Lupe Fiasco – “Drill Music in Zion” review

This is the 8th full-length album from Chicago emcee Lupe Fiasco. Blowing up in 2005 after appearing on “Touch the Sky” off of Kanye West’s sophomore album Late Registration, he then went on to release 2 classic albums Food & Liquor and The Cool in 2006 & 2007 respectively. However, his output since then has been very inconsistent. His next album Lasers in 2011 is easily his worst yet, Food & Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album in 2013 was just ok but then Tetsuo & Youth in 2015 was a near perfect return to form for him. Given that, I was excited to see what he was going to do in the future. DROGAS Light wound up being a disappointing mixed bag, but DROGAS Wave eventually made up for it. Fast forward to today, we’re being treated to Drill Music in Zion fully produced by Soundtrakk.

After the “Lion’s Deen” intro, “Ghoti” kicks off the album with some horns rapping about assassin’s creed whereas “Autoboto” goes into a more abstract trap route defending himself in court. “Precious Things” has a little bit of a crestfallen tone to the beat as Lupe reflects on how all the stuff we love turns on us, but then “Kiosk” incorporates some pianos delivering a serious message to the type of people who like diamonds in their ears.

Meanwhile on “Ms. Mural”, we have Lupe immaculately closing out the “Mural” trilogy just like the way he started it leading into “Naomi” fusing jazz & boom bap together so we can get streams of consciousness lyrically. The title track admits that that episodes of the soul make him cold over an abstract, jazzy instrumental while the penultimate song “Seattle” is a cloudy, guitar-driven cut keeping his promise to the streets. “On Faux Nem” closes out the album wishing he was lied to by over horns & dusty drums.

Tetsuo & Youth was a great return to form for Lupe, so to say I was hyped for Drill Music in Zion would be an understatement. Needless to say: It blows Food & Liquor 2 out of the water much like DROGAS Wave did as far as sequel albums to. Soundtrakk’s production is incredibly detailed & the concept of “greed transforming each interaction into a transaction & how the profit motive corrodes our collective humanity” is very well thought out.

Score: 4.5/5

Cody Manson – “E=MC Skelter” review

This is the sophomore album from Cleveland emcee Cody Manson. For the last few years now, he’s been on one Hell of a meteoric rise in the underground whether it be him signing to Lyrikal Snuff Productionz or dropping his full-length debut Psychoactive on Christmas Day a couple years back to widespread acclaim. But in light of his birthday & The Generations of Snuff Tour kicking off last weekend, Cody’s celebrating by dropping E=MC Skelter.

“Shiv” is an explosive trap opener produced by Devereaux & Lex Luger of all people talking about fucking people up whereas “Snuff Flick” with Darby O’Trill finds the 2 eerily proclaiming that they’ll turn your party into a horror movie real fast. “Un-Birthday” takes a more vibrant trap route thanks to $crim of the $uicideboy$ welcoming everyone to his funhouse, but then Slasher Dave laced up the bombastic “Gross” detailing a figment of Cody’s imagination.

Meanwhile on “Goat”, we have Cody returning to the trap sound talking about having to get his paper right leading into “No Talkin’” ominously following up the “Free Huncho” spoken word interlude by advising everyone that you gotta be taking risks to win the game. “Jackie Chan” aggressively talks about him kicking doors down in the same vein as the titular actor just before “Hockey Bag” fuses some bells & hi-hats reminding that he really got it out the gutter.

“Voices” has this incredibly hellish atmosphere to the production talking about being on the brink of insanity prior to Ghostemane tagging along for the heinous “Feeble” with both MCs confessions their demons got the best of them. The song “Thrillz” shoots for a morbid aesthetic explaining the things we do to chase such while the penultimate track “Love Me” is a trap-heavy ballad touching on heartbreak. “Tears of a Clown” however ends the album with some groovy guitar licks admitting he can’t hide from attention or run from fame.

I always love seeing artists outdo themselves with each album they put out & that’s exactly what Cody does on E=MC Skelter. The production has improved tremendously compared to Psychoactive, the lack are a features are a nice touch since they were all over the debut & Cody lyrically is the best he’s ever sounded.

