Album Review: J Molley – Dreams Money Can Buy

Every once in a while the South African hip-hop industry is treated to a breath of fresh air and I can say this about Nasty C’s Price City a couple of years ago and I can say that about J Molley’s career thus far. I don’t usually do non-album reviews, in fact, the only non-album review I’ve ever done on here was Chance 3 last year. So, it may come as a surprise to see me doing a review on Molley’s first ever project.

I found that the more I listened to the project, the deeper and darker it got for me. There are layers and layers of content that made me see Molley in another light through this dark offering. Dreams Money Can Buy is about money, suicide, anxiety, love and fame and religion. It is dark, expensive and it’s new wave. This won’t be a track by track analysis, but rather, I’ll just touch on all the themes/songs that resonated with me and material that I think is worth talking about.

Dreams Money Can Buy:

Track one, also the title track, is a song that serves as the perfect intro for this project because it touches on most of the themes he conveys throughout the entire project.

“I’m influential, like fvcking brand new/ Don’t need credentials, they simply can’t refuse/ I started last year, come tell me your excuse/ Not from the 6ix Side, I still get lots of views.”

I thought these intro bars were important because, just like the entire project, on the surface it looks light, but there is a lot more than what you hear first time around. With just these bars, Molley shows his confidence and his wordplay, something that’s very present throughout the tape.

The opening line, “I’m influential, like fvcking brand new” carries a lot of truth to it because when you really think about Molley’s career so far, he really did come in with a brand new sound and most importantly, he played a big role in how artists approach the internet now.

“Not from the 6ix Side, I still get lots of views” Like I said earlier, this is the guy who had more than 300k plays on a soundcloud page that had less than 5 songs. Not even the biggest artists in the game right now have been able to pull that off without the use of heavy promo. There is a reason why Molley is regarded as The Internet Boy.

“I’ve always seen that you fear me/ This life don’t come without a cost/ You tryna paint a picture, we will not brush it off” Other than the fact that those bars sound cool and the wordplay was smooth, this is when he first eludes to the dangers and darkness that surrounds him.

Sinister/Paranoia (Ft. Ricco):

If there is one thing I took from this project, it’s that there is a lot going on in Molley’s head.
“Molley make these hoes drop down/ Molley poppin’off right now/ Molley do not trust no one” These opening bars on this song, when you put everything in context, sound like there is actual voices in his head are talking to him and that it’s not actually him saying it.
This idea is confirmed by what he says next: “I can’t even trust myself/ Man, I almost shot someone, I almost shot myself”

This entire song, and as well as Paranoia, is laced with lyrics that tell a story of a troubled guy who is fighting demons, fighting himself and fighting to keep a peace of mind. In Paranoia he tells the story of when he went to buy a gun. Wale once said, “Sometimes you gotta get the piece just to get to peace” in this song, Molley feels exactly the same. He feels like there are people, both in real life and in his head that he needs to see dead in hopes that it will bring him peace.

“Gun up in the safe/ Found the key, took it out the place/ Aimed at someone’s face/ I couldn’t think I was intoxicated/ Aimed it at myself, maybe I’m the guy/ It was always me, needa leave this world/ Paradise is only one shot away, girl!”

Picture a person standing in front of a mirror holding a gun pointed towards his reflection. In this verse, Molley comes to the realisation that maybe he is the monster. He is looking at himself in the mirror and realising that the monster he sees staring back at him has always been inside him. “Aimed it at myself, maybe I’m the guy/ It was always me”

Kids are often told that monsters live under our beds or in dark places, when in actual fact, we carry those monsters within us. Some of us feed those monsters, while others find ways to starve them to death.

Through these closing bars on Paranoia, Molley lets us know that the monsters in his head drove him to have suicidal thoughts. Perfect way to get into the next track…

Suicidal Thoughts (Interlude):

“Hold up, no! Hold up, baby no/ I might just kill myself if I do not kill these thoughts/ I realised that I’m the problem after all”
Picking up from where he left off in the previous track, he now checks himself and with the realisation that the monsters are inside of him, he realises that he needs to kill what’s trying to kill him. It’s almost like a reality check of some sort.

“I just got saved, but I still don’t pray”  This could have a double meaning:
1. He could be saying he has “found god” or
2. He could literally be saying he just got saved from hurting himself due to his suicidal thoughts

By the time he gets to the outro of the song, you can tell that he is back to his old destructive-self again. “Lost my mind today/ I’m just sipping all this pain away/ I think I might shoot my face today/ It’s not a phase, no it won’t go away”

Too often, society perceives mental illness/instability as “just a phase” because they don’t know what it’s like to live with that, but those who have experienced it will tell you that it is a place that is hard to pull yourself out from.

Anyway, at the beginning of this review I said this project is also about love and what I came to realise is that a lot of the content on this project is actually directed at a specific female. Whenever Molley mentions the word “Baby” or “girl”, I found that he was subtly talking to her indirectly. Only he knows who this girl is or perhaps, she knows too. I just thought I’d mention that as a way of letting you know that there is a lot packed into this tape and if you aren’t paying much attention to what’s being said, you are likely to miss a heartbreakingly honest story.

Never Know:
There isn’t much of a deeper underlying story on this track, matter of fact the only reason why I am even talking about it is to bring attention to the production and execution of this entire tape. Never Know is the only song on the tape that was not produced by Goofy. Ganja Beatz handled the production on here.

Sonically, you can tell that this song sounds quite different to the rest of the production on this tape. However, what was most interesting to me was where this song is placed as far as sequencing goes. The hard-hitting production only allows for this track to be track 4 and nothing else. It can’t exist anywhere else on the tape. I mean, it could but that would mess up the flow of the project – sonically that is. The production on Suicidal Thoughts has elements of this track and the track that follows Never Know has elements of this song.

They were able to bring in different producers (Ganja) and offer a different vibe to the rest of the tape while at the same time still maintaining the flow and sound of the tape. If you aren’t into all that technical stuff then this means nothing to you, but for those of us who are big fans of the craft, this is very important.

Desire (Ft. pH):
First things first, pH is god-level with this music thing. Juss know! Anyway, this is one of my favourite songs off the tape and definitely a collaboration I have been dying to hear. pH, for me, is my favourite producer in S.A. and one of my favourite artists period. Ten years in the game and it shows every time he jumps on a song. I thought that on this song, Molley and pH complimented each other very well. The flow and cadence executed by pH here was just special. Both Molley and pH know how to use their voices as instruments in their respective music and with Molley it is evident throughout this entire tape.

When I first I heard this song, I just thought it was a cool vibe and a perfect way to slow things down again after bangers like Never Know and Desire. However, on my second and third spin, I picked up on some very dope wordplay by Molley. At the beginning of this review I said the project shows off Molley’s confidence, and this is the one track where he does not hold back on confidence and bravado.
“I’m like some muh’fvcking cash, without me you ain’t seeing change” Get it? Cash? Change?

“I hit 90 thousand plays before I was playing on Trace/ Started the internet wave, we started the internet wave” Earlier I said Molley is often referred to as The Internet Boy and this is why. Obviously, this song was written quite a while ago because if you go to his SoundCloud, the songs he is talking about now have more than 100 thousand plays each.

“My team’s money is so long that everybody looking broke/ Don’t you see the cuts on my throat” Without context, this may just be another line to you and nothing more. But, if you know that this song was written during the time Molley was briefly associated with Cutthroat Entertainment, then you will appreciate the wordplay when he says, “Don’t you see the cuts on my throat!”

“New sound, Cap said it’s on me now” I thought this was cool wordplay how he mentioned DJ Capital and made reference to the track “On Me” which he featured on earlier this year.

For You:
Man… this song! Damn.
Remember how earlier in the review I said this project is also about love and how I said there is a specific female he is indirectly addressing throughout the tape? Well he is directly addressing her on this one. This is my favourite from the project. I appreciate the vulnerability and honesty he displayed here. This is the song that made me want to write this review in the first place because I wanted to say so much about this song, but honestly, now that I am writing it, I am finding it hard to say how I feel about this song. Heartbreakingly beautiful.

This is Molley at his most aware state. He is aware of self and aware of his surroundings and what life means to him with this new found fame.

“If money is all that I think of, then how can I make any sense girl?/ If money is all that I live for, then my journey will never end, girl”

This outro is completely different to what the intro was about. In the intro track, he was talking about material things and the love for money. Here, things come full circle and as we get to the end of the journey, we see a shift in the mind-set. He is aware that if money is the only thing he is after in this life, then he will always be on the chase and doing so, he will miss out on many things that this life has to offer. He also realises that sometimes he gets caught up in the chase for money, and then he loses focus on the music.

“Fvck all the dreams money buys, they’re all lies that they sell to our minds”
This is Molley coming to the end of this journey and realising that all the things he thought he needed to make him “successful” were all just ideas he was fed and none of it turned out to be true.

“The love for this money is fake/ the root of all our evil ways/ Looked to the sky and I prayed/ God says I’ve wandered from Faith/ Fvcken eye of the needle/ Money, power, fvcken evil/ 10 mill or not, we’re both equal/ 10 mill or not, we’re both people!”

This is my favourite outro verse I’ve heard in S.A. since Riky Rick’s Family Values outro.

All in all, this was a very special offering by Molley. There was a lot of anticipation for this release and, personally, I think it lived up to those expectations. If you didn’t think so before, I hope that this review will change your mind.

J Molley is one of the very few artists in the country right now who have come into the game and paved a way for themselves. We have had many artists come up in the last few years and have just rode existing waves. Molley is slowly pioneering his own wave and sound within the South African music landscape. If he keeps the internet as his driving tool, he will pop off beyond just South African borders. But then again, how could he not pop, he is Molley after-all.

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Follow me on twitter: @SeezyRay



Album Review: Cassper Nyovest – Thuto

“ALLOW ME TO RE-INTRODUCE MYSELF, MY NAME IS…FVCK THAT!” HA!! Remember that moment in the game? If you were to ask me then if I would ever do one of these in-depth reviews on a Cassper project, I probably would have told you “NO!” with no hesitation. Thankfully, we have come a long way from those days and Cass, too, has put in the work over the last couple of years to better his craft. I started noticing the change when he dropped his verse on “Phanda Mo” and then I was reminded again recently when he gave us a guest verse on the Khuli song “All Hail”.

I have never come to a conclusion that a Cassper album was solid. From Tsholofelo to Refiloe, I have always seen those bodies of work to be shockingly flawed. And he kept coming in at no. 1 on MTV Hottest MC list and it just made me cringe even more. Fvck a list, we hate lists! Tsholofelo was all over the place sonically and it just did not make the listening experience too pleasant. In fact, it did not have a staying power, but it was carried by one or two major street anthems. Refiloe was a little better but still lacked greatly as a complete body of work. A song like “Malome” showed a different side to Cassper’s music and one I thought he should explore more. Anyway, fast forward to 2017, we have Thuto. I will be the first to admit that I am more than impressed by Cassper. Whether it is because my expectations for him have always been low when it comes to his ability to give us a solid body of work or whatever, I think this album is one that he should be really proud of.

