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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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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Reviews, unsigned hype

Han Sino Drops His Opus ‘Exquisite Gardenz’

There is something inherently perfect about the right soundtrack for your movements at the right time. In a wave of…

There is something inherently perfect about the right soundtrack for your movements at the right time. In a wave of commercial Hip Hop — with the genre being at its absolute height regarding actual quantifiable popularity — it may be hard to explain to someone why instrumental LPs are so vital for your soul. But in the word of King Push: “if you know you know.”

I continuously thirst for new instrumental soundtracks, and French producer/poet/creative Han Sino is someone that I’ve covered in the past — in particular his project titled Glucose. He creates this refreshing blend of funk grooves, jazz, ambient hip-hop, and atmospheric melodies that seriously make for a trippy experience, dependant on how you consume his ambitious projects.

Relevant: Check out the run-down of Han’s LP Glucose

His latest output, Exquisite Gardenz, is one which Han himself considers to be his opus. Much like his previous release — during my first few listens, I noticed that the core bass lines created that signature continuous flow that moved the 12-song soundscape along. The best way to describe this project is that if a crate digger were to randomly come across this during a record shop excursion, and take it home and drop the needle anywhere, they’d be excited as hell to fire up the MPC and start chopping. It’s gorgeous.

Beginning with the atmospheric intro track “Exquisite,” we’re introduced to an Asian influence that creeps in throughout the project. The second track “Red Fishes” gave me chills off the top, as the bassline was reminiscent of the iconic bass strums from Eric B. & Rakim’s “Don’t Sweat The Technique.” Rather than commit to a hip-hop-centric platter, though, it expands into this difficult to describe Sunday afternoon, soulful, 70’s vibe — accentuated with these ambient wind chimes that make for a crazy audio trip.

Later on in the tracklist, I found myself drawn to the mysterious vibe of “Deep Lagoonz,” with an almost video game vibe, set-off with this super cool flute, and some frantic strings that add this odd amount of tension to track. The strings in the album closer “Gardenz” also had me intrigued; groovy, jazzy, and insanely engrossing.

As Han himself says in the album’s liner notes, “I hope you will [take] this Opus as a proposition to see life differently, and bite it to the fullest … drunk of the liquor of paradise.” This should be the goal of any great instrumental affair — a soundtrack to the movie that is your life; whether you’re getting lost in a world of writing or banging it which you’re trekking through the metropolis after dark. Exquisite Gardenz is a beautiful body of work. If you’re into nu jazz, rare groove, or a fan of instrumental hip-hop, you’ll want to give it a spin.

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Reviews, unsigned hype

Malachi Grant Returns With Inspiring New Project “On My Way”

Straight out of Yonkers, New York (City), rapper Malachi Grant returns four years following the release of his well-received Welcome…

Straight out of Yonkers, New York (City), rapper Malachi Grant returns four years following the release of his well-received Welcome 2 My World. His latest effort — an easy to digest seven-song project titled On My Way — is an exercise in perseverance, believing in your craft, and beating the odds. Lyrically, anyways.

He’s never open book enough to truly let you in on the depth of his come up on the streets of the Mecca, beyond noting that he’s on the streets, but from the onset, we’re presented with “On My Way,” which sets the tone. “Did dirt like cleats, but I stay clean,” he raps on the song’s third verse.

The project doesn’t stray too far from the contextual concept that he’s overcome — something explored most in-depth on “I’ll Be Sure” — and continues to strive towards the top of the mountain. There are breaks from this thread of thinking, though, as he also seems to let love creep into the mix on “I’ll Be Back,” while still staying true to the aesthetic of the overall vibe.

Standouts include the glossy vibe of the album closer, “What I Need,” with an upbeat instrumental and bars that hint at a deeper amount of wealth than he actually puts out there — all mashed in with an über New York flow. The slowed down flow of “Stay Up,” one of the songs that include a sing-song chorus (“I’ll Be Back” has an auto-tuned, melodic, vibe).

Overall, the LP has well-balanced production, and carefully crafted wordplay; it deliberately follows conventions but does a great job of remaining subtly dark, while finding a way to patiently and positively preach a message of staying focused and taking hold of your future. Littered with enough quotable to start a daily motivation Instagram account.

Loss, growth, and accomplishments; On My Way is curated to have few low-points. It’s New York Hip Hop, and it’s worth a spin.

Early.

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Reviews, unsigned hype

Tae Groove Sticks To His Vision While Catching New Flows On His Latest LP

Progression isn’t about staying stagnant — nor is it about abandoning your underlying ideals. This is a sentiment explored in…

Progression isn’t about staying stagnant — nor is it about abandoning your underlying ideals. This is a sentiment explored in the arc of rapper Tae Groove’s new LP, New Waves Old Ways, the 11-song follow up to 2017’s Finding Direction. “This album means a lot to mean cause I took over a year putting it together as far as picking songs etc.,” the rapper explains to AAHH. “[Also] I stepped outside my comfort zone a lot on the project.”

While not completely night and day, as Tae seems to have the same energy, the vibe of this project is noticeably different; the flow structure has been tweaked, and in many spots — like “Lifestyle” and “The Weekend” — are much more melodic in nature.

There are a few topical regions he explores, from following his own path among the adversities of his environment (“Livin My Life”), winning by staying true to his vision (“Plan”), Love (“Saved”) — and repenting on past mistakes (“Can I Live”). Overall, the aura is relatable with enough depth to find gems in his bars with repeated spins.

 
“Livin My Life” actually comes across as the standout; its almost anthemic chant of trusting the process as prescribed by your own soul has an almost sense of rebirth to it that really plays well to the album’s theme of new beginnings (waves).

Ultimately, New Waves Old Ways is movement music for anyone trying to make it this game — and any game, for that matter. You can’t expect to take the same steps repeatedly and achieve different results. Tae is making his way and investing a lot into his grind independently — diversifying his sound along the way without losing his footing. The album closers “Take It Slow” and the testament to his grind “No Sleep” pretty much say it all.

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