Ice Cube is a legendary MC from Los Angeles, California who started as a member of C.I.A. in 1984 & disbanded 3 years later after gaining limited commercial success. He then became a member of the iconic N.W.A, but left after the release of their infamous debut album Straight Outta Compton to focus on his solo career. He dropped a handful of albums in the 90’s with his first 2 AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted & Death Certificate becoming West Coast essentials. But as the 2000’s came around, he began focusing on an acting career & his musical output was shortened. However, he’s coming back from an 8 year hiatus with his 10th full-length album
After the Super OG intro, we go into the first song “Arrest the President”. It’s no surprise that he’s going at Donald Trump on here & despite his statements being valid, the mixing on here is ass. The track “Chase Down the Bully” talks about beating up Trump supporters over a thumping instrumental while the song “Don’t Bring Me No Bag” speaks out against snitches in the drug house over a mediocre trap beat.
The track “Bad Dope” sees Cube comparing himself to just that over a menacing instrumental while the song “On Them Pills” is talks down on the current drug trend over a nondescript instrumental. The track “Fire Water” contemplates how Cube is gonna die while the song “Streets Shed Tears” talks about his respect in the hood over a churchy instrumental
The track “Ain’t Got Haters” with Too $hort sees the 2 brushing off their naysayers over a smooth instrumental from DJ Pooh while the song “Can You Dig It?” talks about being old school over a funky beat. “That New Funkadelic” serves as a pretty solid sequel to “Bop Gun (1 Nation)” off his 4th album Lethal Injection back from 1993 while the song “1 for the Money” talks about why he’s still rapping over a piano & strings.
The track “Still in the Kitchen” talks about drug dealing over a chaotic beat from E-A-Ski while the song “Non Believers” reminds the listeners to bow down to him over a thunderous beat with a sitar. The title track touches down on the political system over a bustling rap rock instrumental from Fredwreck & then the closer “Good Cop Bad Cop” advises all of the officers who do their jobs correctly to stand up for those who abuse their badge over a somewhat funky beat with some triumphant horns.
It’s been a long 8 years & while it’s not perfect, it is a solid comeback for the West Coast icon. The production could’ve been a bit better on a few joints, but it sounds focused & Ice Cube’s political statements came back at the right time.
Gucci Mane is a legendary rapper from Atlanta, Georgia known for being one of the 3 trap pioneers shaping the subgenre to what it is today. However, it wasn’t until 2016 when he released from prison for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon that he would improve both musically & personally. The dude is known for dropping a couple projects a year & as we approach the final month of 2018, he’s delivering his 13th full-length album.
The album kicks off with “Off the Boat”, where Woo recalls his drug dealing days over a nocturnal beat. The track “By Myself” is essentially trap’s answer to KiD CuDi’s “Solo Dolo” while the song “Bipolar” with Quavo sees the 2 talking about how they act with their paychecks over a spacious trap beat. The track “Just Like It” with 21 Savage sees the 2 talking about the drug game over an ominous beat from Honorable C.N.O.T.E. while the song “Cold Shoulder” with YoungBoy Never Broke Again sees the 2 brushing off their haters over a nondescript instrumental.
The track “On God” gets boastful over an apocalyptic beat from Southside while the song “Father’s Day” pretty much acknowledges his status as a trap pioneer over a dark instrumental from Metro Boomin’. The track “Outta Proportion” is a boring diatribe about this chick who makes a big deal over nothing backed with prominent hi-hats & faint keyboards. The track “Lost Y’all Minds” with Quavo is a needless sequel to “Bipolar” while the song “I’m Not Goin’” with Kevin Gates sees the 2 going at those who pray on their downfall over a bass-heavy trap beat from Murda Beatz.
The track “Wake Up in the Sky” with Kodak Black is a celebratory anthem with a laidback instrumental from 808 Mafia members DY, Tarentino & Tre Pounds while the song “Solitaire” is a solid introduction to the Glacier Boyz with a video-gamey instrumental. The track “This the Night” charismatically boasts about his wife Keyshia Davis over an atmospheric Southside beat while the song “Mad Russian” with Lil Skies sees the 2 getting flirtatious over a moody Murda Beatz instrumental.
The track “Hard Feelings” addresses all of Wop’s exes over a bland beat while the song “Lord” gives thanks to the higher power over a vibrant beat. The penultimate track “Money Callin'” pretty much speaks for itself over a syrupy yet spacey beat & then the closer “Kept Back” with Lil Pump sees the 2 talking about wanting a boss bitch over a trap beat with some classy keys.