1.Confused – The opening song kicks off with some smooth piano chords followed by a manipulated vocal but still manages to give you that melancholic feel thanks to the smooth additional vocals by Goapele. If you listen closely, you can almost hear the Goapele “Closer To My Dreams” influence on this song.

So often, we hear Cassper coming into his verses all loud and guns blazing but this time there is none of that. In fact, he is so deliberate and precise with his delivery and cadence on this song that it really puts you in a specific frame of mind. 
”I’m guessing this is what happens when you takeover/ too much to celebrate to stay sober”

 These opening lines immediately tell you where he is mentally. And then you’re invited to hear what is! I remember the very first time I listened to the album and heard him open with those lines, I immediately paused the track and thought to myself like, “This might be The Album I’ve been waiting for him to make!” 

Lines like “We doing okay so far/ but this shit could get better if we realise/ that all we need to do is help each other, as long as we alive” show that he is very aware, not just on this song but life in general.

If you’ve been following what he’s been saying lately, you can tell that there is a shift. Priorities have changed. Energy is invested in different things. The hunger is placed on other things. It’s different now. 

But that stoner reference throws me off a bit when he says, “I just wanna be as happy as a stoner after hearing that weed is getting legalised” I mean, to the average listener, that may seem like a dope line but I feel like it was a lazy punchline.

Not every line needs to be a punchline. Artists need to realise that you can still get your point across without the need of a witty punchline at the end of a bar. In his verses on this song, he was able to get his point across by being direct and articulate except for that line about weed that sounds like a 5th grader wrote it.

He could have said something along the lines of, “With acceptance & happiness I know I’ll be all right/ I’m working on it don’t wait on me, I might be all night” or if he REALLY wanted to include a bar about weed, he could have said, “Shit’s a vibe my niggas and I living HIGH/ I like to thank the most HIGH 
Prayers & BLUNTS up to the SKY” LOL! Word to @PrinceDwayze! I’m kidding, but I hope you get my point.

This intro song is basically a summary of what the rest of the album is about: money, fame, love, family, friendship, God. These are the main themes that run through the album.

Probably the most memorable/stand-out lines are when he says, “The other day my mom told me that she suicidal/ the same soldier who told me that I should read the bible/ sometimes we have to carry the people we rely on!” 

He also says “The naysayers are retracting their statements/ The first time I met SCOOP, he told me I was a star/ but last week he told me that a nigga was falling off” Now, I will be the first to admit that I am one of those naysayers. But my whole thing with Cass is that I have never seen him as a musical person. I’ve always seen him as the guy who could make hits but could never produce a great body of work. Until an artist can do that, I cannot respect him at the highest level. Don’t get me wrong, as a hustler and someone who is breaking down walls, I have the utmost respect for Cass, but as an overall artist, I am only starting to respect him now with this album. And that’s okay. We’re all entitled to like/dislike things.

He mentions that Scoop told him he used to be a star but now he is falling off. Once again, building on from my last point, I don’t think my issue with Cass has been his problem with “falling off”, more than anything, it’s been his inability to deliver great material on a consistent basis — whether for his own work or feature verses. Those that know me and are familiar with my views on Cass as an artist will tell you that I’ve been very critical of the guy but at the same time I’m the first to give him props when he delivers a great verse. It’s a love-hate thing. 

But anyway, back to the music.

2.I Wasn’t Ready For You – Here we see Cass revisiting the past and becomes honest with himself as he accepts part of the blame for the failed relationship with the woman in question. What has let Cass down in the past is his tendency to do too much on a song. In the past it has felt like he doesn’t trust that a song is good enough and so he compensates by adding in unnecessary ad-libs. This song, however, is not one of those moments.

He delivers his verses accompanied by a simple hook. Sure, they may have been one or two times where the flow was a bit shaky but that’s okay. Tshego comes in at the end and manages to give the song a different dimension. In my review of Nasty’s Bad Hair album, I mentioned that too often, rappers have features that don’t benefit the song at all. The choice to have Tshego on this was a move well played by Cass.

3.As Karma Would Have It – This is an interlude delivered by none other than Riky Rick. I was surprised that Riky does not have a verse on this album. In fact, besides Black Thought and Nadia Nakai, there are no rap features. Big risk, big reward for Cass. Anyway, this interlude serves as a prelude to the very personal and emotional song that is DESTINY.

4.Destiny – Issa lot, mate! This is the one that’s gonna touch the people. I say this because, not only is this arguably Cassper’s most vulnerable and honest he’s ever been but also because the chorus is an interpolation of a classic song that once rocked this country. The combination of Cassper’s take on a past relationship and the use of an old classic song really puts one in a nostalgic space.

Goapele is flawless on here. She absolutely killed this song! Shout out to her the whole time. I won’t go into detail about the content of Cassper’s verses but I will say this: his delivery, the cadence and the flows were just right. Once again, he didn’t try to do too much. He said what he had to say and basically let Goapele steer the ship.

5.Superman – This song features the legendary gospel singer Tsepo Tshola. Before even listening to the song, I already knew that it was going to have a big chorus. You can always expect Tsepo to take it to the top. Also, if you pay close attention to the sample you can pick up on the Mbongeni Ngema “Stimela Sam’ Sase Zola” melodic sample. Very neat.

Anyway, this song is Cass paying homage to his father. Lyrics like, “some niggas can’t express themselves to women, so they hurt them/ it’s just a vicious cycle/ we really need the bible/ So, thank you for teaching me to believe in the Word/ thank you for teaching me to never hit a girl/ thank you for teaching me to cry when I hurt!” I don’t know man, in our current times that we’re living in, I find those lines very relevant. Living in a time where people are more concerned about why women are in abusive relationships and less concerned about why men are abusing women in the first place.

But anyway, I digress. Much like the previous song Destiny, he once again stays on course. He delivers his verses with hardly any hiccups and then lets Tsepo Tshola do what he does best: take it to church!

6.Bentley Coupe – This is when the album takes a turn. The themes of money, fame and friendship now take centre stage. I won’t lie, when I saw the track list and saw this title, I was honestly expecting another “one of those”. Even though the chorus brags about being in a Bentley Coupe (something the public has now come to expect from Cass), the verses are layered with stories of failure and triumph.

Even though he talks about his mansions and expensive lifestyle, he is presenting it in a very relatable way. The majority of Cassper’s fans don’t know what it’s like to own a mansion or a Bentley or a Rolex watch. But they all identify with the hustle and the struggle of fighting to get from the bottom to the top. 

”Off all the things in this world, I’ve got two favourites/ it’s either I’m talking about money or I’m making it/ my parents were both poor, I didn’t know what to make of it/ until I got mass appeal when being poor made me rich!”

On surface level, this may not seem like a big deal of a song but for Cassper’s career going forward, it is. I say this because, Cassper is still going to make more millions, the lifestyle will be taken to the top floor but he will need to find a way to still be relatable to his fans. In this song, he is not saying “look, I have this and you don’t” but rather “hey, look I have this and this is what I’ve had to sacrifice to get to where I am. You can too, if you put your mind to it!”

The song is full of inspirational quotables for the kids such as, “Nothing comes easy my nigga, we did the circuit/ The ICE that I wear makes the COLD nights worth it!” Or “The policy is going from a wannabe to the nigga they wanna be/ I went from a hype man to a flexible flight plan!”

8.We Living Good – This song features Tshego once again. To my knowledge, this wasn’t initially meant to make the album cut but it did nonetheless and here we are. Not much to say about this song other than the fact that it has some memorable lyrics that we will be seeing on InstaGram captions such as, 
”If you ever lose it, it was never yours!”; “Women and men lie, numbers are never mistaken!”; 
”Diamonds dancing, see the chain and the watch got a routine!” 
There is one line in particular that, if this was a make or break situation, it would’ve broken it for me: “Ghetto-oligists, yea we street smart!” Wow really?! Hayi dawg come on!!

9.Top Floor – This is the interlude featuring Didi aka @LifeWasNeverTheSame. This is the GOAT of interludes, man hahaha!! Shout out to Didi the whole time!

10.Top Shayela – This is a club banger. Undoubtedly. I like what Cass did with this joint. He had a couple memorable lines such as “Fvck a hashtag, boy I’m trending in the streets!”
”I’m Frank Casino, think I’m lost up in my sauce!” 
”I’m producing IDOLS, I’m a PRO!” Get it? Idols. ProVerb? 

The ad-libs on this song is gonna fvck up the club! All the way to the top floor!

I personally thought the song was alright until I heard Nadia’s verse and then it completely ruined it for me. Earlier I mentioned the importance of having features that elevate the song one way or another, this is not one of those features. For the most part it was unbelievable and what I mean by that is that I found it hard to believe what she was saying. I struggled to buy into what she was selling. There was nothing amazing about her verse. The bars were average at best, the flow that worked for Cass did not work for her, the delivery felt forced. I understand the need to put the Tree on, but maybe she would’ve been better on a different song.

12.Touch The Sky – This samples a classic house song. Shout out for that! Probably my only critique worth mentioning for this song is that he “over did it”. Remember how I commended him for not doing too much on the first few tracks? I get that this is a turn up song but I feel like those ad-libs of “LET ME SEE THOSE HANDS UP!” “PUT YOUR HANDS UP” and all the shouting during the chorus could’ve been left out. It is a skill to know when to over deliver and when to hold back, this is what most artists don’t realise. For the majority of this album, Cass was able to get it right, but unfortunately not on this song. Besides the unnecessary ad-libs and shouting, this is a very decent song.

15.Baby Girl – The last song I’m gonna analyse is track 15 on the album. The sample takes you back to the classic Kelly and Nelly Dilemma joint! If it were up to me, I’d have Cass release this as the next single. It is completely different from every other song on the album. It showcases a different dynamic to Cass. It sounds nothing like the current single (Tito Mboweni) and there is more singing and less rapping. So far, he has been playing it safe when it comes to his choice of singles. I’d like to see him step out of his comfort zone.

Having lived with the album for a while now, I can honestly say that I am impressed by his effort. Tito Mboweni as the lead single off the album was a strategic move more than it was about giving the listeners the best song off the album. If anything, in my opinion, Tito Mboweni is probably the worst song on the album. But, Cass knew that putting that one out would draw people into the album because it is an undeniable banger in the club, in the streets and at the shows.

This strategy reminds me of Riky Rick’s Family Values album. He too gave us songs like Boss Zonke as the single and then when you finally got to listen to the rest of the album, you were exposed to the most honest and vulnerable moments of his life.

The song Tito Mboweni is not a true representation of the album. The only time I have ever listened to that song in its entirety was when I watched the video for the first time. The majority of the album is stitched together with heartfelt, emotional, poignant and at times, braggadocios songs. The album is about love, family, god, success, failure and triumph.

Cassper has never been the reason I attend a festival/concert, I would go because one or two of my favourite artists were also on the line-up. However, with this album, I can say that I would like for him to do a few intimate shows where he performs the entire album and shares stories behind some of the songs. I would pay to go see that type of show. Miss me with that club sh!t.

