Meek Mill-Championships (Album Review)

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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+

 

 

 

When 300 Took Over….

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The year was 2012, the month was March and to me it was a normal day. I went to work and instead of working, I would normally talk rap with a few of my coworkers. The normal back and forth about what’s hot, what’s not, and who is up next. This one day in particular was different because for the first time, I was one of the people who was being put on to something new. My coworker “JB” told me about this young kid from Chicago that had the streets on lock and I should check him out. Now of course I was completely flabbergasted because I didn’t know who the kid was, so my response was “Word?!, Nah gotta check him out for myself and get back to you tomorrow, whats his name again?” A look of frustration came over JB’s face because he couldn’t remember his name. Then about 10 minutes later he screamed out “BACK FROM THE DEAD!”, “That’s the name of the mixtape, you can find it on DatPiff or just look for it on YouTube, you’ll see what I’m talking about.”

Needless to say that ringing endorsement was all I needed to get me excited about the prospect of  new young artist that appeared to be taking the rap underground by storm. I rushed off the clock at work, turned my phone one and went straight to YouTube to get the full introduction. As soon as I typed in “Back From The Dead” I was blown away by the amount of views this kid and his crew had already amassed. An entire column of videos with astounding numbers for the time, They were already viral. No video had less than one million views with hundreds of comments. The kid was Chief Keef and the Crew was 300 or GBE as I would soon come to understand in the following weeks.

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The most popular video that I viewed at that time was Chief Keef’s  “I Don’t Like” and It was gaining in popularity. admittedly I was resistant because as a 25/26-year-old, all I saw was a young kid and not taking time to see what kind of impact he and the crew would go on to have. When I got home from work later that night, I continued my research and began to learn the names of  the crew members and many of the names that were shout out in the song. Aside from the track’s lone feature that was Lil Reese, the other names that I learned were…Lil Durk, SD, Tadoe and Fredo Santana.  It was something abrasive but appealing to the music, alarming but authentic. No it wasn’t the train wreck that some tried to make it out to be, but it was indeed a symptom of the socioeconomic issues that plagued many of our inner cities.

As the weeks and months went by, I began to notice something remarkable.  I began to see kids from my hometown and the surrounding areas of Northern New Jersey emulate the other kids they saw on the internet from the mid-west. The slang, hand gestures, clothing, and even musical styles starting bubbling from my state. At first I was taken aback and became angry because I felt that we needed to carve out our own identity musically and mimicking another region would prove detrimental. The longer I looked though, I soon realized that it wasn’t just my state of  New Jersey, but states like New York, Connecticut, various states in the south and the west were all doing the same thing. The influence of GBE was sweeping the country.

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Everywhere I looked and listened I saw kids all grouped together screaming “Gang” or “Squad”  along with the corresponding hand sign to differentiate the terms. Every neighborhood became a block named after someone who may have passed away or it may have become their “world” so to speak. Words like “Clout”, “Opps”, and “Savage” can all be directly attributed to the Glory Boyz. Others phrases like “In The Cut” and “Glo Up”  also became a apart of the American lexicon. Even in the present day, you would be hard pressed to find a single person that doesn’t refer to anyone that is overzealous in any arena as a “thot”.

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Unfortunately, much of this retrospection comes on the heels of the untimely death of  Derrick Coleman other wise known as Fredo Santana. throughout this weekend, I saw the love pour in from many of the same places that he helped to influence. In a world where hot takes and hyperbole have become the new normal, somehow Fredo being labeled as a legend does not seem out-of-place. The truth of the matter is that for him, his family and friends, the label of legend is supremely fitting. Glo In Peace Fredo Santana.

KayFabe and Hip-Hop

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In professional wrestling, kayfabe /ˈkeɪfeɪb/ is the portrayal of staged events within the industry as “real” or “true”, specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or predetermined nature of any kind. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Doesn’t that sound like something that is enjoyed by billions throughout the globe? Yes my friends, I am talking about The Sports Entertainment world known as Hip-Hop. While the culture and essence of Hip-Hop is still very much intact, The advent of “beef for profit’ has been something that  many of the labels have sought after since the first Hip-Hop record was sold.

