Posts tagged Kendrick Lamar
Album review: Anderson .Paak lets you into his eclectic world with "Oxnard"

Oxnard is the 19th most populated city in the entire state of California. Approximately two hours northwest of: El Segundo, where the transcendent Kamaal The Abstract left his wallet in a legendary tale; Compton, where the cerebral Andre Young recorded a seminal masterpiece titled The Chronic, and; Long Beach, where Calvin Broadus linked up with Young to create a definitive West Coast classic nearly 25 years ago to the day. It's also home to a multi-hyphenate musician by the name of Brandon Paak Anderson - a man working on a lasting legacy of his own.

His laid-back mannerisms embody the spirit of the Greater Los Angeles area that has the essence of summertime year-round. The artist formerly known as Breezy Lovejoy makes his performances on stage and in the studio seem effortless, but a tremendous amount of work was required on this difficult path to reach the crest of his profession. Even after all he's accomplished, he's not even close to his full potential; alike to the next evolution of music consumption after streaming, the listeners won't know what to expect next, but it could potentially shift the way we view this art form.

Seven years ago, he was homeless with a wife and child after unexpectedly being fired as a weed farmer. Today, the GRAMMY-nominated 32-year-old Anderson .Paak dropped an instant album of the year contender: Oxnard, the third (solo) studio album under his current moniker. The previous two are vastly different from each other but are important to the development of a style that can't be replicated. Venice (2014) was an ambitious electro-R&B project, mixed with guitar licks and trap sounds, had a few moments but as a whole, felt unfocused. However, 2016 yielded more fruitful results. At the top of the year, the arsenal of his creative genius was on full display with Malibu, featuring his close friends The Free Nationals. The band's steady yet lively instrumentation and unforced chemistry with Andy helped to congeal any loose pockets that plagued the clunky Venice. This allowed .Paak to settle into his signature groove by exploring and destroying conventional aspects of music by combining neo-soul, funk, rap, and jazz without sounding disheveled.

The results were a critically acclaimed album in a class of its own, unbothered with fitting a singular trend; rather, Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals were inspired by various genres and smartly crafted their own vibe on Malibu. Bookended between soulful, show-stealing guest spots, a highly regarded, more "traditional" rhythm & blues performance as one-half of Nxworries further cemented .Paak as a bona fide star.

While decades of trial & error and a strong background in the church were integral to the process, the free spirit of Yes Lawd! was refined thanks in part to Dr. Dre. “You need that, because you’ll go crazy when you’re making these albums if you don’t have nobody to be your co-pilot,” said .Paak of Dre and his meticulous focus in the studio. The iconic producer-turned-mogul played the role of mentor as he's done for the past 30 years. A well documented, near-peerless industry track record like Dre’s gave .Paak a major co-sign. 16 years after the flawless 2001, Dre triumphantly returned in 2015 with Compton: a soundtrack to the summer box office hit Straight Outta Compton that was meant to showcase the rising talent from the West Coast. Nobody shined brighter on Compton than Anderson .Paak.

Three years later, fully formed as a dangerous versatile threat, he returns to the lab with The Doc to put the finishing touches on Oxnard.

“'We went in for a few more weeks and that’s when the bulk of the album actually got done,' .Paak says of the more than 10 new tracks that form the core of the record. 'And these were songs that I never thought I’d write.'"

The mission was to let the entertainment world know that he and his hometown weren't solely "LA-adjacent"; they are distinct entities worthy of more than being generalized with the rest of the mold. The cinematic feel of Oxnard reflects the rockstar life he's experienced since 2014. There's a larger-than-life boldness to this record, similar to blaxploitation era films from the '70s. The album opener The Chase featuring Kadhja Bonet, sounds like a crisp remake of a funky jam found on the Dolemite soundtrack. As he does throughout the hour-long project, .Paak vacillates here between a slick rap flow and a cool, easy, yet powerful croon. The meticulous nature of Dr. Dre's handprint is obvious in more ways than one. Relative to his previous releases, it wouldn't be out of line to say that Oxnard is Anderson .Paak's *rap* album; in that, he rhymes in a lyricist's prose for a large portion of his verses like the 9th Wonder-produced Saviers Road. The shit talking and confidence with the way he spits in on par, if not better, than a lot of rappers currently in the game.

However, it would be unfair to just categorize it as his *rap* album. It's a multi-dimensional walk down a vibrant landscape that only an engineer on the level of Dr. Dre could so expertly arrange. Oxnard, like .Paak, is genre-less. Smile/Petty featuring Sonya Elise and SiR balances smooth vocals and nasally raps over a mellow RnB tune before ending with strong, spiteful singing over heavy g-funk production. Tints is a fun groove of lead single with a Kendrick Lamar - who co-habits the space on his best behavior - as they deal with increased stardom ("Paparazzi wanna shoot ya, shoot ya, niggas dying for less here"..."I can't be flying down that 110 with a bad bitch in my whip, I need tints"). The first half of 6 Summers doesn't mesh with the stellar second half, but it's meant to be a satirical "holding a mirror to the goofy commander-in-cheeto" in the Oval Office. Cheeky Andy doesn't seek to be overtly political, but when necessary, he can make a statement on behalf of his people.

On Animals, a standout off Compton, he sings:

The police don't come around these parts
They tell me that we all a bunch of animals
The only time they wanna turn the cameras on
Is when we're fuckin' shit up, come on

The refrain for the second half of 6 Summers goes on to say:

This shit gon' bang for at least six summers
But ain't shit gon' change for at least three summers
They tryna kill a nigga faith, we need a little truth, brother
Pop-pop-pop goes the shooter
Reform, reform shoulda came sooner

Contributing to social commentary as an artist, whether heavy-handed or subtle, can never be understated with a growing platform such as his. "Ain't shit gon' change" right away, but with a concerted effort, change is possible; stating so on a project that's "gon' bang for at least six summers" is a good way to spread the message. Aside from .Paak's multi-faceted performance and expertly mixed production, the strength of Oxnard lie in the guest appearances from a star-studded lineup. The mean 808, guitar infused banger Brother's Keeper, featuring the legal malice of Pusha-T (Am I my brother's keeper, they still asking 'bout the duo // Applaud his finding salvation, But I'm still rhyming 'bout the you know); Trippy with J. Cole - a calm soothing ballad dedicated to the love of their lives; Sweet Chick featuring the great, colorful, and soulful harmonics of BJ the Chicago Kid. On Anywhere, 25 years after the creation of Doggystyle, Dre & Snoop, still, in rare form as a pairing, reconnect to help give .Paak a fresh, relaxed melodic West Coast sound. On Cheers, the rapper who lost his wallet in El Segundo 18 years prior, talks about a different loss. Q-Tip (RIP Phife) and Anderson (RIP Mac Miller) share sentiments of losing close friends and collaborators, but choose to treat it as a reflective celebration of life. The result is a vibrant Dre & Tip production brought to life with upbeat percussion and synthesizers.

