Vince Staples – Self-Titled review

This is eponymous 3rd full-length album from Compton rapper, singer, songwriter & actor Vince Staples. Coming up as a close affiliate of the now defunct Odd Future crew, he would go on to release 4 mixtapes before signing a joint deal with Blacksmith Records & even No I.D.’s very own Def Jam Recordings imprint ARTium Recordings. My personal favorite of which being Stolen Youth, which was entirely produced by the late Mac Miller. His first major label outing Hell Can Wait was a dope little EP preluding the full-length debut Summertime ‘06, which became one of the best double disc albums of the previous decade. Vince later detailed the pitfalls that came with his success on the next EP Prima Donna, but the dude’s last album Big Fish Theory was unquestionably his most experimental work yet. But ever since linking up with Kenny Beats at the tail-end of 2018 for the radio show-themed EP FM!, we’ve heard very little from Vince. So given the 3 year gap & him jumping ship from Def Jam to Motown Records, to say I was excited for him to finally make a comeback is an understatement.

“Are You With That?” kicks things off with a wonky trap instrumental from Kenny Beats (who produced the whole album start to finish) & Vince saying all he wanted was to be a thug growing up whereas “Laws of Averages” is much more slower in terms of production with lyrics about how “I don’t trust no bitch with my government”. Vince jumps on top of a slowed down sample on “Sundown Town” to talk about running wild before taking things into a murky trap direction for “The Shining”.

Meanwhile on “Taking Trips”, we go into more psychedelic territory for Vince to bug out over leading into an interlude entitled “The Apple & The Tree”. He later expresses homesickness with the R&B flavored “Take Me Home” while the penultimate song “Lil Fade” serves as a symphonic ode to all his homies in the pen. After the “Lakewood Mall” interlude, the closer “MHM” works in some synths & rubbery bass to spit that gangsta shit.

For the 3-year wait, I think this self-titled joint was well worth it. Wish it was longer than 22 minutes, but Vince takes through events in his life that he’s never put out there before & he sounds a lot better with Kenny Beats than he did on FM!. Looking forward to hear what route he takes for Ramona Park Broke My Heart.

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

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

Pop Smoke – “Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon” review

Pop Smoke was a 20 year old rapper from Brooklyn, New York who released his debut mixtape Meet the Woo last summer. He put out a sequel this past February but unfortunately, he was murdered 2 weeks after said-sequel came out. But with the help of 50 Cent, they’re continuing Pop’s legacy with his full-length debut.

The album kicks off with “Bad Bitch from Tokyo”, where Pop Smoke brags for 50 seconds over a woozy beat. The next song “Aim for the Moon” with Quavo sees the 2 talking about their high statuses over an instrumental that sounds like it could’ve been on Travis Scott’s ASTROWORLD while the track “For the Night” with Lil Baby & DaBaby finds the trio getting raunchy over a beat kin to Young Thug’s Beautiful Thugger Girls. The song “44 Bulldog” gets confrontational over a mournful beat while the track “Gangstas” talks about how legit he was over a rubbery piano instrumental.

The song “Yea Yea” is a trite, buttery sex anthem while the track “Creature” with Swae Lee sees the 2 describing their rich lifestyles over a spacious beat while the track “Snitching” with Future & Quavo is pretty much them talking about not breaking street code over a shimmery, skeletal instrumental. The song “Make It Rain” with Rowdy Rebel sees the 2 talking about fakes over an aggressive instrumental while “The Woo” with 50 Cent & Roddy Ricch sees the 3 talking about bitches over another Beautiful Thugger Girls inspired beat.

The song “West Coast Shit” with Tyga & Quavo lives up to its name down to Mustard’s production while the track “Enjoy Yourself” with Karol G is a weird, Latin-flavored piece about relaxation. The song “Mood Swings” with Lil Tjay is a horrific auto-crooner while the track “Something Special” is literally a 2 minute freestyle over Tamia’s “Into You”.

