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Album Review: 4 Your Eyez Only | J. Cole

4 Your Eyez Only

Jermaine Lamarr Cole is a once in a decade type of artist. The man is a true genius when it comes to not only composing and performing music but academics as well. Graduating high school with a 4.2 GPA and receiving a scholarship to St. John’s University are just a couple little known fact about the rapper fans call J. Cole. On December 9th 2016 Cole released his 4th album titled 4 Your Eyez Only, exactly two years after his most successful album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive. Jermaine has always been very quiet in the media but with so much going on in the last two years you would have expected him to stand up and speak out like so many other influential celebrities have. However, Cole stayed quiet and focused on his family and music. He knew that his music would have more of an impact than he would by just simply ranting. This album takes us on a journey of struggle, highs, lows, fatherhood, death, race relations and much more.

The album is only 10 songs, but it gives its listeners a full experience. Cole’s latest efforts largely take on the perspective of Cole’s late childhood friend, who asked the rapper to share his life story in the event that he died. The story of a drug dealer who tried to turn his life around after becoming a father. Cole was to tell his story in the form of an album when his daughter was old enough to appreciate it. He identifies the friend as James McMillan Jr., who was killed at age 22. The artist changed the name for the sake of privacy.

The first track on the album is titled ‘For Whom The Bells Toll’ after the novel written by Ernest Hemingway in 1940, about the Spanish Civil War. The song starts with some vocals over a jazzy beat with trumpets and bells. The entire album will have some sort of jazz element with either trumpets, brass, bells, or violines. Cole says “I’m searching and praying and hoping for something, I know I’m gon’ see it, I know that it’s coming, Lord, Lord.” He is talking about how he sees his life changing in the near future and he believes that if he stays on the same path that something good will eventually happen. Soon after he says the opposite by saying “Tired of feeling low even when I’m high, Ain’t no way to live, do I wanna die?, I don’t know, I don’t know.” Cole is going back and forth doubting himself if his life is even worth living. Throughout the album we see that Jermaine struggles with depression and finding his purpose.  He drops a line that shows that he really feels alone,

“But what do you do when there’s no place to turn? I have no one, I’m lonely, my bridges have burnt down, Lord, Lord”.

Feeling alone is not something that only J. Cole struggles with. It is so relatable and that’s why Cole has so many loyal fans because they can actually relate to his art. It’s hard to relate to rappers that talk about millions of dollars and exotic cars that most people have never even seen in person. One of J. Cole’s biggest messages is that money cannot buy happiness as he poetically explains on the song ‘Love Yourz’. This song is a good, short 2 minute song to prep you for the rest of the album.

On the song ‘Immortal’, Cole talks about how his closet was looking broke while his friends were getting caught up with dope. The people around him were slowly getting sucked into the streets and making money while he was staying away from it and he was staying broke. Just because he wasn’t selling drugs doesn’t mean that he wasn’t surrounded by drugs and the situations that come with it. Cole lists several things that he has witnessed by saying, “I can tell you things that you probably shouldn’t know, Have you ever heard the screams when the body hit the floor?….Have you ever seen a fiend cook crack on the spoon?” It’s obvious that J. Cole has seen some pretty scary things and talks about how the people that make it out of those situations never die. They will be talked about for years after they pass.

The next track titled ‘Deja Vu’ is one that I was very excited about when I heard it. Cole raps over Bryson Tillers’ instrumental for the song ‘Exchange’. The track is about how Jermaine has his eye on a women that is at the club with her man but he doesn’t care. The fact that she has a man does not faze him. The R&B song is a shout out to guys that are usually wallflowers at social events saying, “Last call at the bar, ladies get a drink, nigga get some balls, Ain’t no tellin you gonna see that bitch tomorrow, Stop holding up the wall waiting for the right song, Better holla cause you know they bout to cut the lights on.”

The song ‘Vile Mentality’ has a deeper meaning then it seems. It gives us a key piece to the puzzle when the interlude comes up that plays the voice of a young girl talking about her father’s death. She says, “My dad, he died—he got shot ’cause his friend set him up. And I didn’t go to his funeral.”  Cole asks the question of how can he live with this evil mentality that he has? He wants to be the bigger man and let his frustrations go but it isn’t always that easy where he is from.

In the song ‘She’s Mine, Pt 1’, Cole confesses his love for his wife Melissa Heholt. Many people did not know about the secret marriage in 2015 between the two. They have actually been together for over a decade and met in college. Jermaine explains how this women has changed his life and molded him into the person that he is today. Fans can likely give Melissa a lot of credit for how successful J.Cole’s career is today.

‘Change’ is a track that shows just how quickly someone’s life change overnight. In the beginning of the song Cole is happy and confident in his relationship with God, speaking on heaven saying “See I believe if God is real, He’d never judge a man, because he knows us all and therefore He would understand”. He says that the only way that change comes is from within. The song is seeming very upbeat and positive with him rapping about how thankful he is for his life. The song takes a 180 towards the end when he begins to talk about the violent culture that has taken over our world today. Cole says,

“I reminisce back to a time where niggas threw they hands, all of a sudden niggas pop a trunk and then we scram, finger on trigger make a little nigga understand, what it’s like to finally be the motherfuckin’ man”.

Nowadays anyone can get respect if they have a gun, no matter how weak or spineless they are. Cole rushes home one night after hearing shots, the next morning he turns on the morning news to find out that it was his friend that was murdered at 22 years old. The rest of the song is a reenactment of the funeral. You can hear Cole crying in the background of the pastor, and you can also hear Cole speaking of killing the man to get revenge for his fallen friend.

‘Neighbors’ is one of Jermaine’s most interesting songs. While Cole was working on the album he needed some more privacy, some peace and quiet. He rented a house in North Carolina for all of the Dreamville artists and producers to create music in an isolated environment. It’s located in a predominantly white neighborhood and the neighbors soon became suspicious there might be drug related activity connected to the house and eventually the SWAT team was brought in to investigate. He goes on to talk about how even though he has fully paid for a house on a lake and has more money than you could imagine he still had the police raid his home simply because some neighbors thought he was up to no good because he is a black rapper. He takes the time to speak about the Trayvon Martin case and how he was racially profiled as well.

