Why you should stop listening to problematic rappers like XXXTentacion and Kodak Black

A lot has happened in Hollywood these last few months, to put it lightly. A sea of sexual harassment accusations has rained upon powerful men in the industry, from Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, to Louis C.K. and more recently, Matt Lauer. It’s both heartbreaking to hear what victims have had to endure, and empowering to witness the bravery of those speaking out, and the careers of terrible individuals ending. But as these men are facing consequences and being shunned, it made me wonder about the hip-hop world and why people still support rappers like XXXTentacion and Kodak Black.


 

BAD BEHAVIOR

 

Both artists have been accused of assault against women, yet both have seen their careers take off these past few years. Last October, Florida rapper XXXTentacion (real name Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy) was charged with “aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, domestic battery by strangulation, false imprisonment, and witness-tampering,” according to Pitchfork. The alleged victim says he hurt her so bad at one point, “her left eye was completely shut and ‘leaking blood.’” However, he hasn’t been convicted and will face trial Dec. 15.

This October, fellow rising Florida rapper Kodak Black (born Dieuson Octave) was indicted by a grand jury on charges of “first degree criminal sexual conduct,” for allegedly sexually assaulting a teenage girl in February 2016. The warrant, released last November, says Black, then 18 years old, forced the victim into bed and “attacked her orally and then penetrated her … [she] repeatedly told the defendant no and to stop. The defendant did not stop.” It also states that a sexual assault kit confirmed the woman’s injuries. Currently there is no word on when a trial date will be.

The accusations are harrowing enough, but also disturbing is X’s response to them. Beyond just denial, in August, when critics like comedian Eric Andre called his behavior out on Twitter, the 19-year-old rapper fired back in a since-deleted tweet: “I’m not scared to fuck your underaged sister in her throat though.” Then in September, X released a series of Instagram Stories, one in which he says, “Everybody that called me a domestic abuser, I’m finna domestically abuse y’all little sister pu**y from the back.”

Although Black hasn’t made comparably explicit comments regarding accusations against him, his attitude toward women is still extremely reprehensible. The rapper got into hot water this summer for saying he didn’t like dark-skinned women, because that complexion is “too gutter,” and those types of women are “too tough.” He prefers light-skinned women since he “can break them down more easy.”

 

WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE

 

A lot of people have rightfully called attention to these rappers’ behavior and made excellent points about how being talented is not enough to make up for a person’s wrongdoings. As Uproxx’s Aaron Williams says, when you support these artists, you’re basically telling victims of abuse: “You, your pain, your experience, your loss, your humanity matter much less to me, to society, to the world, so long as we can continue to stream Kodak Black and Chris Brown on Spotify.”

I wholeheartedly agree with what has already been said; the only other thing I want to point out is how important language is when talking about problematic individuals, and how it can be a form of complicity. In the past, both in real life and on other platforms, I’ve heard people brush off R. Kelly’s many alleged incidents of abuse by describing him as an eccentric genius, or treat him like an amusing persona — hell, Aziz Ansari did a whole stand-up bit about it, which really only made Kelly come off as an endearing, “brilliant R&B singer and crazy person,” rather than as a colossal pervert.

Tons of people knew about his sketchy actions, and brushed them off and continued to bop along to “Ignition (Remix).” Similarly, I’ve seen X and Black described as “polarizing” and “controversial,” by individuals and outlets who continue to feature their music and give them support, as if they’ve done their job by acknowledging allegations. Actually, that is the wimpiest move because you are doing the bare minimum to acknowledge something while taking no action to hold that person accountable. You are complicit in letting their careers prosper and allowing them to spread their misogyny further.

In fact, X and Black’s careers have skyrocketed following their arrests. Four months after X was arrested, his breakout hit “Look at Me” launched at No. 95 on Billboard’s Hot 100, his SoundCloud followers reached 1.4 million and on Sept 3., his first album “17” debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. He even made the XXL Freshman Class of 2017, and has worked with artists like Juicy J, Mac Miller and even Noah Cyrus. Meanwhile, the alleged victim has received waves of abuse from X fans on social media, getting comments like she “prolly deserved it” and “IMMA LAUGH WHEN HES FREED AND STUNTS ON YOU,” Pitchfork also reported.

And while Black was on house arrest awaiting trial, fans and musical peers alike spread #FreeKodak all across social media, with rapper Future tweeting “Keep ya head up KODAK BLACK” on Nov. 29, 2016. And this June, Black’s singles “Tunnel Vision” and “No Flockin” went platinum, with the music video for the latter hitting more than 120 million views as of publishing this post. He’s also scored a slew of high-profile collaborators like Lil Wayne, 6LACK and Dreezy.

