Reviews

Migos “Culture 2” Review

While the project is catchy at points, it inevitably feels rushed, and caves under its own weight.

There is no denying that Migos are one of the most influential rap groups of the past decade. Rolling Stone recently praised them as “the most influential group – in any genre – of the past few years,” and they have been called the next Beatles by scores of fans. In an interview with Montreality, Quavo called Culture II, the trio’s latest effort that dropped this past Friday, “a masterpiece,” saying “Hip-Hop has changed in a big way. We changed it.” Confidence aside, you can’t help but feel the supergroup has been trying to capitalize on their stardom a little too quickly.

Culture II comes just a year after its platinum, Grammy-nominated predecessor, which is a fast turn around for any record let alone a record with such clout surrounding it. The album’s first single, “MotorSport,” was released on October 27, with Offset proposing to Cardi B mere hours after its release during a show at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The group then continued to fan the flames on their fluctuating beef with rapper Joe Budden not to mention Takeoff’s homophobic lyric on YFN Lucci’s song “Boss Life,” which has fans, and artists like Halsey, beginning to distance themselves from the group.  Amidst all this drama, Quavo and Travis Scott then dropped their highly-anticipated joint album Huncho and Jack out of thin air, an effort which HYPEBEAST called “monotonous.”

Unfortunately, the same critique can be made regarding Culture II.The 24-song LP does little to push the culture forward as they claimed it would. “She just bought a new ass, but got the same boobs,” Quavo mutters on “Walk It, Talk It” the Drake collaboration that’s a laid-back doppelgänger to “Look At My Dab.” “Open It Up” is a mere photocopy of Culture’s “Deadz,” and the Post Malone assisted “Notice Me” will confuse fans when the now-engaged Offset says “I clear my mind and I had a vision, and then I arrive with twenty-five bitches.” Migos’ recycled lyricism loses pieces of its authenticity on Culture II and will frustrate fans hoping to see the group explore new territories, and discuss new topics.

If you power through the marathon of an album, you’ll discover a few gems demonstrating the group’s tight-knit braggadocio. “Emoji A Chain,” and “Crown The King,” while each a minute too long, are both catchy, engaging tracks that sees the trio in their element, trading off verses and ad-libs as naturally as breathing. “Made Men” reminds fans of the clever lyrical prowess the group can muster when they rely on more than just their natural talent: “How did you come in the game? I came with the gang, of course, we get ya fired to flames, turn you to s’mores.” But then again, any metaphor seems better than “If you’ n**** want beef, treat it like Angus.”

 

The Migos want you to know they’re here to stay, and this massive work, while suffering spouts of mediocrity, will still hold them in the highest ranks of contemporary Hip-Hop culture. “They beg and plead for the culture,” Quavo sings on Culture II’s opener, which is true. Yet, he says it so often in the four-minute track that you can’t help but feel he’s slightly overcompensating. The promotion for this album was a whirlwind amidst the drama and attention that has surrounded the group in the last year, and those of us following it seem consumed with questions:

Are Cardi B and Offset actually getting married?

Have they been unfaithful to each other?

Is Takeoff homophobic?

Will this beef with Joe Budden ever be resolved?

Those hoping for answers will find none on Culture II, a missed opportunity for a trio that seems overly eager to embrace the attention that surrounds them. While the project is catchy at points, it inevitably feels rushed, and caves under its own weight.

Even still, brief glimmers of artistry do appear. “Stir Fry,” the funky Neptunes-styled track demonstrates the trio’s ability to transcend melodic trap when the circumstances are just right, and “Gang Gang” surprises listeners with its melancholy, offering the closest the group has come to personal introspection. “Would you love me if I ran away?” Takeoff sings, “I know you probably think I’m insane.” The moment is fleeting but briefly suggests the Migos understand the influence and responsibility that come with being icons. Even so, it’s clear the group sets the bar themselves, and that even if we want them to change, it will always be on their terms.

Editorial, Main, Reviews

Rising In The East: A Conversation With New Hampshire’s JZAC

Social media has become our inevitable life line. From fashion, to media arts, and of course music, the Internet truly…

Social media has become our inevitable life line. From fashion, to media arts, and of course music, the Internet truly is the wave for discovering and breaking the best trends and talent in the world.

Whether on Twitter, Facebook, or IG, the social media platforms we check on the daily are our new MTV, they’re the Video Music Box (look it up) for this generation. And that’s dope since I’m constantly in search of new music.

