Talking About New-Age Hip-Hop with LaLion

Everyone has something to say about the ‘new’ wave of rappers, most of it being unfairly slated by old school hip-hop heads afraid to see the genre evolve or change. Rid yourself of this apprehension and you’re sure to find a bunch of extremely talented individuals (e.g Lou The Human) out there that have somehow flown under the mainstream radar, Seattle based rapper LaLion being just that. With his fast delivery, clever bars, and hard beats he’s slowly gaining the attention he deserves. With 2 albums already released, he’s targeting the big time.

The 21-year-old started rapping at the age of 11 and, much like the running theme of new age rappers, took inspiration from genres other than hip-hop. While he grew up listening to notable big shots like Biggie, 2Pac, and Kendrick, LaLion states “I spent most of my teen years playing in bands and practicing guitar. So, a lot of my inspiration comes from rock bands like Linkin Park, The Strokes, and Nirvana“.

A rock influence is nothing new for a lot of rappers nowadays but it has certainly helped the likes of LaLion to pave a new chapter for the genre they hold dear. Kurt Cobain went on to inspire a plethora of kids with guitars but he’s even gone as far to heavily influence hip hop long after his death, with his bleak and gloomy outlook becoming the foundations for others to build upon. Denzel Curry may just be the bluntest about this, naming a song ‘Clout Cobain’ which revolved around the consequences of fame while dealing with paranoia and suicidal thoughts. The late Lil Peep could have arguably been heralded as carrying the Nirvana’s star flame into the surge of SoundCloud rap.

LaLion has ensured that this gloomy aesthetic isn’t merely just that, his adamance about his music being more than just a look being truly palatable. “My music is made to cater to the person who is struggling through something in their life.  My music style reflects anger towards the modern normality’s that are causing kids to kill themselves. If we are talking stylistically my music is a mix between Bone-Thugs and Linkin Park.”

His childhood and surroundings have also played a part in his lyrical content too. “Seattle is a dark and depressing place. Growing up in the Seattle area has made an impact on my music.  We have grey clouds nine out of the twelve months and homeless people on every block.

Image result for lalion

While he has his hopes set high, LaLion is a firm believer in staying humble and hopes to make that firm for any young rappers with lofty goals but don’t make time for their craft. “It is the most important thing you could do.  I see a lot of young artists with hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram, but they release one song every three months.  And that song ends up not sounding very good. But it depends on the type of artist you want to be. If you want to be the best, you need to work more than the rest.

The rapper also thinks it’s vital for youngsters to understand history of hip hop. “You need to understand who built the foundation for where you are standing”. With the conversation about culture vultures and appropriation in music still ongoing, it’s definitely a perspective worth bearing in mind.

Talking of the ‘new wave’, artists like Lil Pump, LiL Uzi Vert and Juice Wrld have faced criticism for their style of hip hop because of their so called ‘lazy lyrics’ and ‘auto-tuned effects’. However, there’s a place for every sound and most criticism these artists have faced can seem almost venomous. LaLion agrees and thinks there’s room for all types of hip hop. “The ‘new school’ rappers as you put, are club artists. So, if I’m in a club or a party, sure, put that shit on.” But he also believes it is extremely important to stay unique. “That’s probably why all these kids are getting face tattoos. They want to be impossible to copy with their image. Unfortunately, that doesn’t translate to the music and they end up sounding like the last guy.

But where does LaLion see himself in the coming years? His dream one day is to “Be the best in the game. Grammy’s. Most streamed. The best.” Just like his idol and favourite rapper of all time Eminem.

I wouldn’t say that I am recognised even now. But when I started this, yes.  I came into it with the thought I will be the best in the game without a doubt.  Confidence is key.” – Sanjeev Mann (@Ask_Sanjeevs)

Ghostemane struggles to keep things lively on ‘N/O/I/S/E’

words fae liam toner (@tonerliam)

With songs like Mercury: Retrograde going viral, Ghostemane‘s spooky aesthetic and rapid-fire flow have made him an artist worth keeping tabs on.rating 5

Over the past few years, the Florida rapper has managed to gather a great deal of attention in the modern trap scene, in no small part due to his sound encompassing influences from industrial to hardcore, all the way to Memphis rap which was all wrapped up in a black metal aesthetic.

His aforementioned popular single came from his 2017 album Plagues and although the album would show a lot of potential for the young artist due to his uniquely dark style, Plagues would still leave much to be desired for. Coming into 2018 and with his newest album N / O / I / S / E,  there was a feeling of cautious optimism that all Ghostemane’s talents and unique qualities could come together and result in something truly great.

Unfortunately,  N / O / I / S / E falls flat throughout most of its runtime with there being one element that seems to be holding Ghostemane back, that being songwriting. His tenth release actually features great production, arguably some of his best, but the bare bones of each track aren’t as fully developed as it could be which is quite a shame.

Many of the tracks are short in length and don’t develop into much else after a couple of verses: the track Flesh starts with Ghostemane’s signature dark ambient styled atmospherics and into a hardcore breakdown section. This intro serves the track well, putting things into full swing, but after only about 30 seconds of the young star actually rapping, the track falls silent and then goes back to hardcore breakdown section before the track fizzles out at a measly 1:19. This track could stand out as one of his best if he took more time to flesh out the track (no pun intended) with another couple of verses or a vocal hook but the track finishes almost as soon as it starts and it comes across as such a missed opportunity.

