When it seemed like 2014’s A Better Tomorrow would be the almighty Wu-Tang Clan’s final group album, they’re now returning with their 7th official full-length album (excluding the single-copy of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin) & they have enlisted Wu-Elements member Mathematics to produce it in it’s entirety. After a 91 second instrumental intro with a spoken word sample & then an actual spoken monologue from the Clan’s de facto leader RZA, we are then treated to the album’s first song “Lesson Learn’d”. Here, Inspectah Deck teams up with Redman to remind you that they never play around over a hard hitting boom bap instrumental & I also didn’t mind Deck’s jab at the Once Upon a Time in Shaolin purchaser Martin Shkreli near the end of his verse, given that he’s an evil culture vulture. The track “Fast & Furious” is pretty much Raekwon & Hue Hef getting mafioso over a menacing instrumental & while Hue was just ok, Rae definitely made up for it. After a short instrumental interlude that takes it back the group’s early days with a Kung Fu sample, we are then lead into the next song If Time’s Money (Fly Navigation). It’s pretty much a Method Man solo cut, but he makes up for his last album The Meth Lab by hopping on an instrumental you can really kick back to & spitting a long yet charismatic verse.
The track “Frozen” may have a lazy hook as it recycles a couple Rae & Ghostface Killah lines from “4 Horsemen”, but the verses from Meth about pushing the limit as well as the vivid storytelling from Killah Priest & the lethally angry Chris Rivers make up for it some keys along with a bass guitar & a regular guitar. After a 45 second skit with a soulful instrumental in the background, we then get into the next song “Pearl Harbor”. Here, the late Sean Price gets with Meth & RZA to confrontationally spit bars like being the greatest & telling your crew to wear shorts with an image of you on it over some gritty horns as well as some keys & an organ. I also love how RZA brings back his Bobby Digital alter ego during his verse & the one line he makes midway through his part about how he can turn Lady Gaga heterosexual again was pretty hilarious. The track “People Say” sees Deck, Meth, Rae & Masta Killa linking back up with Redman alongside to get braggadocious over a very soulful boom bap beat. “Family” is a 1 minute skit containing a sample of a mother talking about family (hence the title) & the next song “Why Why Why” is basically a conscious RZA solo cut over some funky bass & some decently sung vocals from Swnkah.
The track “G’d Up” is basically Meth & R-Mean talking about being just that & the beat is pretty luscious, but the Mzee Jones hook sounds like a cut-rate T-Pain. The song “If What You Say Is True” sees Cappadonna along with GZA & Masta Killa getting with Streetlife to spit some abrasive battle rhymes over some sinister horns. The “skit” Saga is less of a skit & more of RZA spitting about haters not wanting the Clan grow & even a cool reference to the Flint water crisis over some beautiful strings. The 91 second “Hood Go Bang!” has a decent Redman hook, but then lone verse that Method Man delivers nearly has the same rhyme scheme throughout that it’s crazy. The final song in the track listing is “My Only One”, where Cappa along with The Abbott & Tony Starks rap about their boos over a grimy instrumental. The next 2 tracks are just a 2 minute interlude with a funky instrumental & long spoken word sample & then a 45 second monologued outro from the RZA over the same instrumental as the one in the intro.
At the end of the day, this was a lot more consistent than the last few group albums. It feels more like a compilation considering the fact that there’s only 1 or 2 group members on a number of tracks & U-God not being on it at all, but everyone including almost all the features go & Mathematics probably made it the Clan’s most well produced album since The W
When it was announced in January that indie hip hop icon Tech N9ne was releasing 2 Collabos albums this year & his next solo album being in 2018, I didn’t really mind it at all. However, I found the first one of the year Dominion that dropped back in early April to be average at best due to feeling like his Strangeulation duology due to the entire Strange Music roster being the sole features & having the label’s in-house producer 7 produce in it’s entirety. And while that is being repeated on this new Collabos album here, I think Strange Music is one of the best indie hip hop labels of all-time & that’s why I’m still giving it a shot.