The song ‘Foldin Clothes’ is another song in which J.Cole shows his appreciation for his wife. In the song she is in her final month of pregnancy and Cole wants to do everything he can to make her life as easy as possible. Even the small things will help. He talks about being more present and appreciating the little things his life. He has a realization of how amazing his life really is, not because of the money or success but because he has his wife that loves him and he is about to start a family.

‘She’s Mine, Pt. 2’  is a song that had everyone confused from the beginning. The track is about a newborn child and how she changed his life. Everyone was confused because up until hearing this song the public was unaware that J.Cole had a child. It was quite an announcement. He again talks about how the little angel changed not only his life, but his perspective on the world. He goes on at the end of the song to say, “There is a God, it is a God, yeah it is a God, I never felt so alive, I never felt so alive”. After having his first child it has given him the confidence to believe in God again.

The final track on the project was definitely the most significant for Cole. It was the reason that the album was made. It was the fuel behind the whole process, where all of the passion came from. The song ‘4 Your Eyez Only’, named after the album is a very long and poetic story clocking in just shy of 9 minutes. He uses every second to get his story across. The story starts out with Cole talking about the situation that so many young men in poverty stricken communities find themselves in. He is talking about having to sell drugs to keep the lights on and having enough money to feed his daughter. He wants to make a decent living, he wants to earn his own money through hard work but because he has felony charges he can’t even get a job scrubbing toilets. At this point in the song just before the second verse we know that J.Cole is not talking about himself but we aren’t sure exactly who the story is about. He then says at the end of first verse,

“Play this tape for my daughter and let her know my life is on it (For your eyes) For your eyes only”

Jermaine is delivering a message for his friend James McMillan Jr., the friend mentioned throughout the album that was murdered at 22 years old. The rest of the song is a message from James for his only daughter. It is everything he wanted to say to his daughter because he knew that one day he wouldn’t have the chance to say it himself. In the final verse J.Cole comes back and speaks from his perspective again. He relieves the madness behind this song and explains that the day before James was murdered he had a feeling that he didn’t have much time. He called Jermaine and told him to write down everything that he saying. He wanted him to make a project and give it to his daughter when she was old enough for it. He goes on to repeat part of the conversation, this is what James said to Jermaine, “I got a feeling I won’t see tomorrow like the time I’m living on is borrowed. With that said, the only thing I’m proud to say, I was a father. Write my story down, and if I pass, go play it for my daughter when she ready”.

Cole then goes on to say “And so I’m leaving you this record, for your eyes only, don’t you ever scratch or disrespect it”. The young girl named Nina has to be in her teenage years at this point. He then talks about why her father did the things he did. Saying that he had no choice, he did the things he did because he loved his daughter. He was real man because he loved his daughter unconditionally.

At the end of the album, after the final note you hear the sound of a cassette tape being ejected. This has very significant value to the album. It is a very small detail that not many people have picked up on. On the opening track ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ we hear the click of a cassette tape entering a player. We learn through the final song that this project was meant as a departing message from James McMillan to his daughter. James asks Jermaine to “play this tape for my daughter” as the album ends. The last thing we hear is a cassette being ejected. The entire project was one cassette tape that J.Cole was playing for James’ daughter. Every single song was written through the perspective of James. Jermaine intertwined memories from both himself and James in each song. He masterminded it so that when you are listening to any of the songs on the project you would be able to imagine it as both of them at the same time. It was pure creative genius. It makes sense that the guy who went double platinum with no features would pull off a creative masterpiece like this.



Album Review: Campaign | Ty Dolla $ign


Ty Dolla $ign is a mixed-bag of tricks. His previous projects and consistent pushes as a featured artist show his undeniable versatility. He can swing between genres and instruments with his voice and rhythm effortlessly. His credentials stretch far beyond that of an “R&B singer”; as he is a go-to artist for a grocery list of industry greats. Though throughout the years, it’s not hard to notice, while his appeal hasn’t deteriorated, it certainly hasn’t evolved much. The same holds true for much of his latest offering Campaign, which is a sort of commercial mixtape release.

So let us get into that.

I go into every Ty Dolla song telling myself I will know what to expect. And trust me, that’s not an inherently bad thing. You would in fact find my name on a list of his fans, if such a list were to exist. So for this album, I held that same mental standard going into it. That said, my mind was open. I imagined getting a project chock-full of modestly-poppy instrumentals with slightly politically-tipped verses. And to little surprise, that’s essentially what we are dealing with here.

The project opens with a voice that resembles something of a conspiracists propaganda video using our presidential candidates as a platform to discuss the current state of violence in our country, speaking through a poem. Honestly, from here, I was excited. It’s deep enough to elicit the feelings of anyone with the slightest care in the world for politics, a sense of togetherness or both. Unfortunately, this is where any sense of higher purpose, is traded for the usual suspects.

Sonically, the project is sound. The production is familiar enough thanks to the likes of Hit-boy, Zaytoven, DJ Mustard and company, that it becomes another stretch of pavement on the 2016 musical highway. The instrumentals are a collage of staple elements. High hats tap away, while electronic symphonies of sounds build up a majority of the energy you can expect from Ty. The song “$” immediately following the opening track, is a testament to this formula. A wavy synth is lifted by occasional background harmonizing vocals. The man in charge ends up using the moment to stand in front of a mirror and boost his confidence, continually singing “Dolla you know you the shit”. But, his ability to flow over the elements in the beat, make it one of the more enjoyable cuts on the tape.

Next stop, is title track “Campaign”. He uses the metaphor of doing numbers in the sense of album sales as compared to what are presumably the numbers in the polls. The production holds heavier trap elements and sees the assistance of Future, a proper suitor for the style. The album continues on the same pace while making a few slight turns along the way. One of those turns comes in the form of “3 Wayz” with Travis Scott. It honestly sounds like a lost track from Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight. The dreary, Halloween night-style instrumental is instantly recognized as having Scott’s hands all over it.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Ty Dolla $ign album without the hedonistic bedroom songs to which his voice is so perfectly fitted. Tracks like “Zaddy”,“Hello” and “R&B” effectively swing your thoughts from the party going on in the basement to a more intimate setting. The latter of the three is a meta-ode to the genre. Ty name-drops artists like the immortalized Ginuwine to more recent entries like The Weeknd as a part of his sex playlist.

