Young Thug – “P*nk” review

This is the sophomore album from Atlanta, rapper & singer/songwriter Young Thug. Hate him or love him, but the man has proven himself as a modern trap icon from dropping classic mixtapes like Barter 6 & JEFFERY to starting up his 300 Entertainment imprint YSL Records & even the clothing line SP5DER. He finally dropped his full-length debut So Much Fun a couple summers back & not only was it executive produced by J. Cole, but it also ended up being the best trap project of that entire year. So given that, I was very excited going into P*nk over here.

“Die Slow” is a bare acoustic opener sending a warning to anyone who goes against him, but then the T-Minus produced “Stressed” feels like a J. Cole song featuring T-Shyne since there’s barely any Thugger presence & Cole’s flow is just so hilariously awful. Metro Thuggin’ return for “Stupid” which once again takes the bare acoustic route calling out an idiot just before “Asking” switches into some keyboards & snares getting romantic.

Meanwhile on “Recognize Real”, we have Gunna tagging along on top of a low register guitar tone talking about not being victimized leading into “Contagious” touchingly calls for more loyalty. BSlime & Future come into the picture for the piano-tinged “Peepin’ Out the Window” talking about doubling up in life whereas “Rich N***a Shit” works in a bass-heavy Pi’erre Bourne beat as Thugger & the late Juice WRLD get on the materialistic tip.

A$AP Rocky hops on the stripped back “Livin’ It Up” to help talk about how they’re doing good in life now while “Yea Yea Yea” has a danceable Wheezy instrumental expressing his gratitude. “Insure My Wrist” has a lavish [Taurus] beat as Gunna returns to look back on going from being broke to rich in a span of a decade, but then the Lil Double 0-assisted “Scoliosis” seems like a parody of “Hot”.

“Bubbly” starts out with Thugger & Travis Scott bombastically speaking on their career blasting, but I felt like the beat switch from Cardo during [Drake]’s verse was a bit unnecessary. “Road Rage” takes a cloudier turn talking about chasing those millions while “Faces” vulnerably opens up about his heart being gone because of a ratchet double crossing him.

I think Turbo’s production on “Droppin’ Jewels” is perfect as Thugger spits some real life shit while “5th Day Dead” hazily addresses those who hate seeing you racking. “Icy Hot” is a romance duet with Doja Cat that has nothing going on instrumentally, but then “Love You More” kinda seems underwritten despite it’s positive message & more poppier sound.

The penultimate track “Hate the Game” takes it back to the acoustic direction addressing all the people who’ve talking down on him throughout his career & “Day Before” with the late Mac Miller finds them on top of a sample of “charlie brown” by Verzache speaking on how they don’t need a lot, but have a lot.

Now this album isn’t as great as [i]So Much Fun[/i], but I still ended up enjoying it. I think it’s pretty cool that he kinda takes it back to the BEAUTIFUL THUGGER GIRLS says in terms of sound as well as fusing elements of alternative R&B, but just wish he’d kinda tone it down with the features a little bit.

Dax – “Pain Paints Paintings”

Dax is a 27 year old rapper from Canada who originally worked as a janitor before blowing up after dropping the single “YourWorthIt.org” with Hopsin in the summer of 2018. This was followed up with his debut EP It’s Different Now shortly after & now after dropping his 2nd EP I’ll Say It For You under the Strange Music subsidiary It Goes Up Entertainment a year & a half ago, all of that has been leading up to the man’s very first full-length album.

“Suffocating” begins things by melodramatically whining about the pressure of fame on top of some pianos whereas “The Devil’s Calling” gets on the Detroit trap sound saying his music gives off Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, MLK, Harriet Tubman & Emmett Till energy in such a delusional fashion. Like why listen to this when you have “Pig Feet” or even “The Bigger Picture” for God’s sake? Then there’s “40 Days 40 Nights”, which has a bland instrumental & a wack Nasty C feature talking about “getting right”.

