Cozz – “Fortunate” review

Cozz is a 27 year old rapper from Los Angeles, California who caught the attention of J. Cole in 2013 with the single “Dreams” & eventually signed to the North Carolina veteran’s Interscope Records imprint Dreamville Records. His full-length debut Cozz & Effect would come out the next year, which was followed up with the debut mixtape Nothin’ Personal as well as the sophomore album Effected & the 2nd mixtape Aftermath of My Dreams. But after dropping a couple singles throughout these last couple months, Cozz is finishing off Dreamville’s year with his debut EP.

The title track is a cool guitar/trap ballad about being blessed that he’s still alive whereas the gospel vibes of “Higher Power” fits really well given the subject matter of belonging to God. “Juice Bars” has one of the weaker instrumentals on the EP trying to rip off D4L’s “Laffy Taffy” even though the boastful lyricism is ok, but then “So Am I” has a more nocturnal sound talking about he & his boys being witit.

I really dig the boom bap production on the song “Addicted” even though I don’t care for the thirsty lyricism while the penultimate track “Control Problems” with YG weaves in an uneventful trap beat despite the lyrics about letting God handling their issues. That being said: I think “Cry” is a powerful closer looking back on his parents domestically abusing each other & the cops coming to their house.

Now this is far from being one of the best EPs I’ve heard all year or anything like that, but a good majority of Fortunate is pretty solid. Cozz is really starting to elevate on the mic & the production game is starting to improve as well. Very curious to hear where he’ll go with his next album.

Score: 3.5/5

Tierra Whack – “RAP?” review

Tierra Whack is a 26 year old rapper & singer/songwriter from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who broke out a few years back off the strength of her full-length debut Whack World. She has since dropped a handful of singles & landed some very impressive feature placements, the most notable being “T.D. (Tokyo Drift)” off Lil Yachty’s 5th mixtape Lil Boat 3 about a year & a half ago at this point. But with a sophomore album on the way, she’s gonna prelude it by unleashing her debut EP.

“Stand Up” is a bit of a mid opener weaving in a skeletal beat & her animated delivery asking all the fake cats to sit down, but the penultimate track “Meagan Good” picks things up with T-Minus flipping a Bee Gee’s cut very well & Tierra melodically talking about doing better. Finally, the soul sample on the closer “Millions” was an excellent fit given that the lyrics express a desire for that paper.

All & all, it’s a pretty decent appetizer leading into her next full-length. It sounds to me that it could’ve used a couple more songs to make it feel a little bit more complete, but Tierra reveals herself as one of the most underrated females in the game & almost every beat in here just goes hard.

Score: 3.5/5

Lute – “Gold Mouf” review

Lute is a 32 year old rapper from Charlotte, North Carolina who came up almost a decade ago as a member of the short-lived Forever FC as well as his debut mixtape West1996 a little bit after their disbandment. This would catch the attention of local legend J. Cole & he would sign Lute to his Interscope Records imprint Dreamville Records the very day the label dropped their 2nd showcase compilation Revenge of the Dreamers II in December of 2015. Fast forward to his full-length debut a couple years later being a respectable sequel to his breakout tape but now, he’s enlisting Rapper Big Pooh to oversee this sophomore album of his.

“100” is a dreamy boom bap opener about keeping it real whereas “G.E.D. (Gettin’ Every Dolla)” has a bit of a lush trap instrumental speaking on making the money. “Myself” addresses being extroverted with a meditative Trox beat, but then “Be Okay” has a bit of an R&B-flare optimistically looks forward to the future in the midst of dark times.

Meanwhile on “Eye to Eye”, we have Cozz tagging along for a piano ballad about how real recognizes real just before “Changes” vibrantly details that he’ll never switch up like a lot of other cats did. “Ghetto Love” is a decent romance cut that I can do without whereas “Amen” with fucking Little Brother gets on the boom bap tip takes another whack at it doing a much better job with it’s spiritual references.

Saba comes into the picture for “Birdsong” to talk about living how they want over an alluring vocal sample leading into the dusty, boastful “Flossin’” featuring Shady Records’ very own Westside Boogie & produced by Marco Polo. The song “Life” vulnerably details how he handled the hurdles 2020 threw at us while the penultimate track “Overnight” is a guitar ballad reminder that Rome wasn’t build in a day. “Crashing” serves as a cloudy finisher saying he’s been stuck in his ways & been in control of his own faith.

