Top Five Rap Albums of 2018

For my final post of 2018, fellow blogger Klevis Mazreku (Klevy’s Korner) and I have each decided to break down the best albums of this year.

 

Before I dive into what I feel are the five BEST albums, here are some honourable mentions:

Freddie Gibbs & Curren$y – FETTI: An amazing album that highlights the genius of producer Alchemist and the unique chemistry of the two MC’s.

Vince Staples – FM! : A creative concept album that shows Vince going back to his Southern Cali roots paying an homage to the west coast sound past and present.

Noname – Room 25: A soothing, therapeutic, poetic album where Noname gives a candid reflection of her life and ambitions.

 

TOP FIVE

#5  JID – DiCaprio 2

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JID ‘Dicaprio 2’ / Source: Spotify 

Okay, I know this came out like… last week. But this album has everything you want from the Dreamville artist. J.I.D. utilizes features, a vast range of production, and wild flows that fit his understated persona. If you haven’t heard of him yet, this album is the perfect introduction with standout tracks like ‘Off da Zoinkys’ and ‘Just da Other Day‘.

Stream here

 

#4 Mac Miller – Swimming

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Mac Miller ‘Swimming’ / Source: Spotify

A fitting and touching final album from an artist that wanted to deliver nothing but the best for his fans. We discuss a lot about how he sadly never reached his peak, but ‘Swimming’ was truly a culmination of his musical strengths put on display. The grooves of ‘Ladders’, the introspection on ‘Self Care’, and the harmonious self-reflection of ‘2009’ are moments that will likely define the legacy of Mac Miller.

Stream here

My post on Mac Miller 

 

#3 Denzel Curry – TA13OO

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Denzel Curry ‘TA13OO’ / Source: Spotify

With an eccentric delivery and loud production, Denzel Curry has now solidified his place in the rap game. Carol City’s finest stepped it up in every way and created a four-act structure of an album that can appeal to all listeners. The hooks are catchy, the wordplay is outstanding and the references are absurd (especially the Rikishi one). This album is always worth revisiting and highlights everything great about the Florida rapper. Standout tracks include ‘BLACK BALLOONS’, ‘SWITCH IT UP’, and ‘CLOUT COBAIN’

Stream here

 

#2 Travis Scott – Astroworld

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Travis Scott ‘ASTROWORLD’ / Source: Spotify

People try to say this album didn’t live up to the hype…

Travis had a 90-second Stevie Wonder harmonica solo on here, what ELSE do you need?

I outlined a lot of this in my first post, but something that is not highlighted enough is how accessible it is. At every point in the day there is a song I can go back to and play at full volume. The soothing sounds of ‘YOSEMITE’ are heavenly, but the refrain on ‘NO BYSTANDERS’ will make you feel like you can go 12 rounds with Tyson. Unlike a lot of other albums this year, this one feels it was meticulously crafted and highlights the strengths of Travis as an all-around artist and performer.

Stream here

 

#1 Pusha T – Daytona

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Pusha T ‘DAYTONA’ / Source: Spotify

When I heard that Pusha T was making his return with a seven-track, 21-minute album I didn’t know what to expect.

But as soon as the beat hits at the 35-second mark of the very first song, I knew it was going to be special.

While others try to fill an album tracklist with features and producers, sometimes it’s better to have a 1-2 combo of a legendary rapper like Push and a legendary (and problematic) producer like Kanye West. Headlines aside, Kanye created a vibe to this album that allowed for Pusha T to flow in a way I have never heard.

This album comes in at number one because it is nearly flawless.

Every track feels urgent and rapid like it’s the final lap in Mario Kart. The samples, the verses, and the changes in beat all set the stage for Pusha T to solidify his greatness. It felt like this was the classic we were waiting for since Push signed with G.O.O.D Music, and I’m happy he delivered.

Stream here


Last Week’s post on Meek Mill

Happy Holidays!

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Meek Mill’s Resurgence

Meek Mill has had a roller coaster of a career that saw him release countless chart-topping hits.

Meek Mill also has had a roller coaster of a police record that saw him go in and out of jail.

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Source: New York Times 

His entire career can be summarized in the intro to Dreams & Nightmares, which is basically the rap equivalent to Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.

This song’s two different parts summarize the two sides of Meek Mill’s life. The first half is melodic and self-reflective, which can represent Meek’s desire to be a successful artist.

