I’ve Been Gone for a While

I, unfortunately, haven’t had the right mentality nor motivation to write recently. After burning out I simply found it hard to put my thoughts into words thus making it practically impossible to produce content worth reading. With Collective Minds never really taking off and a slew of personal obstacles ranging from mental health to university enrollment I simply lost the passion to write. However, I recently started writing for CSUITEMUSIC.com which has been a supportive company in allowing me to introduce my content and thoughts to a brand new audience. I recently published my first article there today and I hope you can take a few minutes out of your day to give it a read. With school starting in less than a week, I will attempt to get back into the swing of things and have some more articles rolling out soon!

I do have an article in the works from my younger brother. He decided to write about one of his favorite rappers and I am allowing him to post on here to give him a platform for his ideas and voice. I hope to have the article out very soon and look forward to seeing what else he comes up with in the future.

Until then, here is the link to my new article on CSUITEMUSIC.

 

ON REPEAT: Domo Genesis’ Studio Debut is an Underrated Gem of the Neo-Soul Catalogue

This is a guest post from fellow writer Musicwithmink. This is the first time I’ve featured someone since January when I featured Steveforthedeaf, so I hope you enjoy this content from yet another great writer!

I think it’s safe to say that when most people think of Odd Future in 2018, they probably remember the collective as Tyler the Creator, Frank Ocean, Earl Sweatshirt, and somewhere between five and 20 other dudes that fell off five years ago. While the group’s three stars have been consistently (and rightfully) a part of the alternative hip-hop/R&B conversation in recent years, with their artistic progression and maturity since the proudly-ignorant OF days well-documented and highly celebrated, it’s easy to assume that those who created less buzz stayed in that stagnant teenage mindset and faded away as a result.

While that may be true for some, not every lesser-known member should be counted out – Syd Tha Kid’s group The Internet has been quietly releasing material throughout the 2010s and is coming out with a new album very soon, Mike G released a pretty solid mixtape on 4/20, and Domo Genesis has come out with a studio album and two mixtapes in just the past 3 years. Regrettably, it wasn’t until a month or so ago that I started delving into Domo’s solo material, but within just minutes of hitting play on his 2016 album Genesis, I knew I was being introduced to something special. Fully countering every expectation I had going into it, Genesis is an uplifting, mature, and beautiful hip-hop album with strong neo-soul influences, and it’s sure to sit firmly in my summer rotation.

Domo’s work in the early 2010s was marked by a sharp, cocky flow with braggadocious lyrical content to match, usually spat over the spacious, MIDI-centric instrumentals of Tyler the Creator and Left Brain. I can definitely get into that style, dated as it may be, so when I went into this album I expected to be moderately pleased by some more of that simplistic and hard-hitting content.  What I got, however, was completely different. In a good way.

The production on this album is top-notch – nearly every beat is lush but tasteful, featuring a nice combination of real instruments and MIDI, a ton of buttery Fender Rhodes (the number one way for producers to win my heart), and beautifully sung vocal hooks. The entire musical landscape is very contemplative; this matches the lyrical content, which most often concerns Domo’s meditations on his place in the music world, as an artist stuck somewhere between obscurity and fame and forced to live in the shadow of his adolescent success.

The three-track run of “Wanderer”, “Questions”, and “My Own” exemplifies this perfectly, all of them carrying the message that though Domo may not be a nobody, he’s still hungry and still has a lot left to prove. Later tracks speak similarly, with the line ‘If you don’t like this song, they’re gonna turn my lights off’ from “All Night” is a particularly good summation of the precariousness of Domo’s career. In addition to the solid lyrics and instrumentals, I was struck by just how well the tracks flow into each other. Many are bookended by spacy transitional sections that lead into the next track seamlessly, making much of the album feels like a single, episodic work.

The track “Go (Gas)”, produced by Tyler the Creator and featuring Wiz Khalifa and Juicy J, unfortunately, sticks out like a sore thumb in the middle of this lineup. It’s not a bad song, and it’s clearly meant to be a throwback to Domo’s older style of carefree, arrogant bars (complete with very “Goblin/Wolf” sounding production from Tyler), but it would have fared so much better as a single or bonus track than as the midpoint of an otherwise much-classier album.

Still, aside from the awkward placement of that particular track and the somewhat one-dimensional overall subject matter, Genesis is an album that, in my opinion, should be way more talked about than it has been. The contemplative, motivational lyrics and bittersweet instrumentals, along with Domo’s flow, which is as solid and laid back as ever, make a great album for those quiet summer evenings spent with music, the sunset, and maybe some cheap beer. If you’re a fan of artists like Oddisee, Rapsody, Anderson .Paak (who has a feature on “Dapper”), and TPAB/Untitled Unmastered-era Kendrick, definitely give this one a shot.  

