Posts Tagged ‘album reviews’

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The Weeknd – After Hours (2020)

September 18, 2020

The Weeknd – After Hours (2020, R&B/Soul)

Release Date: March 20th, 2020

Song Rating Scale

1. Alone Again – 4.5
2. Too Late – 4.5
3. Hardest To Love – 4

4. Scared To Live – 3.5
5. Snowchild – 4
6. Escape From LA – 4

7. Heartless – 3.5
8. Faith – 3.5
9. Blinding Lights – 4
10. In Your Eyes – 3.5
11. Save Your Tears – 3.5
12. Repeat After Me (Interlude) – N/A (dope though)
13. After Hours – 4.5
14. Until I Bleed Out – 3.5
Nothing Compares (Bonus) – 3.5
Missed You (Bonus) – 4
Final Lullaby (Bonus) – 3

Spin Rate: 10.8
Average Song Rating: 3.89/5
Good Song Percentage: 100%
Clear Cuts: 0
Bangers: 7

Thoughts: This is an album that really grew on me the more I listened to it and After Hours is now probably the album I’ve listened to the most in 2020. It’s an album I can put on almost anytime and want to listen to it all the way through. Since I’m not including the bonus tracks in my overall rating, I feel like there are no weak points here – every song is good and there are plenty of certified bangers. The mood and production on this album is a little dark, but I love the vibe. I’ll admit, The Weeknd comes across like a serious misogynist and that’s not something to be applauded, but I can’t deny the quality of the music and it is very high all the way through After Hours. This is easily my favorite non-rap album of 2020 and possibly the best album of the year… period. The Weeknd is probably already a legend and it doesn’t seem like enough people are saying that out loud yet.

Verdict: 9/10 (Amazing)

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Eminem – Infinite (1996)

September 15, 2020

Note: I have finally decided to continue my series of Rapper Profiles. You can read my in-depth profiles for The Notorious B.I.G. and DMX by click on their names. My next profile will be about Eminem and since I’ve developed this new review system, I might as well post my thoughts on his discography as I go through it all again. I will include links to all these reviews when I post up the full profile whenever that may be.

Eminem – Infinite (1996, Rap)

Release Date: November 12th, 1996

Song Rating Scale

1. Infinite – 4
2. WEGO – N/A
3. It’s OK – 3.5
4. 313 – 3
5. Tonite – 3.5
6. Maxine – 2.5
7. Open Mic – 3
8. Never Too Far – 3.5
9. Searchin – 3.5
10. Backstabber – 3
11. Jealousy Woes II – 2

Spin Rate: 8
Average Song Rating: 3.15/5
Good Song Percentage: 50%
Clear Cuts: 2
Bangers: 1

Thoughts: Eminem released this album before Dr. Dre had ever heard of him, back when he was still completely unknown outside of Detroit – and maybe not even all that well known there – and before he had ever thought of the name Slim Shady. Infinite is more of a novelty item than an actual album I’d want to listen to with any regularity. It sounds like a demo and I can’t say it holds up all that well 25 years later. Eminem didn’t know who he was an emcee yet and while he has cited plenty of influences over the course of his storied career, the biggest influences I hear on Infinite are Nas and AZ. I do think there are good tracks on here and Em was already an extremely gifted lyricist in 1996, as this tape is littered with multisyllabic rhyme schemes and solid one-liners like, “come to battle me and you’ll get smacked as hard as you act” and “and leave this crazy world/ with at least a half a million for my baby girl/ it may be early to be planning this stuff/ cause I’m still struggling hard to be the man and it’s tough.” I think you did okay by your daughter, Marshall. The title track is easily the best song on here… one of the only ones I wouldn’t mind hearing on a regular basis. “Searchin” is also a favorite as it might be the only time we’ve ever heard Eminem write a heartfelt song about Kim with no lingering bitterness seeping through the message. Overall, this album is pretty cool and you can see glimpses of future greatness, but the sound quality is not great and Eminem’s mic presence and identity was a work in progress that was still in its infancy. Still, you should definitely check it out if you’re a fan of Em and have never listened to it.

