3×3 Monday’s 6/24/19

Figure It Out – French Montana ft. Kanye West & Nas

I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m not a huge French Montana fan, however, “Figure It Out” is most likely his best song to date. The song is serious as it discusses topics of death, imprisonment, and honesty. While French Montana isn’t considered to be a deep and serious rapper, he really outdid himself with this song especially with the inclusion of Nas. Nas is another rapper I wasn’t a big fan of at first but after this song and NASIR, my opinion on the legendary rapper has changed. Add in Kanye West for bonus points and you get a solid sentimental track that invokes inner emotions.

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Slayerr – Tm88 ft. Lil Uzi Vert

This song is my second time being exposed to Tm88’s work with the first being “Been Thru a Lot” back in 2016. “Slayerr”, however, is my newest favorite song from Tm88 as Lil Uzi Vert takes the song and makes it his own. The song is very reminiscent of Luv Is Rage 2 and brings the colorful yet dark-toned sound that we’ve come to love and expect from Uzi. I really like Tm88’s production on this song too and their teamwork definitely brings the track to a new height.

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Cops Shot The Kid – Nas ft. Kanye West

As previously mentioned, I wasn’t a big fan of Nas for quite some time. I never understood the hype of Illmatic but I heavily enjoyed his songs “Hate Me Now” and “I Can”. I didn’t listen to NASIR when it came out last year but upon my first listen I fell in love with it. “Cops Shot The Kid” is my favorite song on the album and the Slick Rick sample completes the song in my opinion. I plan to listen to more of Nas’ discography down the road because if it’s anything like this song, I’m surely going to become a huge fan of Nas and his legendary status.

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Panini – Lil Nas X

“Panini” is Lil Nas X’s second single from his newest EP titled 7. This song is so simple and fun that it prompts me to bob my head and bounce with joy. I hope this song blows up like “Old Town Road” did because it truly deserves recognition for its addicting sound. I cannot wait to hear what Lil Nas X has to offer after and “Panini”.

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Soul Glo – B.o.B

I am a huge B.o.B stan and that will never change. Bobby Ray is one of my favorite musicians and has been since his commercial debut in 2010. Flat-Earth theories aside, he is one of the most creative, consistent, and unique rappers in the industry. The music video for “Soul Glo” serves as a homage to the classic Eddie Murphy film, Coming to America. This song is surely going to make one smile with happiness because of its infectious rhythm and beat that is complemented by a catchy chorus. I am still currently listening to his newest release “Southmatic”, but I can highly recommend this song as a place to start.

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Honey – 070 Shake

I have been a huge 070 Shake fan since her debut in 2016 and even got to see her in concert. Her voice is so unique that she can match pretty much every beat given to her and can switch from rapping to singing with ease. Her versatility is what makes Honey such a standout song from her discography. Honey is a great song to get you hype but can also be interpreted in a sad way if looked at from a different viewpoint. I think 070 Shake deserves way more credit than she’s gotten and I’m forever glad that Kanye West gave her a spot to shine in 2018.

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Ransom – Lil Tecca

I just heard this song for the first time last week and haven’t stopped listening to it since. Lil Tecca’s rhymes are very smooth and the beat compliments his delivery very well. I’m glad this song blew up as much as it did because Lil Tecca honestly deserves credit because of this song. I hope we see more of him this year and maybe even a project release.

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Zulu Screams – GoldLink ft. Maleek Berry & Bibi Bourelly

Being one of the more successful rappers from the DMV means that GoldLink has come a long way from his debut in 2014. With his debut album Diaspora being an album I really enjoyed this year, I must highlight one of the best songs from the album. “Zulu Screams” is a song you cannot help but dance to as GoldLink glides over the beat like he usually does. With the beat being more of a dance or house type it is refreshing to see him experiment with this particular sound because I think it works very well for him. I would love to see what else he can do with this sound in the future.

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Dots & Lines – Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco has always been a special kind of rapper with his innovative way of telling stories through albums but it should be known that out of these stories come hidden gems. “Dots & Lines” has stellar production as it sounds like an old western tune mixed with classic rapping. Lupe Fiasco really killed it with this song and it makes me want to listen to all of his discography especially Tetsuo & Youth.

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The Road to the Endgame Collection

With Avengers: Endgame coming out tonight I decided to bundle my four articles into one big collection for you to enjoy before seeing the movie! There are no spoilers in these articles only predictions!

The Road to the Endgame Part 1: Captain America – The Last Soldier

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Steve Rogers is a character who I was never a fan of in his comic, video game, or cartoon iterations. The star-spangled hero was never someone I could connect with until Disney and Marvel created Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011. Steve Rogers was shown as a weak and scrawny kid who wanted to prove his worth and serve in the military during World War II. This unlikely hero soon became an icon amongst kids and adults as he became a main character of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With Disney finding success in the franchise, Captain America would eventually become one of the most important characters in modern film.

Ever since his first portrayal in 2011, Chris Evans has embodied the role of Captain America completely. It would be hard to see anyone else play one of the greatest film heroes of all time. Captain America succeeds as a character because he is a hero before and after having the super-soldier serum. Steve Rogers is never one to back down from a fight and would do everything he could to save the lives of others which is seen in Captain America: The First Avenger with the alley fight and grenade test. Steve Rogers only furthers his righteousness when he gains his abilities through the serum. Captain America is a pure character hence why he is able to budge Thor’s hammer Mjölnir in Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Captain America isn’t the one to change his ideology as seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier where he actively goes against the government when he realizes how they plan to deal with possible threats. But above everything, Captain America officially stays true to himself when the Sokovia Accords are introduced in Captain America: Civil War.

