The Carters – “EVERYTHING IS LOVE” review

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The Carters are a musical duo consisting of legendary Brooklyn MC JAY-Z & his wife, former Destiny’s Child member & Houston popstar Beyoncé. Their latest albums Lemonade & 4:44 saw them at their most personal, but now they’re closing out the trilogy with a collaborative effort.

The album starts off with “SUMMER”, which is a sex song over a Cool & Dre instrumental that suits the mood fantastically. The next track “APESHIT” is an energetic club banger with an infectious Pharrell beat & Bey’s rapping was a very nice touch. The song “BOSS” talks about success over a triumphant trap beat from D’Mile & Mike Dean while the track “NICE” with Pharrell sees the 3 getting braggadocious over some beautiful keys & rattling hi-hats. The song “713” is a dedication to Beyoncé’s hometown over an instrumental with heavy bass with even some Scott Storch-like keyboards. It makes even more sense that Bey interpolates the classic Dr. Dre tune “Still D.R.E.” in the hook, but that’s really the only part of the song that I’m realistically not crazy about.

The track “FRIENDS” sees the 2 individually dedicating the time to song crew over a gloomy trap beat from Boi-1da & for some reason NAV while the song “HEARD ABOUT US” tells their critics to watch their mouths over a funky beat. The penultimate track “BLACK EFFECT” sees the 2 intelligently talking about being African American over a soulful trap beat & then it finishes perfectly with “LOVEHAPPY”, where the ‘03 Bonnie & Clyde go back & forth with each other about professing their love for each other as well as moving on from the whole Becky incident over a beautiful Eddie & Ernie sample.

I’m well aware that Jigga intentionally gave us this  just the day after the new Nas album NASIR & while that is definitely superior, I still thought this was a lovely way to end the trilogy. Given what they’ve been through, the impeccable chemistry between JAY-Z & Beyoncé is a lot more stronger than it’s been in the past. Most of the instrumentals are luscious too & while I do enjoy a handful of trap music, I feel like a few of the beats on here sounded like they were forced to throw in hi-hats when they really didn’t need to

Score: 4/5

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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

Rapsody – “Laila’s Wisdom” review

After signing to Roc Nation last year, North Carolina MC Rapsody is delivering her sophomore full-length album & her first in 5 years. The album opens up with the title track, where Rapsody tells you not to worry about anyone tells you along with knowing your worth & the instrumental from Nottz has some great piano chords along with some boom bap drums & even choir vocals. The next song “Power” with Kendrick Lamar gets self-explanatory & their chemistry on here is just as great as it was on “Complex (A Zulu Love)” off of Kendrick’s previous album To Pimp a Butterfly. Also, I really like the Bootsy Collins sample that Rapsody’s mentor 9th Wonder uses for the instrumental. The track “Chrome (Like Ooo)” talks about ending your career if you diss her along with respecting the driver more than the ride & while the production from Ka$h & Khrysis was just ok to me, her ambition really makes up for it. Also, I found the Forest Whitaker line near the end of the first verse to be pretty funny & clever. The song “Pay Up” vividly tells the story of a money hungry woman along with the final verse being about her bum-ass boyfriend who wants to get her pregnant over a funky instrumental. The track “Ridin’” with GQ speaks on finding oneself but with a dark tone to it & the instrumental from 9th & Eric G. starts off with a spacey time, but then it nicely transitions into something more boom bap-esque for the final verse. The song “Sassy” flaunts about success over a vibrant instrumental & the charismatic tone in her voice is absolutely absolutely flawless. The track “Nobody” intelligently talks about how no one really knows anything from Biggie & 2Pac’s murderers to even minding one’s business over a smooth instrumental. Also, I think the one line during the 2nd verse about how you can’t divide hip hop at all despite not everyone liking someone in the vein of Waka Flocka Flame is absolutely true. As for the features, the Anderson .Paak hook is on point & the Black Thought verse is just as flawless as one would expect. The song “Black & Ugly” dives into beauty over a 9th Wonder instrumental with some scent guitar licks as well as some explosive boom bap drums & I really like how she incorporates her personal experiences into it. Also the hook from BJ the Chicago Kid kinda reminds me of D’Angelo for some reason, but not in a bad way at all. The track “You Should Know” sees Rapsody getting braggadocious about her skills over an menacing instrumental from 9th, but then it transitions into something more lush & we are treated with a verse from Busta Rhymes that compliments Rapsody perfectly. The song “A Rollercoaster Jam Called Love” talks about staying with her man no matter what & the way 9th constantly changes the instrumental after each verse is just fantastic. The track “U Used 2 Love Me” is basically Rapsody speaking to her ex-boyfriend & musically, it really gives me some Zapp vibes & 9th did a damn good job at it. The song “Knock on My Door” vividly talks about Rapsody’s desire to have a man over her place over some jazzy piano keys along with a soul sample in the back. The penultimate track “OooWee” was taken from Rapsody’s 3rd EP Crown that came out last November, but it still sounds great from her aggressive delivery & the Anderson .Paak hook to the guitar loop throughout. The album then closes out with “Jesus Coming”, where Rapsody creatively spits about “going home” in 3 different perspectives over a spacey instrumental & the Amber Navran hook is beautiful. If you ask me, this could very well be Rapsody’s best work yet. The production (mostly handled by 9th Wonder) is beautiful, the features fit in perfect, Rapsody’s lyricism is stronger than before & the passion that was put into it is as bright as day. I know a lot of cats are stuck on Cardi B’s latest hit single “Bodak Yellow” but if you want an actual female MC with intelligent lyrics & organic production, PLEASE give this a listen

