Tag Archives: Faces

Year In Review: Erik’s Top 10 Projects Of 2014

yearinreview.jpgThe year is coming to a close and 2015 is right around the corner. We thought it would only be appropriate to look back on what 2014 was in music. Therefore, Jesse and I decided to compile lists separately and talk about our favorites throughout the year. Here are my top 10 projects of 2014–in no particular order.

Vince Staples‘ Hell Can Wait EP– October 7, 2014- Def Jam Recordingshellcanwaitfinal-1I’m going to start off with what was the shortest release on my list, and for good reason. Vince Staple’s Hell Can Wait EP was some of the best material of the year, and it was only the “Debut EP” with Def Jam. “Fire” & “Blue Suede” are some of the standouts, and Staples continues to write tales of growing up in L.A. This is only the begining for Vince, and we expect big things to come from the artist in 2015.

Logic’s Under Pressure– October 21, 2014- Def Jam Recordingslogic-underpressure

Logic took a bold stance with going the major label route and releasing a retail album with Def Jam. However, we were shocked with how the risk payed off. Under Pressure is some of the best music, not only of the year, but of the decade, complete with some of the best production to date. Logic will continue to support the album throughout next year on his world tour. Don’t even hesitate to download this or take a listen to standouts like “Never Enough” or “Bounce.”

Chuck Inglish’s Convertibles- April 8, 2014- Sounds Like Fun Records, Federal Prism Records29e11a57Chuck Inglish had a huge year for himself. In addition to producing for tons of artists like Asher Roth and Chromeo, he even dropped a short EP before the album titled Droptops. Convertibles is just an extension of that EP and it is just so dope. It is everything a fan of Chuck wants and it sets up the next release for The Cool Kid’s Shark Week. Check out standouts like “Easily” or “Legs” featuring Chromeo.

Sir Michael Rocks’ Banco– July 29, 2014- 6 Cell PhonesbancoFrom one Cool Kid to another, Banco has some of the best tunes I’ve heard all year with Mikey Rock’s new style. He changed it up quite a bit, but it is definitely welcome. He was even able to get the CEO of Seaworld to resign because of his track “Fuck Seaworld”. Like I stated before, Shark Week is going to be something special.


IAMSU!’s Sincerely Yours– May 13, 2014- HBK Gang Records, Alternative Distribution Allianceiamsu-sincerely-yours-coverIAMSU! and the HBK Gang seemingly came out of nowhere in 2014. Su’s debut album Sincerely Yours did not disappoint at all and put the bay area on the map. He got some huge features from 2 Chainz, Wiz Khalifa & E-40. This was by far one of the best releases of the year even though it came out early. All production was in-house too, which makes it that much more authentic. “Hipster Girls” always gets the ladies dancing and closes the album out extremely well.

Mac Miller’s Faces- May 11th, 2014- REMember Music500_1399814298_mac_miller_faces_mixtape_590x590_20This project was all over the place, and I loved it. From the samples to the jazz-like instrumentation, it was by far much more compelling than any of Miller’s previous releases. He had tons of top notch features that fit exactly how they were supposed to. With the signing to Warner Brothers Records, 2015 is looking to be a big year from Mac Miller, so expect even more from the rapper in the future.

Schoolboy Q’s Oxymoron- Top Dawg, InterscopeYxSBE2mThis album was so hyped up that I almost lost faith in it, but boy, did School Boy Q deliver. After seeing him perform twice in 2013 personally, I wanted a much more refined sound from the TDE artist. Luckily, all of his fans got exactly what they wanted. “Hell Of A Night,” “Studio,” and “Man Of The Year” are some of the standouts, but the album is better when listened to from start to finish. TDE definitely blew up even more this year, and not because of Kendrick.


YG’s My Krazy Life- March 18th, 2014- Def Jam Recordings

1f3bce4388b7e62cbac35330bd3d53d3.902x762x1Yeah, we all know YG got snubbed from a Grammy nomination this year, but that doesn’t take away the fact that the artist released one of the best albums of the year. My Krazy Life was entirely produced by DJ-Mustard and put that West Coast sound back on the map. The laid-back beats and heavy bass lines wrapped around tales of being a blood growing up from YG completely captures similar feels from when Dr. Dre dropped The Chronic. “Bicken Back Being Bool”, “Do It To Ya” and “Left, Right” are some of my favorites.


