Nas – King’s Disease II: Review

This year Nas won his first Grammy for Best Rap Album, and it was a genuine surprise as it wasn’t the strongest nominee against the others. However, we take it in stride as it has been a time long-coming. King’s Disease was deserving, and it helps fuel Nas on the follow-up King’s Disease II. And if we’re going to be direct, this is some of his best work since 2012’s Life Is Good. King’s Disease II improves on the problems of its predecessor, primarily the consistency between his solo work and trying to mirror the new generation. Unfortunately, minimal redundancies and a poor verse from A Boogie Wit A Hoodie don’t deter King’s Disease II from being a great album.

Nas always has an arsenal ready to unleash within a beretta he calls the microphone. When Nas raps on King’s Disease II, he paints pictures like Van Gogh: articulate, direct, and vibrant. Nas has never been a singles artist, and his shift into commercialism over the last few years has never translated. Hit-Boy’s production brings the nuance that Nas needs to deliver his best work. His previous work with DJ Khaled felt half-assed and poorly constructed around Nas’ marketing ploys, from Hennessey to cigars. 

The haunting, exhilarating, and refreshing nature of King’s Disease II proves that Nas and Hit-Boy have developed a strong bond like Freddie Gibbs and Madlib or DJ Premier and Guru. The fluidity stands out as it has been a while since Nas has had a producer who understood his directions and dictations. From the smooth bubbles of “YKTV” to the distinguishing jazz-rap on songs like “Composure” and “Rare,” we hear Nas finding comfortability in the varying BPMs. Hit-Boy doesn’t produce the whole album by himself, bringing along Jansport J to add a few notches on two songs.

Hit-Boy’s production fixes issues that befall the album, like the outcome you’d expect from new rappers. On the decadent “YKTV,” New York singer-rapper A Boogie Wit A Hoodie delivers a show-stopping performance that leaves you in disarray. A Boogie is off-key and doesn’t add anything worthy to commend. Unfortunately, YG can’t save the day as it closes, but it isn’t hard to outperform A Boogie. It is like “Brunch On Sunday,” where Californian singer-rapper Blxst feels redundant on the chorus. It took a minute to realize it wasn’t Don Tolliver delivering a stripped-down vocal performance. It would have been more effective, as his background vocals on “Death Row East,” which helps build its haunting atmosphere.

After starting strong, Nas tries to make a drill song with “40 Side,” but he doesn’t feel comfortable since he can’t evoke that same energy an artist like Bizzy Banks can. However, Nas reels us back with a remix to the song “EPMD” from Judas and The Black Messiah. To Nas’ credit, he consistently reels you back in after delivering poorly. “EPMD” features EPMD, who haven’t traded bars since PMD’s 2017 album, Busine$$ Mentality. Unfortunately, you shouldn’t expect the most profound work as both artists are past their prime, and thus, we receive what works for the song. Eminem isn’t the best lyricist today, but he makes sure he delivers by pushing his strengths in one direction. In this case, he plays rhythmic gymnastics and reminds us he is more than rhymes. 

“EPMD” is a genuine surprise, like “Nobody,” which features Lauryn Hill. We heard her not long ago on a song with Pusha T, but she delivered a beautiful chorus instead of a verse. On “Nobody,” you’re left with your jaw-dropped as Lauryn Hill sounds like she hasn’t skipped a beat after all these years. It stands out, like most of the songs on this album. King’s Disease II channels varying themes that humble Nas’ views on the world and life. He creates contrasts like the violent and reflective “Store Run” and “My Bible” to the elegance success can bring with “Brunch On Sundays.”

But nothing stands out like “Death Row East.” The song recounts a time when the East/West coast beef hit a tipping point. Suge Knight and Tupac were close to monetizing the Death Row label on the East Coast, which caused tensions to turn into violence. Nas’ delicate attention to detail is the strength of King’s Disease II. On “Death Row East” recounts more than the territorial issues amongst both sides of the country and his attempt to squash any issues. It’s been 25 years since Tupac’s passing, and the way his death affected the hip-hop world was mind-shattering. Nas makes note, with delicate detail, about how he tried to dilute the violence and calm the situation between both sides, as the integration of gangs and hip-hop made it a dangerous world. 

King’s Disease II is an improvement from its predecessor, despite being as equally memorable. The production consistently reels you in, and Nas reminds he has not taken a step back. Like Nas mentions on one of the few highlights: “I’m In Rare Form.” That notion is resonant throughout as Nas’ continuous prudent deliveries balance its weak points.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Pop Smoke – Faith: Review

When news broke of Pop Smoke’s passing a little over a year ago, one of many thoughts ran through my mind; that thought was based on the details about how and why? As one who has been located on a social channel through another user having the ability or software to locate another based on IP address, seeing that he was slowly watched over through his social channels makes the world scarier and adding technology to the list of enemies, falling right under our anguish and doubts with faith. Upon hearing Pop Smoke’s debut album, posthumously released, one could easily hear the young rapper’s talent and exponential growth from his mixtapes. He’s had his fair share of criticism, and though it may not be warranted – it has never benefited Pop to have a plethora of features scribbled throughout. In his follow-up to Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, Faith, continues to remind us of that talent albeit the features and production choices making or breaking the overall need to want to return.

When the features for the track list were unveiled the day before the release date, the amassed hype grew exponentially amongst fans from various communities. On the surface level, they appeal to a broader audience. But with his untimely passing still generating attention, I can’t help but think this was some charitable ploy to get artists he probably wouldn’t work with immediately based on his style and eclectic energy; The Neptunes, and Dua Lipa in particular. Like the eclectic list of features, the album delivers enough obtuse energy you might ponder the intentions behind this project. 

The construction of Faith feels like a poor representation of Pop Smoke’s artistry, where at times it feels like they forcing marketability in pop music. Pop Smoke has shown in the past that he is limited when it comes to creating pop records, despite releasing some quality ones. Faith is like if his manager, Steven Victor, studied the first Michael Jackson posthumous album and didn’t learn from the mistakes on it. It’s a butchery of the work that has been recorded from Pop Smoke. You can sense it in some tracks, like “Demeanor” where Dua Lipa’s vocal and performance sounds exactly as it was, a forced add-on. 

Fortunately, they allow Pop Smoke to shine as an individual, despite a good chunk of tracks feeling like it would have been best to have left them in the vault. The oddity behind it makes it feel like a beautiful exploration into new territories Pop Smoke had the capabilities to branch into, despite falling short from most of these featured collaborators; especially in the features and partially the production. 

