New Music Seminar 2013 – Tuesday

Tuesday started off pretty much the same way as Monday, at the New Music Seminar, once again live from the New Yorker Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The kick off panel for the day was “Building the $100 Billion Music Business”, which featured several heavyweights in all aspects of the record business, including legal and branding, moderated by Ralph Simon (CEO, Mobilum Global). The discussion not only centered around the figure of $100 billion, but how collectively the industry can hit that number, and when. Currently the record industry is estimated to be a $23 billion a year business and expected to climb to around $30 billion by this time next year. According to the panelists, the obtuse obstacle will be managing the evolution of streaming and subscription music, essentially the concept of access over ownership for the consumer. Although the panel was fairly upbeat, one would have to wonder if behind boardrooms and shareholder meetings, there was a sense of nervousness of being left in the dark like when napster bankrupted the “industry” overnight about 13 years ago, as the streaming and subscription business still contains a bundle of unknown factors. During the panel, Axel Deezer (CEO, Dreezer) and Michael Abbattista (Spotify) led the conversation in the direction of the future, as both companies lead the charge to music access through subscription and streaming, which has taken Europe by storm and is slowing starting to become a major player here in the states.

I did skip the A&R panel, who I believe process the most powerful and influential jobs in the record business, but the panel I looked forward to the most of the entire conference,the Independent Label Movement panel, had a conflicting time slot in another room. Besides, just because A&R executives have every starving artist and manager out there begging for their attention on a daily basis, doesn’t necessarily mean they deserve mine. The Independent label panel was probably the most relevant of the entire conference, as more artists from indie labels are dominating the charts as of late, such as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Vampire Weekend, and Mumford And Sons. An interesting discovery from the independent label executives was their very functional, very tame relationship with the major record labels, as almost all the indies rely on the majors for radio exposure and promotion in a limited form. The indies’ major concern, how to maximize and stay relevant in the streaming and subscription business, which is a legitimate concern given the scenario where a very powerful manager or a larger social media fanbase could essentially make the indie record labels not needed and/ or obsolete. It is important to note, the independent hip hop industry was unrepresented on this panel.

I mistakenly attended the booking agents panel next, which was not only a snooze fest, but also a side of the business that has not changed much over the last few decades beside promotion delivery and reactionary steps to contemporary trends in music consumption. Not to say that their jobs are irrelevant or not needed in the music business, I just do not believe they are the superior talent evaluators they claim to be, but rather a middle man that can be fired at any time, as most do not hold the artists contractually connected to the agencies or promotion companies. The booking agents panel was only bearable because it had an amazingly hilarious lead in from Martin Atkins, who delivered a sermon titled “Welcome to the music business, you’re fucked”, that included props and a light-hearted plea for artists to be self- motivated and determined.

To close out the New Music Seminar was the Reasons To Be Cheerful panel, where “music label leaders plot the course for a better music industry”. Panelists included big shots Craig Kallman, who runs Atlantic Records, and Monte Lipman, who runs Republic Records. The record label executives had an understandable sense of confidence, considering the push towards music streaming and subscription means the master ownership of content has regained its value away from piracy. Although there was no new revelations in this panel, it was highly entertaining to hear their collective war stories, which included Monte Lipman’s account of the signing of Korean sensation, Psy and the development of his international hit, “Gangnam Style”.

The New Music Seminar ended shortly after the last panel, with closing remarks from executive director, Tom Silverman, who also runs Tommy Boy Records. It’s clear that this conference is starting to regain its former position, and I expect that the New Music Seminar will draw on that appeal, and be even bigger next year. Although I disagreed at times with the mostly older panelists, I believe this conference is essential and the panel formatting allows for the best way to consume and interpret information, conversation.

A full schedule with names of the panelists can be found here:



New Music Seminar 2013 – Monday

The New Music Seminar, once the most important music gathering in the 1980’s, makes it’s fourth installment of the newly revamped conference at the New Yorker Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The seminar brings together everybody in the record business; executives, producers, managers, artists, songwriters, media, and the consumers themselves.

