Runaway: The Proof of Excellence

Very rarely does a song guide one through many emotions in less than 10 minutes. These songs do exist but they are often hard to discover and listen to endlessly. “Runaway” by Kanye West is an example of a master-class song that still stands tall to this day. Nine years ago this song was considered to be a beautiful masterpiece that highlighted the best things that Kanye West had to offer, and all of that remains true to this day and then some. Nine minutes and eight seconds is the amount of time that Kanye West has to take you on a spiritual adventure throughout verses and autotune to deliver his message. “Runaway” is Kanye West’s second best song in my opinion and that says a lot when you look at his portfolio spanning 15 years. “Runaway” truly is a perfect song and one that I believe all can enjoy whether you’re a fan or not.

The Intro/Kanye

“Runaway” begins with the famous piano intro featuring heavy use of the E key which then transitions into the grand beat of the song. This slow start is a great way to build up excitement and tension as each key is pressed. This intro quickly turns into a ballad as Kanye begins his first chorus of the song. In this chorus Kanye discussing a fictitious toast to all those who doubted him, those who gave up on him, and his inner-self. Kanye’s life had become shrouded in drama at this time and this chorus is his first attempt to redeem himself by revealing his true nature. After this catchy chorus, Kanye decides to spit some truth about his love life and how he consistently fails to find true love. Kanye takes this time to assert his arrogance and how he blames everyone for his mistakes because that’s all he ever does. After another chorus section, fellow collaborator Pusha T is recruited to perform the next verse of the song.

Pusha T

Pusha T enters the scene with a short but sweet verse about the lavish lifestyle and the trials and tribulations that come with it. Pusha T’s verse is quite particular when you consider he is referencing Ichabod Crane from Sleepy Hollow to Rolex watches. However, Pusha T details his issues with being rich and famous by showing off an ignorance similar to Kanye’s first verse. This verse is great from Pusha T because not only does it paint a picture of the jerk that he views himself as but also the self-realization aspect that comes with it. Pusha T isn’t afraid to flex his wealth and will surely make sure you see his bling before he gives the song back to Kanye.

Kanye Pt.2

This second verse from Kanye is very short but is a great way to pick up where Pusha T left off. Kanye is afraid of losing his partner and simply doesn’t know how to live without her. Kanye knows he’s done wrong and he knows he’s hurt her but he truly loves her deep down inside past all the ignorance. Kanye wants the one thing he can never buy, Kanye West wants to love.

The Outro

The outro of “Runaway” is honestly something that cannot be put into words. Using a vocoder, Kanye sings the chorus of the song in such a beautiful way that I cannot help but have a tear in my eye. This nonsensical section is perhaps the most powerful part of the whole song as we see Kanye ending the song in an absolutely different way than he started it. This beautiful outro is what makes the song for me and I think Kanye really outdid himself on this track especially in the film. The film features Kanye performing which a multitude of ballet dancers perform until just a few remain for the remainder of the outro. I am thankful that this song exists because it induces many thoughts and feelings for people to ponder as they listen to this piece of art unfold around them. This song is a must listen to as it is so poetic yet beautiful that describing it is nearly impossible to someone who’s never heard it before. “Runaway” is the perfect song and I am thankful that we have this song in the world and I hope you feel the same way after you listen to this masterpiece.

 

Fixing the 2019 GRAMMY Awards

Every year the GRAMMY awards fail to give those who deserve an award an award. This year after some outrageous decisions, I decided to fix the nominations and winners for this year’s GRAMMY awards in the shape that I think it should be. I will only be making revisions to major categories in which I don’t agree with the winners. Also, I would like to say congratulations to Childish Gambino for all of his well-deserved wins.

Best Rock Album

Real Winner – From the Fires – Greta Van Fleet

My Winner: Artificial Selection – Dance Gavin Dance

Best Urban Contemporary Album

Real Winner – Everything Is Love –  The Carters

My Winner – The Kids Are Alright – Chloe x Halle

Best R&B Album

Real Winner – H.E.R. – H.E.R.

My Winner – Good Thing – Leon Bridges

Best Rap Song

Real Winner – “God’s Plan” – Drake

My Winner – “Lucky You” Eminem featuring Joyner Lucas

Best Rap Album

Real Winner- Invasion of Privacy – Cardi B

My Winners – Swimming – Mac Miller & Redemption – Jay Rock

Best Dance/Electronic Album

Real Winner – Woman Worldwide – Justice

My Winner – Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides – SOPHIE

Best Dance Recording

Real Winner – “Electricity” – Silk City & Dua Lipa

My Winner – “Crab Rave” – Noisestorm

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

Real Winner – “Shallow” – Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper

My Winner – “Audio” – LSD

Best New Artist

Real Winner – Dua Lipa

My Winner – Chloe x Halle

Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical

Real Winner – Pharrell Williams

My Winner – Kanye West

Album Of The Year

Real Winner – Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves

My Winner – KIDS SEE GHOSTS – KIDS SEE GHOSTS

 

 

 

 

 

Detox: The Fabled Album

In the 2000s and 2010s, there was consistent talk about an album called Detox. Detox would have been Dr. Dre’s third album following his prior two classic albums. The name Detox was throughout a plethora of songs and interviews since the 2000s. The album was supposed to be a huge event that would have featured many artists in an attempt to make one of the world’s most hyped albums. But alas, this album never came to be. However, the album has an interesting history spanning at least a decade since it’s announcement. Detox may have never been made, but we can ponder about what could have been and why it never came out.