 

The Problem With Writing For Almost 20 Days Straight

June has been a big month for me in terms of productivity and writing. I’ve managed to write for almost 20 days straight (19 days due to a guest upload). I have a unique relationship with writing as a hobby, I often find it be more of a love-hate relationship more than anything. When I’m inspired, I write topics I’ve always wanted to discuss but never had an outlet to. When I’m not inspired, I write about relevant and trendy topics. This, however, has become very hard to manage. While I’m still on Summer Vacation, I’ve been putting so much effort into this site that I find myself often stressing out over it constantly. I have good ideas and ways to take on certain topics, yet I feel as if I’m losing my passion to write when I’m constantly writing one or more an articles a day. I think it is for the best that I write when I feel inspired to do so and not because I have to. I’ve noticed when I set a long period of time aside and sit down and write when I’m inspired my work tends to be exponentially greater than writing it one to two hours before posting it. With this change comes a few changes I need to address.

While I may not be publishing every day, I will still continue the Artist Spotlights, Favorite Song Friday’s, and the ongoing Saint Kendrick multi-part series. I will, unfortunately, be stopping the 3×3 Monday’s as they take an immense amount of time to produce, and it is my main stressor. This Summer will still feature some upcoming collaborations and projects that I will announce once I have further shareable details on. I also plan to write about more movies, including some of my favorite movies of all time.

I would like to thank everyone for reading this and not to think of it as me becoming lazy or unenthusiastic, as content will still be put out often with higher quality and will create more room for conversation and opinions. I will also now start taking suggestions on topics, as I want to be more involved with my followers and see what you really want me to cover. If you have a suggestion, please contact me and send me an email(contact button on the homepage). Until next time, here’s to a new goal and path for this site!

2018 XXL Freshman Class

After keeping up with the XXL Freshman class for the past couple of years, ever since the insanely memorable 2016 list. The 2016 Freshman list was quite a unique list as it featured mostly mumble rappers along with some interesting characters. While I think XXL did a great job of highlighting the artists that deserve their fame and success, I believe 2018 missed a lot of important names. I propose five lineup changes to the XXL Freshman Class. With so much talent and creativity in modern music, I believe four of these rappers deserve to stay on the list. The rappers that stay are Ski Mask The Slump God, Smokepurpp, Trippie Redd, and Lil Pump. Now let’s examine who deserves to take the spots of YBN Nahmir, Stefflon Don, BlocBoy JB, Wifisfuneral, and J.I.D.

Honorary Mention:

Lil Peep

Since the current list is only nine people, I believe an honorary mention should be enacted. I think Lil Peep should be honored since he more than likely would be on this list had he still been alive during the voting process. Lil Peep’s unique sound, style, and delivery make him worthy of at least being mentioned as an XXL Freshman. I think this would be a great way to bring more attention to his music while also honoring the late rapper. Perhaps, XXL considered this, however, I would wish to see it actually done especially since the list is missing one person.

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Now time for my choices for the 2018 XXL Freshman list:

Rich Brian

Rich Brian is hands down one of the most distinctive rappers currently working. Coming from Indonesia, Rich Brian has made quite the name for himself over the past two years. With songs like “Dat $tick” and his debut album Amen, Rich Brian has come far since his days as Rich Chigga. Rarely do we see we see an Asian rapper find success in America, which leads to me support Rich Brian even further for this list. I think had XXL listened to his album prior to choosing the slots, Rich Brian would absolutely be in consideration. Hopefully, they fix this for next year and give him the recognition he deserves.

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YoungBoy Never Broke Again

YoungBoy NBA absolutely deserves a spot on the 2018 Freshman list, and I’m honestly surprised he didn’t get in. “Outside Today” is one of my favorite songs of this year and I am genuinely questioning why he isn’t on this list. He has connections, hits, and a huge following. It’s a shame that XXL didn’t realize his talent and put him on the list. I really hope he gets put on next year’s list as he deserves it more than almost anyone on the actual 2018 list. I hope XXL sees the mistake that made and could possibly put him on next years list.

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Moneybagg Yo

Moneybagg Yo is more-or-less my guilty pleasure choice for this list. His album 2 Heartless is something I find myself listening to often and I seemingly can’t stop. I thoroughly enjoy this album and would put him on the list based on this release alone. I also think adding him would help compliment YoungBoy Never Broke Again since they’re known, collaborators and friends. Moneybagg Yo is my most ambitious pick out of all of these, but I simply can’t resist putting him on here for my own entertainment. I also believe he’s one of the few modern rappers who’d benefit from a cypher and freestyle so he can really show off his lyricism.

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Cardi B

Cardi B is perhaps the best female rapper in the rap industry since Nicki Minaj first debuted in 2010. Cardi B is energetic, witty, and talented enough to make it onto this list. Since rap is primarily male-based, it would be great to see Cardi B on there since here song “Bodak Yellow” and album Invasion of Privacy, both of which have become extremely well known and received a great amount of praise. I think Cardi B should’ve been the first contender on this list simply based on her track record alone. I truly hope XXL makes her a Freshman at some point.

