DJ Khaled Kiss The Ring: Reigning Royalty or Delusions of Granduer

As a blogger, editorialist and/or journalist its imperative to remain unbiased with anything that you do. So for DJ Khaled I find it very difficult to not be biased. Khaled has been in the game and doing it forever so I feel as though the standard in which he should be judged should not only be a reflection of his other bodies of work but off of his longevity and experience in the industry. With that being said let’s look at “Kiss The Ring” and answer the question is he and this album Reigning Royalty or Delusions of Grandeur.

Khaled has come along way in his career from mere radio sidekick to the personal dj of Terror Squad in 2006 to rapper and producer to becoming President of DefJam South in 2009. Once can easily agree that Khaled has an incredible career and rise in the industry but with that and 5 albums under his belt is the music living up to the hype that is DJ KHALED aka MR. WE THE BEST! Knowing that he is not an artist but an enjoyer of music his albums are feature heavy with his now famous adlibs “We The Best” thrown in at every opportunity he can get and because of this his lineups have been a who’s who of the hip hop community. In my opinion, he was a fundamental key in keeping the south a formidable force in Hip Hop while bridging the respective regions/coasts together. Khaled is the reason a lot of artist are known and got shine around the country outside of their respective demographics. With collabs from southern royalty like Bun B, Scarface, Ludacris and TI to the midwest stars Kanye West & Nelly. Then he brings in the influences of the West with the Game, Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg and back to the birthplace of Hip Hop NY (the east) with the likes of Jadakiss, Jim Jones, Nas, Busta Rhymes and Fabolous. Now if you notice I didnt include any members of the Terror Squad, MMG or YMCMB because Khaled is faithful and keeps his team on everything that he does. However, these are just some of the artist that has made appearances on his projects that range from club bangers and anthems to gritty street tales and even something a little softer to appeal to his female demographic.

Kiss The Ring should have been the apex of his catalog but it has fallen on deaf ears. The project as a whole is listenable but forgettable. Not saying that there are not standout tracks because Khaled has crafted a few classic tracks on the opus like “They Ready feat J. Cole, BIG K.R.I.T. & Kendrick Lamar” and “Hip Hop feat DJ Premier, Nas & Scarface.” These 2 tracks are by far the best tracks on the entire album but shows that he has what it takes to create greatness. Lyrically these tracks will go down as the best tracks of 2012 and refutes the claim that Nas once made saying that Hip Hop is dead. He brought 2 generations of the genre on separate tracks and made history and shows that lyricism is alive and well. In addition to this he stays true to form and delivers bangers for the club like his current single “Take It To The Head feat Chris Brown, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross & Lil Wayne,” “Bitches & Bottles (Let’s Get It Started) feat Lil Wayne, TI & Future,” “Dont See Em feat 2 Chainz, Birdman & Ace Hood” and “Dont Pay For It feat Wale, Tyga, Mack Maine & Kirko Bangz.” He fed the streets as well with the tracks “Shout Out to The Real feat Meek Mill, Ace Hood & Plies,” “I Wish You Would feat Kanye West & Rick Ross” and “I Did It For My Dawgs feat Rick Ross, French Montana, Jadakiss & Meek Mill.”

As you can see he has once again compiled a stellar lineup but like a lot of songs that are now being released they lack quality, substance and originality. So a lot of these songs sound like something that we’ve heard before. This doesn’t live up to the body of work as Victory or We The Best. It takes more than throwing a bunch of talented or less than talented artist on a track to construct a hit. Now as a whole is this a bad album? NO. Will it stand out against other albums that have dropped this year? NOT AT ALL. This will be another album that gets lost in the mix behind MMG’s Self Made 2, Rick Ross’ “God Forgives, I Dont” and the upcoming albums from the likes of Slaughterhouse and Meek Mill. (Just wait on those 2 reviews) This album is the equivalent, except for a few standout tracks, of a group version of 2 Chainz debut. It’s nothing to write home about but if the mood hits you, you can listen without throwing it completely out the window.

