Kendrick Lamar – DAMN. (Review)

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Image from twitter.com/kendricklamar

I got, I got, I got, I got stumped during the first listen itself and I was traveling in a crowded Delhi metro. The stories Kendrick tells on this one captivates you, captures your imagination to the extent that the crowd of a metro doesn’t really exist for you. Take a note, this isn’t a “Butterfly” or a “GKMC”, this is Kendrick Lamar Duckworth’s own piece of work about himself and his perception. Perception is a very important concept of the album. A lot of it is open to perception for the listener. Kendrick doesn’t really force all the issues on you but gives a personal opinion on them.

Another concept or should I have said feature of this album is the inconsistency. Not only we see it in the tracklist, we see it in the placing of beats, his choice of flows and topics throughout the album. The first take away after the first listen I had (like many would have had) was how he completes the circle with the end of the song “DUCKWORTH” and his first lines on “BLOOD”. Definitely a goosebump inducing moment. The album shines in many such subtleties, nooks and corners that keep one hooked till a really good number of listens.

There are points that reminisce me of his previous work like his “need for water” on “LUST” takes me back to “Sing about me, Dying of thirst” from “GKMC” even though his thirst atleast on the face value is for something very different. Other than such simple points its a very different album with a very different sound. The beats here are served to us by a very interesting range of producers that give the album it’s Sonic appeal and structure. We have Kendrick’s frequent producer Sounwave on a number of tracks, Mike Will Made It on “DNA”, “HUMBLE” and “XXX”, DJ dahi, The Alchemist, Bekon among others. The Sonic structure of this one not at all clearly defined and consistent which is very unlike his previous works. But it’s in these inconsistencies that this one revels as a experience. The energy in beats like the ones in “DNA” make for a really lovely experience. The features are less but all leave their Mark on the album. Rihanna for me was the better part of the song on “LOYALTY” which to me is one of the weaker tracks on this one. Bono plays a very interesting part on the ever changing, aggressive and brooding “XXX” on which Kendrick goes into various cadences to express his emotions which range from a threat “Let somebody touch my mama, touch my sister, touch my woman, touch my daddy, touch my niece, touch my nephew, touch my niece” or “I’ll chip a nigga little bitbof nothing” to concerned and reflective “The great American flag, is wrapped and dragged with explosives”.

He is also insecure on this one, accepting his shortcomings. On “FEAR” he takes us through his mind and how he was afraid of various things and also of his perception in the society. This track comes out as a stand out moment in an already outstanding project. This opens us to Kendrick’s world like some of his best tracks have. Storytelling is the strong point of this album. Storytelling is the aspect that makes this album a memorable project.

Yes, this album has some moments which might not be as outstanding or a bit of lull. I am talking about “LUST”, “LOVE” and “LOYALTY”. The 3 Ls this album takes. Well the tracks aren’t bad. I just felt Kendrick could have added more on the topic Menton the tracks. Other thing that takes a little back from the album is his singing on some places for example on “GOD”. At other points this album shocks you, gives you chill out tracks, bangers, stories you never expected to hear and all this by creating a commendable listening experience.

It’s tracks like “DNA” that we will remember this for where he points out everything from his strengths to shortcomings as part of his “DNA” for tracks like “FEAR” and most importantly for “DUCKWORTH”, the closing track that ends up defining the album and makes us familiar with a new chapter of Kendrick’s life. After all it’s his experiences that gave him the fire to come out as probably the greatest rapper of this generation. He has nothing left to prove. Not at all. After the projects he has released till now he has a firm grip on the throne. He even sold 600k first week.

Overall this is a very strong album, an experience to behold. It might end up being the best album of the year and is surely going to be a highlight of the year when we come to the end of this year.

“I was taking a walk the other day”

Bling and Sling 2: Drake, Oddisee, Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, Gorillaz.