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Jaden Smith

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I placed Jaden Smith’s album SYRE at number one on my list last year. Not only am I a major Jaden Smith fan, but I also think he has what it takes to make it to the Freshman list. With SYRE being such a great album in 2017, I don’t see why they wouldn’t place one of rap’s main music innovators on their list. With Jaden Smith being unpredictable when it comes to genre and expressing himself, seeing a cypher with him on it would be an interesting and exciting moment to see, especially if I would’ve gotten my dream list.

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Favorite Song Friday #6

6/22/18

“Baby Blue”

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Action Bronson is an unusual character in the hip-hop genre. This former chef turned rapper stands out more than others with his unique voice and his stout demeanor. While Action Bronson would go on to make four albums from 2011-2017, one song of his stands out more than the rest. “Baby Blue” is perhaps Action Bronson’s best song as it showcases all of his talent and creativity in roughly five minutes. Throughout the course of “Baby Blue” we see Action Bronson glide across each verse with ease and style, this then transitions to him delivering a chilling and appropriate chorus to reinforce the idea of the song. “Baby Blue” is simply Action Bronson rapping about the women in his life and how they only seem to want him for his money. Action Bronson does a great job on this song, however, things get even more interesting when he recruits Chance The Rapper for a guest feature.

Chance The Rapper’s verse is arguably one of his best verses of all time. This verse is simple but the wordplay is fantastic. By starting off every line with “I hope…”, Chance The Rapper is allowed to direct his aggression towards those who did him wrong in the past. Chance The Rapper focuses this verse towards an unknown ex-girlfriend who he sarcastically wishes the best for. The wordplay that Chance The Rapper exhibits on “Baby Blue” is perhaps one of the best moments of any song from 2015. With Mark Ronson composing this fantastic and jazzy beat, Action Bronson and Chance The Rapper make this a song worth mentioning for years to come. I hope to see Action Bronson and Chance The Rapper attempt to make another song in this style, as I feel it highlights both of their individual talents, but it also shows the teamwork they have to offer while working with each other.

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!

Incredibles 2 Review

2004 was an incredible year for music, with albums from Eminem, D12, Kanye West, Green Day, Usher, The Killers to name a few, however, 2004 was also great for the film genre too. Movies such as Shrek 2, Spider-Man 2, and Kill Bill: Volume 2 were dominating the year, yet one movie, in particular, stuck with me more than the rest. That particular movie is The Incredibles by Disney/Pixar. The Incredibles arrived at the perfect time for the superhero movie genre as Spider-Man was taking off and finding resounding success. Disney decided to take their own shot at the genre, and surely it was an outstanding decision.

When The Incredibles premiered in November of 2004 I was about seven years old, yet seeing these original and bright characters on the screen amazed me. Seeing this family dynamic that worked so well together to defeat the Omnidroid in the film’s finale was something that would always stick with me. Never would I have thought that 14 years later we’d be graced with a sequel to one of the best superhero movies of all time. My only concern would be that 14 years would be too long and that Incredibles 2 wouldn’t be able to hold up in a world where Avengers: Infinity War exists.

Incredibles 2 is surprisingly worth the wait and almost as enjoyable if not more enjoyable than the first. The movie is filled with quality comedy and action that allows each character to shine and develop as they are in a world that is under threat by the Screenslaver. With almost all of the original cast returning, Incredibles 2 makes a 14-year wait feel like yesterday as the story picks off right where it ended in 2004. Along with some new additions to the cast such as Bob Odenkirk’s character Winston Deavor and Catherine Keener as Evelyn Deavor, you get yourself a superhero movie worthy of its praise in 2018.

Perhaps the best part about this movie is the look and style that has been improved since the first movie. The colors are vivid and the effects of the superpowers from characters such as Violet and Frozone look absolutely stunning. I also enjoyed seeing more Jack-Jack as we see him evolve and figure out his powers as an infant. Another favorite of mine is Edna Mode who we see contacted once again to design suits for the family. The main cast shines the most as we see Elastigirl take on a new role which puts Mr. Incredible in the backseat for most of the movie. Seeing Elastigirl become the main hero allows for a lot of “Dad humor” as Mr. Incredible tries to fill a role he’s never been in before.

I am glad this movie finally came out and honestly can’t wait to see what a third installment would hold. Being able to see the family grow up and have their own superpowered families would be an interesting premise for a third outing. I must commend Disney/Pixar for making my and many others dreams come true after over a decade of waiting. I am thoroughly pleased with Incredibles 2 and I hope to see my favorite character Frozone have an even bigger part in the next one. Until then, go out and see this movie if you haven’t already!

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!