Pop Smoke’s keen dominance in New York Drill and Gangster Rap has been a focus for him and us as listeners who saw an ascension in this beautiful hybrid that mirrored two different cultures. And for the most part, the production has great fluidity, but some are pure head-scratchers. “Top Shotta,” for example, is the track produced by legendary production trio/duo The Neptunes, and while the production is fine, the reggae-bounce nature doesn’t mesh well with Pop Smoke’s flows and lyrical style. This goes for the various directions this album takes with his recorded products, like the off-brand and aforementioned “Demeanor” and “Manslaughter,” which takes too many creative choices with the mixing. The Dream doesn’t usually deliver mediocre or yawn-inducing performances, but it begs to differ on “Manslaughter.”

It starts to become a nuisance because you’re delivered, on a silver platter, a project with a minimal margin for error, and it barely leaves that margin. You’re more likely to see the Yankees blow a 5 run lead in the last two innings than think these established veteran rappers would deliver something of substance, but here we are. They orchestrate features like Pusha T, Rick Ross, Kid Cudi, and Chris Brown, and the final products are a bunch of tracks that you’re more likely to skip if you have high expectations for them. Ironically, the new class of rappers outperforms the veterans, bringing their all in tracks where the production elevates their strengths, like on “Genius” with Lil Tjay and Swae Lee or up-and-coming New York rapper Bizzy Banks on “30.”

The moments the album steers itself toward Pop Smoke solo tracks or these tracks with the new class, we are delivered the best tracks on Faith. Other tracks lack an essence of life, mostly because there has to be some empathy to hop on a record and do so with a sense of understanding. “Demeanor” featuring Dua Lipa and “Tell The Vision,” are prime examples of this outside of “Top Shotta.” Dua Lipa and Pop Smoke are some of the most nonsensical pairings between two artists that should have never happened. Dua Lipa’s overly glitzy pop falsetto on “Demeanor” doesn’t compliment Pop Smoke’s overtly twisted and rough ways on the microphone and it’s apparent. The same goes for “Tell The Vision,” which teased potential new, and of quality, verses from Kanye West and Pusha T, only to be left with blue balls from a weak intro and a redundant verse, respectively.

It’s always been evident that Pop has always had the talent, and with what has been said to be in the vault you’d expect better from the producers and orchestrators. But ultimately they took the opportunity to cash in on his legacy to find a happy medium between tracks for the fans and those to reel in the money. And though there is minimal-moral problems with it, you’d think they’d try harder to deliver something of worth, opposed to continuous snooze fests that will easily have you turning this off quicker than the stove when the pasta is burning.

Rating: 4 out of 10.

10 Years Later: Kendrick Lamar and The People of Section.80

Section.80’s is a complex album that rarely strays away from these dark and conscious themes. But it isn’t completely wound tightly, sometimes using a few different characters in his generation, taking influence from its effect on their adolescence. These characters have been silhouettes wandering through shadows since the peak of Reaganomics and influencing the broken youth. They contain negatives derived from social-political biases within structured systems, which have shifted the lives of people in poorer communities. At 10 years, Section.80 isn’t talked about as much as his subsequent work, and who knows why that is; however one thing is known, without the critical and audience success of it, maybe Kendrick wouldn’t be where he is now, but he made it as the bridge to give his story a deeper understanding on his follow-up album. 

Before the anticipated release of Section.80 in hip-hop circles, there was a belief this could make or break Kendrick Lamar’s career. We’ve known through his mixtapes that his technical skill was on point and his lyricism had enough equilibrium to keep his name high. What left that doubt was the lack of proof that Kendrick could conceivably create a proper song, or rather a variation that isn’t using rudimentary hip-hop instrumentals. He has never laid out a universally appealing track that can hit various ears and eyes swiftly, no matter the formatted radio. Despite a lack of radio presence he made waves with Section.80‘s only single “HiiiPoWer.”

“HiiiPoWer,” produced by J. Cole, brought the appeal fitting into a trend of the movement era in Hip-Hop, where you were either directing the generation to niche cultural dynamics, whether it was a form of dance or a performance empowering a group that believes in the truth. Though it stands for something more, Kendrick brings this sense of unison within the track, explaining how censorship and oppressive social views can impact aspects of the culture. He mentions how Lauryn Hill and Kurt Cobain were influenced by the industry and music’s overall part of defining aspects of capitalism. As well as breaching into conspiracy-laced thoughts regarding the deaths/murders of black leaders and more. It laid out an idea of where the direction of his album could be – in-depth social criticism.

Topics of social criticism from institutionalism, systematic racism, and more. Kendrick makes note of these structured and stereotypical systems that have been taking back a turn from what could have been progression in what is known today as Reaganomics. He starts this with three tracks that lay a paved path of visuals filled with stuff that has happened to him, based on bias or other means. “F*ck Your Ethnicity,” and “Hol’ Up,” are two of these tracks. The former is fueled with anger and the latter is satirically braggadocios taking jabs at himself through a tinted lens where he is only seen through the color of his skin.

“A.D.H.D.” is the last of these tracks, and the most notable one outside of his anthem “HiiiPoWer.” It could be the unique and slightly infectious chorus line where his pronunciations of words and soft-spoken harmonizations, which is the antithesis of what people thought he needed to do to breakthrough. It would become a silent precursor to the kind of approach his first pop single, “Swimming Pools (Drank) had, never deterring from authenticity. Section.80 was about the bigger picture. The way Reagan and (mostly) republicans attacked the drug trade, mental health, and trickle-down economics laid the way for harsher upbringings for many; specifically those least likely to afford the help. It led to people trickling down into their own vices and losing themselves because of the stresses around. It would be reflected in those times through various mediums.

Reaganomics and actions made by the Reagan administration, for the uninformed, allowed for a free activity market, which made way for a divide based on income imposed by a town or cities distribution of the budget spending. It also lowered taxes on high earners and caused the ripple effect we see today where we see some of the wealthiest people getting tax breaks and more for things meant for the less affluent. The drug trade was also a heavy pivot point as well, where minimalist and innocent possession could have led down an unruly path of mental anguish. It was worse with the way it grew within these impoverished communities and created a new stigma within the way they were policed and more. This is just putting it simply. However, when Kendrick Lamar makes note, on the track “A.D.H.D.” that this woman he is talking to him calls him a crack baby, it brings to light what she meant for people like them who were born in the 80s, which was when the peak of the crack epidemic began to unfurl.

He continues to criticize this on the track “Ronald Reagan Era,” which is a tale of a dystopian Compton, California overrun by gangs in the drug game, during the crack epidemic. But Kendrick weaves his raps/tracks as both a warning to the youth, using fictional characters as a cautionary tale, while also applying a lot to himself and how it reflected on various moments in his life. On other tracks, he uses characters as examples for these cautionary tales.