 

EVERYBODY KEEP IT GOING

 

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Now we’ve ignited a national conversation about sexual abuse in the entertainment world, and while doing that, we can also turn our attention to misconduct in the hip-hop field and not give anyone passes. Although X and Black haven’t been convicted, and it’s just one woman in each case, let’s not forget the myriad of cases coming to light this year that shows there’s an epidemic of men abusing their power and mistreating women and sometimes other men. Victims risk losing their careers and reputations by speaking out, and so many struggle internally about coming forward. Incidents of accusers lying do happen, but some people act like speaking out is such a casual thing to do, when in reality it can be the hardest thing a person faces.

And even if X or Black didn’t do the things they’re accused of, their other attitudes toward women are deeply disturbing. It is unacceptable for X to treat sexual abuse like something funny, and joke about violating underage girls. And Black’s dismissal of dark-skinned women adds to the painful reality of colorism and exclusion that makes women feel less than for being themselves. Do you really want to support artists who have such little respect for women or the idea of consent?

Women shouldn’t feel obligated or pressured to call their attackers out, of course, and people aren’t responsible for the rappers’ actions, but you can still take steps to stop supporting terrible human beings. If you find out an artist has exhibited deeply misogynistic (or otherwise despicable) behavior, stop buying their albums, streaming their music, going to their concerts and like DJBooth did, stop reviewing their music. Tell people around you about their wrongdoings. Don’t couch bad behavior in language that softens the blow like simply calling problematic artists “polarizing.” It’s wrong to put famous abusers like R. Kelly on pedestals because it makes them feel like their talent gives them a pass, it makes victims feel like their pain is insignificant and it lets other people think they can do bad things if they are talented and famous.

We’re going through a watershed moment in Hollywood, let’s continue it in the music world. Stop supporting XXXTentacion and Kodak Black and allowing them to misuse their clout and mistreat women. Equal treatment and respecting human rights matter more than any hit song or movie could ever mean.

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Rachel Reviews: Vince Staples ‘Big Fish Theory’

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Promoting his album, “Big Fish Theory,” which was released Friday, rapper Vince Staples appeared on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” to discuss the project’s themes. When asked about the role of Afrofuturism in the album, Vince, in his typical deadpan manner, replies, “I like saying stuff about black people to white people.”

“So it doesn’t mean anything?” Trevor asks.

“Of course not,” Vince says, to raucous audience laughter. 

I had this interview in mind while listening to the Long Beach rapper’s second studio album. After all, he’s not the type of artist to embed hidden messages or intricate themes in his work. He might even side-eye me writing this review, as if to say,

Regardless, fam, I will be writing a long-ass review, because that’s what I do. And even if Vince doesn’t intend for the album to be Afrofuturistic or artsy-fartsy, I think it’s still conceptually interesting enough to examine. So read on for my full thoughts on “Big Fish Theory,” my favorite and least favorite tracks and my final rating. Thanks for reading, as always!


BIG TAKEAWAYS

1. Aquatic imagery

The big fish theory refers to the idea that a fish can only grow as big as the bowl it’s contained in. Likewise, people’s futures can be limited to what their environment allows. Throughout the album, there are songs that touch on various shades of this theory and this imagery; the first two tracks, “Crabs in a Bucket” and “Big Fish,” tackle “the black man” being brought down and “swimming upstream,” respectively. The album also ends with “BagBak,” which references the dangers of deep-sea exploration, and “Rain Come Down,” which sets up a comparison between rain and bullets. 

I find the exploration of water in hip-hop really interesting (Ugly God’s “Water” notwithstanding). Mick Jenkins literally dedicates two records delving into the theme, and his song “Drowning” discusses white people’s oppression of African Americans through slavery. On “Crabs in a Bucket,” Vince similarly raps, “Nails in the black man’s hands and feet/Put him on a cross so we put him on a chain.”

Although water might be associated with purity and hope (think The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” and Springsteen’s “The River”), for Vince, it also evokes danger and struggle. I like that Vince is challenging the traditional interpretations of water — H2O has had it good for too long; it’s about time someone took it down a peg, I say!

fukuwater.png

i made this on MS Paint, if u couldn’t tell

2. The intersection of love and violence

For the most part, Vince appears to reject romance and love on the album, by pairing lyrics about women with lines evoking violence and physical pain. On “Love Can Be …”, he says getting involved with women leads to “Alimony money for the nails and weave/Nail me to the cross like that boy JC.” Women may literally be the death of Vince, and Staple him to the cross.*

In the second verse of “745,” Vince is similarly unenthusiastic about love, saying, “I tread light each time we speak/Play too rough might break ya heart.” He’s depicting love as a fragile idea that can be lost at any moment, and in the final part of the verse, he takes the religious imagery up a notch, to state that love is holy, it’s “a God to me,” but it’s also “real hard for me.” He’s wondering, Is love attainable, or is it just this unreachable, idyllic concept for only God to know?

