Lil Nas X – “Montero” review

Lil Nas X is a 21 year old rapper & singer-songwriter from Lithia Springs, Georgia who skyrocketed to stardom in 2019 of the novelty country rap banger “Old Town Road”. His debut EP 7 later that summer would later prove that he was no 1-hit wonder, especially with tracks like “Panini” & “Rodeo”. But since then (this year specifically), it’s safe to say that Nas X has made himself one of the most polarizing figures in hip hop today from his most recent music videos to some of his outfit choices at award shows which I’m not gonna get too deep into because people in the culture have been wearing questionable shit for a very long time now dating back to my all-time favorite producer Dr. Dre wearing lipstick on those World Class Wreckin’ Cru album covers & I don’t understand why people are acting like it’s new when it really isn’t. I guess I just contradicted myself there but let’s dive into this full-length debut of his over here, shall we?

The title track starts off the album with a catchy Flamenco pop/rap fusion with the help of Take a Daytrip telling his lover to call him when he needs him whereas “DEAD RIGHT NOW” works in some synths & snares going at a fraud. “INDUSTRY BABY” brings in some horns as he & Jack Harlow with co-production from Kanye West surprisingly declare themselves champions just before “THAT’S WHAT I WANT” goes into acoustic expressing his desire for love.

After the “ART OF REALIZATION” skit, we have Lil Nas X & Doja Cat coming together for the bouncy yet futuristic “SCOOP” talking about trying to be the daily for one another leading into the Elton John-assisted piano ballad “ONE OF ME” going at those who called him a 1-hit wonder. “LOST IN THE CITADEL” has a bit of a rock flare paying tribute to his guardian angel, but then Megan Thee Stallion pops up for the braggadicious & vibrant “$ SLIME”.

“TALES OF DOMINICA” has a bit of a summery feel instrumentally as he addresses his relationship with his mother whereas “SUN GOES DOWN” is a contemporary R&B cut talking to his younger self. “VOID” serves as a passionate note to a friend from the road while the song “DON’T WANT IT” serves as a moody look at the cons of fame. The penultimate track “LIFE AFTER SALEM” samples “Take What You Want” by Post Malone calling out someone he used to love & “AM I DREAMING?” is an acoustic duet with Miley Cyrus telling the listener to remember them.

Now I’m absolutely not one of these Karen’s spouting off about how “He’s confusing children, he’s a bad role model to them” because it should all really boil down to the quality of the music. That being said: I think this is a solid, respectable album. His versatility is undeniable as demonstrated on 7, but he expands it further & gets a bit more personal on the lyrical end.

Score: 3.5/5

The Brazy Bunch – “Written n Blood” review

The Brazy Bunch is a duo from Omaha, Nebraska consisting of A-Wax & King Iso. We’ve heard them a couple times throughout the year with songs like “At All” by Taebo the Truth or even “Bag Up” & “Blemish” off of A-Wax’s latest solo projects but after a small debacle revolved around the pair’s full-length debut Written n Blood getting pulled within hours of it’s initial release over the spring due to proper procedures not being followed by Iso’s current contract with Strange Music, they managed to work everything out with Travis O’Guin & officially drop it under the It Goes Up Entertainment subsidiary of the renown Kansas City label.

The acoustic/trap-tinged title track opens things up about how it’s their lives whereas “Ran Up” works in some sirens to speak on being chased by the cops. “Helpless” is a guitar ballad saying that money multiplied their problems just before the spacious materialistic ode “Slimy”.

Meanwhile on “Spain”, we have The Brazy Bunch somberly talking about revisiting the past even though it’s hurtful leading into them telling motherfuckers to get out of their feelings for the misty “Mad For”. The pianos on “Go Brazy” are pretty cool as they come through with a riot starter, but then “Measure It” serves as an ominous coke pusher’s theme surprisingly.

“Tears Dry” has a minimal beat going on about their bitches try’na fix what isn’t broken while “Time” is a much more downtrodden cut detailing going from their harder days to where they are now. “Flooded” continues the darker vibes saying they can’t scrub the blood on their hands whereas “Corrode” is an atmospheric cut about being paranoid that everyone is with the feds.

