Sunday, November 30, 2014

Juice's Thoughts: 2015 is going to be a great year for movies

 By: Taylor Gase
2015! Why am I excited about 2015? Well I’m a movie fan and there are some great movies coming out! What makes me call these movies great before even seeing them? Because people have been waiting for movies like theses for a very long time and even if they suck people would say “It was great to see another one of these films, too bad it sucked.”
There are a lot of movies coming out that will continue many “Movie Franchises.” To me a Movie Franchises is a series of films taking place in the same universe. Now I’m very excited about all theses franchises coming back such as Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Terminator. The reason is because…have you seen the Marvel and DC movie list for the past 5 years. Now I love superhero movies, but like 20 films within 5 years, it feels like they’re taking over. It’ll be nice to have a list of movies I want to see that are not just superhero types.
I’m going to talk about Jurassic World right now, and I’ll talk about the others later. Jurassic Park came out in 1993, it was based off the book and it was directed by Steven Spielberg. This movie was a hit. I feel like everyone goes through a dinosaurs love phase (I work at a day care and all the kids from all ages love dinosaurs.) So seeing dinosaurs going on a rampage with great effects that still hold up to today made people wanting more! When The Lost World: Jurassic Park movie came out the franchises was born. The movie was once again directed by Steven Spielberg but that didn’t make it as successful as the first. Fans didn’t like this one as much as the first; some say it’s the worst. The ones that don’t call the 2nd one the worst, they give that title to Jurassic Park 3. Now I’ll do a review on all three prior to the new film’s release.
Now here’s my question. If the fans were disappointed by the last two films, why would they be asking for another for all these years! That’s the power of a franchise; people want to see more even if they won’t like it. And what I like to remind people is that the film makers don’t want to make a bad movie that fans will hate. People think they only make sequels to make money. Besides some independent films, EVERY MOVIE IS MADE TO MAKE MONEY!
The trailer for Jurassic World is out and I loved it! They showed the park is now open and from the looks and sound of it, it’s been opening for a long time. I would love this movie to show a family that goes to the park, have a good time, and come back home safe. But that won’t be much of a movie. Unless that family was the Griswolds and Clark gets in all theses funny shenanigans. Now that I think about it I would love to see that made into a film! Have the Griswolds in the same universe as Jurassic Park (watch out Avengers, there’s another shard universes movie about to be made!)
In the trailer the science have already played god by coping his act of making dinosaurs, but they want to one up god by mixing dinosaurs DNA and make a new one. My favorite actor Chirs Pratt says the smartest thing “That’s not a good idea.” So there’s the plot of this film and it’s a lot better than some of the rumors I’ve heard over the many, many years of waiting for this film. I like it, it’s different, and the closing shot made it look like Chirs Pratt is using some of the deadly dinosaurs out to hunt this Abomination. I’m very excited, I’ve always been a JP fan so this movie makes my 2015 must see list!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rhymes: Lil Herb - "Fight or Flight (Remix)" (feat. Common & Chance the Rapper) (Music Video)

A few weeks back three of Chicago's best emcees got together for a remix off on Lil Herb's under the radar mixtape, Welcome to Fazoland mixtape. Now we have a video from the three that highlights both the good and bad parts of the southside of Chicago. It's really nice to see Common not only co-sign the 18 year-old Lil Herb, but also come back home to do a video shoot. This song and video also shows the wide range of talent and styles from Chicago.

While Common and Chano may have the bigger names, Herb holds down his track with his aggressive delivery, rapid flow, and lines like: "I used to think that I could go back what I used to do
Now I cry less and less at all my homie's funerals." With his excellent tape and appearance on Common's Nobody's Smiling album, in addition to appearing on XXL's freshman cover, it's looking like Herb will be joining Chance and Vic Mensa as Chicago's top tier of young talent.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

From the Beet Farm: Family Guy Meets The Simpsons (TV Review)


EDITOR'S NOTE: BRL loyalists will remember at one time, this blog also occasionally covered TV and movies. Well lucky for you our TV/Movie/Super-Hero columnist, Juice, is back. He sent me this a couple weeks ago, when it was more relevant, but hell, I was busy. All this is written by him, with quick edits by myself. Enjoy.