Score: 4.5/5

Juicy J & Pi’erre Bourne – “Space Age Pimpin’” review

This is the brand new collaborative mixtape between Juicy J & Pi’erre Bourne. One is a founding member of the groundbreaking Memphis outfit Three 6 Mafia & the other being a South Carolina recording artist who quickly became one of the most in-demand producers in hip hop today due his one of a kind sound. Juicy just did a verse for “Bubble Gum” off of Jelly’s latest album The Wolf of Peachtree 2 fully produced by Pi’erre, so they’re coming together for some Space Age Pimpin’.

“You Want It” kicks off the album with a grim trap banger that finds Juicy & Pi’erre bragging that they got all the shit others desire whereas “Smokin’ Out” works in some chopped & screwed influences talking about the lifestyles they both live. “This Fronto” returns to a more darker trap sound describing both parties being under the influence just before “Bring Them Out” reveals itself as a fun anthem to all the hoes out there.

Meanwhile on “Uhh Huh”, we have Juicy & Pi’erre delivering a symphonic trap banger getting materialistic leading into “B.B.L. (Brazilian Butt Lift)” comes through with a trumpet-laced ass-shaker’s ode. “Who Get High” shoots for a hazier aesthetic talking about being blowed, but then “Can’t Get Her” mixes a guitar with some hi-hats calling out dudes getting in their feelings because they stole their bitches.

“The Deep In” explains how bad they’re tweakin’ over a triumphant instrumental & even though I love the soul sample throughout the penultimate track “NFT”, the subject matter about the biggest scam in the world is just tiresome at this point. “Unsolved Mystery” ends the tape with a rugged banger reminding everyone not to bring any bullshit to them & that they don’t fuck around.

Compared to the Stoner’s Night tape that Juicy dropped with Wiz Khalifa at the beginning of the year, I happen to like Space Age Pimpin’ a tad bit more. That’s no disrespect to Wiz either because he & Juicy have always had a dope chemistry, but I really find it fascinating how a style as unique as Pi’erre’s collided with Da Juice Man’s in terms of overall sound.

Score: 3.5/5

French Montana – “Montega” review

French Montana is a 38 year old rapper from Casablanca, Morocco who came up as a close Max B associate. He would then go on to drop 9 mixtapes until Puff Daddy signed him to Bad Boy Entertainment in late 2011, where French has made himself home ever since dropping 4 albums & 6 more tapes. Every album he’s put out thus far haven’t been as well received as his mixtapes, but I was very intrigued to hear that Harry Fraud would be fully producing French’s 5th album in it’s entirety given how well the producer/rapper pair have worked with one another in the past.

“Blue Chills” opens up the album with some hi-hats & a Skylar Gudasz sample as French declares that he’s coming for those who’re trying to escape him whereas “Rushmore Pack” works in a soulful instrumental talking about how lies don’t faze him & that he ain’t the same Montana as before. The hottest rapper in Detroit right now Babyface Ray for “Drive By” flipping “Swan” by Ionna Gika explaining that everything they do is mega leading into EST G. coming into the picture for the energized “Keep It Real” telling their shorties that keeping it 100 is better than being perfect.

Meanwhile on “Kind of Girl”, we have French & Rick Ross on top of a Lou Courtney sample describing their taste in woman just before “Higher” flips Everton Blender to talk about dying for the paper. “Bricks & Bags” with Benny the Butcher & Jadakiss finds the trio over a grittier beat detailing their d-boy lifestyles, but then “Poetic with No Justice” embraces a symphony to talk about dreaming filthy.

“Drop Top” with Quavo incorporates a chilling vocal sample so they can get materialistic while the song “Shorty So Bad” is just an annoyingly airy love ballad. The penultimate track “Drunk Words, Sober Thoughts” with the late Chinx goes full-blown boom bap throwing some piano chords into the mix talking about how no one can fuck with them & “Bronx Mecca” closes it all out by flipping There’s a Ghost” by Fleurie with French getting vulnerable lyrically.

