enough to give me the truth as brutal and complicated as it is. So few have the temerity.
Please check out all the songs available to listen to on bandcamp:
Song Review-10 Piece by Curren$y & Wiz Khalifa produced by Dame Grease
The mixtape era taught artists how to sell themselves post-music industry collapse. When Wiz & Curren$y dropped How Fly they outlined their rap and lifestyle values without any A & R influence or board meetings to approve. They sent it right to us. The duo were all about girls, video games, weed, laughing, loyalty and not a lot of unnecessary stuff outside of it.
I’m glad they got together to break bread over fabulous production and check in on where they are. Curren$y says “We control the town from the couch.” Wiz says “Now we fathers, know that God got us.” I think reviews will come in saying the project is fine. Both of these guys are prolific and that bores reviewers but they have amazing chemistry and share values that trace back to Snoop. They would always prefer to be peaceful. Wiz even ends the song warning that gang life isn’t “the vibe”. On top of that they are growing older and not hiding it. They wear their collective maturity as an honor like old gunfighters who have survived terrible upheaval.
It is deeper than album of the year considerations. These guys left an imprint on the world of hip hop and I’m not sure we take enough time out of our day to think about it. The old heads know both of these dudes can SPIT so they get feature requests from the very best. The new kids know these guys have been successful over a long period and seek to know to understand how. Listen to 2009 you’ll get closer. Along the way you get to enjoy two great technicians.
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Tagged 2009, Curren$y, Dame Grease, hip hop, How Fly, Jet Life, reviews, song revew, song reviews, Taylor Gang, Wiz Khalifa
Song review-Goyard by Lil Debbie produced by Kid Class
I will be forgiven for not being all in on Lil Debbie when she popped. She came about during that big 2011 White Girl Mob mess that spawned V-Nasty & Kreayshawn. She came in the game as a tiny white girl with a pronounced blacent (to be clear people grow up in different neighborhoods and if you are a tiny pretty white girl growing up in a culturally black environment I’m not mad if you pick up stuff, that outrage is not my perogative as I am a white dude from Maine).
The difference between Debbie and the rest is that she really picked up productivity. From 2013 till present day Lil Debbie has 6 ep’s and 2 studio albums. She teamed up with Atlanta based producer Kid Class for a new ep in salute of Fresh Prince/Jazzy Jeff entitled I’m The Rapper, He’s The Producer. For the first prolonged period of time (5 tracks) she is forced to adjust to different production. She’s spent her life eating off slapping bay area beats that did a lot of the work and this time things are different. The final product she’s able to craft is worthy of some real acknowledgement.
I did hear her get better over the course of years and her last album (2017’s OG In My System) has real bars (I distinctly remember hitting rewind on a verse attacking organized religion as a drug to pacify people). I’m The Rapper, He’s Producer is a game of adjustments. On the first track Oxymoron she uses the Migos pinched breathing hook delivery to find the bounce, on Stunt she uses Southern rap style vocal doubling to good effect. She sways with these beats to stay in the flow of the production.
The high point is Goyard (which I just found out from the internet is a French tote bag that dates back to the 1800’s. She went to fashion school people.) This is like a great Wiz Khalifa song with hand claps and a hook held and pinched to make the autotune an essential part of the song. Her flow has no more wrinkles left in it. You can say she’s not saying anything important and that argument has enough gray area to sink anyone BUT she spits. She is a monster on the chorus & bridge. I could have easily done this review on the song after Goyard (Classic) which is warm and fun and cocky. Her songs go.
Nothing makes me happier than when people I think suck prove I suck for doubting them. She gets it and has the right attitude when she says “You know I be super loaded off the OG blunts and Eddies, even let my haters hit it ain’t no time for being petty.” She played the long game after the hot takes cooled down.
Song Review-Figure It Out by Wiz Khalifa produced by Sledgren & Cookin’ Soul
I love Wiz Khalifa’s first album Show and Prove released in 2006. He was a 19 year old kid spitting fire and I loved his bars. It was not always an easy process watching him become this generations Snoop. By Kush and OJ I’d figured it out like everyone else but I still miss hungry Pittsburgh Sound Khalifa.
It might be weird to write about him now, a lot of important critics have probably pronounced his latest album Laugh Now, Fly Later another Khalifa album to ignore. I like it. It is the first post-monoculture Khalifa album. Laugh Now, Fly Later accepts that the spotlight he was trying to get back isn’t even there anymore. At this point he just needs to do what Curren$y does and focus on keeping his fans laced; the rest is what it is.
Songs like Stay Focused and City of Steel are back in any fans comfort zone. My favorite of all is Figure It Out. I am a documented Cookin’ Soul nut (don’t sleep on Sledgren either). This beat feels like a Caribbean beach. Not only is Wiz in Rolling Papers form when singing the chorus, but it’s about something. The chorus is
“Sometimes things ain’t gon work out
How you think you want it to go
Sometimes you gotta keep going
When you think you can’t no more
Sometimes you can’t depend on
Who you think you can no more
Sometimes you gotta try, gotta try and
Figure it out”
He masters the tone of determined faith and energy while maintaining a meditative level of chill. You can hear him getting mad at people trying to derail him and letting go of that anger. Lyrically you can see it in the end of the second verse. “Goals, set em, achieve em/ Joints smoke em and leave em/ Ten toes, no matter the season/ Hot tub with my feet in/ Living comfortably cheesing.” Figure It Out is the Wiz we need. Every generation needs it’s Snoop; someone to buck the traditional RA-RA chest beating cadence and give you something to ride the speed limit to. For Wiz he’s at his best when he can give you the mood and some verses that mean something to him. I hope he’s building to that place and he can give us his own variation on Blue Carpet Treatment.
Song Review-Bamboo by Skyzoo produced by MarcNfinit
Skyzoo is so gifted that at times he’s too much for himself. At points in his discography his high IQ on jazz meets his high IQ pen and he puts out projects no one can understand. His new eight song project Peddler Themes is Skyzoo in my favorite place.
Bamboo is the most precise example: the beat takes boom bap nostalgia to real trunk rattling levels, the chorus is totally unique, intelligent and catchy while his verse is not just intelligent (everything Sky does is intelligent) the images are vivid not just telling the story but showing it to you. Examine the first verse and how the song opens “And he said, the strap black like fab 5 apparel/Sweet 16 running laps outta the barrel/Said it sing lullabies that’ll wrap you like a carol/Ducking that is like juggling laps with a Camaro” good writing grounds you in the scene with detail and Peddler Themes is full of emotionally rich detail. Skyzoo didn’t set out to make a drug rap album or a drug dealer movie but a painting built from hundreds of careful brush strokes.
That being said Peddler Themes color is still very fun. Just listen to Skyzoo (produced by his old friend Illmind) flex effortlessly on Finesse Everything. I think a lot of rappers at the higher end of lyrical density have a tough time getting out of their own way but when a razor sharp expert stays loose, has faith in the design, and pushes forward the result is usually something exciting and Peddler Themes is absolutely that.
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Tagged Bamboo, Boom Bap, Finesse Everything, Illmind, intelligence, jazz influenced hip hop, MarcNfinit, New York Hip Hop, NY Hip Hop, Peddler Themes, Skyzoo, song reviews