This is the 2nd EP from Atlanta up-&-comer Bktherula. Coming up 6 years back as a pop/R&B singer, she eventually broke out a few summers back in the plugg scene after dropping the single “Tweakin’ Together” produced by my lil homie Mars off her debut mixtape Love Santana. This resulted in her signing to Warner Records, following it up with her her sophomore tape Nirvana & the full-length debut Love Black. But after some delays, Bk’s back in effect for LVL5 here.
“TAN” is an explosive trap opener with Bk bragging about running the rap game whereas “DO IT AGAIN” works in some synths & hi-hats calling out someone she doesn’t even know for speaking on her character. “BACK” has to be my favorite joint on the album as things take a cloudier approach thanks to Evilgiane so she can fuck your hoe & rub it in your face just before “BELIEVE” comes through with an impressive R&B/trap ballad reminding listeners of her roots & her range.
Moving onto “CRAZY GIRL”, we have Bk over some more synthesizers & hi-hats to describe a bitch that don’t even know she’s the insane one prior to “NO ADLIB” is a shrilling yet rubbery trap cut about keeping a bad bitch & a stack on her along with having 1 in the head similar to Russian roulette. “Forever, Pt. 2 (Jezebel)” is another favorite from the light & melodic instrumental to the Destroy Lonely feature while the bombastic “PSSYONFT” talks about being the hardest bitch past 2022.
The penultimate track “?????” comes through with a more futuristic vibe whilst keeping some heavy bass in the fold as Bk boasts on the lyrical end until “We Made It” sends things off with Rico Nasty joining her for a celebratory yet pillowy closer to the album as they go back & forth with one another excellently proving why we need a collaborative project from them at some point down the line airing out those who hate on them yet wish they were in their shoes.
Been waiting on some new Bk for a while now & although LVL5 feels like an EP considering how short as Hell it is, it’s still an impressive body of work from her. The couplet of features both knock it out of the park as opposed the sole guest performance on the last album being mediocre & I really commend her for the album relatable theme of tapping in with your spiritual side & the small group under the angels that fight against your demons.
Saweetie is a 29 year old rapper & actress from Santa Clara, California who came up in the spring of 2018 off her debut EP High Maintenance. However, it wasn’t until later that fall when she started dating Quavo of the Migos where I really started paying attention. Her next 2 EPs ICY & Pretty Summer Playlist were ok, but maintained faith after “Best Friend” rightfully became the hit that it was. But with her full-length debut Pretty Bitch Music finally arriving next year, she’s preluding it in the form of her 4th EP.
“Don’t Say Nothin’” is a hyphy opener with Saweetie advising clout chasers on Twitter whereas “BO$$ CHICK” is a rubbery ode to boss lifestyle. “P.U.S.S.Y. (Powerful, Utopia, Supreme, Sacred, Yummy)” samples “Juicy Fruit” by Mtume in the same vein as the iconic Biggie single “Juicy” talking about female empowerment, but then “Handle My Truth” goes full-blown g-funk acknowledging that she never said she was perfect & asking if one can do such. The penultimate track “Memorable” returns to the hyphy sound talking about what it’ll take to be her lover & “No Reception” has a bit of a Neptunes influence to the instrumental admitting she’s been laying low for 9 months.
I really didn’t know how I felt going into this EP, if I came away from it considering it to be her best body of work to date. The production is respectfully versatile in sound & gives off a lot of charm with her performances go. Will most certainly have to check out Pretty Bitch Music whenever she decides puts it out in the upcoming year.
