The Album Of The Year?

AOTYS

 

In the land of hot takes and hyperboles ,being a person armed with nothing but your opinion has never been more fruitful. To makes matters worse 2018 also brought us an insane amount of music to digest, process, and give an honest and well thought out description of what and more importantly WHY we liked it. Since the first Friday of 2018 we were completely inundated with tons of music to sift through. Although it was an extremely daunting task, it was not impossible.

When someone proclaimed **Insert your favorite album of the week here**  was the Album of the year on January 18th, I knew this year was going to be something that was unlike anything that we’ve ever seen or heard. Granted  2018 was the 20 year anniversary of quite arguably the last golden era of modern-day Hip-Hop. Every region of the country dropped classic material and has clearly stood the test of time, nostalgia aside it was just great music. 20 years later and the standard that was set still stands.

It was that narrative alone that stayed with me the entire year as I listened to each album. As a music lover, I felt it was my duty to compare what some called “instant classics” to actual classics and that was the metric by which I  ranked many of the albums you have seen the past month. Choosing the Top 25 of 2018 was by far the hardest time I’ve ever had since I started doing official rankings many years ago. (6 years if you’re a real one and have been following me since then)

When I started listening to Pusha T’s “Daytona” I was completely blown away.  Yes, I know Push has made a career out of “Couture Coke Raps” BUT there are many rappers from his generation that if they dropped this same album it would have sounded antiquated and would have been yanked on off the stage and Meme’d to death. This album albeit SEVEN DAMN SONGS felt like it was much more than its Sub 25 minute run-time would have let on. What soured the experience for me was that I don’t feel the album needed all the Drake controversy as the anchor in which this project was bound by.  Adidon aside, Kanye West aside…Daytona was what the game had been missing but at what cost?

I’d be a Blueface..my bad Bold face liar if I told you I was not heavily anticipating Royce Da 5’9’s “Book of Ryan”. I felt like this would be the definitive Royce album. All the witty puns, double entendres , rappity rap lyrics that I could muster and it was there in abundance. So what’s the problem Leeb? I thought you were all about the rappity rap, lyrical ,miracle, spiritual ,centrifugal bars that you always beat everyone over the head with. Why isn’t this your Album of the year?. The answer…is quite Layered. What I mean by that is that Book of Ryan WOULD HAVE been the album of the year IF he didn’t drop “Layers” in 2016…its essentially the same album in terms of concept as HE explained it.

Many of you don’t want to say it aloud or even accept it, But Black Thought is arguably THE BEST RAPPER TO EVER TOUCH A MIC. listening to him spit is literally like watching Bruce Lee practice with nunchucks..its breath taking, exhilarating and awe-inspiring. Listening to Black thought forced me to put the pen down on many occasions and say “I can’t do that”. He is a true Master of the art form and Both “Streams of Thought Vol. 1 and 2” are a living testament to the true fact that I can’t rap like Black Thought and you can’t either.

January 20th, 2015 an album called “Tetsuo and Youth” was released to the general listening audience. Within that album lied an 8-minute operatic Opus known as “Mural” Any self-respecting fan of Hip-Hop that heard that track could not have with all honestly say that it was not the best song of that year and arguably of all time, if we’re talking pure lyrics. The bar was set  and I began to wonder if it would ever be topped as many MC’s in the 3 years since tried but ultimately fell short. I even questioned if the one who penned Tetsuo would even top it considering his follow-up was so “light”.

September 21st, 2018 an album was released to the general listening audience. Within that album, contained a story about a handful of West Africans that would be known as “The Long Chains”. The Long Chains were a group of captives that dove to their supposed deaths than to endure a life time of bondage and pain. I say supposed deaths because The Long Chains did not perish, they instead survived and opted to live underwater and go about doing the work of sinking slave ships and giving the newly freed captives the choice of returning back to their respective homelands or stay in the sea to continue to free others from impending bondage.

Concepts like this don’t just happen. Concepts like this are born.This is myth making, this is world building, This is George Lucas creating Star Wars. This is Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and the rest of the Marvel minds that created the pantheon of modern-day Heroes. The Myth of The Long Chains came from one man, one mind, a brilliant mind…The Mind of Wasalu Muhammad Jaco.

…….Lupe Fiasco’s “Drogas Wave” is The Best Album of 2018

Meek Mill-Championships (Album Review)

220px-Meek_Mill_–_Championships
cham·pi·on
/ˈCHampēən/
noun
  1. a person who has defeated or surpassed all rivals in a competition.
    synonyms: winnertitleholder, defending champion, gold medalist, titlistrecord holder.

    2. a person who fights or argues for a cause or on behalf of someone else
    synonyms: advocateproponentpromotersupporterdefender, upholder, backerexponent.

    When I think of the word “Champion” these are the definitions that first come to my mind. When this word is applied to Meek Mill and his latest offering “Championships” you can see how both definitions could apply. We as a Hip-Hop community have watched Meek grow in a literal and figurative sense. From “Dreams and Nightmares”, his stellar “DreamChasers” series and 2017’s “Wins and Losses”, Meek’s fourth solo effort seems to be a triumphant reflection of ALL of those experiences since 2011 when the first DreamChaser was released.