Hello Everyone, it has been quite a while now since the last time I talked about any thing over here. Well life happens and there are somethings that one wishes to avoid but those things still do happen. Moving on, over this period we have had a lot of released during this period and as always some of it pulls me towards it everyday since its release the rest I try to avoid or have been indifferent towards it.

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Starting with Drake. Drake o Drake, this guy comes out with album calls it a playlist a fucking 22 track playlist and still has bigger first week numbers than any other artist who released an album (and called it an album too). Well, him calling “More Life” a playlist was one of the reasons that kept me away from the whole thing, I saw the track-list and felt like well that’s a huge number of tracks, is he not confident enough to call it an album? Or is this just another marketing strategy from him? But then finally I stopped being a sceptic and put this on. He starts is well and beats are enjoyable overall. “Passion fruit” is good, “Free Smoke” is good, “Skepta Interlude”, “4422”, “Ice Melts” are among some of the good tracks over here. The biggest thing that I took away or should I say enjoyed the most are the features. This has a nice array of features woven together throughout the album be it Young Thug, Travi$ Scott, Quavo, Sampha, Giggs or Black Coffee none of them sound wasted. But one must say how much this album needed these features to be actually listenable given how long this was because personally I don’t feel Drake does that good of a job over here. He doesn’t really hold the album together. I have heard that this is called as “Better than Views” by many but what I felt that this is Drake just skimming whatever he can from this particular sound. Not the most interesting piece of music to get your head and ears into. I do believe that had this been released as a proper album the ratings would have fallen down. I initially wanted to write a complete review for this but it being a playlist kept me from doing that.

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Next up is Oddisee. Well, actually I heard this album, The Iceberg, before I heard Drake’s and let this be told that both are very different in their approach towards Hip Hop. This was first album I heard from Oddisee and I am very happy that I gave this album a spin. I heard this for the first time when I was travelling and I think it is good to explore the unknowns when you travel and also that I would preferred the window seat instead of the aisle for listening this. I liked it as an introduction to this guy. I love the instrumentals here, the sounds are recorded by a live band for this album and it gives a very rich feel to it.  The features are very limited but to the point. The album is short, concise and to the point as it is just 12 tracks long and has interesting topics. The important take away is how smoothly this guy raps. This is his 11th studio album and for sure I am gonna hear his earlier work and look out for whatever he comes up with in the future.

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Kendrick Lamar!!! Well guess what now this guy who considered as being underground a few years ago now has a Billboard top 5 hit single. The only reason one must step in the game is to be the greatest and Kendrick is hopping no running towards the crown of being the Greatest of All Time (The GOAT). Will he run out of breathe? No one knows. But he made a point with the release of “The Heart Part IV” that he is not gonna hold back. He is going to reach for it. Kendrick is important because he keeps the things interesting, he tries new things, now that he is famous he can give a platform to others like him, he can be a platform himself and most importantly he never fails to astonish us. Just as he says that there are astonishment and accomplishment. The one I started this post with, Drake, has accomplished a lot, probably more than any active rapper has but how many times has he astonished you, probably never and maybe he isn’t even aiming for that he knows the guns in his arsenal and he knows how to use them to full capacity but he ain’t got no tanks or bombs to drop on us. But this guy Kendrick, he does. With “Humble” he did it again. The first single from his album that drops in a couple of days he seems to be going for a different direction than before, a weird kind of pop rap it sounds like but I am sure that this won’t be the signature sound of the whole album. “Humble” is as pop as Kendrick gets and he has everything in the right place over there. So sit down and be ready for April 14th.

