All posts by Tommy Monroe

[Album Review] Pusha T – Daytona

With just 3 albums in his discography since 2011, Pusha T is not one to consistently release new music, but when he does release an album it feels like a ceremony and makes an impact. His last album was released in 2015 and since then, fans have been hoping and dreaming of the day Pusha T will drop a new project with anticipation. That was before Kanye brought the G.O.O.D. news to the world – in a series of tweets, he announced upcoming releases from Pusha T, Teyana Taylor, Nas, and Kid Cudi. Although initially titled King Push, Pusha T chose to change the title because he felt “it didn’t represent the overall message” of the album. In another tweet he said, “DAYTONA represents the fact that I have the luxury of time. That luxury only comes when u have a skill set that your confident in.” As for what’s to be expected on DAYTONA, Push said the album was created especially for his “family, high taste level, luxury, drug raps fans.”

’If You Know You Know’ begins without preamble with a strong rhyme scheme, which will only be relatable for those “who know.”  In a mature way, he differentiates between rappers and drug dealers: “bricklayers in ball shorts, coaching from the side of the ball courts.” Although he talks about rappers, this isn’t the kind of song 6ix9ine or Lil Xan can relate to. Pusha T is no stranger to tracks filled with lyrics about drugs: on ‘The Game We Play’ he gives a shout out to the drug dealers—the people behind the scenes— “the names they fade”. “This is the drug money your ex nigga claim he made” will have many girlfriends asking their man why he isn’t making drug money. With the message behind this song, he shows respect for drug dealers, and the profession of drug dealing.

The track “Hard Piano” is appropriately named – the piano riffs come in strong and heavy from the start while incredible lyrics drive the track forward:. “exactly what the game’s been missing, this fire burns as hot as Hell’s Kitchen” is the perfect representation for his lyrics. Rick Ross is the perfect person to feature on this song, as he is another OG when it comes to drug dealing and carries himself like a respectable drug dealer—a boss. I imagine Pusha T and Rick Ross literally spitting fire in the booth as this track was recorded or at least exhaling some smoke, as they each deliver equally outstanding lyrics. That’s what you get when the “old generation” of rappers come together on a track – a fresh beat and fire lyrics. The beat is fresh and complements the hook. The consistent piano chord is an undeniably attractive element on this track which acts as the role of the other players on the Cavaliers team. Although LeBron is the main attraction like the hook, the subtle role of the other players contributes to their victory.

With ‘Come Back Baby’” Pusha T continues to glorify drug money as he raps: “Bought hoes Honda’s// took care of children…built out buildings//rapped on classics”. ‘Santeria’ is a track that will catch you off guard. During the first part of the song, I thought I was hearing Pusha T display his usual rhymes and similes. Although of top-notch quality, I wanted to hear something unique and fresh. Then on cue, the refrain comes up and the song transforms. With the change in tempo, I felt as if I were in a concert lights just got turned off, and something exciting was about to happen. The drum roll gave me goosebumps and made me anxious. Finally, he broke out into his final verse and I imagined fireworks, theatrical fog and confetti as Pusha T burst out with his lines. “Santeria” presents the most exciting moments on this album.

Responding to the question “Niggas talking shit, how do you respond?” both rappers reply with their lines on the track “What Would Meek Do?” Pusha T opened his verse by saying “I’m top 5”. Meanwhile, Kanye’s response to this question was “woo, skrt//whoop woopy whoop//” – disappointing. Dissing Drake, he says: “It was written like Nas but it came from Quintinn” and “How could you ever right these wrongs when you don’t even write your songs”. In 2016, Drake used a few words on the Kanye West-assisted “’Two Birds, One Stone’ to call out someone—presumably King Push—who “made a couple chops” and now believes they’re Chapo. Pusha T uses this track as an opportunity to reply to him. He also talks about the state of industry: “The game’s fucked up” while citing great rappers like him—Kendrick, Cole, Ross, Hov and Wayne.

Pusha T approaches this album as a rapper who knows his worth—like a king. With 7 tracks, he shows a prowess that is stronger than some albums longer than 15 tracks. When he rhymes, he does it with skill. When he spits, he does it like a dragon. Whether he’s talking about drugs, money or being a king in the rap game, his message is clear and he brings an interesting rhythm on every song. Love him or not, Kanye West is a genius. His verse is not one of the best things on this album, but his production certainly is. After listening to ‘Santeria’ and ‘Hard Piano’” I was forced to tweet “God Bless Kanye West”. DAYTONA is basically 7 tracks of quality rap from King Push and 7 tracks of top-notch production by master Ye. After listening to this album, I feel I should buy a yacht with the drug money I don’t have, dress like Diddy, select the finest tobacco, and cross my legs as I appreciate life. This album is on another level.

