18 July 2018

REVIEW | PRhyme - PRhyme 2



Man, talk about determination!  Who the fuck does this Royce guy think he is dropping two albums in the same year like this?  The only other name that immediately comes to mind is the dog himself, DMX, who hit us over the head with It's Dark and Hell is Hot in May of '98, then again with Flesh of my Flesh, Blood of my Blood in December of that same year.  The thing is, X was generous enough to let the first album breathe a little bit before jumping onto the next one.  Royce da 5'9", on the other hand, gave zero fucks about flooding the market with heat in the span of just two months.  In March of 2018, he and Preemo kicked things off first with PRhyme 2, the sequel to 2014's universally acclaimed debut project from the super group.

I assume that Royce and DJ Premier were aware of how high the bar was set with PRhyme, so what would their approach be this time around?  Well, without beating around the bush, it's a mixed bag of ideas that sound really good at times, but never quite gel together in any way.  An example of this is a song like "Everyday Struggle."  You can tell Royce was clearly aiming to bridge the gap between old heads and modern rappers on the track, but the problem is that it completely contradicts "Era," one of the earlier tracks on the album that preaches how Royce feels like he's wasting his time making music in the wrong generation.  So what are we really talking about here, bruh?  There are also a couple of questionable features and hooks on PRhyme 2 that make you wonder if Royce just ran out of top-tier rapper friends to collaborate with after the stellar feature list from the first album.  I'm sorry, but Royce has absolutely no business making music with 2 Chainz for ANY reason.  Not only that, but Chainz's contribution is BY FAR the worst verse I've heard from him since his emancipation from Disturbing tha Peace.  This is a problem.  Shit like this tarnishes the PRhyme brand in my opinion.  When DJ Premier attaches his name to something, there's a certain level of quality control expected, and there just wasn't enough of it on this album. 

While PRhyme 2 is certainly a far more thematic project than its predecessor, you rarely ever feel that signature Preemo thunder for more than a couple of tracks successively.  For the most part, it's an album where style takes a backseat to substance.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but with Premier at the helm it's natural to expect his style to be prominent throughout.  Even though he technically had a hand in producing every song, it's evident that Premier leaned a little too hard on AntMan Wonder for production this time around, as a good chunk of this album sounds nothing like what you'd expect from Preem.  Still, Royce's artistry makes it work by making sure nearly every track sticks to a given theme without falling into a pool of shallow-yet-lyrical rappity raps for too long. 

"Black History" ferociously kicks off the album with one half sending you on a journey through Royce's troubled life from birth, while the other half gives you a quick rundown of Premier's career leading up to the inception of Gang Starr, Jeru the Damaja's debut album, and Group Home to name a few.  It's a powerful yet succinct trip down memory lane designed to either educate youngins that ain't ran their Googles yet, or jog the memories of older rap heads who grew up witnessing DJ Premier shape the entire culture of hip-hop on the east coast.  That same energy is maintained into the next song, "1 of the Hardest," which truly lives up to its name as Nickel Nine is on his typical braggadocios shit with an onslaught of nothing but BARS.  The real meat of the album is found right in the middle though, with a mostly consistent streak of standout bangers such as "Streets at Night," "Rock It," and "My Calling" taking center stage.  Sadly though, that streak comes to an end with "Made Man" which is a song that speaks on how despite what anyone thinks about his career, Royce da 5'9" feels like he has been successful and deserves to be respected.  It may end up not being very memorable, but based on the subject matter alone this would have been a good track to end the album on, as the remaining five songs do nothing but weaken the project. 

Overall, PRhyme 2 is certainly an adequate follow-up to the original, but you're gonna find yourself doing a lot of skipping around as it pales in comparison to the consistently raw and aggressive underground vibe of the first album.  It almost makes you wonder if the original PRhyme should have just been left alone as a modern day classic.  Songs like "Rock It," "Streets at Night," and "1 of the Hardest" most definitely fit the premise of PRhyme as a collective.  The major issue is that with so many missteps like "Gotta Love It," and "W.O.W.," as well as tracks whose themes were better than the songs themselves like "Loved Ones," "Flirt," "Everyday Struggle," and even the lead single "Era," it's as if Preem and Royce just dumped a bunch of random shit on us and called it a PRhyme project without it having any notable identity.  Sometimes less is more, and that is certainly the case with PRhyme 2 vs. PRhyme.  I feel like if half of these songs were left on the cutting room floor, PRhyme 2 might be able to compete with its predecessor on a more equal playing field.  It holds up on well enough on its own, but if their goal was to establish some sort of reputation moving forward with PRhyme, this album did little to strengthen the brand.