A fundamental flaw with this record is that while Ghostemane’s blend of genres is very well done, it seems he is too stuck to the traditional hip-hop way of songwriting. A hip-hop track can be based around one sample for the whole track and still be amazing. However, with Ghostemane’s shorter song lengths and minimal rapping on each track, each song struggles to go anywhere properly exciting. This can be seen on the track The Singularity which sees Ghostemane dip his toes into a fully industrial/goth style song which bares obvious similarities to some Nine Inch Nails work. The song is based around a simple four on the floor kick drum beat which goes between Ghostemane’s singing and then the same beat but much more pummelling and distorted. The song is very interesting on first listen but ends in just over two minutes and no change is made in the basic melodic idea or the structure of the song. This again leaves the listener with a dissatisfied feeling and it’s this feeling that carries on throughout most of the album as almost all of the tracks suffer from these same flaws.

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This ultimately makes the album a bit of a slog due to these criticisms being apparent on nearly every song. The instrumental tracks Intro.Desolation, Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and My Heart of Glass all suffer as well, with the latter being based around a simple guitar riff that seems to build up tension in its repetition only for the tension to blend into more industrial noise which leaves the album on an anti-climactic end. However, this is quite a fitting end for an album that left this impression track after track.

Overall N / O / I / S / E proves to be a disappointing release that could have been so much more. This tends to be a common theme through most of Ghostemane’s work and it’s genuinely a bit sad because he really does have a unique and interesting sound going for him – sadly, he fails to deliver something truly special or consistent.

 

 

Album Review: iridescence by Brockhampton

words fae owen yule (@OwenYule)

During the recording process of iridescence, BROCKHAMPTON talisman Kevin Abstract rating 8noted that the group felt like they were back in their Saturation I days, yet, so much has changed. No longer are the group creating their music from a home studio in California; no longer are the group broadcasting out with the eye of the music world; no longer are the group working as independent artists; perhaps most significant of all, no longer are the group operating as an 18-man collective.

It goes without question then that iridescence marks a substantial transition in the boy band’s career and so, it comes as no surprise that said changes are reflected in the content of the music. In spite of all success and triumph that BROCKHAMPTON have earned since the release of SATURATION I, Iridescence relays feelings of anger at the world: soundscapes of aggression are facilitated by bombastic drums that often play in syncopation and at varied tempos, giving the LP an intense and abrasive quality. This aggression is perhaps at its most resounding on BERLIN, where each bass note thumps like an uppercut to the chin with the support and reinforcement of growling muscle cars. Nonetheless, this ferocity is only fully actualised by the vocal performances of the group, specifically, Merlyn and Joba who both give their best performances for Brockhampton to date. On WHERE THE CASH AT, Merlyn gives a performance with a cadence that accentuates the rapacious desire evident in the track title, while Joba’s rapping on J’OUVERT escalates in volume perpetually through the verse before culminating in maniacal screams.

Although the album frequently indulges in forceful noise, it succeeds in interpolating feelings of vulnerability and sweet balladry singing. This is a juxtaposition which at this point is well refined by the boyband. One moment they are seething and the next, romantic. The contrast is not only a testament to the myriad of talent in the group but also their versatility.

Halfway through the album DISTRICT evolves in to a slow finger-picked sprawl of melody so dreamy that we almost forget the track was once grimy and whiplash-inducing with its bass; momentarily before transitioning in to the short and soothing THUG LIFE, the album opens with a track that utilises a power drill sound effect to reinforce its abrasive aesthetic; SAN MARCOS marks one of the boybands most melodic and soulful tracks in their discography as it helps bring the album to a close in its latter stages. This contrast in tones is reflective of the group’s measurement in extremes. When it comes to their ideology there is no half-stepping and emotions all across the spectrum are fleshed out and brought to fruition wether it’s positivity or turmoil.

But if there’s a singular resounding force that comes through the lyrical qualities of iridescence, it’s honesty. As a rapper, Abstract works in a similar vein to Kanye West – a rapper that he has openly spoken off with ardour – in that his use of complex wordplay and flows are negligible or even non-existent. Instead, his appeal is derived from the honesty and heart in his lyrics that throughout this album continue to explore his inner conflict in addition to attempts to normalise homosexuality within hip-hop culture. However, in terms of rapping procedure, Dom McLennan continues to shine as the groups most poetic. On this LP he reaffirms his status as the groups most lyrical member with a plethora of verses throughout the album that showcases his technical skill. But again, in spite of all complexity, his raps come from a visceral place and never come across as masturbatory. On the albums closer Fabric, Dom tells us that he ponders how he can “change the world that I move through” and with such poignant explorations of mental health issues throughout the album, it’s hard to argue with the legitimacy of his sentiment.

The album hits are at its most moving in its latter stages, most notably with the long-awaited CDQ of the previously live performed,  TONYA. It is a track that is somber yet grandiose, it is a dissection into the psyche of the group, a step into the spiraling staircase of wallow and self-doubt, a summation of the hurt and anguish weighing on BROCKHAMPTON. With that being said, however, the album closes with FABRIC echoing the mantra that “these are the best days of our lives” and maybe that’s what Abstract referred to when he called back to the Saturation I days. That feelings of enthusiasm and hope are not only alive but reminiscent of those during the formation of the group’s breakout album. That feeling of hope and enthusiasm are here for the boybands future… a future that we can’t wait to see unfold.

 

Top 10 Tyler The Creator Tracks

words fae ryan martin (@ryanmartin182)

Who exactly Tyler the Creator is, has always been up for debate. He started as the driving force behind hip-hop collective Odd Future that made superstars out of Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean, and more recently, The Internet.

