Lucki – “Flawless Like Me” review

This is the highly anticipated full-length debut from Chicago rapper & occasional producer Lucki. Beginning to turn heads in the summer of 2013 when he released his debut mixtape Alternative Trap to critical acclaim, he would later go on to give his fans 6 more tapes & a dozen EPs with the last one being the F1LTHY-produced Wake Up Lucki a week before my 25th birthday. But after nearly 4 years in the making, Lucki’s finally giving the world Flawless Like Me.

“Made My Day” is a psychedelic yet bassy opener confessing that he’s been looking for this bitch all over Chiraq over whereas “Geeked n Blessed” takes a more triumphant route talking about how he’s feeling exactly. “Kapitol Denim” on the other hand dives into cloudier territory boasting the lifestyle that he lives over a just before “Coincidence” is an airier ballad reconnecting with a significant other.

Meanwhile on “Been a Minute”, we have Lucki over some woozy yet rubbery Tay Keith production advising not to hit up his phone whatsoever leading into Babyface Ray tagging along for the euphoric trap hit “White House” talking about being them dudes. “13” on the other end embraces a wavier sound bragging that he’ll “drop a 50 on that bitch like old Harden”, but then “Archive Celine” has a more uptempo vibe talking about a hoe out in Berlin with the same name.

“How Tf?” weaves some quirky synth leads & hi-hats into the fold opening up on his drug problems while “DNA” spaciously expands on the subject of the last cut, comparing himself to his aunt who also abuses drugs. The synthesizers throughout “Goodfellas” have a more chilled out feeling to them talking about having bodies in the trunk while the horn-laced “I Get It, Twin” confessing that he can’t help but love this pricy ass bitch. 

Following that, “VVS Keyski” has a more cavernous tone to the instrumental describing the life of a rockstar while “Brazy Weekend” calling out a hoe for stalking everyone he’s around on top of a mystic trap beat. “Droughtski” however returns to a more mind-altering sound talking about being rich off stubbornness while the synth-based “Life Mocks Art” confesses that he raps what he lives. 

“Noticed Ya” acknowledges that this person doesn’t want to change as much as he does on top of a glossy trap instrumental with the vibrant “10pm in London” calling out a gold digger for not actually loving him & using him for his wealth. “Out of Lve” has to be my least favorite cut on the album with it’s underwritten lyricism despite the synth-based beat & “On Point” basically suffers from the same problems even though the production here is more high-spirited. 

The penultimate track “Free Sex!” throws some organs into the mix talking about being fucked up off ecstasy & lean whilst paying tribute to Atlanta trap trailblazer Young Thug while “My Way / Codeine Cowboy” starts off with an otherworldly banger of a 2-Peter being on space time & then going on to discuss codeine usage yet again. The first bonus cut “Super Urus” is a solid trap/cloud rap hybrid admitting that he misses some hoe & the other “Y Not?” officially sends off the album with some plugg undertones talking about getting it out the mud.

Although I’d have to say Watch My Back & Freewave 3 are still my favorite projects from Lucki but nonetheless, Flawless Like Me still serves as a great full-length debut for Lucki & one that fans whether you’ve been with him since 2013 or now would both enjoy. I think the production is more varied than F1LTHY’s was as much as I enjoyed Wake Up Lucki last winter on top of some animated performances from the man himself. Curious to hear 2Neptune&Back whenever the time comes.

Score: 4/5

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SmooVth – “Project Near You” review

This is the 14th full-length album from Hempstead emcee SmooVth. Coming up as 1/2 of the duo Tha Connection alongside Hus Kingpin, he would also build an impressive solo discography for himself along the way with my personal favorites being just about everything that Giallo Point has ever done with him: Portrait of a Pimp, Medellin, the sequel to the latter Medellin II: Don Fabio & Amongst Wolves. But when it was revealed that Fredro Starr of the revered Queens duo Onyx was gonna behind the boards for Project Near You from beginning to end, my anticipation for it was very high considering that Q started making beats recently as well as Onyx vs. Everybody being the best thing that he & Sticky Fingaz have done together since the Snowgoons-produced SnowMads nearly 3 years back.