I have a few personal things I need some closure with, so dawg, hit me up!! HA! Jokes aside, all in all, this was a solid effort by Cassper.

Follow me on Twitter: @SeezyRay
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Album Review: J. Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only

Simba is back!!! Watching the “Eyez” documentary a few days prior to the release day of the album got me excited for what was to come. When “False Prophets”  came on in the documentary, I had to rewind a few times just to really take it all in where he addresses his fading love for one of his idols Kanye West and a special verse directed at one of his great friends, Wale. “Everybody Dies” had me thinking, “Finally, a breath of fresh air from the “Lil whatever” rappers!” It was like the high school jock had just appeared from around the corner to smack all the freshmen who like to act like they run sh!t when the old niggas are not there. The more I listened to those two songs in the days that followed, the more I kept thinking Cole was coming back to drop bodies in the rap game and reclaim the throne. But when 4 Your Eyez Only finally dropped, I soon learnt that this album was far from what those two songs assumed. Those two songs did not even make it on to the album and now that I have lived with the album for a minute, I completely understand why they were left out. There is no place for them in this narrative that Cole was pursuing for this album.

For Whom The Bells Toll – Much like 2014 Forest Hills Drive intro, Cole starts the album with some melodic vibes.The major difference this time around being that while on the FHD intro he was talking about the beauty in dreams coming true, about being free and about being truly happy—this time it’s almost the complete opposite. He is talking about finding it hard to be happy and even takes it as far as contemplating suicide when he says, “Ain’t no way to live / do I wanna die?”. The more I play this song, the more I can’t help but draw parallels with his feature song on the Khaled album, “Jermaine’s Interlude”. In that song he talks about not being able to achieve ultimate happiness. He says, “Oh, I had so many days of crying/ Oh, I had so many days of pain/ Have you ever been as sad as I am?/ Lord, I ask if anything would change?/ I can see the future that we’re heading/ I would say it’s better not to tell/ If it’s anything like this in Heaven/ Maybe I’d be better off in hell.”

I also came to realise that the title/theme of this song may have been inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s novel “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, a book centered around the themes of death and suicide. Cole’s lyric “I have no one, I’m lonely, my bridges have burnt down” further confirmed my theory because in the novel, the protagonist has to blow up a bridge during the Spanish Civil War. I would have never made this connection had I not read the book before.

Immortal – This song reminds me of “03 Adolescence” from 2014 FHD about growing up and growing into the dope game. I don’t know if you remember, but in that song, Cole tells the story of how one day he went to go kick it with his friend who already had his foot in the dope game and asked him if he could teach him how to slang too. His friend declined this and told him (Cole) that he was destined for something better than this. 17 years breathing his demeanor said more/ He told me, “Nigga, you know how you sound right now?/ If you wasn’t my mans I would think that you a clown right now/ Listen, you everything I wanna be that’s why I fucks with you/ So how you looking up to me when I look up to you?/ You ’bout to go get a degree, I’ma be stuck with two choices: Either graduate to weight or selling number two”

The first two verses seem like are written in the perspective of Cole’s friend, most probably the same friend who I already mentioned. The opening line “Now I was barely 17 with a pocket full of hope” kinda puts a stamp on my theory that this is the same person. Anyway, by the end of the song in the outro, Cole shares his own perspective about the game and how much it really costs to be a legend and how black men usually have to either be musicians, drug dealers or athletes in order to achieve respect. This is very similar to what his friend Wale said on the song “The Pessimist” from his last album “The Album About Nothing”, when he said “Niggas respect money, money respect power/ And power, we never given unless a nigga catch, shoot or dribble/ We are hopeless!” Ironic how that song featured J. Cole.

The song also draws similarities to Billie Holiday’s song “Strange Fruit”, about white people killing black people. Especially the closing lines, “The strangest fruit you’ve ever seen ripe with pain”

Déjà vu – This song reminds me of “Dreams” from “The Warm Up” mixtape and “Power Trip from Born Sinner. In “Dreams” he was talking about having a crush on a girl that was already involved with someone else and so he came up with a scheme to get the girl of his dreams. In “Power Trip” he continues the story about this girl. Now, in “Déjà vu”, he is back again talking about wanting a girl that is already involved with someone else. In “03 Adolescence” from FHD he says, In love with the baddest girl in the city, I wish I knew her/ I wish I wasn’t so shy, I wish I was a bit more fly/ I wish that I, could tell her how I really feel inside/ That I’m the perfect nigga for her, but then maybe that’s a lie”  I think now on this song he is reminiscing as opposed to it being true right now at this point in his life. Makes sense why the choice of title. I say that this song has a connection to “Dreams” and “Power Trip” not only because of the theme but also because he kinda confirms it himself when he says, These quiet thoughts of you been going on for years now/ I saw you in the party soft lips soft spoken/ I came and talked to you but homie interfered now/ He introduced you as his girl and I was heartbroken”

If you listen to Bryson Tiller, you may or may not have realised that this beat is very similar to Tiller’s song “Exchange”. The smooth sample is taken from K.P. & Envyi”s song “Shorty Swing My Way”

Ville Mentality – On this cut, Cole talks about growing up in The Ville or as the rest of the world calls it, Fayetteville North Carolina. In his HBO Homecoming documentary for 2014 Forest Hills Drive, he spoke about how, too often, people who come from a small town such as Fayetteville, hardly ever make it out and this is because of a certain mentality. A mentality that says that: you can only do amazing things if you are from a big city or better yet, even if you do achieve some sort of success as a person from The Ville, you are bound to mess up sooner or later. This is the mentality that many of his childhood friends suffered and many of his peers still suffer today. He was one of the very few who made it out and managed to escape that mentality. In the documentary he said, “I realized the opportunity is in your mentality … I didn’t necessarily have to leave Fayetteville to do what I did. You can be great in this place and make this place great.”

She’s Mine pt 1. & pt 2 – While on the first few times you listen to these two songs you may think that this is Cole’s dedication to his wife and newborn daughter, after a few listens and a closer look at the narrative of this entire album as a whole, you may come to realise that these two song are in fact written in the perspective that is not J. Cole’s but, because they are so relatable to his own current situation, it  is no surprise he draws inspiration from them. I won’t say which lyrics in the songs are telling Cole’s narrative and which ones are telling the narrative of his friend whom I already mentioned earlier.

Change – In this song, we see Cole being self-aware of his state of mind and his surroundings. He takes on a new perspective. It’s like he snaps out of his state of mind he was in on “Ville Mentality” and instead he finds hope and optimism within. He goes from being a scared young guy growing up, to now this grown wise and aware man. As we speak I’m at peace, no longer scared to die/ Most niggas don’t believe in God and so they terrified!” He is growing stronger in his faith with god and by doing so, he is eliminating his fears of the world.

Throughout his career from as early as “The Come Up” mixtape, we have seen Cole pose the question of what it take to be famous. The price of fame. I remember in his memorable verse on Jay Z’s song “A Star Is Born” from the Blueprint 3 album, Cole opened his verse by saying, “Could I be a star?/ Does fame in this game have to change who you are?” And now we see it all come full circle years later and it seems like he has the answers: “Fuck ’em all, they don’t know all the pain I felt/ I’m in awe, after all the fame I felt, I evolved/ I no longer bury demons, I be a vessel for the truth until I’m barely breathing!”

In the last verse he tells the story of how he saw his friend get shot and instead of staying, he chose to run home and the following morning he was overwhelmed with guilt. “…ain’t no lookin’ back, cause I’m running too/ I made it home, I woke up and turned on the morning news/ Overcame with a feeling I can’t explain/ Cause that was my nigga James that was slain, he was 22!”

Also, I should mention that Ari Lennox does an incredible job with the vocals even though she is not credited. Even though Cole about to go platinum ‘with no features’ again, this song has Ari Lennox throughout and she does a good job at the same time.

Neighbors – This is one of the more popular songs from the album alongside ‘Déjà vu” and “Immortal”. While the majority of this album is delivered in the perspective not of Cole’s, this particular song was inspired by true events that took place at Cole’s studio. Elite, one of Cole’s producers, told Complex that this song is an actual account of an incident that took place while they were working on the album. Cole had rented out a house in the rich part of North Carolina that would serve as a studio for his Dreamville team while they were working on new music. They named the place The Sheltuh. Elite says that the white people in the neighborhood thought that Dreamville was selling drugs from this house. When the white people reported this to the police, the police ended up putting in place a 1 million dollar investigation. They came by the house one day and raided the place, with helicopters and a SWAT team only to find that the Sheltuh was nothing but a recording studio. Thankfully, none of the Dreamville guys were in the house during that time because someone would have been injured. When I read up on this story, I immediately remembered Cole’s video for “Crooked Smile” where a young girl was shot in her home during an arrest of her father. Even with all this success, Cole still suffers what many black people suffer: the need to always prove that you belong. The need to act a certain way just to maneuver through a white-dominated world. So much for integration/ Don’t know what I was thinkin’/ I’m movin’ back to south side”

4 Your Eyez Only – This is perhaps the most important song on the entire album, at least for me. I say this because it was during this song that everything really started to make sense for me as far as the narrative of this album goes. Throughout the album, I kept on having ideas that Cole was sharing a story not just about him and when I got to this closing song, I soon learnt that I was right. As I already mentioned earlier, this album was not really written for critics or for fans but for Cole, for his friend and but most importantly, for his friend’s daughter. The real story here is about James McMillian, one of Cole’s close friends from childhood. This may not be his real name as they may have changed it to give the family privacy.

In the song “Changes”, when Cole is telling the story of the day his friend was shot and killed, he mentions that “he was only 22” Now, it is has been made known to us that Cole and James were close in age which means that if he was 22 when he died, it was around 2007. So, now is a good time to tell this story because James’ daughter is old enough to hear it and understand it. As I already mentioned in “Immortal”, this might be the same friend he talks about in Forest Hills Drive’s “03 Adolescence”.

The first three verses of this final track are written in the perspective of Cole’s friend James. James mentions that his definition of what it meant to be a ‘real nigga’ was skewed. He thought that to be one, you had to be in the streets running with the gangs and earning street credit but it took him his whole life to realise that his mindset was wrong all along. I pray you find a nigga with goals and point of views/ Much broader than the corner, if not it’s gon’ corner you Into a box,/ where your son don’t even know his pops/ And the cyclical nature of doing time continues”  These few bars are very important because it is in this moment that James tells his daughter that she must aspire to find someone with bigger dreams than just being feared in the streets. Someone not like him. She needs to find someone who has escaped the ‘Ville Mentality’.

The last verse is Cole giving his own perspective of this narrative. He recalls a conversation he had with James and James said I know your Momma, nigga; send my love/ In case I never get a chance to speak again/ I won’t forget the weekends spent sleeping at your crib/ That’s the way I wished my family lived!” That “sleeping at your crib” line makes me want to say this friend is the same one Cole rapped about a few years ago on “3 Wishes” from Truly Yours 2. A story about his friend coming over for a weekend sleepover when they were 12 years old. In “3 Wishes”, Cole goes on to say, “Fast forward to our older years/ two different paths.” This reality is conveyed on this album once again. Cole made it out the Ville but his friend unfortunately met his death.

