A short thesis on Joji’s newest single “Run”

Image result for joji run“Run” is the newest single from 88rising poster boy, Joji. It released following a ten day-period of teasers from the enigmatic singer/songwriter. Last Thursday morning a music video for the single was also released featuring a muted blue color palette and visuals seemingly taken from Joji’s previous videos.

The single on paper seems like it’s standard fare for Joji. Its lyrical content is very similar to that of his debut record BALLADS1. It’s tinged with the same melancholic tone and delivery however, its production is far more nuanced.

Its initial guitar riff interpolates elements from a Metallica song called “Nothing Else Matters” off of their fifth studio album commonly referred to as their “Black Album”. What is most interesting about this choice is its possible implication. The Black Album was one of Metallica’s most controversial as it signaled a shift in genre for the band. Many purists weren’t receptive to the change, however, critics lauded it as their best.

It would seem Joji is going through a similar change in style. Over time Joji has moved on from his early lo-fi hip-hop influence and bloomed into more of a pop artist. Some fans have expressed their distaste for the sudden shift in tone and often make fun of his dramatic transformation from his Filthy Frank persona into the singer he is today.

“Run” is all of those feelings incarnated into a single track. It expertly blends rock and pop elements and has the Osaka-born crooners best vocal performance since “Slow Dancing in the Dark.”

Whatever this single means for Joji, one thing is very clear; it’s just the beginning.

My top 50 albums of the year

BeFunky-collage.jpgI listened to a lot of music this year. Over 2500 hours to be precise. In case you’re wondering that’s over 150,000 minutes of music in just one year. That’s not bragging, by the way, I just wanted to really sell the fact that I listened to a lot of music this year.

Anywho, because of this, I’m not doing a top ten this year. No, I am doing a top 50 instead! Keep in mind these are only the albums I found worth talking about. I listened to way more than just this, but these were the best that came out this year. In my opinion, of course. The descriptions will begin as vague and short but as the list narrows trust me they get a lot more long-winded.

Now, with no honorable mentions needed, let’s get into the list.


50. Arizona Baby – Kevin Abstract (Hip-Hop/Pop/Alt R&B)

Image result for arizona babyBumpy at times but incredibly bold for Abstract to be so vulnerable.

49. The Fall of Hobo Johnson – Hobo Johnson (Spoken Word/Hip-Hop)

Image result for the fall of hobo johnsonHobo Johnson repackages the sound he’s worked to pioneer and it sounds pretty good.

48. Sonic Citadel – Lightning Bolt (Noise Rock)

Image result for sonic citadel lightning boltChaotic, high-octane, and every other adjective that can possibly mean neurotic.

47. Brandon Banks – Maxo Kream (Hip-Hop/Trap)

Image result for brandon banks album coverA little forgettable but nothing short of unique.

46. Heaven Surrounds You – Surf Curse (Indie Rock)

Image result for heaven surrounds you album coverSurf Curse has progressively gotten more introspective and this record really shows that.

45. JACKBOYS – JACKBOYS (Trap)

Image result for jackboys cover artA fun tape further exacerbating the chaotic Cactus Jack persona.

44. 1000 gecs – 100 gecs (Pop/Nightcore/Experimental)

Image result for 1000 gecsStrangely genius, taking every pop convention, turning it on its head and then smashing it with a hammer.

43. A Quiet Farewell, 2016-2018 – Slauson Malone (Experimental Hip-Hop)

Image result for a quiet farewellUnsympathetic and a little too obsessed with itself to be considered greater. No matter what it’s still a fine record and deserves a close inspection.

42. Life After – Palace (Indie Rock)

Image result for life after palaceAn absolutly beautiful record with lush production and vocals. Can never go wrong with Palace.

41. Flamagara – Flying Lotus (Hip-Hop)

Image result for flamagraThis has David Lynch in it. Need I say more? Flying Lotus is a genius producer.

40. Guns – Quelle Chris (Hip-Hop/Rap)

Image result for guns quelle chrisAn incredibly blunt message about the use of guns in America disguised as a commercial rap album.

39. The Decalogue – Sufjan Stevens & Timo Andres (Piano)

Image result for the decalogue sufjan stevensThis record which consists of only piano music and no vocals said more than most other records did this year.

38. Ginger – BROCKHAMPTON (Pop/Hip-Hop/Rap)

Image result for ginger brockhamptonBROCKHAMPTON finally came out with a good record after the failure of iridescence. Thanks guys!

37. Deceiver – DIIV (Shoegaze)

Image result for diiv deceiver album coverThis album is deceivingly great. I’m so sorry. Just go listen do it.

36. Hi, This is Flume – Flume (Electronic/Wonky)

Image result for hi this is flume album coverFlume proves once again he’s one of the most creative producers living.

35. HAN – Berhana (R&B)

Image result for han berhanaA flight through the creative mind of Berhana. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and I applaud that.

34. The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae (Hip-Hop/Rap)

Image result for the lost boy album coverAmazingly strong debut record. I cannot wait for what’s next. YBN Cordae is the lyrical rap revivalist we needed.

33. ZUU – Denzel Curry (Hip-Hop/Rap)

Image result for zuu album coverZUU felt like an album of strange b-sides and it was still amazing. Denzel Curry never ceases to impress.

32. Cuz I Love You – Lizzo (Pop Soul)

Image result for lizzo cuz i love you album coverSome of the strongest vocal performances came from Lizzo this year. While I do find this record a little preachy at times I think it fits well.

