Music Reviews

King Los – War Single is Straight Fire

Y’all know I think King Los is the shit.

If you saw my post about him, you know that I think he can freestyle pretty much better than anyone else doing it right now. Well, a few days back he dropped a single, War (featuring Marsha Ambrosius), and you can pick it up on iTunes right now. If you like dope rap that speaks to some real shit while bringing some lyrical fire, you’re gonna want to cop this shit. Let me tell you why.

War (feat. Marsha Ambrosius) - Single - King Los


Chill start

King Los - WarThe track starts with some real nice-sounding piano and Los saying it’s a war going on. He slowly builds up into a nice flow packed with dope rhymes, as we’ve come to expect from King Los. Don’t get it twisted though, cause King Los clarifies “not the war with the bombs and the helicopters swarming, but the war for your soul, that’s what everyone’s ignoring.” 30 seconds in and it’s clear that Los ain’t playing around and he’s here to spit some real shit. Then the piano drops out and he starts spitting it a capella before the piano slowly comes back in for the best line of the track, “fuck the law… fuck a school, and the teacher too, they no teach the truth.”

This is a track packed with wordplay, social commentary, and just dope rhymes and flow in general. Everyone knows Los is the king of freestyling, but written rap is another thing. Dude has transitioned incredibly, and he’s not just showing off his speed but also flexing his intelligence. It’s a real track that doesn’t sugarcoat shit, but it’s also damn positive. This shit is basically an anthem, and Los is ready to be a preacher for the hood, cause he says bringing God in brings the good out.

Dope and nuanced

King Los

Photo: emptylighthouse.com

By the end, he’s spat a few different speeds, including going so hard that you gotta rewind a few times to really hear what he’s saying. The track ends with Marsha Ambrosius singing “let’s make love not war.” It’s clear that Los isn’t just making a documentary track about the hood, but he’s also trynna spit some positive shit to combat the negative and preaching without sounding preachy, which is definitely a skill. I can’t wait to hear King Los’s next album, and I promise that you’ll agree after hearing this track once (or a few more times than once.)


Support the king.

Los has been waiting in the wings for a while, and hip hop heads have been waiting for him to really put it together for a complete sound. War is the best shit I’ve heard from Los, and his next album is shaping up to be one of the biggest releases we got to look forward to. Until we get a release date, I’m gonna stay bumping this shit on replay.

War (feat. Marsha Ambrosius) - Single - King Los


Spit Talking

Tyler, The Creator – Cherry Bomb Review

Tyler has dropped Cherry Bomb.

He’s pumped too, hyping it up on twitter ever since it dropped last night. Anyways, this is kind of a surprise album cause Tyler only announced it a few days back, but it’s definitely been heavily anticipated in those few days. The fact that Tyler released 2 dope tracks to go along with the preorder was a good luck too. Anyways, let’s see what Tyler, The Creator has got for us in the Cherry Bomb review.

Tyler, The Creator - Cherry Bomb

Cherry Bomb is dope, but leaves me with mixed feelings.

Cherry Bomb - Tyler, The Creator


On Cherry Bomb, Tyler clearly puts his production over his rap, sometimes completely drowning himself out. The result is an album that jumps from one genre to a completely genre back to the first one again from track-to-track, and sometimes even within tracks. A lot of the choices make you think, but it seems like Tyler could have pulled together a stronger concept album. The highlights are damn good, but sometimes it’s just average, and I like how he does the smoother production over how he does the darker production.

For its variety and ability to make you think without quite hitting its full potential, I give Cherry Bomb a:

 

3.5/5

 

 


DEATHCAMP

Tyler, The Creator

Photo: stereogum.com

The album starts with DEATHCAMP, which was one of the 2 tracks Tyler dropped early. It’s got a dark metal edge to it, sounding a bit like Tyler doing Yeezus. He comes into the album spitting in case folks were worried he was only doing instrumentals or something (hey, there was 1 on Wolf.) Tyler confirms he still ain’t following the rules, and proves it by switching the beat the fuck up a bit. The intro ends with Tyler saying welcome to deathcamp and welcome to hell over some screams before he sings a little bit.

BUFFALO starts with the same sample from Numbers On The Board (shouts to Pusha T) and Tyler spitting over an equally jarring beat. He’s still spitting hard, but he’s also still shouting out Rugrats. The main difference is now he can talk about mansions. BUFFALO starts out like a track, but also has a skit feel at times and includes a Kanye shoutout. It’s all over the place, but it just doesn’t seem that focused.

First class but feeling like coach

PILOT continues the drum intros before going into a dark, distorted beat with some piercing synth. On all the tracks so far it’s been kind of hard to hear Tyler, almost as if he’s trying to make you turn it up or listen close or something. Anyways, he gets drowned out by the production a few times, and that was probably his intent. He even tweeted right after the release that he hoped people would reach out to him to produce for them, so maybe this is his production demo. It’s still got that Odd Future feel at its heart though, like a nostalgic carnival that’s still pretty creepy, and Tyler talking about how he’s in first class but he feels like coach. It’s a more successful Tyler, but still basically the same dude.

RUN is only a minute long, and is prefaced with Tyler saying “I don’t wanna…” This has the feel of one of the old OF mixtape tracks, going for a sped up club track with a real electric feel. His friends call him preachy, and Tyler said it was a PSA to friends that started gangbanging. Tyler’s staying personal, moody and introspective on this shit, but that’s where he’s at his best.

Wings and jazz

Tyler, The Creator

Photo: gigwise.com

Then we got FIND YOUR WINGS, which is bringing it back to where PILOT left off, though not musically. It starts with a smooth jazzy feel like you haven’t heard on a hip hop album since To Pimp A Butterfly. This is a real dope instrumental, and Tyler’s definitely trying to flex his production a little bit. Even when he switches it up halfway through, it stays smooth and brings in a little singing. It’s in the background though, so it’s almost like he’s sampling himself. Folks who know Tyler are familiar with his tracks like this (Treehome95, for one), and some of them think this is his best shit. He definitely knows what he’s doing though when he’s not rocking the mic.

Distorted message

CHERRY BOMB is the 6th track, and starts real heavy with some hard guitar and pounding. This is some late night underground club banger shit, and it’s so fucking distorted that it’s like being 2 blocks away from the back of a Tyler show, and you can hear about as much of the lyrics as if you were. It goes pretty hard though, and even though it’s not exactly my shit it still bumps. It also shows off Tyler’s versatility compared to FIND YOUR WINGS, and how he pretty just makes whatever type of music he’s feeling like making at the time. This is the shit you play when you’re trynna start a riot, for example. At least until the end when it smooths out into some slightly-less distorted R&B. I’m starting to feel what Tyler’s doing with this album, and it’s an interesting concept, even when it melts down into nothing but the radio.

BLOW MY LOAD brings it back to what you’d expect from Tyler, with a slow rap aimed at this girl who he’s admitting he’s gonna come quick too. Then that slows down and drops out into a quick blowjob before some 80s cop show sounding music comes back in. Tyler’s definitely messing around with shit a lot, and he’s trying to keep this shit eclectic, even including a GOLF radio shoutout at the end.

Taking it to the next level

Tyler the Creator - Wolf2SEATER starts smooth with some Elton John-sounding piano and Tyler talking bout his 2 seater and how he used to piss in pots but pisses on walls now. This beat is the best yet on the album, and kind of reminds me of Rusty (from Wolf) before it busts out a little more jazz. Then we get some strings, and Tyler slips into a singing role about how he gets a rush when this girl’s in his car, and sometimes it’s too much. Then he starts spitting but the jazz is right along with him, and all of a sudden Tyler’s tearing it the fuck up. 2SEATER is easily the best track on the album so far, and I feel confident saying that halfway through the track.

Then Tyler spits some more nostalgic shit about when Left Brain had a high top fade. Then his girl turns it down (Tyler doesn’t like it) and she asks him to roll the window up, before he says “but I love it when your hair…” and then we get some singing saying “blows… when it blows… I love it when your hair blows.” This shit is smooth but keeps you listening to the rap/singing and not zoning out. It’s still just a bit unfocused at times, but Tyler’s being mad ambitious and it mostly pays off, especially on this track. The music drops out for the last minute and we get a little skit and a little shit talking.

