Outkast

When talking about hip-hop, rap, and everything in between one cannot deny that music duos have changed the game by pairing two musicians who either share a common style or are a polar opposite to create a common sound. When this practice is well-executed it can lead to some of the most inspirational and outright amazing pieces of art to ever be released.

Outkast was the forefront duo in the 90’s and early 2000’s to help popularize experimentation in hip-hop. This unique sound helped earn them not only commercial success but also critical praise as well making them forever known for their uniqueness and ability to be creative.

Their first album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik was released in 1994 and was certified platinum in 1995. The album was a huge success and opened up many doors that the genre always left closed, thus making this album a necessity for the further development of hip-hop. “Player’s Ball” which was their lead single it was more than enough to solidify their presence as a major game-changer before their album even came out. With hit songs coming out all the time songs like “Hey Ya!”, “Ms. Jackson”, “So Fresh, So Clean” and much more that show the talent and duo had.

The group itself would go on to until 2006 when they decided to go on hiatus and eventually André 3000 and Big Boi would go on to still be prominent features in music.  With Big Boi releasing Boomiverse in 2017 the duo’s solo careers have picked back up recently especially André 3000. André 3000 has even been introduced to a newer and younger audience by being featured on many albums of the last few years such as The Life of Pablo, Blonde, Birds in the Trap Sing Brian McKnight, and Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’. Outkast is undeniably one of the best duo’s to ever exist and was a major influence on many musicians today but were they the best?

I’d honestly have to say yes; Outkast is the greatest duo of all time. With other duo’s such as UGK, Eric B & Rakim, and Mobb Deep being legends on their own; Outkast still comes out on top. Their ability to experiment and become unique when their genre started to get repetitive is what gave them the ultimate staying power during that time. Outkast has proved time and time again that they were the best by nailing every album release and receiving a huge amount of praise from critics and fans alike, the Grammy-winning duo deserves to be recognized as the best duo of all time.

Legends Pt.2

(I personally do not listen to Drake anymore due to his attack on Kid Cudi and repeated stealing of flows, however, my friend Ziggy Starscream has examined Drake and how he has impacted hip-hop.)

Drake is really important and made a huge impact for a decade but he just isn’t there for me. I have heard him really rap and he surely does on “Back 2 Back” which made me take another look at Drake and his talent. He’s brought an emotional side to hip-hop to soften it up and broaden the genre overall. Drake has been popular since I was in high school. Hell, before that if you consider his time playing Wheelchair Jimmy. He earned himself a lot of respect (and trophies) from not only me but fellow artists, critics, and fans alike.

But I really have a hard time saying he is top five rappers or artists in the genre all time. I just can’t put myself to have him there. For starters, that top tier of artists/rappers is very, very difficult to break into let alone even come to a consensus on. Tupac and Biggie are always auto-includes as both made great music and revolutionized the genre in an insurmountable number of ways. Would hip-hop even survive the decade if it wasn’t for those two? Bringing both of them in also represents the New York where the sound was born and raised as well as the West Coast that transformed and baptized the world with fire through its blistering sound.

Regional bias is a factor when forming a list of the top five. The Atlanta sound is the sound that is dominating popular hip-hop right now. Migos & Gucci Mane are huge right now and it’s been a sound that has had a death grip on popular hip-hop currently. “Atlanta” is one of the most popular shows on television about Southern Hip-Hop. So wouldn’t you need to have an ATL artist there too? But almost every time I look at people’s top five lists, rarely do they have a southern sound rapper on their list. Why?

This is where I believe forming this list past Biggie and Pac gets extremely messy. I think the first thing to say is what criteria are we judging a hip-hop artist/rapper to quantify “greatness”?

For me personally, there are several I can think of right now in no particular order:
1) Advancement of the Genre
2) Originality & Authenticity
3) Technical Skill, Ability to actually “Flow”
4) Wordplay, Metaphors. (do they have “those lines”?)
5) Staying Power
6) Respect from Fellow Artists
7) Respect from Fans
8) Respect from Critics of the Genre

Drake has 1 from the opening of the emotional side of hip-hop as well as 5-8. But I am not sure on 2, 3 and 4 because there are just so many other legends of the genre that have achieved all 8 of these criteria in my mind. Drake is good. He has his moments where he is really great. If I am thinking about his flow, how would he be able to hold up to an Eminem, Andre 3000, or Common? Does he really make you think the way a Kendrick or Nas would? Has he really changed the sound the way Dr. Dre, Wu-Tang, or Kanye has? Does he make you gasp with brilliant wordplay the way MF Doom or Rakim would? Does he have that ultimate swagger that Jay-Z exudes in his music? It is difficult to even be mentioned in the conversation as you can see.

