J. Cole – “K.O.D.” review

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With his last album 4 Your Eyez Only being delivered at the end of 2016 & then doing a few features since then, North Carolina rapper/producer J. Cole unexpectedly announced a free show in New York this past Monday. It was there that he performed his 5th full-length album in it’s entirety & went on Twitter shortly after the show to announce that it was coming out for everyone else this weekend. After an intro, we go into the title track. Here, Cole gets in your face about people cramping his style as well as responding to the people saying he should have more features over a murky instrumental. The track “Photograph” has a lame topic about trying to hook up with a random girl he found on social media over a guitar/trap beat while the song “The Cut Off” talks about a disloyal woman over a somber beat.

The track “ATM” energetically talks about his fame & wealth over a laidback beat while the song “Motiv8” talks about moving on despite having all these demons over some funky bass. The track “Kevin’s Heart” goes into the point of view of a drug addict over a smooth trap beat, but it’s really corny to me. The song “Brackets” talks about his success over a smooth beat & the track “Once an Addict” talks about his mother’s alcoholism over a settle beat. The song “Friends” is basically him pouring his heart out to a drug-addicted friend of his over a gloomy beat while the penultimate track “Window Pain” talks about everything he wants over an atmospheric instrumental. The album closes with “1985” sees Cole is reflecting on his whole life up until this point over a vibraphone-boom bap beat.

While this is definitely better than Cole’s last album, that’s not really saying much. The production & the concept aren’t too bad, but his singing voice & the hooks ruin it for me. I really had hope that J. Cole would bounce back given his features on the new Jeezy album Pressure & the upcoming Royce da 5’9” album Book of Ryan but at the end of the day, this is just another mixed bag for me

Score: 3/5

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Tinashe – “Joyride” review

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It’s been 3 years of waiting & 2 years since preluding it with Nightride in 2016 but now, Tinashe is finally delivering her highly anticipated sophomore album. After a 1-minute intro, we go into the first song with the title track. It’s pretty much about kickin’ it with an ex over a thumping electronic instrumental from Hit-Boy. The song “No Drama” with Offset sees the 2 talking about how they don’t want any bs over an electro-trap beat while “He Don’t Want It” is pretty self-explanatory with a moody instrumental with some punchy drums.

The track “Ooh La La” is about a guy loving her so good that she’ll be singing all night over an acoustic guitar/trap beat with a surprisingly nice “Dilemma” sample in the background while the song “Me So Bad” is basically about how attractive Tinashe is over a tropical beat & while I did enjoy the Ty$ verse, I found French Montana’s to be redundant. After the “Ain’t Good for Ya” interlude, we go into the song “Stuck with Me”. It’s both Tinashe & Little Dragon singing about having this guy with him for the weekend, but the instrumental is just ok.

Then after the “Go Easy on Me” interlude, we go into the song “Salt”. It’s basically about a guy who had sex with her at a hotel & left her shortly after over an atmospheric instrumental. The track “Faded Love” is about Tinashe wanting a guy to come home with her to have sex over an electro-club instrumental & the Future verse at the back-end is just ok. The song “No Contest” is about Tinashe wanting only her in her man’s lane over a smooth electro instrumental & then the closer “Fire & Flames” is about wanting to stay the night with this guy over a bare piano that sounds pretty.

As a whole, I was as satisfied as I’d hoped to be. I wish it was a tad bit longer, but her vocals sound as beautiful as ever & the album as a whole sounds a lot more focused than Nightride was

Score: 3.5/5

The Alchemist – “Lunch Meat” review

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After releasing 2 instrumental albums at the tail-end of last year, renown Beverly Hills producer The Alchemist is now coming through with a 4 track EP. The EP begins with “Dean Martin Speaks” by Roc Marciano, where he delivers some pretty gritty street bars over a haunting instrumental & the next song “Judas” by Hall ‘N Nash is pretty much Westside Gunn & Conway dissing trash rappers over an eerie beat. The track “The Hopeless Romantic” by Action Bronson gets braggadocious over a jazzy yet soulful & the final song on here “Massacre” by Styles P & Benny gets mafioso over a gritty instrumental. The last 4 tracks of this thing are pretty much the instrumental versions of all the tracks I just mentioned & that’s fine with me.

Overall, it’s definitely a great project. I wish Al added a couple more  tracks, but it’s well produced as expected & the performers fit over them fantastically

Score:

Wrrdsmith – “Back in the Lab” review

Wrrdsmith is a California based up-&-coming MC & this is his first EP. It starts off with “I’m the Man”, where he & Asce Blayze brag about how dope they are over an atmospheric instrumental. The next song “The Interview” talks about him as an artist over a 9th Wonder-esque instrumental while “Progress” talks about him giving his best over a druggy beat. The song “The Phone Call” is a love tune with a twangy guitar while the title track gets braggadocious over a boom bap beat.

The song “Can’t Trust ‘Em” takes a jab at all the lames over a murky trap beat from Southside of all-people & the penultimate track “Who I Am” talks about his never ending grind over a somewhat cloudy trap beat. The EP finishes with “Grind”, where he gets ambitious over some strings & hi-hats.

