Isaiah Rashad – “The House’s Burning” review

Isaiah Rashad is a 30 year old rapper from Chattanooga, Tennessee emerging in 2013 by signing to Top Dawg Entertainment & dropping his 2nd EP cilvia demo to universal acclaim the following year. Then came the full-length debut The Sun’s Tirade in 2016, which received as much praise. But after 4 years in the making, TDE is finally letting Zaywop put out a follow-up with the help of Warner Records.

“Darkseid” starts things out with a melancholic ballad about how toddlers got Purple Hearts whereas “From the Garden” with Lil Uzi Vert is an energetic trap banger about them comin’ out bustin’. “RIP Young” beautifully samples “Cheese & Dope” by Project Pat addressing his fame & although I love the vibe of “Lay Wit Ya” (especially the “Ridin’ n’ tha Chevy” sample), the Duke Deuce verse is fucking garbage.

Meanwhile on “Claymore”, we have Zaywop & Smino coming together for a tropical tune asking their lovers if they runnin’ or exercisin’ just before “Headshots (4r da Locals)” serving as an equally excellent sequel to “4r da Squaw”. He & Amindi jump on top of a boom bap instrumental on “All Herb” saying they all hurtin’ leading into the luscious “Hey Mista”, which is a nice lil off-the-top freestyle.

Jay Rock & Jay Worthy come into the picture to talk about smokin’ on the fumes yesterday with the slick banger “True Story” whereas “Wat U Sed” with Iamdoechii is an atmospheric tribute to “Bunny Hop”. Zay details someone who says he ain’t got nothing to lose on the psychedelic “Don’t Shoot” while YGTUT-assisted “Chad” calls out “cats foldin’ like huns” & I really dig the guitar playing behind the snares.

“9-3” works in some keyboards & hi-hats to get a bit repetitive in terms of the lyricism, but then SZA & 6LACK come in for the Kenny Beats-produced slowjam “Score” without sounding forced or corny as fuck. The title track is a pillowy look at Zaywop’s struggles with addiction & the closer “HB2U” goes into a jazzier direction saying he did this all for his baby.

I didn’t think this day would ever come, but it goes without saying that The House is Burning is the best project that we’ve seen come out of the TDE camp since CTRL. It serves as a fantastic tribute to the dirty south in terms of the overall sound to the blatant references throughout the lyrics. I really hope we don’t have to wait another 5 years for this dude to drop.

Score: 4/5

Reason – “New Beginnings” review

This is the official full-length debut from California emcee Reason, whom I first caught wind of a couple years ago when he signed to Top Dawg Entertainment & reissued his 4th mixtape There You Have It. The project was cool, but I feel like he could grow as time went on because we all know TDE‘s lineup of artists are mostly all-stars. But with a slew of singles throughout the year, Reason is ready to make New Beginnings.

The opener “Something More” talks about his deepest desires in a significant other over a cavernous instrumental whereas the next song “Stories I Forgot” talks about not missing over a flute-tinged beat. The track “Pop Shit” with ScHoolboy Q finds the 2 talking about riding with their hoods over an instrumental with a murky atmosphere to it while the song “Show Stop” flexes over a druggy trap beat from !llmind.

The track “Favorite N***a” talks about money not changing him over a weary instrumental while the song “I Can Make It” with Rapsody sees the 2 getting romantic over a moody boom bap beat from S1. The track “Fall” talks about the difficulties of being an artist over some keys & occasional drums thumping away while the song “Slow Down” talks about needing to appreciate ones’ process over a boom bap beat with an alluring sample hanging in the background.

The song “Flick It Up” with Ab-Soul finds the 2 bragging over a spacious instrumental while the track “Sauce” with Vince Staples sees the 2 talking about being bosses over a trap beat with some somber keyboard melodies. The song “Extinct” with Isaiah Rashad & JID finds the trio talking about a “doorbell dumb” vixen over a calming boom bap instrumental while the track “Westside” is another romantic cut like “I Can Make It”, but the vibe on this one is kinda eh. The penultimate song “Gossip” claps back at those who be saying “fuck him” & then the closer “Windows Cry” addresses the elephant in the room over a melancholic Wu10 beat.