Ab-Soul’s These Days…– June 24th, 2014- Top Dawg

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Ab-Soul has always been overlooked. He speaks his mind and raps over beats that are experimental, and sometimes, downright weird. I get that, but he has some of the most interesting things to say. He speaks on some real topics, even if some of it is about getting money. That completely makes sense considering where his is in his life right now. TDE is one of the hottest labels right now and they show no signs of slowing down. “Hunnid Stax” is one of my favorites, but what really took it from me was one of the bonus songs, “W.W.S.D.”

Asher Roth’s Retrohash– April 22nd, 2014- Federal Prism, Pale Fire

Asher-roth-retrohashAsher switched it up and went Beck like with Retrohash. Less raps and more life stories with some real smooth and relaxing music. It is indeed very moody but that shouldn’t turn any fan of Asher away. It is a great album start to finish, even if it is only 10 songs long. “Tangerine Girl” also became the go-to song for your local Skate Land!


Honorable Mentions:

Skizzy Mars’ Pace– March 9th, 2014. Penthouse Music
skizzymars-paceI wasn’t all that impressed the first time I listened to this project from Skizzy. However, with every listen after, it just continued to grow on me. Skizzy articulates stories of growing up, drugs and women, as well as being an artist. He is the definition of an artist coming up, especially as future releases will keep defining his sound. Expect big things to come from Skizzy. It just all “Makes Sense”.

Wiz Kahlifa’s Blacc Hollywood– August 18th, 2014- Atlantic, Rostrum Records
3497dc0f4e5c6ad2beb472d1d2f4fad1Ok, I know, it was basically more of the same from Wiz, but this album hit the speakers hard. From the intro to “We Dem Boyz,” Wiz turned his production value all the way up. That is what a major label will do and it sounds good. We also got a glimpse of Wiz’s personal life, as well as him transcending into a rap superstar with sold out arena shows. 28 Gramswas an experiment, while Blacc Hollywood was just more refined and sounded like it should be preformed in a huge area. Ironic that he did a tiny tour for it. Either way, it was still a great album from start to finish for a more Pop influenced Wiz.


Travis Scott’s Days Before Rodeo– August 18, 2014- Grand Hustle

Album_Cover_of_Travis_Scott's_Day_Before_RodeoTravis Scott put out some incredibly good music with great features, it just left me wanting more, so much more. The moody structure and the drug infused themes are captivating and I want to to know what happens next for the G.O.O.D. music rapper and producer.

There you have it! These are my favorites and the ones that should at least be mentioned. Let me know what you think and be ready for more from Smooth Waves in 2015!

Written by E.L.

Year in Review: Jesse’s Top 10 Projects of 2014

Graphic By Han Mahle
Graphic By Han Mahle

2014 was a wild year for hip-hop/ rap and we were here to document almost all of it. The following ten projects are my favorite of the year, in no particular order.


Ab-Soul, These Days…, TDE

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Photo by Jesse Wiles

These Days… is Ab-Soul’s best project to date, slightly edging out his 2012 debut album, Control System. The album never really seemed to garner much attention outside of Ab’s fan base, and most blogs overlooked it on their top albums of the year list. However, it is deserving of much more praise. With jazz-influenced songs like “Kendrick Lamar’s Interlude” and bass-heavy, street bangers like “Nevermind That,” featuring Rick Ross, the album has something for everyone. From the impressive list of featured artists, to the slightly controversial album artwork, everything was well thought out and executed perfectly by TDE. Ab gave us exactly what he wanted, and it was beautiful.


Kevin AbstractMTV1987, N/A

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Kevin Abstract took the internet by storm in 2014. Going from an artist who was well known in the smaller, underground blog community to being posted on Complex, Billboard and Pigeons and Planes regularly. Even more impressive than his rise to stardom was his debut project, MTV1987. The 12 track tape paints a vivid picture of what growing up and coming of age in an era dominated by social media is like. With only 3 features, MTV1987 gives new listeners an idea of how versatile Kevin is on the mic, being both a rapper and a singer. This is a project that will be relevant for years to come. The influence of MTV1987 can be seen everywhere, ranging from Twitter to Soundcloud. A new generation of young people armed with ideas and MacBooks are pushing the boundaries of contemporary art and music.


