Boomiverse by Big Boi(released on June 23rd)

In the midst of the changing atmosphere of hip hop,( including the generation gap, variance of opinions of how to respect the older rappers and what is a proper retirement age) there is a series of measuring marks. I have noticed that social media and presence there is one.  Some of the veterans don’t touch it, while others, like Big Boi, seem to be right at home.

In the hip hop world, there will always be a place for Big Boi, whether its for his fans from the Outkast days, or the newer fans who want a taste of the Atlanta sound.  On Boomiverse, Big Boi brings us further away from Outkast references and reunion wishes, and closer to the his current standing in the rap game and reality.

 

WHAT I EXPECTED:

an album full of very listenable beats, couple with Big Boi’s sharp lyrics and testimony of his track record over his long career.

 

WHAT I HEARD:

His third solo opens with him rapping right away on “Da Next Day”, spitting word play without a long buildup and takes a mid-song assist from old comrade Big Rube, who sounds fresh as ever.  while this song(and others) seem to leave you expecting a 3rd verse, long term fans will know that this will not occur on a Big album.  It is expected to enjoy the production as much as the lyrics, appreciating the beat as it slowly rides out on his own.

“Kill Jill” which features a tough but playful verse from Killer Mike and a hook from Jeezy, is an addictive mid tempo joint that samples what seems to be a sweet, foreign serenade throughout the background.

“MIc Jack” is an upbeat, dance selection that features singing from Adam Levine.  Big Boi professes to “Break it u like the smile of Michael Strahan” as he glides over synth-y music and hook that seems fairly simple.

Gucci Mane makes an appearance an appearance on “In the South” dane between thoughts of police brutality and his car, while Big double-times his flow that I wished was longer. Pimp C is featured on the hook, only the hook unfortunately. “Order of Operations” is a reflective look at Big’s career, while making a statement on handing his money in smart manner.  This is one of the stronger tracks. “All NIght” is a great song where Big displays an addictive chorus choice , while working a ragtime piano-infused melody into a party anthem.

Snoop sounds a bit redundant on “Lets Get with It”, but the two of them work the danceable beat into another party mover. “Overthunk” is a cool record but the hook doesn’t seem to meet the verses eye to eye.

 

By the time “Chocolate” featuring Troze comes on, you definitely get the idea that Big approached this album with the idea of a feel good product being the result. “Made Man” is a slow moving threat that is agressive and smooth simultaneously. “Freakonomics” sounds like a track that was left off of the Big Grams album, as it is filled with  the same sexually suggestive energy of that album.  Killer Mike’s third feature(yes three) closes out the album with “Follow Deez” which also features a hypnotic hook from Curren$y that states:

“Follow me into a land where Impalas squat
Young niggas with hammers and daily body drop
OGs survive, you still alive, a lot of niggas not
Smoking for my dead homies while I ride around.”

Surprisingly, the energy seems to pick with this hook and Curren$y’s verse for the win.

WISHLIST:

  • more verses, especially when the hooks ran long, almost calling for them
  • less features.  Big stands strong on his own.  There were too many.
  • i miss the mix of darkness and energy of the last solo album “Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors”, and wished that it was here.

Creativity – 80%

Production – 90%

Track Separation – 80%

Decent Percentage – 100%

OVERALL: 87%

SUMMARY:

I find this to be a very listenable album, combining the elements that we always expect from Big Boi: Strong lyrics and great music that doesn’t disappoint.  The areas of opportunity are usually there as well:him holding more of the album on his own, short verses at some points, but fuller ones at other points.  Because the music works so much for me, I do look past the point where some lines or just thoughts sound recycled.  What is good about the overall album is his playfulness with lines, and has been a staple of his sound for many years.  He is still well ahead of many of his contemporaries, but there is a part of me that hope for the exploring of new ground.

 

Wise Intelligent & Gensu Dean – Game of Death

GAME OF DEATH by Gensu Dean and Wise Intelligent

What I expected:

The most knowledgeable lyrics being spit, challenging my thoughts and spirit.  Given that this work was with Gensu Dean, I expected some charging beats, and soul samples.

 

What I heard:

From the top, I was surprised at the slow crawl of a beat for “WTF?” was used as the opening beat. I would have figured that Gensu would have switched to another track , like the first single “G.O.D. (Game of Death)”’ or the relentless charge of “Ever so Lightly.” The plead for better content in the hip hop world in “We Are” (where also he warns of “Neighbors are gentrified, scientific genocide, the ethnic cleansing your contention cause this shit so well designed”) and “Damn” (disappointment with current hip hop and Africa Bambaata scandal) are similar, and stick to the tone throughout the album. Mental gems that examine society are inputted throughout the 10 track, 34 minute album.

Wise Intelligent’s rapid fire flow is consistent throughout the album, imprinting the idea that he has never lost his skill. For anyone who hasn’t heard from him since the 90s, this might be a surprise.  This is his third album in the last 2 years, first since February’s “The Blue Klux Klan”, and first with producer veteran Gensu Dean on Mello Music Group.