The keyboard passages on “So Strange” fit well given that they’re telling us that fame came with a cost leading into “Omaha”, which is a decent lil homage to their hometown. The song “Trip” is a cloud rap banger about never wishing jail on their brothers while the penultimate track “Fuck It Up” atmospherically details getting these bitches to trust them again. “Packin’” finally ends things with a foreboding theme about running up checks.

If you’re expecting more of that World War Me shit, then you’re gonna be disappointed. However, I think this is a solid debut nonetheless. King Iso’s production goes into more of that trap shit than he did on the last album & the chemistry with A-Wax is pretty unique as well.

Score: 3.5/5

ZillaKami – “Dogboy” review

ZillaKami is a 21 year old rapper & singer/songwriter from Islip, New York who originally came up as part of the punk band Scud Got Quayle. He later began ghostwriting for someone who’s name I refuse to acknowledge on my platform to leave it at that before forming City Morgue alongside SosMula & their honorary 3rd member/producer Thraxx. Together, they started to make a name for themselves in the fall of 2018 by uniquely fusing trap with metal on their full-length debut Hell or High Water. But just a month after Sos dropped his solo debut 13 Songs 2 Die 2 to mixed reception, it’s only right for Kami to step next at bat before the gang gets back together for Bottom of the Barrel at the end of the year.

“Chewing Gum!” is a ass-kicking trap/rock opened produced by Thraxx taking shots at a certain rat whereas “Chains” is a Hellish follow-up about choking betrayers with his ice. I can definitely see “Lemon Juice” getting the pits going with its lyrics about punching motherfuckers & it’s down-tuned guitar riff just before “Not Worth It” goes into grunge territory saying he doesn’t deserve everyone’s love.

Meanwhile on “Hello”, we have Kami paying homage to the iconic Nirvana joint “Smells Like Teen Spirit” leading into Denzel Curry tagging along for the emo-tinged “Bleach”. I think the chaotic Suffolk County homage that “631 Made Me” delivers does a great job at showing us his upbringings, but then “I.H.Y. (I Hate You)” serves as a distorted “fuck the world” theme.

“Badass” has a bit of a nu metal flare to it with Lil Uzi Vert coming into the picture to help declare themselves as such & after the “Tactical Nuke” interlude, “Nissan Only” aggressively gets in his shooter bag just before “Black Cats” comes off as another Nirvana tribute.

The song “dedgrl” is a downtrodden story about a broken woman killing herself while the penultimate track “Frosty” goes into alt-rock turf detailing ZillaKami’s very own depression. “Space Cowboy” then ends the album with grungy tribute to his fallen homie.

I was a bit worried given how mediocre 13 Songs 2 Die 2 was, but he really came through with it. He sticks to the trap metal sound that City Morgue came up on with the exception of the alt-rock/grunge shit, but his songwriting is much better & I like how he only brought in 2 features rather than having one on damn near every joint.

Score: 3.5/5

Cymarshall Law – “I Still Love H.E.R.” review

Cymarshall Law is a 40 year old MC from Burlington, New Jersey who emerged back in ‘04 as part of the duo Power Man & Iron Fist alongside the late Pumpkinhead. However it wasn’t until 3 years later where he branched out on his own off the full-length debut Hip Hop in the Flesh, which was followed up by the Hip Hop in the Soul trilogy & Freedom Express. He’s made a handful since, but is returning in full effect for his 11th album.

“Intro to H.E.R.” begins things with a bit of a plinky instrumental saying he’s still here because of his dedication to the culture whereas “MF Law” has a bit of a Tribe feel to it reiterating the JAY-Z line “Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?”. The title track with Venomous2000 & Kafeeno is basically his own rendition of the Common joint “I Used to Love H.E.R.” just before the self-explanatory “4 Jersey” pays homage to Law’s home state on top of a heavenly instrumental.