Dr. Dre was at the top of his game in 1999 when he released his album 2001. This album was a followup to his 1992 classic The Chronic and stood as a testament to the skills and sounds that Dr. Dre could bring to the table as a solo artist. With both albums being a success, it was pertinent for Dr. Dre to campaign for his third album as being a big deal. In doing so rappers such as Eminem, 50 Cent, and Dr. Dre himself would continuously promise that Detox was on its way. While this never happened, we did see some singles from the album. Songs such as I Need A Doctor and Kush were surefire indicators that the album was coming soon, however, those singles never amounted to anything other than being quality releases from Dr. Dre. Supposed work on Detox was also done during a busy time for Dr. Dre due to him producing for major artists and eventual Beats Headphones involvement years later. Seemingly, Dr. Dre wouldn’t have an ample amount of time to produce the album and thus each year the release date was pushed back another year until it was indefinitely delayed.

With the album’s release date nowhere in sight, fans wondered what Dr. ordered. With Detox being postponed, Dr. Dre continued to work in the background doing production and guest features here and there until 2015. After no word of Detox or any other albums, Dr. Dre surprised everyone when he announced Compton was coming out. Compton was released on August 7th, 2015 and serves as Dr. Dre’s true third album. The album was made in conjunction with the N.W.A film Straight Outta Compton. With both film and album being overwhelmingly received well by critics Dr. Dre seemingly proved that 16 years later he still had his touch. Compton is said to be a derivative of the original Detox album thus potentially ending the search for the lost album. With Detox never coming to fruition we were gifted with Compton instead.

16 years of waiting led up to a stellar album in Compton, however, it wasn’t Detox nor was it what Detox could be. Detox had the potential to be one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time with Dr. Dre’s production and his connections. While we never got Detox and probably never will, hip-hop has a legendary tale of the mythical album. I do hope one day we get a taste of what else Detox was supposed to contain but until then we must wait once more. While it may or may not ever come out, Detox will always serve as hip-hop’s greatest fabled album.

Favorite Song Friday #7

2/1/19

“Me and Your Mama”

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Donald Glover, better known as Childish Gambino is a man of many talents. In 2016, Childish Gambino showed us a new side of his talent with the release of Awaken! My Love. This album is 11 songs long and is a mixture of R&B and Soul music. While there are some standout songs like “Redbone” on the album, there exists one song that I believe stands above the rest in terms of quality, emotion, and dedication. “Me and Your Mama” features Gambino at odds with himself and the woman he’s with as he battles it out throughout the powerful and loud track. Being the first song on the album, “Me and Your Mama” digs deep into one’s feelings immediately and sets the perfect tone for the album.

After the short intro, the song explodes into screams of anger, love, and hate as Gambino battles his inner thoughts regarding the situation he is in. With Gambino pleading for his woman to take him back while the world wants to tear them apart there is a powerful message to be heard. Gambino only wants to present his love to her above everything else even if it’s the wrong choice. I personally love this song because of the rock influence and screaming that Gambino includes but also the failing relationship aspect as it’s all too relatable for myself and many others. I really enjoy what Donald Glover for the album and hope to see more similar work on his next release.

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Hip-hop’s Greatest Debut Album/Hip-hop’s Greatest Tragedy

How would you feel if you lost everything you worked for in an instant? This was the case with The D.O.C. in 1989. Shortly after releasing his debut album, The D.O.C. was involved in a car accident which resulted in the loss of his voice. The D.O.C. is arguably one of the greatest rappers and wordsmiths alive, however, when he lost his voice that all changed. Only one album was made before the accident and in my opinion, it is hip-hop’s greatest debut album. No One Can Do It Better is a classic but above all else serves as a reminder of how well The D.O.C. could perform before the accident.

No One Can Do It Better was released on August 1, 1989, under the production of Eazy-E and Dr. Dre. Ironically, for an album produced by members of the N.W.A the only “moderately explicit” song on the album is the one that actually features N.W.A. The D.O.C. took a very clean approach when it came to making this album and decided to showcase his prowess in rapping rather than gloating about his life. The D.O.C. also notably wrote every song on the album himself which compared to today’s standards is extraordinary. Not only could he rap elegantly and quickly, but The D.O.C. was also great at his delivery skills. Every line spoken feels powerful as he glides across the beat and not only highlighting his skills but also the work of Dr. Dre. Songs such as “Portrait of a Masterpiece”, “The Formula”, and “Whirlwind Pyramid” are just a few of the many songs where the beat and lyrics match perfectly to create some of the most impeccable works of art. However, while No One Can Do It Better is one of my favorite albums it’s success could never be duplicated.

In 1996, The D.O.C. tried to return 7 years later with the release of Helter Skelter and then 14 years later with Deuce. Both albums are valiant efforts for someone with a damaged larynx, however, the vocal damage set The D.O.C. back in terms of ability. Recently, The D.O.C. has revealed that he’s working on another album and has regained more of his voice than he used to. If this album ever comes out it would mark approximately 30 years since his debut album in 1989. Given that The D.O.C. has the writing, lyricism, and production all taken care of, this album could be miraculous. But until then, The D.O.C. remains as hip-hop’s greatest tragedy. The man who lost his career and who had the smoothest and swiftest voice in hip-hop will one day rise again, however, this time it’ll be just a little different than it was in 1989.

Best Albums of 2018

Here is the list of my favorite albums of 2018! I apologize for the delay but nevertheless, I present to you my favorite 10 albums of the year 2018.