When we see Captain America as a character we see someone who is the ideal moral compass for the MCU. He continuously represents equality, accountability, and honesty throughout the films while the settings and characters change around him. Captain America: First Avenger Captain America is the same hero we see in Avengers: Infinity War just with a different suit and beard. Throughout his run in the films we never once see him change mentally. That sole reason is why Captain America stands as a hero to myself and many others. Seeing a respectable role model on the big screen gives inspiration and hope to the audience. However, Captain America’s time as our hero is coming to an end on April 26th with the release of Avengers: Endgame.

Avengers: Endgame marks the final contracted role of Chris Evans as Captain America in the MCU. If this remains the same, this could potentially be the last time we see him on the big screen. With this information on the table, it is imperative to see how Avengers: Endgame wraps up the story of Steve Rogers. With Thanos completing his task at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, we will see Captain America in a way we’ve never seen him before. This was the first loss for the team and it was the biggest tragedy of them all. Captain America and the Avengers failed as a team to stop Thanos because of the split that occurred in Captain America: Civil War.

At this point in the story, Captain America has no family, buried his love interest, and watched his best friend turn into dust. Captain America now fights to keep his ideology preserved so half of the world still has a moral compass out there to believe in. If this is the last appearance of Captain America, one thing is clear: Captain America will be Captain America until the very end. His loyalty to the world and remaining friends will surely be a key factor when attempting to fix the “snap”. While all of our questions will be answered when the movie comes out, it is crucial that Captain America completes one last task before being able to finally rest in Avengers: Endgame.

The Road to the Endgame Part 2: Thor – The Last Son of Odin

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Thor is a character that never interested me; much like Captain America, however, where Captain America was able to grab my attention in the first film, I was never a fan of Thor. I found Thor and Thor: The Dark World to be my least favorite movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thor to me was a character who always seemed to be missing some sort of personality outside of Chris Hemsworth’s great portrayal of the God of Thunder. This missing trait would eventually be found in Thor: Ragnarok where Taika Waititi decided to take Thor in a new direction while still keeping his heroicness. Turning Thor into a comedic and charming God in Thor: Ragnarok was an absolutely wonderful choice, however, this would all change with Avengers: Infinity War.

While Thor’s comedic timing and overall silliness worked for Thor: Ragnarok, he would suffer the most at the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War. After using Surtur to kill Hela, Thor ultimately lost Asgard as a result of the destruction. With Asgard being “the people” and not “a place”, Thor leads his civilization to space in order to find a new home. It is at this point that Thor has taken the throne and title of Ruler of Asgard since he is all they have left to look up to. However, the tranquility and peacefulness are very shortlived moments because Thanos quickly arrived to collect the Tesseract. When Thanos arrives he beats the living Hulk out of Bruce Banner and holds Thor hostage. This is the weakest and most helpless version of Thor we’ve seen throughout the MCU. While normally Thor could break out of this situation with his powers, he is hopeless and fully at Thanos’ will. With the Power stone torturing him, Loki decides to surrender the Tesseract to Thanos in exchange for Thor’s life. Once Thor is set free, his life is about to change forever because of Loki’s actions.

Loki has always been a trickster, seeing as if he is the God of Mischief himself. While Loki has faked his death numerous times, it is here at the hands of Thanos where we see him take his final breath. Because Loki tried to stab Thanos, Thor would become a changed man moving forward having finally seen his brother actually die. With this tragedy, Thor must team up with a group of strangers to create a weapon strong enough of taking down Thanos. So far within the span of one movie and an opening scene of another, Thor has lost his father, Mjölnir, his sister, his home, and his brother. Within these two movies, Thor has suffered and lost more than any other character in the MCU and yet he still keeps a smile on his face when working with the Guardians of the Galaxy. 

After having a hilarious conversation with Peter Quill, Thor decides that he has nothing left to lose, and therefore, has nothing to lose by facing Thanos. When Rocket hears this, they form a close friendship out of their shared hatred of Thanos. This is where we see Thor, Rocket, and Groot go on a trip to Nidavellir to craft the Stormbreaker. Thor crafting Stormbreaker is a tough challenge that includes him taking a dying star to the chest, but nonetheless, he accomplishes his goal because of his determination to kill Thanos. When Thor arrives in Wakanda he saves the Avengers and the Wakandan fighters by wiping out a good fraction of the Outriders. Thor’s arrival in Wakanda wasn’t expected and is absolutely the best part of Avengers: Infinity War.

After entering Wakanda, Thor meets up with Captain America as they take down the rest of the Outriders with the remaining members of the Avengers. Once Thanos arrives shortly after, each Avenger puts up a fight against the Mad Titan himself. With Thor being the last chance at defeating Thanos, he ruins it by not immediately killing him. Since Thor failed his only task, Thanos is allowed to use the “Snap” to eliminate half of all life. Thor failed his task because he was obsessed with revenge rather than the mission itself because behind Thor’s smile and newfound comedic energy lives a man who has nothing left to live for except revenge. Thor giving a speech to Thanos as he attempts to kill him is all he has left to do in life. With Thor failing his only job, it is up to him to put aside his feelings and do the right thing in Avengers: Endgame.

