Traditional Hip-Hop Vs. Trap – Is There a Divide?

Firstly, the answer is yes, it is as clear as “Night and Day” that some Hip-Hop heads prefer listening to more gritty, soul-revealing, technical and undoubtedly lyrical tyrants, whose music never seems too age; whether it be the unapologetic debut album from Nas, ‘Illmatic’ or the smooth instrumentals, but fearless lyricism on the late 2Pac album ‘Me Against The World’, some feel, that that time and general output of Hip-Hop was untouchable.

I had no idea, or concept of ‘Trap’ music until I was in secondary school. All I knew before that was Eminem, 2Pac, Wu-Tang, Kanye West, Busta Rhymes, Notorious B.I.G., Tech N9ne, The Game, Lil Wayne, T.I., countless others and as time progressed, established, underground artists such as Gucci Mane, Rick Ross, Juicy J, Wiz Khalifa, Drake and others began turning up in my vintage iTunes library and from there, a tree blossoming with multiple fruits became available. At first, it was word of mouth around school on what was the most popular songs, or as I would, listen to an album continuously for months until I could hear the song without it even playing.

The point I’ve dryly built up too is that, while we are, the Hip-Hop community, torn between the Golden Age of Hip-Hop, undeniably being the Golden Era, how is it that music, or artists themselves are supposed to progress, develop and provide fans of a culture and in-demand genre of music? Sure, you think to yourself, if you’re a Hip-Hop head, how can I go onto my Spotify or whatever streaming service you use, listen to “Gimme The Loot” by one of the illest MCs too ever lay bars over any instrumental. Then, a few songs down the queue, or straight after, be listening to the banal lyrics and unconsciousness of Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang”? Well, not too be a devil’s advocate, and I really hate being the one too directly quote him, but as DJ Akademiks said, “we’re just going off the energy [of the songs]!”

Yes, one could say; ‘argument over’. No, it really isn’t.

As I have some conversations with people about music, they just want to listen to the most popular Trap records floating and popping off at that present moment time. Whether it be the odd, yet equally satisfying chemistry between Pharrell and Lil Uzi Vert on “Neon Guts”, A$AP Rocky’s star-studded Summer/Winter “RAF” single, Post Malone and 21 Savage’s ridiculously streamed “Rockstar” (which I’m anxiously waiting to hear the original of with T-Pain and Joey Bada$$) and don’t flip, but the simple songwriting yet incredibly catchy melodies and flows Future annually provides; the songs shelf-lives are…short lived.

There’s no doubt about that, however, some of these recent Trap artists have a lot of their predecessors to thank for allowing their adaptation of original Trap and bringing it too the forefront of mainstream music audiences. Artists such as DJ Paul & Juicy J, UGK, 8Ball & MJG, OutKast, Paul Wall, Gucci Mane, Young Jeezy and their producers to some extent; Organized Noise, Zaytoven, Shawty Redd, are all pioneers and craftsman of one of the most in-demand sub-genres today.

Sure, the Lil Yachty’s, Xan’s, Nav’s, and one-time other artists get their quick dose of money from a creative output that helped allow them to portray themselves in a way that allows them too finally be recognized among a larger audience. Juicy J specifically is one of the artists from 90s Hip-Hop who has helped shape a whole wave of Trap and modernised Hip-Hop.

Whether it be the vulgar but insanely comedic affect of “Slob On My Knob”, or his overly generous output of music last year (collaborations with Quavo, Chris Brown and two whole mixtapes alongside $UICIDEBOY$), The Juice Mane is ultimately one of the most timeless Hip-Hop acts of the last 20 years. Yet, poses the question: if Juicy J, who is a largely influential character in the realm of Hip-Hop as a songwriter and producer and helped provide ways for other members of the OG group, Three 6 Mafia, as well as artists like A$AP Rocky, G-Eazy, Danny Brown and handful of others…doesn’t that make him one of the most omnipotent Hip-Hop artists for the last two generations of listeners?

