31 October 2014

REVIEW: Logic - Under Pressure

"I used to wonder what it feel like?" A line vamped halfway through Logic's intro track resonates differently with me than he probably intended.  The song represents a culmination of the Maryland native’s hard work put in over the past four years finally paying off. It’s him briefly reminiscing about the days when he dreamt of success, and now being able to enjoy it. When I hear that line in particular though, it makes me think of everyone in Logic's generation who have been deprived of that feeling hip-hop is supposed to give you, and he being the shining sun sent to help keep that feeling alive. I think about raw lyricism, soulful beats, and storytelling. I also think about older generations who have been fed up for a decade plus with the direction they think the culture is heading, and instead stick to what they grew up on. But after running through the first few tracks of Logic's album "Under Pressure," you quickly begin to notice the influences from legends over several early generations of hip-hip soaked into this stellar debut effort.

Logic kicks the album off with a head-nod banger in Soul Food, which is split into two golder-era-esque tracks, and shows off his verbal versatility across both beats. The first half features an expertly sampled, and purely soulful beat that sounds like it was ripped fresh from 1994. The second portion picks up the pace on the production side and lyrically, with Logic straight spazzin left and right to finish off a song that almost serves as a blueprint for the rest of the album. Placing such a strong track so early on an album may not seem smart strategically, but Logic maintains the heat throughout the course of the entire project.

One thing Logic understands about the rap game is, there is still a huge portion of fans who expect you to be from the streets and be able to tell that story through your music for credibility. But even though Logic grew up around it, he didn't live that life himself. So to put a twist on the idea that living that street life validates you, he briefly puts himself in his family's shoes speaking from their perspectives on Gang Related, cleverly illustrating their struggles while at the same time showing that his surroundings taught him which direction not to go with his life.

Logic also speaks on one of his major vices in life, nicotine, and flips it Rick James style by referring to cigarettes as if they were a girl named Nikki. A concept that has indeed been done plenty in the past, Logic still manages to make it his own and never comes off like he is stealing from anyone. When you are as lyrically gifted as Logic, it's tough to ever say the he is copying another artist. Even though there will be several times where you try to compare this project to the likes of Illmatic, Midnight Marauders, or any OutKast album, Logic maintains his identity as a true artist, even though the influences are evident.

It's tough to call this album anything other than a classic, but that word gets thrown around far too loosely these days. The test of time determines where an album stands when it's all said and done, but it's also hard to imagine Logic coming out the gate with a stronger debut album. This one will be getting spins for months, and hopefully, years to come.

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SINGLE: Big K.R.I.T. - King Of The South

No words necessary...other than Cadillactica needs to drop RIGHT DAMN NOW.

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19 October 2014

SINGLE: Drake - How About Now

With the Toronto native's deadline coming up for his next album Views From the 6, it's time for him to start dropping singles (whether they make the album or not they'll still make it to radio) to build up hype for fans to keep him in the debate of who is the best out. Earlier today, "How About Now" was leaked on to the internet and of course has all the blogs and social networking sites buzzing. The song is of course emotional rap but Aubrey uses his talent of dropping a surplus of quotable lyrics. This spur of the moment track resembles a tone that didn't make the cut for Nothing Was The Same, but definitely a track that fans will love. Without further due, here is "How About Now."

Twitter: @_KJTheGreat, @BestInTheMix
E-mail: Kjohnsonk14@gmail.com

14 October 2014

REVIEW: Rapsody - Beauty And The Beast

It's been about a year since we've heard any new Rapsody. Last year Ms. Evans dropped her critically acclaimed (including BITM's first 5 tape review) mixtape, She Got Game. Last week she blessed the hip hop nation with her second EP, Beauty And The Beast.

Rap has a few mottos that represent her essence as an emcee, but the two that stand out to me are "better not basic" and "culture over everything". While she embodies both at all times, I feel that the former is the foundation for this EP. Many songs on this project make remarks that Rapsody acknowledges her choices as to what emcee she wants to be. The eternal struggle of all emcees (but especially the "young" artists) is the conflict of choosing commercial/mainstream success vs staying true to the art form. Songs like Who I Am reflect her awareness, "But they said the music that I'm making ain't paying, many dollars..think money make you, you ill advised..so make music like this so you don't forget and always remember and recognize who you are". Rap knows she is capable of making the easy radio single but elects to make songs that she is proud of.

The 9th Wonder produced track Hard to Choose further elaborates on this issue, "Hard to choose culture over fame/Cause you just want to be set and take care of all you fam/It don't make you but it be cool to have money like Wayne..Chose to build this slow ain't no need, no hurrying." Rapsody wants to make "rapping" her nine to five. And of course like many jobs there are ways to make it up the ladder much faster, and those ways normally mean making sacrifices. But Rap has made the conscious effort to take her time and "do it right", so to speak. She is lyrically capable of going the route of other female emcees and make club bangers and sell sex with every turn. Instead Rap has said that she takes her position as a role model to young black girls seriously, "Loyal to all but when I look at these black girls faces/I understand why I chose to be better not basic/So it's not hard to choose/So excuse if I don't care if hipsters relate..Why it's hard to choose being real or being fake huh".

Rapsody's success is of course in direct correlation to her skill as an emcee and her genuine love of the culture, but all great players need a great coach. And while Rap is a huge Kobe fan, I hope she doesn't take offense when I say she is the Kawhi Leonard of hip hop. Which of course makes 9th Wonder the Popovich of the game. Like the Spurs, Jamla is full of all stars but is never given their dues. They are not flashy, they don't boast huge pay days, but they are respected by those who know the game. Rap is "new" to the game so she can't be part of the Spurs big three. But like Kawhi she is under the mainstream radar but def on the radar of true hip hop heads (or bball heads in Leonards case). And before this metaphor gets outta hand (if it hasn't already), I'll go back to Rap. Beauty And The Beast is another perfect blend of inspirational and raw lyrics. Her metaphors and overall writing have never been sharper. The way she conceptualizes her tracks is flawless, from beginning to end this EP is a true gem. And if this review isn't enough to spark your interest, peep the single Drama. So once you do that and then cop the EP, I will just say you're welcome.

