Tag Archives: rap

Logic – YSIV

20 Oct

This is Logic dialing himself up. It’s Logic being even more Logical than he was before. This works for him on a technical level. He has undeniable ability as a rapper, even if I find him a little unmemorable.

However, it’s also got his pretentiousness, his sophomoric philosophizing and his constant self-anointment. He’s far too self-indulgent and far too quick to give himself accolades that he has yet to justify.

More than anything though, I hate how deeply it references other rap because it does nothing more with those references than consider itself clever for making them. It’s the Ready Player One of rap. I’m sure that I didn’t get all of them, but I got more than enough to feel very, very tired.

It’s just so pointless as an album. It has almost nothing of value to say. It’s interesting to me that rap has gotten to the point where an album like this can exist, but that fact doesn’t make the album itself more interesting. It’s just not really worth your time.

@murthynikhil
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Lil Wayne – Tha Carter V

19 Oct

The return of Lil Wayne! For a few years there, Weezy was just the best rapper alive and no one was close. It’s hard to think of someone else quite as dominant during his prime. It’s been a long time since that prime though and a long time since we’ve heard really good music from him. It’s hard not to be excited about the end of the drought.

It starts strong with “Don’t Cry” which has an excellent hook from the recently deceased XXX and then swaggers in with “Dedicate” to remind us exactly who Lil Wayne can be. His flow and switches are endlessly clever. Similarly “Uproar” is classic Lil Wayne with that countdown and the chopped lines and then it goes into “Let It Fly” takes advantage of the Travis Scott pairing for some quite solid trap.

It’s hard to pin down what exactly made Lil Wayne such a beast. To start with, he has an impossible amount of natural talent. It oozes off him. He’s got an exceptional ear for sounds and their pairings. He has a gift for clever, unexpected lines. More than anything though, he just has such irreverent fun with it all. He’s clearly enjoying himself every time he steps in front of the mic and it’s infectious.

Something like “Hittas” is just Wayne with clever, effortless top-tier rapping. He’s able to expertly duel Kendrick in “Mona Lisa” despite Kendrick’s return to his old feature flow. This is actually really good Kendrick, but Wayne is at least able to keep pace if not outshine K.Dot outright here. They’re both really good, really technical, really clever rappers. Lil Wayne then shifts into soulful with “What About Me” and the slower cut works really well too.

There’s unquestionably filler here though, like “Open Letter”, but even that song has moments. “Mess” is pure filler though, much though I sympathize with Wayne. It’s in “Let It All Work Out” that you really start to feel for Weezy. His description of his suicide attempt is startling after years of denial and heart-wrenching in its honesty. It’s interestingly old school as well and the return to one of his older styles works quite well for Wayne here.

However, some of the features also just don’t pan out. “Famous” is unpleasantly reminiscent of recent Em with that saccharine stadium rap hook, Snoop Dogg is a little too lazy on “Dope Niggaz” and Mack Maine’s part in “Start That Shit Off Right” is honestly garbage. Lil Wayne is able to save all of those with energetic, skilled rap, but they might all have been better consigned to the cutting-room floor.

This is unquestionably the return to form of one of the greatest, most unique rappers of all time. It might not be the classics that Wayne was able to string together at his peak, but it is an excellent rap album with some stellar cuts. It’s good to see him back.

@murthynikhil

Noname – Room 25

28 Sep

Room 25 is not just innovative, but singular. I cannot think of another album that sounds anything like it. It mixes an extraordinary amount of jazz and soul into some beautifully laid-back rap and does it all with considerable flair. It takes confidence to try a couplet like “My pussy teachin’ ninth-grade English/My pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism.” and skill to pull it off as effortlessly as Noname does.

Her flow is deeply relaxed and yet technical and often of a surprising pace as she drops flow-of-consciousness bars on similarly peaceful beats. There are parts here where she takes a couple of moments and the backing track could have been part of a quite solid soft jazz album. It’s all the kind of effortless that speaks of extreme competence.

Room 25 has none of the obvious ostentation of so many of its peers. Instead it has skill, imagination and surfeit of what is just great music. This is one of the best albums of the year thus far.

@murthynikhil

Saba – CARE FOR ME

10 Sep

CARE FOR ME is heartbreakingly honest. Its genesis was in the fatal stabbing of Saba’s cousin and the centerpiece of the album, the fantastic “PROM / KING” goes over the whole story in seven and a half minutes of powerful storytelling. The snippets of basketball and the breakdown of an ending are the kind of personal that can only come from real history. It’s an album about loss and trauma and is exceptional at communicating that in all of its complexity.

This album requires the skill that Saba brings to it. He alternates between rapping and crooning and it gives songs like “GREY” both mellowness and texture. It’s also what drives “BROKEN GIRLS”, a song as lovely and as poisonous as its subject.

There’s unfortunately a little here that could have been cut and it’s doubly unfortunate that the Chance track “LOGOUT” is one of them, but even those songs are solid enough and every song has at least some stellar moments. This is a unique and compelling album by a very talented young rapper and well worth listening to.

@murthynikhil

Drake – Scorpion

17 Jul

The thing about Drake is that he is extremely talented. There are a lot of critiques that people make of him in terms of style, substance and originality and they are largely justified, but he is extremely talented. So even when you get something with as little motivation as Scorpion, there’s still enough there to make it worth listening to.

The singles were all quite strong and things like “Mob Ties” and “Finesse” are earworms, and far from the only ones. Given the length of this album though, it would be a travesty if there were not. Nothing is outright terrible, but there some amount of what feels like filler, like “Sandra’s Rose”. Additionally, the album as a whole just feels a little samey. It just lacks fire and it lacks imagination.

