Meek Mill: Dream or Nightmare?

Buzz and hype are at a dangerously severe all-time high in Hip Hop music. In the era of social networking overnight success, where mixtapes are more hotly anticipated than the albums they are supposed to promote, the buzz that surrounds the release of mixtapes, singles, and even album artwork, might be considered to be a bit out of control. And when the results of a proper, full-length project don’t live up to the hype machine that seems to build them up just to let them down, it’s all the more disappointing.

With Philly emcee Meek Mill, the buzz factor has been in constant overdrive since he was announced as being part of the label/music collective/crew/entourage known as Maybach Music Group, under the tutelage of everyone’s favorite C.O. turned crack rapper, Rick Ross. Along with a stable of emcees that include D.C.’s Wale and Ohio’s Stalley among others, Meek has seen his stock skyrocket and his pockets fatten with Rozay’s mentorship.

And musically, he’s released some of the most critically acclaimed and streets-approved mixtapes with his Dreamchasers and Flamers series’, as well as Mr. Philadelphia and other projects. Plus, with two of his singles in “Tupac Back” and “Amen” featuring Ross and Drake respectively, making so many waves both positive and negative, and being two of the most massively successful songs of 2012, Meek’s debut album, Dreams and Nightmares, is set up perfectly to be one of the most anticipated Hip Hop releases of the year. The problem is that all the buzz, hype and past success can’t make Dreams and Nightmares a better musical experience in it’s own right, and it ends up falling pretty flat.

The album starts out with the piano-driven yet bass heavy title track, then transitions to “In God we Trust” and “Young and Gettin’ It”, all three on which Meek sticks to his script for success thus far: semi-autobiographical street tales of slanging and selling, braggadocios rhyme stanzas about getting money and women, being dismissive of broke dudes and basically living the American Dream hood life of an up and coming rap star. Not until “Traumatized” does the listener begin to get somewhat of a glimpse into Meek’s struggles, as he details the deaths of family members that he once held so dear (“You ripped my family apart/and made my mama cry/so when I see you, nigga, it’s gonna be a homicide…”). Sadly, that’s the closest we come to getting to know who the real Meek Mill is.

The rest of Dreams and Nightmares pretty much stays in the same vein: there’s the aforementioned summer success story of “Amen” with Drizzy, “Tony Story”, a third-person account of revenge told in Meek’s trademark high-pitched wail at the end of each bar, and three songs featuring Rick Ross that also don’t stray to far from the path that Meek has created already: “Believe It”, “Maybach Curtains” and “Lay Up” with Ross, Wale and Trey Songz contributing to Meeks’ moment. Out of the three, “Maybach Curtains” is the most interesting, with a lush, grown-and-sexy soundscape that does more for the song than the actual lyrics, complete with a dramatically over-the-top yet suitable chorus by John Legend. But eventually, the rest of the album begins to veer into throwaway track mode with a series of forgettable songs like “Polo and Shell Tops” and “Real Niggas Come First”, ending on a pretty low note.

Meek Mill’s main strengths as an artist are that he knows to stay in his lane and that he feeds off of what he knows, playing it safe and sticking to the street rhyme fare that many fans seem to be craving again. And it’s served him well on his mixtape outings. But on Dreams and Nightmares, not only does Meek seem to rely to heavily on his successful mixtape formula, it also sounds like he’s already gotten a little too comfortable being part of the MMG family, realizing that the fact he’s connected to Rick Ross will translate into selling a good number of units. Though it has its moments of descent enough music, the end result of Dreams and Nightmares is an album that plays at best as lackluster and disappointing, and at worst bland and boring.

Sadly, it looks like the hype machine has claimed another victim. Hopefully Meek can get back to the basics of what made him so good on the mixtape circuit on his next project.

 

– RG

#TURNITUPTHURSDAY 10/26/12

We debuted #TURNITUPTHURSDAY last week and had a nice outcome and turnout. This week we are going to showcase Slashwaterboy’s “The Juicer!” The Juicer is the prequel to the Got Juice album that will be dropping soon. So please check out the DMV’s own, producer, artist, writer, Slashwaterboy and let’s #TURNITUP!

Caught Up ft Madam Madon & Draus

Make Em Mad ft Nu the Mayor, RarRathe ShoeTer & Mr. Chainsaw 

Southside Coastin ft Whitefolkz, Slash & Mo Betta

 

If yall like these tracks make sure you peep the entire mixtape and as always let the artist know what you think. Click on Slashwaterboy above and you can be directly connected to him. Next week get ready because we are switching up the genre and dropping a little rock on you…

 

Kendrick Lamar, “Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City”

 

Ever since the release of his critically acclaimed mixtape/indie album Section.80 in 2011, Kendrick Lamar has been well on his way to being the next Hip Hop “It” artist to emerge from indie success to mainstream prominence. Pretty much the poster child for both the Black Hippy movement and for Top Dawg Entertainment, Lamar is leading a charge of artists that include Jay Rock and Ab Soul that are continuously making strong name brands steeped in intricate lyricism and sincere yet diversified wordplay in new millennium Hip Hop.

