Posts Tagged ‘kanye west’

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Album Reviews (December 2019)

January 5, 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.

When I list the best tracks for each album, I will bold any song I added to my Bangers Playlist, meaning I think it’s one of the standout tracks of the entire year.

I only used this for the last couple of albums I rated, but here’s a scale I came up with for rating each song:
5 – All-Timer
4.5 – Super Banger
4 – Banger
3.5 – Keeper
3 – Cool
2.5 – Decent
2 – Weak
1 – Trash

Kanye WestJESUS IS KING (Gospel/Rap) – A full album devoted to Kanye’s… devotion to his faith? Ugh, no thanks. But we are talking about an all-time great musician here, so I’m obliged to listen and, well, it’s about as (un)enjoyable as I thought it would be. I think I’ve listened to it in entirety 4-5 times as I write this and most of it still doesn’t stick with me. This is the worst project Kanye has ever released. The direction of the album already turns me off, but I was hoping the music would still be good. I’m not a fan. I think I genuinely like two songs on this album.

Best Tracks: “On God” “Selah”

Verdict: No Thanks

Emotional OrangesThe Juice, Vol. II (R&B/Soul) – This is pure feel good music that you could have on in the background of a party and everyone would probably be content about it. The production on this album is pretty high quality and songs like “West Coast Love” and “Not Worth It” are pure fire. This a short little album that bumps the whole way through.

Best Tracks: “West Coast Love” “Not Worth It” “Don’t Be Lazy”

Verdict: Highly Enjoyable

03 Greedo & Kenny BeatsNetflix & Deal (Rap) – I was really impressed by this album. I think there’s maybe one song on here I didn’t really like. Greedo isn’t a super strong rapper, but he’s creative and clearly has a talent for crafting catchy and memorable songs. The production on here is also really well done and I’d be all over it if this duo put out another album together. I basically only listened to this album because of the strong list of guest features – Freddie Gibbs, Vince Staples, Maxo Kream, Buddy – but I’m glad I did. It was a very pleasant surprise. I currently don’t have any songs on my Best of 2019 playlist, but that’s certainly subject to change. I think there are plenty of standouts, but I’m still unsure if any of them are certifiably amazing. This is a strong album with very few weak spots.

Best Tracks: “Disco S**t” feat. Freddie Gibbs “Maria” “Blue People” feat. Vince Staples “Brad Pitt” “Soul Food” feat. Buddy

Verdict: Highly Enjoyable

Brother AliSecrets & Escapes (Rap) – Once upon a time, I thought Brother Ali was one of the best rappers in the game. His first few albums all are amazing. If you haven’t listened to Shadows on the Sun, the Champion EP, and The Undisputed Truth, put them on your to do list. That’s a rapper operating at the highest level. Since then, I’ve become progressively less excited about Ali and this latest project is one of his least memorable. Ali usually works with Ant (of Atmosphere) on the boards, but on this album I believe Evidence (of Dilated Peoples) does most of the production and it is an unfortunate departure. I really like Evidence as a rapper, but Ant is a way better producer – at least for Ali’s sound. Ali can still rap at an elite level though and that makes things at least somewhat enjoyable. Still, if I were to introduce someone to Ali’s music I wouldn’t even mention this album.

Best Tracks: “Father Figures” “Red” feat. Evidence

Verdict: Decent

Little BrotherMay the Lord Watch (Rap) – Little Brother is a hip-hop collective out of North Carolina that had a run of great albums throughout the 2000s before disbanding in 2010. Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh reunite here on their fifth studio album, but longtime producer 9th Wonder is completely absent from the project. Still, May the Lord Watch manages to sound very cohesive and feels like a proper sequel to Little Brother’s 2005 album The Minstrel Show. Phonte is on my all-time underrated list and he’s still rapping at a nearly elite level here, although I prefer his solo album No News is Good News from last year. There’s nothing flashy here; this is mature grown folk music. There are a lot of good tracks on this album – and no real weak songs – but nothing that really blew my mind either.