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03 July 2018

REVIEW | Nas - NASIR

SIX YEARS. It's been six years since Nasir Jones dropped a new project. Y'all remember that DJ Khaled single, "Nas Album Done" (they even made a music video for it!)? That was two years ago. And about this same time last year we got the hashtag #NasAlbumAlmostDone on Instagram from Nas' brother Jungle. Then crickets. So for the better part of two years Nas fans have been fiending for a new full length album. And after all that, somehow, Nas got pulled into the gravitational pull of the Kanye West/GOOD Music "Wyoming Sessions". So off the bat we know NASIR was getting seven tracks. I've been vocal about my aversion to this new accepted length for an LP (his daddy called it an EP, I'm gonna call it an EP). But Illmatic was technically nine tracks (I know it's ten tracks but the intro track is more of a skit). Plus we all know what both artists are capable of (and we saw what Kanye did with Pusha T), so I'm still going into this "LP" pretty excited. Let's go.

The intro track "Not For Radio" features Puff Daddy in another "Hate Me Now" (from the I Am album) role. Puff starts the latter track by saying "Escobar season has returned". On the new track, Nas starts off with "Escobar season begins". Early in his career, one of Nas' monikers was "Nas Escobar". This was of course a reference to Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug kingpin. With almost a decade between these two songs, Nas kicks off the album by letting you know he is still the same lyrical monster he was in his younger days. Kanye lays down a choir-like melody that almost feels like a movie score. Nas attacks the track with all the tools in his repertoire: a smooth flow and cadence, complex subject matter, conscious metaphors, and gritty bars. Nas hits you with powerful lyrics about: Egyptian gods, black pride, divinity, fashion (Goyard, Google it), Cooley high, the presidential election, politics, slavery, longevity, fake friends, divinity, Catholics, Moors, Freemasons, Black Panthers, SWAT, Willie Lynch, crack/Pablo Escobar, American history, fear, and a rack of other themes I'm sure I missed. Nas has been consistent when it comes to ill intro tracks. This is no different. There is a theory (based on Kanye tweeting the definition of the seven deadly sins four days before NASIR dropped), that each Nas track is meant to correlate to a deadly sin. "Not For Radio" would correspond to pride since it is very "pro-black/proud". Even though Nas ends the track acknowledging the downfalls of being "too proud".

"Simple Things" is a very clever track on a more chilled and soulful beat. There is a hint of melody in his cadence that compliments this last track. This song is Nas looking back at his career and life. The spiritual emcee elevates his bars to make sure his place among the greats is undisputed. Nas recognizes his greatest flaw (according to critics) is his production selection. But he takes pride in not sounding like the "top 40". Nas will never follow a fad or passing trend. He will not dumb down his lyrics and subject matter to appease the radio overlords. He states that his lyrics are studied (and taught) by college professors. Like the course “Poetry in America for Teachers: The City from Whitman to Hip Hop" (whose track syllabus includes "It Ain't Hard To Tell") at Harvard. Yeah, that Harvard. The newer generation might not like Nas, or think he is boring. But Nas could care less. His catalog has sold over 25 million units, so "somebody agrees with the music". Nas also references his relationships with the most beautiful women in the world. Most of whom he has kept private. Even though he has enjoyed a luxurious life, he still loves getting in a "spaceship" with his brother and going back to Queensbridge to hang out with his people. And again, if we follow the seven deadly sins theory, we can correspond "Simple Things" to the sin of envy. Nas is aware of the envious (jealous) people who look at him with hate and resentment. From his relationships to his career, Nas knows critics and haters feed off of his downfall. But through all of this, Nas breaks down the essence of the song with his final bar: "I just want my kids to have the same peace I'm blessed with". Nas' daughter, Destiny (little Des got your eyes) started her own lipstick line/brand(?). His youngest son will also have the resources to make a name for himself if he so chooses. Nas wants his kids to enjoy the simple things in life, peace. The way to defeat envy is by finding inner peace and not letting outside influences run your life. Nas has found a peace through all the trials and tribulations (public and private), and all he wants is his kids to find their peace as well.