31. Shea Butter Baby – Ari Lennox (R&B)

Image result for ari lennox shea butter baby album coverAri Lennox blends a delicate story of womanhood with her smooth vocals and charismatic instrumentals. Easily one of the smoothest records of 2019.

30. MIRRORLAND – Earthgang (Hip-Hop/Rap)

Image result for earthgang mirrorland album coverEarthgang is one of the best Hip-Hop duos in the industry right now. The record never loses its charm and sticks to what the gang knows best.

29. IGOR – Tyler, the Creator (Hip-Hop/Neo-Soul)

Image result for igor tyler the creator album coverTyler’s newest effort didn’t resonate with me as much as it did with the masses but I still think its a very well made record with some standout tracks to boot.

28. Three Originals – Tobe Nwigwe (Hip-Hop/Rap)

Image result for tobe nwigwe three originalsSkip the 40-minute podcast at the end and you’ve got the quintessential rap record.

27. The Sailor – Rich Brian (Hip-Hop/Rap)

Image result for the sailor rich brianOne of the best showcases of personal growth ever put to music. Incredibly mature (except when it’s not).

26. May The Lord Watch – Little Brother (Hip-Hop/Rap)

Image result for may the lord watchThe Hip-Hop duo return after a long hiatus to drop a record that reminds everyone of Hip-Hop’s more chill side. Some of the interludes are a bit heavy-handed but it’s a fine record.

25. Jesus is Born – Sunday Service Choir (Gospel)

Image result for jesus is born sunday service albumExceptionally raw and unrelenting in its message. This record truly surprised me with how far it really went to make its point.

24. Anger Management – Rico Nasty & Kenny Beats (Hip-Hop/Rap)

Image result for anger management ricoRico Nasty likes to scream. Screaming is coincidentally one the things she does best! Without a doubt one of the best female rappers in the game right now.

23. It’s a Whimsical Afterlife – Avenade (Experimental/Noise Rock)

This record is experimental, hard-hitting, and absolutely chaotic. It’s an indescribable ride of guitar hits and percussion slaps all couped into one cohesive collection of songs that all bleed into each other.

22. Breathe In/Out – Lysistrata (Punk/Rock/Alternative)

Image result for breathe in breathe out lysistrataLysistrata brings out the best from the early 2000’s punk rock that saturated the music market at the time. It’s an absolute delight to hear it perfected down to what feels like science to them.

21. Netflix and Deal – 03 Greedo & Kenny Beats (Hip-Hop/Rap)

Image result for netflix and dealFrom beyond prison bars, 03 Greedo released a mixtape inspired by films he watched while dealing drugs. I think Kenny’s production is what sold this record for me. Some of the more concise work between two collaborators this year.

20. We Are Not Your Kind – Slipknot (Metal)

Image result for slipknot we are not your kind album coverTo be honest, this was Slipknot but tamer. However, that’s not a bad thing. I think WAYNK has a lot going for it and I’d be heart-pressed not to put it here. Corey Taylor as always steals the show with his colorful vocals.

19. Duster – Duster (Alternative/Indie)

Image result for duster duster album coverEverything Duster releases puts me to sleep, but like, in a good way. Their self-titled record can move from soundscape to soundscape with ease. If this wasn’t going to be on my list their compilation album would have.

18. uknowhatimsayin¿ – Danny Brown (Hip-Hop/Rap)

Image result for danny brown uknowhatimsayin album coverIt’s genuinely difficult to describe the appeal of Danny Brown without using words that all mean crazy. His new record is polarizing and honestly kind of beautiful. As per most Danny Brown projects, it’s not for the faint of heart.

17. CASE STUDY 01 – Daniel Caesar (R&B/Soul)

Image result for daniel caesar case study 01 album coverFor some time Daniel Caesar was an artist who only impressed me on singles. However, his surprise album made me think differently. CASE STUDY 01 is a deep look into his own character and brings new meaning to introspection.

16. Fine Line – Harry Styles (Pop/Rock)

Related imageHarry Styles reminds me on this record of why I fell in love with his first studio release. The former One Direction frontman is one part heartthrob and all parts talented. Boys, don’t let toxic masculinity keep you from listening to this one. Okay?

15. All My Heroes Are Cornballs – JPEGMafia (Experimental Hip-Hop)

Image result for jpegmafia all my heroes are cornballs album coverAMHAC is JPEGMafia stepping way out of his comfort zone. Whereas Veteran was his breakout hit, his newest effort is a victory lap taking the scenic route. It’s more innovative and character-driven. No holds barred.

14. Bandanna – Freddie Gibbs & Madlib (Hip-Hop/Rap)

Image result for bandana freddie gibbsMadlib collaborates with another rapper and makes a groundbreaking album again! Freddie Gibbs is one of the most talented rappers in the game right now and this album is indisputable proof of that. It’s focused but free-form. Unique but homely.

13. Un – Scott James (Alternative)

spliff.jpgScott James quietly released one of the most beautiful records of 2019 this year. The record feels like a brief walk through an empty meadow of flowers. It can be a little harsh at times but the whole experience is pretty.

12. Circuits – Chris Potter (Jazz)

Image result for circuits chris potterChris Potter is a master of Jazz. Everything on this record feels so deliberate and alive. Circuits feel so technical and rhythmic its the epitome of a modern-day jazz record. A must listen for anyone looking to get into jazz.

11. Chon – Chon (Math Rock)

Image result for chon chon album“Wow” was the first word I uttered when listening to Chon’s self-titled effort. I don’t understand how humans were able to play like this. It’s genuinely beyond me. 1000 percent effort was exerted onto this record and the music speaks for itself. Math Rock will never die so long as Chon continues to play.