[Album Review] Anne-Marie – Speak Your Mind

Speak Your Mind is the debut studio album by British Pop singer, Anne-Marie. The 27-year-old singer has attained several charting singles on the UK Singles Chart. She was also featured on Clean Bandit’s “Rockabye,” which peaked at number one. Ever since the release of her first single, “Alarm,” she has been a consistent sensation in the pop world, and every single she has released to support the album has appeared on the UK Singles Chart. Based on her record of success, it is safe to say that Anne-Marie is a hit maker.

The British singer takes us through 17-tracks of exciting pop sounds as she tries to mask a heartbreaking experience in electro-pop sounds. From “Cry” to “Bad Girlfriend,” she revisits her previous relationship while exposing the deceit and infidelity of her ex-lover. On “Then” and “Alarm,” she tells the story of a man who ungratefully ignored the love she had for him while cheating on her.

She goes from hiding the heartbreak she feels to expressing love and facing the pain caused by it. On “Machine”, she sings “…….wouldn’t have a heart so you couldn’t break it”. She also pours out her heart on “Some People”, while singing soulfully “I don’t know why I try I cry, I cry, I cry my eyes out.” Who would have thought the “Bad Girlfriend“ would care about feelings in a relationship. Unlike “Ciao Adios” in which she playfully says goodbye, “Used To Love You,” and “Peak” are soulful yet she still finds a way to infuse the pop sound on both songs. On “Peak,” she questions herself while wondering if she did anything wrong, stole, or cheated in the relationship before concluding, “No, I didn’t do anything but love.”

With every song, she showcases the quality of her voice by the fluid transition of her vocal pitch. On “Some People” and “Peak” she exhibits her vocal dexterity and proves she doesn’t need the influence of heavy drum beats, electronic or reggaeton sounds to create a captivating song.

Outstanding on this album, is her rhythmic style which she uses to change the tempo, flow, and vocal range in the last chorus of every song. This effect goes beyond yearning to listen to the song till the end. It also makes you want to have it on repeat. This album is another win for Anne-Marie because she has succeeded in creating multiple potential radio hits. Although this album features a lot of electronic sounds, she doesn’t rely on it to capture the attention of listeners. Take away the electronic effect, and you’d still get a magnificent pop album. Anne-Marie is an exciting artists who has been able to master every element required to make great pop songs.

[Album Review] Princess Nokia – A Girl Cried Red (Mixtape)

With lyrics laced with top-notch metaphors, Princess Nokia expresses her emotions effortlessly...

Princess Nokia identifies herself as a tomboy, a classic New York Boricua shorty, a feminist, and queer woman who isn’t burdened, but empowered by her complexity. She is a versatile artist that can switch from singing to rapping, and vice-versa. A Girl Cried Red is an eight-track mixtape of alternative music.

‘Flowers and Ropes’ is the first track on this mixtape. Her voice is unique and her harmony adds a spice on this track. The instrumentation on this track is seasoned with different flavors of string sounds and percussion instruments. They are latent, yet they bring out the best out of this song. She sings about being lonely after being in a relationship with a beautiful female who turned out to be “just like the rest”.

‘Your Eyes Are Bleeding’ has a heavy bass beat that supports her vocals on this track. Her lyrics on this song paint the image of a meek and honest lady who has been emotionally tortured by the hands of the cruel world. On ‘For The Night’, she abandons her broken heart and tries to find comfort in money, fun and getting high. She also develops a level of self-confidence that makes her sound really strong emotionally. Although, you can tell she’s still a hurt girl inside.

She sings about herself using the second person narrative on ‘Lock Up Kid’ exposing herself as a lonely girl, who tries to hide everything she’s going through with a fake smile. She presents an outstanding alternative sound on this track. The ‘Interlude’ encompasses one of the best features of this mixtape — great instrumentation. Without words, she succeeds in conveying the emotional message she’s been singing about on this mixtape.

‘Morphine’ is a trippy, lonely song that describes her lonely experience in bed before she started chasing money. Even with the money, some part of her still wants someone to hold her. The 25-year-old sounds more confident on ‘At the Top’. She replaces her coat of loneliness with a classy and expensive one. She addresses haters and flaunts her achievements with an outstanding rhythm. On ‘Little Angel’, she doesn’t sing about herself or loneliness. Princess Nokia dedicates it to a little boy who she describes as a “golden boy” and an “angel”. She reminisces about his time alive in a way that any listener would miss this boy without meeting him. The singer does know how to elicit emotions from her listeners.