The Road to the Endgame Part 3: Hulk – The Last Transformation

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Bruce Banner is an interesting character in the MCU. With the rights remaining to Universal for a solo Hulk movie, Disney had to develop the character in their Avengers movies instead. In doing so they created a character who’s wise, intelligent, and strong. Bruce Banner has an interesting dilemma of sharing a body with the Hulk which results in a constant fight over control. In this fight we see different instances of Bruce and Hulk taking over, however, they refuse to work with each other. This has even led to a suicide attempt by Bruce which resulted in the Hulk stopping him. Overall, we haven’t seen Hulk in his full form until Thor: Ragnarok.

In Thor: Ragnarok, Hulk took over for multiple years and lived as Hulk on the planet of Sakaar. Being a champion gladiator on the planet earned him notoriety and rewards that incentivized him to stay. Since Hulk isn’t fully mentally developed his intelligence is rather low. This leads to an easily impressionable and manipulative character, however, in Thor: Ragnarok Hulk has developed more and can formulate more words than ever before. However, there is a catch to Hulk remaining as the one in control.

With the Hulk being in control for many years, Bruce Banner doesn’t think that he can turn into Hulk when he needs to if at all. With this option on the table, Banner must change as a character. Taking away the strength from one of if not the strongest Avenger means that the team will suffer from a lack of power. Instead, Banner must rely on his intelligence to bolster the team and give them a winning chance against Thanos in Avengers: Endgame. With Banner being a Dr. in multiple fields of science, his brain combined with the mind of Tony Stark can produce endless ideas like they have in the past with Vision. While Banner has the brain and sometimes the brawn, it is pertinent that they rely on his brain for now.

By taking the strength of Hulk off the table, the Avengers must get creative in finding a way to take down Thanos. But, one last option remains for Banner when it comes to fighting Thanos again. If Banner can potentially turn into Hulk one more time before it is a permanent transformation he could attempt to merge with the inner-beast. In doing so would create Professor Hulk, who is a notable character in the comic books. In the comics, Professor Hulk is a combination of Hulk’s strength and size along with the brilliance of Bruce Banner. With Banner in control of the Hulk, they could form an unlikely alliance to help in the battle against Thanos.

Within Banner/Hulk’s five appearances in the MCU, we’ve grown to love and appreciate the awkward scientist and the monster that lives inside of him, however, it might be time that we see these two finally make peace for the greater good. With Avengers: Endgame drawing close, we will see how Banner lives with or without the Hulk in his life when the movie hits the big screen. Until then, the trials and tribulations of Banner and Hulk remain. With Hulk refusing to come out in Avengers: Infinity War, it is crucial that we see the beast come out of his cage for one last fight against the Mad Titan in Avengers: Endgame.

The Road to the Endgame Part 4: Iron Man – The Last Stark

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Iron Man has been a landmark character for Marvel and a hero for the masses for 11 years now, but unfortunately, his time is coming to an end. With Robert Downey Jr.’s contract currently ending with Avengers: Endgame, this could be the last we see of our last heir to the Stark name. That is unless Tony Stark can finally marry Pepper Potts or have a child of his own. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been setting this up for years now, but Tony Stark’s departure from the franchise is going to be a big event for the actor, character, and future. However, Iron Man hasn’t always been everyone’s favorite character in the MCU because of Captain America: Civil War‘s desire to pull our beloved team apart.

Captain America: Civil War was one of if not the most important “Avengers” film next to Avengers: Infinity War. In Captain America: Civil War, we see our cherished team separated in order to fight for what they really believe in. With Captain America ironically going against his country and wanting freedom, his motivations are clear and his ideology is pure. However, Iron Man has a different point of view on this situation. With Scarlet Witch’s accident in Sokovia claiming many lives, he is convinced that they need to be limited in their abilities in order to reduce collateral damage. Both sides provide fair, accurate, and respectable points, but, ultimately the movie ends with the Avenger’s separating into two sides. The split of Iron Man and Captain America is sad, and thus this allows for Thanos to win in Avengers: Infinity War.

In Avengers: Infinity War we see Iron Man play a crucial role in the fight against Thanos. Tony Stark has been haunted by Thanos since the fight in New York in the first Avengers movie. Ever since the fight, Tony Stark developed post-traumatic stress disorder and an inner desire to protect the world and the ones he loves in it. But while Iron Man fought Thanos he found himself outmatched and underpowered even when he was realistically at his strongest. Using nanotechnology has allowed Iron Man to have the most technically advanced suit so far and yet it wasn’t enough to stop Thanos. Although Iron Man was the only character to draw blood from Thanos, he still wasn’t able to deal with Thanos’ immense power using the Infinity Stones. Losing to Thanos cost Iron Man the closest thing he had to a son in the MCU; Iron Man lost Spider-Man.

Peter Parker has been the closest thing to a son for Tony Stark in the past few films, however, losing him due to the “snap” was a devastating blow to his character. The two heroes have wonderful chemistry and are the closest thing to a father and son duo in the MCU. With Spider-Man’s death, Iron Man must do what he does best and avenge him and all of the other snapped victims. Iron Man needs Captain America on his side to achieve success against Thanos in Avengers: Endgame. These two leaders must work together to find a way to fix the world and bring back those who were lost. Tony Stark owes this to Spider-Man, Aunt May, Pepper Potts, and the world.