Best Tracks: “The Feel,” “Everything,” “Sittin Alone,” All in a Day”

Avg. rating: 3.3/5

Verdict: Recommended

SiRChasing Summer (R&B/Soul) – This was the first album that I gave a song-by-song rating for and it was a little disappointing to me. I had listened to this quite a bit already and thought it was pretty good, but there are really only a couple of standout tracks on this. The lead single “Hair Down” has the best hook and beat on the album plus Kendrick Lamar absolutely destroying his verse while completely switching up his flow at least five times while doing so. It also happens to be the first track. “John Redcorn” is the second song and also the second best song on the album. That means that the album peaks very early and never comes close to reaching the heights of the first two songs. I think the album is mostly good though with only a couple songs I thought were merely decent. Worth a listen for sure.

Best Tracks: “Hair Down” feat. Kendrick Lamar, “John Redcorn,” “Still Blue” feat. Jill Scott, “Mood”

Avg. rating: 3.14/5

Verdict: Recommended

KembaGilda (Rap) – This has to be one of the most overlooked albums of the year, as I have hardly seen anyone talk about it, yet I don’t think this has a single weak song on it, while almost half the songs are certified bangers. It’s a bit of a dark album, with Kemba lamenting, ‘I learned metaphors before I knew what’s a credit score/ I’m sure that’s a bar that’s never been said before/ mail at my door offered me a new credit card/ cause if you poor they’ll make sure you forever poor‘ on “Captain Planet” and it doesn’t get much more bleek than his hook on the somewhat disturbing but absolutely beautiful “Dysfunction”: ‘I’m nothing more than insignificant/ all my hopes and my dreams, all my goals, my achievements, were pure coincidence/ I am but a speck… of dust.‘ Yikes. It’s truly haunting, but I can’t stop listening to it. The album ends on a higher note, with both “Last Year Being Broke” and “Alive” showing signs of optimism. This is a true piece of art and more people should be listening to it.

Best Tracks: “Dysfunction,” “Nobody I Can Trust,” “Exhale” feat. Smino, “Alive” feat. Eric Bellinger

Avg. rating: 3.68/5

Verdict: Must Listen

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December 2019 New Music

January 1, 2020

December Notes: I really expanded my horizons in December and listened to an exorbitant amount of music, adding a number of albums I missed earlier this year, plus some from last year, and even some super old mixtapes from current legends like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Travis Scott. It’s insane how much content I took in last month and you can see how that is reflected in the fact that I added 30+ songs to my 2019 Bangers playlist. I decided to start dropping thoughts on certain album as I give them overall ratings and the way I’m going to do that is in a separate post that will be published in the next few days or so. This way I can listen to albums and write about them as the month progresses while keeping organization on my blog nice and tidy. I always see Young Thug, JPEG MAFIA, Tyler the Creator, etc. on Best of 2019 lists, so I’ve been trying to understand what people see in their music… and something finally happened this month: I became a Young Thug fan. I’ve basically thought of Young Thug as the epitome of the kind of Mumble Rap I don’t like over the last few years, but I guess I finally see the appeal. I listened to his So Much Fun album until I had to admit to myself that it was actually good… and I’ll be damned if it isn’t. Jury is still out on Tyler and JPEG MAFIA. I can see Tyler’s appeal, but I’m not sure if I’m a fan or not. Meanwhile, I wanted to turn the JPEG album off after five songs… and I struggled to get that far.

Here’s what I listened to in December 2019 and how much:

* indicates second month on PRIORITY playlist

HEAVY ROTATION (heard whole album many times)

*BENNY THE BUTCHER – The Plugs I Met (June)
*Griselda – Wwcd
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
KIDS SEE GHOSTS (Kanye West & Kid Cudi) – KIDS SEE GHOSTS (2018)
Roddy Ricch – Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial

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

*03 Greedo & Kenny Beats – Netflix & Deal
*Apollo Brown – Sincerely, Detroit (October)
Arin Ray – Phases II – EP
Black Pumas – Black Pumas (June)
*Brother Ali – Secrets & Escapes
DaBaby – Baby on Baby (March)
*Emotional Oranges – The Juice, Vol. II
*Gang Starr – One of the Best Yet
JACKBOYS – JACKBOYS
*Kemba – Gilda
*Lana Del Ray – Norman F*****g Rockwell (August)
*Michael Kiwanuka – KIWANUKA
Rich Brian – The Sailor (July)
Tobe Nwigwe – FOURIGINALS (October)
*Tyler, The Creator – IGOR (May)
Young Thug – So Much Fun [Deluxe]