On this mixtape, Princess Nokia effortlessly expresses her emo-rap anthems about loneliness, against a backdrop of melodramatic guitars and club-focused beats. She emphasizes: “Smash my heart in pieces, It looks so good on the floor” in the intro on three songs. Those lines encompass her mood on this project. A broken-hearted lonely girl who struggles to get out of the cage of depression while finding comfort in a lot of money and a fake smile. The instrumentation on this album is excellent! Not only does she share her loneliness with great lyrics, she succeeds in making us share a bit of her loneliness. This mixtape is like a short story that is intriguing, engaging, and addictive.

[Album Review] Tinashe – Joyride

Although with a few deep potholes, Tinashe eventually takes us on a Joyride after 4 years...

Joyride is an album that has been affected by numerous setbacks. The project was first announced in 2015, later being promised to appear in the balmy months of both 2016 and 2017, with nothing but scattered singles to show for it. It’s been 4 years since Tinashe’s debut album, but it still seems like she’s a new artist in the industry. With this album, she needed to satisfy impatient fans, and meet her high expectations.

The intro, ‘Keep Your Eyes On the Road’ prepares us for the “Joyride” with cinematic sound effects. There are so many elements that make Joyride interesting — her vocals, the chorus, her lyrics and the beat. Together, it’s like a cereal with every ingredient needed to make you want another bowl so bad. On ‘No Drama’, Offset’s ad-libs, Tinashe’s chorus, and the beat by Stargate are the secret (but not so secret) ingredients.

She hits really high notes on ‘He Don’t Want It’, but other than that, the other seconds are spent waiting for the song to end. Tinashe opened this album with three strong tracks, but the ride quickly went from impressive to mediocre as she failed to impress on ‘Ooh La La’. The beat of ‘Me So Bad’ is great, but Tinashe’s inability to deliver a correlating top-notch chorus is a disappointment. Ty Dolla $ign and French Montana presented verses that gave this song a little ray of hope, but the major problem with this song is the chorus. The featured artists are familiar with sounds like that, and that’s why they were able to approach the beat with solid flows.

The interlude, ‘Ain’t Good For Ya’ isn’t completely a waste of time as listeners have enough time to catch their breath from what seems to be more of a stress ride. ‘Stuck With Me’ is one of the best songs on this album. It presents an electronic sound that proves Tinashe can still deliver good choruses on this album.

‘Go Easy On Me’, is another interlude. It is soulful, poetic and brief. Everything about ‘Salt’ makes it an outstanding, soulful song with lyrics and instrumentation that hit the soul. Although, Future’s tempo doesn’t match the sound on ‘Faded love’,  Tinashe makes up for that with the chorus. The creativity in the production makes Tinashe’s vocals perfect for the beat. The pre-chorus of ‘No Contest’ sets the rhythm for the rest of the song. The change of the tempo at various times, shows a lot of creativity by Tinashe and the producer — Soundz. The last track, ‘Fire and Flames’ is a fusion of high-quality vocal dexterity and soft piano keys. The chorus on this track is absolutely captivating!

‘Joyride’ features some extraordinary elements. The synthesis of her vocals and the production is the most outstanding feature on this LP. Tinashe introduces different sounds and tries to blend them with the R&B sound that she brings to the table with mixed results. That risk created poor choruses, boring verses and a waste of some great beats. However that risk also created soulful, captivating and entertaining songs. Ultimately, this joyride is an uneven trip with some potholes in the road that keep it from being completely perfect.

[Album Review] Rich The Kid – The World Is Yours

The World Is Yours is Rich The Kid’s debut album. The 14-track debut project includes features from top artists in the industry like: Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne, Future, Rick Ross, Chris Brown, Quavo, Khalid, Offset, and Swae Lee. For the production, he also recruited high-profile producers like: Harry Fraud, Metro Boomin, Wondagurl, T-minus, and DJ Mustard. With a combination of some of the best artists and producers, he spoke confidently about the album on any interview he was on. Speaking with XXL Magazine, he went ahead to say “This will be the greatest album of 2018 — Best hip-hop album. There’s no other rapper that will drop a better album than me. No one.” Those are confident words, but does Rich The Kid display the same amount of confidence on the album?

‘World Is Yours’ sounds like an intro with a heavy thunderous beat. He talks about being a hustler who went from being broke to getting rich. He also fires shots at “broke niggas”, “rappers”, and “his enemies. The next track, ‘New Freezer’ sounds like another ‘Gucci gang’. Although the fact that it features Kendrick’s peerless style of music and interesting ad-libs makes it distinctive. On ‘No Question’, he presents fresh ad-libs and entertaining lyrics on his third verse.