I will not disagree that the Golden Era of Hip-Hop is unimaginably better. However, in a theoretical situation, if you were going to a restaurant for 20 years, you order the same dish every time you went there and nothing ever changed about it: the presentation of the dish, the herbs, ingredients, some people would get, bored. Others may eat that ‘dish’, add an additional ingredient and suddenly, you’ve opened a whole new door too this theoretic food situation. Lets just be clear though, the food is Hip-Hop. If Hip-Hop had stayed the same and was a replica of what it was today, then yes, I will happily admit that I’d be bored. Why? Because how can anyone or anything progress without experimentation? Too quote ScHoolBoy Q on his insane guest verse on “Brand New Guy” featured on A$AP Rocky’s breakout tape, ‘LiveLoveA$AP’;-

“Biggie and Nas put they ass in a blender, Sprinkle some 50 and came out this nigga”

This, clearly points out the development and encouragement for rappers not only to take inspiration from obvious legends of the Hip-Hop game, but show how they maneuvered themselves as people outside of the genre, but their undoubted influence on a new wave of rappers who are adapting the rhyming schemes, gripping storytelling to remember what the Golden Age of Hip-Hop was like. However, the argument’s always subjective, I just thought that that point would be..quite relevant, but if not, sound off in the comments or @ me on Twitter, I’m sure I’ll be able too take the abuse.

But, let’s not forget, there are also extremely diverse artists who associate themselves and are marketed through streaming services as Hip-Hop artists: specifically the Southern trio Migos, DRAM & Kodak Black. Not only did 2017 see Migos excel to a new level of ridiculous iced out chains, but also release a fairly average project, still do guest features and have a ridiculous hype clouding them: especially the front man of the group Quavo, who just released his anticipated collaborative project with Travis Scott.

DRAM & Kodak also have adapted their own methods as Hip-Hop artists. While we may hear and see more of Kodak on articles, like my own here, his most recent musical outputting, ‘Project Baby 2’, was a gripping piece of Southern, modern Hip-Hop. Both Black’s and DRAM’s inspirations are from that Golden Era of Rap, as in, Kodak’s sample for “Transportin” is the same sample we hear in the Geto Boys “Mind Playing Tricks”! DRAM is a more far-fetched argument, in this instance but, alike fellow newcomer TY Dolla $ign, they incorporate the smoothness of 80s/90s funk and R&B and add their own weird but still very much ear-intriguing sonic exploration of music.

Too finally come to a conclusion, do I think there’s a divide between some Hip-Hop fans? Well, if you read the opening sentence of this post, you’d already know my answer. The real question though I would like too ask, can both sides embrace, understand and appreciate the development of a genre of music?

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A$AP Mob – Cozy Tapes Vol.2 – Too Cozy Review

The upcoming of the A$AP Mob has seen its good…and it’s rather bad days. Yet, as the latest Yam$ Day festival is due, it only seemed right too revisit an album that not only is a great group compilation album, but also, a more gritty and insightful look into the less heard and overseen characters of the New York Hip-Hop posse.

While the group continue the relentlessness of attempted comedy, supposedly inspired also by the first commercial group project, the “Skool” skits are really just a ‘one time click’. The opening track however, “Perry Aye”, featuring an extremely turnt and energetic voice-distorted, Jaden Smith on the chorus, classic bars from Rocky and his peers of of their long yet quick stream too wealth. Although, the bars themselves are below par; it’s a great opening track to the album. While the album is filled with prominent artists of 2016/17, Gucci Mane, Frank Ocean, Quavo and the most recent young rapper to be embraced on the scene underneath Rocky’s wing especially; Playboi Carti. While he may not be the greatest lyrical rapper, the energy of the chorus he brings on the hyped posse-cut “Walk on Water”. Yet, his drowsy verse just before Ferg’s on “Get The Bag” displays his obvious attraction to the growing brand that is the Mob and helping put younger rappers in profitable situations. However, much alike to the first ‘Cozy Tapes’, this compilation/album/project, comes more across as an A$AP Rocky LP. His contributions on some records, “Bahamas”, “Blowin’ Minds”, remix of A$AP Twelvyy’s “FYBR”, shows that while he is confined into songs drenched with other intriguing artists, Lil Yachty, Chief Keef and Big Sean, the tracks come across as Rocky’s progression as a teaser for his upcoming sophomore album, or just having fun in the studio.