Venice to Compton to Malibu to Oxnard is a modern journey unlike anyone else's in popular music today. Each project has a distinct standalone presence, using previous experiences to carefully build towards this exact moment in 2018. An artist on the precipice of becoming a mega-star is learning to become more of himself. It can't be a coincidence how the path of the location first trended towards the actual city of Los Angeles then rerouted back to the place of his birth. Oxnard is an ode to and a return presentation to his hometown to share life experiences after traveling the globe in the limelight. It's evident that he grew as a lyricist, songwriter, composer, and musician as a whole...but we're nowhere close to the peak of his abilities. Oxnard, if only a glimpse, is a step in the direction of his full potential. It's a project that'll appreciate with time.

From CRWN, a sit-down conversation with Tidal:

Elliot Wilson: you have a wide musical pallet...with your classification of music, sometimes people don't necessarily know if they should put you in the idea of what RnB is...do you hate those classifications and feel like it's just music?

"I think that people need to just first listen to the music. Like stop tryna put it and compare it and immediately say it's like this or it's like this. A lot of people aren't even listening to the music, on God. Like they not really digesting the music; they're just like one time through and they're eager to compare it...just listen! I just leave it up to the people...my job is just to make it and make sure it's honest."

He doesn't fit a particular genre because he's his own genre. He’s Anderson .Paak.

Nearly Canceled: Power EP 505 - Crackhead Kenny steals the show (FT @VanRidd)

This week the homie Van slides through to talk about the worst show on television: Power! Scott also finished Game of Thrones so we talk about that, and the long wait for the new Avengers film.

Go follow Van on Twitter @VanRidd & check out his podcast SSID: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ssid/id1112349987?mt=2

Follow Pierce: @HennyOmega
Follow Scott: @Scott_CEOofSUH

Why TDE should make Untitled Unmastered a series
TDE

TDE

I remembered back in March of 2016 when we received news via twitter from the good guys of Top Dawg Entertainment informing us that a surprise project was going to be released soon. At the time, I really didn’t know what to expect regarding whose album was going to drop. At that time, the roster was still building up their superstardom while Kendrick and Schoolboy Q were holding down the fort. So I was thinking about who was going to be the one releasing the album.

I knew Schoolboy Q was still working on his but I didn’t think that he would have that kind of star power to drop a surprise album. The only person that came to mind who could pull that stunt was Kendrick. However, To Pimp a Butterfly was already released the year before and knowing how he moves with releasing new music, there were high doubts he would just drop another project. But sure enough, Untitled Unmastered was released upon us in March 2016.

The story behind Untitled Unmastered was that Kendrick had more recordings he enjoyed creating during the making of To Pimp a Butterfly but was unable to add records to the final cut of the tracklist whether it was due to sample clearance issues  or the songs didn’t entirely fit into the the context of the album’s overall theme. Prior to release, Kendrick had performed two of the untitled records; the first one back in December 2014 before TPAB dropped & the second one in January 2016 after TPAB dropped.

What makes Untitled Unmastered  such an incredible body of work is because of how raw the album was, from the eight feature tracks being left untitled to the whole project not being mastered and left in raw form. It really gave us Kendrick in his rawest form while he was experimenting with hip-hop, trap,  jazz, soul, & funk-infused sounds all throughout. It gives the listeners a glimpse of his mindset with what they’re feeling and expressing while creating. It’s so dope how a throwaway album can end up being better than other rappers projects.

Coming off the two-year anniversary of Untitled Unmastered,  I was just thinking to myself about how cool it would be if Top Dawg were to take it upon themselves to turn what Untitled Unmastered was into a full series where artists on the roster can showcase their talent and creative process while completing an album. They can as well pick the tracks that didn’t make the final cut of their albums.Maybe it’s just me but there’s so much that can possibly come out of creating an Untitled Unmastered album series with TDE. Here are good reasons why an Untitled Unmastered series should happen and let’s all hope this comes to fruition.

Giving listeners a taste of TDE’s creative process

Could you imagine an Untitled Unmastered album with SZA showcasing her throwaway records created during the CTRL sessions? Or how about Schoolboy Q dropping his own Untitled Unmastered with records for the Blankface sessions?

Starting up a project series like this helps the listeners catch real life glimpse of the creative process towards how albums/projects are made. One of the things I appreciate about the behind the scenes stories on creating albums are the stories that come behind how some records on the albums came to be.

Twitter

Twitter

For example, Jermaine Dupri explaining how Usher's U Got it Bad came about on Rap Radar Podcast. JD explained how he and  Rodney Jerkins had fun competition with creating different records. JD was working with Usher while Rodney was working with Michael Jackson. One night while JD and Rodney were on the phone, JD puts it on speaker and it just so happens that Michael Jackson was there and he happened to diss Usher on the phone. That upset JD, who let Rodney know they did a song that same night that was going to blow everything out of the water. That song just so happened to be U Got It Bad. When I hear those stories, it makes me appreciate the work so much more and it adds more value too.

Helps cut album tracklists down

I don’t have anything against albums being re--dropped as deluxe albums. But sometimes i think re-releasing an album just to add some more tracks to it can be a waste sometimes. If you're adding 6-8 tracks on an album, you might as well make that into an EP. That’s where the idea of Untitled Unmastered can fully come into play with showcasing the new music.

