redveil – “learn 2 swim” review

redveil is an 18 year old MC/producer from PG County, Maryland who came up at the tail-end of 2019 off his debut mixtape Bittersweet Cry. But I wouldn’t get introduced to his music until 8 months after when a short-lived Twitter beef between him & the internet’s busiest music nerd himself Anthony Fantano broke out merely days after dropping Niagara. It prompted me to check the tape out & I was actually pretty impressed with the amount of potential he was showing as an artist. So for his 18th birthday, he’s celebrating by dropping his 3rd mixtape.

“together” opens up the tape with some keys & saxes talking about running it whereas “diving board” takes a jazzier route addressing his come up. “pg baby” works in a soul sample talking about what growing up in Maryland was like for him just before “new info” incorporates a crooning vocal loop declaring his energy as his biggest weapon.

Meanwhile on “shoulder”, we have Mekdelawit & Renaissance Mic accompanying redveil on top of a euphoric boom bap instrumental talking about watching their youth wash away leading into Sam Truth tagging along for the melodic “better” advising that shit gets better when you give it time. “sky” lusciously talks about being a star, but then “morphine (da ways)” returns to soulful territory expressing his desire to win.

Fly Anakin & ovrkast. come into the picture for the trap-tinged “automatic” talking about how you can’t break them while the song “home” vents everything that’s been on his mind these days. The penultimate track “mars” mixes some background vocals, pianos & even a guitar solo talking about seeing the light a mile away & “working on it” ends the tape with a powerful ballad confessing that he doesn’t wanna run anymore.

If anyone liked Niagara as much as I did, then you’re gonna love learn 2 swim just as much if not more & I recommend all of those who’re still not up in redveil to check this tape out because it’s just most mature body of work thus far. On top of that, I admire how much he demonstrates his artistic growth with his refined lyrics & production game.

Score: 4/5

Ouija Macc – “Fallen Angelic” review

This is the 7th mixtape from from Las Vegas rapper Ouija Macc. Originally breaking out in the fall of 2017 off his debut EP Trashfire, this would result in the Insane Clown Posse signed him to Psychopathic Records almost immediately & he has since proven himself as one of the most consistent & hard working dudes in the underground by dropping 2 full-length albums, 2 greatest hits compilations, 6 mixtapes & 4 EPs all in the span of 5 years. Last we heard from Ouija was back in November when he dropped PRETTY/UGLY 2 which is much superior to the predecessor but to kick off the 2nd quarter of the year, he’s preluding his upcoming 3rd album Stalewind with Fallen Angelic.

After the “Prophecy” intro, the first song “Rory Mercury” is an eerie trap opener comparing himself to the Gate character of the same name whereas “Playalo” will go down as one of the best Ouija songs ever made taking a symphonic trap route thanks to Devereaux coming through with an ode to the juggalos. “Hellcat” goes into cloudier territory talking about how we should be proud of him just before Whitney Peyton tags along for the bassy “Big Step” talking about not wanting shit.

Meanwhile on “17 Blunts”, we have Ouija on top of a hazy beat delivering theme music for the smokers leading into the pillowy trap cut “Get It Like” talking about being all in his zone. “Did It on Purpose” goes into darker territory calling out those who don’t wanna see him winning, but then “Ain’t No Fun” has a more entrancing vibe talking about how everyone wants to hate someone.

“Hatchet Up” of course comes through with yet another Psychopathic ode except this one’s more rowdier while “La Flama Blanca” returns to the cloud rap sound talking about how this is more than just two. Kid Bookie’s verse on “Moonlight” doesn’t do much for me even though I like Devereaux’s production & the whole idea of too much shit going on to be on their dicks while “Crawl” gets raunchy as fuck & will definitely get all the Lettes going wild at future shows.

Following that, “Replay” incorporates some synthesizers telling the DJ to run it back while “Brandishin’ That” with a fun ass-shaker’s dedication. The song “Swang 2” with Ricky Hil finds the 2 on some acoustic trap shit delivering a decent sequel to a joint on Waterdamage while the penultimate track “Hate Myself” keeps things in acoustic territory talking about his self-hatred being for nothing. “Roadmap” ends the tape on a grungier encouraging to follow him at your own risk.

Chapter 17 Records is definitely gonna have a big 2022 & I think Fallen Angelic is a stellar way to kick it all off. The features are a tad bit better than PRETTY/UGLY 2, Ouija’s songwriting continuously gets better at getting stuck in your head & I really hope he continues to dabble with new sounds going forward because he’s been doing it excellently as of late.

