RUN THE JEWELS / CHILDISH GAMBINO / RAPSODY / KXNG CROOKED / J. COLE / AB-SOUL / KID CUDI [#GeekSwag Reviews]: Sorry We Missed You.
While most other music blogs and webzines are posting up their annual “Best Albums of the Year” noms, we’re still playing catch-up with the hip-hop onslaught that was November and December. Got-damn! Hey, us over at #GeekSwag play video games, read comics, watch some wrasslin’ and wait in line for superhero movies, too.
But in the meanwhile, enjoy your last ditch effort to get the music you need into your eardrum with the very best reviews only these geeks can offer. Now, let’s hit you off…
It’s “A Christmas Fucking Miracle!”
In a year that left many cynically hopeless and destructively jaded, leave it to the world’s greatest rap duo to bless our eardrums with their third modern day hip-hop classic in 4-years on Christmas Eve, of all godsent times. #FeeltheBern leader, social activist and mega-emcee Killer Mike sing-songily breaks “Down” those exact sentiments on the album’s first few bars over RTJ’s traditional sonic boom. “I hope.. I hope with the highest of hopes/ That I never have to go back to the trap and my days of dealing with dope/So I.. I only spit fire and dope, so later on you can go quote/ My lines to your people and vote..”
The ATLien also lives up to his “Killer” rap mystique, with some unsurprising-yet-highly-effective lyrical barbs aimed at the 45th prez over a dreary El-P offering. “Talk to Me” was released in October, but is arguably more effective than ever. “We return from the depths of the badland/ With a gun and a knife in our waistband/ Went to war with the Devil and Shaytan/ He wore a bad toupee and a spray tan.” That’s what you call living through your lyrics, as the BK’s El-Producto also crushes the mic with as much angst. “Brave men didn’t die face down in the Vietnam muck so I could not style on you…” But it’s the third track “Legend That Has It” that raises the bar with one of the former Def Jux prez’s most ridiculous headnodders to date. How the hell does this man keep topping himself? You’d never know this was already the pair’s third album in just over as many years with how hungry their flows go; imagine your “favorite” club/trap rappers with actual lyrical content!
(Cont.) The hype only gets hyper on “Call Ticketron,” where the Coachella vets place themselves in front of an engaged audience at the world famous Madison Square Garden (presumably deep into the millenium), over a straight nasty, buzzing bassline. “Can’t get past me and stuck in a future…/ The shit ain’t all that it’s cracked up to be/ Your hovercraft’s cool, but the air’s so putrid.” The next two tracks–arguably the minimalist of the 14–“Hey Kids (Bumaye)” and “Stay Gold” will get over at concerts; and while I do appreciate the playful “bad bitch” banter between the two (i.e. “I do push-ups nude on the edge of a cliff”), it’s kinda tough for me to get over the voice of Danny Brown on the former, despite some of the most booming bass of the year. “Don’t Get Captured” and “Thieves” sees the return of the downtroddened sociopolitical, cruising right into the nasty sci-fi bleeps of “2100” that made El-P the household name producer in hip-hop’s underground, if not a reminder of what a collabo with the Gorillaz would wind up sounding like.
“Panther Like A Panther (Miracle Mix)” packs the dynamic duo’s most proficient lyrical linguistics on the LP, with perhaps yet another shocking guest female on the hook: Trina! Even so, the scorching metal strings and crackling bedrock percussion is a hypnotizer. “Everybody Stay Calm” tones down the tempo a notch, featuring tongue-in-cheek wordplay (“I’m the Nelson Mandela of Atlanta dope sellers”) and a mellow Def Squadesque hook; imagine PMD performing the hit “Take It Easy” instead of Mad Lion. “Oh Mama” is pure electronic funk with a catchy hook, and “Thursday in the Danger Room” will keep X-Men fans pleased with the lyrical heart-clenching mutant apocalypse over one of the album’s finest beats. Best of all? The album closes off with Zack de la Rocha. The 2-part “A Report to the Shareholders/Kill Your Masters” is, as expected, head-consciously, neck-snappingly glorious. That all said, will an album that dropped one week before New Year’s (the ROTJ of this Star Wars rap-shit, mind you!) wind up Moody’s #GeekSwag AOTY? Stay tuned. 4.5/5 Bibles.
What up, folks? Its your boi, The Belser, back again and hoping your holiday energy has been cheerful and what not. If not, Awaken, My Love! Today’s selection from the Belserverse is the said title from rapper/actor/one-time Spider-Man candidate (although he is slated to appear as either Robbie Robertson/Prowler/an older Miles Morales in the forthcoming Spidey flick, Homecoming), Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino. Now, while the media is promoting this as a rap album, it’s actually not; instead, Awaken… is a bold move by Gambino, coming across as far more of jazz/funk fusion. In fact, he rhymes very little, and mostly sings on the hooks.