Appreciating the talent of TDE roster more

Getty Images

Getty Images

With creating an Untitled Unmastered series, it can also shed light to the other members of the TDE roster who we may feel sometimes are getting looked over. Some artist like Ab Soul, Jay Rock, and Isaiah Rashad don’t get enough acknowledgement sometimes with their music. SZA released one of the top albums of 2017, CTRL. It’s been discussed on numerous occasions how it took her some time to really come up with and create a great body of work. I’m almost certain that some fans wouldn't mind hearing some of those records that didn’t make the final cut of the album. That crew is an all star cast full of artist who stand out in many unique ways. We need to start appreciating these artist more because they don’t come around as often as you would think.

TDE flexing their skills

The Hype Magazine

The Hype Magazine

I know that Top Dawg loves to show and prove with their artist by dropping their music and I love how they let their work speak for itself.

But sometimes when you’ve been putting in the work, sometimes it’s dope to see artist flex their musical muscles every now and then especially when it’s well deserving.

 

More unreleased Kendrick records

As a fan of Kendrick’s music, the Untitled Unmastered also could us hearing more of the demos that were created during each of his album sessions. There’s already been mention of an O.G. version of Good Kid, M.a.a.d. City existing in TDE hard drives. And Kendrick has mentioned that there was other multiple tracks created during To Pimp a Butterfly that didn’t even make the album nor did it make the original Untitled Unmastered. I love how exclusive Kendrick is when it comes to the music he’s created that hasn’t seen the light of day.

However at the same time, I always want to hear his throwaways that haven't seen the light of day just so i can judge for myself how fire the throwaways are. Because I'm almost certain that im going to comes across a couple of tracks and i’ll be asking, “Damn these records are slamming. Why didnt Top Dawg release these?”

Best projects of February 2018

It was a slow start to the calendar year in regards to music releases. It's not to say we weren't blessed with several high-quality projects in January, but the drip of new drops was an incremental one. The floodgates opened up wide for the month of February leading to a frenzy of project releases and upcoming announcements. If the first two months were any indicators of the rest of the year, March and beyond are shaping up quite nicely.

Before we jump ahead to the rest of 2018, let's pump the breaks real quick to discuss the most recent month that has passed us. Eyeless and Just JT of The Barber's Chair are here to share their 3 favorite music projects from February, along with a couple honorable mentions that should also be on your radar.

Black Panther Soundtrack (Curated by Kendrick Lamar/Top Dawg Entertainment)

Eyeless: Living up to the hype in a modern world of hyperbolic expectations is a difficult task in this climate. Between the unrelenting attention drawn towards the blockbuster film and the vaunted persona of the popular music label, thousands, if not millions of eyes and ears were pointed towards the direction of this soundtrack. Boy, TDE did not miss with the creation and curation of the Black Panther OST. Director of the first major Marvel film year Ryan Coogler had entrusted the keys of the music vehicle to one of the most well known and successful hip-hop/RnB collectives in the game who did not fumble when given the opportunity. TDE's creative prowess was on full display throughout the entirety of the album, making lyrical and melodic ties to the actual movie without seeming too forced.

The obvious duality between the film's protagonist T'Challa and antagonist Erik Killmonger can be felt even if you haven't watched Black Panther yet (if you haven't seen it yet...the fuck are you waiting for?!?!?). But after watching the movie, the strong connection points can definitely be noticed about the split narratives for each character. The necessity of a seemingly out of place track like "Paramedic!" was extremely important in giving an authentic and representative sound for where the Bay Area native Killmonger was coming from. It's one thing to have a star-studded lineup of features like Black Hippy, SZA, The Weeknd, Travis Scott, and 2 Chainz for example. Features like that will only guarantee views. It's also a major responsibility to ensure the major talent that's acquired doesn't get squandered.

The in-house production crew at TDE made sure this did not happen. And as an added bonus, they gave preemptive shoutouts/looks to artists such as SOBxRBE, Mozzy, and Jorja Smith, not when they were at the peak of their ascension, but while they were in the stages of rising to stardom. By also incorporating African tribal sounds on tracks like "Redemption," TDE did a great job of mirroring the aesthetics of Black Panther, the film. This collaborative effort reminded us, not invented, what the standard of what a quality Original Soundtrack is supposed to sound like. Hopefully, Marvel/T.D.E./Ryan Coogler cemented a new trend of movie studios giving the reigns to a music label or collective to handle the duties of creating a whole soundtrack. The results of Black Panther the soundtrack and the movie should be proof enough that this is a successful and lucrative idea that should continue in the future.

Favorite tracks: Paramedic!, Seasons, I Am, King's Dead

JT: At this point, what else is there to say about this amazing cast of individuals formerly known as Top Dawg Entertainment? Everything they touch  always turns into gold and with their contribution towards The Black Panther soundtrack, they continue down their path of making quality music that sets them apart from the competition. The soundtrack received just as much hype as the motion picture did. Director Ryan Coogler did a great job of lending his trust towards TDE to create a body of work that is a representation of the film. Once you see the movie (hopefully you’ve seen it already) , you’ll recognize so much more of the connections between each character throughout the soundtrack. You can also recognized which song play well into the scenes of the movie. I just wished the movie could have incorporated more of the soundtrack sounds into the movie. What would’ve made the first fight scene between T’Challa & Killmonger so much more epic is if they had played King’s Dead in the background. Just imagine hearing the 2nd half of King’s Dead with Kendrick verse in the background while Killmonger is telling the people of Wakanda,“Is this your King” right before he threw T’Challa over the cliff. TDE did a hell of a great job with the guest Artist plaeements, especially when it came to showcasing the newer acts such as Mozzy, SOBxRBE, Jorja Smith, & Khalid. Even though Kendrick was all over the album, he still played his part in the background while letting the artist get their shine on. Paramedic is my favorite cut off the soundtrack. The sound is representation of the Bay Area and it’s plays an authentic part to describe where Killmonger was from. That made me more interested in wanting to hear what other music that group has out. Also with Kendrick’s actual tracks, each one sounds different from the last. What makes it better is how the songs don’t even like sound like throwaways off of DAMN. I hope that with TDE curating The Black Panther soundtrack that it brings back a trend of more artist curating movie soundtracks.

