Bryson Tiller – True To Self Review

Well, only reviewing his debut studio album the other day, as well as Tiller promoting the album through a 3-track package as well as releasing the album cover and tracklist the other day. Due to come out next month, Tiller dropped the album in the early hours of this morning and, I’m jaw-dropped by it.

From the first couple tracks on the album, production, lyrically, how Tiller projects his contemporary R&B style and songwriting, there is a clear improvement from his previous effort ‘TRAPSOUL’. With this latest LP, ‘True To Self’, it is a running theme throughout. Young Tiller touches on his comeuppance in the game, how he went from being another person to one of the most exciting R&B acts in recent years as well as broken relationships and sexual desires.

From the beginning of the album, his songwriting and choice of beats is an improvement from his previous album. Each beat sounds like it was made with the intention of Tiller’s monotone, syrupy vocals and each track is as catchy and gripping as the last and the one before. While no song is dull, the first song that catches my ear is “Don’t Get Too High”.

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Over a glitchy melodic piano, chopped and screwed vocals and Trap drums, Tiller describes a relationship with a girl who has her own vices, “drink and smoke too much” and saying that she doesn’t need all that when she has him. However, this directly contradicts “We Both Know”, which shows Tiller reminiscing a past relationship of a girl who only wanted him to himself, knowing the temptation of tour life.

While a lot of the album focuses on past/present relationships, Tiller also shows-off his skills incorporating rap into his style. The best example of this on the album is the progressive sound and themes Tiller brags about on “Self-Made” gloating of his “Gucci”, “purple smoke” and being a “seven-figure self-made nigga”. Other songs that standout for Tiller’s rap abilities is the 5-minute “Money Problems / Benz Truck” which could’ve easily seen someone like TY$ or Juicy J on the first half. Still, tracks like the Dancehall “Run Me Dry” and motivating “High Stakes” are also great tracks on the album.

Alike to ‘TRAPSOUL’, Tiller holds down the entire album solo. Coming off strong acclaim and praise from critics and fans, this album proves too them that Tiller can only get better and keep providing fans with dense, dark and gloomy melodic R&B/Trap.

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Ms. Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill Review

Two years after the release of her last associated album with The Fugees, Lauryn Hill made her comeback onto the Neo-Soul/R&B scene with the release of her only full-length studio album, ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’.

While Hill is credited as a primary songwriter and producer of most tracks on the album, D’Angelo, Francis Dunnery and John Legend(!!!) who provides piano on “Everything is Everything”.

As the album plays out, starting off with the atmospheric “Intro” , depicting a classroom environment, Hill begins the album with “Lost Ones”. Her lyrics explore discrimination against African-American women, her relevance and influence on contemporary R&B. “Even when you’re gone, you can still be reborn”. This bar from the track backs up the idea of the record being about relevance and not being a “Lost One”. What’s also different about Hill, that also separates her from other female R&B stars as well as Rappers is her ability to truly sing and rap efficiently. This is most clear on “Final Hour” and the positive vibe-out “Doo Woop”. Over high-pitched friendly keys, jumpy bass and quick drums, Hill provides a complex flow, however, compared to someone like Nicki Minaj, Hill merges the two styles of singing and rapping effortlessly. “Forgive Them Father” is another cross-genre track on the album as the beat itself has New York-Boom-Bap sound, yet, her motivated vocals on Black-on-Black crime being rejected and de-idolising those who aren’t who they seem they are.

Many songs on the album explore Hill’s ideas of love, family (“When it Hurts So Bad”), fame and racial injustice. Yet, one of the most exciting songs, for it’s Neo-Soul instrumental and Hill’s blissful vocals is “Superstar”.

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Alike to “Lost Ones”, Hill reiterates the snakes in the music industry, her undoubted influence of artists to come from her style as well as the artists who drop uninspired albums. Although the album has limited features, Mary J. Blige’s background vocals and second verse on “I Used To Love Him” which is an instant standout on the album.