Enter JZAC, a New Hampshire spitter brought to doorstep via Instagram. He and his crew remade the “smoking cypher” from That 70’s Show, and absolutely killed it. I dug deeper, and was moved by his ability to flow effortlessly over any beat. Fluent cool is something you have or you don’t, you be the judge.

JZAC gave us a few minutes to discuss his influences, Soundcloud’s dominance, and what’s next for the bubbling MC.

You’re from NH, right outside Boston, right? Has the Boston Hip Hop scene influenced your choices?

I am from New Hampshire, I was actually born in Boston but I spent the majority of my life in New Hampshire. To be honest the Boston hip hop scene hasn’t really influenced my choices, I grew up on the internet so I listened to music from all over the place. They do have a new wave of artists really coming up and making some noise in the music industry right now though, which is always dope to see.

It seems that you’re a student of the culture. It feel like your verses are puzzles, and it all fits well. How important are bars nowadays? It seems like energy has sort of taken over for craftsmanship.

I still think the bars are really important. The way I look at it is the majority of the music that will last and have true longevity always comes from artists with bars. I think it goes a lot deeper than that too, but I think if you really bring quality music to the table it will get appreciated. With that being said I also do like the “energy” wave of a lot of the young guys coming out. It may not always be as deep or lyrical, but it’s fun and it makes you feel good. I love partying to that type of stuff. I think balance is key.

What are your thoughts on SoundCloud potentially going away, or on Chance “saving” it?

I think SoundCloud will stick around for a while. Regardless, it’s already lost a lot of popularity due to people switching over to streaming services. It definitely has a special place in my heart, and helped my music reach millions of people but I like streaming services a lot. It helps independent artists like me get paid and make a living off of music. I like Chance trying to help the situation; you can tell he’s a genuine dude.

Your phone is at 1%, and you can only download 3 songs. Who/what’s getting picked?

Oh man that’s a tough question. It all depends on what mood I’m in, so that question can vary heavily. 3 songs that pop in my head right now though would be Jay Z “Lost Ones”, Drake “Do Not Disturb”, and Billy Joel “Big Shot”.

How important is a label in 2017?

They’re important for certain artists. Some artists can really thrive off of having a label while other artists have horror stories. It’s important to learn how to maneuver on your own and create some buzz independently. That’s what labels want to see in 2017, they don’t want to spend the money and do the work. I love that the artist has the choice in 2017. You can be an extremely successful independent artist if you have the right team of people around you, which wasn’t a thing 10-15 years ago. You don’t have to rely on anyone anymore.

What’s the future look like for you? Plans to record, or tour?

There’s a lot of stuff in the works. I’ll be releasing a new body of work before the end of the year, but I don’t want to give too much info about that just yet. No tours yet, but I’m working on hitting different major cities and performing for fans who have been waiting to see me. I’m really excited for what the future has in store!


Huge shoutout to JZAC for taking the time to speak with us. His unique take on Hip Hop is a breath of fresh air. It feels like we’re taking a slow turn back towards lyricism, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Support JZAC by hitting up his social media feeds. Salute!

http://www.facebook.com/JZACMUSIC
http://www.instagram.com/jzacmusic
Snapchat: jzacmusic

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Vince Staples: Big Fish, Little Pond

Summertime ’06 was Vince Staples’ bleak, first-person take on his cold and caustic West Coast home base. Overseen by No…

Summertime ’06 was Vince Staples’ bleak, first-person take on his cold and caustic West Coast home base. Overseen by No I.D., the project was among the best that year. Fast forward two years to Staples’ recent pre-release media rounds and you’d catch him stepping out as a vocal member of the Hip Hop community, unafraid to discuss race, politics and everything between. Armed with wit and the occasional profound declaration, this side of Vince felt slightly out of place when viewed next to his often introverted catalog. Big Fish Theory shoots to kill that noise with and incredible range and flair aimed directly at the world at large.

Big Fish Theory is Vince’s stream of consciousness record where he recognizes the ills of celebrity and the ironic culture associated with it. His brain seems three steps ahead of his tongue, while the pulse of the record is three steps ahead of that. It’s not EDM, and it’s not grime, yet it perfectly encapsulates the frenetic energy of Hip Hop in 2017; which is a natural extension of our post-Obama toxic political and social landscape.

Peep the nervousness of the opener, “Crabs In A Bucket,” a track that defies the categorical norms of traditional West Coast Hip Hop. It’s frantic by design and sets the table for a record packed with songs that would settle nicely in the club or the street. “Big Fish” follows suit and manages to channel the party and bullshit vibe that Kanye narrowly missed throughout The Life Of Pablo. Staples stays winning on these hybrids because he’s able to deliver exceptionally fluent bars over fractured, pulsing beats, which feel immediately uncomfortable for anyone with a “traditional ear” for Hip Hop.

