Tag Archives: 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

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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

Smooth Waves: Best of April Playlist

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What a month it’s been. New music from all sorts of people, Mick Jenkins, Lil Yachty, Drake and Action Bronson to name a few. We also got a new album from ASAP Ferg and Drake’s Views From The 6 is coming out in the next 3 days. What a time to be alive. The playlist below has sounds from all the big names of the month and some new names that you might not know. Spanning from Appleby, the mysterious Chicago artist who has yet to show his face, and I’m willing to bet you haven’t heard before, to “All The Way Up” by Fat Joe (yeah that rapper from 2006). Give it a listen below, you won’t be disappointed.

Written by Jesse Wiles

Playlist by Asa Hatten and Jesse Wiles

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

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.