But I think the most surprising and satisfying track on the rundown is the next one, “Stealing”. The acoustic underlay of a guitar sets the tone perfect. Ty croons to his momma, pleading for her not to judge his being a criminal. A criminal how you ask? For stealing all these women’s hearts. It works so damn well. Then the formulaic tendencies fall back in line for the remainder of the project and half-assed political rantings find themselves on the back-end of a few tracks along the way. Instead of sounding inspired they end-up severely jarring, like trying to talk to your girlfriend about plans for the night, but your friend keeps jumping in to ask you if you’re going to vote this year. Not to mention the song “No Justice” which is his best shot at taking a legitimate stand on an issue. Problem is, it is horribly wedged between two tracks about sex.

Ty does some things better than most, no doubt about it. When he’s in his pocket on this project, it’s exactly what you could expect from him. The tape is a victim of itself and its marketing. The very things he relies on and clearly has a firm grasp of, are exactly the things that hold this project back from being great. This project iterates the thing a plethora of artists are guilty of. It’s as though Ty figured out he’s good at hitting shots in the paint consistently… so he keeps his feet planted inside the metaphorical three-point line, all the time. It was marketed like a political-album and much like a political campaign, the expectations of change at the end, far exceed the reality of it all.


Mixtape Review: New English | Desiigner


Very little is known about Sidney Royel Selby III, aka G.O.O.D. Music‘s newest signee, Desiigner. After being blessed by Kanye West with a feature on his recent LP, The Life of Pablo, the 19-year-old Brooklyn native was thrown into the rap scene with tremendous force. His debut single ‘Panda’, which was featured on Kanye’s ‘Father Stretch My Hands Pt 2’, went number 1 and stayed at the top for a number of weeks, making the record more successful than anyone could have ever imagined. Perhaps the only thing bad that came out of ‘Panda’ is Desiigner’s striking similarities in sound to Atlanta rapper, Future. And ever since, you can’t hear Desiigner’s names without accusations of him biting from Future. After catapulting to the top with just one single, many were waiting to see if he would be able to compose a complete project that would match his new found popularity. New English is Desiigner’s attempt at such an LP.

Desiigner starts off New English with a classical string intro, which is not something that you would expect from a new drill artist. The project’s Intro quickly transitions into a hard hitting song titled ‘Caliber’. This is the type of track that you hope Desiigner would make. It’s fast, lots of base, and inaudible, which is a common theme throughout the LP. Just by listening to this first track, one can tell that this album is going to be one that you play when you want to jump around and throw your body in every direction. Desiigner repeats the word “caliber” 41 times in this one song alone, so it’s purpose on the project is clearly not for its substance. If you are looking for music with intricate and witty lyrics like J. Cole or Kendrick Lamar, you are in the wrong place. If you are looking for music to make sure that you keep the aux cord for the rest of the car ride while you are with your friends, then you might want to stick around.

The next song, titled ‘Make It Out’, is especially confusing from the start. The transition between ‘Caliber’ and this record is very abrupt and sudden. The former track stops in the middle of a verse and then you are thrown into the latter. In fact, the majority of his songs were between 24 seconds and 2 minutes. The record is a confusing one, as it sounds like there are 3 different artists on this one track alone, however it’s all Desiigner. One verse sounds like G Herbo and then on another it sounds like DMX. Desiigner is a shapeshifter.

The song ‘Shooters’ consists of Desiigner saying “finna pull up with the shooters” about 24 times and the most aggressive tongue rolls you have ever heard in your life. One of the definite ways to tell if you are listening to a Desiigner song is to listen for his already classic ad-lib grunts or tongue rolls. They have become his signature sound. The next song ‘Monstas & Villains’ is only 37 seconds long and consists of one hook. Perhaps he wants to make his songs short enough so that people actually listen to the entire track. He then fills up time with an interlude in New English, three total throughout the project. When your mixtape has three instrumentals and it’s still incredibly short, you know you’re in trouble. ‘Talk Regardless’ is yet again another repetitive track. As many could expect, this mixtape lacks content and is not up to par lyrically. But with drill and trap music, perhaps that’s what you sign up for.

‘Da Day’ is the longest song on the album and features Milly.CTD. He has some good lyrics and it is refreshing to understand what he is saying. When Desiigner comes on you are sucked back into jumping around. This is not an album that you can listen to by yourself. You are only putting yourself in danger of breaking everything around you. Following up is the ‘Jet’, which features G.O.O.D. Music president, rapper Pusha T. The track speaks on all of the things worthy of spending money on; like cars, chains, women and more.

The final song on the mixtape is of course the song that made this Brooklyn kid the star he is today. The song that gets him invited to Kanye West premieres, add his name to the XXL Freshman Class, and the one that will be the driving force behind his millions of dollars in the near future. ‘Panda’ is one that we can all recognize and recite, well at least the bridge which consists of “Hey Panda, Panda,Panda, Panda, Panda, Panda, Panda, Panda, Panda, Panda.” I guess that’s all it takes to make it in the rap world in 2016. The public was livid when the XXL Freshman Class was released. With all these young artists that rap repetitive lyrics that no one can relate too it’s only a matter of time before it’s too late for hip hop. The silver lining is that there is definitely an audience for New English, and while Desiigner may not be the most conscious rapper today, he doesn’t have to be. He is still a kid in many ways who has a number of projects ahead of him to find his own sound and voice.6.0

EP Review: There’s Alot Going On | Vic Mensa

Theres Alot Going On

If you would have asked my opinion on Vic Mensa a year ago, it wouldn’t have been positive. As a fan of his since Kids These Days, the youthful and musical Chicago rock/rap outfit that made incredible waves to establish the new Chicago sound that dominates the city now, the quality that drew myself and many others into Vic and his brand was his musicality. He had this ability to effortlessly rap with intricate flows and dynamic lyricism, backed by acoustic and jazzy beats and made an effort to standout amongst his generational contemporaries. Fast forward to his eventual departure from the band and the release of his breakout project INNANETAPE in 2013, and Vic not only found himself as one of rap’s most sought after free agents, but he also found himself in a lane to himself. The potential for crossover appeal to any genre seemed limitless, as the team of collaborators and producers on the tape were an eclectic and promising mix.

