Because, these are my words, and I make them stick

SZA – Sobriety

Posted on November 20, 2014

sza-sobriety1

I can hold my liquor. Why? Because I don’t drink it. That sober life has done me well, but this song has nothing to do with not being sober, but yet the fact that SZA cannot do such a thing (or at least, it’s hard to). Coming right off the news that she’s going on tour with Jhene Aiko & The Internet (not the actual…nevermind) she drops off this track that has that Badu-ist vibe around it, and I wonder why this didn’t make the cut for ‘Z‘, but that just sets up what to look out for on ‘A’. Shoutout to Thundercat and his poignant bass guitar. Enjoy.

BJ the Chicago Kid – The M.A.F.E Project

Posted on November 20, 2014

The M.A.F.E. Project

I’ve been a fan of BJ the Chicago Kid even before I knew he was an actual official artist. That was probably 4-5 years ago, but from that point, Pineapple Now Laters has been one of those albums that has been in constant rotation (currently playing it as I write this). He has that sound that is nostalgic, but at the same time, he adds the style of today’s adolescence and makes it enjoyable and soulful. ‘Restoring the feeling’ is an overused term, and I feel like there should be a new feeling that’s even more invigorating when it comes to how we accept our love of music. A feeling is a feeling regardless, but the same way we feel for the new, we won’t feel for the old. Recreate, procreate, and alleviate. BJ has done his part in making sure that R&B doesn’t go the way of the dodo bird, because let’s be honest here…it looks like it’s been heading in that direction over the past few years (damn near a decade). The M.A.F.E Project takes the aggressive & sexy overtones and throws a hint of Midwestern loving that can only be compared to the abundance of food they love to intake in various states. But, not to make you hungry (or myself), indulge in the new hotness that BJ has provided for his fans, and hopefully new ones. Enjoy.

 

Black Milk – If There’s A Hell Below – The STiXXclusive Review

Posted on November 17, 2014

Black Milk is one of the most under-appreciated artists out there that has been consistently making good music for damn near a decade. With the success of his previous album No Poison, No Paradise, I was sure that the limelight would have grown for him as it looked like his popularity would ascend, given that he garnered positive reviews. It was surprising to me that he was going to drop an album a year later, because NPNP is still fresh to the ears, but I definitely wasn’t going to argue about receiving more music which would be a continuation, not to be confused with a sequel. The imagination that Black brings to his music, besides the production & lyricism, heightens the creative level that he brings to the table and I think that goes unrecognized, because he’s not making that ‘turn-up’ music that will gravitate to a younger crowd, but yet rather hits the older that has that overall appreciation for music in general. The continuation of Sonny’s story (loosely based on Black’s life) goes from bad to worse as hell on Earth consumes him as more struggles come about to steer his life in the wrong direction. The concept of Hell on Earth is one that a lot of people believe in, and is commonly mentioned in music. My favourite song about the idea is Heaven & Hell by Raekwon

 

“What do you believe in, heaven or hell
You don’t believe in heaven cause we’re living in hell
You don’t believe in heaven cause we’re living in hell
So it’s your life”

If There's a Hell Below

 

Everyday Was starts off with a chant that seems spiritual, but as the beat kicks in and the dark and tormented tales of the unfortunate come up, including family struggles with addiction and ultimately just living in Detroit, it develops into a hard-knocking track with substance.

 

“It’s that overdose daily
No if, ands, buts or maybes
Have you addicted like that shit my auntie smoked in the 80s
Auntie Tricia, what up, I see you still live and maintain raw
So I rep it, spit raw, spit hard as the veins in your arms”

 

The emphasis that Black put on NPNP was that he wanted to create music that would be everlasting, dark, but memorable. He’s setting to continue that trend just one track in. There were a lot of things that made it personally relatable to my life, especially when he talked about not wanting to be a system worker, and being raised around those who took to selling drugs & violence to create a lifestyle.

 

Didn’t want to work around the clock from 9-5
Just to clock in and clock out
Some niggas had packed things and sold it to crack fiends
Some niggas had dope wrote in their notepad but couldn’t turn it to rap dreams
But I did what I had to
Had to stash that cash up under that mattress

 

There’s a feeling that this album would be more focused on Black’s life, rather than that of Sonny’s on the previous album. It hits a topic that will relate to a lot of people in terms of making it out of something that’s hell-ish to being someone that doesn’t have to constantly walk through the fires of life.

 

What It’s Worth is one of my favourite tracks of Black’s because it touches to Black’s subconscious about being an artist that asks himself is it worth to be doing what he’s doing, and I know that a lot of people do the same when they’re in a position of creativity that’s open for the public. It’s a lot of pressure not only to satisfy the fans, but also to be true to yourself. What a lot of people don’t understand is that there are other inside factors that put that added pressure into the position that they’re in, and Black put that into perspective very well.


