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4 - Beyoncé 15/03/2013

It Doesn't Get Better Than This

4 - Beyoncé Background It felt like an eternity between, Beyonce’s 2008-released third album, “I Am… Sasha Fierce”, and her fourth one, which dropped midway through 2011. Once the singles stopped coming from the former, however, massive collaborations with Alicia Keys and Lady Gaga were reminders who the top dog of the Pop world was. By 2011, she was ready to return fully and made it clear with “Run the World”. A success, the song was a reflection of her new musical direction – to push the boundaries of Pop by intermixing her style with other exotic strands from around the world. “4” would take the former Destiny’s Child member to sky high levels of stardom with a standout body of music. Good Points What’s the most striking about this album is simply the sheer number of straight-up hits. Beyonce comes in swinging and throws everything at her audience. From “Rather Die Young”, through to “1+1”, back to “Party” and over to “Love on Top”, you’re subject to an incredible display form one of the game’s most talented artists. She’s on top of her game and she’s got the songs to make sure that everyone pays attention. Limited to just one featured guest (from the elusive Andre 3000) the album is a way to show that Beyonce has gone through a massive journey through her time and is finally able to deliver an album that everyone’s happy with. Pop albums aren’t often credited for their musical integrity, but with such effortless mixes of styles laced together with her great vocal tone, you have ...

Take Care (Parental Advisory) [PA] - Drake 14/03/2013

Drizzy's Got It

Take Care (Parental Advisory) [PA] - Drake Background If 2010 was the year when Drake’s underground grind came to a close, 2011 was the year when he affirmed his status as a Rap superstar. After flooding the game with a bag of featured verses and songs, he brought 2011 to a close with his second album, “Take Care”. The Canadian rapper and singer, who’s signed to Lil Wayne’s Young Money record label, equipped his sophomore offering with just as much star power. Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, Andre 3000 and his label boss (plus his label’s label boss, Birdman) assist on this all-important record. Good Points What’s so good about “Take Care” is that Drake finds a way to tap into every side to his personality (and varied musical characteristics). From the lead single, “Headlines”, right through to the smoother “Crew Love” and the experimental, yet Pop-orientated title track, there’s a lot to get into. For those who’ve seen him through every step of his career, he’s just adding to the arsenal of abilities he has under his belt to impress everyone. Some might just find that the party starters like “HYFR”, “Under Ground Kings” and “Make Me Proud” are enough to entertain them, but there’s so much more to him on offer. As much as he’s ridiculed for focusing on them, the stuff he has for the girls (“Practice”, “Marvins Room, “The Real Her”) is among the best he’s done, even if it sounds a little like Craig David could have done a couple of them. Bad Points The most obvious issue which people often point out on “Take Care” is ...

Wild Ones - Flo Rida 13/03/2013

Wild Mess

Wild Ones - Flo Rida Background Flo Rida is probably one of the biggest Rap artists in the world, but no one in the Hip Hop community will be prepared to say so. The Carol City representative has been knocking out his singles for years, although it’s been restricted to the Pop audience. It’s been many years since he’s been accepted among the ‘urban’ crowd, and it’s down to the fact that he’s opted on an enormo-Pop direction, which alienates everyone but teeny-boppers and Euro-Dance crowds. For this reason, not many people outside that demographic were excited when he announced his fourth album, “Wild Ones”. Good Points He gives you a reason to say that you won’t listen to him again. In the past, he’s actually managed to give a little something for the ‘urban’ heads to get excited about and feel as though he’s acknowledging them too, but here he’s off on a partying mission filled with all of his summery dance tunes. For those who are inclined to that sort of over-the-top Pop music, it might be good, but it doesn’t really have anything to offer anyone else. As a result, he gives you enough evidence to say you probably won’t like anything else he doesn after this. Bad Points The main issue which plagues this album is that he stays in one lane, and gives himself absolutely no room for growth. it’s just a straight dance album and so it means that his role on the project is absolutely redundant. You really wouldn’t notice if he wasn’t there, because the people who want to hear albums like this ...