The second half is aggressive and raw, which represents Meek’s past as a Philadelphia legend who is braggadocios but also triumphant.

These two sides of Meek have been something that he has battled within his music and in the headlines.

In his music, Meek has gone back and forth between making bangers like “Monster” and “Litty”, love songs like “All Eyes on You”, and introspective songs like “Young Black America”. He lays out his albums trying to blend one song from each category for all fans to enjoy.

The problem is Meek Mill has never had the versatility to be a rap superstar. Even when he made collaborations with ex-girlfriend Nicki Minaj, his aggressive voice never quite fit the vibe of the song.

When he made self-conscious music about the state of America, it was mostly lyrics about why things are the way they are but never really added anything new.

Outside of music, Meek has been in and out of court with parole officers breathing down his neck. I don’t want to make this blog post about his issues with the Philadelphia justice system (this story of his judge telling him to recite Boyz II Men lyrics is all you need to know about this absurdity).

I bring this up because Meek has previously refused to learn from the error of his ways.

Now over 30 years old, Meek has no reason to live up to this tough guy persona. His rise to stardom has inspired countless other Philadelphia artists to go from mixtape to record label to platinum hits. I’m not saying he has to be Jay-Z and become a young entrepreneur, but he shouldn’t be engaging in a pointless rap beef either.

Getting out of jail early in April is a second chance for Meek to turn it all around. Reminiscent of how Gucci Mane went from overweight trapper to model citizen, Meek can still make the music he wants but can inspire as well.

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Meek Mill on Ellen/ Source: Youtube

With his interview with Ellen DeGeneres this week and his editorial for the New York Times, he is now allowing for the rest of America to hear his side of the story.

From a PR perspective, this is an amazing way for those who were skeptical of how Meek was treated to understand why he went back to jail. He can now take the support that he gained during his incarceration to spread awareness about the harsh reality of the justice system.

I’m not saying Meek has to be a revolutionary figure, but he has become the face of criminal justice reform. With this title, Meek can put all the unnecessary drama behind him and inspire his Philadelphia community more than he’s ever done before.

From a music point of view, I don’t believe Meek’s best days are behind him because he still has a lot left to prove. Meek can still show the world that he is not a generic rapper and can still make anthems like the Dreams & Nightmares intro. But he can also continue to reflect on the issues that he has dealt with and how it has affected him emotionally.

With a four-track EP released earlier this year, and an album dropping this week, there is no better time than now for Meek Mill to solidify his resurgence.


His new album “Champions” will be released this Friday, November 30th.

Hear Meek’s newest single: Oodles O’Noodles Babies 

Last Week’s post on A$AP Rocky 

Next Week: Top 5 Albums of 2018

 

Has A$AP Rocky reached his potential?

Being raised in the streets of Harlem, Rocky lived and breathed Hip Hop growing up and watched it transition through different eras.

That being said, ASAP Rocky never approached rap in the traditional New York way. His music is heavily inspired by Houston, Memphis, and Atlanta rappers past and present.

When Rocky released his mixtape ‘Live, Love, A$AP’ in 2011, he helped usher in a new era of music with a “cloud rap” sound. This was helped created by producers ASAP Ty beats and Clams Casino. Rocky gained underground success with this tape and kept his momentum going with his debut ‘Long, Live, ASAP’ in 2013. This album included chart-topping singles like ‘F***** Problems’ and ‘Goldie’.

At this point, Rocky had a crew of rappers behind him and seemed ready to properly take over the rap game.

 

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A$AP Rocky (right) & the A$AP Mob Source: EchoStage

 

 

Five years later and Rocky seems to be in roughly the same place as where he started.

Okay, maybe not the SAME place, but what has he done?

He’s become huge in the fashion industry, becoming the face of several brands as well as popularizing other brands like VLONE. He also signed a huge deal with RCA records in the process paving the way for him to innovate his sound.

But musically, Rocky has not changed much. His biggest strength as a rapper was crafting his lyrics to match the vibe of the song.

He has kind of shown that he still has this strength with his 2018 release “TESTING”.

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A$AP Rocky’s Testing/ Source: Pitchfork

The lead single “ASAP Forever” blends together Rocky’s fast-paced rap flow and his love for beat transitions. ‘Praise Da Lord’ with U.K. rapper Skepta is some of the best chemistry Rocky has ever had with a featured artist.

