Teyana Taylor – “K.T.S.E. (Keep That Same Energy)” review

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With the release of her average debut VII in 2014 & the birth of her daughter the year after, Harlem recording artist Teyana Taylor is returning with her sophomore album & she has enlisted GOOD Music founder Kanye West to produce it in it’s entirety.

The album starts off with “No Manners”, where she sings about her husband Iman Shumpert over some strings & piano chords. The next song “Gonna Love Me” gets romantic over an acoustic instrumental & a beautiful soul sample during the hook while the track “Issues / Hold On”. vents about fighting to keep Iman with her over a mellow guitar. The song “Hurry” with Kanye sees the 2 getting playful over a funky beat with my favorite hook on the entire album while the track “3Way” is about Teyana bringing in another woman for Iman so they can have a threesome over a moody instrumental & the Ty$ verse compliments it so perfectly. The song “Rose in Harlem” talks about being betrayed over some horns & a fitting soul sample while the track “Never Would’ve Made It” is a heartwarming tribute to her daughter over some stuttering drums & piano keys. Unfortunately, the worst song on the entire album would pop up with the closer: W.T.P. (Work This Pussy). The house production is ok, but it’s structured poorly & the vocal sample is annoying as fuck.

Other than that, this is the album that I’ve been waiting Teyana to make (even back in her Star Trak days). It’s passionate, the vocals are a lot stronger as is the songwriting & it’s WAY better produced than her debut. If she & Kanye are gonna work with each other in the future, than I’m all for it

Score: 4/5

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Death Grips – “Year of the Snitch” review

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After having a quiet 2017 with the exception of their Steroids EP, renown Sacramento experimental hip hop trio Death Grips are returning with their 6th full-length album.

The album begins with “Death Grips is Online”, where The I.L.Y’s provide an instrumental with a futuristic atmosphere to it as MC Ride calmly delivers his cryptic verses. I also love the scratches from DJ Swamp as well as the moments where Ride tells “BREAK IT, BREAK IT DOWN!”. The next track “Flies” talks about severing all ties over a glitch hop instrumental while the song “Black Paint” talks about requiring privacy & finally thinking over a noise rock instrumental. The track “Linda’s in Custody” has a nice electronic beat & the depressed tone in Ride’s voice suits it very well. After the short drill & bass interlude “Horn Section“, we go into the song “Ha Ha Ha”. Here, Ride gets sexual & the way the trio samples their past songs “Lock Your Doors”, “Up My Sleeves”, “Black Dice”, “Inanimate Sensation”, “I Want It I Need It (Death Heated)” & “Lord of the Game” was very creative.

The track “Shitshow” is a wild 2-minute sequel to “Hot Head” off their last album Bottomless Pit down to Ride’s aggressive delivery & the digital hardcore instrumental while the track “Streaky” talks about the hustler life over an instrumental with their signature industrial hip hop sound. The track “Dilemma” talks about Ride’s lifestyle over a synth-punk instrumental while the song “Little Richard” has a nice EDM instrumental, Ride’s robotic delivery is just ok. “The Fear” sees Ride venting being afraid to die & I absolutely love the sinister synths that Andy Morin brings to the table. Also, the way Ride famously screams his brains out during the hook never fails to amuse me. After the heavy guitar “outro”, we get into the actual closer “Disappointed” which is anything but. Zach Hill’s rattling drums in the instrumental are insane & the call/shout delivery that Ride employs will make you wanna fight someone. Especially when he yells “WHHHYYY ME?” throughout the hook.

To be honest, this is one of Death Grips’ best albums. As expected, MC Ride’s lyrics are cryptic & there are strong elements of both industrial hip hop & punk music. However, they also fuse elements of noise rock & IDM near-perfectly. My only real complaint about this (aside from Ride’s delivery on “Little Richard”) is that I feel like the last 2 tracks should’ve been switched around. Other than that, Death Grips yet again prove why I consider them the greatest experimental hip hop act of all-time

Score: 4.5/5

Westside Gunn – “Supreme Blientele” review

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Just a couple months after his FLYGOD is Good…All the Time EP, Buffalo MC Westside Gunn is delivering his highly anticipated sophomore album.

