LINKIN PARK – “1 More Light” review

Given that LINKIN PARK’s last album The Hunting Party was a return to form for them, at first I was pretty excited going into their 7th full-length album over here. However with each & every single that was released for it, I started to worry about it. Despite this, I still gave it a shot with an open mind. The opening track “Nobody Can Save Me” sees Chester Bennington singing about fighting your inner demons, but the dubstep instrumental sounds absolutely God awful. The next track “Good Goodbye” is the only song on the entire album to feature a rap verse from Mike Shinoda & while his verse along with the guest verses from Pusha T & Stormzy about a failed relationship are just ok, the instrumental on here is pretty generic. The song “Talking to Myself” is told from the perspective of Chester’s wife Talinda, but the only good thing about the production is the guitars during the beginning & the hook. The song “Battle Symphony” talks about picking yourself up when you’re down, but it just comes off as really sappy. The song “Invisible” is the one of the only 2 songs on the entire album where Mike is on lead vocals & while he may be sending a heartfelt message to his children, the production just ruins it. The Chester/Kiiara duet “Heavy” addresses holding onto one’s sanity & the instrumental enhances it’s status as THE worst song on the album. Especially how it starts off with a quiet tone, but then we get a crescendo during the hook to make it sound dramatic. The song “Sorry for Now” sees Mike apologizing to his kids for being gone over a wavy instrumental, but I would much rather listen to “Where’d You Go?” from his Fort Minor side-project. The song “Halfway Right” talks about Chester’s drug addiction & the cliché snares throughout most of the track made me genuinely angry. The penultimate track is the title track, where Chester is singing about death over a settle instrumental that lacks any form of progression. Then we have the final song “Sharp Edges”, where Chester is reminiscing about his youth over an acoustic guitar & it’s actually ok. I can honestly say that this is EASILY the worst album that LINKIN PARK has ever done & it’s not simply because of the fact that they ditched their metal/rock sound to go pop on here: it’s because the production is sickeningly sweet & it makes almost every track sound corny. I have no problem with artists experimenting with sounds & the band did come through with a couple ok songs, but they just failed miserably at this outside of that. I’m sorry but as much as I really respect these guys, I don’t see myself coming back to this garbage ever again

Score: 0.5/5

Ghostface Killah – “The Pretty Toney Album” review

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

Score: 3.5/5

Brother Ali – “All the Beauty in This Whole Life” review

When Brother Ali first told me back in November that his 6th full-length album was coming in 2017, I was pretty excited given that it would be his first album since Mourning in America & Dreaming in Color just 5 years ago. However when he later said it would be entirely produced by Ant of Atmosphere (who hasn’t produced an album for Ali since Us in 2009), I was even more excited. The album opens up with “Pen to Paper”, where Ali’s talking about going from started writing at 8 & meeting KRS-One at 13 to being profiled by the US government over some ambitious keys & horns. The next song “Own Light (What Hearts Are For)” is about using his heart for love & while the beat does start off kinda spacey, the electric guitar that starts to pop in after the first 20 seconds was a nice touch. The track “Special Effects” talks about Ali wanting to communicate without technology over a jazzy beat & the deM atlaS hook on here is just beautiful. The song “Can’t Take That Away” is a dedication to that special someone in Ali’s life & the beauty of it is enhanced by the harp & keys throughout. The next track “Dear Black Son” is basically Ali sending a message to his son Faheem about all the current racism in America today over a jazzy piano. The song “We Got This” with Sa-Roc talking positivity & the chemistry between the 2 MCs is actually greater than I actually though it would be. The song “Uncle Usi Taught Me” recalls performing “Uncle Sam Goddamn” in Iran over a funky beat & the way he describes it is so vivid & sincere. The track “Pray for Me” talks about his albinism over a piano as well as a pumping bassline. The song “It Ain’t Easy” talking his desire of real love over a churchy instrumental. The track “Never Learn” has some nice brass throughout & I also love the eerie background vocals behind the beat. Also, the hook is beautiful & his flow is so on point. The song “Tremble” talks about how he’s “a human, not a brand” over an electric guitar & he sounds so sincere about it too. The track “Before They Called You White” talks about the Europeans’ land being seized & I like how they incorporated the vocal sample at the end. The song “The Bitten Apple” talks about self-hate over a somber beat & the gloomy hook from Idris Phillips fits in perfectly with the whole tone. The penultimate track “Out of Here”, where Ali is talking about the suicide of both his dad & grandfather & the instrumental fits in like a glove. Especially with the piano during the first verse. The album then closes out with the title track, where Ali is talking about God over a relaxing beat. To me, this is a near perfect return for Brother Ali. The instrumentals are beautiful, the content is on point & the passion is clear as day
Score: 4.5/5

Raekwon – “Lost Jewlry” review

To increase anticipation for his 6th album F.I.L.A. (Fly International Luxurious Art), Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon is delivering his 2nd EP to prelude it. The track “Young Boy Penalties” is basically Rae asking the youth when will they stop committing crimes & the way Scram Jones uses the soul sample was just alright to me. The song “Hold You Down” is a love song & not only do I enjoy the Faith Evans hook on here, but the production from Buckwild also fits with the vibe very well. The track “For the Listeners” is a dedication to all of those who’re living it up, but the synthesizer during the verses is really the only characteristic of the beat that I can describe. The next song “Die Tonight” talks about going out to kill someone but eventually sparring him & I actually found the spoken dialogue at the very beginning about a “Cookie Monster hoe” was pretty funny. The song “New Day” has a better incorporated soul sample & the verses from Rae & Freddie Gibbs about murdering you & coke respectively are just hard! The closer “Whatever, Whenever” talks about keeping his gun on him in the hood as well as reminiscing about living there over a symphonic beat. Aside from feeling like the production could’ve been a tad bit better, this is a solid prelude to F.I.L.A. (Fly International Luxurious Art)