Reason could very well be the underdog of TDE & this album only goes to show it in my opinion, because there are some notable improvements in comparison to his previous mixtapes. The pen-game has stepped this time around, a good majority of the features are on point & it’s a bit more well-produced as well.

Score: 3.5/5

ScHoolboy Q – “CrasH Talk” review

ScHoolboy Q is a 32 year old rapper from SoutH Los Angeles, California wHo came up at tHe beginning of tHe decade as 1/4 of Black Hippy. He released His first 2 albums Setbacks and Habits & Contradictions independently, but it wouldn’t be until 2014 tHat He would make His major label debut witH Oxymoron. THis would be followed up witH Blank Face LP a couple years later, wHicH I personally consider to be Q’s best work yet. However, 3 years Have passed & He’s now returning witH His 5tH full-lengtH album.

THe opener “Gang Gang” details His drug dealing past over an eerie trap beat from DJ Fu wHile tHe next song “Tales” takes a look back at Q’s criminal past over a somber DJ DaHi & Jake One instrumental. THe track “CHopstix” is a painfully boring “club banger” if you wanna call it tHat & even tHougH I do enjoy tHe gritty lyricism on “Numb Numb Juice”, it sounds unfinisHed & tHe beat is dime a dozen. THe track “Drunk” is a moody alcohol antHem wHile tHe song “Lies” witH YG takes a jab at tHe people wHo’ve said false tHings about tHem over an atmospheric beat from Sounwave. THe track “5200” gets murderous over a vibrant beat tHat doesn’t quite matcH tHe lyricism wHile tHe song “Black Folk” is a jab at an unnamed fraud over a cloudy beat.

THe track “Floating” witH 21 Savage talks about being on drugs over a murky beat wHile tHe song “Dangerous” describes the famous lifestyle over a psychedelic instumental. THe track “Die wit ‘Em” gets murderous over a monstrous Cardo beat wHile tHe song “CrasH” talks about going on over a Boi-1da instrumental tHat cHops & screws PRHyme’s “Boom”. THe penultimate track “Water” witH Lil Baby is an awkward brag despite tHe godly feeling in Cardo’s production & tHen tHe album finisHes witH “Attention”, wHere Q talks about praise & passion over a decent boom bap beat.

I don’t know what else to say, this is EXACTLY what I expected. It’s a lot more commercial which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it sounds just as forced as Jay Rock’s last album Redemption was.

Score: 2.5/5

Reason – “There You Have It” review

Reason is a rapper from De Amo, California who I first caught wind of on the Black Panther soundtrack. He just signed to Top Dawg Entertainment last month & now, he’s releasing his full-length debut.

After the “Rufus Collection” skit, we go into the title track. Here, Reason talks about coming from the streets over a moody soulful instrumental. The track “Kurupt” talks about seizing the moment over an uplifting beat with punchy drums while the song “Fuck wit Me” gets braggadocious over a gloomy beat. The track “Bottom” talks about coming from nothing, but the Xian Bell feature is obnoxious. The song “Drive Slow / Taste Like Heaven” talks about the advice from his grandfather over a boom bap beat, but then it transitions into a something more jazzier.

The track “Thirst” is a club banger with some quirky synths while the song “Colored Dreams: Killers, Pt. 2” recalls a murder case he caught over a boom bap beat with some beautiful piano chords. The track “Better Dayz” is a solid cut taken from his 2016 mixtape The Free Album while the song “Situations” talks about a failing relationship over a moody beat. The penultimate track “State We In” talks about his newfound fame & the closer “Summer Up” returns to the braggadocious tip over a bass-heavy beat.

Overall, this was a solid debut. The production is much better than Jay Rock’s latest album Redemption & Reason sounds very passionate whenever he’s on the mic. If you wanna hear one of the hottest labels right now showcasing an up-&-coming star, give this a listen.

Score: 3.5/5

Jay Rock – “Redemption” review

With Top Dawg Entertainment’s ongoing Championship Tour wrapping up this weekend, it’s only right for Black Hippy member Jay Rock to deliver his highly anticipated 3rd full-length album.