One of the characters, Keisha, is one of these aforementioned characters who receive a three-part narrative, describing the hardship and tribulations that come from prostituting and waning your confidence for bigger aspirations. His shifts in perspectives and tone, on these tracks, allow for his messages, within the themes, to land with impact. It’s from understanding and hearing the pain with the way their stories play out and the emotions they feel throughout. 

These people have been victims of biased governing and more. For example, in the news, we have heard and seen how poorly structured the education system can be based on demographics. One area could have consistently better establishments and workers in place to keep it functioning with preciseness and swiftness in higher-earning areas, opposed to others. Because of this, it becomes harder for some people to make it to graduation, and afterward, it could be seen, mentally, like it would be easier to push drugs or by other means, like prostitution (in Keisha’s case), or robbery, as opposed to working two to three jobs to make ends meet. Everyone has their path and sometimes they take risky and poor-choice ventures, but the world around them isn’t there to help. This is something Kendrick would later reflect upon himself, on “Poe Mans Dreams,” as he remembers his uncle’s trial and the implied notion that one seems to usually follow a similar path. 

This is taken into account with the lines:

“I used to want to see the penitentiary way after elementary

 Thought it was cool to look the judge in the face when he sentenced me

 Since my uncles was institutionalized

 My intuition had said I was suited for family ties”

– Poe Mans Dreams by Kendrick Lamar

These topics become a prominent part of social criticism from Kendrick Lamar, going as far as putting himself front and center as the personal example of how it can affect one’s psyche for the good or the bad. Some people see a way out, they fail and never have a plan B, but Kendrick has that hunger and he made it possible by standing out on others tracks that breathe confident arrogance, which, based upon what he hears, makes it sound authentic to what he preached and why he can come across like does. And it becomes apparent how long has come since Overly Dedicated with the constructs his songs. He boasts confidence, implying that he’s come to take the throne from the King of Hip-Hop on “Rigamortis.” It takes that arrogance, deriving from motivation, and expressing confidence to be something bigger than he is at that moment. The has the production of this track helps in showing his chameleon-like flows as he raps over a hard jazz orchestration that is not influenced by any hip-hop whatsoever.

This continuation of brilliance comes in other aspects, like the sequencing/transitioning of “Kush & Corinthians” to “Blow My High,” which beautifully contrast each other smoothly. The former focuses on distinguishing the split between morals and the way one easily succumbs to action at the behest of earthly vices. “Blow My High” takes a contrasting approach as Kendrick boasts about trying to live to the highest without anything ruining his flow. While “Kush & Corinthians” focuses on morals and religion, “Blow My High” negates these morals and eventually succumbs to his vices.

The array of lessons imparted through painted themes/stories on the tracks are topics that deserve a discussion. Many of these stories bridge the examples toward the tones and notions Kendrick takes on his subsequent album. It doesn’t matter how one feels about the quality of the song, like “No Make-Up,” whose themes I’ve mentioned loosely previously. We get a sense of who Kendrick Lamar is and what made him who he is, as he delivers an autobiographical tale about his life on Good kid, m.a.a.d. city. 

And at this point, revisiting Section.80 offered a lot more than it did the last time, which was five or so years ago. The music begins to encroach deeper areas, you get a sense of what is being said and how these problems have affected lesser social classes, and how Kendrick had to witness and bear a lot of mental pain trying to figure out his purpose; specifically in the kind of music he made. Before Section.80, Kendrick was just a rapper with crazy technical skills and to a lesser degree songwriting skills, but that grew and we witnessed an artist emerging into his own, July 2nd, 2011. So as you go back and listen to the album after rereading this, you will find a newfound appreciation for seeing him go through trials and tribulations as a songwriter and succeeding.

YG’s Opus – Still Brazy: 5 Years Later

For many, It’s hard to distinguish an artist’s opus when many one-up the previous work at times – see The Black Album by Jay-Z in comparison to The Blueprint. But at times you see greatness amongst those who keep it close to 100 on their roots, improving on the music you grew with and recorded prior to making it, and elevating to a new level. For west coast rapper YG, it was Still Brazy, which was released five years ago. Still Brazy oozes West Coast Gangster Rap and G-Funk directed within a niche demographic, but universal to the overall love within the hip-hop community. However a lot of his forays into pop and more rounded universal hip-hop sounds have been extremely hit or miss for YG, all the while growing on the charts. And though it hasn’t been the ten-year mark, at five years Still Brazy makes a case for being a bona fide classic.

YG has charted high a fair amount, especially on tracks that incorporate or feature A-list musicians like Drake, Big Sean, and Jeremih, but unless YG is headlining it doesn’t always come across as authentic. YG has made the radio-track his way with the Jeezy and Rich Homie Quan featured, “My N*gga,” and the monstrous “Big Bank,” with Big Sean, Lil Wayne, and Nicki Minaj. These are standouts due to YG orchestration, unlike “Ride Out” from the Fast and Furious series and “Gucci On My” orchestrated by Mike Will Made It and co-featuring Migos and 21 Savage. Ironically, the third single of My Krazy Life, “Who Do You Love?” featuring Drake, didn’t peak high, peaking at 54 on the Hot 100, opposed to “My N*gga” at 19. It shows that star power doesn’t always equate like you’d expect.

However, since the release of Still Brazy YG has been on a minimalist decline with these unique directions he has taken post this album, but he has never shown a decline in his technical and lyrical abilities. Sometimes it feels as if he is trying to commercialize himself to a level by trying to find ways to incorporate artists that don’t mesh with his style and incorporating himself on pop songs like “I Don’t” with Mariah Carey and tracks with G-Eazy and Macklemore. And If I’m being frank, he has shown a lot of misses on the tracks he is featured on, like his basic verse on “Slide,” with H.E.R. What separates this from Still Brazy is the authenticity behind creating music attune to the style reminiscent of a golden age in the 90s.

That is what makes Still Brazy a phenomenal album. It was like this once and a lifetime album where instead of trying to eclipse pop-chart numbers and more, he found a happy medium where he could keep the authentic g-funk sound as a resonating base and elevate his range more on some of his subsequent albums. However, Still Brazy’s inherent focus on the funkadelic and gritty extravagance has made it one of the more unique gangster rap albums of the 2010s. It isn’t completely confined by trying to overlay pop-like and universal glamorization and instead keep it nuanced to the culture of the west coast. And In simple terms, it stays niche to sounds that are isolated to the culture of that area, like Spice-1 from the bay and the Geto Boys chopped and screwed style from Texas. But it’s usually when an artist sticks to being authentic, without a worry of trying to break through the radio waves.