Losing his “son” not only devastated Iron Man, but it surely will have changed his motivations between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Tony Stark is the last living Stark and his change from billionaire playboy to world-saving superhero is surely awe-inspiring but he needs to face the fact that he is getting old and needs to eventually settle down with Pepper Potts. In order to pass the torch to the new generation of heroes, Iron Man must retire or die trying to protect the world. Both of these options are very realistic for the character as we’ve seen the changes he’s gone through over his many film appearances of the years. Iron Man’s last mission is to defeat the Mad Titan who’s been haunting him for years even if it costs him his life in the end.

 

I hope you enjoyed reading this collection and look forward to more Avengers: Endgame content in the near future!

The Road to the Endgame Part 4: Iron Man – The Last Stark

Iron Man has been a landmark character for Marvel and a hero for the masses for 11 years now, but unfortunately, his time is coming to an end. With Robert Downey Jr.’s contract currently ending with Avengers: Endgame, this could be the last we see of our last heir to the Stark name. That is unless Tony Stark can finally marry Pepper Potts or have a child of his own. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been setting this up for years now, but Tony Stark’s departure from the franchise is going to be a big event for the actor, character, and future. However, Iron Man hasn’t always been everyone’s favorite character in the MCU because of Captain America: Civil War‘s desire to pull our beloved team apart.

Captain America: Civil War was one of if not the most important “Avengers” film next to Avengers: Infinity War. In Captain America: Civil War, we see our cherished team separated in order to fight for what they really believe in. With Captain America ironically going against his country and wanting freedom, his motivations are clear and his ideology is pure. However, Iron Man has a different point of view on this situation. With Scarlet Witch’s accident in Sokovia claiming many lives, he is convinced that they need to be limited in their abilities in order to reduce collateral damage. Both sides provide fair, accurate, and respectable points, but, ultimately the movie ends with the Avenger’s separating into two sides. The split of Iron Man and Captain America is sad, and thus this allows for Thanos to win in Avengers: Infinity War.

In Avengers: Infinity War we see Iron Man play a crucial role in the fight against Thanos. Tony Stark has been haunted by Thanos since the fight in New York in the first Avengers movie. Ever since the fight, Tony Stark developed post-traumatic stress disorder and an inner desire to protect the world and the ones he loves in it. But while Iron Man fought Thanos he found himself outmatched and underpowered even when he was realistically at his strongest. Using nanotechnology has allowed Iron Man to have the most technically advanced suit so far and yet it wasn’t enough to stop Thanos. Although Iron Man was the only character to draw blood from Thanos, he still wasn’t able to deal with Thanos’ immense power using the Infinity Stones. Losing to Thanos cost Iron Man the closest thing he had to a son in the MCU; Iron Man lost Spider-Man.

Peter Parker has been the closest thing to a son for Tony Stark in the past few films, however, losing him due to the “snap” was a devastating blow to his character. The two heroes have wonderful chemistry and are the closest thing to a father and son duo in the MCU. With Spider-Man’s death, Iron Man must do what he does best and avenge him and all of the other snapped victims. Iron Man needs Captain America on his side to achieve success against Thanos in Avengers: Endgame. These two leaders must work together to find a way to fix the world and bring back those who were lost. Tony Stark owes this to Spider-Man, Aunt May, Pepper Potts, and the world.

Losing his “son” not only devastated Iron Man, but it surely will have changed his motivations between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Tony Stark is the last living Stark and his change from billionaire playboy to world-saving superhero is surely awe-inspiring but he needs to face the fact that he is getting old and needs to eventually settle down with Pepper Potts. In order to pass the torch to the new generation of heroes, Iron Man must retire or die trying to protect the world. Both of these options are very realistic for the character as we’ve seen the changes he’s gone through over his many film appearances of the years. Iron Man’s last mission is to defeat the Mad Titan who’s been haunting him for years even if it costs him his life in the end.

My 10 Favorite Songs of 2019 So Far (Easter 2019)

So far 2019 has been a fairly good year for music especially when you count many great album releases from artists such as Boogie, 2 Chainz, and Kevin Abstract so far. Here is a list of my ten favorite songs to come out so far in 2019!

10. ON GOD – Juice Wrld ft. Young Thug

Juice Wrld has been on a streak recently with releases and Death Race For Love is no exception. This 22 song album has some notable hits such as “Robbery” and “Hear Me Calling”, however, I believe the best song on this album is “ON GOD”. The song “ON GOD” features Young Thug and shows the insane chemistry that the two have together. With the two interweaving together they form a meticulous yet infectious song that ranks at 10 for this year’s list so far.

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9. Rainy Days – Boogie ft. Eminem

Boogie’s album Everythings For Sale is one of my favorite album’s to come out this year and I cannot wait to see what else the Compton rapper has to offer. But, for now, we are gifted with “Rainy Days” featuring Eminem. “Rainy Days” is a smooth song that Boogie glides over until the Eminem verse starts. Eminem hijacks the track in order to provide us with some typical Eminem wordplay that we’ve all come to either love or hate, but, it ultimately compliments the song and Boogie’s performance. Boogie already has my attention in 2019 and I cannot wait to see what his next project will be.

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8. Numb Numb Juice – ScHoolboy Q

In less than two minutes ScHoolboy Q made one of the hardest, catchiest, and energized songs of the year. With his album release right around the corner, I think “Numb Numb Juice” was the best choice to be this album’s lead single. If CrasH Talk is anything like this song, I believe we are in for an unparalleled treat from ScHoolboy Q.

