by Sekou | Nov 3, 2020 | Features, Reviews
I don’t envy the struggle of musicians. Seriously, always on the road, having to contend with fans that will flip on you if you say the wrong thing, and having to worry about your label screwing you over. But do you know what one of the hardest things has to be? The aftermath of you making a damn near perfect and universally acclaimed album. An album that is regarded as one of the greatest of all time, something that generations listen to, and something that is pleasing to the ears of every critic. What the hell do you do after you do that?
Well, the King of Pop was certainly in that predicament after making Thriller. If you don’t know what Thriller is, stop reading, build a time machine, and go back to your childhood to slap your parents, because Thriller is one of the greatest albums of all time. Seriously, it is an exercise in pop music. However, it did leave two problems… 1. It was one of the best albums ever made, 2. It solidified him as the “white meat babyface” to borrow from wrestling terms. As mentioned before, it is hard to follow up a perfect album, but as for the second point?
This pigeonholed Mike, who people had basically seen grow up from the Jackson 5 days, and it basically made him that cookie-cutter pop icon. However, MJ wanted to show that he had edge to him. He wanted to show that he wasn’t soft. He wanted to show that he was… Bad.
In this album, MJ wants to talk about how he is a bad boy, and you know he’s bad. Like, really, really bad. Bad to the BONE! If I sound like I’m being repetitive, this is basically the crux of the title track. The fact that he is not on any bubblegum stuff anymore, the fact that he’s bad. And to be honest… it does work at some points! With songs like “Just Good Friends” and “The Way You Make Me Feel”, he has a very PG-13 air to him through the album, but it’s a great progression. With that said, he does have some stumbles…
For example, while “Bad” is catchy, it is MAD repetitive, and after a while, the repetition goes from fun to annoying. “Dirty Diana” is MJ’s take on a sex-crazed groupie, and it is honestly one of the best and funniest things ever. Best because the song itself is good, but it is super funny because it comes off as MJ trying to be a player-type, which he just didn’t portray (that COMMME OWWWNNNN at the end of the song absolutely wrecks me, because it is so funny). And then there’s “Speed Demon”… This man… trying to prove how BAD he is… Made a song… About SPEEDING… Bruh.
Of course, there are the standard love songs in “Liberian Girl” and “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, which are pretty good, but my favorite song, and my favorite MJ song in general? “Smooth Criminal”. Y’all… This man wasn’t human. How do you craft a song that good, with a video that good, with a LEAN that FRESH????? There is no question about how fantastic that song is. Now, you might be thinking, “MT, you are missing some BIG songs…” Don’t worry, I’m just about to discuss them.
In this new section, we discuss the music that had a message, as well as the overall message and feeling of the album. With that stated, let’s address the songs that aren’t “Man In the Mirror.” “Another Part of Me” is a song that basically is saying that we are all connected, and “Leave Me Alone” is technically about a crazy stalker-girl but it can also be about how he wants the press to leave him alone. Now…
“Man In the Mirror” is one of MJ’s most famous songs. It is to the level of Thriller where you just need to know it. He talks about how he’s going to make a change and how change truly starts with yourself. Making the world a better place starts with you becoming a better person. Let’s keep it real: this song is a masterpiece, and I don’t know how to say that it’s perfect over 20 times.
Also, another therapy aspect is that MJ seemed like he wanted to show how “bad” he was. This is a big aspect because it shows how being viewed as only one type of person (basically being typecast) can damage the psyche and make you try to be something you’re not.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND RATING
Well, how was this album as a whole? I’ve picked apart what works and what doesn’t work, and have been pretty harsh on MJ for trying to prove that he was a bad boy. Does this mean I think that the album Bad is… well,bad? Not in the slightest! This album is honestly the best follow-up to Thriller. It tries something new in the concept of being the bad boy type, which can be really good when done right, but it still has some Thriller flavor (“The Way You Make Me Feel” sounds like it could’ve been on Thriller). The title track may be repetitive, it may sound like MJ thinks speeding is living life on the edge, and he may be coming off as disingenuous separating his “goody-two-shoes” image, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound beautiful.
“Man In the Mirror”, “Just Good Friends”, “Bad” (yes, I said it was repetitive to a point, but it is still a great pop song), “Smooth Criminal”, and plenty others make this album amazing. With several songs that define pop music and a thematic element that has the ability to work to either make you love the music, or make you laugh at what the King of Pop thinks as “bad”, this is an amazing album that you need to hear.
