SZA – “CTRL” review

After a series of countless delays following the release of her fantastic Z EP back in 2014, Top Dawg Entertainment’s 1st lady SZA is finally releasing her full-length debut. The album kicks off with the track “Supermodel”, where basically SZA telling her ex that she cheated on him on Valentine’s Day to understandably get back at him for going out to Vegas that day & the instrumental has a wavy guitar along with some bass & some organic drums. The next song “Love Galore” with Travi$ Scott seems to follow that opening track up, as it talks about her ex wanting to get back with her when she doesn’t over some wailing synths. The track “Doves in the Wind” is a dedication to pussy with a spacey instrumental & the guest verse from Kendrick Lamar fits into the song perfectly. The song “Drew Barrymore” reflects on a low self-esteem version of SZA herself & not only does the instrumental on here enhance the emotion of the song, but it’s also infectiously catchy. Especially with the strings near the end of the track. The track “Prom” is pretty much SZA promising herself to get better as she gets older & the instrumental will make you wanna throw a party. The song “The Weekend” talks about being this guy’s side chick during the weekends (hence the title) & while I love the spacey synths at the beginning along with how the smooth keys throughout, the clichĂ© snares just sound meh to me. The track “Go Gina” talks about this guy bringing her out of her character when he’s around her & the production from Frank Dukes primarily has these winking chimes & some drums throughout most of it, but the tension building strings during the last 20 seconds of it are beautiful. The song “Garden (Say It Like Dat)” is pretty much SZA telling this guy that she loves her & even though I appreciate, the trappy production on this track sounds so painfully generic. The track “Broken Clocks” talks about how SZA’s moved on from her ex for the better, despite him still talking about her & while I do enjoy the trophy vocal sample on here, the hi-hats are just average for me. The song “Anything” sees SZA asking her ex if he knows she’s alive & the instrumental on here has this fantastically galactic tone to it. The short but sweet “Wavy” sees SZA singing about how bad as Hell she is as well as looking for a way out over a dreamy instrumental & while James Fauntleroy’s voice does sound muffled during his hook, I still enjoyed it. The song “Normal Girl” is pretty self-explanatory, as it talks about wanting to live the life of a normal girl over a spacey instrumental. The penultimate track “Pretty Little Birds” with Isaiah Rashad is basically the 2 talking about wanting to be together for the rest of their lives & the instrumental is very smooth. Especially with the jazzy trumpets that pop in right before Zaywop’s verse. The album then closes out with the track “20 Something”, where SZA is passionately hoping that she doesn’t lose all of her friends & doesn’t die while she’s in her 20s over nothing but an acoustic guitar that enhances the beauty of this closer. When it seemed like TDE was never gonna release this album, it was well worth the 3 year wait. The production is luscious for the most part, it’s well-written & SZA’s vocals sound both very focused & passionate. If you enjoyed SZA’s early mixtapes & Z as much as I did, then I don’t see why you wouldn’t like this. She’s been one of my favorite R&B singers of this current generation & walking away from this seeing her improving herself just makes me really happy

Score: 4/5

Kendrick Lamar – “DAMN.” review


With his magnum opus To Pimp a Butterfly celebrating it’s 2 year anniversary last month, Black Hippy member Kendrick Lamar has now delivered his 4th full-length album with the whole world watching. The opening track “BLOOD.” starts off with some harmonious choir vocals, but then we hear some dramatic strings & Kendrick recalling a story of a blind woman shooting him after trying to help her. The second track “DNA.” talks about his heritage & while the beat starts off with some heavy bass & a guitar that’s somewhat buried in the mix, it then changes to some hard hitting drums & a vocal sample. Seriously, hearing this will make you get wild. The track “YAH.” has a mellow instrumental & it sees Kendrick melodically talking about following his intuition. The blatant jab at FOX News reporter Geraldo Rivera at the beginning of the 2nd & final verse of the song was well deserved, too. The song “ELEMENT.” is basically about how he’ll always stand strong at what he does & the vocal sample on here is haunting as Hell. The track “FEEL.” vents about a number of different emotions over a wavy vocal sample & some keyboards. The song “LOYALTY.” is a duet with Rihanna about just that & the reversed, sped-up Bruno Mars sample that can be heard from start to finish was really cool. The track “PRIDE.” is Kendrick talking about what he would probably be like in a perfect world over a psychedelic instrumental from Internet guitarist Steve Lacy. We get some constant voice pitch changing during the first verse, but then second verse is just monotoned. The album’s lead single “HUMBLE.” sees Kendrick telling everyone to be humble to him over some ominous keys & even though I wasn’t all too crazy about it when it first came out a couple weeks ago like quite a few people were, I will admit that it has grown on me. The song “LUST.” has a melancholy beat from BADBADNOTGOOD & while it starts off by going into the mind of a woman living in the hood, Kendrick then gets introspective about post-fame life as well as how Americans protested & eventually went back to living their regular lives as a result of Donald Trump being elected our current president back in November. I can absolutely appreciate Kendrick dedicating the track “LOVE.” to his fiancĂ© Whitney Alford, but the hook from Zacari sounds exactly like The Weeknd & it just comes off as very annoying. The song “XXX.” with U2 (albeit minus The Edge) starts off Kendrick aggressively going in while on the phone with a friend coming to him after his son died, but then he somberly talks about never doubting Barack ever again now that we have Donald Trump as our current president. I also really love how the beat during the first verse has some explosive bass as well as police sirens, but then it transitions into some drumming provided by Larry Mullen Jr. as well as some relaxing piano keys. Also, can’t forget about the beautiful Bono hook on here either. I’m not gonna lie, this song really makes me want U2 to drop Songs of Experience later this year. The track “FEAR.” vividly recalls 3 fearful moments when Kendrick was 3, 17 & 27 over a gloomy beat from The Alchemist enhanced by a soul sample. The penultimate track “GOD.” is basically Kendrick saying he feels like God with all the success he has seen over the years over some spacey production, but the delivery during the hook & the first verse was just alright. The album closes out with “DUCKWORTH.”, where Kendrick tells a story about Top Dawg Entertainment founder Anthony Tiffith almost killed Kendrick’s father over a soulful instrumental from 9th Wonder & the beat change about halfway through the track is NASTY! While I’ve been hearing some people saying they were expecting this to better or worse than To Pimp a Butterfly, all I wanted from him was to put out a good album & that’s EXACTLY what I got on here. The Kid Capri intros that you’ll hear on a few tracks give me a nice throwback feeling & while I’m not gonna deny that it’s more commercial than his last 2 albums, but there are only a few moments on the album where it actually bugs me. Despite these few weak moments, Kendrick has shown once again why he’s my favorite MC in this current generation

Score: 4/5