Thundercat – DRUNK Review

Since the release of Flying Lotus‘ ‘You’re Dead‘, I’ve been keeping my eyes and ears out for the man behind some of the trippiest basslines I’ve heard in recent time. He released his debut album ‘The Golden Age of Apocalypse‘ in 2011, under FlyLo’s Brainfeeder label.

Since then, he’s gone on to work with a stunning range of producers and other vocalists; from Herbie Hancock, George Clinton and Erykah Badu.

On his latest LP and follow up to his insanely psychedelic 2015 EP ‘The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam‘, we see a complete development on Thundercats’ writing and compositions. While the album is at 23 tracks deep, it only clocks in at just under an hour.

All the songs on the album have elements of Hip-Hop, smooth R&B, melodic Jazz instrumentals and Psychedelic Rock. However, while the instrumentals on this album are an obvious go-to, Thundercats’ vocals on here are impressive. They play more of a role on the tracks here than his previous releases.

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Songs such as “Captain Stupido” is one of the first that stood out to me. Not only for the quick-paced, weird basslines, as expected, but also the snap of the snare and whirling ad-libs throughout. While the lyrics aren’t anything amazing, they are funny and are a clear representation of how he interprets his sound.

The cool and summer-night track, “Lava Lamp” is another solo track on the album that shines too me. With glossy synths, a slow bass and spacey vocals from Thundercat. Even the insertion of the short guitar strings and quiet keys add a sense of sweet ambience to the track.

Even some of the more radio-friendly tracks are impressive. “Jethro”, for example, is one of those. It has Pop-like synths and slow and easy vibe to it. All the different sound effects, like the clashing of pot pans as drums add to the art that make Thundercat as individual as he sounds.

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The Kendrick Lamar featured “Walk On By” is probably the best Thundercat x feature on the album. Thundercats’ vocals are airy as he harmonises over the smooth instrumental. Obviously, the second Kendrick takes the centre stage, it comes his.

In overall, the album is fantastic. I feel like I’m sitting in a car with all the windows rolled up, Thundercat is sitting in the passenger seat, with his bass on his lap, continuously playing and smoking a joint and directing me somewhere only my ears and mind could take me.

Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside Review

Earl Sweatshirt  second studio album, ‘I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album By Earl Sweatshirt‘ is a short, dark, twisted and honest piece of work. While the album cover supports this theme, with a primarily pitch-black background with a grainy-static like font for the title. It was evident from the title of the album and the minimal artwork that Earl was aiming to appease his fans with a project that would sound all too familiar.

“Huey”, the first track of the album has playful organ keys and lo-fi drum kicks. Earl’s flow is slow, but his aggressive and complex rhyme schemes, detailing how an average day with Earl goes, shows his fans that his lyrics are developing and sounds ready to take the throne.

The album is most definitely an insight into the darker and personal emotions of Earl. He reflects on his rise to fame, the untrustworthiness of the music industry, being an underrated emcee and trying to live in a world that’s made out to be more accepting than he thought.

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“Grief” is one of the tracks that brings together all these themes. Over very lo-fi production, where the synth sounds like the bass, distorted hi-hats and claps, Earl spits furiously about the injustice of rappers biting his style, drug addiction and his emotionless towards a lot of his friends. At first, it’s quite a difficult and heavy song to get into, but once you get past the menacing production and listen to Earl’s bars, you can’t help but relate and take on Earl’s emotions.

The short “Off Top”, sounding like an un-used MF Doom instrumental sees Earl discussing the debt he owes to his mum for standing by him for all the infamous internet trends he became a part of. There’s a low growl from the snare, swerving keys and terrifying drums. Throughout the album, Earl displays this production consistently.

“AM // Radio” has one of the lighter instrumentals and also sports one of the three features on the album. A groovy bass line, the odd guitar strum and subtle drums. Wiki’s verse is a waste of a verse and to be honest, someone from the Odd Future crew should have hopped on the beat (Mike G?). Earl rides on the beat with a smoky verse, however, the production on this track is the real standout.