Theophilus London, Vibes, Warner Bros Records

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Vibes is, in Theophilus’ own words, a “real Palm Springs, smoke a joint, hit some mushrooms, go to Joshua Tree, bathe in some motherfuckin’ volcano water… shit like that.” He doesn’t lie, the album is, for lack of a better term, incredibly vibe-y. The whole thing is a hodge podge of different sounds, hitting different ranges of music, from vintage 80’s inspired disco and psychedelic pop, to contemporary hip-hop. This is largely in thanks to the flawless executive production of Kanye West. It’s not everyday that the presence of Kanye West isn’t overwhelming, but on Vibes, he takes a step back and allows London to shine. London’s camp took a huge L in first week sales, barely pushing 2,800 units. However, this isn’t something that’s going to take over the radio and mainstream music. Vibes is a work of art, wonderfully ambitious and experimental.


Mick Jenkins, The Water[s], N/A

Photo by Jesse Wiles
Photo by Jesse Wiles

Chicago was the hottest city of 2014 for hip hop, followed closely by Atlanta. Chief Keef, drill music, gun violence, GBE, Lucki Eck$, Chance, Alex Wiley… the list of prevalent artists and themes goes on and on. With all of that going on, and all of the artists trying to follow in the footsteps of musicians like Chief Keef and Chance the Rapper, it’s hard to differentiate real talent from those biting off of pre-established talent. Enter Mick Jenkins. I could say a lot about Mick: how socially conscious his raps are, or how progressive his sound is, but I’m not going to say anything about that. I’m going to say one thing. Take an hour out of your day and listen to The Water[s]. If you don’t want to take the time to listen to it all, at least listen to “Dehydration” and “Martyrs.” You can learn something from Mick, and not many rappers teach with their words anymore.


Mac Miller, Faces, Warner Bros Records

mac-miller-4Faces is the sound Mac Miller has been searching for for most of his career. He became successful with the frat-rap style that spread like wildfire through college campuses across the US and then ditched that, going after a different sound. However, there was still too much of a college influence on his music, and for a few years he had only mediocre releases (see Blue Slide Park and Best Day Ever). Then, Faces dropped, a tape that seemed, at first, to hold too many songs–24 in all–with no real theme or a unifying sound. And that’s exactly what Mac Miller is, an artist that you can’t label. He’s going to give you laid back songs about drugs, “Angel Dust,” and then 17 songs later he’ll randomly drop a banger with MMG’s Rick Ross, “Insomniak.” Faces is one of the few projects that dropped early on in 2014 and remained relevant after countless listens.


Riff Raff, Neon Icon, Mad Decent

Photo by Jesse Wiles
Photo by Jesse Wiles

Look past the white man with cornrows, NEFF sunglasses, vintage windbreakers, and the absurd Versace references and realize that Riff Raff had one of the best albums of 2014. Maybe it’s because of how relaxed this album is; it’s not someone flexing guns and talking street violence, but more a change of pace. The album is full of a range of music, featuring comical songs, 80’s disco reminiscent of the soundtrack for the 2011 movie Drive, rock and roll, and actual rap songs. Riff Raff takes the script, rips it up, flushes it down the toilet, and then rewrites it entirely. You probably hate Neon Icon, but that’s okay, stop being so serious.


J.Cole, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, Columbia/ Roc Nation

J. Cole photograph by Aaron SternIn a bold move, J. Cole and Roc Nation released one of the best albums of the year without dropping any singles, only alerting the public a few weeks before the release date and having no featured artists. 2014 Forest Hills Drive is Friday Night Lights J. Cole. This is what we’ve been missing from music, and Cole specifically. “You can listen to Born Sinner. You can listen to Sideline Story and hear it, coming out. I wasn’t liking it— I wasn’t happy,” Cole said in an interview with NPR on December 12. Since “letting go” of the things that were holding him back, he’s been able to reconnect with and recreate music that he’s happy with. He holds nothing back on 2014 Forest Hills Drive, being brutally honest on songs like “Wet Dreamz.” He also talks about his quest for material items and wealth on “Tale of 2 Citiez.” You can’t help but be happy for J. Cole with this release–quality hip-hop from a quality human being.