THE BROWN STAINS OF DARKEESE LATIFAH PART 6-12 (REMIX) keeps it pretty minimalistic, but it’s got this weird scuttling sound going on it, before it drops into a slow banger. This is better than most of the times he’s gone dark and a little distorted on CHERRY BOMB, and the production’s simple but has all it needs. Schoolboy Q takes this track to the next level with his verse, and it’s good to hear another voice on the album, just to keep the vocals as varied as the beats are.

Fucking smooth

Tyler, The Creator

Photo: myspace.com

FUCKING YOUNG/PERFECT is the 10th track, and the 2nd one we’ve already heard. It’s also one of the best tracks on the album so far, bringing it back to smooth R&B with a slightly Tyler edge and featuring Charlie Wilson and Kali Uchis. It’s some real shit about the police knocking at his door and not being sure what to do about it and this girl being perfect but way too fucking young. Like Tyler’s best shit, it’s got that innocent sound to it until you dig a little deeper. Then the switch-up halfway through takes it back to FIND YOUR WINGS territory. People will probably always remember Tyler as edgy and dark, but damn can he lay down some smooth shit.

Tyler, Yeezy and Weezy

Then we got SMUCKERS featuring Kanye West and Lil Wayne. It starts out smooth again with some piano and Tyler mumbling over it before starting by claiming money ain’t the motive. He talks about how they say he’s nutty and like peanut butter, in case you were wondering about the name. This is another minimalistic beat with a jagged feel, even when it brings in some nice melody. Kanye comes in singing a bit before kicking a verse about how he’s crazy but that’s the best thing going for him and how he wants to turn tanks to playgrounds. It’s a verse about blackness too, with Kanye even saying he’s the “free nigga archetype.” Kanye’s verse is dope, but more importantly brings some vocal energy to the album.

The beat goes back to piano and Tyler mumbling before breaking through the clouds again with a little shine. Weezy comes in for a little bit before Tyler takes over and they go back and forth a little bit, which is real dope for Tyler. Wayne kicks a solid verse, but the overall sound with him and Tyler going back and forth and the classic-sounding beat is definitely dope. It very slowly fades out, but stays interesting to the end with the horns. SMUCKERS is one of the best tracks on the album, and Yeezy and Weezy are definitely part of that.

Tyler, The Creator

Photo: thestoolpigeon.co.uk

KEEP DA O’S keeps the features going with Pharrell jumping in this time. The beat’s real interesting with a sped-up original hip hop sample, so Tyler’s just innovating all over the place. Tyler’s talking about how he’s got the whips, got the hoes, got the ice, got the clothes and he’s gonna keep the o’s. Then we get a little choir backing and shit’s real smooth all of a sudden, sounding like it’s the soundtrack to the nicest lounge in the world. It goes back to mechanical and jarring before it ends, though, and ends with “what the fuck has gotten into me, man?”

Take flight

OKAGA, CA finishes off the album with another 6 and a half minute track (like 2SEATER and FUCKING YOUNG/PERFECT) and it starts real smooth too. This has a spacier, more atmospheric vibe though, and starts with singing about wanting to go back to California. It stays pretty even the whole time, with Tyler adding in and taking away a little bit here and there. If he’s trying to show off his production, he’s definitely getting the job done on the smoother, R&B-sounding shit. I don’t feel the darker, more guitar-including parts of the album as much, but I feel the rest. Tyler goes back to the wings on his back, indicating a loose theme in the album about taking flight.

This whole album seems to be a bit all over the place, but it seems like it’s mostly got 2 sides: the smooth shit and the less-smooth shit. Tyler definitely does a better job with the smooth shit, and in my opinion should have organized the album better, maybe splitting up the darker shit and the more R&B shit. He also jumps around maybe a little too much on some tracks, but it definitely pays off and works sometimes, so I can’t blame him. Anyways, this album definitely feels like it has a concept and like Tyler’s trying to say something (maybe about fame or how his life is changing or how hip hop is changing), but it’s kind of hard to tell exactly what.


Dope, but could have been doper.

Luckily Tyler’s still young, so he’s got a lot of room to explore and see what works. Most of the time, Cherry Bomb works, but it doesn’t quite reach you except for on a few tracks where you really feel it. Tyler’s definitely got a lot bouncin around in his head, and it seems like he listens to pretty much all music out there. His discography is already incredibly varied, but Cherry Bomb is mostly a sign of his potential, even though sometimes it straight bumps.

Cherry Bomb - Tyler, The Creator


Spit Talking

Vic Mensa – U Mad (feat. Kanye West)

We got another Kanye track.

But he’s only a feature. Luckily, Vic Mensa is mad dope, and he appears to have a big new fan in Kanye, first snatching a feature in Wolves and now getting a Kanye feature on his own track. Even though it’s a Vic track, it definitely sounds like Kanye produced it and shaped the vision, down to the artwork for it. Anyways, let’s scope it and see what it’s like.

Vic Mensa – U Mad (feat. Kanye West) on Youtube


Darkness

Vic Mensa - U Mad (feat. Kanye West)With one look at the artwork, you can probably get some kind of idea what this track sounds like. From the beginning it’s dark, but in a more menacing than depressing way, starting with some horns and some Vic singing. The beat almost has a Blood on the Leaves type sound to it, but just a little bit. It sets the tone for Vic Mensa to tear it up at various speeds. Even though it sounds like Kanye shaped the sound, this is definitely Vic’s shit.

The beat slows down before Kanye comes in with a decent verse, but the beat’s still dope enough to keep it interesting. Considering this is Vic’s track, I think Kanye knew the best thing he could do for him was give him a little spotlight instead of trying to spit the firest verse of all time or something. Vic finishes off the track with another verse, and he kicks it off by instantly kicking it a bit quicker about how and why he’s the shit. Vic kills it on this track and shows his versatility, which is probably why Kanye respects his shit.

Does this mean a Vic album?

Vic Mensa - Down On My LuckDown On My Luck just recently came out on iTunes (even though it actually dropped a while ago), and now we got this track. Are we getting a Vic album then? His last shit was INNANETAPE, which was a real dope mix tape, but still leaves Vic without a major label debut. Now that Kanye apparently likes him so much, it can’t be long until he gets his own album. And if this track and Down On My Luck are any indication, it’ll have a lot going on.


Enjoy.

Anyways, if you wanna get hyped or just generally need some motivation, this track will do the trick. In case you aren’t sold on Vic Mensa yet (which you really should be), this track will show you why Kanye is. Anyways, check it out and let me know what y’all think.

Vic Mensa – U Mad (feat. Kanye West) on Youtube


Spit Talking

Wale – The Album About Nothing Review

Wale has given us his offering for 2015.

Wale’s much-hyped album (they all seem pretty hyped recently, we’ve been lucky too cause none of them have flopped) dropped yesterday. In case you haven’t heard/couldn’t tell from the title, he’s shouting out Seinfeld (the show about nothing) because apparently Jerry Seinfeld and Wale kick it now. Wale was the next big thing for a while, but he never really got all the respect you think he would, and he’s been fighting that. Anyways, this is Spit Talking’s The Album About Nothing Review.

Wale - The Album About Nothing

This shit won’t change your life or anything, but it’s an interesting concept that works.

The Album About Nothing - Wale


The Album About Nothing is definitely not about nothing, but it makes sense as a concept. Jerry Seinfeld’s seemingly random presence definitely makes sense, and his intros help tie the themes of the tracks together. Wale’s going for something innovative here, and it’s fairly innovative on that end, but overall it’s some shit I dig but I’m not gonna go crazy for. It’s for sure worth a listen to see if you dig it and to check out the dope usage of Seinfeld, if nothing else. Wale doesn’t silence his haters with his album, but he might make them think a little bit.

For the dope way Jerry Seinfeld is used and the overall consistency and variety of this album (without ever being spectacular), I give The Album About Nothing a:

 

3.5/5

 


The Intro About Nothing

Wale and Jerry Seinfeld

Photo: complex.com

The album starts with a conversation between Wale and Jerry Seinfeld before some piano and a little singing comes in. Wale says he’s been too preoccupied with everything so it’s time for him to sing of nothing, and the album makes a little more sense now. He kicks a smooth verse on some R&B shit, and it’s nice. The beat gets a little more to it before it drops out again to just the piano for Wale. Even though it’s The Album About Nothing you can tell he’s trynna get some shit out and giving himself some space to do that from the beginning, even when the beat picks up a bit. He also says folks don’t care about albums, so why not give them an album about… and then he laughs.

