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:
Mixtape Review-Lil Boat by Lil Yachty
The second most tiresome argument in hip hop (intrinsically connected to the first-the street authenticity argument) is definitely the “___ is not hip hop!” argument. The hip hop v. rap argument is a subset of this. While it is logically unnerving like driving a friend around in your Kia while they maintain that this is not a car…a corvette is a car; it does yield benefits. This bubbling hostility attached to almost every new popular artist keeps them hungry and fresh. Drake made so much money last year why should he even try anymore? Well, he can’t escape the criticism of him singing too much or not writing his lyrics. The only way to win against these prevailing winds is to hammer away with more success. Amongst the names you’ll hear filling the space of “___ is not hip hop!” Lil Yachty is #1 in 2016.
At this point, most heads have accepted that whatever Young Thug is doing he’s good at it. What is Yachty even doing? On Lil Boat he creates 2 personalities: the sunny warm and autotune drenched Yachty and the tough talking hard-nosed Lil Boat. The two personas hand songs over to one another over fourteen tracks of weirdo producers’ weirdest beats. I tried to play this in the car and my wife’s first reaction was “I can’t do this much auto-tune for too long.” If I only got one song I made sure it was 1 Night. At the end of it I told my wife about Yachty being a divisive figure and asked her what she thought…after a pause she said “I’m split. This is disgusting but…I love this chorus.” I think that’s a pretty good introduction to Lil Boat.
The hooks are amongst the best you’ll find in music; Wanna Be Us has nothing I remember other than the chorus. 1 Night has verses but they aren’t anything I’d be excited to quote to anyone luckily it is equipped with a chorus you will never shake. Yachty is so weird. He can do a really muted, pretty song like I’m Sorry and a big snarling posse track like the Minnesota remix (with Young Thug, Quavo, & Skippa Da Flippa).
As finger snappin’ fresh and pop friendly as Out Late is the real hip hop head has a sound argument that no quotables exist here, not even a lot of recognizable verses. Make no bones about it, this is hip hop. The mixtape is about living recklessly and never switching up, the thing is it doesn’t sound like what you remember hip hop to be…but isn’t that what we want? I thought we were tired of copycat rappers trying to sound like the greats? Yachty is just Yachty and now he can’t be hip hop cause bars aren’t his strong suit…fine with me. The divisive artist usually wins so I’m not worried. We had this argument before with Kid Cudi and hip hop has changed. Burberry Perry has the most repeat production credits on Lil Boat and truly gets the off kilter exquisiteness of Yachty’s bleeding voice, I hope they push it further. I hope the next mixtape is some elaborately off key Ziggy Stardust hip hop adventure, hopefully even weirder…something it will take us years to figure out.
stream or download Lil Boat below:
Street Lottery 3 by Young Scooter
I used to think of Young Scooter as mini-Gucci Mane, one of the many understudies the Holy Spirit of Trap (in holy trinity terms the father would be TI and the son is Jeezy) burns through on his long career. It turns out he’s a Frankenstein of Gucci and Future dedicating every rap lyric to drug dealing from a position of power yet hooking like he lost his mind. Anyone who eats off of great hooks and great hooks alone I refer to as a hooker and Scooter is that. He’s not just a hooker he’s a god damn hypnotist. Doin’ Numbers, Rarri’s & Bentleys have the same trap beats your used to and unimpressive word play like “yeah I F_ with Ross my whole hood bout Gunplay (Rarri’s & Bentleys).” You will be singing these damn hooks, he’s so dedicated to the hook he performs every line like its part of the hook.
Scooter is in the street anthem business. If Made It Out Da Hood doesn’t get your blood flowing you might not have much; Kodak Black fits perfectly on the song talking about dirty laundry and indiscretions in Maryland. This is the kind of song that put trap music on the map. For My Hustlas is a classicly zany Zaytoven sounding beat; weird enough for Scooter to fit perfectly. Grind Don’t Stop is an epic continuation of Made It Out Da Hood but on steroids, Will A Fool creates a synth whistle that burns into your ears, Future expands the songs sonic area. These two have always worked beautifully together.