 Family Guy Meets The Simpsons

 BY: Juice

When I was in 8th grade I was talking to my friends about The Simpsons and Family Guy. We thought of the ideas of what would happen if the characters would be in an episode together.  I ended it saying that they will never be in an episode together. Well 8 years later Fox put them together anyway. 
“Simpson Guy” – what better way to title an episode people have been waiting years to see. When doing any cross over I believe the goal is to have both sides equally shown and not to have one side top the other. In “Simpson Guy” I fully enjoyed both of the Griffin and Simpson families. I’ve been watching The Simpsons all my life and Family Guy since I was a kid, so I can tell how their shows and comedy are different. This episode captured the style of both the shows very well; I even tweeted during the episode saying that it feels like I’m watching both my favorite shows in the same half hour (forgetting it was an hour long episode). An hour wasn’t long enough; there was some stuff in the episode that had build up but got wrapped up very quickly. One of the sub plots was Brian losing the Simpson’s family dog Santa’s Little Helper. Here’s what happened: Brian lost the dog, had to lie to the family about where the dog was and in the end the dog came back on his own. It’s a shame that this sub plot was so short because there was a chance for Brian to walk around Springfield interacting with some famous characters from the town. 
Another sub plot that seemed to be very short was the Meg and Lisa storyline. Now the scenes with theses two are very The Simpsons style. Family Guy gets a lot of its comedy from making fun, and not caring about people’s feelings. Meg is 90% of all of that. The Simpsons has a lot of heart in their episodes and a lot of moments where a character will eventually do the right thing. The Meg/Lisa moments showed Lisa having interest in Meg and making her believe that she’s not worthless, but Lisa regrets helping her when she finds out that Meg is better at the saxophone than her. Lisa gets jealous, but in the end she comes to her unselfish ways and passes the saxophone over to Meg. But it has a very Family Guy ending having Peter throw away the saxophone not caring about Meg in the least. 

No sub plot with the wives, but they did have a good one with Bart and Stewie. Stewie finds Bart as a type of mentor and wishes to style his life as Bart’s. But Stewie’s life choices scares Bart away and ruins the friendship. Not much of a story line, but it did carry some good comedy. Now the big one, the only one that really matters – Homer and Peter’s story line. The two work together to find Peter’s stolen car, and the car was returned based on no actions taken by Peter or Homer. The car being return so quickly felt rushed, like maybe there was a bigger story on how they got the car back, but it was cut due to time. Then again that is how Family Guy episodes go sometimes. They both shared a hilarious car wash scene and a big over the top fight scene.
Threw out the episode there are breaking fourth wall jokes. I have never seen so many breaking fourth wall jokes in anything. There is a court room scene where they pointed out all the character simulators from both shows. And they even get Fred Flintstone to be the judge, who was the very first carton fat lazy husband, that is freaking funny!
Now let me get into the fight of this episode. Stan Lee said that whenever two super heroes fight, they have to end it in a draw, that way you don’t show one as better than the other. In this episode they took the Peter fighting the big yellow chicken route. These two getting into a fight was never a surprise, there have been video games out there having theses two fight so it was great to see one in an episode. And going back to the super hero talk, when ever two super heroes meet they always get into fights. In Marvel’s The Avengers Thor fought all the heroes while Iron Man and Captain America had arguments. Not saying Peter and Homer are super heroes but I’m not surprised that they fought.
Now remember when I said I never seen so many breaking the fourth wall jokes? Well I believe that the real fight between Peter and Homer, was actually between Matt Groening and Seth MacFarlane. It’s funny if you watch the court room scene you can see both of them sitting next to each other in the audience. If you think about it, Homer and Peter have been fighting each other since the beginning. Fighting over ratings, reviews, best time spots on the Fox channel, and the best cartoon show on Fox. Over the years the two have beaten King of the Hill, Futurama, The Cleveland Show, and still seemed to be the best, so the fight could be which show one is the best. The best moment in the fight was when Homer started throwing Golden Globes at Peter, and Peter asked him to stop because he doesn’t have any. 
It seems that Peter is the winner of the fight, due to them basing this fight off the fights between Peter and the chicken (where Peter walks away victorious believing the chicken to be dead but the chicken opens his eyes to show that he’ll be back for more at another time). The show ends the two giving a hand shake saying that both of them respect each other, which is another fourth wall moment, and another reason why I think that this was Matt Groening and Seth MacFarlane.
Over all this was a great time, felt like you were watching both a Family Guy and Simpsons episode and that’s all I ever asked for! 

