Archive for the ‘music’ Category

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July 2020 Playlist

August 7, 2020

* indicates July addition

Notes: I started using the Last.fm app in tandem with the Eavescrob app to track the music I’m listening to even more accurately. This might actually change the way I make these posts. For now, I’m keeping the adjustments I made last month, but I’m going to include a list of the artists I’ve been listening to the most since I started using these apps midway through July. I basically keep every album in my Priority Playlist for ~4 months – and for the purposes of these blog posts, I will include all new albums for the past month – but as far as older recent albums, I don’t see much point in making anyone sift through the vast majority of stuff that never make it past a Courtesy Rotation and will exclude them from all future posts unless they rise up later on. Also, it’s probably worth noting that any album I post a review for got a big boost in spins because I spent extra time thinking about it.

Top 20 Artists I Listened To The Most In July (in order, according to Last.fm)

1. Logic
2. Apollo Brown & Che Noir
3. Blu & Exile
4. Brother Ali
5. Pop Smoke
6. Dua Lipa
7. R.A. the Rugged Man
8. Baby B
9. Juice WRLD
10. Kyle
11. J.Cole
12. Lil Wayne
13. Black Soprano Family
14. Dr. Dre
15. Ellie Goulding
16. Phoebe Bridgers
17. 38 Spesh
18. Blackalicous
19. Flatbush Zombies
20. Lupe Fiasco

HEAVY ROTATION (heard whole album many times)

*Apollo Brown & Che Noir – As God Intended
Baby B – Text at 2 AM
Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
Flatbush Zombies – now, more than ever – EP
Jay Electronica (and Jay-Z!) – A Written Testimony
Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake
Run the Jewels – RTJ4
The Weeknd – After Hours

STRONG ROTATION (listened to most of album 3-4 times)

6lack – 6pc Hot EP
*CeeLo Green – CeeLo Green is Thomas Callaway
Childish Gambino – 3.15.20
Chris Brown & Young Thug – Slime & B
Conway the Machine and The Alchemist – LULU
Deante’ Hitchcock – BETTER
Freddy Gibbs & The Alchemist – Alfredo
Future – High Off Life
Grafh – Oracle 3
Jessie Reyez – BEFORE LOVE CAME TO KILL US
Jhene Aiko – Chilombo
*Juice WRLD – Legends Never Die
Lil Brick – Road to Ouroboros – EP
Lil Durk – Just Cause Y’all Waited 2
Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake [Deluxe]
*Logic – No Pressure
Kota the Friend – Everything
*Pop Smoke – Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon
R.A. the Rugged Man – All My Heroes Are Dead
Sam Hunt – SOUTHSIDE
Westside Gunn – Pray for Paris

SOLID ROTATION (heard most of the album twice)

A Boogie wit da Hoodie – Artist 2.0 [Deluxe]
*Blu & Exile – Miles
Buddy & Kent Jamz – Janktape Vol. 1
dvsn – A Muse In Her Feelings
J Hus – Big Conspiracy
Jadakiss – Ignatius
Joell Ortiz & Crooked I – H.A.R.D.
Kemba – The World is Watching – EP
*Kyle – See You When I’m Famous!!!!!!!
Lil Simz – Drop 6 – EP
Lil Tjay – State of Emergency
Markis Precise – No Wings Without Scars
*Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
Polo G – THE GOAT
Wale – The Imperfect Storm
*Westside Gunn – Flygod is an Awesome God 2

COURTESY ROTATION (heard whole album)

*38 Spesh – 6 Shots
*Black Soprano Family – Benny the Butcher and DJ Drama presents Black Soprano Family
*Ellie Goulding – Brightest Blue
*Lupe Fiasco & Kaelin Ellis – HOUSE
*Oddisee – Odd Cure
*RARE Sound & K CAMP – Rare Family

SKIM ROTATION (haven’t heard whole album)

*Charli XCX – how i’m feeling right now
*Pink Sweat$ – The Prelude – EP
*Summer Walker – Life on Earth – EP

TOO NEW/NO LOVE (zero listens)

*Flee Lord – The People’s Champ
*MIKE – WEIGHT OF THE WORLD
*Nyck Caution – Open Flame – EP

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

Apollo Brown & Che NoirAs God Intended

Bangerz Playlist Additions – Follow me on Apple Music @DarkKnight1717 to add my playlists

Apollo Brown & Che Noir ft. Black Thought, “Hustle Don’t Give”
Apollo Brown & Che Noir ft. Blakk Soul, “Anti-Social”
Apollo Brown & Che Noir, “Worth Gold”
Baby B, “Baddest Girl”
Blu & Exile ft. C.S. Armstrong, “Miles Away”
Blu & Exile ft. Jacinto Rhines, “The Feeling”
Jacob Latimore, “Come Over Here”
Joey Bada$$, “Shine”
Joey Bada$$, “The Light”
Lil Wayne, “Glory”
Pop Smoke, “Something Special”
Pop Smoke ft. Lil Tjay, “Mood Swings”
R.A. the Rugged Man ft. David Myles, “Wondering (How To Believe)”
Run the Jewels ft. Pharrell Williams & Zack de la Rocha, “JU$T”
Run the Jewels ft. 2 Chainz, “out of sight”
Run the Jewels ft. Greg Nice & DJ Premier, “ooh la la”

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Flatbush Zombies – now, more than ever – EP (2020)

July 21, 2020

Flatbush Zombies – now, more than ever – EP (2020, Rap)

1. “herb” – 3.5
2. “iamlegend” – 3
3. “quicksand” – 3.5
4. “dirty elevator music” – 4
5. “blessings” – 3.5
6. “when i’m gone” ft. Sophie Faith – 4

Spin Rate: 8.5
Most Played Track: “herb” (10x)
Average Song Rating: 3.58/5
3.5+ Percentage: 83%
Cuts: 0
Bangers: 2

Thoughts: I haven’t heard much music from Flatbush Zombies that wasn’t dope. They consistently release solid projects and this EP fits the bill. All three emcees are capable, though I’ve always been partial to the gruff-sounding Meechy Darko, but after seeing someone negatively describing him as sounding like a B-Movie Monster, maybe he’s not for everyone. I love him though. These guys just make good music. “dirty elevator music” has an absolutely sick beat and I love how the “it’s like…” vocal sample is looped during the verses on “when i’m gone.” The track is plenty nice on its own merit, but that aspect really elevates it for me and it’s such a simple thing. now, more than ever is another extremely strong, but short project from a very talented and overlooked hip-hop group.

Verdict: 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

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Group Home – Livin’ Proof (1995)

July 11, 2020

Group Home – Livin’ Proof (1995, Rap)

Release Date: November 21st, 1995

Song Rating Scale

1. “Intro” – N/A (really nice melody though)
2. “Inna City Life” – 3.5
3. “Livin’ Proof” – 4
4. “Serious Rap S**t” ft. Guru & Big Shug – 3
5. “Suspended In Time” – 3.5
6. “Sacrifice” ft. Absaloot – 3
7. “Up Against the Wall (Low Budget Mix)” – 4
8. “4 Give My Sins” – 2.5
9. “Baby Pa” – 2
10. “2 Thousand” – 3
11. “Supa Star” – 3.5
12. “Up Against the Wall (Getaway Car Mix)” – 2.75
13. “Tha Realness” ft. Smiley the Ghetto Child & Jack the Ripper – 3.5

Spin Rate: 4.1
Most Played Track: “Sacrifice” (6x)
Average Song Rating: 3.19/5
3.5+ Percentage: 50%
Cuts: 3
Bangers: 2

Thoughts: I came across this album in a hip-hop group I’m in on Facebook and since plenty of commenters consider it a classic and DJ Premier was behind the boards for most of the production, I decided it would be the next old school project I examined. I’ve never heard any of this before – except maybe the “Livin’ Proof” instrumental – so this was all fresh to me.