This is the 4th full-length album from Indiana emcee Freddie Gibbs. Coming up in 2004 with his debut mixtape Full Metal Jackit, he would then sign to Interscope Records for a brief period of time until he left without dropping an album with them. This was made up for with the mixtapes The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs & Str8 Killa No Filla, which would catch the attention of Jeezy & land Freddie a contract with CTE World in 2011. However, Gibbs eventually left CTE the following year after releasing the tapes Cold Day in Hell & B.F.K. (BabyFace Killa). In 2013, he decided to form his own label E$GN Records & finally dropped the full-length album E.$.G.N. (Evil $eeds Grow Naturally). He & iconic Oxnard producer Madlib would drop their MadGibbs debut Piñata the year after that, which is EASILY one of the greatest hip hop albums of the previous decade. Gibbs continued to grow his profile after that with Shadow of a Doubt, You Only Live 2wice, Freddie & the Curren$y collab EP Fetti & who can forget MadGibbs’ sophomore effort Bandana or even Freddie’s last effort Alfredo produced by The Alchemist? But after much anticipation, Gibbs is dropping $oul $old $eparately in light of E$GN’s new distribution deal with Warner Records.
“Can’t Be Done” is a soulful trap opener with Gibbs talking about doing the impossible whereas “Blackest in the Room” takes a jazzier route thanks to Uncle Al comparing himself to Sam Cooke. Offset tags along for the decent trap banger “Pain & Strife” talking about making that bread just before “Zipper Bagz” works in some hi-hats & a chilling vocal sample provided by KAYTRANADA admitting all he knows is that & yayo.
Meanwhile on “Too Much”, we have Moneybagg Yo coming into the picture to assist Gibbs for a boring trap cut that aged like milk since dropping as a single last month with all respect to everyone involved prior to Rick Ross & Jake One helping him make it up in the form of “Lobster Omelette” spitting lavish bars on top of a sample-based beat. “Space Rabbit” is a synth/boom bap hybrid produced by Boi-1da & Rogét Chahayed detailing Cocaine City, but then “Feel No Pain” with Anderson .Paak & Raekwon somberly prays that they good forever.
“Rabbit Vision” calls out someone who went against a family oath over some smooth J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League production also admitting he still has love for Jeezy also while the DJ Paul-assisted “PYS” comes through with a jazzy trap banger talking about being pimps. “Dark Hearted” finds James Blake sonically fusing pop rap & hip hop soul admitting that he still has mob ties even though he’s rich now while “Gold Rings” with Pusha T of course spits that hustler shit over a nocturnal instrumental. The song “Grandma’s Stove” somberly opens up about depression while the penultimate track “CIA” by MadGibbs returns to jazzier turf making it clear that he needs the check & the bar mentioning him getting continuously banned from Instagram is priceless. “Decoded” however brings in one of Gibbs’ idols Scarface for a bluesy closer to the album hooked up by DJ Dahi talking about knowing that this rap shit was in their veins.
I’d still say The Elephant Man’s Bones is my Album of the Year, but this dude been talking about $.$.$. for nearly 3 years now & the final product is one of his best solo efforts to date in my opinion. A couple lackluster cuts here & there, but Gangsta Gibbs locks in with his niche on here by exposing his style to a wider audience without it being too excessive like a lot of other major label debuts can normally be.
IDK is a 29 year old British-American rapper, singer, songwriter & producer who broke out in the spring of 2014 off his debut mixtape Sex, Drugs & Homework. This was followed up with Subtrap & The Empty Bank, but his profile began to significantly increase in 2017 when he signed to William Street Records put out a 4th tape entitled IWasVeryBad to critical acclaim. He continued the grind by putting out a debit EP IDK & Friends as well as the full-length album Is He Real? & a 2nd EP IDK & Friends 2, but his sophomore effort USEE4YOURSELF last summer was very underwhelming. That being said, I was very much looking forward to his 3rd EP right here after learning that KAYTRANADA would be producing the whole thing.
“Drugstore” is a hip house opener about seeing that money talk & after the “Southeast to Paris” skit, Denzel Curry tags along for the jazz rap banger “Dog Food” with a fresh Lil Wayne interpolation during the hook. “Zaza Tree” returns to hip house turf & the hook here interpolates the late Soulja Slim very well.“Breathe” is a more atmospheric ballad talking about catching his breath leading into “Taco” incorporating some funky house influences settling some beef. Mike Dimes comes into the picture for the final song The Code” to discuss their #1 rules over a piano instrumental & “Paris to Southeast” ends the EP with yet another skit.
