ALBUM REVIEW | Kanye West’s “The Life Of Pablo”

Kanye

[Words By// @K1ngEljay]

Sometimes, just having clarity helps.

I feel like we’ve said this before recently, but it bears repeating, especially in the curious case of Kanye West. After releasing The Life Of Pablo, his latest album, on Tidal and declaring that it will never be sold, it shortly was put back into the oven to fine-tune a few things. Thankfully, the project is the better for it, but it caused a bit of an issue for those trying to review/promote the thing.

Like, us, for instance. Continue reading

EP REVIEW | Kendrick Lamar’s “untitled unmastered.”

Kendrick Lamar

[Words By// @K1ngEljay]

Sometimes, just having clarity helps.

We’ve had projects from artists that weren’t quite finished released, recanted, and redone, leaving us in limbo (Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo for example, which is why that review is coming soon). We’ve had people that announced projects were finished and failed to give release dates. We’ve even had people announce general time frames for special projects and just miss the mark completely (J. Cole’s “Black Friday” session, but that could be due to Bas’ current success). I feel like we all appreciate artists more when they let their actions speak for them.

Which is why Kendrick Lamar is at the top of the list right now. After releasing his award-winning project To Pimp A Butterfly, he followed that up with a solid tour and a string of network television performances with new content. Each performance was notable, and almost each one had a different song. He became must-see television just through his actions. So when K. Dot released the untitled unmastered. EP out of nowhere with the clarity of its purpose (unmixed, unmastered tracks from the T.P.A.B. sessions), it was appreciated by his fans and promptly sold between 150k – 200k with no promo. Continue reading

Album Review | Bas’ “Too High To Riot”

Bas 1

[Words By// @K1ngEljay]

You know, it’s not like Abbas Hamad just came out of nowhere with a dope project for us to write about. To be honest, he’s been trending towards this for quite some time. The Dreamville artist has quietly been carving out an incredible discography, dating back to the Quarter Water Raised Me series that introduced him to the world. Since Dreamville’s union with Interscope, he’s been releasing better quality, so it makes sense for Too High To Riot to come out about this time.

Bas

Even still, it’s refreshing to have to even preface reviews with things like this. Abbas (aka, Bas) is a quality artist, and he’s proven that with his last few releases. The level-up is upon us, however, with his latest album release for Too High To Riot. Outside of a few minor issues, there’s not a lot of things that keeps me from enjoying this project front to back. Continue reading

ALBUM REVIEW | Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made”

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis And French Montana Visit BET's 106 & Park

[Written By// @K1ngEljay]

This review is strictly based on the music. Rejoice.

Most reviews seem to get away from that angle for some reason and start to focus on the politics behind the music, if the artists in question are truly independent, if the artist’s are truly committed to the cause, and a bunch of other factors that, in other situations, could very well be important to the quality of the music. I would be lying if I didn’t say that there are some serious factors here that needs to be addressed when dealing with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ music.

That’s later, however. This review, again, is strictly based on the music; This Unruly Mess I’ve Made is as self-aware of an album as can be, but it’s from a different viewpoint this time around. Only great artists can take the current point in their lives, make it music, and make us care. Macklemore pulled it off with The Heist, but one of the biggest things going for that album was the fact it came out of nowhere. Mack’s underdog status was matched by the receipts he left on YouTube in the forms of incredible visuals and singles like “Wings” and “The Otherside” (outside of “And We Danced”…because….I don’t know what that was), and it was hard to slander the music unless you just didn’t like the dude.

Or, if you wanted Kendrick Lamar to win the Grammy for Album of the Year that one time. Continue reading

Album Review | Majid Jordan

Majid

[Written By // @shanglennon]

For the past several years, the Toronto music scene has been exploding with new talent with much of that talent budding from Drake’s OVO Sound label; PARTYNEXTDOOR and iLoveMakonnen being two of the acts boosted by a cosign from October’s Very Own. Jordan Ullman and Majid Al Maskati combine to form Majid Jordan, the synthpop duo next up on the label’s growing roster. They embrace the sound of groups like The Human League and Depeche Mode, occasionally incorporating a more alternative quality much like that of The Cure while still maintaining a hint of R&B. Most probably first heard of Majid Jordan from their contribution to the smash “Hold On (We’re Going Home)” off Drake’s Nothing Was The Same. The bridge they provided to arguably one of Drake’s most successful songs helped launch their name from the background into the conscience of the everyday music fan.

Majid 2

While Jordan hails from Toronto, Majid arrived in the city by way of Bahrain. They met at the University of Toronto and started making music in their dorm rooms, releasing their first EP, Afterhours, under the original moniker of Good People. Followed up by A Place Like This, their first release as Majid Jordan, we’re given an initial peek into the duo’s musicality. The 5-track EP (released mid-2014) was led by the title track single and “Her” – a thick, beat driven love song. For their eponymous debut, they teamed with OVO’s in-house producers Nineteen85, 40, and longtime Weeknd collaborator Illangelo and were clearly aiming for an audience who would be familiar with those names. While not identical to other artists OVO employs, they certainly are an extension of that lineup and fit well within the collective. Aside from the assist on four of the tracks on the self-titled project, the duo are the main producers on every song and have only one feature which comes from Drake himself (and if “My Love” doesn’t sound like a Drake song then I know nothing about music). Continue reading

Back/Forth (w/ Joe Hova) | The Crunkest Pioneer

Lil Jon

Back/Forth is just a friendly conversation via email that can happen with anyone about anything at any time… Enjoy today’s featured writers, Joe Hova (of JoeHovasMF.com) and myself (of, um, CrackTheCrown.com), as we give credit to one of the pioneers of music in the early 2000s… Leave a comment if you have anything to add, and be sure to check out his site for more coverage of artists… On to the words…


Eljay – So here’s the thing. Work had me a little on edge the other day, and I decided to binge on Lil’ Jon albums to relieve the stress on the way home. In the midst of me doing 90 (because, Lil’ Jon seemingly makes you drive like a mad man in Birmingham, AL) I actually decided to do something different with the music and listen with a critical ear. It hit me almost immediately that we do NOT give Lil’ Jon enough credit as a producer and as a glue guy for the crazy run that he had that, honestly, is probably one of the main reasons the South kicked in the door for rap in the early 2000’s. I feel like I’m on to something with this, but correct me if I’m wrong, man.

Joe Hova – You’re absolutely right, Lil’ Jon doesn’t get as much credit as he’s owed. He’s one of the reasons the South started taking over the landscape of Hip-Hop. Think about it: Once Jon’s success took off, we had him producing for everybody. Remember that Mobb Deep album with “Got It Twisted” and “Win or Lose”? Yep. Lil’ Jon produced on that. Remember that terrible “Lean Back (remix)”? Yep. Jon was on it. He even produced on Mario’s album when Mario was taking off. AND he gave us plenty of catchphrases thanks to Chappelle’s Show. Continue reading

Required Reading | Our Last Kanye West Post?

[Written By// @K1ngEljay]

Hot take time! Maybe we shouldn’t write about Kanye West anymore.

Granted, Kanye is one of the most polarizing characters in the entertainment industry. He’s also one of the few figures that is unable to not speak his mind at any given junction, making him a bit of an unpredictable pariah of sorts, for better or for worse. He’s detailed everything in his music from sending diiih picks to journaling his thoughts about marrying his then-girlfriend to her father to blood diamonds (and everything in-between). He’s not the most lyrical person – and he never was – but the way he moves can either intrigue you to the point of stalking Kim Kardashian’s Twitter page for new songs and announcements, or stress you out to the point you write him off completely.

That’s the thing; there’s so much to latch on to…  It’s incredibly easy to write about ‘Ye. You can literally just wait a couple of days for an inflammatory tweet (“BILL COSBY IS INNOCENT!”) or wait for his new shoes to drop and marvel at how people pay money for some of them, but the point is Kanye is gon’ Kanye harder than the Grammys are going to promote behind Black artists (and give the big awards to “non-Black” ones). He’s always going, always talking, always trying to move forward in general. So when Craig tweeted that there was only one Black reviewer spotted for Ye’s new album, The Life of Pablo, it didn’t make sense to me. People pen about Kanye all the time. Even I’ve written about him a few times in the last year or two, so I quickly hit Google for myself.

Outside of some small blogs, he was right.

Kanye (3)

I know, I know. I was surprised too, Kanye.

Maybe it’s because the rollout for the album is one of the worst we’ve ever seen? Maybe it’s due to the fact that I’m still not entirely sure if the album is officially released yet? Either way, it still sounds contradictory for there to be so much to write about with ‘Ye, and so many articles to pop up on the man, but to have that oversight from the community that Kanye puts ON for (read: us, Black people). The more I thought about it, however, the more it makes sense, because I’ve written about Kanye multiple times myself. Continue reading

Album Review | Pusha T – “Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude”

Darkest Before Dawn (Artwork)

In the last few months, there have been a pair of stellar projects to drop that we were unable to do proper reviews for. It wouldn’t be right unless we remedy that, so check out one of the reviews below. As always, feel free to share the post. New reviews are on the way, so be on the lookout.

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[Written By// @K1ngEljay]

When you mention the word “consistency”, there’s not too many people that can rightfully attribute that phrase to their music. Granted, you have your JAY-Z’s or your Kanye West’s (or, Pablo’s, according to his latest album title change), or even your T.I.’s and your Scarfaces, but outside of the easily recognizable names that helped share Hip-Hop into what it is today, there’s not many (outside of K.R.I.T. and Kendrick Lamar) that qualify. Going even further, there’s not many that can even hold a candle to that type of potency with quote-unquote “drug raps”, but that’’s why Pusha T is such a fascinating anomaly in the system.

Pusha began, for most of us, as half of the Clipse duo with his brother, Malice. Politics halted their initial arrival, but with the Neptunes backing them, Lord Willin’ became a cult classic due to the cleverness laced within the bars. Before them, there weren’t too many true lyricists that took to those types of raps effectively. “Grindin’” and “Virginia” kicked the doors off the hinges, and Pusha T was the flair that lured the casual listeners in with his borderline comical bars that combined his knowledge with his personality:

“In Virginia, we smirked at the Simpson trial. Yeah, I guess the chase was wild, but what’s the fuss about?”

It was refreshing to see the duo (and their cohorts, The Re-Up Gang) keep those lyrical gymnastics going in future projects (including the criminally slept on mixtape series, We Got It 4 Cheap). However, a plot twist arose as Malice discovered the Lord and left those ways in the past. His brother, however…

…Well, his brother has not. I hesitate to say that his music is better for it because of what it would imply, but a guilty pleasure of mine is hearing Pusha T approach a track and make it his own. Teaming up mainly this time with Timbaland, Pusha T’s (aka King Push’s) latest project to drop is something like a Prelude to what he has planned. Darkest Before Dawn is nothing but aggressive raps and surprising production that hits as hard as intended, but still laces that lyricism we became familiar with all of those years ago – which, in itself, is incredible. Continue reading

Mixtape Review | Jacquees – “MOOD”

[Written By // @shanglennon

Although Jacquees has been consistently releasing music for the past five years with several mixtapes and two EP’s to date, his name hasn’t been as prevalent as other young, talented singers who have surfaced within that same time. With MOOD, his most recent drop, we’re given a further developed and experienced artist who can undoubtedly compete in today’s heavily saturated R&B market. The young tenor resonates with fans of a traditional R&B sound with his melodic composition and his sexually blatant lyrics are something that most R&B fans can appreciate. With fewer features than on previous projects and a clearer arrangement, we really get to hear Jacquees’ talent stand on its own. Continue reading

Required Reading | Why ‘Def Jam: Fight For NY’ Is One Of The Best Games Ever Made

Fight For NY (1)

[Written By// @K1ngEljay]

I have to admit something.

I’m a huge fighting game fan. Don’t get me wrong, there’s several genres of games I enjoy. I can tank 20+ hours into a role-playing game without even knowing if I like it or not (like, The Witcher 3, for example), I’m always down to pick up a shooter and blow enemies away, and sports games (mainly basketball, I’ll be honest) are always good for ruining friendships.

However, there is something much more intimate about being able to pick up a controller, hand your friend the other one, and beat the crap out of them with minimal excuses. You can’t blame lag, hit markers, your dog, stupid A.I. that wouldn’t run the correct play, or elements like we’re prone to do in RPGs. All of that goes out of the window when you have punch, kick, and block buttons and two characters with health, and your objective is to drain theirs.

Every attack just LOOKS like it has ill intentions.

It’ll probably hurt them more than it’ll hurt us.

At the same time, I thoroughly enjoy games that are aware of their surroundings. Some TV shows and even Anime are like that, making clever references to pop culture or music. I got to watch Black Lagoon for the first time the other day, and they made a Brett Favre reference that made me laugh. Those type of things add a layer of replay value for me.

So when games combine the best of both worlds, I – for lack of a better phrase – flip out. X-Men Vs. Street Fighter had me in my emotions. Super Smash Bros. came out for the Nintendo 64 and I was running around like an idiot with my cousins:

BRUH, YOU CAN PLAY WITH PIKACHU AND MARIO IN THE SAME GAME. N*GGA DID YOU HEAR ME?! SAMUS IS A GIRL, BUT SHE IN SUPER SMASH BROS. WHAT IS LIFE I CAN’T EVEN

I essentially thought that was as high as we could get in life, but then one day I stumbled across Def Jam: Vendetta. For those that don’t know, it was a wrestling game that combined the current rap roster from Def Jam and the newly minted Def Jam South with other artists, celebrities, and models and made them all go crazy with over-the-top wresting moves. In short, it was a precursor for greatness based off a simple premise, but there was a wrinkle.

I don’t like wrestling games. Continue reading

Album Review | Anderson .Paak – “Malibu”

Malibu (Artwork)

[Written By // @shanglennon

Just his second project under this moniker, Malibu is a gritty, versatile album that weaves through personal hardships, familial subject matter, and a confident realization that Anderson .Paak, formerly Breezy Lovejoy, is a name we won’t soon forget. .Paak’s versatility and unique approach to production are clearly strengths that he embraces. From the jazzy opening track “The Bird”, we’re taken through an array of genres and influences that seamlessly flow to create a cohesive piece of work.

I first became aware of .Paak due to his production of almost the entirety of spoken word artist and rapper Watsky’s third studio album, All You Can Do. Before being noticed as half of the duo NxWorries with Knxwledge or for his features on Dr. Dre’s Compton LP, I had an awareness of his broad range. His first project under his flipped government name, Venice, was a good indication that we’d be hearing something special with this sophomore effort. Continue reading

Required Reading | How To Fall Out Of Love With Your Passion

Hi, guys.

[Written By// @K1ngEljay]

I feel like people don’t properly document their struggles and issues on the internet. No one has a blog page or a website where they can put up their words, so I know for a fact that this particular post will revolutionize the bloggersphere, making the greats pay attention to every word that I think to add. However, sarcasm’s a talent, so let me just get to the point of the post.

There’s multiple self-help posts online, and most of them don’t come from first-hand experience. Tthere aren’t enough of are those first-hand experiences that people can readily identify as “bad” or “really bad” or “extremely f*cked up” that hit home. The types where the morals are clear as day, and can easily be applied to most people’s lives. Something thoughtful, something from the heart, something full of spirit, you know?

This probably isn’t that post, my guy.

My bad, bro.

What I can say, for sure, is that 2014 is the year I fell out of love with writing… and I remembered how it happened like it was yesterday. I’ve dissected my entire life story within the last couple years to pigeon-hole all of that experience and slam it into essentially three bullet points — which you might forget twenty minutes after you leave this web page (thirty minutes if I’m lucky; I’m going big).

This is a guide on how to be like me, LJ, in three easy steps. Continue reading

Required Reading | The Conflict of Bill Cosby

[Written By// @K1ngEljay]

Sometimes, it’s harder to face the truth than you can imagine.

For me, that moment came to fruition within the last few days as I’ve followed the Bill Cosby case. I’ve been looking at the situation as close as I possibly can manage to without getting sick to my stomach, and it calls to mind a line from Kendrick Lamar’s latest:

“When sh*t hits the fan, you still a fan?”

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The sweater is fire, though. At least there’s that.

A bunch of people have hit the timeline to cape for the man, as expected (and that lyric above is referenced more times than not). Whenever a celebrity dies or has an “issue” or a “problem”, it brings out the best, worst, and the best and worst trolls. No person is safe from the wrath of these jokes, and everyone’s liable to get them as the internet fires them off… and normally, I’m the person that’s watching in slight disgust, hoping that I run into a pun or a meme that makes me laugh and forget how jacked up the entire situation happens to be.

I didn’t quite expect the conflict to hit me concerning Bill Cosby at all, but today I was blindsided by a picture of Bill as he’s seemingly in custody, because… Well, I guess that’s the conflict. This is a man that — if allegations ring true — deserves all of the things that’s happening to him, and possibly more. You can’t take advantage of anyone repeatedly, then pay them off to keep them quiet and not expect that to resurface in the most intricate of ways. It was bound to happen, to be honest.

There’s levels to this conflict, though.

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No, Meek. Stop. Go away for a second.

Continue reading