Honestly, I was underwhelmed. Premier does his part, but he really carries this album on his back. The beats on “Livin’ Proof” and “Up Against the Wall (Low Budget Mix) are flames. The rappers in Group Home are Lil Dap and Melachi the Nutcracker. Lil Dap has a cool voice and nice delivery, but Melachi is NOT a good rapper. There are tracks where he is almost unlistenable. I gave the first “Up Against the Wall” banger status, but that’s because the beat is crazy and Lil Dap sounds great over it, but Melachi’s verses on it are straight up embarrassing. Listening to these guys rap, I can’t help but wonder if they freestyled this whole album. It really sounds like Premo just put a banger on and they record off the top of their head and kept the vocals when they didn’t make any mistakes. There is zero substance, complexity, or creativity to any of the lyricism on this album. If they wrote most of this stuff, they should be ashamed. If they freestyled all of it, it’s kind of impressive.

Premo did every beat on the album except “Serious Rap S**t” (Guru) and “4 Give My Sins” (Jaz-O) and, unsurprisingly, those are two of the weaker tracks on the album. I gave the second version of “Up Against the Wall” a 2.75 because while it’s not a bad song, the beat is substantially better on the first version, the vocals are all the same, and it just doesn’t need to be here. “Baby Pa” also probably unfairly brings the overall score down because it’s a 3+ minute track that has almost no rapping on it – a clear cut.

Overall, I’m impressed with Premier, but that’s to be expected. The rappers on this album are just too weak for it to be considered anything close to a classic album though. It’s no wonder they basically disappeared after this project. I say check it out for the beats and because there’s some good tracks on here, but this is far from an essential 90s album.

Verdict: 6/10 (Very Light Recommendation)

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June 2020 Music Playlist

July 10, 2020

* indicates June addition

Notes: I made an adjustment this month. I basically keep every album in my Priority Playlist for ~4 months – and for the purposes of these blog posts, I will include all new albums for the past month – but as far as older recent albums, I don’t see much point in making anyone sift through the vast majority of stuff that never make it past a Courtesy Rotation and will exclude them from all future posts unless they rise up later on. Also, it’s probably worth noting that any album I post a review for got a big boost in spins because I spent extra time thinking about it, so G Herbo jumps into Heavy Rotation here even though I didn’t particularly like his album.

HEAVY ROTATION (heard whole album many times)

Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
*Flatbush Zombies – now, more than ever – EP
G Herbo – PTSD
Jay Electronica (and Jay-Z!) – A Written Testimony
Lil Baby – My Turn
Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake
Planet Asia & 38 Spesh – Trust the Chain
Royce da 5’9″ – The Allegory
*Run the Jewels – RTJ4
The Weeknd – After Hours

STRONG ROTATION (listened to most of album 3-4 times)

*Baby B – Text at 2 AM
Chris Brown & Young Thug – Slime & B
Deante’ Hitchcock – BETTER
Freddy Gibbs & The Alchemist – Alfredo
Future – High Off Life
Grafh – Oracle 3
Jessie Reyez – BEFORE LOVE CAME TO KILL US
*Lil Brick – Road to Ouroboros – EP
Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake [Deluxe]
Kamaiyah – Got It Made
Kota the Friend – Everything
R.A. the Rugged Man – All My Heroes Are Dead
Sam Hunt – SOUTHSIDE
Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
Westside Gunn – Pray for Paris

SOLID ROTATION (heard whole album at least twice)

*A Boogie wit da Hoodie – Artist 2.0 [Deluxe]
Buddy & Kent Jamz – Janktape Vol. 1
Childish Gambino – 3.15.20
J Hus – Big Conspiracy
Jadakiss – Ignatius
Jhene Aiko – Chilombo
Lil Durk – Just Cause Y’all Waited 2
Lil Simz – Drop 6 – EP
Lil Tjay – State of Emergency

COURTESY ROTATION (heard whole album)

*6lack – 6pc Hot EP
*John Legend – Bigger Love
*Kemba – The World is Watching – EP
*Wale – The Imperfect Storm

SKIM ROTATION (haven’t heard whole album)

*Big Ghost Ltd & Conway the Machine – No One Mourns the Wicked
*Bino Rideaux – OUTSIDE
*Black Eyed Peas – TRANSLATION
*G-Eazy – Everything’s Strange
*IDK – IDK & Friends 2 (Basketball County Soundtrack)
*Marlon Craft – Work From Home – EP
*R.A.P. Ferriera – Purple Moonlight Pages
*Robbie Perez – Obra: Inspired by 2020 – EP
*Teyana Taylor – The Album
*The High Note Soundtrack

TOO NEW/NO LOVE (zero listens)

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

Run the JewelsRTJ4

Bangerz Playlist Additions – Follow me on Apple Music @DarkKnight1717 to add my playlists

Baby B, “She Know”
Flatbush Zombies ft. Sophie Faith, “when i’m gone”
Flatbush Zombies, “dirty elevator music”
Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist ft. Tyler, the Creator, “Something to Rap About”
G Herbo ft. Chance the Rapper, Juice WRLD & Lil Uzi Vert, “PTSD”
G Herbo ft. BJ the Chicago Kid, “Gangstas Cry”
J. Cole, “Snow on tha Bluff”
Lil Baby, “The Bigger Picture”
Lil Baby, “Woah”
Lil Baby, “Catch the Sun”
Meek Mill, “Otherside of America”
PARTYNEXTDOOR ft. Drake & Bad Bunny, “LOYAL (Remix)”
Planet Asia & 38 Spesh, “Juggernauts”
Planet Asia & 38 Spesh, “Tec and a Mink”
RMR ft. Future & Lil Baby, “DEALER”
Royce da 5’9″ ft. Ashley Sorrell, “Pendulum”
Run the Jewels, “a few words for the firing squad”
Spillage Village ft. EARTHGANG, J.I.D., Jurdan Bryant, Mereba & Hollywood JB, “End of Daze”

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Run the Jewels – RTJ4 (2020)

July 7, 2020

Run the Jewels – RTJ4 (2020, RAP)

1. “yankee and the brain (ep. 4)” – 3.5
2. “ooh la la” ft. Greg Nice & DJ Premier – 4
3. “out of sight” ft. 2 Chainz – 4
4. “holy calamafuck” – 3.5
5. “goonies vs E.T.” – 3.5
6. “walking in the snow” ft. Gangsta Boo – 3.5
7. “JU$T” ft. Pharrell Williams & Zack de la Rocha – 4
8. “never look back” – 3.5
9. “the ground below” – 3.5
10. “pulling the pin” ft. Joshua Homme & Mavis Staples – 3.5
11. “a few words for the firing squad (radiation)” – 4.5

Spin Rate: 7.64
Most Played Track: “yankee and the brain (ep. 4)” (10x)
Average Song Rating: 3.73/5
3.5+ Percentage: 100%
Cuts: 0
Bangers: 4

Thoughts: At this point, it’s fair to say Run the Jewels are on a legendary run. Killer Mike and El-P have now put together four high quality albums in row and continue to stay politically and socially conscious and timely. Their music is consistently good and relevant, yet somehow they seem wildly underrated, especially by the general audiences. The rapping and production are really good on pretty much every track and there isn’t a song on here that I’d leave off the album. “A few words for the firing squad” is my favorite song on the album with Killer Mike putting together this set of bars that just rings so true:

It’s crippling, make you wanna lean, on a cup of promethazine
but my queen say she need a king, not another junkie, flunkie rapper fiend
friends tell her, ‘he could be another Malcolm, he could be another Martin’
she told her partner, ‘I need a husband more than the world need another martyr.’

Goddamn. Those bars just go so hard and the way he raps it makes it even better. These guys stay extremely consistent and this is just another feather in the cap of a legacy that is starting to be worth mentioning among the all-time greats.