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7. Venom – Little Simz

I’ll admit that I’m new to Little Simz and British rap overall, aside from Skepta, however, I regret sleeping on her and this style of rap. “Venom” has one of the most intimidating beats of the year as the strings and drums intrude your ears. Little Simz holds nothing back when it comes to “Venom” and it shows. This song is full of aggressive lines that match the intrusive beat. I really enjoyed her 2019 album GREY Area and highly recommend it the same way it was recommended to me by one of my closest friends.

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6. Sanguine Paradise – Lil Uzi Vert

Release issues aside, “Sanguine Paradise” is one of the most enjoyable songs so far this year. While we wait for the eventual release of Eternal Atake we have “Sanguine Paradise” to listen to in the meantime. The beat is so pleasurable and Lil Uzi Vert’s lyricism and delivery compliment it so well in every way. I love this song and would rank it higher if 2019 wasn’t already so stacked with hits. Until then, we wait for Eternal Atake and hope for its eventual release in 2019.

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5. MIDDLE CHILD – J.Cole

J. Cole came out swinging in January with the release of his song, “MIDDLE CHILD”. J. Cole stops at nothing to say what is on his mind and how it the entertainment industry makes him feel. With the powerful horns and gratifying beat, J. Cole sets the standard for hip-hop hits in 2019. I really hope we see another album from him besides his anticipated Revenge of the Dreamers III album that will be coming out this year. Until then, we are gifted with “MIDDLE CHILD” to tide us over until his next release.

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4. Old Town Road – Remix – Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus

Lil Nas X is perhaps the greatest rapper to emerge so far in 2019. The mixing of country with rap wasn’t easy as we’ve seen with other attempts in the past, however, he not only did this but got Billy Ray Cyrus to come on for a feature. Billy Ray Cyrus presumably joined the song to protest Billboard and their classification of “Old Town Road” as a non-country hit. No matter what it’s genre is considered by Billboard, “Old Town Road” is one of my favorite songs so far in 2019 and I cannot wait to see what else Lil Nas X has for us this year.

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3. Trap – SAINt JHN ft. Lil Baby

SAINt JHN is one hell of a vocalist and his newest song “Trap” only reaffirms my point. “Trap” has what might just be favorite beat of the year so far and paired with SAINt JHN’s vocal range creates a beautiful sound that is only further perfected by the inclusion of Lil Baby. The feature by Lil Baby is brief and a nice little touch to add more character to the already wonderful song. I really hope his next album has songs that mimic this vocal range and beat so that I may fill my lists with more SAINt JHN songs.

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2. Momma I Hit A Lick – 2 Chainz ft. Kendrick Lamar

To say that “Momma I Hit A Lick” is 2 Chainz’ s best song would be an understatement. “Momma I Hit A Lick” is the ultimate 2 Chainz song. This song features 2 Chainz giving some of his best lines but above all else, the Kendrick Lamar feature makes the song a classic. Kendrick Lamar hits hard with his voice changing abilities that compliment the beat so well one could assume that these two were made for each other. 2 Chainz really goes all out in terms of lyrics, vocals, features, and presentation to deliver my second favorite song of 2019.

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1. Georgia – Kevin Abstract

Kevin Abstract is a musical genius whether it’s his involvement in Brockhampton or his solo work, he is a genius in all sense of the word. “Georgia” is a simple yet satisfactory song that can connect with anyone and everyone. Kevin Abstract brings back his iconic vocal modulation for “Georgia” in order to paint the landscape with vivid and familiar images that we can all relate to. I cannot wait to see what Brockhampton and Kevin Abstract have in store for 2019 but if this is any indication I think it will be an incredible year for music.

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Gorgeous: The Complications of Tenacity

How simple is it to convey messages about hate, racism, proving oneself, and success? The answer here: is not simple at all, unless you’re a genius. Kanye West conveyed these messages, broke social barriers, and created a memorable beat all in one song. “Gorgeous” from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is one of Kanye’s greatest songs to date.

The Intro/Kanye

At first, I wasn’t a huge fan of “Gorgeous” due to the distortion effect added onto Kanye West’s voice, however, after focusing on the lyrics, sample, and chorus I have come to appreciate this song as my third favorite Kanye West song of all time. The distortion effect gives a special layer of emotion to Kanye’s voice as it matches the sample from Enoch Lights and the Glittering Guitars song “You Showed Me” which samples the Turtles song of the same name. With the guitar sample and effect in full, Kanye is able to dig deep into this song, especially when he recruits Kid Cudi for the venomous chorus. Kanye starts his verse by highlighting the racial injustice and blatant discriminative actions that plague the country. Kanye understands these problems but he takes it upon himself to warn others of the corrupt system and how they’re all a part of it whether they want to or not.

Kanye Pt.2

In this section, Kanye points out the necessity of hip-hop for teens as they need role models to follow similar to a religious practice. Kanye West has often proclaimed himself to be a god throughout his career and this verse seemingly shows that he wouldn’t mind leading the new generation as their God, going so far as to compare himself to civil rights leader Malcolm X when he says “Malcolm West had the whole nation standing at attention.” However, Kanye goes on to claim that being a role model isn’t the full extent of his goals and that he wants to be the greatest rapper that there can be. Kanye will stop at nothing to be the best but there are always going to be forces against him every step of the way.