A lot of people like to reasonably clown this dude for his most recent output, but I seriously don’t see how anyone can come away from Montega looking at it as his most consistent body of work in a very long time. Harry Fraud’s sample heavy production is a breath of fresh air considering that his last 4 albums were just chockfull of generic pop rap & the performances from French’s performances himself actually sound decent.

Score: 3.5/5

Chetta – “Been Here Forever” review

Chetta is a 31 year old rapper from New Orleans, Louisiana who came up in the spring of 2014 off his debut mixtape Nino White. This was followed up with 18 EPs as well as 11 more tapes & a full-length debut but now after signing to G*59 Record$ last spring, he’s returning in the form of a sophomore album that he himself has claimed to have waited a long time to give the world.

“Blair Witch” is a grim trap opener produced by none other than $crim with Chetta talking about how it pays to be a boss whereas “Heaven Ain’t Free” sinisterly admits that he’s just doing him. The $uicideboy$ tag along for the hyphy-laced “Poydras” talking about re-upping on these hoes just before “All Thug No Love” solemnly detailing how bad the ecstasy got him geekin’.

Meanwhile on “Dracula”, we have Chetta over a cloudy trap instrumental declaring himself as a real rockstar leading into the ghoulish “Hiroshima!” talking about how he hates himself too. “Take You Out This World” shoots for a wavier approach to the beat getting in his murder bag, but then $crim comes into the picture for “Murder He Wrote” to talk about hittin’ the road when it’s frozen & going ghost.

“Save Me the Rain” however fuses a guitar & some hi-hats telling a hoe he don’t need her anymore while “(Killers Cry Too)” is an impressive spiritual successor to “Thug Cry” off his last EP Major Pain. The song “Spend My Whole Life Getting High” returns to a cloudier sound talking about putting his money on him while the penultimate track “Drugs in Her Gut” telling a bitch he can’t stop now over a surprisingly elated instrumental. “When Life Hands You Nothing” ends the album by disturbingly confessing he feels like he’s drowning & sinking.

Now for those of you who’re new to Chetta & his music, then I’d say Been Here Forever is a good place to start because it happens to be my favorite that he’s ever done so far. He takes the listener through where he’s at now in his life & $crim also happens to do a really great job behind the boards as well.

Score: 4/5

Roddy Ricch – “The Big 3” review

Roddy Ricch is a 23 year old rapper & singer/songwriter from Compton, California who came up in the fall of 2017 off his debut mixtape Feed tha Streets. He would follow it up with a sequel almost a year later & signed to Atlantic Records shortly after, who put out his full-length debut Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial the year after that to moderate reception. His sophomore effort Live Live Fast came out this past winter & even though a lot of people found it to be a disappointment, I personally consider it to be his best work yet. So given that, I was curious to hear this debut EP of his ahead of his upcoming 3rd mixtape Feed tha Streets III.

“Real Talk” is a solid introduction to the EP with it’s twangy trap production from DJ Mustard on top of Roddy’s lyricism touching on loyalty & brotherhood, but the penultimate track “Tootsie’s” has to easily be my least favorite of the 3 with it’s nondescript instrumental & bland braggadocio. I do however find “No Mop” to be a sensual conclusion from the misty trap beat from London on da Track to Roddy’s raunchy pen-game.

I know I’m in the minority for liking Live Life Fast more than most people, but I really hope Feed tha Streets III is better than The Big 3 because it’s an average appetizer before the main course. You got a great way to start it off, but then you get a miss & a mid closer. Hopefully the tape will be a moment of redemption for Roddy.

Score: 3/5

KanKan – “##B4W2G” review

This is the 20th EP from Dallas recording artist & producer KanKan. Emerging in 2019 as a member of the Slayworld collective as well as landing production credits for a wide range of artists from Summrs to even Little Pimp, he would also go on to drop an eponymous debut mixtape accompanied by 19 EPs & a full-length debut in that short amount of time. But to warm everyone up for his upcoming sophomore effort Way 2 Geeked, it’s only right for KanKan to give the fans ##B4W2G as a way to hold us over until then.