Meanwhile on “Searching for a Reason”, we get a hideously sung diatribe about how “people hate me because I’m real” when in reality: he takes a very surface level approach to conscious hip hop with his music. “Battles with Faith” is a lot like the opener in terms of the sound except he’s telling his critics “Hey I’m not perfect, man” & his flow on here is just so hilariously bad every time I hear it.

“Eternity” tries to pull at the heart-strings by reminding us that “eternity has no end” even though it’s common fucking knowledge, but then “Does God Cry?” tries to say that “rain is actually God’s tears” & it makes ME wanna cry myself because of how corny it sounds. If you thought that wasn’t enough, Tom MacDonald tags along for the hypocritical “Propaganda” trying to edgily “call out” the bullshit in “Nightmerica” & not really exposing anything.

The title track tries to blandly take the atmospheric route saying he has no regrets while “Stadiums” serves as an air-headed temper tantrum to his haters by telling them “I hit like hail, man”. Snow tha Product has one of the better features on the album with “A Lot at Stake” addressing the theme of betrayal as does Lecrae with “Bad Things Happen to Good People”, except on here Dax is just saying “Hey we’re all equal guys”.

“PTSD” has little to nothing to do with the actual disorder itself, but rather him talking about how “I’m not looking forward to anything in my life because it never liked me” with a cavernous beat. Yelawolf’s verse on the guitar-driven “Fame” is cool, but Dax’s just seems flat to me in comparison. The penultimate track “Wounded” with Clever instrumentally is similar to “Fame” except it’s about “the pin deep inside”, but “My Eyes Bleed” ends the album with poorly sung ballad praying that “the pain will stay inside these songs”.

Now that we’re at the concluding paragraph of this review, let me start off by saying I have absolutely nothing against Dax as a person whatsoever & I’m happy for the success he’s seen in recent years. However, I had a really hard time sitting through this album & didn’t enjoy it at all. A few features are decent, but it’s not enough to make me wanna go back to hear the melodramatic tone in a majority of Dax’s verses or the cut-rate production.

Score: 0.5/5

1017 Worldwide – “So Icy Boyz” review

1017 Worldwide is a record label founded in 2009 by trap pioneer Gucci Mane after his departure from Mizay Entertainment. They’ve housed a revolving door of artists ranging from Waka Flocka Flame to Asian Doll during it’s first decade, but regained momentum last year after revamping itself along with putting out it’s first 2 compilations So Icy Summer & So Icy Gang last year showcasing their brand new roster of young talent. Most notably Pooh Shiesty, who earned a spot in this year’s XXL Freshman Class over the summer. But now with 3 new signees coming into the picture, it’s only right for Wop & the rest of the 1017 family to come together for their 3rd showcase comp.

“Poppin’” by BigWalkDog & Gucci starts the comp off with some keyboards & hi-hats to show off their charisma whereas “Sno Cone” by BiC Fizzle & Gucci has a more symphonic sound with the help of Tay Keith talking about how cold they are. BigWalkDog returns alongside Bankroll Freddie to detail the “Trap Life” over an instrumental kin to the opener, but then BiC & Wop return alongside Cootie on “TrapMania” to reaffirm their big dog status despite the nondescript beat.

Meanwhile on “Rolling Loud”, we have Hotboy Wes alongside Big Scarr & BigWalkDog over some more piano trap shit using the title as a few clever metaphors just before “Whole Lotta Ice” by BigWalkDog, Lil Baby & Pooh Shiesty of course lavishly details the chains they got. Big Scarr gets his own solo joint with “From da South” grimly detailing life in Atlanta leading into the [Honorable C.N.O.T.E.]-produced “Trap God”, where Gucci rightfully proclaims himself as such alongside BigWalkDog.

“Free Smoke” by Big Scarr & Hotboy Wes finds 2 heinously detailing how they living while the guitar-driven BiC Fizzle solo cut “Mo Money” speaks on the increasing problems them dollar bills bring. “Free Foo” by Foogiano works in a bassy instrumental talking about doing better & the BigWalkDog solo joint “So Icy” incorporated some strings paying homage to the squad.