The album opens with “Cold Piece of Work”, in which a 30 second snippet of closed out Dominion. Here, Tech teams up with JL alongside Strange Music’s 2 newest signees Jay Trilogy & Joey Cool to compare their flows to cocaine over a creepy trap beat. The next song “Minimize” with Stevie Stone & Krizz Kaliko is a jab at all the shit-talkers & the production is absolutely HAUNTING! The track “Let’s Go” with Big Scoob & Darrein Safron spits that g shit over a hard hitting instrumental, but Darrein’s rapper verse isn’t as obnoxious like his usual singing voice that’s blatantly bitten off of Chris Brown. The song “Happen” is pretty much Tech by himself talking about how the label stays working & not only is the instrumental super funky, but Tech’s signature chopper-style delivery is insane too. The track “Dangerous” with AboveWaves is a beautiful romance tune, as frontman Ryan Bradley & Tech N9ne are telling their significant others about how deadly their love is & the instrumental is dreamy yet gorgeous.
The song “Stick It In” sees Tech getting braggadocious over a demonic instrumental & the Krizz Kaliko hook is great as well. The last 2 tracks in the standard edition “These Hands” with Prozak, Wrekonize & Mackenzie Nicole as well as the Bad JuJu preview seem very similar to how Dominion’s standard edition ended. “These Hands” like a sequel to “Jesus & a Pill” off the last Collabos album as it contains spiritual lyrics & an explosive rap metal instrumental while the Bad JuJu preview is a 30 second snippet of a song with King-ISO that‘s more than likely gonna pop up on Tech N9ne’s next solo album Planet. I’m not gonna get too deep into the bonus tracks as almost all of them sound like they’re gonna be on upcoming albums, but I do wanna talk about the 2nd one “Off My Square” with ¡MAYDAY! & Rittz. It’s the only one out of the 5 bonus tracks where Tech N9ne appears on, but I do enjoy it as they tell you that they can’t be to fucked with over some funky bass along with some explosive drums & a psychedelic-esque guitar.
While I did have some concerns given that the last Collabos album was just ok, but I’m glad that this new album put them to rest because it overall sounds more well-put together Dominion from removing the needless interview skits to the step-upped performances
Just the day after denying the rumors of singing to Kanye West’s GOOD Music, Atlantan trap trio Migos ending the first month of 2017 by delivering their sophomore full-length album. The title track kicks the album off & the spacey instrumental from 808 Mafia members Tre Pounds & DY is really great, but the DJ Khaled intro makes it feel like an outdated leftover from his latest album Major 🔑. The next song “T-Shirt” is a charismatic braggadocious tune with a menacing instrumental Nard & B and the Quavo hook on here is just INFECTIOUS! The track “Call Casting” talks about cocaine over a bass-heavy piano beat & as for the next song “Bad & Boujee”, it’s not hard to see why this is their biggest hit yet. Sure Lil Uzi Vert fills in for Takeoff, but it’s a really fun track in every aspect from the energetic deliveries to Metro Boomin’s production. The track “Get Right Witcha” talks about how the trio has been too busy working & not only is it catchy, but I also really love the flute that Murda Beatz incorporates into his thunderous production. The song “Slippery” with talks about the lavish life over some wailing synths with some heavy bass & the Gucci Mane verse on here couldn’t have been any more perfect. The track “Big on Big” is a reflection of Migos’ overall success within the past few years & the orchestral string sections that Zaytoven incorporates into the instrumental are just gorgeous. The song “What’s the Price?” has some piano chords in the background that sound like it was buried in the mix & honestly, I think Takeoff’s verse about finding a better route & not being heard out was really sincere. The track “Brown Paper Bag” talks about flexing albeit boringly & the Zaytoven instrumental sounding like it was originally made for Gucci. The song “Deadz” talks about counting money & despite the 2 Chainz feature being short but sweet, the Cardo production sounds like pure evil. The track “All Ass” is a fun tune for the ladies, but [Offset]’s line about a stripper “looking like a Kardashian” did make me cringe a bit. The song “[Kelly Price]” with [Travi$ Scott] is pretty much about them partying with a significant other & the instrumental has a super eerie atmosphere to it. The closer “Out the Way” was such a disappointing finish to the album, as it’s pretty much an “All Ass 2”. I’ve never been a fan of Migos, but I’m not gonna lie when I say this was alright. There are definitely some lackluster moments, but sounds more well produced & they come off a lot less obnoxious & more energetic than usual. Especially Quavo, whom I personally find to be the most animated & charismatic member of the trio. If you weren’t big on these guys & you wanna give them another shot, then give this a listen because it might be their most well groomed effort yet
