Reviews

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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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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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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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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MoneyBagg Yo ”2Heartless” Review

The rapper’s latest project, fittingly titled 2Heartless, is clearly directed at those that want to see Moneybagg fall.

In a radio interview with The Breakfast Club last Monday, the menacing baritone Trap rapper Moneybagg Yo —whose garnered a national following since his Federal 3x mixtape debuted at #5 on the Billboard 200– told host Angela Yee, “when I was broke…it might sound crazy…but I kinda liked it better.” The Memphis-native is currently embroiled in disputes with rappers Ralo and YoungBoy Never Broke Again.

“Moneybagg Yo tried to pay a [club promoter] $7,500 to not let me [perform],” Ralo said in an interview with Vlad TV. “what kinda s*** is that?” The rapper recently released a diss track aimed towards Moneybagg titled “Trending.” While once on good terms, YoungBoy Never Broke Again also dismissed the rapper and claimed on Instagram that payment was never settled regarding a collaborative project released this past November. ”[Moneybagg Yo] was my brother now f*** ‘em,” YoungBoy said.

“When I was first coming up, I didn’t feel no love in the streets,” Moneybagg Yo told The Breakfast Club. “I’ve seen the game for how it really was, and how fake it is, and now…I’m just…I’m too heartless.”

The rapper’s latest project, fittingly titled 2Heartless, is clearly directed at those that want to see Moneybagg fall. “They try their best to provoke me, the killer want to be relevant,” Moneybagg growls on the opening bars of “Black Heart,” a minute-long opener that addresses the attempt on his life at a New Jersey rest stop this past August. The following track, “Bigg Stacks,” demonstrates a fluid Moneybagg in his element regardless of all that’s transpired against him this past year. While the theme of the track centers around the rappers lavishes, Moneybagg still sprinkles in verses aimed at his haters in New Jersey, “They want my spot and don’t deserve it, can’t forget that. Who you hittin’ at? How you miss that?”

While those sifting through the 18-track project for Trap anthems will find plenty of offerings —most notably “Black Feet,” a BlocBoy JB assisted track that finds both artists in top form— Moneybagg’s heavy heart consumes the majority of the project.

On “Fed Babies,” a track assumed to be aimed at YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Moneybagg raps: “How you cross me? We come out the mud…can’t believe it came to this here. I really thought s*** was sincere.” While the dark maroon middle fingers that pop from the album cover paint him as emotionally detached from the feuds that have consumed his career, he presents a deep vulnerability that Yo Gotti — another Memphis-born Trap rapper who signed him to his CMB label this past October — would be proud of.

“Lift me up and hold me down more, if love ain’t here then what you around for?” Moneybagg sings to a fleeting lover on “Ion Get You.” On “Scars” the rapper sings, “If you take away all this fame, all this status, all my name…Strip the diamonds out these chains, I wonder who gon’ remain.” Moneybagg Yo is a rapper that wears his heart on his sleeve, and his latest project exudes the anxiety that consumes Moneybagg as he comes to term with mortality. Tracks like “Secrets” and “Walker Holmes” paint a portrait of a man consumed by regret. “They said it was love, I couldn’t see it. I was too blinded by the hatred,” Moneybagg sings on the later regarding a falling out with a friend.

He preaches about his need for partnership so often throughout the project that when he dismisses love and affection— such as on the cringe-worthy “Perfect Bitch,” where the star raps about his desire for polygamous relationships— it comes off as disingenuine, as if he’s trying to fit an archetype rather than be himself. Artists before Moneybagg have discussed the troubles with being famous, but 2Heartless, which was released on Valentine’s Day, seems like a melodramatic call for help more than the definitive statement Moneybagg intended it be.

“Kevin Gates told me to stay focused, don’t get out your element,” the star raps on “Black Heart.” At 26, Moneybagg Yo is overwhelmed by all that fame has brought, and his need for self-growth echo a relatable conflict. How do I grow as a person when every action is under a microscope, and how do I not end up alone?

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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,...

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