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I still play Blonde regularly, when its night, I am on a ride to some place and a cool breeze is swaying past me, this is my go to album. I didn’t expect Frank Ocean to drop much stuff this year but he has already dropped two tracks. First was “Chanel” which is among my favourite singles from this year. “Chanel” is a track that will hold its own when put up against the best tracks on “Blonde”. On this Frank again showcases his ability to connect emotionally to the listener on a level that the song feels tailor-made for one’s soul. He knows how to peel layers of his soul to reach ours as he sings over the slow piano on this track. It’s always good to hear an artist try something new and still sound very comfortable on it and Frank achieves exactly that on this track that grows a lot on further listens. A similar feat is achieved by him on the track “Biking” which features Jay-Z and Tyler, the Creator. The song features a very unorthodox verse from Jay-Z, in-fact everything about this song is unorthodox. The structure is so different from what makes a everyday song that it surprises the listener. It’s very easy to make a mess out of such a song but they use the chaos over here as a ladder and come out with a very enjoyable product that puts one’s mind to comfort. Simple pianos, guitars and percussion are very reminiscent of Blonde and the verses over here are an extension to his emotions on Blonde. I didn’t enjoy the song that much on first listen but now its a good one to vibe too. “When’s the last time I asked for some help that I couldn’t get from nobody else” this is true for everyone who lives.

Gorillaz!!. Yeah this has been an enjoyable period of music. March and April gave me a lot to enjoy to musically. “Andromeda” was the first track I heard. The song is minimalist but also very colourful. The song feels exactly like a galaxy, a galaxy with vibrant textures. The moment it starts it puts it puts you in the centre of a club, where everyone is dancing but there is strange vibe to the club that you feel the need to explore and D.R.A.M with his vocals adds a lot of emotion and feel to the theme of the song. The second track I heard was “Let me out” featuring Pusha T and Mavis Staples. The strange collab feels like a puzzle piece fixed to perfection on this track with hard drums and minor pianos. The vibe is anxious, dramatic and yet puts you in the club yet again. In the meantime, I am also enjoying the Lorde singles a lot, on “Liability” Lorde has come out with a very definitive and creative piece of songwriting that puts me in my excited shoes when it comes to her next album.

There was a lot of music released in the last few weeks but there’s only so much one can write about. So tell me how you felt about these tracks and what are your favourite tracks from the recent past.

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Grammy 2017 – Predictions and Expectations

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The Grammys are here (Again). We all have favorite songs, albums and artists and them getting or not getting awards doesn’t really affect the extent to which we like but it’s feels good to see some of favorite take home prized trophies back home and get the deserved recognition. So today, I am going to list down my predictions and expectations for this year. Well, this year the award will be awarded in a whooping 84 categories so I’ll be predicting only some of the major ones here. Let’s go.

Album of the Year

Already, I have talked about it in detail in the previous post so I’ll be just listing it down.

  • Should win – Lemonade (Beyonce)
  • Would win – Lemonade (Beyonce)

Record of the Year

What we have here is one great song, one huge song, one good but too cheesy song, one average song and one somehow a song (You all figure out which one is which). On a serious note the deserving candidates are Formation and Hello.

  • Hello – Adele
  • Formation – Beyonce (Would and Should Win)
  • 7 Years – Lukas Graham
  • Work – Rihanna feat. Drake
  • Stressed Out – Twenty One Pilots

Song of the Year

This can be an interesting category but I think it will down to the two heavy weights (Adele and Beyonce it is).

  • Hello – Adele (Would and Should Win)
  • Formation – Beyonce
  • I Took a Pill in Ibiza – Mike Posner
  • Love Yourself – Justin Bieber
  • 7 Years – Lukas Graham

Best New Artist

Interesting category this one mostly because an artist (or two) may be bereft-ed  for a very deserved acknowledgement of their talent and astounding potential their work has had this past year and the years before.

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • The Chainsmokers (Would win)
  • Chance the Rapper (Should win)
  • Maren Morris
  • Anderson .Paak

Pop

Best Pop Solo Performance

This year has the possibility of being a very big one for either Beyonce or Adele. They come head to head on this one again alongside some other good nominees.

  • Hello – Adele (Would and Should win)
  • Hold Up – Beyonce
  • Love Yourself – Justin Bieber
  • Piece by Piece (Idol Version) – Kelly Clarkson
  • Dangerous Woman – Ariana Grande

Best Pop Vocal Album

A very underwhelming category full of sort of underwhelming albums. This one seems to be a clear cut victory for the British songstress Adele (until and unless the Academy have a surprise set for the night).