I don’t believe that he is quite there. Awards, sales, and critical success are great but I just don’t see it as an accurate measurement to place Drake in that conversation. He has had ghostwriters in the past which should eliminate him from the best lyricist conversation in the first place. While I liked “Views” there were several lyrics that I swear could have been written by someone using a crayon (Turn that 6 into a 9? Really?). I don’t feel impressive when I can rap all the words to a Drake verse. It’s not that hard. His songs aren’t really about much. He has the party lifestyle and does all this fantastic stuff that hip-hop is criticized for glamorizing and produces music that lacks the depth to really counteract any of that image. He was good in an era that didn’t have many others to compete with other than Kanye and Lil Wayne.

As a result, Drake has been busy and rather prolific. He has been omnipresent in pop culture for a decade now but at a time when there was not much to compete against. His music lacks the depth of many others. Lyrically he would be hard-pressed to compete against more than a handful of artists. Drake has been good in a bad time of the genre. Just because he has been here for a long time doesn’t mean he is great.

-@Ziggy Starscream On Twitter and Instagram

An Album Fit For a King

With movie soundtracks taking center stage recently with movies such as Bright and Guardians of the Galaxy 1 & 2, the once quiet genre is finding itself a new home in 2018. The release of Black Panther The Album is an incredible feat curated by the man himself, Kendrick Lamar. Since the release of DAMN in 2017 and a slew of awards and nominations during this year’s Grammy’s, Kendrick Lamar has been seemingly unstoppable when it comes to making the highest quality of music. This month saw the release of Black Panther The Album on February 9th and the hype and praise have been growing stronger ever since.

With Kendrick Lamar at the helm of this project, his voice and style lead the way on each song and set up some insane hype songs fit for King T’Challa himself. With the album starting off with Kendrick speaking about culture and the king-lifestyle one can tell the theme of this album is exactly what Black Panther represents: culture. Black Panther is the symbol of culture in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe and has given fans a figure to believe in and represent their culture on the big screen. With a cast of almost all African-American’s, the symbolism and culture that the movie is going for is already set to satisfy, however, the album must also do the same to be worthy of the film it accompanies.

Black Panther The Album sets out to represent culture, life, and royalty in 14 songs and a length of 49 minutes, but does it meet these requirements? I’d say that the album does that exactly and that it raised the bar more than usual due to Kendrick Lamar’s creative talent and unending urge to outdo himself on each album he releases. The 14 songs that are on this album each deserve their spot as they each represent a different side of music.

This album serves as a vehicle to move the audience from hype to hope as each song shows a new side of being the Black Panther. Songs like “X” and “Paramedic” serve as bangers for the album while songs like “Bloody Waters” and “Seasons” serve to invoke the true emotion and feeling that comes with being the king of a nation. Each song is relatable and suggests that everyone has the opportunity to be the king of their own life and can lead things their way.

Overall, if you’re a fan or not of Marvel and the Black Panther film, I highly recommend this album. This album gives the people what they want: culture and quality music from the mind, heart, and soul of Kendrick Lamar himself.

I’d also like to thank fellow writer Zada for her suggestion of this article and feel free to check her site out here: Molasses.

The Rodeo

Music is a reflection of society, person, and time, however, sometimes an album comes out that transcends these three basic ideas. When an album surmounts these ideas they become legendary and almost mythic in thought. I felt this way in 2013 when Kanye West released Yeezus but it wasn’t until 2015 that I’d feel that way again.

Rodeo by Travis Scott is the album that overcame the three basic ideas and solidified itself as one of my favorite of all times, but why? With Rodeo being a trap record, it’s a little difficult to see it being impacting and emotional but yet Travis Scott beat these odds in only 16 songs. Rodeo is a timeless album with outstanding features and a deep narrative that makes it stand out more than any other trap album.

Travis Scott pours his heart and soul into Rodeo and creates a strong album out of it. Not many albums can easily make it into my top ten list but Rodeo certainly fits the bill. In order to understand Rodeo, we must discuss each song and what it attributes to the greater idea of the album.

Immediately, starting with “Pornography” the album kicks off into high gear with a voice-over by T.I. who describes the life of Jacques Webster and his journey to become Travis Scott and eventually leaving his mother’s porch. Travis Scott “is the leader of the stampede of lost souls” in this excerpt and instantly the tone of the album is set. Rodeo immediately embraces its trap and melodic sound with “Oh My Dis Side” which features frequent Travis Scott collaborator Quavo. This song comes straight out the gate with a combination of hype and dark tones that simply isn’t always done well on trap records. Travis Scott’s story about trying to leave his mother’s porch he resides at is deep, yet it’s shrouded by a positive and meaningful reflection of his past choices and his future outcomes because of these choices.