Verdict: 8/10 (Must Listen)

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February 2020 Album Reviews (Part 2)

June 16, 2020

A good rule of thumb in order for me to rate an album is that I probably need to listen to it at least twice. Possibly the only exception to this rule is when I deem an album unlistenable and can barely (or can’t) even make it through the whole album the first time. Listening to and evaluating music is a pretty fluid process though, so all ratings are subject to change in the future as albums grow on me or I realize I initially overrated them. I’ve been sitting on most of these albums for about three months now, so I feel pretty good about these reviews. I will bold any song I added to my Bangers Playlist – usually at least a 4 on my rating scale.

SCALE

5 – Perfection – Elite on every level. Pure bliss in musical form. Literally perfect.
4.5 – Great – Mostly elite, but not quite on that all-time level of the best songs ever created.
4 – Very Good – This is basically the cut off for my Bangers Playlists, which are essentially a list of my favorite songs of the year. I feel like I should never want to skip a song I give a 4. Any album that can average a 4 is probably amazing.
3.5 – Good – I feel like this is where you want to sit as an artist. Making good songs. Sometimes you will make really good songs and sometimes you will make some not so good songs. An artist that consistently reaches this level is by no means average though… they are nice.
3 – Cool – When people say something is “not bad,” that’s what this is. It’s not exactly good, but it’s not really a weak track either. When I give something a 3, I like it, but I’m a bit lukewarm on it, whereas I’m 100% on board with something I give a 3.5. I basically consider a 3 to be “acceptable filler,” so I’m going to skip these tracks a decent amount of the time. You don’t want to sit here as an artist. The difference between an album that averages a 3.5 and one that averages a 3 is huge. A 3.5 is undeniably good while a 3 is decidedly mediocre.
2.5 – Decent – Any song I give a 2.5 to is something I’d cut from an album. It’s not good enough to be on there and megafans and completionists are the only people that ever needed to hear it. A 2.5 is the ceiling for weak songs though, so I guess I’d call them decent, but decent isn’t good enough to be album material. This is unacceptable filler – almost always a skip. An album that averages a 2.5 rating is almost certainly trash.
2 – Bad – These are flat out bad tracks. There are songs I don’t really like but I’d call decent and then there are songs I don’t like that just plain suck. That’s what a 2 is.
1 – Trash – No need for a 1.5. A trash track is worse than a bad track. We are talking pure garbage here.

Spin Rate – This is an important feature because not only does it show how much listening love I gave an album, but it also reflects how reliable my opinion on it is. I’m going to trust someone that listened to something 5+ times through a hell of a lot more than someone that just gave an album one listen. It’s not perfect. I just add up the total number of listens for every song on the album and divide it by the number of actual songs on the album (intros, skits, outros are generally excluded). But if my spin rate is a 5, then you can assume I’ve listened to most of the album at least five times through.

OLD SCHOOL ALBUM OF THE MONTH: Every once in a while someone challenges my early hip-hop knowledge and while I’m typically aware of the key artists and albums from the 80s and early 90s, my knowledge is not intimate. Like, if someone asks me to rattle off my favorite KRS-One or Rakim & Eric B. songs, I’d struggle to even name more than a couple song titles, let alone my favorites. I need to fix this. Last month I created a playlist of all the essential artists and albums of this era and each month when I post my reviews for current albums, I will also rate one album from this era. I do think this might be difficult since rap music sounds so different today and lyricism has evolved so much. I can’t pretend like it’s 1988 and I’m hearing something for the first time when it might sound groundbreaking; nor can I act like the genre doesn’t have 40 years of history. But I’ll do my best.

The D.O.C.No One Can Do It Better (1989, Rap)
1. “It’s Funky Enough” – 4
2. “Mind Blowin'” – 3.5
3. “Lend Me an Ear” – 3
4. “Comm. Blues” – N/A
5. “Let the Bass Go” – 3.5
6. “Beautiful But Deadly” – 3.5
7. “D.O.C. and the Doctor” – 3
8. “No One Can Do It Better” – 3.5
9. “Whirlwind Pyramid” – 4
10. “Comm. 2” – N/A
11. “The Formula” – 3.5
12. “Portrait of a Master Piece” – 3.5
13. “The Grand Finale” ft. N.W.A. – 4

Spin Rate: 3.45
Average Song Rating: 3.55/5
3.5+ Percentage: 82%
Cuts: 0
Bangers: 3

Thoughts: Someone told me this was a classic and I had never listened to it before. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Classic is a pretty loose term. I consider the movie Home Alone to be a classic, but on my rating scale I’d only give it a 7 out of 10. I’ve come to think of “classics” as movies or albums that are either timeless, iconic, or extremely representative of a certain time period… but not necessarily 10 out of 10s. This album is definitely not a 10, but I did enjoy every song on it. The rhymes on this are pretty simple – as you’d expect from this era – but The D.O.C. definitely had an above average mic presence. This album was still a few years before Dr. Dre revolutionized hip-hop production on The Chronic, so while Dre has a couple of bangers on here (“It’s Funky Enough” and “Whirlwind Pyramid”), he was still a few years away from really leveling up. Considering how hyped this album was to me, I was expecting more – and the banger count certainly leaves something to be desired – but this album is definitely very good, if not quite a must listen.

Verdict: 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Planet Asia & 38 SpeshTrust the Chain (February 2020, Rap)
1. “Body After Body” ft. Rasheed Chappell – 3.5
2. “Resurrected Pharoahs” ft. The Musalini – 3.5
3. “Mystery School” – 3.5
4. “God Degree” – 3.5
5. “Passport Player” – 3.5
6. “Snake Charmer” – 4
7. “Learned from Og’s (Remix)” ft. Fred the Godson and Elcamino – 4
8. “Tec and a Mink” – 4
9. “Juggernauts” – 4
10. “Winter Time” – 3

Spin Rate: 6.9
Average Song Rating: 3.65/5
3.5+ Percentage: 90%
Cuts: 0
Bangers: 4

Thoughts: 38 Spesh does all the production on this and he nails it – almost every beat on this album is a banger. Planet Asia is plenty capable on the mic and together they create a really solid project. I actually had a hard time deciding between a 3.5 and a 4 for a lot of these songs so I went about 50/50 on the ones I was up in the air on. This is somewhat short but every song ranges from good to very good, so it’s one of the better releases through the first couple months of 2020. A very strong recommendation for those of you that prefer a 90s or 2000s type vibe over the current landscape of hip-hop.

Verdict: 8/10 (Must Listen)

Lil BabyMy Turn (February 2020, Rap/Trap)
1. “Get Ugly” – 2.5
2. “Heatin Up” ft. Gunna – 3
3. “How” – 2.5
4. “Grace” ft. 42 Dugg – 3
5. “Woah” – 4
6. “Live Off My Closet” ft. Future – 3
7. “Same Thing” – 3
8. “Emotionally Scarred” – 3.5
9. “Commercial” ft. Lil Uzi Vert – 3
10. “Forever” ft. Lil Wayne – 3.5
11. “Can’t Explain” – 3
12. “No Sucker” ft. Moneybagg Yo – 2.5
13. “Sum 2 Prove” – 3.5
14. “We Should” ft. Young Thug – 3.5
15. “Catch the Sun” – 4
16. “Consistent” – 3.5
17. “Gang Signs” – 3.5
18. “Hurtin” – 2.5
19. “Forget That” ft. Rylo Rodriguez – 3
20. “Solid” – 3

Spin Rate: 5.35
Avg. Song Rating: 3.15/5
3.5+ Percentage: 40%
Cuts: 4
Bangers: 2

Thoughts: Lil Baby has some talent, but you’re probably not going to like him if you can’t get into the mumble rap or trap subgenre of hip-hop. I’m not sure Lil Baby has etched out his own voice at this point as he reminds me of a lesser talented version of Young Thug. I like him though… but I can’t say I love him. For the most part, the songs I like the best are because of the production or the hook. Lil Baby’s voice and delivery take some getting used to and he doesn’t do it for me lyrically most of the time, but he is capable of impressing in that regard. I’m writing this in mid-June and he just released a banger called “The Bigger Picture” about current events and he’s speaking to me on that one. It would be the best song on this album if it was here… but it’s not. I had to reach a little to give Lil Baby a couple of bangers, as I think both those songs are closer to 3.5s than 4s, but I do really like that hook on “Woah.” I think Lil Baby is someone that could grow on me. I started “Gang Signs” at 2.5 and I now have it as a good track. It’s possible this album could grow on me even more, but at this point, I feel like Lil Baby is mostly making enjoyable, but not undeniably good music.