The Helium Balloon starts with Jerry Seinfeld saying some more funny shit. Some soft guitar backs up Wale for what’s pretty much some spoken word before the beat actually comes in for Wale to start again. In between verses we get some more Seinfeld, which means they’re really doing this shit, it’s not just a shoutout, cause they’re tying it together. Wale talks about how folks hate on him but ultimately he says fuck who ignores him. The track ends with some Jamaican flow and a Buffalo Soldier shoutout before Wale finishes it off with some marching behind him saying fuck em.

The White Shoes comes in as the 3rd track with more Seinfeld but Wale comes in shortly singing a bit more about how they’re gonna judge you for life but you’ll be alright. This is a pretty personal but inspirational track that keeps going back to the white shoes, I’m feeling it.  The Wale-Seinfeld thing is working out pretty well, and it’s pretty damn innovative, I gotta say.

Hopeless

Wale and J. Cole

Photo: bet.com

The Pessimist comes in with the first feature, J. Cole and starts off with some more Seinfeld and George Constanza. The beat’s simple but sounds pretty uplifting, which is an interesting choice for a track called The Pessimist. It starts off with some quick shit about black men getting killed and some of the consequences and causes, with Wale explaining why he’s hopeless. J. Cole comes in singing about why he’s hopeless as the hook before Wale comes back in. Cole doesn’t kick a verse, but his hook is dope.

Seinfeld kicks off The Middle Finger saying people love talking, before Wale comes in over a hard beat rapping before he smooths it out to “fuck you leave me alone” for the hook. So yeah, that’s how Wale feels about the haters right about now. He goes pretty hard on this shit, and it’s probably the hardest he’s spit on the album so far. It makes a lot of sense why Wale brought Seinfeld of all people on for this shit, because Seinfeld probably knows exactly what Wale’s going through with that fame shit, and they play off each other well (though it’d be dope to hear a Seinfeld verse, ya feel me?)

Late night cooling

The 6th track is The One Time In Houston, and it starts with some atmospheric shit and a Seinfeld clip with more George Costanza. This is like some late night R&B cruising shit, and Wale’s been pretty versatile so far on this album. This track’s got an interesting, mad chill sound, and I like it. Whether he’s going hard or pulling back, dude can definitely carry a track.

Walr

Photo: front-free.com

Then we got The Girls On Drugs, and this album is definitely jumping around topics, so the title and the Seinfeld shoutout makes sense. This is also the first track that doesn’t start with Seinfeld or a clip from the show. This track’s alright and Wale spits a pretty solid verse, but then it gets this Kid Cudi-sounding autotune and I don’t really feel it. Again Wale talks about the haters that he’s dealing with, and he’s not just whining because he does have to deal with a lot of shit for like no reason. But then he talks about the women that he’s chilling with and it’s all good but then it gets a little deeper and a little darker. I don’t love this track, but I can appreciate it.

The God Smile starts off with what sounds like some underground synth, continuing the atmospheric vibe (and again, no Seinfeld at the beginning… or at least the first 45 seconds.) It’s a chill beat but Wale’s going for short bursts of rap in between singing, but he’s spitting some fire. This shit is an anthem, and I like the easy switch between spitting and singing, and Wale spits some real shit about what’s going on in the streets and in society.

SZA makes a highlight

SZA

Photo: rap-up.com

Then we get The Need To Know and another feature, the always-dope SZA, but Seinfeld and Elaine kick this one off. The beat comes in with some real smooth gangsta shit, but like wearing some fur at the casino gangsta, not gunfights in the streets gangsta. SZA’s vocals make this sound like it’s the soundtrack for the first black James Bond movie, and it’s a good fucking sound. This is for sure one of the best tracks on the album. Seinfeld and Elaine come back in to tie the theme of the track together, and it’s pretty fucking funny, then SZA sends it off.

The Success starts with a choir and some electro under Seinfeld saying success is the enemy. Wale spits some more real shit but also challenges his haters again. He’s as likely to rap about why the haters gotta shut up as he is to rap about social issues on this shit, but it works. This is a pretty solid track, but it’s not the dopest shit I’ve ever heard.

Life is a glass egg

The Glass Egg comes in as the 11th track with a beat I like more than the last one, and it lets Wale get a little more serious with it. This beat just sounds aspirational, even with Wale comparing life to a glass egg and praying he don’t change. A lot of this album is about fame and what comes with it, so again it makes a lotta sense he brought Seinfeld in for this shit even though he ain’t a rapper or anything. This track goes pretty hard, but it’s not exactly a banger. The track fades out with some nice uncredited vocals.

Then it flows into The Bloom (AG3), which starts with some real smooth soul shit before some singing sets the stage for Wale to spit some romantic shit. This sounds like a modern take on R&B/Rap from like 13 years ago, and I can definitely dig it. It almost sounds like it’s got just a touch of something that would be backing up Marvin Gaye in there. All in all, you can tell dude’s digging deep.

Shit gets real

Wal

Photo: hotnewhiphop.com

The Matrimony starts with some more Seinfeld and has got an Usher feature. Usher sings over an interesting beat that’s kind of weird at first but slips into something smooth. Wale comes in spitting about how he’s in his late 20s but still hasn’t been to a wedding. The transition from Wale to Usher’s chorus is well done, but I’m not feeling this track as much as I was some of the other R&B-leaning shit on the album. He gets mad deep and personal on this one, even touching on depression after his ex-girlfriend’s miscarriage. It’s some real shit, but I think it would have been better at a little shorter than 6 and a half minutes (but I ain’t talking shit though.) Seinfeld finishes off the track talking about women and marriage.

Jeremih is a feature on The Body, which finishes off the album with some more R&B/Drake-type shit. It’s solid, but I just get the feeling that Wale’s holding back or something or trying to keep it too smooth, and that he could be doing better. I guess he’s trynna send off the album with this track, but it doesn’t seem to do the rest of the album justice, and it’s kind of an awkward finale. It’s dope, but I don’t know if it should be ending an album.


Decent.

The Album About Nothing is definitely an interesting experiment, and Wale did more with Jerry Seinfeld than I expected him to. I still think it could have been doper, but it’s consistently solid and nothing on it’s trash. Wale’s haters are still gonna talk shit, but they shouldn’t, cause even though this won’t win any end-of-year awards it’s still a dope album and mad innovative with that Jerry Seinfeld team-up. Shit, who knows, maybe years from now we’ll point to this as a game-changing album for boldly blending hip hop and comedy.

The Album About Nothing - Wale


Spit Talking

Y’all Ready? Ludacris – Ludaversal Review

Ludaversal has dropped y’all.

Fresh off the Roast of Justin Bieber, Ludacris is back with some new music. It’s his first album in 5 years, if you can believe that. I mean of course dude has been doing his acting shit, so it’s not like he’s been chilling or anything, but it’ll be interesting to see what he’s got after 5 years away from hip hop. Read on for the Ludaversal review.

Ludacris - Ludaversal

Ludaversal isn’t the album of the year or anything, but it’s all dope shit from Luda.

Ludaversal - Ludacris


After a few years of doing movies and shit that isn’t rapping, Luda is back with a full album with only a few features, so he’s not just mailing this one in. The beats are pretty solid but not incredible, and Luda goes hard most of the time and lays down some emotional shit the rest of the time. He can definitely still rap, and folks will be happy to hear that he’s still got it, and Ludaversal is definitely a good album to kick it to in the background. Even though he won’t win a Grammy or anything, dude’s showing he can still release some dope hip hop, and even throw in some more personal shit along the way.

For the general solidness of this album and Luda’s still-dope verses, I give Ludaversal a:

 

3.5/5

 


Ludaversal Intro

Ludacris

Photo: wikipedia.org

The album starts with a David Banner shoutout and Luda getting right to it. In case you were wondering if he could still spit, he gets that out of the way right away, spitting some quick shit over a beat that sounds pretty new. Luda intros himself and the album, and he says from the beginning he’s trynna get into your top 5. He’s still confident and still spits like he’s the shit, which is always good. He really does get right into it, spitting 2 verses about changing the game and telling you to turn ya stereo louder before the track fades away repeating “Luda not so hard.”