It’s been almost a year since Gucci dropped his last album El Gato: The Human Glacier & now that we finally got the finished product after teasing it since then, the end results are slightly mixed. He still sounds great, but almost half of these cuts sound either unfinished or very plain.
XXXTENTACION was a 20 year old rapper, singer, songwriter & producer from Plantation, Florida who rose to prominence last year with a handful of singles. He landed a spot in the 2017 XXL Freshman Class & put out his debut album 17 just a few months after. Then he dropped his sophomore album ? at the beginning of this year, which was slightly better & equally rushed as 17 was. But unfortunately, he was murdered over the summer & now his estate is issuing his 1st posthumous album.
After the fake deep intro, we go into the first song with “guardian angel”. Here, X reflects on Jocelyn Flores & the way he reverses the instrumental from the 17 song that was dedicated to her & slaps it on the cut was lazy. The track “train food” reflects on his rough past over some sinister acoustic guitar strings while the song “whoa (mind in awe)” has a pretty spacious instrumental, but X’s moaning is annoying as fuck. The track “BAD!” truly lives up to it’s title as it’s a corny & moody relationship ballad while the song “STARING AT THE SKY” sees X badly singing about running from pain over an acoustic guitar. The track “1 Minute” feels more like a Kanye West joint since he takes up a bulk of it & after the structureless “difference” interlude, we go into the penultimate track “I don’t let go” where X gets raunchy over a laidback instrumental. The album then closes with “what are you so afraid of?”, which is an unfinished acoustic cut.
And that’s the thing, this thing is such a mess from front to back. I’m not trying to disrespect the dead, but the “album” sounds like it was cobbled together just to make money & that’s a huge reason why posthumous albums in general are hit or miss with me
Earl Sweatshirt is a 24 year old MC & producer from Los Angeles, California who began his career in 2008 under the name Sly Tendencies. He posted a handful of tracks for a mixtape called Kitchen Cutlery on MySpace, but the tape would never be released to this day. Then he formed a rap trio with 2 of his friends called The Backpackerz & planned to release a mixtape together titled World Playground, but they disbanded sometime in 2009. Shortly after, he joined Odd Future & appeared on their 2nd & final mixtape Radical that May. 10 months later, he put out his only mixtape to date Earl with OF’s de facto leader Tyler, The Creator producing a bulk of it. The tape received a lot of buzz, but Earl’s mother would send him to a therapeutic retreat school for at-risk boys in Samoa sometime after until February of 2012. He was then granted his own Columbia Records imprint Tan Cressida Records & released his debut album Doris in 2013 to critical acclaim for his clever rhyme schemes & the gritty production from those such as The Neptunes & even the RZA. He then formed the duo Hog Slaughta Boyz with OF affiliate Na’kel at the beginning of 2015 & released his sophomore album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside a couple months after. Many of which consider to be better than Doris for it’s darker aesthetic. He’s been laying low since then but with the deaths of his father Keorapetse Kgositsile as well as his his uncle Hugh Masekela & his friend Mac Miller earlier this year, he’s putting out his highly anticipated 3rd album.
The album begins with “Shattered Dreams”, where Earl discusses his comeback over a soul sample. The next track “Red Water” serves as a short yet equally gratifying sequel to Solace while the song “Cold Summers” uses some clever gun imagery over a mellow instrumental. The track “Nowhere2Go” talks about depression over a glitchy abstract instrumental while the song “December 24” gets intellectually conscious over a Denmark Vessey instrumental with a prominently gloomy piano sample. The track “Ontheway!” talks about his mood swinging over a smooth guitar sample while “The Mint” with Navy Blue sees the 2 talking about fighting their demons over an amazing piano loop.
“The Bends” touches down on his success over a soul sample & some strings while the song “Loosie” seems to talk about a backstabber over a slow yet funky beat. The track “Azucar” talks about how he’s been coping with his depression over a blissful instrumental while the song “Eclipse” is about him missing his shine. The track “Veins” talks about keeping faith over an AMAZING Curtis Mayfield sample & after the heartwarming “Playing Possum” interlude from Earl’s parents, the penultimate track “Peanut” discusses the deaths of Keorapetse & Hugh over a settle yet dark beat. The album ends with “Riot!”, which is an instrumental cut heavily sampling the Hugh Masekela song with the same name.