Travi$ Scott, Days Before Rodeo, EPIC/ Grand Hustle/ GOOD Music

travi-scott-uptown-upper-echelon-billboard-in-studio-performance-0If you’re looking for lyricism and content that’s on par with other albums on this list, you won’t find it here. With features from the hottest artists at the moment such as Migos, Young Thug, and Rich Homie Quan, Days Before Rodeo perfectly embodies the current state of hip-hop and rap. Somehow, the tracks maintain street credibility while also being mainstream enough to appeal to a wide audience. Full of overly simplistic lyrics like, “Call her ticket, cause I really want to meet her (meter),” Travi$ does the most with, well, not a whole not. Expert production and a wide array of different sounds on each track make this the best project of the year.


Childish Gambino, Because The Internet, Island/ Glassnote

Childish-Gambino

There’s not one bad song on Because The Internet. Childish Gambino has done nothing but release quality music since his mixtape days. However, with every release, he gains a new set of critics. He said it best on the song “Be Alone,” off of his first EP, tastefully named EP, “Hard for a Pitchfork, soft for a Roc-a-Fella.” What he’s saying with that line is that his raps are too raw and real for blogs like Pitchfork too handle, but too soft and not street-worthy enough for big record labels like Jay-Z’s Roc-a-Fella Records. It’s incredibly unfair that Childish Gambino is still viewed with that lens, as he’s one of, if not the most, talented artists out right now. The only other comparable artist is Drake, who seems to get praise from nearly everyone, all the time. Gambino continues to push the envelope, experimenting with different beats, themes and deliveries, while artists like Drake stay in their comfort zones, dropping albums awfully similar to their last release.


Curtis Williams, Danco James, Two-9

curtis-williams-450x300Curtis Williams and Two-9 records are going to blow up in 2015. Thanks, in part, to the fact that Atlanta is playing host to one of the biggest hip-hop movements at the moment and, because they have put together one of the more promising, young collectives in hip-hop. Danco James is one of those tapes that people are going to look back at in a few years and ask themselves, “how did I miss that?” With a smooth, stoner vibe to the project, Curtis comes correct with all 15 tracks. Only straying from the laid back mood on a few uptempo songs like “Box Logos & Box Chevy’s,” “Bong Interlude,” and “Drugs.” Look for Curtis and Two-9 to make big moves in 2015.


Written by Jesse Wiles

These are the 12 best projects of 2014 (so far), compiled by JW

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Graphic by Han Mahle

 

When I look back on 2014, so far, the only projects that really stand out to me are mixtapes. Sure, there have been a few good albums, but mostly, I’ve listened to unofficial projects. Thus far, 2014 is the year of the mixtape, I could give you a list of the 50 best tapes of the year but I’ll stick to giving you my 12 favorite projects.

This list is chocked full of variety, from sing-song club hits to drug infused trap rap to indie rock, there’s a little bit of something for almost everyone. So, without further ado, here are the Best Projects of 2014, thus far. Compiled by writer JW.

12.) Hyype- Divine Minded
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Chicago rapper Hyype has had an impressive 2014. His mixtape Divine Minded is making my list for two reasons. One, he’s a pretty small time rapper at the moment, but his music is deserving of much more attention. Coming out of Chicago, surrounded by so much emerging talent makes it hard to stand out, but through Divine Minded he distances himself from the competition. And, two, the project is actually very good. From start to finish it maintains a professional sound. The features, production, theme and lyrics are all top notch. Some stand out tracks are “Siege,” “Black Attire” ft. Lucki Eck$ and “Benz.” Download Divine Minded HERE, you won’t be disappointed.

