Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Album Review: Yelawolf- Radioactive

First things first, I love Southern hip hop.  My love affair with the South is well known, at least to those who know me.  I love the soul of Southern hip hop, the detail Southern emcees pay to their music and how it is meant to sound, and I feel like the South has gotten a bad rap for a long time for "killing Hip Hop" because of acts like Soulja Boy and Gucci Mane becoming the face of Southern hip hop.  That is why it is so great to see old acts like Z-Ro and Bun B still hold the South down, Big Boi and Killer Mike still going stronger than ever, and new stars are on the rise to bring the soul back like Big Krit and Pill.  Had to say that.

That being said, Yelawolf, the Alabama native, has the internet going nuts...Paul Wall.  The Shady freshman has been around Hip Hop for a while now, and like he will tell you, he is far from a young rookie.  Yelawolf has lived life, seen trials, and survived the gutter.  Like him or not, his passion for music is never in question, and whenever he raps or even just talks about Hip Hop, you can feel that he lives for this shit.  One has to appreciate an artist who genuinely loves this genre, and its refreshing to hear a rapper not afraid to admit that he's nothing without Hip Hop.

After receiving mass praise for his now most known work Trunk Muzik, and being signed to one of the biggest labels in the game alongside super group Slaughterhouse, SHAAAAAAADY, Yelawolf's buzz is at an all time high.  The XXL freshman may have delayed his debut album Radioactive, letting Cole, Phonte, and Evidence do their thing, but now his album has officially been released, and everyone has an opinion, from Yelawolf's biggest fans, to his harshest critics.  So the question Radioactive really whurlin?

My experience with Yelawolf has surprisingly been a rocky one.  I first heard of Yelawolf when he made a guest appearance on a Big Boi track.  I shrugged his verse and him as a whole off for a while, just seemed like a hick that could spit average shit.  Then I see his mug pop up more and more, my friends on and offline talking about him, and I'm hearing that THIS dude is the next best thing since he who shall not be named?  I been down this road before, and I was not pleased, but I gave Yelawolf a fair shot.

I listened to some stuff, and someone put me onto Trunk Muzik, and to be honest...I skimmed it.  I had my mind made up on Yelawolf before I really sat down with his music.  Decent enough skills, I loved the Southern influence, but he just had too much going on for me.  That was my initial assessment.  Later on, the more people hyped him up, the more I came in to say how much I did not enjoy his music.  I never hated Yelawolf, but I never saw anything special about him and thought he wasn't for me.

Super fast forward to now, and Radioactive is here, and I have to listen to it, because something kept pulling me to this album.  I love Southern Hip Hop, I love dope beats and dope lyrics, and Yelawolf has some of my favorite rappers cosigning him.  There had to be something I was missing right?  So before I listened to Radioactive, I dove into his music once again and really sat with it to gain an understanding of who he is as an artist and what his sound is, so when I listened to the album I would be prepared.

I still wasn't prepared, because although Yelawolf's music is ok, its just ok to me.  Radioactive....showed me a little bit more than what I expected considering what his previous work sounded like.  I'm still not too high on Yelawolf, and I do have some problems with the debut album, but it did surprise me a bit, mostly because of how Yelawolf fused the sound that lead him to the level he is at now, while also expanding beyond said sound to draw in more casual fans.  By that I mean...I am not a big Yelawolf fan, but I have listened to him a lot by this point and have prior knowledge of his other works....but some of these songs on here are meant to appeal to those who may never have really gave Yela a shot.

Its Yela's attempt to sit down his loyal fans with his potential new ones, and what makes it impressive is how subtle and well put together it is so it doesn't sound forced.  Yelawolf hits you over the head with that hard "different' dirty South sound that gets your bass booming and your head shaking with early songs like Hard White and one of my personal favorites, the eerie and grimey Growin Up in the Gutter.