Monday, March 17, 2014

BRL 2013 Year in Review (Part 4 - The Grand Finale)

...And finally, the top 10:

10. Drake – Nothing Was the Same (81)

I was sort of surprised how highly this album ranked. In a stronger year for music, this probably wouldn't have placed in the top ten, but that also doesn't take away from the many strong qualities of Drake's third LP. Nothing Was the Same is a far cry from Take Care, both in sound and quality, but was still one of the year's most exciting records. 
09. The Weeknd – Kiss Land (81)

It seems like there's a general consensus that The Weeknd's major debut LP is his weakest project to date. In fact, remember all of those "Top Albums of 2013" lists that you read 3 months ago? Hardly any of them included Kiss Land, let alone having it in the top 10. But here's the thing, this is The Weeknd's most focused effort yet, and his songwriting has improved tremendously. The hype,  uniqueness and mysteriousness of his House of Balloons era of the Canadian singer has long-since passed, and I will also concede that production-wise, this is his least interesting sounding record. But his ability to tell a story throughout this record, while also pushing the boundaries of modern R&B, is proof that The Weeknd is more than a flash in the pan type artist.

08. Terrace Martin – 3ChordFold (81)

Terrace Martin's 3ChordFold is easily 2013's Cinderella story. I recognized Martin's name from several production credits he's accumulated over the years, but never checked out any of his solo projects. I don't remember why I was inclined to check this album out, but I'm glad I did. A perfect blend of hip hop and modern jazz, made for one of the best produced albums of the year.

07. HAIM – Days Are Gone (82.5)

Kid Cudi's Indicud album, which was released in April 2013, was for the most part a pretty forgettable record. One notable song from the album was a track called "Red Eye," which served as my introduction to the Haim sisters. Since then, I've seen their name pop up left and right, and how they were destined to be one of the most exciting new bands of the year. I missed a chance to see them at Lollapalooza back in August (their set was during Local Natives and The National, neither of whom I wanted to miss), which was a bummer because their debut album Days Are Gone more than lived up to the hype. It's easily one of the funnest albums to come out all year, and is just plain, good old fashion pop music.

06. Black Milk – No Poison, No Paradise (83)

In 2013, Detroit set a record for becoming the largest American city ever to file for bankruptcy. For a long time, Detroit has seen a great amount of struggle with a dying automobile industry leading a once prominent city into poverty. And on Black Milk's fourth album, No Poison, No Paradise, the Detroit beatsmith/rapper paints a very vivid picture of what it is like to grow up in such a place. While Danny Brown also did an excellent job of describing Detroit's plight on tracks like "Wonderbread" and "Torture," Black Milk tells a story of "a decent kid to doing a bid"over the course of a full album. It's the Detroit version of goodkid m.A.A.d. city and it's the perfect autumn album.

05. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (87.5)

I didn't play Daft Punk's long awaited Random Access Memories in its entirety until December of last year. Initially I was so absorbed by "Get Lucky," which is the perfect pop song and is probably this decade's "Hey Ya." Slowly I was getting introduced to new songs from the album that I would fall in love with, until I finally decided to sit down and play the whole thing through. And damnit, if this album isn't brilliant. The robots showed off their human side by making dance album made up of live instruments instead of synthesizers and bringing back some disco vibes. RAM is a meticulously crafted masterpiece that may not hit you immediately, but when it does it will become one of your favorites. 

04. Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap (88)

By the end of 2013, Chance the Rapper pretty much cemented himself as the next big thing in hip hop. He toured with Eminem and appeared on a Justin Beiber single, but it all started with his stellar sophomore mixtape. It'll be very interesting to see what he does next; does he sign to a major or go the solo route? Regardless I'm very certain that Acid Rap is just the beginning.

03. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City (88.5)

Vampire Weekend, along with bands like The Shins and MGMT, is one of those essential "college bands" whose music always takes me back to dorm rooms and stale beer. Their self-titled debut album was one of my favorite albums as a Freshman in college, and their sophomore effort was a favorite as a sophomore too. But the main issue with both of those albums is that despite their intoxicating melodies and fun grooves, they sort of lacked the type of substance that requires repeated listens. But with Ezra Koenig and company's third effort, that all changed. Modern Vampires wasn't as instantly gratifying as its predecessors, but much of the album is what I would consider a slow burn. "Hudson" and "Hannah Hunt" are some of the most stripped down and vulnerable songs that Koenig has ever written, but they also may be among his best. While a lot of the album deals with heavy themes such as mortality and religion, there are still some classic Vampire Weekend bangers like "Diane Young," "Step" and "Everlasting Arms."

02. Kanye West – Yeezus (88.5)

What can I say about Kanye and this album that I haven't already? I am an unabashed Kanye Stan, and I think Yeezus is an exceptional piece of music. Many people disagree, and I understand why people wouldn't be into this; it's not music made to please everybody. In fact it's intentionally abrasive to evoke strong feelings from the listener - be those feelings positive or negative. But it's also just a lot of fun to listen to. This is Kanye's worst moment from a lyrical standpoint (although I don't think he was striving to rap like Nas on this record), but that doesn't stop it from being one of the most quotable albums I've heard in a while. With My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye achieved perfection. This is Kanye's flawed masterpiece.

01. The National – Trouble Will Find Me (90.5)

The major life event for me in 2013 was my move from Ohio to Chicago. The National's Trouble Will Find Me was released about a month and a half prior to my move. So this album is held in high regards partially due to the fact that it was the soundtrack of those final nights with my good friends in Ohio. But this album is the top of 2013 mainly because it features my current favorite band at the top of their game. Matt Berninger is rock music's best lead man and his songwriting continues to get better with each release. And the Dessner and Devendorf brothers' production and instrumentation has also continued to improve, as they find a way to combine the somberness of High Violet and the more upbeat, straight forward rocking of Alligator, while still creating a cohesive record.

Monday, March 10, 2014

BRL 2013 Year in Review (Part 3)

