Reviews, Weekly

Cudi Drops Passion, Pain & Demon Slayn’

Huge shout out to Kid Cudi for releasing a new album titled Passion, Pain & and Demon Slayin’, and admitting…

Huge shout out to Kid Cudi for releasing a new album titled Passion, Pain & and Demon Slayin’, and admitting to his struggles with addiction. Cudi dropped the 19 track album just after his release from rehab. The man had a lot to say and didn’t hold back. Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ hit home for the artist. Featuring Pharrell Williams, André 3000 (credited as André Benjamin), Travis Scott and Willow Smith, Cudi seeks redemption after the complete flop of his 2015 album A Speedin Bullet To Heaven.

But do not overlook Cudi’s latest album. The theme illustrates a tone that parallels his life which is split into four Acts. The intro track “Frequency” is fire. It sets the mood for the entire album. The production is nice and exhibits an emotional contrast which can be best heard in the track “Swim in the Light.” Complementing the essence of passion, Cudi opens up and comes to terms with his struggles.

Passion, Pain, & Demon Slayin’ is a great title for his sixth studio album. It defines his journey. The album shows he has a lot to get off his chest, which can be expected given his latest battles with depression and substance abuse. However, Cudi values the creative process and is has always produced an original sound.

Even though Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ is a lengthy project, Cudi’s talent shines through. Prominent piano and violin melodies are mixed with hard hitting drums that intensify tracks like “Rose Golden,” “By Design” and “Does It.” They could be easily considered among the top tracks of 2016.

Cudi has an assortment of well-known collaborations on this album. Producer Mike Will Made It adds a spacey ambiance, giving it a psychedelic groove within the likeness of that classic Cudi sound. It is evident after listening to Passion, Pain and Demon Slayin’ that Cudi has a renewed sense of self. Not only is this album loaded with hits, but it also symbolizes both anguish and agency at his most vulnerable.

It is relevant to point out that Cudi lays back on this album, taking an ear from the production team. However, most of the album features Cudi vocally with a few notable exceptions. Pharrell chimes in on two tracks, “Flight at First Sight/Advanced” and “Surfin.” Andre 3000 lays it down on “By Design” and “The Guide,” and Travis Scott on “Baptized in Fire. ” Willow Smith also performs a dope duet on “Rose Golden.” Of course, Cudi’s signature moaning and humming are present throughout the background throughout the entire album.

The subject matter is not only revealing but also assertive. For example, on the track “Does It,” Cudi takes an opposing position and calls out his critics, “doing music, TV, and music, sitting on the floors we ain’t heard of/And the media wanna act like I ain’t out here, I’m out here.” On his final track “Surfin’,” Cudi leaves us with an air of confidence. He expresses his commitment to being back on top of the game, “Ain’t ridin’ no waves/Too busy making my waves, baby.” Clearly, Cudi is making new strides and sending a message of personal empowerment.

The album’s biggest problem is its length which is 90 minutes long. Act 4 could easily be released as an EP. Cudi seems to have a hard time landing his plane. But all 19 tracks are dope and worth listening to. One thing for sure, Cudi sounds like himself again. The best thing about this album are the redeeming features both personally and artistically, making Passion, Pain and Demon Slayn’ an elaborate metaphor of his life, coming up in the game.

My name is David Morales. I have a background as a writer, blogger, drummer, and in human services. I love music and I love writing about it! I am passionate about helping others, learning and have a deep empathy for the creative process. You can check me out on twitter @dcypherstudios. I have no pets.
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Rapper Kiro Gives Listeners A Vicarious Walk Through His Madness

The LP is a mix of therapeutic release and harsh lessons.

Two things have consistently proven themselves correct. One, life sometimes takes unexpected twists and turns—and things don’t always go as expected. Two, addiction has no bias and no mercy. LA-based Kiro has learned both of these truths first hand. 

“I attended college with hopes of one day becoming a criminal defense lawyer but dropped out three years in due to opiate addiction,” he tells AAHH. After getting clean, he moved to LA to pursue music but unfortunately relapsed, resulting in him becoming homeless.

