Kid Cudi – Entergalactic: Review

Kid Cudi isn’t devoid of ideas; however, he barely extends said ideas beyond its core aesthetic. We’ve heard greatness on Passion, Pain, & Demon Slayin’ as Cudi elevated his sound beyond the haziness of his melodic depressed stoner raps. He’s encouraging himself toward new plateaus, but it got immediately forgotten by subsequently released and forgettable albums, like Man On The Moon 3. It continues with Entergalactic, his first soundtrack, and his eighth studio album. It left me feeling hollow like the namesake TV Special released on Netflix. Recorded in 2019, it seems like Cudi didn’t take the effort to refurbish the work and keep it from sounding like a drab extension of Man On The Moon 3. It doesn’t lack quality tracks, but they are far, and in between, it almost feels like a chore to sit, listen, and distinguish the ups and downs. So much so, it’s hard for one to recommend this, as it fits the quality of the conjoining special–a hollow representation of love between gifted artists, except without the depth but a lot of animated sex. Entergalactic is monotone in tone and becoming too entwined with the atmospheric textures; it’s almost like it’s devoid of any external effort beyond a first thought.

Giving us a fascinating thematic and enlightening intro, Kid Cudi completely forgets his musical trajectory and loses himself after a few tracks. Stylistically, what Cudi aims for has succeeded, but he’s bringing depth lyrically and creating exuberant melodies and hums. We’re far from Man On The Moon: The End of Day and Indicud, but within the confines of Entergalactic, Cudi squeezes out some good tracks between mundaneness. The rough patches you have to cruise past to get to them aren’t rewarding–songs like “Do What I Want” and “Willing To Trust” are some that stand out, but for the latter, it takes a while for the front-to-back completionist. Featuring Ty Dolla $ign, it uses Ty’s strengths smoothly, allowing the beat to feel almost second nature, and you can coast through the blissful melancholy. It isn’t the same for a lot of Entergalactic. Starting strong with its intro, “New Mode,” and subsequent track, “Do What I Want,” it eventually becomes a forgettable heel turn in a career, which Cudi has now said he will be pausing to focus on creating visually.

Unsurprisingly ineffective, the production by Dot Da Genius & Plain Pat has been a mirroring downer. Their work translates to beats we’ve heard Kid Cudi create some of his best work, but the consistent blandness keeps it from being anything more than just a throwaway. It wouldn’t be that way if the accompanying visuals didn’t give it some purpose for being. You know when you get ecstatic for a B side or Deluxe edition with at least 10+ new tracks, but then you realize it’s all hype, leaving you feeling like the purpose for its release was moot? Entergalactic is that and more; it has rehashed elements between current and past beats never come across as unique. “Can’t Believe It” is a lesser, more muted version of “Do What I Want,” which is exponentially more of a banger. “Angel” overindulges in its synth samples of “In My Dreams (Cudder Anthem)” off Man On The Moon: The End of Day that you start waning and preferring to switch to his debut.

Despite the quality of work that may seep through the cracks, Entergalactic continues to come off monotone and tone-deaf. I say tone-deaf because it’s creatively stunted, barely getting past simple constructs and making one feel like fans won’t care as long as it’s new. For example, “Ignite the Love” opens with an intriguing acoustic sequence, eventually getting forgotten as it starts to shift back toward simple drum and synth patterns. You’d want to think it’s a dream, but Entergalactic is what it is, and it doesn’t aim to be anything with resounding depth.

It’s unfortunate because Kid Cudi has been able to deliver phenomenal work; he’s given us a hosh-posh of mediocrity, or outright imperfect, pieces of work; however, they come with something interesting to dissect and have conversations beyond the critical surface. Going back to WZRD or Speedin’ Bullet To Heaven, there is a sense of creative ingenuity that sees Cudi trying to express himself differently since he was never one to adhere to the standards of Hip-Hop. I can’t say the same here. Cudi is rarely intriguing, spending too much time finding ways to describe physical and spiritual connectivity between two artists, just without proper character dimensions. You’d want to think there is more to it, but it’s a soundtrack to a hollow TV Special, which it mirrors perfectly. Ty Dolla $ign gives us one solid feature, but 2 Chainz and Don Tolliver distort the balance because they come delivering what gets expected. For Tolliver, it’s been an ongoing thing where it’s almost hard to make him appealing in features due to artists sticking to that one melodic tone.

