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.
Sample Snitch-I Choose You and the Willie Hutch effect on hip hop
by Willie Hutch
The chorus for I Choose You has been lifted by countless rap icons from Project Pat, Wiz Khalifa and most famously UGK on Int’l Playaz Anthem (I Choose You) featuring Outkast. Willie Hutch infused his music with qualities that not only secure his music as timeless but leave a prime candidate for sampling.
As a teenager Hutch was in a doo-wop group called The Ambassadors and that form requires a tightness and discipline in the songwriting as well as the execution. A skill set that would come in handy as he transitioned to writing, producing, and arranging songs for The 5th Dimension. When he signed to RCA he actually wrote the lyrics to I’ll Be There for The Jackson 5. Writing for Motown under producers like Hal Davis demands that precision and he was so good at it Berry Gordy singed him to be staff writer, arranger, producer and musician (played guitar).
This is all to say that by the time Willie put his first solo album (Soul Portrait) out in 1969 he had a rock solid foundation in the structure of melody. The album is a seamless showcase of a perfectionist’s attention to the groove. This is all to say that I Choose You is not accidentally glorious and pimpish. He made the song for the iconic Blaxploitation film The Mack starring Max Julien and Richard Pryor. It had to soar and make Cadillac’s feel like spaceships. He knew he could draw his voice out and kick it up a notch when the horns came in.
It makes total sense that the best Southern Rap collaboration of all time happened over the pillowy pitch-perfect harmony he organized. Every word Pimp C says is dynamic and arresting (even the offensive stuff…especially the offensive stuff) Bun B is ice cold Andre is earnest emotional poetic and Big Boi bubbles.
So think about it this way: Hutch and others like Isaac Hayes cut their teeth in the back room cranking out hits before they were able to grow into their solo voice but by the time they did…they were at an advantage of experience. Keep that in mind when a new inexperienced kid takes over the world after one song; that is the world putting them at a disadvantage. When Hutch experimented, loosened the reigns and got funky he knew how to do it and never suffered the disadvantage of not knowing when it got sloppy. I Choose You is the culmination of a lot of work and when you hear it make that your reference point.
Int’l Playaz Anthem (I Choose You) by UGK and Outkast
Willie Hutch-I Choose You
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Tagged I Choose You, Int'l Playaz Anthem, Max Julien, Outkast, Project Pat, Sample Snitch, Soul Portrait, soundtracks, The Mack, UGK, Willie Hutch, Wiz Khalifa
Mixtape Review-Prohibition by Berner & B-Real
Mixtapes give upcoming artists a chance to put together something that purely reflects them; not vetted by record executives and plotted for the radio. It also gives the major and middle class artists a chance to drop something cool out of nowhere. Prohibition falls into the second category. Far from a tear-soaked confessional Berner and B-Real come together for a merry celebration of legalized marijuana (in Colorado and other places).
If you need proof this is an A-list event just look at the track listing. Features include Devin The Dude, Snoop Dogg, and multiple stuck in your head hooks from Wiz Khalifa (not to mention a production credit from Harry Fraud).
Berner has been a commodity for a while. His flow moves at a trudge but he knows what good rap sounds like (evidenced here by co-production credit on Faded). His slower assured flow finds a perfect fit in front of B-Real’s pinched voice and faster pace on Prohibitions first song Shatter. Berner is one of those perfectly self sufficient dudes who makes a great musical accomplice. Not only is he used to doing it all himself but his sound is big enough to welcome just about anyone comfortably in it. On Faded (which samples my favorite Jay-Z beat) Berner ends the first verse with a cool tip of the hat to B-Real “sh#t I burned my first joint to…Cypress Hill” acknowledging that you will likely listen to this for B-Real and he’s fine with that. He is the Arn Anderson to B-Real’s Ric Flair (#prowrestlingreference).
Cozmo and Maxwell Smart keep things moving with big screen production that pulses and pounds like a speaker avalanche. All the hooks are super catchy and everyone knows what Prohibition is supposed to achieve. Fun. Beyond the excitement of big names and sweet hooks over car rattling beats its great to have B-Real back.