20. Danny Brown – Old (79)
To say Danny Brown's Old was a disappointment, would be an understatement, considering it was one of the most lyrically dexterous albums all year. But following 2011's breakthrough, XXX, Brown's follow up seems a little bit like a let down. He delves further into the EDM sound that he has been experimenting with, but that's not the issue here. He again splits his album off into two sections: the more dark and gritty tracks and the more upbeat and sexual cuts. This time it doesn't have the same effect as it did on XXX, but that's not really the issue either. The real issue is that the hype that Danny Brown amassed in the two years since his last album led to unrealistically high expectations, that it was nearly impossible for the Detroit spitter to live up to.
19. The Uncluded – Hokey Fright (79)
This was one of the more bizarre releases of the year. Aesop Rock and Kimya Dawson, despite being pretty much total opposites, found a way to make a great album together. Uncluded featured Aesop, whose music is often complex, loud and sort of ugly sounding, meeting halfway with Dawson, whose music is often simple, soft and sweet sounding. Aesop sounded great rapping over Dawson's acoustic guitar, and Aesop's songwriting is easier to take in with Dawson's straight foward lyrics (best example: "Delicate Cycle").
18. Mac Miller – Watching Movies with the Sound Off (79)
 Another surprise last year was the vast improvement of Mac Miller. I saw glimpses of his potential in his unfairly panned debut, and had high hopes for his second full-length, Watching Movies with the Sound Off, but was blown away when I heard it. It was released on hip hop's most eventful release date of the year, and was initially ignored by many folks (including myself), it managed to be a much more interesting release than J. Cole's album and a much more lyrically enlightening release than Kanye's release.
17. Run the Jewels (Killer Mike & El-P) – Run the Jewels (79)
Killer Mike and El-P now have hip hop's best bromance, so it was natural that they'd release an album together. Their chemistry is undeniable, and their self-titled debut is exactly what you would want out of such a release: lighthearted, impeccable raps, neck snapping beats, and a ton of fun. Word is that they're working on a follow up, which I hope offers a little more in terms of subject matter, but the first Run the Jewels record is a perfect summer album.
16. Pusha T – My Name is My Name (79)
Pusha T's long-awaited album didn't come without its share of setbacks. After a couple of lukewarm mixtapes, my expectations began to wane, but after hearing lead single "Numbers on the Board" I knew Push was about to release an excellent project. Despite all of its pushed back release dates, I think October was the perfect time for this dark, cynical album to come out. 
15. Tegan & Sara – Heartthrob (79)
This was an album I only checked out because it was January/February and there was nothing else to listen to. Heartthrob was the first full album I've heard from the indie pop duo, and it was a fantastic introduction. This album has been in rotation for most of the year, with its great pop melodies and poignant songwriting.
14. Gilbere Forte – PRAY (79)
This was an album that I was surprised to see how badly it flew under the radar. Easily one of my favorite hip hop releases of last year damn near went unnoticed by essentially every major hip hop publication. PRAY sounds like a drunken summer night, and Gilbere Forte raps with the intensity of a Royce da 5'9" over Drake-style production.
13. Local Natives – Hummingbird (80)
The Local Natives' second album, much like Tegan & Sara's Heartthrob, stayed in rotation for most of 2013, thanks to being released early on in the year. But unlike Heartthrob, and the band's debut album, there is nothing immediate about Hummingbird. This album is a slow burn, but you'll be glad you came back for more. Well, maybe not glad. More likely mildly depressed because this album is a bit of a downer. "Heavy Feet" is not only one of my favorite songs of the year, but also the most gut wrenchingly depressing.
12. Red Pill & Hir-O – The Kick (80)
Sometime towards the end of 2012, I received an email from a fellow Okay Player and respected music writer about an artist that he managed. The song he sent me hit me immediately and it quickly became one of my favorites. I posted about the song, "Waiting on a Train" and then was given a copy of Red Pill & Hir-O's The Kick. The album took a little while to grow on me - mainly because "Waiting  on a Train" was so excellent, I couldn't stop playing it. But when The Kick finally sunk in, I knew these two relatively unknown cats from the Detroit area were something special. Red Pill teamed up with Apollo Brown and Verbal Kent for Ugly Heroes, while Hir-O has been producing for several other emcees including Greenlee, but I think they have a phenomenal chemistry together. I am excited to see what they come up with next.
11. Arctic Monkeys – AM (80.5)
The Arctic Monkeys is a band I've always meant to check out, but never got around to doing so. Finally I was sucked in this year by their amusingly titled "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?" and from there I was hooked. AM is packed with blues riffs, excellent songwriting, and a whole lot of sense of humor. Alex Turner has become one of my favorite lead singers, and the Arctic Monkeys made the best blues record since the Black Keys' Brothers.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