This is definitely much better than USEE4YOURSELF & I’ll even say that this is the crown jewel of IDK’s discography so far. Not only because he sounds incredibly laser-focused & comes through with some fantastic subject matter, but KAYTRANADA’s production is a breath of fresh air as it’s the most detailed it’s ever been on any project that Jay has put out previously.
NLE Choppa is a 19 year old rapper from Memphis, Tennessee who came up in 2018 off his debut mixtape No Love: The Takeover. However, it wasn’t until the following Christmas where his debut EP Cottonwood started to bring more attention to him & subsequently signed to Warner Records. He has since put out his full-length debut Top Shotta & his 2nd mixtape From Dark to Light since being on a major label but after spending last year doing features, Choppa’s returning in the form of his 3rd mixtape.
Things start off with the 6th installment of the “Shotta Flow” series which I understand is his biggest song, but it feels like him trying to get lighting to strike at the same spot over & over despite the energizing CashMoneyAP instrumental. Young Thug tags along for the triumphant “Push It” talking about having the game in a figure-4 leading into the money anthem “Jumpin’” which has a fresh woodwind instrumental & Polo G verse, but Choppa’s performances (especially the hook) are lifeless.
Meanwhile on “Trap Phone”, we have an atmospheric beat from Southside & some decent lyricism about hustlin’ just before “Final Warning” works in a blobby bass-line & some piano melodies for Choppa to send a message to his enemies. “I.Y.B. (If You Buck)”is a shameful bastardization of the classic Crime Mob single “Knuck If You Buck”, but then “Stompin’” ruins a cinematic beat with corny lines like “Fly like Peter Pan, bitch you know I’ve been a man. All black Batman with my n****s robbin’” & “Have you ever seen Mike with an Ike?”.
“Change My Ways” has a bit of a more orchestral with the help of OG Parker with more clever bars like “White boy with the ball in the cut, Tom Brady” whereas “Ima Dogg” comes off as a ripoff of the Gucci Mane joint of the same name. “Mmm Hmm” takes a more psychedelic route trying to talk about being on another level & even though I like the sample on “Still Hood”, the gangsta rap lyrics aren’t all that to me.
Internet Money brings in a more polished sound for “Drop Shit” detailing his take off while the barren “Chicago to Memphis” with G Herbo touches down on their gang lives. The song “Too Hot” with Moneybagg Yo sees the 2 spitting generic bars over a misty instrumental while the penultimate track “Lick Me Baby” comes off as a cringey sex ode. “Youngest to Do It” ends the tape on a more heartfelt note talking about his come up over a vocal loop.
Despite not being a fan of his previous work, I did find myself enjoying Me vs. Me a little bit more than I expected to. However, I’d say the high points are all mediocre at best. The production choices have definitely improved & most of the features come correct also, but the whole internal conflict concept of it keeps derailing itself as the tape goes on.
Earl Sweatshirt is a 27 year old MC/producer from Los Angeles, California who began his career in 2008 under the name Sly Tendencies. He posted a handful of tracks for a mixtape called Kitchen Cutlery on MySpace, but the tape would never be released to this day. Then he formed a rap trio with 2 of his friends called The Backpackerz & planned to release a mixtape together by the name of World Playground, but they disbanded sometime in 2009. Shortly after, he joined Odd Future & appeared on their 2nd & final mixtape Radical that May. 10 months later, he put out his only mixtape to date Earl with OF’s de facto leader Tyler, The Creator producing a bulk of it. The tape received a lot of buzz, but Earl’s mother would send him to a therapeutic retreat school for at-risk boys in Samoa sometime after until February of 2012. He was then granted his own Columbia Records imprint Tan Cressida Records & released his full-length debut Doris in 2013 to critical acclaim for his clever rhyme schemes & the gritty production from those such as The Neptunes & even the RZA. He then formed the duo Hog Slaughta Boyz with OF affiliate Na’kel at the beginning of 2015 & released his sophomore album I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside a couple months after. Many of which consider to be better than Doris for it’s darker aesthetic. Some Rap Songs not only wound up being my favorite album of 2018, but also the best work of Earl’s career as I look at it as the bastard child of one of my all-time favorites album: Madvillainy. But after dropping a small handful of average SRS leftovers in the form of Feet of Clay the year after through an ongoing Warner Records distribution deal, he’s returning from the shadows with his 4th full-length.
