Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Roots: How I Got Over

I know it isn't new or anything like that but I've been listening to The Roots' excellent 2010 album, How I Got Over A LOT recently so I decided to put up a review for it. We'll file this in the classics review section for Crocs In The Amazon. It was the 9th studio album for The Roots and is my personal favorite album for the group out of Philadelphia. For those who are wondering, How I Got Over is #1 followed by Illadelph Halflife then Things Fall Apart. Anyways, on to the album...

1) A Piece Of Light- Just a little intro to set the mood. I usually just skip it but not taking anything away from it.

2) Walk Alone feat. Truck North, P.O.R.N., and Dice Raw- The theme of the album is people who start off in unfavorable situations growing up and achieving something with their lives. This track signifies the attitude that many who live that life and need to "get over" have. They feel like they are alone, no one quite understands them. This can either break the person or make them stronger. And "walking alone" does not have to be taken as a literal term for someone not having a support system.  It could also signify that people in the ghetto who do not get that support system from the government to achieve something with their lives. They have terrible public school systems, not the finest grocery stores leading to unhealthy lives, etc. Those people are alone in their endeavor for a better life.

3) Dear God 2.0 feat. Monsters of Folk- This is Black Thought speaking to God and praying for something better. It is as if God doesn't know what is going on because he is letting God know of all the problems going on in his personal life. Black Thought is living a stressed life because of work and bills, bills and work. Black Thought still has faith in God but he just wants answers as to why things are the way they are. All the natural disasters, recession, and job cuts seem to only effect the poor. Black Thought is venting to God in hope that he hears his cries for help.

4) Radio Daze feat. Blu, PORN, and Dice Raw- One of my favorite rappers, Blu, makes his first appearance on the album and does not disappoint. He said he had more tracks recorded for the album but this is one of the two that made the cut. Blu sets the tone for the track where he details how hard it is for an underground rapper like himself to get some love and shine. He knows he is doper than everyone on the radio but because he refuses to change his style up, he realizes he will always be looked over. At the same time, it isn't like he resents anyone on the radio. PORN continues Blu's theme of the radio putting a "daze" on listeners. Because of the "petty perceptions" and "window dressing for misdirection," up and coming rappers think this is the only way to make it in hip-hop. In a way, this helps those who do make it "get over" but at the same time it fails so many more who try to go the same route and fail because they spend so much time trying to eat from these rappers when all they are feeding us is empty calories.

5) Now Or Never feat. Phonte and Dice Raw- Real good motivational song. Dice Raw's hook is simple. You have to adapt in order to succeed. You must change with the times in order to progress in life. Life won't wait for you to make that jump though. It's either you do it now or you miss the boat. Another great feature this time delivered by another one of my favorite artists, my man Tigallo aka Phonte. He looks back on his past and admits his mistakes but he isn't using that as an excuse to not progress. He using those mistakes as teaching lessons because knows he can't be doing the same shit if he wants to make it in life and get over. 

6) How I Got Over feat. Dice Raw- The title track's hook quickly gets to the point. That whole "don't give a fuck" attitude is one of the dumbest things ever. You will quickly make yourself look like a fool if you live by that motto. This is the first track on the album that Black Thought is just spitting bars by himself and it is beautiful. I don't even know how many times I replayed that second verse. Black Thought isn't taking bullshit from people talking down on him or his people. He's letting them know that he has their back and wants to be the voice for them. Black Thought is the voice of reason in a culture where reason is seemingly thrown out the window.

7) Dillatude- Classy tribute to J DIlla.

8) The Day feat. Blu, Phonte, and Patty Crash- Another positive song and this time about having eternal hope. Everyday is a new day and will only be terrible if you let it. You have to wake up in the morning with a positive mind state. If not, there is no way short of winning the lotto that the day is going to be good. You gotta be like Soulja Boi every morning and turn that swag on. Solid verses all around from Blu, Black Thought, and Phonte. No quotables but that's okay because that was just a good song overall.

9) Right On feat Joanna Newsom and STS- Not feeling this track too much. The first track on the album that hit the skip button. I feel like they could have cut this one out. Or just made it an instrumental because the beat was dope.

10) Doin' It Again- Black Thought goddamn. "Unsung, underrated, underappreciated, the one the underachievers had underestimated." That's his career in a nutshell. I'm confused because I like the features that The Roots do on all their projects but when they let Black Thought loose, he goes off. So I don't know which I like more. Like Right On should have just been Black Thought spitting some raw shit.

11) Fire feat. John Legend- Once again, Black Thought is killing these solo tracks. It's some more positive, motivational bars. I don't know if the radio doesn't want to play The Roots or if The Roots don't want to be played on the radio but there is no reason this should not be on the radio. John Legend is on the damn track for god's sake. This track feels like the culmination of the album. The album started off as Black Thought being pissed at the world but now he is on top of it because he wasn't content with where he was at. He didn't wait for something to happen either. He worked his ass off along with Questlove to make The Roots a legendary group that will live in hip-hop lore forever. So he can now look at his work and all the accomplishments with a smile on his face.