Why Opinions Are Needed

The year is 2018, the United States is still confused from one of the most interesting and strangest elections of all time. Violence and hate are once again on the rise; anger flows through almost everyone. Yet, a small light swims through the darkness. The light you are seeing is something or someone who goes against the grain, one who doesn’t pick sides nor do they have a bias towards anyone or anything. But just as it appears, it’s gone and consumed by the darkness. That small beacon of hope is now one with the evergrowing darkness that consumes the world. It’s now unjust and wrong to have a different idea of the world and what goes on in it.

I used to grow up thinking that it was exemplary to voice your opinion and to peacefully find solutions with other opinionators. In 2018, it is hard to find someone who isn’t politically sided or morally sided to a certain cause or belief. This leads to an issue of separation between friends, family, and community. Often enough, those friends, family, and communities form their own opinion on the world and the people in it, and sometimes this opinion varies from others. Speaking your mind and standing out is often considered incorrect as it goes against the ideal worldviews we as humans have curated. This issue is further pressed when individuals are berated for thinking differently. We need to support individuals right to form their own opinions as it’s the only way to hear a different side to a story.

A perfect example of hearing different sides of a story is from the D12 song titled “How Come”. “How Come” is about the group laying out their issues with each other especially with Eminem who at the time was at the peak of his career and overshadowed most if not all of the main members of the group. Each verse features either Eminem, Kon Artis, or Proof spelling out the issues they commonly see with each other and how much their friendship matters more than the money and fame. This adult way of handling opinions and issues allows for all members and parties involved to understand the viewpoints that others witness. In the end, D12 is always there for each other and that’s what “How Come” reinforces. This example of valuing opinions and working together find solutions is exactly what the world needs.

In the world, opinions are an absolute must if humans want to overcome and adapt to solve different issues that are thrown at them as a society. This is necessary in order to make the world a better place, however, the individuals and groups who attempt to silence these voices are ruining the whole point of self-expression. Living in a world where inaccurate news, scandals, and lying are to be expected leads to a plethora of problems for everyone to experience. I for one think that we need to express ourselves without judgment, no matter how different the expressed views are. Allowing to hear multiple sides to a story allows for a common solution if we as a collective work together instead of against each other. I truly hope in time we can respect other’s views and opinions to create a safer and more unified Earth for the future generations.

3×3 Monday’s 6/18/18

Count Bassy – Dance Gavin Dance

After releasing their newest album titled Artificial Selection, I’ve grown attached to “Count Bassy” more than almost any other song from the album. While I do love “Care”, “Midnight Crusade”, and “Evaporate” more than any other Dance Gavin Dance song, however, “Count Bassy” extorts a unique charm that I look forward to experiencing whenever I put it on. “Count Bassy” is a very groovy and enticing song that I hope more people listen to this year. If you haven’t already, give “Count Bassy” and Artificial Selection a listen, as I find it to be one of the best albums of this year!

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I Know What You Want – Busta Rhymes

The early 2000’s were a renaissance for hip-hop music. With 90’s R&B being arguably the dominant genre of the decade, it was finally time for hip-hop to reinvent itself in the 2000’s. This revitalization of a genre was possible by combining the best parts of 90’s R&B with the lyrical aesthetic that hip-hop had to offer at the time. In doing so, allowed artists such as Busta Rhymes to explore their musical talents in a new light. “I Know What You Want” features Mariah Carey and The Flipmode Squad as they slide across the smooth beat with flirtatious rhymes. This song is a certified classic in my book, and to this day the opening bass line still sounds incredible with the proper audio setup.

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WIN- Jay Rock

Jay Rock has been someone I’ve kept an eye on for many years. His relationship with Kendrick Lamar is something that inevitably gave his career a huge boost and allowed him to shine as an artist. “WIN” is the closest thing to a victory anthem in 2018. The song features Jay Rock detailing his successes and accomplishments in life as he went from nothing to something. This cleverly, “features” Kendrick Lamar in the background hyping up Jay Rock with an assortment of ad-libs to show this dedication to the artist. Jay Rock and Kendrick Lamar are a great duo and I’m glad to see even though Kendrick Lamar will always be infinitely more popular than Jay Rock, he still stays around and supports his friend.

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Put Your Money – Ludacris

Going back to the statement about the hip-hop renaissance, Ludacris is another important member and leader of this movement. “Put Your Money” works so well as an exhilarating song due to its steel drum inspired beat and feature from DMX. It is known that DMX can change the tone of almost any song he’s on which allows Ludacris to sound more menacing and upbeat than usual. The song itself is about gambling, yet it still retains an intimidating vibe about owning up to things in life. Ludacris really know’s how to make hit songs, and “Put Your Money” is just example of his versatility.

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FAKE – Brockhampton

“FAKE” is my favorite song from the Saturation 1. This song, however, isn’t a traditional Brockhampton song. “FAKE” features the main members with voice modulations, which is something typically used by Kevin Abstract on certain songs. This time, the group is allowed to have fun in their raps and toy around with their style while masking their identity to a degree. Another important part of “FAKE” is the repeated phrase of “Don’t Say That”. The repeated phrase is comparable to the music industry and other industries in which people must be what the label or corporation wants them to be and not be who they really are. This degree of censorship runs rampant in celebrity life and unfortunately, Brockhampton has seemingly come across this and continue to fight it on “FAKE”.