Entergalactic is a futile waste for both fans and non-fans. There is little merit, if at all, as it is a translation of the animated text released on Netflix, and it’s equally so. I started tuning out rather quickly, but when that extra spark of the joint hit, it kept me going. Though not with musical positivity radiating in my ears, more mediocrity and steps below.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

Calvin Harris – Funk Wav Bounce Vol. 2: Review

Funk Wav Bounce Vol. 2 lacks a track that captivates and tingles the senses of summer’s cadence. When we think of summer, the vibes that radiate are crisp, danceable, smooth, and sometimes percussion-heavy, and with Funk Wav Bounce Vol. 1, we got just that with the opening track, “Slide.” The gravitas behind each element is like that first bite of your favorite snack after a long-winded day that doesn’t resonate on Vol 2. There are some decent–at times–solid tracks, but the poor construction from an artistic lens gives us an essence of what could have been otherwise better moments. It’s evident with “Obsessed,” a track that becomes lost in third-rate vocals from Charlie Puth, or opening with “New Money,” which offers a lackluster intro that wastes 21 Savage’s talent. It says a lot about the parallel between albums, and though there isn’t much to it, a few highlights are there for you to pick out and play on repeat.

Though it wasn’t a major standout, Funk Wav Bounce Vol. 1 dropped with a dynamic one-two punch to start it off. That first punch,” Slide,” is something that has yet to get reflected in quality since its release. There was this whimsical synergy between Frank Ocean and Migos, along with beautifully incorporated percussion patterns at a minimalist level; there was a reason the mood and vibes equated to grandeur. It had the POP from beautifully delivered melodies and a verse from Frank Ocean, an otherwise surprising collaboration between two different sounds. The closest we get to that feeling that comes midway through the album on “Stay With Me.” It’s a memorable funkadelic-disco track that grows on you the more you listen. At first, it may not acquiesce with your senses, but as you focus, you hear these unique transitions between the different vocal styles of Justin Timberlake, Halsey, and Pharrell. A part of me wished there were more of a connection between it and the 1:24 minute “Part 2,” which would make an elegant and indulgingly longer dance track. Unlike it, others had me questioning the decisions behind each. It begins with a jarring mix between 21 Savage and a synth pop-rap beat where the two don’t blend well, and 21 just feels muted.

After you get past it, presented to you are an array of tracks that don’t aggressively range in quality, but some decisions shift the final outcome. “Obsessed” begins with forgettable vocals by Charlie Puth before Shenseea grabs the steering wheel and makes a powerful argument about removing Puth’s vocals–more so when he delivers a slightly pale and mundane vocal performance in the second half. Similarly, “Somebody Else” contains an imbalance with the potency of the performances/verses, but not enough to make me question the addition of Lil Durk as a foil for Jorja Smith. Durk delivers a smooth flow that blends with the production, but his verse isn’t as captivating, teetering more on decent comparatively to the various rappers who tackle this subject. It isn’t offensively bad and meshes well with the vibe, but it isn’t anything profound. Jorja Smith’s vocals have beautiful consistency, but it doesn’t get used well. It’s like “Potion,” which reminds us of Young Thug’s chameleon-like nature as he offers a great partnership with Dua Lipa. Unfortunately, their talent gets misused over an uninteresting EDM/Post-Disco Pop track.

Though Funk Wav Bounce Vol. 2 isn’t all confusing decisions and lackluster mixes, some highlights round out the tracklist. From “New To You” to “Nothing More To Say,” there is a crisp progression of tracks that offer something of quality, whether its the 80s R&B/Dance nuance of the former or an absorbing hype track in “Ready or Not,” which stays on a steady wavelength, agreeing with the kind of intensity the songs after offer. Among this string of tracks is the aforementioned “Nothing More To Say,” a definitive highlight that brings forth the strengths of all involved instead of plastering prevalent artists and seeing if they can make it work. The latter is evident with the lackluster concoctions we hear at the beginning and end, whether from production or artists involved. It’s particularly disheartening when Calvin Harris brings along Pusha T and fails to meet in the middle, further becoming a middling closer after two more forgettable tracks. It’s a cluster of mediocrity that never sees the light and instead keep shifting the faulty one with older, worn, but slightly effective ones.