Photo Creds: Epic Records, Graphic Artists: Troy Lane/Nancy Donald
by Sekou | Oct 22, 2020 | Features, Reviews
It is GOOD to be BACK!!!!! I’ve missed you all so much! I hope you’ve all been surviving the best you can, as this year is the year that keeps on hurting. It’s time to come back to the positive side of the Internet, with MT leading the charge, and- hold up, what’s that title say???? I wanted to come back with something that has positive subject matter, and y’all just… Damn, Damn, DAMN!!
*deep breath*… Ok… This is one of my favorite songs of all time, an easy 5/5, hell, it’s a 10/5. With that being said, this song is… an emotional rollercoaster. When I tell you that after every time I listen to it, I have to go on a whole dopamine intervention listening to every single feel-good song I have… This is all to say that this will get sad, but sometimes we need that in our lives. The next review should be much happier!
So let me tell you about Immortal Technique. Immortal Technique is a legendary underground rapper that is relatively well known by hip hop heads, and his main themes in his rapping are usually centered around revolutionary thinking, politics, and the dangers of gang violence in some cases (“Dance with the Devil” is the song that introduced me and plenty others to him, and all I have to say is… JESUS). With a man who focuses on these dense topics, you would seldom find him rapping about love… And you still don’t exactly. This song isn’t about love exactly, but I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s discuss “You Never Know” by Immortal Technique.
The song starts off with Technique talking about a girl that was on her way to becoming a college graduate, a Latina who Tech would think about wifing up QUICK. However, she was not so quick to reciprocate that feeling, with any guy. It didn’t matter if you were a thug or a rich-kid, she would always display her disinterest. What’s interesting about these lines is the fact that he’s using past tense. This, of course, denotes it being in the past, but it’s also how he says it in the song. He says it less reminiscent of old memories, and more like he’s disappointed, which in my opinion is beautiful foreshadowing. He then goes on to talk about how the women in this college grad girl’s life talk behind her back because of jealousy of her, and the first verse ends with Tech saying, “She had a style all her own, respectful and pure; I was sick in the head for her and there wasn’t a cure”.
We then get the chorus from Jean Grae, saying that time waits for no man, and that we should hold tight to our loves because we never know. I love how this is left open to our own interpretation. We never know could mean we never know when they’ll leave, it could mean we never know when they’ll die, it could mean that we never know when they’ll change as a person. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but… That’s kinda what I do…
The next verse talks about how Tech starts talking to this girl, and he doesn’t come to her like he’s a thirsty dude trying to get in her draws, and she notices that, so they talk for a little bit. A little bit turns into a lotta bit, and they are giving each other gifts (Tech wrote her a poem with flowers, and she got him books every few weeks), they went to her cousin’s baby shower, he even stopped talking to other women! It was to the point where he was either with her or his boys. She would always call him Cariño, instead of Technique. So he decided to tell her his true feelings, and… she cried… Not the good, “I’m so happy” crying, the “oh no” crying… and she left.
He didn’t see her for years, and he ended up going to jail for a year. When he got out, everyone was happy to see him. However, he didn’t see her. His mother was crying to see him, but it wasn’t her. He was messing around with plenty of other women, but they weren’t her. It was eating him up inside, so he went to her parent’s apartment, where he saw her cousin slinging drugs to make ends meet. When he saw her mom, she hugged him and was happy, bur then he asked about her.
Her mother got upset but directed Tech to her room. There was a letter for him, and she said that by the time he read it, she would already be dead. She fell in love with him and felt terrible, because she knew that they could never be together. She said that when he left for jail, she left as well. (MAJOR SPOILER FOR THE SONG: YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED). She had passed in ’97 (I won’t tell you how, listen to the song for that), but she wishes that he was the one that she could’ve given herself to, as her final wish was that he never forgets about her. Tech says that this is why he doesn’t fall in love with people and tells us that we should hold people that we love close to us, not just the person that has sex with us.
Thoughts and Rating
GOOD GOD. Where do I start? Well, first, the production was phenomenal. I’m personally a sucker for an acoustic guitar in a rap song so that hit the sweet spot. The story itself was wonderfully told and so easy to follow, Immortal Technique is a masterful storyteller. The way the song ends is amazing too, as he says that there isn’t a sequel to this. Throughout the whole song, he also uses his voice in a way that foreshadows the unfortunate situation of what will be happening in the song.
Delivery, story, and A1 rapping. This song is one of the best rap songs you will ever here. Like I said, 10/5 stars. MT Out! It’s good to be back!
