YG ~ “My Krazy Life”

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Is this the 2014 Doggystyle?

In 2013, the now 24 year old YG was pushed into the mainstream after his lead sing “My N***” featuring young Jeezy and Rich Homie Quan took off in the clubs, streets and then consequently moving up the Billboard charts. The young Compton mc signed to the Young Jeezy led CTE World Label with aspirations of being the next superstar artist and continuing the recent trend of West Coast success. While coming from the streets of Compton and living a life filled with gang related street life and drama, YG comes from relative obscurity to now having a few notable hits released, including “My N***”, “Left Right”, and “Who Do You Love” ft. Drake; while also having a surprisingly strong debut album. The overall vibe of YG’s debut album “My Krazy Life” probably has the most resemblance to the West Coast’s gangsta rap golden era of the early to mid 90’s then any of the new artist that have hit the scene and had some success in the last few years. One album in particular that it probably has its closest parallel from 1993 to 2014 is “Doggystyle”. Is YG’s debut album the 2014 version of Snoop Dogg’s 90’s classic album “Doggystyle”? It sure has at least some elements that could give fans a similar feeling and bounce to it, but lets break it down a little.

When Snoop Dogg released his critically acclaimed “Doggystyle” in November of 1993, it produced monster hits along with a continuation of Dr Dre’s G-Funk influenced production and bounce that had the parties jumping. At that time it almost felt like sonically “Doggystyle” was a part 2 to Dre’s own album released a year before “The Chronic”. That album along with “Doggystyle” pushed the then 22 year old Snoop Dogg into superstar status, and cemented Dr Dre as a molder of careers. As we jump into 2014, Producer DJ Mustard acts as YG’s right hand man as was Dr Dre to Snoop Dogg. On “My Krazy Life”, DJ Mustard does not dominate the production as completely as Dre did for Snoop Dogg however his role and influence on YG’s recent offering and his imprint on the mc’s career progression are almost as crucial.

On the first 4 songs of the albums, (“BPT”, “I Just Wanna Party”, “Left Right”, “Bicken Back Being Bool”) DJ Mustard handles the production, setting the tone for the rest of the album. Sonically the album isn’t exactly of the Dr Dre G-Funk variety however none the less DJ Mustard provides YG with a back drop that is throwback West Coast to its core. DJ Mustard’s bass lines have that riding in your car down the road on the highway, with nowhere important to go, with the windows rolled down the music blasting through your speakers feel to them. This isn’t really an album that you sit down in your house on a peaceful day with your IPOD and headphones and critically listen to. It’s the type of album similar to “Doggstyle” where you just simply enjoy the ride and groove to the piercing beats that are used as the backdrop and soundtrack to the stories of a day in the life of a young man navigating though the ups and downs of a day in the hood, where anything can happen while also complicated by gang affiliation.

One example of YG breaking down his mentality one fate full night is on the 1st verse on “1Am” where he raps…

“It was 1 in the mornin’ and I was up yawnin’
Moms asked where I’m goin’, to the hood if you ain’t knowin’
Pops locked up so mama couldn’t stop me
I was out the house, ASAP Rocky
And it wasn’t cause she couldn’t control us
We was her babies, she just wanted to hold us
And we ain’t get disciplined, her friend started whisperin’
About how she was a bad mama, mama said “fuck ’em then”
I was in the streets stylin’, nobody could tell me nothin’
Grandpa or grandma, not my auntie or my favorite cousin I was buzzin’
Fuckin’ all these hoes wearing no condoms, no nothin’
I used to ditch school when the homie had the Chevy
I used to sneak and smoke stress weed”

Throughout the album YG basically strolls through a day in the life of his experiences in Compton; from the lead off “BPT”, to the robbery “Meet The Flockers”, to love lost on “Me & My Bitch”, to reckless behavior on “1AM” and “Thank God”, to feelings of sorrow and regret on “Sorry Momma”. The album overall is quite consistent from track to track, in “Do It To Ya” which contains interpolations of the Dogg Pounds 90’s hit “Lets Play House” is not as dope as Dogg Pound’s original version but still a winner, however one of the best tracks on the album is arguably “Really Be(Smokin N Drinkin)” featuring Kendrick lamar. Unfortunately for YG the guest appearance by Kendrick Steals the show with his flow, emotion and lyrics.

On the 3rd verse of “Really Be(Smokin N Drinkin)” kendrick raps…

“I swear this industry shit, to me is one big ass lick
I walk inside of a buildin’, tell the A&R nigga strip
Tell ’em I need all of my chips, my life been on Section 8
I’ve been a welfare case, AFDC pump fake
Meanwhile I’m grindin’ cause drug money ain’t like rap money
Four white kilo snow bunny, equal one whole show, dummy
I’m on this tour bus and I’m fucked up, I got a bad call
They killed Braze, they killed Chad, my big homie Pup
Puppy eyes in my face, bruh, and I’ve really been drinkin’
Muthafucka, I really been smokin’, what the fuck? I’m the sober one
Man, I’m so stressed out, I can’t focus
Hide out when I ride out, ski mask with the eyes out
Speed past in the Cutlass, me and little Ocho
Every young nigga hop out, 2 tears in a bucket
I feel like “fuck it”, the price of fame, recognize my pain, that’s all I know
All out war, but I’m out here though, call my troops like “vamonos”
I’m on this tour bus and I’m fucked up, I got a bad call, and it’s all bad
Off OG with my OG and some OE, by the tall glass”

One that note, here lies the general downfall if a person where to ponder whether “My krazy Life” can be compared to any acclaimed album even one in the same vein as Snoop’s “Doggystyle”, it’s the difference between elite mc’s, good mc’s, average mc’s and the “how did you get a deal” guys. Whats that? well its the actual mc-ing the rapping, the formation of words that creates the verses and bars that communicate the message or picture you are attempting to convey. Now I’m not saying that “Doggystyle” was some lyrical masterpiece or even high level rapping lyrics wise or that YG’s rapping is bad, its more so the fact that when you’re not a great wordsmith the only way you can elevate your overall music to great or classic status is you must create music that not only has great production, concepts and consistent dope tracks from start to finish but also evoke either the proper passion or clarity musically on your album that paints a vivid picture to the listener at an elite level. While YG does a good job at that, its not to the point where it supersedes the oh so many mediocre and below verses throughout the album.