Verdict: 6/10 (Light Recommendation)

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Amine – Limbo (2020)

September 13, 2020

Amine – Limbo (2020, Rap)

Release Date: August 7th, 2020

Song Rating Scale

1. Burden – 4
2. Woodlawn – 4

3. Kobe – N/A
4. Roots ft. JID & Charlie Wilson – 4
5. Can’t Decide – 4

6. Compensating ft. Young Thug – 3.5
7. Shimmy – 3.5
8. Pressure In My Palms ft. slowthai & Vince Staples – 4
9. Riri – 4

10. Easy ft. Summer Walker – 3.5
11. Mama – 3.5
12. Becky – 3.5
13. Fetus ft. Injury Reserve – 4
14. My Reality – 4

Spin Rate: 7.4
Average Song Rating: 3.81/5
Good Song Percentage: 100%
Clear Cuts: 0
Bangers: 8

Thoughts: Definitely one of the more surprising releases of the year. I’d heard of Amine but it’s not like I was really anticipating new music from him. I heard “Riri” before anything else and it grew on me enough that I think it’s a banger now and made me give this album a dedicated listen when I probably would have just heard songs when they came on shuffle otherwise. As you can see by my Spin Rate, I’ve given this album plenty of play and have found it to be one of 2020’s strongest releases. Amine is definitely not a hip-hop purist’s emcee, but I think it’s difficult to argue that Limbo isn’t quality music from top to bottom. The production on this album is really good and the songwriting is pretty elite, though I wouldn’t say Amine is elite lyrically or vocally. It doesn’t matter though. This album is full of bangers and Amine is plenty capable with the pen and on the mic. “Shimmy” is the closest thing to a skip and I still think it’s a good song overall. As I’m about to publish this, Limbo has the third highest average song rating of any 2020 album I’ve rated, so it’s definitely one of the year’s best and a clear must listen.

Verdict: 8/10 (Must Listen)

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Nas – King’s Disease (2020)

September 5, 2020

Nas – King’s Disease (2020, Rap)

Release Date: August 21st, 2020

Song Rating Scale

1. King’s Disease – 3.5
2. Blue Benz – 3.5
3. Car #85 ft. Charlie Wilson – 3.5
4. Ultra Black ft. Hit-Boy – 3
5. 27 Summers – 3
6. Replace Me ft. Big Sean & Don Toliver – 3
7. Til The War Is Won ft. Lil Durk – 3.5
8. All Bad ft. Anderson .Paak – 4
9. The Definition ft. Brucie B – 3
10. Full Circle ft. AZ, Cormega & Foxy Brown (The Firm) – 3.5
11. 10 Points – 3
12. The Cure – 4
13. Spicy ft. Fivio Foreign & A$AP Ferg – 3

Spin Rate: 6.3
Average Song Rating: 3.37/5
Good Song Percentage: 54%
Clear Cuts: 0
Bangers: 2

Thoughts: I’m not really expecting Nas to blow me away in 2020 so I can’t really say this album is a disappointment but I also can’t say that it’s all that good. Sure, it’s enjoyable, but as you can see from my ratings, even though I don’t think he has any clearly weak tracks on here, I am pretty lukewarm on about half the album and only “All Bad” and “The Cure” were clear standouts to me. Nas is doing his thing on the latter and then the beat switch midway through certifies it’s banger status. On the former, Anderson .Paak’s hook just won’t leave my head and Hit-Boy’s production is also really good. The Firm reunion sounds like a banger until Foxy Brown gets on the mic and sounds absolutely terrible. Any hopes The Firm might come together to make another project are diminished by the fact that Foxy seems completely washed. AZ is great on the track though and him and Cormega are still two of the most underrated rappers of all-time. I’m a Don Toliver fan, but his hook on “Replace Me” makes the song less enjoyable than it should be. When I heard Hit-Boy was doing all the production, I wasn’t stoked about that, but he actually does a better job than I was expecting. Nas is still a good rapper and he has some good ideas here. I think this album is reasonably solid, but it’s definitely nothing special and certainly ranks in the bottom half of the legend’s discography.

