Pop Smoke – “Faith” review

This is the sophomore album from New York rapper, singer & songwriter Pop Smoke. Emerging in the summer of 2019 off his debut EP Meet the Woo, things were looking like the Brooklyn drill pioneer was just about to take off until he was tragically murdered in a home invasion less than 2 weeks after Meet the Woo 2 dropped last February. Pop’s full-length debut Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon was later completed by the hands of his idol 50 Cent & just celebrated it’s 1-year anniversary at the beginning of the month. As for the actual music on that album: I personally was indifferent towards it because as much as I adore 50’s output both solo & with G-Unit from 2002-2006, he made it sound a lot more commercial than it really needed to be. So to see he had no involvement with Faith gave me hope that I’d like it more than Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon.

After the “Good News” intro, the first song “More Time” is an endearing piano ballad produced by 808Melo about how that’s all he needs whereas “Tell the Vision” with Pusha T finds the duo boasting their success on top of a guitar & some hi-hats. I also dig how Push acknowledges Call Me If You Get Lost as the 2021 AOTY so far as well as teasing his upcoming album & calling someone who I refuse to acknowledge on my platform a clown without sounding like beating a dead horse. He & Rick Ross get murderous on the soulful “Manslaughter” leading into the acoustic materialism anthem “‘Bout a Million” with 21 Savage & 42 Dugg.

Meanwhile on “Brush ‘Em”, we have Rah Swish tagging along over a chilling sample to spit that gangsta shit just before the triumphant “Top Shotta” featuring Pusha T & TRAVI along with The Neptunes behind the boards. Bizzar Banks comes into the picture to talk about being sleazes on the cinematically produced “30” while the spacious “Beat the Speaker” grimly talks about Pop being the man. “Coupe” has a nocturnal instrumental whilst returning to the gangsta rap themes just before he & Takeoff talk about having a lot of guns for the cavernous “What’s Crackin’?”. The choir vocals on the Lil Tjay/Swae Lee assisted “Genius” are chilling as the trio are proclaiming themselves as such while he & Future talking about 100 bitches that’s ready to fuck.

After the pointless “Woo Baby” interlude, the actual “Woo Baby” song itself is an attempt at a radio hit saying he & Chris Brown like their yummy yellow whatever the fuck that’s supposed to mean while the moody Dua Lipa duet “Demeanor” finds the 2 talking about his shawty. “Spoiled” even though it’s 2 minutes long is what “Woo Baby” should’ve been while the song “8-Ball” with KiD CuDi serves as a guitar ballad produced by Swizz Beatz about robbin’ ‘cause they never had nothing. The penultimate track “Back Door” with Kodak Black & Quavo sees the trio lavishly looking back on what their mothers had told them growing up & the closer “Merci Beaucoup” beautiful tells listeners that he ain’t got shit to prove to nobody.

Now I like this a bit more than the previous Pop Smoke album, but just by a very small margin. Some of the features either hit or miss & I really appreciate how it doesn’t try as hard to appeal to a nonexistent radio market like Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon did.

Score: 3/5

G Herbo – “25” review

G Herbo is a 25 year old rapper & songwriter from Chicago, Illinois breaking out in 2014 off his debut mixtape Welcome to Fazoland. This resulted in him earning a spot in the legendary 2016 XXL Freshman Class along with 5 full-length albums, the previous ones being PTSD last February & the sequel PTSD 2 a few months later. But after dropping a couple singles back in the spring, Herbo dropping his 6th full-length album on everyone’s heads.

“I Don’t Wanna Die” kicks things off with Herbo expressing his fear of death over a chilling Southside instrumental whereas “Cry No More” with Lil Tjay & Polo G is a piano-heavy plea to not suffer any more losses in all 3 of their lives. OZ works in a high-pitched vocal sample on the hungry “Stans the Rain” just before 21 Savage tags along for the braggadocious T.O.P. produced by Hitmaka.

Meanwhile on “You Can’t”, we have Gunna assisting Herbo on top of a trippy Turbo beat to address those who missed them when they were broke leading into the powerful “No Jail Time”. He later recalls witnessing a murder at the age of 9 on the wrenching “Cold World”, but then Don Cannon helps take things into gospel territory for “Whole Hearts”.

Tay Keith’s production on “2 Chains” seems somewhat influenced by Three 6 Mafia with Herbo flexing his wealth while the Rowdy Rebel-assisted “Drill” brings in a violin-infused drill instrumental for them to paint pictures of Chiraq. “Trenches Know My Name” is a climatic confession about how he can’t stay out of the hood whereas “Doughboy” continues to flex once more except the beat has a more victorious tone to it.