All the Street Lottery mixtapes, even the Juggathon mixtape w/ Zaytoven has just been leading to this bubbling over point where Scooter takes the next leap. Are great hooks enough? Well he also has the production names you need: Metro Boomin’, Zaytoven, C-Sick, Will-A-Fool so this is top level trap but crossing over may not be his destiny or desire. While the project features big names like Future, Boosie, and Young Thug this mixtape has the American flag sitting in cocaine on the cover so it’s not destined for Wal-Mart. The moment that makes you ponder how far he could travel into the spotlight is Ice Game produced by Chophouze and featuring an invigorated & rapping Akon (best feature of the project). Since rap music is so full of street dudes & ex-dealers, hip hop will always be a sucker for anthemic trap music. His hooks raise the stakes and create more of an experience than a hot line could.
Is Young Scooter a great rapper? I have no idea. Hooks are a big part of rapping, if your hooks suck your albums won’t live up to what they are capable of (see: first Jadakiss solo album). If you can make everything sound like a hook isn’t that the genius we loved in Juvenile? That’s dope and while Scooter is not Juvy he’s got time to grow into more challenging writing and he’s certainly working hard enough. He released three mixtapes last year and no one knows what he’s capable of this year.
stream or download Street Lottery 3 below:
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Tagged Boosie, C Sick, Chophouze, future, Gucci Mane, hip hop, hookers, hooks, Kodak Black, Metro Boomin, mixtape review, Street Lottery 3, Trap Music, Will A Fool, young scooter, Young Thug, Zaytoven
Mixtape Review-The Kanan Tape by 50 Cent
One song on 50 Cent’s new Kanan Tape (free release mixtape) flawlessly represents the conundrum of 50. The song is called Body Bags and it starts with 50 telling a story about gambling one night, when a gunman barges in, shouting for everyone to go face down on the floor so he can rob them. 50 Cent looks at the gunman and says “N___ I got on white linen?!” That story is so specifically and charmingly him that it’s magic. The humor in a crappy situation, the overwhelming confidence, it all makes him special. Problem with all this is that the song following the interlude is blandly unspecified 50. Alchemist gives him a pure minimalist gem that sounds like 99 Mobb Deep and 50 gives us the song Body Bags which sounds like it could have been from any era of his career. If I said the phrase “typical 50 Cent song” you would hear Body Bags in your head.
This isn’t to say that he refuses to move out of his comfort zone. The Production list provides an interesting grouping of producers (seven songs seven different names). Whenever he moves into weird territory the results are interesting. It is fun to watch 50 wrap himself around a lush Sonny Digital beat on I’m The Man and the results are definitely a success. 50 has an incredibly high hip hop IQ so his southern songs are all performed at an extremely high level. Nigga Nigga featuring Lil Boosie and Young Buck is great not just because all Boosie verses have been show stoppers since he got out of prison, but because Young Buck always seems to show up and deliver when he lines up next to a dope artist. Young Buck by himself can go either way. The energy 50 brings to the track is matched by Boosie and the two snarl wonderfully together.
London on Da Track has the best song on the project Too Rich for the Bitch where he serves up a Young Thug style off kilter piano track to 50 who luxuriates in it, layering his braggadocio into a fascinating anti-love soundscape. This modern rap world of singing in the middle of the song and making your verses sound like hooks is something 50 can do in his sleep.
The most boring parts of The Kanan Tape sound like his boring last album Animal Ambition. 50 is convinced that if he gives us what we say we want from him we will be happy. That is why he gives us songs like Burner On Me with mailed in clothing brand brags and standard gun talk, it’s what we expect. The problem is that as an audience we only want sixty five percent of what we say we want; that thirty five percent that remains needs to be growth of some kind. Lyrically he won’t bring us closer to his life (he says he tried that on Before I Self Destruct and it didn’t work) so that leaves only so many other sonic ingredients that can change. I’m not writing this as some kind of smug internet tough…I’m a 50 Cent fan. The only Mainer who was bumping 50 Cent mixtapes before Eminem signed him and I’m saying you need to surprise me just a little. The Kanan tape is close but it’s not there.
stream or download The Kanan Tape below:
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Tagged 50 cent, Alchemist, Animal Ambition, Before I Self Destruct, Boosie Badazz, Lil Boosie, London on Da Track, mixtape review, Mobb Deep, Sonny Digital, Spinrilla, The Kanan Tape, Young Buck, Young Thug
Mixtape Review-Trapzuse by Zuse
Having a non-traditional flow or style is cooler than it’s ever been. Weirdo rap runs strong not just from Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug but IloveMakonnen and down the line. That doesn’t mean that some things don’t still take some time to get used too.
