Westside Boogie – “Live at the Novo” review

Westside Boogie is a 33 year old MC from Compton, California who broke out onto the scene in 2014 with his debut mixtape Thirst 48. He would go on to follow it up with The Reachexactly a year later as well as Thirst 48 II the year after that before catching the attention of Detroit icon Eminem & signing to his Interscope Records imprint Shady Records in late 2017. His full-length debut Everything’s for Sale at the beginning of 2019 was a solid way to introduce himself to a wider audience & the sophomore effort More Black Superheroes did it’s job encouraging the world to embrace their powers, but is returning 9 months later in the form of his debut EP.

“Cold as Love” is a spacious trap opener with Superblood Boog talks about being in his head & pondering why one feels so safe yet shady can’t save him after invading his space while the penultimate track “Tell Me” works in a chipmunk soul sample & some hi-hats so Anthony can describe all the things that he wants to be told such as never hearing any kind of sucka shit again or how to fix the hood if he ain’t never in the hood. “Mood” on the other end sends off the EP with Ratchet Boog over a piano trap instrumental dropping some braggadocio for dat azz.

Everything’s for Sale gave a wider audience a good look as to who he really is & the concept of More Black Superheroes is still compelling to this day in my book but if Live at the Novo is only a prelude for his upcoming 3rd album, then I think it’s a solid offering to keep listeners satisfied until then. He delves more into himself lyrically whilst introducing his 2 alter-egos & the trap undertones of his 2 full-lengths are more prominent here than they were in the past.

Score: 3.5/5

Grip – “5 & a Fuck You” review

This is the 2nd mixtape from Atlanta emcee Grip. Coming up in 2017 of his debut mixtape Porch, he would go on to drop his full-length debut Snubnose along with 2 EPs Halo & Proboscidea prior to Detroit veteran Eminem signing Grip to his very own Interscope Records imprint Shady Records last summer. His sophomore effort I Died For This?! the following month was an impressive major label debut showing his potential, so I was excited going into 5 & a Fuck You when he announced it out of the blue a couple nights ago.

“Cook Up” is a booming yet dark trap opener with Grip talking about needing a week to do exactly just that whereas “‘94 Flow” takes the boom bap route to spit some aggressive battle bars. Marco+ tags along for trap-laced “Static” calling out those who don’t want smoke with them, but then “Popular Demand” returns to the boom bap with an organ sample laced with the help of DJ Khalil addressing his return.

Moving on from there with “Da Benzo”, we have Grip delivering a shrilling trap ode to Mercedes-Benz leading into “The F Word” switching it back into boom bap turf talking about giving no fucks. “Value Mall” has a more atmospheric vibe to it explaining how you can ball on a budget just before Tate228 tags comes into the picture for “Cory ‘N Mel” telling the story of 2 robbers of the same name with some chilling soundscapes.

The song “Good” is a soulful celebration of how far we’ve come in this life while the penultimate track “Many Thanks” has a more twangier aesthetic to it with Grip sincerely expressing his gratitude to everyone listening for being the reason why he’s even here for a little over 8 minutes. “Ain’t Ok” though happens to be a solemn closer to the tape talking about the kids not being alright.

If this is something to warm people up for his next full-length, then I think it’ll be even bigger splashes than I Died For This?! as impressive of a major label debut was when it came out a little over a year ago. It’s a lot more rawer in sound, his penmanship is continuing to get better & he’s starting to come into his own artistically.

Score: 3.5/5

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Westside Boogie – “More Black Superheroes” review

This is the sophomore album from Compton emcee Westside Boogie. Breaking out onto the scene in 2014 with his debut mixtape Thirst 48 as well as following it up with The Reach exactly a year later as well as Thirst 48, Pt. II the year after that, he would eventually catch the attention of Detroit icon Eminem by signing to his Interscope Records imprint Shady Records in late 2017. His full-length debut Everything’s for Sale at the beginning of 2019 was a solid way to introduce himself to a wider audience & he’s finally returning in the form of More Black Superheroes.

“KILLA MODE” opens up the album with an acoustic guitar & some crooning vocals as Westside Boogie warns everyone to stop playing with him whereas “STUCK” takes a more piano-trap route & show a more contemplative side of him. “NONCHALANT” has a more summery tone to it getting romantic just before “LOL SMH II” starts off with a more soulful tone talking about needing power to be present, but switches into somewhat of a funkier sound saying he’s as calm as can be.