In all, it’s a beautiful album. It’s packed intensely with mature themes that aren’t to be listened too if you’re looking for typical-fun-party music. Hill’s music is conscious and seems like a major influence on modern artists like Kendrick Lamars’ ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’. As a female artist within an already known genre for misogyny and demoralising women, Hill rejects this and shows to her peers and competition that she was an amazing vocalist as well as songwriter.

Mac Demarco – This Old Dog Review

Alike to a few days ago when I reviewed Bryson Tiller’s impressive debut album, ‘TRAPSOUL’, I’m in the same situation now. I’m aware of Mac through recommended YouTube videos as well as having listened to his ‘Salad Days’ album once. However, for a real change, I’m going to dissect his latest album.

Starting with the opening track, “My Old Man”, beginning with crispy hi-hats, light acoustic strings and slurred vocals of similarities that Mac and his “old man” in himself. Whether it be “outside holding her hand” or “all the steps” that got him where he is today or how he acts around people is because of his likeliness to his father. The next song that grabs my interest is the smooth, modern Pink Floyd-esque “For the First Time” with echoed psychedelic keys, Jazz club bassline and Mac’s monotone but captivating voice.

What I like about this album as well as Demarco’s sound is the various influences on his songwriting, instrumentals as well as how he delivers his vocals. Throughout the album, he talks of heartbreak, “Still Beating”, living life with no regrets and making the most of it on “Dreams from Yesterday” or speaking about success and reaching “On the Level” that Mac never imagined too see himself “from the other side”.

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Evidently across the album, Mac explores common themes that are popular within his genre. Sex, relationships, drugs, romance, depression and admirations for themselves. Although not every song on the album reels me into the weird world that Mac depicts on this album, but it interests me enough to look through his back catalogue and be excited for future releases from him.

SZA – See.SZA.Run Review

Before the smooth, soulful and new-age R&B star signed too the already small but dense label of Top Dawg Entertainment, SZA was “stealing beats off the internet” and recording music “by accident”. Being a fan of her, and enjoying her debut EP, ‘Z’ on the Hip-Hop label, I’m going back just a few years to revisit her first official project of original material.

Featuring production from APSuperProducer, Brandun DeShay and Hassan Insane, minimalistic, Cloud Rap and R&B instrumentals fill the EP with monosyllabic drums, distorted synths and SZA’s deep and powerful voice. The first song, “Bed” is a great start to the project. She sings slowly, emphasising her length of notes and lyrics of her comeuppance in the industry as well as the decisions that one makes in the industry. Another immediate track that grips me, is the following track to “Bed”, titled “Euphraxia”. Over psychedelic keys, House drums and glitchy 808 bass, SZA details her drug use, issues of mental health, but mostly doing everything for herself.

The fourth track on the EP, “Time Travel Undone” is one of the slower and melodic on here. Over Trap snares, swirling synths, panning additional instrumentals that I can’t identify, it is really SZA’s vocals on here, which are as smooth as a toke from a joint. The last song that interests me is “Once Upon a High”. SZA’s vocals are chopped up and displayed throughout the track and very minimal production takes place. It’s instrumental is gripping for its harmonica sample and Nu-Jazz orchestration of instrumentals and general sound on here and is  one of SZA’s more addictive records.

To conclude, at eight tracks length, it was a good start. It allows whatever fans she had at that time to see more of her artistry as well as where she could go from there. This project from SZA reminds me a lot of Nikkiya, who portrays a similar vocal style and instrumental choices.

 

 

 

Salva – Peacemaker Review

Electronic LA-based producer, Salva, released his debut album ‘Peacemaker’ in 2014. Already having built a name for himself on Soundcloud as well as being signed Fool’s Gold and working extensively with Nick Hook, Salva was destined for greatness. His production style varies from House, Electronic, Hip-Hop and R&B and throughout his first full-length LP, he shows off his malicious beats from “Trap Back” to more mellowed tracks like “Freaky Dancing”.

At fifteen-tracks long, it contains some of the most exciting and unexpected collaborations that came out that year. Not only that, but it also shows that Salva chooses artists who he knows will compliment that particular beat. The first collaboration I wasn’t expecting on the album, as well as too like as much as I do, is Glo Gang’s own Ballout and Tadoe on “Child Pak”. Providing their own Chiraq flow and heavily drug and trap-esque lyrics over thunderous keys, apocalyptic horns and raunchy snares and hi-hats, it’s already one of the most turnt and catchy songs.