Look at fam realize what I’m working towards
Keep they pockets filled with stacks
Gotta keep food up in they fridge
Keep my moms up out of that trap
Keep my bro up out of that pen
Never had a land in hand, always had to play my part
Play it smart
Artist about his craft
But sometimes survival is bigger than art

There are a lot of people constantly scrutinizing your work, and in the modern day age of Best-of & Top 10 lists, plus end of the year rankings, everyone has an opinion and that plays a part in how an artist approaches their work (at least the weak minded). Because Black has been at it for 10 years, being underrated, underappreciated, and overlooked isn’t a factor for him anymore. He’s just making music, and thus making a living while at it. That’s what it’s worth for him – to keep doing what he’s doing, and that’s the focus a lot of artists don’t have. They can’t strap on the blinders and have tunnel vision throughout their progression.

 

What I liked about this album was the fact that there were solid features from some pretty impressive names, specifically Blu & Pete Rock on Leave the Bones Behind & Quarter Water, respectively. Blu is one of those rappers that has floated under the radar practically his entire career although he’s had one of the most impressive catalogues for a rapper with Below The Heavens being one of the best Hip Hop albums to come out in the past decade. He lays down a strong verse while Black goes into scary detail about life in Detroit, similarly like Perfected on Puritan Ave from NPNP.

 

“Where the blood get spilled, city bruhs get killed

            Kids dodging bullets on they Big Wheels”

 

I like that the title of the track plays into having skeletons in the closet but leaving them behind to move forward, but in a way, they’ll always follow you. The gang culture plus the broken systemic structure of the city to set you up to fail, it’s an area of depression that truly doesn’t make it easy to make it out of, and that’s the reality of millions of people, and the reason why Rappers are the curators of what that reality is like. It’s a dark and harsh truth that the world doesn’t want to see – hence why they keep skeletons in the closet. Blu adds an aura of affluence when it comes to his raps because his flow seems to be the right fit for the type of production that Black Milk draws up (listen to production on No York and tell me something different). It’s the stories of the rough environments and the beginnings of what would be their rap lives, but the honest raps that Blu strings together to compliment Black along with the simple production around it (RZA-ish, if I may say to an extent) make it one of the better tracks on the album.

Pete Rock is a legend, there’s no doubt about that in a shred of my mind that’s full of whatever brains are filled with. For starters, I liked the jazzy production behind Quarter Water as Black continued to delve into the story of his life as the album but what’s also the story of most when he states that “all we wanted was a piece of the pie.” Where Black Milk shined, I didn’t feel Pete Rock’s verse a lot. I mean it was just there, and maybe the beat wasn’t on the right groove with him, but I could have done without it, because it just felt like an awkward placement. That doesn’t negate the fact that Pete Rock is on a track with Black, it just wasn’t that impactful as a feature. Production overall was solid, as the instrumental carried out in typical Black Milk fashion, which has been his stamp.

 

Much like the instrumental interlude Sonny Jr. on NPNP, Hell Below serves as that jazz ensemble percussion jam session that takes a break from the lyrical and transitions into the latter half of the album in a very groovy fashion, which is the only thing necessary. Given that the vibe has been consistent throughout, it was fascinating to anticipate what was going to come next. I wish they played stuff like this in elevators. I’d probably never leave – unless I happened to be stuck, and then we’d have a problem. This would at least be comfort music. I like how the ending of Hell Below segued seamlessly into Detroit’s New Dance Show, and with this song, everyone that I’ve played it for instantly gets into a groove as soon as the beat drops. Mind you, these people probably have a more open-minded frame of min when it comes to listening to different genres, but I don’t see how that’s the matter. The House influence behind the track is wicked; so much in fact that I didn’t even pay attention to the lyrics through the first listens because I was too busy jigging. The story is more of the same with the come up and struggle of growing up (Detroit really doesn’t sound like a great place to grow up in, no matter who’s rapping it).

 

“Niggas ain’t thinking around here
You get dropped at the drop of a dime or a blink ’round here
In the club don’t spill your drink ’round here
On a niggas sneaks, niggas don’t think ’round here
Pop it up, pop the trunk, pop the..
Out here no fear no way
Back to the moral of the story, okay
Back in the place where you might fall apart
It’s the beauty and the ugly of it all”

 

It’s not uncommon that a meaningful message or potent lyrics are wrapped around a popped up beat to engage the listener, but this is a classic example of that as you get the bounce, but yet the influx of a negative environment that encases the words to great a good showing of contrast.

 

Story & Her is my favourite song. Don’t ask me why, it just is. I said don’t ask me, because I’m going to tell you anyways. The story of having a crush on a girl from back in the day isn’t new, and unless your circle is pretty small or the city is closely wound to the point where you’ll run into anybody, it’s not often that you see them years later, but in Black’s case this was so. After waiting years to get his chance to bed her, he does. It’s a rewarding feeling like beating the final boss of a childhood video game that took you forever to overcome – okay maybe not the same thing, but a similar feeling. Then the song takes an interesting twist, and a reason why it’s one of my favourite songs is because of the beat switch. It isn’t anything grandeur or eye-popping, but it’s the subtly of it coming in that completely shifts the mood from a positive to a negative light. From confusion to retracing the steps of what happened, to a ‘lethal’ discovery, it’s the worst nightmare but has been brought out in a way that was vibrant and bouncy at the same time. Definitely had the most replays on the album for me.