Favorite Tracks: X, I Am, Paramedic, King’s Dead, Seasons, Big Shot

Nipsey Hussle - Victory Lap

Eyeless: For the amount of years that Nipsey Hussle has been in the rap game, it is and it isn't a shock for Victory Lap to be his first major record (via Atlantic) label release. It is a shock because of his prolific mixtape run and relevance for a decade plus. It is also not a shock because of how Nipsey carries himself. I watched the hour plus Rap Radar interview and could tell how much of a self-reliant, business savvy individual he was. Patience is key when it comes to developing something from the ground up and he made sure to adhere to this policy. "I'm a master to my faith, plus I'm the type of nigga to own the masters to my tape" was a sentiment that was echoed throughout Victory Lap, meaning that he didn't jump at any deal without doing a thorough vetting process of the contract. When a deal that was favorable to him on HIS TERMS became available, he took it.

The same careful and meticulous attention to detail was present when constructing Victory Lap, an album that'll surely make many Top 10 end-of-the-year lists and will be remembered well beyond 2018. Before we even get to the lyrical content, I gotta take a minute to appreciate the sonics of the album. Money Makin' Nip has an incredible ear for beats, a skill that should not be undervalued in the slightest. Paired with supernatural talents of MixedByAli, from the first track to the very last, Victory Lap just sounds crisp and refined. Listeners can tell how much time and dedication was put into creating the foundation of the album; nothing sounds cheap or rushed. A plate of freshly prepared filet mignon as opposed to a re-heated McDonald's burger.

I can't take credit for this analogy for the project but someone on Twitter said that Victory Lap sounds like a TED Talk over a Rick Ross beat selection, which is not meant to be slanderous towards anyone. What I took away from that statement was Nipsey was spittin' free game and dropping knowledge to all of the listeners. He's a street dude that imparts relatable wisdom to those within and outside the purview of the block. The weight of each bar had the impact of a seismic earthquake because of his lively delivery, controlled flow, and cadence which accentuates every point he is trying to make. This album fucking slaps. From the purest of hip-hop purists to grimiest of thugged out goons, there is something here to be appreciated by every hip-hop fan: passionate lyrics, ethical messages, motivational advice, impeccable production, and a cohesiveness as a whole project.

Favorite tracks: Rap Niggas, Young Niggas, Blue Laces 2, Hussle & Motivate

JT: It’s been a long time coming for Neighborhood Nip but after 5 years of patience and anticipation,  he finally dropped his debut album Victory Lap and I couldn’t be more satisfied at how everything turned out. Everything about this body of work feels organic, focused, strategized, & straight to the point. From the singles releases of Rap Niggas, Last Time That I Checc’d, and Dedication, to the interviews conducted through Rap Radar, Hot 97, or The Breakfast Club, etc.  I can say that Twitter was spot on with the analogy of Victory Lap sounding like TED Talk on Rick Ross beats. What I love the most about this album outside of the music slapping was the overall message Nipsey was pushing of starting from the bottom, building your way to the top, & becoming self-made. You can feel that aura all over the album everytime you press replay. When listening to records like Hussle and Motivate, Millions While You Young, Real Big, & Young Nigga, the sudden urge of getting up off your ass  and making something of yourself consumes you. Next Thing you know, you out here feeling like you can take over the world just because Nip said so and showed that it was possible. Personally for me, I think the chorus of  Dedication perfectly describes the tone of Victory Lap and what it stands for.

Dedication, hard work plus patience

The sum of all my sacrifice, I'm done waitin'

I'm done waitin', told you that I wasn't playin'

Now you hear what I been sayin'

Dedication

Between that and Kendrick Lamar completely bodying the beat, Dedication is one of my go-to records to play in order to keep myself motivated as im clocking into my day job. My favorite part is when Kendrick raps,  “I spent my whole life tryna make it, tryna chase it/ The cycle of a black man divided, tryna break it/ You take a loss? Shit, don't cry about it, just embrace it/ Minor setback for major comeback, that's my favorite.” I can feel and relate to those lines so much in life right now.  Nipsey’s storytelling as just as impactful as his overall theme and message on the album. His 3rd verse on Blue Laces 2 gives you the chills as Nipsey broke down the story of helping his homeboy after he got shot. Another story that stands out was on Young Nigga when Nip mentioned his older brother burying a hundred thousand in their backyard for about a year and when he dug it out, the money was molded. He said him, his sister, and his mothers were sitting in their living blow drying the money. That picture in my head of that is mind blowing and I can only imagine what everybody was feeling in that room. MixedByAli did an incredible job of mixing Victory Lap making sure that the sound of the album was crisp and refined. Victory Lap has proven to me that patience truly is key when it comes to creating a solid body of work. This album already shows me that it’s going to stand the test of time. Those 5 years of waiting on Victory Lap were worth it.

Favorite Tracks: Dedication, Rap Niggas, Hussle & Motivate, Blue Laces 2, Keys to The City 2, Real Big, Right Hand 2 God

 

Skyzoo - In Celebration of Us

Eyeless: There's nothing wrong with enjoying and being accepting of the latest trends in hip-hop; diversity and growth are all very important. I enjoy (some) of the newer waves but at heart, I'm an East Coast, boom-bap, hip-hop traditionalist. If you need a break from the polarizing evolutions of this fine genre, look no further than Skyzoo's 7th studio album, In Celebration of Us.

For those unfamiliar, Skyzoo is an underground New York rap legend who first gained notable recognition with his collab project with 9th Wonder titled Cloud 9: The 3 Day High in 2006. Ever since then, Sky's pen game has remained one of the most consistent of recent memory. He is a slick spitter with an intelligent mind that does not waste a single line or verse, giving it 100% effort with every project. A rapper's rapper who is a traditionalist when putting an emphasis on lyrics, but is not musty in the slightest when it comes to being a "traditionalist." On In Celebration of Us, Sky goes through the record having a backdrop perspective of his life story. His prior studio releases were autobiographical to an extent, but this project feels even more personal. He gives us access into his life while he walks us through the journey of his childhood to the present, juxtaposing it with current societal issues like the civil rights of a young black male.

Broad day like jumping out in the way

When one is jumping up outta the front and finding it's aim,

Or, divying a bag with who you're beside every day

And splitting points like you dotted your name,

'cause know that all of these green lives that used to be here,

Matter like these black lives that these blue lives shoot outta fear

Vivid storytelling has always been a strength of Skyzoo's, who does not half-heartedly paint a picture of life through his eyes on In Celebration of Us. Even if you've never listened to a whole project of his, start here. He sounds as fresh and energized as he did with his official debut more than a decade ago.