Most notably, the track that really stands, out not only for the colossal collaborative of New York MC’s on “What Happens” featuring members of Pro Era, A$AP Mob and the Flatbush ZOMBiES, but the reality that the track is produced by the Hip-Hop producer oracle RZA.

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In all, like the previous ‘Cozy Tapes’ project, there does seem too be more marketing for Rocky, understandably, however, the formation of how the Mob’s verses lead into one another on the Hit-Boy cloudy production on “Feels So Good” or the triumphant drums and wavy vocal sample laced in between Carti’s blunt chorus and ad-libs on “Frat Rules”, do show that there was a little more thought into the collectives creative composure of some of the tracks (“RAF”). At the end of the day, it’s a more compulsive listen than the

I’ve been Gone for Sometime

Firstly, I want to apologize too anyone who religiously went onto this blog too see my reviews and had noticed less of an abundance of posts. Life has sped up very quickly recently and due too that I wasn’t able too put in as much time into posting my overly-critical or undoubted praise for any number of reviews on this blog. Just thought I’d put this post up and let anyone out there, whose interested, that “I’m Back” (Eminem reference if you don’t clock it immediately). Anyway, I’m going to be writing and posting as often as I can at the moment. There’s been a slew of music released since my last blog post on the ‘Generation Y’ defining album that was Kanye Wests’ ‘Yeezus’ LP. There will be a review coming of the collaborative projects from Future & Young Thug, Metro Boomin’ & Big Sean, A$AP Mob’s exceptionally more gripping ‘Cozy Tapes 2’ and the relentless return of one of Hip-Hop’s most ill-tongued MC’s; Eminem’s ‘Revival’ album….if it is a revival of his career at all or just another album that is filled back-to-front front-to-back with BARS.

So, yeah. I am coming back. There are more reviews and general posts on my thoughts on streaming, the conversion of how music and its specific audiences have changed and where specifically the genre, Hip-Hop, is necessarily heading in.

On that note, keep your eyes peeled, again if you’re at all interested and prepare for some of my blunt reviews that will once again flood whoever’s dashboard.

 

Kanye West – Yeezus Review 

Going back to 2013, Hip-Hop was blessed with a gift, by the always evolving “genius that ain’t crazy”, Kanye West. Mr. West released his 6th studio album, named one of the most narcissistic records of that year; ‘Yeezus’.

Following his break up with Amber Rose and moving into a relationship with Kim Kardashian, the overall sonic sound, tone of Kanye’s vocals, samples, producers and guest features opened a creative door for Kanye that saw him being praised, as well as criticised by both dedicated fans, critics and the regular radio listen. The album doesn’t play as elegantly or smoothly as his previous albums, ‘The College Dropout’ or ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’. However, the frantic Daft Punk synths, chaotic melodies from Mike Dean manic Electronic/House vibes provided by Evian Christ all adds a certain element of Kanye’s creative process.

From the beginning song, “On Sight” with crazy synthesized out and over the top drums, Kanye addresses “Yeezy Season” and shows that this album would be his most career-changing and debated in his discography for a while. Immediately after, it rolls into the African-drum, trippy vocal loop and gritty guitar string, “Black Skinhead”. Kanye addresses his critics and how Kanye is one of Hip-Hop’s acts one doesn’t want to go up against. At ten tracks length, at the time of its release, it was a disappointment, however, the density of each track and how they flow into the next one and the one previous into that, it feels like a Science-Fiction movie that was entirely done by West, and over time, the shortness of the album finally makes sense.

One of the first songs that stood out to me was the transparency of Kanye West, Justin Vernon and Chief Keef collaborating on one of the more ‘intimate’ tracks, especially for Keef and Ye, for opening up about love and lust as well as the block between Keef and “handling liquor, controlling [his] niggas” as well as them “controlling” Keef with his past addiction to drugs. Yet, Kanye raps about multiple topics on the album.