With the release of his major label debut Radioctive: Amazing & Mystifying Chemical Tricks being 4 years prior & releasing a couple EPs & mixtapes afterwards, Alabama rapper Yelawolf is finally delivering his 3rd full-length album. This is also his first commercial release under his own label Slumerican Records, yet his 2nd with Shady Records & Interscope. The album kicks off with “Outer Space” which has this fun rap rock vibe to it thanks to WLPWR & Catfish Billy himself sounds hyped to finally be back. The next song “Change” tells the listener about him finally finding himself, but Malay’s guitar-tinged production was just ok to me here. The track “American You” sees Yelawolf singing about an average American man & sonically, it is a full-blown country rock song. The song “Whiskey in a Bottle” raps about coming of age & I was surprised to hear that they used the same sample that Madvillain used for “Supervillain Theme” off their must-have 2004 album Madvillainy. The track “Ball & Chain” sees Yelawolf singing about going from a prisoner to a well known rapper over an acoustic guitar, but it really shouldn’t have been an interlude. The song “‘Til It’s Gone” sings then raps about not being taken advantage of & I absolutely love the country vibes of it. It was also perfect that it appeared in one of the final Sons of Anarchy episodes. Similar to “American You” being a full blown rock song, the track “Devil in My Veins” is a full blown country song from the instrumental to Yelawolf’s vocals & it’s just ok. The song “Best Friend” is another full-blown rock song with Yelawolf singing about his religious beliefs & the album’s sole feature from mentor Eminem is just angry as Hell. The track “Empty Bottles” has a few corny shot-glass lines near the end of the first 2 verses, but I do like the guitar & the passionate delivery as he discusses his alcoholism. The song “Heartbreak” is a rapped message to his ex-wife Sonora Rosario & while it’s the only song on the entire album to be produced by Eminem, it doesn’t disappoint. Especially since he surprisingly got back with Dr. Dre production underwings Mark Batson & Mike Elizondo to play keys & guitar on it to give the beat that late 90s/early 2000s Dre vibe. The track “Tennessee Love” is a passionately sung ode to his now ex-fiancé Fefe Dobson over some gloomy keys & as for “Box Chevy V”, it’s yet another great tune of his to cruise to & the record scratches weren’t too bad either. The title track raps about not wanting to be forgotten & the beat has an ambitious tone to it. The song “Johnny Cash” sees Yela using one of his idols to talk about stage fright & the sample used in the beat gives it a gloomy atmosphere to it that’s actually pretty nice. The track “Have a Great Flight” is another fully sung yet beautiful tribute to great-grandmother over a some lovely guitar & string sections. The song “Sky’s the Limit” raps about the American dream over some somber piano chords with some guitars later thrown in & the way he vents about his step-father abusing him on the acoustic penultimate track “Disappear” was very personal. The rapped closer “Fiddle Me This” tells the audiences a few more things he wants to get off his chest before the album ends & while I didn’t expect the fiddle solos & DJ scratches near the end of it, it definitely fits in given the title. I’m not surprised that this was more country/rock influenced AT ALL, but it does work. I really didn’t have to be 18 tracks/75 minutes long & his prominent singing was ok, but he sounds a lot more comfortable & passionate than he did on Radioactive
After signing to Shady Records alongside Slaughterhouse earlier this year, Alabama rapper Yelawolf is not hesitating with putting out his major label debut yet his 1st studio album since 2005’s Creekwater. The intro has this decent beat from WLPWR, but Yelawolf’s is going IN both lyrically & delivery-wise. The next song “Get Away” talks about getting drunk over a sample of The Brothers Johnson’s cover of “Strawberry Letter 23” & despite Catfish Billy recycling his verse from the 2011 XXL Freestyle, it still sounds great. Also, the Shawty Fatt verse was decent & Mystikal shows us that he still has it after being locked up for 7 years. The track “Let’s Roll” & the crunk-infused “Hard White (Up in the Club)” definitely sound like party anthems meant for the clubs & radio, but I find them to be pretty fun. The hooks from Kid Rock & Lil Jon respectively fit right in, too. The track “Growin’ Up in the Gutter” with Rittz sees the 2 talking about their rough upbringings & the instrumental sounds chaotic as Hell. The song “Throw It Up” has some nice piano keys & while I did like the guest verse from former 3 6 Mafia member Gangsta Boo in the middle of the track, it’s really the insanely fast verse from Eminem that takes the spotlight. The track “Good Girl” sees Yela telling this girl how good he’ll treat her & the instrumental kinda reminds me of Crush from Warren G’s last album The G Files. The song “Made in the U.S.A.” gets conscious over some pianos & some string sections & the Priscilla Renea hook is pretty nice as well. The song “Animal” gets celebratory over an instrumental from Diplo that sounds like an 80s/90s video game, but the hook from his then-girlfriend Fefe Dobson was actually kinda disappointing. “The Hardest Love Song in the World” is basically Yela talking to a woman who comes from a similar background & while I do like the guitar-instrumental, it doesn’t really make it live up to it’s title. The song “Write Your Name” tells the story of an elderly man & a 16 year old mother before sending endearing message to the people of his homestate over a radio-friendly instrumental from the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League & I thought it was really cool that he got a fan to do the hook after she missed out on one of his shows. The track “Everything I Love the Most” has a depressing tone lyrically over a decent rap rock instrumental & the acoustic “Radio” gratefully expresses Yelawolf’s happiness of finally making it as a successful rapper along with being taking a jab at mainstream hip hop of today. The song “Slumerican Shitizen” lashes back at all the people who’ve called Yela white trash & the Killer Mike verse at the tail-end of it enhances the grit & aggression of the track. “The Last Song” is literally just that standard edition-wise & Yela makes good use of it by passionately reflecting on what it was like being raised by a single mother over a set some somber piano chords. The first bonus track “Whip It” talks about him & a chick who likes to party wilding out & the beat will make you wanna do just that. The song “I See You” tells 3 different scenarios in which Yelawolf finds the real you over some pianos & the final bonus track “In This World” is about how there’s no other like him over a decent rap rock instrumental. It’s definitely not better than than Trunk Muzik, but this was still a solid album. I can appreciate that many styles were used on here & Yelawolf is just as much of an entertaining rapper as he was before he got signed. I wouldn’t go as far to say it’s a classic like The Source did, but it is a fun album & it’s definitely a solid way to introduce Yelawolf to wider audiences
Lil Pump is a 17 year old rapper from Miami, Florida & this is his full-length debut. The opener “What U Sayin?’” sees & Smokepurrp are rapping about “flexin’ everyday” over a piano-trap beat, but it’s just really dumb. The next track “Gucci Gang” is basically about him now flying a private jet while you’re still living on rent over a dreary trap instrumental & the hook is even more tedious. The song “Smoke My Dope with Smokepurrp has an abrasive beat & while it wasn’t bad to hear the 2 rappers changing bars back & forth, the content about getting high while simultaneously getting head doesn’t do it much justice at all. The track “Crazy” is about going wild at the club & the instrumental definitely gives off that vibe, but Lil Pump’s delivery is absolutely obnoxious from start to finish.
The song “Back” redundantly gets braggadocious about wealth but to be quite honest, the delivery of Lil Yachty’s guest verse was actually ok. Can’t say the same for his lyrics, though. The track “D Rose” is pretty much about having expensive watches on his wrist over a lumbering bass heavy trap beat, but it sounds underwritten. The song “At the Door” raps about serving you drugs & doing gangsta shit like having sex with a woman & shootin’ her dad afterwards over an Atari-ish trap instrumental. However just like the last track, it sounds underwritten. The track “Youngest Flexer” speaks for itself, but the only highlights of it is the explosive instrumental & the Gucci Mane verse. The song “Foreign” has a bass-heavy instrumental that isn’t to bad, but the content about having both cars & girls from other countries sounds so derivative. The track “Whitney” is about (you guessed it) cocaine & while the Chief Keef verse was surprisingly ok to me, Lil Pump’s pretty much repeating himself throughout the whole thing.