The group’s aggressive image attracted the media’s attention instantly and Tyler’s bizarre antics, as well as interviews, helped land him a show on Adult Swim with his buddies joining him on Loiter Squad. Tyler’s music reflected his behavior in the public’s eye when he released Goblin in 2011: critics pointed out the absurd number of times Tyler uses homophobic slurs throughout the album but failed to mention the immensely dark and troubled tone of the album itself. There is a track near the end of the album where Tyler metaphorically kills his friends, and the album itself deals with Tyler talking to a therapist named Dr. TC (Tyler’s Consciousness.)

Following up Goblin was Wolf, the second effort from the face of Odd Future still retained the jagged edges from Goblin but featured much more tender production and a theme centered around summer camp, love, and jealousy. It would be the last album Tyler would put together while Odd Future was still active. Cherry Bomb followed almost exactly two years later and contained some of Tyler’s messiest and most beautiful tracks he has ever released. Altogether, it made for a cluttered release that most die-hard fans will defend but the public has forgotten.

A little over two years later, Tyler emerges as a confidently bloomed bud. He releases Flower Boy, a personal album that references his sexuality for the first time and his relationship with friends and family. Long gone are the jagged edges of Goblin, in its place rests a perfectly crafted album with memorable tracks, excellent production, and amazing features from the likes of up-and-comers Rex Orange County, Kali Uchis and Steve Lacy, in addition to established acts like Frank Ocean and Lil Wayne. Now proving himself as a creative genius after fashion shows, a successful collaboration with Converse’s One-Star, grammy nominations for Flower Boy, we wonder where he will go from here.

Revisiting Tyler’s old discography can be fairly nostalgic despite being less than a decade old, memories of watching him evolve being particularly rose-tinted but it’s difficult to argue that a good chunk of his early material hasn’t stood the test of time. It took a bit for Tyler to find his footing as a musical artist and though he may have had a certain vision for all of those albums, it doesn’t mean that every song in its own way fits or is actually good at all. There is quite a number of duds on his first 4 albums (if you include mixtape Bastard). With that being said, where there is darkness there is light and Tyler is responsible for some of the best rap music of this decade. He should not be viewed as anything but a monumental inspiration to this generation and an artist to watch for years to come so, without further ado, here’s the cream of the crop when it comes to Wolf Haley’s list of tracks.

10. Treehome95

Treehome95 is just a taste of the potential Tyler had in jazz when it was released. While the cut may have been off-putting to a lot of fans when it showed up on Wolf, it still shows a connection to his current work. The gentle side of Tyler that didn’t often come out was a change of pace that much desired and this cut was only something that amplified it. Erykah Badu and Coco Owino lend gorgeous vocals to help fill out the track. By the time it ends at its 3-minute mark, it’s too soon.

9. Answer


Tyler speaks bluntly to his father on Answer with a fiery flow that resembles early Eminem.  The production on this track is easy to love: the drums sound incredible paired with the guitar tone and sure, Syd could have done really well with a bigger role than background vocals on this cut, but there’s a reason why it’s appearing on this list regardless.

8. Where This Flower Blooms


The ‘proper’ introduction to Flower Boy, Tyler sounds fearless on this track with Frank; like they have both come into their own. Tyler brings the listener into his world with great production and even better verses. 

7. She

She doesn’t really seem like it’s a stand-alone Tyler track. Frank Ocean takes such big strides at the beginning of the track that Tyler quickly falls behind. With that being said, the hook is something most Tyler fans will never forget. Infectious, unsettling, and oddly beautiful. The unfortunate part about revisiting this track is thinking about how Tyler’s early lyrics will affect the replayability of his music in the already-quick pace our culture is moving at.

6. IFHY

When the music video for this came out, it was hard not to be blown away. Tyler standing in an enormous doll-house plastered is prosthetics captured the creepy vibe that this song gives off. Released during a peak in Tyler’s aggressiveness, this cut also came off Wolf, which is also the first time we are able to see any vulnerability from Tyler. It’s an excellent blend of the two in this song especially, the brash opening lines compared to the exquisite performance from Pharrell to end things off.

5. November

This beat can really fuck you up on first listen, featuring some of the best production on the album. The theme of the song and the features from his friends that lead into the beat switch up make it an easy one to adore, seeing Tyler deliver one of his best performances in the first verse with an incredible flow.

4. OKRA

A standout cut after the release of Tyler’s most popular album, Flower Boy. Tyler unexpectedly dropped OKRA with a fantastic music video in 2018 after staying relatively quiet, retaining the lyrical elements of Flower Boy by keeping it real and bluntly rapping from a personal perspective. The production elements are very thick with a quick tempo, making it one of Tyler’s most hard-hitting songs ever.

3. Smuckers

A fan favorite, Smuckers was a huge standout on Tyler’s most polarizing effort, Cherry Bomb. Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Tyler all bring their writing chops to extreme highs and pays off in one of the best posse cuts of this generation. For die-hard Kanye fans, his verse is one of the best he has dropped this decade. Lil Wayne is able to bring the song to a satisfying close with his verse towards the back end of the song. Smuckers is a song so well put together that it will age like wine.

2. See You Again

See You Again is the prime example of the current Tyler era and the best way to be able to pin down his current sound. Kali Uchis takes a chance to really shine on this track and even though she and Tyler have collaborated, nothing they’ve done has ever sounded this grand. The hook is infectious, and the flow of Tyler’s verses is something we come to expect from him. It could very well be debated that See You Again helped break down the doors for stars like Rex Orange County and Steve Lacy to bring this “anti-pop” sound into an underground mainstream audience.