This has been one of my most anticipated albums of 2018 & at the end, Earl has just given what I believe to be the best album I’ve heard all year. I’m a little disappointed that it’s only 25 minutes long, but the Madvillainy influenced production is super creative & Earl continues to prove himself as the 2nd best lyricist of the decade (#1 of course being Kendrick Lamar) by cleverly detailing the darkest year of his life.
The Alchemist is a 41 year old producer, DJ & rapper from Beverly Hills, California who started out as 1/2 of the duo The Whooliganz in 1993 with Scott Caan. The duo disbanded a year later after recording a debut album that eventually got shelved & Scott went onto acting. Alchemist however, quickly established himself as a household name in hip hop production by working with a handful of legends from Mobb Deep to Eminem. He dropped a short 4-track EP back in April of this year called Lunch Meat & now he’s following it up with this 6th EP right here, which is equally as long as the predecessor.
The EP kicks off with “Ray Mysterio” by Hall ‘N Nash, where Westside Gunn & Conway deliver their signature gritty street bars over a smooth yet mystic sounding instrumental. The next track “Roman Candles” by Black Thought & Roc Marciano sees the 2 getting boastful over a jazzy beat while the penultimate song “Mac 10 Wounds” by Conway talks about how he’s not weak over a sinister beat. The EP then finishes off with E. Coli by Earl Sweatshirt, where he gets spiritual over a harmonious vocal sample & some strings.
Even though I would’ve loved 3 more tracks just like with Lunch Meat, this is on par with it’s predecessor in terms of length, production dynamics & passionate yet raw lyricism from beginning to end. Hopefully, Uncle Al drops something bigger as we head into 2019.
Necro is a 42 year old rapper & producer from Brooklyn, New York who started out playing in a death metal band called Injustice in 1987 with his older brother Ill Bill. He then transitioned over into hip hop the following year after being inspired by Bill & both have made quite the names for themselves in the underground. Especially with classics like Gory Days, The Pre-Fix for Death, the self-titled Circle of Tyrants album, What’s Wrong with Bill? & The Hour of Reprisal just to name a few. But at the beginning of the decade, they began distancing themselves from each other with Bill regularly putting out music under his own name as well as with La Coka Nostra. Necro on the other hand has been pretty quiet with the exceptions of his 2010 album Die!, his Murder Murder Kill Kill EP, a handful of singles & a criminally underrated slept-on collab album with the legendary Kool G Rap under the name The Godfathers. However, he’s now making his full comeback with his 7th full-length album.
After the intro, we go into the first song “Murder Obscene”. Here, Necro spits his signature death bars over a gloomy boom bap beat. After the “H.N.A. (Head Neck Apartheid)” prelude, we go into the actual song with the same name. Where Necro spits more clever murder bars over a spacious boom bap beat. The track “My Precious” brags about his rapping skills over an ominous instrumental with a killer guitar riff during the hook while the song “Know Con-Science” returns to the witty yet filthy lyricism over a boom bap beat with a sinister piano lead. After the “W.T.W.C.T. (What’s This World Coming To?)” prelude, we go into the actual song with the same name. The hook is kinda annoying, but the soul sample is a nice touch & Necro’s confrontational lyricism suits it pretty well.
The track “Deaded” compares himself to Michael Myers over a boom bap beat with some sinister strings while the song “Caught Up!” talks about how violent he is over a punchy beat with some Halloween-esque bells. “The Love & Terror Cult” tells his competition to step back over a boom bap beat with some somber piano chords while the song “Party Killer” gets raunchy over an electro instrumental. The title track cleverly describes his disgusting antics over an eerie beat while the song “Gat O’ 9 Tales” is filled with battle bars over an instrumental with a prominent piano lead & a beautiful soul sample during the hook.
After the prelude to “The Master of Ruckus”, we go into the actual song with the same name. Here, Necro talks about killing you when you’re sleeping over a boom bap beat with a funky bass-line. The track “Grave Ol World” goes back to the raunchiness over a symphonic beat while “The Stories of the Almost Dead” vividly describes the protagonist’s life of crime over another boom bap beat with a piano lead & soul sample for the hook. And before things end off with the outro, the final song “The Dawn of a Dead Day” goes back to taking aim at his competition over a beat inspired by a blaxpoitation film.
