Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Album Review: Young Money



History does not, cannot, exist in a vacuum. It must have context, baggage, precedence. Sometimes, something new appears without prejudice attached, allowing us to evaluate sans expectations. Even hardcore hip hop heads heard Kid Cudi first on A Kid Named Cudi or the Day N' Night single. Without any idea of who or what he should be, we could appreciate the music for what it was. Satellite Flight, on the other hand, cannot evade the many previous Cudi offerings we've come to be familiar, and our own feelings about his previous works inevitably shape how we perceive the new album. And this, amongst other reasons, leads to the failure of Rise of an Empire, the new Young Money album released on March 11th. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Album Review: KiD CuDi presents: SaTeLLiTe FLiGHT:The Journey to Mother Moon

Kid Cudi released his new album, shortened title Satellite Flight, back on March 4th. How does it measure up to his previous releases? Is it even worth purchasing? And what's next for Cudi? Let's delve into it.



Flight's simultaneously the most "Kid Cudi" and least "Kid Cudi" outing he's ever produced, taking his style to the dark side of the moon that we've glanced upon but never fully explored before. In one respect, we're seeing the rawest version of the tortured artist ever, or at least the most abstract. Tracks like "Coperincus Landing" truly sound like you're Skyping a shuttle probing an extraterrestrial surface, and it's far from an isolated instance. Anyone familiar with the Cudian narrative knows the moon metaphor stands for both how unusual his musical concepts can get and his self-perceived emotional and social isolation from the rest of the world. In both regards, he maxes out his potential, even more so than WZRD. Guess how many songs he actually raps on, of the ten. No, go ahead, guess. You're right! One! A rapper rapped on one of his ten rap songs! In a sense, it's hardly a rap album, more of a spaced out ambiance collection. Not a bad one, mind you, but even those who love Cudi's voice will find he doesn't even offer lyrics of 40% of the songs. But if you've paid attention to his artistic growth, you know this is his direction, his destiny. He's more interested in the production and feel of a song, not necessarily on forcing his lyrics down your throat. And that's what this album is all about. Remember; his past, more rap focused CDs have been about the Man on the moon, the person in space. This one's about the journey to space itself, minus the man. Perhaps he'll one day release The Moon as a production only album. I'd be game for that.

On the other hand, something's missing without the dark, oddly annunciated raps. As Cudi fans, its hard to ignore that his two most appealing traits are (1) his extremely relatable content and (2) the entirely unique delivery he created (I'd include his singing voice in this). At his best, he's the 2pac of mental health, laying out problems in an inimitatable way, capturing the attention of the masses because of the raw HONESTY he unleashes. But without hardly any lyrics, its impossible to gather this sense from the FLIGHT project. There's certainly the same personality as a normal Cudi album, but where's the message? It simply doesn't exist. Kid Cudi's a two part act, one of production and persona, and one of voice and interpretation. Minus the lyrics, only one such Cudi possibly exists. Without a full half of the equation, it just doesn't seem like normal Cudi.

Extra props to this experiment for blending the album so well, and using such good beat selection. However, the whole section is simply too short, the tracks without his voice too prominent, to produce a full, Kid-Cudi-esque report. Man on the Moon III will surely be a larger hit than this, as it should include some lyrics, but Kid Cudi stretches himself thin on this album. It's more a 40 minute podcast than an album whose pieces can coexist without each other, so essentially, listen to the whole thing, or listen to none of it.

5/10

Top 5 Songs:
1. Satellite Flight
2. Balmain Jeans
3. Too Bad I Have to Destroy You
4. Return of the Moon Man
5. Copernicus Landing

Songs to Smoke to:
All

Songs to drive to at night:
All

Songs to study/reflect to:
All

Songs to make love to:
1. Balmain Jeans


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mastermind - Album Review

Rick Ross dropped a new album last Tuesday, 3/4/2014, titled Mastermind, suggesting...I guess, his opinion of his place in hip hop. I've got some thoughts I'll run through quickly, as well as an overall rating and the top five songs.

So, this is Rooooosay!'s 6th solo album, though he's got several mixtapes and compilations (like the MMG Presents... series) you could include in his overall body of work. So he's not a rookie. And he's not exactly switching things up. He's the same Rick Ross he's always been, bringing his exotic combination of unusually opulent descriptions and unbelievably cliche bravado. No one else really raps like him. Action Bronson matches the intoxicatingly fresh imagery, and the gangsterisms could be plucked from any Waka Flocka track, but who does both like this? It literally sounds a writing experiment where Chief Keef wrote every other line, only for (Black Album-era) Jay-Z to come along and say "fuck, what can I say to make this have some intellectual content?" For example, one representative combination includes the lines:
"All I ever wanted was to make scrilla
Have a recording session with J Dilla"
For those who don't know, scrilla is slang for money, and J Dilla is a legendary, underground producer who died a few years back. The kind of guy Rick Ross wouldn't ever record with! Sometimes it doesn't even take two lines. "Mafia bitch, silk underwear". I don't know about you, but that's certainly not the first thing that came to my mind when I hear about someone being in the Mafia. Dude just thinks a little differently than everyone else. That, along with that rumbling voice, are his defining traits as an artist. HWUH.
But the trouble with Ross' trichotomy approach comes in the album layout. We find intense, murderous tracks with trap beats, pop songs softer than Rosay's belly, and somber raps bringing out his introspective, reflective side. And, of course, every now and then he melds all these traits into one masterpiece (or mainstream appealing single). So here, even with a 19 song bonus edition, we don't see enough of any strategy. And let's be honest, those pop songs BLOW. I only deleted three songs off the album: Supreme, Blk & Wht, and the unbearably dull Dope Bitch Skit. Ross is so much better when he sounds like he's trying hard, either in terms of intimidating, bragging, or teaching. Luckily, he saves plenty of time for those, although some other filler tracks waste space on your iPhone: ignore Nobody and What a Shame, both old East Coast knock offs with French Montana, and make your own decisions on Rich is Gangsta and War Ready.
Curiously, this loveable MC finds his best form when he puts away his Heisenberg and rolls with Walter White, teaching life lessons to Walt Jr. and protecting his family. Ricky Ross is a lot, lot smarter than you think he is. He also isn't a thug, gangster, or drug dealer. It's a character he plays, one he acts well and one that pays well, but he's noticeably more comfortable on this album being goofy (Mafia Music III), recalling his past (Thug Cry), or offering warnings of the dangers of the underworld (Blessing in Disguise). He, as always, uses superb beat selection to create a mood for every song, every movement. With Ross, it's never a classic, but it's always solid, and there are always useful pieces to grab.

7/10

Best songs:
1. Thug Cry
2. Drug Dealer's Dream
3. Blessing in Disguise
4. The Devil is a Lie
5. Sanctified

Party bangers:
1. The Devil is a Lie
2. Sanctified
3. You Know I Got It

Get yolked/Ball Out/Run a marathon:
1. Drug Dealer's Dream
2.  Walkin on Air
3. Rich is Gangsta
 4. The Devil is a Lie
5. What a Shame

Reflective Jams:
1. Thug Cry
2. Blessing in Disguise
3. Paradise Lost

Love Making:
1. In Vein

Smoke to:
1. In Vein
2. Thug Cry
3. Paradise Lost

To Bump in the Car:
1. Drug Dealer's Dream
2. The Devil is a Lie
3. Mafia Music III
4. You Know I Got It
5. Sanctified