1. 911/Mr. Lonely

This is one of Tyler’s best examples of when everything comes perfectly together in his head. Steve Lacy’s vocals, the Frank feature, the seamless transition into Mr. Lonely, the energy that flows from the funk of the first track into the bangin’ second. The grasp this track has you is scary, making itself an immediate favourite for many fans and a welcoming update to any listeners or critics that had written Tyler off early in his career.

Rejjie Snow’s first full length album ‘Dear Annie’ cements him into a firm place in the world of hip-hop

ALBUM REVIEW

By Ross Malcolm (@RossM98)

If you take a look at the world of the British hip-hop scene a couple years back, things look pretty scarce in terms of talent. As the ever-opinionated American rapper Azealia Banks put it, no American rappers are looking to the UK for any sort of tips. Be as angry as you want to be. But facts are facts.”. Excluding the rapidly growing appeal for grime, the UK never had much to offer in rap. Up steps Rejjie Snow: an Irishman who has just dropped out a football scholarship in America to pursue a career in music that has led him to become one of the most established young rap artists to date.  

The 24-year-old caught the attention of the masses when he released his first EP Rejovich, which immediately topped the iTunes hip-hop charts ahead of releases from massive artists like Kanye West (The Life of Pablo) and J. Cole (Born Sinner). Between 2015 and 2017 Snow dropped a handful of singles, feeding fans the breadcrumbs that lead up to his first full project in 2017, The Moon & You. The project itself was a little unfocused but it made one thing clear – Rejjie had a lot to say. On Dear Annie, instead of choosing to write about the intriguing story of his journey towards this album thus far, Snow instead opts for a deep introspection of his emotions and touches upon a particular feeling dealt with by many an artist – love. An abundance of this substantial album is directed towards his struggle to sustain a relationship for long and how he copes with this.

Opening tracks Hello and Rainbows have a feel-good funk production that resonates with Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. With a fresh style of high-cut delivery and a lazy flow, Rejjie sets the reflective tone of this project from the get-go. The theme continues throughout into 23, a laid-back rant about his previous lover and an outlook on his relationship insecurities while Mon Amour is a sour look back on his quarrels with ‘Annie’, despite his strong desire for reconciliation with her. It isn’t all doom and gloom, however; the album has its uplifting points such as Egyptian Luvr. Featuring exciting up and coming prospects like flow-specialist Aminé and the smooth voice of Dana Williams, Snow discusses the importance of cherishing what you have because of the unpredictability of the future. The album’s leading single brings a fresh style and tone to the table – Dana Williams’ R&B tone and Rejjie’s confident delivery intertwines perfectly with the production that takes influence from J Dilla.

The most striking facets of this album are the darker moments that appear. Beneath all the sparkling pianos and groovy bassline in Room 27, for example, Rejjie opens up about his suicidal thoughts and flirts with the idea of joining the infamous 27 Club – the list of musical greats who died at the age of 27. This is the artistic highlight of the project: it is a perfect contrast between Lewis Ofman’s bright and encapsulating production and Rejjie’s thought provoking lyrics and his most enthusiastic delivery on the album. It insinuates that deeply concerning and serious thoughts in a person are overshadowed by glamourised and pointless popular figures in society. The Rain is a statement of love and passion towards ‘Annie’, giving a nod towards modern jazz’s flag bearer King Krule and the dark tones of Tyler, the Creator. At the end of the album, ‘Annie’ gives the listener a look into what Rejjie has lost and what he craves to get back.

Rejjie takes a major risk on this album – exposing himself emotionally on his debut may burn him out creatively a bit too early on in his career. Despite this, the Irishman’s debut album shows a significant understanding of contrast and keeping his theme grounded. Although the tracklist is sizable, the project flows well and his delivery pairs perfectly with his deep outlook and analysis of love, depression, and insecurity. Dear Annie discusses sensitive and delicate issues but Rejjie stays true to his artistic integrity which is a vital quality for those few who ‘change the game’. This project is a decent benchmark for Snow in his career and if he can exceed the expectations set from Dear Annie, there are big things coming for the Irish rapper.

rating 8

Album Review: Amen by Rich Brian

by isabella mchardy (@izzscarlett)rating 6

It’s not uncommon for viral sensations to turn their career towards making serious hip hop with the likes of Cardi B and Bhad Bhabie having recently taken their internet notability and put it into music. The latest to drop an album is Rich Brian, previously known as Rich Chigga, who rose to stardom in 2016 after releasing hit track, Dat $tick, and has since been touring and working on his debut. A self-proclaimed project, Amen gives us a feel for what the 18-year-old Indonesian rapper is all about.

The eponymous opening track is a solid introduction, Brian’s voice holding that steady and calm delivery he’s known for. Paired with the heavy bassline, the vocals, and production weave together and leaves a strong first impression on the listener. Speaking of which, the production on the album as a whole is good though is played fairly safe; each track has the ability to entice but the styles do not stand out enough to avoid becoming repetitive, ultimately leading all the songs to merge together. Although Brian‘s music isn’t mind-blowing, you’ll easily find a song or two on here that will have you tapping your foot for a few days: Little Prince is a notable highlight with its sugary sweet pop aesthetic, along with Chaos that has an unapologetic trap twinge to it.

A track that undoubtedly stands out is Attention: while Offset may not offer anything substantial, sticking to his typical bragging narrative, Brian comes out on top, his flow being extremely entertaining. Glow Like Dat is another highlight though it’s more a chilled out affair, packing in a tune that is leaps and bounds the most melodic and aptly sunny on here. There are definite Childish Gambino and Odd Future vibes but Brian manages to avoid becoming a carbon copy.