For anyone who enjoyed the West1996 duology, I think you’re gonna like Gold Mouf just as much if not even more. Big Pooh brings in a gang load of fresh faces behind the boards to demonstrate their talents, the features are well-picked & Lute’s at his most honest lyrically.

Score: 3.5/5

Grip – “I Died For This!?” review

Grip is a 32 year old MC from Atlanta, Georgia who came up in 2017 off his debut mixtape Porch. This was followed up a couple years later with the full-length debut Snubnose but after dropping 2 EPs in 2020 & signing to Eminem’s very own Interscope Records imprint Shady Records earlier this summer, he’s ready to make his major label debut by putting out his sophomore album to a wider audience.

After the “Enter Stage Right” intro, the first song “And the Eulogy Read!?” kicks things off with a boom bap banger recapping his career up to this point whereas “Hands Up!” serves as a spacey shot at the system. The title track takes a turn into trap territory saying he waited his whole life for this certain moment just before “Momma Told Me!” is a ghostly look back on his mother advising him to get that paper.

Meanwhile on “Placebo”, we have Grip & Royce da 5’9” jumping on top of a trap instrumental that later switches into boom bap turf to compare this song to a substance or treatment that has no therapeutic value leading into him proclaiming he’s larger than life for the chaotic “Gutter!”. Things take a much more melodic turn for “JDDTTINT!?” saying he doesn’t want to die, but then “A Soldier’s Story” has a psychedelic feel saying what he writes is like a zeitgeist for life’s highs & lows.

Eminem of course tags along for the bassy, organ-laced “Walkthrough!” saying they can’t save the world whereas “The Lox!” with Tate228 starts off with a nocturnal boom bap instrumental before switching up into a trap beat saying he wants a check. “Enem3” with Big Rube had a more settler tone telling their old friends to meet them at the middle just before “ConMan” is a piano ballad saying he has a date with destiny.

“Glenwood” serves as a synth-laced freestyle about the titular city in Georgia while the song “At What Cost!?” somberly opens up about depression. The penultimate track “Patterns?” harmoniously apologies for letting his partner down & finally, “Pennies / Exit Stage Left!?” ends the album apocalyptically asks if you’re not entertained.

Even though I still prefer Snubnose, that’s not to say I Died For This!? isn’t a bad entry point for anyone new to him. He manages to stay true to himself rather than selling out now that he’s on a major label & still manages to do a fine job at carrying the hunger from his previous efforts onto this.

Score: 3.5/5

Chavo – “Chavo’s World 2” review

This is the sophomore album from Atlanta raper Chavo. Breaking out a few years ago as a protege of Pi’erre Bourne, he would go on to become a flagship artist on the South Carolina superstar’s Interscope Records imprint Sosshouse Records. His first 2 mixtapes Hood Luva & Mixed Emotions both received positive feedback amongst listeners, but Chavo’s profile began to increase when his Pi’erre-produced full-length debut Chavo’s World came out last fall. And with a little over a month left with summer, he & his mentor are reuniting for the sequel Chavo’s World 2.

“Tweets” is an uptempo opener about putting a bitch in the air like a pterodactyl whereas “Packs” works in some heavy bass to get confrontational. His sister Coi LeRay tags along to say they ain’t the same no more for the luxurious piano ballad “American Deli” just before spaciously comparing his gun to that of a “Rari”.

Meanwhile on “Hennessy”, we get a psychedelic party stater leading into Pi’erre jumping on the mic with Chavo for the moody “Ryuk” talking about a woman living her best life as a youth. The “Had a Feeling” remix is pretty much the same as the OG except it has a new Pi’erre verse, but then “Paris” has a cloudier vibe talking about wanting to go back to the titular city in France.

“Messy” serves as a euphoric lust tune & much like the “Had a Feeling” remix, the “Michigan” remix is the same as the OG except Babyface Ray pops up to spit a new verse. The penultimate track “That’s It” brings in some keys saying he wants to help everyone but he’s not Superman, but then the closer “Mission Impossible” futuristically keeps it playa.

Even though I personally prefer the original Chavo’s World, this isn’t too far off for a sequel album. I like how he brought in some features to break up the monotony of the predecessor & his MC/producer chemistry with Pi’erre is like no other.

Score: 3.5/5

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