Gunna – “Drip Season 4” review

This is the 5th mixtape from College Park rapper Gunna. Coming up in 2013 off his debut mixtape Hard Body, he would eventually catch the attention of local phenomenon Young Thug just 3 years later would go on to sign to his 300 Entertainment imprint YSL Records. However it wasn’t until the release of his debut EP Drip or Drown & his 4th mixtape Drip Season 3 in late 2017 & early 2018 respectively where Gunna’s profile increased significantly. Drip or Drown 2 though was a mediocre full-length debut & W.U.N.N.A. (Wealthy Unapologetic N***a Naturally Authentic) wound up being one of the best trap albums of 2020, but is kicking off 2022 by dropping Drip Season 4.

“private island” kicks the whole tape off with an acoustic trap instrumental from Wheezy talking about living it up whereas the violin-infused “pushin’ P” with Future & Young Thug finds the trio talking about percs. “poochie gown” then sees the So Icey Boyz mixing some piano chords & heavy bass talking about having a bad bitch in his penthouse & pathetically trying to throw a jab at Freddie Gibbs, but then Thugger returns for the thunderous “mop” going back & forth with one another very well.

Meanwhile on “thought i was playing”, we have 21 Savage tagging along on top of an entrancing Mike WiLL Made-It beat going at those who don’t take them seriously leading into “how you did that?” showing Turboworking in some keys & a flute to talk about the famous lifestyle even though Kodak Black’s parts don’t hold up to Gunna’s at all. “alotta cake” has these amazing harps from Metro Boomin’ getting materialistic just before “livin’ wild” shows off a well used Keith Sweat sample talking about going through changes.

“you & me” goes into a more sexual turf as Taurus samples Jon B, Chris Brown & Bri Steves all together while “south to west” once again gets boastful on top of a theatrical trap beat. Lil Baby comes into the picture for “25k jacket” going back to a more violin-influenced vibe talking about going back to back even though I wish it was a little bit longer than just 2 minutes while “too easy” with Future brings back the harps detailing how simple this rap shit is to them.

“idk that bitch” has a more cavernous sound to it as he & G Herbo call out those marrying women they don’t even know whereas “flooded” goes into a more guitar-driven direction talking about his ice. Nechie drops the worst feature verse on “life of sin” even though I really like the overall vibe of it, but then “die alone” with Chris Brown & Yung Bleu comes off as a painfully bland romance ballad.

The track “missing me” has a more cloudier vibe to it instrumentally addressing a woman who left his heart aching while the final actual song on the album “so far ahead > empire” starts off as a piano ballad talking about making it, but switches into acoustic turf expressing a desire to build an empire. As for the “too easy” remix with Roddy Ricch, I could’ve done without it.

For this to be the conclusion of the Drip Season series, I’d have to say it’s my 2nd favorite installment right behind the 3rd one. His production choices are continuing to get better with each project he puts out & the same applies to his performances, but overdid it on the features much like Thug did on Punk back in the fall.

Score: 3.5/5

The Weeknd – “Dawn FM” review

This is the highly anticipated 5th album from Canadian singer/songwriter The Weeknd. Rising to stardom in the early 2010s with a trilogy of highly acclaimed mixtapes, he then made his full-length debut in 2013 with Kiss Land which was a decent attempt at symbolizing tour life. The sophomore effort Beauty Behind the Madness proved to be even better as it started to incorporate elements of pop, although Starboy ended up being another mixed bag much like Kiss Land except he embraced a more electropop sound. Abel’s debut EP My Dear Melancholy, though was a solid return to his alternative R&B roots & let’s not forget After Hours going on to becoming the best album of his career thus far in my opinion. Reasons being because of how much he artistically reinvented himself on there combined with the incredible portrayal of promiscuity as well as overindulgence & self-loathing. So given that, to say I was fiending for Dawn FM would be an understatement.

After the titular intro with fucking Jim Carrey playing a radio DJ, the first song “Gasoline” kicks off the whole thing in a quasi-techno territory talking about wanting to believer there’s more to life whereas the nu-disco tinged “How Do I Make You Love Me?” ponders on what it takes to achieve eternal love. “Take My Breath” has a bit of a French house influence to it talking about a woman who loves to be on the edge leading into “Sacrifice” samples Denroy Morgan to tell his lover not to be catching feelings out here.