It would be impossible to dismiss this record as Staples’ attempt at a pop crossover. Amid the heavy bass and seemingly light moments, there’s a force clearly weighing the MC down. He faces expectations and perceptions head on during “Homage,” where he raps, “If you knew better you’d do better, but then you would know why the world on my penis, please do not treat me like I’m not a genius, I’m runnin’ on empty, the new River Phoenix.”

The album’s most adventurous few moments are found in its conclusion. “Rain Come Down,” is a casually stunning glimpse at the next wave of left coast rap. The song is as close to a trademark as we’ve heard from Staples. Here, his detail-oriented street observations are paired with a sleazy Ty Dolla $ign hook, and precise production provided by Zach Sekoff. The track’s woozy, club-heavy low-end conflicts with some of Staples’ most poignant boasts.

Big Fish Theory is look at the future. With a sound like this, that future could be now or still five years away. At face value, this is a left-of-the-dial project tackling false idols and the perpetual hubris of rap giants. When magnified, there’s room to unpack it and digest it as a definitive moment of Staples’ creative expression and veiled social commentary that you can still shake your ass to. Let it rain.

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Twondon Drops Anticipated EP ‘Paradise Isn’t Free’

“TwonDon continues to show and prove that he refuses to die a “nobody.” He plans to work hard until reaching…

“TwonDon continues to show and prove that he refuses to die a “nobody.” He plans to work hard until reaching a point (paradise) where he can reap the fruits of his labor. Unfortunately, Paradise Isn’t Free.”

Baby Twon floating in a sea full of big bucks, expensive car keys, a rollie, a girl’s number, and note that reads “R.I.P Kenny,” are all ingredients that create this eye-catching cover-art to Paradise Isn’t Free by New Jersey rapper TwonDon (artwork by @KoyoDesigns). This symbolic cover art also gives clues to what this EP might entail right away.  This EP tells a story from beginning to end–taking you through the motions of feeling dispirited, zealous, grievous, motivated, proud, and whatever other emotions that triggers within you. Coincidently, I found myself listening to this EP on a Thursday evening after a discouraging day of work, and after hearing the last track ‘Successful” I was fueled with confidence for the rest of the night. With no TV or phone distracting me (besides a few tweets sharing how fire some tracks were), TwonDon and I vibed out song for song via SoundCloud.

As soon as I heard the intro begin with a reversed melody looping in the background, I grabbed my pen and paper and began breaking down this EP. With the excitement and anticipation revolving around this project, it was only right that the writer within me shared this EP through my own interpretations. With the masterminds of John Sparkz and Frankie Metalz, it is clear that this EP was well thought-out and created. Take a listen to each song as I break down the latest EP, Paradise Isn’t Free from well endowed rapper, TwonDon.

Track 1– Paradise Ave

Begins with high-energy, reversed-powerful vocals played in the background–it sounds like struggle mended into a beautiful melody. I called this song the breaking free song because TwonDon speaks on “birthing a new nation”–shaping a new idea of what it means to reach paradise. Twon mentions heavy lines like, “Holy water, I bathed in it” and “40 acres and my reparations, because my n*ggas slaving. TwonDon is demanding his respect and calling for his hardwork to finally pay off. Twon in some ways, paints images through his lyrics, of what his paradise should be like.

Track 2– My City (201)

This track embodies the idea of putting on for where you come from. TwonDon drops the line, “I can make a mil without a scholarship..” and hailing from the urban parts of the east coast (Jersey), it isn’t hard to understand what Twon means by that line. Being a part of an urban environment, you are forced to work harder than most to reach “paradise.” TwonDon even name-drops Max B and Pimp C, (two well-respected rappers), who have concretized their environments, and what it means to be hood-rich and stunt. TwonDon repeats, “Everything I do be for my city” and it is clear that he understands the necessity to pay homage to the place that made you.

Track 3 Jennifer’s Song

The recognizable melody “Do you mind if I stroke you down, I don’t mind” by classic R&B group Changing Faces, over a more up-tempo beat, sets a totally different tone for Paradise Isn’t Free. With TwonDon coming in with his most salacious sound yet, he serenades the beat with quotable lines like, “Promise you’ll get it as long as I get it, get it in all through the night.” Twon definitely shows his grown and sexy side by portraying his ability to wear his heart on his sleeve, and pursue a woman. ‘Jennifer’s Song’ makes me believe there is some connection to the phone number written on a note, on the cover art of this EP. Maybe Twon can’t envision his paradise without a lovely lady by his side?