After a spoken word intro from Arn Anderson, we go into the first song “GOD$ Don’t Bleed”. Here, the FLYGOD hooks up with Benny & Jadakiss get confrontational towards their competition over a haunting soul sample from Daringer. The next track “Dean Malenko” is about drug dealing over a boom bap beat with some beautiful piano chords while the song “Brutus” is a bloody Griselda Records posse cut sans El Camino over an epic Pete Rock instrumental. The track “Amherst Station” vividly tells the story of the hustler life over a soulful beat while the song “RVD” gets braggadocious over a boom bap beat with some somber keys. I also like the spoken word passage from Keisha Plum during the second half.

Then we get into my favorite song on the album “Elizabeth”, where he talks about his street knowledge over a jazzy Alchemist beat. Then it transitions into “Mean Gene” perfectly, where he spits his signature “flyshit” over a soulful beat. However, the next 2 tracks “Stefflon Don & “Sabu” are easily the weakest on the entire album. They’re not bad, but they definitely sounded unfinished to me. If he added another verse on both tracks, that would’ve been perfect. The song “Brossface Brippler” with Benny & Busta Rhymes sees the 3 getting murderous over an eerie soul sample from Alchemist that fits the vibe perfectly while the track “Spanish Jesus” with Crimeapple sees the 2 returning to the drug dealer themes over a rap rock beat from Harry Fraud.

“The Steiners” with eLZhi is filled with battle bars over a joyous boom bap beat from Pete Rock & then “Ric Martiel” with Roc Marciano go back to the drug dealer days over a soulful Roc beat. The track “WESTSIDE” gets braggadocious once again over a sinister Statik Selektah beat & before a spoken word outro from A.A. Rashid, it ends with the epic “WrestleMania 20”. Here, Westside tells us that he’s not playing games over a 9th Wonder instrumental with a prominent acoustic guitar & a smooth Anderson .Paak hook.

As expected, this is Westside’s best work yet. There are a couple tracks that could’ve been fully fleshed out but other than that, the hardcore boom bap production & Westside’s signature street bars is a lot more refined than it was on his 2016 debut FLYGOD

Score: 4.5/5

Jedi Mind Tricks – “The Bridge & The Abyss” review

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After triumphantly returning to form in 2015 with The Thief & The Fallen, Philadelphia underground legends Jedi Mind Tricks are now coming out of the blue with their 9th full-length album.

After a 96 second intro, we go into the first song “San La Muerte”. Here, MC Vinnie Paz talks about how he isn’t fucking with anyone over a sinister Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind instrumental. The track “Rashindun Caliphate” sees Vinnie talking to his haters over an instrumental with an eerie atmosphere to it while the song “Freshco & Miz” talks about their longevity over a boom bap beat with some jazzy horns. The track “When the Body Goes Cold” gets confrontational over a gloomy boom bap beat while the song “What She Left Behind” vividly describes an abusive relationship over an alluring soul sample & the drums are going off like Desert Eagles. Honestly, I think it’s the most disturbing JMT song I’ve ever listened to

The track “Death Toll Rising” talks about ghetto life over a boom bap beat with a pretty Latin vocal sample & after the “Shed the Skin to Receive the World” interlude, we go into the song “Certified Dope”. Here, Pazzy spits that gun-talk over an instrumental that doesn’t really suit the vibe to me. The track “Hell’s Henchman” talks about snakes over an instrumental with some intense strings while the song “God Forsaken” is filled with murder bars over an instrumental that perfectly fits into a final battle.  The track “Legacy of the Prophet” with Sean Price talks about their place in hip hop & while it is hard, I feel like we’ve heard Sean on so many JMT tracks at this point.

After the “Void Ritual” interlude, we go into the song “You Have 1 Devil but 5 Angels”. Here, Paz spits some battle bars over some bass & keyboards while DJ Kwestion’s scratch hook suits the vibe fantastically. The track “Marciano’s Reign” intellectually talks about overcoming the negatives over an orchestral instrumental while the song “Torture Chamber” with CZARFACE goes back to the battle bar tip over a rap rock beat. The track “The Letter Concerning the Intellect” pretty much speaks for itself over a gloomy guitar & a soul sample on the hook while the final song “Making a Killing” talks about the meat industry a beautiful piano instrumental before the album finishes with a 1-minute instrumental.

While I prefer their last album a lot more, this is still great. Vinnie Paz’s lyricism has gotten sharper with age & Stoupe’s production compliments him just as much, but there were too many interludes for me

Score: 3.5/5

Freddie Gibbs – “Freddie” review

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After making a strong comeback with his last full-length album album 2017’s You Only Live 2wice, Indiana MC Freddie Gibbs is now returning with his 10th mixtape.