The seminar officially kicked off Sunday, June 9th with a cocktail party and the start of the New York Musical Festival, but the real information and start to the seminar came Monday morning, with the State of The Industry keynote. The opening keynote featured a panel of executives including Rio Caraeff, the CEO of VEVO. The keynote, like most of the day at the New Music Seminar, had a continuing theme; a bunch males over the age of 40 giving their opinion on where they think the music industry is and headed toward.

Most of the opening keynote talked about maximizing each consumer’s revenue potential value in a world where the consumer wants to pay less or nothing at all. John Sykes (Clear Channel) and Frank Cooper (Pepsi) rounded out the opening panel, as the three men talked about the consumer at length, maximizing consumer experience, maximizing consumer value, blah blah blah. As a 24 year old, it seemed as if these three executives were just out of touch and a few steps behind their driving consumer age group of 14-30 years old, in an attempt to regain the industry’s old profit margins with an evolved consumer landscape.

It seemed fairly obvious where these executives assumed we were heading, internet radio and music subscription. However they failed to realize that the consumer is already there and has been there since Spotify launched about two years ago in the United States, or perhaps even earlier with YouTube and Pandora.

I next attended one of the saddest events of the day, the music subscription panel, where again, more middle aged men, as hip as they can dress, talked about music subscription and the future of retail music. Included in the panel were executives from Warner Brothers, Sony, Rhapsody, WIMP, Slacker, and Spotify. Spotify re-established in my eyes its status of the new heavyweight in music. Spotify’s representative (Sachin Doschi) emphasized that the music industry needs to embrace the idea of free music, using the free model as a springboard for a collection of services, restricting strategic features such as mobile access in order to entice the consumer to pay a small amount and supplement the remaining costs in advertisements, for example.

An interesting moment on the this panel, came when an audience member asked about Apple Radio, which was being announced in California while the New Music Seminar was in full swing. Almost immediately, the entire stage tensed up, it was like watching an over protective boyfriend get jealous when an attractive male walks past their girlfriend, holding on to dear life, hoping their girl doesn’t wise up and trade in for a better partner. Only this time around, the beautiful male happens to be the most profitable company on the planet, and their girlfriend represented their respected companies hoping to have a fraction of the staying power of Apple and their large fanbase. None of the panelists including executives from Sony and Warner Brothers wanted any part of the question. It’s also worth noting the two leaders in subscription music and streaming were not present in this panel, YouTube and Pandora.

Speaking of YouTube, they were up next with their “Changing the Music Game” Panel, complete with a 4 minute opening video. After listening to their two representatives Vivien Lewit and Brian Heenigan, its pretty clear that other than Apple, YouTube is biggest player in music. Although YouTube’s revenues and profit margin do not come close to Apple’s or their music retail powerhouse, the iTunes music store, YouTube dominates social relevance and cultural impact. As demonstrated in their opening video, YouTube has not only created internet celebrities from viral videos, they have also been responsible some of music’s biggest acts and singles including; the launch of Justin Bieber’s career, the rise of the “Harlem Shake”, and the global dominance of Psy’s “Gangnam Style”, to name a few. A lot of record companies fail to realize that YouTube has by far the largest userbase in the United States and possibly the world, with 1 billion users a month by some estimates. A service that is almost entirely free to it’s large userbase, which is a vital part of the company’s long history of success. YouTube has put the user first, and forced advertisers to adjust their campaigns and essentially pay the video – sharing site to keep 95% of their videos free, in exchange for access to the large audience.

To close out the day, “The Great Debate – Singles vs. Albums”, which included an all star panel of; legendary rock critic Robert Christgau, Yeasayer drummer Anand Wilder, revolutionary record executive Jay Frank, and producer Niles Hollowell-Dahr. The latter two taking the sides of singles. Once again, this debate echoed what had been brewing all day, the old model versus what’s actually taking place. The consumer has decided rather decisively that they prefer smaller albums (if any) and more singles, as evidenced by musicians such as Rhianna, Flo Rida, and Katy Perry, coupled with the overall trend of singles outselling records 11:1. Wilder and Christgau made the usual argument of art this and art that, but at times they were hilariously mocked by the moderator, Billboard’s Bill Werde, as well as the opposing side (to the audience’s pleasure) as being out of touch and holding onto the album as sacred.