The future isn’t all bleak for Vince, though. There are hints of promise in the penultimate “BagBak,” which he opens with, “This is for my future baby mama/Hope your skin is black as midnight.” Maybe someday, when Vince finds the right person, his perception of love will be rosier. However, “Rain Come Down,” the album’s final song, is less clear. After each verse, which paints gritty images of “blood on the leaves” (S/O Kanye) and “[getting] JFK’d,” there’s the chorus of “When the sun goes down … Rain come down.” Whether the rain signifies bullets and brutality, or a cleansing of the bloodshed, is up in the air.  

STRENGTHS

1. Great production

With help from the likes of Zack Sekoff and Ray Brady, the album remains sonically cohesive and dark. There’s booming bass, drums and even some techno-reminiscent beats, throughout the project. The most exciting sound comes from Sekoff and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame on “Crabs in a Bucket,” where the two infuse the piece with vibes New Age-y enough to be fit for Bon Iver’s own experimental and electronic “22, A Million” album from last year. 

2. Sleek rhymes

Vince spits slick bar after slick bar on this record, and his verses feel effortless and smooth. Especially on “BagBak,” a slapper of a tune, his confidence carries the song through to its energetic end, as he raps, “Tell the president to suck a dick, because we on now.” Preach. 

WEAKNESSES

1. Uneven features

Kilo Kish is featured so much here it may as well be a collab album. I’m not complaining though — time and time again, Kilo and Vince have shown that they make a fantastic duo (e.g. “Loco” off last year’s “Prima Donna” EP), and here is no exception. Kendrick, as well, brings much-needed vigor to “Yeah Right,” although outshining Vince in the process.

At the same time, the album squanders features by a slew of artists; Kučka is a distraction on “Yeah Right,” Ray J barely appears on “Love Can Be …”, and A$AP Rocky gets lost in the mix in a group chorus on “SAMO.” Why get someone when you’re not going to give them a verse of their own? Don’t do Lord Flacko dirty like that.

Vince definitely hasn’t been shy about praising Ray J in the past

2. SAMO, SAMO

“Samo,” a.k.a “same old shit,” encapsulates one of my critiques of the album. There’s not enough versatility on the project, as every tune has the same dark and moody vibe that Vince has been constructing in past works. I’m not asking for a self-love anthem à la “i,” or a smiley jam like “Caroline,” but something tonally different would be nice. The experimental “Crabs in a Bucket” is the closest we get, and the rest, while good tracks on their own, don’t touch the bar of originality the first piece sets up. Further, on tracks like “745,” Vince’s effortless, smooth rhymes occasionally dip into lazy territory, and I wish he would switch up his flow or infuse more aggression into it. 

3. Thematically incomplete

The aquatic theme only appears in four songs, and the rest tangentially seem to fit within the world (or I guess fish tank) that Vince has built for the listener. But beyond that, there’s not sufficient connection between all the songs for any concept or theme to really land. 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

SCALE: 1 (frozen) – 10 (boiling)

RATING: 7.5 (like Wise brand chips — they taste fine, but people aren’t reppin’ them over Lay’s, my guy)

“Big Fish Theory” will give existing fans what they already like about his music: moody bangers, confident delivery and entrancing production, albeit not adding too much new stuff to the mix, which isn’t the worst thing in the world. 

Thematically and comparatively, the album is neither profound enough nor more exceptional than Vince’s previous records: the bold “Prima Donna” EP and “Summertime 06,” which remains one of my favorite albums of 2015. In fact, his EP may remain Vince’s most ambitious and distinctive endeavor yet. So for now, I’m suggesting he keeps swimming to find his sonic Nemo. 

 

HOTTEST TRACKS

  1. “BagBak”
  2. “Yeah Right” ft. Kučka & Kendrick Lamar
  3. “Homage” ft. Kilo Kish

COLDEST TRACKS

  1. “Love Can Be …”ft. Ray J, Kilo Kish & Damon Albarn
  2. “745”
  3. “Party People”

* Too soon?

64 thoughts I had while listening to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DAMN.’

damn cover


Boy, am I glad I decided to write down my first impressions of this album, because it was nothing like what I expected, based off what I heard from “To Pimp a Butterfly” and “untitled unmastered.” And I have a LOT of feelings about it.