Eventually a single off Still Brazy went on to have a moment in the limelight, without really charting. This track is the politically charged “FDT,” which stands for Fuck Donald Trump. It didn’t commercialize well and went off being a stand alone hit/anthem for four years as the United States suffered through four years of slightly imbecilic command. The monstrous noise it made and the anthem that grew from it only went up as he delivered a remix with G-Eazy and Macklemore together at the initial height of their popularity. It never really steered people toward the album and it suffered in creating hype outside the huge hip-hop community. It stinks because it seems like the general public who knows the song, may only know the words opposed to the rappers who deliver them. Coincidentally it is a bona fide g-funk/political hip-hop anthem, and a good amount of the music is a derivative of g-funk and west coast hip-hop.

This isn’t the album’s only foray into politically and socially charged tracks with it closing strong with tracks “Police Get Away With Murder,” and “Blacks & Browns.” The latter features LA Hispanic rapper SadBoy Loko delivering verses detailing daily discrimination and other occurrences that happen to both the African-American and Hispanic community, going deep from the black on black violence, police bias, and more. It’s finely tuned g-funk production oozes within the crevices of the verses and boosts this track attention grabbing prominence – ten fold.

Outside these tracks mentioned prior, others relate to the life that comes from his gang affiliations and creating complex pictures of the social dynamic that is rooted within the social history of Los Angeles. This gang affiliation has led to things going awry at times, one time of which, he documents on “Who Shot Me?” This track details his thoughts and paranoia after he was shot on his way out of a session at the studio. It breaks down his psyche as he tries to ponder who and why, relating back to relationships with people. Still Brazy doesn’t glorify a lifestyle and instead makes statements by painting a picture, however he does glorify a culture within certain aspects of LA in some of the singles and others in the track list. 

Uniquely the commercialization of Still Brazy is niche and thus has never been able to see a wide range of appeal. As an east coast writer, a lot of the music on hip-hop stations range from the hot commodity in melodic-trap rap and rappers primarily on our side of the coast. When I went to Los Angeles, on their hip-hop stations, they played Kendrick Lamar, Nipsey Hussle, and Anderson. Paak a bit more frequently. So tracks like “Twist My Fingaz,” didn’t have that wide range, but it’s production and infectious agro-fun dance energy makes it sound naturalistic to that culture. 

Further down the line, YG brings a dominating force on both spectrums as a feature in Lil Wayne. And what makes this track interesting is that YG took the opposite approach to what you’d expect. The production and the content of the song – lyrically and tonally – don’t go down the rabbit hole of a banger and instead they deliver a smooth bounce-funk centric track. “Why You Always Hatin’” takes a similar approach, despite being more commercial. It features Drake and Californian rapper Kamaiyah on a track that boasts their prominence and successes, while calling out critics and people who disregard their style and want different and profound pieces of work. 

He redefines a lot of these notions on the standout non-single “Bool, Balm, & Bollective.” He comes across with a nonchalant and chill demeanor about his life and his progression forward as he shrugs off the bullet wounds. His fresh approach makes his internal feeling of too hard to kill more refined and unlike many flex raps we hear today. If only it closed the album it would have been a beautiful crescendo on repurposing a lot of what was expressed. But the cultural consistency of the tracks on Still Brazy elevate this to new levels of nuance that other rappers grasp and make their own, and not many have that sound YG delivers without skipping a beat in authenticity.

Lil Baby & Lil Durk – The Voices of The Heroes – Review

Like people 1.5 times my age (27) and older, the intrigue in this new trend of melodic rap/hip-hop has been something we complain about when compared to others who deliver in more esoteric and nuanced ways, like Denzel Curry or 21 Savage. However there have been a few that have kept my attention, even if a little belated in the trend; and from the few that have, Lil Baby and Lil Durk have released their first collaboration, The Voices of The Heroes. This LP from the Atlanta and Chicago rappers, respectively, arrived with a lot of buzz and heartwarming gestures as it was pushed back a week so it wouldn’t compete with DMX’s Exodus. And despite the hype, the album delivers exactly as expected – mild. It’s riddled with so many sonic and contextual redundancies, it’s hard to distinguish these tracks apart without hearing the producer’s ad-libs at the beginning of the tracks, but there is enough to keep your interest at various moments. 

The initial hype behind the release of The Voices of The Heroes had some merit from Lil Baby’s monstrous 2020, and Lil Durk turning out some consistently great verses since Drake’s “Laugh Now Cry Later” and reaffirming on “Every Chance I Get,” off DJ Khaled’s latest release. But the production comes from 12+ producers that don’t bring much to the table, so the way the autotune is used to inflect and add layers to the flow gives it that extra boost to make the production become an afterthought and the rappers take center stage. 

A lot of the production hits the same notes, where the little differences come from them subtly sprinkling underneath the base of the production. You can tell who mainly produces what by the intro drop that hypes the producer’s name. And though a fan of it, it feels like this overly reliant on it to keep the monstrous percussion and bass keep its redundant consistency hidden from the overall spectrum. From Wheezy to London On The Track and Murda Beatz, the many co-producers make it seem that there should have been some derelict of the duty to make it sound different, but the landscape is a flat terrain. You’ll either find songs that are good and bad based on what Lil Baby and Lil Durk bring to the table with their verses, delivering auspicious themes. 

The Voices of The Heroes is filled with themes they’ve tackled before. Some pertain to the struggle imposed by societal and political influence on minorities, and others to their wealth in a generalized sense. And Lil Baby and Lil Durk bring a lot of energy and bravado in their deliveries on most of these tracks with enough momentum to keep some of these on loop. There are many moments that keep you flowing with that constant momentum like on “2040,” or “That’s Fact.” It benefits that a lot of the production has that repetitive consistency so it is almost natural for them to flow over them. But it’s when they steer in a more conscious – or rather conscious based on their standards – that they shine as rappers. 

On the London On The Track produced “Still Hood,” Lil Baby and Lil Durk vibrantly deliver this anthem where they exclaim with emotional weight the notion that you can take the kid away from the hood, but you can’t take the hood away from the kid, though in this regard its meaning is more aligned with the PTSD that comes from it. On the track, both Lil Baby and Lil Durk trade off verses, retelling their life and the huge contrasts it has to their person today. These artists have climbed the ladder of success and often let their appearance tell different stories about who they are, opposed to the person they rap on their tracks. And with unique twists, they take the approach to redefine music as they call out faux “hood” rappers and personalities on “Lyin’.” As they have done throughout tracks on the album, they’ve delivered bars after bars that carry depth about their past life and their current life. For example, we’ve seen rappers like YG flaunt like these artists, but like others he still has affiliation with a street gang and that life is still part of him, despite his monetary wealth. The same goes for Lil Durk. But as it is with them all, they try to spread awareness through their music. 