Honorable Mention: Backward Books 2 – Azizi Gibson

This year’s honorable mention is Backward Books 2 by Azizi Gibson. Azizi Gibson is a relatively new artist in the world who I can definitely see making an impact in the future. Azizi Gibson paints himself as a colorful character with his covers along with sampling dialogue that is based on anime. Azizi Gibson is another incredible example of mixing rapping, singing, and speaking into exquisitely crafted yet highly entertaining songs. In addition to being vocally talented, Azizi Gibson excels at generating tones for his songs. In songs such as “Rain” and “New Wavy” there is a playful side showing off what he can do, however, songs like “Night Crawler” and “Polidicks” give off an emo-rap vibe as a stark contrast to the rest of his work. With this year’s top lists being very difficult to come up with since 2018 was a great year for music, Azizi Gibson taking 2018’s honorable mention is a huge compliment in my opinion and I hope you give him a chance in 2019.

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10. DiCaprio 2 – J.I.D

J.I.D is the newest artist on this list and his name deserves the utmost respect after the release of DiCaprio 2. This album channels J.I.D’s talents to create novel sounds, flows, and styles that can rival some of hip-hop’s current heavy hitters. J.I.D even goes as far as to recruit artists such as A$AP Ferg, Joey Bada$$, and his own mentor J. Cole. Songs like “Westbrook”, “Off Deez”, and “Just Da Other Day” are just a sample of the preponderance that J.I.D can create in the studio. In 50 minutes and 14 songs, J.I.D shows prowess in every way imaginable. J.I.D adapts to match each beat and will even match the level of energy that his guest features bring to the table. I think DiCaprio 2 is a great way to start off this year’s list as J.I.D sets the standard as the first entry. 2019 is the year that I believe J.I.D will become a relevant name in hip-hop and he unquestionably earns it.

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9. Black Panther The Album- Kendrick Lamar

Black Panther was a movie that surprised a majority of critics and box-office projections alike. Disney put ten years into their Marvel cinematic universe dubbed the MCU and it shows with the release of Black Panther. However, setting the wonderful visuals and performances by Chadwick Boseman and Anthony B. Jordan aside, Disney gave Kendrick Lamar permission to create the soundtrack for the film. Realistically, Disney giving one of the most prolific hit-makers the chance to create a soundtrack for what would become one of the highest-grossest movies of all time sounds like a dream, yet it surely happened. And that’s without mentioning that the album is uncensored too. Kendrick Lamar recruited a plethora of artists to help cultivate this masterpiece while still giving it a well-balanced pace throughout its 14 song duration. Black Panther The Soundtrack also features a diverse collection of sounds with the song  “X” being one of the most hype-inducing songs of the year while “King’s Dead” has resulted in becoming a meme adored by many. With Kendrick Lamar pushing SOB X RBE into the world with their song “Paramedic!” there is realistically no way this album isn’t a top ten release of 2018. I can only hope that Disney decides to give this concept another chance when Black Panther 2 inevitably comes out in the future.

Link to article

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8. KOD – J. Cole

Conscious rap is an interesting sub-genre in hip-hop mostly because it’s so hard to abide by. It wouldn’t make sense for a conscious rapper to preach a message and then go against their very words. J. Cole has been one of the most interesting rappers recently as he’s become a complete 180 of what he used to be. J. Cole used to have great features and many noteworthy hits, however, since the release of 2014 Forest Hills Drive he’s become a solo artist in almost every way. Doing a majority of producing and writing has allowed his lyrical expertise to be flaunted on each album since 2013’s album Born Sinner. J. Cole has never been a bad rapper and he’s never been a simple one either. Albums like KOD serve as a warning message to those who consider giving into their demons in exchange for fulfilling their wildest dreams. J. Cole wants to help others by showing that you can be your best version without selling your soul for drugs and money. However, he knows it’s not an easy temptation to resist but he provides a clear way to resist by using KOD as a message to all those who ponder. KOD is a conscious rap album disguised as a trap album in some parts, and these “hits” allow J. Cole to convey his message through deception. Regardless if J. Cole and I have the same views on his album, I think it deserves its spot on my list for being such a remarkably executed conscious rap album.

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7. Kamikaze – Eminem

2017 saw the release of Eminem’s highly debatable album Revival which was met with fairly average reviews that even split a good amount of his fanbase. Unfortunately, for Eminem, he has a legacy to uphold and an average album at his age is something he won’t stand for. Refusing to be the Star Wars: The Last Jedi of hip-hop, Eminem decided to board his plane and crash it straight back into the rap game. After being the end of many jokes since the release of Revival, Eminem takes it all too personally and attempts to go after a majority of his critics. From music reviewers to “mumble rappers”, Eminem leaves no stone unturned in 2018. The name Kamikaze is fitting because if Eminem’s career is really on a decline and this album could potentially be one of his last, he of all people would rather go out with a bang instead of slowly fading away. It is also worth mentioning that this album is the reason the MGK vs Eminem feud came to be throughout the year. With Kamikaze and “Kill Shot” being wonderful releases from Eminem this year, I don’t think he has any plans to leave the game anytime soon and he fully intends to bring us with him throughout his journey.

Link to article

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6. DAYTONA – Pusha T

DAYTONA didn’t capture my interest that much at first but this album grew on me after discussing it with some close friends. Pusha T was the first release in Kanye West’s 2018 “Wyoming Sessions”/”Cruel Summer” projects. DAYTONA features production from Kanye West and shows Pusha T at his best. “The Games We Play” and “What Would Meek Do?” are some of my favorite songs on the seven-track album because they give Pusha T’s lyricism time to shine. An album shrouded in controversy due to its cover and the eventual escalation of the feud with Drake would have to catch people’s attention and that’s exactly what it does. Pusha T saved some of his best ideas for this album and it shows. The Pusha T and Kanye West duo proved to be one of the best albums of 2018 as it gave both a chance to display what they truly excel at. I hope Pusha T can recreate the magic that went into crafting this album in the future.