His LP, Bobblehead, is a reflection of the messy, frantic reality of living on the streets and the consequences of choices (“Prices”), unhealthy relationships that enable addiction (”Blues”), and overcoming with conviction—and a love of Hip Hop.

The album itself is at points sonically spastic—over-the-top echoes, harshly mixed vocals—yet, finds it’s footing, in the way that skit-heavy early work by Madlib finds a way to sew it all together. The Biggie sample used as the chorus on “Blues,” or the jazzy bop of “Who?,” even the spacey, almost a Neptunes-esque sound of “Survival Tactics” help to balance out some of the looser/freestyled material.

Some of the freestyle, train of thought bars, paired with some of the project’s engineering choices—intentional or not—could be a bit of a turn off for some listeners more drawn to today’s wave of hip-pop artists, and less so with head scratching classics by the likes of Kool Keith (often meant for a niche audience). Still the heart and soul of the project shines through as the LP presses forward through what could be possibly the cinematic soundtrack to a gritty indie film circa mid-90s.

“[I] put together with the hopes that I can help somebody else avoid mistakes I made,” he says. One listen to “Survival Tactics” is enough to not only reaffirm his authenticity but sway younger listeners from choices that may ultimately lead them to have actually to use the almost biblical amount out street smarts he’s given us.

It’s not for everyone, but the vision and experience are satisfying after a top to bottom spin.

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Reviews, unsigned hype

Jahan Nostra’s “ESP” Project Is A Dope Ride

Had a new LP float across my desk this week, ESP by Jahan Nostra — an emcee mounded by Stamford,…

Had a new LP float across my desk this week, ESP by Jahan Nostra — an emcee mounded by Stamford, Connecticut and Mount Vernon, New York. Now, the project isn’t new per say, as it initially dropped in 2016, and was remastered late last year. Regardless, I made it my movement music for a week.

Here’s the breakdown.

Sonically, it’s difficult to put my finger on. The beats don’t quite hit the mark of what’s going on in-game today, not even quite from a backpacking 90s perspective. So it has this kind of literal timeless feeling to it. From the jazzy big-city New York vibe of “Welcome Home,” he sets a great vibe. It’s fully consistent, but it’s not a bad thing. He does maintain a keep it moving, maintain, and make it to the top theme for the first half of the LP songs like “Embrace The Rain.”

The features on the LP are quite impressive. Philly mainstay Tone Trump hops on the super atmospheric “Whole Life,” and Brooklyn legends Smif N Wessun hop on the album highlight “No Stress.” The Rey Vega featured “One of Them Days” is way too understated, though. It’s probably one of my fave songs on the project, basically following him as he hits up ATL.

The second half of the LP has a few gems; “El Chapo” with Ceschi, “Time” featuring Kyro & Wednesday Atoms, and “Bricks and Sponsorship” all give more insight into Jahan as a street guy—without being at all explicit. The latter record, explores the cause and effect of street-life, with a running commentary on the prison system in the US.

At 16-songs in length, there is a lot to love. He’s a project boy who puts a lot into this music shit; everything about him suggests quality—right down to the photography. He has an excellent package. Looking forward to new material.

Early. 

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Main, Reviews

Cole Delivers On Record-Breaking KOD

The real is back, the Ville is back. Legendary North Carolina rapper J. Cole burst back onto the scene last…

The real is back, the Ville is back. Legendary North Carolina rapper J. Cole burst back onto the scene last week after a relatively quiet year, releasing his 4th full-length studio LP titled KOD. After an action packed three days, which included two international pop-up shows and a series of exciting tweets, the album was finally released on all major streaming platforms on Friday, April 20th (international stoner day, hint hint). Buckle up, my friends, because there’s a lot to unpack here.