“Project” is a soulful opener vividly describing how it be in Hempstead whereas “The High” works in some pianos to talk about making a band. “That’z Us” brings some stellar vibraphones in the mix so that both parties can give it to you raw & uncut, but then Tha Connection links up for the piano/boom bap hybrid “Niggary” with both MCs spitting some gritty ass gangsta raps.

Meanwhile on “17 a Key”, we have SmooVth over a drumless loop getting on his pyrex shit leading into J.D. Era tagging along for the dreary “100 Up” talking about how no one can fuck with them even though J.D.’s verse has to be the weakest feature on the album with all respect. Fredro himself comes into the picture for the title track lacing some acoustics & dusty drums advising that they’ll be pulling up to a hood nearby just before “Straight A’s” brings back the keys looking back on being told he can’t get paid or laid.

The song “Imagine” shoots for a more tranquil aesthetic instrumentally providing food for thought while the penultimate track “Corner Pockets” returns to grimier territory talking about how ruff & rugged shit can get. “Sad & Blue” however ends the album with glossy beat & a sample of “La Di Da Di” by Slick Rick as SmooVth tells his audience that’s exactly how he’s feeling.

Now, if you happen to be a fan of both of these guys like I am, then I highly recommend giving Project Near You a listen because it’s one of my favorite SmooVth albums to date. The lyricism from him & nearly every feature takes you through the harsh realities of the Big Apple with Fredro’s continuing to refine his production game, as the shit he cooks up here is even better than what I heard on the last Onyx EP.

Score: 4/5

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Milano Constantine – “Pay the Ghost” review

This is the 5th full-length album from New York veteran Milano Constantine. Coming up in the early 2000s as a D.I.T.C. affiliate, it wouldn’t be until 2008 when he dropped his debut Sidewalk Stories & returned in 2015 with his debut mixtape The Believers. This was followed up with the Drum Majors-produced sophomore album The Way We Were along with the Oh Jay-produced Attache Case & the Showbiz-produced Boulevard Author, which is some of his best work in my opinion. However, I did enjoy his 2nd EP Eating But Still Hungry quite a bit when it came out a year & a half ago. So when it was announced that the revered underground producer Big Ghost Ltd. was hopping behind the boards for Pay the Ghost following up Milano’s last EP Block Work, anticipation going into it was very high for me personally.

“Church Service” is a bout of an uncanny way to start off the album lettin’ y’all know where you can see ‘em servin’ whereas “Target Practice” sonically feels like something out of a horror flick with Milano talking about painting the whole town red. The title track takes a more cinematic route saying that’s exactly what you gotta do sometimes, but then “Judge Mathis” itself is a piano/boom bap hybrid delivering some grimy criminology rap.

Continuing from there with “Parmigiano”, we have Crimeapple tagging along with Milano on top of some synthesizers & similar drums to the previous cut boasting their skills leading into the futuristic yet raw “Ghost Photo” getting on his gully shit lyrically. “Firewater” returns to the boom bap comparing his dialogue to such while the song “Lose You” dives into soulful turf with it’s sample along with some incredible wordplay referencing the likes of Sam Cooke & Al Green.

The penultimate track “Apex Predator” blends some pianos & synths bragging that he’s on the top of the food chain while Daniel Son & Rigz both come into the picture for “Mental Health”, which is a rugged closer to the album from the rugged beat to the vivid lyricism that all 3 MCs on the mic each have to offer individually.

Compared to the 2 EPs that Milano put out last year, Pay the Ghost is the best thing he’s put out in the 2020s thus far & a new favorite of mine in his ever-growing discography. Lyrically, the murals that Milano describes are extremely intricate & I really admire how Big Ghost decided to pull from both horror & 70s/80s sci-fi movies as far as production goes.

Score: 4/5

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H.A.R.D. – “Harbor City” review

This is the sophomore album from hardcore hip hop super-duo H.A.R.D. a.k.a. the Housing Authority Rap District. Consisting of Joell Ortiz & KXNG CROOKED, both these guys had notorious label issues at the start of their careers only to see success as members of the supergroup Slaughterhouse along with Royce da 5’9” & Joe Budden from the late 2000s up until the mid-2010s. The quartet had quietly disbanded in 2016 after Joe’s retirement from making music even though it wasn’t confirmed until 2 years later, but the other 3 members have been keeping themselves busy ever since. H.A.R.D. introduced themselves a couple months after the pandemic hit with an incredible eponymous debut EP followed by their full-length debut The Rise & Fall of Slaughterhouse earlier this spring. But as the 3rd quarter of the year draws to a close in a couple weeks, Crook & Joell are taking the world through Harbor City.