I’ll have a full review out of “DAMN.” whenever I’m able to calm down from this first listen and can compose real, coherent sentences again. But rumor has it Kendrick will be releasing another album tomorrow (technically later today), so we’ll see if there’s even time to breathe before there’s something new to listen to again.

So here it is … 64 thoughts I had while listening to Kendrick’s “DAMN.”


“BLOOD.”

1. I’m so excited for the album but I still can’t get over the cover. It looks likes Kendrick just got off a 12-hour shift at Waffle House where he witnessed at least two people attempt to urinate on the floor (and one who successfully did).

2. Intro to “BLOOD.” is giving me “Bohemian Rhapsody” vibes.

3. The old woman replies, “You have lost something. You’ve lost your life.” Savage, lady. He was just tryna help you pick something from the street.

4. Also, I lost 3 years off my life hearing the white Fox News man say “fo sho.”

“DNA.”

5. Damn it’s 0 to 60 going from “BLOOD.” to “DNA.” This. Beat. Bangs.

6. “I got loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA” is a much cooler slogan than Northwestern’s “AND is in our DNA.” Goddamn overachievers.

7. Although every white girl will probably be changing her Insta bio to “royalty inside my DNA” soon. Don’t say I didn’t warn y’all.

8. I got heart palpitations from Kendrick’s second verse. God DAMN.

9. Literally had to pause before the next song because I’m still recuperating.

10. Alyssa is me right now. 

“YAH.”

11. Okay, I got some water in me. Ready for “YAH.”

12. Is Kendrick singing?? I’m into it.

13. I love that he’s dragging Fox News and Geraldo Rivera for three songs straight.

14. It’s in these moments where I wish I knew more about Christianity. References to things like “Deuteronomy” just go over my head.

15. Seriously, it was like 10th grade when I figured out that Jesus and God are kinda the same dude. Actually, are they?

“ELEMENT.”

16. LOL @ “Kung Fu Kenny.” I’m imagining a skinny white child trying to split a brick into two but breaking his hands in the process.

17. I can’t hear “element” without thinking of “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” I wonder what kind of bender Kendrick would be. Probably fire?

18. Thus far, the album sounds more commercial than TPAB, but not in a bad way. The beat on “ELEMENT.” for example, is more mainstream and catchy than his previous stuff.

avatar fire

just like when kendrick dropped this HOT album !!

“FEEL.”

19. Loving the production on “FEEL.” Moody but energetic at the same time.

“LOYALTY.”

20. Also can’t believe “LOYALTY.” is the first collaboration between Rihanna and Kendrick.

21. Maybe he waited until she wasn’t with Drake to do something?

22. Speaking of commercial hits, I’m thinking this and “HUMBLE.” will be the breakouts from the album.

23. His flow is effortless, and Riri’s verse fits well with his vibe.

24. So “geeked up” means getting high off meth, cocaine or ecstasy. Interesting. Although if I used it I doubt people would think I was referring to anything besides getting a new calculator :/

25. Don’t kill me for saying this, but I’m much more into this album’s production than TPAB’s (at least initially).

“PRIDE.”

26. The parts in “PRIDE.” where Kendrick’s voice is pitched up make me imagine him taking helium from a balloon, which might not be the intention.

27. Apparently Steve Lacy recorded this beat on an iPhone? And when he found out Kendrick included it on the album, he “screamed with joy.” That’s actually adorable.

28. I can barely take a non-blurry photo on the first try with my phone, and this dude is recording beats on it.

29. That probably says more about me than him though, huh?

30. Anna Wise is the best. Never let her go, Kendrick.

“HUMBLE.”

31. Speaking of Grey Poupon, Vox has an interesting video about why rappers have referenced this mustard SO much in the past.

32. Props to Kenny though, for not rhyming it with “coupon.”

33. I wonder if Instagram “comedians” are going to use “sit down, be humble” in their next 100 videos. And I wonder if it’ll be lowkey misogynistic (hint: probably).

“LUST.”

34. Here, they’re sampling a song by an artist named Rat Boy.

35. Just imagine: “Everyone, meet Batman’s new sidekick: ‘Rat Boy.’”

36. “Wake up in the mornin’/Thinkin’ ’bout money, kick your feet up/Watch you a comedy, take a shit” …

37. Wow Kendrick, how did you know my Saturday routine?

38. Was that TMI?

39. Whatever, girls poop. Grow up.  

“LOVE.”