Meanwhile on “CAN’T EVEN LIE”, we have Soulja Boy tagging along over some keys & hi-hats calling out the pussies leading into the smooth “PRIDEFUL II” asking his girl what she be getting into. “AIGHT” returns to trap territory to brush off all the cap people be telling him, but then Smino & Teezo Touchdown come into the picture for the sensual “CAN’T GET OVER YOU” talking about how they can’t get over their significant others.

“RATCHET BOOG” is an aggressive introduction to one of the 3 alter egos that Westside Boogie has with a cool beat-switch towards the end while “SOMETHIN’ STRANGE” seems a little out of place given the fact that Kalan.FrFr has the most presence on it out of everyone. The penultimate track “WINDOWS DOWN” with Snoop Dogg finds the 2 talking about smoking weed over a tranquilizing instrumental & “ANTHONY (WAR)” finishes the album with a well sequenced 2-parter admitting he thinks he’s too bougie now.

We’ve waited 3 long years for this one to come out & I think I happen like it a tad bit better than Everything’s for Sale. I admire the whole concept of embracing your powers as well as how much Westside Boogie has grown both creatively & personally since the last time we heard from him.

Score: 3.5/5

Conway the Machine – “God Don’t Make Mistakes” review

This is the long-awaited Shady Records album from Buffalo emcee/entrepreneur Conway the Machine. Blowing up in late 2015 as part of the 3 OGs of Griselda Records alongside his brother Westside Gunn & their cousin Benny the Butcher, the trio have had hip hop lock by their constant work ethic balancing quality & quality as well as vividly detailing their lives in the streets on top of boom bap production kin to that of RZA & Havoc in their music. Con’s full-length debut From King to a God was my Album of the Year for 2020 & last year, we were treated to his 8th EP If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed produced entirely by Big Ghost Ltd. & his 11th mixtape La Maquina. But in light of Conway announcing earlier this week that he’ll be amicably departing Shady & Griselda to focus on his very own label Drumwork Music Group, what better way to fulfill his contracts than to drop God Don’t Make Mistakes?

“Lock Load” starts off the album with Beanie Sigel & Conway talking about always carrying a strap on them on top of a spooky Daringer instrumental whereas “Tear Gas” with Lil Wayne & Rick Ross works in a high-pitched vocal sample calling out those who weren’t there for them when they needed them most. “Piano Love” of course brings in a dreary piano instrumental from The Alchemist talking about being the richest in Buffalo, but then “Drumwork” is pretty much “Crack in the 90s” & “Sister Abigail” on steroids.

Meanwhile on “Wild Chapters”, we have T.I. joining Conway on top of a dispirited boom bap beat from Hit-Boy talking about the story of their lives just before the Bink!-produced “Guilty” goes into soulful turf encouraging to focus on his lyricism than his appearance. “John Woo Flick” follows it up with a disgusting Griselda posse cut in the same vein as “Spurs 3” leading into the spacious boom bap banger “Stressed” pondering if anyone cares about his mental well being.

“So Much More” encourages listeners not to “let ’em tell you 1 side of the story” on top of angelic vocal loop provided by the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League while the Jill Scott-duet “Chanel Pearls” gets on some smooth Bonnie & Clyde shit. The penultimate song “Babas” incorporates some organs talking about going from king to a god (no pun intended) & the title track finishes the album off by airing out all these questions he has with The Alchemist providing a lush musical backdrop.

Conway’s been hyping this up for a good minute now & for it to be his final Griselda project as well as the only one on Shady, we got ourselves an early album of the year contender & some of the best work of his career. The production is superb, the features are all well picked out & it’s amazing how personal he’s getting on here. I wish him all the best on his own.

Score: 4.5/5

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

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

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

Eminem – “Music to Be Murdered By” review


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

Griselda – “W.W.C.D. (What Would Chinegun Do?)” review

Griselda is a hardcore hip hop trio from Buffalo, New York consisting of Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine & Benny the Butcher. All 3 of whom have made names for themselves throughout the latter half of this decade with modern East Coast classics like FLYGOD, Supreme Blientele, Reject 2, G.O.A.T. (Grimiest Of All-Time), Tana Talk 3 & The Plugs I Met. Now despite all those projects being put out independently under Griselda Records, the trio have seen fit to team up with Shady Records & make their collective debut album their inaugural release on a major label.