Even though he had already recorded and released material through T.D.E., Section.80 was his coming out party to heads across the country. Now, having been blessed as the next big thing in Hip Hop by everyone from Dr. Dre to BET, Lamar just released his proper album debut with Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City.

Kendrick Lamar is the personification of Hip Hop in the post-Hip Hop generation: not confined by generational, cultural or regional boundaries yet still maintaining a brazen arrogance and pride that can only be a product of Compton, and a flow style that combines a plethora of different kinds of Hip Hop music from the last 10-plus years. From the sprinklets of social consciousness peppered throughout his rhymes that pays homage to old school East and West coast artists like Public Enemy and N.W.A., to the rapid-fire linguistics that remind listeners of Midwest rap heroes like Twista and Bone Thugs and Harmony, to the screwed and chopped voice manipulations that are a clear ode to the South. Kendrick refuses to have himself of his music marginalized into a box, and that desire to break away from the mold is constantly on display throughout Good Kid… .

Undoubtedly one of the best tracks on the album has to be “M.A.A.D. City” featuring West Coast O.G. MC. Eiht. Kendrick’s jittery, quivering yet focused flow about a day in the life in the Cali streets paired with a beat that starts out simplistically enough, then rolls into a vintage low-rider banger that harkens back to the heyday the West’s sometimes forgotten heroes Spice 1, Mack 10 and Eiht himself, will be enough to get even the most staunch Kendrick Lamar hater to nod their head. Also effective is “The Art of Peer Pressure”, a standard romp-through-Compton adventure that quickly evolves into Kendrick detailing the elements of drugs, violence and theft that gets him engulfed in the street life, and how both sides of his guilty conscience try to pull him in conflicting directions as he struggles with both his own inner demons and the desire to impress his homies.

On Good Kid, m.A.A.d city, Kendrick does better than many of his peers at finding that ever-elusive balance between radio jams and introspective songs that are heavy on reality. The current radio favorite “Swimming Pools”, along with “Poetic Justice” featuring Drake and “The Recipe” with Dr. Dre, will all bring the emcee more casual fans that may not have been following his career progress until now, while “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” finds Kendrick contemplating the questionable choices he’s made and their impact on those around him, with his own brand of gut-wrenching self-deprecation and pity fully on display, and might just make believers out of those same casual fans.

Simultaneously, Kendrick pays more than enough homage to some of the West Coast’s most well-loved Hip Hop institutions, from sampling Janet Jackson on “Poetic Justice”, to the shades of 2Pac heard on “Sing About Me…”.

The greatest thing about Good Kid, m.A.A.d city is not only that it’s refreshingly cohesive and simultaneously multi-layered, but that it displays so many of the contradictions that Hip Hop too many times doesn’t want to admit that it has. True, other artists like Drake, Kid Cudi, J. Cole, Lupe Fiasco and others have been effective at doing this as well, but many times they seem to revel in them. Kendrick realizes and embraces those contradictions, but he doesn’t glorify them. He simply puts them on display as real as he knows how, and the end result is this body of work. While it’s very much a departure from Section.80, Good Kid… stands on it’s own as arguably the best concept album of 2012.

 

by Ronald Grant

#TURNITUPTHURSDAY 10/19/12

Ladies & Gentleman this is the debut of #TURNITUPTHURSDAY!!! This is a showcase of up and coming talent and selfless self promotion and some well known talent. You will be privy to YOU HEAR IT FIRST singles and videos and in this debut edition you will be privy to a few tracks that have been released with lowkey buzz and a couple new ones, as well as, a new video from Jared Brady. Let’s get it!!

These are the first 2 singles from “A Cluttered Mind” by Trey Luva. Album coming soon…

Padded Walls feat Antwoinne & Tese Fever

Imagination – Trey Luva feat Antwoinne, Mina Leon & Sam3

This is the 1st single from “Heartbreak, Love & Everything In Between: The Warm-Up”

Gettin Em Remix feat Sammie & 2 Chainz

Grab your popcorn and take a seat as we introduce you to Jared Brady and “Runaway”

If you like what you hear feel free to reach out to the artist and let em know. Also make sure you tell em that you heard exclusively here at #EFTF. The artist spotlighted here can be found on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Jared BradyTese FeverAntwoinneSam3Mina Leon and Trey Luva

Brandy: R&B Has Been or Is Her Two Eleven The Juice The Game’s Been Missing?

