Almost 5 years after his last album Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors, OutKast member Big Boi is finally returning with his 3rd full-length album (4th if you count Speakerboxxx). The album opens up with “Da Next Day”, where he’s talking about how “it’s time to stir the pot” over a futuristic sounding yet symphonic beat from Organized Noize. The next track “Kill Jill” with Killer Mike sees Mike hitting on a woman as well as Big Boi talking about his comeback over decent trap beat with a cool vocal sample & the Jeezy hook enhances the energy of the track. Also, I find Big Boi’s flow on here to be WAY better than Mike’s. The song “Mic Jack” is a club track with an old school electrofunk beat from DJ Khalil, but the Adam Levine hook is so-so. The track “In the South” talks about Southern ghetto life & while I do appreciate the Pimp C hook, I was a bit disappointed to hear that Gucci Mane reused the opening verse from “Lil Dudes” off his The Return of Mr. Perfect mixtape for the opening verse for this. The song “Order of Operations” talks about “grinding & stacking” over a spacey beat from Scott Storch. Honestly, it makes me really happy to hear that Scott still has it in him. The track “All Night” talks about kicking it with some chick over some old-timey sounding piano keys & the acoustic guitar strings during the last minute are nice too, but I thought the execution of the hook was just atrocious. The song “Get Wit It” has a beat that I can imagine hearing E-40 rapping over & I actually think the guest verse from Snoop Dogg was harder than Big Boi’s verse. The track “Overthunk” talks about overthinking over a beat sounds somewhat Atari-ish & the Eric Bellinger hook isn’t too bad either. The song “Chocolate” is a club banger with a hip house beat & it actually comes off as pretty infectious. The song “Made Men” with Killer Mike & Kurupt talks about how their styles can’t be cloned as well as how you need to save yourself instead of your homies over a beat that sounds inspired by a retro game, but the uncredited 2nd verse from recording engineer Renegade El Rey was just meh. The penultimate track “Freakanomics” redundantly talks about sex, but the only good thing about the beat is the saxophone that pops in both at the beginning & at the end. The album then finishes with “Follow Deez”, where Big Boi gets with Curren$y & Killer Mike to deliver some hard southern G shit over a menacing beat from Mannie Fresh. Even though I wouldn’t say this isn’t any better or worse than previous album, it’s still a solid effort & worth checking out in my opinion. Some the song topics could’ve been better on a few tracks & I personally would’ve trimmed a couple features, but Big Boi’s underappreciated skills are certainly still there & the production SLAPS!
Just 3 years after dropping the underrated bulletproof wallets, Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah is now delivering his 4th full-length but his 1st with Def Jam Recordings. Although I love how Ghost flows over RZA’s haunting production on the song “Kunta Fly Shit”, my only issue with it is the fact that it’s just a minute long. The track “Metal Lungies” with LOX members Sheek Louch & Styles P is basically gun talk & the production from No I.D. fittingly incorporates menacing horns. The next song “Save Me Dear” sees Ghost taking a whack at producing & I like how he incorporates the soul sample into it as he vividly talks about a woman named Kim. The song after that “It’s Over” is about the world caving in on you just when you got out of some bullshit & as much as I love K-Def, he uses the exact same sample that was used for the classic Biggie track “Who Shot Ya?” for the beat & it’s just ok. The sexual “Tush” with Missy Elliott is an attempt at a club/radio hit & I’m actually indifferent towards it. The next song “Holla” beautifully samples “La-La (Means I Love You)” by The Delfonics & you can just hear the passionate emotion in Ghost’s voice from start to finish. The song “Be This Way” talks about how things are gonna be the same if we don’t change over a soulful instrumental from Nottz. The penultimate track “Run” with Jadakiss talks about having the cops on their tails for drugs over an ominous beat from The Abbott. The album properly closes out with “Love”, where Ghost is thanking God as well as his family & friends over a smooth No I.D. instrumental. While it isn’t a perfect album, I think it sounds more focused than his last album was & it’s a solid “welcome to Def Jam” for Ghost
