Main, Reviews

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!

Amber Corrine or call me AC, (its fine) lol. YouTube personality| videographer-singer-writer-photographer. I like to dabble in all kinds of media. I am a two-time college grad and I run my own beauty&lifestyle website www.ambercorrine.com
Main

Expect Excellence from Fashion Startup [strive/arrive]

To its 21-year-old founder, fashion brand [strive/arrive] does much more than put out dope apparel; it utilizes raw emotion, promotes…

To its 21-year-old founder, fashion brand [strive/arrive] does much more than put out dope apparel; it utilizes raw emotion, promotes self-empowerment, and thrives on community involvement.

The official brand entitled & stylized as [strive/arrive] was created in 2017 by then 20-year-old Anwar Alston in Greensboro, North Carolina. From the get-go, Anwar placed a heavy emphasis on pushing clothes to his community and keeping everything local. Frequenting the Greensboro Cultural Center for runway fashion shows, Strive has become a stylish symbol of the city’s youth culture and garnered an “if you know you know” type of following.

According to Anwar, every article of clothing visually represents his state of mind throughout his design process. This has led Strive to produce a variety of custom pieces like jackets and jeans scribbled with a vibrant sharpie, to professionally tagged and branded collared shirts and sweatpants; each incorporating different meanings and phrases within them. Strive’s garments showcase eloquent diversity in style and function, and continue to evolve in colorways and material. My personal favorite from the Strive catalog is a baby blue t-shirt reading: HANDLE THE PRESSURE, in a simplistic square outline.

While diverse, the main thing you will notice is consistent in Strive’s clothing is the use of bright colors. Anwar notes that this is intended to promote positivity and mental wellbeing; both important factors to his creative process. One upcoming drop stylized as s[PRIDE] will advocate for the LGBTQ community by incorporating the pride rainbow into t-shirts as well as a thought-provoking design reading “love is ____.”

And though Strive makes an effort to push clothes locally, the brand is also making big moves internationally. This summer will mark the brand’s first major collaboration with London based streetwear brand: Amien Ghaker Jomaa. The drop is scheduled for mid-July along with a separate line of athletic wear. s[PRIDE] is currently available for pre-order on strivearrive.com and in the meantime, Anwar will be holding a fashion show periodically in the Van Dyke performance space of the Greensboro Cultural Center.

Stylish, refreshing, and impressively busy— [strive/arrive] is a growing company that fashion scouts must undoubtedly keep an eye on.

Continue Reading
Main

REVIEW: Redemption by Jay Rock

As a follow up to his nostalgia influenced 2016 album 90059, REDEMPTION sounds as if Jay Rock has finally broken…

As a follow up to his nostalgia influenced 2016 album 90059, REDEMPTION sounds as if Jay Rock has finally broken through to his final form of artistry and is forging his way ahead. The project came with two documentary-style visuals, Road to Redemption parts 1 & 2, that show the TDE rapper’s evolution since signing with Warner Bros Records in 2007, to signing exclusively with Top Dawg and Interscope. The visuals also portray the extremely positive impact the rapper has had on his community in Watts, California since flourishing in the music industry. This mini-doc series serves as a visualization to many of the concepts on this album and provides insight into Rock as a person and his perception in Hip Hop. There is truly no slowing down for the TDE spitter, who showcases his striking ambition for life and Hip Hop on this exemplary 13 track album.

1) The Bloodiest

“The Bloodiest” is Rock’s opening track. Perhaps it’s name is a metaphor for his past life as a violent criminal, perhaps a prelude for the album’s rawness, but either way it’s a hell of an opening statement. The Devil thought he had me I was on back burners, are the words that start the song. Emanating chills, he continues with ghostly, technical bars before wrecking the beat with quick & agile rhyme schemes he matches with the dense subject matter. The listener cannot help but focus like attending a college lecture. The beat, while fire, is the least important aspect of “The Bloodiest,” because Jay Rock is able to say so much in so little time.

2) For What it’s Worth

Track two. “For What it’s Worth.” I’m not even gonna front, at first listen I skipped this song because of the background singing that is now a staple of “woke” Hip Hop. But I’m glad I went back and listened in depth because it is by far the strongest song on Redemption. It’s mellow- but if you hone in on what Rock is spitting you will literally get chills up and down your spine. Exploring the problems of having a relationship during the brink of success, the TDE MC explains how dangerous pussy can be. That pretty flower will spoil you then it poisons you, is just one quick outtake of all the truth he spits on this male-centric, relationship anxiety inspired second track.

3) Knock it Off

“Knock it Off” immediately lightens things up by upping its tempo while Jay Rock touches on a new and less serious subject. The track is dedicated to exposing fakes that try to be like Jay Rock and TDE. The groove is spit over the now classic flute enhanced rap instrumental. “You ain’t me n*gga knock it off!” The background vocals on this track are saucy as hell but don’t overpower Rock’s energy; showcasing the tastefulness of the mix.

