Albums this anticipated aren’t supposed to be this good.
After 14 years of waiting, D’Angelo’s surprise album Black Messiah had every right to be the R&B/Soul equivalent of Guns & Roses' Chinese Democracy - a creaky mess that was done no favors by the weight of fan expectations. But that’s not what happened.
After a few listens to Nicki Minaj's latest album, The Pinkprint, it is pretty clear that, to a certain extent, she does pay attention to critics. Her last album, 2012's Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, was universally panned in reviews for being disjointed, gimmicky and lackluster, among other things.
J. Cole has come a long way from rapping about how to get up off the sideline. Three albums in, with 2014 Forest Hills Drive, the “God” is home. The Fayetteville, North Carolina native composed an honest, nostalgic album without any apologies. Cole typically plays it safe, straddling the fence of a conscious rapper who can still create commercial hits and enjoy a good romp in the bed.
When Royce da 5’9” and DJ Premier announced that they’d be making an entire project together, hip-hop heads everywhere got excited. Premier is a legendary figure in hip-hop and Royce is widely revered for his ability to spit quality bars. With three years having passed since Royce’s last project, he’s still managed to remain active with work related to Slaughterhouse and Shady.
Ghostface Killah’s new LP 36 Seasons comes to us just one week after the release of Wu-Tang Clan’s A Better Tomorrow. While the latter LP received lukewarm reviews due to questionably experimental tracks, 36 Seasons is the exact opposite. It is concise and precise, using that classic Wu sound to march along an incredible story line while The Revelations provide the production.
Fifteen years of Shady Records represents an unusual time for rap music, transitioning out of the shiny suit era and into a bubble featuring new names. Aside from D12 and Obie Trice releases, the label’s existence was mostly tied to Eminem signing a certain Queens MC.
It's been seven years since the Wu-Tang Clan released their last proper album, 8 Diagrams, but of course, that doesn’t mean the members of rap’s greatest clan have been prepping for an early retirement. Not by a long shot.
Releasing two full length albums in one year is a rare feat most rappers will never accomplish, but in a sense, it's really nothing new for Rick Ross, who yesterday released Hood Billionaire, his second solo album of the year. The rapper has been dropping albums, along with mixtapes that have been considered to be as good as albums, within months of each other for years now.
A weird thing happens when an artist gets signed to a major label. It seems, no matter how talented they are, no matter how much their fans are willing to support, debut albums almost always come up short. There have been exceptions, of course. (Logic's Under Pressure being the most recent example.) But, more often than not, the curse of a major label signing is very real.
For some reason or another, my timeline has recently been bombarded with a ton of Tweets and Instagram posts claiming that the Migos are better than The Beatles. As most logical rap fans can attest, there are definitely better ways to champion the trio as leaders of this new school in rap than to compare them with arguably the greatest group in the history of popular music.
The most interesting hip-hop event of the year has been the meteoric rise of Bobby Shmurda, brought on with the Jahlil Beats-produced “Hot Nigga,” the most surprising single in recent history. The accompanying, and now-ubiquitous, Shmoney Dance, choreography actually invented in 2013, has taken over all media mediums, to include white bread TV anchors jamming out.
We first heard from the young Harlemite in 2008 when she released her first single, “Google Me,” from her debut project, a mixtape titled From a Planet Called Harlem. The Jazze Pha-produced single sank low on the Billboard charts and left Teyana Taylor with something to prove.
Ladies and gentlemen, Joe Budden is back in Mood Muzik form. Early last year Joe released No Love Lost, which packaged club and radio songs along with some more personal tracks. That album left many of his longtime fans wanting more of the intimate feel they get from his darker projects. Almost two years later and Joey is back to documenting his turmoil in a way that only he can.
Who is Theophilus London, anyways? The Brooklyn-based, Trinidad-born 27-year old isn't really an MC, but he doesn't really sing all the time either. He cares about The Smiths more than he cares about Gang Starr and for some reason all of this attracts the likes of Kanye West to take on the roll of executive producer on his newest album Vibes.