10. Nothing Happens – Wallows (Indie Rock/Alternative)

Image result for nothing happensWallows are what every indie band should try to sound like. They have a sound that is simultaneously the true essence of the indie rock genre itself and yet wholly original. Do not even think about sleeping on this record. Something definitely happens here.

9. Everyday Life – Coldplay (Pop/Alternative)

Image result for everyday life coldplayColdplay has been in the business for some time now with a plethora of hits under their star-studded belt. Yet with every record, they only seem to push the envelope further. They’re relevant, topical and somehow capture the quintessence of pop itself.

8. i,i – Bon Iver (Experimental/Pop)

Image result for i i bon iverI don’t know how Bon Iver makes music often time’s it feels like they were just handed the perfect blend of experimental art-pop and like everything else. This record is impossibly made. It’s not only a record but a marvel of sound itself. By all accounts, we shouldn’t have been able to make this, and yet they found a way.

7. K-12 – Melanie Martinez (Pop)

Image result for k-12 album coverThe follow-up to her previous record Crybaby could not have been more well crafted. It’s the perfect continuation while remaining its own record. There are a lot of fun moments on this album that makes the listener go through a wave of different emotions. Another great pop record to add to the hefty list.

6. ANIMA – Thom Yorke (Soundtrack)

Image result for anima thom yorke album coverThom Yorke has rarely disappointed me. It seems like every piece of work he’s done for a film is bound to be blessed by God himself. It’s in the same style of something from a Radiohead record but with Yorke’s very personal touch and sensibilities. Experiencing the record is like watching a film in itself.

5. Blood – Kelsey Lu (Pop/R&B/Soul)

Related imageKelsey Lu innovates the pop genre at large by infusing so many different ideas and motifs into her debut record. We had a lot of good pop albums released this year and this one is no exception. It’s everything you want and much much more. This record is absolutely worth your time. I am very excited to hear what the cellist has next up her sleeve.

4. Is He Real? – IDK (Hip-Hop/Rap)

Image result for is he real?Is He Real? is another album that grapples with the existence of God and the banality of the human experience. However this time it’s set to some of the most hard-hitting beats I’ve heard this year and narrated by IDK. It is blunt, introspective, and most of all original. There are some hot takes and truly deep moments on the record. It doesn’t always take one side over the other but it also isn’t necessarily neutral either. It’s complicated much like the concept of God itself. Fitting, to say the least.

3. Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville (Hip-Hop/Rap)

Image result for revenge of the dreamers 3 album coverI’ve always wondered what an album of only bangers would sound like. Many others have tried and failed to accomplish that difficult task. However, this year my wish was granted. Somehow J. Cole was able to grant over 50 artists with a grammy nomination this year thanks to the release of this monster of a record. Every song feels like an explosion in your face, even the slow ones! I genuinely don’t understand how this record was made in only ten days. It is truly a modern-day miracle and a bonafide work of art.

2. Suga – Kyle Dion (R&B/Funk)

Image result for kyle dion sugaKyle Dion’s debut record blew me away this year with its soulful melodies and retro-inspired sonic elements. Listening to it for the first time felt a lot like when I listened to Prince for the first time as a young boy. It takes you back to a simpler time where music was much simpler. Suga is Kyle Dion’s alter ego of sorts and takes the helm of the record. Much like the final album on the list, the production of the record is complimented well by the lush vocals from the crooner. There isn’t much else to say. I love this record and you should definitely give it a listen.

1. When I Get Home – Solange (Neo-Soul/R&B)

Image result for when i get home album coverI feel like I wrote a pretty comprehensive thesis on this record back in February but for the sake of this list, I am going to reiterate. Nothing this year has blown me away quite as much as this masterpiece. Even the interludes on this record are interesting and worth listening to. You know interludes? Those things where their only purpose is to break up the album and make the tracklist seem more deliberate? Everything about this record screams Houston. I’ve already written an article about this record way back in February but it seems like with every listen I just find something new. Solange without a doubt has one of the most unique and inspired musical styles of our generation. When I Get Home is a true testament to that fact and an album I believe everyone deserves to hear. If not for the wonderful performance by Knowles herself or the incredible production hear it because it’s a piece of history that is likely to never be forgotten.


Thank you all for following me through another year of this website. See you all in the next decade!

 

Year in Hip-Hop retrospective

Image result for kanye west 2019

2019 has been anything but an underwhelming year. We saw hundreds of genre-defining projects released this year and it only implies a greater turnaround in the next decade. With so many different projects and artists to follow I thought it would be apt to sort through some of the most important things that occurred this year. Specifically within the rap industry. I’m going to do my best in keeping this in chronological order. However, I may jump around a bit.

21 Savage arrested by ICE

Image result for 21 savage iceThe year began with a very strange turn of events. On Feb 4th,  thought-to-be Atlanta-based rapper; 21 Savage was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The agency revealed, against his fan’s preconceptions, that he was, in fact, a U.K. born resident in America on an expired Visa. This lead to a plethora of individuals asking themselves the same question, “21 Savage is European?”

According to his lawyer, he spent a week in detention after his arrest. However, many feared the possibility of deportation for the 27-year-old rapper. This raised a much-needed conversation about deportation under the Trump administration and gained the attention of many influential figures in the industry. Its ramifications are still relatively unknown.

Nipsey Hustle dies at 33

Image result for death of nipsey hussleMarch brought with it the death of a very important figure in Hip-hop: Nipsey Hustle. He was reportedly shot in front of his own store, Marathon Clothing, in LA. He was one of three victims in the shooting. He was a Grammy nominee and a very prominent figure in LA.  A memorial service was held at the Staples Center on April 11th free of charge.