Photo Creds: Unknown, Immortal Technique Album Cover
by Sekou | Jul 31, 2020 | Features, Reviews
“Tryna be the greatest, that shit been dead, I’m tryna be the happiest I can be instead.” This is one of the lyrics from Logic in the album that we are reviewing today. His final album, No Pressure. I typically don’t start out with lyrics of songs from albums I’m reviewing, but this one is very important as it sets the tone of the album. This album serves as a victory lap, and a cathartic affair for Logic. In the words of Thalia, “Welcome to the No Pressure project.”
So, let’s put some things in context: Logic first gained popularity in the early 2010s with his Young Sinatra series of mixtapes (Note: he had Young, Broke, and Infamous in 2009, but YS is how he gained popularity), and when I tell you that they were dope… Do yourself a favor and find them on Soundcloud. Then, he released his first studio album in 2014, the precursor to the album I’m reviewing, Under Pressure. And Under Pressure is unbelievably good! It has a connected concept, the production is great, and it contains Logic’s best song, “Gang Related”. The party don’t stop there, though, as he released something each year after that, but something happened in 2017. This is when he released Everybody. Everybody is probably his most commercial album, as it has the song, “1-800-273-8255”, the Suicide Hotline number. While this was a very noble song to have, the album itself… paled in comparison to his previous works. Why? Well, there was an insane amount of redundance (I know y’all have heard the Logic is biracial memes), the concept was pretty loose, and, most crucial, he wanted to please everybody.
I say this to say that No Pressure is not like that. Logic’s work has been inconsistent over the past couple years, but this is changes the game. The album opens, welcoming us to this project, and Logic talks about how when he was growing up, he was seen as lesser, how he knew he wanted to see his crew next up, like cotton material, and how people are super nosy, telling you to do what you should do when they don’t even know half of what you know. And then, we get into “Hit My Line”. He talks about how it’s going to be a good day, how people stay bitchin’ on Twitter, how politicians lie, and how #slacktivism is at an all-time high. Then… GP4.
I… MISSED… THIS! For those that don’t know, Logic has a series of songs, called “Growing Pains”. This is the 4th installment, and goodness gracious, does it go HARD! He samples, “Elevators (Me and You)” from OutKast, the beat and the chorus, where he talks about how we’ve been in a perfect harmony and have come a long way since the projects. He talks about how he rhymes fast because of his anxiety, has a story describing a night for him when he was younger in Maryland, talks about how he hit up Erykah Badu for the blessing to use a beat for this album (man I is) even though she doesn’t own the sample, and two of my favorite lines off this entire album. “Trigger-happy police tend to trigger happy people.” This is a great line that sums up what happens when we see countless faces that look like us lying lifeless on the news and social media. It doesn’t describe everything, but that line still holds power. The other line is that he keeps it G, kickin’ in the door like Track 4 from Biggie’s Life After Death, and he tells us to do our research and we’ll find the key. So I did my research, on Genius and I found this. Kick in the Door is in the Key of G Major. YOO!!!!!!!!
“Open Mic/Aquarius III” is dope as well, the first half being where the opening line of this review came from. The latter half is about how he used to only care about his career, but now he has something even better to care about: his son. “Soul Food II” talks about how we’re not going back, just moving forward and about how people don’t love your new stuff until it becomes your old stuff. The 2nd half expands on the story he was telling in one of his previous albums, The Incredible True Story. (My personal favorite Logic album)
Production- wise, this album is INSANE. Using a “Dreamflower” sample, using multiple OutKast samples, and having beats that truly match the songs. “Aquarius III”, for example, sounds reflective. Lyrically, Logic is mature on this album, for the most part. Plenty of these songs have this message, talking about how we need to live our lives for ourselves and not for others, how there’s a reason he’s in a mansion, and the dude hatin’ and following him just to criticize is in a cot (this doubles as mature and immature), and of course, his current life. This is where Logic is his best and happiest. On “DadBod”, Logic talks about his everyday life, which is filled with diapers, feeding, buying food, and deciding between which brand of trash bags he wants. This is fantastic, because it shows how he has matured. He even says himself that he’s not a kid anymore, and he’s not about to rap about the “good ole days”, like people getting together talking about their fun times back in high school or college. He’s about moving forward, not back. “Dark Place” probably takes the cake for finishing out top 5, as he talks about how he still deals with depression and anxiety. He deals with not feeling good enough, Black enough, and worried about saying too much at times. He talks about his Peace, Love, and Positivity motto, but confesses that he still searches his name on Google, and just sees posts about how he is trash. A big thing about this song is the fact that he acknowledges that it’s okay to be sad and end this song sad, a powerful statement. Positivity has never been about smiling through BS. It’s about feeling your feelings, acknowledging them, and knowing that tomorrow is coming. We end the album with “Obediently Yours”, a song that apparently was meant for Ultra 85. (Heard Em Say’s outro technically concludes the No Pressure program and welcomes us to Ultra 85, 2 songs) It is the audio of Orson Welles, talking about equality and how we’re all in this together. And how the privilege need to use their privilege to help the less fortunate.
