Rachel Reviews: French Montana’s ‘Figure it Out’ ft. Kanye West, Nas

figureitout

 

Although the announcement of the song neither surprised nor excited me, I was pleasantly surprised after watching the music video for French Montana’s “Figure it Out,” which just dropped today.

Here are some of my random thoughts while watching it:

  • hate to say it, but Kanye’s auto-tuned singing is kinda the best part of the song
  • enjoying the motocross x private jet aesthetic
  • I can’t stop laughing at the unsubtle Ciroc product placement in the background
  • why is French wearing all white while being surrounded by bikers driving around in dirt??
  • French still remains my least favorite rapper, although his verse here is a huge improvement from his part in A$AP Ferg’s “Work (Remix)” (which includes lines like “Her ass fat, you could park ten Tahoes on it”)
  • Kanye is only a featured artist, but it’s basically Ye’s song at this point
  • the entire vibe changes when Nas comes in and reminds everyone who’s the real rapper here

 

 

figureitoutplane

 

Overall, the song is pretty catchy but slightly forgettable. I also really wish Nas’ part was longer .

Rating: 7.5

 

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BREAKING: Is this Chance the Rapper’s album cover for ‘Chance 3’?

chance3

 

On April 30, Chance the Rapper tweeted a picture of what seemed like an album cover, as well as a link to his site where fans could buy the poster version of the picture.

The cover features an illustration of Chance, wearing a baseball cap, in front of a hazy, orange-reddish celestial backdrop. Since it resembles the style of artwork from his acclaimed mixtape, “Acid Rap,” it had the likes of Vibe writer Jessica McKinney wondering if we’re due for “Chance 3,” the Chicagoland rapper’s next project.

 

acidrap

 

For me, “SURF” was an eclectic and unique album, but nothing can top Chance’s 2013 mixtape, so if “Chance 3” is anything like “Acid Rap,” I’ll be a happy camper. For now, the only thing to do is wait … and listen to “Acid Rain,” for the umpteenth time.


 

 

Rachel Reviews: Drake’s ‘VIEWS’

Drake-Views-Album-Cover

 

I know, it seems strange to review Drake’s “VIEWS” first, which came out after Beyoncé dropped “Lemonade,” but I was sent zip files of both albums by people (who shall remain unnamed) on the same day, and “VIEWS” just happened to load first. That’s pretty much the extent of my reasoning. I’ll try and put out a review for “Lemonade” (as if you haven’t heard enough about it yet) soon, but for now, read on to see what I think of Drake’s new album. Thanks for visiting!


 

There are 20 songs on “VIEWS,” so I won’t do what I did with Kendrick’s “untitled unmastered” and review each track individually — instead, I’ll mention a few overarching themes, as well as my picks for the best and worst songs from Drake’s fourth studio album.

 

MAIN TAKEAWAYS

 

1. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and Drake — Drake took the one more traveled by”

I guess this is my pretentious way of saying that I think Drake is rehashing the same topics and personas he’s tackled before on his previous albums. There’s the paranoid, untrusting Drake from “Energy” that pops up again in “Keep the Family Close” and “U With Me?”. We also have the braggadocious, “I’m better than everyone,” 6-God figure we’ve heard in “Started from the Bottom,” and now hear in “Hype,” Grammys” and “Pop Style.” And of course, the unlucky-in-love and pining Drake reappears in “Redemption,” “Faithful,” “Too Good,” “Fire & Desire” and most famously, his 2015 hit “Hotline Bling.” There really aren’t any new topics he’s bringing up here, which is a little disappointing and which keeps “VIEWS” from reaching Classic Album status to me. But granted, some of these songs are catchy as hell, so I’ll let him slide a bit.

 

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2. The production is on-point, almost too on-point …  

Longtime Drake collaborator and friend Noah “40” Shebib produced the majority of the album’s songs, so you know it’s going to be good. However, there were times when it felt like the production was so great it overshadowed what Drake was trying to get across. A prime example is on “9,” the second song on the album. It starts off cool and dream-trance-y, but Drake fails to say anything important or memorable for me, except convey a general sense of “I’m coming for you, bitch,” which isn’t anything fresh from him, although the phrase “turn the six upside down, it’s a nine now” makes me laugh.