Score: 4/5

Dreamville Records – “D-Day” review

This is the 4th showcase compilation from Dreamville Records. Founded in 2007 by J. Cole & his manager Ibrahim Hamad, the label has proven itself to be a dominant force in the mainstream hip hop world for the past decade with the Revenge of the Dreamers trilogy even though the last installment was a bit of a disappointment. However after giving a 24 hour notice & with Dreamville Festival returning this weekend, the crew is having DJ Drama host D-Day.

“Stick” by J.I.D, J. Cole & Sheck Wes finds the trio over a triumphant araabMUZIK instrumental talking about being strapped whereas the “Ghetto Gods Freestyle” by the EARTHGANG & 2 Chainz goes into a more skeletal direction even though I do enjoy the battle bars. “Lifestyle” by Bas & A$AP Ferghas a lot more meat on the bone thanks to Cole behind the boards with both MCs talking about the lives they live currently leading into the jazzy “Starting 5” by Cozz, Lute & Omen talking about having shooters.

Meanwhile on “Coming Down”, we get a full blown Ari Lennox solo cut asking when her mans is coming over a sample of Mary J. Bilge’s rendition of ”I’m Goin’ Down” just before “Hair Salon” by Cozz, G Perico & Reason finds the trio over a psychedelic Chuck Inglish beat pondering why anyone would talk shit about them. “Freedom of Speech” by J. Cole goes into chipmunk soul territory with the help of Jake One talking about the energy switching whenever he pops up, but then “Blackberry Sap” is yet another Ari Lennox solo cut that I find to be inferior to “Coming Down”.

“Like Wine” by Lute comes through with a dusty boom bap banger full of braggadocio while “Jozi Flows” by Bas & the EARTHGANG works in a flute to talk about being misunderstood. “Barry from Simpson” by J.I.D & 2 Chainz mixes some horns with snares encouraging listeners to get shit done while “Everybody Ain’t Shit” by the EARTHGANG follows it up with a fun “fuck you” anthem.

The song “Ballin’ in Newport” by Omen over a piano instrumental from Ging & !llmind while the “Big Trouble” by Cozz comes through with an impressive freestyle accompanied by samples from Doug E. Fresh, David Porter & The Trammps. The whole thing ends with “Heaven’s EP”, where Cole freestyles over the “Pipe Down” instrumental & killed it harder than Drake did.

Even though I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this compilation, I actually happen to like it more than Revenge of the Dreamers III. The production’s much better, they relied less on features given how inconsistent they were almost 3 years back & the whole roster come through with improved performances too.

Score: 3.5/5

Pasto Flocco – “R.O.A.M. (Rich Off A Mic)” review

This is the 2nd mixtape from Queens rapper Pasto Flocco. Originally a Lil Tecca associate, he’s been seeing quite the success off his own with the Surf Gang collective since their falling out dropping his first 2 albums March Madness & Dreams 2 Reality as well as a debut mixtape Surf to Kill (SGBSTK). This was all followed up over the fall when Pasto put out his 3rd album Disturbing the Peace while opening up for Lucki on the Wake Up Lucki Tour but after dropping a couple singles earlier this month, Pasto is returning in the form of R.O.A.M. (Rich Off A Mic).

“Warning” is a cloudy opener produced by J6 talking about how he’s too drippy whereas “Wizard” follows it up on a more suspenseful note spitting that gun talk. “4dagram” works in some synthesizers talking about having to call a whip after a bitch tried to play him just before “Bands Up (B.V.P.)” takes a more futuristic route to flex his wealth.

Meanwhile on “Life I Chose”, we have Pasto over an psychedelic instrumental talking about keeping a blick on him because the streets is cold leading into the cloudy “T.M.U. (Turn Me Up)” calling out his haters. “Better Clone Me (Lifestyle Chosen)” has a more euphoric sound venting about how he ain’t gotta pop shit ‘cause cats know it, but then “B.S.A. (Money or Fame)” returns to cloud rap turf encouraging to look back & see how much he’s changed since 2018.

“GLE Freestyle” goes into a pluggier direction talking about refusing to let a thot finesse him of his profits while “Mercy (Just Woke Up)” is absolutely perfect for moshpits during future shows in every way. “Out of the Mix” follows it up with an atmospheric ballad declaring himself an underground legend while the song “Buckz Up (ADHD)” comes through with some braggadocio even though CCC’s production ain’t it. The penultimate track “Melly” picks it up with a repetitive bop produced by Zaytoven & lastly, “30Bandz” is a chilled out closer talking about moving like a vampire.

I’ve been a fan of Pasto ever since my little brother Jake introduced me to his music a couple years back & I gotta say: This tape is a little disappointing. I like how’s he doing all this fast-tempo shit & a decent amount of his performances are infectious, but I wish it was a little fully fleshed out.