We have more tiresome lovey dovey shit on the songs “What You Know ‘Bout Love?” & the King Combs featured “Diana”, but then “Got It on Me” is pretty much a modern take on the classic 50 Cent joint “Many Men (Wish Death)” & it’s actually pretty cool. The final song “Tunnel Vision” talks about how nice he is over a mesmerizing instrumental & then we get “Dior” off Meet the Woo as a bonus track, which is easily one of the best songs he ever made.

I’m usually 50/50 on posthumous releases because they can either turn out amazing like Circles or end up horrendously like Pac’s Life. However, this kinda falls in between for me. The cuts that’re done more in Pop Smoke’s signature UK Drill style are fine, but almost all the poppy sex songs except for “Something Special” are just fucking terrible. If we’re getting a follow-up, here’s to it being better.

Score: 2.5/5

Lil Wayne – “Funeral” review

This is the long-awaited 13th full-length album from New Orleans veteran Lil Wayne. Who signed to Cash Money Records at the age of 9; becoming 1/2 of The B.G.’z, 1/4 of the Hot Boy$ & 1/6 of the Cash Money Millionaires. His first 3 solo albums Tha Block is HotLights Out & 500 Degreez were average at best but we then found him improving in the mid 2000’s with Tha CarterTha Carter IIDedicationDedication 2Da Drought 3 & my personal favorite Tha Carter III. He then started his own label Young Money Entertainment & followed his magnum opus up with a God awful “rock” album Rebirth along with the mediocre I Am Not a Human Being. He was able to bounce back in 2011 with Tha Carter IV, but things looked rough once again with the horrendous I Am Not a Human Being II in 2013 & then being entangled in legal issues with Cash Money from 2014-2018. Wayne eventually broke free from Birdman & was able to release Tha Carter V in 2018 to celebrate his 36th birthday. But to end the first month of 2020, Weezy is coming back with Funeral.

The title track that kicks the album off is a proper introduction as Wayne makes numerous references to death over some strings, but then it transitions into a grimy trap beat. The next song “Mahogany” gets braggadocious over a soulful trap beat from Mannie Fresh while the track “Mama Mia” continues to flex over an abrasive beat. The song “I Do It” with Big Sean & Lil Baby sees the 3 describing their work ethics over a bland instrumental while the track “Dreams” talks about his fear of losing it all over an atmospheric instrumental.

The song “Stop Playin’ with Me” speaks for itself over a weary instrumental while the track “Clap for ‘Em” is an ass-shaking anthem with a Jahlil Beats instrumental that sounds vaguely similar to T.I.’s “Ball”, on which he was featured on. The song “Bing James” with Jay Rock sees the 2 showing off over an eerie instrumental as well as a 24-second tribute to the late Kobe Bryant at the start while the track “Not Me” talks about his haters over a somewhat-cloudy StreetRunner beat. The song “Trust Nobody” has a great message about backstabbers & the guitar instrumental is pretty, but Adam Levine’s hook is just ok.

The track “Know You Know” sees ColleGrove getting together to talk about this hoe over a keyboard-inflicted trap beat while the song “Wild Dogs” talks about how much of a savage he is over a luxurious instrumental. The track “Harden” talks about how he isn’t the perfect lover over a grand instrumental while the song “I Don’t Sleep” with Takeoff sees the 2 talks about their grind & I really like the woodwinds in the production.

The track “Sights & Silencers” is an awkward love ballad with The-Dream & a buttery Mike WiLL Made-It instrumental while the song “Ball Hard” with Lil Twist sees the 2 talking about their hustle over an ominous trap beat. The track “Bastard (Satan’s Kid)” reflects about his childhood over a cavernous beat while the song “Get Outta My Head” with the late XXXTENTACION sees the 2 talking about fighting their inner demons & the instrumental has this horror-esque feel that fits in pretty great. Although Wayne’s lyricism gets more annoyingly repetitive on “Piano Trap”, I do like how it lives up to the title as he’s delivering these bars over a trap beat that later switches into a piano instrumental.