While “My Krazy Life” is pretty consistent with excellent production, the album overall is obviously not up to the level of Snoop Dogg’s seminal classic “Doggystyle”. Which is definitely not a knock on YG’s album, which is still a quality product but there is a nice gap between the YG’s Debut and Snoop’s multi-platinum Debut which continued the sound of  Dre’s “The Chronic” which changed the game. So all in all YG still released one of the better mainstream albums of 2014, and continued the West Coasts reemergence on the national scene. #HaitianJack

YG –  “My Krazy Life” (Released March 2014)

Bars:   Beats: XXL   Music: XL    Report Card: B

Rick Ross – {Mastermind}

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It’s the Summer of 2005, and for the first time ever i’m on my way to the airport without any of my family. Now who was with me? well a group of friends and a few associates headed down to Miami, FL straight to south beach for Memorial Day Weekend for roughly a 7 day stay. A lot of things were seen that week, and fun had, but one of the many things i distinctly remember about the environment outside the obvious, was the parade of cars circling Ocean Drive and Collins Ave full of drop tops, candy paint, 20+ inch rims, and luxury to Old School souped-up cars that were surely way out of my “fresh out of college” budget. As i stepped out on the scene for the first day what did i hear, and not entirely to my surprise literally every 10 minutes ALL week long blasting throughout Ocean Drive?. Rick Ross’s break out single , “Hustlin” off his debut album Port Of Miami and sprinkled in there was Young Joc’s “Its Goin’ Down” (now where is that guy anyway?), but i digress. As far as “Hustlin” goes i’m not sure if i’ve ever been in an environment where i heard the same song repped so hard over and over and over again. However Its not too hard to see why, when you factor in that “Hustlin” was arguably the hottest street anthem around that time, encompassing gritty production, with a to the point yet addictive hook, then on top of that we were actually in Miami where Rick Ross repped, it was to be expected.

Now move forward roughly 9 years to date, and its safe to say that Rick Ross has gone through his share of ups and downs personally and musically. What started as the new “hot” Southern artist churning out hits from his debut album, went to the negative controversy and backlash from His initial correction officer lies which then consequently led to talk of fabrication in his rhymes to issues with the real convicted Drug trafficker “Freeway” Ricky Ross, to now where Ross is an accomplished pillar in the game. Over the years it seems like somewhere along the line Rick Ross’s backlash from his eventual admitted CO days, along with all the other miscellaneous issues people where nitpicking with Ross about seemed to just go away so to speak. Why? well will touch on that later.

On Rick Ross Latest offering “Mastermind”, his 6th studio LP its actually more of the same from the southern mc. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, some artist produce their best material by staying in their lane and simply just continuing to do what they do best. Other artists learn how to show advanced progression in their music which can many times take them to another stratosphere musically and/or lyrically pushing them to the top echelon of mc’s in rap. As far as Ross is concerned, on “Mastermind” hes done what he usually does on most of his albums; trap music rhymes rapped over good production filtered with some street anthems, a few tracks for the ladies and multiple big name guest appearances.

The first big name featured guest and stand out track on Mastermind is the Jayz assisted “Devil is a Lie”. Needless to say Hov takes over the track with his verse touching on the shade he’s gotten for his long success as and artist and businessman. On the soulful trunk rattling track Hov raps..

“Is it truth or it’s fiction, is it truth or it’s fiction?
Is Hova atheist? I never fuck with True Religion
Am I down with the devil cuz my roof come up missin’?
Is that Lucifer juice in that two cup he sippin’?
That’s D’usse baby welcome to the dark side
Coulda got black list for the crack shit
White Jesus in my crock pot
I mix the shit with some soda
Now I’m black Jesus turn water to wine
And all I had to do was turn the stove up
Beast Coast, winnin’ at life, nigga, cheat code
The hatin’ is flagrant, hit your free throws
The devil try to hit me with the RICO, them black people
Devil want these niggas hate they own kind
Gotta be Illuminati if a nigga shine
Oh we can’t be a nigga if a nigga rich?
Oh we gotta be the devil that’s some nigga shit
You seen what I did to the stop and frisk
Brooklyn on the Barney’s like we own the bitch
Give the money to the hood, now we all win
Got that Barney’s floor lookin’ like a VIM
Black hoodie, black skully
Bravado like Mavado, boy I’m that gully
Gettin white money but I’m still black
All these niggas claiming king but I’m still that
King Hova, Mansa Musa
From a lie, the devil is a lie, I’m the truth, yeah”

On the track “War Ready” featuring Young Jeezy, Ross continues his long track record and extended string of hard hitting street anthems, this one produced by Mike Will Made It. Jeezy and Rick Ross picked the perfect song to bury their long standing personal issues. “War Ready” is the type of track that you CANNOT! play on low volume and truly appreciate the energy. On the 5th track “Nobody” with French Montana on the hook and including additional PDiddy Ad-libs sprinkled throughout the song, Ross initially received a lot of negative feedback.

On thing i’ve noticed in Hip Hop is whenever one artist touches even the essence of a beloved artist like a 2Pac or in this case an old Biggie Smalls track and attempts to sample, remix, reprise or however you would like to describe it, fans of that artist love to get all up in arms about how blasphemous it is to touch their classic track. Well when you bring some objectivity into the discussion and just relax and enjoy the music, Ross “Nobody” is a dope track. The addition of French Montana’s sing-song vocal tone on the hook compliment the track perfectly, and to be quite honest i’m not sure this track could have been done right with anyone else on the hook outside of Ross literally sampling Biggie’s voice from the “Life After Death” original.

Rick Ross does an admirable job Mimicking Biggie’s legendary flow on the track in question, rapping…

“I’m from where the streets test you
Niggas mix business and pleasure where the cocaine measure
The narcotics is our product
The by-product, you walk up on me, I cock it
New Mercedes as it peels off
Nothing penetrates the steel doors, gang signs, see ’em all
I said my prayer as I’m countin’ sheep
Never really athletic, but I play for keeps, do you feel me?
The mortician, the morgue fillin’ with more snitches
We kill ’em and taking their bitches, R.I.P
Chinchillas on a winter night
Black bottles when I’m feelin’ like, you wanna know what winners like
And I’m never on that tour bus
Just a decoy for niggas, the PJ’s for two of us
Ciroc boys down to die for Diddy
My niggas ride for less, keep it real, homie, made me filthy
Touch mine, until it’s even: kill
Like I’m knowing every heathen will, closed the deal with Steven Hill
We Magic City of the networks
Cut a nigga cast off, how my nigga net worths”

If the intention of this track was to pay homage while attempting to make a dope rendition all in one, Ross did a solid job.

Another one of the stand out tracks is “Thug Cry” featuring Lil Wayne, unfortunately for Ross this is another circumstance of him being out rapped on his own song. On the 2nd verse Wayne raps…

“Well, let me light one for my problems
Smokin’ on that loud, pumpin’ up that volume
Get it crackin’ like an eggshell
In this mothafucka make omelettes
Get a bad bitch that posts up like comments
They don’t know what I been through
Don’t know what I’m goin’ through
As long as I get through, that’s what I look forward to
Richer than a bitch but still I can’t afford to
Let these niggas play with me; need to be remorseful
I swear I got that silencer on that Mac 9
And I kill these niggas with silence
My head stay in the clouds, I really feel like a giant
Can’t trust none of these niggas, I murk one of these niggas
Then bury one of these niggas, still got dirt under my fingers
That ain’t a threat, that’s a bet, cause they coming at my neck
Like the best a man can get, but to make a long story short
I need a shoulder cause the devil on one
The other one, I’m lookin’ over
Tunechi…”

Ross is not flawless on “Mastermind” and far from being considered a lyrical giant on this album; for every “Drug Dealers Dream”, “Devil is a Lie” or “Blk & Wht” banger there’s a “Walking On Air” featuring Meek Mill that sounds like a bland filler track from any number of MMG mixtapes, or “Supreme” which has nice production but is also easily a skipper. Throughout “Mastermind” Ross continues to give what has kept him successful and relevant on the hip hop scene, which is plain ole consistency. There is something to be said for being consistent, you may not break any new ground by creating only consistent solid to good albums with similar content. However there are plenty of artist over the years that have talked about the same topics they have rapped about out since their debuts that have fell off or consequently began making increasingly stale music while doing a poor of job of keeping old stories fresh to the listener.