After the “A Tale by Quincy” interlude, we have Abel in his funk bag for “Out of Time” admitting that he’s been working on himself just before “Here We Go…Again” brings in some bare synths talking about how life’s a dream & Tyler, The Creator’s verse on here actually comes off as half baked. “Best Friends” almost bares a synth-funk quality to it saying he & this woman can’t be close despite loving her, but then “Is There Someone Else?” is a slow jam confronting his lover asking if she’s cheating on him.

“Starry Eyes” sounds a bit similar to “Here We Go…Again” instrumentally excepting he’s singing about wanting to be there for the girl of his dreams & after the “Every Angel is Terrifying” interlude, “Don’t Break My Heart” showing a more vulnerable side saying he can’t take anymore heartbreak with some synthwave vibes. The track “I Heard You’re Married” with Lil Wayne finds the 2 patronizingly telling married women to leave their men for them over yet another synth-funk beat while the final song “Less Than 0” sounds very peppy sonically despite it’s depressing lyrics. “Phantom Regret” then ends the album with a spoken word interlude from Jim Carrey.

After Hours has quickly become The Weeknd’s best full-length album in a lot of people’s eyes including myself & Dawn FM is a great sequel to start the new year. Oneohtrix Point Never helps him dive further into a more synthpop based sound & I think the whole radio station concept of it is super neat.

Score: 4/5

Daniel Son – “Son Tzu & the Wav.God” review

Daniel Son is a 32 year old MC from Toronto, Canada who came up as a member of the Brown Bag Money collective back in 2016. His profile began to rapidly increase in the underground off projects like the Giallo Point-produced debut mixtape The Gunners or the Futurewave-produced sophomore album Yenaldooshi but after spending 2021 dropping a few EPs, he’s bringing Futurewave back in the picture to lace his 4th tape from top to bottom.

“Son Rise” kicks the whole thing off on some boom bap shit with an almost glistening loop showing cats how he does it in his neck of the woods whereas “Full Moon” goes into a more euphoric route sonically talking about having nightmares that’ll haunt him until he’s gone. Rome Streetz tags along for vengeful “Field Trips” going at the throats of those jealous of their success, but then “Nostrildamus” incorporates a soul sample to get on his pusher shit. Meanwhile on “Death & Taxes”, we have Daniel Son talking about not having a choice to lead the way even tough Pro Dillinger’s verse at the start is just decent leading into the jazzy “Hallelujah” speaking on dying for his chips.

Flee Lord comes into the picture for the sedatively-produced “3rd Eye”talking about having records that’ll play when they’re both gone while the song “Stove Dance” goes into drumless turf up until the 2nd half saying he applies a pressure that they can’t take. The penultimate track “Talk to Yourself” has a horn-heavy sound advising to keep his name out these punks’ mouths & “Son Set” with Saipher Soze ends it all with some grimy street shit that hopefully serves as an appetizer for a Divizion Rivals sequel.

I know 2022 literally just started today, but we already got an Album of the Year contender straight out the gate. Daniel Son’s lyricism goes hand-in-hand with Futurewave’s raw production as always, but they really take it to another level much like they did on Yenaldooshi & Moonshine Mix 2.

Score: 4.5/5

Dr. Dre – “The Contract” review

Dr. Dre is a 56 year old producer, rapper & entrepreneur from Compton, California who came up in the mid-80’s as part of the World Class Wreckin’ Cru octet. They would only put out 2 full-lengths before disbanding, but would go on to have a HUGE impact on the culture. Popularizing gangsta rap as part of N.W.A, getting everyone in the whole west coast to ride the g-funk bandwagon with his solo debut The Chronic, expanding that sound on 2001, the Beats headphones & who can forget introducing likes of Eminem or Kendrick Lamar to the world? His previous album Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre in the summer of 2015 was said to be his “grand finale” but ahead of his Super Bowl halftime performance in a couple months, he’s dropping off 6 new songs attached to GTA V’s latest DLC.

“Falling Up” is an entrancing yet charismatic opener co-produced by Dem Jointz with Dre spitting some braggadocio whereas “Gospel” finds him rightfully calling his ex-wife a gold digger & I don’t mind the piano instrumental backing him pretty cool, but the Eminem verse at the back end of it will test your patience. Bink! weaves in a soul sample for “Black Privilege” to get in his grown man bag while the late Nipsey Hu$$le tags along for “Diamond Mind” to talk about how crazy their lives have been & those guitar licks that Alchemist uses throughout the beat just gives you nothing but summertime vibes.