When Hip-Hop was in its infancy in the late 70’s and Early 80’s, the life blood of the art form was based widely on competition and crew rivalries(Factions). During that time battles took place within the boroughs to see who could lay claim to the proverbial throne. As Hip-Hop fought for acceptance and viability, it wouldn’t be long before labels came calling, seeking to cash in on what would later on become known as manufactured beef.

Much like Wrestling, Hip-Hop is littered with “BabyFaces” and “Heels”.  As early as the 80’s you had your “Face Rappers” like Will Smith and Young MC while “Heel Rappers” could be seen as Ice T and NWA. While the face rappers were radio friendly and safe for mainstream ears, It was the heel rappers that gave Rap its edge and street cred during that time. It was cool to root for NWO and DX…oops I meant NWA and Public Enemy.

On the T.I. track “Tell’em I Said That” he rapped:

Please pay attention to this part of the bull
One time got robbed got shot got shook
Got a job started rhymin’ came up with a hook
Got a chain and some tats came up with a look
Went and made it here
Workin’ talk tough in a book
F*** the image and perception they never tough as they look

This quote from the album “T.I. vs. T.I.P” succinctly describes the current era of  Hip-Hop. The “Image” is what the label heads are trying to sell the consumer on a daily basis as it churns out act after act. In true Kayfabe fashion, many of the artists don’t bother to separate fiction from reality instead they straddle the line. “Am I really this mega rich, doped up superstar?, Or am I just a actor?” Now some may view this as pure conjecture but to the impressionable, try telling them that wrestling…err..um..Rap is fake.

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When the Drake and Meek beef took place, both artists positioned and postured themselves with a story line that seemed like it was ripped straight from the WWE writer room. While Drake used the Titantron…Shucks I meant the OVOFest screen to get at Meek, Meek cut instagram promos like a true mid carder trying to get over and make it to the main roster. Was it good clean fun for those few days that it occurred, sure but how many of us really believed that any kind of real harm would come to either one of them during this spat.

 

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The Lil Wayne and Birdman situation is something I would liken to the “Montreal Screw Job”. Vince McMahon has been billed as a true heel in the industry and the way he treats his artists….I’m sorry I mean wrestlers… is something that is akin to Birdman. Weezy to me is The Brett Hart of the Rap game and was forced to put other rappers over while his own product suffered.

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2017 gave us another WWE like feud…and it even included microphones being tossed on the floor! Again it was mindless fun like an episode of  Raw or Smackdown but for some reason many of us thought there was a legitimate threat of  a real altercation. No Such luck, just more comedic fodder to create memes and music.

In Ending, there is much to love about about both mediums. Both have their merits and adversely both are not without flaw. The gangsters are hyper gangsters while the more gentle rappers are damn near priests on the mic. As the veil of mystery and secrecy has all but dissolved between artist and consumer, it seems to me that the Rap Kayfabe machine has gone into overdrive. We create hashtags out of catchphrases, we walk around in our favorite wrestlers (there I go again) rappers merch, and throw up their gang signs in our pictures. To be clear there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a good time connecting with our favorite artist but we must always remember to take a step back and see it for what it truly is…..Music Entertainment.

 

 

 

The 18 For 2018: The Antcipated

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2018 is looking like it’s shaping up to be another one for the record books. 2017 was an awesome year musically, but it felt like something was missing. I can’t fully place my finger on it but when compared to years like 2015 or 2012, there was a significant dip. 2018 to me feels like there will be much more of a balance and we’ll get stellar releases from Vets and Rookies alike…Below are 18 of the drops I’m looking forward to. Here’s to a most fire 2018!!!

 

1. Nipsey Hussle-Victory Lap

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Finalllllly!…..Nipsey is dropping arguably his most anticipated album of his career. I say arguably because this is literally HIS FIRST ALBUM of his career. Although he has given us a slew of stellar mixtapes and projects…This looks like it will shape up to be a most fitting end to the marathon.