I didn't review the last two tracks but whatever. I think the album should have ended on Fire so that's where I'll end the review. Black Thought was on point throughout the entire album and the features were perfect. With this album, Black Thought jumped from the rappers I thought were dope category into the My favorite rappers of all time category. He was not outshined on any of the tracks where there were features and he absolutely murdered the tracks where he was on by himself. The Roots are like the San Antonio Spurs. The band may have changing parts throughout the years but the main guys in Black Thought and Questlove have stayed the same and the band has enjoyed unparalleled success in hip-hop. They continue to drop amazing projects on a seemingly yearly basis and really have no peers at their level.

Some final thoughts on How I Got Over. This is a near perfect album for me. Like I said I wasn't feeling the last two tracks to close the album out and wasn't sold on Right On. Other then that, I have no complaints. It's a 9.5/10 album for me, an A album. It was perfect at only about 45 minutes. There were no wasted verses, the hooks were catchy and had real great messages behind them. The beats were on point. It is a project that should be played on the radio. Like I said before, I have no idea why it isn't on the radio but that's neither here nor there. If you haven't listened to it yet, please give it a listen. It will brighten up your day. Also let me know if you want me to review any album, new or old. peace

Oddisee- Own Appeal

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ab Soul- These Days

Ab Soul finally has released his major label debut album that fans have been clamoring for. These Days is following Soul's excellent 2012 Control System so expectations were high. Not only was Control System an amazing piece of work but look at the pressure Soulo is under. He has to keep the momentum going for the best label out right now in TDE. Ever since Control System dropped, Kendrick dropped Good Kid Maad City and a million features. Schoolboy Q released Oxymoron. Isaiah Rashad and Sza were both signed and released very solid projects of their own. No one can really remember the last subpar Jay Rock verse. The point is TDE has been on a roll and Soul is looking to keep that going. There is a lot of expectations for the album but did it meet them?

I'll just get to the tracks which I didn't like out of the way first. Hunnid Stax, Dub Sac, and Sapiosexual I could do without. Those songs I straight up just didn't like. When I see Schoolboy and Soulo on a track together, I'm expecting Druggys Wit Hoes, not the generic "fuck bitches, get money." If you're going for that radio hit, make that shit fun like Druggys Wit Hoes. I don't understand why rappers on the radio who do that money, hoes, drugs stuff take themselves so seriously. Make that shit fun to listen to that can make people laugh when they singing along to it because they know how stupid it is too, but I digress. And one last thing on Hunnid Stax, someone please get Mac Miller off of here. From what I hear on the internet, Mac has improved a lot since his Blue Slide Park and Kids These Days projects but shit, I haven't heard it. I haven't listened to his solo projects yet from from the features I've heard him on I just am not impressed. And if you somehow come across this Mac, I'm still going to listen to your solo stuff so I'm not saying you suck as an artist (you got bars as Larry Fisherman), I'm just saying I haven't liked the features you've been on.

A track that perfectly sums up how I feel about the album is Twact. I have no idea what that means and I love Ab-Soul's verse but please someone never let Jinx (or Short Dawg idk) near a mic again. "I stay in the lines like I'm coloring." I don't even have to say anything else about that weak ass line. I hated the song for a good three days just because of that line but I don't hold grudges so I kept listening to it and it grew on me. I love the beat, I love the hook, and I love Soulo's last verse and how he sounded on that beat. It gives me some hope that he can make it on the radio with the right feature (not that I think he cares about that). He has a chance to make it mainstream, but I don't think he can do so by himself. He needs a big name to get people's attention but the potential is there. Another example of how I think he can make it mainstream is the next song Just Have Fun. Great sequence btw since Twact is all about having fun and is some "turn-up" music, Just Have Fun's hook is "Do the Drugs don't let the drugs do you." Definitely a nice little PSA to all the ravers out there who just swallow pills and 80% of the time are lucky nothing happens to them because guarantee they have no idea what they are ingesting. My favorite line in the track was "I never paid tuition but I paid attention, that's why I gotta make it count when they pay admission." Another great message you don't hear on the radio. There's a lot of public school kids who don't pay tuition. It shows if you take advantage of a free education, people will pay you well to perform at your job whether you are on stage or sitting in a cubical as long as you take your education seriously.

Another standout from the album was Closure. A lot of people hated Closure but I liked it. I always like when artists get introspective and I appreciated this from Soulo. He is still shaken up by the loss of Alori Joh and is not even pretending that he has gotten over it. Even his rebound girl (sorry Yaris) can't help him overcome the loss. People didn't like that he was crooning the whole time but I liked the change of pace. It shows versatility.

It took me a while, but These Days has grown on me a lot. At first, I thought it was a good album but I was mad that it wasn't as good as Control System. Although I wasn't expecting it to be the same album, I was expecting some of the same content but with more radio friendly beats. After realizing how stupid I was for expecting that kind of album, I listened to it again and really couldn't believe all the hate that it as been getting so far online. This is one of the better albums of 2014 for me. It isn't at the top but it's in the top 6 or 7 for me personally. I'd give the album a B-

Check what Talib Kweli had to say about the album, pretty dope.

Also 2014 been a pretty dope year so far for Ab-Soul features, check some of the favorites.

Nitty Scott- Apex Feat Ab-Soul

Smoke DZA- Hearses feat Ab-Soul

Common- Made In Black America feat. Ab-Soul