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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Main, Reviews

Eminem: Kamikaze- A Relapse of Epic Proportion

Poor Eminem. He’s damned if he do and damned if he don’t. His last album, 2017’s pop-heavy Revival, flopped by…

Poor Eminem. He’s damned if he do and damned if he don’t. His last album, 2017’s pop-heavy Revival, flopped by way of social media yet wasn’t a total disaster. It moved units and afforded him headlining spots on the summer festival circuit- but it didn’t give the fans what they needed. Or did it?

This conundrum surrounds Eminem’s career. When he’s on there’s only a handful of rappers alive who can compete with his pen and his fury. But when he bogs down projects with introspection- giving us a break from his hyper-aggro screaming at the mic- it feels like we’ve been cheated. Stans can’t deal with the sappy pop-crossovers, and today’s charts simply do not have space for good old-fashioned rap acrobatics. So what’s an aging top-five-dead-or-alive rapper to do?

Marshall Mathers unleashed Kamikaze as his response to the Twitter army (and critics) who condemned him- an unexpected and venomous (although carefully measured) surprise album packed with more syllables than a semester’s worth of English-as-a-second language classes. As we all secretly hoped for, rappers ain’t safe from Em’s verbal barrage of double and triple time bars on Kamikaze, and if you have time to unpack these 13 tracks you’ll find some genuine heat.

Unfortunately, if you really unpack these ferocious bars you’ll find a grumpy old man rapping for the simple sake of reminding us how technically skilled he truly is. The problem is we’ve known that for ages. Reverting back to early 2000’s Eminem complete with the use of “faggot”- his favorite homophobic slur on the otherwise bulletproof “Fall”- does little to contribute to his relevance in 2018.

There are a few maniac standouts on Kamikaze, songs that young rappers should study for the intricate art of word play and cadence (check “The Ringer”, and “Not Alike” featuring Royce Da 5’9). Yet, those lessons are harder to learn when it’s impossible for the listener to catch their breath. For most of the record, Em is in such rapid-fire mode that you absolutely have to run back verses and entire songs to truly digest his messages. Rap nerds and old heads will revel in the task, but is that what the game needs these days? I’d argue no

Kamikaze is a rare full-on barrage of supernatural MC’ing; but it comes and goes without much meaning when the target becomes Machine Gun Kelly-who tweeted about Eminem’s attractive daughter back in 2012. Is there really a hip-hop fan alive willing to side with MGK on this one? And if you’re looking for the most lukewarm, mediocre diss track (possibly ever recorded) check out MGK’s response, “Rap Devil”, a headscratcher that splits its time attempting to discredit Em while simultaneously praising his longevity and abilities. You either want the smoke or you don’t? Like it or not, the whole thing feels like a charade.

Eminem has always carried a chip on his shoulder. When the critics go low, he goes lower. While Kamikaze is far from a low point in what will be viewed someday as a catalog of studio hits and misses, it’s far from the return to form that it was intended to be. He might not be afraid to take a stand, but it’s become tiring trying to figure out exactly who Eminem is standing against.

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Reviews, unsigned hype

Soo Casa Drops His Self-Titled Debut Project

Hailing from — of all places, Burlington (Ontario) — rapper Soo Casa, so has appeared on the site in the…

Hailing from — of all places, Burlington (Ontario) — rapper Soo Casa, so has appeared on the site in the past, has finally gifted his growing fan base with a self-titled body of work. At a hefty 15 songs, which includes a few songs weève already worn out (but are revisiting), he manages to craft a complete picture of his artistic vision that loosies hinted at, but failed to encapsulate fully.

“Cldhnky,” a stylized form for cold honky, “Top Ramen,” and “Ksubi Slushie” had already been floating around and found their way into our listening sessions — as early as late last year. What we found interesting was how versatile of a picture it painted of the MC. While the latter two songs have these interwoven melodies and auto-tuned vocals, “Cldhnky” had this early 2000s vibe to it, that above everything, illustrate his ability to drop rhyme patterns.

“One Take” is another spot that sees him dropping fire rapid-fire flows without missing any pockets. There is also a whole ounce of self-aware humor injected, with over-the-top bars like: “I also rock Balenciagas, put my dick in your girl’s mouth and make her Lady Gaga.”

Songs like “Perc” and “Iactuallylikelilpump” are sonically sound, and reflective of his cohort, but do little to further his artistic vision. To be candid, we’re not 100% sure what his grand idea is, and the breadth of the songs are more or less focused regarding thematic direction, but it’s song structure and delivery that helps draw out his most potent moments.

“Guacamole” comes across as one the standouts on the tracklist, with a flame emoji instrumental and that Soo rides like a dirtbike down a Philly block. “Twice That” with Kid Frankie was another moment that suited him, with this bouncy West Coast vibe that needed to be MUCH longer than a minute and forty seconds. As well, “juicehouse” produced by Platinum producer CashMoneyAP (Migos, Young Boy Never Broke Again, SahBabii, etc.) is another moment worth a few spins.

 

It was also refreshing to see him step out of the lane a few times and try new things. “$wang” with its heavy R&B hook, and bouncy “grinding a shorty at a summer bashment” aura was a pleasant surprise. Would also be remiss not to bring up that sample flip on “Tokyo Plugin,” which was another example of his readjusting his style slightly with pleasant results.

 

Overall, the Slushie God managed to give a little more definition to his range and potential. With summer coming to a close, and as the fall sets in, it’ll be interesting to see what his next moves are and if he chooses to fully marry one of the many faces he’s shown on this LP.

