Fivio Foreign – “B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth)” review

Fivio Foreign is a 32 year old rapper from Brooklyn, New York who happens to be a protege of former Bad Boy signee Ma$e. He would go on to sign to the pastor’s Columbia Records imprint RichFish Records & has since dropped only 2 EPs: Pain & Love and 800 B.C.. Now truthfully, I didn’t get introduced to Fivio until I heard his verse on “Demons” off of Drake’s 6th mixtape Dark Lane Demo Tapes a couple years back & just wasn’t impressed at all. But when I heard his verse on “Off the Grid” off Kanye West’s final Def Jam album DONDA last summer, I was highly impressed & I can say the same for his recent singles. Needless to say: My anticipation for Fivio’s full-length debut was very much there. Even more so after learning he got Ye to executive produce it & Mike Dean to do all the engineering.

“On God” is a drumless duet with KayCyy talking about having each other if all else fails whereas “Through the Fire” samples the Chaka Kahn joint of the same name as he & Quavo fight their demons. “Magic City” goes into drill territory as he & Quavo talk about partying, but then “City of Gods” with Kanye follows it up with an incredibly fun dedication to the Big Apple.

Meanwhile on “What’s My Name?”, we have Fivio as well as Coi Leray & Queen Naija over a sample of “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child for a romance ballad just before “For Nothin’” has a folkier vibe talking about having a shooter. “Hello” takes a syrupy route talking about looking for a lady like her leading into the A$AP Rocky-assisted “Confidence”, which is basically a 2 minute braggadocious banger.

Lil Yachty tags along for the apocalyptic “Slime Them” displaying an impressive back & forth chemistry with Fivio while “Feel My Struggle” works in a high pitched vocal sample detailing the hardships that he had to face. Yung Bleu’s verse on “World Watching” is one of the weakest features on the album even though Lil Tjay’s verse was decent & Fivio obviously stole the show. The Ellie Goulding sample is but after the “B.I.B.L.E. Talk” interlude, “Changed on Me” with Polo Gis a glorious shot at those who switched up on them.

Following that, “Left Side” follows it up with a boring gangsta love jam down to the redundant Blueface verse while “Love Songs” heavily samples “So Sick” by Ne-Yo & the latter actually appears on here for a sequel to the ‘06 hit. The penultimate track “Whoever” incorporates some choir vocals to deliver an open letter to anyone & finally, “Can’t Be Us” is an emotional closer talking about what makes him a man.

B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth) isn’t the most mind-blowing debut I’ve heard all year, but it did finally win me over on Fivio because I do enjoy a good portion of what I’ve heard. The features are alright, but the Brooklyn drill sound he came up on is more refined & I admire how he’s basically putting his life experiences on wax.

Score: 3.5/5

Polo G – “Hall of Fame 2.0” review

This is the 4th full-length album from Chicago rapper, singer, songwriter & record executive Polo G. Rising to prominence a couple years ago off his debut album Die a Legend which I personally found it to be decent, it wasn’t until the sophomore effort The GOAT a year & a half ago at this point where I noticed some significant improvements. He just dropped Hall of Fame this past spring & is now quick to follow it up with a sequel.

“Bad Man (Smooth Criminal)” is a brief yet clever opener paying homage to the late, great Michael Jackson whereas the Lil Baby-assisted “Don’t Play” mixes some snares with a vibraphone very well as both of them talk about being a problem. “Start Up Again” with Moneybagg Yo is a short & mid gangsta rap theme, but then “Heating Up” takes another jab at it actually sounding more threatening despite YungLiV’s wack ass feature.

Meanwhile on “Black Man in America”, we have Polo successfully delivering what could possibly be his most conscious song yet just before “Young n Dumb” serves as a raw & emotional depicting the live in the slums. “Unapologetic” has a more atmospheric tone & Polo’s verse is catchy even though I can’t say the same for NLE Choppa’s leading into the 2-minute rock-infused “Fortnight” telling his lover he’d die for her which I wish was about another minute or 2 longer.