The second track is Grass Is Always Greener, which starts with a calm beat before Luda starts talking about the choices he has to make, from music to groupies. Whether it’s his level of fame, what he’s currently working on, the grass is always greener to Luda. This is a dope track, with Luda spitting some shit everyone can relate to about never being happy with what you got. It’s a pretty minimalistic beat, but it gives Luda the space to fuck around with the flow and show off.

Back from Hollywood

Then we got Call Ya Bluff, which starts with some classic rap skit shit. The beat’s pretty simple again but it goes hard and so does Luda. He’s spitting some more about taking years off from rap to collect Hollywood checks and how he has to come back to remind folks that he’s still the shit. Near the end he slows the flow down for some slow Atlanta shit, now that he’s proved anyone who was wondering that he can still rap as fast and dope as anyone in the game.

Ludacris afro

Photo: hdwpapers.com

Lyrical Healing smooths out the album a bit, with Luda spitting some late night DJ shit before he slips into some lyrical healing. It’s just over a minute of Luda shit talking other rappers, but it’s a dope contribution to the album, including Luda talking about rappers kidnapping his flows without even leaving a ransom note. Then we got Beast Mode as the 5th track, with Luda saying he’s on some Hannibal Lecter shit cause he’s eating MCs for breakfast. Now that Luda’s proved he can still spit, Beast Mode shows that he’s still funny as shit too. This is a mad hot track, and the beat’s alright but Luda carries the whole thing, telling fans to inject red bull into their veins if they ever slept on him and how he can be seen in 30 rocks like Alec Baldwin. He kills this shit.

Skit and Get Lit

Then we got an actual skit with Viagra, and Luda’s gotta call 911 cause he’s got a hard problem and he’s knocking shit over. Then the operator heads over to his house to get some and it’s just some funny shit. This leads into Get Lit, which sounds like some straight old Luda shit, but I’m down. Luda spits even quicker than earlier, and shit it almost feels like 2001 or 2003 or some shit again. This is a grimy banger for late into the night, and it fucking bumps. Get Lit is one of the hardest tracks on the album, and one of the best.

Ludacris and Big K.R.I.T.

Photo: soulculture.com

An interlude breaks up the album with Come And See Me, which seems to flow into the second half of the album which has got a few features. Anyways, it’s pretty much another short track just over a minute, but it’s got a nice dream sequence luxurious ass beat for Luda to spit a quick verse over. Then we get the 9th track, Come And See Me (feat. Big K.R.I.T.) Luda’s saying that anything you need, no matter what it is, you gotta go and see him. Then Big K.R.I.T. comes in spitting some smooth shit about what he’s got in his whip before Luda comes back in. They’re just switching every 4 bars, and it’s fucking dope and more rappers nowadays should bring this shit back. The beat jumps around as the verses do, and Luda and K.R.I.T. make a dope duo. This is one of the best tracks on the album, and it’s because of the general fusion of both beat and spit they got going.

Then we got Good Lovin (feat. Miguel), which definitely slows shit down but it’s so smooth that you really can’t complain. This is a sad breakup track, and Luda’s getting pretty introspective and personal on this album. He’s a hopeless romantic, talking about the hole in his chest that’s left now. I usually like Luda to go hard, but he can do this loverboy R&B shit alright too, with a big assist from Miguel.

Some real shit.

Ludacris

Photo: ihiphopmusic.com

The 11th track comes with Ocean Skies, starting with Luda winning a Grammy for best rap album and a bit of his speech, saying I love you to his pops. Then the beat comes in with Luda saying rest in peace Wayne Bridges and that he still lives through Luda. Then Ludacris starts talking about how he lost his father to the bottle and how his pops wasn’t usually in his right mind. This is some personal shit and Luda finishes his first verse with “the beat goes on but the drinking’s gotta stop.” Monica comes in with a sad but strong hook before Luda goes back to how through the drinks and the sadness he still taught Luda how to be a man and everyone still loved him. This is some sad shit, but he’s trynna make the best of it, and this is a great fucking emotional track, with Ludacris telling folks to tell their parents they love them cause they might not see them tomorrow.

Usher finishes off the feature parade with Not Long, and he kicks it off with some smooth singing about realizing you’re not so far from the stars. It’s another track about Luda coming up, but through the lens of his music rather than this relationship with his pops. Luda says he’s on fire and all these other rappers is burnt up before Usher comes in again. He’s trying to switch from bummed about his pops to happy with how far he’s come and trynna pass that hope on to other folks. The beat on this one is dope, with just a little more flavor than you might expect from a track that dips a bit more into R&B like this one does. Luda finishes with “if it hasn’t been done then I’ma do it first, cause I’m the master of the Ludaverse.” This is a hot track, and you gotta agree with him, cause no one does it quite like Luda does.

Fame ain’t exactly what you think it is

Charge It To The Rap Game comes in with a clapping beat with a nice little whistle to it and Luda saying sometimes you gotta charge it to the rap game. He’s spitting about how shady the music industry is and the bogus contracts he’s had to deal with and how rappers gotta talk a little shit. Even when Ludacris is saying that the life ain’t as dope as it looks from the outside (remember, The Grass Is Always Greener), he’s still funny and he’s still killing it, whether he’s shit talking label executives, the media or protestors outside his concerts. This is some real shit about the complexities rappers gotta deal with.

Ludacris

Photo: thisis50.com

Luda finishes off the album with This Has Been My World, and a quick, ’80s electro-sounding beat. It’s 6 and a half minutes of Luda talking about how dope his life is now that he’s made it. He’s not just talking shit though, cause he makes it pretty clear that he had to go through a lot to get there and to stay there. Through it all though he still runs this shit so he’s happy, saying it’s more good than bad but you gotta appreciate what you got too if you want anything more. Luda’s going inspirational here, but keeping the beat just a little grimy. He spits a good amount of reasons why his life is so dope, even with all the problems that come with being an entertainer.

Halfway through the album slips into some spoken word about surviving. It’s some deep shit, and a hell of a way to finish off the album. Luda would prefer to be a maverick than someone who strives to be average, and the outro reminds folks that, “in any existence, it’s the destination, not the journey. Live your life.” The album fades out with a minute and a half of synth for you to think on that and for Just Blaze to let you know he did this shit.


Dope, right?

It’s definitely not the dopest album I’ve ever heard or anything, but I don’t think that’s what Luda was trying to do. He was trying to reassert himself as a force in the game after these years away, and he did that pretty well. He might not be on top of the game anymore, but he can still bring it and he can definitely still make dope albums that you can listen to all the way through.

Ludaversal - Ludacris


Spit Talking

Vic Mensa – Down On My Luck

Down On My Luck is Vic Mensa’s not-so-new track.

The video came out almost a year ago and the track dropped on iTunes a month ago, but folks don’t really seem to be talking about it. I also really like his music, so I’m telling y’all about this Vic Mensa dance track regardless of when it came out. It’s got a hypnotic beat and Vic’s manic flow matches it perfectly. I’ll link you to buy it on iTunes at the end of this article, but to start you should probably watch the video, which is fucking awesome.

Vic Mensa – Down On My Luck Video


The sound

Vic Mensa - Down On My LuckSo this shit isn’t really hip hop, and it’s pretty obvious that that’s what Vic was going for. If you’ve ever heard INNANETAPE (Download it free at Datpiff if you haven’t) you know that Vic has a wide range of musical tastes, and that he can match a bunch of different beats with his versatile flow. Not to mention that he was like the frontman of Kids These Days, so Vic Mensa is most definitely not your average rapper, and he’s for sure got the talent to lead a few different musical styles.

He is quick, smart and has an ear for what sounds good though, and that definitely shines through on Down On My Luck. You could probably listen to this shit on repeat for hours on end, and that’s as much because of Vic’s ability to ride a beat as it is because of how repetitive the beat is. Anyways, this shit pretty much makes you feel like you’re just chilling at a club if you’re listening to it, no matter where you are.

