Advertisements

Blog Archives

MUSIC WORLD: Celebrating “The Black Album” 10 Years Later

10 years ago, Jay-Z proclaimed that he was retiring from rap. He did so via his magnum opus The Black Album. Jay-Z ushered in an era of button ups and dismissed the era of tall tees and oversized throwbacks – pre “Suit & Tie.” This album contained excerpts from Shawn’s mom detailing his birth and upbringing, President Obama brushed dirt off his shoulders because of this album, and a well-received The Grey Album all came from this body of work.

My mother bought me the limited edition release of The Black Album. The entire case, CD (front and back), and packaging was blacked out. It was all black everything before Jay-Z proclaimed he “might wear black for a year straight.” My car got stolen (and returned) in  college and so did that CD. I guess the thieves knew the value of that album, to me and to hip-hop. If you don’t own the documentary detailing what Jay-Z thought would be his final solo album and it’s subsequent concert dates, I feel bad for you son. Fade to Black is easily one of the best concert films I’ve ever seen and I still find myself watching it on a lazy Saturday. Catch one of my favorite clips featuring Kanye, below.

The Black Album was equally traditional and groundbreaking. It had pop singles that got radio spins [Change Clothes, 99 Problems] without sacrificing lyricism. Jay-Z has navigated that lane better than any other modern rap artist.After eight studio albums, the best rapper of the past decade told us all he was throwing in the towel. So we scooped up the album, went to see him on tour, and purchased the documentary. We all know now he would go on to release 5 more albums including a collaborative album with Kanye West. But it’s okay, because at that time, we all believed and wanted to believe that this was his final piece of work. I was left wondering how I would function when my favorite rapper “no longer exists.” This album was stadium music before rappers were making stadium music. So press play and fall in love again, or for the first time.

Advertisements

MUSIC WORLD: *UPDATED* One Year Later… My Extended Review of Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid, m.A.A.d. city”

*One Year Later*

What a difference a year makes? With popular culture’s attention span being shorter than Kevin Hart, it’s amazing that this album still has legs. People are still listening, still talking about it, and still fawning over Kendrick – really now more than ever. Since this release, Kendrick Lamar has provided amazing guest verses (Fucking Problems, How Many Drinks Remix, 1 Train, etc.) and crowned himself the King of New York. A young nigga from the west coast decided he was King! How audacious of him.  In a year that saw albums from heavyweights like Nicki Minaj, Nas, Rick Ross, G.O.O.D. Music, T.I. & 2 Chainz, this is the album everyone is still talking about. Kendrick’s stardom has increased the chatter about his TDE labelmates set to make a splash in the next couple of quarters. What’s left to be seen is what a sophomore album from Kendrick sounds like. Following his Hip-Hop Awards cypher, I am extremely excited.  What do you think? Read my original review below.

I can’t even front. I’ve been thirsty for this album to drop since I was first introduced to Kendrick Lamar. Section.80 was everything. I tried not to get too hype for his debut album because I didn’t want to be disappointed if it didn’t live up to what I was expecting (cue: Cruel Summer). But guess what, it did.

My quick review: This is one of the best debut albums from ANY recent rap artist. Definitely in the running for instant classic status. Cop it. You won’t be disappointed.

Want more? Check my full, track-by-track, review below.

Kendrick has emerged as a premier storyteller for our generation. Borrowing from the likes of Slick Rick. Nas, and Notorious B.I.G., Kendrick uses his supreme lyricism to weave tales that feel as personal as if our best friend was recounting them to us. He led off the debut of this album with two “singles.” One served as a buzz-single, “The Recipe.” The other, “Swimming Pools (Drank)” was a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of alcoholism and peer pressure. Naturally it’s become a drinking anthem. Both sound better in the grand scheme of the album. I’m a big proponent of complete projects. By that I mean, I love when an artist takes the time to sequence tracks in a way that they tell a story. Mr. Lamar has presented good kid, m.A.A.D. city in this manner.

The album opens with the first mention of Sherane and the voices of a group of young men that sound straight from the set of “The Wood.” The storytelling kicks off immediately with Kendrick recounting his 17 year old self involving Nextels, his first sexual experience, and a hint of gang activity in Compton. Then his mother calls in a hilarious voicemail skit where his father chastises him about dominoes and his mother implores him to bring her car back. The personal notes in this track alone start the album off strong.

One of my favorite tracks of the album, so far, “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” follows the opening track. This track fully displays the different flows that old fans are used to hearing from Kendrick. He weaves in and out of the beat, a perfect west coast circa 1995 beat with familiar modern drums and bounce. “Backseat Freestyle” is next. When this track hit the internet early last week, it was just okay. In the full scheme of the album though, it shines.