“Feel No Ways,” the fourth track, has some really cool retro sounds going on, thanks to production by Jordan Ullman, one half of OVO-signed duo Majid Jordan. The group’s known for its smooth and ultra nostalgia beats (Frank Ocean reference, anyone?) so I totally dug the vibe, but again, I didn’t really care about Drake’s lyrics. He’s done at least five other songs (probably more) about how he can’t move on from a relationship, so what else is there to say?

Moreover, while the production of each song was generally solid, there were times when the sound felt discordant. I get it’s supposed to reflect the changes in Toronto’s seasons, but each season/section of the album didn’t really seem to connect to the other. It jumps from orchestral and big-band reminiscent on “Keep the Family Close,” to retro on “Feel No Ways,” classic R&B with “Weston Road Flows,” then dancehall and afrobeat on “One Dance.” They’re all cool sounds on their own, but together it feels a little messy.

3. What’s Hot

There are some great tracks on the album, the first being “Hype,” which as I mentioned, is standard Drake bragging (“They wan’ be on TV right next to me / You cannot be right here next to me”), but it’s seriously intense and probably one of the hardest-hitting songs on the entire album.

Next is “Redemption,” which is Drake crooning at its finest. I loved the lines “Aw, please give me time / Cause I’m searchin’ for these words to say to you,” which was accompanied with a kind of sincerity that makes me slightly less annoyed that he keeps doing these same kind of lovelorn songs.

Another of my favorites was “Faithful,” the ninth track on “VIEWS,” and dvsn’s verse completely stole the show for me. The album has contributions from the likes of Future and Rihanna, but without a doubt my favorite feature was from the lesser-known act dvsn (or is it Dvsn?), the other Canadian R&B group signed to OVO besides Majid Jordan.¹ It was actually breathtaking to hear Daniel Daley’s² lush vocals, accompanied by the chorus — and when he hits those high notes … 

damndaniel

Sorry, I had to.

Other highlights include “One Dance” and the song everyone and their mother know, “Hotline Bling.” They were released before “VIEWS” came out, so I don’t have too much to add that hasn’t been said already. The latter is insanely catchy, but also condescending when you really examine the lyrics (why is Drake trying to stop this girl from being independent and having a good time??), so take it with a grain of salt.

4. What’s Cold

There wasn’t any song I hated on the album, but tracks like “Weston Road Flows” fell a little flat for me, especially with the way Mary J. Blige’s song, “Mary’s Joint” was used. Was it just me or did it sound like someone was playing that track twice at the same time? It just seemed messy and disjointed to me, although there were some great throwback references in the song, from TLC to T-Minus to Hpnotiq.

I also found both “Child’s Play” and “Pop Style” to be quite dumb, although the latter is slightly catchier. The former is pretty patronizing and basically says to the girl in question that if she doesn’t act the way Drake wants her, he’ll “give [her] back to the hood.” Also, lines like “she rode that dick like a soldier” won’t be putting him into the lyrical Hall of Fame any time soon.

Furthermore, while “Pop Style” is fun, I feel like the line, “Got so many chains they call me Chaining Tatum,” compels me to hate it on principle. I expect that from someone like 2 Chainz (it certainly would make more sense given his moniker), not Drake. That’s probably one of the dumbest things I’ve heard thus far in the year, and that’s taking into account the fact that I found out they’re making Angry Birds into a goddamn movie.

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

Like I said, “VIEWS” is far from a classic album, but it still has some really great tracks. There are slow jams for those inclined to sit and reflect while sullenly nursing a glass of red wine, but for people who want to get up and move, the album provides tracks for livelier scenarios as well.

Overall, I see “VIEWS” as more of a bridge to cross before getting to the really good stuff, and it makes me look forward to what Drake has to offer in the future. Apparently he’ll be coming out with more stuff in the summer, so stay tuned for that.


 

Scale: 1 (frozen) – 10 (boiling)

Rating: 8, or the attractiveness of white Chrises.

There are so many Chrises, I kind of forget who’s who. There’s Evans, Pine, Hemsworth, Pratt — the list goes on. They’re all attractive and probably really nice, but no Chris really sticks out to me since they all have that superhero-playing-suburban-dad-who-barbecues thing going on. Drake’s album is comparable: it’s catchy and agreeable, but not really that different from “Take Care” or “Nothing Was the Same.”

See you soon for Beyonce’s “Lemonade”!