After the “Rookie’s 1st Dead Body” intro, the first song “Heat Wave” kicks off the album with a gospel-tinged instrumental to get into their hardcore bag whereas “Welcome to Harbor City” takes a more airier route thanks to DJ Silk talking about the titular California location. “Energy” works in a deadpan beat to describe how they walked out of the projects, but then “Drip Club” fuses a piano & a hi-hat for a party anthem.

Meanwhile on “Holy Water”, we have H.A.R.D. officer a flute-heavy trap instrumental talking about having permission to take a higher road leading into AZ tagging along for “Vibrate Higher” over some crooning boom bap production provided by The Heatmakerz dodging all the bullshit. “Brooklyn” is a rock-flavored Joell solo cut paying tribute to one of the biggest cities in NY & after the “BK LB Blend” interlude, “Community Center” blends some strings & congo drums reflecting on the days where you used to find them.

“Long Beach Blvd.” is of course a rugged KXNG CROOKED solo joint talking about his neck of the woods while “Pawnshop Jewelry” shoots for a jazzier aesthetic bragging that they have a waterfall full of diamonds. After the “Officer Pirelli Schools the Rookie” interlude, “911” has a more chaotic vibe airing out the biggest gang in America while “1-800-Get-Hard” & “Stop Playin’ with Kim” are 2 skits going up back-to-back with each other.Continuing from there with “Don’t Forget About Her”, H.A.R.D. jumps on top of a high-pitched sample vividly describing a woman who’s unforgettable while “Dead Body” following the “Nahdeadassyo” interlude ghoulishly paints the image of a corpse floating besides themselves.

After the “Pirelli Doesn’t Like Us!” interlude, “Underground” is a soulful Yaowa solo cut talking about getting what you gotta get & staying clear while the track “Ocean Terminal” with Lin-Manuel Miranda dives into calmer yet melodic territory providing inspirational lyricism. And prior to the “Who Shot Ya?” outro, “Game Over” is a gully finisher calling for everyone to quit snitching on themselves.

Now if you loved H.A.R.D.’s self-titled EP & their full-length debut like I did as someone who was a big fan of Slaughterhouse back in my teen years, then you’re gonna wanna check Harbor City out because it’s their 3rd consecutive banger together. I think the production on here is a bit better than Rise & Fall of Slaughterhouse, but I do admire that they took it back to the basics of self-titled as far as lyricism goes & I like how they bring in more features than they did on their earlier work. Also, I feel like the amount of “commercials” & “dialogues” were a bit excessive.

Score: 4/5

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Trizz – “Baseline Cavi” review

Trizz is a 30 year old MC from Los Angeles, California who first picked up a microphone at the age of 9. But it wasn’t until his late teens where he properly introduced himself to a wider audience in the form of his debut mixtape Suicide with No Note, which was followed up with New West & The Right to Bear Arms before being taken under the wing of Sacramento horrorcore veteran Brotha Lynch Hung by signing to Madesicc Muzicc for a brief period of time. He would later go on to drop 5 more tapes, 4 full-lengths, 5 EPs, 5 collab projects with Chuuwee, 1 with Flashy B & another with Sahtyre all within the last decade. But for his 5th album over here, he’s decided to bring in former Strange Music in-house producer 7 behind the boards from start to finish.

After the titular intro, “the inLAnd” kicks off the album with an incredible g-funk ode to Los Angeles whereas “Keep It a Buck” works in a trap instrumental with a weeping loop talking about being legit. “90210” comes through with a warm romance anthem with it’s acoustic instrumental & Bino Rideaux’s hook leading into the synth-funk “Shit Don’t Stop” flexing with an insane amount of charisma.

Meanwhile on “Summer Break”, we have Trizz delivering a mellow summertime bop just before “Tha Front Yard” brings back the g-funk talking about how people wanna be like him & the John Givez hook is pretty catchy. “Hollywood, Oh Hollywood” is a rich yet jazzy depiction of the titular city, but then “Red Headed Stepchild” kicks off with an eerie sample confessing he doesn’t even know how many time’s he’s been counted out.