It was Method Man who said once when you are dope your always dope you don’t lose that. I don’t agree. If you don’t move, your muscles turn to mush and if you don’t spit dope verses….you lose your place in the process of creating them. It takes time to get it back and a lot of veterans don’t ever get it back. Over the last few years B-Real has been WORKING. His guest verse on the Curren$y track ET was remarkable when compared to low points on Stoned Raiders. I don’t think new school artists like Khalifa, Curren$y, and Berner are propping the old dog up. It’s the opposite. B-Real is determined to be dope. He sounds right at home on the Taylor Gang pimptastic anthem Breeze. He can still rip through a hardcore beat but he doesn’t need too. He’s adept enough to adapt without sounding corny. This is still the B-Real that spit smoker verses from your old boom box into the smoke clouds of your cold garage. For proof listen to him on 1 Hit “I got a dab on the nail…inhale. Got the flavors flowing outta my lungs when I exhale. Man I’m riding on a cloud hovering over the crowd…” that could have been from the Friday soundtrack. All that Prohibition achieves it does in only 8 tracks with the title track being a skit. It’s a concise love letter to not only weed but the weed song and all the surreal lushness of its landscape. I’ve never smoked marijuana in my life but man do I love a weed song. The high points of Prohibition are enough to cause a contact high.
Stream of download Prohibition below:
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Tagged B-Real, Berner, Curren$y, Cypress Hill, Devin The Dude, Friday soundtrack, Harry Fraud, Method Man, mixtape review, Prohibition, Snoop Dogg, Stoned Raiders, Taylor Gang, weed songs, west coast hip hop, Wiz Khalifa
From The Inbox-Bona Fide by Kid Sean
The distinction between hip hop and underground hip hop is a real stylistic divergence. It’s not really about sales figures. Artists like B.O.B. and Wiz Khalifa came up independently through mixtapes but they were always pop artists. You can listen to teenage Wiz belt out Pittsburgh Sound and think “MAN this is a radio hit.” Artists naturally create at differing levels of digestability. This is why UGK was always underground even as they were platinum. The music was still hard, lyrical, emotionally complex and felt too inappropriate for pop rotation.
While I love both forms I still have a weakness for underground hip hop. No inbox entry has carried the underground mindstate better than Bona Fide. High Life should be a typical smoker anthem and while it’s subdued behind a peaceful hook the instrumentation is rich and chunky. Sleezy E pipes in horn blasts at the right time. Kid Sean did not put together a collection of songs all fighting to be the most listenable. Instead we get a unified project where the tracks flow into each other. Even the real hard work stress talk on Rain Drops is accompanied by masterful minimalist production (thank you ThoVoBeats) and a chorus full of familiar hip hop images and personal memories.
So it’s not a depressing lean induced confessional or a crunk club project. Bona Fide is an emotional and reflective mixtape that never crosses into being needy. On the title track he says “love is key open up this beautiful mask” but it’s after a blistering salvo “calculating all the times I was hated on they had no faith. I stay bona fide traumatized equalize your inner mind you could die tomorrow not knowing so live more sleep less.” I don’t just love the standard of intelligence that Kid Sean brings to his verses (although I do very much love that), I love his deep abiding discipline to the mid range tempo. All of the hooks are stick in your brain sing a long good but none of them are begging for approval or widespread understanding. None of the beats stretch themselves outside ideal underground jazzy bass filled backdrop.
Bona Fide is the grand child of Digable Planets debut album; A grandchild come down to earth with no determination to stay; still drifting on If I Could (the high point of the mixtape) into visions of music and different lives. It never betrays how charming and smart it is while at the same time making sure never to bother you with how much of each quality it possesses. I think the kindest thing I could say about it is that I don’t always listen to Bona Fide but I’m always glad I have it loaded up. It makes me happy knowing I could listen to it at any time.
Stream or download Bona Fide below:
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Tagged B.O.B., Bona Fide, digable planets, FME submission inbox, hip hop, Kid Sean, mixtape review, Sleezy E, ThoVoBeats, underground hip hop, Wiz Khalifa
Mixtape Review-Tony by King Louie
Most subgenres start out as a descriptive insult. Swag rap is the rule not the exception. While it’s absolutely true that swag is a horribly annoying term that got beaten into the soil a few years ago the music is still pretty astonishing. Fans of the way hip hop should be pointed at this grouping of young stars making fun music and proclaimed in every form they could that they weren’t saying anything at all. A totally valid critique; the masterpiece of swag rap mixtapes Kush and OJ by Wiz Khalifa is a shocking piece of work. I came back to it recently and marveled at how utterly thin it really is while still satisfying. In a way that’s magical.
