Category Archives: Reviews

‘There’s Alot Going On’ is exactly what Vic Mensa needed

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It’s been three years since we last and first got a full-length project from Vic Mensa. So it’s fair to say that his fans deserved a new project and when that project finally came—Vic came through. There’s Alot Going On is the perfect release for Vic Mensa. The project, which serves as an hors d’oeuvre for his forthcoming debut album Traffic, is filled with soaring triumphs and glaring weaknesses.

Things get off to a hot start with the Papi Beatz produced track “Dynasty.” The song serves as a nice change of pace from the upbeat singles, like “U Mad” and “No Chill,” and finds an introspective Mensa lamenting on the days before Chicago was Chiraq, the stress of signing to a major label, and the unremitting violence that has engulfed the Southside. His last line serves as a warning to other rappers, “They should call the rap game my name. This is my game. Vic!” The song concludes with the ominous chanting of “16 shots,” the number of times that 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was shot by a Chicago police officer in October of 2014.

That chant leads into the album’s second song “16 Shots.” Mensa airs out his grievances toward the Chicago Police Department with an unapologetic chorus that gets straight to the point, “1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-f*ck 12!” Mensa ends the song emphatically stating, “This for Laquan on sight! When you see Van Dyke tell him I don’t bring a knife to a gun fight!” Van Dyke is the officer who murdered Laquan McDonald, who was carrying a three-inch knife.

The next two tracks on the album are easily its low points. “Danger,” the third song, seems out of place, especially after the serious nature of “16 Shots,” and the introspection of what is to follow. It would have served Mensa better as a loose single. With references to bitches and hoes and an uninspired second verse that starts off with glorifying drunk driving, it idles the progression of the project.

Next up is “New Bae” which sounds more like a rip off Young Thug or Travis Scott and showcases Mensa’s atrocious off-key singing voice. The song plays like a faux R&B hit with too many raunchy lines that lead to nowhere and a hook that sounds like every 17-year-old experimenting with auto tune.

Fortunately, those two songs are followed by “Liquor Locker” and “Shades of Blue.” “Liquor Locker,” an ode to a liquor delivery app, holds the only feature on the entire project, coming from Ty Dolla $ign. The song is a good way to begin the close out of the album as it’s laid back and sounds like a subtle, late-night, summertime hit.

“Shades of Blue” gives the tone of the project a total makeover. The piano creates a soundscape for Mensa to paint a graphic picture of the daily grind of Black America. Mensa is at his best when he raps over minimalistic production like this.

The project culminates with the title track “There’s Alot Going On.” Here, Mensa lays everything on the table; pain, addiction, mental health problems, the poisonous relationship with his ex- girlfriend, the break up of Kids These Days—his former band— and the stress of deciding which label to sign with.

Despite being just seven tracks long and having two songs that fall flat, There’s Alot Going On is just what the world needed from Vic Mensa. Any conscious listener can see the struggle through his music. That being said, his first official Rocafella debut Traffic, must be better.

Written by Jesse Wiles

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Action Bronson Makes it Cool to Bump Classic Rock Again- “Mr. Wonderful” Album Review

large-2Remember when you were about five or six years old? You were in your parents car, probably the back seat, and a classic song by Boston, or some other band from that period, would come on the radio. I remember thinking, this shit is so cool. It was loud, raunchy and catchy all at the same time.  Action Bronson, whose favorite artist is Billie Joel, has made it cool to mesh classic rock samples with contemporary hip hop on his latest album Mr. Wonderful.

Action Bronson by Arman Dzidzovic/New York ObserverAction Bronson has been around for quite some time now. We’ve come to love his witty, joke filled rhyme scheme that really got noticed on Blue Chips 2. With his debut album Mr. Wonderful finally upon us, it was only right that we review it. Honestly, the album itself is a beautiful piece of work. The only gripe I have with it is that there were too many single put out before the initial release. The album is cohesive and flows like water. It is just too bad that the team behind Action let so many songs loose before the release date. Now, onto the music.

The album starts off with “Brand New Car,” featuring a Billy Joel sample, surprise surprise. Action sings to the best of his ability about his new car and jazz guitar and then spits two verses about everything from pornography to Snapple. “The Rising” is a typical Action song with the outro featuring none other than Big Body Bes, one of our favaorites. Body Language, Big Body’s album, is set to drop in June folks, enough said. maxresdefault

“Terry” and “Actin’ Crazy” are the songs you’ve already heard but both are amazing. “Falconry” featuring Meyhem Lauren and Big Body Bes is the one song that I one day hope to see live. It is as if Bronson and company just stepped out on to the pickup basketball court talking mad trash. Both verses are priceless and then Big Body caps the track off with a great finishing line that I won’t ruin (listen for yourself.)