The opener “Weight” of course talks about drugs over a decent trap beat while the next song “Automatic” gets confrontational over a murky beat. The song “Death Row” with 03 Greedo talks about criminal activity over some dinky keys & heavy bass while “Triple Threat” talks about how hot this chick is over a smooth trap beat. The song “2 Legit” gets braggadocious over an amazing sample of Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” & after the FML interlude, we go into the track “Set Set”. Here, Gangsta Gibbs gets lavish over some rattling hi-hats & an atmospheric backdrop. The track “Toe Tag” gets murderous over an eerie beat & the song “F.B.C. (Fendi Buckle Coat)” charismatically talks about how fly he is over a fun beat. Then we get the closer “Diamonds 2”, which serves as a heartwarming sequel to the song “Diamonds” off of his Pronto EP from 2015.

While I still prefer Freddie’s last 2 albums more, this is still solid. Despite Freddie’s gritty lyricism staying in tact & while I also adore the nod to the classic Teddy Pendergrass album Teddy in the artwork, some of the production could’ve been better & the 03 Greedo verse didn’t really do much for me admittedly. Regardless, I think this is still is an enjoyable treat to hold us off until MadGibbs drops Bandana

Score: 3.5/5

Art Morera – “Transit City” review

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Art Morera is an MC/producer from Miami, Florida & this is his 3rd EP. Things start off with “Strangers”, where he vents to an ex & his production on here has a beautiful piano from start to finish. The next song “In the Moment” sees Art talking to his girl over an instrumental that suits the mood perfectly while the track “I Live in a Transit City” talks about his hometown over a jazzy beat. The song “All We Are” is a great display of Art’s storytelling skills over a laid-back instrumental while the track “WYA” with Ramon Reeves sees the 2 giving us a humble brag over a decent trap beat. The penultimate track “Dilly Dviiy” gets motivational over an instrumental kin to KiD CuDi’s early work & then it finishes perfectly with “I’ll Be Back”, where he talks about backtracking & his future over a soulful beat. Overall, this is Art’s best work yet. The production is beautiful, he sounds passionate, it’s well written & it’s a great display of where he’s at today.

Score: 4/5

Juice WRLD – “Too Soon..” review

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Juice WRLD is a 19 year old rapper from Chicago, Illinois who started blowing up just recently due to the release of his debut album Goodbye & Good Riddance just last month. I personally thought it was just average, because I feel like he’s pretty much Post Malone making Lil Uzi Vert & Trippie Redd songs. However, he’s now giving us a 2-track EP in the light of the surprising & devastating murder of XXXTENTACION earlier this week.

The first track “legends :(” is a heartwarming tribute to X & even Lil Peep (who passed away last November) over a somber trap beat & the other one “rich & blind :(” is basically a message to everyone who’s recently lost someone over a moody beat.

I still don’t care for Juice WRLD’s recent album admittedly, but I gotta give credit where it’s due. Not just because he sounds less like Post on here, but I think he refines the emo rap style a little bit on here in the terms of lyrics & production. However, I would’ve loved to hear 3 more tracks from it

Score: 3.5/5

The Carters – “EVERYTHING IS LOVE” review

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The Carters are a musical duo consisting of legendary Brooklyn MC JAY-Z & his wife, former Destiny’s Child member & Houston popstar Beyoncé. Their latest albums Lemonade & 4:44 saw them at their most personal, but now they’re closing out the trilogy with a collaborative effort.

The album starts off with “SUMMER”, which is a sex song over a Cool & Dre instrumental that suits the mood fantastically. The next track “APESHIT” is an energetic club banger with an infectious Pharrell beat & Bey’s rapping was a very nice touch. The song “BOSS” talks about success over a triumphant trap beat from D’Mile & Mike Dean while the track “NICE” with Pharrell sees the 3 getting braggadocious over some beautiful keys & rattling hi-hats. The song “713” is a dedication to Beyoncé’s hometown over an instrumental with heavy bass with even some Scott Storch-like keyboards. It makes even more sense that Bey interpolates the classic Dr. Dre tune “Still D.R.E.” in the hook, but that’s really the only part of the song that I’m realistically not crazy about.