He still includes his Southern influences, adding in sharp yet loose Southern flows and slick lyrics, not those corny punchlines other rappers OD on.  But he also draws you in, in what I can only assume as his attempt to expand his sound and take it a different direction he has never taken it to bring in a new audience.  It is a chance many rappers take, and many fans criticize deeming "selling out" for mainstream.  Yelawolf doesn't sell out here though, or at least it doesn't sound like it to me.  Is it a different sound?  Yea...but thats not bad at all.  I like that Yelawolf tried to take a risk, incorporating different content, delivering heartfelt messages and taking his content outside of just whats going on in the gutter.  He never strays from his Southern rapid fire style or his passion.  Songs like Everything I Love the Most and The Hardest Love Song in the World are dope, and are still Yelawolf, but its him getting a little out the box, so much so that it just takes you off guard...especially cause of how natural it sounds for him.

I can see why die hard Yelawolf fans would both love and be disappointed with Radioactive.  Many fans may feel that songs like Radio really don't capture who Yela is as an artist and that he commercialized his music, using more popish sounds than he ever has before.  They're not completely wrong though, there is definite pop undertones on this album.  But where as an artist like Eminem getting on a song with Bruno Mars may sound a little forced, Yelawolf somehow makes a popish song such as Animal...sound like a Yelawolf song you could have heard a year or two years ago.  This album sounds like something Yelawolf could have easily done a year ago if he wanted to....meaning he didn't really sacrifice much of himself.  I don't see how it is a bad thing, or how a Yelawolf fan could not enjoy hearing a song like Everything I Love the Most.

Yela has lighter sounding songs but he rounds the album up with The Last Song, probably the most heartfelt song on the album.  Also, its a fusion of everything he showed us on the album.  The confused, conflicted, fun, reflective, real and passionate man that he is.  Dope song.

But is Radioactive whurlin tho?

Kinda......maybe................probably.....idk cuh.  I like it, which says a lot to me at least.  But it is by no means album of the year, or classic, or better than blah blah blah's album, its just good music.  You can ride to it, play Mortal Kombat to it, I'm sure a lot of my white friends are going to go ham with this when they getting drunk, but also lay it down when they just wanna chill.  It has a little bit of everything.  But its all Yelawolf.  My only problem is, I'm not sold on him yet.  But its a good effort, better than I expected, and if someone was to tell me this was their favorite album of the year, I at least think it would be a credible claim, cuz this LP has bangers.  Its just that, his style is so distinctive, there is no way it is going to connect with everybody the same way, and a lot of Yelawolf's songs (here and in general, good or bad) just sound like a bunch of noise.  He's just not for me at this point.

But don't take my word for it, go buy this album, support this album, and tell me what you think.  Is it whurlin?  Is it bum?  Am I buggin?  Is Yela buggin?  Will he ever stop looking and dressing like a homeless person?  Idk b....


oh yea, the first two tracks did blow me the fuck away yo...that Intro>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Monday, November 14, 2011

Album Review: Childish Gambino- Camp

Donald Glover is a funny muthafucka cuh.  His comedic work has always entertained me, and he is an excellent writer.  I think it was a year and a half ago I first found out this guy was a rapper too, and I was a little skeptical about it.  Once I found out his rap alias, Childish Gambino, I decided to dive into his music, listening to his free EP and his mixtape Culdesac.  Many people will say that he is a melting pot of different styles, as many people hear a fusion of Lil Wayne, Drake, and some Kanye in his rhymes.  He has discredited for his music time and time again.  Freaks and Geeks was laughable to so many people.  All I ever hear (mostly) about Gambino is "who?  You mean that guy on Community?" or "This kid is not an actual rapper."  Gambino, the man and the rapper, can care less what we think tho, as his music (while egotistical at times) is very therapeutic, and he has shown us the real him through his music numerous times.

Enter Camp, his latest work that has a lot of people buzzin.  So much so, that people asked me to review it and decide if its whurlin.  I listened to Camp when it initially leaked, right around the time Take Care did as well.  I liked Camp in the beginning, and I still do.  One of the things I like about Gambino is, despite what detractors says, he knows who he is.  His music serves as a window to who he is as a rapper, a successful comedian, a child, a friend, and just overall as a man, and I respect the hell out of that.  He's a walking contradiction.  He's egotistical, yet surprisingly humble.  He struggles with the stereotype of what it means to be black, yet he brags and boost about materialistic things like black rappers have been known to do.  He is searching for love while also fuckin two Asians he just met.  Its a lot to handle as a listener trying to follow the world and doings of Donald Glover.  But it is a trip I think that is worth wild.