40. Zacari’s voice is so smoooooth.

41. Tory Lanez is probably crying himself to sleep over not getting on this track.

42. Funny enough, Tory has a song called “LUV.”

43. This track is nothing like what I’ve heard from Kendrick before. It’s kinda awesome.

44. It’s a great blend of hip-hop and alternative R&B.

“XXX.”

45. There’s a U2 feature ????? Whaaaattttt.

46. Kendrick keepin us on our toes with these unexpected guests.

47. The flow switch, when it goes from “You know we all love him” to “Yesterday I got a call,” is insane. 

“FEAR.”

48. Whereas “XXX.” is overtly political, “FEAR.” is deeply personal.   

49. Here, he references the titles of some previous tracks on the album: “Fear of losin’ loyalty from pride,” “fear that my humbleness is gone,” etc.  

50. This song is almost 8 minutes longgggg. My attention span is half of that.

51. Am I the worst?

52. Thematically, the song is really interesting, but I probably won’t be listening to it on a regular basis (see: #51).

“GOD.”

53. “GOD.” also starts off totally unlike what I expected from Kendrick.

54. If you would’ve told me a year ago that this is what the new Kendrick album would sound like, I’d be 

shooketh

55. I’m shooketh at the moment, actually.

56. At first I thought “work it JT” was a reference to Justin Timberlake, but evidently it’s from the film “The Five Heartbeats.” #themoreyouknow

57. But I guessing “I’m sellin’ verses, Jay Z, watch me work it, JT” is actually referring to the former ramen-noodle-headed, NYSNC heartthrob? 

58. Yoooo some Genius commenter said this sounds like a Drake song. I kinda … agree? Is it intentional though? What if Kendrick is deliberately imitating Drake’s flow and his habit of calling himself “6 God” ? Hmmm …

“DUCKWORTH.”

59. The manipulation of Ted Taylor’s “Be Ever Wonderful” is amazing.

60. HA, apparently “DUCKWORTH.” tells the true story of how Top Dawg (founder of TDE, Kendrick’s label) almost killed Kendrick’s dad, Ducky, who worked at KFC.

61. And Top Dawg was nice to Ducky because Ducky would give him free chicken and biscuits when he went to KFC.

62. Now that’s what I call conflict prevention.  

63. The song (and thus album) ends with Kendrick’s first line from the first song, “BLOOD.”: “So, I was takin a walk the other day …”

64. I need to lie down.


 

Rachel Reviews: Drake ‘More Life’ Playlist

 

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I had a realization the other day, while I was looking over my “Views” review: Drake is the “Friends” of rappers. Aubrey does the same thing he always does on the album (i.e. complain about women not revolving their lives around him), yet I revisit “Views” constantly. Often, when I don’t know what I’m searching for, I go back to “Redemption,” “Faithful,” “Still Here,” not to mention that the hook from “One Dance” is permanently embedded in my brain.

Similarly, “More Life,” Drake’s new playlist which came out March 18, features 22 tracks where the Toronto rapper addresses the same things he always talks about: trust issues, how he’s killing it despite his haters and all the girls he’s thinking about but can’t establish relationships with. Again, nothing new, but despite all this, Drake shows with “More Life” that he can keep my attention once again with great production, catchy hooks and effortless flow from him and guest artists.

At the risk of sounding like a white millennial, my feelings about Drake mirror my relationship with the classic sitcom “Friends.” Although I don’t think the show is that funny, and episodes sometimes reek of the same White People Problems, I still rewatch it ALL the time. It’s the perfect show to have on the background while I’m doing dishes or cleaning my apartment. It’s entertaining enough to elicit a few chuckles, but not  so captivating that if I miss a moment I’ll regret it.

 

Image result for friends gif

Same, Chandler, same

 

Drake and “Friends” are both crowd-pleasing, digestible entities that aren’t always edgy or profound. They’re not breaking genres like FKA twigs or “Legion,” or moving audiences like Chance and “Transparent.” Like I said about Lil Yachty in a previous post, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but because “More Life” is lyrically and thematically more of the same from Drake, I can’t help but want …  more.


It’s a ~Playlist~, Not an Album

Apparently Drake is calling this project a playlist, rather than a traditional album. I guess that could be a smart move in terms of marketing; kids these days are all about curating and sharing Spotify playlists and whatnot. However, I can also see Drake making an incongruous album (it is 22 songs, after all) and trying to hide that by calling it a playlist. I can also see him congratulating his own originality by saying, “Damn, 6 God has done it again!! I’m a genius!”… or something along those lines.