T.F. & IceColdBishop both come into the picture for “Bless the Dead” with it’s soulful boom bap beat opening up about seeing their deceased colleagues looking at the sky tonight while the song “Crashed” fuses trap with rock spit reflecting on a car accident that he got into back when he had nothing. The penultimate track “Had to Do It Myself” is of course a spacey ode to self-hustle & to round it all off XV tags along for the cloudy “On & On” talking about a walking a path that never ends.

As someone who’s been rocking with Trizz for about a decade now, this is his most well-rounded body of work to date & one of the best West Coast albums I’ve heard all year. He gets a lot of his chest detailing his life in the City of Angels as far as lyricism goes with 7’s production being incredibly versatile pulling from g-funk, boom bap, rock, trap, synth-funk & jazz rap.

Score: 4.5/5

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Yeat – “Lyfë” review

Yeat is a 22 year old rapper from Portland, Oregon who out in 2018 off his debut EP Deep Blue $trips. This was followed up with 2 mixtapes & 3 more EPs, but he began dominating the mainstream in 2021 whether it be him dropping a total of 4 projects (2 mixtapes, an EP & a full-length debut) or cosigns from the likes of Drake & Earl Sweatshirt. He just dropped his sophomore effort albeit major label debut 2 Alivë under Geffen Records during the first quarter of 2022 & is commemorating the 1-year anniversary of Up 2 Më this weekend by dropping his 3rd album following the huge success of “Rich Minion” earlier this summer.

“Flawlëss” is an otherworldly trap opener with Yeat on the hook & a sole Lil Uzi Vert verse boasting their lifestyles whereas “Up off X” dives into rage territory talking about being wide awake at night due to taking ecstasy. “Out thë Way” has a more calmer vibe to it declaring himself to be the baddest, but then “Wat it feel lykë” works in some wailing synths & hi-hats to diss rats.

Meanwhile on “Got it all”, we have Yeat over a bass-line & snares to flex his wealth leading into “Can’t stop it” brings some rock undertones to the beat surprisingly refusing to quit going hard. “Krank” almost has a cinematic quality to the instrumental talking about geekin’ just before “Talk” returns to the hypertrap sound to deliver some braggadocious lyrics.

“Comë on” shoots for a more electronic aesthetic to it going for the necks of his competition while the song “Systëm” has a more darker tone sonically talking about the drugs hitting right. The penultimate track “Holy 1” is a cloudier cut detailing his mob ties & “Killin’ ‘ëm” sends off the album on a wavy yet deadpan note talking about coming from that dirty.

Considering that Geëk Pack was just a decent collection of microwaved 2 Alivë leftovers, I had no doubt that Lyfë was gonna expand on what made the predecessor the fun major label debut it is. Lo & behold, that’s what happened here. It’s refreshing to hear Yeat dabbling with some new sounds than last time & his knack for catchy songwriting remains unmatched.

Score: 3.5/5

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ΠΔV – “Demons Protected by Angels” review

ΠΔV is 32 year old rapper, singer, songwriter & producer from Toronto, Canada who came to my attention in 2016 after signing to The Weeknd’s very own Republic Records imprint X♥O Records & his verse/production on “beibs in the trap” off of Travis Scott’s sophomore effort Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight. Even though the first brown boy to get it poppin’ has dropped a total of 3 full-lengths along with a 5 mixtapes & an EP since, I think that it’s been made pretty clear that I personally haven’t been the biggest fan of ΠΔV’s music up to this point. Primarily because of his robotic delivery, insipid lyrics & generic production choices (especially on Reckless & Bad Habits). However I did find the Wheezy-produced Emergency Tsunami to be ΠΔV’s best work to date, albeit not by much. I also think he’s always been a pretty solid producer so when I found out he was gonna return behind the boards for his 4th album over here, it definitely had me intrigued.

“Count on Me” is a psychedelic opener produced by Mike Dean talking about self-trust whereas “Baby” takes a more symphonic route thanks to Boi-1da telling his girl to relax & play her part. Lil Uzi Vert tags along for “Dead Shot” comparing themselves to that of the DC Comics villain of the same name over an uninteresting Pro Logic instrumental, but then Lil Baby & Travis Scott come into the picture for synth-trap hybrid “Never Sleep”laced by Tay Keith talking about building their respective legacies.