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Countin’ Up – Rico Nasty

I didn’t know who Rico Nasty was until being introduced to her recently by my friend Jayda. Jayda posted on social media about Rico Nasty so I was intrigued enough to look her up. I heard a few songs and looked forward to her upcoming mixtape titled “Nasty”. This mixtape is insane for a 21-year-old that is also a mother of a two-year-old. The beat of “Countin’ Up” immediately sets the tone of the song as Rico Nasty busts onto the scene and immediately starts taking shots. The infectious and memorable beat only further makes her sound like a force to be reckoned with as she continues her tirade. I fully enjoyed “Nasty” and plan to do more on in the future.

Thank you Jayda for introducing me to her!

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Get It Right (Remix) – Diplo

I recently started listening to Diplo because of his LSD project with Labyrinth and Sia, so I am far from a long-time fan. I decided to look into his work. I noticed he did a song with Goldlink and immediately decided to check it out. I was not disappointed as I heard Goldlink glide over the beat that featured MØ. Diplo really reinvented the idea of a remix by improving an already great song with a great feature, which is something most artists fail to deliver on. I decided to listen to the rest of his California EP to which I really enjoyed his experimentation with many modern rappers. I recommend the EP and this song to anyone who is a fan of the new LSD project.

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TEMPTATION – Joey Bada$$

“TEMPTATION” is one of the few songs that serve as a summer hit while still delivering an important message about fighting temptations. Joey Bada$$ made one of the most addicting songs with “TEMPTATIONS” and I couldn’t be any happier with hearing this on my Summer playlist. The fun beat and talent that shine through on this track make for a pleasant and habitual song that I’ve come to love. The chorus and lyrics are some of the best I’ve heard recently and honestly makes me wish I had heard this song earlier. Either way, I cannot wait to see what Joey Bada$$ does next!

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Artificial – EARTHGANG

I found this song by accident last week while attempting to listen to Artificial Selection by Dance Gavin Dance. While typing in Artifical, I accidentally chose this song, and I’m glad that I did. “Artificial” tells the tale of wanting something real over something that’s fake. With a beautiful piano-based beat and solid rapping from EARTHGANG, it’s easy to see why I enjoy this song so much even if it was discovered by accident. I plan to listen to their discography and possibly write a short piece on them too as I can see them blowing up relatively soon if “Artificial” was any indication.

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Artist Spotlight #2 – Adjust the Sails

Smaller artists need to be recognized for their unique talents and popularity in their community. After months of planning, I’ve finally decided to launch this series to help promote smaller artists in an attempt to get their name and talent out there to the wider public. Every artist I cover in this series has been hand-picked for their style, talent, and character. I ‘ve recommended every artist I write about and this is no exception. Without further explanation, here is my second pick: Adjust the Sails.

Adjust the Sails is a two-piece group from Baltimore. Shane Hurst and Steven Haller make up this duo. They started off as a solo acoustic project in 2014 with the Til Death Do Us Part EP. This EP was heavily inspired by bands such as Brand New, La Dispute, Taking Back Sunday, My Chemical Romance. The songs they created were a means of self-therapy and based around the idea that they could possibly provide help to those who have had troubles with depression and their own demons. Adjust the Sails would then go on hiatus from 2016-2017.

2018 would see the end of the hiatus and a new beginning for the group. This reformation spawned their new EP titled I’m Not Okay But It’s Okay. This EP consisted of more folk punkish/upbeat songs but are still lyrically based around the basic ideas that they were founded on. The first song on the EP was “Ashley”. “Ashley” was written while Shane was reconnecting with his first love. This theme would go on to ultimately become the tone of I’m Not Okay But It’s Okay. Over the past few years, Adjust the Sails have played many house shows and local shows around Maryland along with a few out-of-state shows in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and North Carolina.

On July 1st, Adjust the Sails will be performing at the Maryland Music Madness at the Fish Head Cantina. They also have an interest in performing at the Frozen Harbor Fest 2019. The group is also working on recording another EP that will be released in the near future. Adjust the Sails is working on trying to tour around the East Coast this year. The group itself is growing rapidly and have almost 2,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. I recommend you check out their music and follow them on Facebook too for future updates and news!

Here is a message from Adjust the Sails:

Thank you to all those who support us. Don’t give up on doing what makes you happy or what you’re passionate about no matter what other people say. There’s always gonna be people who are against you, but it’s up to us to prove them wrong.

I’m Not Okay But It’s Okay is on Spotify now!

Saint Kendrick: The Cinematic Nature of Kendrick Lamar Part III

This is the third part of a multi-part release exclusively on this page. (link to the first part here, second 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 III. 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!