“Old Friend” kicks off the album with a bare orchestral loop from The Alchemist cryptically addressing someone he’s still cool with whereas “2010” has a cloudy trap vibe with the help of Black Noi$e talking about the days when he was hungry. The title track has a more fuzzier tone produced by Navy Blue saying he won’t let the devil in just before ZeelooperZ tags along for the extravagant “Vision”. Meanwhile on “Tabula Rasa”, we have Armand Hammer joining Earl in discussing the blank slate theory on top of some plinky piano chords & a vocal chop just before “Lyre” talks about making it straight over some horns.
“Lobby” gets on some grim trap shit detailing being a superhuman while the song “God Laughs” has a atmospheric yet drumless feel to it talking about searching for his lost halo. The penultimate track “Titanic” is an abstract trap banger showcasing some clever bars such as “Get ghost like I need a killer”, but then “Fire in the Hole” ends the album by working in a guitar talking about how he needed another go.
Given how mid Feet of Clay was, it didn’t really worry me going into Sick! because I knew he was gonna expand on the experimental sounds of Some Rap Songs & that just so happens to be the case here. Another thing that makes the album highly enjoyable for me is him telling the world how he’s been dealing with the pandemic.
Bktherula is a 19 year old recording artist from Atlanta, Georgia who first started making music in 2017 as a pop/R&B singer. She eventually broke out a couple summers back in the plugg scene after dropping the single “Tweakin’ Together produced by my lil homie Mars, which later appeared on her debut mixtape Love Santana at the beginning of last year. This resulted in her signing to Warner Records & with the 1-year anniversary of her sophomore tape Nirvana approaching this weekend, BK is celebrating in the form of her very 1st full-length album.
“LET’S GET IT” is a moody opener celebrating her newfound success whereas “INCREDIBLE” despite it’s brevity finds her flexing with so much aggression in her delivery & a shrilling Digital Nas beat. “SANTANNY!” serves as an ignorant anthem for her alter ego, but then “THROUGH 2 U” is a blatant Whole Lotta Red rip-off talking about being fed up with a lil bitch that belong to the streets.
Meanwhile on “PLACEMENT”, we have Matt Ox tagging along for whatever reason to bombastically clap back at their critics just before “HIT ME” brings in a Supah Mario instrumental kin to a retro video game telling those who want the sauce not to bug her. “GOD’S PLAN” lively talks about how “n****s ain’t cool at all, but then “ADVANCED” brings in a cacophonous beat to declare her skills as such.
“HIDE YOUR HOE” keeps the vibrance going saying it’s on when she steps in while “WATCH ME” is a euphorically produced look at her glow up. “YE HO” almost has a bit of a Neptunes influence to the instrumental saying she “ain’t finished this” whereas “CROWN” speaks on her taking over the rap game & the bass is just off the wall.
Following this, “ARE WE DONE?” feels like a 2-minute Eternal Take bite while the song “SHE CHOSE ME” briefly yet vibrantly details a woman selecting “everything that give her ass a stack”. The penultimate track “NAH” has a bit of a quirky sound with the help of Evilgiane talking about how “I ain’t your bitch” & the closer “IDK WHAT TO TELL YOU” has a psychedelic Mac DeMarco beat of all fucking people speaking on someone she felt she tried to make bigger.
BK to me is one of the most interesting artists in the plugg scene right now & Love Black really does a solid job at solidifying that. She has a unique voice, she has a catchy delivery & I feel like she’s started to refine her production choices a lil bit.
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.
This is the sophomore album from British-American rapper, singer, songwriter & producer IDK. Breaking out in the mid-2010s off his first 3 mixtapes under his original moniker Jay IDK, his profile began to significantly increase in 2017 when he signed to William Street Records put out a 4th tape entitled IWasVeryBad to critical acclaim. This was followed up with the debut EP IDK & Friends as well as his first full-length Is He Real? but with the 1-year anniversary of IDK & Friends 2 passing a couple weeks ago, Jay is delivering the long-awaited USEE4YOURSELF.