DJ Khaled temper tantrum

Image result for dj khaled and tylerRelated imageDuring the Summer DJ Khaled expressed his distaste for Tyler, the Creators album IGOR beating his own record: Father of Asahd on the billboard top 100. He threw a “temper tantrum” at his label and further criticized Billboard’s methods for calculating album sales. This apparent tantrum was so loud Tyler, the creator, in a rare moment of transparency, actually addressed Khaled’s grievances.

In an interview with Zane Howe, Tyler said: “No disrespect to Khaled or anyone… I’m on album five and six. And it’s work. It’s effort. It’s work. This is fucking whether n***as like it or not, bro, it’s so much work and detail put into this shit like—I’m so proud of myself.” Many considered this rap beef but it would seem neither party wanted any sort of trouble from this ordeal.

A$AP Rocky held in Swedish prison

Related imageA$AP Rocky was arrested on assault charges and held in Swedish prison for a month and later released only having to pay damages. This was one of the most unorthodox international cases the world has ever seen with interventions from big names like Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, and President Donald Trump.

While US intervention reportedly had no bearing on A$AP Rocky’s release it was still a monumental case. He later returned to Sweden three months later despite his previous statements claiming he wouldn’t.

6ix9ine snitches

Image result for 69 snitchingGoing back to February, Rapper 6ix9ine was made the butt of many jokes for “snitching” on many public figures including TREYWAY, Cardi B, and Jim Jones for being apart of the Nine Trey and Bloods gangs. I’m only including this here due to the fact main videos on the matter publically surfaced around September. Also, the memes surrounding it were pretty hilarious in my opinion.

Ye is born again

Image result for kanye west 2019Since early 2019 Kanye West had been publically holding “Sunday Services” for local residents in various areas in America. Following this was incredibly interesting behavior from Ye and the announcement of his newest studio effort Jesus is King.

West had effectively been “born again” and was now professing his allegiance to Christ. Many off-the-cuff statements were made. He said none of his music going forward would include any cuss-words and how rap was “the devil’s music.” Studio rules for his upcoming album also included West urging his collaborators not to have premarital sex while working on the record.

Jesus is King released at the end of October.

Nicki Minaj announces her retirement from music

Image result for nicki minaj quitting musicIn September Nicki Minaj in a surprise tweet revealed her intentions to quit music to start a family. The tweet read, “I’ve decided to retire & have my family. I know you guys are happy now. To my fans, keep reppin me, do it til da death of me, in the box- cuz ain’t nobody checkin me” Many were unaware of what do do with this information and quickly disregarded the tweet as a joke due to the fact knowledge of a fifth studio album by Minaj was confirmed.

The tweet was later taken down and clarified. She apologized for its abrupt nature. The jury is still out on what her intentions are.

Frank Ocean releases two new singles

Image result for frank ocean prepIn early November Frank Ocean previewed many songs and released two new singles for what many believe to be an upcoming project. “DHL” and “In My Room” were given official vinyl releases along with limited-edition merch. In an interesting side note, a tweet by user MONTE VERCETTI revealed an overpriced listing on Grailed for an iPhone with Frank Oceans singles on it following its temporary removal from Apple Music.

Drake booed at Camp Flog Gnaw festival

Image result for drake booed off stageTyler, the Creator’s annual Camp Flog Gnaw festival was met with some controversy in mid-November due to its mystery guest not being who fans had initially thought. The mystery guest had been teased since its initial promotional line-up was revealed and many fans speculated it was indeed Frank Ocean who would be making a special appearance.

However, the narrative fans had created in their minds could not have been farther from the truth. What fans got instead were sets from A$AP Rocky, Lil Uzi Vert, and Drake. Fans were displeased at Drakes’s surprise appearance and made their disapproval quite evident. After performing a few songs and telling the crowd “I got just one more song” each time after Drake was finally booed off the stage effectively ending the festival early.

Drake took it in stride and later made fun of the ordeal on his Instagram. In said post, Drake made the mistake of claiming Tyler, the Creator fans were all twenty, which we all know could not be farther from the truth.

XXXTentacion’s final release

Image result for xxxtentacionAt the end of November, late rapper XXXTentacion released what is now his final post-humorous project: Bad Vibes Forever. His death in 2018 sent a shockwave through the Hip-Hop community and it would seem like his influence if far from over. The subject of releases from late artists has been a hotly debated topic for some time now with X spearheading most arguments. It hasn’t received the most favorable reviews as of late so perhaps this may work against future releases.

03 Greedo releases a new mixtape from prison

Image result for netflix and dealA documentary on 03 Greedo and Kenny Beats’ most recent mixtape Netflix and Deal, was released in November detailing the process behind the album and its hectic production. Back in May 2018, 03 Greedo was sentenced to twenty years in prison on drug and gun possession charges. During this time, Greedo and Kenny were working nonstop to try and release the project before he would be sent to prison and it would seem all that hard work paid off.

Netflix and Deal is one of the more high-profile releases of this year and that’s likely due to the subject matter behind it. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and has a star-studded list of features.

Goldlink’s strange tribute post to Mac Miller

Image result for goldlinkRapper Goldlink released a poor-taste Instagram post in supposed tribute to the late Mac Miller in late November. Many Mac Miller fans were displeased with his message, due to the fact that he seemed to diss Miller more than pay homage. Among these people was fellow collaborator Anderson .Paak who made a since-deleted response firing back at Goldlink.