 

The rock emphasis that is brought about on All Mighty isn’t anything new that Black has introduced, but it re-emphasizes his open-minded artistry that enables him to branch outside of the box to grip attention, then as the beat flips to a more ‘traditional’ Hip Hop beat, the story also pertains to how he started making beats and eventually becoming a rapper as well. Critics, and music publications tend to overlook or underrate Black for the artist he is, but sticking true to his craft and his sound is what’s been working for him, so that’s what his vision’s been since. There’s a good balance of lyrical and instrumental on the album, which does feel like a jazz album in a sense because there are breaks to allow tracks to breathe, and production wise, there are a lot more elements compared to the previous album, so it’s great to hear growth and the constant push to be better in Black’s case.

A couple of my favourite lines on the album came from Scum

 

“While I had pops, most grew up without one
All they had was drugs, where the street wars met
Walkin’ out everyday, with the Devil on yo doorstep
Sittin’ on your porch in the post
This the city limit, where you see they have no remorse at”

 

It’s unfortunate that, not only in Hip Hop, but in life it’s all too common for kids to be raised without fathers, or at least fathers that aren’t around them all the time to show them the ropes and develop necessary traits in order to groom them as decent adults in the future. In Hip Hop it’s all too common to hear the story of men and women not having fathers growing up, so when there are artists who do mention that they had one around, it’s a bit of an eye opener, and that sucks quite frankly. When you don’t have a figure to look up to, many single parent kids (such as myself and others I was raised around) take to other outlets and people that aren’t necessary positive, to help nurture them and sometimes it’s for the better, but more often than not, it doesn’t bode well. You get the kids in the street selling drugs and chasing street dreams which often lead to nowhere good, so this line hit me in particular because I understand that way of thinking. I like that each member of Random Axe (Sean Price & Guilty Simpson being the others) had their own beat to spit over, as opposed to having just one for all three because it may not have situated well with their styles.

 

Gold Piece was one of the first songs that came out before the album debuted and it was one that I liked right off the bat because the beat hit hard to go with the gritty descriptions of the come up, which was the consistent topic across the album. It was surprising for Bun B to make an appearance as the ‘Old head’ who was giving the words of the wise to Black and it was dope exchange over a wicked beat that I definitely appreciated. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t at least a 3rd verse to follow after Bun’s, but I still enjoyed the beat as it went out, and a nice touch was added at the end as a recognizable beat from NPNP. Grey for Summer rounded up the story of Detroit with what would appear to be a bittersweet ending with what a lot of people could connect with in almost any urban environment, or ‘hood’ to be more politically correct. The cycle of the everyday activities is what was embraced until there’s a point where you have to step away from that to make something of yourself. But also it’s about not forgetting about those humble beginnings to remember just why you do what you do.

 

Ending off the album with Up & Out, it adds to the point of getting out of that environment and doing something with yourself. A quote from Winston Churchill goes: “if you’re going through hell, keep going” and that’s definitely the case because without the poison, there’s no paradise and given that he came out of what was already hell on Earth, there’s nothing more to it but to enjoy the life he has now, since the turmoil has been put behind him, but the heat of said ‘Hell’ burns with him internally. A lot of people don’t know about what exactly goes on in the inner city, and by all means if you don’t, be grateful – it’s not somewhere that’s meant to be visited. For anyone who has had to experience the turmoil of living in project or government housing, it basically is like a hell on Earth, and I like that I was able to connect with this album given that the stories that Black shared were similar to that of my own or at least those I knew growing up. There are a lot of things wrong with the world for people to go out of their way and say that Hell is already on Earth, but at the same time, people have made their ways out of struggle to become better of themselves, and Black is just one example out of many to establish that. Sonically, you’re not going to hear any of this stuff on the radio or on popular blogs, but it’s definitely worth the time to listen to because it’s sound all around. But I’ll leave that you to decide for yourself. This is my opinion, this is my review

 

That’s My Word & It STiXX

Interstellar – The STiXXclusive Review

Posted on November 12, 2014

One thing that has always fascinated but haunted me for a good duration of my life has been what exactly happens to us when we die. Do we just sit in that coffin and await the fate of nature to consume our bodies? Do our souls really travel to a Heaven or Hell? Or is there something out there that is interconnected with us that is in a galaxy far far away? There are a lot of questions that have no answers, because the dead can’t talk, and the smartest people in the world won’t even be able to decipher what’ll happen. It’s one of life’s greatest mysteries, but I don’t let it consume me. What we, as humans, obsess over is our own destruction. Humans are destructive, and as a young species, the fear is that we’re going to destroy our own world because we’re too self-absorbed in the world of technology, which takes away from the essentials of human life like growing food, cultivating crops, and sustaining a healthy Earth for future generations. So the question becomes now: if this Earth, which every other year is ‘doomed’ by some sort of conspiracy (Hello Mayans, I’m talking to you), were to experience a fate in which we couldn’t change, then what would happen? How would we sustain life After Earth? Where would we go? These are he questions that the Europeans probably asked themselves and relied on the bravest and most eager men & women to set out and discover a new world – in this case it’d be a new planet or Solar System. Interstellar sets up the story of what could happen.