Lyrics range from witty to ridiculous but it’s the way Brian executes them that stands out; his voice is consistently deadpan and the contrast between this and the bouncing percussion is vivid and adds to the consistency of Amen. For a teenage new comer, this album is impressive. Brian is funny, but he’s too good at what he does to be simply considered a novelty act.

A continuous theme throughout Amen is self-assurance. While rapping about topics such as his missing his family and losing his virginity, there is a consistent sense that Rich Brian doesn’t give a shit about what you think of him. Although young and new to the game, Brian has an effortless, justified confidence that makes his music stand out from the sea of Soundcloud rappers at the moment. He mentions money and fame but without being overly cocky, his confidence comes from his ability to rap and to rap well.

Despite starting out as a meme and being in the minority of Asian rap artists, Rich Brian has made a catchy, successful debut album. His songs aren’t anything groundbreaking, but he has skill in his craft and will no doubt continue to improve.

 

Top 10 Kanye West Tracks

by ethan woodford (@human_dis4ster)

Kanye West is arguably the most famous musician alive today. While this is largely down to his notorious persona and marriage to Kim Kardashian, Kanye would never be where he is today if it wasn’t for his raw talent and ambition. For years Kanye lent his skills in production to countless artists, and while this was, and still is, his specialty, he only ever wanted to be a rapper.

However, perhaps a foreshadowing of how Kanye would push boundaries in his career, the first solo track he ever recorded was done with his jaw wired shut. The resulting track Through the Wire ended up on his debut album The College Dropout which propelled him to stardom and ultimately where he is today.

Kanye West is a unique artist in many ways, and this is what makes his music so special, in that each track has at least something interesting about it; even when he misses the mark, it is never for lack of trying. Since Kanye has so many tracks worthy of discussion and praise, it’s as good an excuse as any to list his ten best tracks and celebrate the genius of Kanye West.

10. All Falls Down

One of the breakout singles from his debut album, All Falls Down remains one of his best songs and also one of his most conventional. Featuring many qualities associated with his music such as gospel and soul influences, layered production and socially aware lyrics, this track was Kanye already at the top of his game.

Accompanied by the luscious vocals of Syleena Johnson covering Lauryn Hills’Mystery of Iniquity, Kanye proves his abilities on the mic with his now signature mixture of wit, observation, and aggression. All Falls Down focuses on the pitfalls of consumerism and more specifically, how the system fails black people. By showing his frustration with hard-hitting lines about racial inequality whilst also landing quips such as “Couldn’t afford a car, so she named her daughter Alexis”, Kanye proved his multifaceted versatility and claimed his place among hip-hop’s elite at the time.

9. Flashing Lights

While Graduation is perhaps Kanye West’s least significant record, it boasts his talent for writing infectious pop-rap bangers, such as Homecoming and this track, Flashing Lights. West’s skill for production is the main attraction here, the beat being one of the best he has produced.

Lyrically, Kanye vents his frustrations with a relationship with a woman, and it is likely there is a parallel between his relationship with the public as well. Talking about how he feels dictated by the other party in the relationship and how his actions are scrutinised, the track explores how this effects Kanye. When the hook changes point of view from second person to first person, it also shows Kanye is able to look at himself critically. Although it is ultimately just a short snappy single, it was widely praised for being a breath of fresh air to mainstream rap at the time and still over a decade later, it still maintains that freshness.

8. Love Lockdown

Three albums into his career and Kanye West was a pop star. However, following the death of his mother in 2007 and the subsequent break-up of his engagement to Alexis Phifer, his public image began to fade as he consistently became the object of scrutiny. However, he proved here that he can let his skills as a musician speak for him. He created 808s and Heartbreak, a completely new direction for Kanye and the new sound is well represented on the lead single Love Lockdown.

Gone were the soul samples and witty remarks synonymous with his work, and in its place was minimal instrumentation, auto-tune vocals and more of a singing delivery. While this song and the album as a whole still divides fans and critics today, Love Lockdown still serves as a breakthrough moment in his career and music in general. The track’s production incorporates a simple drum beat, which then moves into piano chords before the iconic African drums kick in for the chorus. Once again, Kanye’s skills as a producer come to the fore here as he paces the way for a whole new wave of rap and pop music while at the same time turning his grief and pain into the recipe for his own success.

7. Bound 2

Somewhat of an anomaly on Kanye West’s sixth album Yeezus, Bound 2 features the soulful samples and playful lyrics we have come to expect from Kanye but contrasts to the abrasive and dark sound found on the nine tracks that precede the album closer. However, due to the theme of the album, the track fits perfectly. Documenting the rise and fall of “Yeezus”, the album ends with a happy ending, as Kanye accepts his past that he details on the rest of the album and looks to the future, that being with his wife Kim Kardashian.

Bound 2 is a love song in the most Kanye way possible; it oozes his personality and humour and with that shows it’s sincerity. This doesn’t sound like a man convincing himself that he is in love, moreover, Kanye is ready to move on from his past and be a better person and with that, finally enjoy a healthy relationship. Bound 2 is often overlooked for its wacky sound and often hilarious lyrics, but this gives it endless charm and personality and it benefits from that.

6. Real Friends

In 2016, Kanye finally released his most anticipated album yet. The album’s release was unlike any seen before, as its every final touch was documented via his social media, including its multiple name changes and track additions, and now removals, eventually resulting in the release of The Life Of Pablo, which was still tampered with and added to after it’s release – even at the time of writing, it’s still being tinkered with. Despite all the hype, the album ended up being his most inconsistent, but with the egotistical lows, came the introspective highs, such as Real Friends.