So whether we are talking about sports, entertainment, business, or in this case music, when you create product the masses of people enjoy over and over again, they will conveniently “forget” about your past transgressions. Hey its life! When you win, the people give you a pass, when your losing in your chosen field they love to pile on all your negative past until you fall off the scene. All in all no one would confuse “Mastermind” as anything transcendent however its still another win for the Rick Ross catalog, and the continuation of Rick Ross’s overall career theme, which is simply being…… Mr. Consistent. #HaitianJack

Rick Ross   –   “Mastermind” (Released March 2014)

Bars: M    Beats: XL    Music: XL       Report Card: C+

 

ScHoolBoy Q – (Oxymoron)

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Every since TDE’s Black Hippy Crew started bubbling right under the national scene in 2010, their rise hasent been metoric but it has been on a gradual upswing. The pinnacle of that hype machine has happened within the last 18-24 months or so with Kendrick Lamar’s critical acclaimed “Good Kid, MAAd City” then TDE’s BET Cypher exposure last year. For the most part TDE holds the general distinction as a crew of super lyrical Mc’s, well that is not nesscarily the case. Case and point is Schoolboy Q who is not a bum, but probably the least lyrical of the bunch.

However theres a reason why SchoolBoy Q’s album was next up and ready with quality singles and a legit buzz before every other artist on the label outside of kendrick lamar. The thing about SchoolBoy Q, he is…… for the lack of a better word so to speak, has that “method man of Wu-Tang” vibe to him. What do i mean by that well like Method Man, he isent the most lyrical mc of the crew nore was he arguably even in the top 4 or 5, however he had that star appeal to him in his music. The ability to mesh the balance between rhymes that connect to the streets with rhymes and music that connect to the club and radio masses.

Not to pigeon hole Q but with all that being said the foundation of ScHoolBoy Q as an artist, is one of a West coast gang related gangsta rapper. On the Sounwave produced “Hoover Street”, ScHoolBoy Q takes us down his memory lane on some of the harsh realities of his childhood. On the track Q raps…

Verse 1:
“Find a nigga realer than me, my socks stink/
Eat so much pussy that my mustache pink/
Strapping, my pants seam, no need for a belt/
Gangsta lean help, hoodie on backwards with the eyes cut out/
My hate felt, my .45 elder, poetry’s deep/
I never fail ya, Schoolboy bust flame/
Orange-yellow, higher than Margielas/
Since a young nigga I admired the crack sellers, seen my uncle steal/
From his mother, now that’s the money that I’m talking ’bout/
Think about it, the smoker ain’t got shit and everyday he still get a hit/
Whether jacking radios or sucking dick/
Sell his kids and chop his wrists and sealing his lips
Cause he don’t want the feds arresting his fix, didn’t take much/
To get me convinced, coincidence that I ain’t fucking with work/
Unless we rewind and answer my church/
Times getting harder than my d*** on a growth spurt/
Around the same time all you niggas was on purp/
My sober ass was snatching her purse, make the ice cream truck freeze/
Give me the keys, extra Fritos, chili and cheese/
Threw some Baby Lucas in his eyes before I leave/
The cops’ll never get the lead, grandma taught me well/
And my uncle gun was the accessories, 211 sipping plus a robbery/
This little piggy went to market, this little piggy carry chrome”

Verse2:
“Grandma said she loved me, I told her I loved her more/
She always got me things that we couldn’t afford/
The new Js and Tommy Hill in my drawers/
Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64, see Golden Eye was away at war/
We wasn’t thinking of getting money then/
Nor did I wonder why my uncle done sold his Benz/
Cause he been tripping now, he sweats a lot and slimming down/
I also notice moms be locking doors when he around/
But anyways, he wife done left him and now he living with us/
My bike is missing, Grandma like to hide her check every month/
My uncle’s nuts, he used to give me whiskey to piss in cups/
Knocking on the door telling me to hurry up, he in a rush/
I gave it to him then got my ass whipped for doing it/
Moms used to tell me like, nigga, know who you dealing with/
Them was the good days ’til I was raised the older ways/
Rat-Tone my nigga’s brother showed me my first K/
I was amazed, me and Floyd was in the back, he called us over like, hey/
YAWK, YAWK, YAWK, YAWK! We like, damn, nigga/
Then again, YAWK, YAWK! We like, damn, nigga/
Hearing him say cuz turned us to a fan, nigga/
Later on he got locked so know we’re taking his fades/
Continue the chapter from his life, we flipping that page/
Gangbanging was a ritual and Grandma would help/
She should’ve never left her gun on the shelf/
This little piggy went to market, this little piggy carry chrome”

 

Throughout “Oxymoron” ScHoolboy Q displays his ability to craft high energy head nodding tracks. I wouldnt call the various producers who handled the boards for the album a super team, however the production overall is top notch. There’s bangers everywhere on this album, from the opening track “Gangsta”, to Collard Greens” ft. kendrick Lamar, to the 2Chainz assisted “What They Want”, to the grooved out “Studio”, to the melodic back drop on “Hell Of A Night”, to the trunk rattling close out track “Man Of The Year”. With All the repeat value on various tracks throughout Oxymoron, it is still far from flawless.

The Main thing that holds the album back from manifesting to what it could have been is ScHoolboy Q’s rapping on much of the album, ranging from solid to average on more than half of the songs. I think part of that may be due to the subject matter on a third of the songs. Most of the time a club sounding track will not require high level rapping, and can for the most part, unless done right will throw the song off. Theres a reason why you won’t hear or find many great club banger type tracks from the Canibus, Crooked I, Terminology, Kool G Rap type mc’s of the world. Sometimes the bars and music don’t fit, and there’s an art and science to making that work with superb bars like some of the all time great Mc’s have done, like a Biggie or JayZ. Q similar to Method Man in respect to Wu-Tang, ScHoolboy Q may be in the bottom half of the TDE totem pole as far as bars are concerned, however he arguably has the most star quality and the best single crafing ability that can appeal to different hip-hop sectors. Not saying that he will sell a ton of records or will ever become a bigger star then Kenderick, but his ability to craft dope singles that appeal to the masses is on par with K.Dot and above everyone else thus far on TDE. Overall “oxymoron” has enough standouts and cohesion in its 12 song offering to be considered a solid to good album, and another positive notch for entire West Coast and TDE over the past few years.  #HaitianJack   

 

Scores:  Oxymoron  (Released Feb 2014)

Bars: M      Beats: XL     Music: XL      Report Card: B-

Drake & Nothing Was The Same

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To say the least it’s been a great last few years for Drake. Whether its been the Awards and nominations recognizing his Studio albums or his chart topping singles, he’s gone from being the man next to the man at Cash Money Records to the man. On his latest offering, “Nothing Was the Same” Drake continues his evolution as an artist by sharpening his ability to mash together R&B and rap all by his lonesome. Now we could go on all day about the commercial aspect of Drake sales, radio spins, appearances on Billboard, media exposure etc etc, However we don’t do that here, it’s all about the music, so let’s get right to it.