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5. Swimming Mac Miller

Swimming is the last album from Mac Miller, however, it is also one of his best pieces of work to date. If his single “Self Care” wasn’t enough to make you look into this album, I highly implore you to do so. Whenever an artist passes there tends to be a renaissance in their work. This resurgence provides fans with a chance to connect once again with the artists they adored, or even allow new fans to be created due to viva voce. While nobody expected Mac Miller’s passing, Mac Miller was always aware of his lifespan. Swimming is essentially Mac Miller’s goodbye project to the world. Mac Miller discusses his life and the problems he had growing up into the man he was, however, throughout the lyrics Mac Miller seemingly closes up loose ends and prepares himself for the short future he had left. This idea is very unsettling and depressing to most, but Mac Miller doesn’t view his end as such. Mac Miller constantly battled with substance abuse and he clearly knew he could never be free of its grasp on Swimming. Being in and out of sobriety would only perpetuate the problem he had and sadly the drugs took over on September 7th, 2018. While the world may have lost a lyrical genius, Swimming remains as his last testament to the world and deserves its rightful spot on my list.

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4. Ye – Kanye West

While Ye isn’t Kanye West’s best album, it does bring a genuine sound that hasn’t been heard from Kanye West in quite some time. His first release since The Life of Pablo had some living up to do, and unfortunately, it doesn’t hit every note but that doesn’t mean this album is bad in any way. Ye is limited by its length which only gives Kanye West seven songs to show off his competence but he does make the best of those seven tracks. “I Thought About Killing You” is one of my favorite intros to an album and this fact is amplified if you watched his release party live stream. After Chris Rock gave a small speech about the brilliance of Kanye, the album started with the slow-starting yet explosive song. After the beat switches and the song comes to a close, Ye takes you on an emotional journey throughout Kanye West’s brain. His thoughts and ideas are the focus of the album as he discusses topics of mental health, relationships, and the future. Ye is also home to my favorite song of 2018, “Ghost Town” which is enough to land the album in a top five spot. “Ghost Town” is the amalgamation of love, life, and progress as 070 Shake, Kid Cudi, and PARTYNEXTDOOR team up to create this beautiful song. While Ye wasn’t Kanye West’s best work, it’s far from being his worst project in 2018.

Link to article

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3. KIDS SEE GHOSTS – Kid Cudi & Kanye West

Kid Cudi and Kanye West really outdid themselves in 2018. Whether it’s their glorious team up on Kanye West’s song “Ghost Town” or their first collaborative album KIDS SEE GHOSTS, the duo had 2018 in the palms of their hands. KIDS SEE GHOSTS starts off with the explosive yet lovable “Feel The Love” and ends on the slow yet positive “Cudi Montage”. The album itself feels like a love letter to the genre that made them so successful but in the process took many things away from them. With both Kid Cudi and Kanye West having to battle depression and other mental health issues throughout the years, their comradery shows throughout the short but sweet seven-songs. “Reborn” is the absolute best part of the album as it gives not only Kanye West his usual space to vent and rap, but also gives Kid Cudi full power of the chorus and bridge that brings the song into a higher plane of excellence. If the rumors are true and KIDS SEE GHOSTS isn’t a standalone album, I will happily see what’s in store in the future.

Link to article

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2. Artificial Selection – Dance Gavin Dance

Throughout the year there was a majority of non-hip-hop albums that caught my eye, however, one that stood above all is Artificial Selection by Dance Gavin Dance. This album was my #1 going into writing this list and after a much needed internal struggle, I was able to place this album in its rightful place as #2 on the list. Artificial Selection is one of the more refreshing and colorful albums to come out of 2018 in my opinion. Their singles were a huge driving force when it came to me listening to this album because of songs such as “Midnight Crusade” and “Care”. Dance Gavin Dance did an exceptional job at using their singles to draw potential listeners in even if I was already looking forward to this album. Hardly anything bad can be said about this album. This album is high on my list mostly due to personal connections and feelings that this album gives me with every listen. But please listen to this album if you haven’t already, I can guarantee that you can at least find one song on Artificial Selection that you’ll like.

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1. Redemption – Jay Rock

I cannot lie when I said that I slept on this album until a few months ago and therefore regret that decision every time I listen to any song off this album. Jay Rock used to be an artist I would listen to because he’d usually be featured or featured Kendrick Lamar on their albums. “Money Trees” from Good Kid, M.A.A.D City is one of my favorite songs and that’s mostly due in fact to Jay Rock’s incredible contribution to the song. On Redemption Jay Rock really makes a name for himself in my mind as he takes his wordplay and delivery to another level throughout the 14 song duration of the album. Jay Rock proves on this album that he is one of the few modern rappers that can perform well with or without guest features. Since the album has seven features ( “WIN” features Kendrick Lamar but he isn’t credited) on 14 of the songs, Jay Rock has to carry his weight by himself on half of the album which results in some great personal and endearing songs. However, the features that Jay Rock brings to this project are wonderful choices to compliment his refined style and rhythm. Redemption once again sees the meme-filled “King’s Dead” which drops the Kendrick Lamar feature from Black Panther The Soundtrack. “OSOM” is a song that I especially love as it gives J. Cole yet another song to shine on in 2018 outside of his KOD project. “Wow Freestyle” is also a major highlight for Jay Rock as it gives him and Kendrick Lamar about three minutes to rap some of their finest and catchiest bars in the freestyle style. I never expected myself to consider Redemption my favorite album of 2018 let alone a Jay Rock album at that but he gave Redemption his all and should be commended for doing so. Jay Rock truly surprised me with Redemption and I cannot wait to see what else he has in store for us.

