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In Featured, Music, Reviews on
June 8th, 2017

Does Logic’s Album Everybody Make Him A Contender For Hip-Hop Royalty?

When we think of the hip-hop kings of today we tend to list out obvious contenders such as Drake, J. Cole, and Kendrick Lamar. Some may even argue that Big Sean or Chance the Rapper may qualify but personally I’d like to throw Logic into the mix. I’ve followed the rapper since his Young Sinatra: Welcome to Forever mixtape and I recall being impressed with his flow and wordplay. But honestly speaking, I never thought I’d have such an interest in his music as I do now. And with his third commercial effort, Everybody, my interest has peaked to its highest level. However, I wonder is he deserving of a slot in hip-hop kingdom? What if Everybody is a work of majestic brilliance and nobody listens to it?

THE GOLD

The album opens with “Hallelujah” as Toro Y Moi’s vocals glide along a string-piano combo with hints of an electric piano that will lift you into a heavenly aura. Logic fittingly approaches the record with saying, “Open your mind”, as he prepares the audience for a journey of spiritual confrontation, a search for racial identity, and social ignorance. These are themes that can be viewed as redundant in hip-hop but his unique approach keeps the ears alert and focused. “Everybody” follows with Logic building a parallel of his bi-racial struggles to the common man. Whether it is gender, sexual orientation, or race; he boils it down to the idea that as humans, we all bleed, that we all need love and that we all need something. That something is essential to the lives we all desire to live.

“Killing Spree” is the yang-like match to “Everybody”. Logic raps about how we ignore certain distinct needs. We’re so wrapped up in our phones, busy schedules, and our own issues that we forget that we need each other. These distractions or priorities tie our hands and keep us from reaching out and truly empathizing with one another. The song beautifully transitions into my favorite track “Take It Back”, where Logic dives deep into his struggles of being bi-racial as a kid which ultimately taught him to be slow to judge when it comes to people of different backgrounds. He then breaks into a very personal monologue about his absent and black father and a racist white mother who would voice her discouragement towards him. The amazing part is how he connects all of this to the first black man:

“Take it way way back to the first black man/Long ago before the white man could paint the black man with a gun in his hand”.

Then to the first white man:

“Take it way way back to the first white man/At the very moment when they looked around and said ‘f*ck it I’m a steal this land.”

In one statement he’s showing how the black man is portrayed negatively – like his father. And in the other, he’s stating how whites have stolen things from other cultures to maintain their supremacy – case in point, his mother. And even though he is the combination of both, he chooses to clean the slate. This song gets really deep, as it is well written and thought provoking.

“America” holds the album’s most memorable wuotes with, “George Bush don’t care about black people/2017 and Donald Trump is the sequel/So, shit, I say what Kanye won’t/Wake the fuck up and give the people what they want”. Logic follows his hip-hop predecessors by using Black Thought, Chuck D, and a very rare vocal cameo from NO I.D. as they verbally attack the current political climate of America. The beat is filled with urgency as the delivery of the lyrics and distorted vocals orchestrate a protest against the current presidential administration. Then the protests simmers down into what sounds like a J.Cole throw-away that perfectly adjusts for Logic’s infamous flow. He and Juicy J then trade bars mocking rappers with identity issues. I wish the song was a minute longer especially since their chemistry surprisingly worked well.

“Anziety” cradles you into a blissful daydream as Lucy Rose serenades you with her smooth angelic vocals. Then instantly, Logic explodes onto the scene, “I’m a get up in ya mind right now/Make you feel like die right now” just as strong as his anxiety attack back in 2015. The song’s warmth hug then immediate burst of heat brings us right into the night where Logic, unconsciously crashed into the ground and woke up in hospital bed feeling nothing but fear and helplessness. Logic orchestrates his most vivid piece on the album vocally, musically and lyrically. And then there is the album’s closer, which is also the album’s former title, “AfricAryaN”. The song delves into the album’s central theme of racial identity as he expresses himself being defensive on both sides of his cultures. He also vividly takes us into a different scope of his world where he’s witnessed domestic abuse, abandonment, and the need of love and affection by his parents. It rounds out a beautiful group of compositions that Logic himself should feel impressed with.