Anyway, in this 4 Your Eyez Only song, Cole continues to tell us about the conversation he had with James, I got a feeling I won’t see tomorrow/ Like the time I’m living on is borrowed/ With that said, the only thing I’m proud to say, I was a father/ Write my story down and if I pass/ Go play it for my daughter when she ready” As I already mentioned, Cole decided to tell this story now after so many years because only now is his friend’s daughter old enough and ready to hear it.

“And so I’m leaving you this record for your eyes only.” This is Cole now addressing the daughter directly. Drawing parallels to what James thought being a ‘real nigga’ was, Cole goes on to say, “…your daddy was a real nigga, not ’cause he was hard/ Not because he lived a life of crime and sat behind some bars/ Not because he screamed, “Fuck the law”/ Although that was true/ Your daddy was a real nigga cause he loved you!” Damn…

Once again, there was no major promo for this album, much like what they did with 2014 Forest Hills Drive released two years ago almost on the exact same date as this album. 4YEO recently went to no. 1 on the Billboard 200 while at the same time selling more than 500k units in its first week, making it Cole’s fourth no. 1 album in a row. The only other rappers to have their first four albums reach no. 1 are Drake and DMX. The song “Déjà vu” cracked the Top 10 chart when it debut at no. 7, making it his first ever top 10 charting song. Previously, his highest charting song was the now infamous “Work Out” which peaked at no. 13 back in 2012. In total, all the ten songs from the album will chart on the Top 100.

When it’s all said and done, I think with this album, Cole will feel like he has his first commercial classic. I say this because, more than any other album he’s ever put out, this feels like for the first time he’s truly made an album for himself. Yes, Born Sinner was great, FHD was great, and we the fans love them and think either one is a classic, but this album was not meant to “compete” with those albums. The narrative here is more intimate and exclusive this time around.

2014 FHD may have not had any lead singles but the album contained enough hits/radio-friendly songs to carry it to its international success. This time around with 4YEO, there were no singles once again, but what makes this one different is that the majority of the album does not contain “traditional” sounding radio-friendly songs. However, songs like “Déjà vu”; “Immortal” and “Neighbors” will be enough to carry the album. The impact of this album is going to be far reaching—further than I can imagine at this point in time. The real is back!

Follow me on Twitter: @SeezyRay

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Album Review: Nasty C – Bad Hair

This is the most important review I have had to do, after VIEWS. I have so much I want to say but because of the medium I am using, I won’t be able to get everything down. Maybe I should start doing podcasts for these things now. Ha!! Junior, if you’re reading this, @ me ‘cause I need some closure on a few things regarding your album!

Anyway, my earliest memory of David Junior Ngcobo, aka Nasty C, is a song where he said, “I’m certain you ain’t heard me saying ‘I.D.K’/ ‘cause I’m certain I’ll be rapping till I decay!” As I am writing this review I am trying to remember the name of the song but I can’t seem to recall it right now. The next time I heard from him was on the Partition (Cee Mix). This was the first time I was introduced to the now popular “We in the city where everything got a price/ survival of the best, you don’t cut it if you’re just kinda nice!” This was all before he dropped his first classic, Price City. Nothing in this world could have prepared me for the fire that was in the Price City mixtape. Nothing.

To this day, I still believe that Price City brought a much needed shift in the game. Before Nasty C blew up, it just felt like the guys in the game had become comfortable with just making songs and kind of slept on the importance of lyricism. Nasty gave us Price City with a C4 strapped to it and when it blew up, everything and everyone in the game shook. The mixtape easily became the best tape in 2015 and one of the best hip-hop projects in S.A. alongside Family Values by Riky Rick and Return of the King by the legendary Tumi. Songs like “IV (Four)”, “Hallelujah”, “Find My Way” and “Let Me In” really showed that this kid was not here to play games. Ninjas went 8 ball when they heard Hallelujah and that ain’t even the trick he had up under his sleeve. Hallelujah was really a microphone test while so many cats in the game called it defeat. Ha!

Anyway, after the Price City mixtape picked up momentum in the streets, I don’t even think Nasty could have foreseen what came afterwards. He literally became the most exciting, most dangerous rapper in the game—not to mention him being the youngest, having released the tape while still in his final year of high school. Exactly a year after he dropped Price City, having dropped the Juice Back banger and the verse that solidified his position in the game on the remix featuring Cassper Nyovest and Davido, he dropped the tape again with some new bonus songs included. It seemed like the longer we waited for Bad Hair to drop, the bigger the hype and the higher the expectations became because he was killing all the features he was involved in, outside of his own songs.

The same way J. Cole has a classic mixtape called Friday Night Lights, Drake has So Far Gone, Kendrick Lamar has Section.80, Big Sean has Detroit and Wale has More About Nothing—well Nasty C has Price City.

Bad Hair was the most anticipated hip-hop album in S.A. and expectations were very high. For the most part, I think he lived up to them and in some instances, surpassed them. The album opens up with a clip from an interview by Slikour with Cass. In the clip, Cass tells Slikour that Nasty is the reason why he is rapping with so much hunger nowadays. Like I said earlier, Nasty was a wakeup call to the game. The opening song after the intro is a song called “Please”. This is an interlude, which is not normal considering the fact that people don’t usually place their interludes as track two. But then again, most people aren’t Nasty.

“Check” is the third song on the LP and it features his Free World Music mate, Erick Rush. Personally, as nice as the song may sound to most, I feel like it could have done without the Rush feature. Don’t get me wrong, Rush is nice but on this occasion, I just feel like he did not elevate the song at all. He did not bring in a different dynamic. I have always said that choosing features is one of the most important things when it comes to albums. On this occasion, Rush was not the guy, but he was the guy for other songs on the album which I will get to later.

For “I Lie”, which is the fourth offering on the album, Nasty recruited Tshego of Cassper’s Family Tree. This is a great idea of R&B and Rap coming together and the execution is flawless. The first time I heard of Tshego was on DJ Slim’s hit “Phanda Mo” which also featured Yanga, Emtee and a crazy verse by Cassper Nyovest. Tshego reminds me of Jeremih a bit with some of his cadences and rifts when he is doing hooks. Anyway, on here, Nasty matches Tshego’s energy and delivery when he comes in at the end to give us his verse. It’s easy to imagine ‘Check” without an Erick Rush feature but it is not as easy to imagine this song without the Tshego feature. This is an example of how a feature plays a role in the elevation of a song and bringing in a different dynamic. Unlike the Rush featured I already mentioned earlier. Lyrically, Nasty has some quotables worth mentioning, such as “I blame Ganja ‘cause my weed and my beats are three loud!” You get it? Ganja as in Ganja Beatz (producers) and ganja as in weed. “…three loud” as in the weed is too strong but also the actual Ganja beat is too loud. Ha! But on the other hand, he does have some cringe-worthy lines like, “I smoke that shit that smells like someone farted.” I mean, this is the same dude who once gave us wordplay on Price City like “I asked her what she’s after Nasty C FOR/ she said she wanna ‘BOOM’, that’s that Nasty C4!” and “I ain’t got love for these niggas, just the way I was brought up/ got a FLIGHT to CATCH, I ain’t got time to get CAUGHT UP!” But I get it you know, he was going for a catchy hook and all.

Track five on the album is “Don’t Do It” and it features Telleman. The first time I heard this song was many month ago (I think June) and it was only the hook and a verse long and didn’t exactly have vocals by Telleman at the time nor did it have the second verse by Nasty. His second verse on here is nothing short of great. Lyrically, he delivered. The wordplay was smooth, especially when he says things like “People ask me where I got all this gold from/ it’s rose gold, nigga ask me where it rose from” or “What’s a ballerina to me, I’ve been on my toes all fvcking year”. This ballet line reminds of the one bar he had on Price City when he said “I know a lot like a valet dude/ stay on my toes like a ballet move!” Anyway, Telleman comes in and immediately brings in a different dynamic to the song. His vocals are too smooth on this song and throughout the album. I remember him from his Soul Candi days a couple of years ago. It’s good to see him still pushing.

“Overload” is another cut that features Telleman. Once again, the chemistry is evident and the execution is clean. The production here is handled by Gobbla who also produced a couple other songs on the album. The sound on here is different compared to the previous songs. I can tell that Nasty was behind some of the production on the previous joints.

Erick Rush appears again but this time on “Problems”. This is one of the stand-out songs on the albums and definitely a better offering from Erick Rush. The song itself, as the title suggests, is about problems. On the hook Nasty says that these problems are the reason he is smoking so much. On the Price City mixtape he once said, “Smoke ‘cause it makes time fast forward, I presume/ and plus the folks are sweating me like a locker room.” The heavy smoking back then was for different reasons. He was still on the come up and the pressures of blowing vs the pressures of staying in school were the problems he was facing. But now, the pressures and problems are from the success he has accumulated for himself over the past year and some. It’s a different ball game now.

In his verse, Rush talks about growing up and reminisces on the time he didn’t have much. His most notable bars is when he says, “Now I’m feeling like I got my Juice Back/ It was a climb from the bottom I’m just glad I got my View back!” The mention of “juice back” is in reference to Nasty’s song, Juice Back and the way it is delivered with Nasty providing background vocals when Rush says the words “Juice Back” makes it that much more special. Nasty matches Rush when he comes in to deliver his verse. His whole verse is full of quotables.  Bitches wanna see the champagne or the strap pop/ ‘Cause a bursted condom is a jackpot!” is one of the light-hearted bars and then he also gives us more serious bars such as “Nobody knows me when the track stops” and also when he is addressing the pressures that come with being “responsible” for the people he came up with, “Problems, pressure cause if I up and left I’d leave a lot of niggas stressing probably jobless” and one of my favourites, “Niggas that put their word on the cross and they double cross me”. This bar reminds me of the one on the Price City outro when he said, “See, they’d give you two times Christ, they double-cross you!”

“Pressure” continues in the vein of “Problems” and there a lot of similarities in the two songs. Lyrically, he says things like “I learnt how to speak less and I think louder” and in the previous song he says “Quiet niggas are known to smoke the loudest”. In the second verse he says, “You double cross me, I forget that I’m a Christian” which is almost like a retort to his line in the previous song where he says, “Niggas that put their word on the cross and they double cross me”. But probably the most notable bar in the whole song is when he says, “They told me open up more I told them “File damaged” Sheesh!!

One of the most talked about songs on the entire album, without a doubt, is “A Star Is Born”. The song featured King Kotini himself Riky Rick and Omari Hardwick or Ghost as some of you may know him as, from the American drama series, Power. Those who have the iTunes version of the album do not have this song as the sample was not cleared in time for the release. The choice to get Riky on the song was a no-brainer, surely. We all know Riky stays killing soulful songs. He spits some really special bars when he is not busy eating kotini. Omari delivers his verse in the form of spoken word. He takes on the role of Nasty’s father and delivers a response to Nasty’s special verse to his parents. This makes the song that much more special.