An emotional trap banger is essentially the start of this album and simply cannot be beaten. Travis Scott breaks musical norms within the first track and from there on out a masterpiece begins to form in Rodeo. Rodeo only gets better on the next song “3500” which happens to be one of the best songs of 2015. Travis Scott teams up with Future and 2 Chainz to deliver yet another hit on only the third song of the album. Every verse is meaningful and shows a new side of each rapper, a side that isn’t often explored. With “Wasted” and “90210” we further explore the psyche of La Flame and his journey to be where he’s at today, this idea is heavily reinforced on the sixth song “Pray 4 Love” which features The Weeknd.

Easily one of the greatest songs on Rodeo, “Pray 4 Love” explores the past of Travis Scott while boasting one of the greatest features by The Weeknd. “Pray 4 Love” is the epitome of feeling and emotion on Rodeo and from here on out Rodeo explores its hype side setting the feelings aside. “Nightcrawler” (which is my favorite song on Rodeo), is essentially nothing but hype with amazing features from Chief Keef and Swae Lee. The lifestyle and fame of La Flame is the center of “Nightcrawler” as Travis Scott parties his way through every verse and enjoys his lavish and well-earned lifestyle.

The next song on Rodeo features the one and only Kanye West. “Piss on Your Grave” is perhaps the angriest Travis Scott becomes on Rodeo and one can definitely tell this song was made with someone in mind. With Travis Scott leading the new generation of musicians on this song, their attack on corporate and executives is well justified as it’s time to let the kids run the game. Finally, the song that most know Travis Scott for, “Antidote”. The lead single from Rodeo is definitely a highlight of the album but sometimes still feels overplayed since it was seemingly an anthem for 2015.

Yet, Rodeo prevails and throws us right back into the moody and emotional phase with the final act of the album. “Impossible” is the fruition of the feelings that La Flame possesses. After “Impossible” comes one of the most unique pairings of all time; Travis Scott, Young Thug, and Justin Bieber. “Maria I’m Drunk” is a slow melodic song which boasts some of the most intriguing wordplays from Young Thug and a decent verse from Bieber. After the slow rhythm passes, Rodeo jumps into a more melodic and upbeat song with “Flying High” which is remarkably quite catchy after a while.

“I Can Tell” is the beginning of the end for Rodeo as Travis Scott begins to close out the album. As Travis Scott explores his past and realizes what brought him to where he is today. The album closes with “Apple Pie” which is the end of Travis Scott’s time on the porch. Travis Scott makes amends with his mother and informs her that he must go on alone to finally find what he was searching for all along; the Rodeo. With T.I. finishing out the album, we the listener are poised with the most important questions:

“Did he win? Will he survive the rodeo?”

And just like that Rodeo comes to a close and the journey of La Flame is complete. With Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight being a worthy successor to Rodeo and the eventual release of AstroWorld, Travis Scott has come a long way. From the porch, he’s gone on to debut at number one; selling 53,000 copies of Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight in the first week. I love Rodeo for what it stands for; Independence. The jumping off of the porch is the most essential part of Rodeo and is a nice parallel to life and having to eventually leave the past in the past and chase the future. Rodeo is the ultimate reflection of society, person, and time. Travis Scott made a masterpiece with Rodeo, and I for one cannot wait to see what we will experience in AstroWorld.

Migos – Culture II

 

In hip-hop, groups of rappers have always been the epitome of cohesive talent. Since rap’s debut, groups like Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five were the set standard for a “rap group”, however, as the years progressed the groups saw a variety of changes. Groups like Wu-Tang Clan featured a plethora of members while Outkast was simply a duo. The true demonstration of talent were the groups who featured just three members, these trios were essential to today’s sound and play a huge part in the evolution of music in general. Groups such a De La Soul, Fugees, Run-D.M.C., Beastie Boys, and Salt-N-Pepa proved that trios were some of the most essential manifestations of talent.

Fast forward to 2009 when three family members created one the most notable groups of all time, the Migos. 2009-2012 saw the trio release an assortment of mixtapes and projects but it wasn’t until 2013 when “Versace” was released and thus the Migos started their movement to take over the industry. The use of the triplet flow proved to be insurmountable as it became a staple for the group and was the reason for many rappers to become famous around this time.

As 2018 unfolds, we’ve recently seen the Migos release their third album Culture II a few days ago; however, can the Migos stay relevant in a world where their flow and style has been used by many? Simply put, yes, but with exceptions. Culture II is a mixed album that runs very long and sometimes provides very little on some tracks. The songs that do work on Culture II were unbelievable upon my first few listens. Songs like “Top Down on Da NAWF”, “White Sand”, and “Walk It Talk It” simply cannot be outdone, and deserve their recognition for the production and lyrics.

The majority of Culture II can be considered “filler” to a degree, yet most of the songs just work. The verses from Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff detail a very luxurious lifestyle filled with ups and downs, this is where the album succeeds. In a world where emotional rap tends to hit the hardest, it’s favorable to have rappers who exclusively rap about their lifestyle and not necessarily their lives. With very few skippable songs, Culture II is a good album with minimal issues outside of the song “Flooded” which has the worst chorus on the album.