“Decisions” goes into a more acoustic direction melodically asking if he can count on this woman whereas “With You” brings in a skeletal yet moody beat saying the hardest thing is to sacrifice & lose”. Things go back into acoustic territory for the weak breakup ode “Partin’ Ways” & the same applies to “Suicide”, except Polo & Lil Tjay are talking about people trying to go up against them.

The penultimate track “Piano G” perfectly lives up to it’s name with a rich beat tugging at the heart strings & Polo admitting he was in denial running from reality, but “Alright” ends the album on a more optimistic note with some more acoustic passages & encouraging the listeners that everything will be ok in the end.

Compared to the predecessor, this is a bit of a decent sequel. The first leg starts off pretty solidly & I appreciate that Polo continues to make him sound different from everyone else in the trap landscape, but the latter half (especially all the forced lovey dovey shit) is a bit of a mess.

Score: 3/5

Lil Peep – “High Fashion” review

This is a brand new posthumous EP from Long Island rapper, singer/songwriter & model Lil Peep. Blowing up in late 2016 with the release of his 4th mixtape Hellboy & then following it with his debut album Come Over When You’re Sober last summer, I can see why it connected with a couple of my friends even though I found both of them to be underwhelming. Unfortunately though, Lil Peep passed away just 2 weeks after his 21st birthday of an accidental fentanyl–xanax overdose right before a show in Tucson, Arizona. The rights of his unreleased music were then given to Columbia Records, who dropped a sequel to the full-length debut showing some improvements compared to his early work. But with Harry Fraud announcing High Fashion earlier this week, he & Columbia have managed to put it out there for the public.

“Choose” is a great opener to the EP accompanied by a pillowy instrumental & Peep calling out a woman who’s lying about being in love with him while the penultimate track “Old Me” follows it up with an acoustic cut chillingly looks back on the person that he used to be prior to his untimely death. Finally, the closer “Living Rooms” sends off the EP with a slow guitar ballad venting about the drug addiction that costed him his life.

I was immediately drawn in when I saw Harry Fraud was involved & at the end of the day, I think High Fashion is amongst some of the best material of Peep’s career. Much like Tierra Whack’s new EP RAP?, I feel like it could’ve used at least a couple more songs but I’m not totally sure if I can blame that on anyone because who knows if they have any more material together? Nonetheless, both parties compliment reach other well.

Score: 3.5/5

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

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

Nelly – “Heartland” review

Nelly is a 46 year old rapper, singer-songwriter & entrepreneur from St. Louis, Missouri who skyrocketed to fame a little over 2 decades back by dropping his debut Country Grammar. His next 2 albums Nellyville & Sweatsuit were just as solid but since then, the quality of his music has taken a drastic nosedive. But after taking an 8 year hiatus following M.O., the dude is coming back in effect for his 7th full-length outing.

“Lil Bit” with Florida Georgia Line kicks things off with a hideous bro-country tune that really sets the tone for the album if you really think about it in the grand scheme of things, because “High Horse” takes a dancier tone telling their ladies to drop it on them. “Grits & Glamour” with Kane Brown sappily proclaims being a mix of hood & country just before City Spud & Darius Rucker tag along to fuse acoustics & trap to tell the story of “Ms. Drive Me Crazy”.

Meanwhile on “Country Boy Do” with Tyler Hubbard is a guitar driven ballad about growing up in the south leading into “Someone Somewhere” with George Birge takes a summery turn saying “everybody’s gotta miss somebody”. The penultimate song 5 Drinks Ago” boringly opens up about having his phone taken away while being drunk & even though “Good Times Roll” with Jimmie Allen is technically a bonus cut, the actual closer “Follow Me” with Chris Bandi ends the album with a glossy anthem about a place where we all gon’ shine.