This next section of the album is where things get different. “Thug Love Story 2017” is an interlude about some crack head experience that leads into a small trilogy of songs; “City Boy Blues,” “A Light In the Addict” and “Baby Blue.” The songs follow a character, presumably Bronson, after he loses his love and his world seems pretty grim.

“City Boy Blues” has Bronson singing the entire song in a grunge-style manner that is mixed so beautifully it actually makes him sound great. You already know what to expect from the Party Supplies assisted “A Light From The Addict,” track is pure gold. “Baby Blue” has Bronson singing again over some Mark Ronson production and a guest verse from Chance The Rapper.

fuck-thats-delicious-with-action-bronson-roasted-in-santa-monica-0Classic Rock comes back in full effect on “Only In America” and it feels like it could have easily been on the Grand Theft Auto: Vice City soundtrack. “Galactic Love” is a slow jam fueled by a great bass line and accompanying drum beat. The Passage (Live From Prague)” is actually a live instrumental interlude into the epicness that is “Easy Rider.” The album ends there and leaves nothing to the listener’s imagination.

Action Bronson really does what he wants on his major label debut. It has everything from rap, classic rock, verses from Big Body, slow jams, ballads and more. Some complaints I’ve read were that there’s too many instrumentals and big spaces without rapping, THAT WAS THE PURPOSE!

This is a great album that makes you, want to turn the bass down to hear the guitar, something I have yet to experience on any other hip hop album. Easily Bronson’s best work to date. But next time, don’t release half the album beforehand.

Written by E.L.

Big Sean’s “Dark Sky Paradise” Album Review

dark-sky-paradiseIt has been a little over a year since we’ve gotten a full length project from Big Sean, and now he is back and better than ever. However, much like on previous albums, Sean relies heavily on feature artists to help him through a pretty lengthy LP. Dark Sky Paradise has its highs and lows–all showcasing Sean’s growth as an artist–but it just isn’t everything his fans had hoped for.

Without a doubt, the song that really put Sean back into the mainstream spotlight was “I Don’t Fuck With You,” with a little help from E-40. The song, with all of it’s raunchy language, is an extremely catchy anthem to everyone’s ex. It came out last fall, along with the other 3 songs Big Sean dropped, and the only other one from that selection that made the cut for the album was the extended version of “Paradise”. Honestly, I was extremely surprised by how popular the song became, even before the album. I was also suprised by how the song really put Big Sean back on everyone’s radar. I can’t discredit the track at all because I still catch myself reciting the hook randomly throughout the day. This was just the first taste of what was to come from Big Sean in the long run.

The intro of the album, “Dark Sky (Skyscrapers)” is nothing out of the ordinary in terms of lyrical content but he does have a nice flow. “Blessings” with Drake is the same song we heard released a few weeks back, and this track has grown on me as well. However, it just isn’t the Big Sean/Drake collaboration that I was expecting. It isn’t until “All Your Fault” comes on that we really get the vibe of this album. Kanye West adds both a verse and production on this one that almost sounds like something that could have been included on My Dark And Twisted Fantasy. This is the one song I keep coming back to because of the back and forth between Ye and Sean that reminds me of 80’s hip-hop. The line that resonates the most is the last one, “Man, If you want the crown bitch, you gotta take it”. Sean is definitely coming for something.

The highs and lows of the album become apparent as the album stomps on. “Play No Games” is a slowed down jam that has Sean talking about what it seems like in his current relationship. Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign provide some vocals for the track, keeping it catchy enough to continually coming back to. “Paradise” is the same song we’ve heard before, until the amazing second verse comes on. Sean absolutely snaps while rapping about his come up and work ethic. He hands-down demolishes this song and I hope no other rapper ever even attempts to hop on the beat.

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The next three songs are the valley of the album for me. “Win Some, Lose Some,” “Stay Down,” and “I Know” are all slower, more introspective songs into what Sean went through these past few years. Yes, these songs are where the artist is able to put his feelings out there, and while they fit the album well, there just isn’t that one hook or one beat out of these three songs that really stands out. The last three bonus tracks could have easily been placed where these three are, and they likely would have shaped the album much better.

Getting towards the end of the album, Sean really starts to stand out even when being assisted. “Deep” has Lil’ Wayne spazzing out on the track in almost mixtape-Weezy fashion. “One Man Can Change The World” is Dark Sky Paradise’s “Nothing Is Stopping You”, with the feel-good, you-got-it-dude type song that we have heard come from Big Sean time and time again. Kanye and John Legend really fill the song out with their features. Then we hit the “Outro,” by far one of my favorite songs on the album. The DJ Dahi produced cut incorporates an amazing bounce-like soul sample, while Big Sean gets so confident about not only his ability to rap, but to charm women, that he adds his phone number at the end. It was almost a perfect ending to an album that has an artist making a statement.

