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

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

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

Drake – “Honestly, Nevermind” review

Drake is a 35 year old rapper, singer, songwriter, actor, producer & entrepreneur from Toronto, Canada who skyrocketed to fame in 2009 off his 3rd mixtape So Far Gone. The success of this groundbreaking project resulted in a contract with both Young Money Entertainment/Cash Money Records & they helped put out the man’s full-length debut Thank Me Later the next summer. His sophomore effort Take Care the year after would be even better & I enjoyed Nothing Was the Same too but after If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late & then What a Time to Be Alive with Future (both of which came out in 2015), that’s when the quality in Drake’s music really began to take a nosedive. VIEWS was a terrible foray into dancehall, More Life was mediocre despite being stylistically eclectic, his YM/CM swan song Scorpion was a disappointingly failed attempt at making a double disc album showcasing his hip hop/R&B sides of his music respectively, Care Package is decent collection of 17 loosies from 2010-2016 that we’ve all heard before, Dark Lane Demo Tapes tried to experiment with new sounds only to miss the landing & Certified Lover Boy just felt like the same old shit we’ve heard from him before. However to celebrate his new SiriusXM radio show, Drizzy is surprise-dropping his 7th album.

After the intro, “Falling Back” opens up the album by going full-blown afrobeats with Drake singing about giving his all into a relationship whereas “Texts Go Green” is a more mellower cut produced by the album’s executive producer Black Coffee as he details him moving on from an ex. “Currents” pulls from Jersey club music with a distracting squeaking sound throughout talking about how he feels like he’s tumbling & doing a shitty Abel impression on the hook, but then “A Keeper” asks his old muse why he’d have her stick around over an airy instrumental.

Meanwhile on “Calling My Name”, we have Drizzy returning to dance-pop turf thanks to Carnage asking why it’s hard for him to give this bitch up just before “Sticky” comes through as the best track off the album with the lyrics about knowing tough situations can be & how the drums just hit you in the chest. “Massive” embraces a housier sound singing to his lover about finding them again, but then “Flight’s Booked” incorporates some synths to singing for his chick not to make him wait.

“Overdrive” has a funky ass groove to it with a fresh guitar solo at the end that I both really like admitting that his heart’s racing while “Down Hill” tells his bitch that they’re done & the 40 instrumental has an intriguingly wavy flare of the beat as well as the finger-snaps. The song “Tie That Blinds” throws a nylon guitar in with some prominent drums confessing that he never wants to see his lover leave while the penultimate track “Liability” slathers his vocals in chopped & screwed effects singing about changing for this woman with the hi-hats being mixed louder than the synths. “Jimmy Cooks” with 21 Savage ends the album with a fun 2-parter produced by Vinylz, Tay Keith & Cubeatz describing them throwing a party for their Day 1s.

I’ve noticed the reception for this has been very polarizing but for it to be a homage to the late Off-White founder Virgil Abloh, I’m honestly on the fence with it. I respect that Drake put his signature pop rap sound in the back-burner in comparison to Certified Lover Boy not elevating it any further so he can mix house & alternative R&B with afrobeats, but the results are extremely hit or miss.

Score: 2.5/5

XP the Marxman – “Pacific Standard Time” review

This is the 5th full-length album from XP the Marxman. Coming up as 1/3 of the trio Rhyme Addicts. As far as his solo career goes, the dude has a handful of projects under his belt already, with my personal favorite being the Roc Marciano-produced Keep Firing. He just dropped The Marxman at the very beginning of the year & as we finally enter summer, D-Styles & DJ Rhettmatic are being brought in to fully produced Pacific Standard Time

After the “Pst #1” intro, “Get At a God” kicks off the album on a dreary note thanks to D-Styles with XP comparing himself to that of a God whereas “Lil Mijos” takes a jazzy boom bap route talking about growing up in the streets. RhymeStyleTroop tags along for the guitar-driven “Ms. America” embracing their Mexican heritages leading into the spine-tingling “Trunk” getting in his hustler bag.

After the “Pst #2” skit, Sick Jacken comes into the picture for the dusty “Tom Fears” produced by Rhettmatic reminding everyone how they play just before the eerie “Paint Pictures” quenching for blood. “The Kuyas” with Big Twins finds the 2 over a piano-laced boom bap instrumental talking about keeping them open, but then “Ski Mask to Jet Skis” lavishly reflects on his life then & now.

The song “Turn Up the Volume” incorporates some colorless piano melodies so XP can get on his thug shit while the penultimate track “Old to New” talks about being a king & the beat on here is just petrifying to the core. However, “Frost Bitten” is a gully ass way to end the album from the horn-laced production to XP’s malicious lyricism.

I was very excited going into this given that I’ve been a fan of The Beat Junkies for a minute & how much I’ve enjoyed some of XP’s most recent projects. Needless to say: It’s some of the best shit he’s ever done considering how great the chemistry between him, D-Styles & Rhettmatic is. Purely raw penmanship & production from start to finish.