I’m not against country music at all because I happen to be a huge Johnny Cash fan & I don’t hate the country rap subgenre either, as I enjoyed projects like Trial by Fire or even Big B’s last album Welcome to the Club. That being said, Heartland is unquestionably the worst thing Nelly has ever done. Primarily because 95% of the country/hip hop fusions he tries to pull of seem forced.

Score: 1/5

Tyler, The Creator – “Call Me If You Get Lost” review

Tyler, The Creator is a 30 year old rapper, singer, songwriter, producer, actor, visual artist, designer & comedian from Ladera Heights, California blowing up a decade ago as the de facto leader of Odd Future. His evolution both artistically & personally since the collective’s disbandment in 2015 has truly been amongst the most fascinating ones I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime, going from the bratty edginess of Bastard & Goblin to the undeniable maturity & versatility shown on Flower Boy & Igor. I have a lot of fond memories of Tyler’s early work back in middle school/early high school, but I do think his last 2 albums are his best ones yet musically. That being said, I’ve been waiting all year for this day to come & I’m thrilled that it has.

“Sir Baudliere” starts off by introducing us to the Tyler Baudliere character over a sample of “Michael Irvin” by Westside Gunn whereas “Corso” serves as an off-the-wall follow-up “talkin’ that fresh shit”. “Lemonhead” with 42 Dugg of all people has a grimy ass instrumental & the 2 are just flexing, but then “Wusyaname” with YoungBoy Never Broke Again samples “Back Seat (Wit No Sheets)” by H-Town & details falling in love with a woman they just met.

Meanwhile on “Lumberjack”, Tyler takes it back to the “Yonkers” days with it’s boom bap production sampling the Gravediggaz just before he & Lil Wayne jump on a flute heavy beat for “Hot Wind Blows” to talk about landing in Geneva as well as reminiscing on leaving LA for the first time on the spacey “Massa”. Following this is the triumphant spending anthem “Runitup” & after that, Domo Genesis reunites with T on “Manifesto” saying people are fake mad on top of samples of both Jimmy Smith & Nas.

“Sweet” starts off as a neo-soul cut telling this woman how much he loves her with the 2nd half “I Thought You Wanted to Dance” is a duet with Fana Hues that I almost wanna say goes into reggae territory. After the “Momma Talk” skit, DAISY comes in to picture to clap back at their non-believers on the glossy boom bap banger “Rise!” co-produced by Jamie xx leading into the “Blessed” interlude.

The song “Juggernaut” with Lil Uzi Vert & Pharrell is a bombastic homage to the iconic Gucci Mane joint “Lemonade” while the penultimate track “Wilshire” works in some dusty drums & mellow synths speaking on a failed relationship he had with his homie’s girl for damn near 9 minutes. Finally, the closer “Safari” triumphantly speaks on his influence & impact on music featuring co-production from Jay Versace.

Every album Tyler has ever put out sounds completely different than one another & Call Me If You Get Lost is a fine addition to his discography. He goes back into a more hip hop-based sound in comparison to the poppy vibes of IGOR, but it feels like a throwback to the Gangsta Grillz mixtape days with DJ Drama’s narrations & dude is at his best in terms of the bars on here.

Score: 4.5/5

Polo G – “Hall of Fame” review

Polo G is a 22 year old rapper, singer, songwriter & record executive from Chicago, Illinois rising to prominence a couple years ago off his debut album Die a Legend. I personally found it to be decent as a whole, but heard major improvements on the sophomore effort The GOAT last spring. And now with another year going by, Polo is coming through with his highly anticipated 3rd album.

“Painting Pictures” starts the album off as an endearing homage to Lil Wooski whereas the Einer Bankz-produced “Rapstar” works in a ukulele as Polo talks about his newfound fame. Lil Durk tags along to help say they ain’t ever going back to being broke on the weepy “No Return” even though The Kid Laroi’s hook is wimpy as fuck but on “Toxic”, the instrumental has a grungier feel to it as he tells his girl he prefers the streets over her.