Kanye Pt.3

In his final verse of the song, Kanye decides to talk about how he is determined to be the successive icon that he truly wants to become even if it has its problems. He even shows this by stating how his problems won’t leave him, referencing a Beatles track in the line “I was looking at my resume feeling real fresh today, they rewrite history, I don’t believe in yesterday.” This is Kanye stating how no matter how far he comes, history can be rewritten and it can all be taken away from him. He continues this sentiment with the now iconic line “What’s a black Beatle anyway, a fucking roach? I guess that’s why they got me sitting in fucking Coach.” This is Kanye continuing his Beatle reference from the previous line, and showing how even as a musician who’s accomplished as many musical feats as the Beatles, he will never be shown the same amount of respect, and that’s why he’s seated in Coach, behind First-Class. Kanye knows he’s back on the rise at this time in 2010 and doesn’t plan on stopping soon. Kanye seeks a lot in “Gorgeous” and whether it’s fame, success, or worship he is always set on achieving his goals. Kanye ends this verse by reaffirming his tenacity of becoming the best rapper in the world.

Raekwon

The last verse in Gorgeous is a guest verse from legendary Staten Island rapper Raekwon. At face value, one might mistake Raekwon’s appearance on this politically charged track to be redundant to the themes in the first three verses, but as a whole, it actually adds value to and perspective to verse three, as well to the themes of the album as a whole. Kanye spends his time on Gorgeous addressing America’s twisted views on African Americans and how it’s affected him personally. Raekwon uses his verse to paint a different picture, a black man who has risen above the racial injustice and become an icon himself. Raekwon starts off with “I done copped Timbs, lived in lenses, kid, Armani suits, fresh fruits Bally boots and Benzes.” Right away we can tell that Raekwon is somebody who’s successful. He lives a life of designer clothing and luxury cars, he also references his time in the spotlight, being followed by paparazzi and the media with the “lived in lenses” line. He would then go on to rap about Louis bags, and red Jaguars, to truly show the extent to which he has succeeded in his life. The tone of this guest feature changes and circles back to the themes addressed before when Raekwon calls back to his own time at the bottom of the pyramid with the line “Throwing dice for decimals the older head, bolder head, would train a soldier head, make sure he in the right field, not a soldier dead.” grimey, right? This is Raekwon making callbacks to where he would shoot dice for small amounts of money, and how the elders in his neighborhood would “train” the youth to know the ins and outs of the streets because a mistake could get them killed. Raekwon closes out his feature with this: “Keep grinding, keep shining, to every young man, this is a plan, learn from others like your brothers, Rae and Kanye.” This is a beautiful message to send the listener off with, a message from two prolific cultural leaders that if they keep at their passions, they will rise above the injustice in America and be okay.

Kanye West attacks the idea of racism, racial profiling, and racial inequality while bringing in his own experiences into the light. With Kid Cudi giving a ghostly chorus about being afraid to lose and a feature from Raekwon, Kanye West once again brought a wonderful trio together for this masterpiece. The song itself is a great piece of social commentary and gives those who don’t have a voice a way to be heard. While Kanye West isn’t a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or a Malcolm X, he still knows where the problems are and isn’t afraid to point them out to the world on “Gorgeous”.

 

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.

 

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.

Saint Kendrick: The Cinematic Nature of Kendrick Lamar Part IV

This is the fourth part of a multi-part release exclusively on this page. (link to the first part here, second here, and third here)  My friend Dan Glennon (@ZiggyStarscream) on Twitter and Instagram has been working tirelessly for many weeks to write these entries for my readers. I hope you all enjoy, and I present to you Saint Kendrick: The Cinematic Nature of Kendrick Lamar Part IV. If you like and enjoy the content that I have to offer please consider liking, following, and/or commenting on my posts. It really means a lot. Thanks for your continued support!

DAMN: The Opine Comedy – Saint Kendrick’s Faustian Odyssey: Part One

Kendrick’s third album, ‘DAMN.’ is the most layered of his albums to date. There are actually multiple stories that this album tells as it is flushed with subtle details to the narrative of Saint Kendrick. From social and political commentary to cultural trends, Kendrick uses each song to make a point on a particular subject while interweaving a subtle narrative of the two paths that Kendrick had available to him after his first break into entertainment business success; the path of righteousness, atonement for moments of weakness, and growth into the Saint of Compton or to follow the material and gluttonous life that Lucy offers and succumb to the wickedness inside of him. Kendrick speaks of the human experience as well as the internal struggle inside him. ‘We’ put him on a pedestal and shoved him into the role of Saint Kendrick in the first place and now he speaks of his internal struggle and the consequences of his actions just as his ‘disciples’ deal with every day.

The best way to describe the mood that the album kicks off with is on “BLOOD” which is a dreamlike state. Kendrick speaks very slowly as if he had just woken from or fell into a deep sleep. The song is rather short as it serves as an intro/outro track to the two narratives. The fact that he is killed by a blind woman is symbolic in two regards. First is that a woman was the one that kills him; Lucy. But the additional fact of her being blind could symbolize ‘Lady Justice’ which is her most notable trait given the widely used figure of speech in American vernacular, “Justice is Blind.” This plays into the other key component in ‘BLOOD’; the outro featuring Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera and others quoting his lyrics to “Alright” from his previous album in a framing that makes him seem like another figurehead to place blame on for the rot of the inner city where in reality Kendrick is trying to rise above and be more than that figurehead that they portray him as. Saint Kendrick is trying to deliver his people out of the darkness and to the sunnier side of the American dream.