I feel like everything about “On God” is a bit of a rehash of “TrapMania” down to how it’s structured, but “My Lil Dance” by Gucci & Hotboy Wes energetically details the latter’s past with his mentor talking about getting him right. Sure enough, Wes gets his own solo song with “Slide” spitting that gangsta shit while the penultimate track “Freestyle” by Big Scarr & Gucci feels like some off-the-cuff shit despite it’s flute-heavy beat. “Never Trust a Soul” by Enchanting, Foogiano & Gucci ends the comp by living up to it’s title concept-wise even though there’s not much to the instrumental.

It’s been made pretty clear that label compilations like this can be either hit or miss & as much as I really admire the camaraderie between everyone on 1017, I’m kinda torn by So Icy Boyz. I genuinely think there is potential with the signees, but the production is very generic even by Gucci’s standards.

Score: 3/5

Grafh – “Stop Calling Art Content” review

Grafh is a 39 year old MC from Queens, New York who came up in 2003 off his debut mixtape The Bang Out. However, he went on to release 7 more tapes before dropping his first full-length album Autografh only a few years later. But with a total of 18 mixtapes & an EP under his belt now, Grafh has signed to Benny the Butcher’s very own MNRK Music Group imprint Black Soprano Family Records for his official sophomore effort produced entirely by the late DJ Shay.

After the intro, the first song “God Bless” is a rich opener praying that his homies make it out the hood whereas “Very Different” with Benny the Butcher works in some high-pitched saxes to compare & contrast themselves to their opposition. “No Reason” has a more settler boom bap tone talking about being the top chef, but then “Chosen” takes a more occult route comparing himself to that of a prodigy.

Meanwhile on “Out the Pot”, we get some keyboard embellishments & dusty drums to talk about how it’s all in the wrist leading into Heem & Rick Hyde tagging along for the uptempo “Promise” which despite it’s annoying hook has a great message to it about staying true to their words. CyHi the Prynce & 3D Na’Tee come into the picture for the ominous “Slums” detailing their way up to the top just before the soulful “From the Start” with Bun B & Styles P speaks on foreseeing their success.

“Bellini” has a bit of a theatrical tone instrumentally talking about doing it all while the organ-laced “Crystals” spitting that slanger shit. The penultimate track “Valid” with Ransom & Sheek Louch sinisterly talks about everything being well-founded & if you couldn’t tell by the title of “God Must Love Me”, it serves as a heartfelt closer thanking the higher power for where he is today.

I’ve enjoyed a couple of this dude’s tapes every here & there throughout the year, but Stop Calling Art Content really exceeded my expectations coming away from it. Quite possibly his finest hour in my opinion. Even though Shay has been gone for almost a year now, his sound & Grafh’s lyricism bounce off each other so naturally on this album.

Score: 4/5

City Morgue – “Bottom of the Barrel” review

City Morgue is a trio from New York City consisting of ZillaKami & SosMula on the mic as well as honorary 3rd member Thraxx on production. I first caught wind of them due to ZillaKami’s verse on Denzel Curry’s magnum opus TA13OO, but the group’s full-length debut that followed shortly after Hell or High Water completely stopped me in my tracks. Mostly because prior to that album, I never heard anyone fuse trap with metal music in the way that they did. This was followed up with the worthy sequel As Good as Dead & the mediocre Toxic Boogaloo EP but after spending these last couple months branching out solo, they’re returning for their highly anticipated 3rd album.

“Death Cult” is a short yet cutthroat trap metal opener telling their competition to run for the hill leading into Jasiah tagging along for the eerie “Cabin in the Woods” comparing themselves to Jason Voorhees from the famous Friday the 13th franchise. “Conscience” works in a heavy guitar & a rubbery bass-line to talk about clearing their minds whereas the Thraxx-produced “Make It Disappear” viciously get in their murder bag.

Meanwhile on “What’s My Name?”, we get a wailing guitar rhythm & some punchy 808s talking about marching like dogs just before “Everything’s Broken” is a grunge/trap fusion about blowing their brains out. The first SosMula solo cut “OHDEE” has a more chilled out trap vibe speaking on grinding nonstop, but then the first ZillaKami solo cut “Flat Lips” brings in a down-tuned guitar talking about moshing.