In all, ‘IDLSIDGO’ sounds like the album that Earl was aiming to make since the release of his self-titled and Odd Future EP ‘EARL’. While the themes of his previous releases are heard on this album, he sounds more confident, hungrier and more eager to prove to his haters that he truly is a force in Hip-Hop to be reckoned with.

A$AP Rocky – AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP REVIEW

A$AP Rocky‘s breakout mixtape ‘LIVELOVEA$AP‘ was a defining moment for the comeback of New York as well as how much rap is changing and the influences someone who reps Eastside has from southern musicians. After releasing his debut studio album in 2013 ‘LongLiveA$AP‘ to much critical acclaim. Rocky then returned with his second solo album ‘A.L.L.A’, an abbreviation for ‘AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP‘.

However, while his fans and critics probably agreed with the title, as A$AP had made such an impression on the Hi-Hop community as well as others, the title, depressingly doesn’t live to the title and neither does the project.

While the album is supposed to be an ode to Rocky’s longtime business partner and establisher of the A$AP Mob, A$AP Yams, there are also a handful of features on the album. M.I.A., Future, Joe Fox, Kanye West, a posthumous verse from Pimp C and ScHoolBoy Q all turn up for performances on the album, yet, some of their features don’t boost the songs popularity or add any substance to it.

Tracks such as “JD”, the always banging “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye II”, “Excuse Me” and “Canal St.” are some of the solo songs which see Rocky rapping over aggressive Boom-Bap tracks, however, the real highlights are the tracks where the featured artists are.

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Lil Wayne’s featured verse on The Honourable C-Note and Mike Dean produced “M’$” is one of the most interesting and exciting from Wayne in recent memory. He switches his flow up depending on the speed of the beat and sounds hungrier than ever. Future’s contribution to the melancholy “Fine Whine” is also cool. He slurs over the minimal production, yet gives a painfully heartfelt verse in the process.

While Rocky is very much an intriguing and exciting part of contemporary Hip-Hop, the second studio album from the Harlem spitter isn’t as jaw-dropping as his debut project. It didn’t really sound like any lyrical progress had interested Rocky and he was more focused on the overall sound of the album. This, however, let the album become one that the new Rocky fans would come to love while his day-1 fans sat by and listened to another average Rap project.

 

Lil Uzi Vert – Luv Is Rage 1.5 Review

Now, while I’m not one of the biggest Lil Uzi Vert fans, I can understand why some people are able to relate to Uzi’s music. It’s fun, swaggy, LiT and most of all, his own (kinda) style. However, the times I have tried to listen to the young artists’ discography, it proves difficult with the extreme auto-tune, repetitive “YEAHS!” and majority of time, just unmemorable records.

So before, I piss off anyone, lets just go straight to ‘Luv Is Rage 1.5‘.

SHIIIIT, THE FIRST TRACK BANGS. The sample is uplifting and put on an immediate smile on my face. The production on “Boring Shit” is fast paced with soft claps, heavy 808s and a summer bassline. While Uzi’s vocals aren’t as irritating as previous releases (or his verse on “Bad & Boujee”), at times, I still can’t catch what he’s saying.

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“Luv Scars k.o 1600” is the song I was waiting to hear on the tape. The chorus, where Uzi’s vocals are all different pitches is exactly what I dislike. While the beat is heavy with 808s and subtle synths and bashing hi-hats, Uzi loses my interest almost instantly with his constantly changing vocal pitch.

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“XO Tour Llif3” had my standing on my tip-toes considering TM is behind the boards for this track. The 808s make my headphones tremble, the weird trippy string/synth is cool, but for gods sakes, Uzi really does need to focus on how he works with his vocals. I can’t even tell if it’s him on this track. Obviously, with his trademark high-pitched ad-libs, it’s him, however, this track would probably have suited someone who could flow and make recognisable lyrics. In my opinion, Young Dolph or Young Thug would’ve killed this beat.

The last track “YSL” produced by DP Beats sees it begin with glistening keys and airy synths. Uzi chats about..friends and weed at the beginning, and while the song is an ode to being a real ‘rags to riches’, it doesn’t really impress me anymore than the three previous tracks on the EP.