The Lab Cook’s production on ‘Plug Walk’ creates an atmosphere for Rich The Kid to be creative and present his verses with a notable modern-day flow. He continues with the groovy standard as the previous track on ‘Too Gone’. His chorus with Khalid will leave many listeners hooked. Also, The beat by Wondagurl adds an effect to the track. Jay Critch’s verse on ‘Made It’ is the highlight of the track.

’Drippin’ is easily one of the best songs on the album. From The Lab Cook’s extraordinary production to Chris Brown’s vocals blended with Rich The Kid’s metaphor-filled lyrics, everything about this track is excellent. Unlike the previous track, the 25-year old struggles to find a place on ‘Lost’. It sounds more like Quavo and Offset featuring Rich The Kid as both rappers present top-notch verses and ad-libs.

At this point, it seems like most of the top artists have come to annihilate him on his own album. Here’s an excerpt from Lil Wayne’s verse:

“I the boogeyman I’m the bigger man
Tell the trigger man, “pull the trigger, man”
Pull up on yo ass, two seater
Pull off fast like a loose cheetah
One diamond ring on two fingers
Cheating on these hoes, call me Tune Cheadle”

Rich the kid struggles to describe going from nothing to something but it’s hard to pay attention to his last verse without thinking about how good Lil Wayne’s was.

Sounding more focused on ‘Early Morning Trapping’ which features Trippie Redd, his second verse is one of his personal best the album. The best thing about ‘Small Things’ is the chorus! It goes perfectly with the beat. While ‘Listen up’ and ‘Gargoyle’ seem to go on forever and thus creates the lowest points on the album. The album comes to an end with ‘Dead Friends’. Thanks to the beat by DJ Mustard and an inspiration from Lil Uzi Vert, Rich The Kid is able to present a good diss track.

Confidence is an important thing every artist should have. However, many have taken it too far by challenging better rappers, exaggerating on their talent and wasting the time of listeners. Even with great features and some nice beats, Rich The Kid barely makes a case for himself as a talented artist. The best things about this album are the ad-libs, production and the input of the featured artists.

[Album Review] Tory Lanez – MEMORIES DON’T DIE

Less than two years after the success of his debut album I Told You, Tory Lanez releases his sophomore album. On MEMORIES DON’T DIE, he features: Future, Wiz Khalifa, 50 Cent, Nav, Fabolous, Paloma Ford, and Mansa. The 25 year old is known for his intermix of various sounds in music. He has built the anticipation for this album on his social media pages by doing free album release shows, FaceTiming fans, and teaser clips on Instagram. Does MEMORIES DON’T DIE live up to the hype?

Tory Lanez has always been the type of artist to blend different sounds together. When he’s not raping, he’s singing and when he’s not doing R&B he’s doing Dancehall. When he raps, he’s on fire. He presents rhymes, wordplay, double entendres and metaphors when he’s flowing on a beat. Those elements are heard on: ‘Old friends x New Foes’ Pieces’, ‘Hate to say’, ‘B.B.W.W x Fake show’ and ‘Benevolent’.

It’s almost unbelievable how the Grammy nominated artist can go from spitting heavy bars in his rap verses to delivering melodious sounds. ’48 Floors’ is like a full course dinner with the first verse as the appetizer and the second verse as the main dish. The change in the beat after the 2nd verse introduces Mansa’s verse which is a great dessert. ‘B.I.D’ is a melodic track! He provides a high pitch often to add a creative touch to this track. His vocals on ‘4 Me’, ‘Dance For Me’, ‘Real thing’ and ‘Hypnotized’ are outstanding. His vocal mesh With Paloma Ford on ‘Connection’ is an auditory delight.

The production on this album is noteworthy. From bass-heavy, hard-hitting beats on ‘B.B.W.W x Fake show’ to dancehall sounds on ‘Skrt Skrt’ and ‘4 Me’ there is a little bit of every sound on this album. The production is so flexible it allows Tory to display his versatile sound.

The appraisal of this album would be incomplete without mentioning his enthusing lyrics. His lyrics are real, deep, freaky and thought-provoking. Similar to the bullets fired on the intro of ‘Hate to say’, he shoots some words of fire at Eric Bellinger, haters and Sean Kingston. Also rapping on his verse, on ‘B.B.W.W x Fake Show’ he says:

“Key close, gotta keep hoes by the G code
Got three hoes in a G4
Got A, B, C, D, E, F, G, X, Y and Z hoes
I’m still balling like D. Rose ”

His lyrics on ‘Pieces’ which features 50 Cent are poetic and intriguing. On a lot of tracks on this album, he would go off on a the beat in one verse. Those verses contain some of his best lyrics on this album.