To Pimp A Butterfly: The Culture and the Cross

Okay now, this is the part where things get interesting. Let’s set the stage. Kendrick Lamar is a now established artist who is getting praised as the next Tupac. His conscious rhymes and storytelling are unparalleled to everyone out there today. With all of that, Kendrick had the mantle placed on him as he was pushed to the podium. Mic check, mic check, this is the new face of black culture in America; Kendrick Lamar. Now think about it this way. A young man in his early 20’s gets a huge influx of money, notoriety, prosperity and of course more responsibility. Kendrick reminds us frequently that is his merely a human being. These same stressors that ‘we’ deal with on a daily basis, Kendrick deals with too. Shoved into the spotlight and asked to hold the world, he retreated. This is an album of the internal struggle inside the real Kendrick Lamar as he deals with being asked to be the champion. He was introduced to be hip-hop’s savior. ‘Savior’ is a lot to ask of one man.

To Pimp a Butterfly is an extremely dense album full of themes, style, and ideology. From the production aspect, Kendrick brings sounds from all across the African-American culture. With jazz, funk, soul, r&b and various eras of hip-hop all being brought together, sonically it sounds like an opus to the black culture. Using situations in the political and social atmosphere during the release of the album in 2015, Kendrick creates the wasteland of circumstance that he leads the listener through on a journey of self-reflection as he, himself, wrestles with the weight of responsibility that he has been forced to bear.

Reflecting the world around him of police brutality, institutionalized racism, and social marginalization, Kendrick chronicles the aftermath of his success from his first album. He stole the crown as the greatest rapper in the world and the focus of the world turned onto him. Kendrick was the good kid that came out of Compton who made it out. The album is structured around a poem that is progressively revealed as the album continues. We are brought through multiple different arcs of how Kendrick dealt with the changes in his life and how he was seen as someone to vault forward the culture as the next great voice.

“I remember you was conflicted, misusing your influence…”

The first stage takes place during the first three songs; ‘Wesley’s Theory’, ‘For Free? – Interlude’, and ‘King Kunta’. This is essentially the id response for Kendrick. His first thoughts are the glamorous benefits of his success. He could now get the cars and clothes he never could. VIP trips around the world with award shows. Kendrick could bring all the ones he met along the way. The good kid made it out of Compton and can lead the city with him to the promised land. Did I mention the money? Conversely weaved throughout those same songs is the institutional and social structures put in place through the pressure of those around him, bureaucratic influence or unspoken sociological rules that have been in American culture for generations that place black Americans in a position to fail.

“I remember you was conflicted, misusing your influence

Sometimes I did the same…”

With his newfound success, Kendrick could come back to Compton as the king of hip-hop but he has yet to experience the backlash of his actions. This is where the second arc of the story is introduced. Kendrick realizes that he not only has fame and fortune but he now has influence socially and most dangerously, power. He tells us the story of how he brought his friends from back home to an award show only to have one of them attempt to rob some of the high profile events. The friend explains himself by saying how else would he respond? Never had he been around that type of wealth while he sees people in his immediate world struggling because of factors that are largely beyond their control? The other story we are told is one of Kendrick and a girl and her baby daddy.. Beautifully told through metaphors, Kendrick tells us of his sexual relationship with this young woman. Towards the end of the song, Kendrick reveals that this woman has a child with the man who killed Kendrick’s friend during the song ‘Sing About Me’ on Good Kid mAAd City and Kendrick is the reason that that man is now serving life in prison.

“I remember you was conflicted, misusing your infuence

Sometimes I did the same

Abusing my power full of resentment

Resentment that turned into a deep depression

I found myself screaming in the hotel room…”

Struggling with the weight of his responsibility and how easily he could abuse his newfound power, Kendrick contemplates how the world perceives him as opposed to how he is as a human being. Is he the voice that they think he is? Kendrick finds himself in moments of weakness where his actions produce real and tangible consequences.. Kendrick turns inward on his own consciousness to open up the past events that put him where he is today, mainly on the death of his friend during the story arc of Good Kid mAAd City. Despite this depression, Kendrick reminds himself of the world he comes from is one where the struggle was the environment. With a natural survival instinct and the tools to fight back, Kendrick really back.

“I remember you was conflicted, misusing your influence

Sometimes I did the same

Abusing my power full of resentment

Resentment that turned into a deep depression

I found myself screaming in the hotel room

I didn’t want to self-destruct, the evils of Lucy was all around me

So I went running for answers…”

This is probably the most important portion of the poem as far as the underlying plot of Kendrick’s work as this piece is written to highlight. This is where we are introduced to the villain in Kendrick’s story; “Lucy.” She is personified as a wealthy, connected and beautiful woman who has taken an interest to Kendrick.