While Uzi does try to show off his own individual style, I can’t help but hear his successors influence on his vocals, lyrics and ear for production more. When Uzi does drop ‘Luv Is Rage 2″ I don’t know if I’ll be that attracted towards it.

Nav – Self-Titled Review

I don’t know much about the recent XO signee, apart from his production and vocal credit to Travis Scott’s “Beibs in the Trap“. However, much hype has surrounded the mysterious and lowkey Nav.

While I didn’t find Nav’s performance on the ‘Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight‘ anything spectacular, I’m still interested in the sound and aesthetic he will be presenting himself a part of.

While Nav tries to assert himself as a new-age and marketable wave (which he is), his overall themes and instrumental choices are…average. To be kind. While it is evident through the production, themes and overall aesthetic of the tape, that his label boss, The Weeknd and collaborator Travis Scott influence him; to me, it looks like we’ll be having the ‘Future vs. Desiigner’ conversation again soon.

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There’s no real substance or weight to the project that pushes Nav’s style as revolutionary or different from all the other Trap, ‘Lil Rappers’ or way he auto-tunes his voice. Instead, he brags about on the majority of tracks about coming from nothing, living a luxurious lifestyle, “paying nothing for his sneakers” and taking drugs.

While artists like Travis, Future, Gucci Mane and Young Thug are able to sell and promote their music, that Nav’s is very similar to, obviously. However, their sounds are developed and, unlike Nav, all have their own individual style.

In all, it’s another carbon-copy of a sub-genre of music that is forever being popularised by memes and viral videos. However, like Desiigner, Nav’s lifeline in as a producer/rapper looks good in the long run; for now.

Calvin Harris – Slide (Single Review)

I never thought a day would come that I would say “I like the new Calvin Harris song”. It kind of freaks me out a bit. Although, the reason I like the new track, “Slide” from the British producer is because of the contradicting yet perfectly fitting collaboration of Frank Ocean and the ever popularising Migos.

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From the beginning with the cool slow keys, festival like synths, Summer vibe claps, I knew it would be another typical radio-friendly track. However, Frank’s moody vocals over the breezy House and simple production is a treat. Even when Quavo takes over the vocal duties, his short auto-tuned verse and quick triplet-flow from Offset add a nice contradiction to the regular radio hit.

In overall, I was quite surprised by the “Slide”. It didn’t sound like either of the vocalists had any trouble jumping on the beat and do what they do. My only complaint is WHERE THE FUCK IS TAKEOFF.

Future – HNDRXX Review

So, the #FutureHive has had a nice week of Future. Not only did he release his self-titled LP last week, but also today released his follow-up with his latest 17-track LP ‘HNDRXX‘. Unfortunately, the hype of the project and the overall sound of the album isn’t as progressive and intriguing as his previous release.

The first thing that points out that Future was trying a different wave of music is the line-up of producers on the production credits. We see his extensive producer Metro Boomin, Canada’s High Klassified for The Weeknd assisted “Comin Out Strong”, DJ Mustard and Detail. Already, this is a clear indication of the style of music and overall sound Super Future was aiming to create.

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While Future did say in a recent Instagram post that “This is the ‘Honest’ album I was supposed to be honest about”; it is entirely that. It’s dull, uninspiring and most of all, a Future that I never wanted to see again.

Although the production is, as always on a Future album, ‘top-notch’, Future’s vocals, themes and direction on this album is bland. Most of the records sound like throwaways that should’ve turned up on his earlier commercial releases  like ‘Pluto‘ and ‘Honest‘.

And too be honest (pun intended), and quote Future’s ‘Monster‘ cut “Throw Away”;

“You just a throw away.”

While Future holds down 15 of the tracks and we see Rihanna and The Weeknd appear for brief features, they don’t add a lot of aesthetic or weight to the album, but instead, bring it down.

