Tag Archives: Album Review

Review: Mac Miller’s ‘The Divine Feminine’

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Most of Mac Miller’s professional career has been a 50/50 split of self-improvement and self-destruction. His 2015 album GO:OD AM marked a monumental shift towards self-improvement. The release of The Divine Feminine is a direct result of his new found love for the world and himself.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Miller has been one of the most intriguing stories to follow in hip hop. He burst onto the scene in 2010 as a goofy, frat-rap star who inspired an unimaginative period in hip hop, overrun with white, college-aged rappers like Mike Stud and Hoodie Allen. In 2011, he released his debut album Blue Slide Park through local label, Rostrum Records. The album was met with mixed reviews and left critics and fans alike questioning whether or not he had “found his sound.” Two years later, the same question shrouded the release of his album Watching Movies with the Sound Off, which found the Pittsburgh native toying with a darker sonic palette, questioning existence and embracing a more meditative approach to drugs.

In 2014 his career finally began to take its shape. He signed a deal with Universal Records, severing ties with Rostrum Records, and dropped his 10th mixtape Faces. In 2015 he made his major label debut with the album GO:OD AM which focused on his emergence as the victor in his battle with substance abuse. Since GO:OD AM he has cleaned himself up, moved back to Los Angeles, fallen in love and created an album celebrating life, love, the earth and women.

The Divine Feminine unabashedly shrugs off the rap archetype and replaces dabbing with waltzing. A minute and a half into the album a flurry of keys and a cinematic assortment of strings swoon and swell while Miller raps about the feelings he once had for his now ex-girlfriend. The mood shifts immediately with an Anderson .Paak feature on the radiant track “Dang!” A few songs later CeeLo Green joins Miller on the quietly groovy “We.” From front to back the album flows in part due to Miller’s neo-soul approach and his nonchalant presence on the microphone.

Similar to all of Miller’s projects, the features on the album are meticulous. On “Congratulations,” Bilal sings a heartfelt outro as a sample of what to expect on the rest of the project. The CeeLo Green and Anderson .Paak features add a certain funk that Miller couldn’t have achieved otherwise. Ty Dolla $ign’s slightly distorted hook on “Cinderella” flourishes with the clapping bass and electric guitar that is looped throughout the background. Finally, the surprise feature of the album is Kendrick Lamar on “God is Far, Sexy Nasty.” On the first verse and hook of the song they trade verses sporadically before Miller lays down a complete verse. Kendrick then knifes through the last hook in a sing song fashion that wouldn’t sound out of place on his 2011 mixtape Section.80.

Mac Miller is in love, with himself and the world and Ariana Grande. He’s never been one to stay within the confines of a genre as evidenced on The Divine Feminine. With the combination of his inner demons behind him, an emerging confidence in his sound, and a clearer vision for his career vision for his career, the best is yet to come from Mac Miller.

by Jesse Wiles

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: Logic’s major label debut ‘Under Pressure’ is on par with Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Good Kid Maad City’

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Logic has actually been around for a while. For all of you who think this is his first album or project of any sort, it’s not. Since 2011, Logic has released four mixtapes. All of the tapes received praise from blogs, labels and his fans. This led to Logic signing a major record deal with Def Jam Records, due in part to the support of the legendary producer No I.D. Instead of following the trend of staying independent like many up and coming Hip-Hop artists today, most notably Macklemore. Logic wanted to pursue the debut studio album route. This route has been taken by fewer and fewer artists lately. It seems that rappers with a few good mixtapes under their belts that go on to release a debut album through a label have fallen off very quickly. This is not the case for Logic and Def Jam. Logic had stated previously that he did this album his own way on his own time and he was not lying.

Under Pressure is an album in the purest sense of the word. It is a story that should be listened to from start to finish, the way an album is supposed to be listened to. Each song flows seamlessly into the next. The album is tied together by a Siri like narrater named Thalia, who is reminiscent of the narrator in A Tribe Called Quest’s album Midnight Marauders. It is an interesting way to help guide the listener through Logic’s tale, without being disruptive. Thalia also gives a good bit of insight into the making of Under Pressure.

Logic doesn’t waste time bragging or being misogynistic throughout the album. He discusses real problems, real feelings and raw emotions. He covers intimate problems with his father, substance abuse and past relationships gone wrong. If you’re looking for something similar to 2 Chainz or Juicy J you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Right off the bat on the “Intro,” Logic touches on the fears he had making the album and the high expectations and overwhelming pressure he felt. He effortlessly weaves through the slow ballad type piano backdrop and once the drums kick in, there is no turning back.

Each song on the album has an individual theme that Logic delves into. There are no fillers on Under Pressure. Logic strays as far as possible from the stereotypical rap album script of 2014 with Under Pressure.

“Soul Food D,” is about Logic’s come up in the industry and his motivation to be better than some of his idols. “I’m Gone,” has Logic speaking on his old weed habits and past relationships. “Gang Related,” is self-explanatory and boasts a crazy chanting sample throughout.