interstellar-poster

 

I was drawn to this movie because ever since Inception and the Dark Knight Trilogy was taken over by Chris Nolan, I’ve been a fan of his dark and mind-numbing (I wanted to use another word) ways to creep you out and have you questioning just what goes on in the world because he takes stories and creates mazes, which end up turning into Rubik’s Cubes, and ultimately you just say ‘forget it’ (also wanted to use another word) and hope for a moment that you can try to figure out what’s going on. That’s pretty much what my reaction was in this movie, but in a good way, because it’s great to be intellectually stimulated in a world where the crash, bang, and in-your-face gets all of the attention in the world. Astronomy has been a fascination of mine since I was a little kid, so it was just like that – bringing the kid out of me and bringing me into a fascination that was embodied in a question…What If?

 

Matthew McConaughey has been on a hot streak with his Oscar win for Dallas Buyer’s Club, and a (what should have been longer) role in The Wolf of Wall Street. His charm and sense of humour will always be there to inflict that personality, but as an intelligent being who is also a dedicated father, whom his character Cooper portrays, there’s an extra element that plays a factor into shaping a great role. He was the focal point, as the world needed the bravest people to find a new hope for mankind. It would appear to be your simple story, but like space and the movies (Christopher Nolan ones in particular), there’s a lot of uncertainty and anything can happen at any given moment. Conspiracies with regards to space have been around since the days of Galileo and his telescope. How can we be so sure that there is inhabitable life out there for humans? How will we be able to move 7 Billion people on Earth to a new galaxy to inhabit? Nothing is for certain, but those were the type of questions that were asked in this movie that I found truly fascinating.

 

The amount of people that pop up in this movie is surprising because it’s like every other turn created another obstacle or another twist that made me ask myself “did that just happen?” a few times, and the ultimate “WOAH” that I didn’t even see coming – there were quite a few of those. You could look at this movie like Gravity, but then the only comparison you could draw to it was that both of those movies were in Space. Both have similar meanings in regards to life symbolism, but ultimately this movie is light years (you see what I did) beyond that and should definitely be in some award conversations to head into the end of 2014 and early 2015. Anne Hathaway is a great actress herself and didn’t disappoint in a supporting role, which seems to be a strong forte for her. Michael Caine (who just seems to come with Christopher Nolan’s contract) also adds in that factor of being the voice of reason or authority, but believe me, his character will surprise you as the movie goes on. I wish I could go into more detail, but I’d be giving too much away. It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, possibly the best (I still love Dawn of the Planet of the Apes a lot), but it’s most definitely a must see for anyone – space nerd or non-space nerd. You’ll definitely enjoy it, or be intellectually over-stimulated. Either or. Pick your poison. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review

 

That’s My Word & It STiXX

Dear White People – The STiXXclusive Review

Posted on November 7, 2014

Dear white people,

 

You don’t make it all easy to be Black when people like myself are put into situations that make it awkward for us to be ourselves. Actually, let me not speak for the whole race, and let me speak for myself. There’s a lot that I could relate to with this movie, and when I initially saw the concept trailer for it, I was all behind it. When it was announced that it was going to be made into an actual movie, I was excited. I’ve watched, witnessed, laughed, and got a bit angry. The premise of this movie stems from the classic movie School Daze, but with the added twist that instead of it being an all Black college, it’s a racially divided mock Ivy League school that places Black students as the minority, which is very common, especially if you go to certain colleges & universities in North America. This movie comes at a time where race is still being discussed, because it seems as if Black culture is yet to be understood and racism is very much alive as tensions between Blacks and Whites are still evident (it pretty much will be forever). This movie is satirical, which means that it’s not meant to be directly throwing shots at black & white people, but rather to poke fun at just how both Black & White people act in certain settings – like what The Boondocks was famously known for doing. Being that it’s in an educational setting, one of the prime foundations where you’ll find racial tensions & divisions, it was interesting to see how it would play out.

 

Dear-White-People-poster

 

There are 4 characters in particular that each served their own purpose in the roles of different Black individuals. Sam White is the vocal leader of the ‘revolution’ whom is adamant on bringing back a heightened sense of Afrocentric ideologies to a university that has lost its way of diversity. Her character is your pro-black, stand-up woman who wants nothing more than to fight for respect of the administration for her people. We all have one of those traits, but some have it more than others. Colandrea ‘Coco’ Connors plays the Black girl whom doesn’t embrace her blackness and tries to be in with the whites because conforming will help benefit her future. We also have some of that in our personality, because well, it’s a white world we live in. Lionel Higgins is your awkward black guy who doesn’t have a true identity, so he doesn’t fit in with the whites or the Blacks. He’s in the grey area. Some of us can relate to that. And finally, there’s the Black guy that older white America accepts (or at least thinks they do) – that’s Troy Fairbanks. The harmless brother who’s smooth around the edges, innocent in portrayal, but isn’t at all loved by his own, because he isn’t necessarily down with the cause. There are four different personalities, and whereas white people already group Black people into their own categories, Black people themselves don’t make it any easier to live with because there’s always something that they won’t like about you.