The track “FRIENDS” sees the 2 individually dedicating the time to song crew over a gloomy trap beat from Boi-1da & for some reason NAV while the song “HEARD ABOUT US” tells their critics to watch their mouths over a funky beat. The penultimate track “BLACK EFFECT” sees the 2 intelligently talking about being African American over a soulful trap beat & then it finishes perfectly with “LOVEHAPPY”, where the ‘03 Bonnie & Clyde go back & forth with each other about professing their love for each other as well as moving on from the whole Becky incident over a beautiful Eddie & Ernie sample.

I’m well aware that Jigga intentionally gave us this  just the day after the new Nas album NASIR & while that is definitely superior, I still thought this was a lovely way to end the trilogy. Given what they’ve been through, the impeccable chemistry between JAY-Z & Beyoncé is a lot more stronger than it’s been in the past. Most of the instrumentals are luscious too & while I do enjoy a handful of trap music, I feel like a few of the beats on here sounded like they were forced to throw in hi-hats when they really didn’t need to

Score: 4/5

Nas – “NASIR” review

Despite saying it was done when DJ Khaled gave us a Major 🔑Ÿ”‘ in the Summer of 2016, the legendary Queensbridge MC Nas is finally coming through with his 11th album & he has enlisted Kanye West to produce it in it’s entirety.

The album begins with “Not for Radio”, where he vents about how he feels like the world is afraid of African American people over some haunting choir vocals. The next track “Cops Shot the Kid” with Kanye sees the 2 talking about police brutality over a perfect sample of the classic Slick Rick tune “Children’s Story” while the song “White Label” is pretty much a humble brag with a beautiful sample. The track “Bonjour” gets romantic over a soulful beat with some strings while the song “Everything” does talk about the current state of the world over some marching drums & a funky bass guitar, the first 2 minutes could’ve been cut off easily. The penultimate track track “Adam & Eve” lyrically reminds me of his Escobar days over some piano keys & then the closer “Simple Things” pretty much speaks for itself over a soulful beat.

As expected, this is tied with Pusha T’s latest album DAYTONA for being my favorite of the 5 albums that Kanye has dropped within the past month. I’m not surprised by the fact that it’s 7 tracks long given the other 3 albums are also in that length but it sounds focused, it’s well written & the production is more richer than it was on Nas’ last album Life is Good in 2012.

Score: 4.5/5

Jay Rock – “Redemption” review

With Top Dawg Entertainment’s ongoing Championship Tour wrapping up this weekend, it’s only right for Black Hippy member Jay Rock to deliver his highly anticipated 3rd full-length album.

The album begins with “The Bloodiest,” where he reflects about growing up in Watts an eerie beat from Boi-1da, Allen Ritter & Jake One. The next track “For What It’s Worth” talks about murdering someone as well as having sex with this woman even though he knows that she ain’t right over a smooth beat from Sounwave while the song “Knock It Off” is a warning to everyone who’s trying to be him over a laidback trap beat. However, the flow doesn’t really do anything for me on this one. The track “ES Tales” talks about going back to the projects over a sinister beat while the song “Rotation 112th” grittily talks about gang life & the trap beat on here suits it pretty while. The track “Tap Out” is of course a sex tune with a generic beat & a decent Jeremih hook while the song “OSOM” with J. Cole & SiR tells the listeners that they’re living life like he’s runnin’ out of time over a gloomy trap beat.

The track “King’s Dead” originally appeared in the Black Panther soundtrack earlier this year & I’m actually upset they kept Future’s verse on there & removed Kendrick Lamar’s. On the other hand: the song “Troopers” brags about his crew, but the Cardo production sounds vaguely similar to his instrumental on “THat Part” off of ScHoolboy Q’s last album Blank Face LP. The track “Broke+-“ is of course about money over a somber instrumental while the song “Wow” makes up for “King’s Dead” by flawlessly displaying the chemistry between Jay & Kendrick over a bouncy woodwind-infused trap beat from Hit-Boy. The title track lyrically reminds me of “Start from Scratch” by The Game over a beautiful piano instrumental & the SZA hook is very pretty. The closer “WIN” has a triumphant trap beat & I do like the delivery, but it sounds half-written & the hook is very tedious. Also as much as I love Kendrick, his constant adlibs on this joint are too much.

I already knew going into this that it was pretty much gonna be Jay Rock’s DAMN. & while it’s not bad, it could’ve been much better. He sounds a lot more energetic on here than he was on his last 2 albums & the content is mostly on par as well, but a lot of these trappy instrumentals are hit or miss with me to be quite honest.

Score: 3/5