The hook serves as a letter of some sort to his late mother (IV). Throughout his verse he addresses his father directly and if you are familiar with Price City, you will know that during that time, he was not in a good space with his father. So, it is refreshing to see things come full circle now more than a year later as he addresses the love he has for his father. “I know I never said it pops but you the man though/ You taught your nut how to let his nuts hang low!” Clearly there has been a lot of growing up in the last year and a bit. As the verse unfolds, he talks about all the things he wants to do for his father now that he is in a position to do so with his success. I remember vividly when he was performing at Major League Gardens in September and near the end of his set, he stopped the music and spit this verse acapella. I was moved. “I made them fall in love with mama when I made that “Four” track/ She proud and I know that I talk to her in her dreams/ And in that car accident I heard her talk back/ I just wanna thank you for being there for me/ Your son is a star dad.” Damn…

“Good Girls/SCH” is one of my favourite cuts on the album. The second half of the album is just great, actually. Gobbla and Nasty C produced this banger. The first part of the song (Good Girls) is too wavy! “Booty big enough to keep her company” is the line that all the girls were quoting on Twitter when the album dropped. The delivery and the flow rides the beat well. The second part of the song (SnapChatHoe) when the beat changes elevates the song to a whole new level. Once again, if you have been following his music way before this album, you will recognise the name Sam. Not only is this an update on his old girl, much like how Drake did with his old girl Erykah on VIEWS, it is also a clever play on words when you break it down. “Miss me with the C, things between me and Sam was just, not strong/ the bond was weakening” This is a clever play on his stage name, Nasty C. When he says “miss me with the ‘C’” he implies that it should just be Nasty, and in this case, not only is Nasty his name but also a description of how things are between him and Sam.

“Hell Naw” as I’m sure most of us know, was the single that carried much of the momentum leading up to the album. However, the album version has a second part of the song that sees Nasty deliver his verse over an almost chopped version of the original beat. Production is just amazing on here, especially the second part of the song. I don’t know if it is just my version, but this song sounds louder than the rest of the songs on the album. I don’t know if this was done on purpose or it’s just my version, although I got three versions of the album, including the iTunes version. Maybe Nasty did it intentionally when he was mixing and mastering it.

Erick Rush makes another appearance on the special cut, “Forget”. Once again, Nasty talks to his mother. “It’s easier to forget you when my energy is drained/ See I’m expected to make the hits and then never feel pain/ That’s not easy mama, you left me at a very young age” for me, his verse here sounds almost like a part 2 to the classic song “IV (Four)” from Price City. Out of the three verses that Erick gives us on the album, this has got to be his finest moment. The song is filled with haunting background female vocals that come courtesy of Rowlene, if I’m not mistaken.

The transition from “Forget” to “Vent” would have been perfection had they not placed “25” in between. The vibe and the recurring female vocals that appear on both the songs would have made the transition and the flow of the album in its closing stages seamless. Kind of like what Weeknd did in the closing stages of his album Beauty Behind The Madness. I say this because, “Forget” takes your mind to a very specific place and “Vent” keeps it there. Not to mention, as far as creativity goes, it would have been even better because the final song, which comes after “Vent”, is Phases and it is only then that we finally hear Rowlene fully. In “Forget” all we get are background harmonies and then in the “Vent” she takes it a step further and gives us some melodies and one crucial bar and then eventually on “Phases” she basically gives us a song.

No lie, I may have dropped a thug tear the first time I heard “Phases”. There is really nothing I can fault them on here. This was perfection. Both Nasty and Rowlene gave us something very special with this. I remember Nasty saying that this was the first official song recorded for Bad Hair way back in December. Ironic how it is the last song on the album. Nasty is talking about what seems to be the different phases that he went through with his old girl. The verses detail how all these experiences affected him overtime. The standout and most special moment on the album for me is halfway into the song when Rowlene makes an introduction and shares bars with Nasty. When she opens up by saying “Okay, okay” her delivery and cadence reminds me of Jhené Aiko a bit.

There is a part of the song where they are both on at the same time but saying different things, I dropped a thug tear. Nasty says “And I know I love you but poppa said don’t let your crush crush you” while she says, “And I know you love me but I will never let my crush crush me” The most special moment on the entire album for me, right here. Rowlene goes on to close off the song with some smooth harmonies and melody and thus bringing an end to Bad Hair.

sidenote: I know some of you guys might think crazy of me to say this but, just based on these few songs that Rowlene features on here, it really sounds like she has a lot more to offer to the game. Her vocals are incredible and I really hope that, come 2017 and 2018, she will have made an imprint in the game and will be well on her way to a major project. I need to hear more of her. She is very refreshing to listen to.

There has been a lot of talk on whether this album is better than the Price City mixtape. Personally, I think Price City was to show that he could really rap just as good if not better than most cats in the game and I think it served its purpose. Bad Hair, seems like it was intended to showcase his musicality and I think it served its purpose. Of course, the absence of hard-hitting songs he made with Black-Sun on Price City, such as “Hallelujah”,  and “Let Me In” was evident on the album and in some cases, sorely missed. Lyrically, there was not enough of the gritty golden bars we got on Price City like “Sh!t changed these days/ I say fvck a show that’s paying sh!t change these days/ Everybody WORKING like a SLAVE these days/ It’s only right I get a WHIP and a CHAIN these days!” I hold him at a higher standard because of golden bars like these.

But I get it, the album had to be more polished, smoothened out around the edges and more technical. Either way, Nasty C has showed us that he is here to stay and when talks of the best rappers in the game come up, his name should be there. When MTV Base does their Top 10 MCs list they will probably place him at number 4 even though we all know he should be higher than that. Nasty C has changed the course of the game going forward. He should be very proud of this body of work.

So, whether you are a day one fan, or a one day fan: “It’s Bad Hair season, nigga fvck with it!”

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Album Review: Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book

“I speak of wondrous unfamiliar lessons from childhood/Make you remember how to smile good,”


“And we back. And we back. And we back!” If you know about that lyric, then this review is for you. If you don’t know that lyric, then this review is REALLY for you. Ha! Anyway, I have been battling to do a write up on this album for months now. Not because I have nothing to say about it, but more the fact that there is so much to talk about. I was not sure if I should write this as a normal review or tap into the core themes and messages stitched into this project. Every time I listen to the album, I begin formulating some sort of review but it never materialises to anything in the end. So, I have decided to not have a specific angle for this review, but rather just write as the thoughts come to mind. This will either go very well or very bad. Here it goes…

When 10 Day dropped in April of 2012, I was in my final year of high school and if I’m being honest, I was too caught up in J. Cole’s Friday Night Lights, Wale’s Ambition,, Lil’ Wayne’s Carter IV and Drake’s Take Care and Watch The Throne. More than anything though, nobody around me was talking about this guy called Chance The Rapper. So, Chano’s mixtape barely made it onto my playlist. Almost exactly a year after 10 Day, he dropped his second mixtape, Acid Rap, and even though I was caught up with Wale’s The Gifted, J. Cole’s Born Sinner, Jay Z’s Magna Carter, Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city, Kanye’s YEEZUS –Chano’s mixtape eventually managed to find its way to my playlist. However, I did not listen to it immediately, even though everyone around me was hyped about it. Old girl wouldn’t stop talking about “Cocoa Butter Kisses” and “Chain Smoker”. I waited until the hype died down a bit before I gave it a listen.

Anyway, fast-forward to 2016, coming from an incredible project in 2015 called Surf, with The Social Experiment and some friends, Chance appears on the soulful intro song, Ultralight Beam”, on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo (TLOP). In my opinion that was the best verse on that Kanye album. Chance has five writing credits on Kanye’s TLOP, including his guest verse on “Ultralight Beam”. Chance had a hand in the creation of “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”, “Famous”, “Feedback”, “Waves” and “Ultralight Beam”. What is interesting about this, is that these five songs have been received by the public as some of the stand-out tracks on the album.

Not long after that, on May 12, Chance finally released his 3rd mixtape, Coloring Book in the midst of Drake’s historic VIEWS run and TLOP’s media headlines. The mixtape, which is really an album, was received with great support and positivity by the masses. In many regards, where TLOP falls short, Coloring Book flourishes. For me this comes as no surprise because I feel like after working with Kanye on TLOP, I think Chance knew exactly where he wanted to take his music and he had the perfect support system around him to help him take it there.

The underlying themes throughout the album are art, music, devotion, love and faith. In the opening track “All We Got” which sees Kanye West return the favour by appearing on Chance’s album intro accompanied by the Chicago Children’s Choir and Francis Starlight of Francis and the Lights—from the jump makes a statement saying that music is all we’ve got”. Art is all we’ve got. And if your art is your life, then this one life is all you’ve got. The original song was done by Nate Fox, Donnie Trumpet, (both do a lot of work on most of Chance’s music) and Grace Webber for Grace’s album. The track itself has a feel of urgency to it. Vocally and production-wise, Francis really shines on this song and throughout the album. When Kanye’s voice feeds through the speakers, it sounds like many different versions of his voice singing all at once when in fact it is just his one voice being manipulated by Francis on the keyboard building chordal sounds around the one vocal. This brings in a very futuristic feel to the record.

“If one more label try to stop me, it’s gon’ be some dread-head niggas in your lobby!”

The second song, “No Problem” which features 2 Chainz and Lil’ Wayne, picks up from the energy and message of the opening song. Having Wayne feature on this song was a good look since the song talks about record labels getting in the way of artists and as we all know, Wayne’s Carter V is still being held hostage by Cash Money CEO, Birdman.

One of the most amazing things about Chano’s story is that he has managed to accomplish so much in the music world and still has not signed to any label. He is simply refusing to sign and sell his music. He believes that the days of needing record deals in order to sell your music to make a living are quickly coming to an end and so he has decided to be one of the leaders of this new movement. The main message here is him telling the record labels to stop getting in his way. There were a few songs with artists like Jeremih, J. Cole and Big Sean, that did not make it on to this album because record labels of the artists featured on the songs did not want their artists doing free projects, especially with someone like Chance who has been very vocal about being anti-label. Chance said that Jeremih was on as many as three songs but only Summer Friends” got cleared by the Execs at the top. Imagine!! The more you read into this issue, the more you will realise that we are lucky to even have guest appearances by the likes of Future, Justin Bieber and Wayne on this project.

This song is “Chance vs the others” and I think the intended message is loud and clear. Furthermore, I think this is a true representation of Chano’s journey thus far in the sense that he is over here doing his own thing, not signing, giving out music for free, and basically everyone else is all the way on the other side. This song and of course the album as a whole, has really gotten the attention of the people at the top. Grammys have even changed their nomination rules and regulations. In the past, projects could only be considered for nomination if they were sold commercially, whereas now rules have changed to accommodate streams, not just purchases. This now means that Coloring Book is eligible for Grammy consideration and I really think Chance is going to get a few nominations and possibly a win for “Best New Artist” or something.

