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.

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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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