The song “Molly” is about (you guessed it again) ecstasy over a bland instrumental & while the beat on the track after that “Iced Out” gets kinda annoying after a while, the 2 Chainz verse was ok. The song “Boss” generically talks about being just that, but the beat here is actually pretty hard. The penultimate track “Flex Like Oou” is basically Pump repeating himself once again with lyrics about moving bricks & going all out in the club, but it seems unfinished. The nightmare finally ends with “Pinky Ring”, where Pump & Smokepurrp get with Rick Ross to talk some boss shit over a chaotic instrumental, but Ross is really the only one out of the 3 who sounds alive.
I know Lil Pump is just a 17 year old kid, but I’m not gonna lie when I say that this was VERY hard to sit through. The features were decent as were some of the beats, but it’s really Lil Pump who makes this album fall flat on it’s face. The song structures are just copied & pasted to the point of annoyance, the lyrics are derivative & his delivery/flow doesn’t get me excited whatsoever. And before any “real hip hop” head calls me a hypocrite because I didn’t like this yet I find Travi$ Scott’s debut Rodeo to be a modern classic along with me reviewing both Gucci‘s latest mixtape Droptopwop & 2 Chainz’ latest album Pretty Girls 👍 TRΛP MUSIC very positively over the summer, at least those projects have charisma & some versatility that made them very listenable. This is just straight up mindless
With the release of 2 prelude EPs earlier this year, the horribly underrated Kentucky based hip hop trio CunninLynguists are coming together with their 6th full-length album. The opener “Red, White & Blues” sees MCs Deacon the Villain & Natti saying that they still think the US is alive despite all that’s going on right now over an instrumental from Kno that contains a killer guitar & some boom bap drums. The next track “Riot!” speaks on just that & while the hook is just average, the beat kinda has this churchy vibe that fits well with the descriptive lyrics. The song “Red Bird” talks about spirituality over a smooth instrumental & the sample hook is just as beautiful. The track “Violet (The Upper Room)” has a religious tone lyrically but this time, they’re talking about it over some jazzy keys & the way it’s structure it like a funeral was very creative.
The song “Gone” speaks on the evicted over a soulful boom bap beat à la 9th Wonder & the Trizz hook enhances the somber tone of it perfectly. The track “Any Way the Wind Blows” vividly tells the story of this woman who eventually commits suicide over a lush yet dreary instrumental & I absolutely love the sample that was used during the hook. The next 2 songs “Mr. Morganfield & Ms. Waters (Side A)” and “Jimi & Andre (B-Side)” really could’ve been been a single 8 minute song to me, mainly because the structuring of both individual tracks from the songwriting to the way the beat changes after each verse are very well incorporated. The track “Hustlers” intelligently talks about this woman who gets everyone floored over a smooth guitar loop & the hook fits in with the verses like a glove. The song “Oh Honey” is a creatively written love tune & while the drums are explosive as Hell, the overall vibe it gives off is just right. Lyrically, the penultimate track “No Universe Without Harmony” gets back to the topic of consciousness & the instrumental is pretty wavy yet gloomy. The album closes out with “Earth to Venus (Tiny Orange Star)”, where Deacon & Natti talking to their lovers with some spirituality references & the instrumental is just absolutely beautiful.
While I do recall Kno tweeting last November telling us to expect the CunninLynguists to bring back the Dirty Acres era, I don’t really think they disappointed. Matter of fact, I think the trio surpassed Joey Bada$$’ latest album All AmeriKKKan-BadA$$ (which I also reviewed very positively) for the most conscious hip hop release of the year. Primarily because I find the lyricism is a lot more intelligent & Kno’s production continues to get a lot more beautiful over time