To answer the question is this Reigning Royalty or Delusions of Grandeur let’s settle for a happy medium and say that Khaled is a little overconfident and should settle for a firm handshake than any ring kissing. Kiss The Ring in stores August 21 go support Khaled and that entire We The Best movement.

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Chapter V of the Book of Songz

Tremaine Neverson, better known to most of you as Trey Songz has come a long way in a short period of time – 5 albums in 7 years, relative unknown, average artist to now world renowned sex symbol. But, has there been growth as an artist or is just great publicity? Chapter V could be an epic failure or the culminating of a very promising and blossoming career.  Let’s be honest, even as an avid fan, Trey’s first 2 albums have not achieved RIAA certification and most of his singles didn’t chart well on the Billboard Top 200. Whereas, they did better on the urban charts. Despite the discrepancies between the two charts has Mr. Songz body of work been worth the accolades? Has his newly found sex symbol status been the catalyst for his current success and seemingly stream of sexual motivated songs? Yes, the last question is a serious one because many believe that Trey has recently become a sexual artist because that’s what’s selling.

You all may be wondering what any of the previously mentioned questions have to do with the new album and in all honesty it has everything to do with it. Fortunately, these are mostly easy questions to answer because they are similar and tie into each other. Allow me to answer the second question first. Trey newly found sex symbol status, in my opinion, is a reflection of the material that he has consistently done since the beginning. Starting with the debut album I Gotta Make It and through his entire career he has embraced his sexual side and desires. However, as he’s grown he’s found more creative and even in some cases, more overt ways of telling his erotic tales. This would be expected as he’s becoming a man that his subject matter would reflect it. As the biblical passage states, (paraphrasing) “When I was a child I thought as a child. When I became a man I put away childish things.” His publicist and team have worked tirelessly to ensure that he embodies exactly what his lyrics state. From candid interviews, tv shows and the every  man attitude he (or whomever is acting as him) exudes in social media interaction with fans, Trey’s charisma and swag are both infectious and addictive. This is totally random but that comment made me think of Antwoinne’s “Regular Everyday Dude.” Go take a listen to it here: www.reverbnation.com/antwoinne Consequently, every guy wants to be him and every woman wants to be with him.

To answer the first question and the more serious of the two, however, takes a little more insight. Regardless of your musical taste and preferences or subject matter can you listen to a Trey Songz album and say, “yes this is a good body of work. Yes his catalog is a good body of work. There is growth, evolution and lyrically songs that can stand the test of time.” Im going to make one of the biggest statements that ive ever made. Trey Songz, if he continues on this path, will be one of the only artist of our generation that will have longevity in the industry. Vocally, he may not be the best but what Trey has been able to do seamlessly is evolve and adapt with age. Every album has shown growth, life and has songs that whenever you hear them you can relate, they take you back to a time mentally and can be played 20 years down the road and still be said damn this is a good song. Not every artist can say this. Each album has gotten better and shows that with time Trey gets more and more comfortable with himself as a man and an artist. However, despite all of the accolades bestowed upon Trey, Trey has yet to craft and deliver his “Confessions.” For the new generation, that is the album that all R&B albums (especially for males) is compared too. Now to prove my point per album here are timeless songs:

I Gotta Make It

“Gotta Go” “From A Woman’s Hand” & “Make Love Tonight”

Trey Day 

“Already Taken” “Can’t Help But Wait” & “We Should Be”

Ready

“Jupiter Love” “Black Roses” & “Love Lost”

Passion, Pain & Pleausre 

“Alone” “Cant Be Friends” “Made To Be Together” “Please Return My Call” & “Blind”

This now brings us to Trey Songz’s highly anticipated 5th studio album. After four albums that didnt necessarily go over well with all audiences, tho they did get better and better with each project, and the  successful mixtapes series Anticipation, Trey gives us “Chapter V.” This is the BEST project to date by Trey. This is the first album that ive felt totally engrossed and have fully connected with the story that is being told.  The song selection on this project is amazing and the tracklisting placement has a lot to do with it. He finally told a musical story with no hiccups and no skippable tracks. This sounds like the most personal and in tuned body of work that Trey has done. Chapter V is the launching pad for what may be his defining and classic album that will solidify Trey as an R&B great and the catalyst for the proclaimed longevity that I bestowed upon Trey previously.