In the years between then and now, Vic has gone through a series of transformations and experimental journeys with his music. The whirlwind of events that included collaborating with Kanye West on multiple occasions and signing to JAY Z’s Roc Nation label should’ve produced promising results from Vic as a solo artist, but the truth is, it did the opposite. From a distance, it seemed like Vic found himself bending his sound and biting his sharp-tongue, ultimately dumbing down his material in the name of appealing to the masses and the current rap climate. His slick lyricism was reduced to songs that borrowed titles and motifs from internet memes, (the Skrillex produced ‘No Chill’ and the noisy Kanye collaboration ‘U Mad?’) and the production cues were a lot less inspired and catered more to a pop-rap sensibility. A sizeable chunk of his fans found themselves scratching their heads and feeling disconnected from the guy they initially championed, and as people began to connect the dots and formulate their own conclusions, the truth is, Vic was seen more as a product than a human being.

In his first project in almost three years, There’s Alot Going On is a project that doesn’t really try to revert back to his jazzier ways or even attempt to stand as an apology record. Instead, Vic finds a new sonic balance with the cold, sparse trap-flavoured beats courtesy of Papi Beatz, but lyrically divulges more about his personal life and his socio-political perspectives than ever before. These subjects range from Vic’s personal connections to current events like the Flint Water Crisis or the current epidemic of police brutality against African-Americans, while he also takes time to catch the listener up on his own personal struggles with anxiety, addiction, and depression.

The project opens with ‘Dynasty’, a track that is a frenzied and dizzying showcase featuring some of Vic’s hardest bars we’ve ever heard from him. A looped sample lays the groundwork for an introductory verse, all before a slow build and then a scorching drop into sliding 808s and punchy snares. This formula strikes gold on a few other occasions, especially with the previously released banger ‘Danger’ with an incredible vocal performance from Vic on the hook that is packed full on energy. The raps here aren’t all that impressive though, and the uninspired subliminal shots at Drake are guaranteed to induce an eye-roll or two. However, those moments of dissatisfaction with Vic and his rhymes are a rare sensation on this project, as most of this EP features master-class rapping with sentiments that are truly moving and stimulating.

’16 Shots’ is a militant, iron-hearted response to police and the institutional racism that currently infects the veins of the US government and law enforcement entities. It’s a brilliantly and passionately crafted ode to those young black lives lost, and sympathizes not only with their complexion, but with their families, with their pain, and with their rage. Specifically, the song makes reference to the murder of 17-year old Chicago youth Laquan McDonald, a black male who was ruthlessly shot 16 times by a cop standing three feet away. Laquan was armed only with a knife, and the rounds were emptied out in rapid succession in thirteen seconds. The hook borrows from an iconic hip-hop sample, and is almost designed to be chanted by crowds and protesters alike. It’s verses maintain an interesting balance of quasi-conscious bars while also remaining very violent and combative, a quality that effectively captures the reaction to such a shooting and others like it. The song is everything a socio-politically charged hip-hop song should be—captivating, truthful, and brim-filled with vigour.

Vic’s ability to enlighten the world around him is both commendable and powerful, but the EP’s most potent moment exists in the tape’s final track where he turns the spotlight inward. There’s Alot Going On sees Vic expound on the past couple years he’s had, candidly revealing his battles with depression and addiction. He spills his heart out, exposing all his vices and faults for what they are, whether it’s him taking the responsibility for failed relationships, naming all his vices from adder all to alcohol—it’s a frenzy of chronological moments designed to catch the listener up on what’s been going on between the ears of Vic. It’s a heart-wrenching and humanizing song that floats incredibly well atop Papi Beatz’s brick-hard drums and haunting chords that perfectly ties up this moment, and sets up the next one. It truly seems that “the new” Vic Mensa has really just returned to his old self with a new lease on life and a true sense of poise and purpose, and for someone who was worried a year ago about the future of Vic Mensa, it’s time to admit that this is by far his best work to date.


Album Review: Views | Drake


This album is one that has been anticipated since Drake’s latest project with Future. The album What A Time To Be Alive was an album that was mostly fast, hard, crisp rap. The album was taking off with great success. Being played in nearly every club across the world. It was hard to go somewhere and not hear a song on the album. Drake’s latest album, Views, had very high hopes from everyone. It is going to be hard to top his last album. Would he reignite the beef that he had with Meek Mill over the summer? Would he have more songs featuring top artists like Future and Kanye West? People were ready to turn up and jam these songs all summer long. After listening to this album for weeks it is easy to say that Drake has completely transitioned from modern rapper to R&B mogul. You can tell just by the album art that he has been posting on his social media and website. He did a photoshoot with scenery from multiple places in “The 6”. Wearing thick leather coats, posing with models, sitting in his Rolls-Royce Phantom, standing in front of mansions with his dog. Nearly every picture gave a very lavish feel to the project.The most notable being his album cover which depicts him sitting on the edge of the 1500 ft CN Tower in Toronto. Drake religiously reps Toronto, the city with which he calls home. The music on the album is very similar to his early work. He is using his vocal range in many songs and has amazing instrumentals. This album might have some of the best sounds that I’ve heard on an album in a very long time.

Starting off the album is the song ‘Keep The Family Close’. Having an adlib at the beginning of a Drake song is something to be expected. Speaking on how all of his “let’s just be friends” suddenly aren’t there when he needs them. As soon as he is not giving people money or love they are gone. They completely abandon him, even though they seemed like they would have been with him through everything. Moving to L.A. was something that he had to adjust to, and something that he wishes didn’t have to happen. This is a good opening track.

The song ‘Redemption’ is a song where Drake sings about ex flames, it is very similar to ‘Marvin’s Room.’ On the track he reflects on how he gave his girl everything and that it just wasn’t enough. Now that he is one of the most popular rappers in the world she has feelings of redemption every time she thinks of him. She still drives the car that drake bought her, still wears the jewelry and the clothes that he gave her. This does not sit well with Drake. Even though she is happy with another man, Drake doesn’t care. He knows that he is her best option.