His singles have shown that he still can make great hits, but his albums say otherwise.

Rocky took experimentation to the next level on this latest album. This can be found on the very first track “Distorted Records”, a song that… literally sounds like a distorted record.

Rocky jumps around to different genres on this album fusing 70’s funk, 80’s new wave, and the electronic sounds by artists like Moby. Although he was ambitious with this record, lyrically it felt that Rocky was trying to keep up with the production. He brought nothing new with his wordplay and approached a lot of songs with an unenthusiastic delivery.

This begs the question, has A$AP Rocky lived up to his potential?

Music aside, Rocky has not done a lot to boost his image to the mainstream.

He took three years off before he released this latest album and had a forgettable album rollout.

His crew, the A$AP Mob, has not done much outside of releasing a few lacklustre mixtapes.

And he made more headlines for wearing a Gucci Scarf this year than his actual music.

 

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Gucci Scarf Rocky/ Source: Esquire

 

Okay, that last part might be a stretch but Rocky has allowed for his contemporaries to surpass him. Rappers like Travis Scott, Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert took parts of Rocky’s style and are now becoming more popular than him.

So, did Rocky fall off?

I don’t think so, but his music career does feel like it’s in a state of limbo. My advice is to go back to your roots. Tone down the experimentation and try and reflect on what made you successful. This means reviving the cloud rap sound that made you famous. Don’t feel like you are chasing trends, take what is popular and make it your own.


Listen to ‘TESTING’ here 

Last weeks post on Tyler, The Creator

NEXT WEEK: Meek Mill’s Resurgence

Tyler, The Creator’s Moment

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Tyler, The Creator Source : Out The Box

“If your success is not quick and fast, do not give that s*** up. Trust me.”

This is a quote from Tyler’s set during his Camp Flog Gnaw festival that he hosted this past weekend. Large festivals like these aren’t normally held this late into the calendar year but Tyler has always approached his career moves in an unconventional way.

At age 27, Tyler the Creator has experienced every kind of success as a rapper, yet 2017 felt like his true moment. This is due in part to his 2017 release ‘Flower Boy’.

Before I dive into why Flower Boy was career-defining for him, context is needed on his journey up until this point. Tyler came on the scene in 2009 as a young kid from Southern California kid with a unique rap ability. His beats were wonky, his flow was sometimes annoying, and his hooks were vulgar but extremely catchy.

From 2009-2015, he released four studio albums that all had a similar theme. He approached the majority of these songs with ridiculous namedrops, an angry cadence, and offensive lyrics. But with each album, he offered moments of introspection. There were singles like She, and Rusty that saw Tyler deliver lines that gave the listener a glimpse into what he was truly like. But these lyrics were always followed by him trying to be funny like he was trying to hide from fully expressing himself.

Although 2015’s “Cherry Bomb” saw Tyler be more ambitious than ever before with his music, it was a commercial flop. The stress mounted leading into 2017 with his Odd Future group members separating, his relevancy dwindling, and his growing confliction with wanting to be taken seriously.

2017’s Flower Boy revitalized Tyler’s career in a way rarely seen in Rap.

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2017’s “Flower Boy”/ Source: Spotify

Reminiscent of how Kanye West approached ‘808’s & Heartbreak’, Tyler disregarded how he normally creates an album and focused on getting his thoughts down first. With his built up frustration, Tyler felt that the best way to make the music was to create a stress-relieving vibe.

The first song, ‘Foreword’, serves as a prelude to the rest of the album with Tyler breaking down his inner thoughts. Every song following this is in some way inspired by Stevie Wonder and 90’s R&B, creating more of a therapeutic atmosphere.

What is ironic is that this album provides some of Tyler’s most depressing lyrics to date. He chooses to contrast his subject matter about being lonely with an upbeat sound. This is best exemplified on 911/Mr. Lonely, which has a Gap Band sample throughout creating an infectious groove.

In a conversation with comedian Jerrod Carmichael, Tyler emphasizes how much he wanted to be quiet on the album. On the track ‘Garden Shed’, the one where he subtly confesses to his bisexuality, Tyler does not speak until the latter half of the song. Once he does, he delivers several metaphors about living boxed-in and no longer caring about the opinions of others.