Funk Wav Bounce Vol. 2 isn’t anything to write home to, especially as it leaves you feeling mum toward the whole listen. It felt more like a chore than anything else, and we’re left thinking about how it went wrong. And that’s because it comes across as something pushed through fan pressure allowing it to not flow naturally like the first. However, that’s also an issue he had calling the first Vol. 1, which in turn caused more hype and demand to reflect that hunger, and it’s safe to say I was not satisfied.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

Wale – Folarin II: Review

A statement that I don’t utter as frequently: I miss backpack Wale

Before his foray into his new venture with Maybach Music Group, Wale cemented a path that distinguished him from his peers in the DC Metro area. He is a linguistic juggernaut, capable of making wit, pop culture, and hip-hop have great moments of unison like mixtapes containing Seinfeld samples and others produced by legendary name-stays, like 9th Wonder. Unfortunately, after signing with MMG, I saw Wale focusing less on the power of his words and more on creating simple overtures to sell his name more so than in the past. And Folarin II continues to prove my sentiments precisely — putting talent aside for commercial appeal hasn’t helped change my opinion, which is most of his projects over the past decade have been mid to okay. With a few highlights under Folarin II, it is another forgettable project that is an easy skip.

If you walked up to me a little over a decade ago, I’d name drop Wale as one of my favorite up-and-coming artists in Hip-Hop. And as he transitioned into his bag with Ambition, the creative wit and wordplay by Wale felt absent, aligning more with what we get to this day in Folarin II. It’s empty calories for the people who need something to weigh down the acidity in their stomachs from asking for food. It’s filler work without anything weighing down, so it’s better to meet it at surface level. Scratching the surface, Wale brings some uniques ideas into the fold, only to come short-sighted with the points he wants to make. It hits harder when the abhorrent relevancy feels shortwinded from others, like J. Cole, Maxo Kream, and Rick Ross, the former of which plays into political parallels.

Having a streamline of consciousness has never plagued Wale, letting himself deliver spurts of genius here and there throughout the past decade — sometimes we hear him take an extra step as an attempt at coddling to his fan base. In “Light Year,” Wale and Rick Ross reflect on humble beginnings and reincarnations, lamenting those they’ve lost in the past and how it invigorates them to proceed in their careers as they pivot into their prime. It holds a true message, despite coming off short. The lack of emotional weight and Rick Ross is dropping a line about Trump still being in his nightmares feels ironically out of place. And it loses me again as Wale slowly treads into boredom, sometimes repeating the same sentiments. 

It is more apparent than one thinks, with some songs giving me bars that have me reminiscing and wanting, pre-MMG. One moment, in particular, comes on “Tiffany Nikes,” where Wale does his version of flex raps. It has a steady progression and a solid rhythmic flow, but as he utters the lines: “Rep for the niggas that’s seekin’ some knowledge/Fuck with the queens but ain’t geekin’ about ’em.” In some ways, Wale hasn’t left this zone, and in other ways, he begins to dribble into basicness. And as someone who can pinpoint solid bars within verses, there are few I can highlight, but digging to listen to some key moments may feel like a waste.

Within a triad of decent songs, few deliver as expected and slightly above. “Name Bell Rings” and “Fluctuate” has Wale act on his carnal desires to spit fire bars — over two different beats — “Fluctuate” has a jazzy and more engaging production, and Wale wears his heart on his sleeve, talking about time and maturity. Some moments contain solid beats, but for the most part, it is easily forgettable. Unfortunately, it has come to it, since the last few years have been the same for Wale. “Name Bell Rings” contains many bars that stick, even though the chorus is not as desirable. However, the bars that stuck out on “Name Bell Rings”–“Now I’m on a scеne, pocket full of green/First magazine, I was in Supreme/Y’all was in the bleachers, talking ’bout sneakers,” using a smooth-braggadocio rhythm where he brushes the dirt off his shoulders. 