11.) PARTYNEXTDOOR- PND 2
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If you’re a fan of PND then you’ll love PND 2, otherwise it’s just more noise. However, being a very big PARTYNEXTDOOR fan I loved PND 2. As the debut studio project for PND this is pretty great. It’s a classic case of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Sticking to his guns throughout the project he gives listeners a slurred, viby, late night at the club, R&B influenced tape. Don’t download this one in hopes of finding exceptional lyricism or anything groundbreaking. Full of hypnotic beats and catchy hooks PND 2 is great to listen to while hanging out by yourself. Some of the standout tracks are “Her Way” and “Recognize.” Download the project HERE.

10.) Allan Kingdom- Future Memoirs
allan-kingdom-future-memoirsI’m not going to lie, on first listen, I didn’t really care for Future Memoirs. Then the single “Already” ft. Kevin Abstract dropped and I couldn’t handle the way Allan danced all over that absolutely insane beat, and the way he held his composure throughout the whole song so well. Anyways, I went back and checked out Future Memoirs, it’s as good as everyone says it is, if not better. On the song “Wavy” he kills the track with a mixture of rapping and ‘pre-pubescent’ crooning that puts whatever the hell Yung Thug is doing to shame. Spooky Black is also featured on the song and the Minnesotan duo sound incredible together (if you ever read this Allan or Spooky, do a joint album, shit would be fire). Other standout tracks are “Evergreens” and “Souls.” Stream and download the tape right HERE.

9.) Kevin Abstract- MTV 1987
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It’s not everyday that someone comes along, pretty much out of nowhere, and is able to speak for an entire generation of kids. However, Kevin Abstract has proven that he can do just that. His debut project MTV 1987, as he puts it, is an album for “all of the self-conscious kids who would rather be in their bedroom pretending to be someone else online than going to a high school party and attempting to socialize. The Internet is dark but I feel safe here” (via Billboard). The project was premiered through Billboard and only features 3 other artists. Kevin is only 17, which blows my mind, and already has his own aesthetic, sound and following, there is only one place for the Corpus Christi rapper to go, and that’s up. Some standout tracks are “27,” “SAVE” and “DRUGS.” Stream the project HERE.

8.) Curren$y- Saturday Night Car Tunes
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Curren$y, much like Drake, has made a career out of creating a lot of songs that sound the exact same. The Jet Life rapper has been in the game for awhile and he hasn’t shown much versatility on the mic. But, that’s okay. And you know why? Because he’s so damn good at doing what he does. I’ve never grown tired of his high-out-of-his-mind delivery and raps about nice cars. Saturday Night Car Tunes is the perfect tape to listen to while you’re (blunt) cruising through town late at night. Download the project right HERE.

7.) Joey Fatts- Chipper Jones 3
coverJoey Fatts’ career started as a homeless 21 year old who got his big break when A$AP Rocky recruited him for production on his debut album Long.Live.A$AP. The 21 year old had only been making beats for a year, but he worked with A$AP, and the rest is history. Joey’s mixtape Chipper Jones Vol. 3, which released a few weeks back, is HOT. We’re talking, on fire. The tape consists of 10 tracks and Joey’s production and lyrics are dynamite throughout. Chipper Jones Vol. 3 features the likes of A$AP Rocky, Waka Flocka and his cousin Vince Staples, among others. Stream the project right HERE.

6.) Big K.R.I.T.- See Me On Top 4
Big-KRIT-See-Me-On-Top-Vol-4-Mixtape-DownloadBig K.R.I.T.’s fourth installment of his See Me On Top mixtape series is flames. The Southern rapper sticks to his roots throughout the project, but at times shows hints of being the rapper that’s radio friendly and versatile. The tape, which only released last week, consists of 20 tracks, most of which K.R.I.T. produced himself. There are a few songs that standout, most notably his freestyle of Drake and Wayne’s “Believe Me.” He spits with such confidence that it’ll leave you speechless, wondering if Drake and Wayne even did the original version justice. Then, there’s “Smoke in Mirrors,” an incredibly smooth joint that he hums through with ease. His album Cadillactica should be here sooner rather than later so be sure to keep an eye out. See Me On Top Vol.4 can be downloaded HERE.

