Archive for the ‘b.o.b.’ tag
Proving yet again that anything narrated by Morgan Freeman automatically improves in quality, “Bombs Away,” the first single off B.O.B.’s upcoming album Strange Clouds, uses the venerable actor’s voiceover talents wisely. (I’m already playing it two times in a row each time it finishes so I can get that “beginning of the blockbuster” feeling again.) In all seriousness, I’m shocked Freeman didn’t do this before – he’s got the gravitas and the dictation that really only Gil Scott-Heron was able to capture. Props to him, and props to B.O.B. for even thinking of this. And the rest of the track’s great, too! There’s a sweeping, almost symphonic narrative and it’s catchy to boot. Plus the rap is certainly one of his best – he’s varying his rhythms and rhymes better than his previous efforts, generally, and there’s an almost Eminem-like aggressiveness to the way he spits it out.
T.I., in many ways, is the Gilbert Arenas of hip-hop. Both men began their careers as overlooked talents, with T.I. seeing his major label debut album flop and Gilbert being completely passed over in the first round of the NBA Draft. Through hard work and perseverance, however, both elevated themselves to the top of their respective years over the next few years (in fact, I’d still welcome an ’06-level T.I. or Gilbert Arenas as great addition to any hip-hop record or basketball team). But after nearly reaching “best in the world” status, both came crashing back down to Earth, mainly due to their terrible decision-making regarding where and in front of whom they brandished their firearms. Now, Tip can barely find an audience for his music, and Agent Zero can’t find a fan base that wants to watch him play basketball.
While Gilbert’s best days may be behind him, T.I. seems insistent on regaining his place as a hip-hop King. His plan of action to realize his vision? Fuck Da City Up, of course! Which city? His own, of course! Do I understand why he would do this? No. But his flow on this tape is much more reminiscent of his T.I. Vs. T.I.P.-style rhymes than the two disappointing albums he has released since, and that’s already a step in the right direction.
The first song on the tape, the title track, sees T.I. returning to what he knows best; intimidating boasts, nonspecific-yet-convincing threats, and selling drugs with the assistance of rubber bands. However, the presence of Young Jeezy, another Atlanta rapper struggling to recover his previous place of power in the rap game, somewhat confuses the purpose of the entire affair.
This being an Atlanta mixtape from perhaps the most seminal “trap muzik” artist in the history of mixtapes, the cut-and-paste descriptions from most similar releases apply; some bass-heavy bangers, some Frooty-Loops-sounding crap, and a whole lot of features. Among the mercenaries enlisted are those you’d expect (B.o.B. on the awesomely-titled “Pissin’ On Your Ego”) and those you definitely wouldn’t (Pimp C on the not-so-creatively titled “Pimp”).
The best feature, however is one that may or may not have been influenced by the very similar Drake-The Weeknd collabo, “The Ride,” a track titled “Oh Yeah,” on which Trey Songz’s “feature” is more a part of the beat than a standalone-part. T.I. goes H.A.M. on the whole thing and if there’s more of this type of output in Tip’s near future, I may upgrade his status from Gilbert Arenas to Vince Carter; still past his prime, but capable of contributing something worth paying attention to.
3 / 5 bars
T.I. – Fuck Da City Up (Feat. Young Jeezy)
T.I. – Oh Yeah (Feat. Trey Songz)
T.I. – Pissin’ On Your Ego (Feat. B.o.B.)
When Lupe Fiasco released Lasers this past March, I wrote something to the effect of, “The worst thing to happen to Lupe Fiasco’s career was the release of B.o.B.’s The Adventures of Bobby Ray.” Atlantic Records notoriously put the record on lockdown until Lupe agreed to cheese it up to the company’s minimum level of “radio friendliness,” a phrase that at the time was synonymous with “Nothin’ On You” and “Airplanes.” So I suppose it’s highly ironic (or not ironic at all. I don’t know) that less than a week after Lupe Fiasco releases a mixtape, Friend of the People: I Fight Evil, B.o.B. drops his own tape, the similarly-ridiculously titled EPIC: Every Play Is Crucial.
