Drake’s recent releases have been much improved over the set that preceded them, to such an extent that my once-famed distate for his work seems to have been forgotten. Well, this might ease me back in the ‘dislike’ direction.
It’s lyrically similar to Started From The Bottom, with the bottom-to-top theme running rampant throughout both Drake’s semi-sung hook and his relatively-intense verse. Credit to him for the latter; his work is generally beginning to pack in much more intensity, which at the very least makes for a departure from his once-monotonous style. However, his lyricism is a little forced throughout, and comes across as a little too light-hearted to warrant the more aggressive delivery he’s chosen here, whilst the dark, somewhat flat production doesn’t help paper the cracks of his songwriting either. I’m all for moody productions, but this doesn’t ever commit to a particular sound (atmospheric? angry? night drive?), and rather just plods along quite arduously, with none of the three rappers offering much to save it- closest thing to replayable is Big Sean’s closing verse, which cycles through a couple of different flows to relatively good effect. Otherwise, this is pretty skippable all-round, and will remain that way when it lands on Nothing Was The Same.
When popular hip-hop is done well, it’s one of the most fun things you can listen to. Forget hopping on the latest rap trend or production fad; you throw a classically-strong production like this in with carefree lyricism, and you’ve got something far more enduring than whatever the current mainstream hip-hop fascination is.
Whilst I’ve not yet listened to Game’s Jesus Piece album (my backlog is disgusting), the weight of praise that this track got both on the LP’s release and ever since did ensure I gave this track a go several months ago, and it’s good to see Game bring that buzz back up with the video release. It always felt like an effort that suited a nighttime drive in the summer, with completely addictive vocal sample creating a phenomenal atmosphere in the soundscape, adding liveliness and positivity, whilst the surrounding elements help create the thumping hip-hop vibe that make it an essential for the car.
Both the videos timing and content enhance those facets greatly, shot in primarily dark settings that build on the inherent grandeur of the production to add further expansiveness, whilst the uplifting elements of the track are visualised with the more celebratory, lavish scenes. It’s nothing hip-hop hasn’t seen before, but it is a clip that fits the vibe of the audio to a tee, and feels like mainstream hip-hop done properly. Jesus Piece available now.
It’s a G.O.O.D. Music affair with not only the rappers listed, but also with a production helmed by the ringleader himself, Kanye West. Pusha opts for another minimal artwork too, keeping the album branding nice and consistent with his previous single’s video and artwork; of course, it also works alongside Kanye’s own stripped-back approach to Yeezus, and it appears Pusha’s happy with the artistic direction.
That minimalism extends to the audio offering too. The production is built up of chunky bass, a light sprinkling of samples, and very little else; it’s the kind of gritty, uncomplicated production that suits Pusha’s rough style down to the ground, and he doesn’t disappoint. It’s funny to say, but his raps seem to perenially contain a threatening vibe- even when he’s not necessarily rapping in an aggressive manner, it’s hard to get his wide-eyed snarl out of your head, and credit to Push for being such an emotive performer. 2 Chainz’s upbeat, lively performance makes for a good change in momentum, and whilst Sean’s performance is typically witty, his laidback delivery doesn’t quite work with this beat. A good track nonetheless though, and another strong sign ahead of the My Name Is My Name LP.
One of the standout tracks from Hit-Boy’s HITstory project got a revamp for HS87′s All I Ever Dreamed Of, and it’s a rare example of a rework improving an already-superb track.
The production remains mostly intact, with that unique spin on the N****s In Paris melody (NIP was produced by Hit-Boy originally, of course) being a catchy and familiar listen, whilst Hit’s trademark talent with thick, attention-grabbing percussion layers supports that addictive melody and gives it distinction from its reference point. The sporadic touches of strings and synths also assist with making this a unique soundscape, with the mixture of subtle and overt deliveries adding good transitions where required. Along with a surprisingly likeable 2 Chainz verse added on, Hit’s re-recorded his own vocals, making for fresh listening to those who have played the original to death (me), and allowing him to take advantage of the tweaked beat.