Niles Hollowell-Dahr, the breakout star of the day, emerged as the voice of the audience and most of his oral offerings were met with cheers from the crowd, as well as another sip from his Tequila he was blatantly drinking throughout the panel. Niles’ main point; change with the times in order to reach a mass audience, which he argued was the true goal of art and the reason they were all there. Agreed.

A full schedule with names of the panelists can be found here:


French Montana – Excuse My French album review

Excuse My French doesn’t sound like your typical debut album for a rapper out of New York. French Montana, a Bronx transplant by way of Morocco, debuts an album packed with a lot of energy delivered via loud rapping and club beats. Almost immediately from the first couple of tracks, it sounds like an unpolished Miami rap album, in the vein of Rick Ross and Scott Storch. This should not come as much of a surprise to any listener or music fan, as French Montana is heavily connected to Rick Ross, with the album being co-produced by Ross’ Maybach Music, as well as, P Diddy’s revived Bad Boy Records.

Montana has been in the rap game for quite some time, and his “cocaine mixtapes” and DVD’s have been circulated on the streets of New York City for the same amount of time. However, French’s introduction to a mass audience came with his first major single, “Pop That”, which featured heavyweights; Drake, Rick Ross, and Lil Wayne. The glamorous poolside video for the track officially announced French as a mainstream artist, and the buzz for his debut album took off from there.

Although this is French’s debut studio album, the collections of songs still resembles a mixtape. One of the reasons, of the 17 songs on the album, only four of them have French as a solo artist. Excuse My French is loaded and often cramped with featured artists. This is a typical move for new artists, either from the record company who fears the artist cannot carry a solo album by their self, or from the artist who feels more comfortable with big names accompanying them on their tracklist.

In Excuse My French, it is hard for the listener to get a real feel for French Montana, the solo artist. When an album has so many featured artists, the songs have themes, as evident by the beat and the hook, but the verses tend to be all over the place and lack a consistent tone.

Not to say, Excuse My French is a bad album, it’s just very genre specific, the newly titled “swag rap”. This album is great for pool parties, see “Marble Floors” and “Pop That”, and can be great for clubs and aggressive get-togethers in general. However I doubt many hip hop fans will want to nod to this while walking down the street to catch the subway in the morning.


Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap mixtape review

Have you ever wanted to jump on a rapper’s bandwagon before any of your friends. Maybe you were mad that you slept on Kendrick Lamar until the first time you heard “Swimming Pools”, or perhaps dismissed Drake as soft when “Best I’ve Ever Had” started to dominate radio airplay throughout the country about 5 years ago. Rest assured, Chance The Rapper gives hip hop fans another chance, no pun intended, to not sleep on what has the potential to be, the next good, maybe great rapper. Chance The Rapper, who first created a buzz among diehard hip hop fans with his first mixtape, 10 DAY, has released his second mixtape, Acid Rap. Standing at a young 20 years old today, Chance released 10 DAY in high school two years ago, while serving a 10- day suspension for ditching classes, ironically.

Acid Rap starts off with an amazing intro that showcases Chance’s superior rhyming and sufficiently provides a preview to the wide range of styles the mixtape features. Next up, my personal favorite track, “Pusha Man/ Paranoia”. The latter of which, “Paranoia”, a track that teams Chance with Nosaj the Thing, has already been placed on the shortlist for one of the songs of the summer by many critics, including Complex magazine. “Paranoia” shows a wide range of motion for Chance, who sings the chorus and raps 3 verses, all delivered with different tones and levels of excitement. Other notable tracks include, “Cocoa Butter Kisses”, “Juice” ,”NaNa”, and “Favorite Song”, which features a noteworthy verse from rapper/ actor, Childish Gambino. The album is predictably littered with drug references, and tales a youth spent having fun on the Southside of Chicago. Chance has an odd grasp of his poise, as Acid Rap sounds more like a fourth studio album from a seasoned rapper, rather than a second mixtape from a rapper fresh out of his teen years and without a record deal. Another initial thought, Chance’s voice and delivery has a strong resemblance to one, Lil Wayne, maybe Lil Wayne if he got a college degree, but you will hear the noticeable similarity. Chance, however, has a unique characteristic that sets him apart, his spoken- word approach, to which he admits is an intentional effort, and one he has studied and practiced in the past. This approach, much like a young Kanye West, makes his flows more understandable and lyrically tangible.