After making a solid comeback just 6 months ago with his 4th full-length album Don’t Look Down, Boston underground hip hop legend Mr. Lif is now giving us yet another album & this time he’s teaming up with North Carolina based producer & Mello Music Group label-mate L’Orange to produce it in it’s entirety. Given that Lif’s first 2 albums I Phantom & Mo’Mega are some of my favorite Definitive Jux releases ever as well as the fact that L’Orange entirely produced 2 fantastic albums for Jeremiah Jae (The Night Took Us in Like Family) & Kool Keith (Time? Astonishing!) last year, I was absolutely thrilled when it was announced that the 2 would be working on a full-length album together. The album’s first song “A World Without Music” starts off with some melancholy sounding chords but then some hard boom bap-ish drums get thrown in & Lif starts vividly detailing what he thinks the world would be like without music. “The Scribe” is basically an introduction to the album’s protagonist (who shares the exact same name as the song’s) & not only is there an ill scratch hook from DJ Qbert, but Lif reunites with his Perceptionists cohort Akrobatik to trade lines back & forth with each other & their chemistry on here as well as one of the later tracks “Strange Technology” is just as strong as ever if you ask me. While I do enjoy the concept on “Antique Gold”, I’m not a huge fan of the opening verse from Chester Watson because I personally think he comes off as a generic mix of Earl Sweatshirt & Joey Bada$$. The track “The Gentle End” has a ominous sounding string loop throughout & I really like how it fits with Lif’s revolutionary lyrics like a glove. The album closes out with “A Palace in the Sky”, which is a tale about a greedy king who eventually gets karma thrown at him in the end & I also love how spiritual sounding the beat is. Honestly, I’m not that disappointed with this album at all. The futuristic concept was well laid-out & I think L’Orange brought some fitting soundscapes to the table, but it was really short. Not as perfect as Deltron 3030’s self-titled debut however, but I truly think this is better than Don’t Look Down. Hell, I’ll go as far as saying that this is Lif’s best album since Mo’Mega
Just a little over a year after his 1st mixtape Owl Pharaoh, GOOD Music in-house producer/Grand Hustle Records signee Travi$ Scott is returning with another mixtape & it’s a prelude to his debut album Rodeo. The tape kicks off with “Days Before Rodeo: The Prayer”, where Travi$ is talking about his newfound fame over an upbeat instrumental from WondaGurl. The next track “Mamacita” with Rich Homie Quan & Young Thug is generic from the trap beat to the lyrics about a “fine bitch”. The song “Drugs You Should Try It” has a dreamy beat, but the way he talks about being high on here is so boring. The song “Don’t Play” with Big Sean talks about them needing that paper & while the beat isn’t bad, the way the hook on here was executed is excruciating. The track “Grey” has a mellow beat & lyrically, Travi$ is sincerely talking about a friend of his who’s now in prison. The bonus track “BACC” has an explosive beat from Metro Boomin’ & while I do appreciate Travi$ talking about his return, I feel like it’s out of place. Like I can totally picture this track coming after the opener “Days Before Rodeo: The Prayer”. And once again, the execution of the hook on here is God awful. While I’m not gonna deny that this is a slight improvement over his last mixtape, I still can’t say I’m all that crazy about it. Sonically, most of this is just average
3 years after their classic debut album Yo! Bum Rush the Show & 2 years after their 2nd album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (which is a masterpiece in my eyes), seminal Long Island political hip hop group Public Enemy was already in hot water because of group member Professor Griff’s antisemitic comments. Shortly after the comments were made, it was said that the group had disbanded but it was actually confirmed that Griff had been dismissed from the group & that they were working on their 3rd full-length album right here. And honestly, this is just as good or possibly even better than their previous album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Both the sample heavy production from The Bomb Squad AND the politically relevant rhymes from Chuck D are as aggressive & unapologetic as ever. Tracks like 911 is a Joke (which is the first of 2 Flavor Flav solo tracks), the Big Daddy Kane/Ice Cube accompanied Burn Hollywood Burn, the title track, Revolutionary Generation, Who Stole the Soul? & Fight the Power (arguably the group’s most well-known track) are all perfect examples. We even get a militant response to the negativity the group faced because to Griff’s comments on the track Welcome to the Terrordome, which is one of my favorite PE tracks period. Overall, the group really came through with another flawless masterpiece that you shouldn’t be missing out on at all