Verdict: 5/10 (Decent)

Royce da 5’9″The Allegory (February 2020, Rap)
1. “Mr. Grace (Intro)” – 3.5
2. “Dope Man” ft. Emanny & Cedric the Entertainer – 3
3. “I Don’t Age” – 3.5
4. “Pendulum” ft. Ashley Sorrell – 4
5. “I Play Forever” ft. Grafh – 3.5
6. “Ice Cream (Interlude)” – N/A
7. “On the Block” ft. Oswin Benjamin & DJ Premier – 3.5
8. “Generation is Broken” – N/A
9. “Overcomer” ft. Westside Gunn – 4
10. “Ms. Grace (Interlude)” – N/A
11. “Thou Shall” ft. Kid Vishis – 3.5
12. “Fubu” ft. Conway the Machine – 4
13. “A Black Man’s Favorite Shoe” – N/A
14. “Upside Down” ft. Ashley Sorrell & Benny the Butcher – 4.5
15. “Perspective (Skit)” ft. Eminem – N/A
16. “Tricked” ft. KXNG Crooked – 4
17. “Black People in America” – N/A
18. “Black Savage” ft. Sy Ari Da Kid, White Gold, Cyhi The Prynce & T.I. – 4
19. “Rhinestone Doo Rag” – 3.5
20. “Young World” ft. Vince Staples & G Perico – 3.5
21. “My People Free” ft. Ashley Sorrell – 3.5
22. “Hero” ft. White Gold – 4

Spin Rate: 11.75
Avg. Song Rating: 3.72/5
3.5+ Percentage: 94%
Cuts: 0
Bangers: 7

Thoughts: Royce is an all-time great that has also been one of the most consistently awesome rappers of the past half decade. His lyrics, rapping ability, and rhyme schemes have always been elite, so any Royce project is going to be fire as long as the content and production are also good. That’s the case on The Allegory, an album that sounds even more relevant as I review it in June 2020 than it did when it came out four months ago – this is an album George Floyd might have even listened to. Also, when I listen to a song like “Tricked” three months into what has been a nationwide shutdown, I suspect that Royce and Crook might have had something to say about how the media has portrayed the coronavirus. The production on this album was handled almost entirely by Royce himself and it’s actually really good. Every member of Griselda stops by to help create a separate banger with Benny the Butcher stopping by for the best song on the album and an early song of the year contender. There’s not much to complain about here, but it would have been nice to see at least one real Eminem collaboration. I could also do without all the skits, but they actually fit the theme of the album really well. As you can see by my ratings, almost every song on the album is good and there are plenty of really good tracks, so, unsurprisingly, one of the best rappers in the world dropped on the best albums of the year so far.

Verdict: 8/10 (Must Listen)

Tame ImpalaThe Slow Rush (February 2020, Alternative/Psychedelic Rock)
1. “One More Year” – 3
2. “Instant Destiny” – 3.5
3. “Borderline” N/A (no longer available on my digital copy)
4. “Posthumous Forgiveness” – 3.5
5. “Breathe Deeper” – 3.5
6. “Tomorrow’s Dust” – 2.5
7. “On Track” – 3.5
8. “Lost in Yesterday” – 3.5
9. “Is It True” – 3.5
10. “It Might Be Time” – 2.5
11. “Glimmer” – 3
12. “One More Hour” – 2.5

Spin Rate: 5.3
Avg. Song Rating: 3.14/5
3.5+ Percentage: 55%
Cuts: 2
Bangers: 0

Thoughts: I really liked their last album Currents but this one didn’t do much for me. Maybe I’m not doing enough drugs? Do drugs make psychedelic rock more enjoyable? I’d say half this album is good and half of it I’m not into. I didn’t like any song on here enough to add it to my Banger Playlist and the album as a whole is pretty underwhelming for me. Not something I’m excited to revisit. For what it’s worth though, this album has a score of 79 on Metacritic with a user score of 8.5, so plenty of people are enjoying this album.

Verdict: 5/10 (Decent)

G HerboPTSD (February 2020, Rap)
1. “Intro” – 3.5
2. “Glass in the Face” ft. A Boogie wit da Hoodie – 3
3. “Gangstas Cry” ft. BJ the Chicago Kid – 4
4. “In This Bitch” – 1
5. “Death Row” – 2.5
6. “Party in Heaven” ft. Lil Durk – 3.5
7. “PTSD” ft. Chance the Rapper, Juice WRLD & Lil Uzi Vert – 4
8. “By Any Means” ft. 21 Savage – 3
9. “Gangbangin” – 2.5
10. “Lawyer Fees” ft. Polo G – 3.5
11. “Feelings” – 3
12. “High Speed” – 2.5
13. “Shooter” ft. Jacquees – 3
14. “Intuition” ft. Sonta & 2PRETTY – 3

Spin Rate: 4.43
Avg. Song Rating: 3/5
3.5+ Percentage: 36%
Cuts: 4
Bangers: 2

Thoughts: I can’t say I like G Herbo as a rapper. Pretty much every song I like on this album is because of the beat, the hook, or the features. A decent number of the better beats use instantly recognizable samples that have already been flipped more effectively by far more accomplished rappers. I thought I liked this album more listening to it when songs came up randomly. Every once in a while I’d hear a song that I thought was pretty good. Listening to it from front to back twice in a row was quite the chore though. There are a couple songs here you should probably here, but the album as a whole is not good.

Verdict: 4/10 (Lackluster)

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May 2020 Music Playlist

June 8, 2020

* indicates May release

HEAVY ROTATION (heard whole album many times)

Brent Faiyaz – F**k the World
Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats – UNLOCKED
Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
Jay Electronica (and Jay-Z!) – A Written Testimony
Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake
Planet Asia & 38 Spesh – Trust the Chain
Royce da 5’9″ – The Allegory
The Weeknd – After Hours

STRONG ROTATION (listened to most of album 3-4 times)

Boldy James – The Price of Tea in China
*Chris Brown & Young Thug – Slime & B
Grafh – Oracle 3
Lil Baby – My Turn
Westside Gunn – Pray for Paris

SOLID ROTATION (heard whole album at least twice)

A Boogie wit da Hoodie – Artist 2.0
Buddy & Kent Jamz – Janktape Vol. 1
D Smoke – Black Habits
*Deante’ Hitchcock – BETTER
Jadakiss – Ignatius
Jessie Reyez – BEFORE LOVE CAME TO KILL US
Jhene Aiko – Chilombo
Kamaiyah – Got It Made
*Kota the Friend – Everything
Lil Tjay – State of Emergency
R.A. the Rugged Man – All My Heroes Are Dead
*Sam Hunt – SOUTHSIDE
Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

COURTESY ROTATION (heard whole album)