Favorite tracks: Forever in a Day, Heirlooms & Accessories, Crown Holder

2 Chainz- The Play Don’t Care Who Makes It

JT: 2 Chainz has become everybody’s favorite go-to rapper in the present day. He’s came a real long way from back in the day when he was known as Tity Boi (I still call him that LOL) and was a member of Playa’s Circle and dropped their bill Lil Duffle Bag Boy with Lil Wayne. These days you can find Chainz killing it on features, mixtapes, Ep’s, etc. So it wasn’t a surprise when he decided to pick back up from where he left off in 2017 by dropping a surprise 4 track EP  The Play Dont Care Who Makes It.  The EP was short yet sweet and right to the point. Real talk I cannot wait until it’s summer time so I can ride through Downtown Atlanta with the windows down blasting Lamborghini Doors. Picture this: you riding down 85/75 South through downtown Atlanta on a beautiful Saturday afternoon with Lamborghini Doors blasting with the drop top and you just so happen to see the city skyline. That my friends is what God wanted y’all.  Right after releasing of the EP, Chainz follows up with the announcement of his new album Rap or Go to the League.  Even though I'm a huge fan of Chainz & am always in awe of his Mixtapes & EP’s, for some reasons his album don't entirely get the same response from me. Don’t get me wrong  I LOVE it when Chainz is in album promo mode because the themes of his albums is always creative and the promo always keeps everybody anxious of what’s to come for the album release .

Favorite Tracks: Lamborghini Truck, Ok Bitch

Eyeless' Honorable Mentions:

SOBxRBE - GANGIN
Cozz - Effective

 

JT's Honorable Mentions:

SOBxRBE- GANGIN
SKYZOO- In Celebration of US
Cozz- Effected
Moneybagg Yo - 2 Heartless
G Herbo- Humble Beast Deluxe Edition
Blac Youngsta- 2.23

Black Panther soundtrack review
Photo by Joe Pugliese

Photo by Joe Pugliese

The anticipation for the release of Black Panther is filling up my soul.  Despite my people showing their exceptionally yet excessive support through numerous threads, think-pieces, and alleged rules (i say this loosely) towards watching the movie, My excitement for Black Panther hasn’t been altered and has withstood the test of goofy behavior all around.

At first I didn’t know what was to become of the Black Panther soundtrack.  It was almost about an afterthought of mines. That is until I heard the first single, “All the Stars” from the two top heavyweights of TDE, Kendrick Lamar and SZA. Next up sometime after was the second single “King’s Dead,” with Kendrick, Jay Rock, & Future. After that release, it had me wondering if whether or not TDE was about to bless us with a secret Black Hippy project that was disguised as the Black Panther soundtrack.  Not only was King’s Dead the second single, but is also serving as the first single off Jay Rock’s next upcoming Album. Personally I think that was a smart marketing move from TDE, but that’s neither here nor there.  As soon as the news dropped that Kendrick and Top Dawg were going to be the curators for the soundtrack, the ideas of what’s to come for the soundtrack started clicking.

It was dope to me seeing a possible new trend that was ahead of artist curating movie soundtracks. Not too long after the announcement for Black Panther, more news was presented that rapper Future was going to be curator the Super Fly soundtrack. I’m very interested to see how this is going to be pulled off, especially since also he’s due for another Solo project release.  It’s been awhile since we’ve came across curated movie soundtracks. There have been amazing curated movie soundtracks that were created for us such as original 1989 Batman, Purple Rain, The Bodyguard, American Gangsta, Waiting to Exhale, 8 Mile, & Get or Die Tryin. Probably the most notable comparison to Kendrick and Black Panther was with Prince and the original Batman soundtrack . The story was that director Tim Burton was a fan of Prince and Warner Bros wanted Prince to make a contribution to the soundtrack. After watching about half-hour of the film, he was inspired enough to create a 10 track project. Like with Prince, Black Panther director Ryan Cooger was a fan of Kendrick’s music.

At first, Kendrick was going to only contribute a few songs but then after watching a portion of the film, he was inspired to create the soundtrack. The main thing I love so much about TDE is their process on creating music. Even after coming off two of the most successfully commercial albums, DAMN and CTRL, you can never really know what direction they’re going to take with the music. They set their own trends and follow their own waves. Never had to really follow certain Pop culture blueprints in order to be successful. They always stay true to themselves and the music they create. So I just knew they’re really going to come with it for Black Panther.

After further listening and living with the soundtrack, i realized this isn’t wasn’t a hidden Black Hippy album. It turns out that it was actually disguised somewhat as Kendrick Lamar’s playlist. It’s like its a Kendrick album but its also not a Kendrick album if you’re understanding what I’m saying. Minus the actual records credited to Kendrick such as Black Panther, All the Stars, King’s Dead, & Big Shot, you can hear and feel his presence all throughout the album. You’ll hear him in the background vocals on songs like I Am, on the hook, or with a bridge such as Opps, Paramedic, Redemption, etc. What made Kendrick’s appearance on the soundtrack the most unique was not only by making us hear and feel his presence on the album, but he also left available room for the newer artists like  Mozzy, SOB x RBE, Jorja Smith, & Saudi to shine on their. He went as far as to give all of their credit on the track-list.

I love when big powerhouses like TDE are still out here recognizing the up and coming talent and help give them a high platform to help them perform their music.  Mozzy and SOB x RBE are really about to make some big noise this year because of this big look given Kendrick. Them guys deserve it so much. I was just blown away by the record,  Paramedic, which is my number one favorite standout record off the soundtrack. Not only did I love that good ole New school West Coast shit talking music  but it was also the first time in forever to hear Kendrick on a West Coast style beat. The last time I heard him on a west coast sounding record was during the To Pimp a Butterfly Era. Also I was blown away listening to another stand out, “I am’ with Jorja Smith. Im going to check out more of her music so I can play catch up. The first time I heard her was through Drake’s playlist project, More Life.