“Buried Alive,” was released prior to the album drop.  But it fits in nicely with the overall theme of pressure. Logic and the listeners spirits are lifted briefly, once “Bounce” comes around on the album. Straying, for a moment, from the serious themes of previous tracks, he speaks on his crew and how much they have meant to him from the start. “Growing Pains III” is another tale of Logic’s coming of age. His father is a recurring topic and is touched on again in this song. 

“Never Enough” is a song about substance abuse. A topic not foreign to the genre of hip-hop/ rap. But, what sets Logic apart from the pack on this one is the way he sampled two classic songs. He mixes both Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit Of Happiness” and Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean,” and makes a totally original sounding song. For me, this is one of the standouts on the album.

“Metropolis” is a smooth jazzy record that has Logic bouncing lyrically through the beat. “Nikki” puts Logic’s battle with smoking Cigarettes on a track. I like both of these track a lot, but they are almost overshadowed by the nine minute title track, “Under Pressure”.

We’ve already heard the shortened version of the title track, but the full version is much different. Early on in the song the dial tone hits and everything slows down, except Logic’s flow. The spacey guitar really compliments his voice, making you want to really listen to what he’s saying. Logic produced this song himself, and what he does with the rest of the song and beat is impressive. He seamlessly blends both beats together and continues to spit. It makes it even more amazing to hear a talented rapper who can also produce his own music. Don’t skip this song.

The regular version of the album finishes with “Till The End.” A song with no hook, just Logic and a female vocalist. The track boasts one of the best verses we’ve heard from an artist in a long time. It was an extremely strong way for Logic to close the curtains on Under Pressure.

Two of the three bonus tracks on the deluxe edition, “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Alive” had been released before the album. The songs are the only two on the album with featured artists. Childish Gambino and Big Sean are good features to have on an album, but something about hearing their voices seems out of place, Logic didn’t need them. Regardless of how they fit into the album they are fun songs to bump when you’re in a good mood or in the car.

Logic’s debut album Under Pressure is something special. It is a major label debut that doesn’t disappoint, a rare feat these days. He proves to all other up and coming artists that signing to a major label doesn’t necessarily mean you lose creative control. This is Logic’s album, not Def Jam’s. He proved to everyone that he has talent not only on the mic but on the boards. Under Pressure is a statement. It is Logic’s way of saying he’s here to stay.

Written By Berg and JW

Review: From Backpack Rap to Radio Hits, Wiz’s ‘Blacc Hollywood’ Ties Together 9 Years of Music

wiz-khalifa-blacc-hollywood-500x500It seems like only yesterday that I woke up early before class and checked Datpiff to see if anything new had come out the night before. I stumbled upon a cover of a Nintendo cartridge titled “Wiz Khalifa’s Star Power.” That was in 2007, I knew who Wiz was back then because of a few songs off of his previous Prince Of The City 2, but after listening to Star Power once and I was hooked. He had completely changed his style. He still had his hard raps but Wiz started singing and adding melody to a genre that was more about the rhythm and beat than tone. I’ve been a fan ever since.

The year is now 2014, and Wiz has released a fairly significant amount of music since Star Power and has become an icon in the music industry. He’s shut down the internet multiple times upon releasing project and has become a household name in a sense. With his latest studio album Blacc Hollywood, Wiz doesn’t necessarily stray from the script, or do anything differently at all, he just does everything BETTER.

If you thought Blacc Hollywood was going to be like his 28 Grams mixtape that was released earlier this year, then you were mistaken. Blacc Hollywood is a combination of his sing-song-hip-hop style as well as some other hard hitting street shit. Who’s going to change the song when “We Dem Boyz” comes on at a party??

It’s not just bangers like “We Dem Boyz” though, on “Promises”, Wiz slows everything down and tells his significant other that he will always hold them down. I can’t imagine this song not being about his wife, Amber Rose. Check out the video below.

There are a few throw back songs such as “Hope” and “The Sleaze” that will have you thinking it’s Wiz from Kush & OJ or Taylor Allderdice. 

Even the video for “KK” with Juicy J and Project Pat is wild and Frank Paladino did another great job directing Wiz’s video about his own strand of weed.

One song that is sure to catch your attention is “Ass Drop”. Wiz made another club banger for anyone out there who loves to twerk or loves to watch some twerking going on. This song is determined to get some air play and I’m really excited to see what Wiz does for the video if he does one.

My favorite song off of the album features an indie band called Ghost Loft. This is the one song on the album that I find myself listening to over and over again. “So High”, even if you are sober, makes you think you are floating with the high synth chords and droning kick drum that comes in during the chorus. This is a must listen and by far one of the best songs on Blacc Hollywood. 

Wiz has stuck pretty close to his script for the past few years and he hasn’t let anything outside his core group influence him. Yes, I get that he is a bit mainstream now compared to his back pack hip-hop days but that is okay. He still makes great music and Blacc Hollywood is no exception. He is clearly enjoying his life and you can tell through his music. So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride that is Blacc Hollywood.