Sharp skills, and a mind that scatters across may things at a speedy pace were not a surprise. In general, Wise Intelligent’s flow graces across black social commentary, being an aggressive advisor to perceived downfalls that include low quality hip hop, race-based hate, and missed messages.

Black fear is strongest track, touching on all that has been taken from the back community and the reasons to be afraid to believe in self and better things.  The lack of soul samples and light hearted topics lend to the overall feeling of the album, which is definitely dark.  Though “Amen” and “Ooh Wee(Shakiyla part 4)” are less dense, they are still laced with more warnings of pitfalls of society.

For Gensu Dean’s part, he usually comes with a mixed bag of musical treats.  On this album, absent are the vocal samples and funk guitar peices that he has worked with on past albums.  To match with Wise Intelligent’s fast-paced flow, he has reached for medium tempo, hard hitting drum beats coupled with a variety of sounds including chilling piano pieces and keyboards.  His best displays come in the music supplied for “Oooh Wee(Shakiyla Pt. 4)” and “Amen”.

 

Creativity – 65%

Production – 85%

Track Separation – 60%

Decent Percentage – 100%

Overall – 78%

 

Summary:

 

While I am highly satisfied with Wise Intelligent’s delivery and Gensu dean beat selection, I still wanted more from them.  I wanted Gensu to challenge Wise more, and I wanted Wise to contain his thoughts into each track more.   There was a long stream of negative thoughts on today’s music.  While this is entertaining, it slowly eased across the album as opposed to being sharply sectioned off to 2 or 3 tracks.  I also wish that he could have spoken more specifically to each of of his through, like a whole song dedicated to one, instead of sprinkling them all over like cupcake toppings. While cutting the sped-up vocal samples was a good move in my opinion, i wish that Gensu had challenged Wise more. All in all, it is album that provides a blunt opinion on black society and the state of hip hop, and is an upgrade to Wise Intelligent’s recent efforts.

Explanation of Reviews

What do the ratings mean?

Creativity – a rating of concept originality, level of imagination behind the tracks, and generation of ideas.  Several tracks that sound alike, concepts repeated from last album or associates, and rehashed ideas receive lower scores.  Fresh concepts, tracks that are easily separated becasue they each stand on their own due to different topics, and new takes on a old concept or new concept all together get higher marks.

 

Production _ basically, is your selection of beats hot.  Do we have banger after banger.  Are there awkward beats that song soft or weird, in a bad way.   Positive points are earned when the producer challenges the artist with unique beat selection.

 

Track separation – does you album song like a long stream of the same beats and ideas, or can I easily remember track 12, and easily separate it from track 15? Was there an effort to not only make the songs stand on their own musically, but also idea-wise or due to structuring.

 

Decent percentage – Now this number can be higher, but don’t be confused.  I can listen to some songs and say that they’re are decent, but the overall feel of the album is tired.  What decent percentage means is I was album to sit through the song, because it was “decent”.  The percentage of tracks on the album that achieve this vs to the total tracks in the percentage. If i can’t sit thru the track because the beat is awkward, the lyrics are dead and uneventful, i will skip the track.  Thus, a percentage is lowered,

 

Overall, is just the average of the prior percentage to make the album score.  To me, 90 to 100% is classic or damn near, 80 to 90 is very good, 70 to 80 is cool but could be better. 60 to 70 is bearable.  Less than 60 percent is hard to listen to, and goes down from there.

Kool G Rap – Return of the Don

RETURN OF THE DON by KOOL G RAP, released June 2nd 2017

What I expected:

Well, from the title, I did formulate a picture that included reaches back to the “4,5,6” album, and mentions of movie gangsters while G Rap maintains a strong flow.   I wasn’t expecting a rival to the illustrations of “Cuban Linx” or evenness of a more recent crime testimony, “Pinata” by Madlib and Freddie Gibbs.  I felt that the strength of the album rested in production and G Rap maintain the level of rhyming that he’s known for.

What I heard:

To tell a tale of the street life, one must be genuine in the words that they speak, and aggressive in how they present in.  A song or album about the street life can getboring quick if there aren’t detailed pictures painted or a balance between struggle and visions.

In past albums, New York rapper Kool G Rap has been no slouch at doing such.  I mean, he’s been doing this for almost 30 years.  He’s had practice.

Kool G Rap is rhyming as strong as ever throughout the album as his rides the musical selections, solely provided by Canadian Hip Hop Producer, MoSS.

The album is mostly a variance of mid-tempo beats that explore sounds from a flute to a driving guitar as the basis.  At times, I was envisioning “12 Reasons to Die” series by Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge.

There are strong guest verses throughout the album, most notably Fred Da Godson as he easily graces the beat on “Mack Lean”.  Crooked I/Kxng Crooked delivers a great verse on the 70’s soul-injected “World is Mine”. “Capitol Hill” features strong bars from Sheek Louch and Cormega, and a great testimonial of how ugly things can get in the hood, and how lavish it can become if the cards fall right.