I was wondering if Necro would ever drop an album again, but this is a strong comeback for him. Despite the lack of features & the song preludes bogging it down, Necro continues to prove that he’s one of the best producers that the underground has to offer with soundscapes on here being darker than ever & his horrorcore lyricism being as creative as it’s been in the past.
Meek Mill is a 31 year old rapper from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who started out as a battle rapper & then became a Rick Ross protege at the beginning of the decade. He’s had a series of ups & downs throughout his career from his critically acclaimed Dreamchasers mixtapes to his beef with Drake & an unjustful conviction last November (for which he was freed in April of this year). Meek made his official return to the music scene with his 5th EP Legends of the Summer but as the end of November has approached, he’s coming back with his 4th full-length album.
The intro cut on here ferociously claps back at those who prayed on his downfall over a flawless sample of the classic Phil Collins song “In the Air Tonight” while the next track “Trauma” touches down on racial injustice over an ambitious trap beat. The song “Uptown Vibes” with Fabolous & Anuel AA talks about people who try to steal their waves over a latin-infused beat while the track “On Me” with Cardi B gets raunchy over a generic trap beat. The song “What’s Free?” sees Meek alongside Ross & JAY-Z explaining what freedom is to them over some strings & hi-hats while the track “Respect the Game” is essentially about how becoming rich has impacted him personally over a trap beat with a prominent piano sample.
The song “Splash Warning” with Future, Young Thug & Roddy Ricch is a nondescript party anthem while the title track talks about beating the system over a jazzy beat. The song “Going Bad” with Drake sees the 2 flexing for old times sake over a bass-heavy keyboard instrumental from Wheezy while the track “Almost Slipped” is an awkward ballad about how he almost fell in love with a hoe. The song “Tic Tac Toe” sees Meek charismatically bragging over a triumphant Tay Keith instrumental while the track “24/7” is a smooth sex anthem with a clever sample of Beyoncé’s “Me, Myself & I” throughout.
The song “Oodles O’ Noodles Babies” recalls his upbringings over a soulful beat while the track “Pay You Back” with 21 Savage sees the 2 talking about how they have shooters over an apocalyptic Wheezy beat. The song “100 Summers” talks about his mother & his friends over a mellow Hit-Boy instrumental while the track “W.T.S. (With The Shits)” with Melii is a concept joint about this girl frontin’ on him over an instrumental that sounds like it could’ve landed on Lil Pump’s self-titled debut. The song “Stuck in My Ways” talks about how he’ll always be chasing that paper over a spacious trap beat from Cardo while the penultimate track “Dangerous” with Jeremih originally appeared on Legends of the Summer & it still sounds as corny as it did when I originally heard it back in July. The album then finishes with “Cold Hearted II”, which serves as a fantastic sequel to the closing track off of Meek’s 2015 sophomore album Dreams Worth More Than Money with a sample of “I Was Never There” off of The Weeknd’s latest EP My Dear Melancholy,.
I’ve been a little harsh on Meek’s recent output, but I have to be fair & say that this is his best project in a while. Sure there are a small handful of filler tracks, but Meek is at his most mature for the good amount of the time on here.
Ski Mask the Slump God is a 22 year old rapper from Orlando, Florida who came up as the co-founder of Members Only alongside XXXTENTACION. He then dropped a couple EPs & a great mixtape called Drown in Designer in 2016 before signing to Republic Records the following year with his 2nd mixtape called YouWillRegret being his first outing on a major label. He then put out his 3rd tape Beware the Book of Eli earlier this year but now, he’s putting out his long-awaited debut album.
Things kick off with “So High”, where he’s crooning over this generically moody beat. The next track “Nuketown” gets viciously boastful over a murky trap beat with Juice WRLD unexpectedly screaming his brains out on the hook while the song “Foot Fungus” charismatically talks about the famous life over a bouncy Kenny Beats instrumental with a clever interpolation of the classic Snoop Dogg joint “Drop It Like It’s Hot” during the hook. The track “LA LA” talks about his sexual exploits over a sinister trap beat from Ronny J while the song “Unbothered” talks about how he doesn’t give a fuck about taking L’s over a druggy trap instrumental. The track “Save Me, Pt. 2” is a mediocre sequel to the song off of X’s debut album 17 & while the song “Adults Swim” gets more insightful over some bass & hand claps, I wish it was longer.