Continuing from there with “Last of the Mohicans”, we have ΠΔV over a cloudy beat asking God to protect him & asking why he took Lil Keed this past spring prior to the Future-assisted “1 Time” coming through with an intoxicating Wheezy instrumental talking about smashing bitches. BenjiCold brings a rage vibe to “Demons in My Cup” resolving his problems with lean just before “Playa” with Gunna has a more meditative flare to it boasting.

“Weirdo” shoots for a more woozier aesthetic talking about your favorite rapper winking at him whenever he speaks while “My Dawg” with Lil Durk has an aquatic vibe to the beat discussing loyalty. “Don’t Compare” dives into more heady turf talking about giving his girl the real him while “Interstellar” with Uzi weaves some wailing synths into the fold saying everything they do invasive.

Meanwhile on “Loaded”, ΠΔV jumps over a rich trap beat bragging that all of his pocket have exploded while RealestK gives us the weakest feature on the album on “Lost Me” despite the piano instrumental & themes of betraying one’s trust. “Reset” with Bryson Tiller is of course a decent trap/R&B fusion expressing their desires to start their relationships from scratch while “Mismatch” with the current King of Detroit himself Babyface Ray finds the 2 over dense Wheezy production asking not to be judged for their past.

The song “Wrong Decisions” was another solid choice for a single with it’s cloudy instrumental & it’s subject matter detailing the cons of fame while the penultimate track “Destiny” keeps the spacious beats coming talking about being who he was meant to become. “Ball in Peace” however is maybe the best closing track of a ΠΔV project yet, as it serves as a heart-wrenching tribute to his homie jayxxclusive3 that passed away earlier this year.

Although I’m a little disappointed that it’s not primarily self-produced like he originally said it was gonna be because ΠΔV’s always been a great producer in my eyes, Demons Protected by Angels is a surprisingly decent listen & quite possibly his most consistent body of work thus far. The songwriting is getting better, he sounds less robotic & more human than he did on a lot of his earlier work, the production’s more detailed & almost every feature comes correct also. Fingers-crossed that he’ll continue to improve from here.

Score: 2.5/5

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Madopelli – “No Bluffin’” review

Madopelli is a California City-based duo consisting of M.A.D. & Ant Dog. The pair have gone on to drop a full-length debut as well as a couple of mixtapes & EPs ever since forming in 2016, with the last being Everybody’s Poison about a year & a half ago at this point. However after signing to Lyrikal Snuff Productionz this past spring, they’re returning with a sophomore effort backed by the Denver horrorcore powerhouse.

The title track is a trap-laced opener talking about buying themselves straps first thing in the morning with a raspy ass hook whereas “Shoot for the Stars” aggressively disses all of those who said they’ll never make it as far as they have with some great back & forth delivery. Lex the Hex Master tags along for the boom bap-laced “Perfect Chaos” talking about being on the roll, but then The Gorefather himself Scum comes into the picture for the haunting “Snuff Anthem” repping their crew.

Meanwhile on “Straight to the Underground”, we have Madopelli confessing the demons inside taking control of them over an atmospheric instrumental just before “Time is Lost” talking about that being the reason why they be looking up to a killa & the sample throughout is incredibly unique to me. “War is Coming” fuses trap with rock for a couple minutes ready for smoke leading into “Time to Ride” works in an organ talking about fucking the game up.

Insane Poetry accompanies the duo for the eldritch “A Killer’s Diary” getting in their wicked shit back prior to the song “Falling Off” has a more fiery flare to it talking about not taking any Ls anytime soon. The stripped back trap banger penultimate track “We Up Next” finds the duo celebrating the fact that it’s all from here & “Mission Complete” brings the organs back for 1 last hurrah talking about being known to rock stages time & time again.

If you haven’t heard these guys by now, then PLEASE give No Bluffin’ a listen because it’s another reminder of the amazing run that LSP’s been having this year. The production that M.A.D. & Tilli Mack cook up together is some of their craziest thus with the lyricism from the duo rightfully sounding ready to take on the world lyrically.