The three alternate album titles, Kids on Drugs, King Overdosed, and Kill Our Demons, along with the artwork – which features children snorting cocaine, sipping lean, and smoking weed – pointed to the album being a critique of todays youth drug culture. While addiction and substance abuse are major themes of the album, KOD lacks specific direction and is not solely based on these issues. The project is more so general social commentary, with Cole flittering back and forth between a litany of deep and timely topics. The combination of the cover artwork, the 4/20 release-date, and title themes are misleading. There’s far too much going on in KOD for a concrete storyline to come to light.

While online theories are entertaining and partially correct, they still don’t account for the many conflicting portions of the album. Take kiLL edward, for example, who is listed as the album’s lone feature but is actually Cole’s drug abusing alter-ego (when edward speaks, it’s a heavily filtered version of Cole’s voice). It would be all well and good if, as theorized online, edward is the evil king of the rap game attempting to lure Cole to the dark side and join the youth in their reckless and hedonistic behavior. Throughout the album, Cole fights off edward with all of his might and eventually kills him (so they say online). But edward only has a minimal presence on the album; he’s only featured on two songs. The entertaining back and forth that could have been never comes to fruition and ultimately, the theme falls short of its full potential.

 
To complicate matters further, it’s nearly impossible to tell when Cole is speaking from his own perspective or that of someone else. Take the track “KOD,” for example, which, flow-wise and production-wise, is a slapper. Cole starts the track with lyrics that are undoubtedly from his own perspective, as he’s known for going platinum twice before without any features: “How much you worth? How big is your home? How come you won’t get a few features? I think you should? How ’bout I don’t?” Later on the track, however, Cole, who doesn’t even smoke weed, brags about sipping lean: “Yeah, at this shit daily, sipped so much Actavis I convinced Actavis that they should pay me.” Is this kiLL edward speaking? Is this Cole speaking from the perspective of another rapper? It’s impossible to tell. All of this is rapped in Cole’s normal voice, implying that it’s not coming from kiLL edward’s perspective.

Only a few bars later, Cole spits a line that is again inarguably personal: “Platinum disc and I own masters, bitch, pay me.” If Cole wanted to make a themed album, he should have either rapped any lyrics that didn’t apply to himself using edward’s distorted voice, or, he could have simply listed edward as a feature on any track that contains lines from Cole’s alter-ego perspective and let the fans decipher which lines apply to whom. Cole reached in his attempt to make a themed album and convoluted an otherwise great body of work. Based on the twelve tracks that make up this project, he should have given the album a more general title and a piece of artwork.

Album theme aside, KOD is a moving and highly educational body of work. To piggyback off of Charlemagne Tha God’s joke, The ROC should be changed to the T.E.D. because the amount of knowledge Jay-Z and Cole consistently give to the people is astounding. On the closer, “1985,” Cole responds to criticism he’s received from Lil Pump with some informatory, simultaneously scorching, bars:

One day, them kids that’s listening gon’ grow up
And get too old for that shit that made you blow up/Now your show’s lookin’ light cause they don’t show up/Which unfortunately means the money slow up/Now you scramblin’ and hopin’ to get hot again/But you forgot you only popped ’cause you was ridin’ trends/Now you old news and you goin’ through regrets/‘Cause you never bought that house, but you got a Benz.

Like “1985,” the album is full of must-listens. On the “Once an Addict” interlude, Cole describes the anguish and guilt he felt as a teen watching his mother struggle with substance abuse. On “The Cut Off,” he explores toxic, one-way relationships that he’s been forced to end. On “Friends,” he pleads with other companions of his struggling with addiction, promising that there are healthier ways to overcome systematic-oppression-induced anxiety and depression. The stories and messages on KOD are far more important than its production, which is percussion heavy and melodically muted – this is in stark contrast to some of Cole’s older, glossier, sample-laden projects such as The Warm Up and Friday Night Lights.

 
Cole did what he does best on KOD, summing up complex and poignant topics with conciseness and clarity. While some argue that his work is overly simplistic, it’s important to keep in mind when listening to a Cole album that it’s just that, an album, and not a graduate school thesis. To convey his thoughts in such an articulate manner over just 42 minutes, as he does on KOD, highlights his underrated talent as a wordsmith. More importantly, Cole again achieved his primary goal: to educate, inspire, and lead as many people as possible through his selfless works of art. It’s officially a Cole spring, and the official closing track title, “1985 (Intro to The Fall Off”),” hints that it may indeed be a Cole summer too.