The duo reunite for the abrasive “Hot Shells” comparing themselves to Captain Price from Modern Warfare 2 whereas “Mother Lover” advises not to get fucked up on their mothers. The song “X-Mas Balla” has a chugging riff with the help of Powers Pleasant proclaiming themselves as rat killers & reptilians while the penultimate track “Outer Space” by SosMula is just so annoyingly repetitive. However, the closer “Mutt B” by ZillaKami makes up for it by energetically lighting up anyone who steps up to him.

Even though I was underwhelmed by Toxic Boogaloo & 13 Songs 2 Die 2, I did enjoy Dogboy yet still didn’t quite know what to expect from Bottom of the Barrel. Now that we finally got the album, it’s pretty decent. It’s definitely more focused than Toxic Boogaloo was, but play middle ground with their signature trap metal sound rather than expanding on it.

Score: 3/5

Jae Skeese – “Revolver Ocelot” review

Jae Skeese is a 31 year old MC from Buffalo, New York who first emerged in 2010 off his debut mixtape W.A.C.K. (Women, Alcohol, Cash & Kicks). However, it wasn’t until a decade later where he & 7xvethegenius got their biggest break thus far after the very first signees to Conway the Machine’s very own EMPIRE Distribution imprint Drumwork Music Group. But with only a few dates left on the Love Will Get You Killed Tour, he’s dropping a precursor to his upcoming sophomore effort Abolished Uncertainties in the form of his 7th mixtape.

“Seek/Find” is a soulful, jazzy boom bap opener about how he translates what he sees into music whereas “No Bricks, No Airs, No Rimmys” works in some vibraphones & harmonizing to look for the perfect shot on his opponents. Conway the Machine & OG Sole come into the picture for the vibrant, shit-talking trap banger “Chessmen” leading into the Loveboat Luciano-assisted “Calm Bapes” which feels like something out of a perfect crime flick.

Meanwhile on “Stolen Benz”, we have Toney Boi joining Jae Skeese on top of a smooth instrumental to call out those who weren’t there for them when they needed it just before “EKIN” brings in a bare vocal loop to flex his lyrical prowess for a minute & a half. “Grindin’” serves as an ode to his dedication with a psychedelic Camoflauge Monk beat while the song “She Threw Her 4’s Up” tells the story of a woman he met & I love the enticing sample throughout.

The penultimate track “Mandarin Manuscript” has a bit of a futuristic boom bap sound with the help of none other than JR Swiftz as Jae comparing his music to that of fine art & “All In” with 7xvethegenius is a jazzy finisher to the tape motivating the listener by reminding them it’s either all or nothing. Conway only pops up at the end delivering a spoken word bit about Drumwork taking over the industry which I wasn’t expecting, but it’s still really cool.

If you loved his verses on “Crack in the 90’s” & “Sister Abigail”, then I think you’re really gonna dig this tape. It’s a proper way to reintroduce himself to the new fans as he basically guides you through as to who he is personally & artistically. At this rate, Abolished Uncertainties is destined to be the crown jewel of Jae Skeese’s discography.

Score: 3.5/5

Atmosphere – “Word?” review

This is the 12th full-length album from renown Minneapolis duo Atmosphere. Coming up as a trio in the late 90’s off at their critically acclaimed debut Overcast!, they would later go on to build an independent empire with their Rhymesayers Entertainment label whether that be signing acts from Brother Ali to the late Eyedea or putting out their best bodies of work like God Loves Ugly or Sad Clown Bad Dub 9. But for the last 3 years now, Slug & Ant have been treating their fans to a new album every year starting out with Mi Vida Local. Now with the 1 year anniversary of The Day Before Halloween coming at the end of the month, Atmosphere is continuing their new tradition by dropping Word?.

“Fleetwood” is a rich boom bap opener saying he’s glad he’s not the same person as he once was whereas “Something” thunderously encourages listeners to get back up when pushed down. Evidence & Muja Messiah both come into the picture for the bass guitar-infused “Crumbs” speaking on their obsessive compulsions, but then “Woes” glisteningly details that you can’t love without misery.