However, there are more moments than not where it treads too much on redundancy that you find yourself going back to older tracks evoking similar themes. “Okay,” is one of those where they spend too much focus on the flex, that everything that is already problematic with the production becomes more apparent. The percussion led production is one-dimensional and doesn’t go anywhere interesting. Lil Baby and Lil Durk can’t save this as they bring a slightly weak delivery that becomes sleep inducing. They do something similar on “Hats Off” with Travis Scott, where the construct is fun and infectious as they trade off on many occasions before Travis closes strong.

The Voices of The Heroes is muddled with a bloated tracklist running 18 tracks long, but there is fortunately enough to keep the music flowing. Lil Baby & Lil Durk have great chemistry and their future looks bright if they continue to collaborate. Their stylistic similarities and energy they have consistently stored in the tank can keep any fan somewhat invested throughout.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10.

DMX – Exodus: Review

DMX’s career was one to always admire as he fought against the odds imposed by his mental psyche, by unifying themes of blood and brotherhood, amongst others, like religion. He never shied away from this and allowed his music to embody everything about it, as it is with his first posthumous release, Exodus. On this final – recorded for – outing, DMX brings back that grit and grime of New York, without feeling outdated and nuanced with Swizz Beatz co-lead production work taking the driver’s seat and letting DMX cruise along delivering some of his best work since 1999’s …And There Was X.

When Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood released, it heavily contributed to the contextual direction DMX went about delivering his message, in his loud and sometimes aggressive demeanor. His bars expressed different sub-textual themes deriving from togetherness and societal views, like brotherhood – blood and the world around him – via drug abuse and gang violence. His dogs (dawg) are his dogs (dawg). Exodus doesn’t forget that and DMX embraces his current life and its direction as he tries to make his way back onto the scene. And fortunately the highs on this album overvalue the middling low points.

However, Exodus has a strong opening and a strong closer, with a plethora of solid percussion and great/classic features, like another rare presence of Jay-Z and Nas on one track and a phenomenal posse cut with The Lox. On “Bath Salts” DMX comes at it with a different idea and focuses on the context of the song in that way, opposed to Jay-Z who is just casually flexing his riches without feeling refreshing. It retreads a lot of what he raps about recently, without the creativity. It could be because it has been around in rough form for 2012’s Life Is Good by Nas. Amongst them, the varying features of classic artists and newcomers bring unique ranges in its sonic structure.

From the construct of the Lil Wayne featured “Dog’s Out,” where the chorus feels middle of the pack and less infectious than Lil Wayne’s flows, and the unique inclusion of Bono on “Skyscrapers,” it leaves room for some admiration when listening to the rhyme scheme in the verses, but not everything hits the landing. Wayne and DMX are solid, but the production feels a little basic and one dimensional, further losing sight of the bigger scope. There are moments where the production comes across bombastic and one-note like the honest, but bland “Money Money Money” with Memphis rapper Moneybag Yo. Along with DMX there are some solid rap bars here and there, and ultimately deters into mediocrity. You appreciate the direct approach, despite it getting minimally overbearing in the spiritual content at this point, and other times he delivers it beautifully.

“That’s My Dog” is the title of the posse cut that opens Exodus with a vibrant and gritty New York flair to light the flames for DMX’s last waltz. Many of the tracks evoke a production akin to the rooted NY aggression and rawness that made DMX such a profound name in the music world in the late 90s. His first came as an unlikely superstar after the tragic deaths of Tupac and Notorious B.I.G., with that raw dog energy bringing a new energy to the summer in both coasts. The transcendent transition from that to philosophizing on others made him this unique first in hip-hop. This happens as the album starts to close with “Letter To My Son” and “Prayer,” which evoke teary moments from the listener, as DMX delivers a letter to his five year old son Exodus, who will only know his father from brief memories and from music, and a final prayer. This final prayer comes from DMX reciting the lessons learned from his wrong and the future we hold as we mold society to see the truth.

DMX has always demonstrated this demeanor to be more of an amalgamation of his emotions being circumvented into disdain and levying that anger with the bass-heavy production akin to Swizz Beatz style. Swizz Beatz comes in to flex that creativity with some slight nuance with the over abundant bass overlaying the hypnotic percussion and further defining what filled the void in New York Hip-Hop at their early peak, but with a modern twist. There are moments where it’s hard to define the direction of the production, outside of a few notable Swizz Beatz commonalities, like the melodic switches in the instrumental for the hook and more. This can be hit or miss at times, but it’s usually this breath of modern fresh air for X and the constant fluidity of the beats from start to finish really identifies the music DMX always had prepped for this major release, the first since 2012’s Undisputed.

Exodus is a beautiful swan song, as we hear DMX’s lasting partial words, and not his last, as he transcends into being one of Hip-Hop new angels, watching over us and the game. Swizz Beatz gives us a remnant of the past, while keeping it fresh for the times as X delivers some of his best work in some time. We’ll miss you X.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

YG & Mozzy – Kommunity Service: Review

YG and Mozzy have always been rappers to turn out great pieces of work, one after the other, but as of recent their final products have been teetering on mediocrity as they try to blend into trends. YG has never been slowing his lyrical and technical abilities, but his recent work has had weird sonic directions, that hearing something nuanced is like a breath of fresh air. Mozzy has always had this distinguished swagger that brings more than his slow flows tell you. So upon hearing about their collaboration album, Kommunity Service, it gave me a small hype as I awaited the release. It delivers in many ways, as Kommunity Service feels more grounded and nuanced to the modern bounce centric west coast hip-hop that made both such monumental talents in the rap world. It has enough to keep in rotation as we hear the side of YG from the first half of the 2010s in rare, but note peak form, while Mozzy contributes as expected.

Kommunity Service opens on a bold note. YG and Mozzy flow over a flipped version of the instrumental to “Wanksta” by 50 Cent. This new take yearns for melodies and on-beat flows, and YG is the only one to truly make a splash on it despite Mozzy having some solid bars and trying to flow in melody. It is after this, where the album starts to get interesting and nuanced within production. It contains a west coast tune up; specifically in their melodic bounce overtones on most of the instrumentals. Though it is to their benefit they get bonafide producers like Tariq Beats and DJ Swish; the latter of which produced some of YG’s best work and the bombastic political anthem “FDT,” while the former has had his hand on the stellar “EAST COAST,” by A$AP Ferg and working with Californian rappers like Nipsey Hussle. 

There are many high points in the production, but the features can make or break the whole track they are a part of. There are some significant highlights like G Herbo on “Dangerous,” and “First 48” with some Californian staples, D3SZN, Celly Ru, and E Mozzy.” It is reminiscent of posse cuts that embolden the west coast sound, which distinguished the music prominent to the areas, specifically the Bay Area, where this comes across as a modernized version with a big LA rapper – i.e. “Dusted & Disgusted,” with E40, Mac Mall, Tupac, and Spice 1. The distinguishing mark being on the flows and production that resonates with the area. 