As previously mentioned, Chance does not have a studio album to his credit, and Acid Rap’s release is almost sure to spark a bundle of record companies tripping over themselves to sign Chance, much like Drake and Kendrick Lamar before him with their critically- acclaimed mixtape releases. Both of those rappers had major rap icons to champion them and really segway them into the public eye and mainstream visibility. Kendrick had Dre, and Drake had Lil Wayne, of course. Lets see where this mixtape takes a rising star.


The Uncluded – Hokey Fright album review

One of the most prominent, and well- known underground rappers of the last 10 years, Aesop Rock, has teamed up with Grammy Award- winning folk singer, Kimya Dawson, to form the group, The Uncluded. The term, uncluded, was first coined by San Francisco artist, Michael Bernard Loggins, meaning “keeping things you don’t appreciate out of your life.” Aesop initially reached out to Dawson via email as a fan of her music. The duo would later collaborate on an art- inspired blog, 900bats. From there, their working relationship birthed featured songs on each other’s solo albums, and ultimately transformed into The Uncluded, with their debut album, Hokey Fright, released in May of 2013 under the Rhymesayers’ Label.

Like most debut albums, Hokey Fright struggles at times to claim an identity. However, their identity can be an extremely ambiguous topic considering their completely different backgrounds. Aesop, known for his unique voice and intellectual wordplay, has been delivering excellent rap productions for a select group of alternative underground rap fans, closely associated with the likes of Atmosphere and Living Legends. Meanwhile Kimya Dawson, has released a critically acclaimed children’s folk album, ALPHABUTT, but got her big break when her music was featured in the breakout movie, Juno. The duo’s different backgrounds is, of course, the major catalyst for the album, as evident on the second track, “Delicate Cycle”, which is unquestionably Hokey Fright’s best track. “Delicate Cycle” starts off with Aesop coming in strong with an urbane rhyme, over a soothing guitar strum, presumably by Kimya, who delivers a folk-inspired rap towards the latter half of the song. Although a significant portion of the album follows this gaffe- proof formula, it is when the duo deviates from that recipe where Hokey Fright runs into a few problems. One must remind themselves when listening to Hokey Fright, there just are not many, if any, folk/ rap groups out there, making this album by definition, experimental. The Uncluded used this album as a springboard for creative material, however, with that musical leap, comes head-scratching tracks such as, “Superheroes” , “WYHUOM”, and their attempt at more traditional hip hop track, “Tits Up”.

The Uncluded will be spending all of their summer touring the United States, and hip hop fans should feel privileged, as listeners, to hear this combination of sound at a live venue. Another resulting component will be the duo continuing to contract chemistry and grow as a group, as one would hope further collaborations are in store. Hokey Fright is a great debut showing for The Uncluded, and will be interesting to see if other alternative rappers will seek to mimic this combination on a larger scale, such as an album in the vein of Hokey Fright. One thing’s for sure, Rhymesavers, already considered one of the most critically acclaimed underground rap labels, has another artful showpiece to add to its stellar catalogue.


RA The Rugged Man – Legends Never Die album review

RA The Rugged Man emerges out of a decade- long hiatus in peak lyrical form, with his release, Legends Never Die. Once one of the most promising young lyricists in the game, RA has worked reclusively and periodically since he was signed by Jive Records at the age of 18, some 20 years ago. RA has long been known for his clear, smooth flow, and attracted mass critical acclaim for his 2 minute verse on Jedi Mind Trick’s 2006 song, “Uncommon Valor: A Vietnam Story”. RA has mostly stayed in the background of the rap game, rumored to be a ghost rider for several rappers. RA has even managed to write articles for Mass Appeal Magazine, as well as adding a couple of screenplays to his credit.