Berner & B-Real – Los Meros
Childish Gambino – 3.15.20
Conway the Machine & The Alchemist – LULU
DaBaby – BLAME IT ON BABY
Drake – Dark Lane Demo Tapes
dvsn – A Muse In Her Feelings
*Freddy Gibbs & The Alchemist – Alfredo
*Future – High Off Life
G Herbo – PTSD
J Hus – Big Conspiracy
*Kehlani – It Was Good Until It Wasn’t
*Lil Durk – Just Cause Y’all Waited 2
Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake [Deluxe]
*Lil Wayne – Funeral [Deluxe]
*Lil Simz – Drop 6 – EP
*Polo G – THE GOAT
Tory Lanez – The New Toronto 3
YFN Lucci – Corona Pack – EP

SKIM ROTATION (haven’t heard whole album)

Car Seat Headrest – Making a Door Less Open
*Dej Loaf – It’s a Set Up! – EP
Don Toliver – Heaven Or Hell
Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
*Geniio – Days B4
Guapdad 4000 – Platinum Falcon Tape, Vol. 1 – EP
*Gunna – Wunna
*Hailee Steinfeld – Half Written Story – EP
*Jacob Latimore – C3
Joyner Lucas – ADHD
Justin Bieber – Changes
K Camp – Kiss 5
*KSI – Dissimulation
*Larry June & Cardo – Cruise Usa
*Lucky Daye – Painted [Deluxe]
*Markis Precise – No Wings Without Scars
PARTYNEXTDOOR – PARTYMOBILE
*Pete Rock & Camp Lo – 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s II
Rod Wave – Pray 4 Love
Skyzoo & Dumbo Station – The Bluest Note – EP
Tech N9ne – Enterfear
Thundercat – It Is What It Is
Twista – Lifetime EP

TOO NEW/NO LOVE (zero listens)

*Joell Ortiz & KXNG CROOKED – H.A.R.D.
*Lady Gaga – Chromatica
*Problem – Coffee & Kush, Vol. 1

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

Freddy Gibbs & The AlchemistAlfredo

Bangerz Playlist Additions – Follow me on Apple Music @DarkKnight1717 to add my playlists

A Boogie wit da Hoodie ft. Young Thug, “Might Not Give Up”
A Boogie wit da Hoodie, “Calm Down (Bittersweet)”
Berner & B-Real ft. Paul Wall, “Prevail”
Boldy James, “Slow Roll”
Deante’ Hitchcock, “Growing Up/Mother God”
Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats, “So.Incredible.pkg”
Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats, “‘Cosmic’.m4a”
Dua Lipa, “Levitating”
Dua Lipa, “Love Again”
Jay Electronica ft. Jay-Z, “Flux Capacitor”
Jessie Reyez, “ROOF”
Joyner Lucas ft. Will Smith, “Will (Remix)”
Planet Asia & 38 Spesh, “Snake Charmer”
R.A. the Rugged Man, “Life of the Party”
R.A. the Rugged Man ft. Novel, “First Born”
Sam Hunt, “Kinfolks”
Tech N9ne, “On the Outside”

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February 2020 Album Reviews (Part One)

May 20, 2020

I’ve been sitting on this post for too long and want to get something new out, so I’m going to make my February reviews a two-parter. Hopefully I will have the second part done before the end of the month.

A good rule of thumb in order for me to rate an album is that I probably need to listen to it at least twice (hence no Pop Smoke listed below). Possibly the only exception to this rule is when I deem an album unlistenable and can barely (or can’t) even make it through the whole album the first time. Listening to and evaluating music is a pretty fluid process though, so all ratings are subject to change in the future as albums grow on me or I realize I initially overrated them. I’ve been sitting on most of these albums for about three months now, so I feel pretty good about these reviews. I will bold any song I added to my Bangers Playlist – usually at least a 4 on my rating scale.

5 – Perfection – Elite on every level. Pure bliss in musical form. Literally perfect.
4.5 – Amazing – Mostly elite, but not quite on that all-time level of the best songs ever created.
4 – Very Good – This is basically the cut off for my Bangers Playlists, which are essentially a list of my favorite songs of the year. I feel like you should never want to skip any song that’s this good. Any album that can average a 4 is probably amazing.
3.5 – Good – I feel like this is where you want to sit as an artist. Making good songs. Sometimes you will make really good songs and sometimes you will make some not so good songs. An artist that consistently reaches this level is by no means average though… they are nice.
3 – Cool – When people say something is “not bad,” that’s what this is. It’s not exactly good, but it’s not really a weak track either. When I give something a 3, I like it, but I’m a bit lukewarm on it, whereas I’m 100% on board with something I give a 3.5. You don’t want to sit here as an artist. The difference between an album that averages a 3.5 and one that averages a 3 is actually huge. A 3.5 is undeniably good while a 3 is much closer to mediocre.
2.5 – Filler – Any song I give a 2.5 to is something I’d cut from an album. It’s not good enough to be on there and megafans and completionists are the only people that ever needed to hear it. A 2.5 is the ceiling for weak songs though, so I guess I’d call them decent, but decent isn’t good enough to be album material. An album that averages a 2.5 rating is almost certainly trash.
2 – Bad – These are flat out bad tracks. There are songs I don’t really like but I’d call decent and then there are songs I don’t like that just plain suck. That’s what a 2 is.
1 – Trash – No need for a 1.5. A trash track is worse than a bad track. We are talking pure garbage here.

Spin Rate – This is an important feature because not only does it show how much listening love I gave an album, but it also reflects how reliable my opinion on it is. I’m going to trust someone that listened to something 5+ times through a hell of a lot more than someone that just gave an album one listen. It’s not perfect. I just add up the total number of listens for every song on the album and divide it by the number of actual songs on the album (intros, skits, outros are generally excluded). But if my spin rate is a 5, then you can assume I’ve listened to most of the album at least five times through.

Lana Del ReyNorman F*****g Rockwell! (August 2019, Pop/Rock)
1. “Norman fucking Rockwell” – 3.5
2. “Mariners Apartment Complex” – 3.5
3. “Venice Bitch” – 4
4. “Fuck it I love you” – 4
5. “Doin’ Time” – 3.5
6. “Love Song” – 3.5
7. “Cinnamon Girl” – 3.5
8. “How to disappear” – 3.5
9. “California” – 4
10. “The Next Best American Record” – 3.5
11. “The greatest” – 3.5
12. “Bartender” – 4
13. “Happiness is a butterfly” – 4
14. “hope is a danger thing for a woman like me to have – but i have it” – 4

Spin Rate: 9
Average Song Rating: 3.71/5
Save Percentage: 100% (14/14)
Bangers: 6

Thoughts: It’s pretty safe to say that I love Lana Del Rey’s style. Well, at least on this album. I can’t say I’m familiar with the rest of her discography. This album has a very mellow and somewhat melancholy vibe, but it’s full of substance and it’s such a love letter to the state of California while sounding nothing like the sunshine and warmth you associate with The Golden State. I love this album. I can put it on and listen to it all the way through without wanting to skip a single song. I can promise this though: if you listen to any song I bolded above and don’t like it, there’s no chance you will like this album.