I think that this is exacerbated by the idea of splitting it into a rap half and an R&B half instead of the normal merger that he built his career on. The rest of cliches are all still here though, the beats and the complaints are the same as they always were. It’s a pity that of all of his hallmarks, he chose to lose the most interesting of the lot.

This lack of change feels much worse due to the circumstances around the album. You would expect a son to make some kind of a change to Drake, but the child gets barely a mention throughout the album. The shocking entry of that child into public consciousness is even less addressed. Pusha-T dropped him in the hardest diss tracks in recent history and Drake’s failure to use his album to respond cements that feud as a crushing defeat for him.

Despite all of this though, the album is of a remarkably consistent quality. Drake rose to the top due to his immense talent and it looks like despite all of the failings of Scorpion, he will remain there. This is an album deserving of a few listens and is still one of the music events of the year. It’s just also a little unnecessary.

@murthynikhil

Nas – NASIR

22 Jun

I still remember the first time that I heard The Illmatic. That album opened my eyes to what rap could be. I had never heard anything like it. It’s rightly hailed as one of the greatest rap albums of all time to the extent that I feel that it often overshadows the rest of his work, which is a shame as he has a lot of excellent music. Unfortunately, this album doesn’t add much to that oeuvre.

Nas honestly just feels bored here. He can’t summon the kinetic energy that imbued his earlier songs. He just doesn’t have the flow of his youth and lacks the skill and swagger that made his best work so great. Something like “Bonjour” just feels pointless. Kanye’s production tends to be impressive here, but doesn’t always connect with Nas. Historically, Nas does well when afforded more space than these beats allow.

However, the beat for “Cops Shot The Kid” is insanely good and the Richard Pryor introduction sets the song strongly. Ye has some solid lines here, but his rapping is weak enough to slightly harm the song and Nas’ actual bars are delivered adequately but feel forgettable. “Not For Radio” on the other hand has Nas deliver some excellent lines and he does so with aggression, but he undercuts them with some absolute head-scratchers. Still, “You’re lucky God made us compassionate” is powerful and “I think they scared of us” makes a hell of a chorus.

The centerpiece of the album, “everything” gives Nas some more space to work though and he uses it well. It feels like classic Nas when he starts his storytelling and while he can’t sustain it over the full seven minutes of the song, it still makes for one of the strongest pieces here. Additionally, Kanye’s chorus is amazing and tempers the rap well with its emotion. Similarly, the beat and chorus of “Adam and Eve” matches Nas well and it’s one of the few moments where he feels like he could recapture something of his best work. It’s solid, but Nas at his peak was a whole different animal.

This isn’t standout work for either of the people involved. It has moments though and is worth at least a quick listen.

@murthynikhil

KIDS SEE GHOSTS – KIDS SEE GHOSTS

15 Jun

Yeezy season continues and Kids See Ghosts is easily the strongest release of a strong set. At the same 7 songs and 20 minutes as the other two, it doesn’t quite have the tightness of Daytona or provoke quite as much thought as ye, but neither of them have quite the brilliance of Kids See Ghosts.

Kid Cudi is one of those rappers whose influence is undeniable, but whose albums are always something of a crapshoot. His Man On The Moon days were excellent, his other stuff often less so. Still, he built a niche for himself and newer hit rappers like XXXTentacion and Young Thug definitely draw from his style of rock-flavored rap. Kids See Ghosts sees Cudi more than turn away the challenge though.

The two of them complement each other well with “Cudi Montage” amusingly being one of the best showcases of this team-up. It uses a posthumous Nirvana guitar riff as the base of an exceptional beat. Cudi’s voice matches it perfectly to open it and then he transitions beautifully into a fantastic chorus thrumming with Cudi’s deep hum. Kanye then gets his turn with a punchy verse on the cycle of gun violence and then the album goes on an extended return to the chorus to end the album.

Great though the end of the album is, let’s take a step back to the beginning. There’s a strong undercurrent of soul in this album that hits you right from the opening song “Feel The Love.” A song with a name like that was always going to have heart, but that reverberating chorus is transporting and then cutting it with Kanye’s vocalizing is a sledgehammer blow before hitting the break. It’s a powerful song.

The real highlights come a little later in the album though. “4th Dimension” is classic Kanye. The distortion of the Louis Prima song “What Will Santa Say” to make a beat is brilliant. The rapping sets a healthy pace though. First, Kanye gets off a couple of clever lines and then Cudi just runs with it. His “Kids See Ghosts off the ropes, Ric Flair on your bitch” sticks with you.

It’s “Reborn” though that’s my pick of the album. Cudi’s hook is mass-media gospel in a way that should have televangelists foaming. It holds both the tiredness it needs and the forward movement that lifts the listener as much as the song. It’s deep and resonant and captures a moment and a feeling better than most songs and most artists are capable of and does this while just being fantastic music.

There’s not a weak song in this set. “Freeee (Ghost Town Pt. 2)” is muscular and rips you along with it. It keeps a plethora of really interesting shifts swimming down below an ascension of a chorus. “Kids See Ghosts” is pulsating and infectious and “Fire” thumps along to an anthem built on Cudi’s humming.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Kanye and Kid Cudi team up and an album like this definitely justifies the wait. Not only do their strengths play strongly off each other, but they each seem to have obviated the other’s weaknesses. This is excellent and unique rap and it’s clearly the album to beat for 2018.

@murthynikhil

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