Meanwhile on “Strung”, we have Musab accompanying Atmosphere on top of a melodic vocal sample expressing that they’re feeling tense just before “Clocked” is a misty declaration that time is killing us. “Sleepless” works in some keys & hi-hats as Nino Bless tags along to tackle the theme of insomnia leading into the eerie “Distances” pleads to leave him & his family alone.

“Carousel” mesmerizingly talks about wanting to protect myself from his lover’s sting while “Vanish” is a short yet vibrant & funky little freestyle. “Pressed” serves as a tribal posse cut with Anwar HighSign, Lateef the Truthspeaker & Sa-Roc being amongst the best of the 6 while the song “Skull” hauntingly details a night where he or Ant was supposed to die.

The penultimate track “Nekst” works in some acoustics & handclaps airing out someone he loved ending up betraying him, but then “Barcade” with Aesop Rock & the late MF DOOM ends the album with a complete lyrical annihilation with the Hellish beat fitting into the mix ever so flawlessly.

As much as I liked The Day Before Halloween for it’s experimentations, I think the hardcore fans are gonna dig Word? a bit more. Ant takes it back to the duo’s signature sound & Slug’s lyricism is as lighthearted as it was back in their prime almost 2 decades ago.

Score: 3.5/5

Tech N9ne – “Asin9ne” review

This is the 23rd full-length album from Kansas City icon Tech N9ne. Getting his footing in 3 decades back as a member of the groups Black Mafia as well as the 57th Street Rogue Dog Villians & Nnutthowze, his profile began to increase in the late 90’s after landing a spot on the Gang Related soundtrack & becoming among the first to join Yukmouth’s then-newly formed collective The Regime. But after having issues with Interscope Records & Universal Music Group following the release of his iconic 3rd album Anghellic, that’s when Tech decided to form his own label with the help of a man at Paradise Originals named Travis O’Guin. Together, they would call it Strange Music & solidified itself as one of if not the biggest indie label in the world. Tech has made it a tradition to drop an album every year since Everready (The Religion) back in ‘06 & given that’s been going on at Strange throughout 2021, I was very curious to hear how Asin9ne would address it all.

“The Herder” kicks the album off with Tech villainously proclaiming himself as just that with production from Wyshmaster whereas the King Iso & Seuss Mace-assisted “I Don’t Fit” has a symphonic trap vibe with the help of N4 talking about not fitting in even though they’re the shit. “Kickiter” has a bit of an EDM flare encouraging the crowds to riot leading into the spacious “Too Good” produced by Ervin Pope & featuring Lil Wayne tackles the idea of being too good for their own good.

Meanwhile on “No See Umz”, we Snow Tha Product tagging along with a poorly sung Russ hook for an anthem going at their doubters just before King Iso returns alongside Joey Cool & even The Rock (although you can definitely tell Tech wrote his verse) with the combative “Face Off” serving as 7’s only production on the album. E-40 comes into the picture for the explosive strip club anthem “Clydesdale”, but then “Still Right Here” with X-Raided serves as an emotional ballad about loyalty.

“Take Your Halo” reveals itself as an angry response to those who’ve been talking shit on Strange Music as of late while “Knock That Noodle” speaks on the violence in KC over a cavernous beat. “Heightened” despite it’s brevity feels like something you’d hear in the trailer of a good horror movie just before the horrible dubstep/rap fusion that is “What Rhymes With Threat’ll Kill Ya?” with Phlaque the Grimstress & Zkeircrow.

If you couldn’t tell by the title, “I Been Thru a Lot” delivers one of the more vulnerable moments on the entire album & “Dial It Back” has a more cloudier sound talking about how he ain’t bragging. The song “Zaza” with Oobergeek meditatively gets sensual while the penultimate track “Close Yours Eyes” is a more boom bap-tinged pleading to keep faith in him. “Special” finishes it off with a powerful, feel-good guitar ballad.

I’ve been a huge fan of Tech N9ne since my senior year of high school & his music has helped me through some dark times, but I’m kinda indifferent towards Asin9ne. He definitely proves that he can hold an album without 7 but much like ENTERFEAR, he overdid it on the features & their contributions are either hit or miss.