Even though it may not be a perfect album, and not a project where we find Big Sean really blowing things musically out of the water, the high points outshine the lows. The bonus tracks at the end are absolutely great and I think “Deserve It” featuring PARTYNEXTDOOR should have been on the album. Don’t miss out! Check out the album below, and let us know what you think in the comment section.

Written by E.L.

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Review: Skizzy Mars’ ‘Red Balloon Project’

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Skizzy Mars has been growing as an artist right in front of our eyes for some time now. His last full project, Pace was released at the beginning of 2014 and was basically an extension of what we had heard from him before. Throughout the rest of 2014, Skizzy released a slew of exceptional singles such as “Used To Be The Shit” & “Lucy”. Both songs were above and beyond anything he had put out previously and fans, like myself, got excited for what was to come.

Well here we are, The Red Balloon Project is upon us. This is Skizzy’s first project to be featured on iTunes, and his first project that’s not free, as it should be. He’s gotten to this point largely in thanks to his own work ethic and the work ethic of his Penthouse Music group. The project may be pretty short (only 7 tracks) but it consists of some of Skizzy’s best work to date.

The three songs we had heard before the release were “Like This”, “Be Lazy” and “Do You There” featuring Marc E. Bassy helped set the  tone and theme for the tape. Skizzy stated in an email to his fans;

” re-watching The Red Balloon this past summer, Albert Lamorisse’s masterful 1956 short film, after a 5 year hiatus, brought back thoughts of fate, destiny, and self-assurance. Michael Keenan and I worked towards creating a sound that replicated these thoughts, feelings, and vibes. I ended up making a project about life. It always ends up that way.”

The other tracks on the project features artists such as G-Eazy, Olivver The Kid, Charlie Brand, QUest, Devon Baldwin and Phoebe Ryan. All of them fit in perfectly. Penthouse music is on the rise with features of this caliber and hopefully the record label and Skizzy find themselves in a similar situation in his later projects.

The Red Balloon Project is nothing groundbreaking for Mr. Mars, full of slow, synth filled beats and references to New York, drugs and girls. It’s what Skizzy does best, it’s his identity. This is indie rap at it’s finest. The project, along with his Red Balloon nationwide tour, will undoubtedly put Skizzy on the map. It’s wild to see where he’s headed. I remember stumbling upon his American Psycho EP on YouTube in like 2013 and immediately labeling him as my favorite rapper.

The Red Balloon Project is short and sweet and highlights everything Skizzy can bring to the table; dope artwork, top notch production and bars for days.

Written by E.L. and Jesse Wiles

Photo credit: Jesse Wiles

Review of Joey Bada$$’ debut album ‘B4.DA.$$’

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In 2015, it is hard to make a “hip-hop” album that truly resonates with a diverse range of age groups. There’s more of a split in fans than ever before, and it all has to do with age.

You either appeal to the younger crowd by making raps that can be played over a Vine clip, or you release something that the older heads can get down with. Either way, one side is going to hate it. However, 20-year-old Joey Bada$$’s debut album B4.DA.$$ manages to hold the attention of the younger crowd, while retaining a classic hip-hop vibe that the OG’s can appreciate.

B4.DA.$$ is a fantastic showcase of the changes the young emcee has made in his music since his debut mixtape 1999, in addition to acting as a good indication of where his music is headed. He has started to drift away from the boom-bap style of Statik Selektah that he initially garnered attention with, a move that will only help him in the long run as many listeners in 2015 find the sound to be boring. Associated with that shift in style, many of the hooks throughout the album seem to be dance hall-influenced, and on a few tracks he hits higher pitches, coming close to singing, something I haven’t really heard from him previously.  

B4.DA.$$ is Joey’s best project to date, bringing in just enough change, simultaneously clinging to the soulfulness of 1999 whilst still showing critics and fans that he’s grown since 2012. Young as he is, Joey Bada$$ is undoubtedly already one of the best emcees in the game today, and it seems as though his best work is yet to come.

Some of my favorite songs from the album can be found below. Each one showcases a different side of Joey as an artist.

Like Me,” was produced by J. Dilla and The Roots and features BJ The Chicago Kid, so how could anyone not like this one? As far as standouts on the album, it didn’t seem to garner much praise. However, BJ’s soulful vocals and Joey’s lyrics and smooth, sentimental flow make this one of my favorites.

Christ Conscious.” I normally don’t like when Joey gets aggressive on a track, as it doesn’t sound as natural for him and often comes across as choppy or unnecessary. Hence the reason I wasn’t a huge fan of Summer Knights. However, with the way this beat hits, I love the way things worked out. The hook on this one is also killer.

Written by Jesse Wiles