Laid out over a sombre beat, Kanye reflects on how his current life course has affected his friendships and family relationships. Considering his public perception at the time, this track was completely unexpected as many had assumed he was no longer able to look at himself in such a critical manner. The credit goes to the uncertainty of the track, at points Kanye blames his friends, but then blames himself, and instead of being hypocritical, this shows the complexity of human relationships and how no one really knows how to balance everything and please everyone and this results in a stunningly human moment from Kanye even at his most famous status.

5. Hey Mama

Kanye’s close relationship with his late mother, Donda West, has been well documented both in the media and in his music. Nowhere else is his appreciation and admiration for her displayed so explicitly on Hey Mama from his second album Late Registration.

After the success of The College Dropout, Kanye no doubt felt compelled to include this song he wrote a few years earlier in his next project as his mother had always supported his decision to pursue a music career despite originally believing he should complete college. Debuting the song on Oprah with Donda in the audience, Kanye shows his humility in thanking the one person who believed in him. The song tells the story of how his mother provided for him and promises that he will always be thankful and ultimately admits “I just want you to be proud of me.

Listening to this track over a decade since his mother passed away and knowing how the shock and loss affected Kanye and how is seemingly still suffering, it is an emotional listen but a wholesome moment in his discography.

4. Gorgeous

Undoubtedly his best album, Kanye solidified his status as one of the greats with the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010. While this list could have been the tracklist of that album, one stand out track is Gorgeous, a product of Kanye’s frustration with the racism prevalent in America.

Set over one of West’s most inventive beats, the sprawling guitar riff beautifully contrasts Kanye’s hard-hitting lyrics that express his frustration with racism in America. Perfectly executing his skill for mixing anger with humour, Kanye delivers some of his best verses on this track. Referencing everything from South Park beef to the theory that the government created AIDs to eliminate African Americans and featuring a guest verse from Wu Tang Clan’s Raekwon, the track personifies the hip-hop masterpiece that the album it comes from is.

3. Jesus Walks

Kanye continued to show his ambition on his fourth single, Jesus Walks. Told by everyone that a track about his belief on God wouldn’t get airplay, Kanye did what he wanted anyway and although this attitude has been hit and miss for him throughout his life, here it paid off and ultimately birthed his career.

The track features gospel samples and a classic Kanye beat as he discusses his own struggle with life and how his faith in God helps him through. From his first single, Kanye proved his ability to consider complex ideas such as redemption whilst still delivering a hit song with a catchy hook. Additionally, looking back at the track it seems to foreshadow his future work such as similar themes and the overlapping falsetto background vocals from Kanye himself that are reminiscent of future projects.

2. New Slaves

Yeezus is the album where Kanye showed that he really could do anything. Again going in a different direction than expected, the album featured jarring beats, violent and sexually explicit lyrics and boldly embraced his own ego.

New Slaves is arguably Kanye at his most creative, aggressive and passionate. Venting his anger at racism, especially in the fashion industry, the track sticks in your mind due to its raw power. Possibly his best verse ever appears in the latter half of the song and it has to be heard to be appreciated for its lyricism and sincerity. Ending the track stretching his vocal ability singing “I’m not dying and I can’t lose” as his vocals lead into a beautiful outro from Frank Ocean, the track claims its place as one of Kanye’s best.

1. Runaway

It’s no surprise why Runaway is often considered Kanye’s best track, and if not at least his most important in reflecting upon himself and his past. Looking back on his several failed relationships, Kanye rejects the toxic view that no one is good enough for him, but instead tragically releases it is himself that is the problem and that he needs to work on himself.

Opening with the now famous but still as haunting piano keys, the track has a chilling aura to it that is telling of Kanye’s admiration of Stanley Kubrick and the scores to his films. Kanye admits cleanly, and with no sugar coating, of the pain and hurt he has caused the people he loves and simply tells them to leave because he just is not good enough. The track ends with a long outro of initially indistinguishable lyrics that gradually clear up as Kanye sings the hook to the song once more, clearly full of emotion and sincerity. The distortion represents his own view of relationships and why he messes them up, but as his words eventually become understandable, it is clear that Kanye does have some heart, however, he now knows it’s up to him to find it on his own.

check out the tracks above in this handy playlist

Butlerisms: Why Your Dad Is Wrong About Hip-Hop

by oliver butler (@notoliverbutler)

Ah, 2018. Six days into you and we’ve already had a dick swinging contest between the USA and North Korea and learned that the leader of the former is a petulant child who enjoys cheeseburgers and hairspray. Not even the Gorilla Channel could soothe our already weary souls, as we realise that this year probably isn’t going to get much better. Just more of the same shit under a different banner.

So it was no surprise that everyone’s favourite free puppy training paper, the NME, took time out of its busy schedule reporting on Liam Gallagher taking a shit or comparing some big band with The Beatles (because every band’s benchmark in life is to be the fucking Beatles) to furrow their indie brows, scratch their chins and cluck “Is Hip Hop now bigger than Rock?”.

Side note: I once got into an argument with the nice lady who works in my local record store because she tried to give me a copy of the NME and I really, really didn’t want it.

 

2018-01-06

 

First of all, the data confirms it. Hip-hop artists filled Nielsen’s end of year data on what people listened to, with only Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift muscling in the top ten, the latter proving that an appetite for eating shit is still rife. Really, that’s come as a shock to nobody who doesn’t believe that music peaked with Oasis. Hip-hop has forever been a more accessible genre, able to cross all tastes. The average metalcore fan and the average pop fan would both be able to listen to Drake with relative ease, because it’s easy on the ears with an accessible sound and theme, but would the average pop fan be able to swallow up some Architects? Probably not, whilst it’s not a secret club, any kind of rock music is indeed an acquired taste unless it’s got a poppy, accessible sound.