If you're a Nas fan and a Kanye fan, this mini LP will be everything you expected. But I will get through what I wasn't feeling first. First all the Kanye stuff. Production wise, I can't front. While this album definitely sounds like a "Kanye album", it works for Nas (for the most part). For me though, I think I'm good with the Nas/Kanye whole album thing. Meaning, no más. Gracias. IF Nas is going to do another one producer project, it should ONLY be with DJ Premier. Honestly I would have liked to hear whatever album he had cooking up a few years ago before Kanye took the reigns. And if I'm comparing this with DAYTONA, I think overall the production worked better for Pusha T than Nas. I don't think Nas was as involved as Push was with Kanye in that department. At least it doesn't sound like he was to me. And then there is the "Kanye" thing. I REALLY wanted to separate Kanye the producer with Kanye the person. But while Nas is dropping these socially conscious gems, all I can think of is all the ignorant and wild shit Kanye's been saying. So there you go. I didn't want this to happen. But it did. And the more we get away from his last TMZ rant (which he recently recanted), the more everyone seems to be cool with Kanye again. My brain just isn't wired like that. *END RANT* Now onto the Nas portion of the review. Overall I would have liked more consistency in quality and quantity. There were moments of GREATNESS. No surprise there. And I am not talking about the whole seven track nonsense. For example, "Everything" is probably one of my favorite tracks. It is the longest track, clocking in at 7:33. But Nas' verses go for just over 2:30. This joint has The-Dream AND Kanye giving us two overlapping (why?) choruses. The song "Bonjour" is a grown man "Change Clothes"-type track. I actually like this track too, but this is definitely an example of those "Kanye featuring Nas" complaints I've seen floating around. Lyrically there are few missteps from the mature poet. For the most part we get politically and socially conscious themes that we expect from one of Hip Hop's elder statesman. Songs like "Adam and Eve" make you yearn for more. Nas and Kanye both compliment each others musical genius perfectly here. Almost effortlessly, Nas uses his experiences to school young and old heads. Sprinkled with braggadocio bars, Nas makes sure that he connects with this swing. From a Nas fan, this is a really good album. But I think I might be caught in that "what if" moment. What if we had 12-15 tracks (like we are accustomed to getting from Nas)? What if Large Professor produced a track? Preem? My expectations for this album were different I guess. But don't get it twisted. This album is better than 90% of what is out now. I'd normally say 99%, but man, we've had some DOPE SHIT this year. But if I compare this to the rest of his catalog, it would be on the lower half. But a lot of the style points I deducted were because of Kanye. This whole "seven is a magic number" thing ain't working for me. And a couple of arrangements seemed off. And the biggest "what if" is, what if we got that pre/non-Kanye album? I don't know. But this joint still gonna be in my rotation for the foreseeable future. I got the vinyl coming, so you know this will still go on my top albums of 2018 so far. If anything, this album gives me hope for the next chapter in Nas' career. With all the business ventures he's been making lately, you feel something really special is on the horizon.

Peep the NASIR album listening party and that DJ Khaled "Nas Album Done" video below.








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22 June 2018

Facebook Jail | B-Sides Podcast


Serious question...and don't lie...

Have you known ANYONE who ever landed in Facebook Jail before?  Or better yet, how many of y'all have even HEARD of it?  If you haven't, this might be the craziest rant you'll hear in 2018.  Listen as The Niftian goes on a five minute rant about what landed him in Facebook Jail over and over again.  Was Facebook buggin for putting our dude in time out over some small shit?  Or are we blind to the underlying irony behind the most mentally enslaving form of media sending you to 'jail,' whilst simultaneously 'freeing' you?  Which ever side of the fence you're on about Facebook Jail, just know that none of this shit matters to stayfly.  Listen to find out why.