King Kong (Parental Advisory) [PA] - Gorilla Zoe 13/10/2012

We'll Be Having Less of That

King Kong (Parental Advisory) [PA] - Gorilla Zoe Background Gorilla Zoe is known for his time as part of Boyz N Da Hood, before he decided to take his Southern strain of Gangsta Rap solo. By himself, he continued to come with full-throttle Trap Music far before it was the sound of Hip Hop in 2010 and beyond. However, in 2011 Zoe changed his mind on what he was focused on. The Atlanta rapper might have been known for living up to his name and being a beast on the microphone, but it all changed when he put out his third solo album, which he decided to call “King Kong”. Good Points The title track is about all there is to get excited about here. On “King Kong” (the song) he shows that he’s firmly set on reminding people of his grind over the years. It’s mighty, does as is intended and you can expect it to be pounding out of a car sound system. However, the same can’t be said of the rest of the album, where he spends his time learning how to sing through auto-tuning technology and attempts to find his footing over 4x4 production. Considering that there’s a good 14 songs here, it’s a bit of a shock to discover so little worth getting hyped up about. Just listen to “Main Thing” after hearing his old stuff and you’ll understand. Bad Points Gorilla Zoe gets completely side-tracked on an album that very people were even aware of, even aware of the fact that he’s making such a transition in his sound. Going from a rough street sound to a club-driven direction which is soaked in cheesiness, he’s lost his footing. Listening to ...

Back 2 da Lab, Vol. 4 - Frisco 09/10/2012

Buss Up the Mic Like Who?

Back 2 da Lab, Vol. 4 - Frisco Background Frisco forms part of the much-loved North London Grime crew, Boy Better Know. However, with such an array of stars in the squad (with the likes of Skepta, JME and Jammer also in the team) he often finds himself in the background at times. To counteract it, he’s managed to maintain a consistent stream of mixtapes in his own name, to show that he’s got something to call his own and doesn’t doesn’t to be treated as if he’s some sort of sideman. “Back to da Lab (Vol. 4)” came out in 2012, as the latest in the series, to whet the appetite of his fans, ahead of his upcoming second album release. Good Points What’s good with Frisco is that, unlike a lot of MCs, he truly has the flexibility to adapt to a lot of different styles. He decides that on this album, it’s his aim to show off his masterful use of lively flows. Whether it’s on a traditional Grime track or one which is a bit more on the Hip Hop side, it doesn’t really matter. “Stuck in My Vibe” sits in the mixtape as the best representation of what you should expect of it, and how he’s moved on his his “Fully Grown” album.Tracks such as “Like We” show that although his lyrical matter his quite serious, he’s not afraid to come out of his shell to make more danceable tunes too. It means that it’s a very enjoyable, varied project from him. Bad Points It’s quite evident that this project doesn’t encounter some of the problems which his other recent music has. For example, “Fully Grown” was tainted by a few ...

The DeAndre Way - Soulja Boy 19/08/2012

Get Them Speakers Booming

The DeAndre Way - Soulja Boy Background Soulja Boy’s climb – other than the viral dance videos – came about thanks to his heavy mixtape grind. It meant that by the time he had got onto his third record, which dropped late in 2010, he no longer had to be prepared to deliver a dance routine to assist his singles (even if they accidently came with them too). By 2010, the Chicago-born, Atlanta-based rapper had an empire and was signing rappers all over the place. While many of these signings turned out to be nothing but premature announcements that he was backing new up-and-coming talent, the acts who he had his eye on had an influence in shaping his new music direction. Most evidently, Lil’ B sounded like a direct stylistic factor in the album’s lead single, “Pretty Boy Swag”, which would kick off the promotional run for “The DeAndre Way. Good Points Soulja Boy’s got his fair share of bangers on show. From the aforementioned tune to the club-fitting “Speakers Going Hammer”, he shows where he’s meant to fit into the Hip Hop landscape and affirms where his position in the game is. Even if he’s just having fun with it and is imply assisting some heavy production, it’s goes to plan. Even when he gets experimental with it and gets on an industrial style for “30 Thousand 100 Million”, he’s on form. From that perspective, it’s a success. He adds to his arsenal of flows here and his versatility (although not perfected) is exhibited through “Fly” and “Grammy”, where he’s taken out of his usual comfort zone. ...