Rap music demands its master of ceremonies stand center stage and so his or her words are magnified and examined. To stand in that spotlight, not say anything and get the world excited about your music is utterly amazing.
King Louie feels like he fits more snugly into Swag Rap than Drill. All throughout Tony he’s eating space not filling it. While some rappers are trying to throw as many bars as they can he drifts into songs and eats measured beats like Pac-man digesting ghosts. He’s had this skill long before his scene stealing guest verse on Yeezus (Send It Up). This time is different because the songs hang so perfectly together.
The wall of disorienting bass Bobby Johnson throws on Day is made even more disturbing by the base hostility of the chorus/scream (“Make a N famous, put em on the news. He gon’ get a day. He gon’ Get a Day!!”). The anxiety in the strings Block on Da Trakk laces on G.O.D. is amplified by the terrifying whine of the chorus. Louie just seems to have this kind of instinctual intelligence. This is a dude who has put out lengthy mixtapes of off the top freestyles where half of them felt like songs that should be on an album.
So what is the draw? You know what Louie is rapping about; fine ladies and murder (I’m hoping in later projects he broadens via mixing content: enter King Louie and his murderous fine lady squad!). The churlish sneer King Louie has on Michael Jackson Money is normal in rap. You act absurdly annoyingly opulent and satisfied when talking about money. King Louie is like that all the time. When he talks about smoking haters it’s in the same Biff from Back 2 The Future laugh. He talks about shooting your shooters down the same way he says his dick needs a rest (both in Would You Believe It). That complete lack of dimensional fear and understanding makes him an engaging villain. What makes him such a breaking and bankable artist is the mad scientist style experimentation from track to track in terms of hooks. Compare the hooting and hollering on Day to the straight ahead crooning of Live & Die In Chicago.
If you find him annoying I totally get it. If you’re offended I have NO defense. To defend it would defeat the point. This is music from the most profane depths of the American psyche sometimes it’s a malevolent chant, other times its an insinuation to violence that feels too real for its own good. All I’m saying is that its good and I have not figured it all out yet.
stream or download Tony below:
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Tagged Bobby Johnson, Chicago Hip Hop, datpiff, Drill music, kanye west, King Louie, Kush and OJ, mixtape review, Swag Rap, Tony, Wiz Khalifa, Yeezus
Mixtape Review-Bittersweet Victory by Noelz Vedere
So a really long and interesting Wiz Khalifa mixtape drops (28 Grams) that redefines his persona yet again, Gucci Mane sends out his best mixtape in months (Brick Factory) and I’m talking about Noelz Vedere. When the music was all in one massive playlist my very first reaction was…who the F is this kid?
Bittersweet Victory is a ten song laser melting everything around it. Like a robbery it takes over your whole world and then leaves, the difference is your not missing anything in fact you’ve gained. As robberies go the take only needs to get split 2 ways: our linguistic contortionist narrator and Alex Isaak who is on a mission to blow your speakers. Let Me Burn is when they kick in the door; the bass as pulverizing as Noelz take no prisoners verse construction (dude rhymes bone marrow with Pharaoh). After the lauding of personal abilities Noelz slides some very rewindable lines into songs like Bittersweet “What’s celebration that comes with worse vendettas?” He manages to deconstruct the infamous Chicago violence and death in a very personal way that never turns preachy.
Vedere and Isaak never give you time to settle. As furious as Let Me Burn is Blackout takes it to another level; Alex puts together a ratchet feeling glow stick dancing backdrop that would make DJ Mustard smile while Noelz spits like he’s in a rap battle with the song finding time to call himself a light skinned Danny Glover. If you are waiting for the slow song this ain’t it.
How many people would Freddie Gibbs jump on a track for and not try to murder? On the song Out of Focus Gibbs waits until Noelz is done blacking out into his verses to add his trademark melodic sneer of a hook. Does any bigger co-sign exist? Jay might co-sign you but he gave a hearty thumbs up to Lady Sovereign and she was just awful. Freddie Gibbs doesn’t just hate Young Jeezy he hates sunshine, youtube clips of kittens eating ice cream and the feeling of laundry right out of the drier. This is the damn dark lord of gangsta rap giving a thumbs up to a young prospect I’d never heard of. That’s a great sign. Gibbs isn’t the only important guest by the way Sir Michael Rocks comes by on High Class and continues his crusade for 2014 guest verse MVP.