The trio of Young Thug, Freddie Gibbs and A$AP Ferg on the ‘Friday The 13th’ type instrumental “Old English”, is another standout. Not only does it contain three of the hardest verses on the album, as well as an amazing contradiction of voice, lyrics and overall style, but it also shows off Salva’s multiple inspirations through Trap drums, Electronic organ keys that juxtapose the genre that all artists are associated with.

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Other songs that stand out for their instrumentals as well as guest features is the second Freddie Gibbs featured “Magic” alongside Psyde. His sample of Eazy-E’s “Boyz In Da Hood” on “Drop That Bitch” is also another fun and wicked track to wild out too as he enlists, ScHoolBoy Q, Kurupt and others for another album standout. The opening song, “Freaking U” is another great entry into the album for it’s glitchy guitar strings and panning of instruments. However, it is Starship Connection’s synthesised vocal contribution to the track that zenith it.

In all, the album’s exploding with a lake of sounds. Multiple inspirations take form throughout, whether it be in a certain part of the instrumental, how it’s been mixed or the guest features. It’s no doubt, a solid album, however, it could’ve had some tracks cut off or at least…more intriguing additional vocals.

Bryson Tiller – Trapsoul Review

I don’t know much about Bryson Tiller, or heard much of his solo content. I’ve heard him pop up on a track with Future, appear as a featured artist with on Gucci Mane’s December-single, “Drove U Crazy” (WHICH BANGS). So, without knowing very much, and much hype surrounding his impending album, here goes nothing.

After listening to the first five songs; I’m thoroughly impressed. Each instrumental, filled with dark keys, sinister hi-hats and Tiller’s romantic but pain-stricken vocals accompany each other as much DCs’ The Joker & Harley Quinn.

BTHWhile I don’t dislike any of the first five, the three songs that stand out the most is “Intro (Difference)”, “For However Long” and “Don’t”. On “For However Long”, my favourite so far, the instrumental is laced heavily inspired by ‘Trap’ genre drums, yet there’s a looped vocal sample in the background that contradicts the aggressive cymbals and snares. Yet, it’s Tiller’s voice and emotional honesty on the track exploring the limited time he has with this girl. Although I’m a fan of “Don’t”, my favourite part of the song is the Chopped & Screwed vocals around the two minute mark. Not only does it contradict his soothful voice, it shows that he’s one of many modern artists who can channel various inspirations into certain parts of songs or project in general.

Throughout the album, Tiller explores a lot of themes similar to other R&B acts. Usher, Jeremiah and Chris Brown sound like major influences on Tiller’s delivery as well as songwriting. However, he also gives props to 2000s Hip-Hop legends like Lil Wayne on “Ten Nine Fourteen”, which is one of the strongest songs on the album. Wayne’s influence is also evident on the Sylvester Stallone character-titled “Rambo”. It’s clear that Tiller is more known for his sing-a-long songs, however, his melodic raps are as strong than them.

Other songs that stand out for Tiller’s immersive creativity on the album are “502 Come Up” and “Been That Way”. In all, it’s a very pleasing debut project. Although there are a couple tracks that lose my interest, Tiller’s personality, songwriting, ear for production and delivery of vocals does vie against his competition.

Snoop Dogg – Neva Left Review

The unstoppable force of the West Coast MC, that is Snoop Dogg, released his fifteenth studio album on Friday (19/5). So, without no further waffle, sit back, roll a joint, backwood, light up and lets review the newest go-to stoners album.

Starting with the self-titled record “Neva Left”, Snoop recruits Mike & Keys to provide a nostalgic wave of 1990s West Coast marinaded Hip-Hop. Jazz cafe keys, soft snare claps and smooth trumpets allow Snoop to assert himself back as one of the pioneers of storytelling in modern day Hip-Hop as he relives his Long Beach lifestyle and how “impersonating real gangster shit” isn’t a quality Snoop looks in his peers or competition. The following two songs follow the theme set by the first song. Snoop recalls of the prejudice he faced in the hood from rival gang members or misguided policeman (“Moment I Feared”) or on “Bacc in da Dayz” over thumping synths and bass where Snoop provides a history of his life back before he was a celebrated artist. The inclusion of the recent BadBadNotGood and Kaytranada instrumental “Lavender”, with Snoop vocals laced on top is also a nice little pat-on-the-back to the upcoming live-instrumental band and buzzing Electronic DJ.

What’s evident from the production credits, features as well as the additional vocals contributed, un-credited on the album tracklisting, is that the sonic sound present on this project is the inspiration of his home town. From the cover artwork as well with an OG picture of the OG in 1992 underneath his ZIP code. Yet, it is disappointing to not see any production credits from his longtime collaborator, Dr. Dre on here…considering the sound Snoop was producing for this album. One of the songs that sounds like it could have come straight out of the ‘Doggystyle’ vaults is “Big Mouth”. Over quick paced drums and charismatic deep bouncy keys and George Clinton synth, it’s one of the more gripping songs on the album. It proves Snoop’s influence on Hip-Hop as well as his undefying high-pitched harmonized vocals that have had a major impact on one of his more frequent collaborators, Wiz Khalifa.

Yet, “Let Us Begin”, a heavy bass thumping and one of the other politically motivated inside his own community as well as the music industry alongside KRS-One is one of Snoop’s stronger vocal contributions to the album.

What Snoop doesn’t fail at whenever he provides an album is that the quality of the instrumentals. However, it does get slightly dull lyrically. While tracks like “Thrash Bags”, “Swivel” and the monstrous line-up on “420 (Blaze Up)”, Snoop’s verse is easily forgettable amongst Devin the Dude’s slick as wax bars and Wiz’s vocals may not necessarily be better than it either, but his ‘Taylor Allderdice’ flow merges well with the heavy synthesised and cool guitar strings.

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To conclude, Snoop is one of the best rappers to ever do it as well as keep his longevity relevant as his career’s’ done some weird twist and turns, but Snoop always seems to come out strong with more fans after every release or social media stunt. “Snoop Dogg, Snoop Lion, it’s all the same, one thang’s for sure, this shit bang” – Taken from “I’m Still Here”, one of the final tracks on the album, Snoop admits that. Whatever moniker he has or music he releases, his music ultimately does bang.

 

T-Wayne – Self-Titled Review

Well, surrounding a much public lawsuit, suffering seizures yet still pushing out some content, the unmissable duo of R&B Auto-tune pioneer T-Pain and Lil Wayne finally released their much anticipated collaborative album ‘T-Wayne’ last night. Thanks to T-Pain, fans of both artists can feel nostalgic listening to lost and unheard records between Waynes’ ‘Tha Carter 3′ and T-Pains’ ‘Three Ringz’ days.

Finally, before getting to the review, the wave of nostalgia this album brings is just amazing. While it’s essentially old ‘new’ Wayne and Pain, it’s just great to know that some shelved projects eventually get to see the light. From the very beginning verses from T-Wayne on “He Rap He Sang”, the energetic duo trade bars about their dominance of the rap game, their sex life and that the two of them were an undisputed duo set to release an album. “Listen To Me”, the second track on the album, samples the ‘Oompa Loompa’ theme song from Willy Wonka and switches up to a high-pitched synth and fierce horns that give way for T-Pain not to only give one of his hardest verses on the tapes, but Wayne’s flow and lyrics give me chills and remind me of his mixtape ‘No Ceilings’. However, the heaviest-orientated Hip-Hop track on this album is the Houston-vibe “Heavy Chevy”.

In typical Wayne and Pain fashion as well, they also provide vivid and personal R&B records, which, I’m surprised were never released. “Damn Damn Damn” is exactly how I feel when I’m listening to this project. Wayne and T-Pain provide over-the-top auto-tuned vocals, harmonising and ‘singing’ of female companionship. “Waist Of A Wasp” is another smooth R&B/Hip-Hop song following the previous. T-Pain gets the track started by being blunt with his desired chick by “fucking her in the kitchen” as well as providing a chorus you can’t help but screw your face up too.

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Surprisingly, the solo T-Pain track, “Oh Yeah” is just straight up savage and head-bopping as hell. The only feature on the album is additional background vocals courtesy of Young Money signee Shannell on “Breathe”. However, the song that stands out amongst the light but cohesive project is “Snap Ya Fangaz “. Laced with melodic guitar strings, romanticised synths and amazing chemistry between the artists on this track, it only proves the world needed this project.

In all, the project is literally music to my ears. The creative spark between the two resonates on every song and captures the same feeling I got from hearing the two on previous efforts together, “Got Money”, “Hoes & Ladies” and feature on Tech N9nes’ ‘All 6s & 7s”-cut “Fuck Food”. Hopefully, this isn’t all that was recorded between the two and more unreleased tracks will surface.

DJ Khaled; The Culture Vulture in Disguise

“ANOTHER ONE!!!!”

Khaled Mohamed Khaled, or, more popularly known as DJ Khaled, exploded onto the Hip-Hop scene in the early 2000s by performing DJ sets and linking up with New Orleans legends Birdman and Lil Wayne in the 90s. Since then, Khaled has gone on to release 9 albums over a ten year career; working with some of todays most demanded featured artists as well as biggest stars in R&B and Hip-Hop. From Rick Ross, Kanye West, Sean Paul, Scarface, Missy Elliott, Bryson Tiller and Jay-Z, Khaled has supported, promoted and provided soundtracks to multiple summers. However, there’s a question (more like a rant) that I need to get off my chest.

My question, to whoever’s reading this is: is Khaled a culture vulture? Hear, or read what I’m trying too say. DJ Khaled *is not an artist*. The Miami mogul, who was born and grew up in New Orleans, doesn’t in anyway, on any of his commercial releases or singles, reflect or sound inspired by the city he grew up in. Instead, he moved to a city, vibrant with popular upcoming artists (all at their respected comeuppances) as well as a scene that exemplified and directly associates itself with common themes portrayed in Hip-Hop. Khaled, as much as he is credited as an artist, the man doesn’t really do that much in the studio in regards to producing a beat from scratch, providing vocals (unless you count his awful verse on his “Welcome To My Hood – Remix”) or being…brutally honesty here; creative.

When I see footage of Khaled in the studio, he’s never in front of the boards laying down keys or organising a drum pattern, he is, simply sitting or standing, throwing out ideas of ground-works for a song. He doesn’t directly contribute any sound to the song or aesthetic and instead, he just shouts his name and ridiculous ad-libs that would be better off removed from the songs. So, when it comes down to the actual producing and writing of the records, Khaleds’ contributions are so minimal, it’s so surprising that he even does get credit on production or writing.

However, there’s no doubt Khaled has an amazing ear for instrumentals as well as the featured artists he intends to put on them. One of the first tracks I heard, listed by DJ Khaled, was “The Originators” featuring Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. The track is filled with tongue-twisting and head-turning verses from the chopper MCs and I enjoyed it. Seeing an OG Hip-Hop group collaborate with someone who was relatively unknown amongst the masses yet pushed out projects that contained quality content.

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Although his albums don’t always keep me entertained from start-to-finish, there will be a few tracks that stand out for the chemistry of artists on the track, for example, “They Ready” featuring Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Big K.R.I.T has brilliant production and outstanding verses from each artist. Yet, Khaleds’ contribution to the record is, as always, shouting just random words and “WE THE BEST”.

His latest album, ‘Major Key’, was his most star-studded album to date. Featuring the first collaboration between 808 Mafia, Jay-Z and Future on “I Got The Keys”, the soulful but booming Big Sean and Kendrick “Holy Key” as well as a Lil Wayne and Travis Scott record.

While he does gather and recruit the best vocalists and producers to craft club orientated records, “FOR THE STREETS” tracks or just typical Hip-Hop, Khaled is, very much in my eyes, a culture vulture. The reason why, because he profits and exposes himself as a representative of the Hip-Hop community, yet doesn’t seem to ever be in the news for giving back to his home city or helping out struggling artists or regular individual.

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