There is nothing unexpected or surprising from through the course of the album, aside from a tight Sean Price verse.  At 49, Kool G Rap has found his lane, and has decided that it works.  There are no updates to his similes, and some stand dated(comparisons to Gary Coleman, long retired NBA Darryl Dawkins and long dead actor River Phoenix).  He mentions at the beginning of the album that the gangster shit that he spits is thought of by him as “reality rap”, which was a common reference term in interviews by his contemporaries many years ago.

Highlights

  the music , use of flute” on “Mack Lean”.  Strong verse by Fred Da Godson

 very strong production

 Kool G Rap is consistent in his appearance  and wordplay on his records, despite the long list of guests.

       

Wishlist

  • Broadening horizons.  I wish that there were some younger artists collabing with him.  THere are a lot of angles that could have been taken with this.  Either to show younger artists that are descendant of his multi-syllable legacy, or a mentoring track of criminality rap.
  • Storytelling
  • A ghostface collabo
  • Varied themes

 

Creativity – 65%

Production – 80%

Track Separation – 65%

Decent Percentage – 100%

Overall – 78%

 

Summary

 

It is a very listenable selection.  Kool G Rap doing what he’s been known to do for years.  There was a lot of help, and there were no surprises.  In some cases, if it aint broke, there shouldn’t be repair.  While I am very curious on how current activities by politicians, NYPD and other factors speak to the streets, he does come up with some of his strongest recent material.   I would have liked a visit to his storytelling practices, but I did hear quality delivery and strong production.   There is no doubt that Kool G Rap is able to hold his own in current times.

Lil’ Yachty – Teenage Emotions

Label:
Quality Control/Capitol/Motown
Release Date:
5/26/2017

In the world of the music industry, there exist boundaries and other defining lines. There have, at many times, been definitions of the line between artistry and entertainment. Within these definitions, there has definitely been a fair amount of crossing and meshing that finds us struggling to preserve the separation.

An artist like Lil’ Yachty has been registered by many as a resident of the entertainment world. He is regarded as one who will find what works for sales and attention, and lacks the respect of the “real hip hop” purveyors (Joe Budden included), and even has heard chuckles from fans of his contemporaries, regardless of level of relevance.

On his major label debut, Lil’ Yachty parts his trademark beaded braids to view the public in the eye on his testimonial Teenage Emotions.

What I Expected

I didn’t enter this looking for a variance of “emotions” or sounds. I fully expected endless boasts of financial standing and sexual conquests, along with the occasional dart at his critics.

What I Heard

Well, a lot of what I expected was in there.

I can say that this album was more varied than I expected. The album began with a welcome that references his lack of drinking, losing friends, money and desire to a star. The brags and desire continue on “DN Freestyle” and “Peekaboo”, his collaboration with Migos. On the former, his flow starts hard, but fizzles quickly as he steps away from the beat’s pace. This is an issue that I have found at other times with him, including his recent collaboration with Tee Grizzly. This continues over the next couple of songs, as he continues the same script of questioning haters, and previously mentioned topics.

Kamiyah steals the show on the collaboration “All Around Me”, which also features YG.

The turn of emotions comes from the block of songs that begin with “All You Had to Say” and “Better”, which actually shows pain from being let down and desires for a true love. Yachty attempts singing more, which isn’t so bad. This emotional turn continues on “Running with a Ghost” as he returns to rapping, and leaves the singing to Grace.

Lil Yachty’s rapping is most stable over “Priorities”, which feature a wavering back and forth of his morals. There is not enough of him being focused and measured with his lines on this album, which makes a 69-minute listen a bit difficult.

The production for the album overall is handled by multiple personnel including Digital Nas, The Stereotypes, and Earl. Ricky Racks, who produced “Peekaboo”, has no other selections amongst the 21 tracks. Sounds range from slow moving trap beats on “All You Had to Say”, to the steel drummed, island vibe of “Better”, and the 80s electronic drumming for “Bring it Back”, a yacht rock attempt from Yachty.

Highlights

  • Catchy tracks towards the middle of the album that are mostly singing, where he really gets to the core of his emotions (“Bring it Back”, “Made of Glass”, and “Running with a Ghost” all seem to be about heartbreak)
  • The risks on production work most of the time (dance hall vibe of “Bring it Back”, stripped down, bass heavy track “No More”)
  • He understands catchy hooks, but pacing is lacking at times
  • On “Made of Glass”, the need to settle down with the object of his desire sounds very genuine
  • “Bring it Back”, “Forever Young”, and “Moments in Time” are good attempts at leveling out the emotions after the first few tracks
  • “No More” and “Priorities” are his strongest moments at flowing. “Other Shit” is strong as well, but is only 50 seconds long

Wishlist

  • More subject variety next album
  • That the autotune is put away or used less

Summary:

While there a lot of moments where he steps above the stream of commonness, it is not enough to hold this entry high. There is potential found when he truly finds the words for his emotions, but is quickly drowned out when he either steps to the background behind his collaborators, or repeats overused themes.

Creativity
45%
Production
60%
Track Separation
50%
Decent Percentage
50%
Overall
51%