Flower Boy is the first release that allows the listener to understand Tyler’s frustration. He is constantly trying to please his fans while also having a fear of losing those closest to him. It is also his first project where it felt like he was making music that he wanted to make.

When the listener expects Tyler to go left, he goes right. He has consistently kept his audience guessing for nearly 10 years now. If you were a teenager when Tyler made ‘Yonkers’ in 2011, then you will likely connect with much of the themes on Flower Boy.

From a music point of view, Tyler showed that a disappointing album can challenge an artist to reshift the focus of their music and allow them to be more candid in their work.


Stream ‘Flower Boy’ here 

Last Week’s Tribute to Mac Miller

Next Week: ASAP Rocky’s need for innovation

 

 

 

Mac Miller: A Celebration of Life

With his tribute concert last week featuring dozens of artists, and reports being released of his cause of death, it’s impossible for the average fan to move on.

Because of this, I have to talk about Mac.

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Mac’s NPR ‘Tiny Desk Concert’ Source/Youtube

I first heard of Mac Miller in Grade 11 when a friend of mine showed me ‘Senior Skip Day’. This song is short and meaningless but it brings back a lot of high school memories for me. Because he was young, a lot of people were quick to label him as a frat boy rapper with guys like Asher Roth and Chiddy Bang (Yeah…I forgot about Chiddy Bang too).

What people did not know is how unexpectedly talented Mac Miller was. A year after his debut album, Mac began to fearlessly experiment with his sound. He released several EP’s and mixtapes that showcased his singing and talent as a producer. He started to build connections in the L.A. rap scene by collaborating with Flying Lotus and Thundercat. This experimentation paid off with his 2013 release “Watching Movies with the Sound Off”.

     Every musician should strive to innovate their sound before creating new music. 

Mac exemplified this in every way by ensuring that none of his projects sounded the same. Under his producer alias, Larry Fisherman, he surprised fans and critics with how multi-talented he was. He was never the greatest singer, but he understood that talented singing was not always needed. He showed that with the right pitch, tone, melody, songwriting, and production he could create a mood that anyone can connect too. There’s no better example of this than the live version of “Objects in the Mirror”.

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Mac’s 2013 “Live From Space” album Source – Apple

Each album showcased Mac at a different point in his career. As he was maturing himself, his songs started to lack that carefree attitude he had as a teenager. The subject matter was focused on love, drugs, loved ones, and dealing with fame. His fans commonly asked for the “old Mac” back and for his old high school style to return. But Mac couldn’t go backwards, he was focused on making timeless music for his fans.

What I appreciate most about Mac Miller is his how selfless he was as a person, and as an artist. There are countless stories from peers like Earl Sweatshirt that discuss how much he wanted to help other rappers become successful. He was never trying to be someone that sold out stadiums and made platinum albums. He was focused on the music itself, his fans, and his hometown of Pittsburgh.

His final album is the culmination of over 10 years of hard work as a rapper and producer. After having a turbulent year leading up to the release, “Swimming” gave a new perspective of who Mac Miller was. Instead of reflecting on his own experiences, he reflected on who he was as a person and also provided his own advice to the listener. His single “Self Care” reminds us that personal growth is needed to ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes again.

Two months since his passing, all I want to say is thank you Mac Miller for allowing the world to watch you grow as an artist. It saddens me that you never reached your full potential but I deeply appreciate the body of work that you left for future generations to explore. As a person, you showed that music isn’t just about the fame, it’s about uplifting your fans and those that care about you most.

Rest Easy Mac.


Stream “Swimming” here

Last Weeks Guest Blog

Klevy Korner’s blog post on rappers we lost in 2018

Next Week: Tyler, The Creator’s Moment

 

RAP QUEEN FEUD

RAP QUEEN FEUD

Cue the Guest Blogger:

My name is Nicole and I’m a notorious online shopper. “..Hi Nicole..”

Link to Nicole’s Blog

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Myself and GUEST BLOGGER Nicole (IG: nicoleshannnonlynn)

Enough about me lets get into the fun stuff.

The notorious fight between the two rap queens has entertained the world for the past year, I have been sitting on the edge of my seat this entire time eating snacks waiting for the next move.

In new news Cardi called out Nicki in an awesomely aggressive video asking her why she backed up against the wall during their fight at New York Fashion Week if she’s supposed to be “Chung Li the street fighter”.