Meanwhile on “The Innocence of Love”, we have Kafeeno returning alongside Dynasty for a sensual R&B-tinged cut leading into U.G. taking Dynasty’s spot for the tense “For the Love (No Cap)” talking about the future. After the “Voice of Hip Hop” interlude, “The Normal New (Growing Up in the Pandemic)” richly details how he’s been living with the post-COVID world & “Electric B-Boy” is fresh ass anthem for the breakdancers out there.

The song “The Incredibles” with Grafh finds the 2 on top of an organ loop to start going at their opposition’s throats while the penultimate track “Creators” is easily the most motivational one on the entire album & the production really kicks the emotion up. “Spit It Dad (King’s Revenge)” ends with a 3-minute barfest with a dusty ass beat.

This dude has damn near a dozen albums under his belt already after being in it for almost 2 decades, but I Still Love H.E.R. is definitely amongst his best. You can easily tell the dude was having fun spitting again given how animated his performances are & the vintage production is also much appreciated.

Score: 4/5

Twiztid – “Unlikely Prescription” review

Twiztid is a hip hop duo from Detroit, Michigan consisting of Jamie Madrox & Monoxide, both of whom originally started out as part of the House of Krazees alongside childhood friend The R.O.C. in 1992 before their initial disbandment 5 years later. Almost immediately after, the Insane Clown Posse took Jamie & Mono under their wings by signing them to Psychopathic Records as the demented duo they’re known as today. They would become the label’s 2nd biggest act being their mentors off projects like Mostasteless, Freek Show, Mirror Mirror, The Green Book, W.I.C.K.E.D. (Wish I Could Kill Every Day) & Abominationz. Shortly after the latter was released, Twiztid left Psychopathic to form Majik Ninja Entertainment in 2014. Since then they’ve released 5 albums & 4 EPs on their own label, my favorite of which being Revelashen. But for their 15th full-length right here, Jamie & Mono are making a complete stylistic departure from the horrorcore sound they became known for.

“Corkscrew” is an electronic rock opener produced by A Danger Within talking about breaking down & asking for God to forgive them whereas “Twist & Shatter” gets on some emo shit talking about pulling apart again. “Broken Heart” goes into industrial rock territory with the help of drummer Drayven Davidson addressing an ex, but then “Confused” has a bit of an airy backdrop during the verses as the guitars dominate the majority of it. Lyrically, they’re talking about going from being hated to being famous.

Meanwhile on “Neon Vamp”, we have Cradle of Filth frontman Dani Filth joining Twiztid for a blatantly pure industrial hip hop banger encouraging the listener to go crazy leading into the hard rock banger “Comes with an Apology” talking about dealing with life until they’re gone. “Rose Petal” fuses together industrial music & rap metal going at the throats of judgmental people, but then “Dead Instead” has some killer guitar work despite the verses being mixed low & I appreciate the message of metaphorical walls closing in their minds.

“Parasite” has these infectiously catchy riffs as Jamie & Mono say they’ll never conform whereas the ScatteredBrains-produced “Perfect Problem” has to be my favorite on the album, being a straight up rap rock riot starter declaring themselves as such. “If I Get Things Right” asks to stop with the pretending on top of some killer drums & the hook one of the catchiest on the album, but “More Than a Memory” somberly tells the listener to remember their names in the end.

The song “Envy” is basically a mediocre attempt at a radio rock hit even though I can commend the message about how jealously can be the end of someone while the 7-produced penultimate track “No Change” with Matt Brandyberry sounds like a cheesy entrance theme you’d hear on WWE nowadays. “World of Pretend” ends the album on a victorious note, with Twiztid talking about what it feels like when you’re reeled into such.

These guys have ALWAYS had elements of rock in their music but now that they took on that sound for the length of an entire album, I’m on the fence with it. Half of these joints actually sound really good & the other doesn’t do all that much for me personally. That being said: I am looking forward to the album produced by Zeuss because he did a great job on the mastering, so I have a feeling he’s gonna help refine the style of rock Jamie & Mono wanna go into. Hopefully they give us more shit like “Empty”, “Wrong with Me”, “Alone”, “Darkness” & “Familiar”.