5.) Raury- Indigo Child
500_1408982698_saokuf2_78Raury has burst on the scene in the past few months. From meeting with Kanye West, to signing a major deal the young artist can’t stay off of blogs. Indigo Child is a bold first tape. The lead single, “God’s Whisper,” is a blatant stand against the conformity of everyday life and quite literally ‘sticks it to the man.’ This whole project is incredibly refreshing. It’s not everyday that a tape can remind you of late 70s rock and roll, Kid Cudi and Frank Ocean at the same time and somehow maintain a cohesive rhythm and identity. Hats off to Raury on this first project, we want more from him. Stream the project HERE.

4.) Mick Jenkins- The Water[s]
Mick_Jenkins_The_Waters-front-largeMick is able to branch out to a mainstream audience without losing any of the quality that we’ve come to expect from him in the past via past tapes like Trees and Truths. With socially aware lyrics and a progressive flow, layered over jazz infused beats, The Water[s] is a treat to listeners ears from start to finish. Songs like “THC” make it all too easy to zone out and enjoy the music. His deep voice mixed with the hectic beat create a perfect unity of sorts. Similarly, on “514,” later in the tape, his deep delivery pairs with the laid back production in the exact same way. Mick has a sound that’s pretty rare these days and a deeper message that’s delivered in every song, something music’s been missing. Download the project HERE.

3.) Mac Miller- Faces
Mac_Miller_Faces-front-largeI said this earlier this year in my review, and I’l say it again; If this had been a two part mixtape it would be SO MUCH MORE POPULAR. At 24 songs long this is just too long to properly enjoy. Think of how much better it would have been if he dropped off Faces Vol. 1 and then a month later given us Faces Vol. 2. This tape has too much quality that isn’t being talked about. Ever since Mac left the frat rap scene and branched out to this trippy, producer, wild style of rap he’s been so much better. From the trippy, laid back “Angel Dust” to a hard hitting “Insomniak” track with a feature from MMG’s Rick Ross this is a complete project. Watching Movies With The Sound Off was Mac Miller coming into his own sound and Faces is his total transition into what we can expect to hear from him in the future. Download the whole tape HERE.

2.) Curtis Williams- Danco James
Curtis_Williams_Danco_James-front-largeDanco James… where do I even start with this project? It came out as a complete surprise to me. I had heard Curtis Williams a few times and I knew he was dope, but not to this extent. This tape is an absolute banger. I can’t emphasize how good this is from start to finish. It flows perfectly, Curtis’ lyrics are on point the whole time, the production is beautiful, the features match up perfectly with Curtis’ vibe and the theme of the project. Sit down for 45 minutes and listen to this from start to finish. Listen to this before you go to sleep, or at a party, it doesn’t matter where you are, this is going to be relevant. Download it right now HERE.

1.) Travi$ Scott- Days Before Rodeo
largeLet’s get one thing straight, this isn’t a ‘free mixtape’ this is 12 tracks of album quality material. You don’t feature Big Sean, Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan, The 1975, Migos, TI and Peewee Longway on a mixtape. This is so good that it has me worried for the release of Rodeo, Scott’s debut studio album. Topping this will be a feat in itself. However, Travi$ definitely has the resources to do so. Some standout tracks are “Skyfall” ft. Young Thug. From a production standpoint this song is beautiful and somehow Young Thug is incredibly tolerable throughout the whole 5 minutes. Another dope song is “Quintana Pt. 2″ which features a secret verse from TI and will have you saying “I’m finessing” all day long in your head. Get the tape HERE.

Written by Jesse Wiles

Still Celebrating The One Year Anniversary Of “Watching Movies With The Sound Off”, Mac Miller Gives Us “Melt” Featuring Schoolboy Q

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Mac Miller’s work ethic is not questioned one bit when it comes to music. Even after putting out a 24 track mixtape earlier this year, Mac still comes through with another new song today. “Melt” is an unreleased track that was supposed to be on “Watching Movies With The Sound Off” but was cut. In my opinion, this song would have fit perfectly almost anywhere on that album. It was even produced by the legendary Pete Rock! But in any case, take a listen to this one below and especially the Schoolboy feature because he kills it. Enjoy!