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Reviews

J. Cole – Born Sinner album review

For most rappers, it would be audacious to sample Biggie, compare themselves to Jay-Z, or to dedicate a track to Nas and yet on his sophomore album J. Cole does all three to great success. Born Sinner, out June 18th on Dreamville Records, is an opus filled completely with familiar J.Cole themes of inner conflict coupled with religious imagery and it is also head and shoulders above any hip hop release so far this year. Unlike his first album, Born Sinner carries a thematic darkness throughout and it results in some of the rapper’s best lines so far. On the opening track “Villuminati”, a hectic beat propelled by clattering drums, baleful strings and a Notorious B.I.G. sample, we hear Cole address homophobia, Trinidad James’ “All Gold Everything”, and even drop a “Boy Meets World” reference. In the first verse alone.

The whole album carries a darker tone than any of his previous releases from the cover art to the numerous gospel samples and church themed skits, going so far as to ask “Where’s Jermaine?”, a questioning skit about Cole’s alienation from his upbringing in Fayetteville, North Carolina. This is not to say that the album is inaccessible or anything short of an artistic triumph. Each song on the album would be a strong track on almost anyone else’s sophomore album so the stand outs on Born Sinner are especially potent with “Crooked Smile”, guest featuring TLC, being a pop ready hymn to imperfection and “Chaining Day” acting as an indictment of the materialism in the rap game today. Both of these however are secondary to what is indisputably the heaviest song on the album “Let Nas Down”. Biting the hook from Yeezy’s “Big Brother”, Cole vents about his freshman album and the experience of trying to make a radio friendly single. As he raps the intro, a play on “Nas Is Like” from Nas’ album “I Am…”, Cole lays out the story of his single “Work Out” and realizing after a phone call that he had let down one of his idols by selling out on his art just for a hit.

The only thing that remains to be seen is whether the album sees as much commercial success as it deserves. J. Cole has made one of the best hip hop albums in recent memories and despite guest appearances from names like TLC, James Fauntleroy and Kendrick Lamar, it is still very much a show about J. Cole. As much as he recalls his past in songs like “Land of the Snakes” or “Rich Niggaz”, it is clear that J. Cole has grown leaps and bounds as an artist since The Sideline Story. Be sure to cop Born Sinner; you won’t be disappointed.

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Reviews

Scissor Sisters – Magic Hour album review

When Scissor Sisters announced their fourth studio album Magic Hour, fans rejoiced. When it was announced that they would be collaborating with the likes of Pharrell Williams, Calvin Harris, Azealia Banks and Diplo the anticipation grew to ultimate proportions. Finally the album dropped and the people are unfortunately left feeling unappeased.

The album opens up on a familiar note with “Baby Come Home” their signature disco sound coupled with a steady beat that can only be described as groovy. “Inevitable” starts off with Pharrell William’s melodic beat, complete with a hypnotizing keyboards and a hint of percussion, is a great pair with the Beegees-esque vocals of Scissor Sisters. The biggest surprise of the album was the fact that “Only the Horses”, was one of the most forgettable tracks considering that it was a Calvin Harris production. This collaboration had the opportunity to be epic, but it ended up just falling through the cracks.

Things start to pick up pace again during “Let’s Have a Kiki”, an underground vogueing anthem where someone tells a story about the misfortunes that they have had on their way to a party. The track “Shady Love” features new comer raptress, Azealia Banks. This track sounds all over the place, similar to Azealia’s breakout track “212”. Unlike “212”, the rapping, singing, and noise combination really didn’t mend together as effortlessly as the latter track did.

This album seems to be missing the intensity that Scissor Sisters are so known for. Rather than making you want to cover yourself in glitter and bust a move on the dance floor, most of the tracks just make you want to sway around while holding up a lighter. The emphasis on ballads in Magic Hour isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it might be disappointing to some fans who were expecting some colorful dance tracks while still maintaining their vintage feel.