After the sample from Fox News, the song abruptly ends and leads into “DNA.” The blistering verbal assault from Kendrick is an affirmation of who he is and where he comes from as he proudly steps into the spotlight from the cocoon that had institutionalized him. He quickly fleshes out the world that he had come from and proclaims that he is, in fact, going to take what the world has given to him and use it. Kendrick acknowledges throughout the song the negative aspects of himself and his humanity and how he will not change for his circumstances because he is in those circumstances because of who he is in his DNA.

While largely about his upbringing and the effects of his environment on who he is as a person, Kendrick does not ignore the religious ties in the song:

“I was born like this, since one like this
Immaculate conception
I transform like this, perform like this
Was Yeshua’s new weapon”

-DNA

This little stretch is crucial to the character of Saint Kendrick. He is stating that he was chosen since birth to lead this movement which is a reference to Luke 1, in where an angel appeared to Mary and foretold of that she was chosen by God to bring his son into the world and his name shall be Jesus (paraphrasing here of course). One curious thing to me personally about the bible is that after the story of Jesus as a 12-year-old boy in the temple at the end of Luke 2, there is a nothing on the life of Jesus until the age of 30 with his baptism in the river Jordan. I have always thought about that 18-year gap of time. The Christian belief is that Jesus was all God and all Man. For all of his divinity, he was still but a young boy when he first showed that he was the Son of God. How would any normal human at that young an age could you imagine handling what Jesus had to? And he hadn’t even hit puberty! I personally believe that this gap of time could be Jesus struggling personally to accept the role that he has been given as the savior of man. Jesus was the Son of God but he still had to mature into adulthood just like any other man.

Kendrick was seen as the Son of Compton and just like Jesus in the temple at the end of Luke 2 with Kendrick’s first flash of talent and as well as establishing his voice in Section 80 he did not have the luxury to have a gap of 18 years because that was not the world we lived in. Kendrick’s ascension to his role as the Savior of Compton was gradual and chronicled through the social struggle in Good Kid mAAd City: A Short Film by Kendrick Lamar as well as the internal struggle in To Pimp A Butterfly. The world was a witness to Kendrick’s growth from childhood to a man willing to bear the weight of being the one to lead Compton and the culture forward to salvation. Kendrick ends the song with a prophecy of sorts:

“Tell me when destruction gonna be my fate
Gonna be your fate, gonna be our faith
Peace to the world, let it rotate
Sex, money, murder—our DNA”

-DNA

He speaks that he is doomed to the fate of destruction much as Jesus knew he

was to sacrifice himself to forgive the sins of man but also warns of the possible destruction of those around him if they surrender to their old ways that have institutionalized them inside the mad city.

The next song on the album, YAH, essentially shows the level of complete exhaustion that Kendrick has been dealing with. He speaks of how he is pressured for his thoughts and his actions are scrutinized to a level no one else can fathom. At the end of the song, he leaves one line “I know he walk the earth” which is an interesting line because it could be a reference to God himself as Kendrick has an encounter with him in How Much A Dollar Cost? Or it could be a reference to Lucifer but not in a personal sense as the character Lucy appears to be. Afterwards, he laboriously talks about falling back into the material world that he is climbing out of.

Kendrick unleashes his anger at the world and specifically the state of hip-hop in ELEMENT. Reveling in his state as the best rapper in the world he criticizes how other rappers’ potential is nothing close to Kendrick’s as he verbally beats down the game until he ends with “On my last LP I tried to lift the black artist / But there’s a difference between black artists and whack artists.” Biblically this connects to Jesus walking into the temple to find it turned into a market and not a place of worship. Both Kendrick and Jesus looked at the state of their pedestals to speak and preach from only to find it corrupted and distorted from its original purpose. At this point in Kendrick’s narrative as well as the New Testament both Kendrick and Jesus have now fully accepted their roles as leaders of something greater than themselves.
FEEL is the next song on the album and it is very reflective and presents Kendrick as the ‘wholly man’ with his own words instead of the extrapolation of text as is the case with Jesus (or lack thereof if it is assumed this struggle for Jesus’ coming to terms took place in the unrecorded 18 years). Kendrick is angry and struggling to understand how to control his anger. While he has assumed the role of Saint Kendrick already but the weight of influence can be a bitter burden. Focusing a lot of his material world anger out on the world that Compton and the black community by proxy are hampered by. The “school to prison pipeline”, government influence in the flooding of urban areas with drugs and even insignificant arguments such as who’s the best rapper are the objects of Kendrick’s judgment. He states that he knows he is the best and everyone knows he is the best in the world so that is why he is in the position he is in; the Savior of Compton. So why do people worry themselves with pointless endless arguments thinking about who is the best but not actually listen to what the artist is saying? Kendrick’s music is not only a perfect representation of this idea but on FEEL, he essentially screams it from the lyrics. A parallel to Tupac is stated by Kendrick when he is thinking about how Tupac was trying to tell the world his message but the world only heard his delivery. The path that Kendrick has chosen to follow both professionally, culturally and personally is one that has Tupac as the guiding post but he was killed at the age of 27 and now all Kendrick has to go on is what his image of “Tupac” would think and feel in the world they both came from.

Ski Mask the Slump God

After working with my brother for a few weeks, I was finally able to finish the article that he wanted to write. I figured it would be a good way for him to express himself and put himself out there. I hope you enjoy this, and if want to hear more from him let me know!