The track “Far Gone” with Lil Baby sees the 2 talking about being trapped in their mind on a date over an atmospheric Murda Beatz instrumental while the song “Get Geeked” is a unfinished joint for the clubs. The track “Reborn to Rebel” talks about revolution over a banger beat while the song “Faucet Failure” gets braggadocious over an infectious instrumental. The penultimate track “U & I” is a heartfelt tribute to XXXTENTACION over a decent beat & then the closer “Cat Piss” with Lil Yachty sees the 2 talking about how they’re better than their competition over a somber beat.
For a full-length debut, this was ok. Ski Mask definitely has one of the most interesting flows in hip hop today, but the production on this album kinda bland & many songs on here are short to the point where it becomes annoying. I’ll say it again like I did in my Beware the Book of Eli review: If Ski Mask takes more time into his songs & gets better production, I truly think it’ll show his true potential a lot more because this barely does it.
J.I.D is a 28 year old rapper from Atlanta, Georgia who released his 1st mixtape Cakewalk in 2010 & joined EARTHGANG’s Spillage Village collective that same year. He dropped 2 more mixtapes as well as then an EP (to which this serves as a sequel to) after that & signed to J. Cole’s Interscope Records imprint Dreamville Records last year, dropping his full-length debut The Never Story just a few weeks after the deal. But now as we reach the end of November, he’s delivering his highly anticipated sophomore album: a sequel to his 2015 EP.
After the “Frequency Change” intro, we go into the first song “Slick Talk”. Here, J.I.D. brags about his skills over a haunting beat. The track “Westbrook with A$AP Ferg is a charismatic club banger with some nocturnal bells throughout while the song “Off Deez” with J. Cole sees the 2 viciously attacking their critics over a decent trap beat. The track “151 Rum” vividly describes life in the streets over a trap beat with a prominent vocal sample while the song “Off da Zoinkys” is an anti-drug anthem with a wavy instrumental. The track “Workin’ Out” vents about depression even with his newfound success over a prominently beautiful sample of Helen Merrill’s 1954 rendition of “Don’t Explain” while the song “Tiiied” with 6LACK & Ella Mai is a drab & corny love ballad.
However, the track “Skrawberries (For da Ladies)” does a better job at being romantic than the previous cut does. Especially with the mesmerizing instrumental from J. Cole & the late Mac Miller. The song “Hotbox” with Joey Bada$$ & Method Man is about smoking weed over a punchy piano instrumental rap while the track “Mounted Up” celebrates where he is now over a boom bap beat with some sinister piano chords. The song “Just da Other Day” discusses his rise in the game over a bland trap beat while penultimate track “Despacito Too” angrily talks about being whatever he wants over this murky boom bap beat. The album then finishes with “Hasta Luego”, where J.I.D lets go or his painful past to become the artist he is know over a nocturnal beat from WondaGurl & Cubeatz.
Overall, this is just as solid as The Never Story & I’ll even say it’s better than the first DiCaprio. The production has stepped up for the most part & lyrically, J.I.D continues to prove each & every single one of us that he truly is the future of Dreamville Records.
Black Thought is a legendary 47 year old MC from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania most notable for being the frontman of The Roots. Fans were been wanting some sort of solo project for a long time now (especially after his iconic Hot 97 freestyle this past winter) & did just that earlier this summer by dropping a flawless EP with The Soul Council called Streams of Thought. Now if that isn’t enough for you, he’s officially following it up except with Salaam Remi producing it in it’s entirety.
The EP kicks off with “Fentanyl”, where Thought compares his skills to the drug over a gloomy beat. The next track “Soundtrack for Confusion” gets conscious over some live drumming & a bass guitar while the song “Get Outlined” talks about the rough life in Philly over the same instruments that popped up on the previous joint. The track “History Unfolds” is filled with angry battle bars over a sinister guitar while the song “How to Hold a Choppa” is about teaching the youth to defend themselves over a minimalist instrumental with a prominent saxophone. The track “The New Grit” brags about his rapping prowess over a funky guitar & more live drumming while the song “Liveth” goes back to the vicious battle bars with a smooth instrumental. The penultimate track “Streets” continues the theme of the last joint over a menacing boom bap beat & then the closer “Conception” talks about fame, race & religion over a soulful instrumental.
While this is a fantastic EP, it’s not better than the first one. I can appreciate Black Thought for holding it down on his own & for it being longer than the predecessor, but I would’ve loved to hear a different featured MC on a track or 2. However, that doesn’t stop Thought from continuing to prove himself as one of the illest MCs of all-time. Here’s to Vol. 3 (if planned).