‘Faithful’ is a track that has some great featured artists. Starting with an adlib featuring social media goddess Amber Rose where she can be heard saying “I’m high maintenance a little bit but not in a, not in a negative way, I just like extremely expensive things”. Next is a very short 20 second intro verse from Pimp C. Drake talks about a very successful powerful woman that has little time to waste on relationship with him because she is so busy “working” on her career.  We get an idea of who he is talking about… possibly the stunning “work work work” artist? If she were to put her time into a relationship with Drake he promises to not have affairs and to be faithful. He wants to put what they talk about in texts into reality. Finishing up the song is dvsn, he absolutely kills it. He has one high note in the song that is just so satisfying. Overall a fantastic song.

One of the more notable songs on the album is ‘One Dance.’ With a touch of reggae and islander influence this song has hit the top of charts. After being featured on Rihanna’s latest album Drake has been accused of being a bandwagoner when it comes to the reggae sounds. Reggae is actually very alive and well in Toronto believe it or not. It is a possibility that Drake had been surrounded by that type of music his whole life. Either way he managed to grab people’s attention. The song talks about how once Drake has a Hennessy in his hand he can’t resist his girl and needs one more dance before he leaves. The instrumentals on the song are extremely catchy. The lyrics are nothing extraordinary but the overall sound of the track is.

Drake and Future have once again collaborated to make a power song. ‘Grammy’ is a reminder that Drake still has aggressive bars to throw. There is no smooth R&B vocals on this track. Once Future is brought in on the song it takes a turn from aggressive to turn up. Repeating the line “They gon’ think I won the Grammy” several times before his verse. Future has dropped 5 very successful albums that many people would argue should have won him a Grammy by now.  Kanye West the God of twitter recently took to his social media to let the public know that he believes that Future needs to be at the next Grammy awards. If Future keeps up his work ethic he should make it eventually.

‘Child’s Play ‘is one of my favorite songs on the album. Starting out with a very funny adlib saying “breaking news…. If your girl is at any season opener basketball game….she is sleeping with one of them”. The song has a very catchy repeating instrumental that fades out into a sleek vocal session. Speaking on how he is annoyed with his girls “child play”. He buys her everything and gives her everything that she could ever dream of but she still argues with him at the Cheesecake Factory. The best line on the song and possibly the album is when he says “Momma is a saint, yes she raised me real good. All because of her I don’t do you like I should. Don’t make me give you back to the hood. Don’t make me give you back”. This caused some controversy among people on the internet saying that Drake didn’t respect women. While I’m definitely not of that same opinion, the song is still very catchy and fluid.

‘Views’ starts out like a Chance The Rapper song with a gospel choir and fiercely transitioned into a hard hitting bar session. This is Drakes “I told you so” track. Putting all of his competition and haters in their place with this track reminding them who’s king. Who put in the work, who’s the rap mogul of 2016, who gets the girl, who runs the game? That’s right, Aubrey Drake Graham does. He lets them know of all his accomplishments and how he didn’t need anyone to get him there unlike all of his competitors. He tells them that he jump started their careers.

Finishing off the album is ‘Hotline Bling.’ This song took over the internet months before the album was dropped. With a very plain but very affective music video Drake managed to become an internet meme. He wasn’t necessarily being made fun of, it just became an iconic dance. The song talks about how whenever his cell phone rings late at night he knows that it is a certain girl that wants his love. It is the perfect song to end the album and one that you would expect to end it.

Throughout the entire album there are lines dropped ripping apart Meek Mill. Drake has a way with music where you can listen to a song and get lost in the instrumental and not even pay attention to the lyrics sometimes. It’s the same thing if you were to listen to song in a different language. As long as the song sounds good you continue to listen. There are some people that listen to Drake’s music for the sound and some that listen for the poetry and lyrics. That is why he kills the game so much. He is able to strive in both departments. Drake has a very bright future ahead of him and i’m very excited to see what he cooks up in the future. I am very satisfied with this album and I will have something to jam to all summer long.


Album Review: Coloring Book | Chance The Rapper

Chance 3

After the long anticipated releases of Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo and Drake’s Views, there still remained two huge projects that rap fans were patiently waiting for in 2016, Frank Ocean’s sophomore release Boys Don’t Cry and Chance The Rapper’s first solo project since his 2013 breakout and sophomore mixtape, Acid Rap. And while Frank’s fans still have an indefinite wait ahead of them, the rap world rejoiced as Chance The Rapper finally blessed fans with his third mixtape free album. Titled Coloring Book, a title that was kept secret until its release, this may be Chance’s top project yet and a definite and promised improvement from his Social Experiment collaboration and heavily guest featured 2015 project, Surf. While Coloring Book still shares an all-star cast of features (Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Future, Lil Wayne, Young Thug, 2 Chainz and many more) that Surf made headlines with, it excels in the overall quality of music and is a much more cohesive project than Surf, similar to Chance’s efforts on Acid Rap, yet an album that differs from Acid Rap in many ways. Three years for a solo project since Chance The Rapper became the new young face of Chicago hip-hop may have seemed like an eternity, but we can now say that it was well worth the wait.

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Album Review: At Night, Alone | Mike Posner

At Night, Alone

Mike Posner has made his most honest album yet with At Night, Alone. Titled after how the Detroit singer/songwriter tells fans the way the LP should be listened too, Posner certainly took his time for sophomore album. After the release of his 2010 debut, 31 Minutes To Takeoff, which was Posner’s third project in just two years (when you include his 2009 mixtapes which launched the singer/songwriter into the college music scene), Posner’s hiatus between albums even had Frank Ocean fans feeling sympathetic. And with the great success of Posner’s breakout single, ‘Cooler Than Me’, and a number of scrapped projects, fans began to wonder if they had seen the last of Mike Posner.

Fortunately for fans, Mike Posner shed any doubts that he could escape the “one hit wonder” title with the success of his single, ‘I Took A Pill In Ibiza’. Like the success of ‘Cooler Than Me’, Mike Posner’s second breakout single did not see it’s success overnight. Both tracks were available for many months before an upbeat club mix came in to save the day for the record’s commercial success. While I personally enjoy and prefer the OG versions of both records, the remixes were a smart move and much needed to share Posner’s music with a broader audience. And not only is ‘I Took a Pill In Ibiza’ on par with the success Posner saw in 2010, but the record landed him his first No. 1 on Billboard’s Pop Music charts.