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Reviews, unsigned hype

Kettie Munroe Delivers An Eclectic Symphony On ‘Venus Fly Trap’

Kettie Munroe prides herself on her uniqueness; she opens her mouth and starts singing this great blend of genres that…

Kettie Munroe prides herself on her uniqueness; she opens her mouth and starts singing this great blend of genres that you may not immediately expect from just looking at her and the artwork of her EP, Venus Fly Trap. “I’m known for a lot of upbeat pop tunes yet a little trance and dark [sounds] as well,” she said in a recent interview with BostonVoyager. “I have a balance between the two genres … my songs never sound alike, and I’m well known to fuse different genres into one.”

The Boston-native couldn’t have contextualized her sound any more accurately. Across the short-yet-poignant six song tracklist, the pop-hop singer belts out a curiously eclectic mix of raw emotion and carefully curated beats that run the gambit from pop to radio-ready trap-infusion — like the Dyno produced “Misfit.” This was one of the standouts on the EP, along with the super fierce “Kids Play With Guns.” It was exciting to see that she had given the song a killer video treatment, laden with fresh colors, guns, and lots of attitude.

“Puppet” is another cool record, with an almost Lady Gaga vibe to it; all her songs seem to have a different feeling to them. The EP opener “Omen” sees her taking on this dominant role, reminiscent of the early work by Kelis with Star Trak/Pharrell.

The special sauce of Venus Fly Trap is the songwriting. She has this booming voice with a cadence that’s hard to explain with lyrics that have Adele-level depth, and an emotionally charged energy to them that create this hard to explain connection with her music. It’s top 40 — no argument — but it also has an undeniable amount of heart behind it.

By the time you get to the echo chants of “in love” at the tail end of the EP closer “Star On Earth” — amid the sound of crowds chanting — you can feel that there’s something special about Kettie. It’s that aura that afforded her the opportunity to perform at New York Fashion Week in the World Trade Center, and allowed her to attend the 60th annual GRAMMY Awards viewing party hosted in New York City. “The pop industry has a lot of standards so not fitting in with the rest can be difficult, yet there’s Nothing wrong with being different,” she says. We concur.

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Main, Reviews

Did Denzel Curry’s Ta13oo live up to its hype? (mostly)

During the week of July 23rd, Denzel Curry (aka Ultimate Denzel Curry aka Zeltron aka Aquarius Killer aka Denny Cascade…

During the week of July 23rd, Denzel Curry (aka Ultimate Denzel Curry aka Zeltron aka Aquarius Killer aka Denny Cascade aka the Black Metal Terrorist) dropped his long-awaited album, Ta13oo.

According to Curry’s Twitter, he waited 13 months to drop the project that had been ready for the shelves since 2017, building up hype and making multiple public statements on the state of Hip Hop culture during the interim. Ta13oo serves as a follow up to the well-received album Imperial which was first released as a free album on Soundcloud and then tweaked for major distribution in 2016.

When news came that Curry’s album was going to drop the Carol City emcee claimed that it would be a game-changing album designed to shake up the rap world. To further differentiate himself from other artists he dropped the album in three parts (or acts) on three different days. Each act was labeled Light, Gray, and Dark respectively. And as if this wasn’t enough of a statement in itself, Curry further promoted his album by dropping the highly sophisticated single and video “CLOUT COBAIN | CLOUT CO13AIN” a week prior; a song that is designed to be an introspective and critical examination of dangerous trends in Hip Hop and the commoditization of the modern artist.

Upon my first listen I was surprised to hear how different this album was compared to Curry’s previous work. Act One: Light, packs in his smoothest and most positive songs at the head of the album; leaving the listener unprepared for the dark turn it quickly makes. And while the title track that opens act one is a sad love song that drones about a girl who has suffered abuse and touches on the idea of our society’s taboos, it hails in darkness compared to supercharged songs like “BLACK METAL TERRORIST” that finish out the album. Act Two holds some very impressive bangers reminiscent of Imperial’s first version, including my favorite track “MAD I GOT IT,” which describes envy from different perspectives while stomping over a bass heavy, head pounding instrumental produced by pop outlet Hippie Sabotage and Finatik N Zak.

Unfortunately, at this point in the project, a lot of songs sounded very familiar. If you were on the edge of your seat waiting on this project to drop like I was, you know that most songs were released as singles even before acts One Two and Three came out. In fact, six of the project’s 13 songs were dropped beforehand which made the scattered album drop feel awkward and spread out; especially since each four-song act dropped separately in the midst of all these singles. On Friday the 27th every single and act were reverted back to one album on all major streaming platforms and remain that way now.

 
Despite its awkward and fragmented release, Ta13oo is a much better listen when similar to grayscale with Denzel’s anger and social commentary growing more and more intense as it progresses; eventually combining to become a dark, dark album. Zeltron fans probably expected this after his EP, 13, dropped last summer, giving us six tracks of absolute insanity. The EP was hyper-aggressive in production as well as lyricism with songs like “Hate Government” and “Heartless,” that foreshadowed Ta13oo’s approach and sound.

The project does shift gears away from Denzel’s older music, especially my favorite Curry project to date: Planet Shrooms. Planet Shrooms was a bold and experimental project that used unconventional beats and vocal distortion to display its psychedelic themes and imagery. It sounds like a rap album from the future- with imagery describing drive by’s on hoverboards, green colored guns, and an obsession with the year 2077. This EP was also stacked with features from some of Curry’s go-to guys like JK the Reaper and Nell who added some of the project’s most memorable bars and supported Denzel’s phonkiest, most out there tracks. Much of the production also included live instrumentation which really made it stand out and feel extremely advanced for a free project released on Soundcloud- where it remains exclusively today.

The HiphopDX community rated Ta13oo a bit above 4.5/5, and overall the project has been very well received by fans and reviewers. I think this album did live up to its hype and will age better than 2018’s other notable releases because of its lyrical complexity and flawless production. Stream the album today and check out the provocative video for “Clout Cobain” if you haven’t already.

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