Footnotes, because I’m fancy

1. What is it with Canada these days? They’re killing it on the R&B front: There’s The Weeknd, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Majid Jordan, Tory Lanez, dvsn, etc.
2. Disclaimer: I’m not 100 percent sure if it actually is Daniel Daley on the vocals. Besides producer Nineteen85, it’s still unclear who’s exactly in the group, although there are rumors Daley is also part of dvsn. So for now, I’m assuming it’s Daley singing in “Faithful,” otherwise my meme-ing doesn’t work at all here.

Hot and Cold: Week of 4/11 (ish)

ovo

It’s been a whiiile since I’ve done another “Hot and Cold”! This week I talk about Drake, new bills and whitewashing (cheery topic I know), among other things.


HOT

1. Drake releases new songs, date of album drop & plans to trademark his name (probably) 

There’s been a slew of Drake news in April, from him dropping two new songs, to him announcing that his upcoming album, “Views From the 6” will be out on April 29. Artists who are rumored to be involved with the album include Beyoncé, Jay Z, Kanye and even Willow Smith.

I’m stoked for the album, which will be Drake’s fourth and the follow-up to “Nothing Was the Same,” but right now I’m just wondering what’s next for young Aubrey. He’s done everything from rapping, singing, acting, to even hosting (both “Saturday Night Live” and the ESPY Awards) — what can we expect in the future? A collaboration between OVO and actual owls? Trademarking the name “Drake”? It doesn’t seem that unthinkable, since the last time Drake Bell’s name was mentioned, it was probably in a sentence like, “Who is Drake Bell again?”

In the words of Tyra Banks: “Two Drake’s stand before me … but only one can be America’s Next Top Drake.”

drake bar mitzvah

Drake on “SNL” in 2014

2. BuzzFeed’s profile of Karyn Kusama

I know, I know. It’s been BuzzFeed this, BuzzFeed that on this blog lately, but I really do have to give it props. BuzzFeed writer Adam B. Vary wrote a beautiful profile of director Karyn Kusama, who, despite making an acclaimed debut film, didn’t have the ascent to stardom other directors with her talent had because she was a woman. It’s a great read for a better understanding of the unfairness in Hollywood and how hard it is for movies to get made that aren’t about straight, white guys. 

3. Profile of Metro Boomin

As y’all can see by now, I love me some profiles. I always like it more when writers actually get to follow their subjects around (which sounds more trench-coaty and suspicious than it is) and spend a few days with them. It allows you to know that person in a much more intimate way than just asking, “Who’s your favorite artist?” or “What can we expect from your next album?”

This profile features the very in-demand producer, Metro Boomin. He’s known for producing for artists like Future (and for Future’s now-famous intro, “If Young Metro don’t trust you I’m gon’ shoot you”). But this piece dives in deeper, and examines Metro’s (real name Leland Tyler Wayne) childhood and how he got to where he is now.

At 23 years old, Metro seems relatively inexperienced, but he’s actually been on his production grind for about 10 years now, and even left the prestigious Morehouse College to follow his passion. It’s a wonderful look into an artist who’s so passionate and fun to be around — maybe that’s why Future values him and whether or not he trusts you? 

metro boomin

4. New bills, bills bills

It was announced just two days ago that famed abolitionist and overall bad-ass Harriet Tubman will grace the front of the new $20 bills, and that other influential figures like Sojourner Truth, Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, Jr. will be on the $10 and $5 bills. Go inclusion! 

However, my initial excitement to this news was slightly dimmed by the fact that former President Andrew Jackson, who is on the $20 bill now, will still be featured on the back. Remember, this is the guy who was responsible for the “Trail of Tears,” which some estimate killed nearly 6000 Cherokee. So the announcement is progress … I guess? 

COLD

1. Whitewashing in “Ghost in the Shell” film

Yes, let’s cast Scarlett Johansson as a Japanese character in a movie that’s based on a Japanese manga. What, was she just so hooked from being in “Lost in Translation” that she just had to do something involving Japan again? If you love Japan so much, just stick to Instagramming your sushi like normal white girls, ScarJo, and let actual Asians tell their stories for once.

[EDIT 5/1: I wrote about whitewashing and Asian representation for my school paper, check it out here: bit.ly/1QweJcx!]

2. Earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador

At least 40 people were killed and 1000 injured after two earthquakes in Japan last week, and the earthquake in Ecuador has claimed the lives of more than 270 people. It really puts shit into perspective, like the realization that you have no idea where Ecuador is on the map and what that says about both you and the American school system. So if you can, please go and donate to charities like Oxfam.