Drake starts off incredibly strong, with the opening track “Tuscan Leather”, which is arguably the best pure hip-hop track on the entire album. What makes the track a standout? well, producer Noah “40” Shebib’s production on the track is flawless.  For those familiar with the production credits of producers Dj Paul and Juicy J of three Six Mafia, they will commonly rearrange or switch up an entire beat midway or after each of their artists verses. On “Tuscan Leather” Noah 40 follows suit here, where all three of Drake’s verses break off into three separate dope beats, which all flow seamlessly together and match Drakes patent flow. On this song it’s very evident that Drake is letting the world know he’s aware of the blogosphere disses and the supposed up and coming artists ready to knock him down the totem pole.

On the opening track Drake raps…

“Tell me who dissin’, I got some things that’ll hit the culprit
Them strep throat flows, them shits to stop all of the talkin’
All of the talkin’, got one reply for all of your comments
Fuck what you think, I’m too busy, that’s why you leave a message 
Born a perfectionist, guess that makes me a bit obsessive
That shit I heard from you lately really relieved some pressure 
Like aye, B I got your CD, you get an E for effort
I piece letters together and get to talkin’ reckless 
Owl chains like credentials, you know you see the necklace 
My life’s a completed checklist
I’m tired of hearin’ ’bout who you checkin’ for now 
Just give it time, we’ll see who’s still around a decade from now 
That’s real”

One of the most underrated but unconsciously appreciated aspects of any album is the musics sequencing. The sequencing of an album can either subtly bring down or elevate the listening experience for a fan, and placing too many tracks in the wrong order can determine the difference between an album feeling like your everyday mixtape of good songs just thrown together for consumption or a carefully crafted studio album that’s in harmony with the overall flow of music and concept. Appropriate sequencing also isn’t just simply about putting songs in “order”, but also not including songs on an album that don’t sound forced. As if to tell the world, “Hey guys these songs really don’t  mesh with the overall album but i threw them on here anyway because it would get me some radio play”, or in a vacuum its a HOT song. When you hear an artist tell the public that xyz song didn’t make an album because, “it just didn’t fit”, there basically letting us know that even though people may like the song, the track wasn’t in harmony with the overall vibe or concept of that particular album. Out of all three of Drake’s Studio albums, “Nothing Was The Same” achieves that balance the best in an exceptionally fashion. Sonically from start to finish the album feels like one big rollercoaster ride of relationship make-ups to break-ups, emotion, vulnerability, and honesty. Two of the standout tracks that display these themes are “From Time” and “Too Much”.

On “From Time” the combination of producers Chilly Gonzales and Noah “40” along Jhene Aiko’s vocals on the hook provide a perfect back drop for Drake, where he raps…

“Thinking ’bout Texas, back when Porscha used to work at Treasures
Or further back than that, before I had the Houston leverage
When I got Summer a Michael Kors with my momma’s debit 
A weak attempt at flexing, I’ll never forget it
Cause that night I played her three songs
Then we got to talking ’bout something we disagreed on
Then she start telling me how I’ll never be as big as Trey Songz
Boy was she wrong, that was just negative energy for me to feed off
Now its therapeutic blowing money in the Galleria
Or Beverly Center Macy’s where I discovered Bria
Landmarks of the muses that inspired the music
When I could tell it was sincere without tryna prove it 
The one that I needed was Courtney from Hooters on Peachtree 
I’ve always been feeling like she was the piece to complete me
Now she engaged to be married, what’s the rush on commitment?
Know we were going through some shit, name a couple that isn’t
member our talk in the parking lot at the Ritz
Girl I felt like we had it all planned out, I guess I fucked up the vision 
Learning the true consequences of my selfish decisions
When you find out how I’m living, I just hope I’m forgiven 
It seem like you don’t want this love anymore
I’m acting out in the open, it’s hard for you to ignore
But girl, what qualities was I looking for before?
Who you settling for? Who better for you than the boy, huh?”

Assisted by the classic Sampha hook, on “Too Much” Drake raps…

“Someone go tell Noel to get the Backwoods
Money got my whole family going backwards
No dinners, no holidays, no nothin’
There’s issues at hand that we’re not discussin’
I did not sign up for this
My uncle used to have all these things on his bucket list
And now he’s actin’ like, “Oh, well, this is life, I guess,” Nah, fuck that shit
Listen man, you can still do what you wanna do, you gotta trust that shit
Heard once that in dire times when you need a sign, that’s when they appear
Guess since my text message didn’t resonate, I’ll just say it here
Hate the fact my mom cooped up in her apartment, telling herself
That she’s too sick to get dressed up and go do shit, like that’s true shit
And all my family from the M-Town that I’ve been ’round, started treating me like I’m “him” now
Like we don’t know each other, we ain’t grow together, we just friends now
Shit got me feeling pinned down, pick the pen up or put the pen down
I’m writing to you from a distance like a pen pal, but we’ve been down”

From a hip-hop perspective by the time you finish the dope close out track “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2” Featuring Jayz, you get the feeling of whether or not you just experienced a rap album or an R&B album that just happened to have more rap verses than usual. Depending on who you ask, some don’t even consider Drake a full fledge rapper, or his music necessarily isn’t rap. Good or bad some feel his music is in alignment with the new era and direction of  hip-hop. Some feel its “Emo” music and he sounds too emotional or soft on his album. Some say, “Hey man he’s dope, i just wish he would stop singing”, or the other end of the spectrum of “I love when he meshes the rapping and the singing. he’s like a male Lauren Hill“. So is “Nothing Was The Same” a pure rap album? maybe? maybe not? and should it be viewed in a separate sub-genre of rap? Maybe, maybe not. Are there aspects of the album that may feel a bit too sappy for the average rap fan? maybe, maybe not, all that is for the masses to decide. So Whether it’s the soulful “Hold On, We’re Going Home”; the personal “Too Much”, the melodic “Connect” or the honest “From Time”, at the end of the day its simply good music.    ~HaitianJack

Scores: Nothing Was The Same   (Released 2013)

Bars:  L     Beats:  XL     Music:  XXL      Report Card:  B+

NEXT UP! COMING SOON……

Scarface – “Deeply Rooted”

Jadakiss -“Top 5 DOA”

Common – “Nobody’s Smiling”

Jeezy – “Church In The Streets”

The Game – “The Documentary 2”

Kendrick Lamar – “To Pimp A Butterfly”

 Isaiah Rashad – “Clivia Demo

Gods’Illa – “Gods’Illa: The Album”