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Source Giphy

With two sides to every story here is what we know so far, and what led to the video:

Nicki Minaj was recently a guest on ‘Queen Radio‘ where she dished up some serious drama stating her friend actually connected some physical shots and was the one who left Cardi B with the bump on her head.

She called out Cardi saying it wasn’t security like she claimed, and they only let that slide for legality. Nicki offered to pay $100,000 for anyone who has footage and also claimed she wasn’t the one to leak the star’s phone number.

In the videos Cardi released on Instagram she called out Nicki Minaj’s fans for leaking her new single “Money” before its actual release. More importantly she called out Nicki HARD for playing the victim card while pretending to be a gangster. She accused her of spreading lies, and wrecking her own image in an attempt to spread hate.

To my EXTREME disappointment Nicki was MATURE and responded with a tweet basically asking for everyone to be kind and get along, because in the end we are blessed and have so much to be thankful for. It’s almost like she didn’t understand the entire world was waiting for her to put Cardi in her place.

The beef is ongoing and with every response from Nicki or Cardi, the world stops to pick up their phone to see what’s next. There is also a civil war brewing on twitter between the ‘Barbs’ (Nicki fans) and the ‘Carbs’ (Cardi fans).

When will it end? Who knows.

Is it helping boost their image? 100%.


Link to Nicole’s Blog

NEXT WEEK: Fake Wokeness of Logic

LAST WEEK: Drake’s Wins & Losses 

Drake’s Wins & Losses

Proud rapper, and not-so-proud father, Drake has had an interesting 2018. Although we are only ten months into the year, it has felt like an eternity for Champagnepapi.

Regardless of the headlines, he has remained on top. Drake is the hottest and most successful rapper of this decade for his ability to release hit singles and successful albums. His biggest strength is making music that is accessible to all fans, and having one-liners that anyone can quote in an Instagram caption or yell at the club.

Although he released his fifth studio album ‘Scorpion’, Drake has been in the news this year for stories that are good, bad, and confusing.

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Drake’s 2018 “Scorpion” — Apple 

Let’s break down Drake’s wins and losses for 2018. 

WIN: ‘God’s Plan’, ‘Nice for What’, ‘Nonstop’, and ‘In My Feelings’. Four singles that have shown that Drake is transitioning away from his Caribbean/U.K. inspired tracks and going back to music that is more Rap and R&B influenced. ‘Nice for What’ specifically being a great homage to the New Orleans Bounce style.

WIN: The concept for the God’s Plan video. Drake physically donating a million dollars throughout the south Florida region where the video was shot .

WIN: Visiting an 11-year-old heart transplant patient during an off day of his tour.

WIN: Reconnecting with former nemeses Meek Mill and Chris Brown.

WIN: ‘Scorpion’ breaking Spotify’s one-day global record for album streams AND breaking Apple Music’s single-day streaming record.

(Alright… Let’s get to the good stuff)

LOSS: ‘Scorpion’ being a snooze-fest. The album has 25 songs, is 90 minutes long, and could have easily been trimmed to 10-15 tracks.

LOSS: Hiding his son from the world and releasing a diss track to rapper Pusha-T, knowing that Pusha-T could expose him for hiding a child (which he did).

LOSS: Bragging that you have a diss track prepared for Pusha-T that would “end his career” but continuing to keep it hidden from the world.

LOSS: His explanation to going black-face. Pusha-T having the artwork for his diss track ‘The Story of Adidon’ be a photo of Drake in black-face left many confused. His explanation being that the image was for a project that he did in 2007 that was focused on the way black actors are treated. This left more questions rather than answers, specifically why a black person would need to go black-face to get a message like this across.


 

I know a lot of these are subjective and can be argued as a win rather than a loss. One thing that cannot be disputed is Drake’s obsession with how he is viewed in the public eye.

There is no point in getting caught up on the opinions of those that do not matter.

He should have never responded to Pusha-T in the first place, and needs to stop painting others as the villain. His braggadocios raps have become repeating the fact that other rappers are waiting for his downfall. His singing tracks have become being moody about girls with personalities he wants to change, but can’t.

Drake’s biggest win is that he is still the hottest rapper in the game, and probably will be for years to come.

Drake’s biggest loss is that his content is becoming stale, and needs something new to rejuvenate his sound.


Stream ‘Scorpion’ here

NEXT WEEK: Guest Blogger!