 

2. Lupe Fiasco- DROGAS Wave

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2017’s Drogas Light  yielded mixed reviews from the supremely talented lyricist.  Admittedly he said that the release was purposefully “light” and that the follow up would be a lot more dense and would be what Lupe stalwarts have grown accustomed to. Either way you look at, I viewed Drogas Light as the warm-up and I’m expecting Drogas Wave to exceed expectations…Possible album of the year.

 

3.  Maxo Kream- Punken

 

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If  I was Dr. Jeykll, Maxo Kream would without a doubt be Mr. Hyde. I have often referred to him as my Rap Doppelganger.  Since 2013’s QuiccStrikes I’ve been down with the Kream Klicc so to speak and each release has gotten better.  Expect this album to rattle trunks sooner than later.

 

4. Black Panther: The Album 

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Marvel’s Black Panther has already been forecast as 2018’s First Blockbuster, making well over $100 Million dollars opening weekend. In Recent news, Kendrick Lamar and TDE have been pegged to curate/helm the soundtrack. Based on the sound of the first single “All The Stars” Black Panther will be a moment…An Epic Moment…I  Cannot Wait!

 

 

5. PRHYME- PRHYME 2

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DJ Premier and Royce Da 5’9 are PRHYME. When their eponymous debut came out in 2014, It literally took the year by storm and it was highly ranked in many year end lists. Its been a long 4 years since then so hopefully we’ll get this project sooner than later.

 

6. Travis Scott-Astroworld

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I am here for anything La Flame decides to give…Even the Huncho Jack offering with Quavo has grown on me. So with that being said…Astroworld is the place where The Birds in the trap sing McKnight.

 

7. Drake-TBD

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On Drake’s Playlist “More Life” he said “he’d be back in 2018 to give us the summary”.  Welp, who knows how far into 2018 we will get until we get a proper Drake album…Here’s hoping he comes back with and drops a classic.

 

8.  Judas Priest- Firepower

 

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I must admit I cackled when I saw this purposed cover art for the the forthcoming Judas Priest album…It does give me that feel of 80’s hair metal and that’s something I’m definitely here for. Don’t be surprised if you see me around town in full air guitar mode. It’s bound to happen so you’ve been warned.

 

9. BrockHampton- Team Effort

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After their breakout monster year, Hip-Hop’s first(?) boy band BrockHampton will drop their 4th album in a years time. Team Effort will look to further solidify the group as a true force in Music and satiate their ever growing rabid fan base.

 

10.  Jack White-Boarding House Reach

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Whew its been Four years since Jack White released Lazoretto…but I’m proud to say that the wait is now over. I’m honestly not sure what to expect from this upcoming album so that by itself has me intrigued.

 

11. Elzhi/Khrysis- Jericho Jackson

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2018 will also see the continuing trend of One MC/One Producer led projects. Khrysis who is fresh off his Grammy Nods for his work on Laila’s Wisdom will jump back behind the boards to give underrated wordsmith Elzhi some top notch beats to lace time and time again…Another early contender for Album of the Year.

 

12. Gucci Mane- Evil Genius

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There is no slowing down for La Flare. Fresh off of a normal year which saw 3 releases, Gucci Mane has already announced another album for 2018. I know I’m speaking for myself but I really enjoyed El Gato and I would not mind getting another offering from Guwop without any features.

 

13.  Kid Cudi-TBD

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Hey!, Mr. Raaager, Mr.Rager
Tell me where you’re going, tell us where you’re headed”

The rumor mills are churning with speculation that Kid Cudi and Kanye West are working on a album together. I don’t know about you but an entire project with Cudder and Kanye is going to be a must listen whenever it drops.

 

14. Lil Wayne-Dedication 6: Reloaded

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Dedication 6 showed flashes of the brilliance that still exist within Wayne and still gives me hope that his title of Greatest Rapper Alive remains. “Family Feud”  only further bolstered that notion for me and only brought up my anticipation factor to astronomical levels. If I get at least 10 “freestyles” like Family Feud, I’ll be more than comfortable saying Weezy is back.

