Archive | March, 2018

Kendrick Lamar – Black Panther: The Album

16 Mar

Black Panther was both an excellent movie and a cultural milestone. The album doesn’t quite hold up to that standard on either axis or the standard that Kendrick has gotten us accustomed to, but there is still space below all those bars for it to be quite good.

First of all, the singles all do well. “All The Stars” is just a great Kendrick joint and SZA absolutely kills both the chorus and her own verse. The Weeknd is in his comfort zone with “Pray For Me” and while Kendrick’s verse doesn’t quite gel with the rest of the song, it’s still just very good. “King’s Dead” has a solid Jay Rock verse, some stellar work from Future and the memorable “Miss me with that bullshit” from Kendrick.

Additionally, a couple of the other songs punch well above their weight. SOB x RBE burn down their song and Yugen Blakrok simply overwhelms the rest of “Opps” until it there’s nothing else left. The rest of the album is unfortunately forgettable however. There are moments, but not enough to save it from a slight blandness. There are no actual misses here. There’s nothing so poor as to hurt. The album as a whole does feel a little deadened due to all the cotton wool packed in it though.

The entire album runs the afro-futurism of the movie quite well however. There are a lot of explicit call-outs to Wakanda, Killmonger and the Black Panther himself, but more importantly, the beats themselves strongly reinforce the theme. Hearing sounds like this from a confirmed A-lister like Kendrick in the context of an album of the magnitude of this one is both novel and important. Also, it’s just good music.



Migos – Culture 2

1 Mar

Where their previous album was a statement of intent, Culture 2 is a victory lap. Trap is the biggest thing going around and Migos are bona-fide superstars as a result. Like an actual victory lap, this album is rather more relaxed than the run that it took to get here. There’s maybe a little too much playing to the crowd, a little too much space for friends to jump in and just a little too much self-indulgence. Still, a victory lap is not meant to break world records, it’s just a moment to celebrate with the winners and why would I begrudge them that?

Also, this album is of strikingly consistent quality despite the length. The singles definitely stand out with the Kanye-produced “BBO (Bad Bitches Only)” and Pharell-produced “Stir Fry” as particularly memorable. Similarly, the chant in “Auto Pilot” is insistent. However, the album as a whole is just good, muscular rap. A couple of songs are forgettable, and the guest spots mostly feel unrealized, but there’s not a single song in the album that breaks the flow and most of them will drag you deeper in.

It’s worth going over again just how good most of the music in this is. I just happen to have “Movin’ Too Fast” on and the drowned beat in it is just excellent. Offset flows so smoothly for the first half and is then broken cleanly by the gravel in Takeoff’s verse which goes back to Offset before Quavo’s yelps put an almost-jarringly new spin on the song.

It jumps quickly from radio-ready to experimental and back again. The result is definitely a little inchoate, but the quality is steady across both types. It’s a slightly messy album and the ideas come fast and hard, but I don’t want a Migos album built under a waterfall in the first place. While Culture 2 lacks the focus of their previous album, and with that some of the quality, it’s still a lot of fun to listen to, all 105 minutes of it.


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