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Main, Must Read, New Music, Reviews

2nd Annual Milk and Cookies Music + Food Festival Re-Cap

This past weekend was definitely one for the books! The highly anticipated 2nd Annual Milk and Cookies Music + Food…

This past weekend was definitely one for the books! The highly anticipated 2nd Annual Milk and Cookies Music + Food Festival kicked off on April 7th at 787 Windsor in Atlanta. The event highlighted well-known locals along with some big names from the music industry. There were also tasty food and dessert trucks that served ticket holders all evening long.

The event started with ATL native, Dj Decoteau of Bae Worldwide; following Tim Gunter who both ripped the turntables as the venue began to fill up. Later, Summer Walker, the first female artist of LVRN, took to the stage to perform for her very first time. Energetic local talent Bosco, came out jumping as the crowd went wild. After her epic performance, I was able to steal a quick question from her. I asked how she’s feeling at this point in her music career. Bosco stated she’s feeling super inspired and excited for her career. She also talked to me about who in the music game influences her. It wasn’t a surprise when she dropped names such as Erykah Badu and Lauren Hill and of course loves her indie artists.

Sahbabii followed, tearing the stage down with their mega hit “Pull Up With Ah Stick” and “Purple Ape.” Their hype man brought out a life-size blunt that filled the sky with a purple haze that surely set the tone for the rest of the evening. When ATL native Xavier Omar hit the stage next, he started with a rendition of the infamous “Pokémon Go” track. He then brought out some major R&B vibes when he performed his hit “Blind Man” and his band was definitely one of a kind.

Around 7pm, the sun disappeared and chilling temperatures and rainfalls came as a surprise. However, none of that stopped the amazing Singer, Songwriter Alina Baraz when it was her time to shine. Her album The Color of You that debut just one day prior to the Milk and Cookies Music Festival was in perfect timing. She performed two songs from her album and some good throwbacks.

“I want my fans to know I love and thank them very much for all the support they have shown.”
—Alina Baraz

Hours before she took the stage, she held a private meet and greet with her fans that were in VIP. Right before her team shuffled her back to her trailer, I was able to grab a quick interview. I was curious where her inspiration came from for her new album; Baraz mentioned how she didn’t necessarily have a plan for the album, stating she would go into the studio and let her vibes do the writing. Her album is based off things that have happened from her past. I asked Baraz what is one thing she wants her fans to know; she said “I want my fans to know I love and thank them very much for all the support they have shown.”

The last to perform was none other than Tory Lanez. After just playing one song, his humble spirit wouldn’t allow him to continue performing on stage while the crowd stood in the rain. Lanez continued his set while jumping into the hands of his screaming fans and standing on speakers. He shut the stage down with songs from his 2nd album Memories Don’t Die which released March 2nd. He also reminisced with the crowd while performing hits “Luv” and “Say It.”

To go along with the great music vibes, there were mouth-watering treats and culture filled food trucks. The menus consisted of everything from funnel cakes and hibachi grills on wheels, to curry chicken and of course cookies and ice cream. There were also local graffiti artists in attendance that added their touch to the former steam-boiler manufacturing facility turned industrial art space which is now called 787 Windsor.

It’s safe to say that the 2nd Annual Milk and Cookies Music + Food Festival was a total hit! Despite the weather, everyone, including the artist truly enjoyed the entire event. I’m sure we’ll all be anticipating the 3rd year, as well.

Below, catch some shots of some of the artist who performed!

2nd Annual Milk and Cookies Music + Food Festival Re-Cap

2nd Annual Milk and Cookies Music + Food Festival Re-Cap

2nd Annual Milk and Cookies Music + Food Festival Re-Cap

2nd Annual Milk and Cookies Music + Food Festival Re-Cap

2nd Annual Milk and Cookies Music + Food Festival Re-Cap

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