 

Chris Rock said it best :

Who’s more racist, Black people or White people? Black people, you know why? Because we hate Black people too. Everything White people don’t like about Black people, Black people really don’t like about Black people” (Bring the Pain – 1996)

 

This movie held down, while being satirical, an accurate representation on different angles of being Black in an environment where there aren’t many. There are those who are pitted against each other, those who want to fit in, those who allow white people to ‘have their way’ just to let it go by, and those who just don’t know how to react. With my experiences in college, I definitely had a taste of (almost) every focused character that was portrayed in this movie. It brought about bad memories, because the movie is surrounded by a controversial party (I won’t spill details, but you’ll get an idea of what it is) and I have witnessed it firsthand. There are funny moments through various references like the golden rule about touching Black people’s hair (seriously, don’t touch it – I don’t know you like that) and poking fun at other stereotypes that we not only have of ourselves, but of what white people have for Black people.

 

While the focus was on the Black students, the white students really did do their part in portraying what’s actively going on in modern-day society at almost every university/college campus and even high school. They see Black culture on television, movies, and hear it in music. They take what they hear, apply to their lives, and then they feel like they ‘understand’ what Black people go through. Sorry, but that’s not the case. It doesn’t matter how many rap albums you’ve heard or how many times you’ve watched Roots, Amistad, or 100s of Black movies to understand the culture, it just won’t happen. Race is one topic that people don’t like to discuss, and want to sweep under the rug because they constantly say to ‘get over it’ and ‘not everything is about race.’ You know what? There is some truth to that. Not everything is about race, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. It’s not something that’s just going to ‘go away’, so saying to ‘ignore it’ isn’t going to help anyone. It’s movies like this one that open up the discussion to obviously make things uncomfortable, but at the same time, these aren’t just fairytales plucked out of thin air of imaginative black individuals, this type of stuff really happens.

 

I liked this movie because I find that it’s an important teaching tool to whoever in understanding that it’s still hard out here for a Black person, regardless of whatever socioeconomic status they are. We’re always being scrutinized and always one ‘real nigga moment’ away from being labeled in a negative light, like we aren’t already. This movie had takes in a lot of areas that pertain to not only racial divides, but current social discussions that are more talked about within a younger generation that isn’t afraid to speak out and voice their displeasures. You see it right now in Ferguson, and it’ll continue to do so until there’s truly equality for Black people. Credit due to Justin Simien for creating this, and of whatever race you are, but especially Black, go see this movie. You may just learn something. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review

 

That’s My Word & It STiXX

Logic – Under Pressure – The STiXXclusive Review

Posted on November 7, 2014

The majority of people that I’ve found out about, music wise, has come from the help of social media (Twitter to be more specific), and Logic is just one example of how gaining a buzz strictly off the internet can generate into a following and then that pretty much extends into superstardom. Mixtapes, mixtapes, and more mixtapes were his M.O for creating such a following, and in 2012, I had no idea that his base was as big as it was at that time. I saw him perform at a bar venue in Toronto and it was damn near sold out. Of course, Toronto is one of those catalysts that latch onto new talent rather quickly, but to see people come out to the show like they did? Crazy. His Young Sinatra series gave the listeners a glimpse of his life, and also comparisons to J.Cole, as he provided lyricism to go with his half & half, black-white mix to gauge different crowds, but until recently, Black people weren’t all over the bandwagon, because the perception of him is that he’s white. I mean, when you look at him, he doesn’t look an ounce of Black, but that’s not even the focus. Where I found respect for his work was the fact that yes, he loves the double-time style that white rappers are really known for, to follow the footsteps that Eminem laid down (Yelawolf & Machine Gun Kelly being a couple of disciples), he still had that edge to him that didn’t come off as him being a gimmicky rapper. He had bars, and I was here for them. Now, when his last mixtape, Welcome to Forever dropped, you heard the bit of the commercialized sound that was inevitable when it comes to transitioning to an album mode, and I felt like a bunch of tracks were corny – this is where I started to question where he would stay true to his core values established in his early days. Creating bangers wasn’t always the case for getting people to recognize that sound, but when that generic style hit him, I was fearful that the album would turn out to be trash. There’s a lot of pressure when it comes to dropping your first album (most would say it’s the album after, depending on success of the 1st) and the question would be: would he be clutch, or would he collapse ‘under pressure?’

 

Under Pressure (Deluxe Version)

 

Logic said, in multiple interviews leading up to the album, that he took particular time in studying others to get a theme around his storytelling, rather having it particularly dark that none of his fans have heard, and off of the intro you didn’t exactly get that anticipation, unlike the intro tracks for good kid, m.A.A.d city, Nothing Was The Same, or Born Sinner (to name some of the albums he mentioned). The opening was similar to Young Sinatra: Welcome to Forever, and it wasn’t something to be excited about. I would have skipped it, but instead I let it ride out since it was Logic reminiscing on what it felt like to make everlasting music. Too many people these days focus on the numbers, and him saying that he’ll likely be remembered more if he went platinum isn’t a new revelation; given that J.Cole had that line saying if he was white, would he sell like Eminem or Adele, it’s a common Hip Hop question that has been circulated as of recent. What I liked about after the intro was that Logic paid homage to A Tribe Called Quest’s classic album, Midnight Marauders with the voice of Thalia being the narrator of the album. That was a nice touch, so maybe there was hope going into the album after all.