Verdict: 8/10 (Must Listen)

D SmokeBlack Habits (February 2020, Rap)
1. “Morning Prayer” – N/A
2. “Bullies” – 3.5
3. “No Commas” – 3.5
4. “Gaspar Yanga” ft. Snoop Dogg – 3
5. “Top of the Morning” – 3
6. “Sunkissed Child” ft. Jill Scott & Iguocho – 3.5
7. “Black Habits I” ft. Jackie Gouche – 3.5
8. “Fly” ft. Davion Farris – 3.5
9. “Seasons Pass” – 3
10. “Fallin'” – 3
11. “Lights On” ft. SiR – 3.5
12. “Real Body” ft. Ari Lennox – 2.5
13. “Free” – 4
14. “Like My Daddy” – 4

15. “Closer to God” ft. SiR – 3.5
16. “Black Habits II” – 3.5

Spin Rate: 5.5
Average Song Rating: 3.36/5
Save Percentage: 93% (14/15)
Bangers: 2

Thoughts: So Cardi B created this show on Netflix called Rhythm + Flow, an American Idol-type show for wannabe hip-hop artists, and D Smoke was the winner of the first season. I was pretty shocked when he won because it seemed pretty obvious to me that Flawless Real Talk was the best contestant on the show… by a pretty sizable margin… but both Flawless and D Smoke have released projects since the show aired and it’s pretty clear that D Smoke is the better artist, by far. He released an EP late last year called Inglewood High that had a couple gems on it and follows it up here with this full length album that is also quite good. As you can see by my ratings above, I tend to think D Smoke makes pretty good, but not great music, but sitting in that 3.5 range is a fine place to be… he just doesn’t elevate to that special level too often. It seems like D Smoke is still trying to find his own style at this early point in his career because the Kendrick Lamar influence can be overwhelming at times. Also, it’s pretty wild that D Smoke is a sibling of SiR, Kendrick’s TDE labelmate. Smoke has a mellow vibe but he’s actually quite complex lyrically. He also raps in Spanish a lot, which can be cool, but he goes to that well more often than you’d expect. Black Habits is a solid debut studio LP from a promising hip-hop artist

Verdict: 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Brent FaiyazF**k the World (February 2020, R&B/Soul)
1. “Skyline” – 3
2. “Clouded” – 3
3. “Been Away” – 4
4. “F**k the World (Summer in London)” – 3.5
5. “Let Me Know” – 3.5
6. “Soon Az I Get Home (Interlude)” – N/A
7. “Rehab (Winter in Paris)” – 4
8. “Bluffin” – 3.5
9. “Lost Kids Get Money” – 3.5
10. “Make It Out (Outro)” – N/A

Spin Rate: 10.25
Average Song Rating: 3.5/5
Save Percentage: 100% (8/8)
Bangers: 2

Thoughts: This is a nice, but short R&B project with a couple of standout tracks. A 3.5 average rating is really high though (Mac Miller’s album was the only January release I gave a higher average rating to) so basically every song on here is good. Brent Faiyaz can do a throwback 90s-sounding R&B song better than any modern crooner I can think of and “Been Away” is that track on this album. If you like this project, then check out his last album Sonder Son… it’s even better.

Verdict: 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Denzel Curry & Kenny BeatsUNLOCKED (February 2020, Rap)
1. “Track 01” – N/A
2. “Take_it_Back_v2” – 3.5
3. “Lay_Up.m4a” – 3.5
4. “Pyro (leak 2019)” – 3.5
5. “DIET_” – 3.5
6. “So.Incredible.pkg” – 4
7. “Track07” – N/A
8. “‘Cosmic’ .m4a” – 4

Spin Rate: 4.67
Average Song Rating: 3.67/5
Save Percentage: 100% (6/6)
Bangers: 2

Thoughts: This is a really short, but solid project. Removing the intro and interlude type track, it’s only about 15 minutes long, but Denzel has a very commanding mic presence and Kenny Beats gives him some solid instrumentals to spit over. Denzel Curry is probably one of the more overlooked prominent rap artists releasing quality music over the last few years. Even I’m guilty of it. He’s lyrically nice and has a really good flow, plus enough off the dome talent that he allegedly freestyled the entirety of his last album. He’s someone you need to put on your radar if he’s not there already.

Verdict: 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Boldy JamesThe Price of Tea in China (February 2020, Rap)
1. “Carruth” – 3.5
2. “Giant Slide” – 3.5
3. “Surf & Turf” ft. Vince Staples – 4
4. “Run-Ins” – 3
5. “Scrape the Bowl” ft. BENNY THE BUTCHER – 3.5
6. “Pinto” – 3
7. “Slow Roll” – 4
8. “S.N.O.R.T” ft. Freddie Gibbs – 3.5
9. “Grey October” ft. Evidence – 3.5
10. “Mustard” – 3
11. “Speed Demon Freestyle” – 2.5
12. “Phone Bill” – 3.5

Spin Rate: 4.75
Average Song Rating: 3.38/5
Save Percentage: 91.6% (11/12)
Bangers: 2

Thoughts: I’d never heard of Boldy before this album dropped, but when Alchemist is producing your whole album, that alone makes it worth checking out. Also, the features are like a who’s who of some of my favorite rappers from the last few years. I wouldn’t call the production on this album elite, but Alchemist really complements Boldy’s extremely laid back, almost monotone style. I typically don’t love this kind of vocal rapping style, but Boldy has BARS and his flow is pretty nice. It works for me, but it might not work for everyone.

Verdict: 6/10 (Recommended)

A Boogie wit da HoodieArtist 2.0 (February 2020, Rap/Trap)
1. “Thug Love” – 3.5
2. “Cinderella Story” – 3
3. “Me and My Guitar” – 3.5
4. “Might Not Give Up” ft. Young Thug – 4
5. “Numbers” ft. Roddy Richh, Gunna and London On Da Track – 3.5
6. “Stain” ft. DaBaby – 3.5
7. “Hit ‘Em Up” ft. Trap Manny – 3
8. “DTB 4 Life” – 3
9. “Calm Down (Bittersweet)” ft. Summer Walker – 4
10. “Another Day Gone” ft. Khalid – 3.5
11. “Good Girls Gone Bad” – 3
12. “Blood On My Denim” – 3
13. “R.O.D.” – 2.5
14. “Big S**T” – 2.5
15. “Right Back” – 3.5
16. “Luv Is Art” ft. Lil Uzi Vert – 3
17. “King of My City” – 3
18. “Mood Swings” – 3.5
19. “Reply” ft. Lil Uzi Vert – 3.5
20. “Streets Didn’t Love You” – 3

Spin Rate: 5.3
Average Song Rating: 3.25/5
Save Percentage: 90% (18/20)
Bangers: 2

Thoughts: I’m not mad about that score. A Boogie has a vibe that works for me and I tend to like most of his songs. It’s pretty shocking to me that he can release a 20 track album and I’d only trim off two songs. Everything else is reasonably good. A Boogie reminds me a bit of Roddy Richh (or maybe Roddy reminds me of him?), but Roddy seems to be a substantially better songwriter. I only added two songs from this album to my 2020 Bangers Playlist and they were actually pretty light additions. I think the Young Thug and Summer Walker features push those tracks over the edge though. This isn’t really an album I’d want to listen to all the way through, but I’d only skip two songs if they came up in a playlist shuffle, so I’d say A Boogie has a winner here.

Verdict: 6/10 (Recommended)

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April 2020 Music Playlist

May 5, 2020

Notes: Finally cleared out all the lingering 2019 albums and also the January 2020 releases from my Priority playlist… and also deleted some albums that I just know I’m never really going to listen to. I’m working on my February album reviews right now and hope to have that post up in a couple weeks. Ideally, I’d like to release my reviews for the previous month about two weeks into the next month. For example, by the middle of June, I should be able to digest all the May albums enough to publish my reviews for them. Alas, I am still playing catch up and it will probably take at least a few more months to get where I want to be. No one I’ve been eagerly anticipating dropped in April, but there were a few surprises. I’m not a big Westside Gunn fan, but I’m loving his new project. Also, R.A. the Rugged Man dropped his first album in seven years and on first listen it’s some serious heat. Finally, who the hell is Dua Lipa? Never heard of her before, but someone recommended it and there’s no denying it, she made a great pop album.