“Summer Friends” is the 3rd offering on the album and this is when things get a little deep. On the surface, this song is about Chano’s childhood and the life he enjoyed as a kid in Chicago. He is reminiscent of the times he was so carefree as a child during the summers when he played outside with just socks on, no shoes. However, the deeper underlying message here is the sad reality Chicago faces: death. Year after year, Chi-Town has unbelievable statistics when it comes to violence and murders. As much as there has been a lot of negative coverage of Chicago by the media, the film industry and documentaries, this song also speaks on the violence but it has been done in a very special way. Chance touches on the sad realities but somehow the song still carries with it an uplifting and positive feel with it.

I remember on Watch The Throne when Kanye rapped I’m from the murder Capital where they murder for capital” Well, Chance being a Chiraq native himself, shares the same sentiment. This is where the “Summer friends don’t stay around” line has a double meaning. One: there are many young people losing their lives, especially in the summer, due to violence. The second meaning to the lyric is that during your childhood, you usually make some new friends but as soon as the summer is over, everybody goes back to school and friendships end as quickly as they formed. Francis Starlight does an incredible job on here, but the real star for me is Jeremih in the closing stages of the song. His lyrics are memorable and his delivery is just as special.

“Don’t forget the happy thoughts/ All you need is happy thoughts”

“Same Drugs” is a very special cut on the record. On the surface, one might think that Chance is literally talking about not doing the same drugs like in the past. If you are familiar with Chano’s come up, you will remember that not too long ago he put out a project called Acid Rap and he said that when he made that tape, he was really on acid and other substances. So, the lyric “We don’t do the same drugs no more,” can be taken in the literal sense. However, the more you listen to the song and the better your understanding of it, you will realise that it goes much deeper than Chance getting high with his girl from his childhood.

The basic metaphorical meaning behind these lyrics is about how people usually change as they get older. When you are a kid growing up, you are not usually aware of the harsh realities of this world and being happy comes easy. When you are a kid, your “drugs” for when you are feeling down are simple things like reading your favourite book, listening to your favourite song or being with your best friend. As you grow older, you stop doing those things and you lose these parts of you. Sometimes you don’t lose them, but you sort of replace them with other things and other people literally replace them with real drugs.

“Wide eyed kids being kids/ When did you stop?/ What did you do to your hair?/ Where did you go to end up right back here?/ When did you start to forget how to fly” These are real questions and they represent our reality today. This is also a reference to the Peter Pan story. In the movie “Hook”, when kids grow up, they begin to lose their ability to fly. When put into context of Chano’s story, he is addressing the issue of how the girl from his childhood is no longer full of imagination.She has stopped being that kid full of wonder and is now an adult of responsibilities. There are so many pressures from the world telling us to be a certain way, act a certain way or look a certain way. We become so caught up in trying to fit in or live up to these standards, that we end up taking life too seriously and we also end up forgetting about all that makes us beautiful. During a Q&A on Reddit, Chance said that “Same Drugs” had “like 20 versions and was the hardest to write.” Go figure.

I’m always throwing on clothes/ She always throwing a fit

“Smoke Break” is yet another one where drugs are being used as a metaphor. On this song, Chance is talking about/to his girl and is sort of reflecting on how busy they have both become. They are both so caught up on taking care of the baby, taking care of other things around them that they barely have time to take care of themselves and nurture their relationship.  In an interview with Zane Lowe, Chance spoke about the song being one of his favourite songs and also said that “…there really is a whole turning point in terms of your priorities and your schedule and we really did lose for a second, you know, the respect of time for ourselves and the respect of time to just take a break, put the baby down for a second and like, enjoy each other’s company.” I think this is true for many people. I remember Riky Rick saying “In life we are so busy doing things that we forget how to be human beings and instead become human-doings.” It sounds funny but it is very true. Sometimes it’s important to just take a break from it all and just catch your breath. Have a ‘smoke break’.

Future really delivered on this one. I think this is one of my favourite verses from him ever. Him also being a father, he touches on the difficulties he has had with being there for his kid and he also gets very personal about his fall-out with Ciara. Future has some gems but it’s just that most of the time Metro Boomin got us jumping and dabbing and we end up not paying attention to what Future is telling us. Ha!

I speak of wondrous unfamiliar lessons from childhood/ Make you remember how to smile good

Blessings (Reprise) is the outro song on the album. This is a very different take compared to the first “Blessings” that appears in the first half of the album. In this song Chance talks about his new found success, reminisces on how he got to where he is today. He also speaks about his relationship with Kanye West and how with all this success, he has God to thank. His verse on here is very unique compared to the other verses on the album in the sense that he delivers this one more as a spoken word piece than an actual rap. BJ The Chicago Kid, Ty Dolla $ign, Anderson .Paak, Raury, D.R.A.M., and Donnie Trumpet and others deliver melodic harmonies in the second half of the song to close off the show.

Lyrically, he is incredible on this one. It almost feels like he is inspired by Jay Electronica’s verse on “How Great” which comes a couple of songs before this one. Jay dropped mad spiritual/scripture references on “How Great”. I had to look up the meaning of most of the bars he dropped on there. Ha! Chance gives us some very classic quotables on this one. Listening to the content, you can tell that this is like a summary of the whole album. He touches on almost every topic he addressed on the album prior to this song: Love, family, music, faith and of course anti-label. It is a very uplifting song and that is a representation of what the album was meant to be.

Coloring Book is the highest rated rap album since Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. This may not win Album of The Year at the Grammys considering that albums like LEMONADE and 25 are the favourites, but it surely deserves to be considered for at least a nomination in a few categories. Personally, at the Grammys, I think he will go on to snatch the awards for Best Rap Album, Best New Artist and most probably Best Rap Performance for his song “No Problem” featuring Wayne and 2Chainz. This is arguably the best hip-hop album of 2016 and a definite favourite of mine.

Anyway, in the words of Chance The Rapper, “Don’t forget the happy thoughts!”

Support the artist, sustain the culture:

Follow me on Twitter: @SeezyRay

The S.A. Hip-Hop Dilemma??

When you step back and take a look at the current state of the rap game here in South Africa, compared to three or four years ago, it has grown immensely. There have been a number of contributing factors to this growth. Technological advancements have been a factor for sure. The mass consumers of hip-hop music in South Africa are the youth and the youth are a lot more tech-savvy than those that came before. Also, the majority of the mainstream hip-hop in the country is made by the youth and to a large extent, for the youth.

I feel like I know who Nasty C is off of one tape. Granted, Nasty’s story is far from finished, matter of fact, it is only the beginning. My point here is that there are artists who have been in the game for years and years, but do not have much to show for it, as far as growth and artistic integrity goes. And hey, listen, this is not a shot at any artist who feels that they might be a target here. I mean, these artists make music that they feel they are good at but most importantly, these artists are making music that the mass consumers are demanding. And guess what, these artists are eating. So can you blame artists like L.e.s and the likes for making the same music they do year after year? Today the consumers are endorsing stuff that has the potential to hurt the industry in the long run. Sure, there are artists who are here for the sole purpose of making as much money as possible as quickly as possible. But there are those who are invested in this industry. Mentally, emotionally, financially. In the back of their minds they are thinking about where they want to see this industry in the next ten years and beyond.

Between 2012 and now, we have seen artists like K.O., and AKA go out to the world and fly our flag. AKA literally performs every show with the South African flag hanging from his mic stand. Clean stuff! We have seen Riky stage a come-back and go on to join the aforementioned artists and a few others in the quest to fly the flag high in foreign land. Cara-Cara, for me, is what really changed the game and got the ball rolling for the new movement. It was almost like a realisation in the industry that we can make hip-hop music that represents us and have the confidence to take it to the world. Three years before the release of Skhanda Republic (Teargas was still a thing), before Riky came back as Boss Zonke, and before the journey of Levels by AKA began, I bumped into Hugh Masikela by the SABC studios and was fortunate enough to have a brief conversation with him. When I told him that I had aspirations of changing the way South Africans see, think and consume music in this country, specifically hip-hop music, he told me that the genre will never fully grow until the artists started embracing their authenticity and exporting that to the world. He probably won’t remember that story. I thought a lot about what he said and it did not sit right with me. I was worried too.

Fast-forward three years after that conversation and you have Cara-Cara, Levels and even Boss Zonke, almost as if K.O., AKA and Riky were flies on the wall during that conversation. My point here is that before this shift in the game, for the most part it felt like we were trying to make hip-hop music that sounded American. Granted, there were artists like Skwatta Kamp back in the day, Jabba and co. trying to push the culture, why I said “for the most part”. But still. When music consumers from America look at South Africa for some new music, they expect to find music that is South African otherwise if they wanted something that sounded American, they could just look in their backyard. The problem with trying to sound like the ‘real deal’ is that people will always choose the ‘real deal’ over you.

Making music that is a representation of you as a South African does not necessarily mean now you have to go out there and start rapping in your mother tongue just to showcase your roots. Embracing South African culture and heritage and music can come in a number of forms. Take AKA for example, a coloured guy who delivers his raps in English. But on Levels he somehow still managed to incorporate a South African flavour to his music by utilising samples of greats such as Brenda Fassie. It is small victories like that that make a difference. That is the difference between people who make music that sounds good at that time, and people who live with the music. People who live with the music are the ones who have taken the time to educate and expose themselves to real, honest and creative music. They study and experiment with many genres, not just the genre their music falls under and they convey that in their own art.

I also enjoyed Tumi’s Return of The King album so much because it just felt like a true representation of what it is like when an artist is educated about his/her history and roots as far as music goes and is able to convey that in his/her own art. That album continues to get more love overseas than back here at home. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? It’s a tricky place to be in as an artist but that is a story for another day. However, I remember Reason saying that as much as he appreciated the love he received from Sway when they played his song on live radio, he did not think too much of it. Matter of fact, I remember him telling Slikour that he would rather have someone like T-Bo Touch endorse that record on local radio because he felt like at the end of the day, a one-time endorsement on Sway’s Universe was not going to pay for school fees but an endorsement by Touch might lead to a set at 5 @ Loud in front of ten thousand people or any of these big music festivals in the country, and that pays school fees.

It would be unfair to compare the South African rap game to that of America. The South African rap game has been in survival mode for a while and only now are things starting to look promising. The American hip-hop culture and rap industry has been around for longer than we have been a democracy and therefore, it is going to be a while. But artists like AKA and K.O., and a couple others, I consider as international artists and an artist like Nasty C has an international feel to his music.

K.O., makes completely different music to OKMALUMKOOLKAT but both their work can be put on a world stage. One is making music that is a representation of where he is from and what he grew up listening to and the other is telling stories of where is from while at the same time incorporating sounds and styles from not only here at home but also overseas. Either way, these people are vessels for South Africa and south African stories. A good friend of mine, @Lou_Gumede once said that “Appreciating the music of our times is so crucial, because generations are defined by what music they listened to.”