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14 June 2018

The End of Mo'Nique | B-Sides Podcast


After the podcast, the fellas decide to delve into the recent (old as fuck) news about Mo'Nique not being offered her supposed 'just due' with Netflix.  We discuss her achievements as well as her pitfalls and why she may never experience another ounce of success in this business. Listen as the three of us rip into Mo's entire career in less than 20 minutes.  



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12 June 2018

REVIEW | Pusha T - Daytona

King Push. We've been waiting for Pusha T's third solo studio album since his 2015 LP, King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude. Most knew what to expect on Daytona given the VA emcee's pedigree and GOOD Music affiliation: DOPE features, Kanye beats, and ALL THAT cocaina flow. After a gang of push back dates, we finally got the release date on April 19th. And apparently the album wasn't "finished" until the 23rd of May, two days before the Friday 25th release. If you knew all that, cool. If not, now you know. But honestly all the behind the curtain moves don't mean a thing if you don't produce. So how did King Pu..Daytona do? Let's get into it.

Since this joint is only 7 tracks long I'm gonna do the review like this: review my two favorite tracks. The "Santeria" instrumental is probably my favorite. But the second I heard it, I had a moment of déjà vu. After some OCD investigating I was able to crack the case. "Santeria" samples Soul Mann & the Brothers' "Bumpy's Lament", from the SHAFT album. Lil' Kim sampled the same instrumental on her Hard Core track, "Drugs". The Clipse used that Lil' Kim instrumental for the track "Ultimate Flow", on their mixtape We Got It 4 Cheap, Vol. 2. Boom. Case cracked (ha, that's just a taste of what my brain be like when I get lost in Hip Hop). "Santeria" is a very vulnerable and introspective track from Push. At the core, it is Push talking to his slain road manager De'Von “Day Day” Pickett. De'Von was the one who made sure everything ran like clockwork on tours. Push also says that he is the one that made sure all tour members said a prayer before each show. All lose of life is tragic, but when someone is taken before their time it leaves a stronger imprint on those who are still present. This track gives us vivid bars that paint images of anger, vengeance, pain, and sadness. The word Santeria literally means "worship of saints". This Afro-Cuban religion was born out of the slave trade era. Parts of this religion believe in communicating with ancestors/deities through trance, animal sacrifice, and sacred drumming/dance. With this song, Pusha T is communicating with another "saint" of his. You throw in a choir-type "hook" (more of a refrain) in Spanish, and you got one of Pusha T's best songs. Ever.

"Infrared", the final track on the minimal album is chock full of metaphors and double entendres. But I know y'all just want me to talk about that Pusha T/Drake beef. Here's the breakdown.  In 2006, The Clipse released Hell Hath No Fury and the track "Mr. Me Too". The duo claimed it wasn't aimed at anyone specific, but Lil Wayne felt otherwise. Inception. In 2012 Push dropped the single "Exodus 23:1". This was his "I don't kill soloists, only kill squads" track that went IN on the whole YMCMB camp. This time openly directed at Wayne, but this time at Drake as well. Wayne hit back hard with..some tweets. But after that, Wayne responded directly with "Goulish". I know I'm biased, but that joint was meh. Drake jumped in the beef with a few subliminals on "Tuscan Leather" (off of 2013's Nothing Was The Same). In 2016 Push replied with a few bars on the "H.G.T.V." track. Later that year Drake came direct at Push (and Kid Cudi) with "Two Birds, One Stone". Enter Daytona, and "Infrared". Push said this was his direct reply to "Two Birds". Push went at Drake addressing the fact that he uses a ghostwriter, Wayne's record deal, and Baby/Birdman stealing money from his YMCMB artists. Drake replied with "Duppy Freestyle". I ain't gonna lie, I was impressed. This was a Pusha T/Kanye diss (but mostly Kanye?) that went at Pusha T's credibility as an ex-drug dealer, that brought up Pusha T's fiance (in my Jay-Z "Takeover" voice: NO!) and that Drake feels Push is washed up and can only sell more records if Drake's name is attached to it (and of course a bunch of Kanye stuff). Push came back with Jay-Z's "The Story of O.J." instrumental in the form of "The Story of Adidon". Push GOES HARD (pause?) addressing Drake's alleged child with a porn star, Drake's mother and father, his upcoming Adidas deal (which was going to be named "Adidon", after his son Adonis), his producer Noah “40” Shebiband's MS, and Birdman again. Drake apparently has another diss track ready that would "end Kanye", but OG mogul J Prince stepped in to make sure this was as far as this beef went. Not gonna lie, I was definitely one of the people that wanted this to keep going on wax. I could list an impressive number of beefs that "went too far" lyrically to make my case, but as of today this seems like the end of this installment of Drake v Push.