 

Hope restored, everyone go back to relaxing. Soul Food ignited pretty much what I thought was going to be heard, but not to get too far ahead of myself, I do find the song dope. The beat alone to start it off is wicked as he starts off his story by highlighting common topics that would be mentioned throughout the album like his mother being on drugs, the absence of his father, but also with his personal issues, but also he makes it important to keep his vision intact as he faces the challenges of being an artist in a new environment – a mainstream one. What was dope about the track was the beat switch that propelled it from just him talking about himself, to just going into straight bars, which is what he noted that he’d be doing on the album a lot. People know that he can throw down due to his multiple freestyles, but it’s still impressive to hear.

 

“Take my kindness for weakness, trying to get the better of me
Tell me how is they gonna remember me
As the artist that concocted the perfect recipe
Or will they be addressing me, talking less of me”

 

It’s like the Kevin Durant approach where they see Logic as a nice guy, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have that aggression that’s to be taken lightly by critics and his peers. The beat that he spit over definitely did him justice and for the nostalgia loving Hip Hop heads, this is one to gush over. It’s a good start because it reiterates just why I was a fan of his to start, so I was hoping that it would continue.

I’m a sucker for soul samples, I can’t deny it; I won’t hide it. A properly used one will always get to me. It’s like I’m an old spirit for that music, or you can blame Kanye West productions of the early 2000s for creating that love, but it’ll always be there. The sample for I’m Gone definitely set the tone off right, and initially I thought it was a Key Wane beat, because of that similar style, but shout out to 6ix the producer for laying down the smooth; I didn’t even want the rest of the beat to kick in at the hook, but it complimented him well. It’s a laid back track, and the track’s title serves as a play on the expression ‘gone’ which is used when you’re either: zoned out, high, or on a certain vibe – that serves as the purpose of the track, and although Logic wasn’t particularly saying anything different, besides that he wants to make his mark in music because it’s what he lives & breathes day in and day out, it’s a dope track regardless.

 

Gang Related is probably one of Logic’s best songs, period. Not only does it go into a darker realm of Logic’s consciousness that has yet to be heard from the listeners, it also can be relatable to a lot of people who weren’t listeners of his before, and I mean Black people at that. When there’s talk about the DMV, the only representation on a major level that’s been heard has come from Wale, so Logic brings another aspect of that area with this track and being that he is mixed, this track will more likely resonate with more so his black side or pretty much anyone who can relate to that inner-city struggle.

 

“Tales from my hood, not a sight like this
Where they up to no good on a night like this
And they murder motherfuckers just cause
Type of shit I see and probably wonder what it was
I was in the crib, just sitting on the rug
Basedheads coming through looking for the plug”

 

Where those comparisons of J.Cole & Kendrick come into play are the hood tales from the “innocence” that they give off, but it’s a vivid perspective that Logic shares to give a glimpse of what it was like living in his hood, which I’m sure a lot of people could relate to, in one way or the other. I like that the 2nd verse of the track came from the point of view of Logic’s older brother, who served as a blueprint for what not to do growing up. Involved with various crime and even selling drugs to his own father, Logic saw it all firsthand and the song didn’t come off as cliché where it was something out of the ‘Rap topics 101’ handbook; it’s authentic and it’s a different side to Logic that I’ve heard. I thought it would have been a little longer, but I respect when artists say what they have to say in the timeframe that they have. It’s not overbearing, and it gets to the point.

 

Kendrick Lamar also had a track called Buried Alive that similarly revolved the same idea of succumbing to success of music because of everything that comes with it: money, women, fame, problems. It’s a lot for people to handle, and in Logic’s track it’s no different.

 

“Do you really wanna to be famous?
Do you really wanna be a superstar?
Do you really wanna get dangerous?
Do you even know where the groupies are?
Bitches out here be shameless
And I really wonder where they parents are
Look around, everything changes
It feels like I’ve been buried alive”

 

The issues that come with success are relevant to anyone who’s in a high profile industry, and those typically are entertainment and sports, and as the world of social media has exploded, we seen countless examples of people who can’t handle that and they fold under pressure (no pun intended). Being that Logic’s entering a new realm of success although he’s been on tour for a few years now, it’s that time of questioning what type of person he’ll become, because he knows that the people around him will change, and things will start to fly at miles per minute. I didn’t think much of the song, although I respect the message that he’s getting at. Production is dope, but I wasn’t really moved by it overall.