01-ecuador-earthquake

Aftermath of earthquake in Ecuador


That’s all for this week! See you next time (although that could be in like a week, or a month or whenever Frank Ocean drops that album (a.k.a. never)).

Stew About It: Why We All Need To Get Off BuzzFeed’s Ass

Hey all two of my readers!

I’ve been a little M.I.A recently, which was due to finals/me crying about finals/being on break and doing nothing but watching “Archer” and eating egg tarts. But no worries,  I still have a lot to say and this time I’m introducing a new series! I wasn’t sure what I should do with non music or news material, but I decided to keep going with the food analogies and call it “Stew About It,” because ya know, beating a horse and what not. I’m just going for it until I run out of ideas (which will probably be very soon). Anything in this series will pertain to my various long-form musings about random things, and for the first post I want to talk about BuzzFeed and why critics of the site may be missing the point. Enjoy!


It seems like every day, I’m reading yet another article about how BuzzFeed’s rise signals the end of journalism as we know it, plunging us into an era where mindless drones, void of any journalistic integrity, occupy a barren digital landscape stripped of anything of substance, but filled with a barrage of listicles and personality quizzes.

Personally, I think people are overreacting: BuzzFeed has never claimed to be The Wall Street Journal, so why are we holding it to such high standards? And the last time I checked, WSJ, The New York Times, The Washington Post and a myriad of other “respectable” publications are still here. They haven’t been sucked into the same black hole of irrelevance that AltaVista and MySpace went to die.

So why are people freaking out?

freak out

 

I think we just assume that everyone these days is off reading garbage like BuzzFeed instead of The New York Times. And while sites like the Times have millions of readers, it is true that BuzzFeed is growing more popular, especially with the younger generation (does it make me sound old when I use phrases like “the younger generation”?). Whether you like it or not, that’s partly because BuzzFeed has an undeniably better digital strategy than a lot of the more established outlets, and I think that’s something to respect and learn from.

Digital dominance

First, BuzzFeed has done a lot to make its site a community and not just a destination. Sure, not all of its quizzes are winners, but by having such quizzes and polls, users can feel like they’re contributing to the conversation and their voices matter. In fact, the famous white and gold vs. blue and black debate about “The Dress” got much of its traction from the BuzzFeed poll, which has racked up nearly 40 million views. Not too shabby. Furthermore, members can also post their own content that often lands on the front page and garners sizable views, furthering this idea of building a network or a community. People come back to the site because they value it, and because it values them.

Much of the other content on the site, like listicles and articles, also taps into things younger people care about and want to read, and writers talk about these subjects in an accessible way. There are tons of pieces about topics like college, being in your 20s, dealing with anxiety, etc., that’s bound to be relatable to The Youth (which vaguely sounds like the name of a punk band). Users feel like the writers are on their level and know what they like, instead of trying to talk down to them, which is more than what I can say for some other outlets.

BuzzFeed is also everywhere: Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and even Vine, and whoever is running these various social media accounts has a firm grasp on the cultural zeitgeist, at least for millennials. It thoroughly understands what is popular among younger people and enlists popular users on these platforms to collaborate on vines or pop up in BuzzFeed videos, which boosts their credibility and “coolness” among its audience. People know that BuzzFeed knows what’s up.

I’m not saying the editor of The Washington Post needs to buy a snapback ASAP and write about the best vape pens, but other more “respectable” sites need to recognize that while they’re busy criticizing BuzzFeed, they could be learning from it and adapting strategies like building a community, relating to a younger audience and using social media in a smarter manner.

Lastly, BuzzFeed is a great place for finding new sites, and pretty much every article has a host of links to other sites (as well as links back to its own content), for everything from recipes, online retailers, videos, you name it. It becomes the go-to place for people to visit in order to explore the Internet more.

You’re not off the hook, buddy

Secondly, a lot of what you see on Twitter and Facebook is based on your existing online habits. If you tend to like and click on articles called 10 Celebs Who Look Hotter With Man Buns,” over time, Facebook’s algorithm tailors your news feed so you see more content of that type. So, you’re not completely blameless here.