“14” starts off the EP with a electronic/trap fusion talking about how the pussies can’t hit his za whereas “don’t @ me” takes a more uptempo route calling out those who think they’re better than him. The song “see u” shoots for a more atmospheric sound talking about treating every day like it’s a holiday while the penultimate track “after me” works in a rage beat confessing that he’s been geeked all summer. “taxbracket” closes things out with a fun braggadocio banger.

##RR was an impressive debut album for KanKan & for him to give us this in preparation for Way 2 Geeked, I’m really looking forward to hearing him continuing to artistically expand on there. I think the production of each cut gives off it’s own vibe & Kan’s songwriting is only getting catchier.

Score: 3.5/5

Sheep Stu – Self-Titled review

Sheep Stu is a East Coast duo consisting of New York emcee Dres & Boston producer Stu Bangas. Both of whom have cemented themselves as legends in the game in their own rights, but have never worked with each other prior. However considering how incredibly consistent Stu has always been (especially in recent years) & as a fan of A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, I was very much looking forward to this debut EP of theirs.

“Simple is an uncanny opener to the EP with Dres coming out to say he ain’t like these other motherfuckers whereas “Hate” fuses boom bap & rock together talking about what doesn’t help the hood rise. The title trackadvises everyone that nothing in the world will ever hit like the same thing over a trunk-knocking instrumental while the penultimate song “Killin’ It (For a Lil Bit)” returns to dustier territory with Dres talking about being a class act. A.G. then comes into the picture for the grimy closer “Walk About It”, where he & Sheep Stu describe the way they lay motherfuckers down.

Now if you ask me, this is the best that Dres has sounded in a long ass time & I really hope we get more stuff from them down the road. The passion is clearly there in his voice, he never lost a step lyrically & Stu gives him the best batch of beats that he’s received in a while.

Westside Boogie – “More Black Superheroes” review

This is the sophomore album from Compton emcee Westside Boogie. Breaking out onto the scene in 2014 with his debut mixtape Thirst 48 as well as following it up with The Reach exactly a year later as well as Thirst 48, Pt. II the year after that, he would eventually catch the attention of Detroit icon Eminem by signing to his Interscope Records imprint Shady Records in late 2017. His full-length debut Everything’s for Sale at the beginning of 2019 was a solid way to introduce himself to a wider audience & he’s finally returning in the form of More Black Superheroes.

“KILLA MODE” opens up the album with an acoustic guitar & some crooning vocals as Westside Boogie warns everyone to stop playing with him whereas “STUCK” takes a more piano-trap route & show a more contemplative side of him. “NONCHALANT” has a more summery tone to it getting romantic just before “LOL SMH II” starts off with a more soulful tone talking about needing power to be present, but switches into somewhat of a funkier sound saying he’s as calm as can be.

Meanwhile on “CAN’T EVEN LIE”, we have Soulja Boy tagging along over some keys & hi-hats calling out the pussies leading into the smooth “PRIDEFUL II” asking his girl what she be getting into. “AIGHT” returns to trap territory to brush off all the cap people be telling him, but then Smino & Teezo Touchdown come into the picture for the sensual “CAN’T GET OVER YOU” talking about how they can’t get over their significant others.

“RATCHET BOOG” is an aggressive introduction to one of the 3 alter egos that Westside Boogie has with a cool beat-switch towards the end while “SOMETHIN’ STRANGE” seems a little out of place given the fact that Kalan.FrFr has the most presence on it out of everyone. The penultimate track “WINDOWS DOWN” with Snoop Dogg finds the 2 talking about smoking weed over a tranquilizing instrumental & “ANTHONY (WAR)” finishes the album with a well sequenced 2-parter admitting he thinks he’s too bougie now.

We’ve waited 3 long years for this one to come out & I think I happen like it a tad bit better than Everything’s for Sale. I admire the whole concept of embracing your powers as well as how much Westside Boogie has grown both creatively & personally since the last time we heard from him.

