Pi’erre Bourne – “The Life of Pi’erre 5” review

This is the sophomore album from South Carolina producer, rapper, songwriter & engineer Pi’erre Bourne. Becoming one of the most in demand beatsmiths in hip hop today off Playboi Carti’’s “Magnolia”, he’s also made a name for himself on the mic by dropping 5 mixtapes as well as 2 EPs & a full-length debut. But after much anticipation, Pi’erre is continuing his recent tradition of dropping in June with the 5th & final installment of The Life of Pi’erre series.

After the intro, “Switchin’ Lanes” is a wavy opener featuring Playboi Carti rapping about going into a different pace whereas the next track “Hulu” is a cloudy homage to Jay P. Meanwhile on “Couch”, we have Pi’erre incorporating an organ as he details his rags to riches story before saying she don’t want this hoe who’s addicted to him on the accordion-heavy “42”.

“Biology 101” is a smoky homage to the classic Cassidy joint “Hotel” while the spacey “Y.N.S. (Young N***a Shit)” needs no explanation lyrically. Lil Uzi Vert pretty much carries the bassy & braggadocious “Sossboy 2”, but Pi’erre bounces back to flex his hustle on the psychedelic “Practice”. “40 Clip” later expresses his desire for some new shit backed by some synth-strings while “Retroville” is a cool homage to the Jimmy Neutron franchise & the chords on here are so gorgeous.

Sosshouse Records signee Sharc tags along for the moody club banger “Drunk & Nasty” leading up to the minimally-produced “Amen”, which expresses his gratefulness for where he’s at now. The song “Groceries” shows listeners how to get money like him while the penultimate track “Butterfly” is a glitchy tribute to Kobe Bryant. Finally there’s “4U”, which is an infectiously catcher closer about consoling his girl like a PlayStation.

This to me is a solid finisher to The Life of Pi’erre series & easily the best one of the 5. His production is always. His unique production style is always a warm welcome as are the transitions at the end of every song, but the features break up the monotony of the other installments & I feel like Pi’erre is stepping up as a performer & songwriter.

Score: 4/5

J. Cole – “The Off-Season” review

This is the long-awaited 6th full-length album from North Carolina rapper, singer/songwriter & producer J. Cole. At this point, I’m pretty sure everyone & their mom knows who dude is. Especially given the universal acclaim of projects like The Warm Up, Friday Night Lights, Born Sinner & my personal favorite: 2014 Forest Hills Drive. However, his last 2 albums 4 Your Eyez Only & K.O.D. were both released to mixed reception. Matter of fact: my review for K.O.D. is amongst my most controversial. I don’t get shit for it anymore but at the time when I gave it a 6/10, Cole stans were on my ass for the next 2-3 weeks. Even to this day: my opinions on that & 4YEO haven’t changed at all but that’s not the point. I was given hope for The Off-Season given his feature run (most notably “Family & Loyalty” off the final Gang Starr album One of the Best Yet) along with his L.A. Leakers freestyle just a couple of days ago.

The opener “95 South” pays homage to Cam’ron’s “Killa Season” from J. Cole’s flashy lyricism to even The Heatmakerz-influenced production provided by Boi-1da. Cam’ron himself makes an appearance during the intro & outro. Even the “Put Yo Hood Up” sample during the last 40 seconds is pretty cool. The next song “amari” has a more mystical feel to it instrumentally with T-Minus & Timbaland as Cole while the track “My Life” serves as a sequel to “a lot” off i am > i was from it’s soulful trap production co-produced by Jake One & Wu10 down to the surprise 21 Savage & even the subject matter.

“Applying Pressure” jumps into boom bap territory going on about how you just gotta flex sometimes whereas “Punchin’ the Clock” details teetering between enlightened & insanity over a Tae Beast instrumental that has a bit of a ghostly yet jazzy feel to it. He later incorporates a fucking Willie Hutch sample on “100 Mil” talk about how he’s been getting better over time & even though the instrumental on “Pride is the Devil” is somewhat similar to “Can’t Decide” off Aminé’s last album Limbo, I do enjoy Cole & Lil Baby’s takes on egoism quite a bit.