4) ES Tales

“Back in these projects/back in these projects/ I lost it all…now I’m back in these projects,” is the haunting opener to Rock’s next track: “ES Tales.” The tone of the album switches up at this point to a digital sounding, video game inspired upbeat tempo; though Jay Rock sticks to his Watts inspired storytelling rap style. At this point in the album, he has outdone himself in regards to lyrical capacity and rhyme scheme, and this track is perhaps one of the strongest in showcasing how many different flows the artist is capable of.

5) Rotation 112th

“Rotation 112th” maintains an upbeat tempo with the fire flute samples that complement the lyrical transitions from low sing/rap to high energy yelling. This song is impossible not to nod your head to; it’s a perfect filler track in the sense that it fits the mood thus far in the project but doesn’t too much to progress its major themes. A smoke break to Rock’s relentlessly meaningful content.

6) Tap Out

TDE calls upon Jeremih’s soothing vocals for the mid-album radio song: “Tap Out.” I call it a radio song because its bound to be stuck in your head. Not in an annoying mainstream way, but in a way that you don’t even notice until you’re humming the lyrics at random times all day. Other reviewers called this track the token sex song of the project.

7) OSOM

I was happy that TDE showed J. Cole some love on this next track; because even if you claim you hate Cole you can’t hate on TDE, especially on this track. “OSOM” (outta sight outta mind) is a tribute to paranoia, as shown in the visuals that recently dropped featuring Cole and Rock together fighting off an overwhelming feeling of dread after a botched robbery. Cole always spits with uncharacteristic rawness when featured and this track was no different.

8) King’s Dead

I don’t even have to go into “King’s Dead” since it was Redemption’s first single. But if for some reason you haven’t heard it yet: it’s fire. K Dot freaked it.

9) Troopers

“Troopers” is an ode to loyalty; noting the kinship that comes with drug dealing and crime. “you ain’t gotta question when its brackin’” is a nice line that sums up the unspoken allegiance Rock feels to his closest homies in Watts. The track is ominous in sound and subjects with the chorus continuously warning his momma that he might not make it home from his escapades with the streets. Though not a hype track or a deeply lyrical journey this track is a good Segway between “Kings Dead” & “Broke+-.”

10) Broke +-

Track 10 is the densest of this project. The Black Hippy rapper delves into American history, capitalism, and personal morals before painting a sonic image of what it means to be “broke” in America. B is for the blood/R is for the ropes/O is for oppression/K is for the kush need it just to cope/E is for the evolution. The words are rapped over a slow, gloomy beat and does well to ground the project after taking its listeners up and down.

11) Wow Freestyle

Wooooow. K dot and Jay Rock reminisce on this joint. It’s a fun sounding track that lightens the mood with back and forth from Rock to Dot and back again. Rock also experiments with his voice adding a little crack to his breathier bars; similar to what Kendrick does on songs like “u.” It gives his words an exasperated effect and adds a nice variety to his cadence.

12) Redemption

Aaaaaand the title track where Jay highlights his near-fatal motorcycle crash that inspired a lot of this album’s subject matter and sound. He explains how he imagined his funeral would be while hooked up to various machines in the hospital helping him breathe. The track is also a testament to second chances; which is what Rock felt life gave him after he made a full recovery from a broken femur and pelvis among other severe injuries. The song isn’t pushing itself to be too strand out, but includes beautiful words from TDE’s one and only: SZA, making it an objectively fire and insightful title track.

13) WIN

“WIN” is a perfect closer to the album. It’s almost a corny track with the chorus a repetitive Win, win, win, win trademarked with Kendrick’s backing vocals. It doesn’t have as much lyrical depth as the rest of the album but it doesn’t need that because it’s almost like a summation of what the album felt like. A thin slice of tiramisu after a hearty meal; eaten simply as a compliment.

REDEMPTION is one of my favorite albums thus far in 2018. It contains the quintessential components of what makes a Hip-hop album fire; from concepts to storytelling to hype tracks. And for Jay Rock specifically, the album represents his growth and development through life and as an artist. If you listen to Hood Tales and Redemption back to back you can really grasp these changes and see how much ground a rapper can cover with a lucrative career. The crew at Above Average is hyped for what TDE will follow this project with!

Continue Reading
Main

#IndieSpotlight: Meet Chicago MC Hunnid

Leaning back in a vintage Bryant Park Chair with a ‘life is good’ smile, award-winning Chicago MC, Hunnid was in…

Leaning back in a vintage Bryant Park Chair with a ‘life is good’ smile, award-winning Chicago MC, Hunnid was in great spirits for our interview in New York City. Now back at his childhood home in the Southside of Chicago known as the Wild Wild 100’s – where he was born and raised – he tells me in depth of what is was like growing up in a poverty stricken environment. “First off, It’s fun, but It’s wild being exposed to a lot of things that you really shouldn’t be exposed to so young. – like crime. Nonetheless, it just embedded a lot of principles in me I wouldn’t change for nothing. That type of struggle you just have to experience and learn from it. Made me strong, aware, and  intelligent,” he notes.