Since May 25th (Daytona's release), the GOOD Music collective has had a hand in FIVE albums dropping every Friday. Push was the front runner, followed by Kanye's 8th solo album, a Kanye/Kid Cudi album, Nas' 12th solo album (if you count The Lost Tapes), and Teyana Taylor's second LP KTSE. Since Kanye is taking the lead on all production, it was his decision to make all the albums 7 tracks long. I heard an eight track (Psycho?) was cut last minute. Personally, I think Push has great success with 10-12 track albums (both his solo albums were that). So I would have preferred to have a few more tracks on the Daytona album. That being said, IF you are going to gives a petit four (Google it) it better be flawless. Overall this is top shelf Push. And while I still believe this "new Kanye" is who he is now, I have to give him a tip of the hat for production. Just the production. You can tell when there is a truly collaborative effort on a project. And this is one of them. I've literally had the album on repeat three times in a row and you can't feel a break in the flow of the album. Push is who he is. VA been known, but its up to the rest of Hip Hop to see where they will rank him among the kingpin spitters. Y'all already know where he at with us. VA stand ALL THE WAY up.

Peep the "Ultimate Flow" track, "Exodus 23:1" video, and "The Story of Adidon" track below. Couldn't find that free YouTube joint this time. Matter of fact, go support it for real. Joint was like less than $10.











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07 June 2018

BITM Podcast Episode 5 | La Di Da Di Da


FULL EPISODE.  The BITM Trinity chops it up about several recent albums as well as discussing the race to the bottom with gimmicks plaguing the music industry.  Finally, we analyze the apparent shift in talk radio, and the desperate measures some stations have been taking to remain relevant.




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31 May 2018

The Bisquick Bandit | BITM Podcast


In this segment, The Niftian, stayfly, and TwonJonson discuss the shift that's happening within urban media from talk shows on the radio to podcasts.  More specifically, we dive into the short-lived beef between relative newcomers Desus & Mero and DJ Envy, and discuss how important it is for a show to be self-contained these days.  




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23 May 2018

Flops & Gimmicks | BITM Podcast


Listen as TwonJonson, stayfly, and the DIEGONITE himself, TheNiftian attempt to make sense of the existence of Tekashi 69 while analyzing the tactics it takes to make a dent in the industry in 2018.  TheNiftian and stayfly lead the way with their topics in this clip.

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16 May 2018

Black Panther | BITM Podcast


In this clip, stayfly and Twonjonson debrief from their interview with professional producer and engineer AL-Tee Williams before jumping into discussing several albums of 2018 from artists including Logic, Jericho Jackson, PRhyme 2, and Skyzoo.  We also spend most of the topic choppin it up over both the Black Panther movie and soundtrack.



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09 May 2018

AL-Tee Williams | B-Sides Podcast


I'd like to introduce the newest addition to the BITM Brand, the B-Sides Podcast.  The range of content you have to look forward to will be anything from interviews with guests to me and my boys just shootin the shit across a myriad of topics.  Our first episode is with the CEO of The OPP Group INC, AL-Tee Williams.  He is an engineer / producer / musician from Atlanta with over 30 years of experience in the game and takes us on a journey through his career as well as offers advice for up and coming engineers who are serious about getting into the business.



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