This album has a little bit of everything for everybody.  For those that listen to Trey for ballads and heartfelt tracks he delivers those in the form of “Dive In,” “Heart Attack,” “Bad Decisions,” “Forever Yours” “Fumble” and “Simply Amazing.”  A couple of these songs really hit home when listening because I could really relate to them. For those of you that are looking for radio singles and club bangers Trey offers up “2 Reasons feat T.I.,” “Hail Mary feat Young Jeezy & Lil Wayne,” Playin Hard,” and “Check Me Out feat Diddy & Meek Mill.” For those of you who loved “Panty Dropper”  (the full version) off of the Ready album he drops the follow up to it entitled “Panty Wetter.” Its a smooth track and definitely will accomplish what the bragadocious title suggest.

As a whole Chapter V blends R&B, Hip Hop and Pop together without overdoing the other genres. This album is definitely a must cop and further pushes the current R&B movement forward. The album drops on the 21st make sure you go get that!

Based On A T.R.U. Story: Is 2 Chainz Really G.O.O.D. Music?

Is he 2 Chainz or is he Tity Boi? Is he G.O.O.D. Music or DTP? Is he still Playa Circle’s “Duffle Bag Boy” or is he a brand new entity in the Hip Hop community? Regardless the name and the affiliation Tauheed Epps is most definitely one of the hottest rappers in the game right now. With over a decade under his belt as a major label artist it wasnt until Tity Boi changed his name for commercial appeal and success to 2 Chainz. This change was followed by a slew of features and mixtape after mixtape making him one of the most consistent on the mixtape circuit. Who could forget the crossover smash featuring TI on the remix “Spend It.” Every radio station from pop to urban had it in rotation, its been quoted on Sports Center and even ABC’s the View. So the hood to the most conservative white women were all in their Lambo’s to Caravan’s riding around and getting it. The song was infectious and everyone knew it even if they didnt know the artist behind the banger.

As previously stated 2 Chainz took over the mixtape circuit and figured if the label wasn’t going to do it he would create his own brand and promote himself. Consequently, he released successful mixtapes series like Im So Cold, Codeine Cowboys & T.R.U. Religion. All of this created the buzz needed and was eventually signed to DefJam after being released from Ludacris’ DTP Imprint. Now solo, he’s not rolling dolo, he’s linked with another camp and not just any camp but with hitmaker Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music. Chainz has been dubbed, by myself and fellow music aficionado Slashwaterboy, to be the grown up Lil Wayne. He has successfully swagger jacked Wayne’s style with a maturity of a seasoned 36 year old artist. Yes, 2 Chainz aint new to the game nor is he a spring chicken. He’s been rapping for almost 20 years  and now has the chance to show what he’s made of. To show that he is more than a fly by night artist or someone who will forever be a bench player.

Based On A T.R.U. Story unfortunately, is absolutely nothing special. The album is average as a whole but is full of star power and features and does have some ready radio singles and songs that will definitely set the clubs on fire. This is evident by the singles that have already been dropped like the Drake assisted “No Lie” and “I Love Dem Strippers” feat Nicki Minaj. The other standout tracks on the album are “Extremely Blessed” feat The Dream, “Ghetto Dreams” feat Scarface & John Legend and “In Town” feat Mike Posner. If you all get the bonus edition then you can add the Chris Brown featured track Countdown. Aside from that the album falls flat. No one expects to hear sheer lyricism from 2 Chainz but its moreso the energy and vibe that he delivers charismatically in his songs. Much to my dismay that wasn’t enough to carry this album to being good. On the opening track “Yuck” featuring Lil Wayne, well the title says all you need to know. Lil Wayne further proves my point that he isnt and shouldnt be considered in the Greatest of All Time conversations and actually disputes my point that he is a closer. They both had a subpar flow on this track. “Stop Me Now” featuring Dolla Boi, “Crack,” “Dope Peddler” are essentially the same song. They speak on the same stereotypical and predictable subject matter with no creativity that is ever so prevalent in the Hip-Hop community. “Birthday Song” couldn’t even be saved by a feature by label head Kanye West and the same can also be said about “Wut We Doin” feat Cap1. The bonus songs “Riot,” “Like Me” and “I Feel Good” are solid tracks but were released on other projects.