The album begins with “The Bloodiest,” where he reflects about growing up in Watts an eerie beat from Boi-1da, Allen Ritter & Jake One. The next track “For What It’s Worth” talks about murdering someone as well as having sex with this woman even though he knows that she ain’t right over a smooth beat from Sounwave while the song “Knock It Off” is a warning to everyone who’s trying to be him over a laidback trap beat. However, the flow doesn’t really do anything for me on this one. The track “ES Tales” talks about going back to the projects over a sinister beat while the song “Rotation 112th” grittily talks about gang life & the trap beat on here suits it pretty while. The track “Tap Out” is of course a sex tune with a generic beat & a decent Jeremih hook while the song “OSOM” with J. Cole & SiR tells the listeners that they’re living life like he’s runnin’ out of time over a gloomy trap beat.

The track “King’s Dead” originally appeared in the Black Panther soundtrack earlier this year & I’m actually upset they kept Future’s verse on there & removed Kendrick Lamar’s. On the other hand: the song “Troopers” brags about his crew, but the Cardo production sounds vaguely similar to his instrumental on “THat Part” off of ScHoolboy Q’s last album Blank Face LP. The track “Broke+-“ is of course about money over a somber instrumental while the song “Wow” makes up for “King’s Dead” by flawlessly displaying the chemistry between Jay & Kendrick over a bouncy woodwind-infused trap beat from Hit-Boy. The title track lyrically reminds me of “Start from Scratch” by The Game over a beautiful piano instrumental & the SZA hook is very pretty. The closer “WIN” has a triumphant trap beat & I do like the delivery, but it sounds half-written & the hook is very tedious. Also as much as I love Kendrick, his constant adlibs on this joint are too much.

I already knew going into this that it was pretty much gonna be Jay Rock’s DAMN. & while it’s not bad, it could’ve been much better. He sounds a lot more energetic on here than he was on his last 2 albums & the content is mostly on par as well, but a lot of these trappy instrumentals are hit or miss with me to be quite honest.

Score: 3/5

Various Artists – “Black Panther: The Album” review

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With the Black Panther coming out a week from today,  Top Dawg Entertainment is giving us the soundtrack alongside Aftermath Entertainment & Interscope Records. The opener “Black Panther” by Kendrick Lamar (who curated the whole soundtrack) talks about being a king over a gloomy piano instrumental. However, there’s one point where it gets abrasive. The song “All the Stars” is a spacey love duet with Kendrick & SZA that’s just ok. The track “X” by ScHoolboy Q, 2 Chainz & Saudi gets celebratory over a decent trap beat while the song “The Ways” by Khalid & Swae Lee is a duet about this attractive woman over a moody trap beat. The track “Opps” by Kendrick, Vince Staples & Yugen Blakrok gets into the mind of criminals over a hip house beat while the song “I Am” by Jorja Smith gets insightful about change & how we aren’t meant to be free over a funk rock beat.

The track “Parademic!” by SOB x RBE is an eerie gangsta rap tune while the song “Bloody Waters” by Ab-Soul vividly talks from the point of view from an organized criminal over a kick-back beat. The track “King’s Dead” starts off with a eerie beat & while Jay Rock’s flow is absolutely deadly, but the Future bridge is so hilariously bad. However, they make up for it during the 2nd half when the beat switches into something more hard hitting & Kendrick comes in with an angry verse filled with references to the film’s antagonist Erik Killmonger.

After the “Redemption Interlude”, we then go into the actual song “Redemption” by Zacari & Babes Wudomo. Here, they get sexual albeit in an underwritten & generic fashion. The following song “Seasons Change” by Mozzy, Sjava & Reason talks about escape the ghetto over a somber yet reggae-infused instrumental. The penultimate track “Big Shot” by Kendrick & Travi$ Scott talks about the celebrity lifestyle & the flute sample that Cardo uses on here is absolutely beautiful. Also, I love how Kendrick reuses the first couple lines from his “New Freezer” verse for the hook. The soundtrack then finishes off with “Pray for Me, where The Weeknd & Kendrick talk about heroes burden over an electropop beat.