“I Am A God” is one of the most experimental tracks on the record. The odd synths that float about like asteroids, thumping of heavy House drums and Kanye’s aggressive stance on what makes someone a god. “Blood On The Leaves”, which samples the extremely depressing “Strange Fruit” by Nina Simone. While it doesn’t follow the melancholy of the sample, Kanye relives a time of love, abusing drugs and fame. The horns, hi-hats and overall production throughout this track is phenomenal and is a must-listen too when listening to this album.

Other highlights include the Hip-Rock-House “Guilt Trip” featuring classic KiD CuDi hums and ad-libs, as well as the King Louie assisted “Send It Up” and the OG sounding Kanye on the ending track “Bound 2”. In All, Kanye’s sixth studio album is a specific listen. It’s perfect for when you’re pissed off and shows a side of Kanye that not only we hadn’t seen in public, but also one who, over all the confusing production and harsh vocals, there is much too be related to on this album.

21 Savage – ISSA Album Review 

21 Savage’s 2016-17 run has seen the “Issa Knife” rapper become one of the most talked , memed and conflicting artists in contemporary Hip-Hop/Trap. Following the independent success of his official debut project, ‘Savage Mode’, complimented entirely by Metro Boomin production, 21 has delivered a similar project. Laced with gangster-records like “Bank Account”, “Dead People” and the final track “7 Min Freestyle”. Yet, there are also experimental records as well as reflective tracks that see the 21 as a much more complex individual.

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Starting off with the Metro Boomin and Zaytoven produced “Famous”, 21 spits over glittering Ziggy keys and stoned hi-hats, reliving his comeuppance to the rap game as well as the struggles he has been through to get where he has ended up in a penultimate situation. As the album reveals a savage we’ve already heard on previous solo efforts and guest features (Brodinski – “No Target”, Mike WiLL Made It – “Gucci On My”), 21 also provides melodic and friendlier records on the album, that according to 21 on The Breakfast Club, he’ll “put any song [he] wanted on the album”. That itself, for an artist like 21, is career risking, however, his sound compliments the West-Coast infused Afrobeat “FaceTime”, produced by DJ Mustard and the 90s Hip-Hop/Trap “Thug Life”, produced by Metro.

Throughout the album, 21 spits his well known factual-telling, savagery vocals into horror-film inspired imagery. “Numb”, seeing him tackling depression, coming up in the hood, adapting to a celebrity lifestyle and numbing his pain “with the money”. Other standouts include “Bad Business”, “Money Convo” for it’s trippy piano loop and the “in the feelings” Wheezy produced “Special”.

In all, 21’s official studio album is an interesting and experimental start to his career with this project. Not only does it contain the same gritty, street-life records that were on ‘Savage Mode’, but it also shows how much he’s grown and looking to develop as a solo artist. While it’s not necessarily the greatest Hip-Hop album that’s come out recently, it’s definitely one of the more interesting Trap albums to drop.

Frank Ocean – Channel ORANGE Review

Before the release of his debut album, Frank Ocean had sprinkled audio gems over the Internet for fans and critics. Whether it be his contributions to the fan-favourite ‘The OF Tape 2’ or his solo mixtape ‘Nostalgia, ULTRA’, Frank’s debut album ‘Channel ORANGE’ is a masterpiece. Released just over 5 years ago, Franks’ storytelling of being in love with another man, drug addiction, fame and depression is played cinematic form throughout.

From the computerized “Start” leading into “Thinkin Bout You”, Frank begins the album with a mellow start, describing a relationship that found himself obsessed with a potential lover. As the album continues, short yet dense R&B records exploring Frank’s sexuality through revealing lyrics and glorious instrumentals provided by Frank himself, Pharrell, Tyler, The Creator, John Mayer and an incredible guitar solo, courtesy of the never-disappointing André 3000.