Score: 2.5/5

Baby Keem – “The Melodic Blue” review

Baby Keem is a 20 year old rapper, singer, songwriter & producer from Carson, California who actually happens to be Kendrick Lamar’s younger cousin. He’s gone on to drop 4 EPs & 2 mixtapes in the last few years, with his sophomore tape Die for My Bitch being the one that helped boost him to the point where he rightfully earned a spot on the 2020 XXL Freshman Class. But now after signing to K. Dot’s newly formed pgLang with distribution from Columbia Records we’re finally being treated to a full-length debut from the promising West Coast up-&-comer.

“trademark usa” starts off the album by shouting out the dead & a forboading Frank Dukes instrumental, but switches up into something more vibrant & Keem saying he’s the same dude in 48 states. The self-produced “pink panties” is a funky lust tune whereas “scapegoats” takes a more soulful turn telling us he thought there was redemption in the 4 ethers. Kendrick blesses us for the boisterous “range brothers” despite the tedious “top of the morning” refrain with a dope beat switch from the help of 30 Roc towards the last minute & a half leading into “issues” taking a more minimalistic sound opening up about the memories of certain people in his life.

Meanwhile on “gorgeous”, we have Keem telling his bitch that she’s a dime on top of a synth-heavy Cardo instrumental just before the piano-laced “south africa” is essentially about him & his girl both having the money. “lost souls” moodily declares all these hoes as such with an equally catchy outro telling his woman that he’s on her side, but then Don Toliver tags along for the playful club banger “cocoa”.

I love how “family ties” begins with bringing in these horns for Keem’s verse & later taking a grimier turn for Kendrick to smoke your top 5 while “scars” climatically asks God why life is so hard. “durag activity” obviously takes a psychedelic route as Travis Scott comes into the picture flexing their wealth whereas “booman” has a jazzier vibe talking about being a barbarian.

The song “first order of business” has a bit of a more ambient sound talking about loyalty & gratitude while the penultimate track “vent” brings Kendrick back one last time to viciously ask if you’ve ever been punched dead in the face. “16” then ends the album by asking his girl won’t she think about them & the beat from DJ Dahi is danceable as fuck.

I’ve always suggested to check out Die for My Bitch for those who’ve never heard of Keem, but now I have to recommend The Melodic Blue because he really outdid himself on here. His lyrical skills have increased as did his production & his versatility from the energetic hip hop joints to the infectious R&B cuts is really admirable.

Score: 4/5

Gift of Gab – “Finding Inspiration Somehow” review

Gift of Gab was a 50 year old MC from Sacramento, California who came up as 1/2 of the duo Blackalicious & a member of the Quannum Projects collective almost 3 decades ago. However, it wasn’t until the spring of 2004 when he broke out solo by dropping 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up. This was followed up with Escape 2 Mars as well as The Next Logical Progression & Rejoice! Rappers Are Rapping Again! but with his passing over the summer, he was able to complete 1 last album & Nature Sounds is now putting it out.

After the intro, the first song “Slaugtah Dem (Godly)” has a thunderous instrumental with Gab getting in his battle rap bag whereas “Going Farther” works in a boom bap instrumental with some plinky keys & the title basically speaks for itself in terms of content. “The Gentrification Song” has a moodier sound addressing his feelings on the process of changing the character of a neighborhood through the influx of more wealthy residents & businesses just before “You Gon’ Make It in the End” with Lateef the Truthspeaker & Vursatyl is a touching moment on the album telling the listeners to push on.

Meanwhile for “Vice Grip”, we have Gift of Gab switching in between rhyme schemes over an explosive beat from Nick Andre leading into him describing “The World Without Money” & the instrumental is funky as Hell. I like the atmospheric shift on “Alchemy” as Gab tells the listener to keep it going, but “Enter the Dragon” has a more cinematic sound ascending to another level.

“A Weekend in Venice” is more of an R&B-tinged interlude while the song “The Idea of America” has a funnier sound with Gab continuing the streams of consciousness. The penultimate track “Breathe In” is a more tropical cut saying all you need is love & then “Back to the Light” couldn’t have ended the album any better by providing a beautiful glimmer of hope despite the dark days.