* indicates April release

HEAVY ROTATION (heard whole album many times)

Brent Faiyaz – F**k the World
*Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
Jay Electronica (and Jay-Z!) – A Written Testimony
Planet Asia & 38 Spesh – Trust the Chain
Royce da 5’9″ – The Allegory
The Weeknd – After Hours

STRONG ROTATION (listened to most of album 3-4 times)

Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake
*Westside Gunn – Pray for Paris

SOLID ROTATION (heard whole album at least twice)

A Boogie wit da Hoodie – Artist 2.0
D Smoke – Black Habits
Kamaiyah – Got It Made
Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

COURTESY ROTATION (heard whole album)

*Berner & B-Real – Los Meros
Boldy James – The Price of Tea in China
*Buddy & Kent Jamz – Janktape Vol. 1
Childish Gambino – 3.15.20
*Conway the Machine & The Alchemist – LULU
*DaBaby – BLAME IT ON BABY
Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats – UNLOCKED
*Drake – Dark Lane Demo Tapes
*dvsn – A Muse In Her Feelings
Grafh – Oracle 3
G Herbo – PTSD
Jadakiss – Ignatius
Jessie Reyez – BEFORE LOVE CAME TO KILL US
Jhene Aiko – Chilombo
Lil Baby – My Turn
Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake [Deluxe]
*R.A. the Rugged Man – All My Heroes Are Dead
*YFN Lucci – Corona Pack – EP

SKIM ROTATION (haven’t heard whole album)

Don Toliver – Heaven Or Hell
*Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Joyner Lucas – ADHD
PARTYNEXTDOOR – PARTYMOBILE
*Rod Wave – Pray 4 Love
*Thundercat – It Is What It Is
*Tory Lanez – The New Toronto 3
Twista – Lifetime EP

TOO NEW/NO LOVE (zero listens)

Car Seat Headrest – Making a Door Less Open
Guapdad 4000 – Platinum Falcon Tape, Vol. 1 – EP
*Skyzoo & Dumbo Station – The Bluest Note – EP
*Tech N9ne – Enterfear

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

Dua LipaFuture Nostalgia

Bangerz Playlist Additions – Follow me on Apple Music @DarkKnight1717 to add my playlists

Brent Faiyaz, “Been Away”
D Smoke, “Like My Daddy”
D Smoke, “Free”
Halsey, “Graveyard”
JID, “Big Black Truck”
Lil Wayne, “Mama Mia”
Lil Wayne, “Piano Trap”
Lil Wayne ft. The Dream, “Sights and Silencers”
Mac Miller, “Circles”
Planet Asia & 38 Spesh ft. Fred the Godson & Elcamino, “Learned from Og’s (Remix)”
Westside Gunn ft. Joey Bada$$, Tyler, The Creator & Billie Essco, “327”
Westside Gunn ft. Freddie Gibbs & Roc Marciano, “$500 Ounces”

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January 2020 Album Reviews

April 23, 2020

First off, let me say… if nobody reads this, I’m going to be pissed. Yeah, this is a bit late. I’ve been working on this post for at least two months now. But I’ve been struggling with how I want to post my music opinions without feeling like I need to waste a ton of time thinking about what I want to write. I think I finally found a system that works for me. I’m going to rate every song on each album on what is essentially a 10-point scale and then I will average those ratings out to give an overall score. This isn’t necessarily my official rating for an album… but it’s a decent starting point. You will see some examples below where I think an album with a lower average rating is better than higher ones. Eminem’s album is the most obvious one. I gave seven of his songs a rating of 4 or higher – the most of any January 2020 release – but he also has, by far, the most songs I’d cut from an album, dragging his overall score down. So while his overall score is lower than some albums, I like it substantially more than, say, the Mick Jenkins project.

A good rule of thumb in order for me to rate an album is that I probably need to listen to it at least twice (hence no Pop Smoke listed below). Possibly the only exception to this rule is when I deem an album unlistenable and can barely (or can’t) even make it through the whole album the first time. Listening to and evaluating music is a pretty fluid process though, so all ratings are subject to change in the future as albums grow on me or I realize I initially overrated them. I’ve been sitting on most of these albums for about three months now, so I feel pretty good about these reviews. I will bold any song I added to my Bangers Playlist – usually at least a 4 on my rating scale.

5 – Perfection
4.5 – Great
4 – Very Good
3.5 – Good
3 – Cool
2.5 – Meh
2 – Bad
1 – Trash

BENNY THE BUTCHERThe Plugs I Met (June 2019, Rap)
1. (Intro) – N/A
2. “Crowns for Kings” ft. Black Thought – 5
3. “Sunday School” ft. 38 Spesh & Jadakiss – 4

4. “Dirty Harry” ft. Rj Payne & Conway the Machine – 3.5
5. “Took the Money to the Plug’s House” – 4
6. “18 Wheeler” ft. Pusha T – 4.5
7. “5 to 50” ft. India – 4

Average Song Rating: 4.17/5
Save Percentage: 100% (6/6)
Bangers: 5

Thoughts: A bonus addition to this month’s list because it’s just that good. This is a great example of less is more. Basically every song on here is really good. Black Thought and Benny absolutely murder the beat on “Crown for Kings” and I think that might be my favorite song of 2019. Benny is easily my favorite rapper that I wasn’t listening to a year ago. This is an elite project and one of the best albums of last year.

Verdict: 9/10 (Amazing)

Mick JenkinsThe Circus (January 2020, Rap)
1. “Same Ol” – 3
2. “Carefree” – 3
3. “The Light” ft. EARTHGANG – 4
4. “Flaunt” – 3
5. “The Fit” – 3.5
6. “I’m Convinced” – 3.5
7. “Different Scales” – 3.5

Average Rating: 3.36/5
Save Percentage: 100% (7/7)
Bangers: 1

Thoughts: A solid, but unspectacular little project that’s a bit more accessible than Mick’s past work which I have admittedly mostly overlooked. I do like every song on here though with “The Light” being my favorite by a large margin and that’s mostly because EARTHGANG just knows how to make great music.

Verdict: 6/10 (Recommended)

DreamvilleRevenge of the Dreamers 3 [Deluxe] (January 2020, Rap)
1. “Big Black Truck” ft. JID – 4
2. “Still Up” ft. EARTHGANG & REASON – 3.5
3. “Outta Pocket” ft. Bas, Cozz, and Girl Talk – 3
4. “Late Night” ft. Cozz, Omen, Buddy & Landstrip Chip – 3
5. “Spin Move” ft. Bas, Saba, Smino & The Hics – 3
6. “BUSSIT” ft. Ari Lennox – 3
7. “Passcode” ft. Ari Lennox, Buddy, Smino, Mez & Guapdad 4000 – 3
8. “Up Up Away” ft. JID, EARTHGANG & Vince Staples – 3.5
9. “No Chorus” ft. Bas, Dreezy, Buddy & Guapdad 4000 – 3
10. “Disgusted” ft. Cozz & Childish Major – 3
11. “Revenge” ft. Lute, Omen, Ari Lennox, EARTHGANG, Childish Major & REASON – 3
12. “Still Dreamin” ft. JID, Lute & 6LACK – 4

Average Rating: 3.25/5
Save Percentage: 100%
Bangers: 2

Thoughts: It’s important to understand what this is: a collection of songs that weren’t good enough to be on the official Revenge of the Dreamers III album. So these are all leftovers. Personally, I’d rather hear this stuff than not hear it, but when I listen to a project like this, I’m judging it on its own merit and not as a collective with the original release. It looks like every J.Cole feature made the official release because we don’t get any new Cole music here. Most of the songs on here are 3s, so while I like every track it’s a lot of stuff I’m pretty lukewarm about. I do think this Deluxe version is bookended by a couple of true bangers though.