In just a matter of years, Chicago has become the home city for a lot of the hottest hip-hop talents out right now since the early 2000’s. Chance The Rapper and a dozen of hungry new acts are making a way for themselves coming out of Chi-Raq. Hunnid, being one of the emerging talents, tells me staying grounded and passionate is the key to his way into the game. Hunnid is a person who is going to get it by any means necessary. “It’s no pressure [coming from Chicago] because I’m in my own lane, I don’t do drill rap – I don’t categorize myself,” he states. Music been in Hunnid’s life since an early age; he played drums and written poetry. “God chose music for me.”

Coming off his Love V.S. Lust EP, which dropped last June, Hunnid makes sure to drop buzzing tracks for his fans until his next project. Hunnid’s “Money Up” single, which its video premiered on AAHH, racked up over 50k plays to date. This is an anthem about hard work, endurance and dedication – which are what his career rooted from. As he is known for his lyrical flow, “Money Up” takes a less complexed style. Hunnid clarifies why he released it. “I really put value in connecting with the crowd and understanding my crowd. I feel like you got to dumb it down if you want to appeal to masses to some degree,” he says. His upcoming single, “Bust That,” has a different kind a vibe; afro-beat and R&B. “I describe a women’s body movements to firearms,” notes Hunnid.

 
Hunnid and I started discussing the state of hip-hop and where it’s heading in the near future. We both agree that it is changing due to lack of talent. “I feel like a lot of this music is fast food now because it lacks passion. If you passionate about a lot of things and it can be felt — its real, it will never die.”

Like a lot of hip-hop heads, there’s a lot to say or not about the newly released XXL 2018 Freshman List. Does the list still matter?  “I don’t pay attention to it anymore,” says Hunnid. “I don’t. Were in a different age where popularity can make you whatever you want to be. There are so many dope individuals. But they’re just not out here selling their souls. People can take it how they want it – I feel like you have to sell yourself in some way [face tats, color hair] to draw attention to yourself because you lack skill.”

Towards the end of our conversation, we touched on the violence going down in his hometown. “Long Live Streetz is the last thing I want to say,” he says. His cousin, Streetz was an emerging hip-hop mc that was murdered alongside Chicago journalist/blogger Zach TV just a few weeks ago. “I want to make it to that platform where I can say something, and it’ll literally happen. The only person with that type of platform [making a change] is Chance the Rapper, but everybody else is not doing much.”

Hunnid plans on making it big in the game because music is indeed his passion. While on his way to stardom, he wants to take action in his community on gun violence and wants to tell the rest of his story to change the world.

Continue Reading
Main

Kaiju The Unconquerable Returns With A New Episode

Nobody is f@$king with this mans videos!

Kaiju The Unconquerable is one of those artists that fails to ever settle into anything — in the best way possible. “Episode 7: Ultraman” found it’s way to my inbox this past April, and I was amazed at how different Kaiju’s vibe was. Jarring isn’t quite the right word, but the shift in tone from “CYBERPUNK 2050” to “Ultraman” should a to of range, with the quality of the video being the constant.

His latest is easily my fave release from him to date. “Episode 8: Got II,” also dubbed “Restoration Of Akumetsu,” sees Kaiju playing the role of a cyber vigilante/assassin who — we learn through the excellent long-form news intro — is slaughtering important officials, earning himself (by the end) $2 billion bounty. As Akumetsu, donning a wild rad mask (who one newscaster described as exploding), he and his cohort Swisha take out a target and everyone in the way. A highlight is right before he first enters the location and cuts off the security guard’s hand.

Much like his other pieces  — and kind of like “This Is America” by Childish Gambino — his visuals and songs can stand alone. As a juxtaposition to the more easy-going “Ultraman,” which was in many ways more playful and littered with delicious nerd-centric references, Episode 8 is much more aggressive. Upon first listen it was reminiscent of DMX’s aura on his debut record; specifically the chorus put me in mind of “Damian,” so seeing in the credits that it was in fact inspired by X was a neat addition on his part.

With a slow trappish instrumental, Kaiju’s flow is impeccable — at one point almost matching the cadence of Kendrick Lamar as he spits: “always intentional, my niggas keep it traditional, yeah you talking the fictional being my words to the physical … black is beautiful, yeah my people nutritional, they try to kill us with chemicals, lord don’t make me get biblical.”

While staying to a similar format, Kaiju manages to continually reinvent his sound, making each piece of his puzzle fit together while also standing out from the crowd. This latest chapter is no different; while I have no idea what this is building towards or the grand vision, I’m excited to see the wonders that Episode 9 holds!

Early.

Continue Reading
More in Main, Reviews
Leroy Brown And A Boogie With The Hoodie Collabo Gets A Video Treatment

We've been onto Leroy Brown for a while now — and now he's blessing us with a new visual. The...

Close