After the spoken word intro from Raekwon, the first song “Chef Dreds” finds all 3 members trading bars back & forth with each other over a chilling boom bap beat from Daringer & Beat Butcha (both of whom produced the entire album by themselves). The track “Moselle” serves as the theme song for crack dealers over a frightening instrumental while the song “Cruiser Weight Coke” talks about running the game over an organ-inflicted beat. The track “Freddie Hotspot” talks about drug dealing tip over a haunting instrumental while the song “DR. BIRDS” sees the 3 flexing over a grimy beat.

“The Old Groove” then talks about life in Buffalo over a ghostly instrumental while the track “Scotties” continues to display their amazing chemistry over a demented beat. After the “Kennedy” interlude, the song “City on the Map” with 50 Cent pays tribute to NY over a cold blooded instrumental & in a way it’s like 50 passing the torch down to Griselda. The track “May Store” talks about trapping being their calling over an ominous instrumental & then after the “Lowery” outro, there’s the bonus track where Westside Gunn & Benny add verses to the decent “Bang” single that Conway dropped with Eminem over the summer.

For a major label debut, this is damn near perfect & easily one of my Top 5 releases of 2019. Other than wishing that both Conway & Marshall recorded new verses for the “Bang” remix, I really admire how Griselda didn’t change up their lyricism or production trying to appeal to a crowd that doesn’t exist & just stayed being themselves.

Score: 4.5/5

Yelawolf – “Trunk Muzik 3” review

Yelawolf is a 39 year old rapper, singer & producer from Gadsden, Alabama who first came onto the scene in 2005 with a mediocre debut album Creekwater. It wasn’t until the kickstart of 2010 with the release of his breakout tape Trunk Muzik that he would gain attention, eventually signing to Shady Records/Interscope Records & releasing his sophomore album Radioactive: Amazing & Mystifying Chemical Tricks the following year. A focused grouped, yet still fun major label debut. He then returned in 2015 with Love Story, where he started to incorporate country & rock music into his style. But when his childhood friend Shawty Fatt passed away at the tail-end of 2016, it caused him to disappear from the scene for a while. He fortunately returned with his previous album Trial by Fire, which is pretty much a self-produced & refined sequel to Love Story. Now after dropping a total of 8 vicious freestyles, he’s returning with his 5th full-length album & his last with Shady/Interscope.

The intro kicks things off fantastically, as it pretty much serves as a sequel to Trunk Muzik‘s title track from Yelawolf’s angry bars down to WLPWR sampling the original “Trunk Muzik” song itself. The next track “Catfish Billy 2” of course is a gritty follow-up to the cut that introduced the world to Yelawolf’s alter ego to begin with & even though I appreciate the song “Rowdy” for being a description of coming from the gutter as well as an abrasive beat from DJ Paul (who also provides an adrenaline pumping hook), the Machine Gun Kelly verse is laughable. The track “Special Kind of Bad” is a violin & bass-heavy love ballad that’s goes over very well, but the next song “Like I Love You” is a cringey follow-up to it with a moody trap beat. The track “Drugs” is a look at addiction over a somber beat while the song “Trailer Park Hollywood” talks about looking country fresh & the beat is perfect for the whip.

The track “No Such Thing as Free” with Caskey & Doobie is a jab at people who talk crazy over an eerie beat while the song “We Slum” with Shawty Fatt & Big Henri is self-explanatory over a banger beat. The track “Box Chevy VI” with Rittz & DJ Paul is a tribute to old school Chevrolets over a vintage Paul instrumental while the song “All the Way Up” with MopTop & Cub da Cookup Boss is a look at their feelings on fame over some keyboards & skittering snares. The track “Over Again” is a somber breakup anthem with a cloudy beat while the song “Addiction” tells the depressing story about a friend of Yelawolf’s over a piano infused boom bap beat. The album then closes out with “Over Here”, where Yelawolf disses rappers who’re only out for the fame over a settle guitar & some thumping kick-drums.

With Yelawolf’s tenure at Shady Records being over, this is the best full-length album he’s released yet. The features are hit or miss, but it’s a great return to form of his earlier work from his deadly lyricism all the way down to the menacing production. Really looking forward to the future as he is now a fully independent artist.

Score: 4/5