While this change would throw most folks–and fans of his previous LPs, Camp and Because the Internet–off, luckily I love jazz and funk. This album reminds more of a modern interpretation of George Duke and Herbie Hancock rather than Tyga or J.Cole. The album is produced by Gambino himself and composer Ludwig Goranssen (who composed the phenomenal score for Creed). Some favorite tracks: “Me and My Mama” and “Redbone”. But! The best of all is “Zombies”, with a lovely beat and lyrical content that describes celebrity leeches and hangers-on as, you know, walkers. While, overall, Awaken, My Love is a departure for Gambino, I spent the better part of a day cruising these streets to this album. 3.5/5 Bibles.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER…
Rapsody always spits hot fire. Since her Return of the B-Girl and For Everything projects–and her appearance on King Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly–she has always shown progression as an artist. The Crown EP is no different. At first listen I couldn’t take the all-over-the-place “Tina Turner”; but after another listen of that killer Public Enemey sample, you can add that one to the heavy rotation. “Gonna Miss You,” feat. Rafael Saddiq, “OooWwee,” feat. 2016 breakout superstar Anderson.Paak, and–my absolute favorite joint on the album–“Fire,” feat. Moonchild are all dope records that have substance, especially the latter with Rap breaking down the major modern issues faced with the history of race and its struggle. After some encouraging words and even more intense flows, Rapsody emerges as a premier hip-hop artist. 4/5 Bibles.
(Cont.) Formerly known as Crooked I, KXNG Crooked is a warfront mouthpiece of political memoirs. #GeekSwag 101: Crooked chronicles battle verses to the ears of a people who need to wake up–better yet–from the viewpoint of a superhero. His latest album, naturally titled Good vs. Evil, comes off like 14-rounds of ammunition bouncing off the psyche. The KXNG handles best when putting your mind on notice with knowledge to save self. Although ever humble, the smarts come with whom he puts in his collaboration squad: Wu-Tang’s RZA, the prez Slim Shady himself, Xzibit, Tech-Nine. This full frontal assault makes the boys of Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket run home to momma. Careful when approaching or listening; a good fear of liking the man’s chops and flow may take over. Crooked even rocks album artwork like “Helsing and his own super hero persona right off the pages of Darkstalkers.” Both albums = 4/5 Bibles.
You know how to detect if you are an impactful artist? If, before and after you drop your project, every troll in the world trolls you and your work.. but can never really explain why they dislike it. That’s what happened to J.Cole on his newest album 4 Your Eyez Only. This is the second time #outtanowhere he drops an album with no features–and no “turn-ups”–and no fair warning that reaches success. While his recent tracks “False Prophets” (which diagnoses Yeezy and Wale) and “Everybody Dies” (disses Mumble Rappers) didn’t make the LP, 4YEO is a chilled-out, deeply expressive concept album that not only has a fine narrative, but also serves as an open letter to his closest loved ones; a description of how his life and the life of his late childhood friend parallels (peep the title track for a more concise heartwrenching tale). Favorite track? “Neighbors”, a true story on how J’s home was raided by S.W.A.T. due to nextdoor snoops that thought he was pushing dope. 4/5 Bibles.
Ab-Soul blesses and balances our chakras while we peer into a new perspective of his third eye that saw 3 geometrically divine feminine shapes of light that illuminated his mind power and blocked the NSA–from interrupting love of beautiful that passed away too soon and to let him know God is a woman–while he was chilling on Carson or Del Amo in Compton with Compton people doing Compton things on another worldly level of spiritual chaos with some guns and a few hoes but not too many because love is important since God is a woman but also…fuck Jay Electronica.
(Cont.) That sentence is a perfect representation of Do What Thou Wilt. Ab is beast; his albums just seem to get more and more complex. While Control System is still my favorite project from him, this is a dope album for those that still enjoy lyrics and intricate rhyme schemes. I would recommend listening to it in pieces, as, from beginning to end, the references get kind of redundant. “Raw Backwards” is an incredible opener until he starts talking shit about Jay Electronica, sounding ultra-forced and out of place. But yea, there’s undeniable talent with Ab; I’ll listen to anything he puts out.
(Cont.) Look, I dont like Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’–but I’m man enough to know when something I don’t like is good. This album is incredible if you’re addicted to melodies. Not lyrics; just melodies. I mean, Cudi raps, but it’s mostly just hums. The first song is something about frequencies and after 2 listens, I don’t remember anything else about it. Not even the title, seriously. He says a few words and you think you’re gonna get into it; then it’s just hums and instruments for 307,000 minutes. I can’t knock the quality of this album just because I’m not into the vibe. Kid Cudi’s ultra strong following will love this album. A few new fans might even join the team, but not me. And thats OK. Ab-Soul = 3.75/5 Bibles; Kid Cudi = 3.5/5.