After the 301–809-1821 intro, the first song “Santa Monica Bvld.” is a bassy celebratory opener about him winning whereas “Dogs Don’t Lie” works in an alluring vocal sample to talk about trust. He also disses Anthony Fantano for giving Is He Real? a 6/10, which is bitter because many other people gave it the same score including ShawnCee’s annoying ass & even myself. “Truth” is a 30-second ambient cut saying he’s focused on money leading into Young Thug tagging along for the braggadocious “PradadaBang” produced by Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee of all fucking people.
Meanwhile on “Shoot My Shot”, we get a vibrant trap beat from T-Minus along with Offset accompanying IDK to be flirtatious just before Westside Gunn & Jay Electronica come into the picture to help discuss gold diggers on the luxurious trap banger “Red”. After the “Jelly” interlude, the Lucky Daye-assisted “Puerto Rico” serves as a corny ode to “5-star bitches” whereas “Temporary Love” is pretty much a 1-minute SiR song with little to no IDK presence whatsoever.
“10 Feet” with T-Pain is a lukewarm attempt at a strip club banger, but then “Keto” makes up for it with it’s synth-laced instrumental from The Neptunes to the charismatic performances from IDK alongside Rico Nasty & Swae Lee. He later compares himself to the great Michael Jordan on the minimal “1995” & then the “Payback’s a Dog” sample that “Peloton” brings to the table is so well played for him to talk about a woman who made his ego so high.
The track “Hey Auntie” with Slick Rick is a keyboard-heavy tribute to both of their respective aunts while the final song “Cry in Church” has a tension-building beat & lyrics about how IDK would rather be. Finally, “Closure” serves as a spoken-word outro with IDK talking over the phone saying that mockingbird represents innocence to him.
Coming away from this album, my feelings on it are pretty mixed. I think the concept of toxic masculinity being instilled in his mind at the early age is intriguing, but nearly half the cuts on here are so short that there’s literally no point of them being on here & most of the features hardly have any presence to them.
This is the 1st posthumous outing & 6th full-length album overall from Pittsburgh’s very own Mac Miller. The man exploded onto the scene in the 2010s with a handful of projects including K.I.D.S. (Kickin’ Incredibly Dope Shit), Macadelic, Watching Movies with the Sound Off, Faces & GO:OD AM. Last time we heard from Mac was in August 2018 with Swimming, an album inspired by his breakup with Ariana Grande. However, Mac unexpectedly & tragically passed away just a month later. A sequel to Swimming was already in the works at the time of his death with the very album we see here, as Jon Brion was brought forward to complete what Mac had started.
It all begins with the title track, where Mac vents about being lost over a mellow instrumental. The next song “Complicated” vents about depression over a Neptunes inspired instrumental while the track “Blue World” talks about Ariana Grande over a glitchy instrumental. The song “Good News” talks about wanting to suppress any negative thoughts over a tropical instrumental while the track “I Can See” makes a bunch of gorgeous spiritual references over a dystopian instrumental.
The song “Everybody” is a decent cover of Arthur Lee’s “Everybody Gotta Love” while the track “Woods” wonders if he can get enough love over a woozy beat. The song “Hand Me Downs” talks about needing someone to keep him sane over a soothing instrumental while the track “That’s on Me” finds Mac blaming himself for his Ariana breakup over a blissful instrumental. The song “Hands” is a positivity anthem with a slow beat while the penultimate track “Surf” talks about growing over an acoustic guitar. The album then finishes with “Once a Day”, where Mac provides wisdom over a minimalist instrumental.
While I’m not a big fan of posthumous albums, this was bittersweet. There are a few weak moments, but it really sounds like a complete product from Mac’s vocals down to Jon’s stellar production. If this is the last we’ll ever hear from the man in a full capacity, then it’s a beautiful swan song.