  • 25 – Adele (Would and Should win)
  • Purpose – Justin Bieber
  • Dangerous Woman – Ariana Grande
  • Confident – Demi Lovato
  • This is Acting – Sia

Alternative

Best Alternative Music Album

This is the tightest category, a really tight one and I believe the Academy voters will be having a really torrid time voting the winner purely based on quality of the product. My favorite album among the nominees is Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool but all the artists have an awesome album here. But, David Bowie (RIP) might be the one bagging it home not just because of his death but as a tribute for his contribution to the genre and music in general and it’ll be very deserved.

  • 22, A Million – Bon Iver
  • Blackstar – David Bowie (Would and Should win)
  • The Hope Six Demolition Project – PJ Harvey
  • Post Pop Depression – Iggy Pop
  • A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead

Rock

Best Rock Performance

  • Joe (Live from Austin City Limits) – Alabama Shakes
  • Don’t Hurt Yourself – Beyonce Feat. Jack White
  • Blackstar – David Bowie (Would and Should win)
  • The Sound of Silence – Disturbed
  • Heathens – Twenty One Pilots

R&B

Best R&B Performance

  • Turnin’ Me Up – BJ The Chicago Kid
  • Permission – Ro James
  • I Do – Musiq Soulchild
  • Needed Me – Rihanna (Would win)
  • Cranes in the Sky – Solange (Should win)

Best Urban Contemporary Album

Personally, I would love if Anderson .Paak gets to walk away with this as Beyonce might very well scoop the bigger ones but yeah she deserves this. Gallant had a good album too was very disappointed with Rihanna’s album.

  • Lemonade – Beyonce (Would and Should win)
  • Ology – Gallant
  • We are King – KING
  • Malibu – Anderson .Paak
  • Anti – Rihanna

Rap

Best Rap Performance

Will like to express my opinion on the songs nominated here. I really love No Problem so I’ll be very happy to see it win this. Panda on the other is the biggest rap song among the nominees so it has a chance of its own and it isn’t a bad track just not good enough to me. I can’t see the merit in Pop Style that academy does. All The Way Up is just meh and That Part is a fine track not too great. Academy can give it to Panda but hoping Chance is rewarded

  • No Problem – Chance The Rapper Feat. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz (Should Win)
  • Panda – Desiigner (Would Win)
  • Pop Style – Drake feat. The Throne
  • All the way up – Fat Joe &Remyy Ma feat. French Montana & Infrared
  • That Part – Schoolboy Q feat. Kanye West

Best Rap/Sung Performance

Here, in this category we have some really tight competition and great songs. Beyonce comes up with a great song and Kendrick has a very notable feature on it. “Hotline Bling” is a really good song to chill out to and is the most popular song in this category. “Broccoli” even though it isn’t exactly my type of song is still an interesting one and I really loved “Ultralight Beam”, can’t say the same about “Famous” though.

  • Freedom – Beyonce feat. Kendrick Lamar
  • Hotline Bling – Drake (Would win)
  • Broccoli – D.R.A.M feat Lil Yatchy
  • Ultralight Beam – Kanye West feat. Chance the Rapper, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin & The-Dream (Should Win)
  • Famous – Kanye West feat. Rihanna

Best Rap Album

God, Grammys please don’t give it to Drake, not that Views is a very terrible album it’s just it isn’t that much of a Rap record. I think there’s a chance that they may award it to Drake as it’s also nominated for the Best Album category but please Grammy let it be a more sensible night and give it to Chance the Rapper or Schoolboy Q. I think this category is meant to be Chance’s.

  • Coloring Book – Chance The Rapper (Would and Should win)
  • And The Anonymous Nobody – De La Soul
  • Major Key – DJ Khaled
  • Views – Drake
  • Blank Face LP – Schoolboy Q
  • The Life of Pablo – Knaye West

Well, that’s pretty much it. These are all the categories that I am going to express my views upon and let’s gear up and see what the award envelopes hold for the artists and the fans.