Score: 3/5

NLE Choppa – “Me vs. Me” review

NLE Choppa is a 19 year old rapper from Memphis, Tennessee who came up in 2018 off his debut mixtape No Love: The Takeover. However, it wasn’t until the following Christmas where his debut EP Cottonwood started to bring more attention to him & subsequently signed to Warner Records. He has since put out his full-length debut Top Shotta & his 2nd mixtape From Dark to Light since being on a major label but after spending last year doing features, Choppa’s returning in the form of his 3rd mixtape.

Things start off with the 6th installment of the “Shotta Flow” series which I understand is his biggest song, but it feels like him trying to get lighting to strike at the same spot over & over despite the energizing CashMoneyAP instrumental. Young Thug tags along for the triumphant “Push It” talking about having the game in a figure-4 leading into the money anthem “Jumpin’” which has a fresh woodwind instrumental & Polo G verse, but Choppa’s performances (especially the hook) are lifeless.

Meanwhile on “Trap Phone”, we have an atmospheric beat from Southside & some decent lyricism about hustlin’ just before “Final Warning” works in a blobby bass-line & some piano melodies for Choppa to send a message to his enemies. “I.Y.B. (If You Buck)”is a shameful bastardization of the classic Crime Mob single “Knuck If You Buck”, but then “Stompin’” ruins a cinematic beat with corny lines like “Fly like Peter Pan, bitch you know I’ve been a man. All black Batman with my n****s robbin’” & “Have you ever seen Mike with an Ike?”.

“Change My Ways” has a bit of a more orchestral with the help of OG Parker with more clever bars like “White boy with the ball in the cut, Tom Brady” whereas “Ima Dogg” comes off as a ripoff of the Gucci Mane joint of the same name. “Mmm Hmm” takes a more psychedelic route trying to talk about being on another level & even though I like the sample on “Still Hood”, the gangsta rap lyrics aren’t all that to me.

Internet Money brings in a more polished sound for “Drop Shit” detailing his take off while the barren “Chicago to Memphis” with G Herbo touches down on their gang lives. The song “Too Hot” with Moneybagg Yo sees the 2 spitting generic bars over a misty instrumental while the penultimate track “Lick Me Baby” comes off as a cringey sex ode. “Youngest to Do It” ends the tape on a more heartfelt note talking about his come up over a vocal loop.

Despite not being a fan of his previous work, I did find myself enjoying Me vs. Me a little bit more than I expected to. However, I’d say the high points are all mediocre at best. The production choices have definitely improved & most of the features come correct also, but the whole internal conflict concept of it keeps derailing itself as the tape goes on.

Score: 2/5

Gunna – “Drip Season 4” review

This is the 5th mixtape from College Park rapper Gunna. Coming up in 2013 off his debut mixtape Hard Body, he would eventually catch the attention of local phenomenon Young Thug just 3 years later would go on to sign to his 300 Entertainment imprint YSL Records. However it wasn’t until the release of his debut EP Drip or Drown & his 4th mixtape Drip Season 3 in late 2017 & early 2018 respectively where Gunna’s profile increased significantly. Drip or Drown 2 though was a mediocre full-length debut & W.U.N.N.A. (Wealthy Unapologetic N***a Naturally Authentic) wound up being one of the best trap albums of 2020, but is kicking off 2022 by dropping Drip Season 4.

“private island” kicks the whole tape off with an acoustic trap instrumental from Wheezy talking about living it up whereas the violin-infused “pushin’ P” with Future & Young Thug finds the trio talking about percs. “poochie gown” then sees the So Icey Boyz mixing some piano chords & heavy bass talking about having a bad bitch in his penthouse & pathetically trying to throw a jab at Freddie Gibbs, but then Thugger returns for the thunderous “mop” going back & forth with one another very well.

Meanwhile on “thought i was playing”, we have 21 Savage tagging along on top of an entrancing Mike WiLL Made-It beat going at those who don’t take them seriously leading into “how you did that?” showing Turboworking in some keys & a flute to talk about the famous lifestyle even though Kodak Black’s parts don’t hold up to Gunna’s at all. “alotta cake” has these amazing harps from Metro Boomin’ getting materialistic just before “livin’ wild” shows off a well used Keith Sweat sample talking about going through changes.

“you & me” goes into a more sexual turf as Taurus samples Jon B, Chris Brown & Bri Steves all together while “south to west” once again gets boastful on top of a theatrical trap beat. Lil Baby comes into the picture for “25k jacket” going back to a more violin-influenced vibe talking about going back to back even though I wish it was a little bit longer than just 2 minutes while “too easy” with Future brings back the harps detailing how simple this rap shit is to them.