 

Logic wasn’t kidding when he said that he was studying other artists’ albums, because Bounce is basically his version of Worst Behaviour, with that turn up style, which he had a bunch of on Young Sinatra: Welcome to Forever. I felt like it was overproduced. A lot of things going into it to make it a banger, and while the beat is hot, it’s one that I have to skip the majority of the time, unless I’m in the right mood for it. With a couple of iffy tracks to come around, I was hoping that the album wasn’t starting to get into a vibe I wasn’t going to feel, but then Growing Pains III came around and it was a satisfying feeling that returned. Growing Pains is a series that started off on Young, Broke & Infamous and each one chronicles points in his life that look at the struggle coming up since he left home at 17, highlighting his problematic parents, the hood environment, and becoming an artist that he would be today. That story continues as he’s in a different chapter in his life, but he brings it back to where he began to keep humble. The beat just screams out ‘storytelling’ giving off that Art of Peer Pressure vibe that creates an environment that’s dark and dangerous. I like how the song is structured because personally, I too can relate to wanting to just sleep to escape the reality of living in struggle and hopelessness as Logic highlighted in the 2nd verse.

 

“Why must I open my eyes
I wish that I could stay asleep forever
Attain every goal I wanted and watch it repeat forever
Will it happen, maybe never
Maybe so, I got to know
But tell me why
I picture myself at the top but I know that I’m dreaming
Will I wake up before I finally confront all my demons”

 

When you’re surrounded in an environment that perpetuates that you’re not really destined to attain anything great, you either get really angry at the situation to get better, or you become a product of the environment and fall deep into it. That’s the fear that I experienced a lot of, and because there were drugs and violence around me, you feel like there’s not really hope out there to look for and find that escape – sleep becomes the escape, and the dreams become the reality, until you actually need to face the world. I relate to that, and I’m glad Logic put that into perspective. There’s a reason why when people say ‘TV raised these kids’, there’s truth behind it. Logic pointing out that his dad walked out, and things were rough with his mom, you look at shows from the 90s like Boy Meets World, Smart Guy, The Cosby Show, Fresh Prince, Family Matters, etc. as examples of having family values that you may not have in your own life. It’s not often said, but it’s definitely a reality for many. That 2nd verse is probably one of the best on the album simply for those two examples.

 

Never Enough has a long ass intro, just for starters. It reminded me of old school soul songs that had a mellow build up before the singer commenced. This track has the same vibe of Bounce in terms of being a turn-up track, but with way better production. I’d rather listen to this over and over simply because of that fact. Paying homage to Cudi (whom he toured with) and Outkast (the So Fresh So Clean bit) were nice touches that in a way made me feel a little older because if they’re starting to sample early 2000s stuff, then lord…it’s only the beginning. It’s a cool party track, which I thought served more as filler and not so much having any particular context with the album, but Logic does have fun with it, so it’s merely a reflection of his personality and just what he does to let loose with the homies. It’s necessary to have a release.

 

Metropolis is the Greek word for ‘Mother City’, and it’s also the word that describes a big city, which gives you a sense of what’s to be talked about. City memories, big city dreams, bright lights, and big signs – you know the drill already. Interesting that the Logic used the same sample that was used for Sing About Me, so it threw me off a bit at the beginning, but it’s not the same context, but that wouldn’t be the only time I’d hear it on the album. At this point, you’ve probably heard the name ‘Nikki’ being referenced at least 17 times, and on Twitter he even had a #WhoIsNikki trend going on for people to discover who (or what) it was. There are subtle hints that point towards it being cigarettes (Nicotine = Nikki), so that wasn’t hard to figure out.

 

“Nikki, Nikki, where you been? I can’t wait to breathe you in
Been on this plane way too long, I can’t wait to see you again”

 

It’s more of the transitional phase that Logic goes through as the development of him becoming a star grows more and more, but he takes the time to reminisce on just how he got to this point, like mentioning his first sold out show in Chicago (shout out to Reggie’s). Travelling around the world, encountering people who look down on him because he’s young & rich in first class (first time hearing him say ‘nigga’ which was weird, a little), and the questions of whether he’ll be able to weather the storm, but still having that animal ambition to kill the competition. I liked the vibe that he brought to it, and the skit at the end with the conversation about Tarantino movies was funny, but at the same time, important because had that been ME?! From when the girl said she didn’t remember watching Pulp Fiction, the conversation is over. Okay, maybe not, but I know what those conversations are like (me asking women about sports – looks at God).

 

And finally the moment you’ve all been waiting for (or not), the reveal of who Nikki is, and if you guessed Nicotine (or if I spoiled it for you earlier – not sorry), to quote OG Maco ‘you was right – HOO!’ With rappers, you often hear about them being on different drugs, and at the most, smoking weed or cigars (or both). Others test out drugs like Molly, others sip lean, but you don’t really hear a lot of folks saying hat they smoke cigarettes, especially since, you know – you need your lungs, just a bit. Kind of important. You hear the name Mary associated with weed, and it’s been like that for eons, but I didn’t think that Nicotine had its own feminine persona to go with it, yet here we are. The story of Logic’s addiction started young and had consumed him all throughout the years. It’s like 50 Cent’s A Baltimore Love Thing that had him personify Heroine, but this track has Logic being the victim of something he knows will kill him, but he knows it’s wrong, he doesn’t want to be right.