——————THROWBACK SERIES:——————–

Jayz – “The Blueprint”

Nas – “It Was Written”

Common – “Be”

The Roots & “UnDun”

The Album Undun, in so many words is “in many ways much like a screenplay or novel”. Those are the words from Black Thought one of the founding architects of The Legendary Roots Crew in a recent Vibe Magazine interview. In many ways that’s exactly what this album was organically was created to be. After almost 20 years since their debut album The Roots have crafted a concept album based on a fictitious character named Redford Stephens, a man torn between the harsh realities of the street life, and the trials and tribulations that come along with it. Along with the life-like narratives of this young mans life, comes a story of the course of the album told in reverse order, beginning with Redford Stephens demise on the haunting opening track “Sleep”, where Black Thought raps…

To catch a thief, who stole the soul I prayed to keep
Insomniac, bad dreams got me losin sleep
I’m dead tired, my mind playin tricks, deceit
A face in the glass, unable to admit defeat
All that I am all that I was is history
The past unraveled addin, insult to this injury
I’m, fightin the battle for the soul of the century
Destiny is everything that I pretend to be
Look, and what I did came back to me eventually
The music, played on and told me I was meant to be awake
It’s unresolved like everything I had at stake
Illegal activity controls my black symphony
Orchestrated like it happened oncidentally
Oh.. there I go from a man to memory
Damn, I wonder if my fam will remember me”

On the track “One Time” the Roots stand in member Dice Raw raps from the tragic perspective of Redford Stephens….

“I wonder when you die, do you hear harps and bagpipes
if you born on the other side of the crack pipe?
N****z learn math just to understand the crack price
Then dive in, head first like the jack knife
Cause out here, yo you niggaz cant belly flop
If you wanna make the noise, inside your belly stop
On time means, bein on the front line
Being on the front means duckin one time
The pendulum swingin my way, couldn’t be more blind
N****z talk to the cops? Not even one time
’cause we all goin down, just like the subprime
or a cheap-ass half gallon of Ballantine
But, hoppin over gates to escape is sublime
Been through the alley way and down to the sub line
Tales from the streets, life of high crime
to make it to the bottom, such a high climb”

On the Bilal assisted track “TheOtherSide” Black Thought  and Greg Porn contribute to the song continuing the albums dark vibes of the inner workings of what a life of crime can do to your frame of mind……

[Black Thought]t
“You might say I could be doing somethin positive
Humbled head down low and broke like promises
Soakin and broken in a joke like comics is
Not enough paper to be payin folks compliments
But when that paper got low, so did my tolerance
And it ain’t no TRUTH in a dare, without the consequence”

[Greg Porn]
“Every night I’m crossin a line that ain’t the finish
Every thought is dark as a glass of fuckin Guinness
To far gone to come back to my senses
Now I’m on the edge of my bed makin love to my meds
Every moments like a pistol to my head when I’m gettin mine”

If there was one song that captures the essence of the mental and physical obstacles of Redford Stephens its the last song on the album “Tip The Scale”. On the track Black Thought and Dice Raw’s verses and hook delve into essence of Redford’s troubles on the song they rap….

[Black Thought]

“Yo, I’m always early, I never take off
’cause I got a job: rob Peter to pay Paul
Now I realize it’s the winner that takes all
Do what I gotta do, because I can’t take loss
Picture me livin life as if I’m some animal
that consumes its own dreams like I’m a cannibal
I won’t accept failure, unless it’s mechanical
But still the alcohol, mixed with the botanical
I guess I be referred to the owner’s manual full of loaners
Full of all the homeless throwaways and the stoners
Soldiers of the streets with 8th grade diplomas
and the world awaitin their shoulders as a bonus
Look, let he without sin live without sin
Until then, I’ll be doing dirty jobs like Swamp Men
Countin the faces of those that might have been
It’s like, livin that life but I won’t live that life again”

[Dice Raw]

“Lotta n****z go to prison, how many come out Malcolm X?
I know I’m not… shit, can’t even talk about the rest
Famous last words: You under arrest
Will I get popped tonight? It’s anybody’s guess
I guess, a nigga need to stay cunning
I guess when the cops coming need to start runnin
I won’t make the same mistakes from my last run-in
You either done doin crime now or you done in
I got a brother on the run and one in
Wrote me a letter he said, “When you comin?”
Shit, man, I thought the goal’s to stay out
Back against the wall, then shoot your way out
Gettin money’s a style that never plays out
’til you in a box and your stash money’s paid out
The scales of justice ain’t equally weighed out
Only two ways out: diggin tunnels or diggin graves out”

What makes the “UnDun” album so special is not only the creativity or the conceptualised story in reverse, without giving you a feeling of unnecessary gangster banter, its simply the fact that the album is enjoyable. Even in its somber and dark tone the work behind the boards done by Questlove and his crew keep the album at a head nodding tempo throughout. However the only misstep to a very small degree may be “Make My” Featuring K.R.I.T., the songs vibe has too much of sleppyness to it, and lacks the kick production wise to keep up with the rest of the album. Now while each track in its own way has high replay value and dopeness to it, the entire record still stays true to the theme, painting the missteps of Redfords life. Unlike the last few Roots albums which although overall were high quality, this album more so is a notch above because of its focused effort packaged in a concise 9 Song offering. So whether it’s on the hustlers flossy dream on the track, “Kool On”, or the Just Blaze-ess banger “Stomp” or the groovy “Lighthouse” the Album barely never misses a beat towards being one of the top albums of 2011.   #HaitianJack

 Scores:  UnDun  (Released Dec 2011)

  Bars:  XL    Beats:  XL    Music:  XXL     Report Card: A-

Jayz & “Reasonable Doubt”

“THROWBACK REWIND SERIES”

When i think of Jayz’ s 1996 album “Reasonable Doubt”,  i think of a soundtrack to the ultimate street hustler movie. What “Reasonable Doubt” is to hiphop music is similar to the creative brilliance of its movie conterpart, i.e a “Scarface”, “Goodfellas” or the “The Godfather”. Although unappreciated by certain sectors of society in relation to these movies in american culture, hiphop music has continued to gain popularity among the masses. However to many of these same sectors of society hiphop and/or rap music is nothing more than a collection of youth glorifying themes of violence, ignorance, misogyny, disrespect and drug use among others.

However to the untrained eye and ear the hiphop culture, specifically the actual music is nothing more than cultural expression, art and of course entertainment. If the movie “Scarface” and the award winning actors and producers of that movie can recieve critical and commercial accliam which they should, for their depiction of mafia life, then hiphop artist who craft quality narration of that same life style in musical form should to. And Yes!, Reasonable Doubt is one of those albums.