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Big Sean – I Decided Review

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Detroit rapper Big Sean aka Sean Don or whatever you may like to him is back again with his 4th studio album and he calls it “I Decided”. To be fair to Big Sean I think he receives too much backlash (more than he deserves). At least to me he has been improving with each and every album and to sum it up the trend very much continues with this one. Until now all of his albums have had hit or miss tracks for my taste (more miss than hit). I used to like a few tracks here and there on them but this one had me all optimistic largely because of the singles that dropped before its release. So I decided (No pun intended) to give this album a listen the day it dropped.

The album starts off just fine with the “Intro” then it reaches a three track run that I liked here and made me feel even more hopeful for what’s in store. I like the Jeremih featuring tracks “Light” and “Bounce Back” might be one of my favorite Big Sean tracks to date, Metro Boomin does a great job on this one with the production. “No Favors” was fine although the verses by both Eminem and Sean are good on their own they just don’t fit together that well on this particular song and I believe Eminem could have done much better with his verse and contributed more to the song and album substance wise. There are tracks on this album that I would have cropped out and will probably skip on further listens like “Jump out of Window” (probably made Lady Gaga jump during her performance too (just joking) ) but there are other tracks that I really love, like the song “Sacrifices” featuring Migos. Other tracks like “Sunday Morning Jetpack, “Voices in my head” and “Moves” are some notable tracks over here.

The album receives executive production from Kanye West and production wise is a well put together album though at times the production may sound a bit tiring. It has trap elements throughout the album and a very modern sound. It’s true the album gains in production and content but still lacks long term replay-ability and Big Sean still needs to improve his delivery. One of his major problem is his voice which might sound very boring to a lot of listens and takes away the overall a affect a song might have had if it had been delivered by a more potent vocalist. Other problem is the lack of originality and inventiveness that Sean’s project have always had to actually portray him as the biggest superstar that he aims to be.

Overall, I will say this is my favorite Big Sean album to date but still it leaves a lot to be desired from a top tier artist who hails from a top tier music label with Kanye in it. It will be interesting to see where Big Sean goes after this in his career.

I give this album a 6.5/10. If you already heard do tell me what do you feel about it and if not then tell me what keeps you from listening to Big Sean or artists like him.

Run the Jewels : Run the Jewels 3 Review

We were in the last days of 2016. I had already decided and published the list of my favorite albums of the year. That’s when Run the Jewels i.e. duo of Killer Mike and El-P decided to drop the bomb on us on December 24, 2016. I saw the buzz through my twitter, people where asking their friends and family to find time out of their festive routines to give this a listen and listen I did. For anyone who’s been a fan or heard their last project knows that they didn’t have much to prove, nothing except showing the ability to follow RTJ2 with a comparable and possibly better record. If you ask me they deliver on every nook and cranny of the record.

No offense to El-P (I like his rapping too) but now I truly believe that Killer Mike was born to do this. He is an activist both by his actions and by his music. El-P on the other hand gives these verses the platform they need, fills the record with energy that never seems lacking once it begins after the first track “Down”. In the end  the result is banger after banger accompanied by a motive to bring in revolution, all packed in this record which seems unfairly effortless.

Talking about features we have Danny Brown here on a beat that makes me wonder that why doesn’t he ask El-P to produce for him more. Zach de la rocha and Boots return to give the duo a company worth noticing in the album. We also have Trina and Kamasi Washington among others. The production here is so what one may expect from a RTJ album yet so different from their previous endeavors.

The album is a must listen for everyone and I highly recommend it. Give it try and tell me how you feel about it. What you like, what you don’t and if you haven’t tried them yet do tell what makes you not give the duo a listen. The album is on par with their previous album to me. I won’t mention a favourite track because I like each and every track almost equally except the opening track “Down” which might be the only down moment of the album.

The album is a brilliant 9/10 project for me and very well might be among the highlights of this year. Happy listening.