Meanwhile on “Let Go My Hand”, we get an instrumental from DJ Dahi & Frank Dukes that almost takes me back to 1999-era Joey Bada$$ with lyrics about making sure his son is equipped when he gets older before “interlude” incorporates a Tommy Parker sample to talk about coming a long way. “The Climb Back” has a well-flipped[Brief Encounter sample throughout with Cole rapping about being assessed as one of the all-time greats while the penultimate track “Close” surprisingly samples MF DOOM’s “Valerian Root” as the lyrics talk advise being patient with God. Then the album finishes off emotionally with “Hunger on the Hillside”, which is Cole jumping on some strings to say he’s gonna be the same man when he retires.

Although I’d have to say my current Album of the Year so far is a toss-up between Death & the Magician or Haram, I’m not gonna deny that this is hands down the most consistent J. Cole album I’ve heard since Forest Hills Drive. He sounds like he has a fire under his ass performance-wise & it’s refreshing to hear him bringing outside collaborators into the fold. If he keeps it up, It’s a Boy & The Fall Off could both shape up to be epic finales in his career.

Score: 4/5

Rod Wave – “SoulFly” review

Rod Wave is a 22 year old rapper, singer & songwriter from St. Petersburg, Florida who broke out in 2019 off his debut album Ghetto Gospel. A sophomore effort Pray 4 Love came out last spring & it would land him a spot in the 2020 XXL Freshman Class few months later. But after working out some issues with Alamo Records

It all starts off with the title track, where Rod talks about balancing his ups & downs over some a cavernous trap beat. The next song “Gone ‘Till November” talks about not wanting to be alone over a twangy instrumental while the track “Wanna Blame Me” talks about a girl doing him wrong over a generic beat. The song “Don’t Forget” talks about coming straight from out the trenches over some acoustics & snares while the track “Tombstone” talks about thuggin’ until the end over a stripped back beat.

The song “All I Got” talks about finally living his dream over a cloudy piano instrumental while the track “Richer” with Polo G finds the 2 talking about their wealth over a summery beat. The song “Street Runner” talks about going higher over a cumbersome instrumental while the track “Pills & Billz” talks about how money can buy you drugs over a piano & some hi-hats. The song “How the Game Go” talks about playing the game the way it was taught to him over some more acoustic trap shit while the track “Shock da World” talks about how they ain’t seen nothing yet & the vocal sample on here is just gorgeous.

The song “What’s Love??” explains the meaning of love to a broken heart over the same BEAUTIFUL THUGGER GIRLS-inspired production we’ve heard a million times at this point while the track “O.M.D.B. (Over My Dead Body)” talks about how he knows this woman don’t love him over an intoxicating beat. The song “Invisible Scar” talks about how he can’t save this youngin’ at the party over a formulaic instrumental while the track “Calling Me” talks about numbing the pain over some more country trap production.

The song “Sneaky Links” talks about keeping relationships secret over a weighty instrumental while the track “Believe Me” talks about having a hard time trusting his baby over a glossy beat. The song “Moving On” talks about starting anew & then the closer “Changing” talks about his newfound maturity over a piano-laced trap instrumental.

Coming away from this album, it’s a just a mixed bag for me personally. It’s really cool to hear how personal he can get through his lyrics, but it’s just the production sounds the same for a good portion of it.

Score: 2.5/5

slowthai – “TYRON” review

slowthai is a 26 year old rapper from Northampton, United Kingdom who came onto my radar in 2019 off his debut album Nothing Great About Britain. His profile continued to grow shortly after due to his feature on BROCKHAMPTON’s latest album at the time GINGER but with the 2 year anniversary of his first album coming up in the spring, slowthai has finally delivered his long-awaited sophomore effort.

The album starts with “45 SMOKE”, where slowthai talks about the world being his over an abrasive instrumental. The next song “CANCELLED” with Skepta serves as a well written response to cancel culture over a ghostly beat with some whistling while the track “MAZZA” with A$AP Rocky finds the 2 talking about the meaning of insanity over an off-the-wall trap instrumental. The song “VEX” talks about people irritating him over an energetic instrumental, but the following track “WOT” is so short that there’s no point to it being on here.

