Album Reviews

Robert Glasper Experiment Presents Black Radio 2

During a time when positive, soulful music was lacking, Robert Glasper released Black Radio 2, the second installment to the Black Radio series, which collaborated with an all-star cast of some of the greatest rappers and R&B singers to grace the mic. The follow up rounded up an equal amount of talent featuring Jill Scott, Common, Anthony Hamilton, Norah Jones, Bilal, Snoop Dogg, Faith Evans, Brandy, Lupe Fiasco and Macy Gray.

The album begins with perhaps the most beautiful mic check I’ve ever heard, similarly to the original Black Radio. Fusing “Baby Tonight” with introducing the beautiful vocals of the artists on the album, the first track is a prologue of what’s to come. 

Robert Glasper Experiment, as he calls the collaboration, brilliantly blends Jazz, Hip Hop, R&B, and soul genres into one innovative project including a wide range of content, most articulately on “I Stand Alone” with his take on the lack of originality in music right now:

The irresistible appeal of black individuality…. Where has all of that gone? The very people who blazed our path to self expression, and pioneered a resolutely distinct and individual voice, have too often succumb to mind numbing saneness and been seduced to simply repeating what we hear, what somebody else said or thought and not digging deep to learn what we think or what we feel or what we believe. Now it is true that the genius of African culture is surely its repetition. But the key to such repetition is that new elements were added each go round, every round goes higher and higher. Something fresh popped off the page or jumped from a rhythm that had been recycled through the imagination of a writer or musician. Each new installation bore the imprint of our unquenchable thirst to say something of our own, in our own way, in our voice as best we could. The trends of the times be damned. Thank God we’ve still got musicians and thinkers whose obsession with excellence and whose hunger for greatness remind us that we should all be unsatisfied with mimicking the popular rather than mining the fertile veins of creativity that God placed deep inside each of us.

Many of the artists who collaborated on the original Black Radio returned for part 2 and are clearly taking an active stance in producing music that is thoughtful and imaginative, filling the void that Glasper asserts is missing in the industry.  There is nothing mimicked on this album, each track is unique and tells a different story of love, God, and loneliness.

“Yet To Find” features the incredible vocals of Anthony Hamilton and explores a past relationship and the frustrations of having love inside of you but yet to find the right person to give it to. Norah Jones appears on “Let It Ride” and with a sultry sound, she expresses the risk of deep, consuming love. Malcolm Jamal Warner speaks to the youth in the uplifting “Jesus Children.” Luke James sings the chorus on “Persevere” while Snoop Dogg and Lupe Fiasco spit verses on the idea of determination and that despite the hardships of the world you’ve got to push through.

Black Radio 2 is the perfect follow up to complete an exceptional body of work. Jazz production, outstanding vocals, meaningful rap and relatable content set this project far apart from other albums and explore a blended genre that has the potential to speak to multiple generations and backgrounds. Jazz meets hip hop on Robert Glasper’s Experiment and its creation is music that fills the soul in every way.


Nothing Was The Same

Drake dropped Nothing Was The Same today and although the album is reflective of his current stature in the industry, his love life, his family, etc... he's continuing to expand hip hop on its possibilities and its boundaries. Just when the tweets were reaching an all time high of essentially comparing Drake with weakness, he drops this incredible album filled with straight up bars.

The intro track "Tuscan Leather" is one of the best intro tracks I've heard since "Too Deep for the Intro" on J. Cole's Friday Night Lights. At over six minutes long and named after Tom Ford's cologne, it expresses such a new confidence for Drake as having a real spot in the game. But it's presented in such a relatable way, that it makes you care about Drake. He does that so incredibly on this album, he presents rich rapper situations into real situations that we as an audience can understand. He expresses authentic human emotions, that us as listeners can grasp and relate to. Loneliness, insecurity, yearning for love, creativity, are things we all feel and its intriguing to realize those struggles still exist even after the fame and fortune. He has this great line on "Tuscan Leather": "on a mission trying to shift the culture" and that's exactly what's he's doing with this new album and his artistry.

The third track "Wu Tang Forever" brought in some complaint from hip hop fans, as the sound and content doesn't deliver any Wu Tang resemblance. Although the hook repeating "it's yours," is one of the Wu's classics off their Wu Tang Forever cd1. And besides the obvious connection, the sound is dope and melodic and entrancing.