Score: 4.5/5

Vic Mensa – “The Autobiography” review

Almost 2 months after releasing his 2nd EP The Manuscript, SAVEMONEY leader Vic Mensa is finally releasing his full-length debut. The album kicks off with “Didn’t I (Say I Didn’t)”, where he’s passionately & gratefully talking about making it to the top over a beautiful Darondo sample as well as a semi-funky guitar. The next track “Memories on 47th St.” pretty much speaks for itself, as Vic’s vividly reflecting about the rough days of living in his home block over a murky beat. The song “Rollin’ Like a Stoner” originally appeared as the 3rd track off of The Manuscript, but it still sounds like a knockoff of “Pursuit of Happiness” by KiD CuDi in every aspect. And on top of that, I don’t really care for Vic’s delivery. Especially when the hook comes around. The track “Homewrecker” with Weezer sees Vic pretty much blaming himself for breaking up with his ex-girlfriend & he even recalls a couple fights that they’ve had with each other over a somber rap rock instrumental. The song “Gorgeous” then talks about Vic wanting to be with 2 different women instead of 1 over a Daft Punk-inspired instrumental & as much as I love Syd, I found her feature on here to be just ok. The track “Heaven on Earth” is a dedication to his murdered friend Cam & I absolutely love how Vic writes the 2nd & 3rd verse from the perspectives of both Cam & his murderer respectively. The production has an eerie atmosphere to it & The-Dream’s hook sounded like it was sung by an angel. After a 70 second skit, we are then treated to the next song on the track listing “Down for Some Ignorance (Ghetto Lullaby)”. Here, both Vic & Chief Keef speak on Chicago street violence over a creepy-sounding beat from the ever so underrated Mike Dean. The next song “Coffee & Cigarettes” sings then later raps about the first girl to break Vic’s heart over a electric guitar passage, but then transitions into some piano keys along with some decent drums. The track “Wings” expresses Vic’s desires to get away from all the drama in his life & the beat from Pharrell will just make you wanna start bouncing. The next song is pretty much The-Dream reprising “Heaven on Earth” by himself for 2 minutes, but with completely different lyrics & a different instrumental. It’s ok. The track “The Fire Next Time” talks about overcoming dark times & the production from No I.D. has this down-tuned electric guitar throughout that sounds pretty cool. The closer “We Could Be Free” talks about us being slaves of our own pain over a somber guitar, but then it adds an ambitious atmosphere near the end. As for the Ty$ feature, I didn’t think his vocals during the outro were gonna be as beautiful as they were. We then get 2 bonus tracks “OMG” & “Rage”, both of which also appeared on The Manuscript & sound a lot better than “Rollin’ Like a Stoner” did. While this obviously isn’t better than INNANETAPE, it was still worth the long wait. The lyrics are immensely personal & while there are a couple duds in the track listing, the production fits the vibes of these personal stories well for the most part. If any of you were like me & thought his last couple EPs were alright, then give this thing a listen because it really does live up to it’s title

Score: 3.5/5

JAY-Z – “4:44” review

Almost 4 years after the disappointingly mediocre Magna Carta…Holy Grail, renown Brooklyn rapper & businessman JAY-Z is finally delivering his 13th album & he has enlisted No I.D. to produce it in it’s entirety. The opener “Kill JAY-Z” talks about killing his ego over a soulful instrumental & it even addresses his Throne cohort Kanye West’s stage rants from last November. Despite calling him insane, he does assure Ye that he does feel bad for him. The next song “The Story of O.J.” sees JAY getting conscious over some piano keys & a sample of “4 Women” by Nina Simone. Matter of fact, Jigga actually makes a PERFECT reference to the original Nina Simone song during the hook. The track “Smile” talks about pushing through the pain & while I don’t care for the drums at all, the Stevie Wonder sample is nice & I love the background vocals too. Also, the outro from his mother Gloria (whom JAY publicly announces & supports for being a lesbian near the end of the first verse) was endearing. The song “Caught Their Eyes” talks about watching your surroundings over an instrumental with a tropical vibe to it & the Frank Ocean hook isn’t as great as his hook on “Oceans” was, I still liked it. The title track is a sincerely delivered apology to Jigga’s wife Beyoncé & the soul sample on here enhances the remorse that JAY is letting out. Despite the song “Family Feud” being said to be about the recent beef between older & younger hip hop artists, it could possibly refer more to his wife almost leaving him for cheating on her (especially with the line at the beginning of the 3rd verse about telling Becky to let him alone). Also, Beyoncé’s background vocals that can be heard throughout the entire track are just beautiful. The track “Bam” has a braggadocious tone to it lyrically & while I do enjoy the horns as well as the hook from Damian Marley, that one line Rae Sremmurd & Bobby Shmurda at the beginning of the 2nd verse is really corny. However, he does make an interesting reference to “30 Hours” off of Kanye’s latest album The Life of Pablo shortly after. Plus, there’s no denying that the IG pictures line during the first verse couldn’t be any more true The song “Moonlight” is a message to all the new rappers & I absolutely LOVE the “Fu-Gee-La” sample on here. The penultimate track “Marcy Me” is a dedication to the streets delivered over a soothing instrumental, but I thought the reference to “Unbelievable” by Biggie during the intro was just ok. Same goes with the outro from The-Dream. The album then closes out with “Legacy”, where his daughter Blue Ivy asks him what a will is & he responds by talking about his family’s workmanship over some jazzy horns. If any of you were disappointed with Magna Carta…Holy Grail as much as I was, then I can tell right now that this is A LOT better. No I.D.’s production is soul sample galore & lyrically, it could very well be his most personal effort yet. It’s pretty much the male equivalent to Beyoncé’s latest album Lemonade, except I’ll go as far to say that it’s better

Score: 4/5