Track 4– Black Bar Mitzvah featuring Dessy Hinds (Pro Era)

We already cracked the inside scoop on this phenomenal track weeks ago. Click here to find out what we thought about ‘Black Bar Mitzvah

Track 5 – Lately

In 2017 it isn’t common to call out “fake love” when you see it (thanks to Drake). Twon is unapologetically claiming his spot in this one with hard-hitting lines like “Fake love is all they show” and “Marshall Law, bring it to n*ggas door.” TwonDon lets it be known that he will not be slept on, and will work hard to claim a spot in “paradise,” (even with it’s price). Mentioning Marshall Law is a heavy metaphor–Twon isn’t playing with letting the world know who he is, even if that means taking over the game with a new order. Lines like “Sat with God, wrote my fate” solidifies that Twon believes that through faith and himself, his destiny is ineveitable.

Track 6Supreme featuring JAG

Now this here is the IDGAF track. Twon’s energy is high and consistent throughout his entire verse. This track is up-tempo and raw to the point where you need to let that bitch breathe. Twon comes in crazy with lines like “Told me to pick Malcolm or Martin, I’ll pick the balcony later”–showing that he’s not here to play nice when it comes to leaving his footprints in the game. TwonDon is gifted in showing the rawness and versatility of his lyricism and content–he has great control over his energy and tonality. The beat slightly changes and becomes more gory as JAG comes in throwing crazy metaphors that may go over your head at first, but makes you chuckle as well. JAG’s style of rap is distinctly different from Twon’s, but they both portray confidence over cockiness, in their own right.

Track 7– Successful

Connecting to the style of the first track ‘Paradise Ave,’– ‘Succesful’ comes in with a mellow-subtle voice singing in the background, reversed. This time sounding more euphoric and relieved in a way, this song gives the listener an immediate feeling of  resilience. The title ‘Successful’ couldn’t speak more clearly to what the track is about. Every lined rapped makes you feel that you still have a chance at success no matter where you come from, or what you are going through. “The journey to your dreams can have you feeling stressful, but we just dying to be successful.” Twon mentions the obstacles he overcame, as well as close friends, and how he kept believing in himself, and instilling drive in others. After listening to ‘Successful’ it is likely to feel inspired and determined to beat the odds. Twon makes it clear that his success will be a “paradise” that is created especially for him. He may have to pay the price of being judged, losing friendships, being hated on, and staying true to himself when others make him feel other wise, but in all, it may be a price that has to be paid.

TwonDon continues to show and prove that he refuses to die a “nobody.” He plans to work hard until reaching a point (paradise) where he can reap the fruits of his labor. Unfortunately, Paradise Isn’t Free.

Paradise Isn’t Free available now on Soundcloud, iTunes, and Spotify!

Follow TwonDon on Social Media @TWONDONUC

Listening party for Paradise Isn’t Free EP is set to take place June 3rd, 2017, in Newark, NJ at secret location via @WolfJuiceShop. Hit up Wolf to RSVP!

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#IndieSpotlight: Snypes Releases Debut Mixtape

Today an impressive album came across my desk, courtesy of Snypes. Coming out of South Florida, his first official release…

Today an impressive album came across my desk, courtesy of Snypes. Coming out of South Florida, his first official release Rookie Debut is a collection of songs with a ton of personality; there’s a little of everything here, which creates a healthy balanced listen and builds a solid first impression.

Over the ten tracks, which includes an unnecessary “Panda” remix, traverses topics that range from working hard to achieve his dreams, traversing the dangers of his environment, dealing with a bunky—seemingly overbearing—relationship. Most notably he faces down the important topic of police violence in the first single off of the project, “Terrance Tamir Bland.” On the aforementioned record, he takes two perspectives, a witness speaking from a place of outrage and a victim speaking directly to the shooter.

Other standout records are “Melisa,” a record that takes a hindsight perspective on a lost relationship, and the piano-driven “Don’t Play” that has a ton of potential. The super smooth “Elevator Music” is a crown jewel, though. The syrupy-southern sound bed gives a perfect lens to use his ultra-descriptive style to drop a stack of introspective bars like, “you don’t make it where I’m from with bad intentions.”

Snypes had a rough upbringing, and the music was his coping mechanism; this project is a fantastic introduction to what he’s all about. He’s being slept on—if you’re reading this, wake up!

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Rising In The East: A Conversation With New Hampshire’s JZAC

Social media has become our inevitable life line. From fashion, to media arts, and of course music, the Internet truly...

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