Overall, this was pretty dope. Despite a few songs sounding unfinished, I love the genuine passion that Wrrdsmith shows & it’s pretty well produced

Score: 3.5/5

Kannon – “Psycho” review

Kannon is an 18 year old rapper from Bakersfield, California & this is his first EP.

The EP kicks off with “You Can Be”, where he gets ambitious over some heavy bass & piano keys. The next song “Sin” touches down on internal conflict over banging trap beat while the track “Drug” compares his girl to a drug over cloudy trap beat. The song “I’m Sorry” is a sung apology to an ex over a booming yet somber beat while the track “Rose” tells this girl not to go away over a cloudy beat. The song “Run Up a Check” with Jaylon sees the 2 gets braggadocious over a bass-heavy instrumental & the closer “#BeTheSame” gets menacing over a decent trap beat.

As a whole, this was a pretty solid EP. The production isn’t too bad & Kannon shows a lot of ambition

Score: 3.5/5

Flatbush ZOMBiES – “Vacation in Hell” review

A little over 2 years after the release of their debut album 3001: A Laced Odyssey, Beast Coast subgroup Flatbush ZOMBiES are finally returning with their sophomore full-length album. The album starts off with “HELL-O”, where they talk about how they came up & how they’re moving on with their newfound fame over an eerie beat. The next song “Chunky” sees Erick Arc Elliott & Zombie Juice talking about standing for something over a & leading the youth over a settle trap instrumental from Erick while the track “Vacation” with Joey Bada$$ is a fun celebratory anthem about making it while the track M. Bison talks about winning over a decent trap beat.

The song “Headstone” is filled with creative references to some of the trio’s influences over a gritty instrumental & while “Big Shrimp” talks about sex over a banging Kirk Knight beat, the hook is just alright. The song “Leather Symphony” with A$AP 12vy gets braggadocious over some piano keys & handclaps while the track “Reel Girls” with Bun B gets sexual over some prominent drums.

The track “Facts” with Jadakiss is filled with battle bars over some keys & punchy drums while the song “Ask Courtney” is a reminder that love hurts over an atmospheric trap beat. The track “Crown” is about real music winning & their destinies over a druggy beat with a faint organ while the song “Proxies” gets ambitious over some creepy choir vocals. The track “U&I” sees the trio getting introspective over a smooth instrumental while “The Goddess” talks about the type of ladies they’re into over a laid-back boom bap beat.

The track “Trapped” is a beautiful love tune with a mellow acoustic guitar while the song “Best American” gets conscious over an atmospheric instrumental. The song  “Misunderstood” is about self-destruction over a twangy guitar & hard hitting drums while the penultimate track “YouAreMySunshine” is a Meechy Darko solo cut that pays homage to the late A$AP Mob founder A$AP Yams over some somber keyboards. The album finishes with “The Glory”, where the trio get with Denzel Curry to tell you that they want you to succeed & the instrumental sets the tone perfectly.

While I was initially worried about the album being incosistent, the ZOMBiES proved me wrong at the end. The production is banging as always & their content on here is a lot stronger than before

Score: 4/5

Kool Keith – “Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripilation” review

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Almost 22 years after the release of his classic 1996 solo debut Dr. Octagonecologyst & then the mediocre Return of Dr. Octagon in 2006, Ultramagnetic MCs member Kool Keith is making his 20th album over here an official sequel to his solo debut. This time, he has re-enlisted Dan the Automator to produce it & DJ Qbert to do the scratches.

The album starts off with “Octagon Octagon”, which is basically about the Dr.’s return with some creepy choir vocals in the background. The next song “Polka Dots” is filled with battle bars over a druggy beat while the track “Black Hole Son” talks about his operating methods over a eerie beat. The song “Power of the World (S Curls)” gets conscious over gritty rap rock beat while the track “Operation 0” sees Keith comparing himself over an atmospheric beat. The song “Bear Witness IV” is a turntablism tune that serves as a sequel to “Bear Witness” from Dr. Octagonecologyst & it’s just as great as the original.

The track “Area 54” gets raunchy over a fun instrumental & the song “Flying Waterbed” is a love profession with a laidback jazzy beat. The track “3030 Mets the Doc” pretty much speaks for itself & I think there’s actually quite a bit of chemistry between Keith & Del the Funky Homosapien. The penultimate “Karma Sutra” gets sexual over rap metal beat & the closer “Hollywood Tailswinging” talks about how he runs the boulevard over a thunderous beat.

While I never thought an official Dr. Octagonecologyst sequel would see the day, this was near-perfect. Kool Keith, Dan the Automator & DJ Qbert all managed to recapture every aspect of the first album flawlessly from the bizarre lyricism to the eclectic production

Score: 5/5

Famous Dex – “Dex Meets Dexter” review

Famous Dex is a 24 year old rapper from Chicago, Illinois & he is finally releasing his debut album after dropping 7 mixtapes over the past 3 years. The album starts off with “DMD”, where Dex gets braggadocious over an atmospheric beat from Pi’erre Bourne. The next song “Prove It” talks about a gold digger over a bass-heavy instrumental with a funky guitar during the hook while the track “Japan” talks about partying in the titular country over a synth-trap beat. The song “Deadpool” may have a spacey trap beat, but it sounds underwritten.