Songs like Letter Home and Heartbeat, however milky they may sound, so Gambino's genuine conscious side to life and women, and his other introspective songs like Outside really drive home Gambino's woes with how he feels like an outsider by his own race at times, and an outsider by his own family.

Although he does try his hand at some light singing (enter Drake comparisons) Gambino does have lyrical barrages on this project.  He really has a great amount of one liners, much like Wayne does......but Gambino's is a lot more impressive.  Songs like Backpackers, where Gambino is just shittin on his haters with impressive wordplay and wit, You See Me, Sunrise, just great rhyming in my opinion.  Gambino has improved with his rhyming enough in my mind to NOW make him a credible emcee in hip hop.

The production and just flow of the album is probably the best part of Camp.  The story goes...Glover got the composer for The Community to come in and assist in the album's production and mixing, and I must, love, or hate Gambino....the production is phenomenal.  The beats cater to Gambino's style so well, all the songs flow well...might be the most cohesive work I've heard all year.  Gambino's mind and thoughts and lyrics may be all over the place, but these beats and just overall mixing keep everything grounded and together.  I really have to applaud it.

Camp is definitely whurlin cuh.  Its a shame that with all these great projects that have come out this year, this month especially, Camp will be overlooked, not cause of the quality of music, but because of who is making it.  Gambino's biggest hurdle with his music, is Donald Glover.  I have learned to separate the two, but many people won't and he may end up always being that funny black guy that just so happens to rap.  He may never be taken seriously because of it.  Drake was able to escape that stigma, but mostly because he stopped acting anyway.  Theoreticall, if Glover keeps delivering great music like Camp, he will be accepted as a good rapper.  But it seems as if he has to make his rap gig a full time job, and not be a jack of all trades.  But thats what makes him...him imo.  Gambino has always traveled through different realms, with his music and his life in general.  I hope he improves with his music, but I hope he never changes.

btw, this outro is on some movie shit...

Camp really is whurlin tho b...


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Album Review: Drake- Take Care

What a year it has been for Young Angel.  Thank Me Later has come and gone and the public reception was OK.  So much hype surrounded Drake's debut LP that dropped in 2010, as he had a legion of fans that said it would be a classic, Drake was going to change the game, and grammys were in the Toronto kid's future.  It was too bad Recovery came out round the same time, too bad MBDTF came out that same year.  Thank Me Later was a good effort, but it left hip hop fans wanting more.  Many people thought TML showcased everything that was wrong with Drake's signing to Young Money.  Drake got criticized for his played out "stop-pause" punchlines, the absence of the the producers and the sound that made Drake a household name, and the album just felt like it lacked that feeling that made Aubrey......Drake.  Too much Drizzy, not enough Drake.  Too much Young Money, not enough OVO.  Too much Up All Night, not enough The Resistance.

Drake heard the criticism, told fans the album was a bit rushed, and he will deliver something special with his sophomore album.  In between time he has given out a host of features, whether hooks or show stealing verses, asserting himself as one of the most sought after artists in hip hop.  All the while dropping a few cuts to keep his fans satisfied, like Dreams Money Can Buy, his Im On One feature, and the probably the biggest hit he released in Marvin's Room.

Sounded like Drake was back to his ways, and with rumors of Stevie Wonder, upstart Kendrick Lamar, Andre 3000, and his new connect in The Weeknd all making appearances on Take Care, the hype machine was in full effect.  Many people called it album of the year before it even dropped.  And despite a push back, Take Care had everyone's ears tuned in to whatever Drake had in store, including the three leaks he dropped, Club Paradise, Round of Applause, and the banger Free Spirit.

