Category Archives: Review

Review: Abra’s ‘Princess’

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It’s been a little over a year since Awful Record’s songstress Abra dropped off her impressive debut album Rose. Her first project back, the self-written and produced Princess, is six tracks long. Consisting of tinny, pop-synth vocals dripping in glam and a confidence that wasn’t as evident on past projects.

The tape begins with the short intro track “COME 4 ME,” which in the grand scheme of this project serves as nothing more than a vocal appetizer. Crooning about making money, spending it and making it all back. The production on the song is nice and simple, the bass moves along in unison with her delivery and fades into the next track, “VEGAS,” with ease.

“VEGAS” plays a lot like any number of songs off of Rose but is obviously more involved and technical than past releases. She taunts an unknown person who’s attempting to hit on her with lines like, “If you wanna roll the dice on me okay. If you think you can afford it, come play play.”

The following song, “CRYBABY,” finds Abra pleading with a lover who’s turned their back on her. It is obvious that she is hurting, lines like “You’re calling me a cry baby. But you’re making me cry.” and “Oh why are you so cold to me? Why you acting like we ain’t nothing?” Like a lot of her music, the repetitive, high pitched nature of the chorus and bridge of the song flirt with sounding overbearing. Her vocals are burdened by emotion while the beat is light and spacey, somehow creating harmonious dissonance. That borderline dissonance has become a staple of her music, and Awful Records as a whole.

Fellow Awful Records singer Tommy Genesis jumps on “BIG BOI,” the moderately lo-fi, female empowerment anthem. Abra and Genesis each drop a verse bashing the types of guys who constantly hit on them. Genesis ends her verse with “I could be a lot of things but I ain’t your girl,” while Abra talks about having “shooters in the cut” watching an oblivious guy who is buying her bottle after bottle trying to feel her up.

Things pick back up with “PULL UP,” a sparkly, upbeat song about the slippery slope that is love. Abra creates a catchy chorus that would sound perfectly natural coming straight out of your favorite rappers’ mouth.

Princess finds Abra all over the place emotionally. “CRY BABY” is a more submissive, emotional song while “BIG BOI” puts her in the drivers seat, full of confidence and aggression. The album comes to a close with her being pushed back into the depths of a relationship, giving herself up completely to someone else. “THINKING OF U” is her strongest vocal effort on the album. Her sultry delivery and the bouncy production create another conflicted mood that is easy to get lost in.

Abra continues to create a lane for herself in the world of pop music. Providing a winning combination of her dark, sensual aesthetic with high-BPM production. Only six tracks long, Princess is the perfect portrayal of who Abra is, all at once heartbroken, confident and hungry.

Written by Jesse Wiles

Review of Drake’s fourth studio album “Views”

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We’ve been waiting for this album since 2014. Almost immediately after releasing Nothing Was The Same in late 2013, Drake announced the title to his follow up Views From The 6 and that he was already in the process of working on it. In 2015 we got If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and that did not disappoint at all. But even after that, everyone was still talking about Views and what it could possibly mean to the hip hop world. Arguably the biggest celebrity at the moment, Drake sets himself up for failure early on in the album by calling it a classic only 4 songs in.

Views is in no way a bad album. It’s just Drake being Drake, which we’ve gotten many times before. He plays it so safe it’s almost sad. Yes, the Toronto artist added some dancehall flare with songs like “One Dance,” “Too Good” & “Controlla.” But that just isn’t enough anymore. Every song sounds too much like past work, lyrically and stylistically. It is almost as though every song could have somehow found it’s way onto one of Drake’s past albums.

Drake’s right hand man Noah “40” Shebib does an amazing job with the majority of the production and mixing/mastering. Drake sings more than ever on the album and his performance is phenomenal. Songs like “Feel No Ways” & “With You” have Drake hitting notes that I’ve never heard him hit before. Drake’s growth has been something amazing to watch over the years and for him to be able to sing like the majority of pop stars today is pretty fascinated considering he made his name rapping with Lil’ Wayne.