On Sean Carter’s 14 track offering the Brooklyn mc puts on display his witty flows weaving in out and around the hustlers mentality. Right from the jump, the opening track “Cant Knock the Hustle” Jayz shows hes going to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. On the track S. Carter raps…

I gotta, let you niggaz know the time like Movado
My motto, stack rocks like Colorado
Auto off the champagne, Cristal’s by the bottle
It’s a damn shame what you’re not though (who?) Me
Slick like a gato, fuckin Jay-Z
My pops knew exactly what he did when he made me
Tried to get a nut and he got a nut and what
Straight bananas; can a nigga, see me?
Got the US Open, advantage Jigga
Serve like Sampras, play fake a rappers like a campus
Le Tigre, son you’re too eager
You ain’t havin it?  Good, me either
Let’s, get together and make this whole world believe us huh?
At my arraignment, screamin
all us blacks got is sports and entertainment, until we even
Thievin, as long as I’m breathin
Can’t knock the way a nigga eatin – fuck you even!”

Mary J Blige’s contribution to the track is just icing on the cake. the album keeps the momentum going on the next 4 tracks, “Politics as Usual”, then the late great B.I.G featured verse for verse dopeness of “Brooklyns finest”, “Dead Presidents”, and “Feelin It”. One of the standout cuts from “Reasonable Doubt” is the follow up song “D’Evils”. On the track Jayz depicts in HD clarity the mentality of a man deep in the game faced with the ills of that lifestyle. On “D’Evils” Jay raps…

This shit is wicked on these mean streets
None of my friends speak
We’re all trying to win, but then again
Maybe it’s for the best though, cause when they’re seeing too much
You know they’re trying to get you touched
Whoever said illegal was the easy way out couldn’t understand the mechanics
And the workings of the underworld, granted
Nine to five is how to survive, I ain’t trying to survive
I’m trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot
Life ills, poison my body
I used to say ‘fuck mic skills’
And never prayed to God, I prayed to Gotti
That’s right it’s wicked, that’s life I live it
Ain’t asking for forgiveness for my sins, ends
I break bread with the late heads, picking their brains for angles on
all the evils that the game’ll do
It gets dangerous, money and power is changing us
And now we’re lethal, infected with D’Evils”

On the next track “22 Two’s” spits a freestyle-ess assault on a stripped down Ski produced track, followed by the banger “Can I Live”. On the latter Sean Carter continues his commentary of the hustler thought process, on his final verse he raps…

My mind is infested, with sick thoughts that circle
like a Lexus, if driven wrong it’s sure to hurt you
Dual level like duplexes, in unity, my crew and me
commit atrocities like we got immunity
You guessed it, manifest it in tangible goods
Platinum Rolexed it, we don’t lease
we buy the whole car, as you should
My confederation, dead a nation, EXPLODE
on detonation, overload the mind of a said patient
When it balls to steam, it comes to it
we all fiends gotta do it, even righteous minds go through this
True this, the streets school us to spend our money foolish
Bond with jewellers and, watch for intruders
I stepped it up another level, meditated like a buddhist
Recruited lieutenants with ludicrous, dreams of
gettin cream let’s do this, it gets te-di-ous
So I keep one eye open like, C-B-S, ya see me
stressed right?  Can I live?” 

As good as Jayz’s debut album is, the second half of the album does lose a little steam. However not enough from keeping this album from being a certified classic album overall. The record comes to a fitting end on the closeout track, “Regrets”, where Jayz breaks down in different aspects of his earlier years how he felt the negative pull of poor judgement and the feeling being boxed to the circumstances that attributed to Sean Carter the hustler. On the closeout track he raps…

As sure as this, Earth is turning souls burning
in search of higher learning turning in every direction seeking direction
My moms cryin cause her insides are dyin
her son tryin her patience, keep her heart racin
A million beats a minute, I know I push you to your limit
but it’s this game love, I’m caught up all in it
They make it so you can’t prevent it, never give it
you gotta take it, can’t fake it I keep it authentic
My hand got this pistol shakin, cause I sense danger
like Camp Crystal Lake and
don’t wanna shoot him, but I got him, trapped
within this infrared dot, bout to hot him and, hit rock bottom
No answers to these trick questions, no time shit stressin
My life found I got ta live for the right now
Time waits for no man, can’t turn back the hands
once it’s too late, gotta learn to live with regrets”

After over 15 years since jayz’s debut “Reasonable Doubt” the self proclaimed greatest of all-time has gone on to have a slew of hits, critical acclaim and commerical success. Although Jayz is over 10 albums deep in his career it was his debut album that endeared him the most to his loyal fans because of the albums first class production from the likes of Ski Beats, DJ Premier, Clark Kent among others, and a lyrical dissertation of sorts into the mind of the Marcy Projects hustler. Just like a great Mob Film that grips the movie goer into the lives of its characters and their subsequent plots, Jayz does the same on this album bringing to life the good and the bad of the hustler. Now thats a film that deserves an oscar…   #HaitianJack

Score:  Reasonable Doubt (Released June 1996)

Bars: XXL    Beats: XXL    Music: XXL     Report Card: A+(Classic)

Nas & iLLmatic

“THROWBACK REWIND SERIES”

Nasir Bin Olu Dara Jones aka Nasir, Aka Nas Escobar, aka Esco, Aka Gods Son, aka Streets Disciple, aka Nasty Nas, or simply Nas is an artist that has stood the test of time. Since his arrival on the rap scene in 1991 on Main Source’s debut album “Breaking Atoms” lead track “Live At the Barbeque”,  Nas has built a collection of classic tracks with top-notch lyricism and a music discography that few artist can match. Nasir’s 1994 debut album iLLmatic was an anomaly of sorts to many rap fans. Looking back during that era many hip hop fans wondered how a baby-faced 20-year-old could craft such vivid rhymes, while lyrically painting Vincent Van Gogh like pictures of New York Street Life with such detail. At an early age Nas lyrical dexterity drew comparisons to artists to Legends like Queens Bridge’s Kool G Rap and NY City Rakim.

In Nas’s magnum opus iLLMatic, the mc shows in a dense 9 song album offering enough quotables to fill 2-3 albums of most artist today. On the albums 1st song  “N.Y State of Mind” Nas creates a vivid narrative of his street environment. On the menacing DJ Premier produced track, Nas raps…

I got so many rhymes I don’t think I’m too sane
Life is parallel to Hell but I must maintain
and be prosperous, though we live dangerous
cops could just arrest me, blamin us, we’re held like hostages
It’s only right that I was born to use mics
and the stuff that I write, is even tougher than dykes
I’m takin rappers to a new plateau, through rap slow
My rhymin is a vitamin, held without a capsule
The smooth criminal on beat breaks
Never put me in your box if your shit eats tapes
The city never sleeps, full of villians and creeps
That’s where I learned to do my hustle had to scuffle with freaks
I’ma addict for sneakers, twenties of buddah and bitches with beepers
In the streets I can greet ya, about blunts I teach ya
Inhale deep like the words of my breath
I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death
I lay puzzle as I backtrack to earlier times
Nothing’s equivalent, to the new york state of mind

On the follow-up track “Life’s a B***” Nas shows his prowess as an mc when he takes a simple thought and uses his verses to enhance his message with quality bars, versus the lazy simple rhymes used by many of todays mainstream artist. Some might think its unnecessary or showing off a bit, but that’s just Nas; as he raps….