At best Based On A T.R.U. Story is 50/50 and in all honesty we could have done without this story. I expected so much more coming from 2 Chainz not only because of the solid mixtapes and singles that he’s dropped but because this was his G.O.O.D Music debut and this was anything but GOOD. Kanye West being the musical genius that he is inspired thoughts of greatness and a story of Southern dominance from his protege and we got more of the same monotonous dribble that currently plagues the radio. I dont want to count 2 Chainz out but to proclaim this album will do anything more than gold is a far reach.

However, Based On A T.R.U Story will be in stores 8/21 make sure you all go out and cop it. Id recommend you live streaming the album online first before you go invest your money on this one.

Elle Varner’s Perfectly Imperfect

It has been a long time coming for LA native Elle Varner. She has been bubbling under the radar for the last couple of years independently making a name for herself. Varner was built for this, she was born to do this. Spending most of her childhood sleeping on studio couches watching her parents, Mikelyn Roderick and Jimmy Varner, accomplished songwriters work. After attempting to learn and learning several instruments including the guitar (which she quit on), flute and piano she learned that the greatest instrument she could learn to use was her voice. At 16, she became apart of the Hamilton Academy of Music’s Jazz Group and was selected to be in the Grammy In the Schools Mentoring Program. She then applied to NYU, with a C average and much to her surprise was accepted. Not only did Elle get into NYU but she was all accepted into the second class of the Clive Davis Program of Recorded Music. Upon graduating she was awarded “Most Likely to be Signed” and “Most Likely to Win a Grammy.” Now four years later she finds herself to be a well trained singer songwriter.

Elle Varner, with such an accomplished background and pedigree still needed to be able to prove that she had the talent and ability to do this. Most of you first became aware of Elle because of her single, “Only Wanna Give It To You” feat J Cole and then definitely because of her follow up single “Refill.” However, Elle had been dropping singles and tracks prior to that like the awesome single with fellow up and coming artist Karina Paisan, “Luv Me Tomorrow” off of the Black Hero Theme Muzik project. She also dropped the mixtape “Conversational Lush” at the end of 2011, beginning of 2012. All of this lead up to the release of “Perfectly Imperfect.” Perfectly Imperfect is just that! It is perfectly imperfect from the quality of her voice which is reminiscent of a time long ago to the depth in the simplicity of her lyrics.

Perfectly Imperfect sets the tone for a career that appears to have longevity and sets the building blocks, the foundation for a career of diversity and growth. With a soulful, raspy voice, Elle sounds more like 60’s & 70’s R&B instead of the oversaturated POP R&B of today. This album is a blend of R&B/Soul with flares of Hip-Hop like the J Cole assisted single to the acoustic ode “Damn Good Friends.” This album sounds like a personal letter written to herself and we are allowed to enjoy the ride. She opens up intimately on the tracks “I Dont Care” and “Not Tonight.” She show’s her vulnerability on “So Fly” and even shows a glimpse of her sensual side on the cut “Sound Proof Room.”

As a whole “Perfectly Imperfect” shows the turn that the R&B genre is taking and getting back to its roots. This is a passionate, emotional filled audible orgasm that is welcomed and much needed. The bar is starting to be raised and sustained by the newcomers of the game. Following the stellar debut of Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange” Elle Varner shows that the ladies aren’t going to be pushed to the wayside and shows that this genre is alive and thriving.

Make sure you all go and cop the new album that is out now!