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07 October 2014

SINGLE: T.I. - Paperwork ft Pharrell Williams

In two weeks T.I. is set to drop his 9th studio album (on Tuesday, October 21st). And today Tip released his third single, Paperwork. This is the titular track and features his executive producer, Pharrell Williams. His first two singles were About The Money and No Mediocre. The former features fellow ATL rapper Young Thug, and the latter features T.I.'s rap apprentice, Iggy Azalea. Both songs seemed lazy and generic to me, and if that seems harsh it is only because I hold Mr.Harris to a higher standard than the army of young trapper rappers coming out lately. T.I. has proven that he is capable of being grouped with not just upper echelon southern emcees, but emcees in general. Thankfully his third single reinforces my belief in the Grand Hustle capo. This Pharrell assisted track is a little more laid back than we are used to for a Tip track, but believe me when I tell you that you will have this on heavy repeat mode.

I was a little worried about the Paperwork album, but I will hold judgment until we hear the full project. T.I. has been going on a more cinematic route with a few of his songs and he has promised that this album will be part of a trilogy, with elaborate thematic features and movie quality music videos.

Peep single below and tell us what you think.

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VIDEO: Redman - Muddy Waters 2 Mixtape & more

The last couple of months Redman has been dropping a handful of music videos to promote his Muddy Waters 2 mixtape. The mixtape serves as a prelude to his next studio album, Muddy Waters 2: Even Muddier. Reggie Noble joins the list of golden era emcees to create a sequel to one of their classic 90s album. The original Muddy Waters was Redman's third studio album and came out in 96.

The Funk Doctor Spock has stayed relevant throughout the years with his consistent lyrical skills and versatility. He can drop some hardcore hood joints, switch it up with a light hearted and fun track and of course drop many smokers anthems. While his last projects have been hit or miss, here is to hoping that the Soopaman Luva delivers another classic album.

Peep the videos for a few Muddy Water 2 mixtape tracks (there are so many I doubt I got them all) and a few promo videos as well.

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05 October 2014

REVIEW: Childish Gambino - STN MTN / Kauai

Ten months after his 2nd studio album Because the Internet dropped to mixed reviews (peep what BITM had to say here), Childish Gambino returns to his mixtape / EP game with STN MTN / Kauai.  It's arguable that Gambino's best music is from his mixtape and EP catalog. Due to his fearless approach to music, the creative barriers are torn down when he is in this space. As a result, this project naturally shines brighter than the likes of his most recent studio album. He calls this the world's first concept mixtape, with the first half, STN MTN, serving as a Gangsta Grillz mixtape full of samples and beats from the goldern era of southern hip-hop, and the second half, "Kauai," being a true Childish Gambino EP in the same lane as his 2011 project EP. STN MTN is a true mixtape that will hop through several beats within a single track with Gambino adjusting his flow to what you typically hear on the radio. Fans need not worry though, because it all somehow works. All facets of the south are covered from Wayne and Future to Ludacris and Usher. He isn't simply spitting over their beats though, he is actually telling a story throughout the mixtape. STN MTN serves as a dream that is being realized as you listen through its 11 tracks. On the intro, he runs off his wish list if he was a chart-topping Atlanta artist during the height of ATL's relevance, and he spends the entire tape illustrating this dream as if it were reality. Truly an original concept once you understand where he is going with it.

If STN MTN is a dream, then Gambino wakes up on Kauai, returning to the sound we have grown to love from him. The ethereal intro "Sober" may be one of the strongest songs he has ever made. As far as rapper ternt sangas go, Childish Gambino is one of very few who sound amazing in both fields. The majority of Kauai is so relaxing it may send you to another planet. Long time Gambino fans will be excited to know that he sneaks in a track from his Sick Boi days with the beat from "Love is Crazy" returning on the song "Retro," including the hook (sans auto-tune). Even Jaden Smith makes a cameo on the first half of "Late Night in Kauai," with a spoken word piece that fits perfectly. All of the tracks on the Kauai side just flat-out work. It's a shame that it's only an EP though, as these 7 tracks are among Childish Gambino's best work in years. Having a dream about being in his hometown of Stone Mountain, Georgia, and then waking up in Kauai, Hawaii and having the mixtape flow into the EP portion is borderline genius. Also the music from each side fits both areas and is such a clever and creative concept that will hopefully help expand other artist's ideas when it comes to being original in a game that is so oversaturated with people trying to sound the same. And to top it all off, all of the money made from "Kauai" sales will go toward keeping Kauai clean. It would be nice to see music this great from Childish Gambino whenever his next studio album drops.

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02 October 2014

VIDEO: Flying Lotus ft. Kendrick Lamar - Never Catch Me

Last night indie artist Flying Lotus released the video for Never Catch Me ft. Kendrick Lamar from his upcoming album "You're Dead!" Artists like FlyLo are intriguing because their music is instrumental in pushing the hip-hop genre forward. This video illustrates his vision but also has a deeper meaning that many have been trying to decipher. Within hip-hop, it's rare that an artist's creativety reaches too far outside of the box these days. Either way, the video is remarkable, and of course Kendrick Lamar's mind-bending lyricism is on full display throughout the entire song. "You're Dead!" is set to be released on October 7, 2014.

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