One of the greatest days in recent Hip-Hop history happened on the Tuesday of this week. Three albums battled for sale number supremacy, and they all made a valiant claim to be at the top, with all three making huge strides in their musical careers. The real winners of this monumental period are the hardcore Hip-Hop fanatics, though. After all, we’re the ones who get the incredible material to listen to.
Each one intrigued and surprised me in different ways, but I can say one thing: all three projects deserve multiple spins.
I’ve always respected Kanye’s knack to venture into the unknown, but I’m not usually the first one to say I love the music. I usually tend to throw that in with the idea of myself being a Hip-Hop backpacker of sorts, a Conservative for the classic boom bap sounds of the mid-to-late 90’s. This happened to me when both My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and 808’s and Heartbreaks came out, as both were albums that pushed the envelope for what was being offered in the Hip-Hop world.
(In fact, in a recent conversation with friends, it was brought to my attention that Drake’s style is heavily based on the 808’s project. Not entirely based around it, but heavily influenced)
The thing is, after multiple listens to projects like Yeezus, their cohesive ideas and strong cultural messages start to sink in a little bit. Kanye is completely aware of this, however. He loves his music to be avant-garde, something that you truly can’t understand the first time you hear it. The words and rhythms need to sink in and becoming meaningful. Even the small intricacies of all the screaming and strange noises throughout the project have purposes for the mood and soul of the album.
After listening to the project 5 plus times, I finally understand why some people love it, some hate it. But that’s exactly what Kanye wants.
As for me, I prefer the soul-driven beats and goofy but meaningful lyrics from College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation. Artists are always evolving though, and the direction is understandable in his shoes. This project does not quite fit into my lane, but maybe with a couple more listens that could change.
“Power Trip” has been on the radio for quite some time, harkening back to his days of Sideline Story. However, the majority of this album is not anything too much like Cole’s Freshman debut. The lyrics and beats sound matured and delivered with a musical intensity that I have not heard from J. Cole since his Friday Night Lights mixtape days. With all of the softer, melodic, ready for radio tracks Sideline Story had, Cole was bound to make an album that would appeal to the masses of Hip-Hop heads. With deep lyrical meaning and intricate flows, Cole shows the versatility of the flow and subject matter previously unknown.
J. Cole himself has mentioned that depression haunted him throughout the making of, and you can tell. A lot of the album has to do with self-reflection, and focusing on the betterment of himself. Many artists in the history of Hip-Hop, and much music in general, have shown that depression truly brings out the strongest feelings and moods. Usually, this is good for songwriting, as the lyrics brought out can relate to many people listening.
Something strange about this album, was Cole’s idea to rework a lot of classic beats. Being the innovative and talented producer he is, one would think he would try to make some original beats without the most obvious of samples (although, one could argue Cole has always been like this, based on songs like “Work Out” with the easily noticeable Kanye sample). Songs such as “Forbidden Fruit” and “Land of the Snakes” both have noticeable samples from Outkast, and A Tribe Called Quest, respectively. “Forbidden Fruit” features Kendrick Lamar, but he is unfortunately only featured on the hook.
(Still waiting on that collaboration album…)
This Sophomore effort is very enjoyable, though, and is the most impressive outing from J. Cole I have heard so far. Lyrical content can really take you far in trying to impress a guy like me.
Born Sinner is the clear winner in the June 18th showdown.
Mac Miller has always been hot and cold in this game of ours. Everyone loved his debut to the major public in K.I.D.S., then the same people openly berated him for being too one-dimensional and “boring” once his studio album Blue Slide Park hit shelves (Seriously, check out this scathing Pitchfork review: http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/16113-blue-side-park/).
Even with all of this critiscism, Mac has stuck to his true style and made it well-rounded. Lyrically, he has never been unimpressive. Watching Movies with the Sound Off has many intelligent and creative rhyme scemes that any Hip-Hop fan in their right mind can respect and enjoy.
One thing I have noticed about Mac Miller is his neglect of moving out of his style of throwing gibberish, and non-sensical mumble jumble together in sentences that fit together simply because they’re creative rhymes. While this can be impressive at times (a la Odd Future), I could see how that could become frutrating to many long-time listeners, including myself.
I’m thoroughly impressed with the musical aspect of this album, as all the beats are expertly made, perfect for the vibe Mac brings to the table. Features from Ab-Soul and Action Bronson make the album stronger, as both provide excellent verses. It’s refreshing to see Mac link up with other rising MC’s in the game, and it shows the true unity of this up-and-coming class of Hip-Hop legends.
I seriously hope to hear more of this from Mac Miller, as Wacthing Moves with the Sound Off is a huge step in the evolution of an artist still trying to find his identity.