With the success and hard work put in by the Migos, they can undoubtedly stay relevant, but they must step it up in the future to continue to stay in the light. Looking ahead, the Migos need to be ahead of the curve and attempt to revolutionize another sound and step outside of their boundaries. With Without Warning showing the power and utility of Offset, and Huncho Jack displaying Quavo’s strengths as being the chorus, the Migos can do better. With Takeoff being a very undersold yet immensely viable character, it is essential to create each song with the trio’s talents in mind. The Migos are absolutely one of the best trios of all time but with more precision and focus, they can eventually earn the title of being the best trio of all time.

 

Best Songs: Top Down on Da Nawf, White Sand, Walk It Talk It, Too Much Jewelry, Narcos, and Too Playa.

 

5 Anticipated Albums of 2018

With the first month of 2018 almost over I decided it was time to list my most anticipated albums of this year. While not all are confirmed nor necessarily set for 2018, I am looking forward to these projects regardless.

5. The Life of Desiigner

In 2016 I thought that Desiigner was one of the greatest things to happen to music this decade, and I stand by that statement even to this day. Desiigner has made some of my favorite songs such as “Tiimmy Turner”, “Outlet”, “Holy Ghost”, and “Overnight” and I cannot wait to see the album that accompanies some of these fantastic tracks. With numerous delays, The Life of Desiigner should be expected to drop soon, and when it does I can guarantee you I will be playing it nonstop.

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4. Frank Ocean Album

With Blonde and Endless coming out in 2016, multiple singles in 2017, and a promise made by Frank Ocean himself; a new album is almost guaranteed. It’s time to prepare the tissues and brace for a new Frank Ocean album in 2018. With Blonde being a worthy successor to Channel Orange, this new album has a monumental bar to raise to surpass Blonde but I firmly believe Frank Ocean can be the only person to outdo Frank Ocean. It’s about time for Frank Ocean season, and I for one cannot wait to hear what he has to put out.

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3. King Push

Pusha T was supposed to release King Push in 2017, however, due to what can only be considered as a need for more time, probably due to Kanye West nearly solely producing the album. With a strong work ethic and a desire for success, a delay from a Kanye West-related project can be expected, however, this doesn’t change my excitement for a new Pusha T album. With Pusha T being one of the most talented members of G.O.O.D Music, and a great release in 2015 with King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude along with major assistance from Kanye West I can see King Push surpassing all of my expectations in 2018.

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2. AstroWorld

With Rodeo being one of my favorite albums of all time I am excited to see AstroWorld come out in 2018. With a stellar verse about the album on Trippie Redd’s “Dark Knight Dummo,” it’s safe to assume Travis Scott plans on releasing AstroWorld relatively soon. Travis Scott’s latest project Huncho Jack with Quavo left me feeling quite disappointed in the repetitiveness and lack of creativity from two of the most current creative rappers in the industry. I truly hope Travis Scott can deliver yet another classic with AstroWorld in 2018.

 

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1. Everybody Wins

I love Kid Cudi and I love Kanye West and if this really is a collaborative album, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. Kid Cudi and Kanye West are my #1 and #2 favorite musicians of all time respectively, so having a collaborative project is undoubtedly a dream of mine. Collaborative albums were a huge hit in 2017 so it’s easy to see Kanye West attempt to join in on the hype. With pictures, insider information, and the creation of a new Soundcloud account; Everybody Wins must be coming out sometime soon. With crossed fingers, this project will come out in 2018 and obviously make it into my top three albums of the year.

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Legacy

Music is a timeless art. An art that is meant to be reflected upon and revisited often; this results in artist’s creating legacies for themselves with the constant repetition of plays and support from their fans. Some artists legacies are short-lived while others live on throughout the decades, however, recently music has suffered a loss of an artist who was unknowingly writing his legacy at the age of 21.

The loss of Lil Peep was quite impactful to the rap community due to his recency and effort to help create the emo-rap genre in music. A rap-rock genre like this hasn’t been popular since bands like Limp Bizkit and Hollywood Undead in the 90’s and 2000’s respectively. Lil Peep was a crucial architect in emo-rap who opened the doors for artists such as Trippie Redd, XXXtentacion, and Wicca Phase Springs Eternal. This creation of emo-rap has blown up on Soundcloud due to its ability to let anyone upload; people can listen to musicians who they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to hear before due to the simplicity and accessibility that Soundcloud boasts.

Lil Peep’s particular music saw him talking about relationships, drugs, and money in a new light. The combination of rap and emo is one of the most versatile and “out there” sounds to ever exist in this modern age. With songs like “Save That Shit” and “Absolute in Doubt” which tell a sad tale of heartbreak but are yet reinforced with a lavish lifestyle undertale, Lil Peep is able to seamlessly merge two very different genres into one cohesive sound. This discovery led to an onslaught of other musician’s trying their hand at this sound, especially on Soundcloud. Lil Peep was ahead of the game and already on his way to monumental success in the future.