Also, to the people who can’t shut up about how there’s just so much nonsense online nowadays, what’s stopping you from reading a feature piece on The New York Times? No one is “Silence of the Lambs”-ing you, pushing you into a well and forcing you to read every single BuzzFeed article, OR ELSE. You could go and read an op-ed on the killing fields in South Sudan by Nicholas Kristof, but you don’t, do you? You go on BuzzFeed to figure out What Does Your Poop Really Say About You? That one’s on you, dude.

buzzfeedpoop

Furthermore, even when BuzzFeed does produce serious content, it tends to get less views. For example, on Jan. 27, it released “The Disappeared Trans Sex Workers of El Salvador.” The same day, it also posted Women Wax Each Other’s Mustaches.” The former has garnered about 395,000 views (as of today). The latter? Almost 1.5 million.

To be fair, I watched and enjoyed both videos, although they are very different in subject and tone. But the point is, everyone’s always complaining about BuzzFeed only producing garbage and not doing any quality storytelling, but when BuzzFeed does actual journalism, people don’t watch it.

As an aside, people never mention that BuzzFeed has an entire news section!! That does good reporting!! Just because all you ever do on the site is look at crockpot recipes and personality quizzes doesn’t mean that’s all it has!!!

Adapt or die (dun dun DUN…)

I’m tired of hearing old, white people — who are probably wearing tweed jackets and under-tipping their waiters right at this moment — complaining about the state of journalism and the Web. Do people not realize that every time there’s a technological advancement or change, everyone predicts that it’s not going to last and cause society as we know it to deteriorate? That’s what happened with the creation of film, when television was invented and now, with BuzzFeed and the Web.

computerquote

You only dislike it because you don’t understand it. But regardless if you’re on board with it or not, the Web will continue to grow, and if you wait too long before you realize it’s useful, you’re going to be left in the dust with your newspaper that no one reads and your typewriter that weighs 10,000 pounds. People just don’t read the news the same way anymore. Younger people are more likely to keep up with current events on Facebook, Twitter and BuzzFeed, but the point is, they still care about what’s happening around the world, so does it really matter how they go about it?

Furthermore, one big reason that some sites are getting less popular is they don’t know how to appeal to younger audiences, how to adapt their content to the web and build an online community. They didn’t realize the power of Facebook, Twitter or even Vine quickly enough, and now it might be too late, while the BuzzFeeds of the world take over. And I say, good riddance. That’s what journalism is: adapt or die.

When a tree falls in a forest…

And for people who say, “It’s not about digital strategy, it’s about the quality of writing,” I want to challenge you on that. Of course, at the end of the day, Content is King — but that’s only one part of it. At the core of it, journalism isn’t about propping up your own ego and using fancy SAT words — it’s about delivering news and educating your community. Therefore, journalism has to be a two-way street: You write the article to inform the audience, but to have anyone to inform in the first place, you have to build a community that will see it. One could argue that if your content is good, people will naturally flock to it. But on the Internet, when there are probably thousands or maybe millions of new web pages created every day, it’s hard for the little guys (a.k.a. those who are not BuzzFeed or The New York Times) to get pageviews even if it is good. Even if you succeed at the first part, writing a good article, failing to accomplish the second might be a graver error — if you don’t develop an online audience, you’re essentially talking to yourself in an empty room.

Girl, wrap it up

BuzzFeed is not perfect. I wish it would cut back on dumb quizzes and make fewer listicles whose contents are essentially gifs plucked straight from Tumblr. And sometimes I think its sensational articles titles are contributing to the black-and-white thinking people these days are prone to do (Really, are baths “literally the worst”? Worse than Johnny Depp’s facial hair??) It has room to grow, like many outlets.

But that doesn’t mean what it’s doing right now isn’t worth noting and learning from: It reels people in with fun quizzes, and gets them to stay with thought-provoking, in-depth pieces about Angelina Jolie’s public image and tennis match-fixing. Even if the percentage of people who are staying to read these long-ass features are smaller than those who only come to browse listicles, that’s still a substantial number. In my book, that’s a solid digital strategy.

So for everyone and their mothers (and grandmothers) who are bemoaning the downfall of the Web and journalism: Please calm down, get off your high horse and take a BuzzFeed quiz or something. You know you want to.


 

 

Hot and Cold: Week of 2/29

Welcome to Hot and Cold, where each week, I talk about the best and worst things that happened in that week. I decided to include stuff from Sunday, Feb. 28, because why not, it’s my damn blog.