It’s all the tracks that just get eaten and digested with a battle rappers mentality that make songs like So Blessed a fresh counterpoint and not cheesy or overboard. You can hear Noelz voice amidst the kids in the chorus and feel him shedding layers of mounting frustration. As much as Garden of Eden stews in debt, death, and sin that beat break and chorus make it irresistible and in spite of itself…joyous.
Bittersweet Victory is so compact and moves so fast that it doesn’t have time for flaws. It puts each song in a shot glass and you just take it. After the last track, Fallen Soldiers, spirals down its own confusion and anguish to its end point you have to assess what your left with; a fiery introduction with a lot of potential behind it. I don’t think this is the Noelz Vedere masterpiece I think it’s just a start. As long as he sticks with Alex Isaak Chicago might have another major name on its hands. If it doesn’t it certainly has another dope MC on its hands.
Stream or Download Bittersweet Victory below:
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Tagged Alex Isaak, Alex Isaak Chicago, Bittersweet Victory, Chicago Hip Hop, dopeness, fakeshoredrive, Freddie Gibbs, Freddie Gibbs hates the feel of fresh laundry, Gucci Mane, mixtape review, Noelz, Noelz Vedere, Wiz Khalifa
Curren$y-New Jet City review
So many rappers have claimed a link between their lyrics and the novels of Donald Goines. I don’t think any of them do it as a shallow reputation boost, Goines is still the biggest selling African American author in history…a jailed genius who spun ghetto landscape into Shakespearean tragedy. For those who grew up with Daddy Cool and Whoreson its a standard you shoot for. Curren$y’s mixtape New Jet City which dropped on super bowl Sunday is the closest thing to Goines you can find(outside of early Ice-T).
It gets its name from the movie New Jack City which is a pretty clear rise and fall story, Nino Brown and his crew take power, ruin themselves with it and pay the price. The New Orleans MC has always been able to spin specific images that grip you from a laid back drawl, conversing this time about peanut butter colored leather and brown liquor but it’s the tiny fragments of concern and contemplation that texture the experience. On Clear for instance, Jadakiss weaves punch lines like “You ain’t got enough bars, bad service,” but the line that sticks the most is Spitta’s own sports metaphor gone street “Speed kills and them newer cats is mad quick.” A lot of New Jet City is bragging but even that is Jay in ’96 great “We on Yachts waving, champagne cases, cocaine traces found seeping from the speakers when the bass kick (New Jet City).” It’s not just the conversational form he’s honed over the years or the high level of wordplay he brings its meticulous relaxation.
This year has already had a few high profile mixtape flops that made me reconsider the countdown mechanism on these mixtape websites. As I stare into the ticker waiting for the tape to be released I build unfair expectations, the hype takes hold and the product never stands up to it. Curren$y should have fallen into that trap; this project features guest verses from Juvenile, Wiz Khalifa, Rick Ross, Kiss, Styles P, multiple Lex Luger beats, Harry Fraud. It seemed bound to be epic and came out subtle…with one exception.
New Jet City orbits around the third track(Choosin’) a song which features both Khalifa and Ross alongside one of the best Luger beats in recent memory. The stomping bass and hand claps are complimented by a chorus featuring two car sound effects made by Curren$y. It’s the type of song you could listen too every day and not get sick of. The rest of the tape is nothing like it. Luger contributes the wonderfully heavy footed Coolie in The Cut but King Thelonius is the production core giving everything he touches a soulful propulsion. Living for the City might be the dopest track of them all and its only two minutes and ten seconds long. This is what I mean by meticulous relaxation. As stoned and unconcerned as he seems to be he is exactly that amount controlling mastermind. It’s no accident that this has the most subdued Juicy J verse we’ve heard in years, a fourteen track maximum with at least one barely over one minute long. He’s not a gifted smoker but an artist controlling every element of your headphones canvas.
Upon first listening you might sit back and lightly remark how good it is, seven listenings later it’ll be different. You’ll get how seriously he takes this, how serious he is about smoking, women, and a life of personal determination bound for success with no second option. “Impressed with how I dress and this ain’t sh#t B I’m just chillin’ I’m never stressed never let em see me sweat (Three 60).” He never does but we can feel that he will and were rooting for him. It’s the same we all felt reading Donald Goines main characters.
Stream or Download New Jet City below:
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Tagged Curren$y, Jadakiss, Jet Life, Juicy J, Lex Luger, Mixtapes, New Jet City, reviews, Rick Ross, Spitta, Wiz Khalifa