In said response, Paak said, “Mac brought your a** on tour and opened up his fan base to you when you had nothing and this the type of appreciation you give.” Not long after Goldlink added to his sentiments stating that Miller was his “best friend.”

Juice WRLD dies at 21

Image result for juice worldEnding the year off on a sour note was the unfortunate passing of Juice WRLD. He suffered from a seizure after landing at Chicago’s Midway airport and later died at the hospital he was taken to. He was only 21.

Many fans found his death tragically ironic as he had previously rapped about dying at 21 on one of his singles about another late rapper XXXTentacion. Many fans posted tribute photos online and shared their condolences.

It’s been a very interesting year with many different twists and turns. While we are ending 2019 on a very sad note we are simultaneously left with a plethora of standout records that came out this year. My next article will be my top albums of the year, stay tuned!

Updating my top ten list from 2018

I’m a firm believer in the idea that opinions can change. For better or for worse. This year the list of my top albums is going to be well over 10. This wild leap from last year is mainly due to the fact my love of music has deepened immensely since then. I’ve made it a point to listen to more albums than singles and it’s really paid off. Last year my list was lackluster and made no sense in some cases. I’ve also listened to more from that year and my opinions have changed deeply. So I’m updating it and also adding a few extra. Hope you enjoy. My 2019 list will be out next month!

Image result for car seat headrest twin fantasy album cover
16. Twin Fantasy – Car Seat Headrest (remaster)

Yes, I’m aware this album already came out but I genuinely feel the remaster is the ideal way to experience this album. It takes what was already great about the original and makes it that much better.

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15. Suspiria – Thom Yorke

Not much else to say, I still love this soundtrack.

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14. ye – Kanye West

I hate being a Kanye fan. It’s awesome.

BALLS
13. Ballads 1 – Joji

This album aged really badly for me. Still, a really good first half but some tracks don’t hit as well as others.

Image result for busdriver electricity is on our side
12. Electricity is on Our Side – Busdriver

A genuinely electrifying experience. Absolutely captivating production and an insane rapping performance from Busdriver.

Image result for yves tumor safe in the hands of love cover
11. Safe in the Hands of Love – Yves Tumor

It’s hard to describe the intricacies of this album without sounding like I’m relaying a vivid fever dream. To be honest, I think that’s what I love about it. Some tracks flow cohesively and others don’t. It’s a gamble but one I’m glad I took.

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10. Die Lit – Playboi Carti

This is such a rapid departure from his previous efforts, I am so pleased with his growth. This is one of the few XXL 2017 freshmen that truly rose to their potential afterward. I cannot wait to see what he has in store after.

Image result for daytona pusha t
9. Daytona – Pusha T

What happens when you cross a cocaine-addicted rapper, Kanye West, and an $85,000 dollar album cover? The answer is simple. A disturbingly good album. Yeah, that’s the only bit I had for this one.

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8. Tha Carter V – Lil Wayne

I hold much of the same reservations about this album that I did last year. Some tracks are a bit spotty but I believe the charm is still there.

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7. KIDS SEE GHOSTS – KIDS SEE GHOSTS

I needed a few more listens to really appreciate this one.

Image result for silkmoney i hate my life
6. I hate my life and I really wish people would stop telling me not to – $ilkMoney

I don’t know why Tyler, The Creator is on this record so heavily but I am not complaining. $ilkMoney has a voice unmatched by most in the industry today. His songs are very reminiscent of the 90’s gangster rap scene while maintaining a heavy grip on the contemporary industry. My only gripe is that the record is too short. Other than that, call it a classic.

Image result for taboo denzel curry
5. TA1300 – Denzel Curry

Introspective, dark, and unbelievably well-produced are the only words I can use to describe Denzel Curry’s magnum opus. Really upset I didn’t give this one a chance sooner.

Image result for veteran jpegmafia
4. Veteran – JPEGMafia

JPEGMafias politically charged, incredibly solid album really resonated with me since my first listen in early 2019. It’s an abrasive take on Hip-hop reminiscent of a lot of the early work of Death Grips. However, it manages to stand out and bloom into a piece of art all its own. Each track has it’s own lucid experience to offer.

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3. Year of the Snitch – Death Grips

Yep still great.

Image result for daughters you won't get what you want
2. You Won’t Get What You Want – Daughters

I don’t know what to say about this record Fantano hasn’t already. I could give this record an oral lavishing for hours and it wouldn’t even capture a modicum of what it truly has to offer. Easily one of the most standout albums of this decade. So much passion and thought has been bled into this record it practically emanates raw talent. Don’t even think about sleeping on this. You will be missing out on a truly enthralling experience.

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1. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino – Arctic Monkeys

After all these years this record is STILL the king.

In defense of Jesus is King

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There is not much one can say about Kanye West that has not already been said. Either way, I will try my very best. Kanye West is a man of extremes. There’s no other artist that has demonstrated the stopping power, relevancy, and unprecedented talent that he has. Consistently he has set the bar, raised it, lowered it, and bent it to his will. The industry winces when a powerhouse like him comes around because the rules they set in place don’t seem to apply to them.

I wouldn’t say I’m one of those people who believe Kanye West is some sort of “musical God” no matter what some burning critics would have you believe. However, going forward without properly acknowledging his legacy would be a horrible misstep on my part. People like Virgil Abloh, Drake, and thousands of other young artists have all taken inspiration from West and prospered from it. It is nearly impossible to find a contemporary artist who isn’t influenced by Ye in some fashion.