While there are a number of artists trying very hard to push the culture forward and grow the industry, there are many more hindering the process. I recently attended the Major League Gardens event and was visited by that feeling of worry again when there was a period of the show where about four or five different rappers came on one after another and I could hardly tell the difference. It was all trap-heavy-base sounding music that sounded a little too identical not only to each other but also too identical to what the American trap scene sounds like. When AKA did his interview with Sway, he said that we, as South Africa, have a lot to offer and I guess that is true. But the majority of the music that is being embraced by the consumers in our hip-hop game currently is not of a high standard. I am by no means saying that our artists should not make club-bangers. What I am saying is that if artists want to make club-bangers, at least it should be authentic and not something that sounds like a watered down version of a hit by an artist from overseas. If you look at songs like Cara-Cara and Boss Zonke, it is evident that it is possible to make songs for the club that are authentic. It is up to the consumers to demand high standard of work from the artists and it is up to the artists to have the confidence to hold the vision and trust the process. Cole once said in a song “…and be you, that’s when it sounds bea-utiful!”

Slikour said something that stuck with me a lot the other day. He said an apple tree is not trying to be anything but an apple tree. A banana tree is not trying to be anything but a banana tree. If one day the apple tree decides that it is tired of putting out apples, then what the hell is it? On a more micro individual level, our artists need to be who they have to be and not try be something they are not. By embracing being an apple tree, you won’t feel the pressure of being something that you are not. Most importantly, there will always be a season for apples. Meaning, as an artist, stay true to who you are and there will always be a time and place for you in the game. Hold the vision and trust the process.

Nasty C is just as much of a human being as J. Cole. There are a number of factors that contribute to the difference between an AKA and a J. Cole or a Nasty C and a Kendrick. One key difference is that a J. Cole, in his home country, the people demand a certain standard from him and consequently, that has fuelled him to perform at such a high level. Here at home, I just think we do not demand as much and it is hurting us. We need to recondition the minds of both artist and consumer. Ten or fifteen years from now, you don’t want to look back and see how far we’ve gone only to realise we went the wrong way.

If we really want to see the South African hip-hop industry grow and have an impact on a world stage, then we need more people to hold the artists accountable. We need platforms such as blogs, podcasts and round-tables where the masses can access to be better educated about music and the game. On local music channels we need more verses and less versus. Also, the artists need to hold each other accountable. I feel like right now, even though there are a few artists breaking new ground and doing great things, there is still a mentality of “I’m just here to get mine” and this is slowing down the growth that we should be seeing take place. We lack community. We are impatient. The majority of the people involved want instant gratification.

I am not saying artists should not be inspired by music from overseas, I’m just saying that there is a difference between what feels/sounds good for you as opposed to what is actually good for you. There is a difference between being influenced and being inspired. And sometimes knowing the difference can make all the difference.


Follow me on Twitter: @SeezyRay


Album Review: Drake – VIEWS

This review is probably going to rattle a few people. This has been the most anticipated album in a very long time. There was a lot of talk about what kind of album this would be. Would this be the one that becomes his classic? Either way, I was sure of one thing: he wasn’t going to please everybody. Between Nothing Was The Same and VIEWS, Drake has become such a global superstar. So much has happened between then and now. There is so much to talk about, there is so much background context for this album. This is probably why this will be my longest album review and probably the most important so far. Because there is so much to talk about, I think it is only right that I review the album track-by-track and then at the end give my final thoughts.

Track Review:

  1. Keep the Family Close – Vocally, this was faultless. In terms of subject matter, it is what we have come to know him for. At the end of the song I was left thinking that Drake no longer really has an outlet to air-out his feelings without being called “too emotional” or “too soft”. Anyway, the content in the song I found to not be as straight forward as it seems. What I mean by that is that at first you might just think he is just Draking and talking about where is in his life right now in terms of friendships/relationships (nothing new here) but then the more I listened to this song the more I started to really go back and reflect on his stuff from years ago leading up to this song right here. I came to the conclusion that he is also talking about himself here. “I knew you before you made ends meet and now we’re meeting our end/ and it’s all because you chose a side/ you’re supposed to put your pride aside and ride for me/ guess it wasn’t time/ and of course you went and chose a side that wasn’t mine” I feel like on these few lines, he is doing what is called introspection. Right now, I feel like Drake’s goals and dreams as far as music goes have drastically changed between Comeback Season and VIEWS. If you go back and listen to the stuff he was rapping about back then and the hunger he had in him, it is very different to what he is talking today. Back then, all he really wanted was to have money, have an abundance of women and become respected in the game. As the years went by, the success came, the money came and the women came. However, the respect was slow to come. I think a part of him feels like he “betrayed” himself in some ways in order to get where he is today. I could really go on about this notion, but it would take the whole day. But think about it. Other than that, it is a different intro when compared to previous intros like “Tuscan Leather”“Lust For Life” and even “Over My Dead Body”. On these songs I’ve just mentioned, he gives us some great bars and dope quotables through rap, whereas this time he chose to sing the intro. I also feel like it drags on a bit, unnecessarily.

“I made a decision last night that I would die for it/ Just to show the city what it takes to be alive for it”

2. 9 – Coming off that long intro, this really got me going again. Having listened to this album more times than I can count, every time I hear this song, I can’t help but wonder what it is like to be from Toronto and playing this. I feel like this was really for his people up North. There is little I can fault him on here. There were some quotables and one or two subtle bars which I appreciated. Leading up to this album release, there was obviously much talk about what kind of project it would be. Would it be a straight rap album? Would he sing the whole damn thing? Would he address the Meek situation? While all of these topic of discussions were going around, all I could say was that Drake’s room for “corny” bars was close to nothing. Having witnessed the whole ghost-writing controversy, I kept saying that every bar that Drake utters on this album would have to leave no room for scrutiny for being too corny or whatever it is they’ve called him out for in recent years. So, when I listened to this song and heard the line “turned the 6 upside-down, it’s a 9 now” I immediately knew that this would be the topic for anybody talking about this song. It’s a reach, you know. He says Keychain go jang-a-lang, I wanna do major things but that is not as bad as the 9 line. Why? Because of the way he delivers this line. Had Wayne said that 9 bar, people wouldn’t have made a big fuss about it, but because it’s Drake, the expectations are much higher now for what he says and how he says it.My favorite thing about this song is probably the fact that they sampled Mavado’s song “Dying”. It brings in a Jamaican feel to the song, and it’s a theme we see throughout the album. Very strategic choice of sample.

“Girl I had your back when all you used to do was front”

3. U With Me? – “On some DMX sh!t/ I group DM my exes.” When I heard this opening line, my expectations for the rest of the song shot through the roof. With every listen, the feeling of nostalgia that the song was giving me kept on growing. It was only two weeks ago that I realized why this was happening. The first part of this song gives me the same feeling “Dreams Money Can Buy” gave me back in 2011. The production by 40 and Kanye, and the flow he chose to use was nostalgic. However, once again, lines like “you toying with it like Happy Meal” make you want to question the Boy a bit. But it doesn’t matter much because soon after that, the song switches up to a whole new level. He goes into some hard singing type of flow. Similar to what you would hear from Bryson Tiller or PARTYNEXTDOOR. All in all, this, in my opinion, was his first closest song to perfect so far into the album.

               “I had to let go of us to show myself what I could do”

4. Feel No Ways – This was a straight up Pop/R&B song. When I first listened to it, my first thought was that this sounds so much like what Majid Jordan would do. When the official credits for the album were finally out, I was happy to see that my judgement was correct: The song was indeed produced by Jordan Ullman of Majid Jordan. I overheard someone saying that this song felt unfinished, particularly production-wise. I don’t know, man. Everyone digests music differently, I guess. It was good for what it was meant to be.  The song features a sample of the song “World’s Famous” by Malcolm McLaren. Clean stuff by Jordan Ullman on production.

             “Last year I know you learned your lesson/ I could GPS you if you need addressin’”

5. Hype – This is the first club-banger thus far into the album. I was dabbing all the way till the end. The bars here were unquestionable. “I feel like Juelz Santana/ leg hangin out the Phantom” This was a dope shout to Juelz and his legendary stunt he pulled in the Phantom years ago. Lines like “Views already a classic” and “Her Gram too popping to fvck her/ the chain too heavy to tuck it, I’m serious!” and “I could GPS you if you need addressing!” and “my enemies wanna be friends with my other enemies/ I don’t let it get to me!” are being quoted all over social media. I mean, almost every line is quotable this time. No bar was wasted. I think it was Boi 1da handling the production here, I can’t remember. A line that stood out for me was “I do my own propaganda” You are probably wondering why such a simple line would stand out for me. Well, I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about the moves Drake and his team do. The strategies and intentions behind everything. They’re not just doing things just for the sake of doing things. Every move is calculated. From the haircut, to the dance moves and the memes. This is very apparent in Hotline Bling, but I will get to that later. All in all, I can see this song being a huge hit in the clubs and on the road when he goes on tour.

“Creepin’ like Chilli without no Tender Love and Care” 

6. Weston Road Flows – This song opens up with a soulful Mary J. Blige sample. When Drake says “One of dem ones” before the verse starts, you get the feeling that it was going to be one of those introspective rap songs that many fans have grown to love him for. If you are the Drake fan who thinks Drake is at his best when he is rapping for minutes on minutes on a song, then this is probably one of your favorite cuts from the album. On this song he is reminiscing about his life before he blew up, “back when we couldn’t buy pizza ‘cause we were down to pennies” where is at right now, “feeling like the difference between us is really starting to show” and where he wants to go, “You’re number one, I’m Eddie Murphy/ We’re trading places”. Everything comes full circle on this joint.

The lyricism on here was very good. I feel like he was able to show his ability to construct real bars and witty wordplay lines and a few quotables as usual. “Creepin’ like Chilli without no Tender Love and Care” is probably my favorite line on the entire album. This line may have flew over the heads of many people, especially those who are not familiar with the legendary group, TLC. If you are not familiar with the group, then I will enlighten you a bit. Chilli was/is (I don’t know what’s going on with them these days) a member of the group TLC and so basically Drake is playing with the words here when he mentions the word “Chilli” and as well the words “Tender Love and Care”. Get it? Chilli? Tender Love and Care? TLC? Ha! Clean stuff! His wordplay on here made me put some more respek on his name.

“I got a price on my head, but there’s a risk in collecting/ I might be here as a vessel to teach these people a lesson” He is speaking nothing but facts here. We saw what happened with Meek last year when he made an example of him on Back to Back. However, lines like “I get green like Earth Day/ you treat me like I’m born yesterday, you forgot my birthday” I feel like he could have done just fine without. They are one Drake-ism away from being corny. And as I already mentioned before, his room for those type of lyrics is very small. Other than this line, I feel like everything he said on here was purposeful. There were hardly any bars wasted. 40 was on production here and he really came through for the Boy.