The penultimate track “ETA” with has an insane sample of “You’re the One For Me” by The Edwards Generation starting off with Anderson .Paak & Dre going back & forth with one another leading into the playful Snoop Dogg hook as well as a monstrous Busta Rhymes verse to end it. “The Scenic Route” closes out the EP on a somewhat jazzier note with Dre going back & forth with none other than Rick Ross to talk about putting their families first in line.

A lot of music tie-ins with movies as well as TV shows & video games have become pretty boring in recent years. However, I knew for a fact that this wasn’t going to be the case with this & I stood corrected. The production & guests all come correct as always, but I should also note that The D.O.C. recently replied to a fan on Twitter saying that Dre’s starting to write his own verses now. If that’s indeed the case, then it’s definitely impressive.

Score: 3.5/5

Curren$y – “Pilot Talk IV” review

Curren$y is a 40 year old rapper from New Orleans, Lousiana that first got his start with No Limit Records in 2002. He would then hop over to Young Money Entertainment & Cash Money Records in 2006, but eventually branched out in 2008 with his own label Jet Life Recordings. Since then, the man made a name for himself by dropping a handful of projects every single year with the latest being the Cash Fargo-produced Land, Air, Sea EP last month. However, Spitta’s celebrating Christmas Eve by dropping the 4th installment of his renown Pilot Talk series as his 17th full-length album & it’s only right for him to bring Ski Beatz back along for the ride.

“Big Game Fishing” is a pleasantly jazz boom bap opener paying tribute to his city & his homies who came up out of there whereas “Audio Dope 6” mixes these triumphant horns with some saxes talking about pledging to get the whole world high keeping the titular series going strong. “Non Fungible” takes a more spacious route to smoothly spit that braggadocio, but then “There It Is” has a tenser almost funkier sound challenging anyone to step to him bar for bar.

Meanwhile on “Workers & Bosses”, we have Spitta going back into cloud rap territory talking about wins turning into losses just as things start taking off leading into “The Scene” brings the saxes back in to chase away the bad vibes. “Memory Lane” is a soulful ballad with reflective lyricism while the string-laced “So Easy” factually talks about how it’s not hard to say you’re a g. The penultimate track “Under the Wings” slickly details stealing your girl with his Rolls Royce & finally, “Finger Roll” ends the album on a rap rock note telling all the clowns out there to wrap it up.

I hold the original Pilot Talk trilogy amongst the best material of Curren$y’s prolific career & this 4th installment definitely lived up to my expectations. Ski Beatz sticks to the jazz-influenced sounds of it’s predecessors & it’s still an incredibly great match for Spitta’s notoriously calm flow.

Score: 4/5

Nas – “Magic” review

This is the 15th full-length album from Queens icon Nas. For those who’re living under a rock, his first 2 albums illmatic & It Was Written are widely acknowledged as some of the greatest in hip hop history. I also wanna include stillmatic, The Lost Tapes, God’s Son & Life is Good. Then there was the Kanye West-produced NASIR & The Lost Tapes II, which I felt like they were fine additions to his catalogue even though the overall consensuses were polarizing. But for almost 2 years now, Nas has been working exclusively with Hit-Boy & both of them are a good fit for each other. King’s Disease earned Esco his first Grammy & the sequel that dropped over the summer was more superior in terms of quality, but are finishing off 2021 by dropping Magic.

“Speechless” is an unsettling opener to the whole album talking about getting his weight & safe up whereas “Meet Joe Black” takes things into boom bap territory advising not to fuck with him. “Ugly” incorporates some wavy synth melodies to detail some hardships & to confirm King’s Disease III is indeed in the works, but then “40-16 Building” is pretty much a glorious sequel to “Rare Form” off his last album.

Meanwhile on “Hollywood Gangsta”, we have Nas detailing being on top & surprising listeners with a bit of a quirky groove to the beat leading into the drumless “Wu is for the Children” talking about the special kind of things in life. The song “Wave Gods” with A$AP Rocky finds the 2 on top of an organ & some dusty drums to get charmingly boastful while the penultimate track “The Truth” makes me so happy calling out people on their bluff. “Dedicated” then finishes off the album with an incredible 2-parter about devoting his life to this shit.