“Demands” has kind of a more folkier quality in the production with Herbo talking about “Make the Hood Great Again” & Jake One provides a soul sample to discuss what “Loyalty” means to him. “Pray for My Enemies” contains these cinematic horns & lyrics about how he’s willing to go up to the furthest length under any extent, but the standard edition closer “Turning 25” brings in some keys & hi-hats to describe how he felt on his 25th birthday.

The first bonus track “Statement” flips the Dipset joint “I Really Mean It” to address the fraud charges he’s currently facing whereas “Really Like That” has a more synth-based sound along with lyrics about how he raps for the streets & you rap for the feds. Finally there’s “Break Yoself”, which is atmospheric cut saying that he’s gon’ be rich forever.

To me, Herbo’s latest output is somewhat overlooked & 25 serves as his most personal album he’s put out yet. You get a good look how he’s been doing in the last 9 months & despite a few misses in the production, a majority of them are pretty tight.

Score: 3.5/5

Ski Mask the Slump God – “Sin City” review

This is the 4th mixtape from Orlando rapper Ski Mask the Slump God. Coming up as the co-founder of Members Only alongside the late XXXTENTACION, he then dropped a couple EPs & a great mixtape called Drown in Designer in 2016 before signing to Republic Records the following year with his 2nd tape called YouWillRegret being his first outing on a major label. This was followed up with Beware the Book of Eli & the full-length debut Stokeley in 2018 but after a 3-year hiatus, Ski is making his comeback by dropping Sin City.

The intro starts off as a spoken word piece, but busts into an industrial beat from Ronny J & a short verse about how humanity’s been dead. The next song “Dr. Seuss” goes on to brag about his unique flow despite the instrumental being kinda plain before “Admit It” works on a xylophone to say he’s fucking up the stats. Meanwhile on “The Matrix”, we have Ski jumping on some bass & hi-hats to make a bunch of pop culture references whereas “Ya!” is a half-assed & skeletal cut describing “real n***a paradise”.

Kenny Beats comes in to sample Missy Elliott’s “Work It” for the braggadocious “Merlin’s Staff” before taking the acoustic route on the emotional “Lost in Time”. The penultimate track “Fire Hazard” is a bass-heavy riot starter & then the closer “Mental Magneto” is a grungy look at being conflicted.

I’m pretty indifferent towards Sin City at the end of the day. Half of these cuts are straight heat, but then the other half is just uneventful & boring. I really wish he would flesh his joints out more fully then making a 9-track, 20 minute EP & calling it a “mixtape”.

Score: 2.5/5

Baby E & Ouija Macc – “We Never Forgot” review

This is the brand new collaborative mixtape from West Coast rappers Baby E & Ouija Macc. One is a Lil Wayne protege signed to the icon’s Republic Records imprint Young Money Entertainment & the other is an Insane Clown Posse protege signed to their independently-owned Psychopathic Records. I don’t think the duo have ever worked together in the past, so I was very curious to hear how they would play off one another on We Never Forgot.

The tape kicks off with “Bands Won’t Stop”, where Baby E & Ouija talk about how the money will always come in over a trap beat with some teary piano melodies. The next song “Like Yuh” talks about keeping the drama away from them over a woozy instrumental while the track “(I Don’t Like Life) Anymore” talks about suicide over a crazed beat from Devereaux. The song “Different Mindset” gets romantic over a more voluptuous, poppy instrumental while the track “For Good” interprets the title in a few clever ways on top of an orchestral beat.

The song “1 for Me” talks about women who don’t know what they want from them over an acoustic guitar backed by some snares while the track “Overnight” talks about how Rome wasn’t build in a day over a rubbery beat. The song “It Be Like That Sometimes” talks about life being a carnival over a cloudy trap instrumental while the penultimate track “Mitosis” talks about killing everything in site over a monstrous Devereaux beat. The tape finishes off with “Got Somebody”, where Baby E & Ouija talk about being there when their homies are down over an acoustic-tinged trap instrumental.

Out of all the collaborative projects Ouija has put out in the past few years, this is easily my favorite of the bunch. It’s understandably a lot more melodic in comparison to his previous material & I commend him for stepping out of his comfort zone on that, but he & Baby E also do a good job of playing off each other. If these guys plan on working together more down the road, then I’m all for it.