The video takes place on a video/photoshoot, with Hit’s lady of interest working the set and rather quickly being won over. It’s a fun track with energy that wouldn’t have suited a full ‘story’, and hence the bright lights, rapid scene switches and uncomplicated nature brings out the track’s inherent positivity and energy, and also works as welcome camera time for the hugely underrated Hit-Boy. I’d be surprised if this single didn’t get some traction as it’s got the tools to be a mainstream favourite, and you can grab it on that HS87 tape now.
The releases to date have been slightly hit and miss, but they seem to have found a pretty solid mainstream audience, which should stand The-Dream in good stead ahead of this LP’s release in a week’s time on 28th May.
In a rather confident move, he’s allowed the full project to be streamed today, which should help many fans make their purchase decisions ahead of time. The on-again-off-again Beyonce feature has seemingly made the cut, so apparently those sample issues were overcome; good news for many listeners I’m sure, and it’ll be interesting listening to have what should be a complementary set of vocals working alongside one another. I’m a big champion of Dream’s back catalogue (particularly his outstanding debut album), and despite my mixed opinions on the pre-releases singles, I hold hope that this will be another strong addition to his collection. Stream at his Vevo home below.
That promotional run for Born Sinner, landing June 25th, is really in high gear now. After throwing this EP’s opening track out, Cole liberates an additional 5 tracks to complete the set and provide more free listening ahead of that LP release. Features include Young Jeezy and 2 Chainz, whilst productions from Canei Finch and Jake One make the cut alongside several self-produced Cole efforts, which themselves will naturally raise the interest of many given the quality of his previous works. There isn’t a great deal more to add here, and I’m sure you need little convincing; 5 more free Cole tracks, and you can stream or download them below.
Fair play to Funk Flex for this though, as the lineup is unbelievable and essentially a snapshot of mainstream hip-hop at this moment in time. Appearances include A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Childish Gambino, Fabolous, Action Bronson, Slaughterhouse, Young Jeezy and many, many more; for a full list, check out the back artwork over at Funk’s place. Many of the tracks from this tape have leaked out individually in the last 24 hours too, and thankfully they’re tagless versions, with one notable example being the Joey Bada$$ effort on the mixtape. If you’re after any of the other individual tracks, I’m sure a quick Google search can help you there, otherwise grab the bumper project for free below.
It’s been three years since their hiatus began (though it seems like less), but they’re back with the lead single from the Save Rock and Roll album, a title that will rightfully annoy many for various reasons.
I’m not sure they’re saving anything though as this is hit and miss. The verses are likeable, with Stump’s ever-versatile vocals creating anticipation and building towards the hook excellently, particularly on the short bridge where he really cuts loose, but it all seems to come apart on the chorus. Whilst the crashing backdrop is a nice hit of energy, it ends up being rather cacophonic quite quickly, and forces the vocals to retreat rather than anchoring the track around them as it should. It’s also a rather simple hook and whilst these guys do cross that pop line, their hooks usually contain more melody to make them listenable; using easy reptition here for a catchy chorus grates pretty quickly.
The video takes some of the pop edge off the track and instead setting itself in darkness with 2 Chainz (yep) commits all sorts of arson throughout, adding a gritty layer whilst pulling away at that shiny veneer, and working with the track’s inherent intensity. It’s an OK effort, but as is now tradition with FOB, expect the better stuff to be left for the album.
The official remix was originally rumoured to be a 17-track posse cut, but it looks like Trini has just called on his fellow Atlanta to help out instead, with three of the city’s heaviest hitters lending verses to his breakout single.