Still, I can’t help but think this is a ploy akin to that pretentious Sven architecture firm on “How I Met Your Mother” and its “It’s not a company, it’s a collective” shtick. The worst thing is I can totally envision other artists jumping on this bandwagon and calling their future endeavors “playlists” or “aesthetic sessions” or whatever. Just release your album and go, Drake.

 

WHAT’S HOT

 

1. The Beat Goes In

The good news: Virtually every song on the project boasts stellar production, and I appreciate the range on it: The Nana Rogues produced “Passionfruit,” which features the bounciest beat since “Controlla,” captures a lighthearted island vibe, while another Nana track “Skepta Interlude” and “KMT,” produced by Ness (HBTL) and Cameron Pasquale, are both heavy hitters that would seem appropriate in a movie scene that introduces a villain with a scar across their face.

 

Image result for villain with scar

Imagine “The Lion King” but with a hip-hop score

 

I even like what’s happening on “Ice Melts,” which has a melody appropriate for “Little Einsteins” or something. Produced by S1 and Supah Mario (fitting name), it has the same lullaby/video game rap aesthetic that D.R.A.M. and Yachty are known for, so I’d like to think that this whole trend is taking off, because I’m all for it.

2. Good Features

Famed U.K. grime rapper Giggs has great verses on “No Long Talk” and “KMT,” infusing each line with his signature menace, while Skepta, another well-known British grime rapper, similarly brings the heat to “Skepta Interlude.”

British singer Sampha, known for appearing on the “Nothing Was the Same” track “Too Much,” delivers soulful and haunting vocals on the otherwise lacking “4422.” It’s a repetitive song, but Sampha makes it almost work.

I also dig the hell out of Young Thug on “Sacrifices,” which also features 2 Chainz, and I love Kanye’s soulfulness on “Glow,” and the Earth, Wind & Fire sample doesn’t hurt either.

Overall, the features elevate the playlist, and I like Drake’s inclusion of established stars such as Kanye and 2 Chainz, as well as artists unfamiliar to some American audiences like Giggs, Skepta and Jorja Smith (although he didn’t utilize her considerable talents to the fullest extent IMO).

 

COLD

 

1. Culture Vulture

Drake’s been called out in the past for his liberal use of Jamaican and Caribbean slang, and this happens again on “More Life.” Take the sixth track off the playlist, “Madiba Riddim,” as an example: the title itself references both the late Nelson Mandela’s nickname, “Madiba,” and the Jamaican Patois way of saying “rhythm.” The former confuses me —what is the connection between Mandela, who fought against racism and apartheid, and Drake’s tale of “Some girls turn they back/On they best friend from time”?

Drake’s patois usage extends to the title “Gyalchester,” as well as the reference to being “maddas” on “Blem,” and even his AMAs speech where he says “chune for your headtop” appears in a few songs.

Since I’m obviously not from the Caribbeans, I don’t have the final authority on this issue. It’s also possible I’m thinking too much about it, since I didn’t have a problem with all the patois Drake dropped on “Views.” But after doing research and reading perspectives from other writers, I have to at least question my previously casual attitude toward Drake’s propensity for borrowing from other cultures.

Sajae Elder, who is Jamaican and Trinidadian and who was born in Toronto, points out that Drake has a habit of hitting and quitting it — he hops onto a culture when it’s cool and then abandons it when it’s not. She also says just because Jamaican culture is very big in Toronto, it doesn’t justify Drake’s heavy manipulation of it. He regularly uses “ting,” “wasteman” and “yute,” despite not being Jamaican, Elder continues. Further, she finds his claim that “Hotline Bling” is a riddim of “Cha Cha” to be inadequate, as he’s not from the culture of competition between dancehall artists and he’s just trying to hide that he jacked D.R.A.M.’s beat. It’s worrisome that Drake takes so much from a culture that has been vilified in the past, especially given his shaky history of crediting other artists.

As Elder states, it may be time for “non-West Indian artists to engage the full scope of our complex cultures instead of just painting something red, gold, and green and calling it a day.”