No Mercy (Parental Advisory) [PA] - T.I. 02/07/2012

Get Back Up

No Mercy (Parental Advisory) [PA] - T.I. Background T.I. went through some turbulent times through 2007 to 2011. Soon after dropping his “T.I. vs. T.I.P.” album and finally affirming his position in the Rap game (after tussling it out for years and getting his break with “King”), he wound up getting himself caught up in a weapons charge. While he awaited sentencing, he dropped his “Paper Trail” album and it turned out to be one of his weakest offerings. Upon returning from his prison sentence in 2010, however, he began recording another album. Unfortunately for T.I. another incident would mean that he’d have to face another spell behind bars. Before he did his time, he managed to record “No Mercy” (his seventh album overall) to keep the Atlanta rapper in the spotlight. Good Points There’s something intriguing about the artist, which makes you want to listen, even if he’s not on best form. Considering that this album wasn’t as hyped up as it was, you’ll actually find some of his rawest tunes. Head over to “I Can’t Help it”, for those who want him in Trap Muzik mode. Elsewhere, “I Can’t Help It” proves that his conversational expression gets the credit it deserves, as he goes back to back with Eminem. As ever, his melodic choruses lace together the poignant verses and he maintains a high ranking position in the game, as someone who’s able to speak to the streets, but is still able to push the limits on lyrical themes – such as his time spent apologising for winding up in prison, when he’s being viewed as a role ...

Against All Odds - Chase & Status & Kano (Single) 02/07/2012

So Much More Than Alot

Against All Odds - Chase & Status & Kano (Single) Background Year: 2009 Featured on: “More Than Alot” Chart Position: #45 Made up of two musicians, Chase & Status are an Electronic music act which gained fame around the time when Dubstep started to be taken seriously. It’s the genre which many may know them for best, as they went to put out smashers like “Let It Go” and “Blind Faith” in that style, but the duo actually got their name out there by doing Drum & Bass first. So that’s where you’ll find them on “Against All Odd”, where they call upon the aid of one of the UK’s most talented MCs, Kano, and get into part mode. Impression Breakbeats have often been taken fore-granted for UK MCs, particularly those bread in Grime, rather than Hip Hop. It's meant that those who didn't begin spitting to Jungle probably won't have ever gone down that direction. However, Kano has always remained Hip Hop-orientated, so he was never too far from diving onto the "Apache" beat and getting busy with it. That's just what happens on "Against All Odds", where things return to the basics and great results are made. It's a stunning breakthrough tune for Chase & Status, while Kano just unloads his rapid-fire bars as best he can. ...

Overall - Durrty Goodz 02/07/2012

Best Overall?

Overall - Durrty Goodz Background Viewed as a valuable asset to the Grime scene, Durrty Goodz is one of the most versatile artists to emerge from London’s post-Garage underground. Although he was initially set back in his career by being dropped by his label, thanks to a prison sentence, Doogz made an effort to recover in the years afterwards. Releases like “Ultrasound” and “Born Blessed” showed the potential he had to offer the world, but it was his “Overall” album (which came out in 2011) which would be viewed as the East London MC’s proper debut LP. Good Points As 2010 was said to feature quite a lull in the Grime world, Durrty Goodz dropping this towards the top of 2011 showed that there’s hope in progressing the sound. He entertains the listeners by mixing and matching between Rap, Grime and Dancehall (as he always has done over the years) and it sits nicely as a representation of his generation. The full-throttle single “Oi Wot U Lookin’ At” is a quintessential Durrty Goodz track, while he surrounds it with diverse tunes like the thought-provoking “Imagine”, mind-boggling “Battle Hype” and raucous “Who’s Daa’t”. He’s very comfortable here and it shows in the way he attacks each instrumental. Bad Points The main issue which plagues the album is that it feels as though he’s distancing himself too far from the rest of Grime. Rather than embracing notably production talent of the day, he opts for alternatives who don’t always come up with the goods. At times, the beats which he’s backed by ...