BRL 2013 Year in Review (Part 2)

30. Tonedeff – Glutton (75.5)
29. John Legend – Love in the Future (75.5)
28. Louis Logic – Look on the Blight Side (76)
After seven years without a solo album, Louis Logic finally released a new record in 2013. Logic handled all the production himself, which at times resulted in some mediocre and same-sounding beats. But overall it was another great release from one of the most technically gifted rappers in the game. The album's opening track, "A Day Late & a Dollar Short" was one of my favorite songs of the year.
27. Cold War Kids – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts (76)
I discovered a lot of great music listening to University of Findlay's radio station last year. One band that I re-discovered was the Cold War Kids. "Miracle Mile" was getting a lot of plays and it was a great song, which prompted me to further investigate their latest LP. It was a slow burn of an album, where I only liked a few songs at first, but by the end of the year, it become one of my favorites.
26. Big Sean – Hall of Fame (76.5)
G.O.O.D. Music's most polarizing figure showed his great potential in 2012 with an excellent mixtape and stole the show on Cruel Summer. And that potential became more realized this year with his sophomore effort, Hall of Fame. This album showed the Detroit can do more emotionally driven subject matter, in addition to his swagger raps.
25. Mayer Hawthorne – Where Does this Door Go? (77)
24. Dessa – Parts of Speech (78)
This album came out right before I moved to Chicago. I didn't play the fourth track of this album until a few months after getting this album. The third track is the excellent lead single "Warsaw," where Dessa proves her battle rap chops. But the first two cuts - "Man I Knew" and "Give Up Your Ghost" - are as fierce of a one-two punch to start an album as any I can remember. When I finally got to the entire album, I realized Parts of Speech was damn good.
23. Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience (part 1) (78.5)
22. Tuxedo (Mayer Hawthorne & Jake-One) – Tuxedo (78.5)
Mayer Hawthorne had a pretty solid year between his third LP, Where Does This Door Go? and his "secret" project with Seattle beatmaker Jake-One. His latest full-length is probably his best album, but his 3-track Tuxedo managed to have the three best songs he made all year. "Do It" is one of those undeniable songs, that you love the second you hear it.
21. Ugly Heroes (Apollo Brown, Red Pill & Verbal Kent) – Ugly Heroes (78.5)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

BRL Spotlight: David May - Video 94 EP (Free Download)

This is a pretty solid track from Cali emcee David May and beatsmith Gunnuh. I especially dig the vocal sample with the trap-style drums. Nice touch. David May's style reminds me a lot of Schoolboy Q, so if you dig Oxymoron, I would check out this EP.

Walnut, California rapper David May presents the EM3-directed music video for “Store Runs”, the new single from VIDEO 94, his new free EP out now featuring DAMAR, Phantom Thrett and produced by fellow OSA (One Step Ahead) affiliate Gunnah. Born to a drug-addicted mother, David lived in foster homes before being adopted by a couple who had previously lost a daughter to leukemia. In  2010 May locked the opening spot on Wiz Khalifa’s Deal Or No Deal Tour. May reached out to fellow 909 area artist Curtiss King of Black Cloud Music for beats. The two exchanged beats for concert tickets. “That show changed my life,” says David. “I knew right then this is what I wanted in life: music and anything to do with it.” In 2012 Black Cloud released David’s debut album The Lifestyle Of A Dream Chaser and performed alongside Pac Div, Curren$y and joined The Road To Paid Dues Tour with Murs and Fashawn. Now independent, David describes Video 94 as “an homage to the local head shop I frequent. It’s all about the late-night stoner lifestyle I’ve grown accustomed to.”