What’s wrong nigga?
I thought you was keeping it gangsta?
I thought this what you wanted?
They say if you scared go to church
But remember
He knows the bible too…

…My name is Lucy Kendrick
You introduced me Kendrick
Usually I don’t do this
But I see you and me Kendrick
Lucy Give you no worries
Lucy got million stories
About these rappers I came after when they was boring
Lucy gone fill your pockets
Lucy gone move your mama out of Compton
Inside the gi-gantic mansion like I promised
Lucy just want your trust and loyalty
Avoiding me?
It’s not so easy I’m at these functions accordingly
Kendrick, Lucy don’t slack a minute
Lucy work harder
Lucy gone call you even when Lucy know you love your Father
I’m Lucy
I loosely heard prayers on your first album truly
Lucy don’t mind cause at the end of the day you’ll pursue me
Lucy go get it, Lucy not timid, Lucy up front
Lucy got paper work on top of paper work
I want you to know that Lucy got you
All your life I watched you
And now you all grown up then sign this contract if that’s possible”

-’For Sale? – Interlude’

The bolded lines are the portion of the intro and Lucy’s monologue that reveals who she really is. Kendrick Lamar is not surprisingly a devout Christian as well as faith being a central piece of black culture. The first part is a reminder that ‘He’ knows the bible as well. This is referencing Satan or in this case, ‘Lucifer’. Clearly, Lucy was not talking about Kendrick’s biological father but God. The final part to unpack is the last line where Lucy asks Kendrick to sign a contract. The classic myth in American folklore is there is a crossroad down in the Mississippi River delta where you can go to meet with the devil who will grant you one wish in exchange for you signing away your soul. This legend has been around for well over a century (at least) and has been retold or paraphrased in countless ways. Borrowing the idea from this myth, Kendrick creates the character of ‘Lucy’ to be the embodiment of the devil himself.

“I remembered you was conflicted
Misusing your influence, sometimes I did the same
Abusing my power full of resentment
Resentment that turned into a deep depression
Found myself screamin’ in the hotel room
I didn’t wanna self destruct
The evils of Lucy was all around me
So I went runnin’ for answers
Until I came home…”

Kendrick watches his hometown struggle from his vaulted pedestal and knows that he can do something. He speaks during ‘Momma’ a verse that echoes the idea he spoke back on Section 80 but with the added idea that his distance has started to isolate him from the world that he called home:

“I know everything, I know myself
I know morality, spirituality, good and bad health
I know fatality might haunt you
I know everything, I know Compton
I know street shit, I know shit that’s conscious, I know everything
I know lawyers, advertisement and sponsors
I know wisdom, I know bad religion, I know good karma
I know everything, I know history
I know the universe works mentally
I know the perks of bullshit isn’t meant for me
I know everything, I know cars, clothes, hoes and money
I know loyalty, I know respect, I know those that’s Ornery
I know everything, the highs to lows to groupies and junkies
I know if I’m generous at heart, I don’t need recognition
The way I’m rewarded, well, that’s God’s decision
I know you know that lines from Compton School District
Just give it to the kids, don’t gossip about how it was distributed
I know how people work, I know the price of life
I know how much it’s worth, I know what I know and I know it well
Not to ever forget until I realized I didn’t know shit
The day I came home”

‘Momma’

While he helps his hometown as much as he can, Kendrick realizes that there is little he can do to change it for the better unless he takes a stand against the systems in place that poison the water in Compton and prevent it from blooming into what Kendrick believes it can be. He sees the people who want ‘realness’ from hip-hop but don’t look for it. He sees the political deadlock that he compares to nothing more than a gang war that plagues his hometown. Kendrick now sees everything and more importantly after seeing the pitfalls of those who came before him and the wasteland that his city has become as a result he sees the work of Lucy.

“I remember you was conflicted
Misusing your influence
Sometimes I did the same
Abusing my power full of resentment
Resentment that turned into a deep depression
Found myself screaming in a hotel room
I didn’t want to self-destruct
The evils of Lucy was all around me
So I went running for answers
Until I came home
But that didn’t stop survivors guilt
Going back and forth
Trying to convince my self the stripes I earned
Or maybe how A-1 my foundation was
But while my loved ones was fighting
A continuous war back in the city
I was entering a new one…”

Kendrick became increasingly angry as he saw more and more things eating away at his city from the inside. He became cynical and jaded. One night as he was leaving a gas station Kendrick was approached by a homeless man who asked for a single dollar. Kendrick went to his car and closed the door but he did not leave as for some reason these two men had their eyes locked and could not look away. The homeless man spoke to Kendrick with a pointed and prophetic choice of words.

“He said, “My son, temptation is one thing that I’ve defeated
Listen to me, I want a single bill from you
Nothin’ less, nothin’ more…

 

…Starin’ at me for the longest until he finally asked
Have you ever opened to Exodus 14?
A humble man is all that we ever need
Tell me how much a dollar cost?”

-’How Much A Dollar Cost?’