I think it takes a project and a half to really fully get behind Zuse. I’ve listened to everything he’s ever put out, largely because of the massive critical acclaim his uniqueness brings, but his newest mixtape (Trapzuse) is on another level above anything he’s done previously. Half of that has to do with the level of production, which has destroyed my preferred headphones (Metro Boomin produced one of the only songs that didn’t bass-destroy my audio setup). The Drumaticz did three songs and deserve a huge shout out. The production is so good that you don’t even realize Metro Boomin and Sonny Digital are a part of this; they don’t really stand out amongst the great contributions everyone makes.
The other half of why Trapzuse rocks has to do with assimilating my ears to the very authentically reggae flow that Zuse has perfected. Once you tune yourself to it you can catch the tongue twisting alliteration on Chipotle, the chilling murder scenario at the end of I Can’t Wait. His hooks have taken a massive step up and are now in the top tier of available trap. On every song he’s chopping chickens and hitting the hook like a heavy bag but it works. Run To It is expertly sung. His voice actually gets weirder on Trappin On Da Clock as he stretches the first word and repeats it following it with the other three in one bunch (holding the end of the last word until you beg for him to let it go). As hip hop listeners we are used to reggae rap in the KRS-ONE way; the I’m-going-to-do-this-for-a-song-or-two, maybe-a-verse-here-or-there, but-I’ll-come-back-to-the-standard-so-don’t-worry style. Zuse has been polishing this flow for a while, it’s all he does and it shines.
The weirdo superbowl takes place on the fourth track: Plug is Latino when Young Thug comes together with Zuse who sounds even brusquer than usual to counter the high and meandering tones of Thugga. It’s everything a weirdo rap fan could hope for; two mad flow scientists just having a ball.
I love this mixtape front to back but the truly strange thing is that the three best songs are the last three. As it ends Trapzuse feels like it is the prequel to some next project that is even more powerful, focused, catchy and strange. Money Come should be a pretty standard I’m-out-for-this-money song but Zuse throws down! His third verse is as good as any trap verse in 2015 and the chorus has infinite replayability. Till I Die might be the best beat on the project; it just writhes and twitches and bumps while Zuse delivers a muted and heartfelt ballad about staying alive. Post Malone has my favorite feature on my favorite song on Trapzuse. Before we are a minute into On God Post Malone is laughing in the background as Zuse brags about mixing Reggae with rap and confusing the world. It’s fabulous adrenaline altering braggadocio and the essence of Trapzuse. He manages to do all the things we are used to in a way that sounds completely different. The energy is contagious.
Stream or download Trapzuse below:
Song of The Year-Daddy by Rich Homie Quan
The newest mixtape from the Rich Gang graduate is called If You Ever Think I Will Stop Goin’ In Ask RR and while it has no concern for cohesion or quality control it succeeds at what it wants to do. The important thing for Rich Homie Quan is to show his own talent since so much of the focus in Rich Gang was on Young Thug.
Daddy is prime evidence that Quan can do things Thugga and many others can’t. It’s the twentieth track (this mixtape is far far too long and if you load it into your mp3 player and delete the boring songs that trail off into nothing you can tighten it into a rock solid 12 track journey) produced by KE On The Track who manages to create a beat that demands the open hearted confession Quan gives, while infusing trunk destruction level bass.
What Quan is able to do is throw his voice all over the song, singing melodically all throughout while making every word important. He’s not just doing cool weirdo Atlanta rap, he’s really telling you about a situation that would ruin most of us to the core. While his voice is pleasant to listen to the pain is also absolutely wrenching. He has as much emotion in his voice as Mystikal did about the death of his sister on Unpredictable (different emotions obviously, Quan is trying to hold it together. Mystikal sounded like he was letting the tears go while loading clips).
I don’t care what you think of Southern Rap. You can’t understand what they are saying because they slur…listen harder. This song is important and if you don’t open yourself up to understanding it and what Quan is capable of giving the game, you are the one who is way behind.