However on November 15th, 2017 the world lost Lil Peep and thus his life as an artist was seemingly complete. This leads to the discussion about the legacy of Lil Peep and how it can be continued and preserved through the years. Since his passing, songs and music videos have been released posthumously which continue to spread the lyrics and idea of Lil Peep across new and old fans alike. This continuation of music is quite unique for an artist who already released around 90 songs during his short lifetime. This preservation of talent allows for years of releases to come out hence giving Lil Peep’s legacy a form of endurance to go on for a seemingly long period of time. The motivation that Lil Peep gave during his life is what gives his music the sustainability it deserves, allowing for the eventual release of his full recorded discography in the future.

The loss of Lil Peep wasn’t the end of Lil Peep’s career. With posthumous releases being an option on the table, artists can take this inspirational note and continue to record as much as they can so when they do eventually pass, they may continue to live on through their music. While the passing of Lil Peep was very unfortunate, it’s a sign that music truly is eternal and needs to be preserved at all costs moving forward. Lil Peep’s music career is still alive and will continue to astonish and please due to his work ethic when he was unaware of what the future held.

Charm

One of the most essential factors about being an entertainer is the practice of simply entertaining. Producing an art such as music works seamlessly when paired with a likable face and icon. This process has led to many of the famous icons in pop culture that we love along with the mainstream culture. An important selection when creating a persona is the angle of approach one takes when crafting their alter ego. One of simplest yet hardest questions one needs to ask themselves is, “Who Am I?”. This question is such a tough part when creating a persona that sometimes it’s often passed over and thus leads to an artist who’s clueless and lost in their own identity.

This new generation of rappers has been quite fluent and aware of their identity and what they represent. One of these artists stands out due their innate charm and grace, this is GoldLink.

Goldlink is a relatively new face when it comes to fame seeing that he’s only been active since 2014 with his first release of The God Complex which then lead to his next mixtape And After That, We Didn’t Talk. With singles from his sophomore project giving some credibility to his name, it wasn’t until 2017 that Goldlink’s talent came to its full fruition. At What Cost is a phenomenal release from the DMV rapper who’s identity was perfected after a few years of crafting.

“Crew” from At What Cost is an example of this identity. “Crew” is one of the smoothest rap songs of all time. Goldlink combined with Shy Glizzy with a chorus from Brent Faiyaz is the ultimate recipe for success, however, it’s the storytelling and charm that makes At What Cost important. While “Crew” is an undeniably marvelous song, it’s the album as a whole which displays the full extent of Goldlink’s artistry. The slick and smooth verses that come from Goldlink on songs like “Herside Story” and “Pray Everyday” is the true focal point for his talent to be displayed.

Charm is what comes out of Goldlink on At What Cost thus creating one of the best releases of 2017 because of this. The style of fluid rhymes along with sleek beats is where Goldlink prospers. Not once does Goldlink abandon this style on At What Cost, thus resulting in his contribution to the revival of style and suave in modern music that hasn’t been seen since the peak of A Tribe Called Quest, Slick Rick, and RUN D.M.C to name a few. Goldlink along with artists such as Jidenna, Sampha, and Frank Ocean are leading this revolution with their unique usage of heart, charm, and personality that’s been sweeping the charts. This renaissance of personality in music is very much welcomed and looks to be quite the success in years to come especially due in part to Goldlink’s exhibit of character on At What Cost.

Across the Pond

In collaboration with fellow writer Steve For The Deaf, here’s an article about hip-hop in England.

There’s a movie from the 1990’s called Human Traffic which is about a bunch of kids in Cardiff going out to a club and doing some E’s.

That’s it. That’s the whole plot. It’s a decent film. It’s funny and it’s charming and best of all it’s entirely accurate. This film makes working in a shop so you can afford to get to the pub, then a club with your friends look like an adventure. That is the real charm and the trick to it. I understood Human Traffic and Human Traffic understood me and my friends. It starred John Simm and Danny Dyre and had guest appearances from Jo Brand and Howard Marks.

Trainspotting may have looked better and had more to say but Human Traffic was how it really was. We weren’t all hooked on heroin and diving down toilets, we were more just trying to get our phones to work and queueing at the bar.

There’s an American movie from the same year called Go. Its central conceit is the same but it involves gunfights and strippers and car chases and whatnot. It stars a bunch of big names and has No Doubt on the soundtrack even though it’s set at a rave. That for me is the difference between UK Street culture and American.

Mike Skinner’s debut album Original Pirate Material has the same first-hand level of experience of those streets and those times as Human Traffic (OK so it’s Birmingham not Cardiff and the Millennium, not the 90’s) and therefore rings entirely truthful for all the same reasons.

It is in my humble opinion a truly classic album. One of the best of the 21st century.