Another standout track for its content more than anything, “The Art of Peer Pressure” first details why Kendrick doesn’t partake in smoking weed now. Without completely ruining your listening experience, Kendrick picked up the wrong joint. It’s a great story that most of us can relate to involving mob mentality and peer pressure with the homies. Jay Rock serves as his first feature on the next track, “Money Trees.” Kendrick’s use of the word “bish” is hilarious and just as ridiculous and it sounds when us chicks use it trying to be more polite than using “bitch” towards each other. I love how the voicemails from his parents continue through the album making it a cohesive project.

Drake serves as the next feature for a 40-produced track with Janet Jackson‘s angelic voice in the background of “Poetic Justice.” Drake doesn’t disappoint and the song feels and sounds good. The album continues with “Good Kid” and “M.A.A.D city.” The latter features MC Eiht in the second half of the track with stories of the gang violence frequently associated with Compton.  It left me wondering where the hell he found MC Eiht, but it randomly works on this track.

His first official single “Swimming Pools (Drank)” also sounds more complete while sandwiched between album cuts. The album version has a little more pizzaz with some added bars. As the album begins to come to a close, Kendrick presents a 12-minute opus titled “Sing About Me, Dying of Thirst.” I love that he meshed these two tracks into one offering. They flow, share themes, and again display Kendrick‘s storytelling ability. And any song that references Menace II Society, well, has won in my book. I don’t know who Anna Wise of Sonnymoon is, but I love her voice on one of my favorite tracks, “Real.” It feels like Kendrick is talking about where fame has got him while he’s still trying to remain real to who he is and where he comes from.

If you have the regular release, the album ends with “Compton” featuring Dr. Dre. Buuut, no one cops the regular release anymore. So depending on which leak  where you copped the album from (iTunes, physical copy, Amazon), your bonus tracks vary. Each include “The Recipe,” “Black Boy Fly,” and “Now or Never” featuring Mary J. Blige.  Spotify also has a remix to “The Recipe” featuring the entire Black Hippy Collective. The iTunes version includes “Collect Calls.” Either way, more Kendrick is always welcome.

Whew! So with all that, my overall view of this album remains. This is a great album, easily shitting on so many debut albums from other freshman artists. I was super hype to hear the album and it lived up to and exceeded my expectations. Kendrick Lamar appeared to stay true to himself while still releasing a commercially appealing project. His voice, figuratively speaking, is still apparent.

My overall review: 4.5/5… damn near classic status

Standout Tracks: Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,  The Art of Peer Pressure, Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst

Forgettable Tracks: None, really…

You can purchase the album on iTunes HERE and listen on Spotify HERE. 

 

TAKE IT BACK TUESDAY: Mya x Dru Hill “It’s All About Me”

My young ratchet ass (before it was known as ratchet), used to loooove Mya songs and their grown up themes. I’m sure she was all of 15 or 16 when singing these songs making me about 12. But you couldn’t tell me that I wasn’t fed up cooking dinner and washing clothes for my imaginary boyfriend. This week’s Take it Back Tuesday is dedicated to “It’s All About Me” featuring Sisqo Dru Hill.

I’m pretty sure she’s part of the reason I got my nose pierced as an adult. And remember when every light skinned girl thought she was Mya with the “Chinese “outfits and chopsticks in their hair? Ah… the good ol’ days.

VIDEO WORLD: Rihanna “Pour It Up”

Though Unapologetic dropped almost a year ago and the remix failed to gain any buzz, Rihanna finally released her visual to “Pour It Up.” It’s a little late, but if you want to see Rihanna on a pole (and who doesn’t?), check it out below.

Still think Rihanna should’ve pushed “Loveeeee Song” with Future. But we know that’s Ciara’s boo and…. Yeah.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Pusha T “King Push”

Pusha T has released the visual for the opening track of his solo debut. “King Push” finds Pusha T reveling in his (previous?) lifestyle through carefully constructed wordplay. Check the visual below. I’m DONDA had hands all in this.

Pusha‘s debut album My Name is My Name releases October 8th. You interested? I am!

VIDEO WORLD: Drake “Hold On, We’re Going Home”

Just like he promised, Drake has released the visual for “Hold On, We’re Going Home” today. Drake flexes his acting chops and flashes back to a time when things were simpler. Check it below.

The video supports Drake’s album, Nothing Was The Same which leaked last week hit store today!

VIDEO WORLD: Solange “Lovers in the Park”

A few days after opening up her Instagram to the pubic, Solange dropped a visual for another song from her EP True. “Lovers in the Park” features a cameo from fellow Houston native Bun B and Solange‘s usual cooky dancing. Check it below.

Cute video. And the fashion is on point, though you expect nothing less from Solange. If you haven’t gotten in tune with True yet, listen HERE.