One of the hardest things to do as a writer, blog or otherwise, is remaining totally and completely unbiased when reporting. As the saying goes, “that’s easier said than done,” definitely applies here. Brandy Norwood or Brandy [to the masses] has had a rollercoaster career. Despite all of her success, and this is why I previously said being unbiased is easier said than done, Brandy to me has always been a mediocre/average singer and lacked that “IT” factor. She definitely has had a career full of accolades for her accomplishments and im by no means trying to take away from that. However, as the 2000s have proven, Brandy has been relegated to the category of people arent overjoyed at the news of hearing that you have new music, nobody is checking for you. She is a very boring as a celebrity and her lack of buzz doesn’t help at all. She shares this home with other 90’s early 2000’s artist like Ashanti, Omarion and dare I say, Monica. All of the aforementioned artist are either working on a new album, waiting to release a new album or recently released a new album. They are all hoping that they can reinvigorate their careers in the way that Mariah Carey did when she released her critically acclaimed “The Emancipation of MIMI.” Now this album or project has been a long tedious labor of love for Brandy. Label changes, underwhelming singles and a new found drive and excitement in life has culminated in the braggadocious, potent Two Eleven.  Anybody that dabbles in cheap liquor and beer knows that 211 is not to be played with and the ultimate question is, since Brandy has named her album after a drink that’s designed to get you messed up quickly and cheaply, is this the shot in the arm that R&B is in need of?

History has proven that Brandy can drop hot singles and can produce good albums. However, the 2000’s [in my opinion] have not been kind to her because she fell off severely and had it not been for Ray J, Brandy would have been relegated to the “Where Are They Now” specials on VH1. This album has continued that pattern with its lead single “Put It Down” feat Chris Brown. This uptempo club driven song has reached #2 on the Billboard charts and shows that this album is not one to just collect dust or to use as a coaster. She then dropped her latest single, “Wildest Dreams” and its slowly starting to get airplay and spins. However, this single is a reflection of the majority of the album. Its ok and shows promise but just isn’t quite there yet.  The album shows her growth as a woman and not just an artist and she shows this vulnerability and strength in the Frank Ocean penned “Scared of Beautiful.” This is my absolute favorite song on the album followed by “No Such Thing As Too Late” and “Can You Hear Me Now.” These two songs resonate the advice Mary J Blige gave on the Voice this past week, “If you can’t hit the note, sing the note with emotion and feeling. The words speak for themselves but make us believe them because you believe them.” Outside of these tracks the album is average, the production sounds very dated in places and the album slows in parts. I have found that this album rings true to the notion that what you are going through in life affects the emotions and perceptions evoked from music.  This album gets a C+/B- rating from me.

This is definitely going to be a sleeper album and will creep up on you slowly but will not blow you away. As previously stated, im not the biggest fan of Brandy but I admire her work ethic and in order for me to enjoy the album I focused on the lyrical content. I allowed myself to really listen to the story being told and not the vessel being used. Go show Brandy some love and cop Two Eleven! Brandy aint done yet and with a little more work and a few tweaks to her public persona she will be back on top of the game.

MGK “Lace(s) Up” As the Great White Hype of Bad Boy 2.0

Word in the streets is Bad Boy is dead! Bad Boy aint been hot since the 90s! Puffy or Diddy (whomever he is this week) knows Bad Boy is dead so his money comes from his other ventures – Sean John, Ciroc, his line of Beats by Dre and his management company. Artist are dumb to sign with Bad Boy because Diddy robs his artist. Bad Boy artist are tax write offs and wont be signed to the label in a year. How about this fact, the only consistently successful artists are the late great Notorious B.I.G. and Diddy or how about the last album released on Bad Boy was Diddy Dirty Money’s “Last Train to Paris.” Now let’s look at the Bad Boy 2.0 roster:

  • Cassie (She hasn’t been hot since “Me & U” which was done pre Bad Boy with Ryan Leslie and she’s Diddy’s fiance)
  • Red Cafe (He’s the definition of a struggle rapper. Consistently bubbling under the radar but cant get hot to break past that)
  • French Montana (Who is hot only by association – Diddy & MMG)
  • Los (Who!?! Exactly he signed to Bad Boy twice and still nothing. Stick to being a Baltimore struggle rapper)
  • Machine Gun Kelly (MGK) – The Great White Hype from Cleveland