In terms of bars, Drake really goes in on “Hype” & “Still Here.” No features just bar after bar after bar. Those two are by far my favorite on the album. “Grammys” featuring Future sounds like it was recorded during the What A Time To Be Alive sessions but it still was a pleasant surprise to hear future body another verse. Overall, I wish Drake would have rapped a bit more but we always have If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late to go back to.

After all said and done, Views is Drake’s safe album. It won’t be remembered like Take Care will be. Yes, it will be in rotation for quite sometime and it will obviously be talked about for months to come. But the real question is what is next for Drake. He can’t keep using the same formula in his music and that is apparent. No one will get bored listening to it but for music heads like myself I just want MORE. Hopefully we get that Drake/Kanye mixtape he hinted at during the Zane Lowe interview. Now that would be something.

What did you guys think? If you haven’t listened to the album yet, you can check it out on Apple Music here. Happy listening!

Written by Erik Lindberg

Review: Schoolboy puts together a masterpiece only he could

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At first glance, Blank Face appears messy and out of control. With 17 songs and 13 features it seemed impossible that anyone could organize all of that into a cohesive, well rounded album. Somehow Schoolboy Q and TDE have everything under control. They have packaged and delivered one of the best albums of 2016.

The album begins with the bizarre, slightly cracked-out street banger, “TorcH,” which serves as the best intro of the year. Schoolboy drops some of his toughest bars in recent memory while the irresistible Anderson .Paak can be heard at the beginning, and is presumably supplying ad-lib style background vocals. If one song could encapsulate an artist, this would be the one for Schoolboy Q due to it’s eclectic assortment of sounds and emotions.

“Lord Have Mercy” is the second, shortest and undoubtedly the most intimate song on the album. A soul sample is looped in the background as Schoolboy gets personal. “I’m a gangbanger, deadbeat father and drug dealer… Runnin’ from God’s creation,” raps Q. He seems to be torn between sticking with his old ways and pursuing different possibilities for him and his daughter.

The Kanye West-assisted “THat Part” gets the album back on an upbeat, in your face direction and creates a perfect segue into the two-part song “Groovy Tony/ Eddie Kane.” The first half of the double feature, “Groovy Tony,” features a guest verse from the OG Jada Kiss. His gravelly delivery scrapes across the beat, flirting with discord. Schoolboy is incredibly aggressive on both parts of the song, supplying a relentless barrage of rapid fire gangster rap.

A few songs later, the Ramona Park legend Vince Staples jumps in to help Schoolboy on “Ride Out.” The bass in this song is so heavy that it could crack a windshield. Staples and Q trade violent verses while reflecting on their respective hoods, a gangster ballad not for the faint of heart.

Another West Coast legend, E-40, drops by for a verse on “Dope Dealer.” E-40 dances over the Metro Boomin’ and Southside produced track with ease while Schoolboy flaunts his skills as a drug dealer extraordinaire.

The most lighthearted song on the album, “Big Body,” is an ode to big Benzes, thick women and big money. Tyler The Creator handles production and offers up a bouncy beat that is a breath of fresh air compared to the previous 10 songs.

As things begin to wind down Schoolboy once again calls on .Paak. This time for the title track. “Blank Face” begins with a sing-song verse from .Paak that lasts for over a minute, possibly the strongest guest contribution on the album. The combination of the no-holds-barred rapping from Schoolboy and the groovy singing from .Paak is like yellow mustard on potato chips – surprisingly good.

On a radio-friendly, but underwhelming note, the album nears its end with “Overtime” featuring Miguel and Justine Skye. Against Schoolboy’s wishes, the label insisted on including this song. “Tookie Knows II” is the last song and part on an ongoing song series that spans back two albums to the 2012 release of Habit’s & Contradictions. These songs don’t take anything away from the album, and likewise don’t bring anything to the table.

 Blank Face is a schizophrenic arrangement of sounds that continues TDE’s winning streak. Q picks up where Oxymoron left off, albeit unconventionally. On Oxymoron there was a fine line between party anthem and introspection. Blank Face blurs that line and creates an even stronger project where one can find something new with every listen.