So let’s talk about what West is doing in present times. The year is 2019 and he’s been pulling his classic trick of delaying and canceling albums for some time now. Yandhi is dead, but Jesus is King lives. A tweet was finally delivered on Oct. 20 which announced that it would release on Oct. 25. On Oct. 22 the album was made available for preorder further confirming the upcoming release. To incentivize its purchase the promise of tickets to an exclusive Kanye event that very same week was made to the fans who supported its release. No phones were allowed at the event, very little planning was involved, and its exclusivity was stern.

I was one of the lucky people who got to attend this event. It was rather strange taking a short notice trip up to LA to hear an album I wasn’t completely certain actually existed, but the whole endeavor was exciting nonetheless.

When I arrived at the Forum in Inglewood, Los Angeles everything felt bigger than it actually was. The words “Jesus is King” illuminated the pillars holding the arena up. Behind it, the gigantic new Rams stadium was slowly being pieced together. It should have made The Forum look smaller, but it didn’t. When we finally set foot inside my focus began to tighten. All I wanted to do was hear the album.

The event started over an hour late. The rest I can’t really describe for you. I felt a lot of confusion, morbid curiosity, and I was probably anxious too. It was well worth the drive and the wait. However, its presentation failed to hit the mark for most people. For what it is, I enjoyed it. That was my experience just watching the film. After it ended Ye emerged from the foliage and the album began playing. I honestly couldn’t believe it was real. It’s not worth depicting every moment during that performance. I think everything that happened that night was meant to stay there. The album was performed in its most primal state. After the night was over and one final delay later, the album was released. Like a prisoner finally being exonerated.

Jesus is King was met with mixed reception from critics and fans alike. I was happy with the end product but it was certainly one of those cases where the hype built around it was simply too great for what it was. West has a habit of doing this, the same thing happened to The Life of Pablo. However, this album feels different than the others. I noticed while researching and talking to a few of my friends that some criticisms were more valid than others.

So that’s my personal experience with the album. Now that you understand my stance on it, for the remainder of this article, I’m going to pull a few choice critiques out of a couple high-profile reviews and attempt to refute them. I’m not trying to be overly sympathetic when I admit that in recent history the world has not always been fair to Kanye West. This record is one of those times where people are turning a blind eye simply because they weren’t completely enthralled with the album. So here I am eight-hundred words into an article that has the capability to destroy whatever credibility I may or may not built over the time I’ve written here. All in the defense of a piece of art I genuinely found enjoyable.

The final paragraph of NPR’s review of Jesus is King discusses the insincerity of the record. NPR writer, Oliver Wang, says: “On one of the most traditional gospel songs on the album, “God Is,” he sings alongside the Sunday Service choir, his voice wavering and warbling. It’s an imperfect performance, but it feels like this is West trying to bare himself, to put aside ego and perfectionism in the face of something greater. For a moment, you can almost believe him.”

It’s a backhanded compliment if I’ve ever seen one but it’s also the most common criticism that has appeared. Sincerity is inherently subjective. Anyone can read Kanye’s tone however they wish to. What Wang ignores is the bigger picture. West has gone to great lengths to change up his act.  Take out the press, take out the hype, and look at what he’s saying. There’s no cussing, no provocative lyrics, no premarital sex, it’s as sacred as Sunday school. At this point in his career, there’s no way he could be doing this as an act even for publicity’s sake. Assuming this new persona is a product of his bipolar disorder isn’t a solid argument either. He’s stuck with this new character for quite some time, reportedly since April of this year and people with bipolar disorder usually don’t have episodes that last this long. Going as far as College Dropout which had a single literally titled “Jesus Walks” it’s clear West has always had at least one of his hands on the Bible. At the very least, it’s clear West believes what he’s saying even if all of still weighs down on his massive ego.

Moving onto Slate’s review, writer Carl Wilson touches on the lack of focused production on the record. Wilson says, “His main error, I think, is in not relying even more extensively on the choir and developing Jesus Is King into more of a complete gospel album, at the expense of being quite as much of a true Kanye record.”

The sonic aspects of Jesus is King has been highly contested among fans. Is this really a Gospel album? Why didn’t Kanye do X or Y?  Let’s be frank, Gospel is a highly malleable genre. A simple look at Gospels Wikipedia page explains Gospel music is vocally focused, with Christian lyrics, utilizes choirs and instruments ranging from simple drums to electric guitars. Just because Jesus is King does not confirm your preconceived notions about what Gospel is or should be doesn’t mean it isn’t. Limiting Kanye as an artist into the confines of a single sound isn’t fair in the slightest. West maintaining his production style isn’t a stylistic choice either. It sounds like a “Kanye record” still because it is one. This is his interpretation of the Gospel and should be taken as such.

By far the worst criticism I’ve heard levied at this record is one of pure ignorance. Time and time again I’ll hear the phrase “I’m not really religious, so this album isn’t really my thing” or “I don’t really agree with what Kanye says on this album.” It’s not so much that the statement itself is ignorant. Anyone can believe what they want to believe in. However, not being able to enjoy something simply because they don’t share the same beliefs as you is the definition of hubris. Hundreds of other rappers talk about God in their music and feature religious themes prominently. Perhaps not at the same level as Kanye, but many of them aren’t making any attempt to hide it. Kendrick Lamar, for instance, has dedicated much of his discography to glorifying God. In an interview with The New York Times, he even stated that he believes for many of his fans he is “the closest thing to a preacher that they have.”

So what’s the point of singling out West in this case? In any circumstance, an argument from ignorance is completely unacceptable and invalid. I implore everyone to listen to all music with an open mind. Whether you agree or not shouldn’t be the crux of your opinion, even for a Gospel album.