Overall, I think Finding Inspiration Somehow is a bittersweet swan song from the late Sacramento emcee. It showcases why a truly one of a kind lyricist lyricist he was, the production’s on point & I love the miniminal amount of guest MCs being featured. Just exactly how he would’ve wanted it to be.

Score: 4/5

Common – “A Beautiful Revolution 2” review

Common is a 49 year old MC, actor & writer from Chicago, Illinois who first emerged 3 decades back by being featured in the Unsigned Hype column of The Source back in the publication’s heyday & resulted in a 3-album deal with Relativity Records shortly after. Can I Borrow a Dollar? was a solid debut even though you can tell that he still hadn’t come into his own yet, but embraced the conscious hip hop that became universally known for with his next 2 albums Resurrection & One Day It’ll All Make Sense. However once we entered the new millennium, Common ended up signing to MCA Records for 2 albums: his magnum opus Like Water for Chocolate & the experimental Electric Circus. The label then dissolved at the beginning of 2003 & he jumped ship to G.O.O.D. Music/Geffen Records. His debut under Kanye West’s then-newly formed label Be received universal acclaim, but Finding Forever was a respectable follow-up & I can’t really say the same for the hip house-centered Universal Mind Control. After his contract with G.O.O.D./Geffen was fulfilled, he decided to reunite with No I.D. & drop The Dreamer/The Believer under Warner Records before Immenslope was granted his own Def Jam Recordings imprint ARTium Recordings. Nobody’s Smiling was a great response to the ever-increasing crime rate in his hometown & the Karriem Riggins-produced Black America Again was even greater given that it was revolves around the 2016 presidential election. But it’s safe to say that Common has been making himself home at Loma Vista Recordings & sticking with Karriem on the production end of things these last couple years, as proven on his previous album Let Love & his debut EP A Beautiful Revolution. However with the 1-year anniversary of the latter approaching at the end of next month, the Chicago/Detroit emcee/producer duo are dropping a sequel in the form of Com’s 13th full-length outing.

After the “Push Out the Noise” intro, the first song “A Beautiful Chicago Kid” is a funky kickstart to the album saying he manifests everything that you see whereas “When We Move” with Black Thought has a groovy instrumental talking about the world following their path. “Set It Free” has a more summery vibe talking about being you just before “Majesty (Where We Gonna Take It?)” serves as a seductive love tune.

Meanwhile on “Poetry”, we have these twangy guitar licks with Com advising to never question the motive leading into the boom bap-tinged “Saving Grace” with the lyrics of course getting spiritual. “Star of the Gang” keeps the dusty drums in motion saying he’s fortunate even though he’s been through a lot while the penultimate song “Imagine” speaks on a paradise over a sample of “Imaginary Playmates” by René & Angela. And before the “!” outro, “Get It Right” ends the album on an uptempo note saying be patient because good things happen in time.

As much as I enjoyed the predecessor, I think the sequel is better. In comparison to the EP tackling all the bullshit that transpired in 2020, the full-length sequel picks up right where things left off & provides the listeners optimism for a brighter day which is perfect given that states are opening back up completely.

Score: 4/5

AZ – “Doe or Die II” review

AZ is a 49 year old MC from Brooklyn, New York most notable for his longtime association with Nas, being the only feature on the latter’s iconic debut album illmatic with the song “Life’s a Bitch”. He would later go to signing with EMI Records & drop a full-length of his own Doe or Die little over a year later, which is one of the greatest mafioso hip hop albums of all time. Other standouts in his discography include Pieces of a Man, Aziatic, A.W.O.L. & The Format. Last time we heard from AZ was in 2009 when he released Legendary to mixed reception but after a 12 year hiatus, he’s returning with a promising sequel to the album that started it all.