Verdict: 6/10 (Recommended)

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Che Noir & Apollo Brown – As God Intended (2020)

August 30, 2020

Che Noir & Apollo Brown – As God Intended (2020, Rap)

Release Date: July 10th, 2020

Song Rating Scale

1. Anti-Social ft. Blakk Soul – 4.5
2. Blood is Thicker – 4
3. Hustle Don’t Give ft. Black Thought – 5

4. Money Orientated – 3.5
5. 12 Hours – 4
6. Hold It Down ft. Ty Farris – 3.5
7. Daddy’s Girl – 3.5
8. Worth Gold – 4
9. The Apple ft. Planet Asia – 3.5
10. Freedom – 4
11. Follow the Wisdom ft. Skyzoo – 4
12. Winter – 4

13. Live by the Code – 3
14. ’94 – 4

Spin Rate: 8
Average Song Rating: 3.89/5
3.5+ Percentage: 93%
Cuts: 0
Bangers: 9

Thoughts: Apollo Brown is a genius. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the best producer in hip-hop right now. I just absolutely love his sound. Almost every beat he makes sounds like an automatic banger to me. It almost doesn’t even matter who is rapping over his stuff, they basically always sound amazing. He dropped an album last year called Sincerely, Detroit that had a bunch of rappers I’ve never heard of on it and I was shocked how good it was. The man can do no wrong right now and his string of collabo albums with certain rappers (Joell Ortiz, Skyzoo, Ghostface Killah, Ras Kass, Planet Asia) have all been fire. This joint with Che Noir continues that stretch of major wins and it might be the best of the bunch.

I’d never even heard of Che Noir until the song with Black Thought leaked, but that’s one of my favorite songs of 2020 now and immediately put this project high on my interest list. It didn’t disappoint in the slightest. Che Noir has a solid mic presence and her content is really strong also. She’s not on here constantly exploiting her sexuality and is instead speaking on socially conscious topics or making crazy storytelling tracks (“12 Hours”). I don’t know if she has a lot of range in her delivery, but when the production is this good, I don’t care too much about a lack of variety vocally. Che’s rhyming skills are on point and Apollo makes her shine. Top to bottom, this might be the best rap album of 2020. I think it has my highest average song rating and the most bangers of any album I’ve reviewed so far. This is an absolute must listen for any serious rap fan, a potential personal classic, and easily one of the best hip-hop albums of 2020. Don’t sleep.

Verdict: 9/10 (Amazing)

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Baby B – Text at 2 AM (2020)

August 25, 2020

Baby B – Text at 2 AM (2020, R&B/Soul)

Release Date: March 12th, 2020

Song Rating Scale

1. Slide Thru, Pt. 2 – 3.5
2. Do You Better – 4
3. Slow ft. B. Smyth – 3.5
4. Like Girls – 4
5. Wishlist (Interlude) – N/A
6. Baddest Girl – 4
7. Magical ft. Yung Bleu – 3.5
8. Truth – 3
9. She Know – 4.5

Spin Rate: 7
Average Song Rating: 3.75/5
3.5+ Percentage: 88%
Cuts: 0
Bangers: 4

Thoughts: One of my nieces is in her early 20s and very in tune to the popular rap and R&B music of her generation, so we have a regular dialog about new music and even though I like to think I don’t let much slip past my radar, she is constantly sending me songs and albums from artists I have never heard of. For the most part, we have different taste (especially with rap), but there have definitely been artists she’s put me on to that I really like.