So many wondered, where would Drake take this album?  What direction?  Whats the sound going to be?  Hip Hop?  R&B?  Pop?  I'm not sure Drake either knows or cares what category we put his music in, he really is a jack of trades and his main goal is to make good music.  So did Take Care do it?  Did Take Care live up to the hype?

Well the leak has come and gone, the album is set to release on Nov. 15, and fans are going nuts over this album.  ME?  I'm chillin, but I have to say, I enjoy this album a lot and there some things I don't enjoy as well.  All in all, a good album.

One thing that is clear about Take Care is that Drake really took his time crafting his album.  If Thank Me Later was rushed, then Take Care sounds like Drake's been recording this his whole life.  Thats how well put together the music is.  40 is back on the boards here and produced and mixed/mastered the bulk of this project, and 40 might be the only person on the planet that knows how to make Drake sound like Jigglypuff on the mic.  Everything flows well.  The R&B cuts are something that is borderline amazing, at least for Drake.  Songs like Shot For Me, Drake's candid account on his success and how some women are who they are through his achievements, the renowned Marvin's Room that had the summer on smash, the musically constructed Doing It Wrong, Cameras and Good Girls.......just all so well done.  R&B has always been an influence on Drake's style and his music.  Even when he raps he harmonizes.  Heartbreak Drake gets real tender and fluttery on these songs, but somehow manages to make you wanna go to a strip club and pay a stripper double just to hold you in her arms.  These songs make you wanna spoon a dolphin.

Drake as improved in his singing so much here.  Instead of the usual "aaahhhuuuuuuuuuu, aaahhhuuuuuuuu, ahuuuuuuu" melody, now he has added "aahuuuu....aaahuuuuuu....aahhHUUUhuuuuuuuuuu ahooooahuuuhuh."  WHAT!?  Shit is catchy, its relatable, its not really for the bitches, but more so for the men who love these bitches.  Take Care could have been called Love These Hoes and no one would notice.  Or Strip Club Blues.  This album makes you wanna rub rose pedals on your body.  This album makes you wanna pour honey on cotton swaps.

Although the R&B cuts shined, the rapping was.......ok?  I like Headlines, good catchy single, Underground Kings (cmon son cut that shit out) and We'll Be Fine are both catchy songs, as well as the intro Over My Dead Body.  And the heavily praised Lord Knows at one point had the internet going crazy, and Just Blaze served Drake with one of the best hip hop beats on this entire album.

Just gave Drake a gift, a gift Drake knew he needed to murder.  With Ross accompanying him, Drake somehow managed to make this track just ok.  The beat is insane, Ross did his fuckin job on the feature, but Drake did not rap at a high level.  I don't mean the LYRICS, miss me with the "did you hear those lyrics" or "lyrics are the most important part of the song."  His flow, his delivery, his tone, his inflection, his mic presence, his cadence, his imagery were all sub par, on Lord Knows and most of the other rap songs on Take Care.  Its like he had is mind and heart locked in on songs like Shot For Me and Doing It Wrong, and just phoned in verses for Lord Knows and Underground Kings.  Its the same ol song.  The same ol Drake.  Now if you like that, then of course its all good.  But the fact that Drake improved so much with his singing, but not with his rapping is disturbing to me.  The fact that when people talk about Lord Knows, they say how dope the beat is...but never mention Drake's rapping on the song disturbs me.  The fact that people get on so many rappers for "sounding the same too much" but let Drake slide with damn near the same flow he's been using for two years disturbs me.  He switches up with his flows, but its the same flows we been heard.  Only real time Drake "surprises" me with his rapping on this album, was on HYFR, where he STRAIGHT UP HIJACKED BIG SEAN'S SUPER DUPER FLOW.  I ain't mad tho.

The rapping just is not at a high level here, and Drake fans seem to be ok with the fact that this rapper made a hip hop retail album that sounds like an R&B album.  Its good music, so I guess thats all that matters.  But I'm a hip hop fan.  I love R&B, like some Pop, shit I listen to Country occasionally, but Hip Hop is what I look for on a hip hop album.  Rap is what I am going to look for on a rap album.  Drake didn't do anything outside the box or take any chances with his rapping.  He stuck to HIS formula, the catchy verses about the pitfalls of fame and bitches, and delivered with the harmonies that he knows people will remember, cuz its catchy.  Its catchy Hip Pop.  Lord Knows is just more evidence that Drake might not be a real rapper's rapper.  That beat called for some serious high level rapping, and Drake did not deliver.