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18 Songs of 2018

Just like last year, the rules for this year’s list are simple. One song per artist/album. These are my favorite songs from the year 2018. This list was cut from about 50 songs so even the 18th place song is still a high recommendation. Only songs from January 1st – December 31st.

Honorable Mention

This is America – Childish Gambino

Following 2016’s R&B, funk, and soul album Awaken, My Love!, Donald Glover decided to take a stance politically and used his expertise and artistry to paint the current situation of America. Tackling the problems with guns, violence, and discrimination in the country proved the be quite the task but Donald Glover somehow pulled it off with the music video. Unfortunately, that is what makes this song an honorable mention. This song is easily a top five song, however, the music video is the reason why it works so well. The music video for “This is America” gives more insight into the song and the message it is trying to deliver. So while this is my honorable mention I must admit that it is one of the best songs of 2018.

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18. Top Down On Da NAWF – Migos

When Culture II came out earlier this year I was thrilled by the number of great songs on the album. Unfortunately, these songs fell out of my rotation save “Top Down On Da NAWF” and “White Sand”. However, “Top Down On Da NAWF” was a song I really enjoyed listening to and would often play it every day before school. With the song taking a slower and more melodic tone than others, it highlights Quavo’s singing and gives Takeoff and Offset to shine with their short but sweet verses. I told myself when I first heard this song in January that I would have to include it on my list. So with Migos taking the 18th spot on my list, I can finally stay true to my promise.

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17. Fullest – cupcakKe

It is very difficult to describe cupcakKe. She often is disregarded when it comes to rising stars, however, if cupcakKe creates more songs similar to “Fullest” I can see her earning her spot on the charts. “Fullest” has one of the greatest beats of 2018 and cupcakKe matches its exuberance with ease. While hip-hop generally only considers a handful of female rappers to be “good” and “memorable”, cupcakKe breaks this barrier completely. Just like Nicki Minaj’s verse on Kanye West’s “Monster”, cupcakKe brings a new and refreshing style to the genre. If “Fullest” is just a hint of the potential that she has moving forward I think cupcakKe will be a huge name moving forward into the next year.

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16. Lovely – Billie Eilish ft. Khalid

Another rising star in the music industry is Billie Eilish who released the wonderful song “Lovely” this year. While Billie Eilish has a phenomenal voice on her own, she invites Khalid to create a unique blend of their two distinct voices. “Lovely” creates a sound that is grand and powerful thus allowing these two to show their chemistry and talent. This song reminds me of some of Lana Del Rey’s work, however, the youth that these two singers bring is incomparable to similar ballads. I hope these two work together in the future and perhaps we could see another album from Billie Eilish in 2019.

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15. FABRIC – BROCKHAMPTON

It’s very difficult to talk about Brockhampton without mentioning the removal of Ameer Vann in May. Ameer Vann played a crucial part in the group and was by far my favorite member, however, their first album without him introduced us to a very different Brockhampton. While Ameer Vann was one of the most prominent members in previous work, his removal gave Brockhampton a chance to reinvent themselves. “FABRIC” is a great example of the evolution of the group. Bearface who usually did closing tracks on previous albums was given a chance to shine once more on this album. “FABRIC” is the closing track to their album iridescence and allows almost every main member to shine except for Matt Champion. With Brockhampton’s excellent producers, “FABRIC” completes the story of the first chapter in their new life perfectly. Brockhampton once again proves that they are the future and I cannot wait to see what that future holds.

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14. Audio – LSD

2018 saw the creation of the electronic-pop group LSD which is comprised of Labrinth, Sia, and Diplo. These three artists are very well known on their own and their collaboration over the year was a great surprise to see. “Audio” is perhaps the year’s summer anthem as it features top-notch production from Diplo and the combined voices of Sia and Labrinth filling the song. While the lyrics aren’t all that special, the song really shines when it allows these artists to work as one solid unit. I cannot wait to see what the group has for 2019 as I firmly believe that they have what it takes to be a powerful group in the music industry.

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13. Watch – Travis Scott ft. Lil Uzi Vert & Kanye West

With the promise of Astroworld on the horizon, the hype would only be matched by Travis Scott’s best song of the year. “Watch” has Travis Scott recruiting Lil Uzi Vert and Kanye West to give some fun verses on a very memorable beat. While this song unfortunately never made it to Astroworld, Travis Scott did not fail to release one of his best songs last year.

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12. Champion – NAV ft. Travis Scott

Last year I said that NAV wasn’t the best rapper, nor should he be and that statement still stands today. NAV shines when he has another artist to work with and “Champion” proves that idea. “Champion” is yet another song where NAV discusses his fame and success, however, bringing along frequent collaborator Travis Scott results in a fun anthem for 2018.

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11. Mona Lisa – Lil Wayne ft. Kendrick Lamar

When Lil Wayne released Tha Carter V, there was a fairly sizable amount of hype surrounding it. With Lil Wayne having released his last album in 2013, Tha Carter V had expectations to meet. With a majority of the album being forgettable but fun tracks, one song that stands out the most on the album is “Mona Lisa”. With Lil Wayne and Kendrick Lamar discussing deceptiveness and betrayal in their romantic-lives, “Mona Lisa” ends up becoming one of the most powerful and thoughtful songs of 2018. While it is not a banger or even a hit, “Mona Lisa” stands as a testament to the concept of storytelling in hip-hop. Storytelling was a huge part of the genre in the early decades, however, bringing it into 2018 with two of the greatest rappers of all time is a great way to revitalize the element that has been a huge factor in the genre’s success.