 “Since Take Care, I’ve been caretakin’”

7. Redemption – Another classic production by 40 on here. I have mixed feelings about this song. The reason why I say this is because we have heard this type of Drake before. But that does not take away from it being a good song. I have spoken to many people about this album and most of them share the opinion that this is Take Care Drake we are getting on this song and on most of the album. My perspective on this song is that, even though there is nothing new about Drake on here, I feel like this was one of those songs that 40 and Drake planned all the way down to the type of snare to include or remove, and the type of adlibs to use, if any. For example, take the sample they chose to use. This is a Ray J “One Wish” sample. Now think about the lyrics to that song and then listen to what Drake is saying on this one. Not a coincidence. I think for Drake and where he is in his life right now, this was an important song to write, especially the second part of the song where he delivers a rap verse. For me, that moment is pivotal because, once again we see things come full circle in terms of past relationships that he once talked about. He gives us an update on his feelings about Erica and his other women from his past that he once talked about in his songs. “Since Take Care, I’ve been care taking” this line proves my point that this song is an update on what he was going through during Take Care and where he is now. If your favorite Drake album is Take Care, then you most probably love this song.

 “Mixing vodka and emotions, tapping into your emotions”

8. With You (Ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR) – This is another R&B/Pop song. This is definitely going to be a radio single in the near future. Vocally, both artists did their thing. But I have to mention Jeremih for also contributing to the song, even though he was not credited on the title. At first I thought it was Roy Woods, but the more I listened the more I started to realize that it was Jeremih.

“Cause you talk like you got what I need/ You talk like you got the juice and the squeeze”

9. Faithful (Ft. Pimp C & dvsn)– Man, this song is dope. When the leak surfaced before the album dropped, I thought the Drake verses were good, I thought he was great on the hook but I also felt that the Pimp C verse was very random. As much as I love and respect Pimp C, I just feel like Drake could’ve found a different verse that better suited the song, if he wanted to show love to Houston that badly. Or maybe there is a reason why he chose this particular one, a reason I don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was one of OVO’s calculated moves again. Anyway, the album version is waayyy better than the first version. I really thought Drake had done a phenomenal job on this song until dvsn (an R&B act recently signed to OVO) came in in the second half of the song and from there it really becomes their song. By the end of the song, I had forgotten that this started off as a Drake song. This is one of the best moments on the entire album. This was dvsn’s only contribution to the album, as far as the public knows, and they did an incredible job.

“Hittin’ like that 30 on my jersey man I’m gifted”

10. Still Here– This is the typical Drake where for the most part you don’t really know if he is singing or rapping. Nothing much to say about this song other than that it is an easy listen. It will probably get a lot of requests on radio.

11. Controlla – This, in my opinion is one of the best cuts on the album. This was one of the leaked songs leading up to the release date of VIEWS. The leaked version of the song was featuring Dancehall superstar, Popcaan. This came as no surprise as OVO has been open about their ties with the Caribbean culture, particularly with Unruly (Popcaan’s team). You may or may not have picked up on some of the audio clips used in If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. OVO-Unruly also became a big thing last year. However, the album version does not feature Popcaan but instead added a sample of Beenie Man’s “Tear Off Mi Garment.” When I heard the version with Popcaan, I thought that Popcaan didn’t elevate the song in any way and when I heard the album version, I thought that Beenie Man didn’t do much either. I like the idea of Drake and Popcaan making music together, but I think they just need to spend time in studio and figure out what a Drake&Popcaan song sounds like. Other than the issue with the features, this song is just amazing. Definitely a summer cut.

12. One Dance (Ft. Wizkid & Kyla) – Another dope cut by Drake with some help from WizKid and Kyla. This surprised everyone when it climbed all the way to the top of Billboard Top 100. This is Drake’s first number one. Hard to believe, right? Many people don’t know that Kyla’s vocals and most of the arrangement here is from a song she did many years ago called “Do You Mind”. In my opinion, these dancehall songs really save the album in a sense that they bring a different feel to it. It’s a version of Drake we have never heard before. Something refreshing. This is not just a dancehall record, it’s not just a pop record and it’s not just an R&B record. It’s a sound that is appealing to the masses on a global scale.

13. Grammys (Ft. Future) – This collaboration came as no surprise considering the fact the these two gave us whole tape together last year. Drake really went off on this beat, no lie. His verse just kept getting better and better. I really enjoyed the song until Future surfaced. My only issue is that he did not elevate the song like we know him to do. It just felt like the level dropped after Drake exited the song. Before I even listened to the song I was already skeptical about this feature because I just felt like it was a waste of a feature. Reason for this is because we have heard Drake and Future so many times in this past year that I felt like there was going to be nothing new about this song. I thought the Pimp C verse should’ve been left out, I thought the Bennie Man piece should’ve been left out and I think this Future feature should’ve been left out. But that’s just my view, as far as strategic features go. This will, however, be a club anthem.

14. Child’s Play – This is just dope song. The sample is dope. The hook is really for the strippers. The verses were cool too. The flows he chose to use here are really what make the song what it is. There is not much to say about this cut other than that this hook will be very popular as the album grows. The track samples Ha-Sizzle’s New Orleans bounce classic “Rode That Dick Like a Soldier.”

15. Pop Style – This was also another track that leaked along with “Faithful” and “Controlla” and like the others, the album version is different. The leak featured The Throne (JAY & Kanye) but the album version has none of them. When the version featuring The Throne surfaced, there was a lot of speculation as to why Jay only had two bars as opposed to Kanye’s or Drake’s full verses. There was even more talk when the album version came out and both Jay and Ye had been removed. When Drake explained how The Throne ended up being on the first version of the song he said that, initially, he had just asked Ye for a verse, not Jay. He said that when Ye was recording his verse, Jay was in studio with him and Jay decided to do just two lines, which were originally done by Drake himself. The reason as to why The Throne ended up being left out of the album is still unclear but my opinion is that because VIEWS was an Apple Music exclusive, and since Jay and Ye are shareholders in Tidal, it was more of a business related issue more than anything else. But that’s just my opinion.

Musically, this was a good effort by the Boy. His verses were great for the most part. But of course, lines like “Got so many chains, they call me Channing Tatum.” Really take away from the brilliance that was in this song.

16. Too Good (Ft. Rihanna) – This is another one of those cuts by him on the same vein as his other dancehall/pop offerings. I love this song. Rihanna really did well on here. Coming from somebody who makes music and consumes music very seriously and attentively, I have to say that Rihanna’s delivery, her cadences, and her subtle adlibs really elevated this song. Drake did well on his verses, especially his second verse. Just when it couldn’t get any better, Popcaan shows up as a surprise guest in the end. I know there will be comparisons between this song and “Work”, much like how a few years ago, some thought “What’s My Name” was a better effort than “Take Care”. This song is going to grow into quite a hit in the months to come.

17. Summers Over Interlude – This album has 20 tracks and so an interlude this late into the album makes you wonder why they would do such a thing. But, once again, this was a strategic placement because if you look at the previous 5 or 6 songs, they are all quite up-beat and full of energy. The previous songs give you that summer vibe. This song kind of slows things down and leads you back into that self-aware vibe. It serves as an intro chapter to the conclusion of this album. Even though it is not Drake singing here, it does the desired job. Well done to Majid for coming through and giving us one of the best moments on the album. If you liked this song, then I would strongly suggest that you go get the Majid Jordan self-titled album because there you will find more of these types of vibes.

18. Fire & Desire – This song for me is top 5 on the album. 40 sets the mood from the beginning with that dope sample. Drake is singing once again but not like how he was singing on the intro when he was hitting those high notes. Many people I have spoken to about this album say that this is their favorite song on the album. I think maybe it’s because it might be one of the most complete sounding songs on here. There is not much I would change on this song, to be honest.

              “I’ve still got something left to prove since you left me room”

19. VIEWS – Technically, this is the final song on the album because Hotline Bling serves as a bonus cut. The song opens up with another soulful sample and just like Weston Road Flows, it is a very hard rap song. At first I thought it was produced by JustBlaze because of those hard hitting drums accompanied by soulful choir samples, just like “Lord Knows”. The content on here is much like “30 For 30”, or “6PM In New York” and the likes. He is really summarizing the whole project for us and letting us know where he is mentally. Unfortunately, though, unlike the aforementioned songs, this one lacks a certain level of tenacity and hunger. Not to say he did not give us bars and quotables, because he did. Lines like “I’ve still got something left to prove since you left me room” remind you that he is capable of much more, not just on this song but in career going forward. This was one of my favorite lines, along with the TLC line. I really enjoy wordplay that is on a higher level. This line is one of those that makes you have to think before you can really get it and appreciate it.

All-in -all though, I feel like he really held back on this one. This was his most anticipated album, and arguably his biggest, and that’s why I feel like he really should’ve dug deeper and give us something memorable. After so many years, we still talk about “9AM In Dallas”, “5AM In Toronto”, “6PM in New York” and now most recently “30 For 30”. These are all very memorable songs and I personally do not see this song being as memorable. My feelings might change, who knows. But as for now, I am not moved.

Closing Views:

Individually, these songs are very good in their own right. As a whole, this album falls just a bit short of being a classic. I might be wrong. Everyone has different views and opinions when it comes to consuming and judging music. For the most part, it felt like a Take Care 2.0. Many critics and fans have said that Take Care is the best Drake album. So who knows, maybe this too will make its way to the top of the list.

In terms of content and subject matter, I feel like even though most of it was what we have come to expect from him, this time it was from a different perspective. I feel like on his previous projects, he was talking about his life, relationships and all of that, but for the most part he was talking about how all these things affected the people in subject or the people around him. This time, I feel like he is still talking about these things but now it’s more from his perspective, you know. It’s almost like he is telling us how these things affect him personally as opposed to how these things affect the world around him.

One line from his outro track that further reiterates a point I made on track 1 about Drake going through the most and not having a proper outlet is when he says “Thoughts too deep to go work em out with a therapist” Do you remember lines like “In person I am everything and more/ I’m everywhere these other niggas ever been before/ but inside I’m treading water, tryna swim to shore” or lines like “As a man, I’m just honest/ as an artist, I’m a king, with my own set of problems that be sitting on my brain” These lines come from a time and place before the record sales and the money, how much worse do you think it is now or how much worse is it about to get now that he is the biggest name in music? But if he continues to talk about his emotions, he will be criticized for being too soft or whatever. But then again, if he decides to say “fvck introspection” and talk about all the money and fame he has, he will slip away from his fans and will become unrelate-able. I am raising this point because I think it is really important to take into consideration where an artist is at in their life, what is going with family/friends/relationships, before making judgements on their projects. Artists like Drake have continuously remained very open about their personal lives and that is why when they drop albums, we really have to take into account many factors before arriving to a final judgement.

I know I said that on the outro song VIEWS, he doesn’t come across as hungry like he used to be, but it is important to note that it does not mean he is no longer hungry. I think now his hunger is placed in a different place. It’s no longer just about being the best rapper out; it is no longer just about putting his City on. It is global. The vision is much bigger now. Much like most of Drake’s moves, we’ll only find out where this hunger lies in the future. At this point though, I don’t think even he knows how big he can really take this. I mean, he has an idea, but I don’t think he knows for sure. VIEWS is much bigger than what any of us can see at this point. But then again, these are just my VIEWS.

Follow me on Twitter: @SeezyRay