Baby B is one of those artists. I’d never heard of her, so if I did happen to see her album out there, it’s pretty unlikely I would even listen to it just because her stage name is… well… an absolute non-starter. I’m just never going to scroll through new music, see someone called Baby B, and think, “I probably need to listen to that person.” But I’ll at least check out anything that my niece co-signs.

I have to admit I was pretty confused when I listened to this album the first few times. I assumed that Baby B was a girl but I started questioning that perception when it was obvious she was crooning about women in all her songs. Then I wondered if it was actually a dude with a feminine-sounding, but amazing voice. Upon further investigation, it turns out Baby B is indeed a girl and her sexual preference is other women. Well, that makes sense. It’s kind of strange that in 2020 listening to the music of a gay female still feels new and/or surprising to me, but off the top of my head, I couldn’t think of many gay women I have listened to extensively. This feels kind of tacky, but I looked up “best gay female musicians” on Google and that led me to this list on Ranker.com and I’m really only familiar with the music of two artists in the top 50: Syd tha Kid and Queen Latifah. Not that an artist’s sexual orientation matters to me, I just didn’t expect a woman to be singing about other women.

This is actually a great little album. Baby B has a wonderful voice and I love the vibe of her sound. I could happily have this album playing on repeat in the background or while giving it my full attention. “She Know” is one of the better songs I’ve heard this year and I count half this album as legit bangers. “Truth” is the only song I was iffy on, as it sounds more like an interlude than the track that was actually labeled an interlude (and is actually really dope). Text at 2 AM is definitely one of the better R&B projects I’ve heard this year. I’m tempted to give this album a Must Listen stamp, but I’m going to curb my enthusiasm just a bit and say it’s a very strong recommendation. Check it out.

Verdict: 7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

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Dr. Dre – The Chronic (1992)

August 15, 2020

Dr. Dre – The Chronic (1992, Rap)

Release Date: December 15th, 1992

Song Rating Scale

1. The Chronic (Intro) ft. Snoop Doggy Dogg – N/A
2. Fuck with Dre Day (Everybody’s Celebratin’) ft. Snoop Doggy Dogg & RBX – 4.5
3. Let Me Ride ft. Snoop Doggy Dogg & Jewel – 5
4. The Day The N****z Took Over ft. Snoop Doggy Dogg, Daz Dillinger, & RBX – 4
5. Nuthin’ But A G Thang ft. Snoop Doggy Dogg – 5
6. Deez Nuuuts ft. Snoop Doggy Dogg, Warren G, Daz Dillinger, & Nate Dogg – 4
7. Lil’ Ghetto Boy ft. Snoop Doggy Dogg & Daz Dillinger – 4.5

8. A N***a Witta Gun – 3
9. Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat ft. RBX & Snoop Doggy Dogg – 3
10. The $20 Sack Pyramid – N/A
11. Lyrical Gangbang ft. Lady of Rage, Kurupt, & RBX – 3
12. High Powered ft. RBX – 3.5
13. The Doctor’s Office – N/A
14. Stranded on Death Row ft. Kurupt, RBX, Lady of Rage, & Snoop Doggy Dogg – 4
15. The Roach (The Chronic Outro) – N/A
16. Bitches Ain’t Shit ft. Snoop Doggy Dogg, Daz Dillinger, Kurupt, & Jewell – 4

Spin Rate: 100+? I dunno. Heaps.
Average Song Rating: 3.96/5 (highest ever, as of August 2020)
3.5+ Percentage: 75%
Cuts: 0
Bangers: 8

Thoughts: I bumped this widely accepted classic to the top of my review list because when I think about my all-time favorite rap albums, The Chronic usually doesn’t come to mind like it does for a lot of other rap fans. If you would’ve asked me a week ago why that is, I probably couldn’t have accurately answered. There are just numerous albums I know that I like more. Don’t get me wrong: The Chronic is clearly a great and revolutionary album with plenty of iconic tracks on it. I’m just not sure it’s a certified masterpiece and I was curious to see if it might be a little overrated.