Now to understand this reference it is necessary to have the prior knowledge of the biblical story of Exodus where Moses leads the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt with a few verses in particular that are especially poignant. This story applies to Kendrick in this particular situation as he is being viewed by the world as someone who is meant to lead the entire culture forward. However, unlike Moses, this is not something he has chosen to do. Beyond the weight of the cross but he walks through the desert with Lucy following closely behind. Kendrick has embraced his selfishness and put his self-preservation into the forefront of his mind. Walking the soft and gradual path into Lucy’s arms, Kendrick is pulled back by something unexpected from this homeless man.

My selfishness is what got me here, who the f*ck I’m kiddin’?

So I’ma tell you like I told the last bum, crumbs and pennies

I need all of mines, and I recognize this type of panhandlin’ all the time

I got better judgement, I know when nigga’s hustlin’

Keep in mind, when I was strugglin’, I did compromise

Now I comprehend, I smell grandpa’s old medicine

Reekin’ from your skin, moonshine and gin

Nigga your babblin’, your words ain’t flatterin’, I’m imaginin’

Denzel be lookin’ at O’Neal

Cause now I’m in sad thrills, your gimmick is mediocre, the jig is up

I seen you from a mile away losin’ focus

And I’m insensitive, and I lack empathy

You looked at me and said, “Your potential is bittersweet”

I looked at him and said, “Every nickel is mines to keep”

He looked at me and said, “Know the truth, it’ll set you free

You’re lookin’ at the Messiah, the son of Jehova, the higher power

The choir that spoke the word, the Holy Spirit, the nerve
Of Nazareth, and I’ll tell you just how much a dollar cost
The price of having a spot in Heaven, embrace your loss, I am God”


-’How Much A Dollar Cost?’

After this incident, Kendrick has a new outlook on his role in the world. He knows that he has power and a voice that can be heard. Taking a strong stand against colorism inside the black community, gang violence, public perception of black people, and police brutality. Kendrick makes an observation that while there are systems in place to hold back the black culture and neighborhoods however he also sees that the culture is not helping itself with the way it currently lives in American society.

“I been wrote off before, I got abandonment issues
I hold grudges like bad judges, don’t let me resent you
That’s not Nelson-like, want you to love me like Nelson
I went to Robben’s Island analysing, that’s where his cell is
So I could find clarity, like how much you cherish me
Is this relationship a fake or real as the heavens be?
See I got to question it all, family, friends, fans, cats, dogs
Trees, plants, grass, how the wind blow
Murphy’s Law, generation X, will I ever be your ex?
Floss off a baby step, mobbed by the mouth a bit
Pause, put me under stress
Crawled under rocks, ducking y’all, it’s respect
But then tomorrow, put my back against the wall
How many leaders you said you needed then left ’em for dead?
Is it Moses, is it Huey Newton or Detroit Red?
Is it Martin Luther, JFK, shooter you assassin
Is it Jackie, is it Jesse, oh I know, it’s Michael Jackson, oh

When shit hit the fan, is you still a fan?
When shit hit the fan, is you still a fan?
That nigga gave us Billie Jean, you say he touched those kids?
When shit hit the fan, is you still a fan?”
-’Mortal Man’

With little guidance as he stepped into this role, he turned back to his role model and his similar path. In what can only be described as a prayer, Kendrick completes the poem and reads it to Tupac Shakur. Kendrick asks Tupac several questions in some ways to lead the people from the desert. Finding some sense of comfort from this discussion, Kendrick reads one more poem that was written by a friend of his that inspired the album.

“I wanted to read one last thing to you. It’s actually something a good friend had wrote describing my world. It says:

‘The caterpillar is a prisoner to the streets that conceived it
Its only job is to eat or consume everything around it, in order to protect itself from this mad city
While consuming its environment the caterpillar begins to notice ways to survive
One thing it noticed is how much the world shuns him, but praises the butterfly
The butterfly represents the talent, the thoughtfulness, and the beauty within the caterpillar
But having a harsh outlook on life the caterpillar sees the butterfly as weak and figures out a way to pimp it to his own benefits
Already surrounded by this mad city the caterpillar goes to work on the cocoon which institutionalizes him
He can no longer see past his own thoughts
He’s trapped
When trapped inside these walls certain ideas start to take roots, such as going home, and bringing back new concepts to this mad city
The result?
Wings begin to emerge, breaking the cycle of feeling stagnant
Finally free, the butterfly sheds light on situations that the caterpillar never considered, ending the eternal struggle
Although the butterfly and caterpillar are completely different, they are one and the same.’

What’s your perspective on that?
Pac? Pac…? Pac!”
The interesting thing about this album, planned or not, is that Kendrick was 27 years old when it was released. Tupac was killed when he was 27 years old. In a state of silence afterward, as the album comes to an end Kendrick realizes that beyond this point, he is alone in walking this path but embraces all that comes with it. At this point, Kendrick is anointed and from here onward he walks as Saint Kendrick.