T.I. opens up with the highlight verse, his stuttered flow being a nice change in style for him, and standing out alongside those on this. Jeezy opens with plenty of potential with his rough voice being a great fit for the beat, before reverting to Trinidad’s flow which arguably pulls his verse down slightly, though he recovers as it goes on. 2 Chainz is sweeping up and whilst you’d think this is a beat perfectly suited to him, he instead proves he’s not got much to him, and instead helps to answer the Trinidad James dilemma: why is he so replayable? He’s committed to his ‘character’, whereas 2 Chainz hovers between a Trini type and trying to prove he can rap, leaving him in a bad grey area. Nice to get new verses on this beat though, the original’s fans will enjoy this.
One of a whole host of projects that got released over these past few days, but arguably the most anticipated in more mainstream circles. There’s nothing like a bit of mixtape Wale, and whilst it’s a shame that the division exists between the album and mixtape work, the sheer depth in quantity of his mixtapes makes his lesser work a bit easier to ignore.
This one comes in at a huge 21 tracks, with over half of them featuring some rather notable names: look out for contributions from Jhene Aiko, 2 Chainz, man of the moment Trinidad James, labelmates Rick Ross and French Montana, and many more. The diversity of the features suggests that this will be packed with a good variety of styles, and that’s also evident in the producer lineup, featuring Nottz, Diplo, Apple Juice Kid and Key Wane amongst others. Plenty to suggest this will be worth a go, and the grab is free below.
Why would Vevo upload this to YouTube, and restrict the countries that can view it? If it’s to get people to use Vevo’s site, it’s worked only to reveal the mess that is their own player-you can’t pause or mute adverts, and you have to work for an embed code that’s a mile long. Amateur.
After the highly successful Goldie, this follow-up solo release from a few weeks back has really set Rocky up for some continued mainstream success. Undoubtedly, it’ll be a club favourite this winter thanks to both the hook and the features, whilst the production’s slightly dark nature gives it playability outside of those realms.
The video really amps up the energy of the track, capitalising on its inherent intensity with a constantly-moving camera and plenty of activity from the rappers, whilst a dimmed colour palette tempers that activity somewhat. Rocky’s at his magnetic best here, dressed crisply as ever and oozing the charisma he’s becoming famed for, whilst Chainz brings his odd brand of chaos to the hook, Drake comes through in a lively and oddly dressed manner, and Kendrick closes by showing off a more positive and fashion-conscious side of him we rarely see on video. Over time, Drake’s verse has really grown on me and he probably takes it on flow alone, whilst I’m much preferring this remastered production too: this is a good mainstream audiovisual that will greatly enhance Rocky’s reputation.
Featuring four of hip-hop’s biggest names, the feedback from various avenues has been mixed thus far, but I’m definitely enjoying this one from Rocky’s upcoming LongLiveA$AP album.
The beat is subdued in their presence but there’s enough to work with, with 40 pulling in a high tempo percussion to create energy, whilst soft electronic melodies roll around for some atmosphere. Throughout the verses, each rapper is able to experiment with more than one flow, for which you’ve got to credit 40′s beat work. A$AP’s on the opener and keeps things as confident and arrogant as ever, though it’s a more solid than spectacular performance, whilst 2 Chainz and Drake share hook duty, with Chainz’s rough energy outdoing Drake’s nasal delivery. The latter also delivers a verse that starts poorly but hugely improves, with Drake’s flows increasing in speed and accuracy for a short period that’s arguably the track’s highlight. Kendrick closes with a good verse with watertight flow execution, particularly the delivery towards the verse end which catches the beat perfectly. All of the ingredients to be a huge mainstream favourite and a popular lead single for Rocky.
Given that I’m positive he isn’t Jewish, this surely this has to go down as one of the most ridiculous mixtape names of all-time? Worryingly though, it isn’t the craziest thing the MMG clan have done in the last 24 hours-more on that later.
Ross is generally good for a couple of gems on his mixtape work, and coming only a short while after releasing his God Forgives, I Don’t album, you’ve got to commend the generosity. 18 tracks deep, and surprisingly there are fewer features than he normally goes for with any of his projects, limiting it mostly to a couple of MMG members plus Pharrell, 2 Chainz and Drake. Free grab below.