The video

Vic Mensa - Down On My Luck VideoThe video does a hell of a job matching the track, especially cause they’re both mad hypnotic and you could keep watching/listening forever. The video shows the same story of Vic at a club but a little different each time, with Vic getting just a little luckier each time. After hearing the track once, it’s obvious that the video would have to be at a club, but they do really interesting things with this and it’s definitely not just some generic club shots or anything. It’s not a crazy-deep narrative video like J. Cole did with G.O.M.D. or anything, but for what it is it’s a hell of a video. More hip hop and non-hip hop videos should take after Down On My Luck, cause I could watch that shit all day.


Try getting that beat out your head.

Good luck, because I’m still vibing to this shit myself. Vic Mensa is a mad exciting rapper, from his flow and general ability to his vision and ambitious goals in making a track/video like this. Considering dude’s only 21 and has just started working with Kanye a little bit, the future looks mad bright for him. Buy Down On My Luck for $1 and be ahead of the curve.

Down On My Luck - Single - Vic Mensa


Spit Talking

Everything Wrong With Music Reviews

What’s good, y’all?

Today I got a topic near and dear to my heart that I wanna write about. It’s everything that’s wrong with music reviews, and it’s a big problem. One of the reasons I started Spit Talking was because I didn’t like most of the music reviews that were floating around, and the hip hop reviews were especially bad sometimes. I decided to enter the field as someone who loves hip hop and isn’t trynna tear down rappers and their life’s work just to get some clicks and some laughs. Let’s see some of the reasons I felt like the world needed (and still needs) different music reviewers.


Reviewing vs Criticism

So music reviews and music criticism are pretty much considered the same thing, but I think the words show there are subtle differences between the two. To me, reviewing music sounds like what I try to do: giving folks an idea of what the music sounds like, making connections to other shit in the genre/in the world, and just generally breaking down what a track/album/video has got going. Criticism, on the other hand, just sounds like the point of the work is to criticize.

Tools of the TradeAnother problem with criticism is what you call someone doing it — a critic. This label definitely goes to people’s heads (see below) and makes people think they’re not doing a good job unless they’re looking for shit to pick apart and they’re trying to tear down every album someone makes. The problem with this is that critics/reviewers don’t make art, no matter what they think. They comment on art. No matter how much a critic tears apart an album, that doesn’t change the fact that the musician put a work of art out into the world, and all the reviewer/critic did was coment on it. People who don’t realize this think that it’s all about them, when it should always be about the music.

Worst offenders

Now, these issues are rampant so you can probably take a handful of random reviews (especially hip hop reviews by non-hip hop websites) and find a lot of the shit I’m talking about no problem. Some folks do it more than others though, and just for illustrative purposes I’m gonna point out some good examples that come from folks who almost certainly consider themselves “critics”. Two terribly-done reviews are Pitchfork’s review of Childish Gambino’s Camp, and The Needledrop’s review of Big Sean’s Dark Sky Paradise. The Camp review is basically an attack on Gambino’s blackness/identity in general that only tangentially touches on the actual music. The Dark Sky Paradise review is the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life though.

Dude (Anthony Fantano, my new least favorite music critic) literally just says no over and over, with some graphics to aid him. Each time he says no you just get more and more pissed because he just looks more and more like a fucking annoying-ass hipster who is saying absolutely nothing about the album. It’s like he hated Big Sean and decided that it was a bad album before he even listened to it. The review does nothing to tell you about the album, besides the fact that some fucker on youtube really doesn’t like it. This is a prime example of the critic thinking that people care about them more than the music, and this is exactly the type of mindset I try to avoid when reviewing albums.

So how do you write a good music review?

I think the most important thing someone can do is to start with a mindset of trying to explain the album to a reader, rather than trying to make themselves sound smart/cool/whatever. Personally, I write my reviews as I listen to the album for the first time. This way, I’m just trying to give the reader a feel for the album rather than giving myself time to think of some pretentious shit that sounds smart but doesn’t actually say anything about the music.

Public Enemy

Photo: amoeba.com

There also need to be more reviewers focused on hip hop (like Spit Talking!) rather than all music. There’s nothing more annoying than reading a review of a hip hop album by someone who clearly barely listens to hip hop. Music reviewers need to understand the context that music comes from, so they need to know rap history if they’re gonna try to review rap albums. I don’t want to see many more hip hop reviews written from the white hipster (emphasis on hipster, not white) perspectives you might find on Pitchfork (specifically Ian Cohen, cause Pitchfork has some solid hip hop reviews nowadays) or The Needledrop.

Music Reviewer Dos and Don’ts

  • DO try to give the reader a feel for the music
  • DON’T try to show the reader how smart you are
  • DO make connections to the rapper’s and the genre’s history
  • DON’T ignore context just because you don’t know it
  • DO focus on the music
  • DON’T focus on the rapper instead of the music, unless it’s helpful to the review in some way

Wrap-up

I’ve gotten some thoughts out and I feel a little better now. Obviously, no one is perfect and I’m sure that some of my reviews are guilty of some of the things I’ve called out. That’s fine though, because again, my goal is to review music and let readers know whether or not they might like the album. My goal is not for people to think I’m the best reviewer out there or anything, because the point of music reviews are never the reviewer. The point of music reviews will always be the music.


Spit Talking

Action Bronson – Mr. Wonderful Review

Action Bronson has debuted.

He’s given the world Mr. Wonderful right around when Earl dropped his shit and a week after Kendrick blew up hip hop with To Pimp A Butterfly. Action Bronson is one of the best white rappers doing it though, and this is his pretty highly anticipated major label debut, so this shit should be good. Read on for Spit Talking’s Mr. Wonderful review to see if Bronsoliño delivered.

Action Bronson - Mr. Wonderful

On Mr. Wonderful, it’s obvious that Bronson doesn’t only listen to hip hop.

Mr. Wonderful - Action Bronson


I feel conflicted about this album. On the one hand, the beats are mad dope and jump around a lot, showing that Bronson is clearly trying to do something different for hip hop with Mr. Wonderful, and he commits. On the other hand, I just don’t always super feel the rhymes. I mean, they’re dope, but I feel like Action Bronson could bring us more but he’s just keeping it chill and pretty funny sometimes. That’s fine, and shows that this album is good for kicking it with some smoke, but I’m still looking forward to the future to see what he’ll bring us once he’s been working on his rap some more.

For the musically diverse sounds this album hits and its overall chill raps (even though they never quite hit the next level), I give Mr. Wonderful a:

 

3.5/5

 


Brand New Car

The album starts with something that sounds like it’s an old sitcom theme song with Bronson singing before he starts rapping. Then the beat drops and comes in a little harder for Action to start really spitting. From the first track, Action Bronson’s identity is confirmed as a dope rapper but also just a funny guy. He spits some nostalgic shit so you know how he got where he is.

The second track The Rising comes in with the first feature, Big Body Bes. Again, we get a beat that sounds like it should introduce an ’80s cop show with Bronson rapping about how dope his life is and how he’s gonna run the game soon. Even when he’s boasting he’s honest, and this is one of the reason folks like Action Bronson, he just seems like a cool guy. Big Body Bes finishes off the track talking a little shit over the still-dope beat that’s repetitive but doesn’t necessarily sound like every hip hop beat, it’s pretty interesting.

Penthouses and oysters

Action Bronson cooking

Photo: firstwefeast.com

Terry starts with Bronson saying “don’t hurt me again” over some easy listening before he goes in on the optimistic beat with a shade of darkness. He goes from giving life advice to talking about how the first time he jacked off was in a penthouse. It ain’t all that serious to Action Bronson, who just likes spitting some funny shit or rhymes about food, only occasionally getting that deep. It works for a chill sound though. The beat fades out with about a minute left for it to go into some spacy shit and fades into the next track.

Actin Crazy sounds way different than the first 3 tracks with a slow electronic beat and Bronson turning up the heat a little bit and going a little harder, like all of a sudden he isn’t fucking around. He keeps it real, saying “all I do is eat oysters, and speak 6 languages in 3 voices.” In just 4 tracks on the album, Bronson’s showing that he’s pretty versatile, in case you just think he’s a food rapper or something. This track rides well, and I could see it hitting the club.

Interludes?

Then we got Falconry which goes back to a lighter, more carnival-like sound for the 5th track, which features Meyhem Lauren & Big Body Bes. Again, Bronson’s rapping about how dope his life is, in case you didn’t know. At first it seems like this is almost like an interlude or a skit disguised a song, considering it’s the 5th track, only 2 and a half minutes long and starts with a bong. This is a smoke session track, and indicates who this album is really for (besides Action Bronson.) But then we do actually get an interlude as the 6th track, THUG LOVE STORY 2017 THE MUSICAL. Shit’s a pretty real 2 minutes actually that could either “be about drugs, or it could be about a woman”, then the musical flows into 3 more tracks.