Score: 3/5

GZA – “Legend of the Liquid Sword” review

Just 3 years after his last album Beneath the Surface, Wu-Tang Clan member GZA is now delivering his 4th full-length album. The album opens up with the track “AutoBio”, where GZA is reminiscing about late 70’s Bronx block parties over some quiet piano keys as well as a loud orchestral string section. The track “Silent” with Ghostface Killah & Streetlife gets braggadocious about their stage performances as well as their talents & the instrumental from Bink! has an nice eerie soul sample throughout. The song “Stay in Line” is a message to wack rappers & the beat from Arabian Knight predominantly has this mellow guitar loop throughout but the war-inducing horns during Santigold’s hook are fantastic. While I can appreciate the song “Fam (Members Only)” with RZA & Masta Killa being about what the Clan strives for as well as the haunting production from Mathematics, the fact that it’s censored was really annoying. The title track talks about rappers who’re only in it for the paper & I love how Jaz-O incorporates the Quincy Jones sample into the beat. The song “Fame” cleverly name drops celebrities (similar to the tracks “Labels” & “Publicity” from his last 2 albums) over some keys as well as some boom bap drums. The song “Highway Robbery” is a tribute to the classic Big Daddy Kane track “Ain’t No Half-Steppin'” & I love how the beat turns a relaxing Michael Jackson sample into something grimy. The song “Luminal” is a vivid story about ruthless killer who brutalizes a peaceful town over an ominous beat from DJ Muggs. The track “Sparring Minds” with Inspectah Deck talk about how dangerous the Clan is over a guitar loop. The album then closes out with “Uncut Material”, where The Genius is giving the self explanatory & the instrumental he makes for this track has an orchestral feeling to it. To sum it all up: The lyricism is on point like always, but I feel like the production could’ve been much better

Score: 3.5/5

Ghostface Killah – “More Fish” review

Almost 9 months after dropping a modern classic with FishScale, Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah is closing out 2006 by delivering a follow-up to it. Even though the fittingly titled opener “Ghost Is Back” has the exact same instrumental as “Juice (Know the Ledge)” by Eric B. & Rakim, he doesn’t sound bad over it at all. However, it makes me wanna go back & listen to the original. The song “Street Opera” has a soulful beat from Fantom of the Beat & I really love the chemistry between Ghost & his son Sun God on here. The track “Block Rock” has a grimy beat from Madlib & it goes PERFECTLY with the street raps that Ghost’s delivers throughout the song. The song “Blue Armor” with Ghost’s Wu Block cohort Sheek Louch sees the 2 getting hardcore over a rock-tinged beat & the penultimate track “Alex (Stolen Script)” vividly tells a story about a movie script being stolen over a funky beat from his DOOMSTARKS cohort MF DOOM. The album then closes out with a follow-up to “Back Like That” from Ghost’s last album & I like the opening verse from Kanye West. Especially when he starts it off by twisting up Ghost’s verse from “Ice Cream” by Raekwon. Honestly, this is a decent leftovers/b-sides album. A couple tracks on here were pulled from other releases that came out just before this did & while I understand that Ghost was trying to get his entire Theodore Unit side-crew out there, but I feel like the features from them were kinda all over the place

Score: 2.5/5

Sunz of Man – “The Last Shall Be 1st” review

The Sunz of Man are a Wu-Tang Killa Bee subgroup & this is their full-length debut. The song “Natural High” talks about how their music moves the listener’s bodies & the Al Green sample on here is just as dope. The song “Flaming Swords” has a violent tone lyrically & delivery wise & the ominous keys that True Master incorporates into his production are PERFECT! The song “Illusions” with Wu-Tang Clan member Masta Killa talks about how the game ain’t the same & not only do I like the Donny Hathaway sample that you’ll hear, but I really love the way 4th Disciple incorporates the Bob Marley sample that pops in during the last couple minutes. The song “Shining Star” heavily samples the Earth, Wind & Fire song with the same name & the 2 Ol’ Dirty Bastard verses that comes up in the beginning along with the one near the end are a nice touch as well. The song “Tribulations” is on some life shit & not only do I like the guitar throughout RZA’s production, but the sped-up vocal sample that he uses throughout the track is classic RZA. The track “The Plan” is the 5th & final song on the entire album to have a verse or verses from Killah Priest & the group are talking about breaking plans over a perfectly Ann Peebles sample. The song “Inmates to the Fire” menacingly talks about how the group will fuck up wack MCs tonight over an eerie RZA beat. The song “Can I See You?” with Killarmy member Kinetic 9 is about how they stay camouflaged & the keys that RZA throws in with these hard boom bap drums were pretty cool. The penultimate song “Next Up” with Method Man has a nice guitar passage throughout & I really like how everyone ends one verse & starts off another by throwing it back to the classic Juice Crew posse cut “The Symphony”. The final song “Intellectuals” with Raekwon & U-God talks about how their rhymes gains everyone’s attention & I guess the sporadic keys throughout aren’t bad at all. Although I wish Killah Priest appeared on more than just 5 songs, I’d say this is Sunz of Man’s best album as well as one of my favorite albums to come from a Wu-Tang affiliated MC/singer or group. The production is vintage Wu for the most part & the group sounds really ambitious

Score: 4/5