Hip-hop being bigger than rock isn’t really the problem, because, at the end of the day, it’s all music; good music is good music regardless, and shouldn’t have to be held aloft purely because it belongs to a certain genre. The real issue here and the one that’s grinding my gears to no end is as per usual, the reaction to the statement that hip-hop is bigger than rock.

“God help us” tweets yer da, who’s currently praying that an Oasis reunion will finally show the kids some good music.

“Crap-hop, more like, Kanye West isn’t half as talented as REAL musicians” your boyfriend comments, desperately searching for that clip of Ye singing Bohemian Rhapsody, determined to prove his point by missing out his entire discography.

“Eugh, it’s just people saying ‘yo yo yo’ and talking about their ‘bitches'” says your weird coworker, who’s probably never listened to hip-hop, but is pretending they know something.

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The problem here is tribalism. People are so damn narrow-minded that they think bland, milquetoast indie rock like Oasis is the absolute pinnacle of music, or believe that the true flag bearers of rock and roll are the Foo Fighters. Both of these bands are good, but you need to wake up and smell the fucking coffee man as there’s a whole world of great music beyond a driving songs compilation!

Maybe it’s the folk I’ve encountered over the years, but most of this tribalism comes from people only listening to rock music. That’s it. Just rock music. None of that pop for me thank you, I’m happy listening to just rock music (and from experience, not good rock music), and you can keep that stupid hip-hop away from me, it’s just people in hats talking to a beat – it’s so fucking stupid.

When the Coachella announcement landed this week, former boyband heartthrob Louis Tomlinson took to the auld Twitter to ask where all the bands were. I mean, first things first, there ARE bands there you dumb fuck, with alt-J, Highly Suspect, A Perfect Circle, Alvvays and FUCKING CHIC, THE BEST BAND EVER, making an appearance. But obviously, because The Weeknd, Beyoncè and confusingly, Eminem were headlining, this now meant that there were no bands there, and band music was dead. You see what I’m on about here? Because hip-hop/R&B takes statistical prominence, that suddenly means that all the bands ever have been violently culled and will never perform anywhere again. Pull the fucking other mate, and take a look at the Download line up if you want bands.

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I’mma keep it real with you here chief, I don’t listen to that much hip hop compared to some of the other writers here, but I still keep my ears open and palette clean for fresh beats. Some of the best music I heard in 2017 was hip-hop, including Brockhampton & Kendrick Lamar, and I just know that there’s more of that out there, and it’s clear to see why it’s the biggest genre. If someone like me, who does live off a primary diet of heavy rock, metal & big riffs can appreciate the genius that goes into hip-hop, it’s not hard to see why it’s so popular; it’s for everyone, it’s relatable, it’s without dumbing it down too much, poetry on the beat.

This stupid tribalism in music needs to fucking stop. People need to get their heads out of their asses and realise that there’s more to life than thinking rock music is the be all and end all, and that all rock music is great, because it’s really, really not. If you think The Hunna, Liam Gallagher, and The Courteeners are levels above someone like Kendrick, Future or even Kanye, you need your fucking head rattling, because just because it’s rock music, doesn’t mean it’s automatically better. I absolutely love rock music, I love heavy metal, I consider Motörhead and Black Sabbath to be the best acts of all time, but I’m not so damn blinkered that I believe that is all there is to music.

So go on, go and explore some hip-hop, even if ashamedly, you end up liking it. Nobody’ll tell on you.

Album Review: Brockhampton – Saturation II

By Ryan Martin (@RyanMartin182)

In the music industry, following up a successful debut album is often hard to do. It’s a rarity to see an artist carry over what made their debut so exciting with such effortless consistency. Brockhampton, the self-proclaimed “boyband” of 20-24 year olds making music independently out of their house, have done that. They have arguably improved on their debut within the two months since its release.

Brockhampton initially caught waves throughout the internet through their wildly unique self-made music videos for their debut, Saturation. Saturation II followed that same formula and put out music videos for GUMMY, SWAMP, JUNKY, and SWEET. All videos are introduced by web-producer/producer member Robert Ontinient with the now infamous line “Me Illamo Roberto” Ontinient handles all the skits throughout Saturation II as he did in Brockhampton’s first album. The skits are now referred to as scenes as Saturation II follows a five-letter-word rule for every track except the last track which has six. If this sounds familiar, it’s because they did the same thing with Saturation but with four and five letters respectively.

Throughout Saturation II, tracks seamlessly transition into one another without losing a consistent vibe or mood. Tracks also will splinter apart to make way for a new idea or hook, such as the blistering energy of QUEER that flips to an Outkast inspired hook before you have a second to breathe. Kevin Abstract, the ringleader of Brockhampton, usually handles the hooks and has a knack for creating sticky catchy choruses influenced from the likes of M.I.A. and Pharrell. Tracks like SWEET, GUMMY, SWAMP and TOKYO come to mind.

Almost every hook on the album is memorable in someway and really showcases how far Abstract has come in just a year, looking back at the mixed-reception on his sophomore album, American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story, released just last fall. Since then, Abstract sounds more confident as a performer and has incredibly impressive verses (JUNKY) and hooks (JELLO) all throughout Saturation II. But as talented and visionary as Abstract is, he doesn’t steal the spotlight away from Brockhampton. Members, JOBA, Ameer Vann, Merlyn Wood, Matt Champion, Bearface, and Dom McLennon all have moments throughout every song where they steal the song with their unique styles and undeniably talents.