As I listened to this again, and it started off with banger after banger and multiple legitimately great songs, I thought I was probably mistaken. But I don’t know how anyone can pretend like the middle of this album is elite. I had to listen to “N***a Witta Gun” three times before I bumped it from a 2.5 to a 3. It’s not a good song, but I think the hook is catchy (albeit kind of annoying) and the beat is nice enough that I’m giving it a pass. “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat” and “Lyrical Gangbang” are in a similar boat, even with the latter’s loaded feature list. I can’t be the only one that wishes we could have heard a song with the melody that was playing at the start of “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat”. That shit sounds so smooth. “High Powered” is a good song even though it’s short and only features a verse from RBX, but it does make for a fourth straight song that is notably below the level of the rest of the album. I think this stretch of songs is why I haven’t considered this album the no-doubt masterpiece that a lot of rap fans do. Classic? Yeah, definitely. But perfect this album is not.

The rest of this album is absurdly good though. “Nuthin’ But A G Thang” is one of the best rap songs ever… not much else needs to said about that. I was hesitant to give “Let Me Ride” a 5 because the rapping isn’t exactly elite, but the production and hook are so next level that I had to cough it up. “Deez Nuuuts” is probably the forgotten banger on this album. The beat is soooooooo sick and Nate Dogg’s closing vocals are pristine. One of the most common and obvious trends on this album is that Snoop Dogg absolutely kills it. Dude sounds like a superstar in the making. I can’t wait to hear his solo album!

Dr. Dre has never been an elite rapper and upon revisiting this album, I was kind of surprised how many songs he doesn’t even have a verse on. But Dre can definitely hold his own on the mic and The Chronic has tons of classic tracks on it. The intro, outro, and skits make up 25% of the tracklist, but with the exception of “The Doctor’s Office” they are all pretty dope. I do think the middle sequence weakens the album a bit and prevents it from being a true masterpiece, but The Chronic is still an amazing album and definitely changed how hip-hop would sound forever. The best songs are so good and the production is so revolutionary that I wouldn’t fault anyone for saying this is a perfect hip-hop album, but for me, it’s still a notch below my very favorite rap albums of all-time.

Verdict: 9/10 (Sensational)

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Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia (2020)

August 13, 2020

Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia (2020, Pop)

Release Date: March 27th, 2020

Song Rating Scale

1. “Future Nostalgia” – 3.5
2. “Don’t Start Now” – 4
3. “Cool” – 3.5
4. “Physical” – 4
5. “Levitating” – 4
6. “Pretty Please” – 3.5
7. “Hallucinate” – 3.5
8. “Love Again” – 4
9. “Break My Heart” – 4
10. “Good in Bed” – 2
11. “Boys Will Be Boys” – 3.5

Spin Rate: 7+
Average Song Rating: 3.59/5
3.5+ Percentage: 91%
Cuts: 1
Bangers: 5

Thoughts: This is a really good pop album from an artist I’d never heard of before this year (she did drop a debut album in 2017 that I haven’t listened to yet) and I was shocked at how consistently great Dua Lipa is on this record. This album is basically hit song after hit song. I feel like almost every song on here could be a radio smash. Some of the songs I gave a 3.5 could maybe be bumped up to a 4 – especially if you’re a big fan of this type of pop music – but Dua Lipa’s sound did start to wear on me a little after many listens. Pop obviously isn’t my go to genre, and when I do listen to pop I prefer Lana Del Rey’s more melancholy sound over this hyper upbeat style, but I’ll still happily revisit this album in the future. This is basically good-to-great from top-to-bottom with the exception of the inexplicably garbage track that is “Good in Bed.” It’s weird to listen to nine straight really good songs and then hear a clunker like that. That blemish brings the average song rating down a bit, but I’ll forgive it in recognition of this album’s remarkable consistency and give Future Nostalgia a Must Listen recommendation.

Verdict: 8/10 (Must Listen)

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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)