“Vibe With You,” in particular blends this off-putting acoustic riff over a simple percussion pattern that falls too inline with the many other boring love/relationship tracks. Ty Dolla $ign sounds like he is phoning it in as well. It is easily forgettable and one that could have been left out. Similarly this feeling comes on the track that precedes it, “MAD,” with Young M.A. who doesn’t bring much to the table. She feels too much like an outlier and even worse when the quality of the verse and delivery is subpar. It isn’t like the bouncy and bombastically fun “Toot It Up,” with Tyga, which is a prototypical booty bounce party track but it is delivered well with hypnotic flows and tolerable production. And outside of the aforementioned “Vibe With You,” and “Gangsta,” the other solo outings from the two are phenomenal.

YG and Mozzy have this unique equilibrium that fleshes that kinetic energy from one with vibrant and fun flows in YG, and while Mozzy keeps it within constant motion no matter the tempo/pacing. It is why some of the best highlights are in the tracks that contain no features, and those are both “Bompton to Oak Park” and “Bite Down.” The former is this beautifully bombastic gangster rap anthem that exhumes monstrous flexes, while the latter is a somber take at their personal lives, which has arisen from their reputation and status in their respective gang and celebrity status. It bounds the varying party tracks into something that explores a new brotherhood from YG and Mozzy.

The album cover’s homage to the DMX and Nas vehicle Belly embodies a lot of the themes reflected in Kommunity Service, like brotherhood and gang violence, which they never shy away from on the album. When it’s brought to life they strive above some of their more mundane outputs. It isn’t the most perfect album, but it has many highs and worth a listen. 

Rating: 7 out of 10.

PARIS TEXAS – Boy Anonymous: Review

When I first heard “Heavy Metal,” by Compton duo Paris Texas, there was a lot about it that just clicked on all cylinders. It had this industrial edge sonic coating over these naturalist punk influenced instrumental, while bringing that elevated hip-hop edge. It was a beautifully oblique debut that mirrors something an artist like JPEGMAFIA would do. To further compare their sound to someone isn’t hard to do, but that isn’t who they are since they are not trying to be replicative and instead create unique sounds doesn’t have much of a proper definition. Coincidentally, It flows with the little knowledge there is about about the duo. Their stage names are Louie Pastel and Felix; they are from Compton and they produce their own work. But within the unknown is a flurry of curiosity and immense creativity, which they express fully on their debut EP Boy Anonymous.

When it comes to debuts, artists usually build an elongated hype by flexing their technical and lyrical skills before releasing a compilation or albums and so forth. Paris Texas had none of that. They went from dropping “HEAVY METAL” to an eight-track full of production that contains nuances of the sonic construction behind industrial and punk elements of “HEAVY METAL.” They bring this vibrant and chaotic energy as the EP opens with the closest thing to the aforementioned tracks, “CASINO” and “PACK 4 DA LOW.” These industrial punk raps engulf you with immense hype, albeit running short. 

Louie Pastel and Felix aren’t always delivering raps on this EP. They branch our ears into hearing them create these post-punk songs reminiscent of groups like Depeche Mode and Joy Division. This creative freedom they’ve chosen to implement in this leaves you in awe from the consistency in quality and sound. “A QUICK DEATH” in particular, embodies authenticity in the production that is reminiscent of something Depeche Mode would have made at their peak. Though these tracks highlight the range in which this duo can expand their sonic style, it makes the thought of their overall ceiling more intriguing.

However these “teases” are spread in between glimpses from their fully formed tracks, like “SITUATIONS” and “FORCE OF HABIT,” which encompasses the chorus with new wave elements like vocal modulations for melodies. But it’s when it gets to the rap verses where you start to see the esoteric-like aesthetic in their flows, with one being more consciously-witty and deep, while the other has this grungy braggadocio approach. These styles compliment each other well; although they are offset by differences on the lyrical spectrum. It is the way they deliver and mix the vocals onto the track that shows the beautiful musical cohesion between the tracks.

The length of most of these tracks makes the EP feel a little empty at times. And to it’s benefit they are only making a splash now and they may not want to overflow the market before they release something bigger. These shorter tracks do come from ones I wish we had more of like the melodic braggadocio and conscious rap track “BETTER DAYS” and the braggadocio “PACK 4 DA LOW,” which has this great bombastic and static production. Fortunately it doesn’t suffer from any issues in pacing as it fluidly and wildly goes from start to finish with the array of sounds on here. 

Boy Anonymous comes by as one of the best surprises of 2021, especially for a debut. It isn’t unfounded these days to come across something ambitious that is actually great, opposed to being too ambitious and flopping hard. It’s exciting to hear what they have in store for the future, but for now this EP is around and streaming on major platforms.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10.

15 Great Posse Cuts of The Last 30 Years

Posse Cuts have been a cornerstone in hip-hop as a way to build up and deliver these mini events that last forever. They are usually compiled of four or more rappers delivering verses as a cohesive squadron over these gritty instrumentals, influenced in style by the nature around them like the south’s heavy bass. But because of the rose-tinted glasses, a very few of these posse cuts aren’t as great as we like to remember. I’ve always been an avid fan of the posse cut because of the visceral imagery and technical structure that comes from the themes they evoke, with an onslaught of topical takes, like the recent remix of “Fight the Power” that was released in 2019. In many of the posse cut there are themes that extend beyond the simple flex, like Jay-Z’s “Reservoir Dogs,” and creates a statement about the socio-political climate or to give the culture more diverse representation.

With the release of new albums from a master of the posse cut, DJ Khaled, and new supergroup Mt. Westmore (Ice Cube, Too Short, Snoop Dogg, & E-40) on April 30th, I have compiled a random collection of 15 Great Posse Cuts of the last 30 years.


The Cuts


MARS (DREAM TEAM) – CORMEGA FT. AZ, REDMAN, & STYLE P

Cormega has been an unsung hero of the 2000s for New York hip-hop, as he has dwelled within the second tier of artists delivering consistent quality and gaining a reputation amongst many hip-hop artists; some are heavy weights and others are not, but what this is track is, is another reaffirmation that these artists together are a dream team. And having any of them perform is like a shift in direction toward mars. With the production evoking an essence of golden age 90s hip-hop with soul boom-bap style, brings out their visceral imagery with their flows and lyrics.