Image result for drake hotline bling gif

 

2. Thematically and lyrically repetitive

Like I said, the playlist touches on the same subjects Drake has mulled over countless times in past work. Maybe I should give “More Life” a little slack, being that it’s a playlist and I shouldn’t expect it to be as thematically fresh as an album. But generally speaking, I can file most of his songs from the playlist into three categories:

  1. Braggadocious and confrontational: a.k.a. “I’m the shit, and you’re not”
    • Examples: “Free Smoke,” “No Long Talk,” “Gyalchester,” “Skepta Interlude,” “KMT,” “Can’t Have Everything,” “Glow”
  2. Lovelorn: “Why won’t this girl be with me in the way I want?”
    • “Passionfruit,” “Get It Together,” “Blem,” “Nothing’s Into Somethings,” “Teenage Fever,” “Since Way Back,” “Ice Melts”
  3. Trust issues (which is also a recurring theme in his lovelorn songs):
    • “Madiba Riddim,” “Portland,” “Fake Love”

Those are pretty much the same themes I’ve seen from his previous work, especially “Views.” Drake postured on “9,” “Hype” and “Still Here”; griped about old flames on “Feel No Ways,” “Redemption” and most famously “Hotline Bling”; then of course mentioned his world-renowned trust issues on “Keep the Family Close.” He even put out a song called “Trust Issues” back in 2011. At this point, when you Google that phrase, a picture of Drake will pop up as a result. Is there even a Drake without trust issues? It’s his bread and butter. But at the same time, it might show that a) he needs to reevaluate some of his priorities (maybe stop chasing after unavailable women??), or b) stretch his creativity and not rehash the same themes again and again.

 

3. Self-Contradictory

I find Drake to be utterly unconvincing when he says “I don’t care what society thinks” on “Lose You.” If that’s true Aubrey, why do you feel the need to mention your “Hermes link, ice-blue mink” and make seven tracks on this playlist that contradict that statement? And why would you bag on Meek for “ego strokin’” with his Rolexes on “Lose You” when you do the same thing, bragging about your “new Maybach” on “Gyalchester”? Come on, man.

 

Hottest Songs (in order of appearance, not by preference):

1. “Passionfruit”: Sure it sounds like a tune that YouTube beauty gurus will use as background music of a tutorial called “summer glow makeup,” but putting that aside, the beat is infectiously bright and I just KNOW I’ll spend the next month playing this on repeat.

2. “Can’t Have Everything”: I’m living for Drake’s flow and the killer beat, also the line “Come and get your mans” makes me laugh and think of this:

 

Image result for whose mans is this dog

 

3. “Glow”: Beautiful, beautiful song. Content-wise it’s basically “Started From the Bottom,” but Kanye’s vocals and the production make it seem heartfelt rather than pompous.

4. “Fake Love”: Released October last year, this track is one of the standouts from the playlist. The hook is insanely catchy and I was on board from the get-go.

 

Coldest songs:

  1. “Jorja Interlude”: It’s an interlude so I’ll ease off, but it was forgettable and didn’t do anything with Smith’s vocals.
  2. “Nothings Into Somethings”: This slow jam feels like it’s missing something, and other commenters have also said they thought PartyNextDoor or Bryson Tiller could’ve added much needed energy to it.
  3. “Since Way Back”: Speaking of Party, this track is no “Come and See Me.” It’s like “Come and See Me” if that song were five times more boring. Also, this track brings up some questions: Are they singing to different women? Or are they singing to the same girl?? If so, it might as well be called “More Than Words,” ammirite?

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

SCALE: 1 (frozen) – 10 (boiling)

RATING: 7.5  (Like a nice oatmeal)

 

Overall, I find myself wanting more from “More Life.” The outstanding production, rather than completely winning me over, further emphasizes Drake’s lack of lyrical creativity. He raps about wanting more success and personal fulfillment, and I hope he finds it, especially the latter. Maybe if he’s finally secure with himself, and not spending his time feuding with people, he can generate new fodder for the next album.

If it seems like I’m being too hard on Drake, it’s because I think he’s capable of delivering more (wow I sound like a mom here lol). I’m anticipating that his next [insert trendy name for album here] will bring something new.

 


 

What did y’all think of the playlist? Hot or cold? Let me know!

The Top 4 Unexpected Bangers of 2016

 

hot-pot-rae-sremmurd

 

 

As it’s been said before, 2016 turned out to be like the worst movie ever with the best soundtrack. It seemed every big name in the game came out with great music this year, from Beyoncé and Rihanna, to Drake and Chance. They made us think about important things like celebrating blackness and positivity, as well as gave us plenty of fun moments such as quoting “Hot sauce in my bag, swag” endlessly and photoshopping tiny Drakes onto various pictures.

 

Although I love seeing established artists continuing to do dope work, what’s just as cool for me are the artists and songs that no one expected to pop off in the ways they did. They keep the music game exciting and unpredictable. Who knows who will get big in 2017 and spur the next round of memes and twitter hashtags? I have no clue, and that’s the best part.

 

So continue reading for my picks of the top four unexpected bangers of 2016, and feel free to add yours! Have a great New Years and a great 2017 (or at least one better than 2016).