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Lil Wayne Reviews

Lil’ Wayne – Tha Carter IV review

With the flick of a lighter and Wayne’s signature pot-head giggle, Tha Carter IV kicks off like the distinctive whistle of an atomic bomb in a high speed plunge toward earth. In less than fifteen seconds, the self-proclaimed “King of Hip-Hop” will have you cowering beneath your kitchen table with your head between your knees in tumultuous anticipation of the lyrical explosion that is undoubtedly on it’s way to fuck up your world…

Unfortunately, the record begins not so much with a bang, but with a whimper.

Tha Carter IV’s hackneyed inaugural track “Intro” is a rigid, mid-tempo washout from the moment Weezy starts into his indolently written verse, until he finally puts the track out of it’s misery. Had he simply scrapped Intro all together and started off with the album’s second track Blunt Blowin’ Tha Carter IV would have had the volatile, momentous launch that is the God-given right of any release from the Young Money war chest. After all, Intro, Blunt Blowin’, and ten more of the record’s other eighteen songs start off with the exact same ‘lighter click, inhale’ combo anyway.

Despite the negative picture I’ve painted thus far, Lil’ Wayne quickly redeems himself, with an album whose track list is not only lyrically substantial but fearsomely catchy and addictive. Creative and original cuts like the chilling, pseudo-political President Carter and evocatively emotional Mirrors add humanity, depth, and dimension. Songs like How to Hate bring humor and edge, while its sister track How to Love provides us with a rare and momentary glimpse of the more sensitive side of the hip-hop powerhouse. If nothing else, Tha Carter IV is unquestionably, an album of layers and refreshing complexity.

So, once again I find myself on the opposite end of the spectrum from my music reviewing peers, who have unexplainably been foaming at the mouth, spitting licentious vitriol all over Tha Carter IV. In this writers humble opinion, Tha Carter IV, as a whole, is a much needed return to form for Weezy, especially after the half-witted rap-rock monstrosity that preceded it, Rebirth. If you can work your way passed its bumbling, snooze-worthy beginnings, and a few irritatingly repetitive and ridiculous production decisions.
Tha Carter IV is a great album.

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Press Releases

Themselves return from six year hiatus with new mixtape, album, festival stops and more

Themselves return from six year hiatus with new mixtape, album, festival stops and more

FREE mixtape dropping soon feat. Slug, Aesop Rock, Busdriver, WHY?, Buck 65, D Styles, and more – appearing at Coachella, SXSW and Noise Pop

Themselves, the Bay area duo of Doseone and Jel (both also key members of the group Subtle), have returned from a six year hiatus with a flurry of activities and releases planned for 2009. It’s no mistake that this resurrection comes hot on the heels of the Anticon label’s tenth anniversary – Themselves have long been one of the label’s flagship groups.

First up for Themselves is a trio of festival appearances, starting with Noise Pop in San Francisco next week, then SXSW in March, and Coachella in April. In early March, theFREEhoudini mixtape will drop in various places around the internets, featuring a dizzying array of guests, including Slug, Aesop Rock, Busdriver, WHY?, Buck 65, Passage, DJ Baku, Alias, Pedestrian, Sole, Serengeti, D Styles and The Lionesque. As Doseone put it, “TheFREEhoudini is an inspired Themselves rendition of the classic mixtape medium, housing a medley of original music, it features every rapper we have ever shared a cause with in the past decade. It is also a gift, for these curious times in the consumption of music.”

In August 2009 Themselves will drop its third official full-length album, CrownsDown which Dose refers to as such – “CrownsDown is our statue – to rap as it reered us – and the arch and arrow, of what it is to be us, in a decade of music made and the temperature of these two thousands.” It’s also worth pointing out that theFREEhoudini mixtape and CrownsDown will be the 19th and 20th releases of Doseone’s career, respectively.

THEMSELVES

02/28 San Francisco, CA The Apple Store (Terrorbird / XLR8R Noise Pop Day Party)
03/18 – 03/21 Austin, TX SXSW
04/19 Indio, CA Coachella

Themselves
Themselves
theFREEhoudini
(Anticon)
Dropping March, 2009

Featuring:

Aesop Rock
WHY?
Busdriver
DJ Baku
Buck 65
Alias
D Styles
Sole
Serengeti
Pedestrian
Slug
Passage
The Lionesque