The track “Light” is a luscious romance tune with a beautiful hook, but Dex’s auto-tune is cliché to me. The song “Celine” has a nice bell/trap beat from Ronny J & the auto-tune delivery here is way better than “Light”. The track “Take Her” with Wiz Khalifa flexes about the lavish life over a cloudy beat while the song “Hemi” sounds like a short freestyle over a bass-heavy Ronny J instrumental.

The track “Pick It Up” with A$AP Rocky sees the 2 charismatically bragging about their current wealth while reminiscing about the old days & the instrumental from both FKi 1st & Sosa 808 is beautiful. Especially with the soul sample. The song “Them Days” reflects on his youth over a cloudy beat while the track “Said So” is about her new chick & dissing his ex over a moody beat. While he‘s repeating himself on song “XOXO”, it is a fun joint to me. The track “Chump” is about fake dudes over an airy beat & then the closer “Champion” is basically about going from being broke to being rich over an spacey beat from Diplo.

This is the big debut that I’ve been wanting from Dex. His production is better than his past mixtapes & while he’s far from a spiritual lyrical miracle, I’ve always loved his charisma & it definitely shines brighter here than ever before

Score: 4:5

Kali Uchis – “isola†ion” review

Kali Uchis is a Colombian-American R&B singer & this is her full-length debut. The album starts off with “Body Language”, where Kali gets playful over a jazzy funky beat. The next song “Miami” with BIA sees the 2 talking about living fast in the titular city over some bass guitar chords & some hi-hats while the track “Just a Stranger” is about a gold digger over a funky beat from Romil Hemnani & Steve Lacy.

The song “Flight 22” uses airport metaphors for love over a blissful instrumental while the track “Your Teeth In My Neck” gets sexual over a Neptunes-esque instrumental. The song “Tyrant” with Jorja Smith is a post apocalyptic love tune & the song “Dead to Me” is this middle finger to an ex of Kali’s over a house beat with some wailing synthesizers. The track “Nuestro Planeta” is sung in Spanish & it talks about wanting a lone planet just for her & her lover a bouncy reggaeton beat while the song “In My Dreams” tells us what the perfect boyfriend would be like for her over a laidback beat from Gorillaz.

After the wavy “Gotta Get Up”’instrumental, we then get into the next song “Tomorrow”. Here, Kali vividly talks about making it out of the rough city over a spacey beat from Tame Impala. Then right after the funky “Coming Home” interlude, we then get into the next song “After the Storm”. Here, Kali hooks up with Tyler, The Creator to talk about saving yourself over a mellow instrumental from BADBADNOTGOOD. The penultimate track “Feel Like a Fool” talks about how dumb she felt after learning that her ex was cheating on her with a baby mama over some keys & the closer “Killer” continues this theme over a smooth instrumental.

I’ve always been curious to see what Kali would do after her Por Vida EP in 2015 & this just goes to prove that she is gonna be a new face in modern neo-soul. The production is just as beautiful as the EP & Kali’s Erykah Badu-like voice is stronger then ever as is her songwriting. If you loved her feature on Tyler’s last 2 albums but haven’t given her a change in her own, give this a listen

Score: 4/5

Lil Xan – “TOTAL XANXIETY” review

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Lil Xan is a 21 year old rapper from Redlands, California & this is his full-length debut. The opener “Who I Am” has a bass-heavy trap instrumental, but his whiny lyrics & boring delivery don’t do it any justice. The next song “Wake Up” gets repetitive lyrically over another bass heavy instrumental while the track “Tick Tock” with 2 Chainz sees the 2 getting braggadocious over an eerie rattling instrumental from Ronny J.

The song “Diamonds” talks about the obvious over a monstrous trap beat while the track “The Man” with $teven Cannon talks about how cool they supposedly are over some heavy bass. The song “Saved by the Bell” is filled with corny school references over a cloudy beat while the track “Moonlight” is about him & his girl getting fucked up over some more bass heavy trap percussion. The song “Shine Hard” with Rae Sremmurd gets braggadocious over an airy beat while the track “Round Here” sees him repeating the same lines for 2 short verses over an explosive beat & the YG feature is the only saving grace on here.

The song “Basically” talks about people he fell out with over a mediocre trap beat while the track “Deceived” continues this theme over an atmospheric trap beat. The track “Betrayed” is about his former xanax addiction & I actually find his story pretty compelling. The song “Slingshot” is about doing lean & narco over a gritty trap beat while the track “Far” is another compelling story: This time about his come up in the rap game. The track “Color Blind” is taken from Diplo’s new EP California & then the closer is a remix of “Betrayal”, both of which I felt like didn’t need to be on here.

Honestly, this thing was awful. The features were cool for the most part, some of the beats I liked & there are very few times were Xan says anything profound. My issue with it is that a lot of the songs sounded samey from the monstrous percussion to Xan repeating himself with no charisma whatsoever.

Score: 1/5