With all this said about the album, there are unfortunately still some rough spots. Logic has been pinned as repetitive at times, and… that unfortunately doesn’t change in this album. A lot of songs discuss the “rags-to-riches” theme, and after the first couple songs of it, you end up getting annoyed by it as opposed to endeared by it. Then, we get into some of the less desirable songs, in my opinion. “Perfect” will probably get the most hate, but it is just okay. Not good or bad, just okay since it’s only function is a breather and brag rap song. It’s sandwiched between two great songs so it is just a breather. “A2Z” is a song that I can’t get into. The idea of it seems to be one of those alphabet cyphers, but that concept falls flat on its face and makes it rough to listen to. However, the biggest issues aren’t the songs, but the repetitiveness within them.
Overall, this is a 3.75/5. This album is really good. Logic knew that he had to bring it for his final album, having been heavily criticized for the quality of his albums in the past few years. He came with something that felt like a love letter to his old fans, as well as advice. He brought back every era of his, and was able to make it sound fresh and fun. While he definitely had his repetitive moments, Logic made a fantastic sequel to Under Pressure. Now, let me say this: Logic was one of my favorite rappers several years ago. I listened to his mixtapes, listened to Under Pressure, listened to The Incredible True Story, and so on. I was waiting for this Logic to come back. Not Logic talking about the same subject matter, but Logic showing how damn good he was on wax. I’m beyond happy that we got this for his final album. Logic, it has been dope to listen to you, and I hope you are able to live your life like the title of this album: with No Pressure. MT Out!
Favorite song(s): GP4, Dark Place DadBod
Least Favorite: A2Z
Photo Creds: samspratt
by Sekou | Jul 22, 2020 | Features, Reviews
DJ Khaled… is a genius. Like, seriously, the man is a gem. He does the absolute most by doing the very least. Dude has meme-ifyed himself so much that you have no choice but to chuckle when you see him. From “Anotha One” to “Assad’s my son” to saying his name to the popular “WE DA BEST MUSIC”, Khaled’s whole career has partially been making you remember his name (literally). The other part of his career has been dedicated to assembling different rappers and singers to make amazing collabs and hits. This time around, he got one mega star in Drake. So, how was this song?
Y’all… I hate how much I love this. Before I truly get into the review, let me discuss my feelings about Drake: I think that he is the hitmaker of this generation, and has impressively had more Hot 100 Hits than the Beatles. With that said, he’s not the greatest rapper… his allegations of ghostwriting definitely paint a different picture of his most “personal” raps. Then, how he handled the beef with Pusha T after “The Story of Adidon” was definitely not the way to handle rap beef, talking on different shows and leaving Notes on his phone rather than, you know, responding with another diss song. However, he is still a pop icon, and will be remembered as such. So, why do I hate how much I love this?
Well, the lyrical content isn’t anything special. There is a funny bit when the song starts where Drake just says, “Bitches”, and that’s it. That is just so funny to me. He has some lines in there about how he tears people to pieces who come for him, how he’s a popstar but not on any bubblegum shit, how he was under wraps last year but this year he came to take over, how he gave Ariana and Selena his Platinum Visa, and how he wants a long, legendary life but a quick death. Again, pretty average and standard lyrics, but the flow that Drake copie- uh, uses, is really good. What gets me is the chorus. Drake talks about how girls be makin’ his hotline bling all the time like he’s locked up and how cops pull up like he’s giving drugs, and the best line: I’m a popstar, not a doctor.
The reason I love this song: simply put, it is INFECTIOUS. I heard it when it came out and was like, “okay not bad”. Then, while I was listening to it to prep for this review, I found myself rapping along with it, bobbing my head, and dancing to it. That’s the thing with Drake: while his lyrics are usually surface level, he never fails to make you remember him or his songs. He always has something, whether it’s “God’s Plan”, a viral dance, or just a hit song rich with Instagram captions like this one, he always makes sure he stays in your head. DJ Khaled and Drake are a perfect pairing.
This song is a 3/5. It’s fun, but it is still just a run-of-the-mill hit song. Nothing too special like Khaled’s collaborative efforts or Drake’s usual hits, but still something that should keep you entertained for a few months. Take Care, y’all! MT Out!