Knock You Down - Keri Hilson, Kanye West & Ne-Yo (Single) 02/07/2012

As it Says on the Tin

Knock You Down - Keri Hilson, Kanye West & Ne-Yo (Single) Background Year: 2009 Featured on: “In a Perfect World…” Chart Position: #5 Despite having found success doing high-profile collaborations with rappers like Xzibit and producers like Timbaland, Keri Hilson didn’t initially find it easy to get her leg up into the music world, as a solo act. It meant that when she was finally ready to put out a single of her own, it went largely unnoticed. Few are likely to remember it after it had been out for two years. The same can’t be said about “Knock You Down”. It’s what almost made everyone forget what came before and showed that she was destined to be a megastar. Impression "Knock You Down" is one of those songs that you just can't fault. It's thoroughly well-written and, with three major artists all sharing fairly prominent roles on it, it could have just turned out to be a mess. Instead, their thoughts combine into a thrilling track. From the R&B aspect, you have no choice but to be drawn in by Ne-Yo and Keri's performances, as they make an all-purpose anthem for the bad times. On the Rap front, Kanye West adds those extra touches - speaking on his rags-to-riches life - to lace together all the loose ends. It stood out in the year that it came out as something which fit the mould of the contemporary style, but pushed the boundaries to the point where it couldn't be imitated afterwards. ...

Problems Started - Kozzie 02/07/2012

Stop the Problem Now

Problems Started - Kozzie Background As far as Grime in 2010 goes, Kozzie was an unavoidable artist. By the end of the year, his “Destruction” tune had finally established him as one to look out for. Months later, its remix – “Spartan (Remix)” – just added to the fact that he would be the next in the line of solid South London Grime acts. Named after his signature bar, “The Problem’s Started” came out as his debut mixtape in 2011 and came out ahead of the Lewisham artist’s appearance on Lord of the Mics 3. Good Points Kozzie comes in with a full-throttle approach to MCing. After a period of all the top Grime artists making a move over to Pop or trying Rap out, to see if they can breakthrough, he shows that the young generation are willing to stick to what they grew up on. “Back to Take What’s Mine” is probably Kozz at his best as he joins Merky ACE on a classic bar-out session. With beats like the one on “I Want to Party” and “Grime and Grind”, he shows that he knows what the young audience want to hear and is willing to supply it, although it doesn’t continue through to his rhymes. Bad Points The opening track is an absolute mess. Considering the producer takes it to the Eski style (which few people are able to resist) he still manages to turn it into a state, by trying to harmonise on the hook, but it’s the downfall of the tune. It makes you want to stop listening to the verses. As faras first impressions go, it makes you want to disregard the whole thing. He doesn’t do much better ...

rEVOLVEr (Parental Advisory) [PA] - T-Pain 02/07/2012

Devolution 101

rEVOLVEr (Parental Advisory) [PA] - T-Pain Background The industry didn’t treat T-Pain too well after his third album. Around the time that he put out “Thr33 Ringz”, they had all changed their mind on auto-tuning (which was the core element of his music). With the likes of Kanye West and Lil Wayne championing the sound by this point – subsequently making nearly everyone in the Rap world to follow suit – it got to the point where people decided that they wanted proper singing back. Jay-Z dropping “D.O.A. (Death of Autotune)” was the final nail in the coffin and would prevent the Florida singer/rapper to get his feet off the ground with any new music. A series of failed singles led him into his fourth album (by which time, people had forgot all about the auto-tune epidemic) but he would rebound in a slightly adapted style, when he returned with “5 O’Clock”. With a stable leading tune, 2011 saw the release of his fourth album offering, “rEVOLVEr”. Good Points Starting from the singles and the tunes which were announced before the album dropped, you couldn’t fault the artist. As a singer, rapper and producer, he’s very difficult to beat. He proves that as he improves on “5 O’Clock” (with Lil Allen and Wiz Khalifa) with infectious tunes like “Bang Bang Pow Pow” (which features Lil Wayne) and “Best Love Song” (with Chris Brown giving a little help on it). For that reason long-term fans of his will be satisfied. He continues in pretty decent form with more tunes like “Bottlez” and “Mix’d Girl”, both of which keep the ...