 

15.  Cardi B-TBD

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2017 brought Cardi B her first number one song in the country. That momentum should carry her into 2018 with her Debut album that will probably drop late in the first quarter. I’m excited hear the growth and the content to see if she will be a mainstay in the mainstream for years to come.

 

16.  Key!-777DS5Rrv6VMAAbkjI

 

Fatman is back with some new material on the horizon. 2017 saw the release of  Two-9’s album along with frequent collaborations with the A$AP affiliate “AWGE”. It’s great to see Key! get much deserved shine and as of yet, He has not dropped one bad song.

 

17.  A$AP Rocky-TBD

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A$AP Rocky is primed and ready for another solo release.  Its been 3 years since his last solo outing and while it may be have been deemed too artistic for some. It was still lauded as a brilliant addition to his catalog. Look for something epic to drop soon.

 

18. Pusha T- King Push

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This is one of my main question marks for 2018. Along with Tha Carter V, King Push is the now long awaited 2nd LP from Pusha T. If this year comes and goes without this album dropping…I will officially cast it away to DetoxLand…Never to be spoke of again.

 

The Year In Nerd 2017: The Playlists

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What would you do without your playlist? The literal soundtrack to your life, the drum pattern that mirrors your own heart beat, the sequential order in which you tell time, the energy you need that replaces caffeine or java or breakfast altogether. Oh wait….that’s just me, that’s how I go about my daily routine. I normally cant move from my seat unless my phone and heads phone are fully charged so I can go about my day without worry or care. I’m not sure what I would do without my playlists or music general, but whatever it is, i’m sure it would be boring.  Below are three links to playlists that I made for my listening pleasure as well as yours….CLICK AND ENJOY…Oh and Happy New Year! May 2018 bring you all that you want and need and so much more.

 

Tidal:   https://listen.tidal.com/playlist/145294e5-6e7e-498c-bfeb-ed00ae3ee3a3

Apple Music:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/playlist/theyearinnerd2017/pl.u-Zmbllpf0VbZDD

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLfiB-brt_K3JjeAOV9Coy02M4G9JGkJkG

 

 

RapNerd Leeb’s Honorable Mentions of 2017

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2017 was quite the year musically I must say. So much so that I found this year to be extremely difficult when deciding which albums would make the final cut.  Was it the rust of me being on hiatus or was it the sheer volume of QUALITY material that dropped during the calendar year? Either way I know it was fun going through all of these albums. It literally took me about a month and a half to bring you all the final product that you are seeing now. Not to mention I’m also dropping a playlist on New Year’s Eve so be on the lookout for that…Okay now I’m starting to ramble….Here are the Honorable Mentions for 2017.(In no particular order).

 

1.  Gucci Mane- El Gato: The Human Glacier

2. Travis Scott and Quavo(Huncho Jack)- Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho

3. Scarface- Deeply Rooted: The Lost Files

4. BrockHampton-Saturation 1,2,3

5. Tyler The Creator-Flower Boy

6. Jeezy- Pressure

7. N.E.R.D.-No One Ever Really Dies

8. Tanya Morgan-YGWY$4 (You Get What You Pay 4)

9. Currensy & Lex Luger-The Motivational Speech

10.  Juicy J- Rubba Band Business

11. Big Sean and Metro Boomin-Double Or Nothing

12. Marqus Clae- P.T.S.D.

13. Jacin Trill-Happyland

14. CyHi The Prynce-No Dope On Sundays

15. Fabolous and Jadakiss- Friday on Elm Street

16. Nav & Metro Boomin-Perfect Timing

17.  Cam’Ron-The Progam

18. Yo Gotti- I Still Am

19.  OverDoz-2008

20. Meek Mill- Wins and Losses

21. Bjork-Utopia

22. Miguel- War and Leisure

23. Talib Kweli-Radio Silence

24. J.I.D.-The Never Story

25. Lil Uzi Vert- Luv Is Rage 2