While I wouldn’t call this a future classic by any means, this is still a solid soundtrack album. It’s not too overproduced like many soundtrack albums nowadays, it’s well written & most of the performers do their thing

Score: 3.5/5

SiR – “November” review

SiR is an R&B singer from Inglewood, California who’s been getting quite some attention lately. He signed with Top Dawg Entertainment last year & released his 2nd EP Her 2 just a couple weeks after. And now a year later, TDE announced out of the blue last week that SiR will be releasing his 2nd full-length album & major label debut to start their 2018.

After a 45 second spoken word intro, we then get into the first song “That’s Alright”. Here, he talks about his down to ride chick over a bass guitar & some drums. The next song “Something Foreign” with ScHoolboy Q sees the 2 talking about the lavish life over some jazzy piano chords while the track “D’Evils” talks about smoking weed over a mellow beat. The song “Something New” with Etta Bond is a duet about 2 lovers expressing their profound love for each other over a kickback instrumental & while the track “I Know” talks about a stripper, the way it’s executed is annoying.

The song “Never Home” raps about not answering his woman while he’s on the road over a super smooth beat & then the track “War” sings about him trying to win this woman over with a semi-jazzy beat. The song “Better” reflects on an ex over a spacey trap beat while the penultimate track “Dreaming of Me” vents about missing his woman over a frisky instrumental. The album then closes with “Summer in November”, which is pretty much is a sex tune with a super funky instrumental.

Overall, this might be SiR’s best work to date. His vocals have improved as did his songwriting & the production is absolutely beautiful. If you’re looking to get into the newest face of one of the hottest labels out right now, give this a listen

Score: 4/5

SZA – “CTRL” review

After a series of countless delays following the release of her fantastic Z EP back in 2014, Top Dawg Entertainment’s 1st lady SZA is finally releasing her full-length debut. The album kicks off with the track “Supermodel”, where basically SZA telling her ex that she cheated on him on Valentine’s Day to understandably get back at him for going out to Vegas that day & the instrumental has a wavy guitar along with some bass & some organic drums. The next song “Love Galore” with Travi$ Scott seems to follow that opening track up, as it talks about her ex wanting to get back with her when she doesn’t over some wailing synths. The track “Doves in the Wind” is a dedication to pussy with a spacey instrumental & the guest verse from Kendrick Lamar fits into the song perfectly. The song “Drew Barrymore” reflects on a low self-esteem version of SZA herself & not only does the instrumental on here enhance the emotion of the song, but it’s also infectiously catchy. Especially with the strings near the end of the track. The track “Prom” is pretty much SZA promising herself to get better as she gets older & the instrumental will make you wanna throw a party. The song “The Weekend” talks about being this guy’s side chick during the weekends (hence the title) & while I love the spacey synths at the beginning along with how the smooth keys throughout, the cliché snares just sound meh to me. The track “Go Gina” talks about this guy bringing her out of her character when he’s around her & the production from Frank Dukes primarily has these winking chimes & some drums throughout most of it, but the tension building strings during the last 20 seconds of it are beautiful. The song “Garden (Say It Like Dat)” is pretty much SZA telling this guy that she loves her & even though I appreciate, the trappy production on this track sounds so painfully generic. The track “Broken Clocks” talks about how SZA’s moved on from her ex for the better, despite him still talking about her & while I do enjoy the trophy vocal sample on here, the hi-hats are just average for me. The song “Anything” sees SZA asking her ex if he knows she’s alive & the instrumental on here has this fantastically galactic tone to it. The short but sweet “Wavy” sees SZA singing about how bad as Hell she is as well as looking for a way out over a dreamy instrumental & while James Fauntleroy’s voice does sound muffled during his hook, I still enjoyed it. The song “Normal Girl” is pretty self-explanatory, as it talks about wanting to live the life of a normal girl over a spacey instrumental. The penultimate track “Pretty Little Birds” with Isaiah Rashad is basically the 2 talking about wanting to be together for the rest of their lives & the instrumental is very smooth. Especially with the jazzy trumpets that pop in right before Zaywop’s verse. The album then closes out with the track “20 Something”, where SZA is passionately hoping that she doesn’t lose all of her friends & doesn’t die while she’s in her 20s over nothing but an acoustic guitar that enhances the beauty of this closer. When it seemed like TDE was never gonna release this album, it was well worth the 3 year wait. The production is luscious for the most part, it’s well-written & SZA’s vocals sound both very focused & passionate. If you enjoyed SZA’s early mixtapes & Z as much as I did, then I don’t see why you wouldn’t like this. She’s been one of my favorite R&B singers of this current generation & walking away from this seeing her improving herself just makes me really happy