“I woke up early on my born day, I’m twenty years of blessing
The essence of adolescent leaves my body now I’m fresh in
My physical frame is celebrated cause I made it
One quarter through life some God-ly like thing created
Got rhymes 365 days annual plus some
Load up the mic and bust one, cuss while I puffs from
my skull cause it’s pain in my brain vein money maintain
Don’t go against the grain simple and plain
When I was young at this I used to do my thing hard
Robbin foreigners take they wallets they jewels and rip they green cards
Dipped to the projects flashin my quick cash
and got my first piece of ass smokin blunts with hash
Now it’s all about cash in abundance, niggaz I used to run with
is rich or doin years in the hundreds
I switched my motto — instead of sayin fuck tomorrow
That buck that bought a bottle could’ve struck the lotto
Once I stood on the block, loose cracks produce stacks
I cooked up and cut small pieces to get my loot back
Time is Illmatic keep static like wool fabric
Pack a four-matic that crack your whole cabbage

One of the top tracks on the album is the Pete Rock produced “The World Is Yours”, where Nas raps….

Dwellin in the Rotten Apple, you get tackled
Or caught by the devil’s lasso, shit is a hassle
There’s no days, for broke days, we sell it, smoke pays
While all the old folks pray, to Je-sus’ soakin they sins in trays
of holy water, odds against Nas are slaughter
Thinkin a word best describin my life, to name my daughter
My strength, my son, the star, will be my resurrection
Born in correction all the wrong shit I did, he’ll lead a right direction”

As your starting to tell Nasir holds nothing back as he delves deep into the mental state of his NY State of Mind, using his dense lyrics to depict the roller coaster lifestyle of the inner city. Track for track it’s almost as if the chemistry between Nas and his hand full of iLLmatic’s producers were meant to come together for this occasion. In 2012 some of the backdrops may sound a little dated however compared to iLLmatics hiphop peers of the early 90’s and prior, the roll call of DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor, among others were the A-List producers in hiphop during that period.

There was a time in rap when you couldn’t get any real respect  among the people and your peers if you didn’t take your craft seriously. As far as your rep as an mc It was always more about who was more lyrical inclined and could out do the next man bar for bar. Nas doesnt hesitate to impress in that regard on another standout track produced by DJ Premier “Memory Lane”, Nas raps…

My pen taps the paper then my brain’s blank
I see dark streets, hustlin brothers who keep the same rank
Pumpin for somethin, some uprise, plus some fail
Judges hangin niggaz, uncorrect bails, for direct sales
My intellect prevails from a hangin cross with nails
I reinforce the frail, with lyrics that’s real
Word to Christ, a disciple of streets, trifle on beats
I decifer prophecies through a mic and say peace.
I hung around the older crews while they sling smack to dingbats
They spoke of Fat Cat, that nigga’s name made bell rings, black
Some fiends scream, about Supreme Team, a Jamaica Queens thing
Uptown was Alpo, son, heard he was kingpin, yo
Fuck ‘rap is real’, watch the herbs stand still
Never talkin to snakes cause the words of man kill
True in the game, as long as blood is blue in my veins
I pour my Heineken brew to my deceased crew on memory lane”

The albums closeout track ends this classic album where it began, with a 20 yr old Nasir Jones flexing his lyrical muscles over a head nodding beat, this time over the Large Professor produced “It Aint Hard To Tell”. On the three verse verbal exercise Nas raps…

“This rhythmatic explosion, is what your frame of mind has chosen
I’ll leave your brain stimulated, niggaz is frozen
Speak with criminal slang, begin like a violin
End like Leviathan, it’s deep well let me try again
Wisdom be leakin out my grapefruit troop
I dominate break loops, givin mics men-e-straul cycles
Street’s disciple, I rock beats that’s mega trifle
And groovy but smoother than moves by Villanova
You’re still a soldier, I’m like Sly Stone in Cobra
Packin like a rasta in the weed spot
Vocals’ll squeeze glocks, MC’s eavesdrop
Though they need not to sneak
My poetry’s deep, I never fell
Nas’s raps should be locked in a cell
It ain’t hard to tell

In many ways Nas’s 1994 debut album iLLmatic was a landmark album in hiphop and specifically gritty New york rap. During the years of 1988-1992 the West Coast was picking up steam and arguably becoming the front runner of popular urban rap music nationwide. The impact of the West Coast during that time was mainly due to a string of hits from Dr. Dre and affiliates. Illmatic’s release re-ignited a spark among east coast rap and one could arguably say that iLLmatic was among the leaders in a string of classic hip hop music released between 1994-1996. Although iLLmatic didn’t sell well initially, since its release the album has lyrically stood the test of time and from top to bottom is on par or greater than many of the greatest rap albums of all time.  #HaitianJack

Score:  iLLmatic  (Released 1994)

Bars:XXL    Beats:XXL   Music: XXL    Report Card: A+(classic)

The Notorious B.I.G. & “Ready To Die”

“THROWBACK REWIND SERIES”

On March 9, 1997 The Notorious B.I.G. left the world with 2 children, an ex-wife, friends, family and a millions of fans after a fatal shooting in California. Roughly three years prior on September 13, 1994 Biggie Smalls debut album “Ready To Die” hit stores and he instantly gained a following worldwide. Some call him the greatest of all-time, some have him as one of the top 5 mc’s dead or Live, some even feel he is overrated. However regardless of your thoughts about Biggie’s legacy, “Ready To Die” is an album that plays out like a classic gangster flick with melodramatic themes sprinkled throughout.

Ready To Die isn’t all dark, there are a few light-hearted tracks throughout the album, one being the classic track “Juicy”. For some the high dosage of an overall gloomy overcast on the album may be a turn off, however just like we can enjoy a good comedy, we can enjoy a gritty rags to riches story with vivid lyricism. The Notorious B.I.G.’s many lyrical talents include his knack for playing the role so to speak to perfection. By playing the role i mean in each song regardless of the subject matter you felt like you were seeing what he saw, feeling what he felt, and experiencing what he may have experienced. He had sort of a Jekyll and Hyde type ability in his raps where you would say to yourself did the same guy that just rapped xyz in this track, REALLY say abc in the next track.

Two perfect examples of Biggie showing his jekyll & Hyde type persona and his ability to go from the over weight lover to the robbery expert are on the track “Gimmie the Loot” and “Big Poppa”. On the latter the Brooklyn mc raps…

“Straight up honey really I’m askin
Most of these n*****z think they be mackin but they be actin
Who they attractin with that line, “What’s your name what’s your sign?”
Soon as he buy that wine I just creep up from behind
And ask what your interests are, who you be with
Things to make you smile, what numbers to dial
You gon’ be here for a while, I’m gon’ go call my crew
You go call your crew
We can rendezvous at the bar around two”

Then Biggie flips the script into the ruthless robbery expert on “Gimmie The Loot” where he raps…

“I wouldn’t give fuck if you’re pregnant
Give me the baby rings and a #1 MOM pendant
  I’m slamming n****z like Shaquille, shit is real
  When it’s time to eat a meal I rob and steal
  cause Mom Duke ain’t giving me shit
  so for the bread and butter I leave n****z in the gutter
  Huh, word to mother, I’m dangerous
  Crazier than a bag of fucking Angel Dust
  When I bust my gat mother*******s take dirt naps
  I’m all that and a dime sack, where the paper at?”