    By this time, if you don’t expect “The Intro” of any Meek Mill album to be something that is almost indescribable, then there is no reason to read this review any further honestly. The album begins with a haunting Phil Collins sample which is now synonymous with Hip-Hop because DMX used it 20 years earlier on his debut. It was a nice nod from Meek and I feel that it was definitely for the Hop-Hop historians out there. Awesome opener.

    “Trauma” doubles down on the homage. It’s instantly recognizable as Mobb Deep’s “Get Away” which is ALSO the second track on their “Infamy” album. I don’t believe that was coincidental in the slightest. Meek takes the track in a different direction however as he raps about the trappings of prison ,the oft-corrupt judicial system and how that can affect your psyche when living in the inner-city or densely populated areas.

    The third track “Uptown Vibes”  is so contrasting in tone that is takes me out of the album almost immediately, its a decent enough track as its a uptempo and bouncy SINGLE, but with such heavy topic matter from the previous two tracks it just feels out of place to me, the first misstep of the album.

    “On Me” keeps with the same energy as Uptown, its pretty forgetful though even with the Cardi B verse which is the honestly the only highlight of that track. Don’t feel bad if you feel the urge to skip this one its ok.

    “What’s Free” sends us back to the mood and feeling of the first two tracks and at this point I’m beginning to get annoyed. What album is this really? Are we sitting with this album and being reflective or are we turning up and celebrating? Don’t get me wrong we can do both because Balance but it has to be sequenced correctly. Meek continues with the sample homage as he, Ross and Jay-Z all takes turns tearing the “What’s Beef” track to shreds so whatever reservations I may have had about the early sequencing of the album has subsided for now.

    “Respect The Game” relies heavily on the essence of  “Dead Presidents II” which I also believe was by design considering Jay was on the previous track. When you listen to the track you can hear that Meek was really doing an updated version of the original and no one can be mad at that. I’m back on board now.

    Just as I was getting immersed into the album again, I’m taken out of it when “Splash Warning” starts. I’m normally here for all things Future but as this track follows two damn near perfect tracks, it pales in comparison and should have been paired with Uptown Vibes and On Me, not sandwiched in between The previous tracks and “Championships” which is so soulful that I’m actually upset that Splash Warning was even included.

    “Going Bad” IS NOT the reunion track from Meek and Drake that I wanted.  Meek sounded uninspired with the lazy flow and Drake outshines him period. I feel like Drake should have took more of  risk lyrically and let us in on some more personal dealings if he was on the previous track.

    “Almost Slipped” is cringe-worthy at best. Meek’s vocal tone is not suited for Auto-Tune and the entire track is drenched in the effect. Simply put it’s not sonically cohesive.

    “Tic Tac Toe” is a much better song by comparison. Subject matter is much to be desired but for better or worse its a banger…Generic…but a banger nonetheless. Kodak was sorely underused on the track, he deserved a verse. The type of track is better suited for Gunna or Lil Baby.

    “24/7” is a groove or as the kids say, a Bop. The production is crisp with the Beyonce vocal samples from “Me, Myself And I” weaved into the beat. The track is damn near perfection, with the addition of Ella Mai, this is a definite push for radio play and playlist placements, Here’s hoping Jacqueeeeeees doesn’t do a remix.

    “Oodles O’ Noodles Babies” brings it back to the original mood and tone of the album which bothers me. The songs that precede it don’t mesh with this song and should have been placed with the upper half of the album. The sequencing issues are apparently here to stay.

    “Pay You Back” feels like a bonus track, I can honestly say that I don’t know where this song fits anywhere on the albums spectrum. The tone goes from reflection to unapologetic braggadocio and I don’t see any room for “Hard Bars”.

    “100 Summers” is better use of Auto-Tune but its still a hard listen. The subject matter is relatable as it deals with loss, regrets, and survivors remorse. It’s the vulnerable aspect of the track that makes its listenable but that’t about it.

    “Wit The Shits” is a forgettable strip club anthem, I’m sure its serving a particular section of listeners but it’s just not for me and I’m okay with that.

    “Stuck In My Ways” is another Bonus Track addition, Although it fits the theme of all the songs with this similar tone on this album, it just comes off and repetitive and unoriginal especially when “Dangerous” is just as repetitive and could easily replace any of the aforementioned tracks.

    “Cold Hearted II”- Is the album’s closer and at this point I’m upset.  The previous three songs do not fit with this track. The content contained here is poignant and real and I’m left feeling hollow. This track could have easily followed Oodles O’ Noodles Babies and would have wrapped up the album nicely.

     

    This is a tale of two albums. There are certain tracks and belong together while others seem so out of place that as whole its comes off as disjointed. Depending on your preference there are 10 songs that are undeniable while the other 9 are serviceable but wont do much to warrant a “Classic” rating.  With this being his fourth album I can see the glimpses of growth but not enough to call it a re-brand or image overhaul. It is the same Meek Mill with some socially conscious and contemplative verses. The sequencing and overall bloated feel of the entire project is what hold it back for me. A more concise effort with none of the filler would made this a much more enjoyable listen. Maybe DreamChasers 5 will be the album I’m waiting to hear.

 

Final Grade-C+