Verdict: 6/10 (Recommended)

EminemMusic To Be Murdered By (January 2020, Rap)
1. “Premonition” – 4
2. “Unaccomodating” ft. Young MA – 3
3. “You Gon’ Learn” ft. Royce da 5’9″ & White Gold – 4.5
4. (Interlude) – N/A
5. “Those Kinda Nights” ft. Ed Sheeran – 1.5
6. “In Too Deep” – 2
7. “Godzilla” ft. Juice WRLD – 3.5
8. “Darkness” – 4
9. “Leaving Heaven” ft. Skylar Grey – 2.5
10. “Yah Yah” ft. Royce da 5’9″, Black Thought, Q-Tip & Denaun – 4
11. (Interlude) – N/A
12. “Stepdad” – 2.5
13. “Marsh” – 3
14. “Never Love Again” – 3.5
15. “Little Engine” – 2.5
16. “Lock It Up” ft. Anderson .Paak – 4
17. “Farewell” – 3
18. “No Regrets” ft. Don Toliver – 4
19. “I Will” ft. KXNG Crooked, Royce da 5’9″ & Joell Ortiz – 4

20. (Outro) – N/A

Average rating: 3.29/5
Save Percentage: 70.5% (12/17)
Bangers: 7

Thoughts: And here’s an example of more is less. Do I want to hear every song Eminem has ever recorded? Sure. But when you fill out an album’s tracklist with a bunch of weak songs, I’m going to hold those songs against the album as a whole. As you can see by my save percentage, I’d cut about 30% of this album. You take away those five songs and my average rating would jump up to a 3.7 out of 5 and I think that’s pretty close to elite status. His stuff with Ed Sheeran is embarrassing and I can’t stand Skylar Grey; she ruins what is an otherwise enjoyable song with an unbearable hook. I think the production on this album is actually pretty good and beat selection is usually a weakness on any Eminem album. Still, it could be better and you’d think this man would have access to the best producers on the planet. Alchemist was his touring DJ forever and they’ve made almost no actual music together. It’s a damn shame. Eminem is still elite when it comes to spitting and lyricism. Sure, he can spit some corny lines here and there, but he still astonishes me on a regular basis. I love every track Royce is on and it’s bad ass seeing them collab so much (Bad Meets Evil 2 anyone?). Seven bangers is a lot, so there’s plenty of gold on this album. This is probably Em’s best album since Recovery.

Verdict: 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Mac MillerCircles (January 2020, Rap)
1. “Circles” – 4
2. “Complicated” – 4

3. “Blue World” – 3.5
4. “Good News” – 4.5
5. “I Can See” – 3.5
6. “Everybody” – 4
7. “Woods” – 4.5
8. “Hand Me Downs” – 5

9. “That’s On Me” – 3.5
10. “Hands” – 3
11. “Surf” – 3.5
12. “Once a Day” – 3.5

Average rating: 3.88/5
Save Percentage: 100% (12/12)
Bangers: 6

Thoughts: Mac Miller was really transcending as an artist. This is not a rappity rap album by any means… it’s just beautiful music… with some rapping. I like every song on this album and there are some real gems here. “Hand Me Downs” is just a perfect song. We lost one of the best hip-hop artists in the business when Mac died in 2018 and it’s kind of absurd that the average hip-hop consumer (that I know at least) doesn’t even listen to him. I’ve been thinking about doing a Top 25 Hip-Hop Artists Since 2015 blog post and in my preliminary rankings, I have Mac Miller ranked #6 on that list. That’s how highly I think of him. This posthumous release only strengthens his resume and Circles is an early Album of the Year contender.

Verdict: 8/10 (Must Listen)

Halsey – Manic (January 2020, Pop)
1. “Ashley” – 3.5
2. “Clementine” – 3
3. “Graveyard” – 4
4. “You should be sad” – 3.5
5. “Forever (is a long time)” – 2.5
6. “Dominic’s Interlude” ft. Dominic Fike – 3
7. “I HATE EVERYBODY” – 3
8. “3am” – 3.5
9. “Without Me” – 3.5
10. “Finally // beautiful stranger” – 3
11. “Alanis’ Interlude” ft. Alanis Morissette – 3.5
12. “killing boys” – 3
13. “SUGA’s Interlude” ft. SUGA & BTS – 3
14. “More” – 3.5
15. “Still Learning” – 3
16. “929” – 4

Average rating: 3.28/5
Save Percentage: 94% (15/16)
Bangers: 2

Thoughts: I really like Halsey’s voice, but I’m not much of a pop critic, so it’s not like I really know what I’m talking about here. I like almost every song on this album, but it doesn’t reach a lot of really high points. “Graveyard” and “929” are my only true standout songs, but I do think the multiple shots she takes at G-Eazy are pretty fun. I give this a recommendation but there are definitely better recent pop albums (Lana Del Rey, Dua Lipa).

Verdict: 6/10 (Recommended)

070 Shake – Modus Vivendi (January 2020, ??)
1. “Don’t Break The Silence” – 3
2. “Come Around” – 3
3. “Morrow” – 3.5
4. “The Pines” – 3.5
5. “Guilty Conscience” – 3.5
6. “Divorce” – 3
7. “It’s Forever” ft. The Ebonys – N/A
8. “Rocketship” – 3.5
9. “Microdosing” – 3
10. “Nice to Have” – 3.5
11. “Under the Moon” – 3.5
12. “Daydreamin” – 3
13. “Terminal B” – 3
14. “Flight319” – 3

Average rating: 3.23/5
Save Percentage: 100% (13/13)
Bangers: 0

Thoughts: I have no clue what kind of music this is. Apple has it listed as alternative and other places has it listed as hip-hop. It was released on Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music record label, so there’s that. Hip-Hop Twitter seems to like this album a lot, but honestly, I don’t really get it. There are definitely some good tracks on here, but I count zero true bangers, and at least half an album of lukewarm music.

Verdict: 5/10 (Decent)

Lil Wayne – Funeral (January 2020, Rap)
1. “Funeral” – 3.5
2. “Mahogany” – 4
3. “Mama Mia” – 4

4. “I Do It” ft. Big Sean & Lil Baby – 3.5
5. “Dreams” – 3.5
6. “Stop Playin With Me” 3
7. “Clap For Em” – 3.5
8. “Bing James” ft. Jay Rock – 3.5
9. “Not Me” – 3.5
10. “Trust Nobody” ft. Adam Levine – 3.5
11. “Know You Know” ft. 2 Chainz – 2.5
12. “Wild Dogs” – 3
13. “Harden” – 3.5
14. “I Don’t Sleep” ft. Takeoff – 3.5
15. “Sights and Silencers” ft. The Dream – 4
16. “Ball Hard” ft. Lil Twist – 4
17. “Bastard (Satan’s Kid)” – 4

18. “Get Outta My Head” ft. XXXTENTACION – 1.5
19. “Piano Trap” – 4
20. “Line Em Up” – 3.5
21. “Darkside” – 3
22. “Never Mind” – 3
23. “T.O.” ft. O.T. Genasis – 3
24. “Wayne’s World” – 2.5

Average rating: 3.35/5
Save Percentage: 87.55 (21/24)
Bangers: 6

Thoughts: Lil Wayne is an all-time great and, like it or not, one of the most influential rappers ever. Who do you think inspired all these mumble rappers? I don’t group Wayne in with this new generation though and when I think about my ten favorite hip-hop artists ever, I often think about Lil Wayne for that #10 spot. That’s not set in stone for me yet, but he’s in contention. So the man is a legend… and some 22 years after I first heard him rap he’s still making music I want to listen to. Considering there are 24 songs on Funeral and I would only cut 2 or 3 of them, this is a really solid release. I prefer shorter albums and I can imagine a much stronger showing if he cut about 6-7 songs from this. I don’t think Funeral is better than any album in Tha Carter series, so this is middle of his catalog stuff. Wayne is still an elite rapper though and anything he touches is something you should be checking out.

Verdict: 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

Note: Now that I have this dialed in, it shouldn’t take me three months to write about the February 2020 releases. Expect that before the middle of May. *fingers crossed*