After writing verses for Dr. Dre & Eazy-E on N.W.A’s debut Straight Outta Compton as well as Eazy’s solo debut Eazy-Duz-It, former Fila Fresh Crew member The D.O.C. is finally getting a chance to completely shine on his own. In surprising contrast to both previously mentioned debuts, this album’s content focuses less on gangsta shit & profanity with the exceptions of the last line on “Lend Me an Ear” as well as the N.W.A featured closer “The Grand Finalé” which is actually the only track on the entire album to have any features. It should also be noted that while Straight Outta Compton & Eazy-Duz-It were entirely produced by Dr. Dre AND DJ Yella, this was just solely produced by Dre & I think he & The D.O.C. did a fantastic job with holding almost an entire album by themselves. It’s a real shame that The D.O.C. crushed his larynx in a car accident just a few months after this album’s release because you can truly hear the potential he had with tracks such as the energetic opener “It’s Getting Funky”, the funky “Let the Bass Go”, the rock inflicted “Beautiful But Deadly”, “The D.O.C. & the Dr.” which Redman would later make his own version of 12 years after this album’s release on his 5th album Malpractice, the motivational title track, the smoothly produced “The Formula”, “Portrait of a Masterpiece” which I personally think sums up the the whole album & the previously mentioned closer “The Grand Finalé”. You can even hear the hunger & ambition in The D.O.C.’s voice as he organically & enthusiastically delivers his written rhymes solely his own & his flow’s pretty tight too. I think we all know how upsetting it is that he never has & will give us another album like this, but I think we should all just be happy that he gave us something fantastic
Released a year after their solid debut album, Boston underground hip hop duo 7L & Esoteric really step their game up with their sophomore album. Not only is it shorter, but both the production (mostly handled by 7L, who only produced 6 tracks on their previous album) and the rhymes on here are more consistent & hard hitting than their previous effort. The opening track One Six is just a short snippet of what to expect on here. On the track Watch Me, Eso lays down his typical battle rhymes over a beautiful Alan Parker sample. On Terrorist Cell (which could very well be the most controversial track on the album), Eso vividly storytells from the point of view of a 9/11 hijacker over a haunting beat from none other than Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind (the producer of Jedi Mind Tricks). On Word Association (which I personally think is the best track on the whole album), Eso rhymes from the perspectives of a mental patient and a psychiatrist in a hilarious way. And while I do admire the jazzy beat on the track Stalker, the lyrical content on here (which revolves around…well…stalking) makes me feel a little uncomfortable. On Speak Now, we hear Eso (along with fellow AotP members Vinnie Paz & Apathy) talk about how hardcore they are & the guitar sample on here fits the vibe. On Rules of Engagement, Eso discusses the state of hip hop (at the time) with the help of J-Live & Count Bass D over a DJ Premier-ish beat. The track Herb is self-explanatory, because we basically hear Eso dissing all the “herbs” throughout the whole song. The album finishes with the appropriately titled “The Way Out”, which features a hard hitting vocal delivery over some triumphant horns. Also, “Fuck battlin’ cats, I’m Jim Abbottin’ cats. Which means single-handedly, I’m embarassin’ cats” is easily one of the best lines (if not THE best line) on the whole album. Definitely don’t sleep on this. These guys have the chemistry of Guru & Premier’s and they really show it by providing a raw/unfiltered underground classic