While there are immediate standouts, “Super Rich Kids” featuring a nocturnal but fitting verse contrast on the record by Earl Sweatshirt, a theatrical instrumental on “Pilot Jones” that sees Frank unloading his feelings of someone who he helped guide through rough times. As well as the impeccable and amazing “Pyramids” laced with thunderous claps, drug-enhanced keys, ominous drums and a haunting choir sample, perfectly looped behind Franks’ pained lyrics. While both parts of the song are of *amazing*, the second half is my preferred for the cloudy instrumental with gritty synths, jazzy but gloomy horns added throughout.

In my honest opinion, there’s not a single moment on the album that is bland or left to blunt. Even on the Pop-esque, “Lost”, Frank incorporates live instruments, a doomed voice of a woman looking for happiness yet weighed down by “cooking dope”. As well as on closing tracks and unmissable too anyone who listens to the album, “Pink Matter” and “Forrest Gump”  both show sides of Frank they portray a very intimate but relatively hurt and someone who is pouring countless amounts of emotion through every line.

To conclude, ‘Channel ORANGE’ is a very important album too myself, but also modern R&B and how it shifted over the period that Frank’s follow-up album impacted the release of an album, context of lyrics in a still very judging community of sexuality and most importantly, Frank’s ability as a songwriter, vocalist, musician and as a body of work.

Big Boi – Boomiverse Review

One of the most significant Southern rappers for his contributions to the legendary group and forever timeless discography alongside André 3000 in Outkast; Big Boi returns to the scene with a devilishly addictive album. Not only do we hear ‘Daddy Fat Saxxx’ over Organized Noize production once again, but we also have Mannie Fresh, Scott Storch, TM88 and DJ Dahi instrumentals throughout. As well as production notes being exciting, guest appearances also add undeniable dope flavour of dopeness to the album. Whether it’s a killer Killer Mike verse or late Pimp C vocals, the album oozes out great music.

Beginning with the Big Rube outro-assisted “Da Next Day” is filled with gritty drums, bouncy horns and a reflective verse from Big Boi to start the album off. He looks back on his influence of the rap game. Comparing himself too “a broad” for working so hard and keeps “soul searching” for his rightful place in the elite MC’s.

As the album progresses, seeing immediate highlights like “Kill Jill” and “Order of Operations”, Big Boi’s development as a solo artist is unfathomable. Not only does the legendary MC incorporate and bring to the table his normal Southern sound, but also experiment with Nu-Jazz and R&B. While tracks like “All Night”, “Mic Jack” and “Chocolate” are all radio friendly and use elements of the genres previously mentioned, these tracks in particular add no weight or interest to the overall sound of the project.

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“Made Man”, “Freakanomics” and “Follow Deez”, the final three tracks of the album, are the most gripping instrumentally, guest features and Big Boi’s timeless flows and charismatic bars.

In all, it’s a great LP and only proves that the Big Boi as a solo artist has as much potential to receive acclaim and keep the sound that Outkast started as relevant as it was when they first appeared on the scene. While not all the songs intrigue me, it is definitely one of my favourite Hip-Hop projects to drop this year.

2 Chainz – PGLTM Review

The ever evolving artist, originally named Tity Boi, now, is one of the most in=demand featured Hip-Hop artists, enthusiast of some of “the mooryst expensive shit” and is now the charismatic MC, 2 Chainz. Since his debut ‘Based On A T.R.U. Story’ LP, Chainz has continuously through the years reinvented himself over his solo-effort projects, as well as a collaborative project with “the best rapper alive”. ‘Pretty Girls 👍 Trap Music’ is filled with various influences of past and present Hip-Hop/Trap and R&B. Whether it be Travis Scott’s excessive auto-tuned vocals on the hyped-up Murda Beatz produced “4AM” or the odd Asian-inspired Pharrell assisted “Bailan”, in-between the smoked out Chainz verses, smooth guest verses and out of the ordinary instrumentals, the sound and direction of the album is an interesting one too listen to.