The song “DEAD” introspectively dives into the subject of the afterlife over a shadowy beat while the track “PLAY WITH FIRE” talks about feeling like he’s got his head in a blender over a playful instrumental. The song “i tried” opens up about a suicide attempt slowthai once had over an oxymoronic beat while the track “focus” talks about his brothers being in prison over a weary instrumental from Kenny Beats.

The song “terms” talks about how things in life could be worse over some cloud rap production while the track “push” talks about how no one wants to see you grow over a bare piano instrumental. The song “n.h.s. (national health service)” provides reassurance in a post-COVID world over a sparse beat while the penultimate track “feel away” pays tribute to his late brother Michael over a soft instrumental. The album ends with “adhd”, where slowthai talks about how “the passenger always been a witness” over a low trap beat.

Dude might be the best up-&-comer out of the UK right now because I enjoy this album more than I did Nothing Great About Britain. I mean as much as I enjoy slowthai’s previous full-length effort for how gritty & political it sounded, the production on TYRON is cleaner & the lyrics are more personal this time around.

Score: 4/5

Playboi Carti – “Whole Lotta Red” review

This is the highly anticipated sophomore album from Atlanta superstar Playboi Carti. Coming up as an affiliate of the A$AP Mob, he would break out in 2017 off his eponymous 3rd mixtape & then the following year with one of the greatest trap albums of the 2010s: Die Lit. But after countless leaks & rumors, Carti is finishing off this shitty year by releasing Whole Lotta Red.

The album kicks off with “Rockstar Made”, where Carti talks about how it’s never enough over a trap metal beat. The next song “Go2DaMoon” with Kanye West sees the 2 talking over a Wheezy instrumental some prominently dramatic string sections while the track “Stop Breathing” talks about hoes going crazy when he takes his shirt off over a distorted beat. The song “Beno!” talks about over an instrumental with some video game-like synthesizers while the track “JumpOutTheHouse” is a cacophonous moshpit starter down to the Richie Souf beat.

The song “M3tamorphosis” with KiD CuDi finds the 2 talking about how can’t nobody tell you shit over a trippy instrumental with CuDi’s trademark humming being incorporated during the hook while the track “Slay3r” talks about how everything’s good & I almost wanna say the beat kinda has an 80’s new wave feel to it. The song “No Sl33p” talks about dreaming about murder over a synth-heavy instrumental while the track “New Talk” talks about being posted with his brother over a droney beat.

The song “Teen X” with Future sees the 2 talking about being on drugs over a manic instrumental from Maaly Raw while the track “Meh” talks about fucking a bitch up over some keyboards & heavy bass. The song “Vamp Anthem” perfectly lives up to it’s name down to the organ-laced instrumental while the track “New N3on” talks about having swag for days over a more uptempo beat.

The song “Control” talks about this woman driving him insane over an instrumental kin to LUV is Rage or even Lil Uzi Vert vs. the World while the track “Punk Monk” name-drops everyone from Trippie Redd to Lil Tjay over a beat with some synths buried in the bass. The song “On That Time” talks about ridin’ around with a draco over a noisy instrumental while the track “King Vamp” talks about being a dark knight over a frenetic beat.

The song “Place” talks about over a cloudy instrumental from none other than Pi’erre Bourne while the track “Sky” is an intoxicating weed smoking anthem. The song “Over” talks about how “this love don’t feel how it felt when we started” over some infectious synth-melodies while the track “ILoveUIHateU” talks about how “what you don’t know won’t hurt” over a Pi’erre beat that gives me self-titled vibes.

The song “Die4Guy” talks about loyalty over a chaotic instrumental while the penultimate track “Not PLaying” talks about how he ain’t playing games no more over a futuristic beat. The album ends with “F33l Lik3 Dyin’”, where Carti talks about his current well-being over an instrumental sampling “iMi” by Bon Iver & the multiple background vocalists throughout (including Justin Vernon himself) are all breathtaking.

Even though it’s not as fantastic as self-titled or Die Lit, this album was still very much worth the 859 day wait. Some filler cuts are thrown in here & there, but I do appreciate him experimenting a more in comparison to his previous work.

