Posts Tagged ‘trust the chain’

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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)