THE ROYAL NO’S

Even thought I think Logic has put together a slightly better album than Kendrick’s DAMN, it doesn’t mean he’s excluded from criticism. And if you know me, I find flaws in everything. On “Confess”, Logic takes us on a journey with a lost soul questioning God and the purpose of life as the devil lurks in search of him. It sounds like a good concept but the execution isn’t there. Maybe it’s the house music like instrumental or the odd gospel-like adlibs during his verses that doesn’t quite fit. Killer Mike then comes on and speaks from the perspective of the same character in Logic’s verses but the message in his monologue is much more profound. This turns into a developing theme throughout the album.

After the album’s intro, Atom and God (voiced by Big Von and Neil DeGrasse Tyson respectively) have a conversation where Atom appears dead and is in a waiting room with God as he overlooks the characters within Logic’s music. It’s a cool concept but the storyline lacks true meaning which you will hear as you play the album in its entirety. Then there are the next few tracks, “Mos Definitely”, “Black Spiderman”, and believe it or not “1-800-273-8255” that comes off as almost corny to me. Whether it is the chants of ‘black people’ or Damien Lemar Hudson’s, “black Spiderman”, these songs lack solid delivery. While I understand his aim to tackle issues surrounding black empowerment, racial stereotypes, and suicide, I believe he missed the mark.

Black Thought is amazing as usual and Chuck D sounds just as great as he did in ’87. But I will admit Juicy J surprised me with his performance on “Ink Blot”. The one feature that raised a lot of questions is NO I.D. and how his ending plays out.

“Now send the blacks back to Africa/Build a wall for the Mexicans/Send the whites back to Europe/Give the land to the Native American/Take the skyscraper/Tear down the casino/Print your own paper/And bear down on the gringo.”

It lacks clarity on his perspective on a multitude of issues and leaves me wondering what the goal was overall. J.Cole appears at the very end of the album and even though his two-and-a-half minute verse is well-crafted, he isn’t spitting anything refreshing. His verse summarizes the album over a low quality recording and while it is a feature from J. Cole, it wasn’t entirely useful.

THE VERDICT

Logic has the skill set to compete with any and every rapper. His different bodies of work already topple the big fishes like Drake, Big Sean, or arguably J. Cole. But the issue that remains is how difficult it is to identify what makes Logic great. Kendrick is the versatile rapper with everlasting content. Drake is a consistent hit-maker. Cole is the introspective monk and Sean is the punch line dark horse – so where does that leave Logic? When I first listened to this album I instantly thought it was his best work yet. But I went back and listened to his first project Under Pressure. And I soon realized that Logic has the a keen ability to paint pictures that no other artist dares to. Whether his brush treads slowly over the canvas paying close attention to details, or his brush moves swiftly and glosses over the strokes others aim to correct; Logic delivers masterpieces deserving a seat in hip-hop royalty.

In Featured, Music, Reviews on
April 1st, 2016

SōULFULL & Ty Jack Collab For “Boulevard Blues” EP (Review)

Out of nowhere, some things in life strike you with more power than ever imagined they would. You remember when Kanye dropped 808s & Heartbreak in 2008 and the music industry as a whole kind of gasped for air, we all lost our breath for a moment. We were taken back, unsure of what this sound meant for us as listeners and for music going forward. Well something similar happened after I listened to Boulevard Blues. New Jeru Natives artists SōULFULL and Ty Jack fused both of their individual sounds beautifully over this five track EP.

The EP begins with “Blues Brothers (Intro)”, which begins with Ty Jack singing about his uphill experience he endures as he evolves into a great R&B singer. It is real and easily pulls you in as an introduction is supposed to. It pulls your focus instantly into the ad-libs in the back chanting “HOMEMADE” before SōULFULL hits the track. He delivers a gritty verse with some dope punchlines that make you rewind and hit play again.

“Major without a deal, boy you know I’m good on the ave”.

From the first track you can already feel the old-school atmosphere they are trying to create for you. They continue with this kind of sound on the next track, “Truth”, where SōULFULL starts off the track with some conscious storytelling to pull you into a world that may even differ from your own. He captures imagery throughout this track, enough to paint a vivid picture as you close your eyes and just listen. Fragments of the picture he paints start to form in front of your eyes, making for a lasting image. But there is a meaningful transition on this track where Ty Jack shys away from singing and opts to rap his verse instead. He becomes a chameleon here, mentioning rebuilding his hometown and crafting a memorable legacy.