“idk that bitch” has a more cavernous sound to it as he & G Herbo call out those marrying women they don’t even know whereas “flooded” goes into a more guitar-driven direction talking about his ice. Nechie drops the worst feature verse on “life of sin” even though I really like the overall vibe of it, but then “die alone” with Chris Brown & Yung Bleu comes off as a painfully bland romance ballad.

The track “missing me” has a more cloudier vibe to it instrumentally addressing a woman who left his heart aching while the final actual song on the album “so far ahead > empire” starts off as a piano ballad talking about making it, but switches into acoustic turf expressing a desire to build an empire. As for the “too easy” remix with Roddy Ricch, I could’ve done without it.

For this to be the conclusion of the Drip Season series, I’d have to say it’s my 2nd favorite installment right behind the 3rd one. His production choices are continuing to get better with each project he puts out & the same applies to his performances, but overdid it on the features much like Thug did on Punk back in the fall.

Score: 3.5/5

Daniel Son – “Son Tzu & the Wav.God” review

Daniel Son is a 32 year old MC from Toronto, Canada who came up as a member of the Brown Bag Money collective back in 2016. His profile began to rapidly increase in the underground off projects like the Giallo Point-produced debut mixtape The Gunners or the Futurewave-produced sophomore album Yenaldooshi but after spending 2021 dropping a few EPs, he’s bringing Futurewave back in the picture to lace his 4th tape from top to bottom.

“Son Rise” kicks the whole thing off on some boom bap shit with an almost glistening loop showing cats how he does it in his neck of the woods whereas “Full Moon” goes into a more euphoric route sonically talking about having nightmares that’ll haunt him until he’s gone. Rome Streetz tags along for vengeful “Field Trips” going at the throats of those jealous of their success, but then “Nostrildamus” incorporates a soul sample to get on his pusher shit. Meanwhile on “Death & Taxes”, we have Daniel Son talking about not having a choice to lead the way even tough Pro Dillinger’s verse at the start is just decent leading into the jazzy “Hallelujah” speaking on dying for his chips.

Flee Lord comes into the picture for the sedatively-produced “3rd Eye”talking about having records that’ll play when they’re both gone while the song “Stove Dance” goes into drumless turf up until the 2nd half saying he applies a pressure that they can’t take. The penultimate track “Talk to Yourself” has a horn-heavy sound advising to keep his name out these punks’ mouths & “Son Set” with Saipher Soze ends it all with some grimy street shit that hopefully serves as an appetizer for a Divizion Rivals sequel.

I know 2022 literally just started today, but we already got an Album of the Year contender straight out the gate. Daniel Son’s lyricism goes hand-in-hand with Futurewave’s raw production as always, but they really take it to another level much like they did on Yenaldooshi & Moonshine Mix 2.

Score: 4.5/5

Pi’erre Bourne – “Yo88!” review

Pi’erre Bourne is a 28 year old producer, rapper, songwriter & engineer from South Carolina who became 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 & 2 full-lengths albums, with the latest being The Life of Pi’erre 5 over the summer finishing the series. But to move on from it, Pi’erre’s enlisting TM88 to fully produce his 6th mixtape.

“O.M.S. (On My Shit)” is a futuristic opener talking about being in his bag whereas “Pop Out” takes the cloudier route paying homage to his bitch. “Homecoming” has a more uptempo sound talking about the hood showing love whenever he comes back around which gets me in a good mood when it comes on, but then “Stunt 102” almost has that Whole Lotta Red sound to it flexing his lavish lifestyle.

Meanwhile on “Chit Chat”, we have Wiz Khalifa joining Pi’erre on top of an atmospheric instrumental calling out those who be running their mouths for those who love moshpit starters leading into the synth-laced “Block Boy” talking about carrying his block with him wherever he goes which is admirable. “Yo!gurt” is basically a BJ anthem going into a more ethereal direction just before Young Nudy tags along for the spacious “Richer Dreams” talking about their wealth.

The song “Love Scam” is essentially him saying there ain’t no price on his girl’s love at all over an intoxicating beat while the penultimate track “Cullinan” explains that he gets better with time & the guitar licks on here are just stellar. “Run It” then ends the tape with some suspenseful synth melodies that really draw you in celebrating his success.

The Life of Pi’erre 5 showed many improvements in Pi’erre, so I was absolutely excited going into this tape. Lo & behold: I like it just as much if not more than his last album. Dude’s getting progressively better as a performer & I think it really goes to show that people need to give TM88 his flowers for helping lay the groundwork for modern trap production.

