RAS KASS: BARMAGEDDON – MIXTAPE REVIEW

By Ron Grant

In anticipation of his upcoming Barmageddon album, Cali underground vet recently
released The Barmageddon Mixtape, in association with DJ Booth and Bare Arms Clothing.
Ras Kass has been spitting some of the hardest body-blow lyrics for years now, and is
counted among one of the greatest lyricists of his generation. The Barmageddon Mixtape
solidifies him as that and displays a lyrical beast at his best on track after track.

Clearly disappointed with the direction Hip Hop has taken in the past few years from an
artists’ perspective, it’s evident that Ras is taking much of the garbage music personally and
considers it his duty to remind Hip Hop fans of the basics: bars, lyricism, wordplay, heavy-
hitting beats and dusty soul sample-based production. This is clearest on a track like “Holes
in the Ozone” where Ras uses the hook to take shots at radio-friendly Hip Pop, and even
Hova and ‘Ye with the line “I wear my own crown, I ain’t watchin’ no throne…”

But Ras is also famous for getting politically and socially aware, and does so sincerely
on “The Great Recession” and “Payback”, where he convincingly and angrily hits on
everything from Occupy Wall Street to the current Obama Administration Drone
controversy to the World Bank, the war in Afghanistan and Bill O’Reilly.

Some of the best moments on Barmageddon that aren’t geared towards the political or the
lyrical (at least not entirely) are “Manna” with J Natural and “Focus” featuring Kendrick
Lamar. Both display fast-paced wordplay by Ras and his guests, while the beats lean
towards classically funky, laid-back, smoked out Cali production that might put more than a
few of his fans in the mood to roll one.

Ras Kass doesn’t deviate to far from his proverbial script. With a mixture of an all-star cast
of guest appearances from Cali’s and Hip Hop’s finest (The Game, E-40, Kendrick Lamar,
Raekwon), uncompromising battle-tested bars, a few politically-savvy tracks and engaging
production, he’s created a solid mixtape that can hopefully build strong anticipation for his
upcoming Barmageddon LP.

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RIHANNA: UNAPOLOGETIC

It’s kinda hard to believe that Barbadian songstress and pop princess Rihanna is seven albums into her career as a recording artist. Since 2005, she’s grown from just another bubble gum singer having a style laced with Island flavor to an international pop music icon, tabloid/TMZ favorite, unrivaled fashionista and all-around party girl. With the release of her latest album, Unapologetic, Rih Rih does her best to silence critics from all corners.

Rihanna’s strength has never really been with her voice, but her success has come in the last few years from having songwriters and producers around her that know how produce hits, and crafting music that’s radio friendly, memorably hooky, sexually suggestive and reflective of the fast lane pop star lifestyle myth all at the same time. Think in the vein of “Rude Boy” and “S&M”. The formula has worked like gangbusters for her since A Good Girl Gone Bad, and it continues here.  With “Jump”, she give her own dirty-pop update of Ginuwine’s “Pony”, while “Right Now” continues the trend of fast-paced, EDM-inspired major label pop R&B helmed by David Guetta; it’s sure to get night clubs from the Jersey Shore to Ibiza pumping all night long.

Surprisingly, Rihanna also shoots for success in the area of the big Rock/Pop/R&B/Contempo ballad “What Now”, but misses the mark slightly in the area of real, raw emotion. Another track that Unapologetic could have done without are “Numb” featuring a disinterested Eminem that sounds like he may have done the record as a favor. And “Loveeeee Song” with Future lays it on very thick, with the rapper singing disingenuous, auto-tuned coos to Rih Rih that seem to fall on deaf ears.

But there’s much more good than bad on the singers seventh album, with piano-driven “Stay” featuring Mikky Ekko giving off an almost operatic duet vibe, party pop winners like “Power It Up” and “Fresh Off The Runway”, and the song that everyone has been waiting a few years to hear, “Nobody’s Business” with former lover Chris Brown, which pays successfully trendy homage to Michael Jackson, an artist that has obviously influenced both Rihanna and Breezy.

Rih Rih remains successful by not only continuing to make chart-topping pop hits, but also by taking chances. True, she’s been criticized for being more style than substance, more fluff than talent. But there’s no denying that Ms. Rihanna is now a wily music veteran that knows how to make a danceable and relevant pop record. Unapologetic is just that.

– Ronald Grant

#TURNITUPTHURSDAY 11/15/12

So first and foremost let me apologize missing last week’s posting but I got caught up with a few amazing opportunities and projects and I thought it would be semi weird to have #TURNITUPTHURSDAY dropping on a Saturday. So with that being said this week we are going to do something a little different. Instead of giving you independent artists this week im going to give you some mainstream artist that have some really dope songs.

Rihanna feat Chris Brown – Nobody’s Business

Joe Budden – Mama Said

Wale – Freedom of Speech

Kanye West  – White Dress

Keyshia Cole feat Ashanti – Woman to Woman

JoJo – We Get By

 

New music from independent artist will be back soon but hopefully this will tide you over until that happens. Let me know what you guys think!

#TURNITUPTHURSDAY 11/1/12

This week on #TURNITUPTHURSDAY we are going to showcase the DMV’s own Antwoinne. In 2008, he released The Prelude to the Diary EP and he did decent numbers considering it was pushed hand to hand and via word of mouth. 4 years later Antwoinne is in the process of working on a new album and to prepare for it he is releasing a bonus edition of The Prelude to the Diary EP with new material. This R&B rising star is bubbling under the radar and is one hit catching on with the masses to being a true household name. Maybe this can be the thing that triggers it. So without further delay click on the link below and check out what he has going on…

 

Antwoinne: A Musical Journey

 

Feel free as always to reach out to the artist and leave comments letting us know what you think. He can be reached on both Facebook and Twitter.

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…

 

#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