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EP Review: Twenty88 | Big Sean & Jhene Aiko


A collaboration between Big Sean and Jhene Aiko is something that 2016 needed. Big Sean’s last album Dark Sky Paradise was his best work so far, and the album that really created his own sound. Jhene’s last album Souled Out dropped 2 years ago. The artists have pretty much gone into hibernation since then. The two brought together their talents to form the group “Twenty88.” It’s hard to tell if Twenty88 is a one time thing or if they will drop more sexy R&B albums in the future.

The self titled album by Twenty88 is bound to be something special, one can only expect this album to have beautiful high notes from Jhene and low, smooth bars from Sean about love, lust, and ex’s. The EP project is about the tension and power struggle that couples go through, only having 8 songs. On the other hand, there are songs about the real love and passion that comes after those meaningless fights. Both Jhene and Sean have had their fair share of relationships and side pieces. This album has songs that are both personal to them, and songs that every person can relate too. There are also a lot of songs that people simply can not relate to. You only have those experiences if you are at the celebrity status of Big Sean or Jhene Aiko. It is fun to listen to some of these songs and get a taste of what it is like to be in  love with an A list celebrity.

Starting off the project is the song ‘Déjà vu.’ Big Sean drops his classic “straight up” line to start the song. When you hear “straight up” you know the song is about to be lit. With soft Drake like beats, we get a smooth harmony between the two artists that makes you rewind to listen again.  The song is about a memory the both Sean and Jhene share that brings them back to the times they had with each other while they were together. The couple has been broken up for 3 years and are just seeing each other again for the first time since. Reminiscing on the past and how great they were together. Only problem is that it’s far too late. She already has a kid, is dating an athlete, and doesn’t have time for him. The damage is done. The only thing they can do now it look back at what they used to have.

The second song ‘Selfish’ is a song where the artists express how they felt about the person playing hard to get. Sean speaks on how he dropped all of his other girls for her, spent money he didn’t have, lost sleep for her and she doesn’t even have the time to text him back. Jhene has good reasoning for being shady towards Sean. She asks him how someone could betray and lie to someone that had been with them through thick and thin. Both of them are doing things that are not healthy for the relationships.

They have an interesting song named ‘Talk Show.’ The song is an interview with Big Sean and Jhene on a popular talk show where they are invited to talk about their relationship. They are the power couple at the time and have to keep the act up. The beginning of the song they both say how much they love each other and how perfect they are. Once Sean expresses his love for Jhene she confesses that they really aren’t so perfect. She calls Sean out in front of everyone for cheating on her. Sean bites back by saying that he hates when she tries to make there business public. Being hypocritical, he tells everyone that she also cheated on him. This song is meant to show that just because celebrity couples look perfect and happy, there are usually some pretty evil things going on behind the scenes.

The final song on the short album named ‘London Bridge’ is about how historical it is going to be when they break up. Through out the album you see them fall in love, get torn apart, and then fall back in love. If one of them were to leave it would be as historical as when the London Bridge fell down in the 19th century. This song is really one that has one of those “happy” endings. This whole album had a constant story line. While listening you felt like you were watching a movie.

Well guess what, Twenty88 decided to make a 14 minute film about the album. The short movie titled “Out Of Love” is everything that you would want to see after listening to this album. Being set in the future you still see that love is that same whether its 2016 or 2116. It features nearly all the songs. There are some R-Rated sex scenes and other things that make this album that much more real. Be warned, listening to this album will bring back memories whether you like it or not.


Album Review: Mind Of Mine | Zayn

Mind of Mine

This is why Zayn Malik left One Direction after 5 years. The announcement of Zayn Malik leaving the band that he had grown up with, traveled the world with, created number one albums with, and made millions of dollars with was not only a shock to Directioners but also to the everyday music enthusiast. The Bradford, England born singer made it big when he was just 17 years of age. His given name was Zain Javvad Malik, of Pakistani descent, in which he later decided to change to his stage name of Zayn Malik. Gathering the courage to perform on the X Factor was the first step in the life changing journey that young Zayn was about to embark on. Simon Cowell was the mastermind behind 1D and the judge from X Factor that created the dynamic and charismatic band back in 2010. After seeing all 5 boys perform separately in different X Factor auditions, he decided to forge all of their talents and have them try out as a unit. The rest is history.

After their first number one hit the band immediately blew up. As their fan base grew, so did the boys. There are always certain roles in a “boyband” that have to be taken by a member whether or not it fits that person’s personality of not. Harry Styles was the cover boy and the heart throb. The other boys filled the roles of: funny one, mature one, smart one, and the mysterious/bad one. Zayn was pushed into the mysterious role because he was so quiet in group interviews. The average person doesn’t even really know what his speaking voice sounds like. Zayn was the bands go to for high notes. He wasn’t given as much airtime as Harry even though it is a valid argument that he is a better singer. Zayn was pushed into the shadows. After announcing his retirement from the band it was immediately rumored that there was a horrible fight between the bandmates. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. He left One Direction because the whole band scene didn’t fit him anymore. He felt like he needed a break from it to focus on himself and his family. He is still on good terms with all his mates that he started his musical career with and they support him.

No one really knew what to expect with the launching of his new album. In addition to dropping out of the band, he also dropped his last name, changing his name again he now represents himself as simply Zayn.  Is he a bratty superstar who got greedy? Will he sink as a solo artist or will he get the recognition he thinks he deserves? This album could make or break this young artist’s musical endeavors. Failing at a solo career, after leaving one of the most powerful boy bands in the world- as of today, is defiantly something that would haunt the 23 year old artist for a long time to come.

Life is all about risks, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Zayn has defiantly, without a doubt come out on top. His debut solo album Mind of Mine is one that will be at the top of the charts for quite some time. It is currently number one on the Billboard Album Chart. The album cover resembles that of Tha Carter III by Lil Wayne. A toddler version of Zayn is portrayed with matching tattoos on both his arms and hands as well as a golden bracelet. Dropping the music video for ‘PILLOWTALK’ featuring his supermodel/social media icon girlfriend GiGi Hadid was the first step in getting the attention of his fans. The video went viral that day, racking up millions of views and downloads. Leaving everyone anxious to hear the rest of the album, Zayn had everyone in the palm of his hand.

The intro to his album has a strange spelling as do all of the songs on his project. ‘MiNd Of MiNdd’, is a quick 57 second song with high vocals that gives you an idea about what he is capable of and what the rest of the album will sound like. Following up is his new hit song ‘PILLOWTALK’. This title is in all caps along with 4 other songs. It is hard to tell why some songs are all caps and others are alternating between uppercase and lowercase. It was a stylistic choice that fits the mysterious artist. I believe the reason that he did this was so that the listener can come up with their own theories for what each spelling means. Its up to each individual listener to decide. ‘PILLOWTALK’ gives you an in depth look into what the real meaning behind pillow talk really is. For some, pillow talk can be an awkward 45 minutes before getting up and sending that person home, but for Zayn it is his favorite thing to do with his significant other. Singing about how he loves waking up next to his girl every morning, not caring about the noise they make, and how pure and raw it really is.

The next track titled ‘iT’s YoU’ is a slower song where Zayn really hits you in the feels with long soft vocals referencing how no matter how much he hates it , he knows deep down that this certain girl is the one for him. Questioning himself saying “Am I wrong for wanting us to make it?” Zayn is very honest in this track saying “Could it be that it’s a lesson that I never had to learn, I looked at it like a blessing but it’s just a curse.” He’s confessing that he has never had his heart broken. Many can relate to this.

Another heavy hitter on the album is the song ‘dRuNk’.’ dRuNk’ is exactly what you would think it’s about, but it has a little bit more to it’s meaning than just getting drunk on shots late at night. Zayn communicates his emotions about how he feels when he is with this person that has the ability to make him feel drunk simply with their presence.  Another interesting stylistic choice to this album, besides the spelling of the songs is that it has an intermission. It is titled ‘INTERMISSION: fLoWer’. The intermission fades into Zayn singing in Urdu, a tribute to his Pakistani descents. The short song is actually a very tranquil piece to listen to, even without translation, it is very peaceful.

The song ‘wRoNg’ feat. Kehlani is the only song on the album that has a featured artist on it. In an interview with Complex News Zayn said after that Kehlani was his favorite artist that he has ever worked with. He was very excited to have her on his first ever solo project. They absolutely killed the song. The aggressive song is a message that Zayn has for all the girls that are trying to get to his heart through his bed sheets. Throughout the song saying “You’re looking in the wrong place for my love, don’t think because you’re with me this is real” just because she is spending the night at his house doesn’t mean it’s going to be anything more.”  While he is not complaining, he is being straight up honest.

The track ‘fooL fOr YoU’ makes you want to call up your ex and make everything right again. On the song,  Zayn speaks to how even though the love is tainted, he still needs her and he hates it. He loves everything this girl does and can’t help but miss her. Nearly everyone can relate to this song, whether you are a fan or not, this song will make you want to listen twice. One of the more sex driven songs named ‘TiO’, standing for take it off, is about Zayn not being able to wait for his girl to take off her makeup and clothes. This will eventually lead to pillowtalk in the morning which we know by now is one of Zayn’s favorite hobbies.

Zayn recently performed the song ‘LIKE I WOULD’ at the iHeart Music Awards, it would be his first solo performance on live TV. This was really a make or break for the fresh artist. Would it turn out that he is all autotuned, like so many artists, and that he can’t perform well when it’s live? Would he be able to hit the high notes that he is known for?  The performance was filled with stunning lasers, a successful range of high notes and a standing ovation at the end. He absolutely killed it, solidifying his spot as a top tier performer. ‘LIKE I WOULD’ is a fast tempo song about a conversation between himself and an ex lover. Singing to this woman about how the man that she is with will never be able to satisfy her like he would. How Zayn is the best fit for her and that she will soon realize it.

Overall this album has a new spin on R&B that only the mysterious Zayn could produce. He has an interesting sound that draws you in and make you listen to his songs over and over. There is a reason that he is number one on the charts and in people’s hearts right now. The old Zayn will be missed by Directioners. I have a feeling that they will be able to move on with the new Zayn dropping hot albums like this every couple of years.


Album Review: This Unruly Mess I’ve Made | Macklemore

This Unruly Mess I've Made

With the announcement of This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, many will question the stylistic approach that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have taken with this new album.  Two years have passed since the pair won four Grammy Awards, including Best Rap Performance for their  hit, Thrift Shop. Macklemore is mostly known for his pop songs but he does have some lyrical diamonds in the rough. Seldom speaking on serious issues, but when he does, like in his hit song Same Love, the public loves it.  The duo has a history of alternating between gleeful and genuine. Straying from the musical norm as well as the social norm, Macklemore’s taste for eccentric apparel has helped to create his unconventional image.

Upon scanning the features on Macklemore’s most recent album, one can only expect a tremendous amount of firepower. Macklemore was able to acquire the skills of Mike Slap, Eric Nally, Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee, Grandmaster Caz, Xperience, Krs-One, Dj Premier, Ed Sheeran, Leon Bridges, Chance The Rapper, Idris Elba,  Anderson Paak, YG, Carla Morrison, & Jamila Woods.

The first song, ‘Light Tunnels’, catapults the listener into an intense instrumental, which fades into Macklemore’s experience at the Grammy’s. He spits about the pretentious atmosphere and the gaudy aura, noting that the ceremony revolves around insecurities and viewer ratings. We all remember when he ran away with four awards that night, beating out Kendrick Lamar and then posting their text messages later that night on Instagram. It was a strange text apologizing Kendrick and saying that he thought he was robbed. No one really knows why he would send a text like that nor does anyone know why he would post it on Instagram.

Next he jumps into one of his old habits and signature songs. The song ‘Downtown’ is about his crew and himself cruising through the city on mopeds that were just recently bought in an impulsive decision. The music video gives off a very 1980’s vibe. The video depicts a lot of leather, fur and afros. There is a  motorcycle chariot,  a stuffed moose welded on the front of a motorcycle, and many other strange props. Finishing off the video is a scene similar to that of the  Ferris Buellar’s Day Off  parade , filled with more leather, fur, afros, and mopeds. Next up on the album is another strange one named ‘Brad Pitt’s Cousin’. It talks about his cats’ Instagram, his “cousin” Brad Pitt, how every white dude in America went to the barber shop and said “give me the Macklemore haircut”, his text messages between God and himself, “deez nuts”, and how he used to smoke that purple weed. This bar that was dropped about purp is the first of many on this album. He says “I used to smoke that purple weed, sip a bunch of purple drank, that shit did just not work for me ,now I drink that herbal tea”. This is overall a goofy song but there are glimpse of greatness that make me hopeful for the rest of the album.