One of the most popular tracks from 2 Chainz’s Based on a T.R.U. Story album, but in truth I’m not planning on giving it much time in my rotation.
There’s nothing particularly remarkable about the track. The production sounds like a bit of a Lex Luger cast off in the verses, and although it does have a few moments of redemption in the hook, it’s not really enough to hold the track together. 2 Chainz isn’t exactly lyricist of the year and hence his fairly standard raps get a little exposed by the average production, whilst Kanye isn’t exactly on blistering form on this one either, though the back and forth between the two towards the end is a rare highlight.
The video is funny in what I assume is an ironic way, with plenty of unecessary shots of anatomically-gifted ladies, but all-round, it’s a bit of a dull track that’s only stopped from being totally poor by the production work on the catchy hook and a mildly entertaining video.
The BET Awards always provides some great performances, and this year the collective of Kanye West, Pusha T, Big Sean and 2 Chainz opened the show with their recent hit Mercy, Kanye’s oft-renamed Cold, and upcoming single New God Flow.
Lots of energy, minimal gloss and heaps of stage presence makes this a performance that’s worthy of closing any show, let alone opening one. Each rapper has a ton of on-stage charisma, and that shows in what are relatively simple settings: for a Kanye performance, all-white outfits, a little strobe lighting and a huge mock Lamborghini make for quite modest surroundings, and it’s the artists who really fill the gaps there. The performance ends with Kanye going acapella with a verse from New God Flow (set to be released this week), displaying a ton of passion and aggression in a verse that promises much for the song.
Drama always brings heavy-hitters together for his singles, and he’s picked up two of the most wanted rappers in the mainstream scene right now (along with perennial hook maker Jeremih) for his latest effort.
Truthfully, it’s pretty average. It’s not clear whether the song is trying to be motivational or relaxing, and instead lands in a pretty cloudy area in between that really affects the execution of the hook and beat. With that said, Meek Mill definitely steals the show here with a passionate, hungry delivery that plays up the motivational aspects better than the rest of the vocal work, though 2 Chainz’s Southern drawl is still as magnetic as ever. Jeremih’s hook is very disappointing though, and the song being built so heavily around it unfortunately diminishes the replay value. Worth a listen for the entertaining Meek verse.
When he’s not getting into fights with Drake and/or Meek Mill (my views on that here), Chris Brown is releasing music that may well find a home on his upcoming Fortune album. I’ve not checked out too many of the releases from this project, but gave this one a go and its a solid pop/R&B jam that’s worth a listen.
Breezy drops off a very catchy hook on this one and refrains from making it too light or poppy, instead sticking with a strong harmony and keeping it smooth to bring some R&B style back into his craft, whilst the production is a slow, bassy affair that will get some heads nodding. A little disappointed that he overloaded on the Autotune for his verse but his delivery is solid and each of the guests bring strong contributions, with man-of-the-moment 2 Chainz dropping off a short verse halfway before Snoop brings a fun verse that bleeds his unmistakeable adlibs into the final hook for a nice closer. Good all-rounder that raises expectations for the upcoming album.
The lead single from G.O.O.D. Music’s first collective album Cruel Summer, and before watching this, re-acquaint yourself with YMCMB’s lead single from their group album. Managed to not gouge your eyes and ears out? You’re about to see what a proper collaborative video should be.
I quickly tired of this track, but the video has definitely put it back into my good graces. Boasting a monochrome pallet with a widescreen frame, the styling of the video certainly gets your attention from the off and creates a point of focus on the centre of the screen, which is fully capitalised on by charismatic work from all involved. The outfitting is both stylish and effective, as initially its difficult to distinguish each artist, before their individual verses and mannerisms kick in to set them all apart, with each artist really maximising their camera time with memorable performances. There’s a real sense of unity throughout, as Kanye regularly features alongside his proteges throughout their verses, whilst G.O.O.D. artists who aren’t on the track still appear, including Kid Cudi and Teyana Taylor.