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10. CLOUT COBAIN|CLOUT CO13A1N

Denzel Curry brings consciousness to hip-hop this year with his album TA13OO. The album covers a plethora of topics from suicide to love in an effort to present his perspectives to listeners. In doing so he released “CLOUT COBAIN” which ties fame, success, mental health, self-destruction, and Kurt Cobain together. Denzel Curry acknowledges the difficulties of achieving fame while still retaining his humanity and stability. Fame has led to many deaths in the world and Denzel Curry refuses to end up as another name on the list. Kurt Cobain notably is a member of the “27 Club” and as Denzel Curry is approaching his 27th birthday in a few years his worries are understandable. Denzel Curry doesn’t want to die nor does he want to travel down the wrong path, in “CLOUT COBAIN” Denzel Curry knows exactly how to stay on track in the coming years.

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9. I Was Never There – The Weeknd

Times have been tough for The Weeknd recently. Failed relationships have taken an obvious toll on him and subsequently his music. However, out of the ashes out sadness and depression, The Weeknd released his latest EP titled My Dear Melancholy. On this EP we were treated to many tremendous new songs by the heartbroken artist and “I Was Never There” is one of them. In this song, The Weeknd teams up with Gesaffelstein to create one of the most pleasant sounding tracks this year had to offer. While The Weeknd birthed these songs out of pure sadness and pain, his work will not go without praise as he once again made one of this year’s best songs.

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8. Paramedic! – SOB X RBE

The soundtrack for Black Panther undoubtedly surprised the world when it came out in 2018. Kendrick Lamar crafted such a powerful and catchy album that broke all expectations upon release. A major reason for this album’s success is the release of “Paramedic!” by SOB X RBE. This group is fairly new to the hip-hop world since they only started in 2016, however, within two years they had already caught the eye of one of the most prolific artist’s of all time. “Paramedic!” gives a strong introduction to the group as they swiftly glide across the beat with Kendrick Lamar providing the chorus. This song is definitely the best song to come off the album and has informed the world of SOB X RBE as they continue to put out solid music.

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7. Lucky You – Eminem ft. Joyner Lucas

Eminem came into the year with his emotions prepped and his words ready as he took his complaints to the microphone on Kamikaze. Eminem teamed up with Joyner Lucas to wage the war on talentless and ungrateful rappers. This song was also the first time I actually liked Joyner Lucas and would like to see him perform like this more often. Eminem continues to work on his rapping speed and once again shows his prowess as a wordsmith. In his attempt to set the younger generation in their place, Eminem sets a new standard when it comes to making clapback tracks.

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6. Sin – Young Thug ft. Jaden Smith

Young Thug is a prominent figure of the hip-hop industry. Whether it’s from his unique lyrics and overall style to his unusual flows, Young Thug always brings some level of excitement when he releases a new project. This year’s EP titled On The Rvn, put Young Thug’s typical hype level on a higher plane with the song “Sin” featuring Jaden Smith. With Jaden Smith and Young Thug being two of my favorite artists, their eventual collaboration would have to be great. However, saying that “Sin” is great would be an understatement. “Sin” gives Young Thug and Jaden Smith an opportunity to shine and play off of each other while being supported by a beat by London on da Track. If this is what Young Thug and Jaden Smith can do together, I cannot wait to see what they can do again in the future.

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5. Self Care – Mac Miller

2018, unfortunately, was the year that Mac Miller would pass away at the age of 26. Before his untimely death, Mac Miller released his final album titled Swimming. On his final project, Mac Miller seemingly made peace with his demons while still acknowledging their haunting effects and eventual return. “Self Care” is a chance for Mac Miller to right his wrongs as he attempts to give life a new chance. However, Mac Miller would only have a little over a month left before passing away. “Self Care” was Mac Miller’s final plea for change and acceptance during the short time he had left. Mac Miller was an incredible artist and I’ve loved following him throughout the years, however, while his physical presence is gone his music shall live on forever.

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4. Midnight Crusade – Dance Gavin Dance

Dance Gavin Dance surprised me more in 2018 than any other artist or band. “Midnight Crusade” was their first single from their latest album Artificial Selection. I have high regard for this album and that mostly stems from this song. “Midnight Crusade” is a beautiful masterpiece of a song that can be enjoyed for long-time fans of the band or even newer fans such as myself. Artificial Selection is the first album to come out since I’ve been a fan of the band due to hearing some songs from their 2016 album Mothership. Dance Gavin Dance really took 2018 by surprise with the release of “Midnight Crusade” and ultimately their eighth album.

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3. Praise The Lord (Da Shine) – A$AP Rocky ft. Skepta

While A$AP Rocky’s album Testing was met with mixed reviews, it produced one of this year’s greatest songs. “Praise The Lord” is a spectacle in every way imaginable. A$AP Rocky is at his highest point on this song and it only gets better when English rapper Skepta joins the track. With a fun beat that’s made from panpipes, and the duo putting out their best talent, this song was destined for success. Along with the “A$AP Forever REMIX”, A$AP Rocky had a great year for hit songs and Testing is to thank for these hits.

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2. Reborn – KIDS SEE GHOSTS

Deciding between “Reborn” and “Ghost Town” is almost impossible. Kanye West and Kid Cudi created the two best songs of 2018 and deciding which one was better than the other was an impossible task.”Reborn” is a very Kid Cudi centered song while “Ghost Town” is prominently Kanye West’s song (since it’s on his album). On the soulful and beautiful “Reborn”, Kanye West pours his heart into his verse on this song while Kid Cudi sings the rest of the song perfectly. I cannot recommend this song enough and it could potentially even be considered interchangeable with “Ghost Town” as the number one spot.