Its been a long time since I have been able to stick to one artist and enjoy the mass majority of their music until I heard Ski Mask the Slump God. I started listening to him around June of 2016 after being introduced by one of my friends. He had shown me the song “Wheres The Blow!” with Lil Pump and I would constantly blast it throughout my school day. As soon as the song starts you’re greeted by one of my favorite samples which is “Tokyo Drift” by Teriyaki Boyz. It’s such an unexpected use of a sample but the way it works is even more intriguing. My playlist slowly started to be filled with most of his third mixtape DROWN IN DESIGNER.

Ski Mask really caught my attention with his many collabs with XXXTentacion, and I would even be inclined to say that they’re one of the best duos of the Soundcloud era. After Ski Mask co-founded his collaborative rap group Members Only with XXXTentacion and releasing Members Only Vol.1 in 2015, they instantly rose to popularity together. Collaborating with Denzel Curry and Ronny J on songs such as “SPACEGHOSTP***Y” along with his feature on Members Only, Vol. 3 with “Bowser” which helped boost himself onto the rap scene. On June 13, 2017, Ski Mask dropped “Catch Me Outside” and he instantly blew up thanks to the Cole Bennet visuals. It’s hard to pinpoint where in the song he shined the most because he had so many different components that instantly made this song a hit. Using a sample of Missy Elliott’s “She’s a B***h” he delivered punchline after punchline which resulted in a nonstop flow and it was a great way to introduce him to the hip-hop scene.

Flash forward to June 2017 with his release of YouWillRegret, Ski Mask had done something that I’ve personally never seen. Ski Mask included samples from cartoons and movies such as his song “DURAGFLOWZ” by using the “Stadium Rave (Jellyfish Jam)” sample from Spongebob Squarepants. Growing up watching Spongebob, anybody can recognize the sample and start jamming to it. A few months later Ski dropped “Achoo!” with 88rising’s Keith Ape and appeared on the Higher Brother’s song titled “Flo Rida”.

Ski Mask has recently been divided about his music since the untimely passing of frequent collaborator and close friend XXXTentacion. Ski Mask has also been delaying the release of any new music since being on his U.S. tour, and his recent struggle to continue to keep rapping in general. Time can only tell if we will see any more of Ski Mask the Slump God in the future of the music industry.

The Curious Case of B.o.B and the Resurgence of Mixtapes

The day is April 13, 2010, and B.o.B just released “Airplanes” featuring Hayley Williams to the world. This day is an important day for Bobby Ray as it marked his second hit single within a four-month period. After “Nothin’ on You” which featured Bruno Mars was released four months prior, it became the song that made B.o.B a sensation in the world. B.o.B. would go on to release many more singles over the years but with low numbers, he simply couldn’t recreate the success that he debuted with. Since B.o.B was no longer getting radio play, his career as a musician needed to be sustained. This is the period when B.o.B returned to his basics; the mixtape.

The “digital” mixtape era of the late 2000’s into early 2010’s is perhaps the closest thing modern hip-hop would have to a renaissance. Artists such as Meek Mill, Wiz Khalifa, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, J. Cole and Chance the Rapper thrived in the digital mixtape era and all went on to be mainstays of modern hip-hop. Mixtapes in this period would often even be considered superior to the albums artists were releasing. With kids, teens, and adults being able to access these projects for free it became a breeding ground for upcoming rappers to be more creative and experimental. While mixtapes were thriving at this time, they’re often forgotten due to their limited access. Digital mixtapes from this era simply aren’t the most convenient thing to obtain. While music streaming services such as Spotify have mentioned acquiring these projects for their app, it has yet to be done.

Although many rappers would be launched into stardom with their mixtapes, not all were as fortunate. While rappers such as Meek Mill and Wiz Khalifa were able to produce albums that would be met with overwhelming commercial success, the same cannot be said about B.o.B. After releasing more mixtapes especially ones that many would consider being some of his best work, B.o.B went on to release his second album Strange Clouds in 2012. Strange Clouds was backed by four singles including “Strange Clouds” which featured Lil Wayne and the hit “So Good”. The album did very well selling over 295,000 copies in the United States by 2013. While the album performed not only commercially but also garnered positive reviews from critics, it would go on to be B.o.B’s last successful release.

One year after releasing Strange Clouds, B.o.B would put out his third album titled Underground Luxury. Unlike his previous work, Underground Luxury wasn’t as well received by critics and was a commercial failure. With album sales being under 100,000 by 2014, it would seem that B.o.B’s tenure as a star was coming to an end. However, while this marked the end of B.o.B’s success as a mainstream artist, it would not be the end of his career. Less than a year after Underground Luxury came out, B.o.B went back once more to his roots and released several mixtapes before making another attempt at an album. Mixtapes such as No Genre Pt.2, Psycadelik Thoughtz, and the Elements series would go on to become some of his most acclaimed projects. It would then be four years until his next album Ether would be released.

Unfortunately, once again B.o.B’s newest album Ether failed commercially but still managed to receive positive reviews. Shortly later, he would go on to release The Upside Down and then Naga which he has hinted that it will be his final album. While both of these projects failed to gain much traction, they still stand as a testament to B.o.B’s dedication to music. While the digital mixtape era may eventually be forgotten, the artists and their influence on hip-hop will not. B.o.B has released five albums and 21 mixtapes since 2006 and while Naga might be the end of his career as a rapper, it goes without saying that his impact and dedication to the music and mixtape industry will never be disregarded.