The TDE crew all did their thing per usual throughout the album. X is another banger for me that you know you cant wait to hear at one of these upcoming festivals this summer. I just get that concert feeling for it. Its felt great to hear from our boy Schoolboy Q. He sounded refreshed and cocky as ever. When he said “Nigga, December been good to me/ Not even Kendrick could humble me,” I really felt that in my spirit. It felt like he as giving us a taste of whats to come for his next album coming out this year with his raps and sounds. But Q and Saudi’s raps were no match for our favorite rapper 2 Chainz as he came in like a thief in the night and stole the entire show. Khalid & Swae Lee was an unexpected combo i didn’t see coming with The Ways but both of them boys did their thing.

At first when I heard Big Shot with Kendrick & Travis, I didn’t know what to think about it since he was partially using the beginning of his New Freezer verse as the hook. But as time went on, that record grew into one of my favorites. Kendrick & Travis are an odd combo but the production by Cardo Got Wangs helped create their element.  I don’t know which Collaborative EP I would want between Kendrick & Travis or Kendrick & Weekend because so far when Kendrick has worked with either of these guys their 2 for 2.

For the most part, I enjoyed all of the album. The only song I didn’t entirely like was Opps with Vince Staples. Bloody Waters was another stand out record from TDE’s own Ab Soul, Anderson Paak & James Blake. Soul sound refreshed and hungry as ever on the beat. Paak’s presence was missed. We havent heard from him in so long. His also has a new album coming  sometime year thats going to include production from Dr Dre. The deeper that you dive into the Black Panther soundtrack, the clearer the theme becomes to the listener.

At the start of the soundtrack with the self titled track Black Panther, Kendrick is rapping from the Perspective of T’Challa , the protagonist of the movie. Midway through the soundtrack when we get to  Paramedic SOB x RBE, Kendrick the says in the beginning “I am Killmonger, who is the antagonist of the movie.  Then on  King’s Dead, Kendrick is then rapping  on the 2nd half of the song from the perspective Killmonger. Kendrick then present a duality at the end of Seasons with Mozzy, Sjava, & Reason where he says, “I am T'Challa/ I am Killmonger/ One world, one God, one family / Celebration.” According to the notations on Rap Genius, what was defined by that statement was that both in unity T’Challa & Killmonger are both hero and villain and that it served as a reminder that when it’s all said and done, people must remain united as a family and rise above conflict both internally and externally. Look here man, even after typing that last sentence it gives me the chills. I cannot wait to see this movie and see how which songs will not be used but also will be transitioned in the movie.

Black Panther soundtrack serves as a successful project for TDE. What makes the album sound so great is the production. The production doesn’t entirely sound based out of Africa or sounds futuristic. It gives us visual of Wakanda in the present world. I loved so much that the records created sounded nothing like Kendrick’s last studio album, DAMN. It’s also a reflection of the artist point of view of the world while using the soundtrack as a means to explain that view. Im excited to see the movie and see which songs are going to get placement in the actual movie. There’s just some songs that I can already see fitting certain scenes throughout the movie. By the time this feature releases, Black Panther will have already been released and on its own way to break all kinds of records.

Soundtracks for the people: an open letter to film studios

One of the most anticipated films of recent memory from the Marvel pantheon is quickly approaching. In the eyes of many, Black Panther has already transcended superhero film status into the heights of something greater. I'm in the camp of "let's reserve full judgement until seeing the whole movie first" but that's just my opinion.

With the strategic planning of releasing the movie in the heart of Black History Month, paired with a stellar cast of Black Excellence, Black Panther has already proved to be a moment that'll be remembered for quite some time. Shortly after the new year, to further solidify the hype surrounding this blockbuster, Marvel Studios announced that Top Dawg Entertainment will "curate and produce" the soundtrack to Black Panther.

It is a major look for a music label that's quickly forming into a serious business conglomerate, but the look is trifold.

First: the fans and the consumers. The E-streets have been clamoring for an official Black Hippy project the moment Say Wassup hit YouTube. We're not getting that just yet; but the Core Four, plus SZA, with additional features from The Weeknd, Anderson .Paak and others, a TDE inspired compilation will suffice.

Second: the motion picture studio itself. It'll be an interesting case study to see how things will play out with the Black Panther soundtrack. Because of the star power on the soundtrack and the high anticipation of the film, it should be near if not atop the music charts for the first week. What about after the movie is released? Will there be an increased spike in streaming numbers because "Casual Music Fan X" really liked a song from a scene in the movie and had to check out the soundtrack? We'll have to wait and see.

I don't know the specifics and numbers behind the deal that Marvel Studios made with TDE, but it must have been a mutually beneficial financial deal for both parties involved. Some original soundtracks in the past have flopped without much fanfare. Not investing much stock into 'em won't make or break the success of the actual film, but it can accentuate the quality perception of the film as a whole...if done correctly.

Third and most importantly: the music labels and collectives. Being attached to a major motion picture in this way can heighten the awareness of a crew that's been grinding in the industry for quite some time. Of course, TDE has been well-known by hip-hop fans, but now that the Black Panther soundtrack is public, the full attention of media consumers in the mainstream and casual fans of music will be captured.

If King's Dead and Pray for Me are any indicators for the rest of the album, this could wind up being one of the greatest soundtracks to a movie ever. Exploiting a widespread opportunity by sliding in less notable, far from less talented, artists can be considered a huge win. By giving free reign to curate, TDE has included the up-and-coming West Coast representatives, Mozzy and SOB X RBE, on the final tracklist. Giving maximum exposure for those that are deserving is paying it forward at it's finest.

Lazily slapping together random pop stars and trendy rappers on a track can ultimately create a mess. An entire album of this? A disjointed and unlistenable piece of shit. To avoid such a problem, more film studios should follow the blueprint of Marvel Studios, by allowing its director and visionary Ryan Coogler to handpick a singular, successful, music label to curate an entire project. Too many outside hands can alter an intended purpose. Coogler has been "a massive Kendrick fan" for many years, according to his NPR interview.  In the same conversation, the Black Panther director talks about the organic bond that was built between himself and TDE, spawned from a mutual respect of their artforms. It wasn't just a forged relationship created by label executives. It was an authentic collaboration.

"The movie's not set in 1910, or the 1960s when Black Panther first came out — it's set in today," said Sounwave, TDE in-house producer who worked on the soundtrack. "There's 'today' moments happening in the movie, so we want the whole soundtrack to sound like that too. I think it was a perfect marriage for us to blend the two worlds."