Bad Boy - Skepta (Single) 02/07/2012

Or Just Bad, Maybe

Bad Boy - Skepta (Single) Background Year: 2010 Featured on: “Doin’ It Again” Chart Position: #26 Skepta is one of those MCs who feels the need to be all things to all people. He has to honour his foundation following, who were with him from the beginning and saw him through his days as a producer. For them, he’ll often keep things straight Grime. In 2009, he turned to Rap, at a time when the British scene was buzzing with new talent, he showed that he could hang with lower tempos and more direct bars. However, there’s always the Pop crowd too. As an act who was yet to fully make his mark there, “Bad Boy” came as another attempt to crack through and show that he could be an all-rounder. Impression "Bad Boy", like a lot of the music Skepta makes, is difficult to comment on, because it's hard to tell whether he's all the way serious with it. It's such a deep contrast from the other music he makes (where you simply couldn't imagine him speaking on such subjects) but he finds a way to make it work. Going against the grain - with his bellowing vocal tone - his antics as a playboy are channelled into this polarising track. He speaks on how he wouldn't be considered to be the best partner, but attempts to justify it by explaining his personality and what it's like to be in a position he is. As a track, it really doesn't have much appeal beyond 2010, when it dropped, but the fans who found out about him through these Pop attempts might see it a little differently. ...

Bottoms Up (feat. Nicki Minaj) - Trey Songz (Single) 02/07/2012

Get Me Whatever's in that Cup

Bottoms Up (feat. Nicki Minaj) - Trey Songz (Single) Background Year: 2011 Featured on: “Passion, Pain & Pleasure” Chart Position: #71 Trey Songz was on the biggest buzz of his career in 2010, when all of his hard work finally fell into place. The R&B singer’s first album didn’t really go to plan, despite the big-name co-sign. However, it all changed through 2009 and 2010, when a new management deal soon saw him climb up the charts in the US and establish himself as one of the country’s best R&B acts. Part of that ascent has to include doing songs with other stars of the moment. At the time, Nicki Minaj was the person to go to, which made perfect sense for the crooning sensation. Impression A collaboration which fans of both artists had long waited for, "Bottoms Up" finally connects Trey Songz and Nicki Minaj for a party-starter. Trey might have been used to doing it by this point, but Ms. Minaj was a relative newcomer to making beasts like this at the time. Regardless, they come together for a top-notch performance and one of the female MC's best features verses of her career. The only one which betters it is when she lends a helping hand to Kanye West's "Monster". What's best about "Bottoms Up" is the fact that those who like it won't be able to put it down. It's one of those tunes which just never gets old, no matter how much attention you give it. ...

Find Your Love - Drake (Single) 02/07/2012

Found It Yet?

Find Your Love - Drake (Single) Background Year: 2010 Featured on: "Thank Me Later" Chart Position: #24 Drake's story is an important one in the Hip Hop world. It was a climb through the industry which really couldn't have been predicted. A person who was an actor on a teen drama had ditched that life to dabble with MCing, soon found himself at the fore-front of one of the country's biggest Rap labels (Cash Money) and was on the way towards stardom. Drizzy put out an EP before finally making his mark on Hip Hop history with his debut album, "Thank Me Later". After "Best I Ever Had" did the damage in breaking him onto radio and "Over' announced his arrival on the main stage, "Find Your Love" came out to explain why he's been able to clamber up the ladder so quickly. Impression This is a song which hs heavily influenced by Kanye West's "808s & Heartbreak" album. As Drake's "So Far Gone" mixtape showed that the Toronto artist's style was heavily indebted to Ye's dabble with Electronica and Pop, the Chicago rap beast was one of the first to accknowledge the accomplishments Drizzy had achieved and honored him by producing this amazing quasi-R&B tune. With it being so off-the-wall and different to what R&B was doing at the time, it's easiest to say that Drake just bends every rule to take this mid-tempo jam go to plan. The melodies are infectious, as he croons towards a female love interest and shows that he's not just got a knack for rapping.
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