Score: 4/5

Russ – “Chomp 2” review

Russ is a 29 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. Shake the Snowglobe was slightly better & his debut EP CHOMP last year ended up being his best work so far, although it’s because the features & producers carried. But to close out the year, Russ bringing an all-star cast of well-respected names for his 12th mixtape.

“Sheep” kicks off the whole thing with a skeletal boom bap beat from Jake One with fake woke lyrics attached onto it whereas “Blue Chip” works in a groovy mR. pOrTeR instrumental & Ransom’s verse at the backend is more aggressive than Russ’ at the start. “Bucket Hat Low” has some cool background vocals & Papoose’s verse starts it off well, but Russ’ signature narcissistic attitude at the end straight up kills it. Hi-Tek provides a more west coast sound for “Nothin’ New” where The Game’s wordplay is really the star of it all leading into the soulful “Salute” produced by 9th Wonder which starts off with a mediocre verse, but then Styles P & Westside Gunn pick it back up talking about being undisputed.

Meanwhile on “Faith”, we have Jadakiss accompanying Russ to encourage trusting yourself even though the beat is plain as fuck just before the DJ Premier-laced “Free” goes into boom bap turf talking about being only human as Big K.R.I.T. & Snoop Dogg dominate it. “Top of the World” with Jay Electronica has an airy Harry Fraud beat serving as a cool victory lap, but then “Note to Self” feels like a microwaved leftover from Big Sean’s latest EP What You Expect? down to the Hit-Boy instrumental.

“Hustler” is basically a short yet decent freestyle with a more interesting Jake One beat while “Distance” has a NASTY boom bap instrumental from The Alchemist taking shots at their doubters even though it doesn’t sound like Conway the Machine or Ghostface Killah are throwing a temper tantrum on wax. The song “Get It” fuses some dusty drums & pianos with the help of Statik Selektah motivating listeners with CyHi the Prynce & Lloyd Banks’ verses not sounding forced while the penultimate track “Enjoy the View” has an explosive Bink! beat & Russ keeps up with Mozzy talking about letting the success continue to roll in. “Golden” then ends the album with a wintery Boi-1da instrumental addressing people turning on him & the hook is just atrocious.

I will say that this tape is better than it’s predecessor, but by a small margin. Much like the first Chomp, the features & production are all A1. However, it’s Russ’ actual songwriting & performances that bog it down. Like it’s cool for him to bring these bigger names on board, but they shouldn’t have to carry a whole project from him or anyone. Out of touch old heads will still eat it up though.

Score: 2.5/5

Lucki – “Wake Up Lucki” review

Lucki is a 25 year old rapper & producer from Chicago, Illinois who started to turn heads in the summer of 2013 when he released his debut mixtape Alternative Trap to critical acclaim. This was followed up with 5 more tapes & a dozen EPs but after finishing his tour promoting his 7th mixtape over here, he’s enlisting F1LTHY to produce the whole thing from front to back which is very intriguing given that he was responsible for a couple of my favorite cuts off Playboi Carti’s sophomore album Whole Lotta Red last Christmas like “M3tamorphosis” & “New Tank”.

“USED 2 B” is a dope, electronic/trap-tinged opener saying he knows who really loves him whereas “NEPTUNE VS. INDUSTRY” follows it up with an underwritten cut about being geeked despite it’s glistening production. “STILL MISS YA” works in some synthesizers to pondering why this bitch would trust him even though it could’ve been more fleshed out, but then “U.G.K.” talks about how he was just racin’ & I really dig the psychedelic feeling of the production.

Meanwhile on “2019”, we have Lucki on top of a pleasantly cloudy trap instrumental telling his lover how much he needs her just before “WHERE I BE” does a good job at spaciously detailing his Roxy suite calling him. “NEEDED” lyrically details how “It’s not good I need it, but I said it cause it’s true” with a beat that’s danceable as fuck leading into “CRYOUT” talking about being in the mixer & the atmosphere of it is really nice.

“SPARKS VISION” has one of the weaker instrumentals on the tape telling this bitch he’s giving her heart away while the song “BUSY DAY” is a spacey storytelling banger of why he missed his girl’s calls & messages all day. The penultimate track “LOVE IS WAR” is a decent attempt at going emo rap & “OUTRO” finishes the tape well by talking about how high he got with a perfectly chilled out beat.

In my personal opinion, this is one of my favorite Lucki projects yet & hopefully this is the last precursor to his full-length debut Flawless Like Me whenever that drops (fingers crossed next year). It’s a completely different sound than his previous efforts & his knack for catchy songwriting stays in effect for a good portion of it.

Score: 3.5/5