Score: 3.5/5

Eminem – “Music to Be Murdered By: Side B” review

Eminem. Slim Shady. Marshall Mathers. B-Rabbit. The white guy from D12. What can be said now about the Detroit icon that hasn’t been said already? Especially since his first 3 major label albums The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP & The Eminem Show are considered by many to be the holy trinity in his discography. However, things have been quite rough for Em in the last 3-4 years. Revival was unquestionably one of the worst albums of the 2010s, which he would vent his frustration with on his last 2 full-lengths Kamikaze & Music to Be Murdered By. But after many rumors, we’re being treated to a sequel to his previous album.

After the “Alfred” intro, the first song “Black Magic” is a questionable opener about this woman having his heart in chains over a glossy beat whereas the next track “Alfred’s Theme” picks things up as Eminem reaffirms his technicality over a zany, cartoonish instrumental. My favorite line was when he said “I won’t buy a designer ’cause I don’t pander”. The song “Tone Deaf” talks about those who try to cancel him along with an awkward line about “playing Fortnite with your grandma” & a dope tribute to King Von over a funky ass beat with co-production from Luis Resto while the track “Book of Rhymes” lets loose every thought he had over a generic trap instrumental with co-production from Illa da Producer & a mediocre switch-up. Also of all joints, why have DJ Premier do scratching for this?

The song “Favorite Bitch” looks back on the days when he was young & hungry over an wavy beat while the track “Guns Blazing” with Dr. Dre finds the 2 talking about being back on their bullshit just like the old days over a grand, bassy instrumental. The song “Gnat” compares his lyrics to COVID & throws a redundant MGK jab over a mellow beat while the track “Higher” compellingly talks about not knowing where to go from here over a buzzing instrumental. I liked it when Em said “Reminds me of how an overcrowded hospital waitin’ room’ll get, what I mean it’s maybe I have more patience than I’m able to admit“. The song “These Demons” talks about how funny haters are along with a clever ICP reference over a quasi-tropical beat & after the “Key” skit, the track “She Loves Me” talks about this women being “Carmen Electrocute” over a triumphant instrumental from Dre.

The song “Killer” talks about money over a rubbery beat while the track “Zeus” is a “Rap God” sequel backed with a depressive instrumental from T-Minus & I don’t think he’s dissing Snoop Dogg like a lot of people are saying because Uncle Snoop has always had nothing but love for Em. Also the Rihanna line was dope & the opening line “She says I’m trash, but listens to Tekashi” made me cringe because let’s be real: NOBODY listens to that clown in 2020. And this is coming from someone who’s never even listened to TattleTales. After the “Thus Far” interlude, the closer “Discombobulated” takes it back to the Relapse days as Eminem is rapping in accents about being just that over over a Dr. Dre beat reminiscent to the early 2000s co-produced by Black Bethoven & S1.

We all saw this coming (especially since Aftermath Entertainment’s in-house producer Dem Jointz posted the artwork on Instagram just 2-3 days before) & to be honest, it’s better than it’s predecessor. Nothing that’s gonna change my year-end lists but the production has improved whereas lyrically, Eminem is focusing less on the backlash Revival justifiably received & looking forward to the future. It also fits the whole Hitchcock theme a lot better if you ask me.

Score: 3.5/5

DaBaby – “My Brother’s Keeper (Long Live G)” review

This is the brand new EP from Charlotte’s very own DaBaby. Blowing up almost 2 years ago off his viral single “Suge”, the man would drop 2 average full-lengths to build off of it. Last we heard from him was this spring with his subpar 3rd album Blame It on Baby but in light of his brother Glenn committing suicide recently, DaBaby is back with My Brother’s Keeper (Long Live G).

The opener “Brother’s Keeper’s” is a touching tribute to Glenn with an acoustic trap beat whereas the next song “8 Figures” with Meek Mill finds the 2 talking about being in their feelings & carrying ungrateful people over a symphonic instrumental. The track “Shanyah” pays tribute to a person in his life with the same name over a funereal beat while the song “Gucci Peacoat” talks about his family over an instrumental kin to the opening cut.

The track “Handgun” with NoCap & Polo G sees the 3 talking about being strapped over a banger beat while the penultimate song “Bidness” with Toosii finds the 2 talking about mixing hoes with their business over a JetsonMade beat with some Roger Troutman-like vocal harmonizing. The EP finishes off with ”More Money More Problems”, which talks about the cons of being wealthy over some more acoustic-trap production.

