Let That Mac Rip: September Album Reviews

Posted: September 11, 2013 in Album, Dyscyplynary Action, Music Review

I’m here and I bring to you five projects I’ve listened to this month so far, so read it.


2 Chainz – Based On A T.R.U. Story II: Me Time

In a rap game built on youthful longevity, second chances rarely come a dime-a-dozen. In the case with Tauheed Epps (2 Chainz), his chances were as premeditated as current elder statesman Juicy J. A veteran in the southern rap scene as one-half of Playaz Circle with Dolla Boy, he bounced around on Ludacris’ Distrubing Tha Peace imprint before leaving to pursue a solo career. You guys know the story: He changed his named because ‘Tity Boi’ just wasn’t cutting it from a mainstream perspective, became 2 Chainz, and suddenly his career took off. He eventually re-signed with Def Jam after the success of his mixtape T.R.U. REALigion and had a shitload of guest appearances on some of the hottest rap songs of 2011. It all made for a vehicle for his debut solo album, Based On A T.R.U. Story, to be a grandeur stamp on the Hip-Hop scene.

While B.O.A.T.S. was commercially received well with over 150k sold the first week, it did pretty poor critically despite the popular singles “I’m Different” and “Birthday Song” spearheading it. The album was a burned-out proponent on what could have potentially been the best piece of ratchet music to come that year. With this disappointment, I understand how 2 Chainz would take a more serene approach for his ‘sophomore’ effort, B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time. “Feds Watching” has been the only single thus far pushing the album, peaking at #67 on the Billboard Charts. While it doesn’t have the appeal of a “Spend It”, it matches in it the quality of a strong overall record. Pharrell dips through delivering a Desperado meets Rocky blockbuster to wrap around Epps simplistic yet witty one-liners.

The production as a whole acts as a bigger package than its predecessor, coming off as the album that should have been a year ago. B.O.A.T.S. II is lightyears better than his debut, with introspective songs deep in the second half and 2 Chainz sounding more invigorated than he has been in a while. Mike Will Made It comes through with some heavy lifting on “Fork” and “Where U Been?”, adding to his repertoire as being the latest sound of The Trap. Surprisingly, he doesn’t deliver the two best beats on this album, as that is rewarded to Diplo and Da Honorable C.N.O.T.E’s ballistic “Netflix”. With a Fergie guest spot that makes Miley Cyrus’ attempts to mesh into the urban world quaint, it is sure to be one of the guilty pleasure favorites of this year.

Mannie Fresh also sneaks his way into the album with a Cash Money-ode “Used 2”, complete with 2 Chainz rapping in the entire cadence of Juvenile’s “Back That Ass Up”. All it did was make me hope for a Hot Boyz reunion just for one night on the BET Awards. Even Ma$e steps in on a rare appearance, damn-near stealing the show on the MMG knockoff “Beautiful Pain”. 2 Chainz learned from the missteps on his first album and crafted a fun ass body of work worth listening to on that night out in the city. Seriously, this dude is going to be around for a while whether you like it or not.



Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady

While Cee-Lo Green continues to desecrate the name of the Dungeon Family by ruining a potentially useful Goodie Mob reunion, new-generation wunderkind Janelle Monáe keeps the legacy going with her latest album The Electric Lady. A title that is a clear homage to Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland (or a reminder), it is the fourth and fifth installment of her seven-part Metropolis Suite series. As her 2010 debut The ArchAndroid was a fantastic voyage across Atlantis and back, The Electric Lady continues the story arc of Monáe’s cybernetic alter-ego Cindi Mayweather, adding a background to the character residing in an inner-city utopia of humans and androids. Janelle’s penchant for experimenting in R&B takes another route digging into the framework of 1970s and 80s Funk and Soul, combining it with tales of love, women empowerment, sexuality, and black unity.

A small number of effective features aid here on TEL, with Prince crooning ever so sultry on the opening “Givin ‘Em What They Love”, Erykah Badu and Solange delivering an one-two punch of sisterhood (“Q.U.E.E.N.” and “Electric Lady” respectively), and Miguel continuing his run solid performances on the radio-ready “Primetime”. Funk collective Deep Cotton provides much of the production here, giving it a tinge of classic Dungeon material revived as heard on the title track and wildly instrumentation. But it is all Monáe’s show here utilizing her ideas to the fullest, although precarious with gratifying results.



Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

Trent Reznor has been in an awfully lighter mood these past few years. Known for his angst-ridden anthems of despair, depression, and depravity, Reznor has now settled into being a family man. Along with working on his side project [how to destroy angels] with his wife Mariqueen Maandig and Atticus Ross, he has obtained a number of music scores with the Call of Duty video game series (Let’s not forget his Oscar victory as well). So when he announced the reformation of Nine Inch Nails after a 5-year hiatus, there was skepticism to how his newfound life would translate into his music. With Hesitation Marks, it is a return to form with Reznor coming to terms with his transformation from his earlier years of drug abuse.

Now clean with a conscious, Trent continues to resonate in conflict from his past, as if he sees himself in the mirror. On the most startling track “Everything”, it opens like a uplifting poppy punk tune with Reznor proclaiming ‘I survived everything….’ Only to refrain towards the end with ‘I’ve become something else’. He’s aware of his surroundings, aware of himself, and he’s not as happy as people make him out to be. The anger that he once has is gone, and that alone he’s content with.



The Weeknd – Kiss Land

When Toronto’s Abel Tesfaye emerged in 2011 with his haunting trio of mixtapes (House Of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes Of Silence), he offered a blend of sonic textures drowned in a pit of codeine and coke-hazed vocals that grabbed the music world’s attention. Tunes laden with sex, isolation, and egocentric behavior, Abel build a wave of momentum under his moniker The Weeknd. From aligning with Canada’s favorite son Drake, his name grew with anticipation for his official studio debut album Kiss Land.

Gone were Illangelo and Doc McKinney – the duo that crafted the exuberant sound of Trilogy – and entered new collaborators DannyBoyStyles, Silky Johnson, and Tesfaye himself on the production for this mess of an album. On the surface, Abel is up to his old bag of tricks of drugged-up, misogynistic fantasies on “Professional” and “Love In The Sky”, but they now come off as dull and soulless. Even the Drake-featured “Live For” comes off as phoned-in and redundant as the hook, making it harder for it to be enjoyable as watching an entire season of Mad Men. It’s the mid-album highlight “Wanderlust” that steals the show, a buoyant far cry from much of Abel’s earlier works. Pharrell makes a radio remix of the song for the deluxe version that blows the rest of the album away, adding a groove that was surely needed for the half-baked effort that I listened to an hour earlier.



The Underachievers – The Lords Of Flatbush

The thought of hearing a group of New York rappers over Lex Luger-production would have probably caused uproar on Twitter in 2010. That has now been proven obsolete with the introduction of ASAP Mob over the past few years and French Montana riding the Southern wave for quite some time.

With The Underachievers – the better middle ground of the Beast Coast movement – their mixtape (or EP) The Lords Of Flatbush comes off as just…weird. While they aren’t entirely tied to the nostalgic bearings of Pro Era or left-field to the point of avoidable like The Flatbush Zombies, their engaging ear for psychedelic production and forward-thinking lyricism is what got me into them in the first place. Their impressive early 2013 mixtape Indiogism highlighted many of their strengths, while this did little to make them stand out. Lex Luger didn’t bring too much to the table either, though it brought the small standout in “Cold Crush”. I guess I finally got what I wanted with rappity rap over trap beats and it wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be.


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