Magic in my eyes is on the same caliber as King’s Disease II & only increases my anticipation for the 3rd installment of the series even more. Hit-Boy continues to expand on the production versatility that the predecessor displayed & Esco keeps showing how a late career MC should be spitting.

Score: 4/5

Shady Ray – “Blood Work” review

This is the sophomore album from Inglewood emcee Shady Ray, who’s been around for a little over a decade with a handful of mixtapes under his belt including The Sinister & 1 Man Gang. But now that he signed to Lord Mobb Music a little bit after dropping his full-length debut Blood Pool, Ray celebrated Christmas Eve by having Sushi Punk produce Blood Work from front to back.

After the titular intro, the first song “Dark Path” starts off the whole EP by enlisting Jameel Na’im X for a drumless look at them fighting demons whereas “Fine China” has a more alluring sound to it saying he doesn’t make threats. “Appetite” goes back into drumless territory spitting some vicious battle raps leading into the calming “Medicated” talking about being blessed to be where is now.

Meanwhile on “Water on the Spoon”, we have Ray & Aaqil Ali coming together on top of a soul/horn sample to spit that heroin shit leading into Bale as well as T.F. & Young Act tagging along for “Where We At” to call out those who act like they came from the slums over yet another melodic vocal loop.

The song “Cannes” with BVNGS, Eto, Gifted Gab & Phonk P finds the quintet on top of some guitar licks going at those who have beef with them while the penultimate track “Act n’ Shady” with Flee Lord & Young Act weaves in some dreary pianos telling punks to leave all 3 of them alone. “Soul Food” finishes it all off by getting inspirational lyrically with these heavy horns backing him.

In the end, I think this is the crown jewel of Ray’s discography so far & have a feeling this is only the beginning. Lyrically, I feel like listeners will get a good idea as to who he is personality-wise & Sushi Punk comes correct behind the boards as well.

Score: 3.5/5

Boldy James – “Super Tecmo Bo” review

Boldy James is a 39 year old MC from Detroit, Michigan who broke out in the fall of 2013 off his Alchemist-produced debut M.1.C.S. (My 1st Chemistry Set). He would later go on to land a contract with Nas’ independent label Mass Appeal Records for a little while before getting locked up but once Boldy came home, Uncle Al would help get his name back out there once getting out by dropping the Boldface EP around Christmas 2019 & then the sophomore album The Price of Tea in China at the beginning of last year. This was followed up with the Sterling Toles-produced Manger on McNichols which was as equally fantastic, but the Griselda Records-backed Versace Tape EP was a tad bit disappointing given how rushed it was. He & Alchemist just dropped Bo Jackson to widespread acclaim over the summer, but are returning together out of the blue for Boldy’s 4th EP.

“Level Tipping Scales” sets it off well by spitting that pyrex shit on top of an atmospheric instrumental whereas “No Laughing Matter” follows it up by warning listeners that the drug dealer life ain’t no joke & the upbeat production is just fly as fuck to me. “Hot Water Tank” has these cool little whistles throughout the beat as well as how it details the gangsta mentality even though ICECOLDBISHOP’s verse is wack as fuck, but then “Bumps & Bruises” takes things into jazz territory & it’s nice to hear him getting more insightful through his lyrics.

Meanwhile on “Great Adventures”, we have Boldy on top of a silky yet drumless beat vividly detailing getting the gang tied up just before “Moth in the Flame” talks about being true to the game & the theatrical production enhances the seriousness of it very well. The song “300 Fences” compares his Concreatures crew to that of the infamous Black Mafia Family on top of an apprehensive instrumental while the penultimate track “Guilt” incorporates in some weepy strings talking about someone not being built for this life. “Francois” then ends the album with a gritty dedication to the thugs out there.

Bo Jackson has quickly become the best work of Boldy’s career in my personal opinion & for them to follow it up as quickly as they did, Super Tecmo Bo is very close to being on that same caliber. I respect that they toned it down on the features even though I wasn’t feeling the only one on the EP at all, but both parties continue to bring the best out of one another both lyrically & sonically.

Score: 4/5

Krizz Kaliko – “Wrapped Up” review

This is the 3rd EP from Kansas City recording artist Krizz Kaliko. Coming up as one of the first acts to sign to Strange Music alongside Kutt Calhoun, he would go on to work very closely with the local independent powerhouse’s founder Tech N9ne for nearly 2 decades whether it be providing featured rap verses or simply providing background vocals for a number of albums & EPs that Tech has put out. As far as his own output goes, Krizz dropped a total 7 full-length albums & 2 EPs through the Snake & Bat before amicably departing over the spring to form his very own label Ear House Inc. alongside his wife Shoo Shoo. They’ve dropped a handful of singles throughout the year since & are now combining them into Wrapped Up.

“Gifted” is an energizing opener to the EP with Krizz & Shoo Shoo hopping on an aggressive trap beat from 7 to spit some hardcore braggadocio raps whereas “Snowfall” switches it up into a lighthearted Christmas ballad with some warm piano melodies throughout. “Somewhere” takes things into a more glossier route singing his ass off providing motivation for those who’re in a dark place this holiday season just before “Weight” comes through with an ode to body positivity fusing elements of gospel & trap pretty well.

The song “Feelin’ Good” is a decent summertime bop with an “All Night”-esque instrumental from Wyshmaster that’s all fine & dandy until Futuristic comes in sounding like a blatant Chance the Rapper clone while the penultimate track ”Pressure” goes into a darker direction talking about moving forward despite the struggles of everyday life. Then there’s “B.B. (Birthday Bitch)”, where Krizz & T-Pain deliver a hyphy-tinged banger for all the ladies out there that want to celebrate their special day.

Krizz has always been a man of many talents with Wrapped Up, we got a respectable kickoff to this new chapter of his career. Much like his Strange swan song L.I.F.E. (Legend Immortal Forever Eternal), the EP is a healthy mix of his lethal MCing skills & powerful singing voice except he’s proving that he can hold it all down without Tech N9ne.

Score: 3.5/5

Esham – “Psyops” review

Esham is a 48 year old MC/producer from Detroit, Michigan who is widely recognized as the godfather of horrorcore alongside his former Natas cohorts Mastamind & the late TNT. His run from 1989-2005 (particularly the albums KKKill the Fetus, Closed Casket & Doubelievengod?) would go on to lay out the groundwork for subsequent horrorcore acts such as the Insane Clown Posse & even Eminem. His output since then has incredibly inconsistent but after dropping an unbearable cover of “Rock ‘n’ Roll N****r” by the punk poet laureate Patti Smith herself over the spring, I was still morbidly curious going into The Unholy’s 22nd full-length offering given his impact on this reviewer’s hometown as well as the most underappreciated subgenre of hip hop culture.

“Off Duty” opens the album with some funky bass licks & a heavy guitar calling out the guy who filmed George Floyd’s murder rather than doing something whereas “Wildlife” keeps the rap rock vibes going detailing how it is in the jungles even though I don’t really like how muffled Esham’s voice is. “B.L.M. (Burn, Loot, Murder)” has a riff buried in the drums that sounds like it was taken from the 60’s calling to retaliate against Big Brother, but then “Ms. Information” weaves in a bare guitar riff to call out the uneducated with a garish hook.

Meanwhile on “Lone Wolf”, we have Esham on top of some punky drums advising to stay away from criminals just before “#NoGoZone” has a much more rawer aesthetic to it sonically talking about the hard times we’re in. “Scam Likely” weaves in a buzzing guitar lead tackling identity thief leading into “Silver Bullet”, which is an 83 second riot starter Down the heavier riff.

“Selling Dope” literally has nothing to do with such rather it’s yet another addition to the evergrowing list of boring Esham love songs whereas “SNAFU” gets back on the punk tip talking about partying 24/7 with some catchy whistling throughout. The distorted guitar on “A Love Song” is pretty badass even though the vocals & lyrics are just awful while the track “Unholies” has a more bluesy tone to it getting in hustler bag. The penultimate song “Reel Spill” seems like an off-the-cuff freestyle even though I do like the a bare guitar instrumental & the title track rounds it off with a badass revolutionary ballad.

I genuinely had no what idea to expect from Psyops, but it just so happens to be Esham’s best album since Dichotomy. Dude’s always been notorious for sampling rock music throughout his career, so it’s nice to hear him stick to that sound for the course of an entire project. Plus given that Reel Life Productions has been based in Minneapolis for quite some time now & the protests that took place over there a year & a half ago as a result of George Floyd’s murder, I like how he sticks to this political/conscious concept revolving around it. However, my only real complaint is that some of these songs could’ve been mixed better.

Score: 3.5/5