Calvin Harris – “Funk Wav Bounces 2” review

Calvin Harris is a 38 year old DJ, producer & singer/songwriter from Dumfries, Scotland who came in 2007 off his decent full-length debut I Created Disco. Ready for the Weekend & 18 Months both went on to receive moderate reception as well, but his 4th album Motion was easily his worst. However, the last album we got from Calvin was Funk Wav Bounces in the summer of 2017 & is widely acknowledged as his best one yet. So here we are 5 years later with a sequel & was anticipating it considering the singles leading up to it.

After the 40 second intro, the first song “New Money” is a disco/rap opener with 21 Savage flexing on the mic whereas “Potion” by Dua Lipa & Young Thug fuses contemporary R&B with dance-pop & synth funk to deliver an enticing slow jam. “Woman of the Year” by Chlöe & Coi Leray keeps the funk alive declaring themselves as such, but then “Obsessed” by Charlie Puth & Shenseea works in some cheery piano chords as they talk about missing 1 another.

“New to You” by Offset & Tinashe goes full-blown boogie confessing they want each other just before “Ready or Not” by Busta Rhymes brings back the keys to talk about taking this shit to the galaxy. “Stay with Me” by Justin Timberlake takes the nu disco route encouraging his lady to stick by him the whole night leading into the sequel which has a funky groove to it, but feels a bit redundant in the track listing.

Meanwhile on “Somebody Else”, we have these incredible bass-guitar licks as Jorja Smith & Lil Durk confess that both of them are in love with another person while “Nothing More to Say” by 6LACK is a groovy slow jam talking about getting the feeling right. The song “Live My Best Life” by Latto & Snoop Dogg has a more tropical aesthetic to it describing a place where the people have a good time while the penultimate track “Lean on Me” by Swae Lee is more synth-based talking about money following. “Day 1” by Pharrell & Pusha T ends the album with a warm ode to loyalty.

Like I said at the beginning of this review: I wasn’t really the biggest fan of Calvin prior to Funk Wav Bounces, but I’ve been wanting a sequel every since it initially came out & it’s just as much of a solid listen as the predecessor if you ask me. The production is colorful & the performances from the guests are pretty consistent for a good portion of the album.

Score: 3.5/5

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Beyoncé – “Renaissance” review

Beyoncé is a 40 year old singer/songwriter, producer, dancer, actress, businesswoman & director from Houston, Texas who rose to fame in the late-90’s as the lead singer of Destiny’s Child. She eventually began her career as a solo artist in the summer of 2003 with the slept-on Dangerously in Love, but found both B’Day & I Am…Sasha Fierce to be average at best. 4 though was her best since her full-length debut, paving the way for a self-titled effort & Lemonade to become her most critically acclaimed bodies of work yet. But as a way to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, Bey’s returning with her 7th album & the first in a new trilogy.

The opener “I’m That Girl” sets it all off talking about how no one can fuck with her over an instrumental featuring co-production from Mike Dean & S1 flipping “Still Pimpin’” by Tommy Wright III whereas “Cozy” comes through with a more housier vibe encouraging one to be comfortable with their own skin. The intergalactic aesthetics of “Alien Superstar” makes it a highlight for my personal as she talks about being too classy, but then “Cuff It” goes into disco territory confessing that she feels like fucking shit up.

Meanwhile on “Energy”, we have Beyoncé returning to house turf thanks to Skrillex getting rebellious rightfully calling out Karens turning into terrorists leading into “Break My Soul” pulling from Euro house sampling “Show Me Love” by Robin S. telling everyone that she’s unbreakable. “Church Girl” pulls from ballroom music with the help of Tricky Stewart & No I.D. with a Clark Sisters flip to further confirm that women who regularly attend church are super freaky just before “Plastic Off the Sofa” is a contemporary R&B ballad produced with Syd of course getting on the more romantic side of things.

“Virgo’s Groove” returns to a more dance-pop sound encouraging her lover to come over while “Move” pulls from hip house & afrobeats advising everyone to get the fuck out her way. “Heated” embraces afro house to talk about fanning off while “Thique” reveals itself to be another favorite of mine from Hit-Boy’s infectious production to the lyrics about body positivity & even bragging that her bread’s getting bigger.

Following that, “All Up in Your Mind” bombastically warns to be careful what you ask for because she could comply while the song “America Has a Problem” heavily samplez the Kilo Ali cut of the same name basically declaring herself to be the Tony Montana of sex appeal. The penultimate track “Pure / Honey” is a ballroom-inspired 2 parter talking about feeling her technique & getting people stuck to her love as “Summer Renaissance” finishes the album with 1-last house banger to describe a gangster growing on her.