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The sound on “Lifestyles” differs as it pulls in a sample from Jerry Butler’s “Whatever Goes Around”. Slightly tweaked, the lyrics still haul you into the 70’s where I can even say, music was music. This track gets you the closest to the Blues feel and it also possesses a melodious sound that just flows eloquently. SōULFULL drops a few more punchlines before Ty hops on it with his own gems to tie into the rest of the song:

See, watching your back is crucial cuz when you down niggas ain’t around and when you up, niggas swear they knew you.

This line sticks out, maybe because it is a popular theme in this current generation of music and art, where people seem to care more once your on. But besides the lyrics, this is when I also noticed how well the EP was mastered, leaving out distortion or confusion between divergent sounds.

The EP continues with a smooth transition to an uplifting song, “Rock On”. It speaks to the depths of beauty that women possess and sometimes lose sight of. Tucking it away in the midst of the world’s antics, they pull in this constant struggle into their song and make it enjoyable. I couldn’t help but to kind of rejoice in the build up of Ty Jack’s vocals towards the middle of the track. It is powerful, sending chills through you as it fades off.

They finish Boulevard Blues with a commanding message that is inspirational to say the least. “My Way” starts off with great word from the late Steve Jobs where he discusses life choices and the way to seek self-fulfillment. Even with just an excerpt, as a listener you can tell this was a deeper track than the others. They both flip the script and instead of speaking as themselves, they speak the voices of others who have a major influence on their music, their lives and how they chase their dreams. Both artists found a way to speak this into their music and use it as a positive way to vent and share their experiences with the audience.

I can wholeheartedly say this EP took me through a range of emotions. I felt uplifted, excited, inspired and then some. SōULFULL and Ty Jack tackled this EP like a championship game, where they strategized a way to win you over and to feel them on a deeper level musically. Combining the sounds of a soulful singer and a gritty rapper over five tracks isn’t for the weak or unprepared, it’s for them. This is for them and it was well executed. Just check it out.

In Featured, Music, Reviews on
December 10th, 2015

#ThrowbackThursday: MTAG (More Than A Game) by SoULFULL (Review)

Rap as always been this thing, sort of this hip-hop lane that can be definitely compared to a game of a basketball. The adrenaline that pumps through the veins of the artists as they spit over the mic has to be something like the smile that eludes Iverson when he would step on the court for the Sixers.

New Jeru artist SōULFULL draws on this parallel seamlessly through his latest mixtape, More Than A Game. The cover speaks for itself as you have Allen Iverson stepping over Tyronn Lue from the Los Angeles Lakers. His facial expression tells a story and indicates he has came out on top as the winner.

He is stepping up and over everyone else.

The tape starts with “Overall” where you hear a snippet where announce the first round pick for the NBA Draft back in 1996. Soon enough you hear SōULFULL’s vibrant energy over the beat. He uses this as a dope introduction to drop a few punchlines and even shout out thagreymatter towards the end. “HEEMflow” is where he finds his footing, where he smoothly excels into a space of comfort. It’s Drake’s “Back to Back” in comparison to “Charged Up”, he’s coming harder than before.

“sayLESS” is one of my favorites from the entire project. Maybe it is the quirky vocals from Sayless rapping that delivers a new sound for the artist to work with or even her flow that caught my attention. Another artist, Diamond, makes a soulfull appearance on the song as well drawing in a R&B sound.

He continues to honor some of the greats with his next song, “stillFeelMe”, respectively from Jadakiss. The overall theme of the project is evident even in this song as he mentions basketball legends Jordan and Pippen. While still dope, it doesn’t fully grab my attention. Besides a few dope lines and mentioning long-time friend Ron or “WheresDiggity“, it serves more as a bridge between the previous song and what is coming next.

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I appreciate the choice of songs he chose to use, especially with Goapele’s “Closer” on “SKYESrequest”. Instead of opting out of using a chorus altogether, he brings on a fellow New Jeru member Chesne to add a soft touch to the song. With her own unique lyrics, you get the same feel of Closer but with a completely new soothing sound.

“You shaking hands with niggas who keeping blades up their sleeves/
You fuck around with girls you won’t wife, but won’t let leave..”

“IDK” is where you get to see a shift in his energy. It’s like you get to see him step closer to the mic as he delivers a few nice bars. His verse seemed to flow directly into Blake Davis’ verse before the song ends. Overall the song is cool but the arrangement of verses could have been better, allowing SōULFULL to finish the track instead.