Legends Never Die opens with a very smooth intro song, “Still Diggin Wit Buck (Legends Intro)”, before diving into the album’s lone single, “The People’s Champ”, to which RA is determine to take an oddly vacant crown of an underground king. RA understands there is a good portion of hip hop fans that do not know his pedigree or his limited discography, but he is not relying on those logistics. RA is banking solely on his lyrical flow, and unlike 98% of rappers out there, he actually has the bars to back it. He combines the best parts of a Nas verse, with the aggressive approach of an Immortal Technique, but delivers with a gut of an MC Guru. Many hip hop heads would be outraged that any rapper could draw that many comparisons in one breath, but that’s what adds to RA’s puzzling career. The confusion comes with his limited record output, as Legends is just his second official release, despite a 20- year career and major praise from his peers, that once included the Notorious BIG. All of these thoughts come to a listener’s ears on, “Definition of a Rap Flow”, where RA delivers one of smoothest collection of verses this side of Illmatic. Another track, “Shoot Me in the Head”, takes some of RA’s frustrations out with the modern world, that range from politics to the current rap game, all the way back to his own career.

Although Legends Never Die is one the best rap albums of this young year, it does not come without any flaws. Luckily for RA, not many of the flaws are rhyme- related, but sometimes glaring production choices and inharmonious featured artists, such as Tech Nine and Masta Ace, who just don’t have the flow to be paired with RA. This is a landmark album for RA, and should provide ample room for some staying power.


Ghostface Killah – Twelve Reasons To Die album review

Arguably Wu Tang Clan’s best lyricist, Ghostface Killah, has released another high concept album, Twelve Reasons To Die, which serves also as the soundtrack for an Italian action movie by the same name. Twelve Reasons tells the story of Ghostface’s alter ego, Tony Starks, an Italian mobster, who is a henchman for the DeLuca crime family, who falls in love with the kingpin’s daughter. The story covers a lot in just 12 tracks, from Starks rise in the DeLuca family to a racy love affair with the Kingpin’s daughter, ending with Starks death and the melting of his ashes into vinyl. Twelve Reasons is produced by Adrian Younge and executive produced by RZA. Younge, who arranged and produced the soundtrack for Black Dynamite, blends that same combination of blaxploitation and therapeutic rhythm, but Ghostface’s established lyrical story-telling is what cements Twelve Reasons To Die.

Twelve Reasons registers in at around 40 minutes long, as the majority of the songs range from 2 to 3 minutes in length. RZA, also narrates the album, which gives Twelve Reasons its blaxploitation feel and sound. Although Ghostface’s last two albums, Apollo Kids and Ghostdini, have been well-received by critics, Twelve Reasons distinguished itself as a great album and one of Ghostface’s best. The album supplements a larger conversation, Ghostface’s Bill Murray- like late career resurgence as an indie favorite, which is ironic being that Ghostface has been signed to various large record companies including, Universal and Def Jam. Its hard to imagine that Ghostface Killah will ever have a number one hit as a solo artist, but much like Bill Murray, he has a very loyal art-driven fanbase. Twelve Reasons, which comes with a comic book if you purchase the deluxe edition, is a high concept album that can’t be describe any other way than indie. Much like any indie album out of New York, Twelve Reasons does not have a breakout hit. In fact, the album is best when listened to from front to back in its entirety, complementing the short durations of each song. Special praise to Adrian Younge, who delivers a throwback to Wu Tang’s iconic heavy beats but effortlessly remains original in each track’s individual sound. If one were to listen to the Twelve Reasons To Die instrumentals albums, the sound could easily be mistaken for 36 chambers or Wu Tang Forever.

Some reviews of Twelve Reasons To Die have called the album experimental, but I do not believe that to be the case. I would argue Twelve Reasons is a classic Ghostface album, delivered at the top of his game. Twelve Reasons To Die is a must buy for any legitimate hip hop head. A valid criticism of Twelve Reasons is its lack of commercial or universal appeal, but Ghostface has gotten to a point in his career where his albums represent projects and concepts, rather than influential radio anthems or ghetto sing-a-longs, if you will.