Score: 4/5

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Cappadonna – “3rd Chamber Grail Bars” review

Cappadonna is a 53 year old MC from New York City notable for being a member of the almighty Wu-Tang Clan since the mid/late 90s. His verse on “Winter Warz” is still regarded by many to this day to be one of the greatest verses in hip hop history & as much as I love his criminally underrated solo debut The Pillage, I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say with all respect that his solo discography since has been nothing short of inconsistent ranging to be mediocre at best & complete trash at worst. But when it was announced that underground veteran Stu Bangas was going behind the boards for Cappa’s 15th album right here, my expectations for it were very high considering that Stu has been on a ROLL for the past few years now producing projects for the likes of Ill Bill & Recognize Ali only to name a couple.

After the intro, the first song “Bring It Out” sets it all off with some braggadocio on top of some suspenseful boom bap production whereas “Get Lost” takes a more solemn route talking about how the Wu’s the hardest team. After the “Discovery” interlude, Celph Titled tags along for the horn-laced “Toss the Blick” to get on their hardcore shit just before “How We Rolling” dives into more playful turf talking about a fun night out.

Meanwhile on “Continuous Threat”, we have Planet Asia accompanying Cappa over a keyboard-driven boom bap instrumental spitting some lethal battle raps leading into Sick Jacken coming into the picture for the dusty “Everything is Measured” talking about how fly both of them are. The track “No Fake Dreads” following the “Redemption” interlude works in some more horns to get that bread & prior to the outro, the final song “Tryna Survive” with Ill Bill ends the album on an uncanny note talking about life in the projects.

All 3 of the singles that Cappa has dropped throughout the summer had me anticipating 3rd Chamber Grail Bars to be amongst his best solo albums yet & not only did it achieve that status, but it’s also my favorite project to come out of the Wu-Tang Clan anthology this year. Stu Bangas’ production is a breath of fresh air compared to most of Cappa’s output post-The Pillage & lyrically, he reminds everyone exactly who the fuck he is.

Score: 4/5

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Black Soprano Family Records – “Long Live DJ Shay” review

This is the 2nd showcase compilation from Buffalo independent hip hop label Black Soprano Family Records. Founded in 2016 by Benny the Butcher of Griselda fame, the roster has significantly grown throughout the years with the likes of Duffel Bag Hottie to Rick Hyde & even battle rap icon RJ Payne. The label has maintained a distribution deal with MNRK Music Group since everything was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic a couple summers back & put out an eponymous debut EP hosted by DJ Drama not too long after, but is following it up in the form of Long Live DJ Shay.

The intro kicks it all off with a sinister boom bap instrumental from the late DJ Shay himself & Fuego Base popping in during the last minute or so after a spoken word piece from Westside Gunn going at B$F’s opposition whereas “Shay Face” by Benny & Rick Hyde works in some piano chords to remind everyone of their authenticity. “297 Parkside” by Elcamino, Rick & Stove God Cook$ brings a high-pitched sample to the fold thanks to Camoflauge Monk paying homage to the titular street in NY prior to “Danger Zone” by Heem, O.T. the Real & Ricky grimly talking about spending many nights in the titular space.

Meanwhile on “Pandemic Flow”, we have Conway the Machine & Cory Gunz accompanying Rick Hyde over some spooky Uncle Al production to brag how crazy they go leading into the Heem solo cut “Bastard Child” declaring himself as such over a flute-tinged boom bap beat. After the “Sit Down with Preemo” skit, Benny returns alongside Heem & Ricky for the dusty “Times is Rough” laced by none other than DJ Premier confessing they’re running out of reasons to sympathize just before “Mustachios” by Boldy James, Chase Fetti & Heem brings a guitar & hi-hats into the fold talking about the mafia lifestyles they live.

“Li-Lo” by Elcamino, Krayzie Bone & Loveboat Luciano comes through with a summery love anthem & the song “Bigger B$F” by Armani Caesar, Benny, Heem & Rick following the “Respect to Shay” interlude sees the quartet ruggedly bragging about their increasing profile. The penultimate track “Brody” by Elcamino & Heem has a more soulful tone to it confessing that the streets made them who they are today with “Mr. Pyrex Man” by Benny ending the album with a glistening trap instrumental spitting that hustler shit.

If you enjoyed the self-titled EP that B$F put out a couple years ago, then you’re probably gonna like Long Live DJ Shay even more. The production has improved, everyone on the label roster sounds even hungrier than last time, the features are all well-picked out for a good majority of the album & I think it would all make Shay more than proud.

Score: 3.5/5

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