Score: 4/5

Kendrick Lamar – “DAMN.” review


With his magnum opus To Pimp a Butterfly celebrating it’s 2 year anniversary last month, Black Hippy member Kendrick Lamar has now delivered his 4th full-length album with the whole world watching. The opening track “BLOOD.” starts off with some harmonious choir vocals, but then we hear some dramatic strings & Kendrick recalling a story of a blind woman shooting him after trying to help her. The second track “DNA.” talks about his heritage & while the beat starts off with some heavy bass & a guitar that’s somewhat buried in the mix, it then changes to some hard hitting drums & a vocal sample. Seriously, hearing this will make you get wild. The track “YAH.” has a mellow instrumental & it sees Kendrick melodically talking about following his intuition. The blatant jab at FOX News reporter Geraldo Rivera at the beginning of the 2nd & final verse of the song was well deserved, too. The song “ELEMENT.” is basically about how he’ll always stand strong at what he does & the vocal sample on here is haunting as Hell. The track “FEEL.” vents about a number of different emotions over a wavy vocal sample & some keyboards. The song “LOYALTY.” is a duet with Rihanna about just that & the reversed, sped-up Bruno Mars sample that can be heard from start to finish was really cool. The track “PRIDE.” is Kendrick talking about what he would probably be like in a perfect world over a psychedelic instrumental from Internet guitarist Steve Lacy. We get some constant voice pitch changing during the first verse, but then second verse is just monotoned. The album’s lead single “HUMBLE.” sees Kendrick telling everyone to be humble to him over some ominous keys & even though I wasn’t all too crazy about it when it first came out a couple weeks ago like quite a few people were, I will admit that it has grown on me. The song “LUST.” has a melancholy beat from BADBADNOTGOOD & while it starts off by going into the mind of a woman living in the hood, Kendrick then gets introspective about post-fame life as well as how Americans protested & eventually went back to living their regular lives as a result of Donald Trump being elected our current president back in November. I can absolutely appreciate Kendrick dedicating the track “LOVE.” to his fiancé Whitney Alford, but the hook from Zacari sounds exactly like The Weeknd & it just comes off as very annoying. The song “XXX.” with U2 (albeit minus The Edge) starts off Kendrick aggressively going in while on the phone with a friend coming to him after his son died, but then he somberly talks about never doubting Barack ever again now that we have Donald Trump as our current president. I also really love how the beat during the first verse has some explosive bass as well as police sirens, but then it transitions into some drumming provided by Larry Mullen Jr. as well as some relaxing piano keys. Also, can’t forget about the beautiful Bono hook on here either. I’m not gonna lie, this song really makes me want U2 to drop Songs of Experience later this year. The track “FEAR.” vividly recalls 3 fearful moments when Kendrick was 3, 17 & 27 over a gloomy beat from The Alchemist enhanced by a soul sample. The penultimate track “GOD.” is basically Kendrick saying he feels like God with all the success he has seen over the years over some spacey production, but the delivery during the hook & the first verse was just alright. The album closes out with “DUCKWORTH.”, where Kendrick tells a story about Top Dawg Entertainment founder Anthony Tiffith almost killed Kendrick’s father over a soulful instrumental from 9th Wonder & the beat change about halfway through the track is NASTY! While I’ve been hearing some people saying they were expecting this to better or worse than To Pimp a Butterfly, all I wanted from him was to put out a good album & that’s EXACTLY what I got on here. The Kid Capri intros that you’ll hear on a few tracks give me a nice throwback feeling & while I’m not gonna deny that it’s more commercial than his last 2 albums, but there are only a few moments on the album where it actually bugs me. Despite these few weak moments, Kendrick has shown once again why he’s my favorite MC in this current generation

Score: 4/5