Kid Cudi – Indicud album review

Kid Cudi does not play by your’s, mine, or any record lable’s rules, and he wants you to know it. Cudi’s new album, INDICUD, is both an example and further demonstration of his rebellious practices. After all, Indidud comes on the heels of his departure from G.O.O.D. music and mentor, Kanye West, as well as, a critically panned rock album, WZRD. If you follow Cudi on Twitter (@ducidni), you know bad publicity or critical reaction does not phase him one bit and his work on Indicud is meant as a statement to this fact. He has been very blunt about his career and his personal issues, including his non apologetic drug use (that now includes acid). Cudi even welcomed Indicud being leaked early, saying he was “just glad people got a chance to hear it.” Cudi even retweeted dozens of fans who obviously illegally downloaded the album, and thanked them for the feedback, positive and negative.

Each one of Cudi’s albums have been genuinely unique from its predecessors, none of his albums have had the same emotions. Man on the Moon sounded like a prestigious underground rap album, while Man on the Moon 2 was purposely dark and depressing. WRZD was an experimental rock album, that ironically turned out awkwardly pop-y. Indicud is an alternative rap album that features 3 instrumental songs, including the intro and outro to the album, but Indicud even includes a song “Red Eye” where Cudi only sings back-up on the chorus. Oddly enough, many critics and fans have called “Red Eye” featuring R&B singer, Haim, the best song on the album. Cudi also adds to the esteemed list of artists he has collaborated in the past. Artists featured on Indicud include; Too Short, RZA, A$AP Rocky, and wait for it, MIchael Bolton.

Like all of his album since Kid Cudi’s first studio album, Man on the Moon: The End of Day, Indicud is not very consistent. In other words, when Indicud is good, “Red Eye”, “Immortal”, “New York City Rage Fest”, it’s really good but when it misses, “King Wizard”, ‘Lord of the Sad and Lonely”, the drop-off is rather significant. Not to say the misses on this album and the two previous are terrible tracks, they just fail to meet the bar Cudi set for himself as an underground rapper and with his debut effort. There are numerous articles and reviews asking if Kid Cudi has the Orson Welles problem, meaning, like Orson Welles, did he release his best work too soon and spend the rest of his career trying to equal early prominence? I tend to believe this is a little overblown. Tracks such as, “Immortal”, prove the genius and lovable stoner is still there and with us. Although cliche, Indicud, proves Kid Cudi is an artist, and artists experiment to their satisfaction.


Blu – York album review

Blu’s York sounds like a rap record that one would expect to hear in the year 2134. The album from start to finish just sounds futuristic, simultaneously mixing multi-layered tones with complex strings. York, originally to be titled, NoYork!, is Blu’s fourth solo studio album. York was originally to be released under Warner Bros Music, however, the record deal fell apart on the belief Blu had self-leaked NoYork! as a protest to the music industry elite. Blu first burst onto the scene in 2007 with his debut album, Below the Heavens, which drew major critical acclaim, especially in the crowded underground hip hop scene of Los Angeles. He was named by several blogs and magazines as an up and coming star in the rap game and somebody to watch. After declining several deals from major record companies, including Interscope, Blu chose to remain independent and release two critically acclaimed follow-up albums. In 2011, Blu released, “Jesus”, a song about Blu’s heavy personal influence of religion as a pastor’s son. The track seemed to be an underground answer to Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks”.

This album delivers Blu’s signature sound, complete with self-produced beats and meaningful raps. At times, the album’s beats do seem to drown out his voice, but that is rather common with a lot of his work. The album’s marquee song, “Spring Winter Summer Fall” delivers the best hook of York, sang by Jimetta Rose. “Spring Winter Summer Fall” also follows a noticeable theme of York, the four seasons of the year. York is covered in references to the different seasons and weather patterns. “My Sunshine”, another track on York, has a message about finding light through hard struggle. The weather incorporation almost has to be about Blu’s switching to a major record label, which is when a bulk of these anthems were recorded. The reference creates the sense that Blu’s consciences will not let him “sell out”. This is a significant reason why many, including myself, believe the rapper did leak the album, previously titled, NoYork!, in order to either protest his own decision or more practically kill the deal while it was in the closing stages with Warner Bros. The references of weather, however, could just mean his evolution as a rapper and as a man, as York does experiment with several beat combinations that provide its futuristic sound.