One thing Wale delivered was a coy play at my sense in the song “Down South” with Maxo Kream and Yella Breezy. Unfortunately, Wale and Maxo Kream delivers lackluster verses, while Yella Breezy made me return — partially because he stood out rhythmically, mostly because he sounds like Riff Raff. Folarin II says a lot with so little, and that isn’t speaking positively. It’s a detriment for Wale that he can’t keep a similar remedy for the positives that come about him and featured artists. Most of the songs with features wane on mediocrity, except for singers like Jamie Foxx, Shawn Stockman, and Ant Clemons — they deliver with a simple cadence it transfixes for the short time it runs.

Folarin II was an album that I yearned to contain some quality, but as it has been since The Album About Nothing, Wale has yet to keep the interest high outside his CORE fans. Some of the production is solid in a few moments, but an abundance of non-type-like producers can only keep the sonic consistency high. Folarin II is a simple skip.

Rating: 3 out of 10.

Khaled Khaled Is A Simple Chore You Wouldn’t Want To Circle Back To: Review

Record executive, producer, meme, and posse cut legend; DJ Khaled is back with another album that perfectly emboldens the idea that nepotism may sometimes lead down a path with us questioning why. His newest album, Khaled Khaled, is a continuation in a down spiral full of laziness and overly poor engineering. DJ Khaled has always been one to deliver many solid track on the albums he’s dropped, but the closer we got to his next step in life the easier it was to pinpoint the laziness in almost every aspect of the album; however that isn’t to discredit some of the solid cuts within each album prior. However, this new album, from DJ Khaled, has barely anything of note to highlight; from the poor engineering to the influx of questionable choices, lazy deliveries, and more, there is a lot that makes it one of the worst projects of the year and his worst to project to date.

Khaled Khaled has production that carries a lot of keen details that makes them unique, but with some features taking the easy way out, it makes some of the tracks almost unplayable upon replay. “Big Paper” with Cardi B, has some key moments where it keeps a solid rhythm and momentum, but the chorus is lazily written and mirrors some of the weak and stagnant – like delivery of the choruses of older NY Hip-Hop, it doesn’t have the nuance. It’s this ever-growing problem with Khaled, as well. He knows how to orchestrate; and how to deliver, but going through the album feels more like a haphazard chore you don’t really want to do, especially as a fan. Like Cardi B, the amount of current A-List/B-List artists is there in abundance, and yet, there is no clear direction, while lacking the feel of an overall event.

It’s sad because we know how easy it is for DJ Khaled to grab the hottest rappers and singers and make anthems on top of anthems from various sonic angles, like the powerhouse and melodic “No New Friend,” but that isn’t the case here. When Khaled Khaled was announced earlier this week, the mind wandered ever so slightly in different directions, especially because the first track almost unequivocally represents the kind of quality we’d be receiving. And it’s unfortunate because prior to there was this constant thought lingering about the quality of the music when the tracklist was fully revealed. A lot of the features made it look like it could be a bunch of bonafide hits and sadly, only a few hit that stride. These tracks, like “Every Chance I Get,” and “Popstar,” hit that landing and edge out the very poor mixing, making that a clear afterthought.

With themes of grandeur and love, amongst other basicness, there are some questionable moments that leave you rolling your eyes. For example, the track “Body In Motion” has Lil Baby and Roddy Rich rapping about their respective partners. There are lines about power dynamics in the relationship in both, but as Roddy Rich points out in his verse, he bought his girl plastic implants, as well creating an analogy about getting a deep-throat blow job is like an ostrich in a lobster… which, um, okay. However, Lil Baby is less dirty and weird as he reflects on the importance of appearance, but even then, he tonally brings a shallow appeal. So when it all mixes and closes on an inspirational speech by Khaled, that negates half the things they said… then it really just feels hypocritically cretinous. To add fuel to that fire, we are given the typical questionable Rick Ross line, “straight drop dead, Len Bias,” which just plays on a tragedy oh so poorly.

However, there are some other highlights, but what starts great then slowly turns into slight mediocrity from the featured artist that further shows the poor mixing job. There is “Sorry Not Sorry,” with Nas, Jay-Z, and underrated singer James Faultenroy. The track has a stellar instrumental, a fluid and quality verse by Nas, great vocal performance from Faultenroy, and then Jay-Z hits you with a verse about the discrepancies and hate he gets for being rich, or easily put – most Jay-Z verses since 2010.  