Score: 3.5/5

JPEGMAFIA – “EP2!” review

JPEGMAFIA is a 31 year old rapper, singer & producer from Baltimore, Maryland who broke out in 2016 with the release of his full-length debut Black Ben Carson. However, wouldn’t be until the man’s next 2 albums Veteran at the beginning of 2018 & then All My Heroes are Cornballs the following year where he would earn respect across the board & reveal himself as one of the most creative minds in hip hop today. He dropped a bunch of singles last year & compiled them onto an 8-track EP. But after signing to Republic Records last month, Peggy has cooked up another EP albeit with almost all newly recorded material.

I have no idea why the EP starts off with “LAST DANCE!” as it originally appeared on EP! a couple months back, but it’s still a great song. After the “INTRO!”, the first actual song “FIX URSELF!” talks about being too real for this shit over a cold instrumental while the next track “KELTEC!” talks about not needing industry friends over a futuristic beat.

The song “THIS ONE’S FOR US!” gets combative over an atmospheric instrumental while the penultimate track “PANIC ROOM!” talks about suckas over a lush beat from James Blake. The EP finishes off with “FEED HER!”, where Peggy flexes over a cloudy instrumental.

I was curious to hear how this would sound given that Peggy’s on a major label now, but I enjoy it almost as much as EP!. Yeah he’s going into a more pop rap territory on here, but he makes it work by putting his own unique spin on that more melodic sound.

Score: 4/5

KiD CuDi – “Man on the Moon III: The Chosen” review

KiD CuDi is a 36 year old rapper, singer, songwriter, producer & actor from Cleveland, Ohio who blew up in 2008 off his debut mixtape A KiD Named CuDi as well as his songwriting credits on his mentor Kanye West’s 4th album 808s & Heartbreak. This was followed up with his groundbreaking debut & sophomore albums Man on the Moon: The End of the Day & Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager the next year & the year after that respectively but then 3 years later, CuDi would leave G.O.O.D. Music amicably to form his own Republic Records imprint Wicked Awesome Records after releasing the self-produced & overlooked Indicud. However, I found Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon to be mediocre at best & who could forget when CuDi attempted to go alt-rock on the critically panned Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven? Luckily he would redeem himself on his previous effort Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ in 2016 along with the eponymous debut album from him & Kanye as the duo Kids See Ghosts a couple summers back. But after a couple of loose singles throughout this year, KiD CuDi is ready to finally close out the Man on the Moon trilogy on his 7th full-length album.

After the “Beautiful Trip” intro, the first song “Tequila Shots” talks about internal conflict over a psychedelic trap instrumental from Dot da Genius & Take a Daytrip whereas the following track “Another Day” talks about how ain’t much changed in him over a spacious beat. The song “She Knows This” gets sexual over a voluptuous instrumental while the track “Dive” talks about a sadness in him over a cavernous beat from none other than Kevin Parker.

The song “Damaged” talks about being a broken man over a befuddled instrumental while the track “Heaven on Earth” talks about living alright over a nocturnal, bass-heavy beat. The song “Show Out” with Skepta sees the 2 flexin’ over a rubbery instrumental while the track “Mr. Solo Dolo, Pt. III” talks about somethin’ twisting him over a cloudy beat from Plain Pat & WZRD.

The song “Sad People” pays tribute to everyone out there who’s depressed over a glitzy instrumental while the track “Elsie’s Baby Boy (Flashback)” looks back on his childhood over a rock-flavored beat. The song “Sept. 16th” talks about searching for love over an instrumental with some wavy synths while “The Void” talks about falling in an abyss over a downcast beat from Mike Dean & WZRD.

The track “Lovin’ Me” is a gorgeous duet with Phoebe Bridgers about self love down the euphoric instrumental while “The Pale Moonlight” talks about people who think they know him over a vibrant beat. The song “Rockstar Knights” with Trippie Redd finds the 2 talking about the luxurious lifestyles they live over a ghostly trap instrumental while the penultimate track “4 da Kidz” is a dedication to the chosen few over a fiery beat. The album ends with “Lord I Know”, where CuDi talks about being a warrior over an atmospheric instrumental.

I didn’t think this day would actually come, but I’m sure as Hell glad that it did because it’s a great finisher to the trilogy that got KiD CuDi where he is currently. You can definitely hear the Travis Scott influence but simultaneously, he does a phenomenal job at recapturing the vibes of his first 2 albums from the sounds provided by the original producers of those records to the concepts throughout.

Score: 4/5

ΠΔV – “Emergency Tsunami” review

This is the 5th mixtape from 30 year old Canadian rapper, singer, songwriter & producer ΠΔV. Coming onto my radar in 2016 after signing to The Weeknd’s Republic Records imprint X♥O Records along with his feature on “beibs in the trap” off of Travis Scott’s sophomore effort Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight, he would go on to release a total of 4 mixtapes as well as 3 full-length albums & an EP. Now I personally haven’t been the biggest fan of ΠΔV’s music up to this point because of his monotonous delivery, insipid lyrics & generic production choices. But once I found out Wheezy was producing Emergency Tsunami from top to bottom, my morbid curiosity got the best of me & I decided to go into it with an open mind.