 

“I can feel you in my lungs, feel you in my veins
Bloodstream only way to make it to my brain
I tried some others but man they just not as good as you
Going crazy cause I only feel this good with you
Maybe I’m just not as strong as I once was
When we’re together lately I don’t even feel a buzz
I’m addicted to this shit like it was hard drugs”

 

The monotonous vocal approach that Logic serves on the track makes it feel like it’s really a depressing and personal struggle that he’s been dealt, and wants nothing more but to get it off of his chest although she (Nikki) lives in his lungs. It reminded me of a scene from one of my favourite movies RockNRolla when Johnny Quid is explaining his love of cigarettes (which also reflected a painting), which is basically a love for something that will kill him which is stated in plain sight. What made it more reachable to his audience was when he took to social media to ask ‘Who is your Nikki?’ basically, what’s your addiction? We all have something, and this was just his. A ballad for the beloved. The little updates from Thalia about the process of creating the album were pretty cool, and it stayed true to that ATCQ feel that was intended.

 

The title track, Under Pressure was released as a video but wasn’t the full version. The video was wicked because it was like a Call of Duty meets Grand Theft Auto concept that paralleled Logic’s assault on the music industry. Coming in, taking names, firing shots, you know how it goes. He came out aggressive and spit some dope lyrics, but the real emphasis on the song came about when the beat flipped and he started going into personifying his sister, father, and then finally from his own perspective as he acknowledges that his life has changed and has neglected family for the sole purpose that he’s trying to be someone great. When I stated earlier that there would be another instance when I’d hear the same Sing About Me sample, this was the case. The structure on how it was done was damn near symmetrical to Kendrick’s as well, which I thought was a good homage, but for it to be drastically similar in sound, that put me off a little. As a new artist, I find that it’s important for one to find his or her own approach to the game and not generate a sound so closely linked to someone who’s already established. I know everyone uses the same samples, but let’s be real for a second. The verses that he spit through the eyes of his sister & father were definitely real and I won’t take that away from him because they’re heartfelt stories that are deep and obviously personal to his life as it relates to his story. The voicemails at the end were pretty cool, and he’s done that before on an earlier project where he had his fans call his phone and leave voicemails, which he used on a track. I like how the track ended off sounding like his Midnight Marauder track from Welcome To Forever. Nice touch.

 

With a strong intro to welcome us, and a nice core body of music to hold the attention for the duration, it’s only necessary that a strong outro like Till the End was evident, and he did it justice. It’s a culmination of everything that came to be in his life. Much like Big Sean’s So Much More, it’s soulful, there’s a lot of bars that are laced with emotional waves to carry it, which is why it hits so well to end the album of just 12 songs (standard version). From the come up with VMG, touring, signing with Def Jam, the creation of the album while keeping the focus intact, I really liked the outro and it felt like the perfect send off to highlight all that he’s done, ups and downs, and going out with a pretty good impression, especially if you would be listening to him for the first time.

 

Logic’s identity, to me, is still in formation, because there were a lot of elements in this music that you could sense was taken from other avenues to piece together for the album, and that’s probably the only thing I would say would have people feeling skeptical about where he’s going as an artist in general. I know he can rap, that’s going without saying, but in terms of his own style and creating his own lane, that’s still not a very clear fact to figure out. Telling his story that revealed a darker side to him was important, because he won’t be looked at as the happy-go-lucky rapper who likes to rap real fast to get the kids to like him. It’s more of a personal tale about being that next artist to come out and actually make noise. His surge has been impressive since I saw him live in 2012, and I know it won’t stop there. The album represents the dealings of what it takes to make it out of unfortunate circumstances to come out on top. It’s a cliché form of coming out, a lot of topics that were visited in past projects, they came up on the album and I had an urge to ask, “what else do you have to say?” To be as successful as he is doesn’t come easy without radio play, but it now seems common because as we’ve seen with Mac Miller and other indies, they can do numbers and attain success through strength of the internet. He knows his base, so here’s hoping that he’ll add on to it. The album is pretty good, and there are definitely songs on here that I can see myself listening to for a while because of strong content and solid production. I’d recommend giving it a listen, but for now, this is my opinion, this is my review

 

That’s My Word & It STiXX

Domo Genesis – Under the Influence 2

Posted on November 6, 2014

Remember a time when Domo Genesis was considered one of the weakest rappers in Odd Future behind Earl, Tyler & Hodgy Beats? That seems like a long time ago, because since No Idols, he has not missed. Not once. At all. His verse on Rusty, multiple verses on OF Tape Vol 2, his verses on the Mellowhigh album, his verse on Robes for Freddie Gibbs’ Piñata album; Domo has not missed, and he’s back again with the sequel to the mixtape that started his ascent into becoming not only the best rapper in the crew, but stepping out to be one of the better rappers around for the younger representatives. He definitely has put in the work, so it’s a matter of time before he gets proper recognition. To see the progression of Domo since Rolling Papers has been impressive, so the ceiling is high for what more he can come out with. Take it in for yourself and definitely enjoy.

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