IT G MA (REMIX) – Keith Ape Ft. Waka Flocka Flame, Dumbfoundead, Father, & ASAP FERG

This unconventional trip of a track boosts the testosterone to the nines as the music’s bass and synths bellow through your eardrums. “It G Ma,” captures the essence of the original by building up the quintessential flex from Keith Ape and the featured artist. Each individual artist brings provocatively unique flair to the track that dilutes and warps the mind to an unworldly sonic plain.


LATINO PT. 2 – Joell Ortiz Ft. Emilio Rojas, Chris Rivers, & Bodega Bamz

“Latino Pt. 2” features a new generation of Latino rappers, including Big Pun’s son Chris Rivers. Over a samba-salsa-like hip-hop production, the artists reflect on what it means to be Latino in this world. From the social manipulation and fiscal struggles, they demonstrate a consistent anger to fight the perceived Latino/Hispanics stereotypes. As they start the comparison to their life and the world around them (impoverished neighborhoods), they lay out all the grievances with dynamic flows and rhythmic deliveries. 


EASTERN CONFERENCE ALL STARS – SKYZOO FT. BENNY THE BUTCHER, WESTSIDE GUNN, CONWAY THE MACHINE, & eLZhi

Pete Rock produces a nuanced piano-centric track that flourishes with the underground flair of Skyzoo and the featured artists. They bring forth lyricism focusing on building up their stature and talent by weaving together the many metaphors with the rhyme schemes. Though the title may come off as too subjective, depending on how you perceive the “members,” on the popular status, but within the hip-hop community they are in the upper echelon.


FANTASTIC FOUR PT. 2 – DJ CLUE FT. THE LOX, CAM’RON, NATURE, & FABOLOUS

You can’t walk through the tri-state metro area without knowing the powerhouse in-studio DJs for the Hip-Hop radio stations, and the secondary – wider ranged channel – Power 105 has the answer to match wits with Hot97. DJ Clue is one of those DJs and his prominence in the area is bigger than his albums, which delivered a range of phenomenal bangers. One of them, “Fantastic Four Pt. 2,” brings out the best of New York Hip-Hop and DJs, with Clue immaculate production and hype-man adlibs makes it a quintessential part of the culture in the 90s/00s. It features two members of The Lox (Sheek Louch & Styles P), Nature, Cam’ron, and an up-and-coming Fabolous giving us unique flexes all exhuming the attitude brought about from “So Fresh, So Clean,” by Outkast.


BLACKOUT – DMX FT. THE LOX & JAY-Z

The 90s in New York was a beast we have yet to experience again, but within the culture many artists rose to prominence with these dark and aggressive overtones that have us hearing a stance on their artistry. “Blackout” brings out that energy and more as The Lox, DMX, and Jay-Z comes full force with that demeanor and more on this symphonic and gritty percussion and strings.


1 TRAIN – ASAP ROCKY, JOEY BADASS, KENDRICK LAMAR, YELAWOLF, DANNY BROWN, ACTION BRONSON, & BIG K.R.I.T.

It was one of the most anticipated tracks on ASAP Rocky’s debut, Long.Live.ASAP. And this illustrious posse cut, that compiled some of the best up-and-coming rappers through the United States, delivered on the hype from the paper. The production evokes sounds of the ominous New York streets, using ghostly strings and snares to give their verses an oomph, as they deliver a fragrance filled to the nines with confidence and contrasting emotions carrying over from the past and present, most of which are incurred from doubt. This posse cut could also be known as leaders of the new school, when they were new in the early 2010s.


PINATA – FREDDIE GIBBS, G-WIZ, DOMO GENESIS, MEECHY DARKO, CASEY VEGGIES, SULAIMAN & MAC MILLER

Piñata is a prototypical posse cut with themes pertaining to flexing as hard as you can; even though other tracks have different concepts, the notion of bringing your all isn’t gone. Madlib’s production has this ominous – atmospheric string overlay on the track to bring out each rapper’s unique flow. Freddie Gibbs gathers a great collection of artists for this, with highlights from everyone and especially Mac Miller whose flow is as uncanny as we’ve heard from at the point. His goofy-straight demeanor takes a backseat for this drug infused verse where he matches wits with the rest of the rappers, as he was the weakest lyricist of the lot. But everyone delivers with finesse and the track opens doors for some to discover many great rappers on both coasts, the west coast and east.


DUSTED N’ DISGUSTED – E-40 FT. SPICE-1, MAC MALL, & 2PAC

E-40, his Bay Area brethren, and 2Pac come forth to deliver this unique track that oozes Bay Area G-Funk. Though not much different from more prominent artists in the area, the bubbly funk textures makes E-40, and Spice 1’s speak-rapping as uniquely profound as Rex Harrison’s perpetually eloquent speak-singing. 2Pac’s verse transitions smoothly with the G-Funk flair on the percussion and everyone’s verse oozing perfectly balanced and infectious rhythmic structures.


NOTORIOUS THUGS – THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G. FT. BONE THUGS N HARMONY

The story behind the conception of the song always intrigues me a little more than the song itself. However, after watching the recent documentary on Netflix, I’ve been more intrigued about that demo where he rapped over “Toto” by Africa. But I digress. “Notorious Thugs,” came about from BIG’s awe and fascination with the speed and rhythm of featured artist Bone Thugs N Harmony, amongst others. And his attempt to match wits with them left them in initial distraught at the studio, specifically Bizzy Bone who opens his verse by referencing what he was doing as he was trying to rewrite the verse. BIG has been a part of many posse cuts, like the infamous “Flava In Your Ear,” and “All About The Benjamins,” but this lead effort trumps those in production and delivery.


BITCH PLEASE 2 – EMINEM, DR. DRE, SNOOP DOGG & XZIBIT

Eminem is not one to mince words with a posse on his tracks, and most times his posse cuts have hit the fan with a bunch shit. But there are the very rare ones that have Eminem bringing a solid squad on a track that has nothing to do with any meandering subtexts, like relationships. But Eminem has always shown tenacity for greatness when he isn’t curating. Though, a part of me believes that he didn’t fully curate it, “Bitch Please 2,” does what others don’t demonstrate – togetherness. The three rappers show that they have his back, by spitting verbiage that indicates one shouldn’t fuck with them.


POPPIN TAGS – JAY-Z FT. BIG BOI, TWISTA, & KILLER MIKE

What makes this pop out over some of the other Jay-Z lead posse cuts? 

Well…

The production has a smooth blend of jazz flute, speedy hi-hats, and spaced snares that beautifully boasts each rappers’ respective flows. It is a solid representation on how to make a proper money-centric braggadocio hip-hop; from the way each rapper delivers their lines to the cadence in their verses, it makes it a whirly-fun experience to listen to.