 

4. 1 NIGHT – Lil Yachty *

 

 

I don’t really know how to classify Lil Yachty and his unique sound. Lullaby trap? Video game hip-hop? He himself calls it “bubblegum trap,” which feels as accurate as it can get.

The fact that it’s so hard to categorize the rapper’s music is his exact appeal for me. While countless other aspiring MCs are out there imitating styles in their quest to be the next Nas or whoever, Yachty instead exudes individuality and irreverence. Just take one look at his red dreads, and you’ll see a man who does not give a fuck about normalcy.

“1 NIGHT,” which currently has 64 million views on YouTube, got a boost from Caleon Fox’s popular comedy video, “When Bae Hits You With That “So What Are We?”, which is the most 2016-thing to type ever. Both the song and the video are excellent showcases for what Yachty a.k.a. Lil Boat has to offer. The track features a unique combination of trap beats and a melody straight out of a children’s song, and the video must be seen to be believed as it’s colorful and busy to the point of insanity.

Although Lil Yachty’s rise might seem surprising to some, given that he is the personification of a Molly-induced fever dream James Franco might have at Burning Man, the rapper’s ascendance actually makes sense. His weirdness is his biggest strength, since people are tired of songs that resemble one another, so when a track like “1 NIGHT” comes along, such oddity is welcomed. No, Yachty might not tackle racial inequality or the ephemeral quality of time in his music, but he’s having fun and doing his own thing, so I’m not complaining.

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An actual still from the video so you know I’m not tripping

 

 

3. Dat $tick – Rich Chigga

This is the track that no one saw coming and made people collectively drop their jaws and ask, “This kid is how old??” and “He’s from where??”.

Rich Chigga, a.k.a. Brian Imanuel, a rapper and Viner (r.i.p. Vine) from Indonesia, blew up after he dropped “Dat $tick” early this year when he was just 16. The music video has amassed 31 million views and a remix from THE Ghostface Killah, as well as sparked necessary conversations about non-African Americans using the n-word, but most importantly, it made many people see that even a nerdy-looking Asian kid armed with a fanny pack and pink polo shirt (buttoned all the way up) can still spit straight heat.

hot-pot-dat-stick

Tbh the only thing they’re shooting is racial stereotypes

 

 

2. Black Beatles – Rae Sremmurd with Gucci Mane

 

Although Rae Sremmurd already solidified their place in hip-hop with hits like “No Flex Zone” and “No Type,” the duo’s song “Black Beatles,” while catchy, didn’t have the immediate earworm quality that the two former tracks had. Its popularity, much like “1 NIGHT,” was thanks to virality, in this case the massive Mannequin Challenge video trend, where moving cameras captured people frozen in action while the song played in the background.

Everyone from high school sports teams, Blac Chyna in the delivery room, to Michelle Obama and the Cleveland Cavaliers (albeit in that case with a different song) have participated in the trend. And of course, Rae Sremmurd themselves did it with the audience at a concert and it is pure joy to watch.

This phenomenon is quite unexpected since I’m not totally sure why this particular song was chosen as the soundtrack for the videos, but regardless, it’s always fun to see music and social media come together for such an entertaining and lighthearted purpose.

1. Alaska – Maggie Rogers

 

 

The origin story for how this song became famous is probably the most serendipitous of this year. Singer Maggie Rogers was an NYU student participating in a master class at the university’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music with Pharrell, where the legendary rapper and producer listened to the students’ original projects and gave them feedback. In the video, which came out in March and has nearly 2.5 million views, Pharrell tells her that her song “Alaska,” which she wrote and produced, is “singular” in the way the Wu-Tang Clan was, and the rest is history.

Following the success of the master class, as well as the overwhelming support she received from online commenters, Rogers released an official music video for the song this October, which has racked up 2.2 million views as of now.

I feel kind of speechless reflecting on these events. I mean seriously, what are the chances that an artist would be discovered in this way on such a platform, and by Pharrell no less? Insane. But her fast ascent isn’t undeserved, and is in fact a testament to how captivating “Alaska” really is. Rogers describes it as a mix of folk and dance, and it’s exactly that. It has the soulfulness of folk mixed with dance music’s signature vivacity. The song is beautiful and lush and although the music video pales in views compared to the numbers of previously mentioned tunes, it’s definitely worth a listen (or two … or 200). It’ll make you feel like you’re floating on a cloud, which is exactly how I want to leave 2016 behind.


*Okay okay so technically the actual song came out in 2015, but the official video was released in 2016 and became popular this year. Let me live!

 

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

 

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.

 

drakecrying

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 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!