"From Time" is a beautiful duet between Drake and Jhene Aiko and her vocals are breathtaking. Breaking down the nature of love as well as reminiscing about women he knew from Hooters and Macy's, it's so honest. His honesty is unparalleled in the industry right now.

"Too Much" is my favorite track and explores his troubles with his family and how his wealth has actually isolated him from his loved ones. Sampha accompanies Drake on the hook urging him not "think about it too much". "Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2" is another outstanding track set to an additional Wu sample: C.R.E.A.M., where Jay Z is featured and delivers an amazing verse. Although this is a very self-indulged and even self-obsessed album, Drake is clearly being inspired by an era in hip hop. With the Jay Z verse, Ma$e quote and multiple Wu inspirations, he is providing some real hip hop history on such a contemporary rap album.

The singles "Started From the Bottom," "All Me," and "Hold On, We're Going Home," typical to albums, are the weakest of the track list, but nonetheless, the album is superb. Most of the production is done by Noah "40" Shebib and each track unique in its sound, really plays off each other forming a true body of work. Drake certainly did his thing and if you haven't heard it yet, go out and cop this gem immediately!


June 18th: J. Cole vs. Kanye West

Today was a big day in the hip hop world. Two of the leadings MC's in the game right now dropped albums: Born Sinner and Yeezus. Due to the leaks of both albums I was able to take the time to really listen to each one. I had my doubts about both artists. I loved Cole in his Friday Night Lights glory and I highly anticipated his debut album Cole World- The Sideline Story. I was left very disappointed and since then I have never been able to rock with him the same. With Kanye, I was able to hear the first four songs on Yeezus at the Governor's Ball. Hearing him do some of his early tracks and his new songs in the same performance, his sound is incredibly different now, and at first I rejected his new direction. However, after really listening, and all hip hop lovers know real hip hop is so complex that it requires multiple listening sessions and time to devour the rhymes and flow, I came to some conclusions.

Born Sinner is a solid body of work. Highlights of the album are the Biggie sample in his intro track "Villuminati," "Rich Ni**az," and his popular single "Power Trip." What impressed me the most was "Forbidden Fruit" which featured Kendrick on the chorus. Kendrick has an incredibly entrancing tone that partners the song perfectly. Cole's flow is cold on this track and offers his same lyrical superiority without having the pensive tone he utilizes frequently. Towards the end of the album is  "Crooked Smile" which features the remaining TLC. The song is uplifting and discusses first his image and then women and the pressures and insecurities we face based on image. This song always makes me smile when I hear it, perhaps in a crooked smile sort of way :). Rumors of a track titled "Let Nas Down" turned out to be true. Cole is so honest on this track where he talks about how much he idolized Nas and meeting him was a dream come true. After the release of his single "Work Out," apparently Nas hated the track and that killed Cole inside. With each listen I enjoy Born Sinner more and more as hip hop should be, however, it is not an album I would play start to finish. I'll never understand how such a talented lyricist with the backing of the legendary Jay Z can not seem to produce a killer album. Friday Night Lights blew me away and I have yet to have the same reaction with J. Cole since.

As for Yeezus, Kanye completely stepped out of the box that hip hop created for him. A perfect follow up to MBDTFYeezus production is spectacular and provides a sound that is brand new. With only ten tracks, that's all you need. The album is shocking at first listen but the fourth and fifth listen are pure genius. The industrial sound that accompanies "Black Skinhead" and "New Slaves" is magic on good quality systems. The album only gets better in the second half, "Hold my Liquor" is dark and fascinating. "I'm In It" incorporates reggae vocals that are thrilling. "Blood on the Leaves" is by far the most powerful track featuring Nina Simone covering Billie Holiday's famous "Strange Fruit" which was originally a poem exposing the lynching of blacks in this country. "Bound 2" lyrically is the best track on the album and gives a glimpse of the "old Kanye" we like to refer to so much. Not quite fitting the overall sound of the rest of the album, nonetheless it concludes it and sounds so good.

Born Sinner is definitely worth copping and I am eager to hear your opinions. And if you haven't already heard Yeezus, get on it! With these two great albums already out and Pusha T, Rick Ross, Fabolous, Jay Z and so many more dropping albums this summer, it seems real hip hop is on the rise and I can't wait.

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