Score: 4/5

Leedz Edutainment – “A Worker Among Workers” review

Leedz Edutainment is an underground record label based in Boston, Massachusetts that has been around for a little over decade now. They already have a quite a few showcase compilations under their belt already with the Mass Movementz duology as well as the Write Off tetralogy & Eastern Standard, but are kicking off the summer by returning in the form of A Worker Among Workers.

After the “Introview”, the first song “Edutainment” by S.T.R.E.E.T. is a triumphant boom bap opener asking if y’all are entertained or not whereas “Hustlenomics” by XL the Beast works in some pianos to declare that you’re in the presence of a monolith. “Massive” by REKS, Slaine & STL GLD has a more rowdier tone to it with the trio talking about doing that shit & after the “Threat” skit, “Demons At Your Door” by Reef the Lost Cauze & Wildcard takes a turn into trap territory asking what you gonna do when your demons want war.

“Hands of Time” by Blak Madeen & Smif-n-Wessun finds the trio coming together over bass-guitar laced instrumental to discuss the concept of time & after the “It’s All Hip Hop” interlude, “Heavy Decorated” by Ace & Edo, Akrobatik, Bugout & El Da Sensei sees the 5 asking what your life like over a soulful boom bap beat. “The Rent’s Due” by A-F-R-O, Jarv & Spose vibrantly explains the reason why they had to make another jam just before “Lyrical Plunger” digs up an old freestyle from 1999 that still sounds fresh today.

Meanwhile on “You Still Gotta Rap”, we have Checkmark & The Dunnas delivering some battle bars accompanied by a quasi-funky groove to the instrumental leading into the Parker & Leedz interlude. “Once Upon a Time” by Jon Hope & Skyzoo is a fresh piano ballad discussing what hip hop is to them, but then Blak Madeen recruits the late Baba Zumbi & Locksmith for the socially conscious “Rise Up” remix that I like better than the original.

“Stuck in My Way” by Peter Manns embraces a more deadpan tone confessing he hasn’t been himself in days while “Spiritual Awakening” by Pvth, Ren Thomas & Vincent Tesoro marks the return of the boom bap to represent God. After the “Hustling in the Wrong Direction” interlude, “Tools of the Trade” by Lateb is a guitar/boom bap fusion talking about finding their way while “Dark Magic” goes full rap rock so Jazzmyn Red can address ego someone’s ego not allowing one to be set free. After the “Results Business” interlude, the final song “Feed the Fire” by XL the Beast ends the album with a more atmospheric ballad pouring his heart about how it’ll all pay off & “Thanks For Coming In” is just a spoken word outro.

I’ve enjoyed every single compilation that Leedz has put out in the last 15 years or so, but A Worker Among Workers honestly has to be my favorite one of the bunch thus far. The Arcitype did a fine job at producing a vast majority of it & the list of guest MCs that the label brings together to do their thing on the mic is pretty consistent.

Score: 3.5/5

Rome Streetz – “Pyrex Pot Poetry” review

Rome Streetz is a 35 year old MC from New York who broke out in 2016 off his debut mixtape I Been Thru Mad Shit. This was followed up by a plethora of projects, most notably the Noise Kandy tetralogy & Headcrack. Last year however was probably his biggest one yet, as he dropped some of the best work of his career from the DJ Muggs-produced Death & the Magician or the Futurewave-produced Razor’s Edge to the Ransom-assisted collab effort Coup de Grâce & the Griselda Records deal that followed. Fast forward a little over 7 months later, Royalz is being brought into the picture to produce Rome’s 7th album from front to back.

After the “Pure Crystal” intro, the first song “Peep the Status” truly kicks the album off on a bluesy note with Rome talking about being cut from a different cloth whereas the Eto-assisted “Wise Guys” mixes some dusty drums & a guitar with both MCs getting in their mafioso bag. The title track with al.divino works in these creepy piano melodies describing the hustler life just before “Versace Drip” laces some horns saying he’s all about the checks.

Meanwhile on “High Noon”, we have Rim accompanying Rome on top of an orchestral beat asking what the move is leading into “Lexus Coupe” fusing pianos & a guitar together talking about forever being on a mission for the loot. “Xo” then incorporates a vocal sample expressing his eternal love for the paper, but then Ty Farris comes into the picture for the rock-tinged “Rebel Forces” talking about how losing ain’t an option for them.

The song “Empire State Haze” returns to a more symphonic sound saying he’s trying to touch $1M while the penultimate track “Walter White” eerily proclaims that everything he spits is biohazardous whilst paying homage to the main character of one of the greatest TV shows ever made. “Unfamiliar Projects” closes out the album with a crooning loop & Rome telling the story of a man who later shoots someone in the elevator after fucking a bitch the night prior.

Given that he’s got another album with Muggs on the way along with his Griselda debut & one fully produced by Big Ghost Ltd. on the way, Pyrex Pot Poetry is a great effort to hold us over until then. Royalz continues to reveal himself as one of the best producers out of Australia currently & Rome’s intricate lyricism never fails to amuse me.

Score: 4/5