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1. Ghost Town – Kanye West ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR, Kid Cudi, & 070 Shake

My #1 pick for the best song of 2018 has to be “Ghost Town” by Kanye West on his 2018 album titled Ye. “Ghost Town” is a work of art that sees Kanye West enlisting long-time collaborator and best friend Kid Cudi along with 070 Shake who’s a newcomer that I absolutely adore. “Ghost Town” is the perfect song for the year as it is the personification of growth and maturity. With Kanye West realizing he’s getting older and his life won’t last forever, his “torch-passing” to artists such as 070 Shake is very admirable as he is preparing these young talented individuals for success. Whether or not that was the true meaning of “Ghost Town”, Kanye West once again shows how important he truly is in the music industry and that is why this is my favorite song of 2018.

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Expectations Pt.2

Things change, people change, and feelings change too. Opinions are the result of one’s inner thoughts and feelings towards an entity or idea, however, these thoughts and feelings are always subject to change. The only thing that separates facts from opinions is the idea that facts are proven statements. While proving something isn’t always a simple task, these facts can sometimes have important implications for the way the world works. While my opinions aren’t anywhere near as serious as some can be, it is imperative for me to admit that I made a poor judgment call. Over the Summer I decided to voice my opinion on the XXL Freshman Class list of 2018. When doing this I took into account talent, popularity, and my own thoughts on the artists. I think I found solid replacements in order to create my dream list, however, I can’t help but feel as if I didn’t give one member an opportune chance. J.I.D deserves to be on the XXL Freshman list and he has what it takes to be the future of hip-hop.

After listening to J.I.D’s debut album The Never Story from 2017 in its entirety I quickly realized my mistake. A fair opinion about J.I.D is that he is essentially a combination of other well-known artists. J.I.D while being under the wing of J. Cole has continued to develop and grow as an artist by presumably taking notes from other artists. With a voice similar to Anderson .Paak and a flow akin to Kendrick Lamar, J.I.D is able to bring a new sound that was built on work from the past. While the styles of Anderson .Paak and Kendrick Lamar are noticeable and welcomed, J.I.D also seems to draw from newer artists such as Smokepurpp. While he might be considered a “mumble rapper”, Smokepurpp does offer a unique delivery when it comes to his songs or features. J.I.D seemingly blends these three along with many other artists to create his own unique sound.

On albums such as The Never Story and DiCaprio 2, J.I.D demonstrates his ability to have a variety of sounds and flows to use. J.I.D interestingly enough doesn’t even continuously retain a consistent sound throughout an album. It is fairly common in modern hip-hop to see an artist mainly use their signature sound and flow. Lil Pump and Lil Yachty tend to follow this pattern whereas Eminem and Kendrick Lamar are constantly changing and adapting. Eminem and Kendrick Lamar showcase their talent by changing their tone, character, delivery, flow, and sound to match the lyrics, beat, and overall context of the song. Naming two legends of hip-hop in an article about J.I.D is an important aspect of what makes him stand out. J.I.D is showing and proving himself with his demonstration of knowledge. Understanding the ins and outs of any field or industry is always going to yield better results than someone who is unfamiliar with the subject. J.I.D came into hip-hop with a plan and has done an excellent job in executing it.

Knowledge is essential throughout life. One should regularly be seeking new things to learn and potentially finding a way to apply it in life. I lacked the proper knowledge earlier in the year which resulted in misjudging a hardworking, talented, and creative artist. When I gave J.I.D a real chance and listened to his two albums I realized my original expectations were askew. J.I.D has exhibited that he has what it takes to eventually be considered an important figure in hip-hop, however, he needs more exposure and material to further convince the population. Next time you are looking for a song or album to listen to, don’t pass up J.I.D because he will most definitely surpass your expectations.

808s & Heartbreak: Welcome to Heartbreak

808s & Heartbreak is the prelude to what hip-hop music would become in the late 2000s into the 2010s. Kanye West created the album out of sorrow and sadness of his failed relationships and the passing of his mother Donda West. These factors drove a young Kanye to branch out and break the norms he had previously set within his previous albums. 808s & Heartbreak is a pop album through and through, however, it is forged by one of the most prominent rappers of all time. By combining his multifarious knowledge of writing and producing along with an inner desire and passion to express himself, Kanye West changed the face of hip-hop forever with 808s & Heartbreak.

Before 808s & Heartbreak, there had been emotional albums and songs from the hip-hop genre, however, none of them could surmount the narrative that Kanye West culminated in 2008. Before 808s & Heartbreakrappers such as 2Pac, Eminem, and Geto Boys were at the forefront when it came to emotional rap until the end of 2008. Kanye West set out to express himself and his feelings on the album and that is exactly what 808s & Heartbreak is. By switching his singing with auto-tune, Kanye set the guidelines for the future of hip-hop. Kanye West would even seek out T-Pain for advice on the program. Since Kanye West took this simple yet polished approach to auto-tune, his influence has remained fully intact over the years.