It goes nicely into City Boy Blues, which really is pretty much the blues. It’s actually just Bronson singing a song without rapping, and all of a sudden this doesn’t sound like a rap album but like alternative rock or something. It’s bold to do this for 4 minutes in the middle of a rap album, but it works. It’s a pretty solid song that even ends with a guitar solo and an arena-like fadeout.

Some smooth gangsta shit

Action Bronson

Photo: nydailynews.com

The 8th track is A Light in The Addict (featuring Party Supplies & Black Atlas) and it starts out like it’s between songs at a rock concert again. After a minute and a half of this, it all of a sudden drops into a real smooth, jazzy beat and Bronson’s back to spitting some introspective, dark shit. This is the best Action’s given to us so far on Mr. Wonderful, cause it’s some NY gangsta shit but he kills it and it doesn’t sound played. The vocal contributions take it to an R&B level, and we got some soul on the track now. Even though Bronson raps on this one, it ain’t exactly just hip hop either, but damn does it sound good. He’s being pretty bold on Mr. Wonderful, but hasn’t flopped yet.

Then we got Baby Blue, which as I’m sure you know by now features Chance the Rapper. Chance comes in singing some harsh shit about his girl before the beat drops into some staccato-type shit for Bronson to spit over before Chance comes back in with the hook. Bronson raps about how he doesn’t care if people don’t like him or that he’s getting big, cause he’s living it up. Then Chance comes in rapping some real harsh shit about how he hopes all this terrible, unlucky shit happens to his girl. This is a raw heartbreak track, and Chance is perfect for it. This track ends the musical which started with the 6th track interlude.

Prince makes an appearance (but not really)

Only in America comes in as the 10th track with more ’80s electric guitar and featuring more Party Supplies. This track continues the musical diversity Bronson’s trying to hit in Mr. Wonderful, cause this really sounds like a Prince track once the singing comes in, even though he shouts out Depeche Mode first. The whole album is definitely musically interesting with Action Bronson dipping his toes into a bunch of shit that most rappers wouldn’t touch, but overall I just gotta say the verses are just pretty good, they’re nothing amazing. I love dope lyrics, so no matter how dope or bold the beats are, I’m still always looking for rappers to spit some incredible shit.

Anyways, the musical experimentation continues in Galactic Love, and Bronson continues to rap about how dope his life is, from his drink to his piano over a nice deep bassline. He’s got some dope rhymes on this track, showing that he can hit a neat flow without needing to go fast, and he spits some realer, more depressed shit near the end about how hard he’s been working to support his family. In 2 and a half minutes, he’s made me rethink what I just wrote a paragraph ago. The verses still weren’t incredible but don’t get me wrong either, the dude can really rap.

Not what you’d expect

Action Bronson with the fans

Photo: brooklynvegan.com

On the second-to-last track we get The Passage which is live from Prague, which in interesting for a track on a rap album. It starts with some old ’80s synth that slips into a nice little groove before the drums come in and you’re just waiting for the beat to drop. Then more guitar comes in and shit sounds like an updated, more metal Lord of the Rings soundtrack or something. The beat drops out with a minute and a half left for the crowd to start chanting “Bronson! Bronson!” before they die down for some guitar, bells and synth. With about 15 seconds left another beat comes in that flows into the last track.

Easy Rider ends the album by distorting and filtering that beat a little bit, then we finally get Action Bronson rapping again, about Les Paul and cholesterol, and a 10-day acid binge. After his first verse, he repeats “ride the Harley into the sunset”, showing this really is like a finale track, and you can almost hear the sun going down in the background. He raps about food, his career, the people around him, his musical influences and his life without missing a beat.

Dope, but could have been doper.

Like the beats around him on Mr. Wonderful, Bronson likes switching it up, but the album never quite reaches its full potential. It could have been a real dope concept album, but Bronson should have focused a little more on the rhymes (even though the beats are straight flames.) Instead, it’s just a pretty solid album, which is still impressive for a major label debut.


What’d you think?

I think this shows that Action Bronson is anything but a regular rapper, and he’s gonna switch it up to whatever he feels like within his range of musical tastes. I think the future is bright for him, but he should tighten up his lyrics just a bit. I ain’t talking shit though, cause Mr. Wonderful is a real good listen and makes you question what can and can’t be on a rap album.

Mr. Wonderful - Action Bronson


Spit Talking

I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside Review

Earl’s album is here.

I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside popped up on iTunes a few days ago, but now it’s actually here. It’s Earl’s second LP after Doris and folks have been waiting on it for a bit. I copped it first thing this morning when I woke up so I could let y’all know how it is. This is Spit Talking’s I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside review.

Earl Sweatshirt - I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside

This is classic Earl, but just a little different than we’re used to, in a good way.

I Don't Like S**t, I Don't Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt - Earl Sweatshirt


I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album By Earl Sweatshirt lives up to the wait. In it, Earl shows off his dope flow and lyrics that he’s always had, and the beats are mostly similarly dark as we’re used to, with some switch-ups. For one, most tracks end with like a minute where Earl drops off and the beat just goes. This keeps shit interesting, and Earl does too with this updated combination of his 15-year old mindset and his 21-year old self. Earl is introspective, depressed and boastful, sometimes on the same track. This is pretty much a smoking album that you listen to by yourself late at night, but it’s one of the best of those there is.

For its mad chill vibe, Earl’s dope flow, deep lyrics and the musical variety, I give I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside A:

 

4/5

 


Huey

The album starts with Huey and some unexpected organ that sounds like it came from Tyler. From the beginning Earl shows off his mad dope flow while already shit talking critics and bitches a minute into the album. It’s not quite 2 minutes long but it shows that Earl is still on that relaxed flow shit and has still got the lyrics down. The last 30 seconds of Huey are the beat dropping down before a voice says “and now, a formal introduction.”

Earl Sweatshirt

Photo: thefader.com

Earl starts Mantra right away by rapping bout how he’s gonna show you how it’s done over some distorted guitar that sounds like it’s from a Wild West showdown. Earl’s big enough now to really rap about success, whether it’s how people around him treat him differently or how the fans react to him at shows. It almost sounds like he’s going for an anthem before the beat drops out for a second and then Earl comes back in hungry. By the end, Earl says fuck it and dips, leaving the beat to experiment a little bit. You can already tell this album is more musical than just rap, and Earl isn’t always the focus.

Faucet flows real nice

Mantra flows nicely into Faucet with an old Wu-Tang sounding beat, which is perfect for Earl to really spit some grimy shit about how his days are numbered. It’s chill as fuck, and it’s only the 3rd track on the album but I feel confident saying it’s one of the highlights. The beat switches up just enough to stay interesting but keep the vibe for Earl to talk about his family problems. This is Earl at his best, relaxed and introspective over a chill ass but back alley-sounding beat.

Earl Sweatshirt

Photo: okayplayer.com

Then comes Grief, which came out a few days before the album to mixed reception. The beat is jagged and Earl’s voice is just a little different, like he’s trying to go even deeper than he usually sounds now. He’s got some good lines, like “I was makin’ waves, you was surfin’ in ’em” and “fishy niggas stick to eatin’ off of hooks.” In general, Earl’s flow is as dope as it’s always been, but his lines are a little more vicious now rather than just sounding dope. I can see why some folks didn’t like this, but it makes a lot of sense as a mid-album track with it’s slow, dragging beat (before it switches up again into some nightmare carnival sounding shit for the last 45 seconds.)

Off Top throws you off

Off Top is the 5th track on the album and starts with a smoke session and an even more jagged beat that makes it hard to think straight. It’s only 2 minutes, so it’s a chance for Earl to go back to that old Earl shit and just spit some mad dope-sounding shit without stopping over a grimy Odd Future beat. Even on this track though, Earl’s still getting even more personal.

Grown Ups starts the second half of the album and has the first feature from Dash. This is some late night cruising shit when you’re rolling around causing trouble. Earl talks about not trusting hoes and not even trusting his friends, and Dash fits right over the beat too. This is another highlight of the album, from the repetitive but captivating beat to the dope flow over it.