Yeah, this is yet another mediocre project from DaBaby. The introspective lyrics are a nice change of pace of what he usually does on joints, but the production could’ve been a lot better in my personal opinion.

Score: 2.5/5

Westside Gunn – “WHO MADE THE SUNSHINE?” review

Westside Gunn is a 38 year old MC & entrepreneur from Buffalo, New York who broke out in 2016 with his near-perfect debut album FLYGOD. He would go on to take over the culture with his brother Conway the Machine & their cousin Benny the Butcher as all 3 of them have consistently dropped a slew of high quality releases both solo-wise & as a trio over the past 5 years. However, Westside has stated on numerous occasions that he’ll quit making music after 2020 & has released 2 albums since the year started: Pray for Paris & FLYGOD is an Awesome God II. But with Hitler Wears Hermes VIII set to drop at the end of the month, Westside is delivering his highly anticipated Shady Records album.

After the “Sunshine” intro, the first song “The Butcher & the Blade with Benny & Conway finds the trio talking about God having them winning over a boom bap beat from Daringer & Beat Butcha with some rapid keyboard arpeggios whereas the next track “Ishkabibble’s” with Black Thought sees the 2 talking about pushing over an eerie instrumental. The song “All Praises” sounds like a leftover from Boldy James’ The Price of Tea in China down to the Alchemist beat as Westside Gunn only handles the hook while the track “Big Basha’s” talks about there being blood & brains everywhere over a somber boom bap instrumental.

The song “Liz Loves Luger” with Armani Caesar finds the 2 talking about wanting loyalty from their partners over a luscious beat while the track “Ocean Prime” with Busta Rhymes & Slick Rick sees the 3 talking about chopping dudes into pieces over a forlorn instrumental. The song “Lessie” talks about how they’re still getting paid over a wavy beat while the track “Frank Murphy” with Elcamino, Estee Nack, Flee Lord, Smoke DZA & Stove God Cook$ is an epic East Coast posse cut with a wailing instrumental. The penultimate song “Good Night” hooks back up with Slick Rick to get in their storytelling bag over a beat with some ominous keys & then the closer “98 Sabers” is a vicious showcasing of the Griselda roster & the Just Blaze instrumental fits perfectly, but I wonder why Boldy James isn’t on here.

Not a bad album, but it could’ve been better in my personal opinion. It’s pretty much a slightly better version of FLYGOD is an Awesome God II as there are a lot of features & a couple of questionable production choices on here. Here’s to hoping Hitler 8 will be much better.

Score: 3.5/5

Juice WRLD – “Legends Never Die” review

This is the 1st posthumous outing & 3rd full-length album overall from Chicago rapper Juice WRLD. Quickly becoming a prominent face in the emo rap trend in 2018 off the strength of his commercial debut Goodbye & Good Riddance, he tragically passed away late last year just 9 months after the release of his sophomore effort Death Race for Love. Now even though I personally found both of those albums to be average at best, the kid was undeniably talented as proven on songs like “Lucid Dreams” & his astonishing 1-hour Tim Westwood freestyle. But just 7 months after Juice’s passing, his estate is coming together with Legends Never Die.

After a spoken word intro, the first song “Conversations” talks about his demons over a spacious Ronny J beat while the track “Titanic” compares himself to that of a sinking ship over a cavernous DY instrumental. The song “Bad Energy” talks about flushing out all the negativity in him over a skeletal instrumental while the track “Righteous” talks about how his anxiety’s the size of a planet over a melancholic beat from longtime collaborator Nick Mira.

The song “Blood On My Jeans” is an endearing tribute to his girlfriend Ally Lotti with an acoustic trap beat from Gezin while the track “Tell Me U Luv Me” finds him begging Ally to tell him everything will be ok on top of an instrumental with a bit of a dancehall influence to it. The song “Hate on the Other Side” by Polo G & The Kid LAROI seems out of place since Juice has very little appearance on it whatsoever & the Marshmello production is just kinda plain to me.