I begin to zone out to the way he attacks the classics but before I zone out too far, I hear the sexy sounding, “sayYES”. It is unequivocally erotic in its subtle lyrics and through the vocal tones of featured artist Kärma. They master the sensual collaboration between a rapper and R&B artist, which I can admit is an extremely hard task to accomplish.

Now, you move into a part of the project where features start to disappear and you can hone in on his own rapping abilities a little bit more. I feel he’s calling out rap fans, real hip-hop heads as he raps over Big Daddy Kane’s “Ain’t No Half-Steppin” on his “NOhalfSTEPPIN”. Originally released in 1988, you can visualize his versatility, the way his flow is unique but still applicable to most songs. If he wants to body any kind of track, he will do it. Best part of this song is the way he closes it out, giving us a brief acapella where he mentions his brand, HōMEMADE, and the love for his family in his corner.

If you’re paying attention, and I mean really paying attention, you will recognize “skitTWO” within seconds. He first premiered this skit on his first mixtape, HōMEMADE earlier this year. During the original skit you get to hear the audience of friends around him respond to his one minute rap. Instead of leaving it in the past, he finds a way to integrate it into More Than A Game.

He uses the same lyrics as an introduction into the rest of song as he raps over Jay-Z’s “Dead Presidents”. Listening to the song over and over, it feels like he’s hyping himself, reminding himself of the greats that have paved the way and how he is building his own path similarly. He delivered on a track that a lot of rappers touch early in their careers, which is a telltale sign of what’s to come (i.e., Logic, J.Cole).

After being in a groove, he throws a wrench in the mix, something to shift your attention with “WESTCOASTsoul”. Sparking a dope track from Eazy-E’s “Real Muthaphuckkin G’s”, SōULFULL still finds a way to flow over the beat. You can tell he has fun with a sound that is dissimilar from what he’s used to. His flow doesn’t really change but somehow fits beautifully over the track.

“QUIETstorm” is lyrically the best track on the mixtape, hands down. Tracks prior played as a preview to this song, and as small stepping stones to the peak of the tape. Besides basketball references, he makes some classic notes of shows like Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Martin, thing that are pretty much universal.

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He closes out wit “TOUCHtheSKY” featuring actor Lionel Macauley and fellow New Jeru member Ty Jack. Lionel pulls you in over the beat with a dope spoken word-like piece as SoULFULL comes in next with Ty Jack following his verse. It is an uplifting kind of song as he talks about his personal life more in depth and how only the sky is the limit.

Overall, #MTAG was quite the project. It was a shift from HōMEMADE in the sense that he is finding his groove and mastering his ability to touch various types of sounds with all types of artists. While some tracks were better than others when it comes to quality and lyrical content, I walked away from his music understanding him more as an artist and as an individual. He was able to have fun with this body of work without shying away from his natural talent. Dropping two projects in one calendar year usually is not the best idea because it does not provide evolvement for the artist but somehow for him it works. SōULFULL shows that he is quickly becoming one of New Jersey’s great artists and rappers. Don’t count him out, this is just the warm up.

In Featured, Music, Reviews, Throwbacks on
August 30th, 2015

THROWBACK: Wolfe Drops 4-Track EP, “Brahma Kamalam”

Upcoming rapper Wolfe recently dropped new music entitled Brahma Kamalam. The EP, only containing 4 songs was the perfect taste of new sound that his followers and fans have craved for. Overall the EP is mostly mellow starting with “Black” but before the first song is over, you can tell that he is only building momentum for the rest of this body of work. Speaking about something the lack of justice for African Americans, you can feel his passion for worldly things in his voice.

He continues with song “What Chu Want” which is as cool as the next song. His pace has intensified pulling you into the music run he seems to be going on. My favorite is “Brahma Kamalam” with another artist Dizzy. This track is trippy, but does not shy away from his overall sound. Dizzy’s flow and vocals compliment his tracks without distracting the listener.

“Outro” is probably the realest track I’ve heard in a while. Not only do you get a few dope tracks but he finishes solid with a track that sparks an internal conversation and reminds us of the things around us. He uses this track to talk about the issues that we see, but all the issues we don’t speak enough about. It’s the longest track but with voices speaking on social issues throughout, it is worth every second.

Wolfe fulfills the purpose of an EP, a way to provide music but leave your listener with a taste for more. As he continues to evolve, I am eager to see where he takes his creativity next.

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