A highlight for the album and for Earl

Earl Sweatshirt

Photo: fresh-grind.com

AM//Radio has another feature, this one from Wiki. He spits some Chance the Rapper-sounding shit over a light, optimistic beat that sounds like a videogame paradise or something. Then Earl comes in talking bout how he skated before he rapped and his pops. The beat makes sense cause this is a mad nostaligc track, down to the nuggets on his fingers and his shirt like they was chicken crumbs. This is maybe the best track on the album, and maybe the best Earl’s ever done with his incredible natural flow. It cuts off a little earlier this time so the beat gets like a minute and a half to fuck around, but even this is real dope.

The album flows nicely then into Inside, the 8th track on the album. It’s another short one, less than 2 minutes long, but it’s a chance for Earl to spit some shit about what he’s been up to since he’s been finding a little success. Like the rest of the album, it’s a combination of dope lines and negative thoughts. He plays it real well though, switching up his flow on the track more than he would have a few years ago, keeping it interesting until the end.

A little Migos influence?

Then we get DNA (feat. Na’kel), which sounds like some more back alley shit for Earl to go off over. He flirts with the Migos flow a little though and generally keeps it a little quicker than he usually does. With how good his flow has always sounded, the idea of an Earl who’s also a master at rapping fast is just scary, but DNA shows us a glimpse of that. Na’kel brings in a totally different sound to the track, a little rougher and a little less smooth and it’s good cause it fits the dark vibe. the beat puts on. His verse is introspective and pretty down on himself too, so you know him and Earl identify with the same shit.

Earl Sweatshirt

Photo: genius.com

Again, the track gets like a minute at the end to just do what it feels. This is I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: the tracks are front-loaded with rap and then there isn’t really a hook, instead Earl just drops off and lets the beat roll for like a minute. Most of the tracks on the album do this and let the production just flow. It’s not what you usually hear from rap albums (not even Sour Soul regularly does this), but it’s unique and it’s mad dope. This album is clearly made for kicking it, probably by yourself, probably with some smoke and just letting the music go through you.

Back to the good old days

The album ends with Wool, and a feature from the always dope Vince Staples. Vince Staples actually kicks off the rap with some gangsta shit, and it works. It’s a throwback to the old Odd Future days (even though Vince was never OF) where they’d throw on a dark beat and just go off. This album does that (like on Off Top) more than Doris did, while also showing more maturity and development. Then Earl comes in talking GOLF, showing that this is a shoutout to OF. Earl has reconciled his 15-year old self with his current self, and the results are a smart, quick, mature but not-too-serious and most of all dope rapper.


Good shit, Earl.

Earl Sweatshirt doesn’t do anything mindblowing on I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, but he does classic Earl better than we’ve ever heard it before. It’s also a more musically interesting album than we’ve ever heard from Earl, even if at its base it’s still mad chill (but not just quite weed) rap. I’m mad looking forward to see what he does next, but until then I’m gonna fill a good number of lazy half-hours with this album and his old shit.

I Don't Like S**t, I Don't Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt - Earl Sweatshirt


Spit Talking

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly Review

To Pimp A Butterfly has dropped.

It was supposed to be March 23rd, but Kendrick decided to drop it 20 years and a day after Tupac dropped Me Against The World, and he tweeted that so folks wouldn’t be completely confused (but they still were.) I’m mad hyped that this shit is now on my phone a good bit over a week before I thought it would. Anyways, let’s see what one of the most highly anticipated hip hop albums (of all time, really) has for us. This is Spit Talking’s To Pimp A Butterfly review. I think the reaction to this is gonna be similar to Yeezus’s: it’ll be split at first, then after a year’s passed everyone will recognize the genius.

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly

To Pimp A Butterfly is Kendrick’s Bitches Brew.

To Pimp a Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar


This album is literally nothing short of incredible, with Kendrick pushing the limit on what rappers should rap over and how they should rap. It took 2 and a half years, but the wait was worth it cause he crafted a masterpiece. This is Kendrick’s best album, yes, better than good kid, m.A.A.d. city. The individual tracks may not be as good for driving around or something (although some stretches, like King Kunta to Institutionalized to These Walls, are better than anything on gkmc in my opinion), but overall the sound is so innovative for hip hop that it’s no contest. Then the interview with Pac and the cocoon/walls/ghetto/institution metaphor and the interwoven poetry throughout takes this shit to mindblowing levels. Some folks might not like it cause it’s unexpected, but ths shit is a certified classic. There’s a lot of great music, and a lot of social and individual commentary. This shit is so dense that you could probably listen to it for a year and still not get it all, but I tried to break it down for y’all as best I could.

For its fearlessness, innovation, commentary on the state of both hip hop and the world, and its ability to sound old school and brand new at the same time, I give To Pimp A Butterfly a:

 

5/5

 


Wesley’s Theory

The album starts with Wesley’s Theory, a smooth-sounding intro featuring George Clinton and Thundercat. Before long, the funk drops in and it hits you that this is To Pimp A Butterfly. Kendrick sings a little in the background about his first girlfriend before breaking out into some rap. It sounds like the intro to a 70’s talk show or something, in the best way possible. Then the beat drops out and Dre comes in with some knowledge before Kendrick drops some himself. In less than 5 minutes, Kendrick establishes that this is gonna be a funky but versatile album, dropping some hot bars along the way.

Then For Free? (Interlude) keeps the genre experimentation going with some jazz before Kendrick starts rapping about how this dick ain’t free, and he’s really rapping over some shit folks just don’t rap over. It’s a pressure-filled chaotic interlude that’s probably the best I’ve ever heard on a rap album. This is followed by King Kunta.

Yams

Kendrick's Pac TweetsKing Kunta is a mad funky track that’s all about the yams. It’s one of Kendrick’s best tracks yet, and you should get this album just to hear this track if nothing else. It’s an excellent showcase of Kendrick’s performance ability and jumps between a few genres in less than 4 minutes. This is indicative of To Pimp A Butterfly — all (good) hip hop takes from funk and jazz, but you’ve never heard it like this. Kendrick did everything he could to make a groundbreaking rap album, and he did.

Institutionalized

Then we get Institutionalized, which starts out with a slow melody and Kendrick rapping high-pitched, almost Quasimodo-like. Institutionalized features Bilal, Anna Wise and Snoop Dogg, and definitely chills out the album, even though Kendrick’s spitting mad real shit about being institutionalized in the ghetto and not being able to quit it. This is some revolutionary shit, even before the track goes “master take the chains off me” and switches into some down-tempo jazzy hip hop. This is Kendrick doing Mos Def, and absolutely killing it. He’s trying to make his mark on hip hop, music and society with his shit.

These Walls starts with the line that ends King Kunta, “I remember you was conflicted, misusing your influence”, and features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat. The slow snaps lead into a groovy, driving beat that’s mad optimistic. I (and some other people) were wrong thinking this whole album would be dark and edgy, cause These Walls is definitely some shit you can step to. Maybe Kendrick took his mom’s advice from good kid, m.A.A.d. city. This track has a similar message to Institutionalized, but keeps a brighter outlook. The lyrics still aren’t sunny, but damn the music makes you smile. It also isn’t afraid to slip into a few different genres for a bit every now and then, going into spoken word over smooth jazz to end the track, and again we get the line from King Kunta and Institutionalized, but a little more of the speech this time.

u

Miles Davis - Bitches BrewThen we get u, which we can assume is some sort of partner to i. All of a sudden it sounds like you’re listening to Miles Davis, with Kendrick repeating “loving you is complicated.” Miles Davis stretched jazz to its limits, and Kendrick’s trynna do that now for hip hop. Eventually he gets to rapping on the beat, but he kind of slips on there cause it sounds chaotic and atonal, but there’s a method to the madness. Again, this is more spoken word than rap, but really Kendrick’s already made it hard to draw a line on To Pimp A Butterfly. The track switches up to what sounds like some classic Marsalis trumpet and Kendrick spitting in a way I’ve literally never heard before, taking on the voice of an alcoholic on the streets and keeping shit mad real.