As someone who non-consensually had the lyrics to “Magic” drilled into my skull every car ride I took during the summer of 2010, and also as someone who became a fan of Tyler, The Creator entirely because of that line in “Yonkers” about brutally murdering B.o.B. and Bruno Mars, I definitely had mixed emotions listening to EPIC. I enjoyed that it isn’t a bitchslap to humanity like Bobby Ray’s debut album, but I also felt a little sad coming to the realization that the dude can actually spit, just from his first two bars: “You know who it is without a doubt of hesitation/If money talks I got my masters in communications.” It’s not the greatest lyrical assault of all time, but it’s a marked improvement from “You the whole package/Plus you pay your taxes.”
The best skill B.o.B. utilizes on EPIC, however, is not his voice or any of the instruments he claims to know how to play. It’s his beat selection. Even the songs that seem to have no business being on the tape (for example, why is an Atlanta rapper sampling “New York New York”?) usually provide some sort of head-nodding redemption to the listener. B.o.B. even boasts about how hot the beats are, which doesn’t technically make sense because he played as much of a part in creating them as you or I did. Though I suppose if I was laced up with the “Things Get Worse” beat and had the unfortunate task of writing the meat of an Eminem sandwich, I’d probably say something nice about him too so that he wouldn’t renegade me too hard.
That actually brings us to strength number two of the tape, which is the guest list. Sure there are the typical, awful, “how could anyone in their right minds possibly think this is good?” appearances from Atlantans like Future and Trae the Truth (who rap about hitting the VIP of a strip club doing a mind-numbing “Waka Flocka Flame on heavy sedatives” caricature). But there are also some legitimate heavyweights, specifically T.I., Mos Def, Big K.R.I.T., Bun B and Lil’ Wayne (on the recycled “Strange Clouds”). The best verse on the album, however, as hinted at earlier, is Eminem’s first on “Things Get Worse.” Sure he resurrects the Relapse accent, but like the tape as a whole, it’s better than one would expect. And only a small part of that actually has to do with B.o.B. But it’s still his tape, so, I guess this does count as improvement.
3 / 5 bars
All hail the Janelle Monae collaboration. She hasn’t spent all her time being an ArchAndroid – she’s also worked with some excellent producers and created some of the past few years’ best music. She has a knack for turning most tracks she touches to gold; for holding disparate styles together. There were some real surprises – she’s chosen her co-producers well. I’m genuinely surprised “Nerd Girl” and “2012″ never got more buzz. The rest are a motley crew.
Jaspects collaborated with Janelle on Broadcasting The Definition (2006) and The Polkadotted Stripe (2009). “Peachtree Blues” is a modern take on the rainy day jazz ballad and offers her the chance to really take off vocally. “2012″ is a head trip in a completely different vein – an electric, psychedelic journey through many of the styles Janelle explored on The ArchAndroid.
“Nerd Girl” has an addictive bass line and chorus, and manages to channel the best of early 60′s rock & roll. And the album it’s off of, Jacques Jams, is one of the most original fusions of rock and hip-hop out there. Chester French makes an ideal duet partner – this track is delightful.
“Call The Law” has a catchy New Orleans blues progression. She really has a strength for playing a character in a narrative – it should come as no surprise that she chose to make her debut set of LP from the perspective of a fictional android. Plus she does a good homicidal ex-girlfriend.
“Be Still” is still my favorite track from Sir Lucious Leftfoot – Janelle’s chorus and bridge mix perfectly with one of the most effective and introspective raps Big Boi has ever given us.
And the rare half-miss. B.o.B.’s choice to use Blink 182 era punk rock doesn’t quite mesh with his flow, but there’s a fair bit of soul here.
I feel as though I just found $20 in between the couch cushions.