It’s a cool yet aggressive-feeling clip that makes for an easy, interesting and likeable watch thanks to some good aesthetics and a superb roster of performers. Hip-hop fans will thoroughly enjoy this one for sure, and can grab it on iTunes right now.
The man who has experienced one of rap’s biggest ever turnarounds (in terms of popularity, at least) hooks up with the ladies’ favourite Drake for the first single from his upcoming Based On A T.R.U. Story album.
The production is an ominous, Lex Luger-esque style with a dirty south dose, winding through slowly with intensity and depth, and whilst it’s nothing particularly new or fresh, the vast number of melodies and samples used create some intricate moments, particularly in the verse-to-hook transitions, that make the production more enjoyable. The raps are pretty standard as you’d expect from Chainz, whilst Drake drops off yet another hook that’ll be stuck in your head for days. One purely for the mainstream heads.
G.O.O.D. Friday is back! The first single from the upcoming G.O.O.D. Music album, 3 of it’s heaviest hitters come together with 2 Chainz for an official teaser of what to expect from the hotly-anticipated project.
A more meaty, addictive production than Theraflu, this will undoubtedly get some heads nodding, with the heavy bass in particular ensuring speakers up and down the country will be rattled. Sean opens the rapping with a strong performance, his laidback style being an excellent fit for this slowed-down beat, whilst Pusha’s sharper, more aggressive verse contrasts with Sean’s well. The beat undergoes a makeover for Ye’s verse, with a strong electronic influence upping the tempo and raising the energy levels of the verse, before slowing back down for 2 Chainz’s contribution. The hook anchors the song well enough to add a solid structure to the track, and this is a decent all-rounder that sets up the album nicely. Stream the track here, or grab it on the US iTunes below.
Jeezy’s album TM103 was a long time in the making and it was finally released at the back end of last year; it did not disappoint.
Supa Freak being one of those classic Jeezy records which has an incredibly hyped up beat and a hook that’ll stay in your head for ages, if you like this then you’ll love his album! Typical club video which is certainly suited to a track like this.
After catching an unofficial leak a few days ago, Sean wisely decided to let loose of the final, mastered version from his upcoming FFOE (Finally Famous Over Everything) mixtape. Be warned: the reasoning for spelling ‘G’ phonetically is NOT explained.
Regardless of that ambiguity, it’s an enjoyable effort from the Detroit MC. The production is atmospheric and packed with lavish levels of bass, with an air of opulence that matches Sean’s subject matter. He tailors his delivery well too, as a more whispery style occassionally slips in alongside his regular laidback style, and as with every 2nd track that’s released into the hip-hop sphere these days, 2 Chainz is on the feature with a solid verse. Has a name change ever improved anyone’s career as rapidly as it has for 2 Chainz/Tity Boi? A nod-your-head, chillout effort that won’t spark any musical revolutions, but is an effective, enjoyable listen.
Nothing to really recap on in the world of R&B this past week, it’s been a rather slow one.
Wait, what? Why is Indi in charge of this week’s R&B Friday and where the hell is Ajay? Well folks, he went overboard on his pump level this weekend and he’s been locked up for everyone’s safety (don’t worry though, with his legally entitled one phone call, he hand-picked this week’s tracks for me to review anyway).
Click on below to get hold of this week’s holy trinity of R&B goodness.
The original was quite popular to Ambition‘s release, yet it was only a bonus track. Figure that one out.
Wale grabs some big names for the official remix, with each act doing a solid job on the controlled intensity that coarses through the production; whilst Tone P draws heavily from Lex Luger’s style, there’s enough bounce in the percussion to give it an identity of its own. Easy enough mainstream hip-hop to fill out a playlist. Sidenote: has anyone’s career undergone more of a turnaround after a namechange than 2 Chainz/Tity Boi?!