SOLID ROTATION (heard whole album at least twice)

*Earl Sweatshirt – FEET OF CLAY
Fat Joe & Dre – Family Ties
Free Nationals – Free Nationals
*Smoke DZA & BENNY THE BUTCHER – Statue of Limitations – EP (October)

COURTESY ROTATION (heard whole album)

*Action Bronson & The Alchemist – Lamb Over Rice
*Beck – Hyperspace
BENNY THE BUTCHER – Tana Talk 3 (2018)
*Bishop Briggs – CHAMPION
Cam’ron – Purple Haze 2
*CRIMEAPPLE – Viridi Panem
DaBaby – KIRK (September)
*Dave East – Survival
Denzel Curry – ZUU (May)
*Fabolous – Summertime Shootout 3: Coldest Summer Ever
*FKA twigs – MAGDALENE
Flawless Real Talk – Every Second Matters
Harry Styles – Fine Line
*IDK – Is He Real? (September)
KAYTRANADA – BUBBA
*Kembe X – I Was Depressed Until I Made This (October)
Kendrick Lamar – Kendrick Lamar EP (2009)
Kevin Abstract – ARIZONA BABY (April)
*Kota the Friend – Foto (added in November, released in May)
*Larry June – Product of the Dope Game
Polo G – Die a Legend (June)
*Queen & Slim Soundtrack
*Rod Wave – Ghetto Gospel
*Salaam Remi & Joell Ortiz – BoxTalk – EP
*The Game – Born 2 Rap
Travis Scott – Days Before Rodeo (2014)
*Trippie Redd – A Love Letter to You 4
*Various Artists – Queen & Slim Soundtrack

SKIM ROTATION (haven’t heard whole album)

Atmosphere – Whenever
Azizi Gibson – Chimera Act
Injury Reserve – Injury Reserve (May)
J.Cole – Friday Night Lights (2010)
JPEG MAFIA – All My Heroes Are Cornballs (September)
Juice WRLD – Goodbye & Good Riddance (2018)
*Jvck James – DETOUR – EP (October)
Kendrick Lamar – Training Day (2005)
KXNG Crooked & Bronze Nazareth – Gravitas
Lizzo – Cuz I Love You (April)
MAVI – Let The Sun Talk (October)
*Smoke DZa & Curren$y – Prestige Worldwide
Stormzy – Heavy Is The Head
Sunday Service Choir (& Kanye West) – Jesus Is Born
*Tory Lanez – Chixtape 5
XXXTENTACION – Bad Vibes Forever

TOO NEW/NO LOVE (zero listens)

Kendrick Lamar – C4 (2009)

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

Roddy RicchPlease Excuse Me For Being Antisocial

I have to admit Roddy Ricch wasn’t even remotely on my radar (despite appearing on Nipsey’s “Racks in the Middle” and Meek’s “Splash Warning”) before this album dropped and his stage name made me think he was probably just going to be run-of-the-mill trap music. But I ended up being shocked by Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial. It’s a solid album with multiple standout tracks and “The Box” really sets things off and immediately put me on notice with its incredible instrumentation and Roddy bringing some impressive vocals with a catchy hook. There is plenty more heat, with “Bacc Seat” being a particularly good track, with Roddy and Ty Dolla $ign spitting verses about their sexual conquests over a smooth ass beat. Production on this album is a major strength and Roddy is clearly a solid songwriter that understands how to tailor his lyrics and vocals to the mood of the beat. Roddy isn’t a great lyricist, but he does everything else really well. I rated every song on the album on a scale of 1 to 5 and the 15 songs averaged out to just under 3.5, but there are six tracks on here that I gave a 4+ (certified bangers) and that’s a strong showing for anyone. I’m a big fan of this project and it could have been even better by trimming off a little bit of the fat (especially towards the end), but this is a very solid debut studio album from an artist whose stock is going to rise rapidly.