JOBA has one of the most unique moments with his verse on the back end of SWEET. Mixing falsetto vocals with aggressive bars, it sounds like an anomaly in hip-hop music today. Ameer Vann delivers confessional bars coated with a silk smooth flow that has made him a fan-favorite of the group. TEETH gives Vann a track all to himself where his aggressiveness gradually increases over a slightly haunting sample of “ooo’s” FIGHT shows Vann at his most confessional as it does Dom McLennon. McLennon has often been referred to as the most technical out of Brockhampton and for good reason. McLennon has a knack for quick bars with honesty winded in his rapid rhymes. Such as the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it verse McLennon delivers at the end of JUNKY, one of the most aggressive energetic tracks on the whole album. Filled with incredible verses front to back.

No hands with the stunts / Jump off the roof like I do what I want / All of the life in my past wanna haunt / And my sight of the future beginning to taunt my ambition / Man on the moon, I’m marooned / I ain’t trippin’, I’m on a mission”

Tracks like QUEER and SWEET showcases the dynamic nature of member Merlyn Wood, who yelps his verses with an infectious energy. Wood demonstrates this perfectly on QUEER with a message:

“First off fuck Dolce & Gabbana / Racist mothersuckers tryna be my father / Put that on me auntie and me mama / Grab the Ghost then I go right back to Ghana”

Or the more light-hearted verse in SWEET

 “Don’t call me stupid, that ain’t the way my name pronounced / Don’t call me Cupid, I got too many hoes right now / Poolside in Houston, tryna see if Beyonce will take me for adoption / Broke-ass rich suburbs”

Matt Champion, another fan favorite always delivers with confessional lyrics that are masked by an undeniably swagger, such as his verse in JUNKY

My mom’s no alcoholic, she just wanna drown her sorrows / Love her to death and soon enough I’ll give back all I borrowed”

“Where the respect? Is your ass human? / I look you in your eyes, say “fuck you, are you fuckin’ stupid? / Respect my mother, ‘spect my sister, ‘spect these women, boy”

While Saturation II tends to be fueled by energy, there are few cuts that capture the woozy R&B sound perfectly, such as SUNNY or Bearface’s masterpiece, SUMMER which features such an infectious guitar lick that it evokes emotion. Moving from an energetic track like SWEET to a slower ballad like GAMBA may be the only moment in the entire album that any momentum is lost at all. GAMBA is a love-sick ballad with a sticky repetitive hook from Abstract. If there was a weakest track on Saturation II, this would be it but it’s still an impressive track overall in the grand scheme of hip-hop today.

Saturation II is one of the strongest albums of this year. It’s a refreshing break from the rinse-wash-repeat formula of hip-hop that has been so dominant this year. Brockhampton is filled with so much talent in every member and their latest offering demonstrates such a cohesive collaboration from every member that it makes you wonder where they can go from this and how quickly it’ll be before everyone is familiar with America’s hottest new boyband.

9/10

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Album Review: Ghostpoet- Dark Days + Canapés

By Ethian Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

As referenced in the title of Ghostpoet’s fourth album, the time we are living in right now are, without a doubt, dark days. Due to this, many artists, bands and other members of the media industry have used their medium as a form of escapism whilst some have used it to rally momentum for change. However there a few that have been overwhelmed by the current state of the world and find themselves with nothing much to say other than how awful everything is, and Ghostpoet finds himself very much in that place on this bleak record.

Throughout his career, Ghostpoet has has no problem sounding unique and relevant. While his influences have always been clear, the contrast between his electronic and more recently alt-rock sound, combined with his often laid-back, spoken-word delivery, is something that is distinctly memorable and that has always been his strongest asset. However now on his fourth album, that is no longer enough as he now has to stand out amongst his own back catalogue and continue to progress musically – whilst making some strides in doing this, ultimately that is where this album slightly falls short of living up to his past work.

On 2015’s Shedding Skin, Ghostpoet transitioned almost completely away from his signature electronic sound to a more instrumentally based sound in a risk that paid off, giving that album a sense of urgency and impact that complemented his lyrics and vocal delivery. On his follow-up, here he is still sticking mostly to that sound with a few detours into earlier territory which ultimately gives the impression he was unsure himself where he wanted to go with this album. Of course since his sound has served him so well in the past, this album is by no means a misfire, it just seems out of character for Ghostpoet to not have a clear musical direction.

Thematically, this album is very bleak, with the main focus being on modern life however most of the political takes are more personal than a statement on world affairs, such as how these things affect his outlook on life more than what these events mean for the actual world itself. This is an interesting way to write about politics and the world around us without ending up having an album just like any other released at the time and this was a good move from Ghostpoet. Despite this it does at times feel as he doesn’t have that much to say this time around, with his lyrics being derivative at times such as his references to tinder “so I swiped left and figured out” that just feel a bit forced. It’s when his lyrics focus more on the feeling of hopelessness in this era that the tracks hit harder. He demonstrates this on tracks such as Immigrant Boogie and Trouble + Me and these tracks are some of the strongest.

Overall there’s not much to hate on this album but there isn’t much to love either. Fans of Ghostpoet will find a lot of enjoyment within this album but it does little to progress himself musically or lyrically and finds him perhaps playing it a bit safe. However his previous material has been so strong the elements of that still present make this album an enjoyable listen, even if it’s a predictable one.

6/10

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