After the “Get Through It” interlude, the track “Life’s a Mess” with Halsey is an awkward rapper/pop singer duet that we’ve all seen done a million times already while the song “Come & Go” feeds into another pop rap cliche as Juice goes in on top of an EDM instrumental. The song “I Want It” talks about love over some more acoustic trap production while the track “Fighting Demons” needs no further explanation over a keyboard-inflicted beat.

The song “Wishing Well” talks about how he deals with fame over a glossy instrumental while the track “Screw Juice” tells the listener if he made it as far as he did, they can as well & the beat on here is just monstrous. The track “Up Up & Away” talks about getting high over an acoustic instrumental & after The Man, The Myth, The Legend” instrumental, the song “Stay High” talks about balance over a moody beat.

The track “Can’t Die” talks about how Ally changed his life over a synth-heavy instrumental from DY & before the album finishes off with the “Juice WRLD Speaks from Heaven” outro, the final song “Man of the Year” is a tearjerking celebration of life over a rap rock instrumental from Skrillex of all fucking people.

This is just a tad bit better than the latest Pop Smoke album Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon. It was clearly put together out of passion rather than just money, but there are slightly more hits than misses during the 55 minutes of this final product.

Score: 3/5

Eminem – “Music to Be Murdered By” review

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This is the surprise 11th full-length album from Detroit icon Eminem. His first 3 major label albums The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP & The Eminem Show are considered by many to be the holy trinity in discography. The last few years have been rough for Marshall though, as Revival is widely considered to be one of the worst albums of the 2010s. The follow-up Kamikaze was actually a solid return to form & he’s continuing that with Music to Be Murdered By.

The opener “Premonition” sees Em taking a jab at his critics over a surprisingly haunting trap beat from his mentor Dr. Dre while the next song “Unaccommodating” with Young M.A. of all people sees the 2 discussing their titular attitude over a generic trap beat & a very cringey hook. A lot of people are complaining about the Ariana Grande line too, but let’s not forget when Em referenced Columbine on The Marshall Mathers LP. The track “You Gon’ Learn” is a Bad Meets Ǝvil reunion where Em & his partner in rhyme Royce da 5’9″ discuss some of their internal conflicts over a boom bap beat with a mesmerizing soul sample. After the “Alfred” interlude, the song “Those Kinda Nights” reflects on his golden years over a bouncy beat & a needless Ed Sheeran hook while the track “In Too Deep” is packed with relationship melodrama & the beat is pretty uneventful too.

The song “Godzilla” talks about how much of a monster Em is over a vibrant trap beat & while I’m surprised to hear the late Juice WRLD on the hook, it’s not bad. The track “Darkness” talks about depression over a bleak instrumental while the song “Leaving Heaven” talks about who he is now over a guitar & some drums going off like gunshots. Also, Skylar Grey’s performance on here is tasteless as she usually is. The track “Yah Yah” sees Bad Meets Ǝvil getting with Black Thought to remind us of their places in the culture as elite MCs over a cluttered beat from dEnAuN.

After the “Stepdad” intro, we get into the actual song “Stepdad”. Where Marshall disses a man who was abusive to him & his mother Debbie when he was younger over a grimy beat from The Alchemist. I get where he’s coming from, but the hook on here is patience testing. The track “Marsh” talks about being out of this world over a trap beat with some plinky keys while the song “Never Love Again” is a sappy breakup song backed-up by a mediocre Dre beat.

The track “Little Engine” talks about losing control over an eerie beat while the song “Lock It Up” with Anderson .Paak sees the 2 talking about almost losing it & it sounds like there’s a Chinese sample in the beat. The track “Farewell” talks about his ex-wife Kim over a punchy beat while the song “No Regrets” talks about his come-up over an abrasive beat. Before the “Alfred” outro, the final song “I Will” finds Marshall reuniting Slaughterhouse sans Joe Budden to talk about homicide over a boom bap beat with a haunting organ.

Personally, this is a step-up from Kamikaze. The hooks & the mixing could’ve been better at points, but it’s like a modern day update of the criminally underrated Relapse just 11 years back from Dr. Dre returning behind the boards to the Aflred Hitchcock homages throughout. Hope Marshall continues to go down this path towards redemption.

Score: 3.5/5