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HOT:

1. Chris Rock at the Oscars
I want to give Chris Rock all the credit in the world for not holding back and really going to town on Hollywood and its insidious anti-blackness. It takes nuance to be able to point out that the racism du jour isn’t the overt racism we’re used to; it’s the kind of racism where “the nicest, white people on Earth,” who are all gung ho about Obama, refuse to hire black people.

2. Kendrick Lamar’s new album
“Untitled unmastered” is basically composed of stuff that didn’t make it on “To Pimp a Butterfly,” but damn, even Kendrick’s leftovers are 1000x better than Tyga on his best day (which isn’t saying much). If you want to know my exact thoughts on it, please read my review here.

*End of shameless plug.*

3. Pinot Noir from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is a thing now
I wasn’t aware that there was even a demand for Titus Andromedon’s pinot noir to actually be sold, but sometimes the best thing in life is shit you don’t expect. It’s 25 bucks, which is 20 bucks above my alcohol budget (don’t knock $5 wine until you try it. It doesn’t smell like feet. That much), but I’m a sucker for packaging and pop-culture references so I must have it.

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COLD:

1. Chris Rock at the Oscars 

Now I want to solidly smack Chris Rock with a shoe for that Asian joke (and Sacha Baron Cohen for even remotely implying that Asians are comparable to minions, a.k.a. the bane of my existence). Bringing out this old trope of Asians being good at math is not only wildly unoriginal, it’s indicative of the fact that many people claiming to be progressive still have blind spots when it comes to including people of other ethnicities. While it’s atrocious that films featuring black people are not given the accolades that they deserve, what about Hispanics and Asians? Are we not “people of color,” just like black people? Do we not deserve for our stories to be told? Are we not routinely skipped over for roles and instead have white people play us instead (let’s not forget the “Avatar” disaster)?

When you talk about people of color and only include black people, while making jokes about Asians, you are pretending to be progressive when in reality you are still excluding many voices that should also be heard. We all deserve better.

[EDIT 5/1: *shameless plug #2* I actually wrote an article in my school paper about the Oscars and whitewashing, so check it out here: bit.ly/1QweJcx. It also includes a more nuanced take on Chris Rock’s role in suppressing Asian voices, which I realized after writing this “Hot and Cold” post!]

LUKEWARM:

1. Peyton Manning is Retiring
I only include this as a way to convince myself that I’m remotely cultured about football. Truth be told, the only time I’ve ever watched Peyton Manning was in that SNL sketch, and he was so good in that I don’t really care what he did on the field. I mean, I barely understand what a quarterback is, and it was only recently that I learned that halfback is a real position (is halfback twice as important as quarterback, since it’s twice as much as 25 percent?? Someone help me). Adios, Peyton. Maybe I’ll see you in a Bud Light commercial one day.

I love sport.

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Until next week, folks.

 

Rachel Reviews: Kendrick Lamars’ ‘untitled unmastered’

 

kendrick-lamar-untitled-unmastered-compressed

 

When I heard, “What did the Asian say?,” I immediately looked up from the textbook I was “reading,” snapped my head up and wondered, “What did I have to say?”

This referral to outside wisdom is one way “untitled unmastered” differs from Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” and also one reason why I enjoyed this album. Since the tracks are those left over from TPAB recording sessions, they still explore many of the same themes — self-exploration, condemning the superficial, connecting to your roots — but the plea to other minority groups in “untitled 03 | 05.28.2013” and the minimal production were welcome differences from the last album. I liked the sparseness of “untitled 01 | 08.19.2014,” the joy of “untitled 06 | 06.30.2014” was a standout and the grooviness of “untitled 08 | 09.06.2014” was so infectious it got me to say words like “grooviness.”

“Untitled unmastered” may not be as cohesive as TPAB (for a reason), but its strength lies in its sparse production, which lets Kendrick’s masterful lyricism do the talking and reminds us that this is an artist at the top of his game, who’s still always striving to be better.


 

  1. untitled 01 | 08.19.2014

Although the first track off the album feels apocalyptic, it’s purely from the power and urgency conveyed through Kendrick’s voice, as the production is relatively minimal. His lyrics paint the unsettling picture of buildings plummeting and ground shaking, “swallowing young woman with a baby, daisies, and other flowers burning in destruction.” He has to answer to the big man upstairs: What has he done in the world to justify going to Heaven? Is “To Pimp a Butterfly” enough? Is anything he’s doing enough? Or is he just stuck, always “running in place trying to make it to church”?