The rapping isn't the worst part of this album imo.  The features damn near ruined it for me to be honest.  Besides Rick Ross and Stevie on the harmonica, none of the features felt natural or felt like they belonged.  I don't like Crew Love, I don't like The Weeknd, and I don't like The Weeknd with Drake.  Crew Love is a prime example why they styles don't mesh well.  That whole song sounded like The Weeknd's song with Drake featuring.  That beat was not doing it for me.  Wayne did everything he could to fuck up HYFR, and it almost worked with him havin a lackluster verse and that pitiful hook.  Same for The Real Her.  Wayne doing a song with Drake in the YM atmosphere works because its a level playing field, and Drake can adapt to that YM sound.  This album is all Drake's sound, and Wayne just doesn't fit.  Make Me Proud might just be my least favorite song, because Nicki Minaj once again has proven to me she is retarded.  I love Kendrick Lamar's music, he's one of my favorite rappers right now.  But anyone saying he "killed" his verse on that Buried Alive interlude is bandwagoning the fuck out of K Dot, because that verse sounded like some alien spoken word.  Don't give me that "oh, its something different, he gave a different vibe."  NO!  Kendrick fucked the vibe up.  So did Andre, god bless his soul.  3 Stacks is a legend, but his verse along with Wayne's really makes me wanna cut The Real Her short almost every time I  hear it.  And Rhianna and Drake don't sound right to me.  Not the worst feature ever, Take Care (the song) is ok for a crossover pop record...makes you wanna cha cha with a baby kangaroo...but their voices don't sound right together.  But the features for the most part really hurt the vibe of this album.  This is my opinion, and I'm sure many disagree, but Drake would have benefited more cutting almost all these features off.  Him and Rick Ross actually work well together, and their styles/sounds gel way better than Nicki's and Wayne's.  Kendrick and Andre messed the vibe up with their.....verses?  And The Weeknd and Rhianna just don't fit either.

My main highlights for this album has to be Look What You've Done and The Ride.  That level of honesty, they way Drake delivered it, just the sounds and vibe he crafted.....and Look What You've Done really hit home for me.  The Ride just shows how Drake can really rap when he's locked in.

Songs like The Ride and Look What You've Done are examples of high level rapping in my opinion.  Drake will always be who he is far as lyrics, but the ability to pull a listener in with your flow, delivery, etc. is one many rappers take for granted.  The Ride is probably my favorite song on the album right now because of this.  The Ride gives me the feeling The Calm and The Resistance did, and Young Angel blacked out on those.

Overall, I still enjoy this album.  Its one of the better albums of 2011, which has been a year of great music.  I can't fully cosign it as a "great rap" album, as an R&B album is good as hell tho.  But I'm going to let Drake cook, I am not going to fault him because I enjoyed his singing more than his rapping.

This is hands down the softest album of the year, and I mean that in the most positive way.  Drake WANTS you to feel like Eskimo kissing a Panda, he WANTS to feel like massaging a butterflies' wings.  When Big Ghostfase talks about how soft Drake is, its funny and factual, but used to tear down Young Angel.  Don't confuse me with him.  In a land of soft ass rappers, Drake is hands down the best because he actually makes you feel the way he wants you too.  He should be applauded for how tender of a song Shot For Me is.

Drake is a solid rapper, a passable singer, but his biggest strong suit is his songwriting.  Drake has changed the game, in that actual songwriting is becoming more and more important in hip hop.  The fact that I think Drake killed The Ride and he used very little metaphors, punchlines, etc. shows how good of a songwriter he is.  If there is one thing I will always admire about Drake, its his ability to write and craft a song.  In that regard, he really is in a class of his own.

Good album, I can definitely bump this regularly.  Take Care nigga...