The song “Line ‘Em Up” gets confrontational over a Murda Beatz instrumental with an organ & a sample that gets so played out once the joint ends whereas the track “Darkside” talks about going to war over a grim instrumental. The song “Never Mind” compares himself to that of a pimp over a mellow acoustic instrumental & while the penultimate track “T.O. (Terrell Owens)” talks about selling coke over this lifeless trap beat, the O.T. Genesis feature is the most awkward part about it easily. Then the album ends with “Wayne’s World”, where Weezy talks about partying hard over a rubbery instrumental.

I thought Lil Wayne redeemed himself with Dedication 6 & Tha Carter V, but this was SUPER disappointing. He still has his passionate & witty moments on here, but it’s overloaded with filler & the production choices are pretty weak as well. If this is the way he’s going out, then I’d say it’s a mediocre one.

Score: 2/5

Post Malone – “Hollywood’s Bleeding” review

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This is the 3rd full-length album from New York born & Texas raised rapper, singer, songwriter & producer Post Malone. Who rose to stardom in 2015 with the single “White Iverson”, which landed on his subpar debut album stoney at the tail-end of 2016. He took the following year off, but his sophomore album beerbongs & bentleys last spring showed a little bit of improvement as the songs were a lot catchier than last time around. And a little over a year later, here we are.

The title track essentially finds Post going on about some woman over a dull instrumental while the next song “Saint-Tropez” is a by the numbers club banger. The track “Enemies” with DaBaby sees the 2 talking about people who’ve turned against them over a moody instrumental while the song “Allergic” is a trite & obnoxious ballad.

The track “1,000 Bad Times” talking about how crazy this chick is over an airy instrumental while the song “Circles” is a whiny attempt at going indie pop. The track “Die for Me” with Future talks about scandalous women with Halsey providing a terrible verse from the ladies’ perspectives at the end over a drab beat while the song “On the Road” with Meek Mill & Lil Baby finds the 3 bragging over a generically atmospheric beat.

The track “Take What You Want” with Travis Scott sees the 2 diving into more romantic melodrama & not only is the instrumental equally uneventful, but the Ozzy Osbourne hook on here has to be one of the worst features I’ve heard all year. The song “I’m Gonna Be” is essentially the trap equivalent to Logic’s “Don’t Be Afraid to Be Different” minus the awful Will Smith verse while the track “Staring at the Sun” with SZA is an awkward duet about their past romances over an instrumental that’s blatantly similar to the playful “Sunflower” joint that he did with Swae Lee for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. And funny enough too, that’s the VERY next song on the album.

The track “Internet” is basically him moaning about the things people say about him online & the song “Goodbyes” talks about leaving a girl whereas Young Thug is talking about working it out with her over a bleak instrumental. The track “Myself” sounds like a total Tame Impala ripoff while the song “I Know” talks about how his love with this woman will never be duplicated over a skeletal instrumental. The torture finally ends with “Wow.”, which is a boring sequel to “Congratulations”.

I didn’t like this. Not even a little bit. With the last album I felt like Post actually came through with writing & delivering some catchy radio hits, but this feels WAY more cumbersome. Maybe even more so than [i]stoney[/i] was almost 3 years ago. Another thing is too that it seems like him hopping on the emo rap bandwagon & failing miserably. By far the worst thing he’s done to date.

Score: 1.5/5

Ski Mask the Slump God – “Stokeley” review

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Ski Mask the Slump God is a 22 year old rapper from Orlando, Florida who came up as the co-founder of Members Only alongside 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 mixtape called YouWillRegret being his first outing on a major label. He then put out his 3rd tape Beware the Book of Eli earlier this year but now, he’s putting out his long-awaited debut album.

Things kick off with “So High”, where he’s crooning over this generically moody beat. The next track “Nuketown” gets viciously boastful over a murky trap beat with Juice WRLD unexpectedly screaming his brains out on the hook while the song “Foot Fungus” charismatically talks about the famous life over a bouncy Kenny Beats instrumental with a clever interpolation of the classic Snoop Dogg joint “Drop It Like It’s Hot” during the hook. The track “LA LA” talks about his sexual exploits over a sinister trap beat from Ronny J while the song “Unbothered” talks about how he doesn’t give a fuck about taking L’s over a druggy trap instrumental. The track “Save Me, Pt. 2” is a mediocre sequel to the song off of X’s debut album 17 & while the song “Adults Swim” gets more insightful over some bass & hand claps, I wish it was longer.