Written by Jesse Wiles

[Review] Song by song breakdown of Travi$ Scott’s “Rodeo” album

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After one of the dopest projects of 2014, and possibly the last few years, Travi$ Scott’s highly anticipated Rodeo album is here. With features from Kanye West, Two Chainz, Justin Bieber, Toro y Moi, Young Thug, Future, Chief Keef and more, Rodeo is quite the experience, albeit a slightly underwhelming one, when compared to Days Before Rodeo. Below is a track by track breakdown of the album.

Song breakdowns in red font mean that the song is one of the best on the album, orange means it’s pretty good and blue means that it’s not that great.

  1. “Pornography”Travi$ showcases some of the growth he’s made as an artist with the use of the sound bites at the beginning of “Pornography” and his delivery sounds more polished than it did on Days Before Rodeo. Very solid intro track, sets the tone for the rest of the album.
  2. “Oh My Dis Side” ft. Quavo– The first 2 and a half minutes of this song sounds a lot like something off of Days Before Rodeo. Nothing special or interesting about this track. The second half of the song slows down and makes up a little bit for the rough start. Somewhat forgettable and the use of autotune is incredibly overbearing at the beginning. Travi$ should have just made this a two part song and split it up throughout the rest of the album.
  3. “3500” ft. 2 Chainz & Future– Not much needs to be said about this one. Future does his thing, using some lines that are eerily similar to the ones he spits on “Thought It Was a Drought.” 2 Chainz wraps it up and manages to be slightly comedic, whether it’s intentional or not remains to be seen, rapping “I was born with some nappy hair. Drinking breast milk out a lean cup.” Overall, I wish that this track hit a little bit harder, it’s very lowkey considering who’s on it. Had so much potential, could have been an absolute banger.
  4. “Wasted” ft. Juicy J– This song honestly isn’t that great, incredibly forgettable. The last 30 seconds does sound pretty interesting though.
  5. “90210”– My Twitter feed was popping with tweets about 90210 when Rodeo originally leaked so naturally I couldn’t wait to hear it. After the first few listens I really, really like this one. The beat is much different to a lot of what Travi$ normally goes in over and it shows that he’s not afraid to try something different. One of my favorites.
  6. “Pray 4 Love” ft. The Weeknd– This is about as honest as we’ve ever heard Travi$. Undoubtedly the best track on the album. The Weeknd kills his part as well. I wasn’t sure Travi$ could make a meaningful, introspective song, but he can, got damn.
  7. “Night Call” ft. Chief Keef & Swae Lee– Another slightly bland song, way too close to “Antidote” to have made the final cut for the album. The best part of this song is Chief Keef’s verse, haven’t heard him rap that fast in a while. Bang bang.
  8. “Piss on Your Grave” ft. Kanye West– Kanye and Travi$ trade bars over this and it gets wild. There’s a slight Yeezus influence on this track, not surprisingly.
  9. “Antidote”– I’m really not a big fan of this track. When it dropped almost all of my friends were bumping it but I think it’s too catchy and poppy for Travi$, radio rap.
  10. “Impossible”– Travi$ takes some time to get lowkey and intimate on “Impossible.” A nice change of pace after listening to the 3 tracks before this.
  11. “Maria I’m Drunk” ft. Justin Bieber & Young Thug– Travi$ continues with the lowkey, slowed down, H-Town vibe on this one. With features from Young Thug and Justin Bieber this might be the most interesting song on the tracklist. I hate to admit it, but Justin sounds dope as hell on this song.
  12. “Flying High” ft. Toro y Moi- Man, I love Toro y Moi, his album Samantha is one of the best projects of the summer. He and Travi$ are an interesting combo. The song is solid from start to finish, but leaves you with a puzzled feeling simply because it doesn’t line up with the 11 songs before it. I like it a lot, but maybe it should have been released as a single and left off the album.
  13. “I Can Tell”– Travi$’s flow on “I Can Tell” is the best of the album. He sounds perfectly at home. I could listen to this over and over. The beat, his voice, everything works.
  14. “Apple Pie”– The perfect way to end the album. With songs like this Travi$ proves that he’s capable of making songs much different than what we saw on Days Before Rodeo. Songs with more substance, without referencing substances. “I don’t want yo apple pie, noooooo.”

Written by Jesse Wiles