With an over the top, rock star lifestlye, MGK has been bubbling under the radar for a minute but it wasnt until he dropped Wild Boy with Waka that the streets finally started to take notice. The Remix was even bigger and featured 2 Chainz, Meek Mill, DMX, Yo Gotti, Mystikal and French Montana. However, many wondered if he was a one hit wonder considering his subsequent singles “Invincible” feat Esther Dean and “Warning Shots” feat Cassie didnt take off. However, the greatest co-sign came from troubled leader of the Ruff Ryders, DMX. DMX, not one to bite his tongue, slammed popular rappers like Drake while praising MGK. The admiration spawned the high energy track “I Dont Dance” but sonically it was in the vein of Wild Boy. “Lace Up” however, gave that dark, gritty side of DMX on “D3MONS” and MGK stood toe to toe with the legend. Surprisingly, “Lace Up” wasnt dominated by high energy, uptempo club bangers. MGK definitely had those like the title track, “Lace Up” feat Lil Jon and “Stereo” feat Alex Fitts. I was drawn to the darker and more personal tracks “See My Tears,” “Hold On (Shut Up)” feat Young Jeezy and “Edge of Destruction” feat Tech N9ne & Twista. He even enlists Bun B  & Dub-O for “What I Do” to make sure we are all aware of what he does and came to do.

“Lace Up” is a strong debut for MGK. It is a concise, flowing album without too many lags or skippable tracks. I guess its to be expected when the white boy mad everybody stop and take note of his lyrical prowess when he shut down Rucker Park. (see video here: http://youtu.be/ndgV3Tpllrc) In addition to those previously mentioned contributors the album also features M. Shadows, Sysnster Gates, Anna Yvette, Planet VI and Black Bear.

Is this the album that will bring Bad Boy back to prominence? Probably not. However, he is the strongest artist currently on the roster until proven otherwise. His sophomore album is going to be what determines his longevity. We all know that most people fall to the superstitious Sophomore  Slump but he’s going to have to have a solid album even if the sales numbers arent there. Guess what Suge!?! Diddy doesnt make an appearance on the album at all. I dont think I even heard one adlib! Go cop this album though its definitely a good one.

Iggy Azalea Trap Gold

I remember the first time I met DC Emcees Jay Mills, Maria J the Postergirl and Cedes at Pure for a relief concert in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It was at that moment that I saw the hardwork and dedication each of these female emcees put into their craft and made me wonder why they didnt have major attention. Watching each command the stage and mic proved it was all about the skill and not just a pretty face, sex appeal or gimmicks. Consequently, I made it my mission to collab with them. Im 1 of 3 on the collab but that’s another story for another time. After numerous other performances (male & female) I left with probably the most life changing, thought altering statement of my life from these ladies. They said, “Dont call me a FEMCEE! I am an EMCEE! Does my gender limit my lyrical ability?” I was speechless due to the depth and complexity of the statement/question. I didnt look at the term disrespectfully but they’re statement resonated with me loud and clear.

Fast forward to October 2012 and im listening to the Grand Hustle, G.D.O.D. (Get Dough or Die), Hustle Gang first lady, Iggy Azalea! Now anybody that knows me knows I absolutely love Iggy. This is project 4 or 5 for Iggy and not dismissing the growth and obvious TI Influence, Iggy has stayed true to herself. Despite her major label deal with Interscope falling through when she aligned with Grand Hustle, Iggy has stayed in the mainstream eye. Where it be for her useless beef with NY rapper Azalea Banks, major features (where she more than held her own) or the major endorsements! With all the accomplishments Iggy has achieved she hasn’t forgotten nor forsaken what got her here, the MUSIC!

On the Trap Gold EP, Iggy has only one feature and it’s from southern legend, Juicy J. This speaks volumes for 2 reasons:

  • It’s from someone outside of her clique and yet its a legend in the game and he co-signs her ability as an artist and
  • She proves that she doesnt need her team to make her hot (like a French Montana)

Her last EP, Glory, featured 2 of her biggest singles, “Murda Buziness” feat TI and “Millionaire Misfits” ft B.O.B. Iggy also caught flack and her lyrical ability questioned due to her XXL Freshmen cypher. Now Glory showed that she can make good music but it appeared [on a grand scale]  she needed help. Fresh off the Hustle Gang cypher at the BET Hip Hop Awards, not only was she apart of arguably one of the best cyphers (comparable only to the Ruff Ryders) but her verse was better than 80% of those who participated. If we are comparing it to the other females that spit then she was bested only by Eve but then I could be slightly biased because its great to here Eve spit.

“Trap Gold” picks up where Glory left off. She is cocky, braggadocious and evolves along with her status in life. With every track, I hear the hunger of Ignorant Art while embracing the evolution of her surroundings and situation. This album showcases the direction of Hip Hop with the dance and experimental musical influence like the Diplo produced “Yo El Rey” or the FKi produced “Quicktime.” She keeps it gutter with Juicy J on “Flexin & Finessin” and then sexily gutter on ” 1800 Bone.” These are the standout tracks or the ones I grooved hardest too but this is 11 song album is no slouch. Iggy by far is NOT to be slept on. If you dont know yet, you really need to get familiar. You can cop the album here: