Wednesday, 2 June 2010

[Review] Drake - Thank Me Later

Artist: Drake
Album: Thank Me Later
Release Date: June 15th 2010
Producers: Boi-1da, Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, Kanye West, No I.D., Omen, Crada, 40, Tone Mason, Jeff Bhasker, Francis & The Lights, Arthur McArthur and Al Khaliq.
Guests: Alicia Keys, Nicki Minaj, Jay-Z, Lil' Wayne, Young Jeezy, T.I., Swizz Beatz, & The Dream. (Bonus Tracks feature Bun B, Lil' Wayne, & Trey Songz).

Like when Eminem took over the game in the late 1990's, and the hype around 50 Cent in 2002, the Hip Hop industry's richter scale has been sizing up another possible tremor to hit over the past year.

Despite his debut album only dropping this summer, in the ast year, Drake has already had artists no bigger than Lil' Wayne, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Mary J Blige and of course Eminem recording music for him, as well as rumours persisting last summer of an on/off relationship with Rihanna, and a mixtape that many claimed was better than most albums released in 2009. You sort of get the impression that something perhaps Drake might sell quite a few records.

Having already has major acting roles on US and Canadian TV shows, including Digrassi: The Next Generation, and Blue Murder, plus a role in the next Batman movie, Drake has now switched his talent towards making music. The Toronto born star soon found his way into Lil' Wayne's Young Money circle where he featured on their recent album, outshining all of the other artists in many opinions. Even Jay-Z was unsure whether to put Drake's verse on his Blueprint 3 album, but instead opted for just Drake featured on a chorus - a move leaving many fans wondering why, since Drake had recorded an entire verse for Timbaland to put on the CD, but perhaps Jay learned his lesson from Eminem's presence on Renagade.

Lasy September, Drake released an EP entitled 'So Far Gone' which included 6 tracks inclusing 'Best I Ever Had' which became a hit in the states, and 'Successful' with Lil' Wayne and Trey Songz. The EP has so far sold over 450,000 copies, something I cannot possible envision another new artist to do before the release of any debut material. In fact, to kick start any discography off with a bang like that only suggests monumental things for the future. Weeks later, Eminem has recorded a verse for his song 'Forever'....which he soon used on his 'Relapse: Refill' album.

So finally it is here. 'Thank Me Later' has been simmering for months, with various songs leaked online - some making the final cut, some not. There was even rumours of a mega collaboration with The Kings Of Leon, although this has not meterialised.

The album seems to have an alternative sound to it. Drake comes from a softer direction, in terms of ballad beats with an 'old skool' style rap over it. This seems to be a problem I found with the CD - much of the album sounds very much the same, with not a lot of variation. Most of the songs fail to excite, and often get forgotten once skipped onto the next one. However, 'Up All Night' is very heavy, although features a below average verse from Nicki Minaj. 'Light It Up' is one of my favourite tracks on the CD, and seems like a battle of best verse between himself and Jay-Z, as both are at their best lyrically on this track - I will give Jay bragging rights on this one since Drake easily owns Lil' Wayne's feature.

'Shut It Down' is a song emotionally driven with The Dream, as are most of the songs on the album, but the best track has to be 'The Resistance', which is produced by 40. The song represents everything that the album is about - emotional rap with an alternative sound.

I was not as impressed with the Swizz Beatz produced track, 'Fancy' as I thought I would be. I was hoping the uptempo Swizzy style would elevate into the next single from the album, but I doubt the average hook will enable this to happen.

Overall I was impressed with Drake, who has set a new bar level for new artists simmering in the rap game, but will the fans of Drake's mixtape material feel it? I dont know, but I know there will be thousands for every listener that doesn't.


Monday, 10 May 2010

[Review] Trina - Amazin'

Artist: Trina
Album: Amazin'
Release Date: 4th May 2010
Producers: Jim Jonsin, J.R. Rotem, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, DJ Frank E, Mario Winans, Hitsquad, Oddz N Endz, Schife, OhZee, CP Hollywood, KParn, Maxwell Smart, Blackout Movement, DVS Productions, Young Yonny and Bigg D & Lamb.
Guests: Diddy, Keri Hilson, Lil' Wayne, Rick Ross, Lady Saw, Nicki Minaj, Flo Rida, Git Fresh, Lyfe Jennings, Kalenna Harper, Shonie & Monica.

Despite only having a handfull of successfull female rappers in the industry, the gender fight for the 'Queen of Hip Hop' title is very competitive. While Lil' Kim unarguably held the position in the mid to late 90's, a series of legal troubles and issues within the music industry and record labels have resulted in a lack of recent material being released, and her popularity has also faded.

Foxy Brown may have also been a competitor for Kim in the past, again she has been in the middle of pointless legal disputes which have kept her on MTV news for the wrong reasons.

But it seems every male (and some females if you read the rumours) are all after one name whom has become linked with Young Money rapper, Lil' Wayne..... Nicki Minaj. Nicki has exploded onto the scene like Drake did last year with feature after feature, and now it is almost certain that she is sitting on the thrown. She has already appeared on various other albums such as the new Usher CD, Ludacris's Battle Of The Sexes, as well as hooking up with Mariah Carey, Bobby Valentino, Lil' Wayne and the rest of the Young Money crew.

So has all of this taken the shine away from Trina? The Miami rapper has always been consistant on the Hip Hop scene, and is returning with a 5th studio album - 'Amazin'. While I was left disappointed with her last CD, I was still a little bit skeptical with the new album. Rumours appeared on the internet of collaborations with Lady Gaga and Diddy, I wasn't sure whether or not this would materialise into some sort of super CD.

However, when I got this copy of the album, and looked through the tracklist, I was left puzzled as to why the Lady Gaga collaboration had been replaced with Dirty Money's Kalenna Harper. It was sort of reminiscent of two years ago when we were promised that Christina Milian was going to be singing the hook on 'Single Again', the lead single on the last album. Whether this was due to some sort of legal issue with the record labels, fans who want to hear the Lady Gaga version of the song can still find it on Youtube.

The album starts off quite positive, witht the lead single, 'Million Dollar Girl' with Keri Hilson and Diddy featured. The song is very commercial, and seems to carry more of a pop feel than would you get with the rest of the album. While female rivaly has been quite sharp in the past, with various feuds between the artists, it is quite suprising to see Trina feature Nicki Minaj on the album despite most of the attention now switching to the Young Money artist. And if you think that was a suprise, it was also strange seeing her ex, Lil' Wayne on there too, especially since we have learned that Weezy has since fathered several children to several women....almost at the same time!

Overall, the album is strong, but I was a little bit disappointed that there is no more than a handfull of songs which I enjoyed. 'Dang A Lang' is a very sexual song, as the title suggests, but apart from that, there does not appear to be the flabour that you would expect after seeing the list of producers. J.R. Rotem has been a hitmaker of late, but he did not shine on this time out, as did J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, and it is the same throughout. Maybe the label blew the budget on getting Nicki Minaj.


Thursday, 29 April 2010

[Review] B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray

Artist: B.o.B
The Adventures of Bobby Ray
Release Date: April 27th 2010
T.I. (exec producer), Jim Jonsin, Bobby Ray, Crada, Alex Da Kid, DJ Frank E, A.D. & Kutta, Dr Luke, Lil' C, The Smeezingtons, JackPot, Free School, Ensayne Wayne & Polow Da Don.
Bruno Mars, Lupe Fiasco, Hayley Williams (of Paramore), T.I., Janelle Monae, Rivers Cuomo (of Weezer), Ricco Barrino & Eminem.

Anybody who may have been following T.I. on Twitter ( may have realised that he only has one subject on his mind. It isnt his recent spellin jail, or the fact he has Twitpic'd several pictures recently of his new Ferrari, or even his own project due to be released at the back end of 2010, but actually the man who has the weight of Grand Hustle Records on his shoulders.

When I first became aware of B.o.B's music, it was straight off the back of a mixtape he had released, probably around two years ago now. The song 'Haterz' was a light buzz with Hip Hop radio stations across the US, but it did not really create a splash. I probably just thought that B.o.B was the latest rapper out of the 'A' trying to be the next big thing. The sound of his music back then was something far from what we have come to hear on the new album, and maybe these early mixtapes was just B.o.B testing the water.

'Haterz' was a typical rap song about what 233,783 rappers have rapped about on their own albums, and I remember playing it once on the last station I was on, and then forgetting that I had it on the system in the studio. I still wonder if they still have it on the computer, and if anybody has come across it and had a listen, or it is long gone. If it is still there, now that B.o.B is now in the mainstream circus of 2010, it may just pop up when DJs search for him!

When 'Nothin' On You' began making it big in the UK, I was beginning to wonder if Bobby had a future in the mainstream world of Hip Hop - alongside the Flo Rida's, 50 Cents, Eminems, Jay-Z's, and Ludacris's. I certainly knew that if he was, he would have to come with something a lot better than 'Haterz', or anything else he had on those mixtapes. OK, he could ride with T.I. for a while, and benifit from having a big artist feed you publicity and money, like Tony Yayo has made a career of doing, but it is difficult to overcome the 'favourite child' of a record label. Bobby Ray had to come with something different. And he has.

In a way, the new album feels a lot like Kid Cudi's album which dropped last year, in terms of the fact that both artists are trying to deliver a new sounding Hip Hop. They are distancing themselves from the bling, hoes, cars and 'Hi Im a rapper that is rich from his record label advance, although I used to be poor, and I go clubbing and Im a pimp that gets shot at a lot' type of image. In a way, B.o.B is mixing several genres of music together to create a sound that even the Indie kids can listen to.

'Nothin On You' is massive, without a doubt, and this is the type of sound carried out across the CD. As a listener, I can tell that each song is written from the heart and is filled with emotion. This song goes against everything Hip Hop has stood for in the past, as it promises loyalty towards a woman, despite the rapper being center of attention in the Urban music scene, and facing many distractions. The same can be said for 'Lovelier Than You', which for me is one of my favoute tracks on the album, simply due to the fact you can feel the emotion seep from the melody.

B.o.B did not go crazy with his budget for the album, and did not go about getting the top music producers in the world to send him beats. Like Lil' Wayne did on Tha Carter III, and Kid Cudi is doing, he is experimenting with different sounds, different styles and different methods of rapping/singing on each song - and it seems to be working.

I was just as suprised as the next fan, when I saw the tracklist for this album and saw that Eminem was a guest. Apparently, even B.o.B was not aware that this move had been lined up until the last minute. The song 'Airplanes pt. II' talks about the 'what if' side of each of the rapper's lives, and how easy it could have been not to have achieved what they have done. While B.o.B talks about getting noticed in Atlanta by chance, to having a multi platinum selling album, Eminem talks about luck, and how life has been a series of 'chances' that have come together to give him the unlikely career that he has had, and how it could easily have been different. With Hayley Williams from the rock band, Paramore singing the hook, I can guarentee with all I have, this song will be a hit on both sides of the Atlantic - trust me, the label knew this one would be a money spinner.

'Magic' was also a track which has had several plays on my iPod, featuring the lead singer from Weezer - the song is more of a rock/Indie song than Hip Hop. I expect this to be single number 3, if 'Lovelier Than You' doesn't drop before it. 'Past My Shades' is also a potential hit, featuring Lupe Fiasco.

So in my eyes, the album is almost perfect, and certainly went beyond my expectations - dont be tempted to purchase the bonus tracks from iTunes (if they do not come complete with your copy of the CD), no matter how big you see the name of the producer. 'Higher' was not the track I was expecting from Polow Da Don, who we all know, is the kids favourite music producer these days (rightly so), but this track feels like 'B.o.B stole the beat from Polow's Recycling Bin rather than the 'Club Banger Vault' which Id imagine is securly passworded.

Overall, this is a great buy, and not just for the rap music fans - but for the general music fans. Certainly one of the top albums of 2010 so far...


Wednesday, 3 March 2010

[Review] DJ Khaled - Victory

Artist: DJ Khaled
Album: Victory
Label: E1 Music
Release Date: 2nd March 2010
Production: DJ Nasty, Schife, The Runners, & The Inkredibles.

Guests: Diddy, Busta Rhymes, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Rick Ross, T-Pain, Usher, Jim Jones, Young Jeezy, Plies, Drake, Nas, John Legend, Schife, Birdman, Bun B, Soulja Boy, Nelly, Lil' Boosie, Ace Hood, Pitbull, Jarvis, Rum, Tripple C's, Bounty Killer & Buju Banton.

Featuring a who's who of Hip Hop, the pioneer of Def Jam South is back with a fourth studio album, 'Victory'.

Originally, in what was to be a series of mixtapes, DJ Khaled, whom many rap fans instantly knew as being Fat Joe's Terror Squad DJ from back in the day, has now started a series of albums featuring a collective of the biggest names in today's Hip Hop world. He has worked in the past with some of the biggest names in the world, from Kanye West, T.I., Busta Rhymes and Snoop Dogg, to putting out tracks that have been so successfull, that names such as Jay-Z have added their verses to them.

In 2007, his second album, and most successfull to date, 'We The Best' was released, and it showed not only the rap world, but also the world that DJ Khaled meant business. The album was up for awards against some of the biggest mainstream solo artists, birthing the hits, 'We Takin' Over' and 'Im So Hood' which became two of the biggest Hip Hop anthems of that year. The follow up album 'We Global' was not as big commercially, despite an even stronger lineup of guests, selling only 294,000 copies in total, nearly half of what the last album sold.

So Khaled has lined up another list of big names, producers and set himself out to hit the top of the charts again. Apart from an intro only to try and boost his ego, featuring random ad-libs from Diddy, the album dives into the first single, 'All I Do Is Win' which T-Pain, Ludacris, Rick Ross & Snoop Dogg. The song by far is the most likely to top any chart, in fact it is so heavy that I can hear it as being a massive club anthem, and possibly an anthem for 2010 Hip Hop...but it failed to make an impact, making a poor #64 on the Billboard, and not even getting into the top 50 in the RnB charts. 'Fed Up' featuring Usher, Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, Drake & Lil Wayne is another alternative club hit, but in my opinion, Usher's hook just does not suit the The Runner's beat... maybe something from T-Pain would suit this record more. However, Drake once again uses his hype to take the limelight of the track, if only Lil' Wayne could follow his feature with a top verse of his own, unfortunatly he did not.

Overall, the album fails to come close to the previous releases from Khaled. One thing which stood out, was the lack of Fat Joe. There were reports throughout 2009 that there may have been conflict between the two when Khaled was pictured several times without the trademark 'TS' chain which would normally aliegn his association with Joe's Terror Squad crew. This is the first album without a member of the squad rapping on it, and only has me wondering what is going on, if anthing behind the scenes.

I was a bit disappointed with some of the artist features on the album, especially considering I had been looking forward to this as being the first major Hip Hop release of the new decade. The track with Nas as far from exciting, as was collaborations with Jim Jones, Young Jeezy and as was Nelly. The production on the album is also not to the standard that you would expect from The Runners, especially when you hear some of the beats that they have made for the last albums, as well as solo material for artists such as Rick Ross. I am not expecting the album to sell well at all, and those that do buy this, may be wishing they didn't. Even a final track featuring Pitbull, who has blazed the charts on both sides of the Atlantic with his club bangers, failed to provide.

Dont get me wrong, Im not saying that the whole album is a waste of time, but rather that it is a disappointment to previous CDs, despite an impressive guestlist. There were


Thursday, 25 February 2010

[Review] Jason Derülo - Jason Derülo

Artist: Jason Derülo
Label: Beluga Heights/Warner Bros.
Release Date: 2nd March 2010
Production: J.R. Rotem (exec) & Fuego.
Jason Derülo exploded onto the commercial scene late in 2009, witht the huge hit, 'Watcha Say' which used samples from Imogen Heap's 'Hide and Seek'. The song was hugely popular, reaching number 1 around the world. The trademark "J-J-J-J-J R" tags instantly sent subliminal signals out to RnB fans that this was set to become a massive hit, from just the first 5 seconds of ever hearing it. The 'S.O.S.' hitmaker for Rihanna, and JLS producer, who has also executively produced for his own artists, including Sean Kingston and IYAZ.
Videos of Rotem and Derülo working together in the studio on this project, soon became available on Youtube. The attention to detail that Rotem was putting into perfection was quite visible to see. It also gave us the chance to hear the style that Jason Derülo wanted for the album - a sort of Euro pop feel, as Jason then sings a variety of different melodies over each beat, until he finds the one best suited for the song.
In fact, serious fans of Jason Derülo may also know him from before his solo efforts, when he was a song writer for other artists, just like Keri Hilson was before she made it into the industry as a solo singer. Jason has ghost written tracks for Cassie, Donnie Klang, Pleasure P, as well as featuring on Birdman's album '5* Stunna' on the bonus track, 'Bossy', which was also covered by Cassidy.
The self-titled debut album first struck me as an album full of singles. Since most of the songs had leaked onto the internet over the weeks leading up to the eventual release. With 'In My Head' becoming an unusual choice for the second single, it was not as successful as the previous single, but still big none the less.
I was impresseed with 'Love Hangover' - a song which personifies the feeling of love for a new lady into the physical feeling of alcohol on a morning after a night out. Other songs which caught my attention were 'What If'', which is basically about proposing to a lady and 'The Sjy's The Limit' which in my opinion, should be single number 3.
The album seems to carry a storyline - from the theme of breakup in the opening track, to finding new love as the CD unfolds. Although his vocal style may be very similar to that of Chris Brown, the style of music could not be any more different. Chris Brown used the traditional RnB sounds, whereas Jason Derulo seems to be mixing traditional mainstream RnB, with Euro-pop and pop-indie in a rather bizarre way. This album will not disappoint the fans who have jumped aboard after olnly hearing a couple of tracks played on radio stations, and I must say, this is going to be one of the biggest albums of 2010, and Derulo is certainly going to be one of the biggest RnB stars in years to come.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

[Review] Hurricane Chris - Unleashed

Artist: Hurricane Chris

Album: Unleashed

Release Date: 21st December 2009

Label: Polow Grounds Music
Guests: Plies, Mario, Bobby Valentino, Beanie Man, Cherish, Isis, Superstarr, Fiend 4 da Money & Mouse.

Producers: Play-N-Skillz, Phunk Dawg, Don Vito, Rodnae, The Inkredibles, Shawty Redd, Mouse, Fiend Crack Alley Music, Drum Majors & Raphael RJ2.

Hurricane Chris returns for his second studio album - Unleashed, featuring the club banger 'Halle Berry (Shes Fine)' and the follow up single, 'Headboard' featuring Mario and Plies, Hurricane Chris seems to be taking a more commercial approach to the music industry, in comparison to his 51/50 debut album.

'Headboard' is a slick RnB love song with very sexual connotations, featuring one of Plies best features in my opinion. However, dont expect the rest of the album to follow track - the CD still has a 'snap' feel to it, and apart from the second track on the album - 'Beat It Out The Frame', expect another Soulja Boy 'wannabe'.