In his 3rd song he talks of his younger years. After he was done with his shifts at Subway, he would catch the bus equipped with speakers,  spray paint and a location to meet up with the squad. Touching on how he would be dipping police in alleys and spray painting walls gave this album a new feel. He was in on the graffiti scene and wasn’t going to let the fact that it was illegal hold him back. This song has a kind of grimy feel to it.

Macklemore recently had a daughter and this next song is for her. ‘Growing Up’ feat. Ed Sheeran, is a feel good song with Macklemore trying to explain life to his infant daughter the best he can in 5 minutes and 5 seconds. He made the song so that his daughter can listen to it when she’s 20 and remember why her dad does what he does.

Up next is one of the most powerful and real songs on the album. ‘Kevin’ is a song that is personal to Macklemore. It tells the story of how he lost one of his good friends to Oxycontin, at the young age of 21. With prescription drugs being more readily available than ever before, Macklemore attacks the big pharmaceutical companies for providing doctors the opportunity to over prescribe people left and right. He calls for more rehab centers instead of jail time. He has a powerful verse where he says “Look at Kevin, now he’s wrapped in plastic, first dealer was his mom’s medicine cabinet”. He next rifles off every kind of prescription drug you can think of and the reasons they are given out. You can hear the exasperation and passion in his voice throughout the whole song. Leon Bridges comes in with his fantastic old soul vocals to add the cherry on top “Doctor, please, give me a dose of the american dream. Put down the pen and look in my eyes. We’re in the waiting room and something ain’t right. All this is on you, we’re over prescribed.” This song is one that will hit home for many listeners considering 52 million americans over the age of 12 have used prescription drugs non-medically in their lifetime.

‘St. Ides’, the well known 40 oz. alcohol brand endorsed by Ice Cube in the 90’s, is the title of the next track. Macklemore reflects on his childhood when he would steal his father’s cabernet. The young artist  had no idea what path it would potentially lead him down. It all comes full circle in this song for him with reflection on his problems with alcohol and drugs. He describes his struggle with just trying to see another Saturday, all the while telling himself that everything would be all alright.

The following song titled ‘Need To Know’ is a special one. I was excited for the next track as soon as I saw Chance The Rapper slide across my screen. Anything with Chance on it in the last 18 months has been fire, this track was bound to follow suit. To be honest, Chance completely robs the song from Macklemore and kills it. He confesses the path that he wants his daughter to go down, how he is pressured to change his lyrics from talking about God to talking about what’s cool, and how he wishes that he could go to open mics and go back to the night before he was famous. Just an all around great track. Macklemore and Chance could defiantly pull off more work in the future.

The song ‘Dance Off’  is literally about a dance off. When I saw that Idris Elba was featured, I was intrigued. A fast beat song with lots of electronics makes for a mediocre filler song for this album.

Following up is the song ‘Let’s Eat’. Macklemore is the only artist who can write a song about literally eating food. The whole song is about how he constantly says that he is going to go on that diet and start working out. Of course, every day he puts off the diet until the next day. I am not sure what to think about this upbeat happy song. This song may just simply be about food or it could be another song about how hard it is to stop using prescription drugs and alcohol for many people.

The song ‘Bolo Tie’ feat. YG was one that I was excited for.  It looked like it was going to be one of the only fast beat, turn up songs on this album, but I was wrong. This is a slower song about how everyone shot him down which eventually began to lower his self esteem. He then realized that he should not care about what people think of him. Once he started to do that he began to thrive. When he sings “keeping my name in your mouth, just don’t bite your tongue when you chew it”, he’s telling his haters that he doesn’t care what people have to say about him as long as he’s making music that has meaning to his fans and himself. YG comes in on his verse and takes the time to get some stuff off of his chest also. YG says “ when I got shot that was headline news, ya used me for views I ain’t stupid, cause what about all the good, the non profit for the kids in the hood” Both YG and Macklemore come into this track letting people know they don’t care what you have to say and that they live their lives the way they want to.

‘The Train’ is a touching song that takes you into Macklemore’s earlier life when he was trying to start up his career. Starting a career means being on the road and being away from friends and family. Consequently, this could ruin the relationships you have with the people you love. It is a hard decision to know whether or not to go for it or simply give up.  Thank God he decided to follow through.

The final song on the album ‘White Privilege II’ is an 8 minute follow up song to his 2005 track titled ‘White Privilege’. The disputed song is about the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. He goes to a police protest to be a part of the movement but doesn’t feel that it is his place to give his two cents on the subject. He feels incredibly awkward for “stealing” black culture. “We want to dress like, walk like, talk like, dance like, yet we just stand by. We take all we want from black culture, but will we show up for black lives?” says Macklemore about the serious topic in America today. The song is filled with conversations from both white and black people about the subject. This song will really make people think twice about white privilege.

Overall, this album is something that will shake up the status quo for the rap game. Macklemore has always wanted to be a rapper that preaches on social issues but was forced to make garbage songs like ‘Thrift Shop’ and ‘Downtown’ so that he could break out.  At the time he didn’t have the platform like a Kanye or a Justin Bieber to be able to talk about the things that he wanted to. As others have said, this album is disappointing yet occasionally lit. For every good and meaningful song there are 3 trash songs. The album jumps from very serious subjects to joke songs which diminishes the meaning behind the important topics. If you are going to make a serious social issue album, there should be consistency throughout the project. Likewise, the same consistency should exist in a funny upbeat album. Macklemore continues to shed his skin and is slowly coming out of his shell. He is still a little self conscious and feels that he needs his upbeat pop songs so that he has a platform for his serious messages. On his next project, he should go all in and make a meaningful album. By doing this, he will be taken much more seriously and given the respect he deserves.