On the Easy Mo Bee produced “Warning” Biggie puts on full display his story telling ability; one of his many strengths as an mc. Biggie Smalls ability to draw you into the visuals of his raps and make you see what he’s rhyming about brings life the story.

On of the underlining themes of the entire album becomes apparent on the title track “Ready To Die”. On the track Biggie raps…

My shit is deep, deeper than my grave G
I’m ready to die and nobody can save me
Fuck the world, fuck my moms and my girl
My life is played out like a jheri curl, I’m ready to die

On the albums closeout track “Suicidal Thought” Biggie raps…

“All my life I been considered as the worst
Lyin’ to my mother, even stealin’ out her purse
Crime after crime, from drugs to extortion
I know my mother wished she got a fuckin’ abortion
She don’t even love me like she did when I was younger
Suckin’ on her chest just to stop my fuckin’ hunger
I wonder if I died, would tears come to her eyes?
Forgive me for my disrespect, forgive me for my lies
My babies’ mothers 8 months, her little sister’s 2
Who’s to blame for both of them (naw n****, not you)
I swear to God I just want to slit my wrists and end this bullshit
Throw the Magnum to my head, threaten to pull shit
And squeeze, until the bed’s, completely red
I’m glad I’m dead, a worthless fuckin’ buddah head
The stress is buildin’ up, I can’t,
I can’t believe suicide’s on my fuckin’ mind”

One the biggest reasons why Biggie had such a following is because he is one of those rare artist that excels at the extremes and all the in-betweens. Biggie could scare you like a classic Steven King novel or flip to the other extreme by romancing a women with smooth rhymes on a song. It was his ability to jump from song to song and give you the impression that he wasnt forcing the issue, It always seemed like the role he played on that particular song was what he was, like a great artist should be able to do. Not to say that he was portraying a false image to fool you on purpose, but more so that he used his talents and creative lyrical ability to not only entertain, but also make you feel and see the movie on beats. Now i dont want to make “Ready To Die” out to be a perfect album without flaws, i.e the track “friend of mine”, however what the album and Biggie Smalls represented was an artist that crafted a hiphop classic with flair, cleverness, wit, humor and a dark aura that allowed you into the mind of a man ready to die.  #HaitianJack

Score:  Ready To Die   (Released Sept 1994)

Bars: XXL  Beats:XXL   Music:XXL  Report Card :A+(Classic)

Common & “The Dreamer, The Believer”

Ever since Common Sense came on the scene in 1992 with his debut album “Can I Borrow a Dollar?”, the Chi-town MC has been anything but common in the hiphop world. Not many artists who entered the game in hiphop’s perceived golden era 1991-96, are still release high quality studio albums. Like ATL’s Outkast; Common has never been afraid to get out of his comfort zone and go left when everyone was going right. However with all the acclaim Common has received from arguable classics 1994 “Ressurection”, 2000 “Like Water For Chocolate”, and 2005’s “Be” Album, Common has had his low points in the execution of his  left field album creations, 2008’s “Universal Mind Control” and “Electric Circus”. Now on his 9th studio Album “The Dreamer, The Believer”, Common has gone back to his roots, working with one of his old collaborators, Kanye West and mentor producer NO ID. The veteran producer NO ID  who also previously produced a bulk of Commons earlier work, returns with the chemistry that made him and Common’s earlier work fan’s favorites.

Right From the Opening track “The Dreamer”, Common shows why he is one of Hip Hops most Lyrically inclined artist. On the track Common raps:

“Walking on water, building my faith up/ N****s with no heart, I’m the pace maker/ Get the beat from No I, feel the pulse of the Chi/ Survival of the fit with hope in they eye/ Taking notes from the sky to fly above understanding/ They notes from the most high, so I gotta land them/ Career ain’t random, make anthems, streets chant them/ Rock roles like a phantom/ Mad hoes like they throwing tantrums/ I tell them I need space like Richard Branson/ Dancing, with wolves and stars getting full at bars/And then pass out like a pamphlet/ Never taking Grants for granted/ It’s Common, but I’m high above standard/ Fly nigga, keep my feet planted/ To rock the planet, I don’t stop for panic/ Maybe I’m a hopeless hip-hop romantic I’m a dreamer”

The Track ends with a reflective and beautiful poem from Maya Angelou speaking on the journey of different nationalities coming to America with nothing but a dream. The album keeps the momentum going with the bass pounding No Id Production on Ghetto Dreams Featuring fellow veteran great Nas. The first 3rd of the album rounds out with the spacey sounding Blue Sky and controversial gritty track “Sweet”.

Throughout the course of the 11th track offering Common touches on subjects ranging from, the uplifting of the human spirit to the struggle, to past relationships. Packed with wordplay Common continues to puts his ability on display with a  relatable night on the town storytelling track “RAW”, Common raps:

“We in this joint like Bob Marley and The Wailers/ She already wanna pick, bitch don’t be so over zealous/ Go to the bar to get around like a propeller/ The bar maid’s name is Stella/ I’m so appalled like McCartney that you would card me/ Am I really mad? Hardly, I’m here to party”

The Album closes out with a banger, “The Believer” Featuring John Legend on the Hook. This Track alone is the epitome of what much of  Common’s career has been about, using his top-notch lyricism and creativity to narrate his life and the struggle. On the final song Common raps:

“Hustles in my chest, no hustle no progress/ Extremities of life and it’s process/ Birth of a son, death of another/ With love I can rest both mothers/ And told ‘em, who’s in control is the one thats above us/ I walk where money talks and love stutters/ Body language of a nation going through changes/ The young become dangerous, pain gets spent into anger/ Anger gets sent through the chamber/ It’s tough when your own look like strangers/ We are the sons of gangsters and stone rangers/ If he could how would Ernie Barnes paint us?/ Look at the picture, hard not to blame us/ But time forgives in the Chi where the young die often/ Do they end up in a coffin because we haven’t taught them?/ Is it what we talking we really ain’t walking?”

It almost seems as if the last decade of Commons career has  had similar patterns. He will come with a high quality album and the people cheer him, then he has a left field more so experimental type album, i.e., electric circus, Universal Mind Control, and people ask? What happen to Common? Did he go overboard? Well that’s for the fans to judge, but all we know this time around is Common’s back in the zone that made him your favorite rappers, favorite rapper.

 In a world where there’s financial turmoil everywhere, unemployment at its highest  level in decades, work is scarce, America is in massive debt, families are struggling, and black communities in particular feeling even more of the brunt it’s quite refreshing to listen to  an album that speaks on having a greater vision then the state we are in today as a society. For that I applaud Common, A true MC.

Score:  “The Dreamer, The Believer”   (Released Dec 2011)

Bars:  XL      Beats:  XL      Music:  XL      Report Card:  B