Highly Enjoyable

2019 Bangerz Playlist Additions – Follow me on Apple Music @DarkKnight1717 to add my playlists

Apollo Brown ft. Fatt Father, Journalist 103 & Valid, “Oh Lord”
Apollo Brown ft. Clear Soul Forces, “Deception & Woes”
Arin Ray, “A Seat”
Benny the Butcher, “Took the Money to the Plug’s House”
Black Pumas, “Know You Better”
Black Pumas, “OCT 33”
Brent Faiyaz, “Rehab (Winter in Paris)”
Boogie ft. Snoh Aalegra, “Time”
Conway the Machine ft. Westside Gunn & Benny the Butcher
Dave East ft. Ash Leone, “Daddy Knows”
Dreamville (J.Cole & Lute ft. DaBaby), “Under the Sun”
Dreamville (JID, Bas, J.Cole, EARTHGANG & Young Nudy), “Down Bad”
Emotional Oranges, “West Coast Love”
Griselda, “DR BIRDS”
JACKBOYS ft. Don Toliver, “WHAT TO DO?”
Kemba ft. Eric Bellinger, “Alive”
Kemba, “Dysfunction”
Kemba ft. Smino, “Exhale”
Kota the Friend ft. Saba, “Solar Return”
Lana Del Rey, “California”
Maxo Kream, “Meet Again”
Mustard ft. Nipsey Hussle, “Perfect Ten”
Rick Ross ft. Drake, “Gold Roses”
Rod Wave, “Poison”
Roddy Ricch ft. Meek Mill, “Peta”
Roddy Ricch, “The Box”
Roddy Ricch ft. Ty Dolla $ign, “Bacc Seat”
Roddy Ricch, “Roll Dice”
SiR, “John Redcorn”
Wale ft. Jeremih, “On Chill”
Tobe Nwigwe ft. The New Respects, “HELLA BLACK”
Tobe Nwigwe, “IVORY”
Tobe Nwigwe, “I’M DOPE (NPR MUSIC’S TINY DESK CONCERT)”
Travis Scott, “HIGHEST IN THE ROOM”
Young Thug ft. Future, “Sup Mate”
Young Thug ft. Travis Scott, “Hop Off a Jet”
Young Thug ft. J.Cole & Travis Scott, “The London”
Young Thug ft. Machine Gun Kelly, “Ecstasy”
Vince Staples, 6LACK, & Mereba, “Yo Love”

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October 2019 New Music

November 1, 2019

I always hear people complaining about how bad music is nowadays and they couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, there is more quality music flooding the industry than ever before. It’s impossible to listen to it all, but… I try to. I give everything a chance and at the end of every month I’ll post everything I listened to and how much, what my favorite album was, what the other must have albums are, and what songs I added to my 2019 Bangers Playlist.

Stop complaining and take some guidance!

Because some albums come out later in the month and I don’t get much of a chance to listen to them before making my post, I’ve decided to make my new music posts containing all albums I’ve listened to over the last two months. New albums for the most recent month will be in bold.

Also, check out my 2019 Albums page to see where I have rated any albums I’ve formed a solid opinion on. Added this month: ratings for the new Skyzoo and Silas

October Notes: I only added six new albums from the past month (I’ll include the Halloween releases in my November post) and as you can see below, I gave very few of them strong rotation. I saw Logic, YBN Cordae and JiD in a concert last month and some dude named Silas opened the show and he was dope enough that I added his album to my rotation and enjoyed it quite a bit. Someone recommended Tuxedo and Emeli Sande to me, so I added those albums even though they dropped earlier in the year. I spent the last week of October watching the show Rhythm & Flow on Netflix, an American Idol style hip-hop contest, and D Smoke and Flawless Real Talk were my favorite contestants and they both have projects available on Apple Music that I added last month but haven’t had a chance to really listen to yet.