Although I am still a fan of the lean-sipping ATLien, this is one of his weakest releases. Although the strategy of releasing two albums within a week of each other could potentially work for some artists, in Future’s case, it is only an album that has zero replay value and his attempt to making generic and simple radio-friendly tracks.

High Klassified – Kronostasis

First thing I want to say before I give a review of this album is that this type of genre of music I’m not used to reviewing. However, as I love High Klassifieds’ always entertaining, trippy, yet party-like vibes showcased on his 2014 EP ‘Palindroma‘, I thought I’d try and do something a bit outside of my comfort zone.

While the “Kronostasis” EP is at 5-tracks length, it’s at an appropriate length and doesn’t contain any bullshit skits or filler tracks. Instead, Klassified provides a short, yet heavily dense EP. While his previous release sported no features, Chicago MC, Mick Jenkins, the only feature on the project, turns up for the the out-of-space jammer “Gold”. Mick’s laid back verses and distorted melodic vocals towards the last chorus show how well a traditional sounding rapper can integrate various genres and styles to compliment a producers authentic and original sound.

The first track, “Okarina of Time” is supported by heavy 808s, trippy and quick-paced hi-hats as well as swirling synth . It’s one of those beats that you just close your eyes too and can imagine extremely vivid visuals to match the intense speed and sound of it.

Although the tracks are primarily within the Electronic/House and minimally fit into Trap, it also sounds like a soundtrack to an Anime film that hasn’t been released yet or to an OG Nintendo 64 game while sitting in a heavily smoked-out room.

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“Time in Vain” is also another wickedly trippy track. Low voice choir sample, marching-like 808 drums, Deep-House synths you’d hear at a rave and once again, the thumping of Trap hi-hats and aggressive snares.

Lastly, in regards to the two part song “Saccade”, “Saccade Two” is the go-to one for me. The melodic synth, raspy drums, absolutely thumping bass and trippy AS FUCK keys just dominate over the “One”.

Clearly, Klassified incorporates a variety of genres he’s influenced by into these short projects, yet on every track, he demonstrates his progression and ability as a diverse producer.

 

Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book Review

Who would’ve thought that Lil Chano from 79th would be the first Rapper to win a Grammy for a free project, collaborate with Kanye West extensively on his latest LP, headlining tours around the world…and still be wanting to keep releasing his music for free?

First things first, this project from Chance is a brighter, lighter and more enthusiastic and ecstatic Chance that we saw on previous tapes ‘10 Day‘ and ‘Acid Rap‘.

There are some star-studded features as well as production credits, ranging from Kanye West, Jay Electronica, Kaytranada and Nico Segal.

The majority of the production on the album is radiating happiness. From the beginning with the firm drums and rough vocals from Chance on “All We Got” to the loop of the choir-esque  vocals that see Chance link up with stars 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne (who steals the show) on “No Problem”. While other tracks like “Summer Friends”, “All Night” and “Angels” are more radio-friendly, it still sounds like Chano is having a fun and enjoying creating uplifting and positive. Unfortunately, these songs are the ones that ultimately bring the density of the album down.

For me, the Justin Bieber and Towkio assisted “Juke Jam” is one of Chance’s smoothest tracks to date. Not only does it see Chance melodically look back on a previous relationship, but the light keys in the back, strings and minimalism of the track remind me of his ’10 Day’ “Brain Cells“. Bieber’s vocal performance is one of my favourites on this album as well as the only other feature I’ve heard him on (“Maria, I’m Drunk” – Travis Scott & Young Thug). Obviously, the Jay Electronica featured “How Great” which begins with the most incredible choir and see Chance’s cousin Nicole display her background vocals are important to the overall flow and substance to the track. While Jay’s verse only clocks in at just over a minute, it is one of the best features on the album.

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In all, the album is a drastic change to the dark, gloomy and pessimistic themes and songs that Chance displayed on his previous efforts. As well as that he is fully promoting a more positive outlook on his career and aiming to be (or already is) the next best thing out of Chicago. The last thing I have to say though; in comparison to the 2015 The Social Experiment album ‘Surf‘, a majority of the tracks that ended up on here could have landed earlier on that.

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