Movie studios and even independent filmmakers should entrust music collectives to create and curate soundtracks, front to back. That doesn't mean every single song that's recorded needs to make it into the film. Rather, certain standouts could make an appearance in the movie, but most importantly for everyone involved, additional acclaim can be garnered with a soundtrack done correctly. The idea of cohesiveness from a singular label handling these duties will present the best chance of success. It can also help build anticipation for a movie.

In mid-January, for the 1972 reboot of the legendary film Superfly, it was announced that Sony Pictures have plans to tap the creative mind of Future to not only be an executive curator of the soundtrack but ALSO a producer on the actual film. Handling both of these responsibilities could create a dynamic that could enhance both projects because of the symbiotic nature.

With the impending Black Panther/TDE soundtrack and concept of the Superfly duality for Future, I'm hopeful that this is the start of a trend that'll stick around for years to come. Rightfully putting artists and music collectives of the most popular genre in the world in positions of control and power is a great thing to see. Just think of the endless possibilities of an authentic relationship between hip-hop, RnB, and major motion picture studios. "The ceiling is the roof."

Grammy Predictions

The 2018 GRAMMY Awards are upon us. For the most part, the consensus believes the Recording Academy finally got the nominations right in the major categories.

It took 60 goddamn years but for the first time in the show's history, no white guys were nominated for "Album of the Year".

To top things off,  new, diverse acts like SZA, Rapsody, Goldlink and 6LACK were nominated for awards as well. In the past, these artists would normally get overlooked in favor of Top 40 artists.

Our writers Just JT and Eyeless gave their predictions for a few categories ahead of the GRAMMYs ceremony.

Spotify

Spotify

Record Of The Year

Redbone, Childish Gambino

  Despacito ,   Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber

• The Story Of O.J. , JAY-Z

HUMBLE, Kendrick Lamar

24K Magic, Bruno Mars

Eyeless: If we're factoring in everything - lyrics, vocals, production, and impact - then Redbone should definitely win Record of the Year because of its wholeness as a song. Gambino hit us with this gem of a track and it still gives me the chills. This will be a record that we'll play for our grandkids years from now.

Just JT: Crew by GoldLink, Brent Faiyaz & Sly Glizzy should’ve been considered a nominee but that’s neither here nor there.  Looking at this list, I feel like it’s going to come down to HUMBLE or 24K Magic. Both of these records are phenomenal and made huge impact in 2017.

But if I have to pick, I’ma have to go with 24K Magic. I’m shocked myself seeing that I’m rooting for Kendrick to take majority of the W’s this year. As much as I love hearing HUMBLE, there’s just something about 24K Magic that brings everybody together. Deep down I hope Kendrick takes it, but i’m rolling with Bruno with this one.

Album Of The Year

Awaken, My Love!, Childish Gambino

4:44, JAY-Z

DAMN, Kendrick Lamar

Melodrama, Lorde

24K Magic, Bruno Mars

Just JT: DAMN. DAMN. DAMN. And I say this in my best Florida Evans voice. Everything about this album is perfect; from the rollout to the tracklist to the visuals. Hell even for the tour. DNA & HUMBLE was the soundtrack for NBA Playoffs. Everytime I hear DNA, a basketball highlight reel begins to play in my head.

It makes sense to pick DAMN to win Album of the Year, even though we all know the Grammys are going to fuck it up & probably give Album of the Year to Lorde or Bruno. Moreso Lorde.

Eyeless: This is a really tough decision. All 5 nominees are great bodies of work that are deserving of top honors. Again, I'm gonna have to give the nod to Gambino (and composer Ludwig Göransson) for "Awaken, My Love!" because of the totality of the project. A new aged, funk record with flawless production that really shocked me in a major way.

Also, the Recording Academy have only given two rap projects Album of the Year (The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in 1999, and Outkast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below in 2004. Awaken, My Love! would make the most sense.

Song Of The Year

Despacito, Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber

4:44, JAY-Z

Issues, Julia Michaels

1-800-273-8255, Logic Featuring Alessia Cara & Khalid

That's What I Like, Bruno Mars

Eyeless: It's gotta be Despacito, right? That song was inescapable all summer. Having an infectious beat, paired with star power like Bieber hopping on the remix, in addition to breaking streaming records across the world, this has all the makings of Song of the Year. (True pick: Crew)

Just JT: Im rolling with That’s What I Like. Again Bruno had a Killer year in 2017. I hear that record everywhere I go and plus the video is real simple but yet fire. (Also my True Pick would be Crew as well.)

Randy Shrosphire/Getty Images for HBO

Randy Shrosphire/Getty Images for HBO

Best New Artist

• Alessia Cara

• Khalid

• Lil Uzi Vert

• Julia Michaels

• SZA

Just JT: Give it to the First Lady of TDE, SZA. She’s had one hell of a year ever since releasing CTRL. To me, it is a perfect depiction of exploring the minds of millenial women. She’s worked hard and made her presence known in the music industry this year and it’s worked out well for her. Her music is heat and I hope she takes home the W.

Eyeless: Just making it to the awards show with all these nominations is a major win for the First Lady of TDE. It'll be a shame if she doesn't, but I fully expect SZA to take home the GRAMMY for Best New Artist of the past year. She's been around for a minute but it's great to see her get mainstream recognition for her uniquely delivered honesty over RnB records.

Best R&B Performance

Get You, Daniel Caesar Featuring Kali Uchis

Distraction, Kehlani

High, Ledisi

That's What I Like, Bruno Mars

The Weekend, SZA

Eyeless: 24K Magic kind of got tucked away in terms of wide-spread recognition for music releases, but the singles from the album have been in steady rotation throughout the country. That's What I Like is a certified hit that is no exception. A mid-tempo groove that doesn't lack in pace or energy. I'm hoping for parity with the winners, but Bruno Mars might sweep the awards he's nominated for.

Just JT:  My true pick for this would be Get You, but since I have to be a realist, I’m also going to roll with That’s What I Like. And yes I would also not be surprised if Bruno was to sweep the awards he’s nominated for.