Score: 3/5

The Alchemist – “This Thing of Ours 2” review

The Alchemist is a 43 year old producer, DJ & rapper from Beverly Hills, California who started out as 1/2 of the duo The Whooliganz in 1993 with Scott Caan. They would only disband a year later after recording a debut album that eventually got shelved & Scott went onto acting like his father, but Mudfoot on other end quickly established himself as one of the greatest producers in hip hop history with a resume including ranging names from Mobb Deep to even Eminem. Over this past spring, he produced the latest Armand Hammer album Haram to universal acclaim & followed it up his 9th EP This Thing of Ours a month later. But now in light of the confirmation that he’ll be producing the next Earl Sweatshirt album, Uncle Al dropping a sequel to his latest EP hopefully as a little warm up.

“Miracle Baby” by MAVI is a heavenly opener proclaiming himself as such whereas “Lossless” by MIKE serves as a jazzy boom bap follow-up talking about never losing. The song “Flying Spirit” by the Bruiser Brigade works in a drumless loop for the group to proclaim their work isn’t done while the penultimate track “Wildstyle” by ZelooperZ has a more ominous sound showcasing his wordplay. “6 5 Heartbeats” by Vince Staples ends the EP by somberly recalling his youth.

Uncle Al has made it known that he’s one of the most consistent producers in the game & it’s no surprise that This Thing of Ours 2 wound up being a little bit more enjoyable than the predecessor. Another notable factor of it is that he brings in some less-bigger names into the fold & give them the exposure they truly deserve.

Score: 4/5

Don Toliver – “Life of a Don” review

This is the sophomore album from Houston rapper & singer/songwriter Don Toliver. Emerging in 2018 after quietly signing to Cactus Jack Records & Atlantic Records, his name truly wouldn’t be first known to the masses until he out his debut mixtape Donny Womack & then being featured on “Can’t Say” off his mentor Travis Scott’s latest album at the time ASTROWORLD literally the very next day. Fast forward a year & a half later right when the COVID-19 pandemic started, his full-length debut Heaven or Hell revealed himself as the most talented that Cactus Jack has to offer. But now that he started hitting the road again very recently, Don is dropping Life of a Don in the midst of it.

“Xscape” starts it off with a horn-infused R&B cut produced by DJ Chase B & Mike Dean about needing the love to keep his woman whereas “5X” almost has a bit of a West Coast feeling from the Cardo instrumental with Don detailing how fine this stripper is. “Way Bigger” gets boastful with the help of a psychedelic Sonny Digital beat leading into the woozy “Flocky Flocky” with Travis Scott talking about their blessings.

Meanwhile on “What You Need”, we have Don on top of a cloudy Hit-Boy instrumental saying he’ll do anything for his bitch just before “Double Standards” works in a Three 6 sample opening up about how it’s hard to be human. “Swangin’ on Westheimer” has some slick production from Metro Boomin’ getting charismatic, but then “Drugs n Hella Melodies” nocturnally pays homage to the 2 things he loves the most.

“2AM” hazily gets in his late night lust bag while “Get Throwed” works in some keyboards with the help of Murda Beatz & DJ Mustard talking about a rich hoe. “Company, Pt. 2” is an incredibly fun sequel to one of my favorites off Heaven or Hell whereas “Outerspace” with Baby Keem is an exhilarating 2-parter getting flirtatious.

On the other hand, HVN & SoFaygo tag along for “Smoke” for an entrancing party anthem while the song “You” finds Travis returning to playfully talk about what comes with their bitches. The penultimate track “Crossfaded” is a mind-altering ode to smoking weed & getting drunk but lastly, “Bogus” ends the album with a more glossier note saying he don’t go for bullshit.

Heaven or Hell was one of the most underrated albums of last year & for a follow-up, I think fans are gonna like Life of a Don just as much or possibly even more than the debut. The lyrics are bit more personal this time around & the lack of features throughout kinda exemplifies that in a sense.

Score: 4/5