Another highlight comes from the two appearances of the MVP, H.E.R, who delivers these two eccentric and unique vocal performances, less akin to what we’ve gotten on the whole from her music. In a switch from R&B complexities, she goes on to hype up the crowd with both “We Going Crazy” and “I Can Have It All.” Unfortunately the latter has a weak and poor verse from Meek Mill and the former gives us 30 seconds of 2015 Migos and it works amazingly here to boost the overall hype, the problem is, for lack of a better term, under usage of Migos.

Khaled Khaled is a continuous descension into more mediocrity for the producer who once turned out hit after hit after hit. There is very little merit to take out of this and honestly feels too much of a chore to get to, especially if you care for the technical aspects of the music. DJ Khaled brings a lot of vibrant instrumentals, but the rough patches are just so hard to get through. 

Rating: 2.5 out of 10.

There Is No Musical “Justice” To Be Had On Justin Bieber’s New Album: Review

Sometimes whenever you have a doubt, never go back to it with a haphazard way of thinking. When Justin Bieber released Changes last year, there were doubts that he lost the popstar touch that was beautifully effervescent throughout the album prior, Purpose. And reluctantly the music on Changes left many with doubt about his direction and frankly they were right. His newest release Justice is boring and nonsensically offensive with the way it inadvertently places Martin Luther King Jr. audio samples on two separate occasions. But it goes beyond that and the very Creed inspired album artwork. Justice is full of solid production that is otherwise wasted from misguided attempts at conveying proper popstar-like conventions and at times wrought context about faith and religion.

Justice is full of distinct production that hits many nails on a coffin; however when the piano becomes part of that sequence, that individual nail ends up being hammered crooked. It isn’t for any lack of quality or cohesion, as much as it is plainly a component to the sonic atmospheres, all of which are lost through the mix of eclectic songs. Justice is predominantly full of love and christian ballads that evoke various contextual themes like regret, survival, and of course loving thy wife – as evident from his allegiance with Chance the Rapper. But in one of those new rare moments, Chance delivers a construct and solid verse, and that isn’t too hard to do for him considering what was delivered on The Big Day

The jaunty pop songs are misguided by Justin Bieber approach to the content he wants to write about. A lot of the time we hear these corny and basic pop textures to embolden those aforementioned Christian themes that are otherwise the weaker points of Justice. “Ghost,” primarily showcases how even the embossing work with the mixing can still make a track inherently worse. The percussion is hollow and lost within the this array of uninspired live acoustics in the background. 

Justice has no real clear direction and its focus is solely on the components that make for solid pop songs on the radio or another attempt at finding new sonic ground. He does so on tracks like “Hold On,” and “Peaches, featuring Giveon and Daniel Caesar. The latter sees him finding his own unique take on an island-R&B hybrid that works less than the live version from his NPR Tiny Desk Concert, but all the more easy to relisten. 

When it’s a pop song it feels wrought in its delivery that usually always wastes some of the beautiful co-production from Andrew Watt. The features make these tracks they join their own and throw Justin Bieber to the musical wolves. This is prevalent on the tracks “As I Am” and “Die For You,” featuring Khalid and Dominic Finike respectively. “As I Am,” is the subtly beautiful R&B centric orchestration that has dimensions to the piano keys, while the latter is a neatly executed disco-dance pop like song that feels like an outlier. 

There are very few moments on Justice that Justin Bieber lets the curtain open on his life and the rare times he mirrors the songwriting in conjunction with those emotions, we get the best version of this Justin. “Lonely,” is the real highlight, albeit it being a few months old and gone. The emotionally gripping piano keys have a stable balance with the vocalization as he breaks some perceived dimensions of the celebrity world. Unfortunately on a balance scale of “Ghost” to “Lonely,” most of the tracks lean closer to the quality of “Ghost.” It gets that extra boost from the array of unique pop productions, but unless you can isolate the vocal layers from it there isn’t much to boast about. 

Justice is a lazy rehash of the career Justin has made of his craft, except this time he grew out of the system and delivers hollow tunes that are otherwise extremely forgettable. There are very few moments where you think Justin Bieber has the right idea, but right away allows it to fall flat amongst the 16-tracklist album.

Rating: 2 out of 10.