Score: 3.5/5

Logic – “Vinyl Days” review

Logic is a 32 year old rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, author & Twitch streamer from Rockville, Maryland who came up just about a decade ago off the strength of the first 3 installments of the Young Sinatra mixtape series. His potential would continually be shown on his first 2 albums Under Pressure & The Incredible True Story but it’s no secret that since the release of Bobby Tarantino in 2016, the dude’s discography has become a definition of inconsistent. ΞVERYBODY, Bobby Tarantino II & Young Sinatra IV were all mid at best, but who can forget the embarrassing attempt at going indie rock on Supermarket or the unlikeable bitterness of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind? No Pressure however was a mature sequel to his full-length debut & I also thought the Doc D concept mixtape Planetory Destruction was decent too, but Bobby Tarantino III was pretty underwhelming. That being said, almost every single he dropped leading up to this 8th album of his albeit his last with Def Jam Recordings has been incredible & had me very excited going into it.

After the “Danger” intro, “Tetris” kicks off the album with a soulful boom bap note spitting some braggadocio whereas “In My Lifetime” with Action Bronson has a more energetic tone to it warning their competition to be concerned. “Decades” flips “Oh How You Hurt Me” by The Fabulous Performers talking about how money isn’t everything & after the J.J. Abrahams” skit, “BLACKWHITEBOY” comes through with a visceral shot at everyone who’s ever doubted him.

Meanwhile on “Quasi”, we have Logic asking Madlib to start rapping again with an instrumental that’s clearly influenced by The Beat Konducta just before “Bleed It” heavily samples the Beastie Boys looking back on his childhood. “LaDonda” has a bit of a J Dilla influence to the production with Logic looking back on his career up to this point & after the “Aaron Judge” skit, “Clouds” with Langston Bristol serves as a decent prelude to College Park with the beat-switching up during the last minute so Curren$y can steal the show.

After the “Michael Rap” skit, “Therapy Music” was the only single that I didn’t like prior to the album’s release due to how similar Russ & Logic both sound. However, I do like the jazzy instrumental. After the “Tony Revolori” skit, “Rogue 1” works in some dusty drums & a whistling teapot kettle to talk about how he had to take a step back leading into “Breath Control” sampling “I Really Really Love You” by Father’s Children as he & Wiz Khalifa tell anyone who wants to set up to them not to try them.

After the “NEMS” skit, “Nardwuar” marks the return of Logic’s alter-ego Doc D accompanied by a fuzzy boom bap beat while “Kickstyle” is just a decent Ratt Pack reunion & I’m disappointed that Bobby doesn’t have a verse on here at all because Big Lenbo & IamJMARS’ are both just mid. After the “EarlyBird” skit, Royce da 5’9” tags along for the raw “10 Years” to celebrate their accomplishments in the previous decade while RZA comes into the picture for the basement-sounding “Porta 1” to spit some hardcore bars.

After the “NeedleDrop” skit, “Introducing Nezi” is basically Logic’s way of showing Nezi Momodu to a wider audience with a siren-laced instrumental while “Orville” with Blu & Exile and Like has a chipmunk soul flare to it letting y’all know how they get down. “Carnival” with AZ finds the 2 over some horns to creep up on them lyrically & after the “Lena’s Insight” skit, the title track goes into a more symphonic direction talking about getting it all.

The penultimate track “I Guess I Love It” with The Game brings back the jazz to admit that it’s funny how their feet been on the beach lookin’ at the sky & the stars above with “Sayonara” ending the album with a 10-minute open letter to Def Jam since Vinyl Days fulfills his contract with the label after being signed to them for the past decade.

Going into this, I had a strong feeling that this would be the best album of Logic’s career given how much I loved almost every single that he put out prior & that ended up being the case here. Granted there are WAY too many skits & some of the “mumble rap” lines are outdated as Hell but once you get past that, the actual music on here is actually his most artistically definitive yet.

Score: 4/5