Meanwhile on “Epidemic”, we get a glistening piano loop with Polo rapping about how he bleeds mob ties before he & Lil Wayne talk about having the game on lock for the euphorically-produced “Gang Gang”. We go into a more atmospheric direction on the braggadocious “Boom” while the twangy “Black Hearted” speaks on disloyalty.

“Broken Guitars” has an ambitious trap rock fusion in the beat despite the horrible Scorey verse near the end while “Give No Fuck (OKOKOK)” is a drill banger detailing life as a gang member. G Herbo goes back & forth with Polo about wishing for a hero on the icy “Go” while the Rod Wave-featured “Heart of a Giant” has a luxurious instrumental with the 2 talk about being big-hearted people.

Moving on from there, “Zooted” is a off-the-top freestyle with a polished beat whereas “Party Lyfe” with DaBaby is a perfect summertime theme. Wheezy comes through with a reversed loop on the Young Thug-assisted “Losses” as both of them remind listeners that they were cut from a different cloth while “So Real” is a country trap joint showing Polo’s vulnerability.

The song “Fame & Riches” with [Roddy Ricch] is an acoustic tune about them living lawless & “For the Love of New York” is a horrendously tropical romance duet with Nicki Minaj. The penultimate track “Clueless” with Fivio Foreign & the late Pop Smoke goes back into drill territory with the lyrics being about staying true to themselves, but then the closer “Bloody Canvas” vividly details a 14 year old named Ced getting involved in criminal activity & getting 25 years in prison.

If anyone isn’t familiar with this dude & is going into it expecting your average run of the mill trap album, guess again because he’s only getting closer & closer to his true potential at this point. The sounds Polo G adventures into are incredibly diverse & lyrically, I feel like he’s at his best.

Score: 3.5/5

Lil Tjay – “Destined 2 Win” review

Lil Tjay is a 19 year old rapper, singer & songwriter from The Bronx, New York that got his start by releasing singles on SoundCloud in 2017. This resulted in him signing to Columbia Records the following year & since then, Tjay has dropped a full-length debut as well as 3 EPs. But coming fresh off the 2020 XXL Freshman Class last summer, the kid is following it up by putting out a sophomore album.

The titular opener heavily samples “Who Gets Your Love?” by Margie Joseph as Tjay pretty much says he won’t stop until he comes out on top, but then the next song “Born 2 Be Great” is a dysphoric-sounding ballad about him not letting anyone say he ain’t shit. “Call My Phone” with 6LACK serves as a boring R&B crooner about them being unable to get these women off their mind whereas “What You Wanna Do?” opens up about being sick of playing games with his lover over an instrumental sampling “ONE MAN ARMY” by Melvoni.

The song “Hood Rich” is a piano trap banger with lyrics about his hopes of wanting to accomplish something while “Oh Well” continues to delve into the sounds of the previous cut except Tjay is spitting some gang shit. “Headshot” with Polo G & Fivio Foreign goes into a more violin/drill direction as the trio brag & get malevolent whereas “Gang Gang” piggybacks off keyboard loops as he reps his squad.

The track “Go Crazy” proclaims himself as a progressor over a signature 808 Melo instrumental while “Irregular Love” is a minimally-produced pop rap joint about how his relationship is abnormal. The song “Move” doesn’t sound too bad given the raunchy lyrics that Saweetie & Tyga deliver alongside the stripped-back trap beat from OG Parker & G-Ry, but it didn’t need to be on this album since Tjay hardly has any presence in it.

“Slow Down” expresses a desire to get to know your lover with a cloud rap instrumental from Cassius Jay, but then “Love Hurts” is a tedious anthem about making a relationship work & the Toosii verse doesn’t help either. The song “Run It Up” with Moneybagg Yo & Offset is of course a bland, materialism tune whereas the jangly “Part of the Plan” speaks about focusing on music.

“No Cap” speaks from the heart albeit the instrumental is comatose as Hell while “Life Changed” is an airily-produced joint about moving on to better things. “Nuf Said” sounds like a short, loose freestyle backed by a spacious beat from Jahaan Sweet while “Losses” is one of Tjay’s best songs ever as the pain he expresses throughout is so powerful.