York brings a new sound to the LA underground scene. It will be interesting to see if the upbeat, loud album carries with its targeted audiences. The LA underground rap scene for years has been dominated by deep bass-driven beats, with slow sophisticated rhyming. There are times listening to York where your mind loses focus, are you supposed to be listening to the meaningful words or this beat from the year 2134 that your brain is hustling to interpret?


Tyler, the Creator – WOLF album review

On the first listening of Tyler, the Creator’s third studio album Wolf, the image that immediately comes to mind is Eminem. Specifically his first three albums that delivered controversy and a one-way ticket to fame. You start to question if these two actually feel the emotions of violence that they rap about or if it’s just a gimmick to push headlines and record sales. In Tyler, the Creator’s case, one would assume it’s a little bit of both.

Wolf plays out as an open therapy session starting with his ill feelings towards his biological father (“Answer”) to his difficulty of dealing with his fame (“Colossus”), right down to his failure of dealing with his Grandmother’s death at Cedar Senai Hospital (“Lone”). One of the more interesting tracks on Wolf, “IFHY”, stands out from the rest of tracks. As “IFHY” draws towards the end, we hear a familiar voice chime in, Pharrell Williams, much like Frank Ocean’s voice of albums past. Pharrell, not only adds one of the best voices in popular music, but immediately adds a level of art to Tyler’s effort.

If there is one theme of Wolf, it’s the production value, and “IFHY” is a perfect example. Tyler has even shot a critically-acclaimed video for “IFHY” that Kanye West has featured as the only content available of his self-titled website for over two weeks now. It is important to note, the first single off the album, “Domo 23”, is relatively insignificant to the direction of album, as it represents the Tyler of the past.

The parallels to Eminem, however, just can’t be ignored after listening to this album for the past week. The two songs that begs for the comparison is “Answer” and “Colossus”. “Answer” reads out as a hate letter to Tyler’s estranged father in the vein of Eminem’s “Cleaning Out My Closet”. Of course Eminem’s effort had a catching title and heavy radio rotation, but Tyler’s anger and resentment towards a parent is the similarity. Both Eminem and Tyler’s anger seem to come from the same place. Both have anger, but not from the lack of love, it’s the lack of care. “Colossus”, on the other hand, is Tyler’s “The Way I am” meets “Stan”. The song reenacts a visit to a Six Flags theme park, where he can not do simple things such as riding a roller coaster or buying a churro without being bothered by a fan to take a picture or a sign an autograph. The image that immediately popped into my head was Eminem getting disturbed by a fan while using the bathroom in the video for “The Way I Am”. “Colossus” takes a turn for “Stan” when the fan, who detours Tyler from buying a churro, goes into a detailed story of obsession and homosexual thoughts for Tyler and his music. It’s clear that Tyler, who regularly hangs out at his Melrose clothing store in Los Angeles, just can’t get used to his fame, a source of shame for him.

Although, as promised by Tyler, the production value of Wolf has dramatically increased in his junior album, he’s still yet to deliver much commercial attachment, beside his ever-expanding cult-like fan base. After multiple listenings of Wolf, it becomes clear, however, Tyler simply does not care. Wolf is most definitely Tyler’s best work and it’s not just the aforementioned production value that most critics and fans have been praising. Wolf represents an understanding by Tyler, the Creator of how to structure a verse, a song, and string them together as an album. Almost of all of his songs have a cohesive tone and structured meaning. Tyler’s raps seem to have taken a step forward from the scattered brain ramblings of verses past, where he tried to unleash everything in his mind into one verse or one rhyme. Those ramblings have separated into songs and formed his third studio album, WOLF!