After the “Breaking News” intro, the opener “Friends & Family” is a surprisingly compelling rags to riches story backed by a triumphant beat whereas the next track “Young Wheezy” with Gunna sees the duo paying tribute to the man behind the boards himself over a nondescript instrumental. The song “Nasty” of course gets raunchy over a buttery beat while the track “Repercussions” with Young Thug finds the 2 warning their opposition that they don’t want the smoke over a wavy instrumental.

The song “Vetement Socks” talks about how everything he buys is expensive over a tropical beat while the track “Don’t Need Friends” with Lil Baby sees the 2 talking about feeling relieved now that they’re getting money over an atmospheric instrumental. The song “Make It Right Back” over a woodwind-infused beat while the track “Trains” with Lil Keed finds the 2 talking about sleeping with hoes over an instrumental that sounds like it was made for Playboi Carti.

The song “Do Ya Deed” with SahBabii is a HIDEOUS ode to getting head despite the piano-inflicted production while the track “Droppin’ Tears” boasts over a wavy beat. The penultimate song “Modest” talks about being humble over a symphonic instrumental & before the “Breaking News” outro, the track “Turn & Twist” talks about going full throttle on top of an instrumental with some synthesizers & GORGEOUS background vocals.

Even though I don’t care for this mixtape, it’s actually safe for me to say to call it a cut above anything he’s done since Reckless. The features are cool & Wheezy’s production is top notch as is Mike Dean’s mastering, but I’ve come to terms that ΠΔV just doesn’t captivate me as a rapper. I mean I think his performances have improved a tad bit, but the songwriting is still pretty subpar

Score: 2/5

Black Thought – “Streams of Thought 3: Cain & Abel” review

Black Thought is a MC from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania most notable as the frontman of The Roots. Since the very beginning of his career, Black Thought has solidified himself as one of the most skilled & well respected lyricists in all of hip hop from his work with the band or his lengthy list of show-stopping features. However, it wouldn’t be until 2018 when he finally started putting out projects under his own name with the 9th Wonder-produced Streams of Thought & the Salaam Remi-produced Streams of Thought 2: Traxploitation. But just about 2 years later, Black Thought is enlisting Sean Cane for the long-awaited 3rd installment.

The EP kicks off with “I’m Not Crazy (First Contact)”, where Black Thought completely shits on Christopher Columbus in complete reverb over a slow guitar-laced beat. The next song “State Prisoner” talks about needing each other for survival over a dynamic instrumental with some choir vocals during the first half while the track “Good Morning” with Killer Mike & Pusha T finds the trio talking about the struggles African Americans face along with ego-trip over an apocalyptic beat. The song “Magnificent” boasts his lyrical prowess over a funky instrumental with some live drums & after the “Experience” interlude, the track “Quiet Trip” reminisces about the old times over an fiery beat.

The song “Nature of the Beast” talks about how everyone in this country is all going through the same shit over an instrumental with some well incorporated synths while the track “We Could Be Good (United)” talks about this woman who complains all the time over a sensual boom bap beat. The song “Steak Um” with ScHoolboy Q finds the 2 talking about oppression over an instrumental with a haunting atmosphere to it while the track “Thought vs. Everybody” talks about being the most powerful black man in America over a funky beat. The “Ghetto Boys & Girls” interlude talks about coming from nothing over a spacious instrumental whereas the final song “Fuel” reads as a power open letter to the listener over a gospel-esque beat. Then for the outro, it’s just a decent reprise of the intro.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this one going into this but coming away from it, it’s a solid listen. Sean Cane’s production being a bit more glossier than the last 2 EPs were but that doesn’t hold it back at all as Black Thought provides a unique perspective on a wide range of topics on here, further cementing himself as one of the greatest MCs of all-time. Really looking forward to see what’s in store for the 4th installment.

Score: 3.5/5

21 Savage – “Savage Mode II” review

This is the brand new & highly anticipated album from Atlanta rapper, songwriter & occasional producer 21 Savage. Coming on my radar by appearing on the iconic 2016 XXL Freshman Class list, he continued to make a household name for himself in the current trap landscape by dropping his 2nd EP Savage Mode with Metro Boomin’ producing it in it’s entirety shortly after. Then came his full-length debut Issa Album & an incredible collab album he did with Offset called Without Warning the following year, but it wouldn’t be until the end of 2018 where 21 dropped his most mature work to date with i am > i was. Fast forward a little over a month later, he was arrested by ICE after it was revealed that he was born in the UK & stayed in the US on an expired visa. Luckily, he was freed 10 days later & has been laying low for the most part since then. However, 21 is reuniting with Metro for a sequel to Savage Mode.