Best Traditional R&B Performance

Laugh And Move On, The Baylor Project

Redbone, Childish Gambino

What I'm Feelin', Anthony Hamilton Featuring The Hamiltones

All The Way, Ledisi

Still, Mali Music

Just JT: I’m Rolling with Redbone. I can already picture all of us playing this 10-20 years later telling our kids “Y’all don’t know nothing about this.” This is the perfect traditional R&B performance record in this list to me.

Eyeless: Redbone. Gambino's high-pitched and somewhat unintelligible vocals made for a great finished product. A throwback to 70s and 80s soul/funk, or traditionally black music, was such an important pivot for records during a time where everything sounds the same. You can play this song for damn near any age group and there may be some snark about the vocals, but the praise should be universal. It's damn near perfect.

Best R&B Song

First Began, PJ Morton

Location, Khalid

Redbone, Childish Gambino

Supermodel, SZA

That's What I Like, Bruno Mars

Eyeless: You already know...see my previous choice above. Watch the making of Redbone as well. It deserves all the awards.

Just JT: Hmmmmmmmmmm……my true pick is also RedBone but something is telling me that That’s What I Like is going to take the W.

Best Urban Contemporary Album

Free 6LACK, 6LACK

Awaken, My Love!, Childish Gambino

American Teen, Khalid

Ctrl, SZA

Starboy, The Weeknd

Just JT: I’ma just go ahead and pick CTRL for the W in this category simply because of more appeal than most of the category. Even though I'm not as big on 6lack as most are, I would feel he deserves to win this one much more. But because of star appeal, Im rolling with the First lady of TDE.

Eyeless: I'm gonna throw a curveball here and select 6LACK here. Reason is because of the wording: "Urban Contemporary." The sounds of hip-hop and RnB have kind of merged to create a new, unofficial type of genre "trapsoul," as of late. A shift in the sonics of music culture closely resembles the definition of this category. Free 6LACK fits the description well and it gives you the best of both worlds, mixing soulful cries and fluid raps without sounding forced.

Best R&B Album

Freudian, Daniel Caesar

Let Love Rule, Ledisi

24K Magic, Bruno Mars

Gumbo, PJ Morton

Feel The Real, Musiq Soulchild

Eyeless: Freudian is a traditionally pure RnB album from front to back. Love makin' melodies that are sure to instantly set the mood. Relatable trials and tribulations about relationships, a staple subject matter of RnB,  are all over the album as well. Soulful harmonies are clearly heard when paired with live instrumentation. Daniel's got a bright future in this industry; this is just Chapter 1 of his career.

Just JT:  My true pick would be Freudian, but I think 24K Magic will get picked strictly because of the appeal. Not taking away from it because 24K is phenomenal.

Twitter

Twitter

Best Rap Performance

Bounce Back, Big Sean

Bodak Yellow, Cardi B

4:44, JAY-Z

HUMBLE, Kendrick Lamar

Bad And Boujee, Migos Featuring Lil Uzi Vert

Eyeless: Hate it or love, but 2017 was the year of Cardi B. Bodak Yellow was a monster of a track in not only the hip-hop world, but it was a mainstream success. Being the crossover hit that it was, Bodak Yellow was more than a hot song of the summer, it was a moment that couldn't be ignored.

It'll be a close call with Bad and Boujee but I think Cardi will have the slight edge.

Just JT: To be frank, it would be so crazy if  Bodak Yellow takes home the W for this category. I definitely would be happy for Cardi forsure. she’s had a hell of a year. But I think HUMBLE is going to take the W in this category.

Best Rap/Sung Performance

PRBLMS, 6LACK

Crew, Goldlink Featuring Brent Faiyaz & Shy Glizzy

Family Feud, JAY-Z Featuring Beyoncé

LOYALTY, Kendrick Lamar Featuring Rihanna

Love Galore, SZA Featuring Travis Scott

Just JT:  “She see Money all Around Me, I look like I’m the Man. But I was down & out Like Last week,,Tell me Where Have you Been..” …..  I speak it out to the Universe that GoldLink will take home the W for this record. If not, then fuck it we RIOT.

Eyeless: CREW BETTER WIN, OR WE FUCKING RIOT. "HEY, NICE TO MEET, I'M YOUNG JEFE, WHO YOU BE?" NUFF SAID.

Best Rap Song

• Bodak Yellow, Cardi B

Chase Me, Danger Mouse Featuring Run The Jewels & Big Boi)

HUMBLE, Kendrick Lamar

Sassy, Rapsody

The Story Of O.J, JAY-Z

Eyeless: Speaking of crossover success, K. Dot achieved gold and platinum status several times with multiple songs DAMN. None were bigger than the Mike WiLL-produced HUMBLE.

Out of the choices in this category, I believe this will be the winner because of how appealing it is sonically. It's far from the complex Kenny that we all know, but he proves his versatility on how he can effortlessly crossover on this one.

Just JT: HUMBLE will win. The crossover success Kendrick had this year was astounding.

Best Rap Album

4:44, JAY-Z

DAMN, Kendrick Lamar

Culture, Migos

Laila's Wisdom, Rapsody

Flower Boy, Tyler, The Creator

Just JT:  If you’ve seen my answer for Album of the Year, then you already know who i’m picking. The CURRENT King of Rap, King Kendrick Lamar with DAMN.

Eyeless: Give it to Jigga Man. The four other nominees will be back in the category in one way or another. The diversity in the selections are incredible. But after JAY-Z gave us SHAWN's CD, 4:44 is wholly deserving of getting the title.

Hip-hop's elder statesman, over impeccable production by No-ID, was as open and honest as he's ever been while giving knowledgeable advice to the youth. Jay could have gone the Magna Carter route again with the expensive raps. He chose otherwise. And the results were great. Bravo HOV, bravo.

New Kendrick Lamar & SZA joint on TDE-curated 'Black Panther' soundtrack

Start your Friday off right with new music from Kendrick Lamar & SZA with “All The Stars.” off the Black Panther soundtrack. As usual the duo come through and kill the record. Kendrick and Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith will also be in charge of curating the entire soundtrack.

TDE has already owned 2017 with DAMN and CTRL alone and it appears they’re not letting up in 2018.  Not only am I looking forward to the new Black Panther soundtrack, but I can’t wait to see what’s to come from one of the top labels in the game right now.

Black Panther comes out in theaters on February 16th.