In 2002 I got married. I grew up (a bit) and I stopped spending my every weekend bouncing from Pub to Café, to mates flats to Pub to Club to Party. I started working at being a proper grown up. So did my new Wife. We bought a house together and we took jobs in opposite directions to each other. I got up at 4:30 every morning and got on the bus so she could have the car. And I listened to The Streets on my CD-Walkman. A lot. She had a home-taped copy whirring round in the deck of the 206. Home taping was killing music. But we were both living our old lives vicariously through the tracks on OPM.

I felt like I knew Calvin Schmalvin and Mikey and The Dodgy Fuck In The Duck. It wasn’t that long since I’d been to see the Shit In A Tray Merchants after a night in the pub and I knew the blokes from Geezers Need Excitement first hand. Everyone does really.

This record does two things brilliantly. It captures the time the place and the specifics of its era in high definition. But it’s early digital High Definition. We’re talking DVD, not Blu-Ray. We’ve got phones in 2002 but the network is weak. And there are no Apps on them. Just buttons. Lots and lots of buttons. We have laptops, but not Wi-Fi. We have internet but it’s dial-up.

That’s brilliant thing one. Brilliant thing two is the timeless observations.

When Skinner describes the scene, in Turn, The Page it could have been recorded yesterday. He’s grandstanding for the album opener from the streets of a British City. He could be in The Specials or opening for Stormzy it doesn’t matter. Inner city life, inner-city pressures. He mixes urban street slang with older market trader patter and soaring string samples.

Has it Come To This is still a dexterous showcase of wit and flow. Its Garage beat does sound like something from a classic millennial Ministry Of Sound compilation but by the time we’ve reached track three… It’s obvious we’re in the midst of a record that is going to change the way other records will sound in the future.

“That’s it, turn the page on the day, walk away ’cause there’s sense in what I say I’m forty-fifth generation Roman but I don’t know ’em or care when I’m spitting, so return to your sitting position and listen, It’s fitting, I’m miles ahead and they chase me, show your face on TV then we’ll see”

Let’s Push Things Forward is one of the great UK Hip Hop Anthems. It’s positive, it’s progressive, it knows it’s audience and it slays where ever it plays. That keyboard skank and the cool Ghost Town-esque horn frame what’s being said perfectly. The skank stops dead for Sharp Darts to change gear on you for a minute and a half. It’s pirate radio in the studio. The goofing off his what makes Original Pirate Material so timeless and so refreshing.“One day, I hope to earn some hard royalties from a bit of sample robbery, hook burglary, noise thievery or wholesale piracy, So watch your back, I’m inclined to sample I’ll dismantle and make you all examples”

There is ambition on the record but It’s ‘one day’ not this day or right now. Just inevitably. This is key to the appeal.

Hip Hop doesn’t have to be gangster dangerous to be real. Garage was often too obsessed with bling. Mike is obsessed with Kebabs.

He sees the bad boys misbehaving on Geezers Need Excitement and he doesn’t wish to be in their shoes. He’s wary.

There are showpieces on the album that have outlived their intended shelf life. Too Much Brandy tells a tale of excessive drinking not becoming of recitals by parents of young teens at barbecues 15 years later but it happens. It’s a strange anomaly to hear…

“Now getting to the bar’s gonna be trouble so the Marlons’ll have to be doubles, then you drink doubles the same speed you drink singles, ahh, beautiful, the barman holds aloft the crystal glass and I’m having all that’s in the bubble in the bottom of the bottle”

…At a nine-year-olds birthday party.

Some of the more choice lyrics in Don’t Mug Yourself has become shorthand for blokes of varying ages when they’re watching a friend of theirs lose perspective on a new crush.

And of course, there’s the play for two actors that is Irony Of It All. A character study dressed as a song that is so well observed it kind of killed a real conversation that had been reoccurring for decades in pubs up and down the UK for at least 40 years. I cannot believe anyone would play either of those parts in the real world post-2002 without falling through the fabric of reality. Do you ever get that uncanny feeling when you meet a real-life Alan Partridge or David Brent? They’re so incredibly unaware that they’re a character, not a person. That’s Terry and Tim. They’re through the looking glass now people.

The album still has it’s absolute ace card to play though. Weak Become Heroes is one of the greatest hit singles of the 21st century. If you ever had that feeling the song describes, Weak Becomes Heroes can be an aural equivalent of a long forgotten holiday snap. It can cut you in two if it catches you at the wrong moment or it can send you out into the cold day with a warm smile on your lips. Not bad for a song about dancing to other songs.

After that understated epic high point, you might think the last two tracks are not necessary. Just like Sharp Darts did during the opening act Who Dares Wins is a short sharp recalibration. A contextualisation of all that’s already gone before and a grounding that this is just music by Lads with lager cans in their hands and pills in their bellies as they play about on their laptops and mics.