The penultimate track “Move On” sounds like it was ripped off from the BEAUTIFUL THUGGER GIRLS playbook from it’s country/trap production to the lyrics about a relationship coming to an end & finally, the closer “None of Your Love” takes shots at his exes over a synth-laced instrumental from CashMoneyAP.

I haven’t been a big fan of Tjay’s work up to this point & Destined 2 Win doesn’t really help change that because to me, it’s just another mediocre album from him. His personality definitely shines a lot more than it did on previous efforts, but the production choices are very hit or miss & a good portion of the love songs fall flat on their face.

Score: 2.5/5

Russ – “Shake the Snow Globe” review

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Russ is a 26 year old rapper, producer & singer-songwriter from Secaucus, New Jersey who’s released a total of 11 mixtapes on SoundCloud from 2011 up to 2014. He wound up signing Columbia Records in 2016 & made his full-length debut last year with There’s Really a Wolf, quickly becoming one of hip hop’s most polarizing figures in recent memory. Primarily because of being a “fake activist” against drugs & then there’s his infamous 2016 interview with DJ Vlad the culture vulture where he literally said “we need to blame producers for all the wack music today”. His 2018 follow-up ZOO kinda caught my interest due to “The Flute Song”, but the end result of it being taken over by this annoyingly bitter demeanor. However, my morbid curiosity got the best of me for this new album based on the features & the production credits. Will he finally wow me? Let’s find out.

The opener “NEED A MINUTE” is actually ok as Russ talks about what he’s achieved so far over this mellow acoustic instrumental & while the following song “GUESS WHAT” has a vibrant instrumental from Boi-1da, the bragging on here is more egotistical than charming & the Rick Ross verse is pretty weak. “A LOT MORE” also produced by Boi-1da has a more woozier sound to it with Russ’ verses about having more to accomplish sounding completely genuine & while I can appreciate the uptempo beat on “CAN’T GO ON”, it’s theme about breaking up with this woman is melodramatic to me. The song “ASSHOLE” is a temper tantrum about why people don’t like him similar to that on ZOO backed with a redundant Bugus verse whereas the track “NIGHTTIME” is less of an interlude & more of a poorly-delivered relationship ballad. Then there’s the Kiana Ledé-duet “ALL TO YOU”, which is reminiscent to Machine Gun Kelly & Camila Cabello’s “Bad Things”.

The alcohol anthem “SHOTS” doesn’t have the invigorating delivery that I’d normally expect on songs like these despite the vibrant !llmind instrumental & despite the cloudy production on “PATIENCE”, it truly lives up to its title as it delivers more patience-testing relationship melodrama. Not only is “I THOUGHT YOU GOT ME” is about how this woman is unlike any other over a skeletal instrumental, but even Benny the Butcher’s verse on here isn’t all that good & this is coming from someone who’s been praising Griselda’s music for years. Devin the Dude easily has the best feature on the entire album on the song “FOOT ON THE GAS”, which is a decent tune about living life to the fullest. The acoustic/boom bap infused “MOMMA” is a tribute to Russ’ mother that sounds like it comes from the heart & despite the bouncy instrumental on the penultimate track “CIVIL WAR”, the whole comparison of a relationship to a civil war is just corny to me. Then it finishes with “BEST ON EARTH” with BIA, which is another “Bad Things” rip-off.

While it is titled Shake the Snow Globe, it’s not really rocking my world at all. There are aspects about this album that I enjoy more than previous efforts like how he brought some more outside producers to the table as well as more features, nothing about him continues to stick out to me. Especially as a performer & songwriter. I really don’t get how he rips on the current state of hip hop for being too materialistic when he‘s made gotten materialistic on cute himself in the past, including on this album. And while I‘m not against pop rap or love songs AT ALL, I just can’t imagine his take on it getting anyone in that mood.

Score: 1.5/5