Photo creds: OVO/WeTheBest/Epic Records
by Sekou | Jul 15, 2020 | Features, Reviews
There are so many pairings that we have heard and want to hear in music. Kanye and Jay Z, Kendrick and Cole, Andre 3000 and Madlib, and so many more! However, there are sometimes surprising music combinations that we hear, and didn’t know that we wanted to hear until we heard them. This brings me to Kid Cudi and Eminem. For those who don’t know, Kid Cudi is a phenomenal artist who almost trademarked “emotional rap”. Listen to Man on the Moon, the album and you’ll see why. He is one of the people that made it cool to show your feelings in rap. He’s also credited for helping with 808s and Heartbreak from Kanye. With that said, him and Eminem is definitely an… odd pairing, but it is a great pairing.
Cudi starts it off talking about how he’s changed since we last heard him, and how he’s got a brand new attitude. Cudi was sounding a little harder. He’s talking about how he’s grown and coming in with some great wordplay. He also talked about how people don’t listen to the words in songs, making a point about how beats are usually what get people’s attention. Cudi sounds healthy, and sounds like he knew he had to come with a hard verse, seeing who he made this song with.
Eminem is just… Like, he’s almost 50! How are you still barrin’ people like this at 50?? He starts off his verse by talking about how he will be the first person to give Father Time a K.O., shouts out Lil Wayne and Snoop Dogg, the beat slightly shifts, he addresses how the haters are mad at how good he is, but can’t seem to keep his name out of their mouths, he has a basketball and mouthwash metaphor that I refuse to spoil, because of how happy it made me when I heard it and I don’t want to take that away from any of you. He talks about how people call him the King of Rap, and that it isn’t his words and how he’s the King of Cussing; then, he starts talking about the things that have been going on in the world. He goes off on Drew Brees for his fumbles this year (and I’m not talkin’ football) and discusses the people that are in office right now, and how the pandemic has been handled. He discusses people not wanting to wear masks, and how not wearing them can literally kill him and others. He then gives prayers to George Floyd and Ahmad Arbery and talks about how so many cops are dirty and how the murderer of George Floyd was kneeling on the carotid artery of George. Eminem truly gets into his political style here, and this is something that is needed right now.
Overall, this song is a 4/5. Its weakest point is some of Cudi’s rhymes being off, as well as a pretty average beat. With that said, it is still worth giving a listen! MT Out!
Photo: The Adventures of Moon Man and Slim Shady Cover Art
by Sekou | Jul 1, 2020 | Features, Reviews
Tribute songs are made constantly. They are great ways for musicians to honor the ones that paved the way for them. So many rappers have paid homage to their influences that came before them, but plenty of the rappers being paid homage to are typically dead. Something that is fairly recent is rappers giving their influences the flowers while they can still smell them. After all, why not? Let the people that you love know you love them. Let your inspirations know that they inspire you! This brings me to Joyner Lucas.
Joyner Lucas is a C O L D rapper from Worcester, Massachusetts. One of is best attributes is his storytelling ability (check out “Keep It 100” and “Winter Blues” for examples), but we’re here to discuss his song “Will”. His first iteration was really cool, as the video had periods of life from his idol, Will Smith. He was showing how we need to give our idols their flowers while they can still smell them, and it was really dope. Then, the remix happened…
Will Smith still has BARS! He has not lost them. Where Joyner’s track had references to Will’s life and how he was feeling like Will, Will comes in talking about how he has grown over the years. He talks about how he’s been cold since Benny & Jerry and how we forgot how he gets busy. I did forget, and I apologize for forgetting. Will goes on about how he wouldn’t be himself if it wasn’t for his grandma, and talks about his idols in Dr. J and Muhammad Ali. He also talks about how he is still flawed and has mistakes as well. These bars are fantastic, but Will’s greatest attribute through his bars is his humility.
Will talking about himself is pretty cool, but he shines when talking about others. Seriously, Will is all about giving the flowers out. He shouts out his idols, as mentioned before, he gives a RIP to James Avery that makes you tear up, he gives Martin Lawrence a rose, and he shouts out Joyner Lucas as well. This is the mark of a fantastic person. Will not only shouts out his idols and peers, but he also gives the man he influenced his flowers, as well as his (Joyner’s) kid! Will Smith made a tribute song about him an opportunity to pay tribute to everyone in his life, as well as the one he influenced. Beautiful. This song is an easy 5/5. The positivity, the flowers given, and the BARS that Will gave us made this easy. MT Out!
Photo Creds: Illustrator Unknown