  1. untitled 02 | 06.23.2014

Katt Williams has made a whole career from exploring the attitude and style of the “pimp,” but here Kendrick explores the illusions of “pimping and posing” and how the glamour and fame he’s come to know contrasts with the imagery of “pistol and poverty” from the place he comes from. If this lyrical tension isn’t enough for you to sift through, Kendrick’s flow transition in the second verse might do the trick. What a Slick Rick (I’m trying to make that expression a thing) move — effortless and cooool. After all, it’s Cornrow Kenny. How could he not be cool?

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  1. untitled 03 | 05.28.2013

Asians are wise, y’all. We’re tellin Kendrick to be peaceful, meditate and “think of your health.” You’re welcome. Many of his songs deal with looking within himself, but I enjoy that he’s turning to other people and other cultures for guidance. 

  1. untitled 04 | 08.14.2014

Remind me not to listen to this when I’m in bed. I don’t need Voldemort whispering at me while I’m trying to sleep, thank you very much. But apparently Kendrick’s whispering here is meant to represent the government, so the creepiness works. While the state is telling people that they’re to blame for their troubles (“talk about the charge you got…”), SZA’s beautiful, soulful singing represents the black community’s frustrations at being lied to and not knowing what to do. The mantra now is “head is the answer” — maybe the new “knowledge is power” — highlighting the importance of thinking for yourself. Or I might be overthinking it, and as one Rap Genius commenter eloquently pointed out, “he’s actually talking about getting dome.” Whatever works, man.

  1. untitled 05 | 09.21.2014

With lyrics like “drowned inside the lake outside away you flow,” I couldn’t help but think about Frank Ocean’s “Swim Good” and the lines: “I’m about to drive in the ocean, I’ma try to swim from somethin’ bigger than me.” Both songs explore the theme of escapism and our tendency to flee instead of dealing with our problems and the problems of society like “genocism and capitalism.” Is self-determination and control “a mirage or a facade”? Can we really control anything?

  1. untitled 06 | 06.30.2014

Not since “good kid, m.A.A.d. city” have I thought that a Kendrick album could be, to put it simply, a good time. Of course the album dealt with heavy stuff, but it was also just fun to listen to and something I could jam to in my car. And TPAB, although culturally and lyrically beautiful and important, was not always easy to listen to (as it should be), with the exception of a few songs like “i” and “King Kunta.” But after hearing the sixth song from this album, I feel like I can confidently say that “untitled unmastered” returns to the fine form of easy listening, without being as annoying as muzak. The production throughout is easy, breezy, beautiful, Covergirl. And this song, which expresses the importance of individuality over music that seems vaguely OutKast-like, is fun at its finest.

  1. untitled 07 | 2014-2016

To be honest I’d give this song 5/5 stars just for the line, “Santa’s reindeer better have some ass.” The imagery by itself is gold. But the rest of the track isn’t bad either, from the trap-sounding Part 1, all the way to the low-key third section where it’s just Kendrick and his team “jamming out” and brainstorming ideas for songs. We rarely get to see goofy, relaxed Kendrick, so it’s a nice thing to hear. Also, apparently Swizz Beatz’s son Egypt produced this song, so everyone else can officially stop sending out their resumes and accept that 5-year-olds will be taking over their jobs.

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  1. untitled 08 | 09.06.2014

I’m a little embarrassed that “This is groovy!” was the first thing that popped into my head when I heard the intro to this song, as I’m neither a character in “That 70’s Show” nor outrageously high (at this moment). But I couldn’t deny it: This song is bringing the funk. The music is bouncy and light and wouldn’t be out of place in a Yoplait commercial where there’s a bunch of white people in sweaters eating yogurt with the same enjoyment as if they were having sex. But I’d definitely prefer not to hear it in that context.


 

In keeping with the name of this blog, “The Hot Pot,” I thought I’d keep the whole temperature theme going. Gimmicky, yes, but refined has never been in my wheelhouse. Why not steer into the skid, huh?

Scale: 1 (frozen) – 10 (boiling)

Rating: 9: Satan’s butthole

I debated whether that’s actually colder than boiling, but anything involving the words “Satan’s butthole” is probably not an exact science.

All in all, the album is introspective and powerful, but Kendrick does all the talking and the production takes a back seat. That doesn’t stop it from being funky once in a while. He’s also exploring a few new territories while still tapping into the themes that we’re familiar with. I can’t wait for his next project!