Kanye West decided that in addition to capitalizing on the capabilities of auto-tune, he would also prominently feature the Roland TR-808 drum machine that is referenced in the title of the album. By combining auto-tune and Roland TR-808 drum machine, Kanye West gave his fourth outing a chance to be one of the most sui generis albums in his entire career. Not only would this album be a talking point amongst fans and critics, but it also gave hip-hop a new sound to explore. There is a reason why so many artists in the musician industry have cited Kanye West as a major influence on their sound, style, and career since he first released The College Dropout in 2004. Kanye West isn’t afraid to take chances when it comes to his art and image. While he’s notoriously known for his interruption of Taylor Swift, sporadic rants, and odd views in regards to politics they never once have jeopardized his career in art, music, and fashion. Kanye West knows that his idiosyncratic choices in regards to his behavior and career will be rewarded with attention and profit. However, 808s and Heartbreaks wasn’t about the attention or the profit. 808s and Heartbreaks was about expression through his dark times leading up to its release.

While he was definitely a rising star at this point in his career, he wasn’t always jubilant. Shortly after Graduation was released in 2007, his mother and muse passed away from coronary artery disease following plastic surgery. Donda West was not only Kanye’s mother but also his biggest supporter. Kanye West appointed her as his first manager once he became serious about pursuing a career in the music industry. Donda West not only gave the world Kanye West, but she also gave Kanye the opportunity to achieve success. With Donda West playing such a crucial and supportive role in Kanye’s life, her passing was devastating. After this damaging and unfortunate loss, Kanye West would suffer again just five months later when his engagement was called off with Alexis Phifer. Losing the two most important women in his life at that time had a profound effect on Kanye West moving forward. After loss and heartbreak, Kanye had more than enough reason to create 808s & Heartbreaks.

As Kanye West was on track to be the mega-celebrity that he is today, he quickly realized that it wasn’t entirely what he thought it would be. In order to achieve his success, Kanye West would inevitably have to lose those that meant the most to him. As Kanye’s career was about to spike with the release of songs such as “Love Lockdown”, “Heartless”, and “Amazing” he had lost all that he cared for. From 2007 until the release of 808s & Heartbreak, Kanye West’s life was seemingly ruined. Everything Kanye West knew and loved was wiped out from existence within four years of starting his music career. Kanye West did what any capable musician would do and channeled his loss to create an album that can resonate with everyone. Everyone in life will suffer loss until eventually suffering one’s own, however, it is what we do with this heartbreak that conveys humanity unlike anything else. Whether it’s changing one’s ways, honoring promises of those who were lost, or making a piece of art we all have a way to cope through the sorrow and sadness. Heartbreak is a guarantee in life, but for Kanye West, he used the loss of the two women he loved the most to escalate his career and become one of the biggest names in the world.

 

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Opinionated: 2014 Forest Hills Drive is a Modern Classic

Very rarely do we consider hip-hop albums after the 2000’s classics. While classics have come out throughout the years from artists such as Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, and Kanye West there is still something missing from the list. All of the albums coming from these artists in the past decade are fairly similar in concept. The concept being used is storytelling, emotion, and consciousness in order to craft a classic album. In order to triumph artists have turned to using features to hook listeners in and give them a familiar voice to recognize. This formula has been working for some artists in the past eight years and still continues to create memorable and outstanding pieces of art. With the concepts and formula in mind, can someone still make a classic album without any features that also embodies the ideas of storytelling, emotion, and consciousness? J. Cole tested this idea in 2014 with his album 2014 Forest Hills Drive.

J. Cole released 2014 Forest Hills Drive at the end of 2014 which was not the most notable year for hip-hop outside of the short but explosive career of Iggy Azalea, the release of Days Before Rodeo by Travis Scott, and the release of Run the Jewels 2. J. Cole picked a great time to release his album as one of the last ones to come out in a year where not much happened. 2014 Forest Hills Drive encaptures every aspect of a memorable and classic album, however, it does so without any features. J. Cole essentially took the formula and removed one of the most important variables and yet he still created 13 incredible songs. Without features, J. Cole was allowed free rein to make the album that he wanted to make. By removing guest features, the workload for 2014 Forest Hills Drive significantly increased since he couldn’t add guests to fill the time like most artists would. The album is simply 64 minutes and 39 seconds of J. Cole doing whatever he wants to do and tell the stories that he wants to tell.

With no restraints, J. Cole is the sole narrator of 2014 Forest Hills Drive as he tackles the concepts of storytelling, emotion, and consciousness in 13 songs. Songs such as “Wet Dreamz”, “No Role Modelz”, and “Apparently” are just a few examples of how the concepts are used and applied to this album. Normally, songs such as “Apparently” or “No Role Modelz” would have a feature for the chorus, however, J. Cole shows that he can do his own chorus sections alone. J. Cole makes it clear that he can demonstrate his talent and ideas based purely on his own words. 2014 Forest Hills Drive is not only a bold move for J. Cole but also for modern hip-hop. Without having features, J. Cole’s only marketing tactic was himself and thus could’ve resulted in a commercially failing album. But, since 2014 Forest Hills Drive went double platinum and won two awards in 2015 this risk paid off immensely. This move has gone on to allow artists such as Bryson Tiller and Future to make platinum albums without features within a few years of the release of 2014 Forest Hills Drive.

2014 Forest Hills Drive is a landmark album in regards to talent, marketing, and sound. J. Cole undoubtedly understands what it takes to make a classic album in this decade even with self-imposed restrictions. Not only does 2014 Forest Hills Drive show that it is possible to have a successful album without features, but it also reminds the hip-hop community that all it really takes is your voice and ideas. Recently, with J. Cole releasing two albums in the past two years with 4 Your Eyez Only and KOD he has certainly solidified himself as one of the greatest rappers of this decade and perhaps of all time. J. Cole knew exactly what to do when making 2014 Forest Hills Drive and it has and forever will be a stand-out part of the grand narrative of Jermaine Cole.