Truth be told: I went into Renaissance expecting it to be average at best considering my initial reaction to “Break My Soul” when it came out last month was moderate & I have to inevitably mention the new Drake album Honestly, Nevermind being a decent homage to the late Virgil Abloh. Since it’s finally here however & I got to marinate with it for a while, I definitely enjoyed it more than I thought & find it to be as great as IDK’s latest EP Simple. that just came out a couple months ago. The dance-tinged production is a sweet homage to her late uncle Johnny & her performances are incredibly empowering.

Score: 4/5

Joey Bada$$ – “2000” review

Joey Bada$$ is a 27 year old MC, singer & actor from New York City who came up as a founding member of the Pro Era & Beast Coast collectives. His debut mixtape 1999 just celebrated it’s 10 year anniversary last month & has gone on to become a classic, but Rejex was a decent collection of leftovers & Summer Knights was an solid prelude to his full-length debut. B4.DA.$$ eventually came on his 20th birthday & lived up it to it’s expectations by expanding on the vibes of 1999, but Joey’s sophomore effort ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ revealed it be unquestionably the most political he’s ever been. 5 long years later, Joey’s officially giving us a sequel in the form of his 3rd album.

“The Baddest” is a piano-tinged opener produced Erick the Architect with Joey referring to himself as the baddest motherfucker in all of NY whereas “Make Me Feel” goes into boom bap turf thanks to Statik Selektah confessing that the haters made him take a hiatus for a bit. “Where I Belong” keeps the dustiness going taking about takin’ risks every time he hits the door leading into Westside Gunn coming into the picture for “Brand New 911” to bring in a jazzy instrumental that Chuck Strangers has cooked up getting on their fly shit.

Meanwhile on “Cruise Control”, we have Joey over a cloudy trap beat from Mike WiLL Made-It & Cardiak talking about staying 10 toes down just before “Eulogy” returns to the boom bap shouting out all his homies that’re sittin’ on the big wheels. “Zipcodes” has yet another jazzier tone to the production provided by Kirk Knight talking about doing this with ease, but then “One of Us” with Larry June finds the 2 shooting for a smoother aesthetic calling out the people who wish they were them.

“Welcome Back” on the other hand is definitely the weakest cut on the album from the bland trap instrumental to the Chris Brown verse & the tepid subject matter while “Show Me” returns to a boom bap aesthetic talking about wanting to be proven that his lover cares for her. “Wanna Be Loved” with J.I.D. has a more nocturnal sound to it expressing their desire to be appreciated while the song “Head High” is a jazz-inflicted ode to those who’re no longer here. The penultimate track “Survivor’s Guilt” comes through with a heart-wrenching tribute to Capital STEEZ & “Written in the Stars” sends off the album in glory rightfully talking about being a legend.

Some people tried to write Joey off because of “THE REV3NGE” & even I’ll admit myself that it was a Great Value version of the J. Cole single “Middle Child”, but I don’t see how anyone who loves 1999 as much as I do can dislike 2000. He really does an excellent job at recapturing the magic that made his debut mixtape one of the best of the 2010s & puts a more mature twist on it.

Score: 4.5/5

ssgkobe – “RELAPSED” review

This is the 15th EP from Louisiana rapper ssgkobe. Emerging out of the SoundCloud scene just a few years back, it wasn’t until earlier last spring when he was featured on a bonus track off of BROCKHAMPTON’s final album to date ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE where I was introduced to him. His major label debut albeit 12th EP overall KO. that came out a couple months later wasn’t the best place to start diving into his discography at all, but I was genuinely intrigued by Night Before once I started listening to his earlier work. That being said: I went into RELAPSED hoping that ssgkobe would redeem himself.

“Hershey” is a rage-induced opener wanting to know what his purpose is whereas “Getcha” takes a symphonic trap route to start boasting. “Oh No!” goes into atmospheric territory reaching the epiphany that his bitch was a thot while the song “9” talking about walking around strapped over a misty trap instrumental. The penultimate track “Every Second” has a cavernous aesthetic to it brushing off those who’re bitter at his success & “Okay, What R U Saying?” ends the EP with kobe over a woozy instrumental calling out someone for capping.

Compared to KO., there’s no denying that Relapsed is like night & day in terms of quality. The production has improved sounding a bit more varied in comparison to the predecessor trying to reach an audience that doesn’t exist & I respect that ssgkobe’s wearing his heart on his sleeve a lot more this time around, but I’d love for U4EYA to be a melting pot of the new sounds he’s dabbling with now & his rage/plugg roots.

Score: 3.5/5

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