The track “Far Gone” with Lil Baby sees the 2 talking about being trapped in their mind on a date over an atmospheric Murda Beatz instrumental while the song “Get Geeked” is a unfinished joint for the clubs. The track “Reborn to Rebel” talks about revolution over a banger beat while the song “Faucet Failure” gets braggadocious over an infectious instrumental. The penultimate track “U & I” is a heartfelt tribute to XXXTENTACION over a decent beat & then the closer “Cat Piss” with Lil Yachty sees the 2 talking about how they’re better than their competition over a somber beat.

For a full-length debut, this was ok. Ski Mask definitely has one of the most interesting flows in hip hop today, but the production on this album kinda bland & many songs on here are short to the point where it becomes annoying. I’ll say it again like I did in my Beware the Book of Eli review: If Ski Mask takes more time into his songs & gets better production, I truly think it’ll show his true potential a lot more because this barely does it.

Score: 3/5

Lil Wayne – “Tha Carter V” review

Lil Wayne is a LEGENDARY rapper from New Orleans, Louisiana who was signed to Cash Money Records at the very age of 9. He then got started as 1/2 of The B.G.’z, 1/4 of the Hot Boy$ & 1/6 of the Cash Money Millionaires. His first 3 solo albums Tha Block is Hot, Lights Out & 500 Degreez were average at best but we then found him improving in the mid 2000’s with Tha Carter, Tha Cater II, Dedication, Dedication 2, Da Drought 3 & my personal favorite Tha Carter III. He then started his own label Young Money Entertainment & followed his magnum opus up with a God awful “rock” album Rebirth along with the mediocre I Am Not a Human Being. He was able to bounce back in 2011 with Tha Carter IV, but things looked rough once again with the horrendous I Am Not a Human Being II in 2013 & the legal issues that’s been tangled in with Cash Money for the past 4 years. But now that he’s free from Birdman, he’s finally delivering his long-awaited 12th full-length album to celebrate being the sole owner of Young Money.

After the 2 minute spoken word intro, we go into the first song “Don’t Cry”. Here, Weezy talks about the afterlife over an atmospheric beat & the posthumous XXXTENTACION vocals on the hook don’t sound that bad at all. The track “Dedicate” is about his influence on today’s hip hop landscape over a trap beat with some plinky keys & the sampling of the 2 Chainz song with the same name as the hook was pretty cool. The song “Uproar” is filled with clever battle bars & while I kinda feel like Swizz Beatz’ heavily sampling of the classic G. Dep song “Special Delivery” was too much, it does do it’s job. The track “Let It Fly” with Travis Scott is a modern day club banger with a moody beat with both parties complimenting each other very well while the song “Can’t Be Broken” is a middle finger to his haters over a piano & a BEAUTIFUL vocal sample.

The track “Dark Side of the Moon” is a romance anthem over a moody beat that works pretty well & I actually find Nicki Minaj’s singing throughout the 2nd half to be pretty empowering. The song “Mona Lisa” is about unfaithful women over an atmospheric beat & the Kendrick Lamar verse really makes it hard to decide who outrapped who. Especially with lines like “They started French kissing so he didn’t see moi” as well as that one about waking up to The Great Gatsby & then dogging it like Lassie. The track “What About Me” is a dedication to his ride or die chick over a decent moody trap beat & even the Sosamann verse doesn’t really do much for me personally. The perfectly-titled “Open Letter” is Wayne venting to the listener over a spacey beat with punchy drums while the song “Famous” is a piano ballad reflecting on the Lil Wayne’s feelings of fame & the hook from his daughter Reginae Carter worked out much better than I had anticipated.