HEAVY ROTATION (heard whole album many times)

EARTHGANG – Mirrorland
Silas – 1998 (added in October, released in August)

SOLID ROTATION (heard whole album at least twice)

Danny Brown – uknowwhatimsayin?
Kanye West – JESUS IS KING
Skyzoo & Pete Rock – Retropolitan

COURTESY ROTATION (heard whole album)

G-Eazy – Scary Nights
Ras Kass – Soul on Ice 2
Summer Walker – Over It
Tobe Nwigwe – THREE ORIGINALS (added in October, released in March)
Wale – Wow… That’s Crazy

SKIM ROTATION (haven’t heard whole album)

Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
Emeli Sande – REAL LIFE (added in October, released in September)
Flawless Real Talk – 24Flaw7 (added in October, not sure when released)
Ghostface Killah – Ghostface Killahs
Kemba – Gilda
Kevin Gates – I’m Him
Post Malone – Hollywood’s Bleeding
Tuxedo – Tuxedo III (added in October, released in July)

Out of Rotation (removed from my current playlist)

TOO NEW (zero listens)

D Smoke – Inglewood High

ALBUM OF THE MONTH

Danny Brownuknowwhatimsayin? – This sort of wins by default. The only other new album that I listened to nearly as much was Kanye’s gospel album and I can’t even really say I liked that one. I’ve had difficulty listening to some of Danny Brown’s past work because his vocals and delivery can be… very odd and kind of grating… but on this album we get a mostly smooth and easy to understand performance. I haven’t listened to this album for at least two weeks so I find myself pretty unfamiliar with it still, but I did add “Savage Nomad” to my best tracks of 2019 playlist.

2019 Bangerz Playlist Additions

Danny Brown, “Savage Nomad”
Emeli Sande, “Free as a Bird”
Jamila Woods, “MUDDY”
Joell Ortiz ft. Big K.R.I.T., “Learn You”
Kemba, “Nobody I Can Trust”
Little Simz ft. Little Dragon, “Pressure”
Silas, “’98 Freestyle”
Silas, “Buddy (1998)”
Skyzoo & Pete Rock ft. Westside Gunn, Conway, BENNY THE BUTCHER, & Elzhi, “Eastern Conference All-Stars”

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Francis and the Lights – Farewell, Starlite! (2016)

November 12, 2016

I was scrolling through Twitter one day when I saw Chance The Rapper mention that he couldn’t stop listening to the new Francis and the Lights album. Now, I’ve never heard of Francis and the Lights, but Chance has been one of my top 5 musicians over the past year, so obviously I trust his taste in music. He didn’t let me down.

Farewell, Starlite! is labeled on Apple Music as hip-hop/rap but that’s incredibly misleading. I had no idea what to expect, but it’s safe to say that I was NOT expecting an album with literally zero rapping on it. It’s honestly hard to categorize what Francis and the Lights is – and it’s kind of odd for me to pick this as my first Album of the Moment because I’ve never reviewed a non-hip-hop album. But the music is so good on this short 10 track album that it just has to be recognized. I guess I’d say it’s folky pop. Is that a thing? Easy Listening? I’m not sure.

The band consists of Francis Farewell Starlite (his legal name, but not his given name) and, as he says: “there are no members… it is me and whomever else is involved. Including you.” As far as I can tell, Francis is the only vocalist in the band – if there even is one – and while his lyrics aren’t mind-blowing by any means, he is clearly a master at crafting incredibly infectious songs. For instance, “Comeback” has no business being as enjoyable as it is. If you were to read this song about a friend that had to stay home while his buddies went to a fun party, on paper it would look pretty corny, but Francis’ vocals bring it to life in a way that just makes you want to smile.

While I find every song on Farewell, Starlite! enjoyable, my two favorite tracks are “My City’s Gone” and “It’s Alright To Cry.” The former features hip-hop superstar Kanye West, but his vocal contributions are limited to harmonizing the chorus. The forlorn story of a man whose hometown has become unrecognizable to him is worthy enough of my Best Of 2016 playlist. “It’s Alright To Cry” is as addictive as it gets. It’s impossible to listen to this song and not absently sing the hook for days to come.

It’s always nice when an artist that is totally unknown to you releases an album that is one of the year’s best. Farewell, Starlite! is the rare album where every song is good. While Francis and the Lights certainly is not hip-hop music, the singer’s style blends seamlessly with rap as his previous collaborations with Drake and Chance The Rapper have shown. He also features with Chance on a song on the upcoming The Hamilton Mixtape, which is to be released later this year. Farewell, Starlite! is solid from top to bottom and ranks as one of my favorite albums of 2016. Francis is a star in the making and this album is an absolute must listen.

Grade: 7.5/10 (Essential Listening/Excellent)