The album ends with Stay Positive. An attempt at something like the UK high street version of a big thug life US hip-hop thought provoker. If Tupac were from Brum he’d be cool with this kind of philosophizing. Mike Skinner went big on his debut album. And he nailed the time the place and the people

“We all smile, We all sing”

If you enjoyed this piece please check out Steve’s link below and you can check out what I wrote for his page too!

17 Songs of 2017

The rules for this year’s list are simple. One song allowed per artist. Only songs I can see myself playing in the future. Only songs from January 1st – December 31st.

17. Lonely – NAV

NAV isn’t the best rapper, nor should he be. NAV is all about his ego, but that’s what makes NAV one my favorites this year. His unconventional and sometimes hilarious talk about drugs, money, and women make NAV a unique yet familiar artist. NAV still somehow manages to create “Lonely”, which is one of my all-time favorite songs of this year. This slow yet hype song invokes sadness and a sense of loneliness more than any other NAV song. “Lonely” is the ultimate song to rage to or to cry, it sets NAV apart from other identical artists and gives him a reason to continue with his outlandish songs.

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16. One More Light – Linkin Park

This song earns its place on my list because of its purpose and relativity. With the passing of one of my idols, Chester Bennington; I find myself coming back to this song more than any other Linkin Park song. This song is just a reminder that life is only temporary and every action makes waves. “One More Light” transcends conventional Linkin Park music and instead ends up becoming what can only be described as a conversation from artist to fan. Chester Bennington’s sincerity to be there for others and caring about their lives and issues are just another reason why this song deserves its place and why Chester Bennington’s passing has been very tough for me to get through.

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15. Frank Ocean – Mir Fontane

I found this song to be intriguing within the first 30 seconds, the rest of the song just rides that wave. I found this song by mistake while attempting to listen to Frank Ocean, so after 30 seconds I realized I had found a hidden gem. Mir Fontane can surely sing, and his rapping is rather solid which backs up his name dropping of Drake, J. Cole, and notably Frank Ocean. While Mir is good he’s not as good as Frank Ocean, however, his disappointment of people favoring them over him is legitimate. I enjoyed Mir Fontane’s album Camden and I cannot wait for what he has to offer moving forward.

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14. Too Good At Goodbyes – Sam Smith

Sam Smith has returned, and in a tremendous way too. Sam Smith bolsters his sad tale of failed relationships with grand execution. This song is one of the most heartbreaking songs of this year, complete with a choir to invoke emotion from even the hardest of listeners. Sam Smith knows what he’s good at and yet on “Too Good At Goodbyes” he multiples those strengths. With a solid album following the release of this single, it’s simple to see why music needs someone like Sam Smith to shake it up every few years.

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13. Flood Watch – Juicy J

Juicy J surprised me with this beautiful song back in August, and to this day it continues to amaze me. From start to finish this song is enthralling with its melodious piano which ironically creates one of the slowest hype songs ever made. As usual Juicy J knows how to make an exquisite chorus which is only further exemplified when Offset drops his verse. Leave it to Juicy J to make hits each year, and leave it to me to appreciate said hits.

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12. Outlet – Desiigner

I absolutely love Desiigner, and I love “Outlet” because of that. I first heard “Outlet” when it was teased last year and I proceeded to listen to that tease on repeat for hours on hours on end. Desiigner created one of the most exciting and loud songs of this year and because of that, he deserves my praise. Pre-existing bias aside, “Outlet” is just a song to enjoy and dance to, at the end of the day. Desiigner has found his niche in the fast and loud sound here’s hoping he continues it into next year and with the release of his debut album coming in 2018.

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11. Rockstar – Post Malone

All controversy aside, “Rockstar” is one of the greatest songs to come out in 2017. Post Malone unquestionably knows how to make hit songs, and “Rockstar” is just another testament to that statement. Post Malone’s particular vocal range and talent, mixed with one of the greatest beats the year has seen and topped off with a feature from 21 Savage it’s safe to say this song was going to explode no matter what. The rhythm and execution of this hit makes you want to get up and dance and feel reckless just like any rockstar would.

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10. Fallen – Jaden Smith

So much can be said about this song, whether it’s the simple music video or just simply the vibe; “Fallen” has it all. This slow song is one the greatest musical experiences I’ve ever been fortunate enough to listen to. Jaden Smith knows music and he knows rhythm, “Fallen” directly taps into his knowledge to deliver the smoothest song of 2017. Being such a divergent song in comparison to the rest of SYRE, “Fallen” is just another reason why I believe this year belongs to the new generation of talent.

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9. As the World Caves In – Matt Maltese

Matt Maltese is one of the most underrated musicians to appear in the past five years. “As the World Caves In” tells a detailed account of the end of the world due to war. This song is all too real in today’s political climate which the Matt Maltese taps into to create a brand new emotion for the listener to experience. Having a song implement emotions such as stress and anxiety is quite the feat for any artist, even for someone like Matt Maltese. Matt Maltese is on a path to success with each release being something I look forward to, it’s easy to see why he deserves a spot on this list and my eternal admiration.