Now please don’t let my previous statements make you think I’m blinded from the fact that Jesus is King is far from perfect. That is not what I am trying to say here at all. The sad truth we all must face is that it isn’t. Much like most pieces of art, it’s flawed. West, like in most of his previous works, delivers some very interesting hot takes on his tracks. In Anthony Fantano’s review of the release, he justifiably criticizes West’s loose statements. He notes that West seems to use his faith to “indulge his persecution complex.” The parallels he draws to himself and Jesus Christ on “Selah” are not only completely tone-deaf but contradict the fact he also calls himself a “wretch” on the same track. These are just some of the flaws I’ve found while listening to Jesus is King a few times over. Nonetheless, I believe it’s still possible to appreciate this unusual little release.

It’s okay to recognize the issues of a piece of art while also enjoying it. While Jesus is King is far from a perfect record, that doesn’t make it a horrible one. Kanye West is always attempting to innovate in the music industry. In order to do that one also needs to fail. Perhaps this record is a failure, but its a positive one at that. I’m confident he will take this as a learning experience and continue to progress his sound. For now, we see through a glass darkly.

Ameer Vann comes back to the spotlight.

ameer.pngAfter about fifteen months of silence, Ameer Vann, ex-member of BROCKHAMPTON, has returned to the music scene with a brand new EP. Many had believed he had left the industry for good, for all his social media had been deactivated and the details surrounding his departure from BROCKHAMPTON were quite muddled. However, behind the scenes, there was a lot of pseudo communication between Ameer fans and their beloved artist.

For at least ten months, dedicated listeners have been communicating with Ameer’s uncle via YouTube comments on his videos. It’s certainly unorthodox but it worked for some time now. Here’s a quote from Ameer’s uncle from two weeks ago. Before this, a fan had thanked him for putting up with all the comments on his videos asking about Ameer and asked about details for his eventual comeback. His uncle had this to say afterward:

Well. I just thank you all for supporting him and not believing everything you see or hear. We don’t focus on negativity in this family and always try to encourage him and each other. And when he looks at the comments section in my videos and sees the love, he knows how much you all still love him and he appreciates that. Stay tuned. You’ll be hearing from him.

Fans of Ameer clung to the last sentence and soon after on Sept. 9th his Instagram was reactivated. From there on after, only minor changes would occur things like him unfollowing people, deleting his photos, and taking BROCKHAMPTON out of his bio. This lead fans to believe that something new was coming soon. They were right.

On Sept. 16, 2019, Vann posted a photo of a sign on Hollywood Boulevard that read “Ameer Vann, Available now, Emmanuel.” Ironically at this time, Emmanuel was not available fans were only able to listen by switching their location to areas like New Zeland on Apple Music. Emmanuel would end up being Ameer’s first project since leaving BROCKHAMPTON was released just last night on all major streaming platforms. Along with this, a music video for the titular track was also released the very same night.

As for the music itself its radically different than anything Vann did with BROCKHAMPTON. The production isn’t poppy and melodic. It’s percussion focused and harrowing. The production owes itself to legendary producers, Hit-boy, G-Dav, and Cool & Dre. All of which are very prominent producers in the rap industry who have worked with very big names like Kanye West and Travis Scott just to name a few.

Vann also experiments with different flows and articulation on this EP. It still sounds like Ameer Vann but something has definitely changed. Chalk it up to it being a different studio, or perhaps age but this is without a doubt, a different side of Ameer fans are just barely being exposed to. The only thing that remains relatively similar is lyrical content.

Yes, Ameer still references drugs. However, as heard in the title track, Ameer has a lot to say about his departure from the old boyband. He even makes a few posthumous references to a few verses from his old BROCKHAMPTON days. It’s only fair considering the fact they’re very liberal about him on their own records.

Along with all of these developments, there have also been some setbacks. Vann’s alleged victim has taken to Twitter announcing her withstanding opinion on him. Many have been quick to typecase Ameer fans as abuse sympathizers with little to no understanding of what that actually entails. The BROCKHAMPTON community is also very split on the issue. Many complained about the BROCKHAMPTON subreddit because Ameer-centric posts were being taken down by the moderators.

It would seem Vann’s return is a divisive one. On one hand, you have those who simply want to support Vann and his creative endeavors. On the other, you have those who want to see him fall. Is it truly worth separating the artist from their art? Or is this indicative of a much bigger problem in the music industry? One can decide for themselves what spectrum they want to be apart of.

Emmanuel is available on most streaming platforms

I wrote something new but it isn’t here.

As some of you may know Evan “Burning the Celluloid” Ambrose and I are pretty good friends. His website primarily focuses on critiquing the film industry. While I focus on analyzing music and other forms of media.

For a while now, we’ve wanted to write something together. Evan proposed a so-called duo-review. While I still don’t consider myself a reviewer, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about BROCKHAMPTON’s newest album. Evan and I have such differing views on music and different approaches to writing so I believe the article has a lot to offer for people on all sides of the viewing spectrum.

The review is up on Evan’s website and I will leave a link to it below. There’s a lot of hot takes and fun banter throughout the review. I had a blast creating it with Evan.

Aside from that, I have a few articles and interviews that are set to come out in the near future. I’m already working on my top albums of the year list too. Stay tuned.

The Review.

YBN Cordae releases much-anticipated debut album The Lost Boy

Image result for the lost boyAfter being inducted into this year’s XXL Freshman list Cordae has been riding off his newfound popularity and finally released a full-length album. Cordae has been trying to set himself apart from the current scape of contemporary rappers and focuses on introspective existential, lyrical music. In his XXL interview, he cited New York rapper, Big L as one of his greatest influences due to the fact his wordplay was so advanced. Just from the few singles, he had released before the album it was already clear he was quickly mastering this lyrical style of rapping.