The 7th track on To Pimp A Butterfly is Alright, which continues the trumpet/spoken word combo, at least before it smooths out and starts popping. Even though he’s rapping and killing it, it’s clear that Kendrick didn’t want this to be just another hip hop album, and he’s trying to cram years of genre development into one album. It’s still hip hop, but literally the only reason to say that is because Kendrick’s rapping, again, fairly optimistically. If good kid, m.A.A.d. city was a portrayal of how dark it is where Kendrick came from, To Pimp A Butterfly is about how dark it was over a celebration of how bright it was and what could be. Then we get part of the speech again before the track ends.

Lucy

Another Interlude (For Sale?) breaks up the album with the 8th track. Again, it’s some smooth jazz with some light piano dancing around it, but Kendrick doesn’t use interludes to take a break. They’re a soapbox for him to come in with some spoken word and maybe even sing a little. Talking about Lucy (not the TV show though), Kendrick sounds more like Section 80 than good kid, m.A.A.d. city, but I think it’s more advanced (musically) than anything he (or any rapper, really) has done yet. We get the speech again, for the first time with some music behind it (transcribed a little below.)

Then we got Momma, the 9th track. It comes in sounding like some Frank Ocean shit off nostalgia/ultra, in a real good way. Then Kendrick comes in with some rap about his coming up and current place. The rap in this is a lot more abstract than good kid, m.A.A.d. city, and I’ll probably drop an article after this review digging into the lyrics a little more, cause they’re a lot denser. Anyways, the track ends with some more Miles Davis-paced jazz for Kendrick to rap over for a second before it fades out.

Hood Politics

Kendrick Lamar Dukes Up

Photo: highsnobiety.com

For the 10th track of To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick gives us Hood Politics. I was looking forward to this shit for the name alone, and it comes in with some real slow funky shit sounding like some more blaxploitation nods after King Kunta. Kendrick talks shit from the first line about how he’s A1 and you boo-boo. He gets serious, talking about how he doesn’t care about politics in rap, cause there’s realer shit going on like death that trumps politics. From discussing condoms to Obama to gangbanging at 14 to ruling the West Coast along with Snoop (who’s already been on the album by this point), Kendrick succeeds in making you think while keeping up with this shit. Then we get the speech again:

I remember you was conflicted, misusing your influence/

Sometimes I did the same. Abusing my power full of resentment/

Resentment that turned into a deep depression/

I found myself screaming in the hotel room/

I didn’t wanna self-destruct/

The evils of Lucy was all around me/

So I went running for answers/

Until I came home/

But that didn’t stop survivor’s guilt/

Going back and forth trying to convince myself the stripes I earned/

Or maybe how A1 my foundation was/

But while my loved ones was fighting a continuous war back in the city/

I was entering a new one.//

Once the speech has ended (with some more this time), we get maybe the best beat yet for How Much A Dollar Cost, which features James Fauntleroy and Ronald Isley. Shit, the beat almost sounds like something RZA and Radiohead would come up with. How Much A Dollar Cost is about what the title implies, and also about the pressure of a stare. It’s definitely a highlight on this album, but really the whole album flows so well that it’s hard to say that even. The track ends with a little soul, and anyone who isn’t sold on To Pimp A Butterfly’s different sound should be convinced by this point.

The land of landmines

Kendrick Lamar and Talib Kweli

Photo: talibkweli.com

The 12th track is Complexion (A Zulu Love) which has got Rapsody featured on it. Complexion is a little smoother and a little more low-key than the last track, which is good cause it gives you time to take it all in. That doesn’t mean it’s shallow though, from the Willie Lynch reference to the general theme of complexion in the track. Rapsody keeps the social commentary going, and all of a sudden this shit sounds like it’s Mos Def and Talib Kweli doing Thieves in the Night. Aside from West Coast, jazz and funk influences, Kendrick seemed to listen to a lot of Black Star before making To Pimp A Butterfly. He finished the track by keeping it real and calling Compton “the land of the landmines.”

The Blacker The Berry

Then we got The Blacker The Berry as the 13th track, which we’ve all heard by now. It’s a mad racial track referencing all the cop shootings, gang relations, Kendrick’s own past and hypocrisy. This is an incredible track, and is one of the standouts on the album. It’s representative of the album for how good it is, but the sound is more old Kendrick and less funk/jazz than the rest of the album really is. Luckily it’s fucking incredible.

Kendrick then takes us to You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said) for the 3rd-to-last track on the album. It takes the album back to a smooth but funky sound, showing that The Blacker The Berry is an outlier and doesn’t mark a shift in the album or anything. It’s really a summer love song that shows Kendrick can groove as well as anyone and that he can really rap over anything about anything and sound like the best doing it. This track is about confidence and honesty, and it’s sweet.

i (new and improved!)

Then we get i as the second-to-last track, but not like we heard it a few months ago. It has a little intro which doesn’t sound like it’s about to kick into i’s groove, but then it totally makes sense. The track has switched up a bit, with some different vocals and a little more energy in general. With the slight changes and the rest of the album, i makes a lot more sense from Kendrick all of a sudden. This is a much different track than u, which could represent Kendrick’s personal development considering this is near the end. He drowns out his dope rap near the end a little more, letting it leak into conversation before Kendrick kills the music. Then he talks about how many black people we’ve lost in just the last year, calling out judges (the album cover makes sense) in the process. Considering the low volume, it’s Kendrick trynna put out a message but knowing it’s gonna get drowned out by other shit, so he goes into some mad powerful spoken word, talking about how “N-E-G-U-S” means royalty and black emperors. Think on that.

Mortal Man

Nelson Mandela

Photo: forbes.com

Mortal Man finishes off the album with 12 minutes (much like Sing About Me/Dying of Thirst off GKMC and as the last track like J Cole’s Note to Self.) Mortal Man comes in sounding like 808s and Heartbreak in a complete departure from the rest of the album, before being brought back in with some bass, piano and horns and all of a sudden it sounds like some old West Coast rap shit. He starts by shouting out the ghost of Mandela, and asking “when shit hits the fan, is you still a fan?”, which is funny cause this whole album is kind of a test of Kendrick’s fans. Some really won’t like it, even though he’s bringing the whole genre forward. Mortal Man’s got some similar themes to Sing About Me/Dying of Thirst, with Kendrick wondering what would happen if he died soon.

Then Kendrick goes from rapper loyalty to relationship loyalty, as the horns start doing more and more work in the background. Then he goes back to talking about his anger against judges before saying that’s not like Nelson. Kendrick’s venting on this track but always brings it back by reminding himself what Mandela would do. He runs down a few decades of fallen heroes, from Huey Newton to Michael Jackson, before the beat dies down and he goes back into his spoken word again. This time there’s a lot more to it though, with Kendrick pleading black gang members to respect each other for their blackness, not their gang color.  Then he ends his not really a poem, and continues to interview Tupac.

Pac

Tupac - Me Against The WorldAt this point my mind was blown, realizing that this was not an album but an interview with Tupac, Kendrick’s mentor through music even if he couldn’t be alive to do it the conventional way. Kendrick really thinks he’s taking up Tupac’s torch (not just the West Coast crown), and he talks with Tupac about blackness in America while some background music casually flows. Then he calls himself an offspring of Tupac’s legacy and tells him about all the turmoil then asks about the future. In response, Tupac predicts revolution and Kendrick predicts that music is the only thing that can save us before they talk about how they ain’t even really rapping, just telling stories. Kendrick ends the track and his album with the story of a caterpillar who is less appreciated than the butterfly, so the caterpillar starts pimping the butterfly in the mad city. From the cocoon, the caterpillar is instititutionalized but has time to think, and once its wings emerge it can shine light on situations the caterpillar never considered, ending the eternal struggle.

Kendrick ends the album with “what’s your perspective on that? Pac? Pac? Pac?”


Wow.

Even before the Tupac shit ties it all together, this is a monumental moment for hip hop with all the different beats and genres being used. Then the story of the caterpillar and the cocoon gives you a whole new perspective on Kendrick’s life and of course the album, forcing you to listen to it again. I played it again instantly after finishing it and noticed the album starts with the cocoon, showing just how fucking much is packed into this album. It’s a lot more subtle than good kid, m.A.A.d. city, because it’s about way more than just Kendrick. I’m not sure when I’m gonna start listening to other music again, but it doesn’t matter cause this album has everything. Hip Hop will never be the same.

To Pimp a Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar


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