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8. Chanel – Frank Ocean

After a prestigious comeback in 2016 with the release of Endless and Blonde, Frank Ocean immediately went back to work on singles and features that have been sprinkled around over the year. This all started in March when he released “Chanel” seemingly out of nowhere. “Chanel” is Frank Ocean at his best; complete with illustrious vocals and a slow beat which Frank Ocean has always benefited from. “Chanel” is the Frank Ocean we love and expect to see in 2018.

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7. Ric Flair Drip – Offset

Coming off the immensely hyped surprise release Without Warning project, Offset and 21 Savage are at their best when they come together to make this album, however, one song stands above the rest. “Ric Flair Drip” is singlehandedly the best song Offset has ever put out or even been a part of. The production by Metro Boomin is superlative in comparison to the rest of the album. In less than three minutes, Offset delivers some of the best verses, chorus, and ad-libs of his career thus proving that not only is he the best Migo, but that he also can make a song worthy of my top 17 list.

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6. GUMMY – Brockhampton

Brockhampton came out swinging this year with multiple consecutive album releases this year, however, “GUMMY” from the Saturation 2 is my definitive favorite song by the collective. This song has everything you’d expect from Brockhampton but yet sounds like something you’ve never heard before. With off the wall production combined with powerful verses this song is the ultimate Brockhampton track.

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5. LUST – Kendrick Lamar

Picking just one song from DAMN is almost impossible. Each song is set apart in a multitude of ways and makes this decision almost inconceivable. I decided “LUST” is the one song I can truly pick from DAMN after a huge tie with almost every other song on the album. Kendrick Lamar outdoes himself on DAMN and had I not implemented a rule for one song per album, this whole list very well could’ve been DAMN. While “GOD” was my favorite song going back into the album, “LUST” required many listens to justify my choice. With exceptional production and a rather new style from Kendrick Lamar, “LUST” just makes sense. The beginning of this song is almost nothing like the end, only the chorus remains the same. The simplicity of the beginning verses and sound transforms into a smooth and steady verse from Kendrick at the end including political references done in such a tasteful way it can almost be a timeless lyric in which it can be applied to almost any political event moving forward. “LUST” had just a little something extra to get on this list, and to see a relatively new Kendrick sound and style emerge it was worth it to put my faith into this song.

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4. Blacktop – Being As An Ocean

Although Being As An Ocean’s newest album Waiting for Morning to Come wasn’t able to make my top ten list of this year, they were still able to create one of my favorite songs of 2017. The layered vocals, message, and execution of “Blacktop” is impeccable. Each time the chorus enters, it gives me chills and yet somehow energy. Being a fan of Being As An Ocean has had it’s fair share of hits and misses, however, this album was particularly a nice addition to my daily playlist and “Blacktop” has buried its way into my heart.

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3. XO TOUR Llif3 – Lil Uzi Vert

The anthem of the year is without exception, “XO TOUR Llif3”. Lil Uzi Vert’s unique yet meaningful song has not only been regarded as a banger but also as a song with a deeper meaning of sadness and depression. “All my friends are dead, push me to the edge” has been a mainstay in the vernacular of 2017 and will remain there in the foreseeable future. This song is nothing short of a masterpiece and deserves all of the attention and fame it has received this year. It will be interesting to see what Lil Uzi Vert can bring to the table in 2018 and how he can continue to test the boundaries of rap and punk.

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2. Crew (Remix) – Goldlink

So much can be said about the original cut of “Crew” and how polished this track sounds, however, I believe Gucci Mane adds just a little more personality and prosperity to the already excellent song. With that being said, “Crew” is my hype song, my sad song, and my thought-provoking song. With Goldlink enlisting the captivating voice of Brent Faiyaz along with the enhancing addition of Shy Glizzy(Jefe) the song earns its recognition within the first 15 seconds. “Crew” also earns my praise for having the best chorus of 2017 due to the unbelievable talent of Brent Faiyaz. This song about Goldlink’s home and community growing up and is conveyed in an excellent way on this song. “Crew” is a sign that Goldlink knows exactly what he’s doing and how he plans on doing it.

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1.  Jet – Citizen

Very rarely is there a song I can listen to multiple times every day, the exception being Citizen’s opening track off their album As You Please. “Jet” is one of the greatest songs I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to. I’ve only been listening to Citizen since early 2016, however, their discography is timeless and deserves my praise for that feat. We often see emo bands similar to Citizen simply fall out of favor and eventually become known for very few songs. I firmly believe that Citizen is not destined to become one of those bands. I believe Citizen is ultimately going to leave quite the legacy, and “Jet” is just one stepping stone towards their success.

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