After the Morgan Freeman intro (who narrates the whole album), the first song “Runnin’” talks about buying a Hollywood bitch over a best sampling of Diana Ross’ “I Thought It Took a Little Time (But Today I Fell in Love)” while the track “Glock in My Lap” talks about being strapped everywhere over a haunting instrumental from Honorable C.N.O.T.E. & the So Icey Boyz. The song “Mr. Right Now” with Drake sees the 2 getting raunchy over a wavy beat while the track “Rich Nigga Shit” with Young Thug finds both of them getting materialistic over a spacious instrumental.

The song “Slidin’” spits that gun talk over a ghostly beat while the track “Many Men” is pretty much his own version of 50 Cent’s “Many Men (Wish Death)” down to sampling the actual joint itself. After the “Snitches & Rats” interlude, the actual “Snitches & Rats” song itself Young Nudy take aim at 6ix9ine then the track “My Dawg” pays tribute to Nipsey Hu$$le over a trap beat with some melancholic keyboard passages.

The song “Steppin’ on N****s” gets bloodthirsty over a beat that kinda has a dirty south feel to it while the track “Brand New Draco” gets boastful over a vibrant beat. The song “No Opp Left Behind” talks about corrupt cops over an instrumental with an apocalyptic atmosphere to it while the penultimate track “RIP Luv” talks about giving up on romance backed by a mournful beat with some co-production from Zaytoven. The album finishes with “San N Done”, where 21 ponders if this new chick is gonna ride for him over a nightly instrumental.

We all know that many sequel projects don’t exactly live up to the hype of the predecessor, but this is definitely an exception. 21’s maturity is very much present on here as it was on his last full-length album about 2 years ago & Metro Boomin’ manages to remind listeners of his place as one of the greatest producers in the trap subgenre.

Score: 3.5/5

Lil Tecca – “Virgo World” review

Lil Tecca is an 18 year old rapper, singer, songwriter & producer from New York City who blew up in 2018 off the single “Ran$om”. It would later be included on his debut mixtape We Love You Tecca that same year & would receive lukewarm reception. Fast forward a couple years later, Tecca is delivering his full-length debut.

The album kicks off with “Our Time”, where Lil Tecca calls out people using him for his newfound fame over an outdated dancehall beat. The next track “Actin’ Up” talks about his shawty over a rubbery instrumental with some luxurious keyboards while the song “When You Down” with Polo G & Lil Durk finds the trio touching down on loyalty over a trap beat with some impassioned piano embellishments. The track “Back It Up” talks about an ex of his over a flute-inflicted instrumental while the song “Chemistry” talks about his new chick over another boring dancehall beat.

The track “Royal Rumble” compares his newfound fame to that of the titular WWE event over a hyphy beat whereas “Foreign” is less of a song & more of a contest with to NAV to see who can bore you the most. The track “Selection” is a half-assed piece about wanting this woman to be his best friend over a decent instrumental from Skrillex & DJ Scheme while the song “Take 10” is pretty much the same thing except the beat is more undistinguished.

The track “Dolly” with Lil Uzi Vert finds the 2 getting braggadocious over an intoxicating instrumental while the song “Insecurities” talks about how he adores this woman no matter what over a cheerful beat from Nick Mira. The track “Tic Toc” talks about how no one wants beef with him over an instrumental kin to “When You Down” that I mentioned earlier while the song “Miss Me” talks about how he’s that guy over a somewhat quirky instrumental.

The track “True to the Game” with Guwop Reign sees the 2 talking about them never changing over a violin-tinged instrumental while the song “Closest to Heaven” gets back on the romance shit over a woozy beat. The track “Level Up” talks about hoping this woman means it when she says she loves him over a more soothing instrumental while the song “No Answers” talks about a chick acting stupid over an unexciting beat. The penultimate track “Last Call” over an acoustic trap instrumental & then the album ends with “Out of Love”, where Tecca talks about how fucked up the world is over a trap beat from Internet Money with a gorgeous piano loop.

I don’t mean any disrespect to the kid at all when I say this, but I think this album just goes to reveal Lil Tecca as a 1-hit wonder. The production choices are mostly bland & the rapping is more underwhelming than it’s ever been to the point where it just puts me to sleep.

Score: 1.5/5