Part of Future’s appeal lies in a musically indefinable existence. While both Pluto (and the 3D version) and Honest became somewhat of a set template for artists like Travi$ Scott, Future himself is a blend of the past, some not so distant.
Rick Ross and the Maybach Music Group have taken their time with Stalley. Signed in 2011, the same year as Meek Mill and Wale (who were almost immediately launched in to mainstream eyes), the MC is just getting a proper debut album released.
El-P was first brought to Killer Mike's studio to commission a beat, or two, for Mike’s R.A.P. Music. This was 2011, and Adult Swim creative director Jason DeMarco, the mutual connection, couldn't have possibly foreseen the two-headed beast he just spawned. By the end of the session, Mike knew he’d found the sole producer for his next album.
With a face often free of make-up and a childlike voice that delivers bars filled with tales of gun violence, come-p wishes, survival and tipsy nights off Hennessy, DeJ Loaf, the 23-year-old baby-faced rapper-singer, who hails from the East side of Detroit currently has everyone intrigued.
Sir Robert Bryson Hall II even sounds like future royalty. Professionally known as Logic, the massively talented Maryland MC has that potential. He’s also an interesting meta case study of multiple perspectives. Surface level, his racial background paints a ready-made perception, fair or not.
Following the release of T.I.’s last two somewhat lackluster albums, 2010's No Mercy and 2012's Trouble Man, combined with the rise of new age rap stars like Drake, Kendrick Lamar, J.
Game doesn't quite get the respect he deserves. Sometimes things like his habitual name dropping and controversy divert attention from the fact that he has been one of the most consistent rappers over the last decade.
You can feel Cozz's hunger when listening to his music. It's easy to understand why J. Cole would want the youngster out of LA on his Dreamville/Interscope Label. Cozz has the lyrical trappings of a rapstar in the making.
The evolutions of Donald Glover and Childish Gambino appeared mutually exclusive until recently, with the masses not completely sold on either. Glover was either "that guy from that show,” or “Troy!!!!” The Gambino character was viewed as a playful, non-threatening side project, by fans of Glover’s work, and other rappers.
In superhero literature, it's not uncommon for an aging master like Bruce Wayne to find himself a protégé. Often arriving at our hero's lowest point -- after the death in the family or, perhaps, a critical injury -- this stranger inspires the hero to get back to doing what he does best: fighting crime and selling a ton of movie theater tickets.
It's funny how music comes full circle. Tinashe was just eight years old when Aaliyah Haughton tragically died in a plane crash, causing the music world to mourn and R&B to be reconstructed in her wake.
SBTRKT took the world by storm with his first LP. Released at the base of the alternative R&B explosion, the album perfectly blended dance music and soul, even catching the eye of Drake and inspiring him to drop a verse on "Wildfire," which in turn became more popular than the original (but that's every day for Drake). How will SBTRKT's second album stack up to the first one?
Joell Ortiz changed this album’s title from Yaowa, basically because this is him at his most comfortable. In Hip Hop, getting too comfortable can sometimes lead to a decline in effort due to loss of hunger. Anyone familiar with Joell Ortiz would probably find it hard to imagine him not putting effort into a project, comfortable or not.
Sometimes one song can set the precedence for an album’s entirety and Chris Brown’s opening title-track, X does just that. The Diplo-produced, hip-hop/EDM comprised record symbolizes Brown’s back and forth attempt at being an R&B, hip-hop, pop and dance music star.The song starts off slow and then builds up to an uptempo dance record filled with egotistical lyrics.
It's no secret that hip-hop at large is lacking in original content. If the music isn't about money, it's about sex; if it's not about sex, it's about who's the hardest (no pun intended); if not who's hardest, it's about hip-hop itself. It's in this musical landscape that a label like Tech N9ne's Strange Music is needed the most.
There’s something admirable about truly stepping out on your own, as your own person. You’re leaving behind that helping hand, that “co-sign,” and pursing your dreams, able to stand without the crutch.