The opening record, “Saturday Night” is a smooth and reliable instrumental filled with heavy Rock guitar strings and light but aggressive snare claps produced by Mike WiLL Made-It and Ducko McFli. Chainz ‘s flow is slow but motivated and hungry too let his competition and peers to know that although he’s boxed into the ‘mumble rappers’  and how he was unfairly “charged by Luda to dip”. Although it doesn’t necessarily relate to the dark yet enlightening title name of the album, it shows off the aggression and passion that he has for the industry as well as his motivation for Hip-Hop’s ‘C U L T U R E’. While the subject matters, rhyme schemes, lyrics and flows aren’t in anyway evolutional for the genre or change the soundscape for Trap, there are some lowkey entertaining Chainz verses, amazing production and standout moments on the project. Production wise, the first beat that stands out is “Riverdale Rd”. Chainz relives the Trap and how he came from “getting bands” to “grams to Grammys”.

Chainz

The highlights of this project come from the occasional guest verse or the influence Trap now has on the mainstream music industry. One of the songs that cement this is the raunchy collaboration between TY$, Trey Songz and Jhene Aiko on the finger-clicking and jumpy guitar-led “It’s A Vibe”. Not only do the featured artists provide smooth melodic verses of sexual desires, but 2 Chainz verse is a swaggy and fun as hell verse to listen and rap along too. Aiko’s contribution to the track is the sexiest and most unexpected feature on the album as well.  However, Chainz’s solo efforts, “OG Kush Diet”, “Sleep When U Die” and “Rolls Royce Bitch” are all standouts for their aggressive production styles as well as the energy that allows Chainz to push out this content.

In all, not only is the album a LP primarily for those who are die-hard fans of the sub-genre of ‘Trap’, but also, an ode to ‘The Trap’. Whether it be the production handled by The Honorable C-Note or un-credited OJ Da Juiceman vocals, 2 Chainz created the album with the purpose to expose, commercially, a friendlier Trap sound.

SZA – Ctrl Review

Since hitting the Hip-Hop/R&B and Neo-Soul scene; collaborating with major industry names like Chance the Rapper, contributing additional un-credited vocals to her label mate, Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ LP and struggling pushing out her debut album under TDE. However, on 9/6/17, the talented vocalist finally dropped ‘Ctrl’.

Filled with heart-broken vocals and lyrics on past and previous relationships, as well as interludes from the singer’s mum, the album projects a intimate and overwhelming pouring of emotions that have bubbled under the surface; something everyone can relate to. Beginning with the Scum produced and Pharrell songwriting assisted “Supermodel”, SZA airs out her grievance of an ex-boyfriend where she’s “been secretly banging” his homeboy and not letting anything un-surprise first listeners and fans.

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Another immediate standout is the solo slow trippy synthesized “The Weekend”. It’s one of her more opening records, and the instrumental, produced by ThankGod4Cody is blissful to listen too as well as the underlying background vocals SZA provides. As well as those, “Anything” and Isaiah Rashad’s verse on “Pretty Little Birds” adds another male voice to the album, giving it that extra contribution from someone who can add more than just vocals but emotion onto a track.

Not only does the album explicitly explore her sexuality, relationships and the overall desire to not have the anxiety of not being in ‘Ctrl’ of ones life and what entails it. One thing is for certain throughout the album is how gripping it is; whether it’s the psychedelic guitar solo towards the end of the Kendrick Lamar featured “Doves In The Wind” and mellow stripped back keys on “Go Gina”. “Garden (Say It Like Dat)”, a personal vent of how she sees herself as a woman is also a standout from the album for its Trap and R&B interlace of sound, similar to Bryson Tiller.

Although the album is filled with hefty emotions, bitterness and anger resonating through her pained vocals or smooth but airy production, tracks like”Broken Clocks”, “Normal Girl”  and “20 Something” don’t add much to the album. In all, it’s a boastful debut album. SZA adds more diversity to the ever-growing TDE rooster but also shows off her ability as a solo artist and gives first-time listeners a side of her that hadn’t be seen before on a wider audience level.

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