BRL 2013 Year in Review (Part 1)

Once again BRL is back with its end of the year list, at the end of February. I’ve decided that this is now an intentional thing that I do (even though it totally isn’t). You see, every year starting around December 2nd, the good folks who browse the Internet get bombarded with every sort of end-of-the-year list imaginable. If those people are anything like me, they love these lists. They love reading them. They love smirking when they’re totally fucking wrong. They getting excited when the list agrees with their opinion of an underrated album. They frantically search for music on these lists that they are unfamiliar with. I understand these people. I am these people.
But what if I told you that the end-of-the-year list doesn’t have to just be a December/super early January event? What if I told you that you can read such a list, and it still be equally relevant at is was two months ago? My laziness/tardiness aside, I think a list of such can be equally useful in February as it is in December (or at least that’s what I’m going to convince you). By now you’ve read every list and you’re probably sick of them. Well, I don’t give a damn. You’re going to read this list and like it because unlike the other lists, this one is correct. (Actually, I think I might disagree with some of this, even though I made it. Opinions on music tend to change constantly, so no rating system is perfect.)

Over the past five or so years, I've assembled a way to calculate albums on a 1-100 scale. There are 10 categories, which I consider important aspects that a great album will have, and they are worth up to 10 points each. These categories include:

* Replay Value (How often I want to go back and listen to this album again)
* Vocal Performance (Mind you, I rate non-hip hop albums on this scale as well. This category essentially means how good is the rapping: rhyme scheme, flows, etc.)
* Production (Are the beats dope or nah?)
* Subject Matter (Is there a decent amount of topics or angles for songs on the album?)
* Songwriting (I don't have a lyric category because good lyricism can mean many different things. For multis, punchlines and technical prowess, you get points in the Vocal Performance category. Songwriting includes structure, hooks, etc.)
* Cohesion (do the songs flow well in order? Is there a common theme?)
* Originality (does this album bring something different to the table?)
* Popular Influence (how did this album affect popular culture? Yes this category gives an advantage to mainstream artists, but if an album can do everything else effectively, but on a bigger scale, I believe it deserves more points than an artist who isn't reaching many people)
* Personal Influence (how did this album reflect my personal life in 2013?)
* Gut Reaction (How did I feel about this album the first few times I heard it?)
When you see the scores, try to refrain from the school-style of grading (ie: 90-100 = A, etc.) because it is very difficult for an album to get a perfect 10 in a category (for reference, Kendrick Lamar's good kid, mAAd city received a 95 last year, which is the highest an album has ever gotten since making this system). To give you a point of reference, an album that I would give an 8.5 on the RapReviews scale would probably get around an 80 on mine. For tie breakers, I chose the album with higher Personal Influence, then Replay Value, then Popular Influence, then Gut Reaction.
50. James Blake – Overgrown (69.5)
49. Vic Mensa – Innanettape (69.5)
 This is a mixtape that probably would've been higher on the list, had I more time with it. I made the unfortunate mistake of sleeping on Mensa because "he sounds too much like Chance the Rapper." Which isn't necessarily untrue, their voices/cadences are nearly identical, but Chance even admitted that it was a style birthed by Mensa. Chicago has a lot of young talent, and it will be exciting to watch it reach its potential in the next few years.
48. Imperial & KINETIK – Pencils, Not Pistols (70)
47. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time (70)
46. Various Artists – The Great Gatsby OST (70.5)
 Yeah, the movie was kind of a bloated mess, but there were some wonderful moments, musically. (Of course we aren't talking about the scenes where people are dancing to Watch the Throne in the 1920s.) This is one of the better soundtracks I've heard in a few years, with excellent songs from Jack White, Lana Del Rey, Jay-Z (his song on this soundtrack was better than most of his album), The xx, and hell, even Fergie dropped a banger.
45. Ghostface Killah & Apollo Brown – 12 Reasons to Die: The Brown Tape (71)
44. CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe (71)
43. J. Cole – Born Sinner (71)
42. Oddisee – Tangible Dream (72.5)
41. Neko Case – The Worse Things Get… (72.5)
40. Jahshua Smith – The Final Season (73.5)
39. Childish Gambino - …beacuase the internet (73.5)
Donald Glover still has some work to do, in terms of finding his own "rapper voice." On his debut he either sounded like someone rapping who didn't know how to rap, or someone doing a Lil Wayne impression. On his much improved sophomore effort, he again sounds like he's doing impressions of various rappers, but this time the writing is much better. The production, concept and lyrics are very good on this record. Glover has potential to be a great rapper, but he's still got a ways to go.
38. Arcade Fire – Reflektor (74)
In 2013 I finally decided that I do not like Arcade Fire. It might have nothing to do with Win Butler and company; it very well could be that Funeral and The Suburbs were played on a loop for two months at my place of work. But I think it might have a little something to do with them, and Reflektor is indicative of everything I dislike about them.
For starters, Win Butler is an incredibly uncharismatic front man. Several times throughout the course of this record, he tries so hard to be James Murphy, the album's producer/a legitimately cool front man for a good/likable band. Arcade Fire is an immensely talented group of musicians, but for every time I find myself tapping my foot to a grove, there's a moment I shake my head at how obnoxiously pretentious they are.
All that being said, Reflektor is a good record. It's entirely too long, but there are quite a few good songs on here that get better with more plays. But it's also an exhausting record. It's annoyingly good. It's so good that I still have to include it on my list, despite my complete disdain for it.

37. Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge (74)
36.  A$AP Rocky – LongLiveA$AP (74.5)
35. Built to Fade – To Dust (74.5)
34. Tyler, the Creator – Wolf (75)
33. Lorde – Pure Heroine (75)
32. Natti (of CunninLynguists) – Still Motion (75)
31. Volcano Choir – Repave (75.5)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Rhymes: Drake - So Far Gone (5 Years Later)

A part of being in your mid-twenties is being able to say “wow, that makes me feel old” for the first time. Sure, it sounded cool when your older brothers/cousins said that reminiscing of their younger years, but when you find it coming out of your mouth, it stings a little. This week I had two occurrences of this – the first being College Dropout turning 10 years old, and the second is Drake’s debut mixtape So Far Gone turning five.   

Unlike most, I wasn’t receptive of So Far Gone initially. February 2009 I was deep in my anti-Lil Wayne and in the final days where I disliked most of what mainstream hip hop had to offer. So when Aubrey Graham’s name started making rounds on hip hop blogs, I stayed clear. By the time “Best I Ever Had” took off, I had been so put off by college girls claiming that Drake was their favorite rapper, I was in full-fledge hater mode. I heard the single a few times and dismissed it as “kind of catchy but nothing spectacular,” and decided against attending a show he had in Bowling Green.
Fast-forward a few months to the summer of 2009 and “Best I Ever Had” had really started to take off on pop radio and started to grow on me. It was tacky, crude, but it didn’t take itself too seriously and was a lot of fun. Drake was a cornball, but he seemed in on the joke. I finally got So Far Gone, about four months later than the rest of the world, and didn’t really get into it at first. Sure, “Uptown” was a banger and “Houstonlantavegas” stood out as the best on the tape, but I didn’t really get into the tape as a whole until the following winter.

Five years later, I own every LP Drake has put out. I consider his sophomore effort Take Care, one of the best albums of the current decade, and revisit his debut every summer because it’s one of the better summer LPs in recent memory. But So Far Gone is arguably his most significant piece of work. Many say it’s the Canadian rapper/singer’s best work, and he has still yet to top “Best I Ever Had’s” success on the charts (peaked at #2). 
Overall it’s probably Drake’s worst project. He’s since elevated his skills in terms of rapping and singing, but So Far Gone is significant because it was a glimpse of hip hop’s next big thing. Prior to the mixtape, he was just another face in a crowd full of mediocre rappers under Lil Wayne’s Young Money regime. While he may not have perfected it until Take Care, So Far Gone showed that Drake had a specific vision, unique sound and a good story to tell.