The song “Problems” talks about the issues he’s having with this woman over a bass-heavy Zaytoven instrumental while the song “Dope Niggaz” talks about growing up in the streets over a banger beat that constantly from that I to a killer sample of the classic Dr. Dre track “Xxplosive”. The Snoop Dogg hook is charismatic too, but I really wish he had verse. The track “Hittas” talks about having shooters over a chilling vocal sample & the song “Took His Time” picks up where the previous joint left off albeit in a more introspective fashion over a trap beat with some piano chords & harmonious background vocals.

The track “Open Safe” sees Weezy flexing & it’s not bad, but the DJ Mustard instrumental sounds like any other instrumental that you’d hear from the guy. The song “Start This Shit Off Right” sounds like a vintage Early 2000’s club banger down to the Mannie Fresh instrumental & the Ashanti hook while the track “Demon” vents about all the demons in his life over a soulful trap beat from Cool & Dre. The track “Mess” is pretty much A Day in the Life of Lil Wayne over an spacey acoustic trap instrumental that’s very pretty while the song “Dope New Gospel” sees talking to himself in a mirror over a celebratory trap beat & the hook from Wayne’s ex-fiancé Nivea is beautiful.

The track “Perfect Strangers” is about switching women over an a trap beat from Mannie Fresh with somber piano chords while the song “Used 2” talks about his evolution over a spacey beat from non other than Metro Boomin’. The album ends beautifully with “Let It All Work Out”, which has a prominent Sampha sample throughout. Also, the final verse where Wayne recalls a suicide attempt at age 12 is damn-near heart-wrenching.

It’s been a long time coming but at the end, this was a strong return to form for Lil Wayne. I was a bit worried given that we’ve had many disappointing 20+ track albums this year, but the production is his best in years & Wayne himself has A LOT to say throughout it’s 87 minute runtime. It’s very remarkable & refreshing to hear him at his strongest in years after he went through so much. Welcome back, Weezy!

Score: 4/5

The Carters – “EVERYTHING IS LOVE” review

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The Carters are a musical duo consisting of legendary Brooklyn MC JAY-Z & his wife, former Destiny’s Child member & Houston popstar Beyoncé. Their latest albums Lemonade & 4:44 saw them at their most personal, but now they’re closing out the trilogy with a collaborative effort.

The album starts off with “SUMMER”, which is a sex song over a Cool & Dre instrumental that suits the mood fantastically. The next track “APESHIT” is an energetic club banger with an infectious Pharrell beat & Bey’s rapping was a very nice touch. The song “BOSS” talks about success over a triumphant trap beat from D’Mile & Mike Dean while the track “NICE” with Pharrell sees the 3 getting braggadocious over some beautiful keys & rattling hi-hats. The song “713” is a dedication to Beyoncé’s hometown over an instrumental with heavy bass with even some Scott Storch-like keyboards. It makes even more sense that Bey interpolates the classic Dr. Dre tune “Still D.R.E.” in the hook, but that’s really the only part of the song that I’m realistically not crazy about.

The track “FRIENDS” sees the 2 individually dedicating the time to song crew over a gloomy trap beat from Boi-1da & for some reason NAV while the song “HEARD ABOUT US” tells their critics to watch their mouths over a funky beat. The penultimate track “BLACK EFFECT” sees the 2 intelligently talking about being African American over a soulful trap beat & then it finishes perfectly with “LOVEHAPPY”, where the ‘03 Bonnie & Clyde go back & forth with each other about professing their love for each other as well as moving on from the whole Becky incident over a beautiful Eddie & Ernie sample.

I’m well aware that Jigga intentionally gave us this  just the day after the new Nas album NASIR & while that is definitely superior, I still thought this was a lovely way to end the trilogy. Given what they’ve been through, the impeccable chemistry between JAY-Z & Beyoncé is a lot more stronger than it’s been in the past. Most of the instrumentals are luscious too & while I do enjoy a handful of trap music, I feel like a few of the beats on here sounded like they were forced to throw in hi-hats when they really didn’t need to

Score: 4/5