However, this album is not without it’s flaws. Most of the freaky songs on the album are the least impressive. The lyrics on ‘Skrt Skrt’ are unfussy. A sensual song is best enjoyed when it’s presented in a creative way and ‘Skrt Skrt’ is the musical version of a bad pickup line.

‘Dance For Me’ is one of the more mediocre songs on this album. With Nav’s verse being the best part of this song, Tory’s chorus is a let down.

On this album, Tory takes us through an auditory experience of two different styles — singing and rapping. His rap songs are interesting and his rhythm goes well with the beat. However, when he’s singing it’s like he’s struggling to reach an acceptable standard lyrically. All things considered, none of this changes the fact that this album was worth the hype.

MEMORIES DON’T DIE is an 18-track album filled with deep lyrics, hardcore rap verses, un-interesting freaky songs, an outstanding production and a glass half full of melodies.

EXCEPTIONAL TRACKS:
Old friends x New Foes, 4 Me, Pieces, 48 Floors and Hillside.

[Album Review] Vance Joy – Nation Of Two

James Keogh, better known by his stage name Vance Joy, became an international success with ‘Riptide’, a multi-platinum single from his debut album Dream Your Life Away. Now, Nation Of Two is the follow-up to Joy’s breakthrough debut album, released in 2014. It’s been almost four years but it’s hard to forget those sounds and tracks. He is a very unique artist and his folk sound acts as a sensational souvenir to the ears.

After almost four years, listening to Vance’s vocals on ‘Call If You Need Me’ still presents great satisfaction. His lyrics are also poetic; the track gives motivation to listen to the rest of the album. On ‘Lay It On Me’, he does something new with the instrumentation in the chorus – a sound he hasn’t used in a lot of his songs. ‘We’re Going Home’ has an alternative rock sound and again, he keeps the chorus interesting and creative.

‘Saturday Sun’ is introduced by the familiar ukulele sound he is known for. He takes us through a change in his flow with a hint of folk pop. The addition of the “Ba ba ba ba” chant is just one example of how interesting the choruses can be. Just when ‘Take Your Time’ seems to be not as rhythmic as the previous tracks on the album, he pulls a surprise in the outro which will have any listener hooked. With his lyrics, he paints an image of the love he has for someone and wondering if she feels the same about him. The strum of the guitar and his soft voice on ‘I’m With You’ will certainly strike a chord. Vance has always had the ability to change his pitch and it’s enjoyable when he experiments with his voice. On ‘Like Gold’, a grieving Vance Joy reminisces on a failed relationship.

Other than his smooth vocals on ‘Alone With Me’, his use of the drum on this track adds a unique sound to his discography. He uses the drums to set the tempo for this song while the rest of the instrumentation builds up. At the end, there is an intermix of elements that gives this track a great finish and makes it one of the best songs on the album. The blend of his vocals and guitar riffs on ‘Crashing Into You’ are outstanding. He’s not “falling for” her but “crashing into her”. In the chorus, he explains why he’s so much in love with her:

You came along
You light up my days, my personal sun
Showing me all the ways I could fall
You made me feel new

He includes elements such as guitar riffs, subtle drum beats, heavy bass guitar and subtle brass sound on ‘One Of These Days’. His vocals and lyrics are additions to the musical beauty of this track. The combination has made this track compelling, a track a lot of people will have on repeat. ‘Little Boy’ has a different theme than the rest of the album. He talks about being a scared of certain things as child who liked to be around his parents because he felt secure with them. Although now a man, he’s still a scared little boy inside. He talks about his love for his parents and his fear of them ever getting divorced. He also talks about getting separated from them.

He describes his thoughts about the ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ movie and how they made him re-think certain things with his girl. He sings about heartbreak on ‘When We Start’. In his first verse, he describes her as a “tree” who protects him. In his second verse he expresses his disappointment in the tree (her) as he sings:

Big trees fall all the time
They crack and sound like lightning
Leave a big space in your sky when they fall
When they fall a long way

This is a very impressive track from the strum of the first note to the last.

The instrumentation, lyrics and vocals on this album form a perfect triangle. He has clearly experimented with sounds and with his voice. The poetic lyrics on this album cannot be overlooked. He also displays a dynamic tempo which makes his songs unique and interesting. Every chorus on this album has a unique element which is one of the reasons why this album is a masterpiece.