JOHN BLAZE – FAT JOE FT. NAS, BIG PUN, JADAKISS, RAEKWON

“John Blaze” is the essence of 90s New York when it comes to posse cuts. Using unique production styles equivalent to the sonic percussion reminiscent of the DJ scratches from summer block parties and distorted-stagnant horns bring it to life, as Fat Joe and featured rappers flex their hustle to the nines, with masterful flows and lyricism.


SWAGGA LIKE US – T.I. & JAY-Z FT. KANYE WEST & LIL WAYNE

Nothing has matched the swagoo of these four rappers giving us a perplexing idea of what swag is and exponentially raising the bar, like Kanye raps “swag on 100, 1000, trillion.” It could be why I haven’t mastered dances like the dougie or cat daddy, and I constantly live in anguish about how much cooler I’d be if I did, but I digress. The production high octane is boosted by the audaciously vibrant sample from MIA’s “Paper Plane.” And this track has an extra padded boost from the live performance they did at the Grammys. Unfortunately that video is hard to find.


NOT TONIGHT (LADIES NIGHT REMIX) – LIL KIM FT. MISSY ELLIOT, DA BRAT, LEFT EYE, & ANGIE MARTINEZ

There aren’t many times a posse cut is dominated by a plethora of female rappers, but when you come across one there is rarely a disappointment to be had. “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix)” takes it up a notch by giving fuck-boys the finger and flexing their collective empowerment over a male dominated genre. Everyone delivers at top notch levels. It’s also one of the few appearances of New York radio legend and Radio Hall of Famer, Angie Martinez on a power-track that went further than her albums, in terms of popularity. So if you were ever curious, but not as ambitious this is the go to for a verse from Angie Martinez.

“Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix)” is one of the more successful – single posse cuts, hitting number 6 in the Hot 100 Charts, and the lush and accessible production helped. It takes cues from that New York – boom bap percussion, with an overlay of a smooth soul-like chorus and space-laser sounding electronic sounds as the icing on the cake.

Myke Towers – Lyke Mike: Review

The Reggaeton/Urban Latino genre has had the shift in delivery in line with hip-hop’s growing popularity of the melodic flow. Beneath this popular trend are rappers who break away from standard pop/reggaeton contrivances, like Myke Towers and Jon Z, opposed to artists like Rauw Alejandro and Ozuna. And as such, when they release a new project, it usually carries with it, an array of dope rhyme schemes and lyricism. This is the prominent direction of aforementioned artist, Myke Towers, who delivers with virtuoso on his newly gritty-street influenced album Lyke Myke. His uncanny use of reggaeton – sonic undertones, like the electronic infused percussion patterns, take a backseat, as Myke goes in tangent with production reminiscent to the hip-hop he grew up with, but also carrying with it some slight repetition and filler.

With some of the hip-hop/urban music we hear today, there are moments of redundancy in the percussion, which come off as tried – other times it flows with the overlays and the delivery of the rapper that it becomes second nature and you’re more focused on the lyricism and message, opposed to a vibrant instrumental. The production’s array of eclectic overtures has a great consistency in the way it sets up the tone for his more aggressive flows and rhythm. Some of these overtures include an array of defined – gritty notes from the instruments, which are used in different sequences like the high-key piano notes and electronic hi-hats.

However, some of the production has a repetitive nature that derives from wrought similarities within the snares and bass drum patterns. But it isn’t as much of a constant as the direct-filler tracks, like “BURBERRY” and “JUGADOR FRANQUICIA,” which distinguishes themselves from part of the whole. What differentiates these two is the contrast between what works and what doesn’t, instrumentally. The latter has solid flows and lyricism, while the instrumental stays dormant as a somber backdrop. The former has a monstrously eventful instrumental that gets lost in some poor metaphors and analogies from both artists, who frequently evoke the spirit of Nas and the lifestyle from the film Belly. The problematic and cheap film aside; it overstays its welcome as a deterrent from the rest of Lyke Myke. This comes from what they mention in their verses – specifically Ñengo Flow ­– about their life’s conjunction with the lives of the characters from the aforementioned film. If this were the case, then a concert of his would be more problematic than an YG concert at the heart of Long Beach. But beneath these problems, the song has solid replay value, even if it feels like it doesn’t belong.

Myke Towers’ punctilious approach to his style of trap and rap flows keeps his sound leveled for proper thought consumption, opposed to party-like from others. This is what constantly translates well on the surface, but beneath there are tracks that continue to express itself as lost filler, like “BAGUETTES” which oozes “club banger,” but it doesn’t feel like it should have been part of the album or even as a bonus track. It exceeds the initial eye test, which is judging the pacing from the elongated track list that caps at 23 tracks and one hour – five minutes in runtime. They fluctuate in length, which messes with the pacing. This is what makes most of the percussion come off as repetitive, but lyrically and conceptually, Myke Towers keeps Lyke Myke on a steady track of fluidity. He doesn’t let the production create a void that lacks substance, lyrically, and this strength of Myke, allows him to fully invest in furthering the identity of his artistry and his person, which is a deviation from his last album that had more commercial appeal. 

However, the minimal attempts at being different usually end up faltering into mundane club ready tracks (sonically), which loses focus on the strengths of the album – the emotional depth and grit of the tracks that dive deep into his personal roots. But because of his chameleon-like ability with his flow – evident from his appearances on more reggaeton and electronic like production – there continuous showmanship in his prominence as one of the better and more versatile rappers of the Spanish language. This continues within some of the unique deliveries and samples on Lyke Myke, like on the track “PIN PIN,” which samples “Periquito Pin Pin” by Tommy Olivencia and his orchestra, also alongside vocalist Héctor Tricoche. Beneath the lush instrumental, Myke comes with an onslaught of aggressive and smartly structured-multi syllabic rhythms, which can be hard based on the varying and accented pronunciations.

This goes to show how he lets the lyricism soar, even within the filler tracks. And though Lyke Myke has an array of unnecessary filler, the tracks are solid, in their own right, and definitely carry enough replay value. It had me going back to breakdown some of the beautiful overtures in the production and the complex verbiage from Myke Towers. It’s the biggest net-positive for the album and rightfully so. It is so rare to find solid Spanish rap that rely on “pop” trends for an outworld sense of connectivity. He has a niche and builds upon it like other rappers have done – i.e. spreading into pop – centric tracks to build a presence and deliver what he wants to, which is akin to a career path Kendrick Lamar and others had at the beginning of their career.

Lyke Myke is a collection of great rap tracks that build upon his mystique and his artistry that is on a path to being one of the more memorable albums in his repertoire. In a way, it is reminiscent of the stylistic direction behind The Documentary by The Game, even if it isn’t as profound as the classic album. The gritty street – style gives this more definition than his last album, Easy Money Baby, while staying on its own isolated path toward greatness.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.