While rappers like Earl Sweatshirt, Joyner Lucas, and Milo have come to define the contemporary form of lyrical rapping YBN Cordae finds himself sitting comfortably between them while still maintaining his unique charm. His rhyme schemes are complex but not impossible to follow. He can tell a deep story without seeming preachy. His punchlines are anticipated but never overstay their welcome. He harkens back to a time in hip-hop that many have expressed desires to return to.

Even when accompanied by well-established artists like Chance the Rapper and Pusha T Cordae still holds his own and never loses control of his song. He understands fully that this is his album and above all else, he is the focus. This point is very noticeable when you get down to the theme’s Cordae introduces throughout the album.

He doesn’t hesitate to get personal on this record, he frequently mentions his late grandmother and on “Family Matters” tells the many intricate yet depressing tales of his family. Once again in his XXL interview, he reveals that being a freshman was part of his vision and for a year he worked to achieve it. This record is the fruits of his labor and a testament to his longevity as an artist.

The Lost Boy is the best way to do a debut record. It’s unrelenting, personal, and most of all it’s a clear depiction of the creative direction he’s moving in as an artist.

The Lost Boy is available on Apple Music, Spotify, and most other music platforms.

Donald Trump vows to free A$AP Rocky

Image result for donald trump and asap rockyIn an unorthodox turn of events, President Donald Trump recently announced on social media his plans to help exonerate rapper A$AP Rocky from Swedish authorities. It all started earlier this month on July 3rd when he was arrested on suspicion of assault. He has been held in Swedish prison for over two weeks and now prosecutors have until the 25th to decide whether they want to charge him or not. If things go array the New York rapper could be looking at a long sentence.

This news shook the internet and caused forces from all over the country banded together to vindicate Rocky. One notable celebrity Kim Kardashian used her white house connections and on July 18th tweeted “Thank you @realDonaldTrump, @SecPompeo, Jared Kushner & everyone involved with the efforts to Free ASAP Rocky & his two friends. Your commitment to justice reform is so appreciated.”

The story continued to spiral and just today President Trump from his official twitter said, “Just spoke to @KanyeWest about his friend A$AP Rocky’s incarceration. I will be calling the very talented Prime Minister of Sweden to see what we can do about helping A$AP Rocky. So many people would like to see this quickly resolved!”

So it would seem this event will be coming to a close soon. With so many powerful forces at play its only natural, this dispute will be solved momentarily. Just hope that guys headphones were worth it.

UPDATE: JULY 25th

The deadline for the prosecutors has been reached and A$AP Rocky has been charged with assault and could be facing up to two years in Swedish prison. The trial date has not been set but is likely going to be happening very soon.

Donald Trump returned to Twitter to lash out at Swedish authorities. In a short series of tweets, Trump wrote, “Very disappointed in Prime Minister Stefan Löfven for being unable to act. Sweden has let our African American Community down in the United States. I watched the tapes of A$AP Rocky, and he was being followed and harassed by troublemakers. Treat Americans fairly! #FreeRocky.” The tread continues, “Give A$AP Rocky his FREEDOM. We do so much for Sweden but it doesn’t seem to work the other way around. Sweden should focus on its real crime problem! #FreeRocky.”

Following this thread, some people have started to put A$AP in their twitter handles in support of A$AP Rocky. This is truly an unfortunate turn of events.

UPDATE: AUGUST 2nd

As of today, A$AP Rocky has been released from Swedish prison.

Daniel Caesar releases surprise album CASE STUDY 01

daniel-caesar-case-study-01-1200x642.jpegSince the release of his debut album, Freudian, Daniel Caesar has remained relatively quiet. Back in October of 2018, he released the single “Who Hurt You” featuring T-Pain which confirmed his improving sound and longevity within the music industry. The very same month, he was also featured very prominently on The Free Nationals single; “Beauty and Essex.” While these tracks were good indicators of Caesar’s growth as a singer and as a songwriter there were no leads as to when a new project from the Canadian singer would release.

Then, with no prior warning, on June 24th, 2019 Caesar announced on Twitter a special show in Los Angeles limited to the first 200 guests that arrived. In the days following, Caesar would then announce the title along with the release date of his new project. Attached was a cryptic video of a man in what appears to be a space suit walking in the desert with an audio excerpt of an interview with physician J. Robert Oppenheimer discussing the very first nuclear device. This same audio snippet appears at the beginning of the opening track of CASE STUDY 01 simply titled, “ENTROPY.”

The album itself marks a much more mature and calculated interpretation of existentialist and sexual themes. Daniel Caesar still uses jazz-infused hip-hop to carry his stellar vocals but he experiments a little more on this album with some lo-fi influenced elements and singer-songwriter guitar leads. Caesar also uses several scientific terms in order to set the thematic basis for numerous tracks on this record. For instance, one track is titled “SUPERPOSITION” which is a scientific principle where when two waves interact they have the chance to combine to make each other bigger, cancel each other out, or most commonly both. He uses this concept in the song as a way of explaining his own reason for living and by extent life itself. One could say the central idea of this record is that Caesar is using his life and experiences as a case study for these scientific phenomena and his songs are simply the conclusions of his analysis.

Daniel Caesar’s exponential development as a musician reverberates heavily throughout this record and cements Caesar as one of the most significant players in the RnB music scene. CASE STUDY 01 is available on Apple Music, Spotify, and most other music platforms.