After the “Conversations with God” intro, the first song “Just 4 U” has a rich instrumental from B!nk by paying tribute to the listener whereas “The Wheel” is a boom bap duet with Jahiem produced by DJ KG telling Heaven to help them because they’re still caught in a metaphorical wheel. Baby Paul helps take things to a dustier route on “Keep It Real” paying tribute to those who keep it 100 leading into the jazzy “Never Enough”, where AZ & Rick Ross get on their mafioso shit.

Meanwhile for “Different”, we have a classy celebration of life just before Conway the Machine & Lil Wayne assist the barfest that is “Ritual” with a grimy instrumental from none other than The Alchemist. Things than take a churchy turn with the help of Buckwild for AZ & Dave East to flex their wealth on “Blow That Shit”, but then declares himself as “Bulletproof” with a glistening boom bap beat accompanying him.

Pete Rock brings in an eargasmic vocal sample for “Check Me Out” flexing AZ’s rapping prowess while the song “Time to Answer” responds to those asking him what’s the hold up with his new music & of course The Heatmakerz stick to their signature chipmunk soul sound. The penultimate track “Found My Niche” lyrically needs no further explanation with a spacious boom bap instrumental from The Czar-Keys & the Rockwilder-produced “What’s Good” is a rich closer asking if you’re living or dying.

In the grand scheme of sequel albums, Doe or Die II absolutely lived up to the hype of the original & was well worth the 12 year wait. Hell, I’ll even go as far to say it’s a tad bit better than King’s Disease II. AZ spitting that grown man shit like he never left, the features all come correct & the production is a lot more detailed than it was on Legendary.

Score: 4.5/5

Yeat – “Up 2 Më” review

This is the 3rd full-length album from Portland rapper Yeat. Breaking out in 2018 off his debut EP Deep Blue Strips, he would go on to follow it up the next year with his debut mixtape I’m So Me. Then after dropping We Us, & Hold On that, it’s safe to say that 2021 is his biggest year yet. Especially given the success of Alivë & 4L. But now with a month since putting out Trëndi & earning a co-sign from Drake, he’s continuing the hustle with Up 2 Më.

“C’mon” is a cloudy opener about killing pussy whereas “Morning mudd” works in some synthesizers to say he had to get up & chase a bag. “Got rich” has a bit of a Pi’erre type instrumental with Yeat bragging about his newfound wealth just before “Lët ya know” has a more futuristic sound telling us this might be his last song.

Meanwhile on “Stayëd tha same”, we have Yeat jumping on top of some snares & bells to talk about never switching up despite his recent success leading into “Gët Busy” having a bit of a retro video game feel in the beat with boastful lyrics. “Rokstar” boisterously details his new lifestyle, but then SeptembersRich tags along for the rubbery “Trëndy way” talking about how they do shit.

“Swërved It” has some incredible organ harmonies talking about calling out those fronting on him while “Ya Ya” mixes a bass-line higher than the synths answering “yes” to all these questions people been asking him. “U could “tëll” grimly proclaims his top dog status whereas “Factz” brings in a flute saying he didn’t get this shit for free. “ Bak on ‘ëm” takes a murkier direction speaking on being in a rich climate, but then the instrumental “Hëy” brings to table sounds more robotic & Yeat taking about punching these bitches off the Earth.

“Turban” has a more chaotic sound continuing to detail where he is now leading into the unhinged “Twizzy Rich” proclaiming it’s all on him. The wobbly instrumental on “Told ya” is dope with Yeat saying he just caught the vibe, but then the rubbery synth banger “Monëy so big” needs no further explanation.

“Dëserve it” brings back the bells to speak on needing it all while the song “K’ant changë” is a rowdier cut continuing the theme of not letting fame get to him. The penultimate track “Callin’ më” serves as a response to the labels & old friends/bitches contacting him again now that he’s famous & then “Lying 4 fun” is a skeletal closer telling us he’s livin’ life just how he dreamed of it.

Even though I’d have to say 4L & Trëndi are his finest bodies of work to date, I think Up 2 Më continues to build up to Yeat’s hype. I could’ve done without like 5-6 joints & some of them could’ve been more fleshed out, but his unique personality is still shining as bright as it ever did.

Score: 3.5/5